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Balthazar Cross

"In case there was ever any doubt as to who possessed the brains behind this operation, I present you with... myself."

0 · 172 views · located in USA

a character in “Paranormal Dilemmas”, originally authored by Ion, as played by RolePlayGateway

Description

The Daemon King’s Adviser
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Name
Balthazar Olivier Cross

Nickname
I wouldn’t, were I you. “Balthazar” will do just fine, anyway. This is not to say that he’s never earned a nickname, just that he… discourages their use.

Age
26, give or take. (About two milennia).

Gender
Male




Image
Appearance
At first glance, Balthazar resembles a scarecrow. He’s not excessively tall, but carries a neat six feet with lengthy-limbed elegance. A slim, lightly-muscled fellow, his head is crowned by a mop of dark curls, most usually slicked back a bit, though not tastelessly. His face is very angular, and does not always strike the observer as immediately attractive, though it has been known to grow on people, such that those who might have thought him rather odd-looking at first often do eventually decide that he’s quite handsome.

His eyes are a mild grey-blue-green sort of shade, one that tends to favor one or another color depending on ambient lighting. In the sun, they lean towards the green. His visage is most often a carefully-crafted mask of neutrality, though he knows how to manipulate his many expressions with mind-boggling adroitness, and as a result, he is very communicative when he wishes to be, though admittedly his favored faces range over a narrow spectrum of sarcastic, speculative, smug, and sadistic, steering well clear of things like happiness and any amusement not derived from someone else’s folly.

He dresses with incredible precision, usually in expensive suits, silk scarves or cravats, and patent leather shoes, and this only adds to the debonair, refined aura he has about him. Notable for his movement perhaps more than anything else about his outward appearance, Balathazar in motion is the epitome of the languid, easy grace of a cat on the hunt, as though he never took a step in his life that wasn’t some form of poetry in motion. It’s slightly enthralling to watch, and this, too, is quite deliberate on his part. Even the simplest of actions draws attention to him—when and only when he wants it to.


Occupation
Balthazar advises King Sabine, should the King find it necessary. Otherwise, there can be much to do in his own life, as he is a noble of very high standing in Daemon society, and has his own affairs to manage as well. This, he can do with simple, brutal efficiency—there is no waste in his life, his words, or his household.

Skills/Equipment
As someone who has always preferred the talents of the mind to those of the body, Balthazar is nevertheless trained in both, as survival in Daemon society requires being adaptable and intelligent. He’s always armed with something, most often the slender blade concealed in his cane. At times when carrying even this would look odd, he has become rather good at sleight-of-hand and sneaking knives about his person. If he has his choice, however, he’ll always use magic, and he is very good with illusions and mind-magic especially. He is, in fact, the court warlock, and thus in charge of creating and maintaining portals to Earth, a task which he takes most seriously. His favorite talent, though, is one unique to him—he’s invented a way to temporarily decompose himself into shadow, in what looks like a wisp of smoke, and hide in the natural shadows of an area. Travel between them at short distances is also possible, but it’s something he’s still working on.


ImagePersonality
If he moves like a cat, it is also safe to say that Balthazar possesses several of the associated personality traits as well. He is cool, aloof, unafraid, and perhaps considerably more sadistic than most. When he gets the mood to hunt, he prefers to draw out the endeavor, toying with his prey and giving them false hope. This is usually limited to the prisoners in the Daemon King’s custody, these days, which is well enough, perhaps. Humans don’t make for much in the way of good sport.

He’s also cunning, and unlike his king, there is no real temper there to occasionally get in the way of his cold calculation. It is, perhaps, one of several reasons why he is the adviser and the king is the king, because Balthazar probably wouldn’t bother much with war. His indifference to the other species is just that extreme. This does, however, allow him the boon of a nearly mechanical mind, with uncanny precision in the calculation of outcomes and excellent efficiency. He does not often bother with forming his own ambitions, content to do the bidding of his king in the best way possible. Not coincidentally, he doesn’t have much of a conscience, and could perhaps be considered in possession of sociopathic tendencies because of this. He’s nothing so distasteful as a psychopath, because they have trouble controlling themselves and often leave a mess. He does no such thing.

Though very wicked, he is perhaps not entirely without redeeming features. Though his intelligence is a force to be reckoned with, he does not turn it against his king for any reason. He is aware that Sabine views people as pieces on a chessboard, but has arrived at the conclusion that the best way to deal with this is either to be the other player (which he has zero inclination towards) or make himself a very valuable piece, indeed. This is the route that he has chosen, and it has worked out rather well for the both of them. Adviser, strategist, court warlock, and spymaster—all of these things have at one time or another fallen under Balthazar’s job description, and all of them he has thus far executed flawlessly.

Though it is true he has no regard for other races, it is entailed that he does not hate them. Truly, he cares little for his own kind, either, so in a way, he’s the most likely to lend a fair, unbiased ear to any non-demon he comes across. He recognizes logic when he sees it, unclouded by prejudice, and always advocates the most sensible solution, so if reason is on your side, chances are Balthazar will be as well.

Like most of his kind, he is entirely unfamiliar with tenderness or love in any form, though he has studied the other races enough to understand their views on it, and what it usually looks like. He finds it to be a laughable condition, to be under the sway of sentimental attachment to what in daemons induces only lust, if that.


History
Balthazar is heir to and current functioning master of a very prominent daemonic noble house, who took the name “Cross” as a piece of dramatic irony. They are, in fact, that sort of family. His father’s still alive, but spends more time these days enjoying his retirement than anything, and where he is at any given decade isn’t something that Balthazar knows or particularly cares about. His mother vanished a few centuries ago, for reasons nobody really knows. He was always without siblings, and in his youth raised by servants anyway, so it didn’t bother him much save for the mystery of it.

He’s always been unusually canny and disposed to magic, even for a daemon, and it was perhaps this that earned him his position as the King’s foremost advisor. He took the position for the opportunity to sharpen his mind on a new task, though he admits to himself that war has grown rather dull. Still, he’s quite loyal, and doesn’t have any plans to quit advising anytime soon. This whole thing with the human woman (once he finds out about it) could actually be interesting.


Other
N/A for now.

Image
Post
A languid, svelte form attired sharply in black and green draped over the length of the chaise, the long pale fingers attached to the right hand tapping out some unknown rhythm upon the velvet surface of it. It was a metronome, almost, for even if its conductor injected what seemed a random bar into the pattern, it returned always to a kind of unconscious regularity. Balthazar did not do random. There was no chance, there was no fate, there were only calculations, probabilities, and manipulations as yet unorchestrated.

