[Plot] The Emperor's Pleasure - Introduction

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swaswj

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The Emperor's Pleasure - Introduction
Anguis Trigon, Phase One




Wordcount: 1050​

Elata Spiritus perched high in the peaks of Tumunlu, the southern stretch of mountains surrounding Terminus. What began as a simple docking area for airships had blossomed into a small city in its own right, with its own industry, housing, and economy, and many airships were built right there by the skilled engineers who called it home. It was a city of steel and titanium, with broad metal plates forming the floors of the city, stretching out over open air with strong beams anchored into the mountains themselves. A constant dusting of snow gave Elata a sort of otherworldly glow, and on tranquil days the city of white arches and floating platforms truly embodied the 'Spiritus' half of its name, especially when looking out over the millions of tiny lights in Terminus, sparkling like the stars above.

The troubles of the world seemed so far and distant, even the war that currently plagued the oceans.

There were dozens of large airships currently docked or moored in the city, and uncountable numbers of smaller vessels, some as small as rowboats. Of all sorts of designs, from all corners of the world, it felt like every ship was unique, distinct among its peers. One stood out among the rest, however: a ship lined in pearlescent panels aligned in long, thin lines, with a deep well. Glimmering propellers near the rear of the ship suggested it was built with sea travel in mind. The upper decks boasted three large triangular sails, silver and glittering, very likely coated in bigatium pulveris and enchanted for strength. Wings swept out horizontally, with the airship's engines covered in spiraling shells. At the fore of the ship there was a figurehead of silver, in the shape of a woman's body holding a pitcher and pouring it. In reverence to the Arbiter, the familiar symbol of the Emperor's bloodline ended at the top of the neck, as it was believed no sculptor could capture the beauty of Serpens.

It was this ship, the Geamhess, that the heroes of the Black Portal were ushered onto, standing on its upper deck lined in treated planks of white wood. Along with them came many others who had performed admirably during the campaign or who had been drawn from other respected regimens within the grand metropolis. All told, the Magister -- and by extension the city of Terminus -- made a personal offer of four dozen of the city's best and bravest, to serve at Emperor Thadal's pleasure. With the heroes at the forefront, the selected men and women stood in six columns, each wearing a ceremonial half-cloak over their right shoulder, deep violet and gilded with the symbol of the city: an archaic symbol reminiscent of a ball of fire upon a circle, representing the protection from the cataclysm.

A young velen woman stood to greet the champions, her skin a gentle but warm pink, small patches of scales on her cheeks and down the gentle slope of her shoulders glimmering. Long ribbons of deeper red covered her scalp and swept backward, hanging midway down her back. She wore a sleeveless dress that hugged her figure, light turquoise; there was a barely visible seam down the center showing the legs were separate. Although she wore no crown nor other jewelry, as the young woman's gentle blue eyes looked over the men and women before her, they all recognized the royal bearing she carried. Uniformed guards, in armor of mother-of-pearl, stood to either side of her: though she was slim and delicate, she was slightly taller than either of her guards, perhaps taller than anyone else gathered there.

"Fair greetings to you all, brave and noble warriors," the woman called out in a bright yet refined tone, a small smile spreading on her cheeks. "We, feartu Grace et Neptunum, are honored to welcome you aboard our vessel, the Geamhess, and further to welcome you into our home in Pelagia, the city of our forebears." She placed a hand to her chest and gently inclined her head. "As your hostess, we shall ensure that you are provided every comfort available to us, that you may pass a pleasant journey. From the bottom of our heart, we thank you for your service in this time of great strife. Please, enter."

The oldest princess of the Pelagian Empire moved with balletic refinement, bowing her head once more before she turned and entered the airship, followed by her bodyguards. Led by two representatives of the Arcanum, familiar with the rules of decorum, the rest of the many men and women entered the airship. Once inside, all were struck with the opulence and beauty of the inside. This was clearly a leisure vessel, but a royal one besides. Artwork and finery lined every wall, much of it glittering in silver, some in gold, and all with a touch of the sea. The walls were pink, like the outside, and the floor was of a similar pale wood to the deck, covered in ornate carpets and rugs.

