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Messages - Liayna

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Arctra / Re: Vestibulum Elocutio
« on: February 03, 2018, 02:41:37 PM »

A Typical Wild One House
- though rare, there are small settlements in the wilds of Arctra, where the Wild Ones have put down roots. Their homes are dug into the ground, often deceptively small from the outside but opening into a wide space beneath lit with torches and separated into multiple rooms.

Arctra / Re: Vestibulum Elocutio
« on: August 20, 2017, 10:19:01 AM »

Definitely Conall's daughter - the newborn Vespera

Arctra / Re: A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:34:03 AM »
"Phalion is Ariana's city," Conall replied. Or at least, it had once been Adare's city, so there was no reason not to think Ariana would be welcome there. "Perhaps we should ask them," he said. They had traveled from Phalion to Loscar in order to defeat Velasca; there had never been any thought that they'd settle there, but he could not say the same for the others.

"They will have to travel soon," Liayna mused. "Traveling while pregnant is not without its risks, even in the comforts they can now call upon. But her people in Phalion would dearly love to see her crowned and well, and to lay claim upon her firstborn as their own, as they did when she was born." A smirk flashed over her face. "And Kari would no doubt wish to deliver those twins by her own hand."

"Perhaps we should suggest they accompany us," Conall suggested as he scraped the last of the pie from his plate. Then, they'd be able to give them an escort, though it was likely the royal couple would have an escort of guards accompanying them on their travels.

Liayna eyed him with a faint smile. "And, of course, that suggestion has nothing at all to do with the fact that Liam and Shaye will be traveling with them wherever they go, does it?" she teased fondly.

"Of course not!" Conall replied, though it wouldn't hurt to have Liam and Shaye along, and Conall couldn't deny the fact that he was going to miss them. He and Liam were like brothers, and Shaye had grown on him, too.

She laughed, nudging her shoulder against his. "It is a good idea," she told him. "And this time, I will come into the city with you to see them. It is time they realized that stone walls cannot keep me out."

He knew she wasn't talking about their friends, but those Arctrans who were still suspicious of the Wild Ones, especially here in Loscar. Though he knew Loscar was home to Liam and Shaye, as for himself, he was eager to be back home in or near Phalion. "But first, we need to speak with Arora."

"I will send for her when the moon rises," she promised him. "It's about time I started to teach you all these little rituals that make up our incidental magics, after all."

"I'm not sure I have any talent where magic is concerned," he admitted. After all, he had first been a blacksmith and later a rebel soldier. He knew how to fight and track and hunt, but he wasn't so sure about magic.

"You have the Goddess in your heart," she reminded him in a gentle tone. "What you ask of Her, with humility and grace, She will grant. Our magic is not the magic of the Skarrans, eniro. Our magic is a prayer She answers."

He set the plate on his knee and reached for her hand. "All I want I have right here beside me," he told her, with a warm smile for her and their child. For a man who had once come close to death, this was almost like a second chance at life, and he intended to hold on tight and never let go.

She drew her fingers between his, their joined hands hovering above their daughter where she slept in her soft basket. This was all they needed; the love they shared, and the child they had made. Anything else that came to them would be a blessing beyond any they asked for. It would be enough. Always enough.

Arctra / Re: A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:33:42 AM »
It almost seemed as though they had exchanged moods, his going from dark to light, hers from light to dark. While it was true he hadn't yet experienced the bigotry of the Arctrans, the Wild Ones had come to accept him - an Arctran - as one of their own. "There is only one way to change their minds, Liayna, and that is to show them who we really are," he pointed out further, though he didn't want to press the matter.

"We protected their queen when they didn't even know she existed," she pointed out. "But it is their gods they give the credit to, not the Goddess who guided us to do it." She shook her head, sighing once again. "Things will change," she said decisively. "Not soon, and not fast, but they will. Too many people remember that we stood at their shoulder in battle."

"And that is a good thing, aera. They may need us yet. I have a feeling we have not heard the last of the Skarrans," he said, but he didn't want to dwell on it. What would be would be, and they would do as they must when the time came. As for himself, he would remain loyal to Liam O'Connor for all the days of his life, whether he was Arctran or Wild One.

"Skarra will never be welcome to these lands," Liayna told him firmly. "If we have to give our blood to prevent it, we will." Her eyes seemed to unfocus for a moment, gazing into a future not yet written. "I will never allow our queen to stand alone."

"Nor will I," Conall replied. "But all this talk has made me hungry," he pointed out, changing the subject again with a bit of a smirk. "Shall we see what's in the basket?" he asked her again, this time reaching for the basket, since she had their daughter against her shoulder.

She blinked, snapping back to the present with a sudden smile that wiped away the darkness of her mood in an instant. "Yes," she agreed, moving to sit beside him. Their daughter was fast asleep on her shoulder, still too young to do much more than eat and sleep yet. "What do you suppose she meant by "bits for the wee one"?"

"Let's see, shall we?" he asked, offering a reassuring smile her way. Whether the woman had her own prejudices or not, it had not stopped her from bringing them an offering in exchange for their help. It had taken courage, but hopefully, she had at least seen that they were no different in that they cared for their children just as the Arctrans did. Perhaps they could change the Arctrans' minds and hearts one at a time.

Liayna laughed. "Anyone would think it was you getting presents," she teased him, leaning against his shoulder as he set about exploring the basket. There were, as Talis had said, several pies, their crusts golden and begging to be broken into; a couple of knitted blankets that bore the royal blue and gold trim; even a knitted hat for the baby that matched the delicately stitched dress tucked away inside. "Oh, goodness," she breathed. "I was so unkind, and look at all this."

"I would say this is favor enough, wouldn't you?" he asked, though it wasn't really his place to say, as he wouldn't be the one from whom help was sought. He made no comment regarding her own prejudice; he was a man who had lived in both worlds and saw the biases of both his people. It was better to let her learn for herself, but he could not help but smile at her comment.

"More than enough," she agreed softly, truly touched by the thought that had gone into Talis' gift. Perhaps she had been too harsh to paint the woman with the same brush as the wide scope of her people. Her fingers touched the soft fabric of the dress, lifting it out of the basket to marvel at the tiny stitches. And there, on the breast of the dress, was the nine-pointed star of the Arctran gods, wrapped about in the embrace of the moon, which was the Goddess' symbol.

"Do you think she made these herself?" he asked uncertainly. She couldn't have made them all in the short time that had passed since their daughter had been born, could she? And if that was so, had she made them with the intent of giving them merely out of kindness, or had she always intended to ask for their help? There was no way of knowing now that they'd scared her away.

"I don't know," Liayna murmured guiltily. "But these didn't come with the intention of asking for a favor, did they? They would have come to us no matter what. From a woman we've never met before, who only knew us from anecdotes told by our friends." She bit her lip, looking toward the city with a thoughtful frown. "We should thank her. I should apologize."

"There is no need to apologize, aera. You said and did nothing to offend her. She is the one who let her misunderstandings frighten her. We will have a chance to thank her, and then perhaps, she will learn that she should not believe everything she's been told," he reasoned. "We should eat before Vespera wakes," he suggested, only just realizing how hungry he was.

If she had said and done nothing to cause offense, why did Liayna feel so guilty for the way Talis had rushed to be away from them? Perhaps that was the main difference between the Arctrans and the Wild Ones - the Arctrans thought too little, and the Wild Ones felt too much. Conall's eminently sensible suggestion, however, prevented his mate from lingering too long in those thoughts. "Oh, an actual meal for once," she groaned in delight. "What a lovely idea."

"We are welcome at the palace whenever we wish," he reminded her with a chuckle. It wasn't as though they were going hungry, but it took effort to hunt for a meal, rather than have it provided for you, like at the palace. Fortunately, he didn't feel offended, only amused. Producing tin plates and knives and forks from their cache of supplies, he cut into the meat pie and offered her a generous slice.

She stuck her tongue out at him, grinning as he offered her that more than generous helping. "We'll have to hunt properly on the journey north," she pointed out, laying Vespera down in the fur lined basket that was her bed for the time being. "None of this sneaking into the market and buying fresh cuts when you think I'm not looking."

"What sneaking?" he asked, grinning around a forkful of pie. "I see no reason why we shouldn't take advantage of what the city has to offer while we're here," he pointed out. He was an experienced hunter and so long as there was game available on their way north, they would not go hungry, but he saw no reason to struggle if they didn't have to.

Rolling her eyes at him, she shoveled a large forkful of pie past her own lips, groaning in delight to find that not only was it well cooked, but also seasoned perfectly. Seasoning was hard to come by when you were camping alone, and a few weeks of plain meats had definitely become boring.

He smiled, amused to find her enjoying the pie, despite her misgivings about the Arctran or Arctrans who'd cooked it. He said nothing, though, too busy enjoying his own pie and filling the empty hole that was his stomach.

"Do you think Ariana and Rory will come north soon?" she asked curiously, settling down to make a dent in her food at his side. "Phalion deserves to see how well settled they are." She snorted as a thought occurred to her. "Phalion deserves to be the place where she births their twins."