The index finger of his left hand absently traced the thin line of his lower lip, the claws that resided atip the digit not breaking the relatively tender skin there. When at home, he preferred to abide in his proper shape, horns and all, and these presently curled prominently, obsidian protection sweeping back from his temples over his crown, ending in points some six inches from the back of his head. His neck held the extra weight as though it were not even present, and indeed, for all the wicked contemplation playing in the shadows behind his eyes, his face was a mask of flawless placidity.

The war was stagnating again, but when one had eons to wage it, this alone was not so unusual. No… it was the another matter that was bothering him. His intuition, a sharpened feature that he was nevertheless usually content to ignore, was stirring, and a general sense of foreboding had settled over his shoulders like a wet cloak. He knew not the reason for it, and nothing had seemed particularly out-of-the-ordinary in any facet of his life recently, so it was almost something he could dismiss as a mere flight of fancy. That said, Balthazar liked to plan for all eventualities, which led him to the unanswered question, and the one that he was presently cogitating over. If something were happening, or about to happen, if by some strange stroke of the faintest possibility, something untoward was to befall them in the near future, from whence would it issue? The lykae? The vampires? Or elsewhere?

Balthazar was ever a man looking to turn the unexpected to his advantage. He reveled in chaos, because he understood it better than most. Nothing was truly random, and once he’d accepted that, the world had opened before him like a rose in bloom. Where others of his kind saw problems, Balthazar found opportunities, and there may yet be an opportunity to be found in this.

Just because he hadn’t discovered it yet didn’t mean it wasn’t there. On the contrary, he simply needed to look harder.

So begins...

Balthazar Cross's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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#, as written by Ion
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Balthazar dropped a smattering of hot green wax onto the parchment, stamping his personal seal into the liquidinous substance and waiting for it to cool. Once it had, he added it to a stack of similar documents and motioned for his personal messenger to come forward. Handing off the lot, he nodded simply, and the man left, doubtless to see them into the care of all the people who required them. Mostly, they were instructions for the maintenance of his personal and family affairs while he was occupied on earth at the discretion of the king.

Though of course he had not been filled in on exactly why his majesty had chosen this particular time to make such a trip. No, he had simply been instructed to prepare a portal of sufficient strength to transport the king’s household, guards, and himself. Such a task was no simple matter, and Balthazar had spent a large portion of the following day recovering, hence his present efficiency—he did not tolerate necessary things left undone for any longer than he absolutely must. Given that the duration of this little vacation was also unspecified, he’d simply made the instructions good for a few months, which really wasn’t that much time as far as daemons went. He would amend them if such became needed.

Standing, the king’s advisor decided it had been a bit too long since he’d last seen the sun. At this time, it was bound to be approaching nightfall, and though he was not so superstitious as most of his kind, he did enjoy the sensation of standing beneath it, this one or the one above Dothri Regum. Prowling to the door of his suite of rooms, Balthazar waved off the cursory guard placed there and made for the stairs. Though he seemed to exert no conscious effort towards it, his movement was both soundless and incredibly graceful. He had always been gifted with natural balance and poise, and the training in court maneuvers of his youth had only enhanced that to an art. Others got by on the fairness of their faces or the connections they had by blood; though Balthazar could and did occasionally utilize both, his primary strengths had always been those of a more subtle kind, and playing with perception was just one of those.

A few minutes of walking placed him on the roof of the manse, looking out on the surrounding grounds. He had always been fond of high places such as this one, regardless of where they were. The evening was pleasant, a slight breeze fluttering at the silk scarf about his neck. Purposeful or not, a trip to earth was rarely a poor idea. From time to time, even those closest to the king needed a moment’s pause, and though Balthazar dealt with overwork by working harder, even his legendary patience was not limitless, and after a time, he came to suffer fools less gladly even than usual.

The sun was in fact beginning her descent below the horizon, and he gathered that the king had not been seen for a day. Not so uncommon, for himself, but Lena of Anguaren was apparently in the same position, according to the information relayed to him, and that was much more unusual. Perhaps he should enquire of the girl himself, should he happen upon her. Until it became inconvenient, however, his majesty’s disappearance was more a curiosity than a pressing problem, and it would be treated as such things were due.

Several minutes later, the figure of the man on the roof abruptly vanished, replaced with nothing more than a cloud of smoke, which wound its way with perfect, coiling certainty into an open window and down through several hallways. Most seemed not to notice as it passed; those who did simply stepped aside to let him go. The warlock was not unknown to anyone here, and his eccentricities, when he displayed them at all, were accommodated.

Balthazar’s feet touched the ground in the mansion’s library, and he looked around with what seemed to be disinterest. He’d read everything here more than once, but there was little else to be done. With no standing orders from the king but also no idea what they were supposed to be doing here, it would be unwise to stray too far from the grounds, and frankly, that meant he was bored. There weren’t even any prisoners to interrogate, and without that particular avenue, his more devious inclinations were sadly frustrated. A fact that never made it to his face, but did perhaps manifest slightly in the tensed lines of his posture.

The daemon’s eyes narrowed; he inhaled deeply of the smell of the room. This would not do. No, this would not do at all. He supposed he could go toy with the psyches of the guards, but that was boring (they had very little intellectual capacity, generally, and he was not fond of them in the slightest) and inefficient also. It was proper that they should fear him, but not so much that they hesitated to answer if he happened to summon them on the king’s behalf. He’d certainly have no use for them otherwise. The rest of the staff needed to be doing their work, plainly. Which left him rather desiring that he had more of it, if only for the mundanity to sap away the incessant buzzing of his mind—a thing always calculating, always moving. Truly, sometimes he understood why it was that perfectly adroit people could go completely insane; he often felt he would if there was nothing to occupy him for too long.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garreth Vilhei Frost Character Portrait: Sydney Parker Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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#, as written by Ion
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Sydney sighed, frowning when the upward exhale blew a few strands of hair loose from her impeccable bun. They were a smidge too short to fit behind her ear, and part of her immediately wanted to reach into her bag for a bobby pin, but she shook her head to herself. She was in the library. It wasn’t like anybody important was going to walk up and see her in this state, was it? Shaking her head at herself, she went back to her transcriptions, pen scratching furiously across paper, both of which had also been magicked from the messenger-style tote that often seemed to contain all the most important nonhuman elements of her entire life, minus the violin. Pens, notebooks, whatever fiction she happened to be reading then, sheet music, cell phone, business cards, a comb, hairpins, her purse and keys, a taser (and the license she had to carry it), and usually a spare pair of stockings, in case hers wound up with a run in them.

Okay, maybe she was a little overprepared, but it had to be better than needing something and not having it, right?

Perhaps thirty minutes later, all thought of keeping herself in proper order had rather vanished, and she was crosslegged on the chair, at least two pens stuck in her bun and another four or so marking various places in the references she was working on. She was chewing rather ardently at her lip, a habit she’d picked up who knew how long ago, but aside from the occasional thump as a book was shoved aside or taken from atop the stack at the corner of the desk, she was also completely silent.

