Author Topic: Dawn Hopes  (Read 572 times)

Shaye OConnor

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Dawn Hopes
« on: May 28, 2015, 10:17:40 AM »
With Ariana's camp up in arms as the news of the assassination attempt spread, the major leaders of the army were spread thinly, restoring order and organizing the search for the other assassins. Shaye insisted on leading that search herself, once she was dressed, asserting her authority as First Blade easily over the Arctrans who had chosen to follow the True Queen. Though it had taken more than an hour, the two remaining Skarrans were captured alive, their attempts to kill themselves thwarted by quick thinking from the men and women who found them. Their questioning would be left until morning, though Shaye again insisted on overseeing their incarceration even as word was sent to the Commander that their interlopers had been found. She had a special hatred of Skarrans - that they had been used to try and kill her Queen was just another reason to want them dead.

Liam, too, had been busy giving and overseeing orders. Now that they were closing in on the Usurper and her army, they needed to take special care that they weren't taken by surprise and that no other interlopers invaded their camp. He ordered Clan Tarven to take charge of guarding the True Queen and keeping her and her Consort safe before checking in with the Queen himself to inform her that two more assassins had been found and would be interrogated. That had taken longer than expected, but he hoped the young queen would take to heart the advice he had given her.

There were other matters that needed tending to after that, and by the time the Commander was finally able to return to his own tent to rest, it was already morning. It was just as well he'd given orders that they'd be remaining there for at least another night, in part to allow their scouts time to scour the area and in part to allow them all to get another night's rest before moving on. They would need to be extra vigilant now that they were nearing enemy territory, and the extra sleep would be welcome.

Shaye arrived back at their shared tent just moments after Liam, and for a brief moment, entertained the idea of just walking straight back out again. Though she was now covered in tunic and pants, boots on her feet, she knew he was still angry about how ingrained her instincts were - that she would respond to the sound of her queen shouting for help without even putting on boots before she ran to assist. But it had been a long night, and she was cold and tired. Even if they ended up shouting at one another again, she couldn't think of anything better than lying in Liam's arms to sleep. Pausing to close the tent flaps securely, she turned to face him, her dark eyes wary.

Liam didn't even so much as turn around when she entered their tent. He didn't have to look to know it was Shaye. He knew her almost as well as she knew herself. There was no mistaking her footsteps, the sound of her breathing, or even her scent - distinctive as all of that was to this one woman he'd known since childhood. He had tugged off his coat and tossed it carelessly aside, as was his habit, and was about to dispense with his boots when she joined him. He knew she was likely angry at him for scolding her in front of the guards - her, the First Blade - perhaps the only person in the Queen's Army who was not under his command and not subject to his orders. He didn't blame her for having rushed to the Queen's rescue - he'd followed practically on her heels. What irked him was how she always gave such little regard to her own safety, as if she didn't matter, as if her life was unimportant, except perhaps to him.

Unbuckling her sword harness from her shoulders - one of the few who carried her sword strapped between her shoulders for ease of movement - she shrugged out of it, setting the weapon aside before moving toward the brazier to warm her pale fingers. "The Skarrans are secure," she told him. "The Wild Ones want to interrogate them - they say the Goddess will give them more truth than our tortures will." Business, perhaps, before pleasure, but it was the only way she could see to open a dialogue between them. For all that he was the Commander and she, the First Blade, they were still Liam and Shaye, and as such, they still had trouble, at times, expressing themselves like adults.

He grunted his acknowledgement, as she'd likely expected him to do, as he tugged his boots from his feet. He would not be caught with his pants down again, though he was expecting no more trouble now that morning had arrived. "They can try, but if they do not have results by noon, then we will do things our way," he replied, keeping his eyes on his boots, rather than look at her for fear he might soften and she might find him weak. "I have ordered Clan Tarven to guard the Queen,"  he added, knowing full well he had done no such thing - he had made the request, and they had agreed. There was no ordering the clansmen to do anything they didn't want to do. "I should have done that already," he added, regretfully.

At this pronouncement, Shaye forced herself not to laugh, knowing full well that no one ordered Kari's people to do anything. Indeed, even if they were ordered not to do something, invariably they did it. Holding in her smile, she glanced at Liam. "No one could have predicted they would try something so forthright. There are twelve guardsmen dead, and another fighting for his life. Skarran assassins are the best at what they do, and the cruelest."

