- Legendary Adventurer
- The Empress
- Posts: 2471
- Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:26 pm
- Location: Little Elfhame, Old Market
It was hardly the most romantic pillow talk, but that didn't seem to discourage her. The reality was that there had been a very direct, unexpected attack on the Emperor's life that morning. They may have been pleasantly occupied in the hours since, but they couldn't escape the matter entirely. Not with the iron burns on her hands, the very noticeable bruises along her throat, and the smattering of other injuries they had both sustained.
Laying on his back, his hands resting on an abdomen that would be surprisingly fit for his age if this wasn't RhyDin, he looked over at her for a moment before turning his gaze up to the ceiling. He shook his head. "No, that was deliberate. They're watching me. Us. You." His lips pressed together. That thought felt like a burning in his chest. Didn't she have enough problems? His eyes squeezed shut for a moment before he rolled his head over to face her again. "Maybe I should go back or..." He shook his head. He wasn't going to say the next option out loud. "I don't like this affecting you. I don't mind only risking me. This whole thing is such a long shot. But I didn't have anything to lose before. But now..." His eyes focused on her. "I don't want anything happening to you. Especially not because of me."
She smiled at him, having anticipated his response, understanding the impulse and emotion behind it. "It's funny," she admitted, smoothing his hair back. "I can't remember when I've been on this side of this conversation. Normally it's the other way around. People always in danger because of me." Jewell had shoved people away countless times in the past because worse than being apart from someone she cared about was seeing one of them hurt. Her family in Faerie had certainly exploited that vulnerability several times over.
"Don't worry over much. It doesn't seem too easy to kill me." She couldn't quite suppress the confident grin, which faded into something softer as she admitted, "Honestly, I think the worst thing that could happen to me is for you to get hurt." She hesitated, biting the inside of her cheek, before reluctantly offering, "But if you really think you would be better off, be safer, less vulnerable, alone..." Even though she was putting the offer out there, she wasn't above using all the means in her arsenal to sway him against it, like tracing her fingers lightly across his chest.
"No," he shook his head. "I'm definitely not better off without you. And you're right, it isn't easy to kill you. And if the situation were reversed, I wouldn't want to be anywhere except right beside you." His hand reached out, resting on her blanketed hip. "You are a brilliant, capable, and rather beautiful Empress. If you want to stay around for this, I wouldn't dream of dissuading you from it."
Her laugh was rich and warm, "Only rather beautiful?" She shifted to close the little distance between them and kiss him. "I knew you were smart enough to know that it's a fool's errand to dissuade me from just about anything anyway. I'm afraid you're stuck with me now, Emperor."
While everyone else saw the grizzled old Warlord, the blunt and sharp legend of days gone by, she saw him laughing, smiling brightly at her. In a moment, he had flipped them around, and he was above her, his thick, salt and pepper hair framing his face. "No, Empress," she could feel his broad grin even through the deep kiss. "You are stuck with me."
((Written with the distinguished Lupton with many thanks!))
- Legendary Adventurer
- The Empress
- Posts: 2471
- Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:26 pm
- Location: Little Elfhame, Old Market
"Oh come on," Jewell growled, shaking her phone as she hit a null magic spot. Or maybe it was a burst of strong magic creating a tech free spot. It was difficult to tell when her phone worked off both. Regardless of the cause, the video of soot sprites she had been watching froze.
She was on the edge of the South RhyDin slums, returning home empty handed after a trip to The Deadwood. Even with a new beau, she had not stopped her regular visits to that area of town, bearing gifts for Sinjin and Kaavi: cat food, alcohol, fresh flowers, cigarettes, a new book to read. They were her gentle way of reminding him to touch base with humanity every now and then. He hadn't been home today though, so she had only stayed long enough to write him a note in Spanish (her grammar and spelling were still atrocious, but she was trying), pet Kaavi, and arrange the fresh flowers she had brought on the table in a vase she had left behind at some point.
As she gave the device another shake, as if that would help, Jewell was distracted enough that she didn't see the person coming the other way until she walked right into him. "Oomph," she grunted, stumbling back.