Arctra / Re: A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:33:01 AM »
Talis scowled. "Oh, he was eager enough to get her back when he thought she'd be easy to dominate and do what he wanted with," she said, not at all averse to gossiping. "Soon as she did even a little back-talking, he told her she was going to the Temple. Milord married her so the old fart couldn't do anything to her." She smirked quickly, though. "Don't think he was expecting her to ride him like a pro, though."

Liayna choked on a mouthful of her klaste, trying not to laugh too loudly at this mental image.

"I beg your pardon?" Conall asked, though he'd heard her well enough the first time. "So, he married her to save her from being sent to the Temple," he echoed, trying to get it all straight in his head. Even if the man had only married her to save her from her father's anger, it stood to reason that he must have cared for her at least a little or why would he have bothered?

"Married her to keep her from harm," Talis corrected him. "She's got her fingers wrapped around his heart, and his around hers. Might not have admitted it, but there's love there. They don't deserve to have a future took away because of a bad past."

"Have they discussed children?" he asked, claiming a smaller boulder as a makeshift chair and taking a swallow from his cup. He had only been a father for a few days, and yet, he could not imagine his life without his wife and daughter.

Talis shook her head. "Don't think they've got there yet," she mused. "Little miss has a lot still to learn about being a woman and a wife. But I don't think it'd be a bad thing if they were to find themselves with a wee one. There'll be envy in them as Lady Shaye rounds out more. Not so much as the queen does, but that's more to do with her being royal."

Conall looked over at Liayna and their daughter for a moment in quiet consideration, his expression softening, all the love he felt for them there to see on his face. "Do they love each other?" he asked, thinking this was important if they were going to share a life and raise a family together.

"She'd break the world if he asked her to," Talis answered swiftly. "It's there to see in her eyes when she looks at him. Him? I'm not so certain, but she makes him softer. He looks at her with new eyes, I'm sure of. Just not sure if he knows he's in love."

Liayna's smile softened as she listened, holding Conall's gaze. That sounded like love to her. "We'll contact Arora," she promised, finally looking to the older woman. "Even if she cannot help, she will know someone who may."

He hadn't been so sure himself at first either, so he knew what that felt like. He'd never met anyone like Liayna before and somehow he'd known he never would again. She completed some part of him that he'd never known was missing. If the First Blade was even half as lucky as him, he'd know what it was to be loved by a woman. There wasn't much he could add to what Liayna had already said, but nodded in agreement. "We'll do what we can to help."

Talis looked ready to cry with relief, confirming what she had not said - that she had been searching for some remedy for this problem all alone for quite some time. Liayna's smile softened in the face of such obvious care for the couple in question. "Do you need an escort back to the palace?" she asked gently, though she was not inclined to set foot in the city too eagerly.

The servant woman shook her head, smiling herself. "No, Gods bless you, I'm unhindered in the streets," she promised. "I ... will there be payment needed? I can scrape together something, I'm sure."

So, the woman had not come here only to see their child and offer them gifts, but having spent most of his life among Arctrans, he understood her hesitation in asking for help. "They will not expect payment, as such, but they may ask for a favor," Conall told her, though he could not say what that favor might be.

Talis hesitated, an Arctran to her bones. Owing the Wild Ones a favour brought up all kinds of gruesome thoughts she was ashamed to be thinking at all. "Aye, a favor for a favor," she nodded. "No ... no killing or blood or anything though, right?"

Liayna frowned, insulted on Clan Kirun's behalf, but she managed not to say anything. Arctrans would never let the idea of blood magic and necromancy rest, it seemed.

"No," Conall replied without hesitation, not as offended as Liayna,as it had not been long since he'd learned he was half Clan Tarven. "You should not believe everything you hear, Talis. The Wild Ones are a peaceful people. They are nothing like the Skarrans."

"I didn't mean any offense," Talis apologized, but the look on Liayna's face chased her away faster than might have been polite. "Thank you, m'lord. Lady. Good eve to you!"

Liayna was still scowling as the branches rustled back into place in the woman's wake. "They're never going to accept us," she muttered, jostling Vespera on her shoulder with agitation. "We were here first, this is our land, and yet they think that we are the savages."

"What do you think they'd say if they knew the Royal Consort was one of us?" Conall asked, once he was sure Talis had departed. He hoped that with a Queen who was friendly to the Wild Ones and a Royal Consort who was half Clan Kirun, things were changing, but he also knew change was slow, especially among people whose prejudices ran deep.

"You've lived as one of them," she said, her voice bitter with a lifetime of experience at the sharp end of the Arctrans' unceasing hatred for her people. "You know how they think. They'd force Ariana to put Rory aside, and they'd probably have his children killed. It'll take more than one war for them to start believing we're more than just savages and witches."

Conall frowned, not really wanting to think about that too much. "Then I suppose we will have to keep it a secret," he replied, simply, though he wished things could be different. "It will take time for them to change their opinion of us, but that does not mean we should not help them."

"I didn't threaten her, or hurt her, did I?" she argued, feeling unaccountably defensive all of a sudden. She and Conall had never really looked hard at the differences between them - differences their lifetimes had ingrained in each of them. It was something of a shock to be faced with his lack of bigotry when she had bigotry of her own in spades.

"There was a time when I believed those things, too, aera," he reminded her. He'd been raised Arctran, after all, but he had learned better, and there was no reason to believe other Arctrans couldn't do the same. "The more we help them, the less they fear us and the more they will learn to trust us."

"We've been helping them for generations," she said bitterly. "Whenever they ask, whatever they ask for, we help them. And they use our gifts, our talents, in secret, and spit on us in daylight. I want things to change, eniro, but I don't think they will."

Conall frowned, hoping she was wrong, but not wanting to argue. "It will change someday, aera. Perhaps not in our lifetime, but it will change," he assured her, leaning over to brush a kiss to her forehead. He hoped it wasn't only wishful thinking. "Shall we see what she brought us?" he asked, changing the subject, a warm smile on his face.

She sighed, letting out a shaking breath. Of course he didn't feel the same way. He had yet to experience the full hatred of the people half his blood came from. He had only known them as compatriots, unexpected allies in a war none of them had ever thought they would fight together. As life returned to normal, those attitudes would return. But perhaps the rare few who clung to the truth would keep those memories of campfires and stories shared alive for the next generation to come.

"I'd forgotten the basket," she admitted, lifting a smile to reassure him. "She said something about pies."

Arctra / Re: A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:32:10 AM »
Liayna snorted with laughter, thumping down onto the ground. She reached up to take Vespera from Conall, settling the baby girl against her shoulder while he made his own way down.

Once Liayna had their daughter safely in her arms, Conall, too, clambered on down from the boulder to join his wife. He snorted again at something the woman had said, but it was fairly obvious this time that it was done in amusement. "If he's gotten himself married, it's only a matter of time," he mused aloud.

"Not so sure about that," Talis commented, ducking into view from beneath the low hanging branch that hid their camp from careless eyes. She looked around briefly, containing her curiosity. Talis didn't know much about the Wild Ones, but she knew that this pair in particular were held in high esteem by the queen and her consort. If she thought it strange that they would choose to camp out here, rather than stay in the palace, she kept it to herself. "I've brought you some clothes for your wee one, blankets and such, and a few pies and bits for you both to spare you the need for too much cooking," she offered, setting the basket down beside the banked fire.

Conall still wasn't sure why the woman had chosen to visit them or come bearing gifts, but she seemed harmless enough. Perhaps it was only that she was fond of babies. "Thank you," he told her, gesturing toward the fire with a hand. "Please, sit. Can we offer you anything? A cup of klaste, perhaps? It's freshly brewed," he told her, making a visible effort to be friendly and accommodating, despite his tendency to be a little standoffish.

"I wouldn't say no to something I haven't had to brew myself, no," Talis chuckled, her eyes lingering on the green-eyed babe on Liayna's shoulder. "She's a fine one, isn't she? Oh ... she is a she, yes? The captain was well into his cups when he was boasting about your babe."

There was that snort again from the big man, even as he went about pouring a cup of the bitter black liquid from a kettle that was hung over the fire. "That does not surprise me," he remarked, a hint of a smirk tugging at his lips. At least, the captain had been happy about their news and was only drunk because he'd been celebrating.

Liayna, too, laughed at the description of Liam, rolling her eyes as she gestured for Talis to sit comfortably. "Vespera is a girl, yes," she assured the older woman, eying her curiously. "But our child is not the reason you came, is she? There is something else you wanted to see us for."

Talis paled, looking guilty for a moment. "Well, I, uh ... you're Wild Ones," she said worriedly. "You'd know more about magic than I would."

Conall handed the woman a tin cup filled with the invigorating black liquid, which had an earthy aroma and slightly bitter but not unpleasant flavor. He ticked a brow upwards at the mention of magic and exchanged a curious glance with his wife, allowing her to lead the conversation. He was still new enough to the clan that he was not yet too versed in magic.