"And twelve families who have lost a loved one," Liam remarked, darkly. Shaye knew him well enough to know he was likely to blame himself for this, though no one else in camp would blame him for it. Death was the price they all paid for war, and though their cause was a just one, Liam agonized over each soldier that was lost, as if he were a kinsman. "They deserve cruelty in return, but we are not Skarran." He finished with his boots and set them in front of the brazier to dry.

"No, we are not Skarran," she agreed vehemently, turning to remove her own boots now her hands were no longer numb with cold. "And we are not Velasca. Torture should not be our first choice, or even our second. We are better than they are. The moment we become like them, everything is lost." She sighed, thumping down onto the edge of the bed to tug at her boots. "I should have checked the sentry lines before I came to bed."

"Already done," he replied, having done that himself only a short while ago. "When this is over, I'm going to spend a week soaking in a hot bath and another week sleeping. And I'm going to eat my fill and get stinking drunk," he said, stretching his arms over his head and twisting to crack his back. There were days when he felt far older than his thirty-some odd years. There were other things he planned on doing, too, but he made no mention of those just yet.

Shaye was quiet for a long moment, her boots forgotten by the bed as she leaned forward onto her knees. "It'll be over soon," she murmured. "A month, maybe less. The scouts are reporting that they've seen the campfires outside Loscar - it looks as though Velasca intends to fight openly, rather than risk the city."

"Fool," Liam muttered. "She'd do better fortifying the city, but we will take advantage of her mistake. We have to be careful now. She will stop at nothing to be rid of Ariana before we reach her camp." He deposited himself on the bed, debating between breakfast and sleep and maybe something else.

Rubbing her brow, Shaye sighed again. "She's running out of time, and she played her hand too soon," she said. "We'll be ready for her now." She raised her head, turning weary eyes onto him where he sat near her. "I'm surprised you haven't growled at me yet. Surely you'll been holding onto a scolding all night."
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]

Shaye OConnor

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Re: Dawn Hopes
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2015, 10:18:58 AM »
"We have bigger things to worry about," he said, turning to face her at long last. He didn't look angry; what he looked was worried, and for Liam, that was not a good thing. "I interrupted something that perhaps I shouldn't have," he told her, remembering themselves when they'd been teenagers - shy, awkward, and terrified of each other.

Angry, she could deal with; worried was not something Shaye was accustomed to seeing from her husband. She twisted to face him, her own expression creased with concern. "What happened?" she asked him with worry of her own. "Who did you interrupt?" She didn't think it had been Conall and Liayna - if nothing else, she knew he'd be laughing if it had been them.

"Ariana and Rory," he replied. "I was not thinking, Shaye. I was only thinking of her safety - of their safety. We were lucky tonight. We cannot afford to make such mistakes again." But that didn't explain what exactly he had interrupted or tell her anything of the conversation that had followed. "Were we ever that young?"

"Well, that depends what you interrupted," she drawled, her lips curving in a faint smile. She was fond of their young queen, though closer to the consort who seemed so very nervous of doing anything wrong. With a sigh, Shaye dropped back onto the bed, pale hair a flaxen tumble falling free from the leather thong that was not up to the task of holding it in place. "We were lucky. By all accounts, if she hadn't woken, he would not have been able to save her. Keeping a clan close by seems the best idea."

"Thank the Goddess neither of them was hurt," he murmured, looking over at her with that worried frown still on his face, but not joining her just yet. "Hungry? I could order some breakfast before we sleep," he suggested, though his eyes already felt like they were full of sand.

"I think I would rather sleep and then eat," she admitted. "We can't afford to sleep overmuch this morning, but we can have a couple of hours." Her hand brushed his back as she met his gaze. "Tell me what's worrying you. It can't just be the attack, or you would still be skulking around giving out orders."

"I feel like I could sleep for a year," he grumbled, his expression softening when he felt her hand on his back. Maybe she wasn't as angry as he thought she was, or maybe she'd just thought it not important enough to stay angry about, all things considered. "It's Ariana and Rory," he admitted, though he thought he'd made that clear enough already. "Do you remember when we were that young?" he asked, wondering if she'd finally get his drift.

She frowned thoughtfully, wondering what he meant. Their shared childhood had been strictly regimented, filled with duties and training that they had shared, though nothing so heavy as the burden that had fallen on their young queen. But then, they had also been in love, and stolen moments were a warm memory she smiled at. In that context, it didn't take much to guess what Liam had walked in on. "They still haven't managed to work out what goes where?"