The man didn't seem like he had even tried to avoid her, slamming into her and then continuing on his way as if she were nothing. Her apology died on her lips, and she turned to watch him walk away unconcerned as she rubbed her shoulder and frowned. It had been like walking into a wall, and her nose twitched with the burn of iron that lingered in the air after him. Jerk probably was a knife-ear hater that had knocked into her on purpose. She knew some of them lined their jackets with iron for protection. "Asshole," she grumbled.
When she turned back to continue home, she found the way blocked by two other men. They had large, rectangular shields ahead of them. Clearly, she had been mistaken. The shields and weapons on these two well armed soldiers were the source of the iron stinging her nostrils and throat with each breath. Jewell took a step back, her brain coming to some hasty conclusions. She thumbed blindly through her phone while offering them her most glamourous smile, "Sorry gentlemen, wasn't watching where I was going." She made to take a step around them but, unsurprisingly, they shifted to block her way.
She glanced around, taking a steadying breath as four others joined the two infront of her, a set on each side. A look over her shoulder yielded the man she had walked into first. Seven. Seven wasn't bad. Seven was doable. She had to admire their timing. She wasn't close enough to The Deadwood to try and retreat behind Sinjin's wards, but she was still far enough away from the semi-busy commercial center of the derelict neighborhood to garner any attention or aid.
She was really going to have to chat with Sin about where he lived.
"Something I can do for you all?" She asked as she hit call on the top entry in her phone before sliding it into the pocket of her dress. With her hands free, she was ready to summon weapons or magic, though the latter would be dicey with the amount of iron the soldiers had on them. They were clearly learning. This is what Lupton had been concerned about, what she should have been more concerned about. It had been quiet for weeks though, and for the woman that had faced down the High Courts of Faerie and lived, some soldiers didn't really seem worth worrying about.
She was learning too, just much slower.
"We're going to need you to come with us, Empress."
She turned so she could face the man at her back, the one who spoke up, while still keeping as many of the others in her periphery as she could. The former Diamond shifted her stance just a little, but she still seemed relaxed. Calm. Nothing to see here, just a delicate little woman in a summer dress and high heels. She chose her words carefully, enunciating each one with a silent prayer that her phone was picking them up. "Rather take an Empress than an Emperor, huh? What's the problem, you couldn't find Lupton? Surprise surprise, you'll never find Lupton."
The man, the captain of this particular expedition, shook his head. "We already know where the false Emperor is. Holed up in that Red Dragon Inn. You're a bit easier to find."
Jewell laughed. "Oh I guess you did find Lupton then. Good luck getting him out of the Red Dragon Inn. The Red Dragon Inn is hard to breach. Famous building, that Red Dragon Inn. It would be really hard to get at Lupton there. Though I suppose that's where I come in, huh?"
"Guess you're not just a pretty face."
She smiled at that, finally summoning a dagger into one hand and a flicker of pure energy in the other; it played around her fingers like a living, silver flame. The soldiers drew their weapons, blunt objects meant to inflict pain and subdue but not kill, and raised their shields in a wall of iron around her. "Next time, you should probably bring more people," she offered that helpful tip before throwing herself at the captain.
First she frowned, confused. Jewell had clearly butt dialed her! Then her body went cold.
"...you couldn't find Lupton? …you'll never find Lupton."
The response from whoever Jewell was talking to was too muffled to hear, but she heard the faerie laugh and speak one more time, her diction and enunciation almost comically slow and clear. "Oh I guess you did find Lupton then…Red Dragon Inn. The Red Dragon Inn is hard to breach…that Red Dragon...hard to get at Lupton there."
Someone responded to the faerie, Jewell's last response was inaudible, and then there were the sounds of a scuffle: the sizzle and static of magic, a scream of pain, another of horror, a grunt, a gurgle, the clatter of weapons meeting, a cry she knew to be Jewell's, and then a crunch.
After that, she could hear faint footsteps, unclear orders shouted, people moving around, and then silence. The message ran on for another five minutes, but there was nothing else to hear aside from the wind blowing last year's leaves around the street.
"Shit." Sapphire cursed, holding her phone out and staring at it, waiting for Jewell to say something, confirm that she was okay.
She tried to call the Empress but all it did was ring. "Come on. Come on!"
"You've reached The Empress!" Jewell's voicemail message chimed cheerfully. "Leave a message after the–" Beep!