Distantly, Syd registered the sound of someone moving, which wasn’t hard in the library, but she paid it no mind. Granted, there were hardly ever other people around here, and perhaps had she been thinking about it, she would have remembered her present state and tried frantically to straighten… something (no amount of time under ten minutes would see everything here set to rights), but she didn’t, and remained blissfully unconcerned about any of it, reaching to the side automatically to retrieve another book, one she’d already marked. It needed to be cross-referenced with…

Someone slid into the chair opposite her, and Syd’s eyebrows furrowed just slightly. There was no shortage of seating around here, who would be so obnoxious as to choose the only chair that would inconvenience her at all? That was rather rude, wasn’t it? She ignored the person, however, having no desire to make awkward eye contact with a stranger, and reached for another book, only for her hand to meet empty air. Startled, Syd blinked and glanced at the stack, to find that it was indeed one book short.

A masculine voice solved the mystery, however, and her field of vision snapped to encompass a very well-dressed, devastatingly-handsome person that, frankly, she wished she’d never met. Clearing her throat lightly, Syd held out a hand for the book, fixing him with a look of mild disapproval, though it was only evident from the slight downturn to the curve of her mouth.

“They are reference materials, Mr. Frost, not novels. I need not read the whole of them all,” she replied flatly, very deliberately steering her mind away from the last time she’d been in his company. Her business face was a façade with much strength, indeed, and much worse people than Garreth Frost had tried to get under it before.

They definitely didn’t try the same way, though, did they? That was an unwelcome intrusion on her mental serenity, and she batted it violently to the side. The book was, predictably, not immediately forthcoming, but she did not lower her hand, nor remove her eyes from his, merely raising one eyebrow, just slightly, as if to ask if he really wished to play more games with her. The answer was kind of obvious, if her previous encounters with the man were anything to go by, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t hope.

“The legal section would not be the place I’d have expected to find you,” she observed dryly. If it had been, they’d probably have never met at all, actually. “If you require another consultation or wish to retain the services of a public defender for some reason,” she paused here, and the eyebrow reached just a little higher, as if she would not at all be surprised to find out that he needed a lawyer, ”then regular office hours are from nine to five on weekdays.”

It struck her that his eyes were too familiar a color, though she could not place the reason for the thought. Actually, they could have last seen each other yesterday, for all he’d changed in two years. Then again, given the kind of person he was, she was rather glad she had not seen him yesterday. Honestly, the sooner he went away today, the better. Syd didn’t hate people, and she didn’t hate him. It was just that he was incredibly irritating and offensive to her more politically forward sensitivities, if you could even call gender equality politically forward anymore.

And his face was too pretty. It wasn’t fair. Other people (like her) had to work to even look somewhat presentable. He looked like he’d just rolled out of bed, and it still worked. Jerk.



Image



After perhaps an hour spent in the library, shifting restlessly through the shelves and looking for something new, Balthazar had left as soon as he’d felt the distant temptation to set one on fire, just to see if anyone ever noticed it missing. He had been eyeballing a genealogical history of the second age of the realm at the time, and the thought had been so unlike him (burn a book? What was he, some kind of human cretin?) that it had immediately informed him that he’d best be elsewhere.

With nothing else to occupy himself, he’d wandered the mansion like a ghost thereafter, and his treads were only just now taking him towards the kitchen, a place which he usually left alone due to a modicum of respect for the servants who worked therein. It took more ingenuity than the average noble fop possessed to rotate a menu such that immortal beings did not tire of it. How a vampire could live on one substance forever was entirely beyond him. How pedestrian their palates must be, refined for only a single thing. He wondered if there might be a way to ensorcell a mortal so that the stuff tasted like chili powder. That would be entertaining.

An idea for later, perhaps, when he had access to proper materials.

For now, his cat’s-paw tread carried him into the expansive kitchen, presently empty save for Lena, who appeared to be searching for something… slowly. She appeared not to have yet noticed his presence, which was normal enough. He hadn’t made any noise, after all, and it looked like whatever she sought was of some importance to her. For a few moments, Balthazar simply observed, concluding that the lack of celerity in her movement was probably due to discomfort of some kind. His eyes narrowed slightly; now what could cause a daemon enough pain for it to linger so? He was curious.

”Miss Anguaren. Do you require some form of assistance?” The question was cool, detached, sliding off his lips and tongue like dark silk. His hands, he folded neatly behind his back, his face a perfect mask of inscrutability. Nevertheless, his form of address was polite, and there seemed to be nothing outright hostile in his demeanor, just the same faint hint of menace that was always there. That, by now, was something he would have had to exert effort to remove; it had served him well in the past, so well that it had become unconscious habit, almost.

Mayhap it was a little irregular, for the king’s advisor to be offering a servant some form of assistance, but Balthazar was nothing if not logical, and though he played the orders of birth and status to his advantage when the occasion called for it, he had no real regard for them. The situation, plainly, was that she was below her usual threshold of efficiency, and he was without anything productive to do. It only made sense that he lend his efforts to whatever she was hoping to obtain (which, if she were behaving logically, would be something to recover her normal range of movement). In doing so, they would both be making the greatest use of themselves. He was not above his own utilitarian calculi, after all. In this sense, the offer was entirely genuine, though whether she would interpret it as such was another matter all together.

The setting changes from USA to San Diego, California

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Simone Parker Character Portrait: Alexander II Chartes Character Portrait: Sydney Parker Character Portrait: Brigitte Lebelle Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Daniel Bowman Character Portrait: A Princess, a Noblewoman, and a Captain Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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#, as written by Mela
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Ah, yes, she was definitely playing to his tune. Alexander enjoyed the way she gazed up at him, her eyes shining with the attraction she was feeling, especially as she grew flustered at his nearness. When he spoke she even arched her back, her delicate lips parted just a little as she stared back into his eyes, seemingly lost in them. But then, Alexander didn’t blame her. He was a practiced man in the art of seduction. Although, quite honestly he didn’t try all that hard; he usually didn’t have to with humans… or vampires, really, since they didn’t often dare defy their king. She, like most women, was a puppet in his hands, and…

Wait, ”no”? Alexander blinked only once before the surprise was wiped from his face once more. Well, that was rather surprising. When she didn’t move from him, however, the vampire king merely chuckled lightheartedly. “No?” he repeated, almost playfully, although his patience was waning. He wanted her home and he wanted his teeth in her. Now. And if she was going to be difficult about it, that was that, but really he was aiming not to terrorize her too much. After all, she was human, and her mind was fragile. And he certainly did not wish to rid her of that fire she seemed so fond of. No, that would indeed be a shame. After all, maybe that was what made her blood so delicious.