Liayna frowned, glancing back at Conall. Arctrans, as a rule, did not approach the nomads about magic unless things were very dire indeed, and even then, they did it reluctantly. What was going on in the palace? "What sort of magic are we talking about?" she asked, handing Vespera back to Conall as she spoke.

Talis shook her head, concern blossoming on her face as she breathed in the klaste in her cup. "Magic that makes a woman barren," she said quietly. "Magic Skarrans'd use on slaves."

There was that look on Conall's face again, though he was relieved to hear the woman was not there concerning the queen and her consort or the former First Blade and her captain. He didn't know much about the kind of magic Skarrans made use of, but he knew it was not the same as the magic that came from the Goddess. "There are herbs and such for fertility," he pointed out, though, again, this was not his area of expertise.

"Neither of us is an expert with magic, Talis," Liayna said regretfully. "Why are you asking?"

Talis frowned into her cup. "My little mistress," she sighed in a quiet tone. "She hasn't bled. Been with us more than two months now, and no bleeding. She doesn't even know she's supposed to bleed, and she's all grown up. Only thing I can think of is that those bastards cast something on her when she was small, something that'd keep their seed from taking. Only now it'll keep milord's seed from taking, and a babe might be just the thing for them."

Conall exchanged looks with Liayna again, though this seemed like something Kari would be more knowledgeable about than them. Or perhaps they could ask the advice of another clan that was close to Loscar, since Clan Tarven was at least a month's travel away. "You're sure she's not already with child?" he asked, stating the most obvious possibility first.

"Certain," Talis nodded firmly. "There's signs and all, and she showed none of them. She's never bled, sir. Never. It's not right what they did, but hang it if I'm not glad they did something to spare her the pain of bearing their bastards."

"Never?" he echoed, brows arching upwards as he poured another cup of the black liquid and offered it to his wife. He couldn't argue with the fact that that was not normal, but he wasn't quite sure what could be done about it.

Liayna crouched comfortably, dropping onto one knee as she took the cup from Conall. "That is ... not right," she said thoughtfully. "Against the natural order." A heavy frown deepened her expression. "You're sure there are no other signs of what might have caused this?"

Talis' frown echoed hers. "No, ma'am," she said firmly. "I've seen every inch of that girl. She's scars a-plenty, but none where you'd find them if they'd done that."

Conall practically growled at the thought of the Skarrans causing anyone the kind of harm which Talis was alluding to. Though he might not know the girl in question, she had done nothing to earn such a fate. "Perhaps we could speak with Arora," he suggested, at a loss as to what else to do. This required more knowledge and skill than they possessed, and Arora was the Doma of the clan closest to Loscar.

"Who's that when she's at home?" Talis asked, her ears perking to the unfamiliar name.

Liayna was nodding in agreement with Conall. "At the very least, it would get her to visit the city," she pointed out. "Talis, Arora is the Doma of Clan Kirun, the clan that roams the lands around Loscar. She knows more of magic than we do. And she is known to the queen and consort." More than known, but Rory had not yet decided whether to make his parentage common knowledge. Until he did, Liayna had to keep her mouth shut, because he hadn't been shy about referring to her as his sister.

Conall would have preferred to have consulted with Kari, but Kari was too far away, while Arora was close by. "It may take a few days to locate her," Conall put in, though he was confident they could track the clan down easily enough. If the girl had been barren this long, it didn't seem a few more days would matter one way or the other. "How old is she?" he asked, out of mere curiosity as he poured a cup of klaste for himself.

Talis nodded slowly, putting the matter into their hands. She hadn't even spoken to Loren or Gerard about this, wanting to know more about it before worrying them in their strange little love nest. "Nearest I can guess, she's twenty-three, twenty-four," she said thoughtfully. "Wasn't yet four when she was taken, father said it was twenty years ago. Not that he's reliable, the stuck-up prig."

There went that brow again, arching upwards at the woman's estimation of the slave girl's father. "Why do you say that?" he asked, not only curious now, but interested in the girl's plight, if only so that they could explain her situation to Arora in the coming days. He'd hoped that peace would come with Velasca's defeat, but it seemed they still had some ways to go before all their enemies were defeated.

Arctra / Re: A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:31:11 AM »
"Like I'm waiting for something to happen," he replied, without hesitation. It was a feeling of anticipation, like sitting on a hornet's nest and waiting to be stung, though he was unsure if what he was waiting for would prove to be a good or a bad thing.

"Company's coming," she repeated with a satisfied smile, nodding to herself. "Here, hold your daughter while I lace up again." She handed him the little bundle they had made together, turning her attention to the complex lacings of her vest to right herself. "When you feel that uncertain anticipation, it means that company is coming. Someone coming to see you, to speak to you, not necessarily hostile. If there's danger, it comes with an edge of restlessness that won't let you take your hand off your weapon."

His entire demeanor changed as he was handed their daughter, though he was just as protective as he'd been before. "I will never master these ... feelings, aera," Conall complained, as he looked into his daughter's eyes, that seemed so much older and wiser than she seemed. She seemed almost amused at her father's dismay, though she was only a few days old.

"Yes, you will," Liayna assured him in amusement, tugging her laces comfortably tight once again, content to be the protector as he held their daughter. "They'll become second nature to you, as they are to all of us. It's one of the Goddess' gifts to Her chosen people, after all, and you are one of us."

"Only by half," he reminded her as he set their daughter against his shoulder. He was perfectly happy to keep her there, so long as she was content and there was no sign of danger. He wasn't so sure he would ever master his gifts the way she and her people had, but she seemed to differ.

"That does not matter," she told him in a firm voice, fingertips turning his chin until he looked into her eyes. "You are Goddess-touched, Conall. That is not simply words. Have you never realized that only the Goddess' people bear pure green eyes? It is a gift not given to anyone who is not Hers. You have green eyes. You are Hers, and the gifts She gives are yours."

"You seem so sure," he told her, as she turned his face to look at her. It had not been all that long since he'd found out about his true heritage and birthright, and though he had accepted it and even welcomed it, it still caused him some confusion.

"Because I am sure," she promised him warmly, leaning close to brush her lips to his in a brief kiss. "How else could you possibly have been so confident to be alone with me the night we met? I knew you were the one the moment we met. My eniro, promised to me years before by an old woman who likes to stick her nose in and ferret out all the details."

That brought a smile to his lips - not only the kiss but the reminder of their first meeting, and of the woman he now knew as Kari, Liayna's grandmother. "My aera," he whispered in turn, brushing his nose against hers. Whether he was a seasoned soldier or not, at that moment he was nothing more than a loving husband and father, with a mate he adored and a young daughter on his shoulder.

She smiled with him, nose to nose, lingering in the loving moment beneath the warm sun. Until suddenly she whipped away, going from relaxed and tender to crouched before him, her bow drawn and an arrow nocked, sighting along the shaft at the woman approaching their perch from the road. That was what his instincts were going to grow into, eventually.

The woman squawked in surprise, holding her free hand up peaceably. The other was busy holding a heavy-looking basket. "I'm not here to cause trouble!"

Conall's free hand fell to the hilt of the blade he wore at his side. There was usually a brace of them strapped across his back, but today, he only wore the one, which he'd deemed sufficient since they were no longer at war. He turned so that he was shielding their daughter from the stranger with his own body, looking the woman over with wary, curious eyes. Those gut feelings of his, though, didn't seem to sense any danger. "It's all right, aera," he assured her, noting the basket the woman was carrying, which was more likely to be laden with foodstuffs than anything dangerous.

Liayna relaxed at Conall's assurance, though she kept her bow nocked for the time being. Her own safety, she wasn't too bothered about; the safety of her mate and their daughter, however, was not negotiable. "Company," she murmured, the sharp edge of anticipation easing away as the woman dared to edge a little closer.

"You'd be Master Riordan and the lady from Phalion, yes?" she asked curiously. "I've some bits for you and the little one here."

Conall got the feeling their friends had sent the woman to them. She seemed harmless enough, but one couldn't be too careful. "And you are?" he asked, not just out of mere curiosity.

"Talis, milord," the woman introduced herself. "Would've been servant to Lady Shaye if she'd been living in her own rooms at the palace, but now I'm servant to Lord de Winter and his little wife."

Liayna blinked, glancing at Conall in surprise. "Wife?" she repeated. That was news to them.

Conall snorted, but it was hard to tell if he was snorting in amusement or derision. "That didn't take long," he said, knowing what they knew of the new First Blade and the slave girl he'd taken into his protection. This was coming from a man who had wasted little time in pursuing the woman who had become his own wife.

"Longer than it took us, eniro," Liayna pointed out in amusement. But then, he hadn't actually known they were mated in the eyes of the Goddess for several months after the fact. She lowered her bow, looking to their visitor. "Come through," she invited her, gesturing toward the hidden path. "Ignore the webs, they are not real."

Talis nodded, moving toward the opening she was directed to with a wary step as Liayna slung her bow onto her shoulder once once.