"Ugh." Sapphire threw her phone in her bag and ran for her motorcycle, triggering her midnight blue helmet by touching one of the studs on her right ear. It manifested fully before she even had the engine going, which was great because she went from zero to sixty as fast as she could, spraying one of the other professor's cars with gravel. She'd apologize later. For now, she was in a hurry. She had to get across both time and space.
She had to find Lupton at the Red Dragon Inn.
"Yo," she shouted, cupping her mouth with her ring-bedecked hands to give her the volume she needed. "Which one of you is Lupton?"
One of the more venerable and seasoned waitresses spat out a hearty laugh as she passed by the blue-haired girl. "Snobby McEmperor Face don't dine down here with us regular folk. If he ain't sitting on a couch in the basement, then he's probably up in his 'suite.'" She emoted the universal sign for air quotes with her fingers. "I could tell ya which one it is, but..." her brows bounced up and down, "... it's gon cost ya."
She smirked at the title–Snobby McEmperor Face, hilarious–and tucked it away for later. What she did not find amusing though was the suggestion that she pay up for the much needed information. Sapphire sputtered, "What? Don't you know who I am? Who's kid I am?" She quickly held up her hand. "Wait, don't answer that. My self-esteem can't handle it today." She dug around in the pocket of her jeans while she muttered, "Was a time when this blue hair worked wonders. People know nothing of respect." Fishing out a silver piece, she dropped it into the woman's waiting hand, "If you hold out for more, all you're gonna get is my fist in your face so you better just tell me now."
The waitress grumbled something in return—involving cheap blue haired wenches—but gave up the suite number without any further trouble. Besides, one of the regulars (who tipped well) was calling her over for a refill.
Sapphire paid the woman no mind, taking the ancient stairs two at a time and prowling down the inn hallway until she reached the right room. Then she pounded on the door with enough vigor to be the envy of a RhyDin Watch member. Showing the utmost maturity and patience, she waited all of 20 seconds before repeating the gesture.
In the middle of the second round of knocks, the heavy door swung open, immediately followed by the tip of a very sharp longsword aimed at her neck. Shirtless, barefoot, the black hair threaded with silver still wet, and in his usual slacks, the Emperor canted his head to one side as he looked at her. The blue hair, the features... and he had seen her face before. "Sapphire?" He slowly lowered the blade to his side, peering at her quizzically.
Which was just as well because she had lifted her hand to brush the blade aside, unconcerned. She looked him over, head to toe, with a grin, "New boyfriend, right? Not bad." Then she pulled a slightly battered and cracked phone out of the pocket of her hoodie. The screen had been shattered, but the swirl of different blues and silver on the casing was still visible. "You recognize this?"
Lupton replied with a small shrug and a smirk to the compliment, but then his eyes went immediately to the phone. His brows furrowed a bit, and then he was immediately studying her face for any hint of what might be going on. "I do."
"Found it in the South RhyDin slums a little bit ago along with quite a bit of blood on the street, the stink of iron all over the place, and no sign of its fair owner." She pocketed the phone again while giving him a look that clearly said: care to explain?
His lips pressed together in a frown. He shot a glance down the empty hallway before taking a step back. "Come inside. Quickly."
Sapphire stepped into the room but waited until he closed the door behind her before saying anything else. "She left me a message too. Telling me to find you."
Lupton closed the door behind her as soon as she passed through the threshold. A glowing golden bead burned a course around the outline of the door, magically locking it sealed. She only waited long enough to admire the magic sealing of the door before pulling her phone out and playing the message that had prompted her sudden jaunt through time.
He hung Vox on a pair of hooks beside the door before facing her, and listening to her, then Jewell. "There's nothing else?"
She shook her head. "No, that was it. I was hoping you'd know more. You know, like who is after her? Or maybe who is after you?" She was still smiling, still friendly, but there was a bit of an edge to her tone.
The "suite" wasn't large, but certainly enough for one lone Emperor. Dark wood floors and furnishings, a brown leather couch, thick area rugs, and amenities fueled by magic instead of electricity. He leaned back on the armrest of the couch, hands clasped in his lap. "My son, and his followers, are after me. And they know about her. I don't know what other enemies she has, but they already attacked us once." He let out a deep exhale. "I knew... I knew they would keep coming. And we talked about what would be best—best for me, best for her. I let her decide what she wanted to do. That was probably foolish. Selfish."