He knew the slightest disturbance would help her pull away from him, and ah, he could see the wish to. He could see the inner battle in her eyes, her mind fighting her body. Part of her, being a human, knew he was not good for her, yet her body was drawn to him. It was curious, was it not? So he continued, “well, Simone, I’m not leaving you again, so what we do is entirely up to you.” Then, however, before he could move to bring her closer, to manipulate her body just a little more, the human male returned, towel whipping onto the bar counter, and Alexander, feeling Simone starting to flee, let her, and instead looked after the male, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

The human would regret that disturbance. Alexander would make sure of it. No one, human or vampire, interrupted the vampire king. He would not accept it, in spite of this person not knowing who he was. It mattered not to the king. His pride demanded that he take the life of the insolent human, and he would. Soon. But right now, though he’d allowed the human woman a head start, he had to handle her and this situation with the utmost care. Of course the bartender would be dealt with accordingly in Alexander’s own time.

So he left, soon spotting Simone almost being run down by a semi truck, and he shook his head at her, smirking. Well, that slowed her at least. Not that she was fast by his standards, but if he started running he’d freak her out and make her literally run from him, and he couldn’t use his vampire speed here in the open. That was the only downside to earth really, safe for the lack of luxury compared to home. But that was to be expected.

He glances at Brigitte who had apparently decided to stay very in sight. He tucked a curved middle finger under her chin and looked down at her. “I do not require your presence, my sweet. Do transport yourself home.” He said no more to her, didn’t offer a smile or a glint in his eye. He was too busy with finding Simone and taking her home, and as such, as she grabbled to handle her shock, a curse emitting from her, Alexander was by her, taking one hand to gracefully swing her around before letting go of her, quickly settling his strong arm around her waist. He smiled wryly down at her, a primal intensity, yet still rather playful look in his eyes. “I very rarely take no for an answer, Simone.” He informed her quietly, as his eyes captured her knowingly, his allure locking her in her own body, and this time it was dirty play, considering he was using his abilities.

The human was stunned on the outside, unable to move herself, yet she could see, hear and feel everything. Then he brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and raised an eyebrow looking down at her. “And I didn’t want to play dirty,” he then added, lifting her into his arms bridal style and began carrying her towards his car. He continued murmuring in her ear, trying to ignore the pulse in her neck, and the fact that he could hear and feel every little beat of her heart. “But you just had to run,” he explained, shaking his head almost as if he felt sorry for doing this to her, when really… who was he kidding? Alexander was quite satisfied.

Not waiting for a reply, since she could give none, he placed her in the passenger’s side in his care, adding a seat belt, just in case. He adjusted her body into a balanced position and then moved to get in himself. As he sat, starting up the car and pulling out of the lot casually, he glanced at her. Hm, perhaps he should start explaining some things already, since she would soon find out for herself exactly what he was anyway. So as he drove, having made a decision, the king began speaking.

“I am not some insane creep who wants to kidnap you,” he started, thinking that was probably where her mind was at. “In fact, only the kidnapping part is correct, though you may think my insane once I tell you this.” He paused briefly, as if waiting for her to say something, well knowing that she could not. “My full name is Alexander II Gabriel Kaiseren Chartés, my title is that of King. I am a vampire, and contrary to popular belief, I cannot survive on animal blood.” He glanced at her, smiling wryly. “So once in a while I will procure food for myself in this world. Although, I have to admit my food is usually brought to me. Not the other way around.”

His eyes fell briefly on her neck then before going back to the road. “You certainly gave me a run for my money, dear Simone. I applaud that, but do not deceive yourself to think you will ever get to leave me in such a way ever again. You are now my property, and you are to do as I command.” With those last words, Alexander pulled into the driveway in front of the grand mansion. He really didn’t live far from the club. The car doors locked with only him able to unlock them in his side before he turned her head gently, letting go of the mesmerizing effect, freeing her to control her body… somewhat, since she was not technically free. For now she was merely prisoner in his car.

And he was curious to witness her reaction. A couple of servants came running out, ready to serve him, but he merely shook his head once and they all scurried back inside.





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"What gave you that impression?" was promptly ignored, except there was something to his voice… something different. Sapphire couldn’t figure it out, and honestly, right now she was too upset to care. If she wasn’t careful, this Sabine might even become more than a fleeting interest. She got this odd feeling in her gut when she was around him. That disturbed her quite a bit. Except it was so… ugh, intriguing. He was different from all other men she had ever met, and not only for the effect he had on her, but the way he would retort and throw her snide remarks back at her, sometimes even biting harder. It was an alluring game of ping-pong and it made her so attracted to him.

She had always liked intelligent, powerful men, and by the gods, Sabine was a symbol of both these traits. Couldn’t he at least have been a little easier to deal with though? No? Well, that was just her luck, was it not? And he was following her again. Okay, so maybe he hadn’t only come for his handkerchief and jacket. If he had, he wouldn’t still be following her, would he? Hm, maybe she had slapped him unjustly. That didn’t make the memory any less sweet, however.

"What if I wanted to make sure you were alright? The last time I saw you you weren't exactly in top shape, liebchen, standing at your doorstep alone in the middle of the night, fumbling for your keys with my coat draped over you." It then came, and Sapphire’s lips fell apart as her pace slowly decreased in speed and she finally turned around to face him, her heels bringing her just about tall enough to properly look him in the eyes. Had he seriously just said what she thought he had? He’d been there? He’d followed her in spite of her wish for him not to? In spite of his promise not to? He had… followed her quietly. Not because he wanted to taunt her, not because he’d wanted to irk her, but simply because he had cared enough to. Her features softened only slightly as she looked up at him, the thoughts passing through her mind.

She didn’t know what to do here. Suddenly a new side to him had been shown, and Sapphire found herself liking it. She couldn’t believe he’d actually followed her home. She knew she should probably be offended that he had not respected her wishes, and that her pride should be wounded. Syd would be so disappointed with her if she knew this, because instead Sapphire was warmed by it. A little. Only slightly. After all, she was not the easiest of women to warm, safe for when she was with her sisters, but it was there. Just… a touch of something that wasn’t pure and utter irritation or anger with him.

“You actually followed me home?” She asked him, her voice still hard, but somehow softer with the worst of her irritation more or less gone. She tilted her head a little to the side and slightly back to be able to look at him much easier, her eyes fiery as always, passion shining in them, but it was slightly different, considering her stopping and turning had brought the pair rather close. Her attraction towards this male had her wanting to reach out, but no, she stood her ground. Not that Sapphire was ever afraid of taking the first step, or tread on people’s boundaries, but ah, not with him… not just yet.