"Shall we?" she suggested to her mate, grinning as she turned to begin slithering down the smooth boulder toward their well-hidden camp.

He might have remarked that they didn't count, just because it was them, but Liayna seemed to have decided that the woman was who she said she was and that she was a friend, not a foe. Or at least, a friend of a friend. Still, Conall seemed to relax a little now that their visitor had introduced herself. He still felt a little on edge, but it could simply be lack of sleep or the desire to be on their way. "What brings you here, Talis?" he asked further, waiting for Liayna to reach the ground before he could hand over the most treasured possession that was their daughter.

"Well, I overheard the captain saying you had a new wee one and you were camped out here," Talis was saying as she picked her way along the hidden path that would bring her back into their sight. "And the First Blade was fretting about not knowing if he should do anything for you. Thought I'd do something myself, seeing as I know about babies and he wouldn't know one if it sat on his head."

Arctra / A Strange Request
« on: March 02, 2017, 09:30:29 AM »
In all the bustle of court life as it settled into place after the True Queen regained her throne, there was one small family who were still unsettled for now. Though Conall and Liayna were a part of Clan Tarven, who had returned to the lands around Phalion to resume their nomadic existence, they had chosen to stay in Loscar a while longer, to see their friends settle into these new lives. Yet it was not only for that reason they had stayed.

By the time life in the capital had grown peaceful once more, Liayna had been too heavy with child for them to consider the month-long journey to the north, and so their daughter - the unexpected blessing that had come on them in the midst of war - was born in a small grove outside the city of Loscar, watched over by an honor guard from the clan of the Doma who had born both Liayna and Rory, delivered by the Goddess-born Kari, her great-grandmother. Vespera, they had named her, for the stars that shone on them without the moon to dim their light on the night she had finally been born; a name in the old tongue the Wild Ones still used among themselves.

The weeks that followed were devoted to Liayna's recovery, and to learning how to be parents to the little life that now depended upon them; to sharing their joy with the friends who visited them whenever they could. It was a new beginning, and one they seemed ready to embrace.

For a man who had once been a blacksmith and then a soldier, second in command to the leader of the rebellion, Conall Riordan seemed oddly content with his new life as a husband and father and clan member. If he'd known he was half Wild One, his life might have been different, but he had no complaints. How could he complain when he at last had the life he'd always dreamed of, and that included a loving wife and a healthy daughter?

Soon, they would pack up and head north, to rejoin Kari and Clan Tarven and find their place among their clansmen in this strange time of peace. But for now, this time was their own, to share or to protect, whichever they chose to do. The summer was just around the corner, bringing with it warm sunshine and fragrant winds, and the calling to the wilds that lived in their blood.

Liayna sat on a high, smooth boulder near their campsite, her bow at her side, and their daughter nestled comfortably against her as she suckled, breathing in the clean air of the summer to come with a contented smile on her face, heedless of the curious glances that came her way from the main road in and out of Loscar. She might have been visible to the Arctrans passing by, but they couldn't reach her. Not without Conall removing their spines for their rudeness in trying, anyway.

There was nothing more beautiful to Conall's eyes than the sight of his wife nursing their daughter, but every time one of the Arctrans glanced over, whether out of curiosity or interest or disgust, they turned quickly away due to the look of warning on the big man's face. "Why are we here, Liayna?" he asked, his voice betraying his impatience.

She chuckled softly, unmoved by the curiosity in the eyes of those who looked toward them. "Because there is company coming, eniro," she told him fondly. "It would be rude to force them to hunt us out when we can just as easily be visible to their eyes as they approach. We are in no danger."

"It's not danger that troubles me," the man replied, with a pointed glare toward those who were glancing their way. He almost growled with displeasure and bared his teeth, like a bear protecting his cubs. It did the trick though as the onlookers hurried away with some mumbled remark about "heathens".

"And if we hide from the eyes of those who have heard only stories of our brutality, then we do ourselves more harm," she pointed out to him with a smile. "Look at them, eniro. They are curious because it is obvious that we are not like them. Because they have heard stories about the savages in the wilds, who attack without warning and eat the flesh of their enemies, who use magic of blood and bone and necromancy, and who cannot possibly be anything like them. And what do they see when they look on us? A family, very like their own. Not so frightening, after all."

"Perhaps," Conall admitted grudgingly, his expression softening a fraction, though he was not going to let anyone get close to his wife and daughter without his say so. He'd lived most of his life among Arctrans and was half-Arctran himself, but ever since learning that he was also half-Clan Tarven, he had become even more protective of his wife and her people, as they were also his own. "What do you want me to do?" he asked, unsure what she expected of him.

Liayna laughed softly, lifting one hand from their daughter to touch his cheek with a fond look in her eyes. "Talk to me," she told him. "I know there is company coming, but I don't know when they will arrive, or even who it will be. Rory would know, but he's in that appalling cesspit they call a city."

"I don't know, either," Conall admitted with a scowl. He'd assumed his wife knew why they'd been sent to wait here, but it seemed he'd been wrong. If there was one thing that annoyed him, it was subterfuge. Now that Arctra was at peace - even if that peace was a tenuous one - he was hoping to join the clan and learn what it meant to be one of them, but he could not completely turn his back on the people who'd become his friends.

Liayna would never ask him to do that, either. She, too, had become fond of those few in the city she was privileged to call friend - of Liam and Shaye, of Ariana and Rory. Their friendship was something she would not willingly give up. She could foresee many visits to this stinking city just to see them in the years to come. "Why are you so on edge, eniro?" she asked him curiously, gently raising Vespera to her shoulder. The little head bobbed around until clear green eyes stared, unfocused, at her father as her back was rubbed.

"I don't know," he repeated, furrowing his brows. He was on edge - that much was certain - but he wasn't quite sure why, other than the fact that he wasn't a very patient man and wasn't overly fond of waiting for something, especially when he wasn't too sure what the something was that he was waiting for. "Something just doesn't feel right to me," he replied, though it was hard to say. He had always had gut feelings about things, but without any training in how to interpret those feelings, he'd always had a hard time understanding them.

Liayna's smile was a little crooked as she looked over their daughter's head in his direction. "How does it feel?" she asked. Some instincts they shared, she knew, but she had a lifetime of understanding them. He had only been aware of his connection to the Wild Ones for a little under a year, only just beginning to explore what that meant for him.

He didn't want to repeat himself a third time, but he wasn't really sure. He hadn't had much practice in interpreting those gut feelings, but there was only one way to learn and that was to try. "It feels ..." He trailed off, dark brows furrowing as he considered her question. "It's something to do with the First Blade. With De Winter, I mean." Though not close friends, Liam had spoken highly of the man, and Conall trusted Liam's word implicitly.

"Does it feel troubling, or more that you're waiting for something to happen?" she questioned him further. There was a purpose to her questions; he needed to be able to interpret those feelings if he was ever going to be able to fully embrace what it meant to be touched by the Goddess.

Arctra / Re: De Moribus - The OOC Thread
« on: July 01, 2016, 07:05:01 AM »
Sadly, this is just a bump. We haven't forgotten the story, promise!

Arctra / Re:
« on: June 02, 2015, 12:11:01 PM »
"Liayna," he said, hoping to stop her before she moved off. He hesitated a moment before wrapping her in a gentle hug, careful of the swell of her stomach between them. "Thank you," he told her again. Though a little unsure what he felt about their mother, he was truly grateful to know her and to know that she was family.

Drawn into an unexpected hug, Liayna smiled, embracing him a little more tightly than he dared to embrace her. "Thank your brother," she told him softly. "Conall is the one who persuaded me to speak. I did not know what to do, until he told me."

Rory arched a brow, a little surprised not only by the news that it had been Conall's idea to tell him, but also that she referred to him as his brother - not by blood, certainly, but as Liayna's chosen mate, he was linked to him through her, just as much family as she was. "I will thank him later," he promised as he drew back from her embrace. "Stay safe, sister, and take care of my niece."

"And you, little brother," she answered him, stepping back through the snow. "Come find us in the vanguard, when you are done." She smiled at him, and turned, breaking into a gentle run to catch up with the column where they had left it, intent on keeping her promise to look after his aera for him.

He nodded. "I will," he promised, though by the time he said it, she was already hurrying away from him to catch up to Conall and Ariana. Would she tell Ariana what she had just told him, or would she leave that for him to share? Whatever she decided, he would find out soon enough. He watched until she disappeared among the ranks of warriors, men and women alike, Actran and clansmen, before turning to find the wagons at the back of the group.

The Wild Ones had, for the most part, integrated themselves among the Arctrans on the long march, spread evenly between the ranks as they headed south. But their wagons were not unprotected. Twenty-eight of the Goddess-sworn, the elite warriors of whom Liayna was a member, guarded those wagons, and those who walked with them. Kari was there, undisputed leader of the nomads who had the power to hold back the false magics of Skarran wizards and their ilk. And Arora was there, too, keeping pace with one of the wagons, spinning tales to keep the children amused as they traveled through the long winter.