Princess Grace disappeared elsewhere into the ship while the crew led their visitors to the general quarters. Where other ships might have simple rooms with cots or hammocks, what greeted them was a lavish and open sitting room with cushioned chairs and couches, as well as several mahogany tables already lined with food, mostly fruits and cured fish.

It was easy to forget why they had come.

"They're here?!" a youthful voice shouted out. "They're here!"

"Get back here!" another yelled out, and then soon both speakers burst into the room. A boy and girl, siblings probably, tussled and shoved at each other. The girl, slightly younger, flashed a sharp, toothy grin as she ran from one warrior to another, gawking up at them. Her brother, barely a teenager, kept trying to grab her and slow her down, but wasn't having much luck. They both had light red skin, darker than Grace's, with short white rows of coral atop their heads, but all the differences aside, they shared the same striking blue eyes: these were two more of the emperor's children, prince Cordatus and princess Mitis.

Mitis rushed up to one woman in particular and let out a squeal of glee. "It's her! It's Elfeed! You are, right? Right?"

This is for the heroes of the Black Portal and for a selected number of additional characters. If your character is not one of the heroes, but you can point to deeds or connections that would get them in, you can do so. For instance, I am bringing Keydis into this with a combination of deeds (high-profile bounties) and a connection (her uncle being a ranking Conexus officer). If you're not sure, feel free to ask, but I don't plan to be strict about those guidelines, just want you to have something in mind for yourself.

You can respond here with turns or mini-chapters, or post a separate chapter tying into the setup. Interacting with each other or the NPCs is not required, and you are also welcome to write the NPCs shown based on the characterization displayed (one example being that Grace speaks using the royal we). There is no measure for success or failure at this juncture, this is about establishing your characters entering the plot.

The chosen will be given the royal treatment throughout their journey aboard the Geamhess, a leisure airship. There are 48 chosen, a dozen imperial guards, and four of the emperor's children aboard, along with assorted attendants and crew. The ship will leave Elata Spiritus at dawn and the trip will take four days, leaving Elata Spiritus and heading southwest to Pelagia, the underwater capital of the Empire.

Let me know if you have any questions.[/i]
 

MoonlitRain014

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Aeria Luxus strode onto the deck of the Geamhess dressed in her finest armor and clothing. A bright crimson cloak hung from her surprisingly solid shoulders contrasting with the bright silver breastplate that she wore. Fine traceries of design ran across it, but it was also built for function, designed to accomodate her movements in a fight. Under the breastplate, she wore a silken shirt of a subtly contrasting shade of red to her cloak. Her legs were clad in well-tailored pants of a buff hued fabric that were tucked into knee-high boots of embossed basilisk leather. On her hands, she wore gloves of the same dark basilisk leather. She was carrying a finely crafted halberd and in a pouch at her waist she carried the blade that had fallen to earth during the Black Portal battle.

She paused on the deck, eyes moving in a smooth arc around the breathtaking feat of engineering and design on which she planted her boots. A quick smile touched her delicately penciled features as those keen violet eyes of hers caressed the ship. A moment later she was moving towards the velen who waited to greet them, her motions all elegance and grace.

After she’d spoken and turned to lead them, Aeria followed, watching the woman’s refined movements closely. Inside, her eyes lingered again on the ornate decorations and opulent finishes that surrounded her. Her boots made little noise on the carpets deep pile when she stepped onto them.

Finding herself in the sitting room, she remained standing, resting one hand against the back of a heavily carved couch as she waited for the other “Heroes of the Black Portal” to arrive. A bright smile touched her fine features as the velen child rushed excitedly towards Aelflead, a woman whose whole demeanour didn’t seem particularly welcoming to bundles of childish energy. The stance in which Aeria stood was relaxed, but a certain line of tension seemed to hold her somewhat more upright than might have been expected.