His last sentence made her pause as she pursed her lips slightly, curious as to what he meant, and what he thought he could have, but still a little weary of his cryptic way of phrasing everything. “What do you want from me, Sabine?” She asked on the slightest of sighs. Some inner part of her was hoping for something specific. She did not know what it was, nor could she make herself search deeper to find out, so instead she merely waited for his reply.





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Daniel’s response to her words of him not being able to keep up his act for much longer, made her raise an eyebrow ever so slightly, the rest of her face remaining in the same mien as before. “’Pretty’?” She repeated the word he’d used to categorize her. “Is that what I am, Danny? Hm? ‘Pretty’?” Her lips seemed to move into a slightly disapproving mien as she let him know that was in no way a good way to speak of her. Alanya had never thought of herself as merely ‘pretty’. ‘Pretty’ were the humans they bred for her father, ‘pretty’ was the servant who seemed to stare lovingly every time Daniel passed her, and ‘pretty’ was a little girl. Alanya was not a human, she was not a little girl, and she was most certainly not a plain, lovesick servant. She was a princess, and she was most gorgeous. She knew that, he knew that. Everyone knew that. So why would he insult her so?

His tone may have been teasing, but that was no excuse. Hmpfh, ‘pretty’. How dare he. Her attention was drawn from that, however, as Daniel shifted to move closer to her. Oh, that was right, she’d teased his limit, hadn’t she? She hadn’t missed the way he’d stiffened once she’d flexed her hips, and she’d felt that sense of accomplishment, although she knew he would have given in much sooner if he had not been so set on playing hard to get, on making her work for it, and on keeping her interested. They were playing the same game, that much was obvious, but still they differed just a little. She knew that, but she wasn’t quite sure how much just yet. She would figure it out eventually, however.

Then he spoke, and she smiled wryly, letting her amber eyes scrutinize his face. She had won as it was; he was giving up. Slowly, granted, but it was there, and it would not take much more work on her side of things, which was good for him, because she really was quite offended at his previous words, and ah, Alanya was not a creature you wanted upset with you in any way. In fact, she was the last vampire you would ever want on your list of enemies. She was only still there because she did want him. Because he looked like a god of a vampire, and because the game was interesting. Otherwise she would have left by now.

She couldn’t quite stop herself from giving in to his kiss when his lips claimed hers, however. The urgency, and the passion he let out only briefly almost made her dizzy, but that was what she had wanted. Even if Daniel had not played back, she would not have let him have it until he was in this state. She liked her men desperate and hungry, and gods did he not give her what she wanted? Why did he do that when she was this upset with him?

She said nothing as he drew back. Instead, the dark princess moved her lower body closer to him, her arms dancing up and around his neck as she leaned back in for more, letting him know he was allowed to keep going. It was a thing he always did. Drew back before breaching any boundaries, clever man, making sure he did not displease her. After all, as much as Alanya behaved nothing like it with him, she was a princess, and she was not the most forgiving of types, just like his previous insult would not be forgotten. Never. It would remain with her for a very long time, until she decided what exactly to do with it. For now, however, she was a little more interested in his lips and his body. He felt good and she intended to enjoy it for a while… before she’d draw back.





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Lena was tired, she was hurting, and she was slightly scared. Sabine could be home any moment now, and in her current state, he would notice. Could they not at least beat her up earlier in the day? They’d save themselves a lot of trouble too. She sighed softly, trying to ignore the pain as she made her way slowly to the kitchen where she knew she’d stored enough remedies for herself. Salves, herbs, bandages and the like were things she had acquired and intended to use. For now, however, she needed to sort of get there first. Her brown eyes flickered back and forth from behind to in front of her as she walked, paranoid to the point of obsession.

The girl wasn’t stupid you see. Merely very weak, being only a half demon, and a soft one at that. And ah, she never wanted to tell. He beatings only got worse every time his majesty got involved, and as much as she appreciated his own odd form of caring for her, it was simply not effective. Demons were not the types to be easily swayed. Her king should know that. He probably did too, but that did not keep him from reprimanding his guards whenever they harmed her and he heard of it. Much like that guard two years ago. He had been a very uncomfortable fellow, eager to cause her as much pain as possible. She had been torn. Down there. She did not know who would ever make a condom especially with spikes on the outside. Demons were indeed a twisted, sadistic race.

Sabine meant everything to her, and she would never lie, but she often hid things she did not find it necessary for him to know. That category was restricted to her abuse. Nothing more. She did not assume herself to have the expertise to otherwise know what Sabine would and would not need to know, in spite of her being by his side most of the time when he was home. When he was out, which he was most of the time, Lena was left to her own devices. She had her duties to do, but that was about it. Oh, god, she had not finished entirely yet today. She needed to wipe off the surfaces of his majesty’s tables. That would not please him.

She flinched at the thought as she made it into the kitchen. The lack of duties done would tell him everything she was trying so very hard to hide. She bit her lower lip as she began her search for the remedies she had stored. In that cupboard. She stretched, being the small individual that she was, and she finally managed to open it, and her wide eyes scanned the shelves. Wait… where was it? Hadn’t she put it on that second shelf? She blinked several times. Lena did not often forget, much to her regret, so this was highly unusual. She shook her head, searching to clear it at least a little. Then she sighed suddenly, closing the door of the cupboard once more. Now, where could they have put it?

The servant girl, blue on her skin in every place covered by her knee-length dress and cardigan, moved slowly, irritatingly so, considering she did not have the time to be slow. She really needed to finish up in Sabine’s quarters. She was worried she would not make it, never knowing when her king would return. But then, she had a feeling his walk today had had a purpose. There had just been something in his stride, so perhaps there was no need to fret and panic. She would make it. Yes, she would. Or not. She groaned quietly in frustration, thinking herself alone when the voice of a certain Balthazar Cross danced by her ears.

Oh no. No more people today. Only the king. She could not handle more people today. Lena took a deep breath turning carefully, facing him only as a sign of respect, although she kept her eyes on the ground, ever the perfect servant girl. She would only ever look Sabine in the eyes if he forced her to as well. It just felt wrong to her. Like she was claiming equal position, which she would never even dare to. Never. For once, Lena did not give the shape or form of Balthazar’s words or tone much thought. Whether he was genuine or taunting mattered not, because she could not have him here. She could not have the king’s adviser searching for ointment for her bruised skin.

No. Because that required a longer conversation during which she would have to explain to him what had happened, and he would probably tell Sabine, and then she’d be beat up once more tomorrow. So instead, Lena curtsied gracefully and respectfully, trying to keep the pain out of face and movement, but she did not quite succeed, as her body seemed bent on trying to kill her. Her face, however, remained inexpressive. “Although your lordship’s offer is much appreciated, I must decline, sir. I am in no need of such noble assistance.” Her voice and toe remained respectful, but quiet, and almost a little fearful. She never felt quite right around Balthazar.

