'There is something to the intrigue that is battle and carnage and loss. When hundreds of people unite to destroy one another for reasons that have long since been lost. Reasons of hate, and revenge and cruelty mixed with reasons of loyalty, and respect. When no one remembers where it started, then what is the point of trying to continue with it? Is there truly a way to end something so brutal without amassing large amounts of bloodshed?
A single traveler, barefoot and ragged had attended the high-halls of both of the warring nations. Carrying not but a bundle of scrolls on her back and a rod in her hand, the old woman had traveled for hundreds of miles on foot to attend first one kingdom, and then the other. She was a weathered woman indeed. Ancient, wrinkled, and blind. Of a race that far surpassed the powers both of the nations possessed. It was no wonder that both of the Royal houses would allow her to enter, as she knew they would, for one does not need mortal-world eyes to be a seer. Her words, though, were not so easily accepted by either nation.
She spoke of peace and of prosperity. She spoke of the end of the war and of songs and dancing in celebration. Tidings of great joy and victory were taken to both kingdoms, but it was put to them with the stipulation of a very high cost.
It was not victory through power or greed or bloodshed that she spoke of, nor was it power of conversation and forgetfulness. There was only one thing that could bring her visions of Glory and Peace to the nations and that was Unity brought by complete self-sacrifice.
The old woman spoke of the heirs to both nations, rising from their pride and self-importance, removing themselves from selfish wants and desires and uniting under a single banner to bring about a peace that would last well into the hundredth generation. However... To deny the visions of the elder seer would mean the destruction of both nations. It would mean that they would destroy each other and lay waste to the cities and people. Complete annihilation.
With a pointed and shaking finger, she brought these tidings to the head of the royal houses of both nations before departing, slowly, in the same manner she had come.
Her message and warnings delivered, her duties fulfilled, and thus she would wait...and see.'
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Brom leaned near the door to the carriage, his gaze looking over the darkened horizon with a hint of dread. Fur prickled by the thought of going under those clouds. He had seen them before, when advancing on the enemy cities to rescue wolves before. He shared a look of unease with Luce, who had put his hands in his pockets so the claws extended wouldn’t be visible, and taking on a look of aloofness that would make him seem rather harmless.
Zack stood by Nadia’s side, watching the vampires exit their carriage without hiding the fact that his eyes followed their princess. A step on his foot drew his attention to a staring Nadia. She drew closer to whisper to him. [b “Remember what we discussed? Think formal and maintain control. Keep your emotions in check and by the Mother Moon, don’t stare. You know your eyes are a challenge even among our own people.”] She tried to speak more so in growls to hide her words from the keen ears of their hosts. The growls would be short and soft in nature. More conversative than threatening.
Zack swallowed and tried to picture what it would be like to be formal. To sound formal. Uncomfortable is what the image had in mind. It was everything he was not, and a sudden dread of failing ripped through him quickly as the vampire’s princess and one of her party approached them. Time seemed to slow and yet speed up all at once. There she was, before them, speaking to them. Why was his heart pounding so loud in his ears? The nerves were getting to him already as those eyes of her surfed over their party. A brush of fingers on his arm as Nadia bowed seemed to snap something in the prince. Suave….like his brother had been. He had to harness it. Channel it.
[b “M’lady Sophalie, the journey was indeed a restful one thus far. I do believe that my companions and I are well prepared to adjust as agreed upon by the Alpha and your royal majesties. It is an honor to be escorted into your homeland, especially as a personal guest at your side.”] He had bowed as he spoke, in the manner that he had seen from a distance long ago. Where the words were coming from, he wasn’t sure. It felt fake, and strange on his tongue. When he stood again, Zack fought the urge to glance at Nadia for guidance. [b “In the way of introductions, as we are no longer in such informal company, I am Zachary Aidrey, Third-born and Alpha-heir to Alphas Mortis and Kendra Aidrey of the Lunar Plain.”] He paused, feeling almost a swell of pride in the words, though followed by the slightest twinge of pain at the memory of his mother.
Motioning with a gentle wave of his hand to his side, Zack motioned at Nadia, carefully. [b “This lovely young maiden will accompany us in the latter half of this journey. She is my tutor and confidant whom I respect and trust completely. I have hope that this venture will be one full of learning and understanding in the prospect of finding peace.”] Seeing as how her aide had introduced himself, Zack broke the pattern of their usual protocol, which would be to introduce the others as well as himself, and instead allowed them to speak for themselves. Though Brom and Luce said nothing, Nadia smiled warmly and curtsied politely. [b “Our Alpha-heir speaks truth, absolutely, your highness. I am Nadia Daelarosa, Mated partner to Alpha Mortis Aidrey of the Lunar plains and tutor to the young Alpha-heir. I will be joining you on this last part of our journey into your homelands.”] She waited a moment, then watched Zack carefully from the corner of her eye. He was nervous, it was painfully obvious, and yet he’d been doing so well.
[b “If I may, M’lady, Will you be joining us in this carriage, or shall we join you in another? I am sure you are eager to return home and my companions will need to know where they will be riding.”] He motioned to Brom and Luce, both of which stayed behind the prince and Nadia both, Neither of them seemed at ease, though both hid it behind a soldier’s reserve. They looked as though they were simply awaiting orders, as they were.
The birds they'd heard on their way were different than those she knew. Is this what a day lit sky sounded like everywhere else? Even as those chirps dwindled with the incoming weather, there was an atmosphere foreign to her, still hidden behind the shield of their carriage.
Sophalie twiddled her thumbs, rubbed her hands on her arms and legs, switched between sitting with her knees curled up to her and laid out as far as she could stretch them without kicking her father awake; she even attempted at sleep a few more times, but as the rain began to beat against the carriage, her nerves only built. It was one thing to enjoy sleeping during the rain, but it was another to not see outside into the weather. Rather than some comforting drizzle, it felt to her as some climactic drumming against their shelter; against her solitary confinement, as far as she was concerned. There she was, left with only her thoughts and worries and unable to break out of the carriage to roam and release them, to do anything about them, even just to breathe air that felt unending in supply.
Staring at the sleeping forms of her parents across from her, Sophalie tried to remind herself of [i their] view in all of this. Whether they truly loved her or not and whether they cared about her personal feelings on the matter wasn't the important thing here; it was all about the success of their Kingdom. It was still hard to believe so much could change by her creating a bond with the Werewolf heir. Sure, Kingdoms uniting happens, which can solve many issues that have long since been tormenting the people within, but something like this? This wasn't just some war over money or goods, this was species genocide they were talking about. How can all of that end just by having the two of them play nice and act like a happy couple? There were hundreds, thousands, if not more werewolves and vampires out there that didn't even belong to their Kingdoms. Would that solve their problems too? That witch made it sound as such, making the gravity of it all even harder to imagine.
Her parents only wanted what was best for their Kingdom, and if this was it, even if they felt warm familiarity with her above all else, they would still sacrifice it for this cause. It was noble, in some way Sophalie had to admit. Nonetheless, even with those thoughts and determination, it had to be hard. Sophalie was so sheltered that interacting with that heir was likely easier than anyone would've anticipated. She didn't have the sunken in hatred; for her, the werewolves may as well have been some the thieves and the bad men you hear about, but never see, yet you know to hate them, or the boogeyman for all she had experienced. Well, perhaps she had to give a bit more credit to her upbringing than that, as she had come across them before and seen the carnage, the bloodshed, and the devastation caused, but they hadn't taken anything or harmed anything that was of any value to Sophalie. She could partly empathize with those around her that had shared terrible histories with them, but it was still second-hand. For her parents, this was first-hand torture. For them, and for everyone else, this was facing something they've been fighting for millennia.
So deep into her thoughts, by the time Sven began to shift awake just before her parents had, she had only made herself more conflicted and unsure. Would she follow through? Of course, but she had her reservations and she certainly had many, many questions still unanswered.
Sophalie could only be thankful to return home soon.
[b "Mmn..We'll likely need more rest upon our arrival, but I do hope you three got good rest?"] Sven opened the air for conversation, stretching his old, creaking limbs. He was a strange mix of a man that was either too comfortable at times or was too uptight and to himself. There were times she wondered if her father really was in charge of him, or the other way around. Sophalie ducked to the side a bit to avoid the oncoming wave of his elbows trying to stretch. Back to her corner it was, then.
[b "We have far too much to attend to for that, Sven,"] her father said with dismissal to his offer. [b "Once we arrive, we have discussions to begin, meetings to attend, and many plans to-"]
[b "Sophalie, what happened to your gloves?"] Josephine called out, interrupting Cyrus' ramble. [b "Just look at them,"] she pointed.
Looking down to her now open palms, the Princess found tears in the lace. [i When did that..? ] Ah, but she knew exactly when. Over the course of being awake, she'd mindlessly thumbed at her hands, rubbed them on her arms or even the carriage seat. Over the past few hours, it must've torn some of the strands only to further devolve them. [b "Oh..whoops,"] she said.
[b "Whoops?"] Her mother mocked before letting out a heavy sigh. [b "I take it you haven't rested."]
[b "What?"] That stern voice interjected.
[i Thank you, mother. Very subtle,] Sophalie thought before sliding off her gloves. [b "It'll be just fine. I just won't wear them. Better than wearing them damaged, right?"] It looked like Josephine was about to say something, only to shake her head and sigh yet again at her child's dismissive behavior. [b "What?"]
[b "What isn't the point here. You haven't rested? Sophalie, you can't allow yourself to be tired and weary in front of those dogs. Not to mention, I'm sending you with [i Locke. Locke,] you hear? How am I supposed to trust you two alone in that-]
[b "They will be fine."] Sven hopped in with a reassuring smile to the King. [b "Even if they were hostile, the wolves would do nothing to bring harm to our Princess or her aid. If they were going to stage an attack, would it not be best to understand the foreign lands they're trapped inside first? To do so now would only entrap them, your majesty."] Although he spoke with honorifics, something about it felt pointed. He was [i nudging] her father into the right direction when he could not find it for himself to reason.
As Sven always had the uncanny ability to do, he calmed her father with those words. Josephine wasn't so easy to mold, though, but her focus was on the girl that worried little for being more prepared for this than for dinner.
[b "You may have already met, but that was in a formal assembly manner. This means you [i will] need to reintroduce yourself. That will come before Locke gives his own introduction, as you are meant to lead. Surely they'll find it in their nature to respect your initiative."]
[b "Pff,"] Sophalie held back a laugh. The woman eyed her before questioning it. [b "Sorry, you were saying something about me having initiative for my own choices in how things play out?"]
Clearly her mother wasn't finding the joke as amusing. [b "No, Sophalie, you will not go by your own choices in this. There is a script to follow when it comes to these things, which we've gone over extensively until this day so you will remember it. The point isn't to gain their respect in your ability to decide for yourself, but to prove you're following your duty as you should, therefore enticing respect from them so they'll follow their end as well. Now, let us consider what you'll need to discuss that we weren't considering I wouldn't be there for,"] Josephine side eyed her husband before beginning on a long drawl of information.
Right as her mother was in normal circumstances, Sophalie had a different feeling. She may not have been a girl capable of empathy, as far as she'd come to know, but she [i did] have a knack for understanding the influences and intentions of others. Call it being able to read well, if you will. To her, she wondered whether they would respect her scripted duty, or whether they would have found honesty in her uncertainty as only an heir more respectable. She couldn't be for sure, considering werewolves were still something of a foreign entity to her, but she knew if they hadn't gotten along in this many years and yet she'd managed to speak without cause for concern before, she may have had a better guess at their drive than her mother would.
By the end of it all, carriages paused and ready for the switch, the Vampires stepped out one by one with Sophalie just behind her mother, her father in the lead.
Crossing to their other carriage, before making the trip to the canines, they had something to discuss with their staff: Locke joining Sophalie with the heir and Alpha's mate.
[b "W-What? Me?"] He pointed to himself, face washed with worry. [b "But my Graces, pardon my worries, but this is a task of great importance. I am not sure I would be suitable for..that."] Not only was he unready to spend time alone with wolves, but with only Sophalie? The Princess that made his life more difficult than necessary on a regular basis with her inability to do what her parents wish? [b "Was it not decided the Queen would be best suited-?"]
[b "Locke, are you questioning my decision?"] The steward cowered slightly at the insinuation.
[b "No, my Liege...Please, forgive me for the concern. I shall accompany the Princess without further question."] With a bow and the decision finalized, it was the two and those two alone that approached the carriage the others took. Sophalie walked with the same cool air of elegance as she had before. Locke attempted at such formality, but he was still learning.
Stopped before them, Locke tried harder than Sophalie did to not show any concern for being around the group. Well, if she was supposed to show her ability to lead, this would be the time.
[b "I do hope you've all rested well on the journey over,"] she began, red eyes taking a turn to view each of them. [b "If this hour does not suit you, please do not concern yourself with making the sudden adjustment for our sake. Feel free to rest as you will until our arrival, each of you."] A pale hand gave a gentle wave in their direction. [b "It will be my personal aid accompanying me on the rest of our travel. For similar reasons to why we must arrive together, the King and Queen felt it appropriate they follow their own suggestion and remain together. I apologize if this displeases you in any way,"] the ramble was something unprepared that Sophalie pulled together as she spoke, considering this wasn't the plan in the first place, but her mother had told her to be as welcoming and polite upfront as possible to make anything later sound softer than it may be.