[334]
 

Mystydjinn

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Considering the cloud of mild irritation and stony indifference that always seemed to follow the red haired woman around, along with the frown she'd been regarding the crowd and all it's inhabitants with mere seconds before; the air of warmth that'd surfaced about her as Mitis skidded to a halt in front of the spurii seemed grossly out of place.

Flipping red curls and thick fuchsia ribbons away from her face and stepping one scarred brown leg through long slit up the side of the lavender skirt to her dress, Aelflead propped her hands up atop her waist and regarded the princess coolly, taking care not to jostle the glittering pair of auritium daggers at her hips or drop her sash as she moved.

"Who's asking, squirt?" She demanded playfully, a small grin playing at the edges of her painted, violet lips.

[142]

Heads up, Occultus' Shade is active.
 

swaswj

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The young girl's eyes widened in starstruck wonder and she quickly straightened up, puffing her chest out. "I'm Mitis et Neptunum, feartu of the Empire, and future hufuofn!" she declared cheerfully.

Her brother grumbled at his sister, grabbing the back of her head and shoving it downward. He pressed his other fist against his ribs in half the traditional velen salute, bowing his head. "I am… er, we are tiae Cordatus ad Neptunum. Pray forgive my, our sister's lack of manners."

Mitis shoved the hand off her head and then tackled her brother with a defiant yell. The two kids tussled only briefly before Cordatus had Mitis pinned. He had a few years on the girl and it looked like such altercations were commonplace.

Elsewhere in the crowd, Keydis Lysistrata cracked a smirk at the display, but she was also looking around and wondering when another member of the royal family or an attendant would come to clear the kids away. There were dozens of heavily armed, highly dangerous individuals crowded into one room. Surely they wouldn't be so lackadaisical about the safety of the youths?

Keydis pushed her way out of the crowd proper, setting her sights on a short couch near the back of the room. Atop her head, short brown hair was spiked up, with her bangs died a bright red. Her eyes were an unusual shade of violet, beneath bushy eyebrows; her cheeks had lost much of the softness of youth, but she still had smooth, unblemished and lightly tanned skin. In deference to the chill weather of Hiemis, Keydis had several layers of clothing, with the fancy purple half-cloak given to them for the mission over her right shoulder, her own long black cloak over the left, and a blood-red scarf under both. Her armor shimmered and sparkled where it showed, made of dozens of tiny, individually forged scales of bigatium colored in a range of blues and violets, attached to a light red doublet of sturdy, layered cloth, with furred pads over her shoulders. The handle of an auritium axe protruded over one shoulder, the rest of the weapon hidden beneath the hanging garments. A detached red sleeve covered the woman's left arm, from the bicep down to the back of her hand, upon which she had three rings; her right arm was covered in tight, black leather straps to the wrist, with a fingerless black glove. At her waist, a sturdy leather belt with a single sword, nearly hidden beneath a red and yellow striped sash. She also wore black cotton pants with dark grey plates of hardened leather, tucked into black, calf-high leather boot.

The woman tried to quiet the nagging voice in the back of her mind saying this was a mistake. She didn't come here for a pleasure cruise, she came for what she assumed was an elite mission. Hopefully the serious stuff came later, but for now, she settled for avoiding the children by a wide margin.


[500/1550]
 

Valero

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After silently observing the ceremonial welcome by the Princess of Pelagia - the nuwr Princess! - Deni strode onto the ship as if it were his birthright. The purple cloak that was draped across his right shoulder cascaded down the side of the long-sleeved teal shirt that was buttoned up to his neck. A pattern embroidered in strands of silver swirled around the shape of his muscles from his silver cufflinks, around the seams of the sleeves, across his shoulders and to the buttons, leading down to the silver-buckled belt where the shirt was neatly tucked into his loose black pants. His black shoes gave an audible tap sound with every arrogant step. Perhaps it was the wide-brimmed black hat with the teal ribbon or maybe it was the fact that he was standing as straight as he could, but somehow Deni seemed even taller than usual.