The setting changes from San Diego, California to USA

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Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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Deference was the usual reaction when he addressed people, and so Balthazar paid hers in particular no special mind. There were few people in the kingdom who were not required by protocol to defer to him, and of these, he only ever encountered the king with any regularity. Such was the nature of a hierarchical system such as theirs. He had no particular care for it, however, and indeed often lamented the fact that people so intent on not offending him rarely ever said what they meant, and he had to devise other methods to get at it, which while entertaining from time to time, was mostly just annoying.

Her reply, however, cracked the smooth porcelain of his indifference, just a little, and one of the corners of his mouth upturned, a spark of mischief lighting in his eyes. “Is that so? Well, I’m sadly incapable of offering ignoble assistance, though one would think you’d not wish for that anyway,” he pointed out in languid tones, then sighed somewhat, as though he were rather put-upon by her refusal. It had not been unexpected, really, though it did make him wonder a little, ever the curious, inquisitive mind that he was, and Balthazar decided that he would have his answers, the will of the other party involved notwithstanding. He could be like that, sometimes, surprisingly inflexible for a man who knew so much of bending people to suit his whims.

He let the silence linger for a moment, but not an overlong one. There was still efficiency to be considered, after all. His head, he let list ever so slightly to one side, tiny smirk still in place, and unfolded his hands from behind his back, holding them out in front of him in a placating gesture. “Understand that I intend no insult, but surely you would agree that it is best to serve the king as well and efficiently as possible?” There was a pause, though he could not say he expected disagreement here, and he continued regardless. “It is also, I would say, more efficient to do so uninjured, which, judging from difficulty you presently display in your movement, you are not.”

Here, he simply left no room for disagreement, as he was rather unfond of being lied to (ironic, all things considered), and continued. She didn’t seem much given to speech—they’d probably conclude the matter most quickly if he did the majority of the talking. “Now. As a man with rather frequent access to persons in… less-than-ideal conditions, let’s say, I happen to possess a rather extensive collection of ointments, balms, painkillers and the like, some with notable magical properties which increase their effectiveness. Due to the present lack of other reasons to use them, I see no reason not to leave them for your use.” One of his hands raised from its present position and he curled his thumb around his last three fingers, leaving his index standing aloft.

“Under one condition, because unfortunately, nothing in this life comes to us without cost, as I’m sure you’re aware. My medical supplies are top of the line, and furthermore I am the only person with access to them, which means they cannot be lost or stolen by anyone with ill intentions.” A pause, and then the smile grew just fractionally. “Unless, of course, I happen to have ill intentions.” He did not bother to reassure her that he didn’t. Things could always change, after all, it was one of the world’s many wonderful complexities.

“Your access to them hinges upon only one thing: each time you make use of them, you must answer one question of mine. Your answers will, of course, be held in utmost confidence. He would be a poor collector of information who gave it away for free, after all.” He quirked a brow, just a bit, and inclined his head, in full acknowledgement that he was speaking of himself. ”Today’s question is simple: what, if anything, do you know of the king’s reasons for talking this trip to Earth? Of course, if you would rather not answer, you are welcome to continue your rather slow and painful-looking search for things you may never find, while the hour of the king’s arrival back at this manse draws ever-nearer.” Balthazar shrugged lightly, as if it made no difference whatsoever to him.

Yes, he did still fully intend to find out how she’d been hurt in the first place, for the intellectual challenge of it if nothing else. He was, however, a patient man, and knew quite well how to wait. His plan depended upon a number of contingencies, but the hypotheses that he ventured were never without independent merit, and something told him that if he could get her to agree once, he would eventually be able to extract the information he desired.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Simone Parker Character Portrait: Alexander II Chartes Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Daniel Bowman Character Portrait: A Princess, a Noblewoman, and a Captain Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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It didn’t take long for the fiery redhead next to him to start speaking up, ah, but her words were accompanied by a faint buzzing sound. It struck him a little odd, but he son figured it had to be a text message. Well, that meant he’d have to rid himself of such a device, did it not? He made a mental note to not leave her alone until he had done so. He said nothing, except he let out a lighthearted chuckle when she moved towards him, her hands placed on his thighs. He wondered briefly what she was playing at, as he finally said, “ah, no, dear. I won’t be asking.” She was an entertaining human, he’d give her that, and he liked her spark, but she was rather delusional when it came to her choice in this situation. Of course, he thought to himself, she did not yet believe him to be a vampire. Not that he had expected her to.

As he spoke, the redhead straddled him and Alexander merely quirked an eyebrow, aware that she was playing at something. He just didn’t yet know exactly what. His green eyes watched her silently then, no buying this little act she was trying to sell. It was a faint attempt in his eyes and he saw through it so easily. Oh, he was attracted to him alright; her body craved him well enough, but that was not the reason she was suddenly so close. Ah, no, this had to do with a little plan. One he was sure to find out soon enough.

He chuckled when she noted he’d only had to ask, and he was about to reply when she flexed her hips. He paused, not because of the movement or any particular reaction on his part… but because her phone seemed to dial. The tone rang out in the car, and even slightly distracted by this, Alexander’s one hand automatically flew up to grasp her wrist when she tried to take a swipe at his face, effectively stopping the strike before it hit home, his vampire speed easily overpowering her human one. Simultaneously, Alexander’s other held her phone after a brief retrieval from her pocket. Immediately he clenched his hand, effectively crushing the device, cutting it off.

And she had the nerve to break the window of his car! Every other strike she’d made at him had been shrugged off. Honestly he’d hardly felt it, but he did very much notice the noise of the glass breaking and he raised both eyebrows as he suddenly, without warning, let the pieces of technology fall to the bottom of the car, both of his hands now moving to hold her wrists. He forced her arms behind her, gathering them with only one of his. He held onto her firmly but gently, surprisingly. He did not particularly wish to break her wrist… well, not right now.

Finally, completely calm, although most would have been surprised or a little riled up, the vampire king forced the redheaded human back against the steering wheel of the car, a slight smirk on his lips as he calmly said “You broke my car.” His eyes were intense, however, as he looked at her, a hunger burning deep within him. She had cut her shoulder by trying to break the glass, which really wasn’t the best thing to do around a hungry vampire. The scent of her blood out in the open was his undoing. He had to have her now. Besides, he played the consequences out in his mind, and if how she had reacted during his first time of feeding on her, was anything to go by, she would be more than a little dazed, and most likely much easier to deal with once he had taken her blood, and now only for the tiring effects of it.