The snow crunched under Rory's feet as he made his way through the ranks, a little amazed when both Arctrans and Wild Ones moved to allow him passage, some of them even whispering among themselves or nodding respectfully as he passed. He had never really spent much time with the people without Ariana by his side, and he was surprised to find that most of them seemed to know who he was and deferred to him without question. It wasn't difficult to find the wagons, recognizing both Kari and Arora on sight. He wasn't sure what they might think of this meeting of his, but he wanted no regrets. Whether his mother wanted to know him or not would be up to her now. He drew a breath to gather his courage before pushing on to greet them both. "Lady," he greeted Kari first with a respectful incline of his head before turning to Arora. "Doma, if you would, may I have a word with you, please?"

Kari, perched high on the wagon, cackled in greeting, her ugly face creased into a happy smile as she nodded and waved to Rory in answer to his respectful inclination to her. She glanced to Arora as the young man's attention turned to the mother who thought he did not know about her, and reached down, speaking quickly in the old speech as she gathered the youngest of the children onto her lap to continue the storytelling.

Given little choice in the matter, Arora turned her own eyes onto Rory, pausing to allow the wagon to pass on ahead of her. "As you wish, Lord Consort," she answered him, giving no indication of their relationship as she inclined her own head in reply.

He waited for the wagons to pass to offer them a little bit of privacy, then waved her onward so they could continue walking, so that they didn't fall too far behind. They weren't quite at the end of the group, as a few warriors had fallen back to take up the rear, not only to guard the wagons, but to guard both Arora and Rory, both personages of great import to the group as a whole. Rory winced as she addressed him in such a formal fashion, but then he had done the same. "I have a name," he said, chancing a look at her. "A name much like yours," he added, watching her for a reaction.

The barest flicker of a sad smile touched her lips as he pointed out the similarity in their names, knowing better than he did just why that was the case. "Such is the way of the world," Arora said quietly. "There are many who share a pleasing sound in their names. I imagine there will be a great many Arianas, and Rorys, among the next generation of Arctrans, in honor of the queen."

He thought he noticed a hint of sadness in her smile, and his heart softened, not wanting to cause her any pain. Liayna had tried to explain why his mother had left them both behind, but he needed to hear it from her. "I think there is more to it than that, but perhaps this is not the time to discuss such things," he told her, thinking this conversation might be one better discussed in private, but that meant it would have to wait until they made camp later.

Arora's pale eyes found him as they walked, concern for the son who did not know her in her expression. "Do you wish me to visit yourself and the queen when we make camp tonight?" she asked him gently. "You have questions to put to a Doma of the clans?" She might have asked why he didn't put those questions to Kari, since he knew the old woman better than others, but then, she knew Kari. Straight answers were not her forte.

"Yes, if you don't mind, I think that would be best," he replied, feeling curious eyes on them. Even if it was only his imagination, he thought it would be better to talk in private, where neither the Arctrans or the Wild Ones would overhear. He wasn't sure how many of them knew already or guessed, but he assumed Kari, at least, knew the truth, and he wanted to give Arora a chance, not only to explain, but to tell him on her own. That was hardly going to happen here, even if they were lingering near the rear.

"Then I shall come to you at night fall, Lord Consort," she assured him, inclining her head respectfully. She was very good at pretending, it seemed; how long had she spent watching him from afar, knowing he might never know of her? How long had it been before Liayna had discovered her?

This time it was his turn to frown, debating whether or not to insist again that she call him by his given name - a name she knew very well. "Very well," he replied, going along with her ruse, not wanting to give her secret away, until and unless she agreed. "After the evening meal. I will see you then," he told her, with an air of authority he was going to have to get used to.

"As you wish." She took the authority he drew around him with gentle respect - the respect of an equal, no more or less. As a Doma, she led her own clan; she knew how difficult these first months of power could be for him. "After the evening meal, I will come."

"Thank you," he replied, inclining his head respectfully to her in turn. Outwardly, he might have appeared calm and composed and she might have no idea what it was he wanted to discuss, but on the inside, he was a tangle of confusion and nervousness, realizing he'd have to break the news to Ariana before Arora visited that evening.

There was nothing more for him to say or do until they made camp for the evening, and so he turned and made his way back through the lines of marching men and women to rejoin Ariana.

Arora watched him go, lengthening her stride to catch up to the wagons in his wake, her brow creased with a frown as she considered what had been said. Kari's gnarled hand touched her shoulder as the old woman leaned down from her perch. "Some truths cannot be hidden forever," she told the younger woman gently, her speech clearer in the old tongue. "To know where you are going, you must know from whence you have come."

Arora nodded thoughtfully, patting the old woman's hand. There was wisdom in Kari that she would never argue with. Perhaps it was time for this secret to see the light. Perhaps the Goddess would grant her the chance to know her son, now that he had found his place.

Arctra / Re:
« on: June 02, 2015, 12:10:12 PM »
He sensed her pain, as she turned from him, hearing it in her voice and seeing a glimpse of it in her face. His gift was that of a healer of sorts, though he had never learned how to use or control that gift, but when he reached out to touch her, she might feel that intent in him - a wild but wonderful gift that had been given him by way of his mother and sister's bloodline. "Who am I to question the Goddess' wisdom, velir?" he asked, naming her sister, acknowledging her claim as he reached out to touch her arm and pull her back around to face him. "We have both been alone long enough," he told her. "If you wish to have a brother, then I would be equally happy to have a sister."

She laughed a little as he drew her back to face him. "I am very proud of my veran, my little brother," she told him fondly. "Not because he is the consort to the crown, or because he is a good fighter, or because of the power he will hold when the war is done. I am proud of the man you are, Rory. And I mean it - if you ever need me, I will always come."

Whether he felt the same about their mother was uncertain, but he would be a fool not to welcome a sister - one who shared his bloodline and not the blame of the one who'd abandoned them both. He flushed at her praise, not feeling particularly deserving of it. All he had done, he had done because it had been the right thing to do, not because he wanted any sort of recognition or reward. "To be honest, I don't really want any power, but I'm not like the others here. I don't understand why I'm here or what my purpose is, other than to love and protect Ariana."

Liayna smiled, looping her arm through his to begin walking once again. "When I was a child, the old queen was still on the throne," she told him, as though they were out for a stroll rather than marching to war. "We heard stories about her, and we heard stories about her First Blade. But do you know who else we heard stories about? Her Consort. When Ariana sits on the throne, veran, you will have your purpose. You will be in charge of the palace, wherever she chooses to make her capital. The Captain of the Queen's Guard will answer to you; it will be you who distributes alms to those who need it in her name. You will be the one the nobles will court, nobles who will wish to influence her decisions. You are the queen's eyes and ears; the arm that controls her swords; the father to her people. The Consort is the most powerful man in the Queen's court, veran, but you will not be alone."

It was a good thing she took hold of his arm as he was feeling dizzy again - not dizzy with power, but with shock, his face turning pale and his legs feeling weak. He had been told as much already, though not in so many words, but he hadn't had much time to think about it or to realize the implications of such a position. "But I don't want to be in power! All I've ever wanted was to be a knight in the service of the True Queen. All I've ever wanted was to fight to restore the true Queen to the throne. I never expected any of this, and I never asked for it. How am I to do it, Liayna? I am just a commoner. I know nothing about ruling a nation, making decisions. Liam is the Commander, Shaye is First Blade, and Ariana is the Queen. I am no one!"

"You are not no one, Rory," she told him firmly. "You are the one man in all of Arctra that Ariana loves and trusts above all others. You are the son of a Doma of the clans. You are the legacy of a good man who raised you to know right from wrong, who taught you to use your mind as well as your hands. You have friends who will teach you, and you will have teachers in the capital. You will not be alone, and you will not be expected to know everything the first moment you step into the court. We will not let you fall."

Everyone seemed to be telling him that, if only he could believe it himself. He was not only the son of a farrier, but that of a Doma, as well. He was more than just a commoner, and Ariana had chosen him to share the throne with her, making him the most powerful man in all of Arctra. The reality of it was staggering. "I will need all the help I can get," he replied in a hushed voice. "What of our mother? She does not know what you've told me?" he asked.

"No, she does not," Liayna assured him softly. "She told me not to tell you, when I asked her for the truth. She thought it would hurt you more than help you, to know that she still lives. Perhaps, when the battle is done, you might be able to speak with her. But that is your choice; she will not seek you out. She believes she gave up all her right to know her children when she set us on our paths."

"If we survive," he muttered to himself. Should he meet her now before the battle took place in case something happened to one of them during battle or wait until afterwards when there would be more time to get acquainted if they both lived and she did not choose to leave before he had a chance. He wasn't sure it was wise to leave such things to fate. "Where is she now?" he asked, having almost made up his mind.