At the sight of the royal children, the pale rogue smirked. His thumb subconsciously rubbed at the pistols holstered at his belt, caressed the safety switches, just in case one of them thought the serpent’s kiss would make a nice toy.

Deni tilted his hat forward and passed the children, casting his blue eyes to the intricate finery that adorned the walls of the ship. Paintings that belonged in a museum, beautifully carved wooden desks still shining from the wood treatments and almost everything was decorated with some fine glimmering metal or dusted gems. The ship was likely worth enough exa to feed a small city for a year.

My father would kill to get a glimpse inside this ship, Deni thought to himself. His smile deepened. Well, look who has made the big leagues now!

Deni brushed the sweat off his forehead with his wrist. At first sight, the Princess Grace had reminded him of someone he had met during the Ísvaskur expedition. He scratched at the purple cloak. The thought of that woman being there made him itch. Fortunately, it was just the Princess and he reassured himself of that.

The pompous Pelagian strode into the beautiful seating area and eyed up the platter of fish, both fresh and cured. He ignored it once he saw fancy glasses filled with a blood-red liquid set up in perfect lines. He took two and made certain that he looked indecisive as he finally selected part of the wall to lean against, adjacent to the most familiar face.

“Lady Luxus,” he said in a well-spoken monotone and inclined his head in a shallow yet polite bow before offering her a glass of wine. The essence of a smirk touched the corners of his lips.

[438]
 

Shadowthread

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The athlete had vehemently fought against wearing the half-cloak, which now rested over his left shoulder. Underneath it a long, dark blue coat with three separate coattails and a black leather sleeveless vest. Dark grey leather boots and pants with a silvered buckle finished his outfit. His swept back silver hair created a strong contrast with his dark outfit tone.

The opening ceremony almost had him yawning, but Dante kept it in as it would not be polite form and the luxuries aboard the vessel and its finer inner qualities the athlete dismissed as nothing more than gaudy distractions. There was only a single reason why he was present and that was to keep Aeria safe from anything that could possibly threaten her life and this included previous friends.

”Hands off,” Dante said as he almost grabbed Deni by the arm, his expression stern.
 
Last edited:

MoonlitRain014

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Aeria tapped Dante on the shoulder and shook her head. "There's no need for that sort of thing, Dante. Deni's a friend. He's saved my ass from some pretty nasty scrapes. However..."

She ran an appraising gaze over Deni and 'tsked' before smirking at him. "What are you wearing? You look like a tapestry that the Chairman of TorBru has hanging from his walls. What's with the Lady Luxus as well? Since when am I "lady" anybody?"

Turning her attention back to Dante, she quirked an eyebrow at him. "I know you want to keep me safe, but I don't need a fist fight breaking out over me either. Also...your outfit....is it what you wore on our...erm.....date?"

[451]
 

Shadowthread

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”Very well,” he lowered his hand and his expression relaxed a bit, ”I'm sorry, feeling a bit on the edge thanks to this assignment,” he explained to them.

The athlete smirked at the spurii, ”You noticed, huh? It was the most fitting outfit I had in my wardrobe for an occasion like this. Are you surprised?” He shrugged his shoulders, clearly displaying the dislike towards the half-cloak.
 

Ignis of Animi

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The huge ship, the pretty princess and her siblings, and well-dressed crowd all fascinated Ignis. Despite losing her lust for life threatening situations, her love of adventure and romantic worldview remained. Her reasons for coming weren't very strong, she knew that, but Deni and Aeria were here and there was no way the engineer would let her closest friends face a dangerous mission without her by their side. Beyond that, the horrors of the Black Portal were frightening enough that stamping out any other threats rivalling it seemed prudent. Instead of diving in headfirst and getting burned, Ignis walked in clear-eyed and aware of the danger to come.