Whether that would work or not was up to debate. Lowering her head, she gave a polite bow, as did Locke, though his far deeper than her own. Standing again, she addressed them once more. [b "We may no longer be in the walls of the Seer, but peace is still our guiding hope in this. Allow me to reintroduce myself, not as the girl across the table, but as the Princess of the Kingdom we are about to enter together. I am Sophalie Merlot, daughter of the King and Queen of the Kingdom of Vampires."] Part of her was tempted to jest and go on a list of her likes and dislikes as though this were some marriage ball she'd once attended. [b "It is my pleasure to cross into our lands with you all, and I humbly welcome your passage. As the heir to our vampiric Kingdom, I entrust our safety with you, as I do hope you will entrust yours in us."]
After a moment of a pause, Locke stepped forward to introduce himself as well, taking yet another bow. [b "I am the Princesses personal aid and steward, Locke. I shall be accompanying you the rest of the way. Should anything serve you concern, it is my duty on this journey to address it as I would my Princess'."]
It was raining. The drops scattered the field of wheat as it brushed gently over fur, making the ground soft and muddy beneath tired and sore paws. The field stretched for miles, and met the endless starry night sky, edged in a tinge of red, as the sun would soon be rising. Running though tired, the air started to smell of fire, ash, and burning wheat. It stung the eyes and nose, threw off any kind of scent that would have made tracking easier. If only he’d been better, stronger perhaps? Maybe then he would have found them faster. A howl in the distance, a cry for help mixed with pain hit his ears. Heart pounding as hard as his exhausted paws on the ground. The wheat that whipped at his face gave way into a blackened clearing.
The roar of fire around him did not sway his resolve as he entered that circled space. The new smell of blood mixed too terribly with the flames and the smoke. He walked slowly to the center of the clearing, stopping short over the bloodied, naked form. So frail. So small seeming. The once soft violet gaze had turned cold and lifeless in a face framed by long black locks. Violet eyes that seemed to stare blankly back at his own similarly colored gaze. His blood ran cold, hearing steps behind him to turn and come face to face with… Sophalie? She held an evil smile, came at him quickly. Fangs much longer than vampire’s usual fangs and her nails pierced his chest like it were paper. When had he changed form? He did not know…The pain shot through him, hearing her laugh…
Zack’s eyes opened quickly, his breathing heavy as he put a hand to his chest where the Vampire Princess’ claws had cut him. Why was she there in his dreamstate? There were scars there, but long ago healed from the actual attacker from back then. The dream had followed him since the day of his mother’s death and would never fully leave him. Trying to remember where he was and why took a moment before he ran a hand through his hair, trying to calm his breathing and regain some warmth so as to drop the goosebump feeling in his arms. It had been many years ago now, why did it always follow so clearly. A sudden thought to those in his Pile made him realize that the head upon his knees was missing. Sitting up slowly in the dark, he blinked a couple times to let his vision take in the absence of light, being able to see better once the wolven eyes kicked into gear.
Luce was seated with his legs crossed in the corner of the now large bed that would have put him by the window if the seats were put together right. Zack joined him there, noticing an acknowledgement of his presence without words. Luce’s silence had deemed him a good listener at the best of times and a friend to rant to in the worst. Many mistook him for deaf as the signing often mislead people. The truth was, those of the Core Hunt had learned the signs and usually did them when speaking to Luce so as not to forget them, despite his ability to hear.
He took a look at Zack and tilted his head in a questioning manner, not even needing to sign to pose the question [I ‘Nightmares again?’]. Zack nodded and rested his head on the blonde’s shoulder, closing his eyes a moment before signing back to him, knowing this conversation would be in sign to keep from waking the others. [b “Same one as before. Slightly different, but always about her…”] He sighed softly, looking at the still sleeping two and wishing he were down there with them. [I ‘The nightmares won’t stop, you know. Though there was nothing you could have done differently to stop the attack.’] That hazel gaze gave an understanding look before joining on the two sleepers. Zack thought a moment before nodding slowly and then tilting his own head to the side, curiously, at his partner in a question as to his own awake status
Luce averted the gaze back to the closed window, then down to his claws before lifting them to speak. [I “It’s been eleven years to the day. How ironic.”] He spoke cryptically, but that was how Luce had always been. Finding him naked, half dead and tortured brutally, there was little anyone could actually manage to get out of him. Zack remembered his mother working with the young man for the first couple years and though the alpha and his mate soon got the full story out of him, no one else had. Had it really been eleven years? [b “Since we found you?”] Zack pushed to clearify. Luce shook his head and seemed to hesitate for a long moment before responding. [I ‘Never mind. Don’t worry about it. You have a lot on your plate as it is. It’s almost sunset.’]
Luce lifted a hand to start lowering the shade and left Zack knowing he couldn’t get an answer even if he pushed so he didn’t. Instead, he watched out the window as the last rays of the sun scattered over the horizon and warmed his face. Clouds gathered ahead, remembering what the queen had said, it was possible it marked their destination in the distance as these clouds seemed not to move like others. The disturbance in light woke the other two sleepers gradually. And though a little worse for wear, sleeping while moving, the four did manage to pull themselves together to some degree.
Brom seemed the most surprised to have slept so well. Perhaps the Seer’s carriages had a way of putting minds at ease. Most minds at least. All four shuffled clothing back into proper place and the boys watched in silent awe as Nadia managed to fix her hair and some simplistic applications of herbal liquids seemed to brighten her complexion almost too well. She went from half dead and dragging to looking lively and put together miraculously. Her gaze then turned on Zack with a sigh. [b “It won’t do at all. Not at all. Hold still.”] she started for him and his eyes grew wide.
[b “OH no you don’t. Don’t you dare. I’m fine. I feel fine and I look fine. If the vampires can’t handle bedhead how do they expect this to work?”] He tried to oppose, but she grabbed hold of him anyway and started to put a brush to his hair, getting no help from the other two as she did so [b “Aye! Watch the ears!”] He felt the fur bristle, knowing it would only complicate matters to stay worked up. He hated being groomed, but she was determined for sure, and worked on not just his head, but his face and then his nails. It was like she was trying to polish some gem from a rock. [b “Stop complaining. We need to make a decent impression, if nothing else…you and I. It’s almost time to swap out.”] She was like a devil when it came to her work, but in the end…she took a mirror from her magical bag and opened it for him. He took one look and nearly balked. Lanear. He looked like Lanear in his younger days and it just about threw him off. If his hair were just a little longer…and his eyes more like his father’s.
Somewhere in all the hubbub, Zack found himself staring out the window at the darkness that had crept over the carriage. And suddenly it stopped moving. The four waited a moment before Brom shrugged and opened the door, stepping into the night to get a good stretch, followed by Luce and then Nadia. Zack waited a moment, hesitating, before following them. He didn’t feel right or like himself at all, but that was the point wasn’t it? He stretched as the others did, looking up to find the moon above at a crescent’s shape and gorgeous as she ever and always was.
Finally, he and Brom were both watching the other carriages, waiting. Luce having leaned on the one they had gotten out of, staring at the ground and Nadia giving a polite smile that could so easily be genuine to those who didn’t see her true self. They waited, unsure who was swapping where with the vampire’s side.
The argument between the two had far from finished. In fact, the volume of it all had only just begun. The Queen and their Advisor kept their reigns on the two that bickered, knowing that to step in and insist on how ridiculous the match actually was would only fuel them further. It was more Sven who took to this idea, Josephine giving him nearly a glare before returning her gaze to the two as they barely kept in their seats.
[b "There are eyes to be made at someone you have an obligation to be near and the eyes you offer to a friend or lover. Your gaze was [i certainly] not of the prior, my dear!"]
[b "Gaze? [i My eyes?] Do you even hear yourself? You're making accusations left and right, but I'm hearing absolutely no validity behind-"]
[b "You don't decide what is valid here, Sopahlie. Do not forget, you are still only a princess during these times. My word is-"] A loud, obviously forced clearing of the throat interrupted the King. Sven gave a nod towards his wife, only for the King's eyes to flutter a bit as they rolled. Josephine was reasonably irate by the notion. [b " [i Our] word is law. Your inability to understand that at times makes me awfully unsure if you're even ready for this task."]
Her face reddened, heating up with the argument. [b "If I'm so damn wrong for it, [i you] marry him! Clearly you paid plenty attention to the mutt!"] At this Sven nearly choked on his own breath. Her father was more than aggressed by this point.
Red eyes narrowed at his daughter, his words found the way they always did to slice their fight down to its end.
[b "Sophalie, if there were any choice but you, it would be made so! You're too fickle to be a warrior, too starry-eyed to be a scholar, and too unappealing as a socialite to be a lady of class. Beyond all of that, you are too rebellious and outspoken to ever be a daughter worth all of the efforts put into your upbringing."] Josephine gave a rather harsh tug at his sleeve, though it didn't falter his speech.
[b "So at the very least, do the one thing that only [i you] can do without disappointing me even further. You speak with manners, nothing more nor less,"] he began to tap a finger harshly against the others that began to count up. [b "You keep your duty in mind by being only as much of a political asset to him as you have to be, you keep it in that obnoxiously busy head of yours that this is not just a man, but a wolf,"] Knowing this would be his dead end to the conversation, the Queen sat back in her seat with a sigh.
[b "And at the very least, show your blood the respect it deserves by being just as annoyingly doll-like in your apathy to him as you are to the rest of society! If you can't accept anyone else, even the authority of the people that brought you into this world, then don't disrespect us further by [i only] accepting [i that mongrel.] "]
Silence seeped into the carriage like a fog. There was no room for breathable air beyond it. Sopahlie was sat in her seat once again, as was her father, and the two had finally realized the eye contact they had held. For her father, it was to sustain some form of calm. For Sophalie, it was in the hopes of her shaking to finally stop. She may have argued and been upfront with her beliefs and her opinions, she may have no actual hopes of ever meeting her father's expectations, as she knew she wasn't ever going to be the child he had hoped for, but that didn't make the feeling of being the sole source of his disappointment and hopelessness any easier. Cold as vampires may be to the touch, there was a far chiller shiver that cracked up her spine, threatening her with every vertebrae it passed. She wouldn't allow the feeling to overwhelm her. Sophalie wouldn't allow the sting in her eyes to bring a single emotion to fruition.
[b "We may not aim for Utopian coexistence, but it's possibly extreme to deny even a conversation of some substance of actual value to the children. After all, they'll be spending a mar-"]
[b "You of all people are aware of how little love actually is required in such a thing."] Having barely calmed from the previous outbursts, Cyrus' words shot at his counterpart held the sharpness she didn't particularly deserve.
Being a woman of little patience for such disrespect, Josephine reached for his hand, weaving her fingers with his own, her nails digging deeply into their target. [b "Cyrus,"] she said as their threatening gazes met one another. [b " [i Calm. Down. ] "] Although the grip on his hand brought his aggressive attention to it in seconds, he found it draining just as quickly.
With a nod from his now averted gaze, Josephine relaxed her grip and thumbed at his hand, like a cat licking the wounds it inflicted. Only in this case, the wounds were for the betterment of the time they had remaining in this carriage ride. For Cyrus, she need not apologize. He knew to snap at her was to go too far, but his Queen knew that bitter ends required warm apology when they were that intense.
That in mind, he looked to the girl across from him that stared blankly at the closed window, as though the view were in her sights. It was a ridiculous thing to do, but it was more noble than staring at the floor.
With a heavy sigh, Cyrus found new words. [b "I will not allow this responsibility that has come to us to wear us thin from one another."] The young woman looked to him out of the corner of her eye. [b "We should rest before the switch. Upon consideration..."] Cyrus gave his wife a concerned look, which she met with some confusion at just what he was reconsidering. He also had his daughter's full attention.
[b "I will send Locke with you when the time comes. Your mother and I should be together as well for similar reasons, so it's only fair that your aid be who follows you."]
[b "That boy is certainly not going to enjoy that..,"] Sven muttered with a hand raised vertically, a sarcastic almost prayer for Locke.
Josephine gave a nod at the decision, though Sophalie did nothing. She only relaxed her shoulders and looked away once again.
It was without question they had a tense relationship; Sophalie and her father; but they communicated their apologies in their own sense. By sending Locke with her, her father was giving Sophalie a chance to prove herself without her mother's lead. He was offering her lessened chains for greater show of something he could be proud of.
She couldn't exactly promise things would go the way he hoped with that, though it was also likely her father wasn't entirely sure himself. Perhaps his immediate cast into falling asleep was, in a way, to avoid convincing himself to go back on the decision. At least, as she attempted to sleep as well, she couldn't help agreeing with Sven. Locke was going to get an earful to handle before they switched, and he was far from ready for it.
Even as silence met the carriage once again, this time with the vampires in a peaceful slumber, Sophalie couldn't bring herself to sleep.
There was something about this whole thing that had her skin prickling with energy. She wasn't sure if it was anxiety, instinct, or something else, but whatever it was, she knew she couldn't sleep until she was back within the walls of their home, secure in her bed, away from all of this.
Zack felt quite numb as the carriage door shut behind Nadia, taking a seat across from her and next to Luce. None of his party spoke at first, silently turning their gazes to the floor or out the windows which had their panels pulled down unlike the vampires whose panels would block out sunlight upon the rising of the sun. It was a welcome silence that fell with the wolves as they started to move. And he put a hand to his cheek, feeling the phantom of that sting as the scene entirely replayed in his mind along with a flood of things he should have said or should have done. The smell of the dawn coming was a welcome one, as without such air, he was sure he would have vomited.