"We will survive," his sister told him, as certain of that as she was of anything. There was no point going into this battle with fear and doubt hanging over them. She glanced up at Rory thoughtfully. "She is with the wagons, I would think," she said, gesturing further back along the ranks, where the supplies and the Wild Ones' wagons were trundling along in the wake of the fighting men and women. "Clan Kirun has less warriors, but more power to field against wizards. They are conserving their strength."

"Do you think she would welcome a long lost son or be angry that her daughter gave away her secret?" he asked, uncertainly. While his initial reaction had been to get angry, that anger had quickly faded, replaced by a sense of longing to know and understand the mother who had birthed him and the woman who had loved his father.

Liayna's smile softened as she hugged her brother's arm gently. "She may be angry with me, but I am a grown woman and my choices are my own," she said thoughtfully. "I think she would be honored to be given the chance to know her son, and touched that he might wish to know her."

"Will you tell Ari, so she doesn't worry?" he asked, knowing Ariana would worry needlessly if he didn't return soon. Touched by the hug she gave his arm, he wanted to return that embrace, but wasn't quite sure how, feeling awkward and shy, despite the fact that she was his sister. It would take time for him to get used to that, though he thought it might be the reason why he felt more comfortable with her than most anyone else.

"I will," she assured him. "Would you like me to bring her to you, or would you prefer this first meeting to be yours alone?" For all that Liayna did apply a certain straightforward charm to the way she dealt with life in general, when it came to family, she could be as discreet as anyone.

"No, I ..." Rory considered a moment before replying. "I think this is something I need to do on my own, but thank you for the offer and ..." He paused, feeling awkward again, wondering if he'd ever feel normal again, but then what was normal? He was a commoner no longer, and it was strange to know that he was about to become the most powerful man in Arctra. "Thank you for telling me, Liayna. I-I hope I will make you proud of me one day, and I hope we will grow to know each other better."

She caught his face between her hands, drawing him down to press a kiss to his forehead. "I am already proud of you, veran," she promised him fondly. "I will protect your Ariana until you return for her. And I promise not to make her blush too much." There was sisterly mischief in her smile as she released him, a warmth in her laughter that was valantis, family.

Touched by the show of affection for a brother she hardly knew yet, he felt compelled to return that affection somehow and to show her that he meant what he said. "Liayna ... velir ..." he said, correcting himself and naming her "sister" in the Old Tongue. "If I were to choose a sister, it would be you. I am proud and pleased to be of your bloodline."

"You may not be if you ever meet my father," she teased him affectionately, offering one last stroke of her fingers through his hair before letting him go. "But Kari will be pleased that you know you and I are of one blood." She glanced to the moving column beside them. "I should go, before your lady is so far ahead Conall will have to tell me off for running."

Arctra / Re:
« on: June 02, 2015, 12:09:18 PM »
Liayna's hand gently gripped his elbow, an anchor to keep him upright as they both slowed to a halt. "I mean that she is here, with her clan, fighting to put your Ariana on the throne with the rest of us," she told him firmly. "I know, because I have seen her, spoken with her. And she told me who you are to her when I asked."

Rory's eyes widened a moment and then quickly narrowed, unsure just how he was supposed to feel about this unexpected turn of events. As much as he wanted to know his mother, he had never understood why she had left him behind, despite his father's explanation. "When you asked? Why would you ask? Why would you even care who I am to her or she to me? She abandoned me years ago, left my father to raise me on his own. Why would she give a fig about me now? Because I'm Ariana's chosen consort? It's a little late to make amends now, don't you think?" he retorted, his face flushing with anger long buried that he didn't even know he possessed until this very moment. Was it really too late though, or was it just the grief and years of loneliness talking?

This was what she had feared; that talking to him, telling him the truth, would cause more harm to an already bleeding heart. But she had begun now, and Liayna would not leave him with only half the facts. "Do you understand, veran, the ways of the clans?" she asked him, cutting across his anger. "Do you understand that a bond such as I share with Conall is the exception, not the rule? My mother gave me up to the care of my father, because when I was born, the Goddess showed her that my path would not be to walk with her. When you were born, she knew, too, that unless she gave you to your father, the line of Arlan would die, and Arctra with it."

He couldn't quite grasp what he was telling her - not right away, anyway. He understood the part about the clans, but he missed the part that seemed to point out that they shared the same mother. He thought she was only comparing her own childhood to his. His eyes awash with tears, he turned his back to her, not wanting her to witness that softening and think him weak. "I know what my father told me," he replied in a strained voice. "He always thought he was lucky to have met her, to have been chosen by her. He never accused or blamed her, only thanked the Goddess and the Nine for me." His heart was aching in his chest as old wounds were opened anew, reminding him not only of the loss of his mother, but his father, too. "He told me when I was ready, I could look for her if I wanted, but he died before he could tell me her name."

Liayna refused to let him turn away, to hide his pain from her, following to catch his face in her hand, forcing him to meet her eyes and let her see his sorrow. "Your father was a good man," she told him fiercely. "And if she had known what would happen to him, one of us would have been there to prevent it. If I had known, I would have been there to protect my veran." Green eyes stared into green, willing him to listen as she told him this last piece. "You were named for her. I know, because Arora of Clan Kirun is my mother, and she told me when I asked."

He shook his head, not believing anyone could have saved his father. He had been there, forced to witness the man's death, and he knew it would have taken a formidable force to have saved him. Maybe if his mother had known, maybe if she had brought enough clansmen with her, maybe things would have been different, or maybe they all would have been killed, and then where would they be? Unable to shake his head again as Liayna forced him to meet her gaze, he arched his brows, blue-green eyes swimming with tears. "I don't understand," he told her in a hushed voice. He had not been raised with the Wild Ones, but he'd learned enough of their language these past weeks and months to know she was calling him brother.

Gently stroking his hair back from his face, Liayna held her little brother's tearful gaze, wishing he could absorb what she was saying more easily. "Listen to me, veran," she told him gently, each word clear in the crisp winter air. "When first we met, I knew you were a child of the Goddess. Even in the dark, without seeing you clearly, I knew you were one of us. Our magic is the magic of earth, and bone, and blood. You and I, we share blood through our mother, who has had to give us both away. Arora sacrificed her only chances to be a mother because the Goddess willed it. We may have felt her absence, but she knew where we were, and who we loved, and not once did she seek to put herself forward and take her natural place with us. She does not want me to tell you this, veran. But Conall believes, and I agree, that you should know you have blood in this world. You have a sister, and I will always come when you call."

"What?" he stammered, looking at her incredulously, the tears forgotten for the moment, the grief replaced by this new and almost unbelievable revelation. "You are my sister?" he asked, eyes wide in astonishment. Half-sister, really, sharing the same mother but different fathers. As difficult as it was to believe, as tempting as it was to dismiss it, it rang true to him. He wasn't sure how or why, but somehow he felt it and knew it to be true. "Arora? I-I met her. She came to me and Ariana a few days ago and told us that we had nothing to fear. That all would be well with us."

"You are my veran, my little brother," Liayna assured him, drawing his hand to her swollen belly. "And this is your niece, the next child to be born of our blood." She smiled, her fingers still gentle in his hair as she let him take that in for a long moment. "Arora watched over you on the Goddess Moon. She would not allow Kari to force you, either of you. She wanted you to feel safe together."

His eyes widened further as she drew his hand to her belly, beneath which he felt something - her daughter, his niece - move within, proof of the life that was growing there. "She watched over us?" he echoed, drawing his gaze back to her, hoping their mother had not witnessed the awkward clumsiness of his first time with Ariana. "But why did she leave us? How could she know that was what the Goddess wanted? How could she know what would become of us? My father loved her, in his own way. He never took another wife or a lover after her."

"Neither did mine," she told him gently. "And since she loved your father, Arora has taken no lover. She is one of the few who sleeps alone when the moon is full. She must have loved him very much." As to his other questions, they were a little more difficult to answer. "Rory ... have you ever looked at a person, and known you would meet them again someday? Or known, equally, that their path would end before the year was done? Arora is a Doma, the leader of her clan. She is gifted with a little foresight by the Goddess. If she had not given us up, would we be standing here now - you with a woman you love, and I with a child in my belly?"

"I don't know. How am I supposed to answer that? I have no way of knowing the answer to that," he pointed out, a little frustrated, though another thought came to mind. "Is-is that why I can ... see things? Do things others can't?" He didn't explain what it was that was different about him, but she had likely heard rumors and such of a wild magic inside him that he couldn't name or control.

"If we had been raised by our mother, veran, we would have grown up in Clan Kirun," she told him gently. "We would have known nothing of Phalion, or the great secret. We would have joined this fight, yes. But there would be no consort for our queen, no friend she could lean on, no love to hold her and keep her safe from her fears. There would be no First Blade marching with us, for Velasca would still be holding the Sword of Arlan. And I fear that Conall would be dead, lost to us in his attempt to steal that very Sword." The pain in her eyes at even the thought of a world without her eniro was painful to look upon; even she knew that, turning her gaze away before her thoughts could overwhelm his senses. Swallowing, she turned her attention to his other questions. "All of us who are born in the light of the Goddess - who bear the wild blood in our veins - we all have gifts. Your affinity with the horses, your sense of what could be, they are your gifts. My skill in battle, my healing sense; they are mine."