Low level anxiety gnawed at her insides while the avian woman while she admired everyone's outfits and the Geamhess' large stature. The ship was larger than the apartment complex where she and Aeria lived. It shone in the weak daylight, appearing like a bastion of royal defence. Ignis was similarly beautiful. Dressing the part had been fun. A dark cloak reinforced with basilisk leather hung around her shoulders with the purple cape marking her as a hero covering it and her left shoulder. The rich coloring of her clothing contrasted with her pale skin and dark headfeathers, which were carefully pinned back from her face with a pair of silver pins in the shape of laurels.

Brown eyes flitted among the crowd in search of her friends. First, she caught sight of Aelflead, not a friend but definitely an ally. However, the spurii appeared busy in conversation with the princess's younger siblings. She turned her head to spy Keydis on a couch. Not too far from the brash laicar, Ignis recognized Deni and Aeria along with another man, Dante, the avian reminded herself. The athlete was far from her favorite person after he had threatened her and Deni during the Black Portal, but she knew Aeria liked him, so there was nothing to be done about it.

Slipping through the crowd with ethereal grace born of learning to sidestep death, Ignis Made her way towards her friends. She joined the group easily, cloaks swishing a bit, revealing flashes of dark red fabric beneath. From within the layers of her clothes, a small bushy creature poked his head out to observe everyone.

Amicus rustled and climbed into his contractor's shoulder, perching there. His bushlike body took up the majority of her shoulder, spilling onto her back and chest a bit as he was rather large for a mons infans. He, too, dressed for the occasion. A miniature purple cloak rested on his back and shoulders, fastened in the front with a silver pin. The woodland spirit wore a small hat that appeared to have been crafted specifically for him. The leafy creature waved at Deni and then Aeria. He ignored Dante, being much more petty than his enlil, and pulled out a small bag of berries from within his cloak to munch on.

Ignis, for her part, smiled at everyone and issued a general greeting. "It's good to see you here. It wouldn't be a proper party without you," she said cheerily, one hand coming up to stroke Amicus' leaves.

"Wow," the enlil continued, making a show of admiring everyone's clothing, "you're all dressed exquisitely." She smiled, cheekbones lifting and making her eyes crinkle a bit. The scar bisecting one of her feathery brows wrinkled.

[562]
 

Aelflead Kirastes

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"I don't know how much of my support I can throw behind a general who is pinned so easily," came the sound of Aelflead's voice through the soft murmur of the crowd.

In the back of her mind while she chattered with the children, the nature of her presence on the Geamhess kept the brunt of her attention on the crowd, the other Black Portal heroes, and the sea. She had received a promising letter before the call to action that'd brought her here, so the prospect of danger was already obnoxiously hidden in plain sight to her. After, the only reasons she was present with good intentions was that it seemed most likely to pay the best and she'd promised a talkative kid that she'd come in exchange for her going home.

Now that the redhead was there on the Geamhess' deck in all it's decadence and splendor, with nary shifty eye that her mismatched ones could spot, she wondered if she had underestimated this group's good will. She did recall a good chunk of them offering their souls to a demon for nearly nothing more than giggles in exchange.

Hm, maybe they're just stupid optimistic nihilists or something. She wondered silently.
 

Inks

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Bundled up in a thick, dusty-brown poncho, a thicker, weather-torn cream neck-scarf, and dark long sleeves under her usual yellow vest, a newsboy cap hiding the tips of her ears, Red had still felt like she was going to freeze to death in the frosty morning air as they’d waited to board the airship. How could a place be so damn cold? At least the living quarters were warmer. Give it an hour or two, and maybe she’d get a chance to bloody thaw.

Now the only problem was the crowd.

It was fine, honestly. She was used to pretending she belonged in big ballrooms full of royalty and wanna-be royalty. A pack of warriors milling about some fancy guest rooms didn’t really compare. The two revolvers slung from the gunbelts at her hips were a big improvement too. Never could have had those out and about back when she was a kid.

Red still wasn’t too sure why Keydis was so interested in this diplomatic outreach-slash-pleasure cruise, but. Hey. At this point, she wasn’t going to complain; she didn’t have shit else to do with her time, these days, besides follow Lysistrata around.