"Perhaps they will now that I, uh ... spoke with Ariana." He had to smile a little at the memory of their talk. "She wondered if men are like dogs." He couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Would you like it if I were like a dog?" he teased. Dropping onto his back and turning to face her, he traced the line of her neck with a finger.

"Rua, I love you dearly, but if you ever develop a dog's habits, I will have to have you castrated," his lovely wife informed with with the familiar cheeky twinkle in her dark eyes that had always been there, right from the day they had met. Her own hand rose, stroking affectionately against his cheek as she smiled at him. "Does she really not know what happens between a man and a woman in love?" she asked, amazed. "Even as a boy, she was a man in many eyes. Didn't anyone take Adare to a brothel?"

Despite everything, he couldn't help but chuckle at her threat. "I'll try to remember not to mark you as my territory," he teased back, glad she wasn't so angry with him anymore. More often than not, their arguments were heated and passionate but short-lived, like storm clouds quickly passing overhead. "I don't think so. She didn't seem to know much of anything. I've no idea how much the boy knows. He fled the tent when I interrupted."

Shaye groaned, rolling her eyes. "That explains how I saw Liayna following him through the camp, then," she mused, sighing softly. "If they don't work it out, they'll never secure the line. I don't think our new queen is the sort to love one and have children by another."

"Oh, I think they'll work it out. It's only a matter of time. I suggested she speak with the crone. If anyone can help, it is her. Ariana is worried about becoming pregnant. She said a child is the only thing that would stop her from marching on Loscar. I do not think she will have to worry about that much longer." Not because the Queen might get pregnant, but because even if she did, it was likely she wouldn't know until the war was over.

"Kari," Shaye corrected him with a low laugh. Though the Doma of Clan Tarven was easily the ugliest old woman she had ever seen, there was a great deal of power in her hands. Shaye was wary of causing offense to a woman whose power had kept their queen safe all these years. Rolling to face Liam, she smiled, tweaking his beard affectionately. "That should help her, hopefully. But now ... we need to talk about the way we speak to each other in front of others again, rua."

"Kari," he echoed, only one of a few who he allowed to correct him. He scowled at her when she tugged at his beard, followed by an all-too familiar roll of eyes as she brought up an all-too familiar subject that he was dreading discussing. "Yes, yes ... I know. I should not scold you in front of the others as it undermines your authority and makes me appear overbearing," he said, as if he was remembering a previous lecture by rote.

She eyed him, daring him to continue in that vein. "And?" she asked, wanting more than a remembered scolding repeated verbatim back at her. "Liam, you have to remember that I am not just your wife. My duty is the defense of the holder of Arlan's Sword - I can't prevent myself from that, even if I wanted to. I heard her voice, and I had to answer, regardless of the danger to myself. That is what it is to be bound to Arlan's Sword."

He might be stubborn, but he wasn't stupid, and he knew she was right, but he could not help himself. "I know all that, Shaye, but First Blade or not, you are still my wife. You are my heart and my soul, and I cannot help but worry for you, especially when you go storming out of the tent naked in the middle of winter to catch your death of cold." He sighed, laying back against the pillows, knowing there was no good solution to this problem. She was who she was, and there was no denying it. "You sacrificed yourself for me once, and I do not plan on losing you again."

"I have no intention of being lost," she promised him, her hand resting over his heart. "But until Ariana is secure on her throne, I will be her First Blade. I will be in the forefront of the fighting. You wouldn't expect anything less of me, would you?"

"I would prefer you did not let half the army see what is for my eyes alone," he replied, hinting at a little jealousy, but then, he was a man. He turned to face her, lifting her hand from his chest to brush a kiss against her palm. "I knew who you were when I married you. I know you are the First Blade first and my wife second, but it is not always easy knowing the danger."
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]

Shaye OConnor

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Re: Dawn Hopes
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2015, 10:19:53 AM »
That hint of jealousy was enough to soften her smile, understanding his misgivings. It was difficult to explain the searing hold the Sword of Arlan held over her, how impossible it was to ignore her duty, even long enough to throw on a tunic. "I know," she agreed. "But I don't always get the luxury of knowing what is threatening. I am called, and I answer. I have no choice. And if you had been a little less me man you wife, I wouldn't have been quite so insistent on staying naked for as long as I did."