An agonizing torture plagued him. Veridae had been his partner and confidant. She and he had never really separated, being nested pups at the same time, and now he was going somewhere that she could not follow, soon to have to leave her behind entirely. His thoughts were interrupted as Nadia reached out to take his hand as she had outside the cabin. A guide he didn’t realize he needed, the motherly way she tilted his face to look over the mark. Reaching into the satchel on her hip, she pulled a bottle from it and wordlessly started to dab the contents onto a napkin and then onto his cheek.
[b “Zachary. We have a long journey ahead of us and this is just the first of many hurts you will have to endure. Each one is going to make you stronger, but listen to me…”]
She paused, putting a finger beneath his chin to meet his gaze, not being something many would dare to do. Green eyes taking in his violet ones. [b “You must not let it make you cold. Feel the things you’re supposed to feel, do not let them control you but do not lose them either. You must put this grieving to the side for now, though. Grieving will come when we have more time, for now, we must focus on getting you started on your lessons.”]
The words started to sink in, and though his gut still felt pain, he could see understanding on her face that made him nod. Zachary felt the change in his focus, like someone had switched a light on in his sinking darkness. [b “Lessons? Ah…right, for talking with the vampires. Nadia, I know I’m not the politician that Lanear was taught to be, but I thought I was doing at least decently.”] As the last word left his lips, Brom scoffed, trying to hide a soft chuckle and even Luce stared down at his lap with a small smile on his lips. Zack rolled his eyes as he looked over them both and crossed his arms.
[b “Go on, laugh it up. Hell, I don’t know what to even say half the time as it is and to add trying to talk to a princess of our immortal enemy what was I supposed to say? ‘Hello, mind if I rip your throat out?”] Zack growled and glared out the window again, hearing the subtle snicker from Luce now, more than Brom. Nadia was not laughing. In fact she was glaring at both of the other males, until they silenced under her gaze.
[b “You didn’t do so poorly, Zack. It is more the mannerisms and the posture that you will need to work on, but the most important thing you will need to know is how to hide those wild emotions of yours. You have to be able to focus and train your mind not to focus on the personal feeling of attack. Control, Payne. It’s all about the control. If you do not take control, then they will and you don’t want that, trust me. Especially when we are going into the very heart of the vampire’s territory. Those creatures can smell fear a mile away.”] It was odd, seeing the way she had turned so easily from the woman in the cabin to the one sitting across from him now. It gained the interest of all three other companions. [b “Wait… ‘Those creatures’? But you were getting along so well…”] Zack started, his eyes a bit wide.
[b “You think we became friends, the queen and I? From one conversation? Oh, dear me, no. But I maintained control, child. I let her insult us three times over and bring up horrible memories, that those beings caused by the way, and yet I was able to steer the conversation and maintain decency. Do you think I liked facing these things? Do you think I didn’t want to snap at her that she was the reason I was ripped away from everything and lost everyone close to me in one single night? No…it is not that I wanted to be friends with her. It is that there are more important things than my personal and temporary gain of satisfaction from bringing down her friendly disposition in a rain of insults. Learn this, wolf, and no one will be able to control you.”] Her speech left all three of them dumbfounded. Never had they seen her speak so plainly over her own emotions, and that included in their own homeland.
Zack blinked at her as silence fell again, before he nodded. Where this super power she held came from, he wasn’t sure, but he knew he wanted to learn it and use it to his advantage. [b “If you’ll try to teach me, I’ll try to learn.”] He suddenly held a deep interest in this skill of hers. She was right, that they were going to head into the very center of their enemies and despite all the warrior training he’d had to fight them, he’d never had this kind of training before. This was a different sort of war he was about to face and he suddenly felt completely unarmed.
[b “Perhaps Luce and I can learn a thing or two as well. Not that we have to worry about you saying anything out of turn, eh?”] Brom nudged the younger wolf with his foot, seeing a daring grin trail across the wolf’s face. Luce started to sign a response, [I ‘What I would have to say is nothing that would garner us peace at all. Screw them all, for all I care.’] He smirked, though stopped, seeing Nadia’s glare on him once more, averting his hazel orbs out the window again. Brom nudged the woman, with a small sigh. [b “I promise, when we are facing them, we will show nothing but respect, but here? This is just us and you can’t tell me, little girl, that you don’t feel the exact same way. Deep behind your political nonsense, and your spell-weaving tongue there’s a beast in you that would love the taste of revenge.”] Brom’s seriousness had touched some nerve, reminding her of her true age and feelings. But that was the magic of the Hell Hound. He unlocked the wrath in people and trained them to use it, the same way he had done with Zack and the rest of the Warriors.
Despite the touched nerve, Nadia stared straight back into those crimson eyes with a resolve that few could have kept. [b “You’re right, old man, maybe you do need to take a lesson or two in my mannerisms. We are on a mission for peace, whether you agree with that or not. It would be best if you’d focus on your orders and keep your mouth shut on the matter of revenge lest it ruin everything we have worked and traveled so far for.”] the two held a silent stand-off that Luce and Zack knew better than to interrupt, instead glancing at each other and then out the window. After a moment, both wolves turned at the same time, in a show of respect rather than obedience or dominance.
Nadia sighed and turned her gaze back to Zack. [b “We need to make sure you at least start the basics of polite high-conversation before we end up in that carriage with the vampire Princess and whoever they pair her with. No more simple smalltalk of hobbies and such, we need to keep the focus on duty and peace above all else. Follow my lead when we get in there and when she speaks to you, remember your place. You’re not a soldier pup, Zachary, you’re an Alpha where we are going. Your father is not here, despite the rules we have to follow. Speaking of which…”] She paused and shifted a little, before speaking again. [b “While we waited for you, your father gave us instructions to follow. More detailed. First, that I would be the one with you on the second half of the ride. I think he means me to save you if you stray. Second, we are to have lessons every day if possible to try to make you representable for the Vampire’s court. As for the third…”] She hesitated.
There was a distinct feeling between them all, as they looked away from him, trying to avoid his gaze pre-emptively. [b What? What’s the third? Is it that bad?”] Zack nearly wanted to whine, trying to imagine what his father could have set him up for. Nadia bit her lower lip a bit. [b “You’re to be barred from the Pile.”] She said the words softly but might as well have slapped him the same way Veridae had. [b “WHAT? What do you….you can’t be serious! Chain my existence to a bloodsucker, fine, but don’t…don’t keep me from your company. Nadia, how am I supposed to be able to sleep?! Without sleep, I’m going to go crazy! He has to know that.”] Rage was the first reaction, followed by panic. To Zachary, born in a litter, raised a nested pup, the thought of such denial was akin to torture. [b “It’s for your own good. Your father, The Alpha, said it would better prepare you for existence on your own, as he doubts the vampire child will understand or care about such things. They don’t nest like we do, that we know of. And there’s a good chance she will not be interested in your company even once you are bonded.”]
Shock followed his panic, as he looked at each of his companions in turn. Nadia’s words burned in his mind and made everything so much more real and terrible then it was before. She wasn’t wrong, which started the fear to rise quite a bit. This time a whimper did indeed leave his lips, making all three wince slightly. [b “You can’t…I can’t…Do you even realize what you’re asking me to do? You think I don’t know the bloodsuckers don’t understand us? You can’t seriously be okay with cutting me off cold turkey like that, right? It’s not like he has to know.”] Despite his pleas, he knew it was not going to do any good. The Alpha had spoken and there would be no escaping that, whether he was here or not. That was the true power of the Alpha. Obedience without supervision or question. Brom was the reminder for this, his crimson gaze raising, but not meeting Zack’s.
[b “The Alpha has spoken. It will be done as he commanded and you will learn to survive the night on your own. Like it or not, his word stands, present or not.”] His words were actually soft and unsure, knowing what he was asking of the young man and not able to intervene for him. Luce tapped Zack on the shoulder, starting to sign quickly. [I “It gets easier the more exhausted you become. Eventually, you won’t care anymore and then it’ll get a little easier.”] [b “What’s set is set. There’s no arguing it. However, speaking of slumber, we best make sure to get some rest as much as possible. In this transport, it would be impossible not to sleep in close quarters, so this would be a pass for you, Zack. Enjoy the company, and the sleep. We have much ahead of us come sunset.”] Nadia spoke softly, and it left Zack fuming, but unable to do anything about it.
Nadia then stood, careful to hold to a small leather strap on the ceiling as she did so, and instructed Brom to do the same. The back of the seat was detachable and could be placed on hooks on the sides of the carriage above each seat to create two bunks from one seat, one over the other, but instead, the female pulled the arms on either side of each bench out to place the backs of both seats level with the seats themselves, creating one large bed out of them, on top of which, they all found themselves. Luce and Zack slid the blockers up on the windows, leaving it pitch black within the transport, before the four of them piled together, looking less like any kind of lover and more like a sleeping pack of dogs.
Zack’s troubled mind fought to keep him awake. No Veridae, No banter, No pile…No pack. Could he really pull off this kind of lifestyle? Could he actually find this bearable? Was it too late to take Veridae up on her offer and run for it. Run to the hills and past them to the nether-regions and beyond. Just don’t stop till they had cleared the lands completely. It was the happier thought of this that he fell into when it came to sleep and dreaming, feeling Luce’s head on his knees, as his own rested on Brom’s arm. He could feel Nadia’s back to his own…this was right. It felt right…he would miss it dearly.
It was strange to imagine, but the Vampire Queen was almost looking forward to the visit. Their mild conversation, as much as it had been solely for the purpose of politeness, had an impact that pushed Josephine to an almost curious standing with their counterparts. More than just the woman she spoke to herself, Josephine was also looking forward to how things could change and the likely bustling home these circumstances would create for the time in which they were present. It was before she could reply that the Seer reappeared, but she would be patient in continuing conversation later, as they would likely have plenty time to finish.
Cyrus couldn't particularly agree with his wife. In fact, one could say he was stubbornly against the whole thing more than he had been before arriving, but there was no turning back now. If they were going to attempt at peace, this was their mission to follow through with as well. To back out and drop everything would ruin so much. Stoic and logical of a King as he was, he had to reign in his emotions on the subjects that had arisen and calm his nerves. Luckily with Josephine at his side, as well as the ever-stable Sven calmly nodding in approval and sureness, he could regain his confidence in the endeavor. He was thankful for the interruption of the elderly woman, giving him the time he needed to properly recollect. That, as well as needing to have some discussion with his family.
It was questionable, almost, when Sophalie felt some guilt towards escaping their conversation. At the moment, it was safer she not delve further into trivial pursuits such as hobbies with her father already quite worked up. Now that she knew the face and conversational tendencies of the boy she was to spend her time with, she could better prepare for what to say. More importantly, she could plot out what was appropriate to speak of in front of her guardians.
Why did she even mind whether or not she could discuss her more rebellious activities with him? It was reasonable to want an ear to openly discuss with, but no one said he would necessarily be [i that.] Sure, at the table he may have seemed an open person willing to attempt to converse and perhaps he felt distant enough from her that consequences in what she said felt slim, but there was more to it than that. The Vampire reminded herself that this wasn't something of a trial run, this was a permanent solution to an ages long issue that they would be carrying on their shoulders. That weight being what it is, could she really just trust lessening her filter around him?
Hell, could she trust him to begin with? Maybe it was the security of the table, but after giving a last glance and nod towards him before following her family towards their departure, reality settled in once again. He wasn't going to be across the table from her in a location that required peace at all times starting the moment the wolves also exited the cabin. The security they had in there would be gone and all reliant on themselves.
He was a wolf, the heir to their society and the next Alpha. She may have similar qualifications; and they may even have things that appear similar; but he was still her natural born enemy. Who's to say if she expresses anything behind her walls to him that he won't bring it out in the open in the hopes ot see her crumble at the hands of her own family? He didn't appear devious, hell, barely even clever enough for that, but it wasn't good to assume.
They were werewolves. Sophalie may have allowed herself to slip into a small comfort for a moment in that cabin, but within the walls of her kingdom, she would remain within her own walls from here on.
It was no surprise when Sven joined them in their carriage, considering he may as well have been family. If anything, Sophalie was thankful for it. With him present, there was yet another buffer that could keep her father from losing it on her for the duration of their trip. It would be hours, hopefully spent with some sleep, so it was time to prepare for a lecture. Aside from Sven, their three aids clustered into another carriage. She gave a slight, weak smirk to Locke. Dense as he was at times, he may or may not have caught her silent way of saying "enjoy the break while you can." If she knew one thing, it was that things were going to be busy for [i everyone] from here on out.
As they settled into their carriages, Sophalie couldn't avoid making immediate eye contact with their King, her father. He may have relaxed a bit from before, but he was certainly not about to forget the conversation he believed they needed to have. In the [i other] carriage, things were a bit more slow going. As stewards and aids, it was their job to make sure things with their guests were going according to plan, so with the door open, Fable stood outside the carriage and waited whilst the other two settled in. It was from there that she saw the wolven party arriving, though were missing their heir. There was a hint of worry in her before she heard the muffled bickering inside the cabin. Ah, something their party must've anticipated, it would seem.
[b "Fable, everything good?"] Hyde made her check on the woman before Fable waved her back into their ride.