Still working the chill and ache from her fingers, Red eyed the tables piled high with food. Maybe calories would help?

Instead, the redhead picked her way over to where Keydis had retreated (smart move; kids were hell). She met up with the other woman and crossed her arms tightly over her chest.

“Wow,” she said, voice deadpan. “This is bourgeois as fuck.” Her gunmetal-grey eyes tracked over to Keydis, and the flat expression held for a moment. Then a grin split her face. Her eyes glittered. “Didn’t know you were all about that high livin’, Lysis. Startin’ to think you got ulterior motives for bein’ all buddy-buddy with me. You friends with any of these people?”


[311]
 

MoonlitRain014

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More familiar faces had stepped into the Geamhess’ lavishly appointed sitting room as Aeria, Dante and Deni had been talking. The spurii’s keen violet eyes moved across the tapestry of those with whom she’d interacted in the past. Her face remained expressionless, save for slight raising and lowering of her eyebrows.

Dante’s question pulled her head around and she made eye contact with him, a slight flush creeping into her cheeks as their gazes met. She looked away for a moment before she kept talking, her tone almost deliberately light. “I did notice, Dante! When we get back from this, I’m going to take you shopping!”

Turning her attention to Ignis, Aeria reached out and patted Amicus as he perched on her friend. “Looks like both of you put on your best duds for the occasion. I like the hat, Amicus!”

The slender spurii’s gaze flicked to Aelflead and her right eyebrow subtly quirked upwards as she watched the red-headed killer interacting so playfully with the children. She gave a subtle shake of her head and turned her attention to the unfamiliar face that she’d just spotted.

The stranger wasn’t dressed in the same level of finery. In fact, she mostly looked like she was freezing and trying to stop from doing so, but Aeria couldn’t ignore the pistols in her belt or the flatness in her gunmetal eyes. Suddenly, glancing down at her own clothing, she felt overdressed and a little silly. This was, after all, the eve of a battle.

[703]
 

swaswj

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"Mm, mm, mmm."

From a side-room, a velen woman had slipped out. Her skin was pale violet, with tiny, shimmering scales dotting her cheeks, accenting her royal blue eyes. Cascades of red ribbons fell from her scalp, thin and silky, shifting faintly as she moved closer. She wore high heels of pink crystal, lifting her pert, lovely rear for the adoration of lust-addled men.

Her mere presence colored the cheeks of many of the men in the room. She was clothed, but only technically: the woman's dress was made of skin-tight red silk, sweeping over her curves like waves in a very open design. The cloth could barely contain her heaving breasts. Hips swayed sensuously as she walked, eyeing the assembled warriors like a buffet, like a feast laid out just for her.

"Daddy said we would be meeting the best of the best," she remarked, even her voice alluring. The young woman stopped in front of Deni, her gaze flitting over Aeria and Ignis before seeming to disregard them as competition. Looking Deni up and down, she smiled, winking. "He wasn't lying..."

With a look that promised she would return, the woman continued her walk across the room, disappearing elsewhere in the ship and leaving many of its occupants sweating.

"That was princess Venus," someone whispered.

"Vis take me, a princess? Dressed like that?"

Keydis smiled up at Red but she pinched the other woman just above the hip. "You know better, Ceres," the brunette retorted, although she kept her voice down so others wouldn't overhear the name. "Come on, you know it won't last. Soon enough we'll be somewhere dark and cold and filled with nasty things wanting our heads."

Looking about the room, Keydis then pointed at Aelflead. The redhead certainly stood out from a crowd. "That one there. Name's Aelflead, she's got a personality like burning garbage but I'd trust her to have my back. She's one of the big heroes from the demon thing, the only one who stood up to the demon general straight up."

Scanning about, she finally spotted the others all gathered together. "I think that's all the rest of them right there. The other heroes," Keydis said, the word much less sincere this time. "Shared some drinks with the lot of them, and the one with the halberd there joined for the mess with that temple. Aeria. Tough bird, I'll give her that."