Oh no, the reason was first and foremost that she would be rather riled up. For some reason the curious human had quite enjoyed his bite last time. He could see it in her eyes during, and he was certain that had she been able to, she would have rubbed herself against him, moaning in bliss. Afterwards she’d seemed, well… pleasured. As if he had just made her climax several times in a row. He couldn’t help but like the idea of trying it again, while she was actually able to respond properly. That, for some reason, excited him just as much as the taste of her blood right now. This was rather odd. Blood had always come way before sexual urges.

He liked to combine them, but it made him all the more ruthless, and he’d found that the mixture of sex and blood made him rather prone to more carnal behavior and this always resulted in the death of the human woman. Of course they always died with smiles on their faces, pleasure in their eyes, but alas… they were not meant to keep living, it seemed. He did not wish to take Simone to bed for this simple reason; if she died, he would never be able to drink from her again, and he wasn’t entirely sure Nebbs could properly replicate the human’s taste.

The king had paid the human woman no mind, even as she fought against him and cursed him. He paid no attention, but merely looked into her furious eyes. Then suddenly, a taunting smile began playing at his lips and his eyes became all the more heated. “I assure you I am quite healthy,” he finally said, teasing her. He knew exactly what she’d meant, but that didn’t mean he’d reply to her as such. “And yes, Simone, all humans can be owned.” As he spoke those words, Alexander leaned in closer; his eyes closing as his lips gently traced the soft, sensitive skin of her smooth, wildly pulsating neck. As he did, his free hand moved to cup the other side of her face, seeking to steady her and keep her in place; he couldn’t have her thrashing wildly. Yes, she did indeed smell heavenly. She was a drug, she was.

His long, thin and deadly sharp fangs slid out as he opened his eyes, leaning back to let her see exactly what he was. Then he grinned, only improving her view before he with incredible speed dug those porcelain fangs into the neck he had so desired for so long. He groaned in bliss against her neck, lids sliding over green, heaventurned eyes. His tongue lapped furiously at the blood exiting her beautiful throat. He had dreamed of this since he had first tasted her, and finally he had her. He couldn’t believe he’d actually been lucky enough to find her again. The taste of her blood was like godly ambrosia, and he feared his first taste had gotten him quite addicted to the taste. His tongue had never rejoiced as it did this moment, like it was seeing a long lost lover.





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As Balthazar replied, Lena said nothing. She did not know why he had even bothered offering his assistance and part of her did not wish to know. She had enough problems to deal with on a daily basis, and to add the royal adviser into that pile would be more than a little bothersome. The demon king’s personal servant was a timid, sweet creature, and although she did much to remain out of sight, trouble always seemed almost to seek her out particularly. Like right now with Balthaar. Lena wondered at the reasons why he would possibly want to help her. She had been around long enough to know that Balthazar’s silver tongue and gifts of manipulation had benefited no others than himself, and this, above all, made her wary.

He did, however, seem finished with her, and so Lena kept standing there, practically feeling time go by. She was in a hurry, but apparently the adviser was not, and so she was forced to remain there, doing nothing. Why did he have to interrupt her search in such a way? Not that she expected to find her remedies anymore. If they were not in the kitchen, they were not available. She would have gone to Merry, but the other half demon had not accompanied the king on this trip to earth. Besides, she would most likely tell Sabine if she suspected anything.

See, Merry wasn’t quite the sort Lena was. In fact, the older Halfling was mostly respected by their kin, even the king held her in high regard. She was just… that kind of woman. Lena had often wished to have that same strength in her attitude, the same stature so demanding of respect that even the king had to recognize it. Lena adored Merry, and oftentimes it felt like she was the only one she could properly talk to, but Merry’s views on Lena’s troubles was much different than her own. The other Halfling felt that Sabine should know every time, so that he might be able to ultimately stop it. Lena dared not hope for such a future.

She frowned very slightly, but nodded once when Balthazar asked her whether she agreed that the king should be served the best way possible. She was hesitant though. Where was this leading? She almost help her breath as she waited for him to continue. Then, however, he commented the state she was in, and Lena straightened herself, as if to say “I’m fine,” but she kept her eyes down and her mouth shut. Her body language said all she needed it to, however, even if Balthazar would not believe her.

His following offer, however, surprised her and she quickly glanced up at him suspiciously. What was he playing at? What did he want from him? What were the conditions of this rather generous and very spot-on offer? Oh, here it comes she quickly thought to herself as Balthazar continued speaking, this time of the ‘but’ she had expected. Only once the adviser had finished speaking, did Lena start thinking of what he had actually said, quietly structuring it in her mind, picking out bits and pieces she did not feel quite right with.

Then, finally, she spoke, her tone quiet, but not weak. “If I may be excused to note so, my lord, first you, sire, tell me that what I say will be confidential, correct? Except then you speak of merely not giving it away for free. If my lord will allow me to add something, might I suggest that this confidentiality will stretch beyond this and in fact also be fully recognized in the event of you being offered payment for the rephrasing or retelling of my words, my lord?” She was honestly feeling more than a little awkward standing there, discussing this highly unusual agreement. Lena had not even contemplated whether or not to take it, because honestly she knew she needed it. She got hurt too often not to have remedies available.

More so, she hated that she needed to make this agreement in the first place. She couldn’t quite see why anyone would have moved her things. But then, she was an idiot for not merely keeping them in her room in the king’s wing. That didn’t mean she intended to be detailed in her replies when he asked her. In fact, she was already perfectly aware of what she would answer to this first question of his. It was painfully obvious that, like many others, the adviser was underestimating her.





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Alanya let her body enjoy the delicious, tingling sensation as Daniel pulled her closer, his lips teasing hers. She didn’t mind at all, actually. She loved to let tension build. Things always ended up all the better in the end, ah, she did very much appreciate pleasure in its purest form. Her eyes slid closed when those snooping lips of his found her neck… that spot just beneath her ear. Her nails teased the nape of his neck as he hands slid into his dark hair, letting him know she did indeed enjoy his advances. Her breath was slow, yet controlled, her lips parted slightly, almost as if ready for the next kiss… the next teasing touch.

She bit down on her lower lip, a quiet “mmm” escaping her when his breath tickled that sweet spot, his chuckle sending bolts of lightning through her. She half opened her eyes, the half lidded look of pleasure in her amber eyes, almost scolding. She was a rather passionate girl, and she was young enough to still experience pleasure very intensely, so Daniel’s careful seduction was not lost on her. She took a deep breath, however, brought out of her haven of pleasure when he spoke. She opened her eyes fully, pulling back from the hand he’d used to tease her skin, now positioned at the base of her throat, but as she pulled back, she also removed her hands from his, and used one to clasp his wrist and confiscate that hand, placing it on the side of the chair.