[b "Yes, yes, everything is quite alright. Their heir is a bit behind, so I'm waiting just a moment more..oh, there he is- oh...Hm."]
[b "What?"] As Hyde moved to poke her head out, Locke attempting to join, Fable shoved them back inside and hopped in herself, shushing them. Before the excitement could be seen by Nadia and the boy, she composed herself and waited for their passing. With a silent nod, she waited for them to embark with the rest of their party. A sigh of relief soon following, having not expected some hyperness, she joined the rest of her coworkers.
As the door shut, Hyde was quick to interrogate. [b "I don't exactly appreciate being shoved, Fable. The hell was that about?"]
[b "Sorry, sorry,"] she waved her hands in apology. [b "Well...I'm not sure what happened, but there was a mark on the heir's cheek. Did either of you notice anything strange at your end of the-?"]
[b "Ah,"] they both spoke in unison. For Hyde and Locke, that was strange, but they both knew exactly what must've been the cause. After all, it wasn't as though the mercury palate werewolf hid her emotions very intently during their conversation. Locke especially noticed them, always being of more empathetic nature, as well as the right hand to the girl that was the majority of the cause of her discomfort. She may not have been glaring [i at] her, but Locke wasn't so dense as to not recognize a woman's irritation at sharing the attention of the person they're fond of. He only hoped it wouldn't cause problems for his princess. If it did, it would be in his responsibilities to help handle it. That was something he wasn't keen on being handed.
Meanwhile, the royalty sat in tension. Cyrus by Josephine, knowing she would be parting to join the other carriage later, and Sven by Sophalie. Despite seeing him as [i maybe] an uncle, if not a grandfather, she wasn't especially comforted by the presence. Then again, no one really could make the stare down she was having with her father any less static inducing.
Cyrus was the first to speak, as was to be expected. After clearing his throat, he squared his shoulders and began, [b "Despite this agreement of peace, we all know to be cautious. I don't believe I need to inform you of such warnings, so allow me to move to more pressing matters. Sven, I would like you to consider the housing of their party. Our space is plenty, but we much think of this as accommodations, not whatever is available. We, of course, must consider any goals that should be met in this week, but there is something I would like to touch on first..."] He had been beating around it, but Sophalie wasn't blind to the gavel as it fell in his words. [b "Our nations may unite, but a peace unity is not the equivalent of becoming some sort of familiar friends with these people, much less family."]
[b "Love,"] her mother interjected, only for him to raise a hand. An eyebrow quirked at the action, but she held her tongue to allow him to finish.
[b "As you know well, I was not pleased with what I saw. Tactful as it may have been to show politeness and civility towards them,"] he gave only a second of a glance to his wife before his eyes focused on his daughter. [b "We cannot let ourselves put faith in their resolve to see this through. Interesting as the prospect of something foreign to your daily life may be, Sophalie, you will not forget your responsibilities as the heir and you [i will not] so easily dismiss what we've cultivated in our lifetimes. Peace or no peace, our battles were not worth such quick dismissal into friendly banter."]
It was one thing to ask her to keep up her guard, but it was another to assign it as some responsibility. Was she supposed to partner with him or hate him? What was it her father wanted? Without Locke by her, no one would nudge her to keep quiet. Certainly not Sven, who saw the benefit in open conversation with pushes here and there in the right direction.
[b "You say my responsibilities, but is it not in my responsibilities to be friendly? This is supposed to be peace, and therefore we should be [i peaceable.] I'm not suggesting we trust the bunch immediately, and I certainly don't, but to tell me I can't even crack a smile when having a conversation with him-"]
[b "Sophalie, you don't smile in the first place. The only time you ever do is when it's sarcastic childishness or horrendously fake, and obviously so, at that. And you [i absolutely] never laugh."]
[b "I did not laugh."]
[b "You did and you will not correct me on what I saw and heard, child of mine. I will not have you befriending this boy so easily, whatever our situation may be. You realize this is your [i duty,] correct?"]
[b "I do, but I still don't see why you're refusing I at least try to-"]
[b "Try to what, develop something?"]
[b "..What?"] Backing off a bit, Sophalie shook her head. Develop something? Was he really suggesting that she was trying to actually be..romantic? [b "Develop...Father, you're insane."]
As Sven rested a hand on her shoulder, Josephine making quick work of putting an arm between the two to suggest Cyrus [i not] raise from his seat at the remark, it was clear this was going to be a long ride.
The smooth transition of conversation went very well, letting Nadia breathe a little, as haunted memories faded from her mind to be replaced with the thought of a new venture. Going into unfamiliar lands, even when occupied by vampires, still intrigued her, and was a good change in subject, seeing as the Vampire Queen liked to speak of her home as well. She tried to picture the castle and the town, covered in a constant overcast. Though her ears were well aware of Mortis’, and Zach’s conversations, she had tried to maintain a look of full and undistracted attention to her current conversation. Something worthy of a court.
[b “I admit, it is nice to hear that there will be views to the outside from the castle. Overcast can be lovely in it’s own right, as some colors tend to brighten under such clouds. It sounds prosperous and lovely, to be sure. We immortals do tend to have the time to work the earth to our needs when able. I will understand a need to be discreet in our arrival and possibly kept from public roam, for obvious reasons, but your home will be a most welcome change to being on the road so much.”] Nadia’s smile was soft and she kept a gentle gaze, perhaps allowing a little nostalgia to slip into emotion so as to take off the edge of fear that should probably be present. A wordsmith by nature, that one. [b With the overcast days, do you see much of the moonlight and stars during the night? The Mother Moon holds a calming effect on my people, perhaps knowing there may be visual of her would help in our coming endeavor.”]
It wasn’t that Mortis had not noticed how informally Zachary was being at this very tense and should be formal setting. It was more the fact he was trying not to pay attention too much, as risking the embarrassment going to his head would cause a bit of a violent place-putting there in the tent itself. It did not escape him that Cyrus was far more interested in how the two heirs were “getting along” than he was about the conversation at hand almost, but the old wolf was patient and understood this feeling, for once in agreement with the vampire. He could have cleared his throat and Zach would have immediately responded with a submissive motion, ceasing all conversation, and coming to attention, but he did not. He refrained from it, though, as his son was not completely out of line just yet and needed to learn to talk to the girl, any girl that wasn’t the kind to wrestle in the dirt with him, really. A proper young lady.
Tensions had started to rise again. It made the wolves’ hair all stand on end as the lead vampire’s given aura was something they were all familiar with. There was not a soul at the table who hadn’t been on the fury-end of a vampire’s ire, and the feeling had started to fill the room. Even Nadia’s eye twitched at the feeling that threatened to pull her attention away from the female vampire.
Brom, being the most experienced with these feelings, kept his eyes averted from the Vampire King, but his claws had already slid from their human form, taking that of the beasts’ claws while hidden beneath the table. A couple others, Luce and Zane, both seemed to be battling the sudden changes in mood. It was like someone had taken the kettle off of the fire when Josephine broke the tense feeling. The softest sigh escaping those who had tensed the most. They waited for the word of the Alpha…hd the damage been done? But Mortis could not blame the man, as he overheard his own’s sons’ foolish topics of conversation. It was no secret that had things been different, the more suitable Lanear would be here, by his side, taking this as seriously as it should be and knowing how to act. Instead, the old wolf tried to ignore the aura of irritation and focus on the reply.
[b “Right then. At least something seems to have been given some agreed detail, though not as ideal as we would have liked.”]
Zack was not immune to the feeling he got from the father of this woman before him. His ear twitched by it in the man’s direction, listening for some sound of a further threat than just the feeling. He could also feel the tensions of his packmates. This would all end badly if someone made the wrong move. But it was not the kind’s ire that he found himself as focused on…it was Sophalie and the other vampires in her company. As despite the tensions, none of them seemed ready to spring to fight anyone. If anything…there was a distinct chastised feel to the mood across from him….curious. He decided, consciously, to follow his father’s lead. To breathe into existence some form of restraint that was unexpected from one of his age and upbringing.
He instead, tried to focus on his own conversation, hearing her cut-short sentence and not being able to help the head-tilt of curiosity that followed his kind. It was obvious she hadn’t wanted to talk about it though, as whatever it was happened to be pushed aside for a claim to work towards higher education. It was cold again. She had cut off and sunk once more into this…mask of hers again. He had opened his mouth, about to claim that he doubted that was [I ‘all’], but the cabin opened. The old woman entering an interrupting them all. She waited this time, near the door, and cleared her throat.
[b[I “Dear new found friends…your carriages await you. I have given you all of the knowledge and wisdom I can impart to you at this time and you have need to be on your way fairly quickly. Hearing you get along as you have in my absence makes me believe that this union has a hope to it…Mortis and Cyrus….Nadia and Josephine….Zachary and Sophalie. Proof this day that more can be brought to the surface of both of your races than simply violence and bloodshed.”]] The blind woman chuckled ever so softly, not unlike a grandmother who was thrilled the grandchildren could get along. He raised hand though, to stop all protests or conversations over her words.
[I [b “Please….It is time. The details of this union, the small inconveniences that come about, and the conduct of your persons are things that must be worked out between you all. But as I said, time is short. Come now… Lord Cyrus and Lady Josephine, you may disperse those with you into the carriages as you see fit as Zachary and his companions give their farewells to those present. Once Zachary and his party have joined you in the carriages you designate, you may go. Mortis…you may say your farewells here…before departing for the carriages.”]]
The old woman stepped outside, ushering those in her company to leave her home. The vampires would be moved outside first…her attempt to give the wolves some privacy, Zack guessed. How…decent of her? He watched them go, almost begging internally not to be left alone with his father as the door closed.
[b “Right. You have heard the Seer. I will lay down some orders for my chosen three….”] As if by habit, the group separated. The four travelers on one side and the rest across from them. There was no use for emotion here…this was not something up for debate. [b “Brom. Keep an eye on the others. You know your duties and where your loyalty lies. I want you to make this peace work as best as possible… but if you cannot…Bring them home. Whatever the cost.”] Mortis’ gaze glanced more so at Zachary and Nadia, he was not an unfeeling man, that much was certain. Next, the Alpha brought his hands into view, those who knew the signs following along easily. [b “Luce. You are my eyes and ears. The least intrusive companion. Make yourself invisible as much as possible. I want you to be almost forgotten in your presence…which should not leave Zack’s side unless deemed necessary by Nadia.”] This made Zack want to groan. He hated the thought of having a babysitter, though Luce simply nodded and as indeed probably the least intrusive. [b “Nadia…my love….come back to me in one piece and…do try to make something of the boy. Today was a good example of the complete mess you’ll have on your hands.”] He broke the line this time, moving forward to kiss the woman, passionately, as any Alpha would a mate. It was expected, such displays of affection. Encouraged even, in their culture.
[b “And ..Payne..”] Zack felt his ears go back a little at the use of his middle name, biting back a savage remark as he’d thought he had done well today…his father made it seem like he’d messed everything up. [b “Zachary, come back alive…I’ll be looking forward to hosting the girl…she does seem to have …spirit. Be safe. No matter the cost.”] that line again…though the way the joke broke the tension between the pack with snickers, chuckles was astounding. Suddenly there was embracing by those on both sides, words of encouragement or warning and a jest or two…Zack watched them file out of the cabin…one by one…save one. His smile faded. He didn’t need to see her to know she was there, her scent had permeated his dreams for years.
[b "…I believe we will wait outside…Come…Brom, Luce, let’s get settled in the carriage.”] Nadia took the other two by the arm and lead them out of the cabin door…though everything in Zack wanted them to stay. Silence….Zack gazed out the open window a moment, before turning to face her.
[b “Veridae…”] A sound rang out, the sound of flesh on flesh. The sound of a growl as it made contact and Zack’s cheek burned deeply. He did not look up at her, his gaze staying on the floor.
[b “How…DARE you! [I ‘Do you like to read?’] [I ‘I like to stargaze’] …Is it really that simple for you? Some vamprie bats her bloodthirsty eyelashes and BAM, you’re just smitten?! You didn’t even say anything when your father was considering those to go with you…You just sat there…No protest….Did it even occur to you that I wanted to come? Out of everyone, you know I’d die for you. We were supposed to die together!”] Her blue eyes flashed with such rage and pain and accusation that it made him whimper, finding his words after such a slap, but they were soft and he still avoided her gaze. [b “What would you have me do? Go against the Alpha?”]
[b “You could have said no…”] Her voice was softer now, and it drove a blade through his heart that might as well be silver. [b “You could have said no to this whole thing…we could have run for it, you and I…like we always planned. Leave the pack. Leave the war and this stupid witch and started over. Is my love worth so little?”] She kept that tone, the soft and gentle coaxing. She’d wrapped her arms around him and it was hard not to bury his face in that silver hair. Instead, Zack put a hand on either of her shoulders, pressing her back, though his eyes remained on the floor. [b “You have a chance…A chance I can give you...at a life without pain, or fear, or war and I will go to the depths of hell and back to give you that life. This…Us…It was a dream, Veridae. Nothing more. I cannot give you what you seek.”] The words…where they came from, he didn’t know…but as he finished them, Zack finally met those blue orbs. He didn’t want to. His entire being was screaming at him to hold her one last time. But her hand raised again…this time, he caught it by the wrist.