Despite the opulence, Keydis was grateful Red was there for distraction. Her skin was crawling, especially under the layers over her left arm. Although she wanted to say she had gotten over her fears, it was the first time she'd been on an airship since her parents had been killed. She had been five at the time.

"What about you? Know anyone here? Seems like your kind of crowd, my lady," Keydis teased.

[485/2035]
 

Inks

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“Eugh,” said Red. “...Guess I was asking for that one, though,” she sighed. Nevertheless, she swept her gaze - swiftly, perfunctorily - across the crowd. Her eyes caught and held on the newly-arrived princess, but only for a moment. Great ass; shame about the personality. The Aelflead girl looked about like Keydis had described her, too. Reminded Red of herself, which meant she was probably an asshole. Best to steer clear; getting into fistfights aboard a fancy airship wasn’t a great plan.

The Aeria woman seemed way nicer - someone Red wouldn’t mind having a drink with, probably. She also had her eyes on Red, so maybe she was someone to watch. Or maybe she was just checking out Keydis’s weird redheaded friend. Other than that...

“Nah,” Red concluded. The lack of familiar faces was honestly a relief. No need to watch where she was looking, no need to hide her face. “Well, I know the royalty,” she said finally, grudgingly. “Not personally,” she hurried to add. “Just the names and some appearances from like, portraits. Books. Father was all about recognizing opportunities for spreading his influence, so he made sure my brother n’ I knew all the big names and fancy people. In case there was ever a chance to meet n’ greet n’ shmooze.”

After a pause, Red returned her gaze to Keydis and smiled. It was caught between amusement and frustration. “Careful with the name, though, yeah? The wrong ears catch that name and we’ll be wrestling with some bounty hunter who’s heard I’ve been kidnapped...or gotten lost...or run away from home, like I'm a twelve-year-old who's just having a temper tantrum. ...What's that you said about cold? I thought, surely it's warmer where we're headed than where we're comin' from...?”



[293/604]
 

Valero

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At Dante’s interception, Deni had passed a wry smirk. Any further words exchanged between the three of them had been lost to the velen as soon as he laid eyes upon Ignis. The pair of them had played dress-up from time to time, going to fancy restaurants and even pretending to be someone else, but this didn’t compare. He’d never seen her hair pinned back like that before and with that style and colour of her clothing that suited both her complexion and figure, she was more beautiful than ever.

Then his admiration was severed.

Deni’s posture remained perfectly upright, his back straight as the pelagian Princess approached him. A narrow smirk appeared on his lips as she approached him. Aside from his own blue eyes reading hers, the velen rogue barely moved a muscle, yet exuded confidence, even at the approach of someone clearly used to getting her way. For once, Deni didn’t even open his mouth. He knew his own words would betray him, no matter what he said.

After the wink she passed, but the damage had already been done. A hot trickle ran down Deni’s spine. He hoped his cheeks weren’t colouring. Those blue eyes wandered below her waistline as the barely dressed princess sauntered off. He blinked and a weary sigh dragged the energy out of him.

The words of others around the room confirmed his suspicions as he continued on his way to Ignis.

I thought it might have been her, he thought to himself. What was it now… twelve years ago? Thirteen? She’s grown right up. And in all the right places. Shame that venture would likely end with my death.

Deni’s eyes suddenly lit up as he gazed upon Ignis once more. He inclined his head to her and offered her a glass of wine.

“You look gorgeous, my dear,” he said in a soft voice. Deni leaned his head closer to Amicus. “And it looks like the true hero gets the recognition he deserves for once.”

[335/773]
 

Ignis of Animi

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The way Deni fixated on her brought a soft smile to Ignis' lips. The smile and the urge to preen were interrupted as Venus stole her boyfriend's attention. The avian woman turned her head to look at the princess, a small frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. She was definitely beautiful, curvaceous and wrapped in red. Was this closer to what Deni liked? Or perhaps he'd merely been distracted because she was a shiny, new thing.