Arctra / Velir
« on: June 02, 2015, 12:08:37 PM »
Two days after the delights of the Goddess Moon, the True Queen's army was on the march again. This time, they were setting their lines, intending to establish their place on what would be the field of battle - far enough away from Velasca to ensure a peaceful night or two before battle was joined. Ariana marched with them, on foot, safer lost in the crowd of soldiers and rebels than she would ever have been on horseback. And despite strenuous objections, Liayna was on foot, too, weaving her way between the Arctrans who surrounded their queen to fall into step beside Rory. She bit her lip at the slight air of amazement both Ariana and Rory were wearing at present, careful not to laugh at the young lovers. She could remember that feeling herself. Her hand reached out to touch Rory's sleeve, drawing his attention to herself. "Walk with me?"

As might be expected, Rory marched at Ariana's side, hand in hand like the young lovers they were, reluctant to leave her side for even a moment. He was unaware of the air of amazement that surrounded them both, a little lost in thought and even somewhat distracted by the spell that love seemed to have cast over the young lovers. With any luck, he had a few days yet to compose himself before they engaged the enemy; for Ariana's sake, as well as his own, he could not afford to be lazy or distracted, not even by love. Startled by Liayna's sudden appearance at his side, he turned his gaze on her, blinking out of his reverie. "Is this going to be a lecture?" he asked with a frown, knowing he had to focus, even more so now that Ariana was likely with child. He was not only her Consort, after all; he had made himself personally responsible for her safety and well-being.

Equally startled, Ariana blushed as she felt Rory's attention turn to the wild woman now walking with them, a little less intimidated by all things female now that she had embraced that part of herself. She met Liayna's eyes, inclining her head as the wild woman nodded to her.

Liayna's green eyes turned to Rory, her smile making itself known. "No, veran," she promised him. "I have ... news to share. News that belongs to you, that I am uncertain you will be glad to know. But I am persuaded to tell you, for your own sake."

Veran, he thought. Why was she calling him that? The look on his face betrayed his puzzlement. What news could she possibly have for him that he did not not know already? He made no move to leave Ariana's side, only tightening his grip on her hand. "Walk with us, then," he replied, inviting her to walk along with them and share whatever news she had in witness of Ariana, as well. If she wanted to pull him out of line and speak with him privately, she was going to have to say so.

For the first time since they had met her, Rory and Ariana saw Liayna na'Kari hesitate, her head turning to seek out Conall on his horse, not so very far away from them. She didn't know what to say, how to separate the lovers without causing offense, but knew that Rory should hear what she had to tell him without an audience, if it were possible.

Rory's gaze followed Liayna's to find Conall not far away, watching them atop his horse. He seemed to offer a slight nod of his head, as if to assure them both it was all right. Rory exchanged a curious glance with Ariana, getting the feeling that whatever Liayna had to say to him was for his ears alone. He couldn't imagine what it might be, though it seemed important enough, at least to her, but before he could reply, Conall was carefully making his way through the ranks of Arctrans, towering above them all from his perch on his warhorse.

"I will keep watch over Ariana while you two talk. You have my word no harm will come to her while you are gone."

Rory nodded, still frowning, his stomach in knots as he wondered what it was Liayna needed to tell him. "All right," he replied, turning to Ariana at his side. "I won't be long. Promise," he told her gently, touching a kiss to her hand before letting go.

Whatever objection came into Ariana's mind was silenced by the solemn relief on Liayna's face. It seemed that the wild woman had words to share with Rory, words that couldn't be held back any longer. The young queen knew a little of secrets, understanding that when the time came to share them, they had to be spoken. She smiled as Rory kissed her hand, her thumb gently stroking his cheek. "I'll be perfectly safe," she promised him quietly. "I'll ride with Conall until you come back." Almost before the words came out of her mouth, a call went up from a man walking near her to bring the queen's horse, making her laugh warmly with those around them. "See?" Her hand stroked Rory's cheek affectionately. "Go with her. I'll see you soon."

Rory wondered for a moment if he was needed at all. It seemed there were plenty of people ready and willing to step in and see to her protection and care, but there were none whom she loved the way she loved him. With that thought in mind, he touched a kiss to her lips, in full view of anyone who might be watching. He was the Royal Consort, after all, and they might as well know that he loved her. That done, he turned back to Liayna. "Lead on," he told her, curiosity warring with his need to remain with Ariana, trusting Conall and the others to keep her safe while he was gone.

Liayna nodded to him, gently drawing him through the ranks to walk with her on the edge of the mass of bodies, through the unbroken snow that lined their road. Far enough that no one would hear them, close enough to disappear into those ranks if trouble came near. "You love her very much, don't you?"

He followed along behind her through the ranks of Arctrans and Wild Ones massed together on their way to fight a common enemy. He said nothing while they walked, until they reached a place where they could follow and still speak without anyone eavesdropping. Her question surprised me, and he immediately thought this conversation was going to revolve around himself and Ariana, wondering what it was he'd done wrong now. "Yes," he replied without hesitation. "I loved her as a brother once, but not anymore. Is this about Ariana?" he asked, unable to hide the worry from his face and his voice.

Liayna smiled gently at his concern. "No, veran," she promised him in a low tone. "It is about you, and about me, and about something I should have told you a few weeks ago, when I first made certain of it." She sighed softly, not knowing quite how to begin. "Did your father ever tell you about your mother?"

He might have relaxed once he knew this conversation wasn't going to be about Ariana, but then she mentioned his father and he found himself tensing again. "What does this have to do with my parents?" he asked, curiously and perhaps just a little defensively. Discussing his parents only served to remind him how alone he was in the world. Except for Ariana, he had no family and few friends, though a few had tried to befriend him. "My father is dead and my mother ..." He broke off, jaw clenching, unsure whether he should hate a woman he had never met.

Liayna winced a little, but she knew there was no other way to begin this conversation. "Your mother is here, veran," she told him gently. "She is a Doma among the clans, and she is very proud of the man you have become."

The expression of hardened acceptance faded, replaced with that look of confusion again. He looked very young in that moment, more boy than man, though he was quickly growing into the other. "What do you mean, she's here?" He felt dizzy suddenly, light-headed, as if the world was spinning. How could she be here after all these years? How could she know it was him?

Arctra / Re: Origin
« on: May 12, 2014, 01:39:57 PM »
Rather than comfort, this latest revelation only seemed to cause him more confusion. "I don't understand," he muttered quietly, mostly to himself. "If Nona was my mother, then what happened to her? How did I come to be..." He hesitated a moment before continuing, the word sticking in his throat, "...orphaned?"

There was a pause as Kari answered him, choosing to speak in the old speech and let Liayna translate, rather than stumble through something that was clearly important to him. "She traveled with Kari to Phalion, and fell in love with one of Lord Farus' guards," Liayna translated carefully, wanting to get this exactly right. "She chose to leave Kari and marry with him, she bore him a healthy son. But they were caught in the Skarran raid and killed before the soldiers could regain control of the streets. You were given to the blacksmith and his wife, since they had known your parents best."

He listened intently while Kari explained and Liayna translated, picking up a word here and there of the old speech, but not understanding most of it. "But why was I never told any of this before?" he asked, looking to Kari for an answer, though the explanation might require more translating from Liayna. The blacksmith and his wife had been kind to him, but he had always known that they were not his real parents, and when they had died, the truth of his parentage had died with them.

As it stood, there was no need for Kari to explain that one. She simply sighed sadly as Liayna answered his query from between clenched teeth. "Arctrans and priests," she said viciously, before calming herself. "Phalion is a seat of power, and the Temple holds a good deal of it. I don't need to know the details to know that they kept everything about your family from you so that you would not be swayed from their Nine. So that you would not go looking for your mother's people. They do it everywhere, eniro. There are more Goddess-touched than you might know, but Arctran priests intimidate their parents, their caretakers, into keeping that a secret."

"But... it's a lie. It's as if my whole life has been a lie, until now," he pointed out, turning his face away from the two women so that they wouldn't see the conflict that was brewing inside him. He was not angry at the Gods who ruled Arctra, but at the priests who sought to control the lives of those they were supposed to protect. "What was my father's name?" he asked, wishing to know more.

Liayna shook her head, not knowing the answer, and looked to Kari. The old woman looked up from her satchel, frowning thoughtfully as she searched her memory for the name. "Neal," she said finally. "Neal Riorth." She pointed to Conall. "Smith keep part of name for you. Good man."

"Neal and Nona," Conall repeated the names, committing them to memory, feeling a sadness sweep over him that he had never known them. He'd had two sets of parents then, both a soldier and a blacksmith's son, of mixed blood, both of the Nine and of the Goddess. He had lived life both as an Arctran and as a Wild One and did not regret the choice he had just made. "You are family then," he said, looking to Kari again, not just because she was Liayna's grandmother, but because she had been close to his birth-mother, as well.