[b “Once was more than sufficient. Remember your place, warrior and do not lay your hand on your Alpha lest you be punished for it.”] He could hear his father in his words and hated it. Her gaze going from anger to rage to pain and suddenly, she jerked away from him, backing slowly but saying nothing. He couldn’t watch her anymore, turning his back to her and starting for the door. [b “Goodbye…Veridae.”] He felt the tears coming, smelled them on her without having to look as he closed the door behind him and pressed his back to it. He wanted so badly to scream, to howl, to run for hours…but that wasn’t going to happen…not anytime soon. Nadia was standing by the door. She took his hand, wordlessly, and moved him through motions he couldn’t remember…like climbing into the wagon itself. He didn't want to face anyone right now, and those within the transport seemed to understand this...and did not ask questions as to the red mark left behind.
Halestrom; the name drop didn't go unnoticed by the Vampiress, fully aware of the history behind the Court. If this woman was from that now desolate memory of a palace, it was no wonder she sat at Mortis' side. Nearly no one survived. That being the case, it was a curiosity as to just who [i Nadia] was. She didn't delve further into the subject, making it clear it wasn't something to occupy their conversation as it continued. Rather, she picked up on talk of their own home. [b "It will be different, surely.]
[b "It's not quite what word-of-mouth insists. We may live in darkness, as was a concern Cyrus made clear in his earlier question, but our home is not without windows, nor do we live underground. Much like other castles, ours rests atop cared for land, quite immaculate with plant-life. Even without a constant sun overhead, they don't require such and instead, live quite like we do."] Red eyes glanced across the table, keeping watch on the situations around her before returning to their topic. [b "Overcast and grey is common weather in our lands, otherwise we would have to hide ourselves even in our own kingdom. Our people, living a settled life, have homes built along the stretches not occupied by the shops and other establishments. We do, after all, have much time on our hands to further build atop what we already have laid."] It would be insufficient to say Josephine was [i proud] of the accomplishments of her Kingdom. There may have been a small glint of amusement in her tone when thinking of the soon-to-be future where the canines would witness populated streets and peoples that have made that sole place their home, unlike themselves who roam. She may be a "humble" woman as far as comparisons went, but what she had to be prideful of, she would be.
Cyrus was caught, as far as his aid would be concerned. Sven was correct, there was a clear distinction made when he and Josephine would exit together, meaning it was not without reason that the same should be expected of their heirs; especially a [i new] couple. Whether they be of the type that openly is clear to their affections or subtle, they wouldn't separate when first arriving together.
Just thinking about his daughter even touching the wolf's hand elicited a discomfort in him. If not for the situation being what it is, Cyrus would separate the two immediately with aggression towards the wolf, if not some temperament for his child's choice to associate. Alas, that wouldn't be the case here. These conditions left them to only accept such association. He may not be the most loving father one could ask for, but vampires, especially in nobility, weren't especially known for showing affection towards their blood, aside from perhaps their significant other. That didn't mean he didn't feel the frustration he was sure the Alpha parallel to himself could empathize with; the frustration that their own blood would be pairing with the ancient enemy.
[b "Yes, I agree. Given how well-receiving they appear of one another,"] he gave a side glance to the two chatty-cathys. [b "I'll take it the arrangement of the heirs with our counterparts will be suitable. The people should also find it satisfactory, assuming it means the current leaders are in agreement with the arrangement."] It was unsurprising as his wife gave a tap against his ankle with her heel. He knew she found his wording to be too detached from how they were supposed to treat this, but as long as he was in a company where he could candidly show his discomfort, he would take the opportunity. It would be hard enough to voice happiness over such in front of his subjects.
He wasn't happy over this union, nor was he content handing his rule off to a girl, unable to contain herself enough to stand in a single line longer than ten minutes without consequence involved, much less so attached to the fancies of things outside of their "world." This referred not only to their Kingdom, but this universe itself. How she managed to get her hands on that fictional nonsense, he would never be sure, but it easily cluttered her head and that starry-eyed head of hers wasn't what he would consider proper ruling-material. It wasn't rare for Josephine to reassure him that she herself was willful in her younger days, but willfulness wasn't the main issue here. He wished it were true and he tried to put faith in his love's prediction, but he couldn't see Sophalie ever turning into the woman her mother is.
That small discomfort that had reminded him of its presence before returned with a wave as he looked over, hearing the smallest of chuckles from the smaller girl beside him. It was one thing when Josephine smiled or even laughed in conversation, being polite and civil, but he knew his child to be apathetic at best in social gatherings. She may smile, but it was always stiff and cold. By no means would she ever even fake a laugh. Any time she did, it was painfully obvious.
Her laugh was short and subtle, but it was there. To think she was actually finding amusement in their conversation...He barely noticed the tension in his fingers, overlapping each other on his crossed legs. An even greater conflict than his turning over his crown came over him as he dared to catch a glance at the boy that evidently, also noticed the faint laugh. Boastful and sure as he may be of how suitable his blood was of admiration and gaining the affections of many, he wanted no boy unsuitable of her to consider more than perhaps a glance from afar. Aware as he was of the need for the two to join under a single banner, bringing their nations together and forming some farce of a relationship, Cyrus was far from pleased when he noticed a small bit of hope in the boy's eyes. He may be accepting of their union for the circumstances it may be, but he was certainly not of the honest enjoyment, no matter how small it may be, of the conversation they had between the two. That was [i not] acceptable.
Again, that heel tapped against him, but harder this time. His stare at the two had only lasted a brief moment, but when it returned to his conversation, he felt the eyes of Josephine on him. She must've known that even two seconds of a glance at such a scene was an endless stream of thoughts he would drown himself in if not for being pulled from it. [b "Would such arrangement be alright with you?"]
[b "Quite,"] Josephine assured him, taking the cue to help avoid his agitation from becoming known.
Fable, Locke, and Hyde all three exchanged concerned glances. They [i felt] the barest hint of hostility from their King, having grown fully aware of it over the years. Even Locke, in his short time, could feel the weight of it. Especially having just given his nudge to the girl; he had to quickly turn to avoid seeing the disapproval he [i knew] was in Cyrus' seemingly casual, but absolutely sharp glare at Sophalie. The girl in question was also not unaware, having felt a chill skitter up her spine unlike that of a simple spook. She may disobey her father at times, but that was a stare that spoke far stronger than any words he could say. Tough and spirited as she was, if she were to have the curious ears of those across from them, they would surely droop back in some submission.
Call it her attempt at escape from that concern that built from the glance she had felt, but she found his deliberate insult towards them entertaining. To directly say they call them "barbaric" at a table where words of peace were being thrown; it was clear he was either more comfortable than he had been before, or he may have caught on to her hints of humor being dropped. [i Clever,] she thought. Not long after that thought, there was a small twitch in her eyes. It may have looked like irritation, but it was [i actually] a physical response as she tried to resist the next adjective that came to mind as he momentarily smirked: [i Cute.] Trying to hinder [i that] thought, she accidentally gave way to a smirk of her own, though it lasted no longer.
So his mother was brought up. It brought attention to the fact that the woman next to his father was no such role to him. The past tense he used made that clear. Aside from that, she made note of how comical it was that he took to re-reading the same scripts, living a nomadic lifestyle, whilst she found reading something twice to be uninspiring, living a settled life.
Whilst he paused to think, Sophalie reminded herself that this "escape" of a conversation was only that. It was polite talk to make this future they were supposed to walk into a little easier, not any actual talk of interest. The Vampire's barely-a-second look at the wolf girl that clearly felt distaste at the situation was an easy, quick reminder of that. Just as she had no attachments, as they did, it wasn't in her right to look for them here, union to be formed for the sake of peace or not.
Well, he wasn't wrong in that she wasn't surprised at his first suggestion. She may have unusual hobbies in comparison to other nobility, if not vampires in general, but she couldn't say anything about fighting. She was still in the process of trying to convince her father to allow instruction in combat using weaponry, even just fencing, much less fighting for fun. Stars, though, she could understand. [b "Well, I also-"] It didn't take any nudges or reminders this time to stop her before saying something she shouldn't. To say she enjoyed watching the stars would only alert those on her side to her continued, unsupervised, prohibited explorations out from underneath their clouded skies.
At least he gave her elsewhere to go from there. [b "Nothing too interesting...studying, I suppose. Education is important, after all."] Unfortunately, she couldn't elaborate on anything else she could call an interest of hers. Everything else was also frowned upon and would be improper to bring up, be it in her parent's presence or at this "union meeting" in general. [b "That's all."]
It was of great luck to her that by that time, a certain elderly woman returned to the room. Her escape, this time, would be from this awful cabin. At least there was that much to look forward to.
There was a slight scoff from Veridae, as the vampire’s female leader took to insulting, which is what it was, the werewolf form of dress and style. It was the first thing to have her attention that did not include a severe glaring in Zack’s direction. Nadia, though, did not miss a beat. The young female kept her smile, though there was a slight shimmer of pain and memory that crossed her eyes. A raised eyebrow came from Jarek as he and Luce paused their signing to see how this was going to pan out.
With her smile, unwavering and friendly, the female chuckled softly. [b “Our hair is indeed of different texture. The light furs make it harder to style in the same way as your own, but your braids are intricate and if taught, I’m sure there may be a way to adapt it. I thank you for the compliment, as it were. My personal interest with this chosen hair and dress today stems from long-lost traditions, as it were. While my comrades with me have never had the luxury of stability and it has made such fancies irrelevant, my own upbringing was quite different. I learned from my mother, back in the days of the Halestrom Royal Court. We used to pride ourselves on the stable nature of our palace home and strive to bring more of the Wildlanders in to teach them the traditions of our people. Ironic, really, that we found ourselves begging their acceptance once the Kingdom fell. But such dark times are behind us now, I am sure.”]
There was not a single accusatory note in her tone, her ability to keep her emotions in such check was partly why Mortis had found her council irreplaceable. It was such things as these that spread rumors of her hiding an Alpha heritage behind her Beta claim, but none would pry.
[b “It will be refreshing, I admit, to be within stone halls and formal tendencies again. Like some remnant of home, I expect, strangely as that may sound. May I ask what your home looks like? There are many speculations as to the Kingdom of the Vampires.”] She was not about to leave the conversation on such a sour note as the Massacre. Even by vampire standards, it was sure to be engraved in the legacies as not the fall of a pack of rabid dogs, but of a true kingdom.
Mortis, much like Cypher, enjoyed the fact that they could forgo the small talk and get down to a more important business. He saw the way the vampire royal seemed to give a more comfortable agreement to the change as well and it almost brought him a sense of ease. Duty was always easier to discuss with your enemy than the weather, as he was not like his mate. [b “It will be a trial indeed, for all involved. Perhaps the Seer will see our logic in such a notion.”] He paused, hearing the voice of the older man who had spoken on the leader’s behalf before. Allowing such an intrusion, as an addition, Mortis raised a brow at the man’s suggestion.
Despite his own hesitation on the matter, the old man was right. It would not do well for Zack and Sophalie to leave separate carriages upon arrival. The gears started to turn in the man’s mind as he thought over the issue. It would mean the heirs and two others in one, and that another would shelter two werewolves and two vampires apart. Though not ideal in the pack mentality, the logic behind the reason was sound. [b “So, from what I’m understanding, in the single day your predictions give way to, you suggest that the parties remain separate while the sun is high, being that in the hour of sunset, the parties swap carriages in order to arrive as though of one belief?...It does indeed make sense, though maybe not the most ideal in terms of selfishness.”] He let his gaze trail between the two men he now spoke with, not unaware that Brom had ceased his instruction to Zane and was intently aware of the conversation.
[b “Alas, that is partially what comes of sacrifice, I would assume. Should you decide on this swapping of riding companions, I admit to being more comfortable with at least one other of my own accompanying my son, I am sure you understand. I doubt the thought of your daughter alone in a carriage of wolves would bring any more comfort than my own thought of my son in the same predicament with your kin, Seer’s words or no. Perhaps separating by two would be decently accepted? Should the idea of such a swap be accepted, I believe Zachary and Nadia would be the ideal travel selection, leaving Brom and Luce in another carriage with two of your choosing.”] He did not hide his thoughts behind any sort of veil. The idea of trust was still raw for both parties and he doubted that his request would be denied as such.
Zack’s interests in the conversations held around him had faded, though he couldn’t stop hearing them. A curse, almost, as he knew better than to interject with his own opinions when not included, but had so much to say on the matter of riding with the vampire’s princess into her own land. His held breath nearly left him in one single, quick exhale as he watched her posture change just slightly…a drop of the shoulders making him wonder if he’d said something completely out of turn. He almost started to try to backtrack, opening his mouth to grasp at conversation and then he heard a sound that drowned out the rest by comparison.
She’d given a chuckle. His ears twitched at even the slight sound that it seemed like she didn’t want anyone else to hear but herself. Despite how short and quiet, almost impossible to discern it was, it gave him a small sense of relief. It may have been amusement at his expense…in fact, he was pretty sure that it was exactly that, but it didn’t matter. She had claimed his attention entirely with one small sound, finding himself paying more attention to her movements. Vampires always moved so strangely in comparison to his brethren.
Her answer made him smile, though small, as he felt they at least had something in common. More than he realized, as she elaborated on it being a passion, something truly enjoyed, something enjoyed. Perhaps they could lose themselves in the world of books sometime and not have to tip-toe around their current situation so much.