"Mmm, I wonder how you would feel were it I prancing about the camp in all my naked glory," he countered, though he was understood the power the Sword held over her. "What shall I call you then? You are my wife." He was really not trying to be difficult; it was a sincere question. "Just remember, wife ..." he said, rolling over on top of her to pin her to the bed. "You belong to me."

"Oh, really?" She looked up at him from where he had her pinned down, a challenge in her dark eyes that he knew very well indeed. Her lips twitched into a teasing smile. "Planning on proving that, ladyboy?" she asked sweetly. He was never going to get away from the nickname she had pinned on him at their first meeting, and he knew it.

"You didn't answer the question. Or perhaps I should strut about the camp in my all together come morning and see what you think. It might be good for morale," he teased, mirroring the grin on her face. His body felt hard against hers, and not just from muscles well-sculpted from hard work and soldiering.

"Unless you're doing it for the protection of Ariana, ladyboy, you can bet I'll be spanking your bare backside with the flat of my sword all the way," she informed him, arching beneath the hardness he laid over her. So many people saw only the fire they aimed at one another when they could be seen; so few saw the tenderness that lay beneath that fire. "I'd rather they didn't see, but if they have to see you, then I'll make damn sure they know they can't touch."

He smirked at her retort, knowing she'd carry through with that threat if he dared call her on it, but he was perfectly happy leaving that view for her eyes alone. He'd made his point, amused by her reaction to his threat. "I don't think you need worry about that." He rolled to his side, taking her with him, weary but not so weary he wasn't able to enjoy this little respite from their duties. "I am trying to decide if I should forgive you. What do you think?"

"I think I'm very forgivable, personally," she smiled, rolling with him to lay her head on his shoulder. Only when they were alone did Shaye lean on Liam; he was the only person who ever saw her softer, definitively feminine side. "What will you do if you don't forgive me?"

"I think perhaps I should be asking you that," he replied, that smirk still on his face, as he slid an arm around her to pull her up against him. Even if they did nothing but rest for a while in each other's arms, it was enough. These moments were growing more and more rare the closer they got to the Usurper's camp, and he savored every one of them.

"What will I do if you don't forgive me?" Shaye smiled up at him as he drew her close, kicking at the blankets to reach down and cover them both. The long night without much sleep was beginning to make itself known, but she was glad to have a few minutes of peace with her husband. "I might have to reacquaint myself with your intimate parts until you give in. When I wake up."

"Hmm ..." he mused quietly, sleepily, having a hard time keeping his eyes open, partially lulled to sleep by the warmth of the body beside him. "You may have to convince me." Or more accurately, seduce him, though neither of them really needed an excuse for that. "When this is all over, I'm not getting out of bed for a week." And he planned on keeping her there with him.

She yawned, nestling closer to him beneath their blankets. "Is this before or after the week long bath and the week long feast?" she asked him teasingly, curling her arm over his chest affectionately. She sighed softly, deeply content to be where she was, despite all the ravages of war. "When this is all over, we're going to fulfill your mother's dearest wish."

"Does it matter?" he asked, unsure himself what order of priority he'd like to give that list. Bath, then food, then bed? Or food, then bath, then bed? He bent his head to press a kiss to her forehead. If anyone saw them, they might wonder if this was the same Liam who was Commander and Shaye who was First Blade. "What wish is that?" he asked sleepily, letting his eyelids drift closed at long last. He knew they only had a few hours at best, and they both needed the sleep.

Tucking the blankets high about them both, Shaye relaxed against him, boneless with the need to sleep for just a little while. With her own eyes falling closed, she murmured her answer to him, smiling at the touch of his lips to her forehead. "We'll have a family of our own," she promised him softly. A moment later, she added, "On the condition that Makos isn't allowed to take any of them hunting until they're at least ten."

A sleepy smile curled his lips at the idea of having a family. What would their troops say if they knew the First Blade was thinking about starting a family? "A boy and a girl," he murmured groggily, as he held her close. "And you can take that up with Makos," he said, making no promises there. If all went well - if all went according to plan - in just a few weeks, the war would be over. The Usurper Queen would be defeated, and the True Queen would rule Arctra. There would be peace in the land for the first time in decades. And Liam and Shaye just might be able to have the life they had always dreamed of.
[size=9:3f8154f752][color=indigo:3f8154f752][b:3f8154f752][i:3f8154f752]A glorious death is to be envied.[/i:3f8154f752][/b:3f8154f752][/color:3f8154f752][/size:3f8154f752]