"With the iron, I'd say more likely your enemies than hers." She shrugged. "But I wouldn't fret, Snobby McEmperor Face. I doubt even you are persuasive enough to get her to do something she doesn't want to do. Knowing her, the threat of danger probably makes you more appealing. Fucking masochist," she grumbled with affection.
He had to chuckle at the name, and he now knew how she found his room. "While I am rather persuasive," a hint of a grin snuck past one corner of his mouth, despite the seriousness of the situation, "I know you're right. I don't think I talked her into anything she wasn't on board for." He shook his head briskly as if to clear away that line of thought. There would be time for that later. "Regardless, we are going to find her. And I'm going to kill them. All of them."
Sapphire absolutely beamed at him at the conclusion he came to, clapping her hands together. "That's the spirit! Though like maybe you should put a shirt on first?" He seemed to have passed some test because the young faerie was totally relaxed now, blue eyes sparkling as she teased him. "So what do you think the play is? Should we be expecting a good ol' fashion ransom note or something? Hopefully not like her right hand as a threat though. That'd suck." She leaned against the wall and discussed the details as if they were planning dinner not a rescue operation. She actually sounded more excited than concerned.
"No, no shirt. She didn't tell you? This is my uniform." He gestured to his bare chest—completely deadpan. Then, "Thankfully, she is no use to them dead, and no use to them in captivity. They will have to reach out to me… hopefully without removing any of her parts. I think they know that would make me less amenable to negotiating, though." Pragmatic.
"I heard something about a cloak, but she failed to mention what you do or do not wear under it." She spun one of her rings with her thumb. The casual words belied her very real anxiety, but she couldn't entirely hide it as she fidgeted with her bracelets next. "Suppose you're right about all that unless they just want to piss you off. Angry people do stupid things you know? Maybe they want you stupid. Either way, do we just sit around and wait?"
"We could wait. Or..." he paused as he considered the viability of the next prospect, "I could reach out to them—tell them I'm willing to give them what they want." He pushed up off the couch and took a step closer. "Whatever we do, though, whatever happens, I need you to know: She is going to be okay and you will have her back."
Sapphire smiled at the sentiment behind his words, but she couldn't restrain her snort. "Woman hasn't been okay in years. One too many hits to the head in her first Diamond Quest, you know? But we should probably get her back all the same, so how do we offer your head on a platter? Like...how do we reach them? And do we need backup? We can get backup. I know some people."
She was halted from expounding on (for the moment) what people she knew, and the chaos they could help the pair bring, by a knock on the suite door. "Expecting someone?"
He looked quizzically from the door to her and back to the door again. "No, I wasn't."
"Courier message for you…your royal Emperor sir," the waitress from downstairs called out before knocking again.
Lupton stepped up to the door and raised his voice, "Leave it and go!"
They could practically hear the waitress rolling her eyes from the other side of the door. "I'll be expecting a tip next time you are walking through here." He waited until he heard the sounds of her departure, then opened the door, retrieved the envelope, and closed it again.
He read aloud the note inside the simple white envelope:
We have your faerie at the Dracoern Citadel. We have not hurt her much, but that will change. Come, submit yourself to the true Emperor of Dracoern, tell the world he is the rightful ruler, and in exchange he promises freedom for her and a merciful end for you.
You have seven days before we start drawing new scars on her flesh.
His hand shook the paper as he finished reading, and he looked across the room to Sapphire. "All of them."
((Jewell's player is responsible for literally everything good about this. She's the best.))
The thought of Jewell held against her will sat heavily in her stomach as she headed into Old Market. “We have not hurt her, much.” The words of that note burned in her brain. Oh there was going to be hell to pay! Her hand tightened on the hilt of her mana blade, eager to slit throats right now in order to get back the woman who had sacrificed her most precious memories in exchange for Sapphire’s life. She had to fight the temptation to march back to the Inn and demand they go after Jewell as soon as possible. Like right now. Lupton’s cooler head had prevailed in their plans, and she had to grudgingly admit that he was probably right. The path they had chosen was likely the safest way to free Jewell and ensure as few people as possible got their hands dirty or ended up in the line of fire.
If everything went according to plan.