The way she returned the question, though, made his eyes light up. Not with anger or insult, rather with a playful gleam at the introduction of such banter. It was like a second language to him and his own, though he noted that she changed again. It was like he was catching glimpses of this being…and then immediately being shut off from the nature of them in such a stark and brutal way that it made it hard to know the proper way to talk to her. It was starting to frustrate him slightly. [b “Do I read? Surely, if I did not, I wouldn’t have inquired as to whether you enjoy the practice. However, I can see where my…[I ‘ahem’]…barbaric nature, as your people usually put it, might give the impression that we do not. Though it is not something I have had the luxury of doing over a wide-variety of texts, I do indeed read.”] Though he didn’t quite chuckle, there was a playful key to his words and a smirk took the smile over a moment before fading again.
[b “My mother used to keep the records of our historic texts and she would often let me read them. History in general is something I am quite fascinated by, though I enjoy a good fiction when I can get my hands on them. The rarity of a new book little affords any sort of bias when it comes to the creator or genre at all, so we are in agreement there, though we must differ in re-reading, given that I have a history of wearing out a good book from time to time.”] The nerves had started to build again. Sure, one could say he had found some small way to break the ice between them, but at the end of the day, she was still a vampire.
The thought tried hard to get him to remember that fact as she asked for his hobbies, knowing she probably only asked for the sake of conversation as he had, and reminding himself that a vampire, bookworm or not, was probably not interested in the least in his actual musings. If anything, she would only find fault in them, as he’d tried asking about reading specifically with the thought that the vampires were a learned race, surely. [b “Given the nature of my bring, I never say no to a good, well-natured fight. But that’s probably not the kind of response you’re looking for or would be surprised by. I also don’t mind a bit of stargazing, seeing the patterns that are constant and unchanging when even the moon herself gives way to shadow.”] Why? Everything he said seemed to form simply and unimpressively. It made even himself more aware of how inadequate he was for this task. [b “And what of yourself, m’lady, are there other things you enjoy doing with your time?”]
[b "I'm confident that our hair is very different in many ways."] Josephine quirked her head a bit. [b "Both in volume and texture,"] as she spoke, a hand consciously moved to fiddle at her hair. [b "There is a benefit to putting energies into grooming habits. After all, our kind holds much value in aesthetics."] There was a brief narrowing of her eyes, quickly replaced with her well-mannered smile. [b "That makes me curious, having never known werewolves to put time into such activity, as to where [i you] learned them from. It's..unique."] She took in the appearances of those around Nadia, a clear comparison being made.
Meanwhile, Cyrus offered nods in confirmation of catching the words of the Alpha. It was surely not in understanding. The leader had expected such words to come from Mortis, uninspiring to further question. Nothing more than a further elaboration on what he already knew and honestly had no interest in knowing more about. [b "Memories are a treasure to the long-lived like ourselves."] Putting himself on the same scale; it brought a bitter taste to his mouth just saying it.
Apparently the man had his own concerns. Speaking in an official tone, Cyrus welcomed the purely professional conversation. [b "Energized or otherwise, I worry not for our safety with your representatives."] Aged eyes remained serious. [b "Rather, my concerns lie with the adjustment of those party to this. Your son and three companions, my daughter, wife, I, and our four accompaniment...I would find it within reason to separate them, if the [i Seer] would agree."] There was a small bite in his words, but of no insult; not to the Seer. He did grow to trust her. Sophalie's father was only lessening in patience for the little respect gifted to planning ahead.
It was Sven who joined the conversation. [b "Perhaps it would benefit them to transition partway?"] Even as Cyrus gave a partly irate glance his way, Sven carried on. Supporter, council, friend; whatever he may be, Sven was a proper politician with much forethought in their affairs of peace everlasting.
[b "In what way?"] His head hadn't turned, but eyes beneath light, sharp lashes found the older vampire as their target.
A smile so small it could barely be considered the memory of one crept at the man's thin lips, fangs only peeking further out. [b "Our travel to arrive took nearly two days thanks to the sunlight, even with our parting with carriages only partway here thanks to the dense forest. This way, it should take no more than a day, if even that, but have either of you considered when they arrive? If your party,"] a polite gesture waved at Mortis as he spoke to them both. He brought his hands back together to rest against his mouth, elbows leaned on the surface of the table.
Whether his ideas had political reason or was the scheming nature of the elderly man, Cyrus wasn't sure, but even if the latter were the case, Sven always found a way to make sense of it all. [b "Were to exit a carriage without one of our own...No, I correct. If the two heirs were to arrive separate from one another, then what happens to the fictional partnership and romance that our Madame of Magics referred to before? What couple would depart alone after just coming to a sort of union, be it official or speculatory? My Liege, you never leave the side of your beloved when traveling a great distance, especially with political means, do you?"]
Between the two, Josephine easily caught wind of Sven's suggestion. She chose to ignore it, finding some amusement in his ideas. Not only for the valid reason they brought, but for the position he placed Cyrus in. The men would have to come to agreement somehow, meaning she wouldn't have to push the diplomacy alone.
Just a seat away from the mess of concerns, Sophalie was highly distracted by her conversation. That is, she was distracted trying to investigate her previous debate as to whether his hair was more fur or typical. Some in between? His hand through it gave her little answer.
While that was left to question, he confirmed her prior inquiry. She already knew they were a culmination of many, not one single family. It was why the vampires found no fault in calling them "mutts." The term wasn't far off, even brothers being separated between packs at times, persons from far lands being invited in without any necessary gain met from it. His question to her side was..not really a question? To call those by her loyal was an affirmation, not a question. Did Zachary even think about what he was saying before he said it? How was she supposed to respond to that? [b "Ah, yes, they are..."] There was nothing more than that.
Then came an actual question that left her blinking in question momentarily. First he shovels out formal phrases and words to fill the space of silence, and then he asks if she..reads? If she [i likes] to read. That was at least something she could answer, but as her shoulders gave a drop, she questioned if he'd only just come to learn anything about causal conversation. Children would ask such a thing.
The smallest of a jump came to her shoulders from a barely-there chuckle, not completely audible, not shown on her face, but still there.
[b "I do, quite a bit."] Maybe she should show how to elaborate on something in a way that the other person actually [i learns] something. [b "You could call it a passion,"] too strong of a word for a [i lady.] [b "A [i hobby] of mine to study texts. Be it fact or fiction, there is always something to gain from reading. I am not picky as to what style it is written or what genre or author, though I will rarely read something twice. Do [i you] read?"]
Another nudge came to her side, Locke making no particular eye contact with anyone. He was part of the background, trying to keep Sophalie polite and well-mannered. That included not serving subtle insults, be it accidental or not. [b "Or is there anything you enjoy time spent doing in particular?"] She covered, yet again.
Mortis had a rebuttal for the ancient looking man who had responded instead of the vampire’s leader. He would have challenged the man, for sure, with the continued show of control over his own pack members. The vampire’s people may have trouble and be an issue as far as the safety of all involved in this visit…but the wolves were much more easy to control. Zack had no doubt that should his father waltz back home with the vampire princess and her people in toe, there would be a few growls and maybe a couple side-eyes…but no one would dare step a toe out of line. Punishments for disobedience of the Alpha were severe enough as they had to be to keep very strict order on the wild emotions of the beasts. Should anyone attack a protected individual, the Alpha would have them skinned.
As he opened his mouth to say as such, the young woman, sensing this turning into a war of superiority, placed a grip on Mortis’ arm to silence him without speaking out of turn. Anyone who would look at Nadia from the outside alone would see a young woman, with eyes as aged as Mortis’ own sat next to her. Her pleasant demeanor and strong personality had come with her as she joined with the pack. Zack remembered the vision of her, coming through the woods. Her fancy clothing torn, bloody and dirtied with two children in her arms that were not her own. Beta she may have been, but she had led the remnants of the females left alive, all no better a vision than she, without hesitation. Experiences that left their mark on her, beneath the beautiful clothes and the red fur, but she had always been one to smile regardless and help when she could.
At the moment, she was happy to find some form of company with the woman across from her, or so the energy would read despite the situation. [b “Ah, I appreciate your compliment. I was concerned that the trip would have left them rather dull and dirtied thus I made my best effort to wait until we were close enough before changing from traveling attire into something I hoped would be more suitable. Please tell me, though, how you’ve managed to keep your hair so neatly tied and braided with such a distance to travel. Mine tends to fall loose so easily and can become a slight hassle, being rather long.”]
There was a slight relieving of tension...just slight, which was a charm of polite conversation, he supposed. Zack’s ears twitched just slightly. Without looking he could hear Brom discussing details with Zane about what should happen as the young Omega was about to have his chance to show his capabilities with Brom’s absence from the pack. On the other side, Luce and Jarek were signing back and forth with each other, ignoring Veridae’s presence between them as the woman had gone from glaring at Zack to glaring at her own lap. He would have to speak with her before they departed. It wouldn’t be an easy conversation.
Mortis’ ear twitched as Cyrus spoke directly to him, perhaps impressed to finally find conversation coming from the man himself and not his woman or the older one who had spoken on his behalf earlier. Did these vampires have no reign of order at all? Still, the question seemed to relax him a little, not being one that would come across as a battle of any kind, though still with a slight sting of insult to them. Banter…of course. The Alpha smirked a bit, mulling over an answer. [b “The nature of our travels has taken my pack to several distant lands in the past. Though we have mostly remained in the less populated areas and rural cities when present there. Alas, I carry little proof of this, save those who travel with me, collected from various lands over the years. There is not much room for much in the way of material things when on the move.”] He paused, his eyes distant a moment before he shifted a bit and straightened.
[b “Lord Cypher, shall we discuss the details of travel? With three carriages being prepared to journey to your lands, and with daylight coming, I would assume that keeping our kinds separate would bring a peace of mind to you and your party members during such vulnerable hours. Though I doubt, after traveling all night, that there would be any energy left within my Son or those with him to do much, I would be of a mind to understand not fully relying on such things to feel safe on your way home.”]
It was meant as a gesture of understanding and care, something his father showed very few moments of when talking to most people in regards to duty and getting things done. Still, it would at least give them all a chance to rest easily, one last time.
She didn’t laugh at him. A Zack’s attention had not wavered completely from the one across from him, his ears returned to her alone as she spoke, hearing his name from her lips and something else…he saw the way her gaze seemed to shine with the same energy he’d felt from her before she questioned the Seer. He saw something cross her face…almost mischievous in nature, and it shocked him a moment as that smirk graced that other-wise pale and emotionless face. A crack in the marble fortitude that he found almost welcoming.
Zack almost whimpered as it fell again, seeing her back-peddle into that cold, stoic form. Wishing he could stop the sudden wall that closed her off again. It was almost painful to hear her cover such emotion so weakly. The question though made him grin a bit, thinking of how they must all look on the werewolf side. He raised one arm, running a hand through the wild locks he had failed to tame for this meeting. [b “Close is one way to put it. Though you are right in thinking not all of us are blood related. Pack-related, Pack-family, but not as much by blood. It is actually quite common in our lands for family not to only include blood.”] Every time he spoke it was less cordial than she. He knew that and wished he could word thins better…like Lanear would have. He’d have found a way to make the girl laugh by now, for sure.
[b “I did notice that your party seems to be well-experienced in years, for the post part. Though I am going to guess that each individual here is expressly loyal and reliable, as any would take the most of such for a journey like the one we have partaken.”] It was true, the ones seated on the vampire side all seemed more to be older than she. Was she lonely at all? Did vampires even feel loneliness? Did they feel much of anything? He tried to put it from his head and think of a way to salvage his clumsy self.
[b “Tell me, M’lady, if you would…Do you like to read?”] He went for it. He just fucking went for it. As though they were not of different species. As though they were just strangers on the street and not the kind that would be murdering each other if not for meeting here. It made him hold his breath.
Could it be her mistaking the way the light hit their tanned features, or were the werewolves amused? Even that heir's incessant heartbeat changed after she had spoken. He was still uncomfortable, as was she, but his glances towards her didn't spark quite the upset it had before. She couldn't say the same for her side, but for a moment, just a brief moment, Sophalie felt in agreement with the other side.
Her distaste was quick to return as the Alpha made his offer. Cyrus and his people weren't unaware of the humor the wolves found in this, only growing insulted by the extended hand. This may have been a meeting of peace, but that offer, to them, felt to be nothing more than a victorious enemy offering leeway to the fallen foe. Cyrus was unamused. Sophalie may not be on the best terms with her father at this very moment, but that didn't change the way her eyes narrowed at the Alpha who stared her father down. To Cyrus, they may as well have been saying their way of life was superior. In fact, her mother and the several others of their kind felt the same. Sophalie only felt disdain towards the Alpha for the advantage he took in the moment to knock her father down a notch.
He may not have been her favorite person in the world, but he wasn't deserving of mockery. It must've been Sven's well-known intuition that told him Cyrus wouldn't be making a verbal reply. To do so, knowing they could only reject the offer, would be leaving them above himself. Sven, as the man in the shadow of her father's form, would take the fall. [b "That will not be necessary. To send Lady Sophalie would be just as short notice, if not, perhaps, worse. The worries we have are not for accommodation to guests, but to allowing our people the time they need to prepare for the arrival of..[i past] enemies. They may have been aware of our reach for peace, but it may still come as quite the shock."] Deflecting was one of his skills. He pulled the topic off of them and back to the people they ruled, all concern being for them. Whether that was truly why her father feared the sudden decision or not, she couldn't guess, but Sven's convincing argument was met with a calmness returning to their row.