"Family," she agreed, nodding as she smiled at him. Not just because he was the mate of her granddaughter, the father of her unborn great-grandchild, but because of the deep love she had shared with his mother, a very long time ago. "You family, me family, Liayna family. Much love, Leniniya gives to share."

"Yes," Conall agreed, turning to Liayna once again and reaching for her hand, a soft but tearful smile on his face, tears of mingled sorry and gladness. "Much love," he repeated, as he looked lovingly upon the woman who had claimed his heart. There was nothing that could be done about the past, but he was grateful for the understanding of it, and somehow at peace with the knowledge that his birth-parents had loved him and loved each other.

His aera curled her hands about his, drawing him close as she wrapped herself around him, warm and gentle and deeply loving in the quiet.

Kari chuckled across from them. "Much love," she agreed once again. "You ride, you sleep. I see horses, I do ... things." In other words, she was going to give them a little privacy before she settled for the night herself.

He did not argue with either of them, trusting himself to their care, wrapping himself up in Liayna's embrace, his arms going around her to hold her close. No words needed to be spoken, the two of them understanding each other perfectly in the quiet of the evening, the love they shared evident in the soft looks and gentle caresses between them. Whatever worries he had been feeling when they'd arrived seemed to have dissipated. He was without a doubt right where he was meant to be. Whatever uncertainty he'd had about the future and his place in it had been restored.

He was a Wild One, chosen and loved by a woman who had always had faith she would find him. The blood moon was coming, bringing with it all their hope for the future of the land they loved so well. And perhaps best of all ... when the next winter had passed and the spring brought the equinox, he would be a father, honoring the memory of his lost parents in the best possible way. Through him, and through his child, they would live on, a pure example of the Goddess' promise ... that no one was ever truly lost, so long as someone remembered them.

[size=9]((So Conall at last knows where he came from and where he's going. A war is not the best time for a baby, but if anyone can do it, Liayna can! Many thanks to Conall's player!))[/size]

Arctra / Re: Origin
« on: May 12, 2014, 01:38:36 PM »
Intrigued by his turn of phrase, Liayna tilted her head curiously. "How would you do that, eniro?" she asked him, genuinely interested. Giving thanks was not a part of the Wild Ones' faith - a gift given was best acknowledged by the way you made use of it. So long as they loved one another and their child, that would be enough, in Liayna's eyes. But she wanted to know what Conall had in mind.

Conall laughed at his own suggestion and the question that followed it, the heaviness that had lain on his heart since they'd left the rebel camp lifting, feeling lighter and happier than he had in some days. "I don't know!" he replied with another laugh. "I only know that I love you and that I would be lost without you, and if it is truly the Goddess who put us together, then I owe her a debt of gratitude I can never repay."

She laughed with him, shaking her head, even as Kari returned to them. The old woman raised her sleeve, showing Conall the same mark he had seen on Liayna's skin tattooed there. "Goddess," Kari said, pointing to the middle of the triskelion. "Queen, land, people ... all with Goddess. No thanks. No pay. Just live." She smiled, and patted Conall on the head. "My little one now. Nona's child now my child, father of moon baby."

Conall's gaze was drawn to the mark that both woman bore, a symbol of their devotion to the Goddess which marked them both as Wild Ones, and he suddenly yearned to share that mark and embrace that part of him that was like them, if it was really true. He chuckled a moment when the old woman patted his head, wondering if she was claiming him or the baby or both for her own. His heart swelled with pride and joy at the thought of becoming a father, at the thought of having a child with the woman he so loved. "If I truly am Goddess-touched, then should I not bear a mark like yours, as well?" he asked, curiously.

Kari's head tilted curiously, one hand turning his arm and tapping against his sleeve where the mark would rest on his skin if it were there. "Mark, yes?" she asked, needing him to say it if he truly wanted to share the mark of the Goddess.

Liayna felt the need to make it clearer. "The mark can never come off, eniro," she explained in greater depth. "It is a sign that you are a child of the Goddess, that you will walk the fires, and dance for Her, and fight for Her. That you will renounce all belief in the Arctran gods, all but Thalan and Hano, who are Her children. The Clans will know you by the mark, but so also will Arctrans, and they do not trust us easily."

"Am I not one of you already, aera?" he countered, wanting it with all his heart, even more so now that he knew they were going to have a child together. He looked back at Kari, paying little heed to the place on his arm where the mark would be made. "I have never felt like I belonged in the city. I have never felt like I was one of them. I have always felt different, and now I know why. I don't know who my parents were or how I came to be in Phalion. All I know is that I never felt like I belonged anywhere or with anyone, until I met Liayna. I do not care what anyone thinks. The only one that matters is like a brother to me, and he will understand. I want this, Kari. My heart is no longer content to live in the city. I am one of you now, and I want to devote my life to the Goddess, in return for all she has given me."

The old woman nodded, understanding his desire better now he had made it plain. "Pain," she warned, turning away to rummage in a waxed leather sack that appeared to hold all her worldly possessions, such as they were. Liayna grimaced faintly, remember the day her own mark had been placed on her. It had been several hours of quite localized stinging, and the days following had ached, but what was a few days to a lifetime of commitment?

Pain. What did he care about pain? He had been hurt and wounded so many times he had lost count. He had been tortured in Velasca's dungeon, until he had pleaded for death. What was a little bit of pain for a very important purpose in comparison to that? "I am no stranger to pain," he told the old woman. "I'm not afraid." He looked to Liayna again, a soft smile on his face. "I do this for you and for the child of our making, so that we will truly be as one," he told her quietly.

"Eat your stew," Liayna told him, fondness in every nuance of her expression and tone. "You will not feel like eating once she has begun. Trust me." At least he could be vaguely comforted by the fact that she, and every other Wild One, had gone through the marking themselves.

"Yes, aera. I will eat my stew," he replied with a smirk, amused by her admonition of him. He wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. It was just a tattoo, wasn't it? The Goddess had already embraced him or he would not have been healed, or so he believed. The tattoo was just a formality that would show everyone he had embraced her, as well. He took up his bowl without further argument, unable to wipe the smile from his face as he finished it off, soaking up the last bit of gravy with a hunk of bread.

As he ate, Kari worked, creating the dense black ink she would use to mark him. Liayna watched with interest as the spike was sharpened - she hadn't paid that much attention the first time around. And when Conall was finished eating, both women converged on him - one to hold his hand in such a way as to keep his forearm flat facing upwards against one of the tree stumps, the other wielding her noxious smelling ink. Kari didn't give him any warning, either, simply beginning the work that needed to be done with brisk stabs of the loaded spike into his tender flesh, stopping every few presses to wipe away the excess ink and load the spike once more. It was going to take several hours, but it would be worth it, Liayna hoped.

As for his part, Conall had endured far worse than this, though he had never spoken of it to anyone, save Liam, and then only when necessary. Though he had begged for death in the dungeon, they had not broken him as they had hoped. He had not succumbed to their questions or their wishes, no matter how much pain had been inflicted upon him. The spike reminded him a little of the torments he had endured and yet, this pain was more easily endured and of an entirely different nature. All through it, he never flinched, never groaned, never stirred, enduring it with the strength and courage learned from a lifetime of hard living.

It was close to sunset by the time Kari was done, all the while murmuring to herself in the old speech with Liayna offering a running translation. The old woman had done everything from ask the Goddess to accept Conall, to swearing when she had inadvertently stabbed herself with the spike, to crooning an ancient lullabye while she worked, but finally, she was done. She grinned at Conall, patting his head once again. "Nona's child, my child," she told him, moving to climb onto her feet and tidy up after herself.

At some point during the process, Conall's eyes drifted closed, feeling almost detached from his body, as though he was somewhere else, remote and far away, while the old woman stabbed at his tender flesh over and over again. The time passed quickly in that place, and before long, she was patting his head and claiming him as hers once again. There was pain, yes, but it was bearable. His muscles ached and his flesh felt as though it had been used as a pincushion, but it was still nothing compared to other pains of the flesh. "She means me, doesn't she?" he asked, turning forest green eyes to Liayna for understanding.

"Yes, she does," his aera told him gently, spreading a soothingly cool balm over his newly marked skin to help it heal. "I never knew Nona, but she was a good friend to Kari. At one time, she might have been ... I don't know the word. Something like an apprentice, but closer, a deeper friendship." As she talked, she laid a pad over the mark on his arm, gently wrapping it there with clean linen.

"Why does she keep saying I'm..." He broke off, realizing with renewed shock what it was the old woman had been trying to tell him all along. "She's my mother?" he asked, turning eyes wide with wonder to the old woman who was moving quietly about the camp, while Liayna tended to the mark on his arm that declared he belonged to the Goddess.

"Nona was your mother," Liayna explained quietly, glancing toward her grandmother. "She was very close to Kari. She could have married my father, but the Goddess gave her another path. Kari always talks about her as if Nona was her daughter, even though she wasn't. She is very glad to have found you, Conall."

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