The offer of wine brought Ignis' attention back to her partner. She tried to smile at him, accepting the glass and taking a sip. The smooth flavor of the wine slid over her tongue, helping rinse away the odd feeling she got when Deni's head was turned by another woman.

"Thanks," the avian replied softly, letting his words soothe her.

Amicus preened under Deni's praise, leaves fluffing up. He reached out a branchy hand to pat Deni's cheek.

Ignis giggled, amused by her familiar's pride.

"Deni, do you know the princess?" she asked innocently, head tilting in curiosity.

[176/738]
 

Aelflead Kirastes

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Like most of the crowd, Venus drew Aelflead's eye as well. Though while lust drew most, her magenta and verdant orbs narrowed with derision.

Never worked a day in her life I bet, leech. She thought. No confidence of that kind could come from a life with struggle or effort she felt, at least on the surface. Her experience with that particular brand of confidence likely had more to do with the unsettling pit of pain and fear boiling in her belly that she now desperately needed to ignore.

An image of the feartu and tiae, all grown up and carrying the same air of arrogant superiority around with them as their sister, cropped up in her mind and added dread to the already uncomfortable feeling and drew it up to her chest.

The open deck of the ship suddenly felt more cramped than what should have been possible. She needed to move.

Deciding against turning back to face the child prince and princess while they wrestled, she elected to move towards the tables full of food. It was obnoxiously decadent for an occasion such as this, but so was her dress, and she didn't have the mental faculties left to process the irony present at the moment. Gwen's flair for the dramatic wouldn't help her ignore the pit in her chest. Fighting and tinkering did, but those weren't available, food was somewhat adjacent though so that would have to substitute for them.
 

Shadowthread

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The athletes eyes were also drawn by the young velen princess. Mostly by her figure and there were certain inappropriate thoughts that started to dwell in his mind ever so briefly, dismissing them with a head shake. They let princesses dress like that in Pelagia? Wonder how the empress...

”Damn! Thats a fine ass, you know you want that,” the athlete claimed with a hearty laugh and pushed him lightly in the back. He could not pass up the opportunity to tease Deni.
 
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Valero

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Once Ignis took the glass he offered, Deni sipped from his own. A beautifully sweet red with an undertone of cherries. A sort of vintage reserved for grand parties and likely a commodity that was not in short supply around Pelagian royalty. His blue eyes glanced around the room from the corner where he, Aeria, Ignis and Dante congregated. He took notice of the flustered Aelflead contemplating whether to attack or eat the food. As his gaze passed over a few shadows in the corner, he thought he recognised one of them. What was her name? Kelis? Keeda? That short-arse was the leader of some guild, but Deni couldn’t remember which one for the life of him. He had been drunk the only time they had spoken.

“The Princess?” he repeated after his enlil companion. Then a nudge to the back almost spilled his drink. His arrogant smirk returned at the athlete’s comment.

“I don’t think there’s a soul in one of these purple cloaks who wouldn’t go there,” Deni replied, “and that includes the women. But sometimes, you need to understand that the honey isn’t worth the bee stings.”

Deni blinked as he brought his mind back to Ignis’ question. His stomach churned a little. Hopefully Princess Venus wouldn’t drive a wedge between him and his girlfriend just by strutting through a room.

“I don’t know her personally,” he said and paused to gulp the wine deeply. “Over a decade ago, I saw a young Princess Venus at a public display in the capital. She looks a lot different now.”

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MoonlitRain014

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Aeria drove her elbow far harder than necessary into Dante's side as she stood next to him. She leaned in and whispered in his ear in a tense voice. "I can't believe you said that out loud, Dante. What the hell?"

She dug her elbow in again, driving its bony point against her companion's ribs, hard enough to bruise. "I am also standing right next to you while you're admiring another woman, in case you hadn't noticed."

The spurii turned her attention to Deni and nodded sagely. "You're right. The honey really isn't worth the stings."

As she spoke, she turned her violet eyes on Dante and those eyes flashed fire.

[902]
 

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