The Seer went on from there, considering the offer and their options. The parting gifts she mentioned didn't go without grateful nods in return. Evidently, it wasn't Sophalie alone that worried for the rising sun. Would their travel with the boy and his entourage include their rest in the carriages as well, or would they travel outside of it? That was doubtful, considering she offered the same care to those returning home without the pair. She could only hope that there would be no requirement that led them to being together in the carriage. After all, three? There were six of them and four of them to return. It was plausible they be separate, but then why would all three lack windows? That would mean there would be a vampire in each, unless it was her strange way of getting them accustomed to no sunlight.
It was a little unexpected when, upon returning her gaze to the figure across from her, their eyes were locked. If her heart were beating, she had a feeling it would've stopped for a moment. There was no greeting smile on her face, nor his. Neither of them flinched nor faltered. Instead, they just stared at one another. Were his eyes growing more vibrant? Her distraction in them was strong enough to dismiss the thundering beat of the heart she'd heard before, an underlying growl likely following the sharp blue eyes. Rather than looking to such sound, Sophalie continued to familiarize herself with this face. The heaviness of his eyelashes, the slight golden hue that lit up his face, even the way such messy hair wasn't entirely a wreck. As she'd thought before, he was an attractive man, just not her brand. He wasn't even properly groomed before arriving, something she assumed dogs might have some knowledge in. Ah, but the strange softness she noticed in the way his hair layered on itself; it wasn't filth keeping it up, but a fur-likeness. The vampire grew curious to the touch of it...Well, that wasn't ever going to happen. Not if she couldn't even directly speak to the boy.
And oh, how that thought would come to bite her. With the Seer's cheeky exit, the two families were left to each other, alone.
It was the red haired wolf that first spoke. Without much surprise, her own mother replied. [b "I would say so."] She gave a smile, though the tightness of it was without question. [b "It took some time, but the journey was a pleasant one."] It was also a mostly silent one, she failed to mention, aside from the times Sophalie was delivered a well-earned amount of bitching. [b "Oh, but I must ask how you managed to keep that lovely gown so pristine? I daresay the gems look polished."] Low-and-behold, her mother managed to divert the conversation into fashion; a primarily female topic. Way to go, mom.
Meanwhile, her father dared to finally speak. Directly, at that, to the man that dared his authority in the space of the Seer's home. [b "Alpha Mortis..."] Although she didn't turn her eyes from the heir, Sophalie visibly stiffened with concern. [b "To what ends have your pack traveled? You don't appear to carry luxuries, but surely you've crossed into exotic borders in your time?"] Her shoulders slightly dropped with relief. At least, much like her mother, he could be engrossed in trivial conversation when needing to pass the time. Pleasantries and moments like these weren't uncommon to them, thus they had the perfect arsenal of topics to dish upon the Werewolves.
That was when she finally saw her own "partner's" mouth open to speak. There picked up that heartrate again, with good reason. Even she grew more anxious, knowing the time to speak directly was upon them. At least it was in the company of their peers, rather than alone. That made it a formal occasion, in her mind. She could roll with that.
An introduction? Not to mention a passing throw of snark at her name? It may have been the proper thing to do, but his dare to remark on her "posh" name was something that no one that knew her would ever do. It wasn't an insult that she felt, but a need to rebuttal the commentary. Holding back anything [i extensive], she replied, at first, with the same mechanical grace she'd held to start.
[b "Thank you, [i Zack.]"] She enunciated his name, pausing before the slight hint of her attitude from just moments before reappeared in a slightly playful manner. [b "Hm.."] she mused. [b "Awfully curious, the need Werewolves have to simplify. I suppose it's a difference one [i could] find endearing."] Unlike her mother's tight smile, the raise at one corner of Sophalie's lips formed a small smirk. As quickly as it appeared, it fell, Locke giving a nudge to her thin frame. [b "I jest."] She covered.
Knowing this moment would only grow strange without her continuation, she found a follow-up. [b "I see you're all very close..but I don't believe you're all related by blood. Would I be correct?"] She gave a glance to the younger side of the table. [b "It's nice to see young faces other than ourselves here..pardon if that sounds rude."] Her eyes weren't narrow, but their interest wasn't with wonder either. She met their side with purely politeness.
Like she would find interest in their age. Sure, it was a decently nice change to see, but that didn't mean she was actually curious. Besides, to ask about them further would only fuel her previous twisting emotions towards the subject.
Maybe it was that twist of feelings that edged her into even asking in the first place. After all, what was a curious girl to do but ask about the thing most foreign to her: friends.
As opposed to his Father’s stoic and strong outlook to the positive of this whole situation, the vampire counterparts across the table had changed slightly, to the keen eye. Zack’s emotions started to dull to the shifts and strange changes of the features of these beings. It was not a pleasant look at all, instead being a look of disagreement. It seemed to have unsettled the guests across the way more than it had the wolves themselves which had started to intrigue the young alpha-heir.
His people had never settled in one place for very long. The many times they had to up and leave as quickly as possible, sometimes in the middle of the daylight without any warning, leaving everything behind to start over, had prepared them all for any unexpected moves. Traveling light, keeping very little in the way of personal items and being ready to run without question was possibly why a pack as large as their own had managed to stave off the massacres that would happen when vampires found their living quarters every time.
Even for this trip, Zack had grabbed the small bundle that had held the entirety of his personal effects. Just in case the encampment had to move before they had returned from this meeting. Items he didn’t wish to leave behind or lose. To see, and then hear, the stern retort of the one man who had not spoken yet, the Vampire leader, as it were, had brought a glint to Mortis’ eye. The man was trying to hide the fact that he enjoyed seeing the vampires squirm in their lack of preparation. Despite the pride of the wolfpack meeting the terms easily while the other party struggled, Zack had to agree with the older vampire.
With both actually, as he saw the woman attempt some form of damage control in case the wolves saw this s some kind of insult…which, seeing the amusement in his father’s face, it was not taken in that way at all. The truth was, the vampires were true…It was long speculated that the creatures fed only on blood and crept around by night…it was rumored that their home had no windows and was dark and cold …just as dark and cold as the creatures themselves. But alas, it was all rumor…unless it were not and in that regard, simple things such as nourishment and sunlight would indeed be an issue.
The seer seemed to have an answer for everything. Every concern, though not a solution. Zack felt like this was a bit redundant of a response, as it was just a fancy way of saying ‘Hell, I dunno, you figure it out.’ …sometimes these flowery speech forms were simply annoying ways to make things sound more pleasant than they were. His own eyes turned from his father to the Seer, to the vampires, watching them calm again…except one. His ..dare he call her ‘Potential’ pair-bond actually spoke. This time far less with the tamed, emotionlessness that he had heard from her before. This was different…it was like seeing someone different as she spoke. His lips parted slightly…perhaps as shocked as her Party looked for seeing her speak ‘out of turn’ but her words were correct. Words he wanted to say. Words he couldn’t have said…perhaps she was indeed, more brave than he.
There was a moment of back and forth, as the Seer tried her tripe of words on Sophalie, calming and attempting to appease her, but for the first time, Zack noticed the same fire he felt…that this whole situation was possibly futile and would only lead to travesty despite the path they took. That and it was a bit unfair…but the flame he saw in her was put in it’s place, seeing the way her parents and her people disapproved of her ‘outburst’. He heard Nadia’s comment to his father, as they were speaking, a whispered ‘I like her…’ Under her breath, which kept the small smirk on the werewolf Alpha’s face before it faded to seriousness again as the submissive apology that came from the other side of the table.
[b “There is no need for such apologies on our end, m’lady. Though, Cyrus, I will extend an invitation to you, should having my son and his entourage visit your lands first bare too much of a burden upon your people, we are more than prepared to do what needs to be done in such a short notice to accommodate your chosen heir and her party members. As stated before, such short notices are not uncommon for my people and thus it is easier for us to work under such pressures.”] Mortis turned his steel gaze to Cyrus, in particular, watching the man carefully as he gave such an offer. The jab did not go unnoticed by the Seer, but it was a non-mistakable truth as were the words said across the table. Though there was attempts at stifled chuckles or a slight unhindered grunt from the wolves’ side, they would say nothing without the alpha’s permission.
[b [I “It is a possibility, but given the circumstances and after studying both of your ways, I advised Zachary to go first as it would cause the least amount of disruptions to both Nations. I will not ay that it would not work, though. It would seem to be the more…difficult path.”]] The seer looked over all present one at a time, giving a chance to let them speak before she cleared her throat again.
[b [I “Despite what may be decided here as far as travel goes, I will bestow upon all of you a gift of peace, in all good faith. For those traveling to the Vampiric lands, I will provide three carriages. Windowless and able to travel the distance as you sleep, as this meeting will not end in time to travel safely under sky. For the ones traveling to the Wolven lands, I offer the same gift, though windows open, should you wish to take them. It will make returning from the long journey a lot easier and they will return of their own accord after you disembark.”]] The older woman gave a wave of her hand and one of her many cats jumped out from a shelf and went through the flap in her door.
Zack was partially lost a moment, as he felt eyes on him…and not just the glaring blue orbs that refused to leave him and yet which he could not look into for fear of feeling some form of pain. The other gaze was no better, as he lifted those lavender eyes to the female who dared to meet them. He felt his heart stop in his chest. They had always been told not to try to meet the gazes of vampires because it was how they got humans to freeze and follow them to their deaths. Hypnotic powers, they said. But though he dared not look away, Zack didn’t find himself under her control or anything. Stuck, staring deeply into those eyes that seemed to have a glow to them, knowing he had to keep it until she looked away again, and yet …he was slowly getting lost in them. Why? She wasn’t his type. She was too pretty. She was too disciplined and cold for his taste. Yet…her eyes…he found beauty there…perhaps if he just focused on them, he could make this work…somehow.
[b [I “Perhaps…it would be best for us to pause and take a moment to gather ourselves. I must step out a moment…if you cannot find a way to be civil in my home among yourselves then we are all doomed.”]] The Seer almost seemed to chuckle as she slowly got to her feet, creaking bones sounding as she took hold of her own staff and headed towards the door.
Silence followed the door’s closure. Silence broken as Nadia, ever the diplomat, cleared her throat a little. [b “The journey must have been quite a distance for you all, I hope it was at least uneventful? We enjoyed having a clear night to travel by…the storms of late have been quite tedious to move during.”]
The weather….of course…he remembered his mother teaching small talk to Lanear…but he was in his own battle at the moment, locked in a viewing with the heir of the vampires. If only he could find words to say to her...if he could maybe even start some form of conversation...if he could maybe find something witty to say to make her smile...if only his mother had been there to guide him before he was stuck trying to converse with the enemy he would have rather killed a moment ago. What could be possibly say that wouldn't make him out to be more an idiot than he was sure they thought him already? should be properly introduce himself?
[b "Sophalie...That is a lovely name. For a vampire, I mean...bit posh for a werewolf...Ah...You can call me Zack."] He shifted a bit, wishing he hadn't said anything at all. It sounded stupid even as he said it. Softly or not, the words were heard by others. Forced and stiff and it made his cheeks warm just slightly.
To think that such a worrying, unsettled boy was supposed to be able to court her? He couldn't calm himself and it was evident before all of the night dwellers. She still couldn't even imagine sitting next to him, but now she wasn't even sure he could so much as walk within a foot of her without shaking. She wasn't that scary, was she? Sure, they were mortal enemies, but they weren't even attempting intimidation yet.
Granted, she couldn't say she wasn't nervous herself. Reality was coming much closer than she would like and even Sophalie may not have the courage to walk directly towards him. Be it in anger for what they were, fear, or simple anxieties, this was going to prove difficult.
Even more so as the Seer deemed what she felt the appropriate next action: travel.
It was no surprise when her father's eyes widened, eyebrows furrowing downwards, sharp as thick, greying arrows could be. The tension she felt radiating from him caused a slight flinch in the gloved hands that remained folded on her lap. Straight as she may have already sat, it was no doubt that the vampire stiffened further. Even Sven leaned forwards, the inquisitive nature on his features deepening. Sophalie could've sworn she heard the swallowing of Locke next to her, just a seat over with Hyde seething in her chair.
With only her mother and Fable remaining calm, Sophalie knew this would be hard for even the Seer to convince them of. Sophalie was no exception to the unsteadiness. First she talks about the heirs having a "convincing romance," which was certainly never going to happen. To fake in front of people that she had actual feelings for this boy? No matter how excellent she may have been at masking her true thoughts and emotions, to portray [i love] between them for any reason beyond keeping the peace...This woman was insane. Then, she proceeds to suggest not only that Zachary visit their lands, but she travel to theirs as well?
Just look at how they carried themselves! Perhaps he might find some learning experience in staying in their lands, maybe understand proper etiquette and dress more than he had, but what was she supposed to understand of them by being there? That they lived in nature and ignored modern convenience? They wore rags for clothes simply for the patterns and cared little for decency? Perhaps the assumptions were growing larger due to her worry, but it was without a doubt that she wasn't a fan of the idea.
A whole week, no less. They had prepared [i nothing] for a stay; not for him and not for the three accompanying him either. Those dogs may have been alright with such spontaneity, but they needed planning. All magics forbid if Sophalie was the one leaving first. No one came to this meeting with anything ready for travel, no strategy, no nothing.