“They’d be fools to offer her freedom in exchange for your life, you know. Don’t think for one second that they’ll actually let her go if you lose the fight and then turn yourself in.” Those were her parting words to Lupton. She felt confident enough in the idea that if Lupton won the fight, things would go smoothly: he would have the support to be Emperor again and Jewell would subsequently go free. If he didn’t win though… Mother of Nature, this could go really sideways.
With that in mind, she pulled her phone out of her pocket where it rattled against Jewell's, fingers swift across the screen.
Text to Parental Units: With J for a few days, maybe a week or two or more
Text to Parental Units: Will let you know when I know. Probably stay with Sami or Mal since J has a new beau
Text to Parental Units: love you both xoxox dad, don’t forget to stick to the doctor’s diet recommendations please
That should keep them mostly pacified and not too worried. Maybe. Probably. She did tend to come home with new scars and injuries every time she visited with Jewell. And her mother was still an overprotective monster even after Sapphire had moved out a few years back. It made sense when she considered all the children her mother had already lost, but it was a bit tough to handle.
Speak of the devil–Sapphire's phone buzzed in her hand. She glanced down, smirking a little at the message notification.
Text from Mom: okay sweetie be careful
Text from Mom: try not to let her get you involved in anything too crazy
Text from Mom: do you need me to water your plants while you're gone or do anything else for you?
Text to Parental Units: everything should be fine. I've got the watering system rigged up
Text to Parental Units: don't worry I'll be careful. Love you both
Her mother was going to be the death of her, she just knew it. But she had more important things to worry about right now than the smothering affection of her parents birth parents. She had to focus on getting Jewell back before The Empress did something stupid like fall apart again. With that in mind, Sapphire paused in the street and set an alarm for tomorrow at sunrise. That’s when she was going to drag her ass out of bed and then go wake Lupton up and make him practice until she was satisfied that he was going to win. It was the only sure way to guarantee Jewell’s safety.
The plan made her grin and lifted her spirits, making her feel at least somewhat in control of the situation, which was good because she still had one grueling task ahead of her this evening.
Her anxiety abated enough that she became aware of the growling of her stomach. A cute guy walking next to her even heard it and gave her a look! If only the ground would open up and devour her. Red in the face, she grabbed a gyro from the first street vendor she encountered to satiate the grumbling monster that was her stomach.
She was just licking the tzatziki sauce remnants off her hands when she crossed the border into Little Elfhame and was immediately approached by two women. While they were both in fairly modern street clothes, they were fae, and each wore a multi-pointed star brooch over their hearts in imitation of the scar Jewell bore proudly. Wayward Knights.
"Been a while since we've seen you around Lil Blue," the redhead on the right, with horns poking through her curls, grinned at the young faerie.
Sapphire shrugged. "What can I say? I've been busy. But I'm afraid we've got a little bit of a situation on our hands." She filled the knights in quickly and succinctly on what had happened, urging them to be on guard and trusting they'd pass the word along to the rest of Jewell's unusual court slash not-court.
That was the easy task. She invaded Jewell’s loft for the real challenge. Of course, one step into the foyer and she tripped over a pair of high heels. “Son of a mother of nature ****ing bitch!” she growled, spitting curses at the absent, kidnapped faerie. She kicked the patent leather, red shoes out of her way and flicked on several mage lights before venturing further inside, dropping her bag next to the couch. She was tempted to collapse onto the inviting furniture to take a quick nap, but she could rest later.
Instead, she took a seat at the cluttered desk and retrieved one of Jewell’s favorite pens–the one with feathers on the end that wrote in a sparkly, blue ink–from the little concrete pot that she was pretty sure had been a planter for succulents. Of course Jewell had killed the plants somehow. Unbelievable. How Sapphire had ended up with such a green thumb when Jewell was a killer of all green things was a wonder. Of course, Sapphire was irrevocably connected to PathFinder. That probably has something to do with it.
She groaned, forcing herself to reel her thoughts back in and focus. The young faerie twirled the pen between her fingers as she tried to conjure the words she needed to write. Minutes ticked by on the clock situated on the bookcase behind her, and she was so tempted to abandon her task and go tinker with something. Or fix Jewell’s phone. Cook something. Text Mallory and demand she meet her for drinks. Call Sami and see how she was doing and go visit little Adam. Anything other than this. But this task had to be done before all others, and Sapphire was the one who had to do it. With a groan, she finally put pen to paper.
Hate to share bad news, but…
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