Seeing the reactions of those who were named, she found herself imagining them inside her home. How would those at home react? Other than the few here, no one else would be expecting werewolves to come strolling right to the front door with the Merlots leading them in. That could only lead to problems, which also would mean they would have to [i protect] them. Sophalie would have to defend these fur ridden ruffians from her own people.
It had only just dawned on her that this meant they would be at their side as soon as they left the walls of this home. She wouldn't breathe outside air again before having to travel with them. How did they even do that? Did they shift and just run the whole way like some kind of wild men? Did they have any concept of pacing, or did they just gun for it without thinking? Unsure of what hour it was, Sophalie couldn't plot whether this meant they would be leaving near sunrise or not, bringing up many more questions as to how this would work.
This Seer was only grinding further on her nerves. This guaranteed they would be having to converse with her further for whatever other schemes she had. The fact that she knew so much and they were left unaware until the last second, having to rely on her decisions was driving her up the wall.
[b "Honorable Seer, Madame of Magics, I know it is not appropriate of me to question your decisions, but we have not prepared for visitors of any sort. Especially not of a kind that requires needs aside from our own."] Cyrus finally made his stance clear. [b "I do not believe this is a wise action."]
The young woman was plenty surprised by his gall in speaking poorly of her ideas, but was partially proud of him for speaking his own mind rather than molding it with the Seer. Even her mother chirped in with, [b "Cyrus is right. We mean no disrespect,"] Unlike Cyrus, Josephine gave a brief look to the wolves, trying to assure them of the same. [b "But we vampires live in the night and die by the sun. It takes no more than a glance to see that this alone is a discrepancy between us that can't be ignored."]
Thoughtful nods met their concerns from the Seer. Sophalie had no doubts that she would soon say some pretty words that somehow made sense about something that has no reason to make any sense, calming them and convincing them to agree. Needless to say, she was right.
[b [i "These are practical concerns you bring to the table. In fact, I would say these reasons are why we meet here to discuss, rather than sending these peace-bringers off without addressing worries...What you speak of is one of the broader differences between your nations. It will take adjusting, but this is one of my hopes for you; that you will contrive a way to solve this."]] The folded hands in Sophalie's lap curled into fists as her father calmed, Sven giving a nod. They were really accepting this. [b [i "I do wish to help you further in this, but some answers, if you are meant to commune and bring about peace, must be found and understood through your own insight and experience..."]] Every word was soft and caring, only worried to console them. The milky way she spoke and the way her wrinkles tugged at her smile, a glow of pure intent around her, the vampire felt her stomach twist.
She was, after all, a reckless girl. Her next move should've been expected, but Locke was not quick enough to reach for her to warn her not to speak before her mouth opened.
[b "If I may be so bold,"] The glare from her parents made it clear she [i may not] be, but it wouldn't be the first time she selectively blurred them from her vision, instead focusing on the Seer. [b "This is all very utopian in theory, but these are ideas coming from the mouth of a woman who has no consequence should this fail. Death could come, should one side betray the scheme you've set, or even a damage done to our alliance that can't be mended no matter how many years are spent attempting."] Her energy only grew. [b "There's even the chance some outside force could effect it; the possibilities are endless. I am aware of and do believe in your foresight, but the future can be tampered with easily. Our livelihoods, our homes, our futures are being put on the line for this."]
There should've been a question to end her ramble, but she couldn't decide quite how to word it. She only stared at the elderly woman, fully aware of the disapproval facing her from her side if not the others as well, before answers were formed.
[i [b "Ah, yes, Sophalie, I do understand."]] That milky sweetness of a gentle grandmother rolled over into her ears.
[b "Madame, please, ignore-"]
A feeble hand rose from the feline to pause Cyrus in his speech. [b [i "It is of no bother...As I have said, we are here to discuss."]] She gave a gesture to the table. [b [i "She is free to speak, as long as it remains within the lines of peace. Sophalie, you worry for the protection of not only your home, but of those taking up temporary residence within it. If this were to fail, permanent damage may follow. I take no offense to your worries, as you are far from the first to have any doubts or wish for reassurance...Unfortunately, I must request you trust my sight...There is no perfect science to explain the way in which I see this future, but there has never been a prediction made or future offered from my visions that hasn't been met, be it through following my words or ignoring them."]] Sophalie's shoulders fell slightly back as she calmed. Her father took her hand in his, gripping it tightly. She was going to hear about this later for damn sure.
[b [i "Cyrus, do not fear your daughter's curiosity."]] It may have been a slight fear in the woman that caused him to let go. [b [i "If you must view it in some foreboding way, realize that this curiosity is a profitable trait for any leader to have, as well as a bravery to speak in this strange audience...Sophalie, I do wish I could better service your worries, but do know I believe in both you and Zachary's abilities to bring about this future I have promised."]]
To think that the woman could even calm [i her.]
A girl of proper society, she knew it was in her place to apologize. As much as she may have hated such an act of submissiveness, she bowed her head to both the Seer and those across from her. [b "Thank you, Honored Seer and Madame of Magics, for consoling my concerns. Both to you and those across from us that are taking on this overwhelming responsibility as well, I apologize for my outburst. May we succeed in achieving peace and prosperity together."] The words stung as they left her mouth, warmth crawling up from her hands in irritation as her having to say such things to [i them.] Nonetheless, she was an honest girl and upon her apology, raised her head to look straight into the lavender eyes across from her, knowing she had no choice in this matter but to get used to their sight.
Not only was the Seer the lucky one for her position outside of all of this, but for another reason; she was blind.
His heartbeat could be heard in his own ears, he was sure it was heard all about the room. Glad to be able to sit back down, Zack’s breathing started to calm, hiding shaking hands beneath the table. Why had it made him so nervous? Sure the weight of the words bore down on his shoulders like a boulder, but that shouldn’t have got him so wound…or should it? He tried not to glance too much at the vampire’s side, feeling the scrutiny in their eyes as they watched him. [I ‘Monsters. The lot of them.’] He thought, feeling the ringing beat in his ears start to settle as the elder-seeming female spoke across the table.
The words she spoke were rather fancy-placed, he thought, though he was never one to have been brought up in the way of addressing courts so perhaps this was normal? Zachary’s fate was always to be a soldier and a strategist for his Brother’s reign. He was not the eldest, it shouldn’t have fallen to him from the start and while his mother had worked extensively with Lanear on his speech and his politics, Zack had been brought up with another sibling in the ways of war and combat. He had trained under Brom and his Elite Hunt, raised to be a hunter. With the death of Lanear and his mother, he had been thrust into the world of politics rather unexpectedly and did not possess the same amount of verbal charm that would have come with lessons.
As she finished her speech, Zack found it odd that the older male did not speak at all. Did he think himself above communicating in the room with his enemies or did he simply have nothing to say? This was his heir, was it not? That they were speaking of. Perhaps it was more of a control issue, not wanting to say something that might upset the entire effort. With a slight pang, Zack reminded himself that they probably smelt his fear and it would have deemed him quite less of a candidate for this whole debacle. [I ‘Please let that be the case. Please disapprove and send me home.’] He begged internally. He felt the pack stiffen in unity at the movement of the female who stood from her seat.
He tried to study her, more than scrutinize her. His gaze was less the sharp and interrogative ones that a few of those from his side of the table held on her. Having been in such a position not but a moment ago, he hunted her face and eyes and stance for any sign that she was struggling with this. For some notion to the solace of solidarity. Anything, really, that would make him feel like that in this, at least, they were in some form of agreement. Nothing. She was as cold seeming and faultless as her race always were. A strange, sinking feeling found it’s way into his gut. She either did not care about this arrangement or she was simply much stronger and steady than he was. Perhaps the latter, which wouldn’t be a bad trait for a pairbond…but this was still a vampire. A cold and emotionless stone of a being which he could not read as he didn’t know how of if they could be read at all.
Turning his soft and now slightly defeated gaze to his lap a moment, he felt a foot nearly crush his own and raised his head again. His father’s stern reminder of where they were and who these people were. Showing weakness in such a submissive stance was insulting. Thankfully, most had turned their gaze to from the now seated ‘Vampire Princess’ to the Seer once more.
[b [I “Such convictions are not ill placed. You have my gratitude as your passion to see this through to the end has installed a great deal of faith in me.”]] The old woman let slip a small smile which seemed to echo on every inch of her wrinkled face. She sighed softly and ran frail fingers down the spine of the cat still seated on the table in front of her, letting the guests she held wait a moment before she spoke again. [b[I “Now that the most difficult part is behind us, we must go over some …details of how this entire union will be planted and able to grow. There is no doubt in my mind that the union of your two Nations needs to happen as soon as possible. However…”]]
The very thought had twisted Zack’s stomach into knots. Was the old woman thinking of just uniting them then and there? It would break all the traditions of his people. But these were strange times and circumstances. Perhaps tradition held no place in the march for peace. [b[I “…However, I do not think that it would be wise to take two complete strangers and throw them together with no strategy or thought to how the people will welcome such a thing, thus I have put together a plan. Zachary, Sophalie, You are not required to grow fond of each other so quickly. It would be absurd to request such a bizarre thing from two complete strangers who have been at war for some time. This does not mean you can simply tolerate each other’s presence. Your people believe in your leadership, that much is clear simply by those seated by your sides, but there will be some that require this to be a convincing romance and not just a simple war-torn strategy. Therefore, in private, say what you will and act how you wish with regards to distancing yourselves. But when in the public eye, you must stay true to the narrative…You must appear as though this union is not only by choice, but by infatuation as defined by your respective nation. The last thing you want to do is instill your own personal fears and misgivings into your people as that may cause someone to do something they would highly regret.”]]
Infatuation? …They had to act …like they had been smitten? The knot in his gut grew and his fists tightened again out of the sight of the others as he felt like he could go off on the seer for even suggesting such a thing. It was absurd! And impossible! To even think of taking this vampire through the courting rituals…it made him feel a bit ill. He dared not glance at the blue gaze that was boring into the side of his head like knives. He thought he heard Nadia chuckle under her breath and Brom shifted uncomfortably. This was crazy talk! He was sure his cheeks had turned a crimson color as his face felt hot and yet he was too irritated to care who saw it. Before his outrage could burst from within, the old woman cleared her throat to all present and continued.
[b[I “Do not be so quick to spurn these words. If the people doubt that this union is for some other reason than devotion there will be rumors and riots that will rip it from the earth before it has a chance to bloom. And we cannot afford that, as you venture to stay in each other’s lands, if nothing else than for your own safety.”]]
Her words were stern and demanded attention, though the last bit had his head reeling. Travel? Into the very heart of the vampires? Was she MAD? They would be ripped apart before they reached the gates and lord knows what would happen within them…torture? Like Luce had been through? So many emotions swam through his body that it made it hard to concentrate on any single one.
[b[I “Alpha Mortis, after much deliberation, I have made the decision that it will be Zachary who will be leaving this house en route to the nation of Vampires first. Where-upon he will remain for one weeks time. Given the sensitive nature of such an act, you must choose three others to accompany your son.”]]
The room went silent as the grave. Zack’s ears were back to ringing again, panic settling into his core like that of a deer under the fangs of a wolf unexpectedly. He tried to pull himself together, tried to hold his tongue and let the shock subside but it was proving difficult. His father’s silence, as he considered it, showed no signs of hesitation though. The man was as stoic as a leader should be…as Zack himself should be.
[b “Three…you say? The timing is unexpected…but my people are often prepared to move without warning. It is partially why we are even still in existence. Very well….Brom. Are you prepared to follow Zack into the Vampire’s lands?”] The grizzled old vampire gave no hesitation at the question, almost surprised that Mortis had poised it as such. It was odd, not to have him barking orders instead. [b “Yes. My Alpha.”]
[b “Good. Thank you, old friend. …Luce, you will accompany them also, as my eyes and ears.”]
Luce, ever the mute, used a hand to brush the blond bangs from his face before giving a very firm and unwavering thumbs-up gesture as it was the best he could do, given his circumstances.
[b “Lastly…I will send…”]
The man was cut off as a hand touched his arm to his right. The breathtaking Nadia leaned upward, as she always did, whispering softly into his ear as he would mutter and nod back to her under his breath. They did this for a moment, leaving everyone on edge. Zack, having recovered a little, took a glance at Veridae who seemed about ready to jump out of her seat to volunteer. She was desperate to go, and Zack could only hope she would not make a scene here should he not choose her. If she did, he would put her in her place in front of the vampires without a second thought, as the Alpha would to any opposed to him. Nadia grinned as she spoke softly, before Mortis sighed and nodded. [b “Lastly, I will be sending my Mate, Nadia, to accompany my son. She is the one most versed in diplomatic matters and her advice may prove most useful to him, in garnering this peace.”]
[b "I will serve you well, my Alpha."] Nadia nodded her head slowly, in a bow. There was a stifled growl from the silver haired beauty, but she bit back her tongue fairly well for someone about ready to destroy everything. Zack understood his father’s choices, but it made him wish even more that this wasn’t happening. It couldn’t BE happening. Him…sent to the slaughter…in a land that wasn’t even his own…accompanied by The Hellhound, The Lone Wolf, and the ghost of a fallen kingdom. Moving his gaze to the seer, he tried hard not to burst into anger, or tears, or hysterical laughter at the absurdity of it all.
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