Her eyes, though still passionate, had turned irritated. It was certainly a good thing that he’d paused before kissing her again, because she had very suddenly lost the feel for it. She did not move from him entirely, wanting to at least give him the option to actually correct the massive mistake he had just made. She wanted Daniel, but she would take no more from him than anyone else, and she suspected her knew it, considering the way he’d paused, reading her eyes before going in for another kiss. She said nothing, her own arms moved from passionately embracing him, to resting on his stomach, keeping him at a distance. She didn’t like this.

She didn’t like the way he spoke to her as though he was allowed to purposely offend her. She might be close to him, she might like his company, and she might very well care for him in her own twisted way, but that certainly did not allow the male to deliberately irk her. Alanya had her limits in that regard, being a very proud princess, and he had just crossed several. People who did so had a tendency to disappear rather suddenly. That, or they were publicly humiliated. It depended on the person and the crime. Daniel, as it was, would most likely lose both arms and be stripped of his position and possessions.

Well, if he kept this up, anyway. She simply would not accept it. She refused to. And Alanya always got her way. It had been like this since the day she was born, and by the gods, she intended for things to keep going in that direction. She raised both eyebrows at him, her eyes burning into him. “Do not play that game with me, Captain Bowman.” She said, her voice authoritative and slightly warning in spite of her more compromising position. For some reason, it did not matter how she was seated, only that she spoke as the heir to the vampire throne; the princess she truly was. “You have exactly ten seconds to remedy this.” She then concluded, looking at him expectantly. The time limit would certainly put a stop to the game. He was trying to turn his insult into a joke, instead of merely apologizing. He needed to know it was unacceptable, that was all.





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Sapphire watched the tall blonde male before her with the utmost vigilance she could muster. The was that… thing… beneath the surface again, flaring up every once in a while. Some level of something he did not wish to recognize perhaps, or maybe he just didn’t like to utter the words to describe it. Whatever it was, it was intriguing, like uncovering a mystery, or completing a very complicated puzzle. Yes, that was what he was: puzzling. Perhaps he thought the same of her then? Found her interesting? Well, it was possible, was it not?

Oh, she had no actual clue. It all just felt odd and confusing, hard to focus on properly because she honestly did not wish to. Perhaps she was afraid of what she’d find in the bottom of her own mind, or his, for that matter, if she thought about this too much. Sabine was looking back at her, having gone quiet after she’d asked him her last question, green meeting blue, because the blonde woman did not waver for a second. She would not avert her gaze, because oftentimes that seemed to be what he wanted and expected her to do. Besides, in spite of all the reason she should fear him, she did not. Not for a second. She had seen him fight, beating up several rather well-built young men like it was nothing, he watched her with an unnerving intensity, he was stalking her… yet she did not fear him. Not even a little.

And she couldn’t explain why. Not even to herself in her mind. She was as puzzled as any other would be as to why she was standing there, insanely talking to a man she had, perhaps even more insanely, craved and missed for two years. It pissed her off like nothing else, which was probably why she seemed to be such a time bomb around him. Why was he so quiet though? It was taking him forever to answer, and the young woman was starting to grow a little nervous, but she managed to keep it off of his face, defiantly staring back at him with that fire in her eyes, even if it seemed like he’d left his to go think.

Then, finally he spoke, and Sapphire quirked her head just slightly, watching him, reading him, trying to figure out what it was she could just about glance under that controlled, calm surface. He didn’t know? Okay, that sounded honest enough. Somewhat, anyways, because she didn’t know what she wanted from him either. Then again, she had not claimed to him that she needed anything at all. He had to her, so she supposed he should be somewhat aware, should he not? Ah well, his next words caused her to raise a single eyebrow just a little, scrutinizing the statement. Ah, so she was merely amusing, was she? She didn’t believe it. She wasn’t sure why, but it was… something in his eyes. Perhaps the same doubt and confusion she was feeling.

That would make sense in some ways. It seemed to her like he was trying to cover up the slightest sign of some sort of care for her she had spotted previously. She couldn’t help smiling wryly, dryly amused by that concept. Mostly because it sounded so much like something she would do herself. They weren’t really that different, but perhaps that was the exact problem? His final question, as he looked to search her face, however, made her blink a couple of times, suddenly thoughtful in a much different way. What did she think he wanted from her? She didn’t actually know. How could she possibly? He didn’t give off a lot of vibes. She sighed let out a small gust of air, shrugging.

“Honestly, I think you’re just as confused as I am, but you’re not quite used to admitting such things,” She shot honestly. “My guess is that the only reason you don’t know what you want from me, is because you don’t want to admit it to yourself. What that is or why you’re doing it, I do not know. I’m not certain I want to know.” Then she paused, pursing her lips slightly, not caring one bit that she was being painfully honest. So she offered him a wry smile and continued, “but I do believe there’s more to it than my being amusing, and I reckon that so do you.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garreth Vilhei Frost Character Portrait: Sydney Parker Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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#, as written by Ion
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Balthazar waited with the utmost patience and careful attention while the girl spoke, and it would seem that it was, in fact, entirely undivided. Such was never truly the case for a wary daemon, of course, but one did endeavor to observe whilst still keeping the requisite danger-sense active and roaming the surroundings. Indeed, he was most interested as to what she would do with the nettle-brush pile of words he’d strewn about her. Everything he said was said with purpose, but it was not always only the purpose it appeared to have. In this case, for example, he really had no intention of giving anything she told him away to anyone else, but nevertheless it was a promise she was going to have to earn.

He seemed rather amused when she pointed out his discrepancy, and even more so when she attempted to extract terms from him (terms, how charming! As though he were not the one who held all the cards in this arrangement; as though there were no other problems over which he might work his considerable intellect if this one did not pan out!) but held his tongue until she had fallen silent. He felt like indulging this whimsy of his, and so he did. That was really the long and short of what was happening here. Everything else was ripples on the surface of a pond: perhaps of some cursory interest, but ultimately meaningless.

“Mistake not a description of my character for a qualification on my word,” he said, though it was hardly an admonishment. In fact, his tone was rather light. “But, if you wish my idioms cut away from your bargain, I do not disapprove in the slightest. Here, then, a rephrasing: barring direct inquiry or order from the king himself, your answers, whatever they may be, will be divulged from myself to no one. You’ll have to forgive the escape clause there; I am ever his majesty’s loyal vassal. I think, however, that the likelihood of his inquiring is quite slim.”

And that was simple fact. While Sabine was himself a very astute man, he tended to be rather… oblivious to certain facets of the world around him, and were Balthazar a betting man (he was not), he would be willing to bet that this generally included the well-being of his young servant. Of course, when he did notice something awry, the results had been most… unpleasant for a certain member of the guard, and though Balthazar did not know the exact details of the situation, rumors did tend to circulate.

Now, there was the matter of his question. The wording was explicitly designed to be absolutely horrible, the kind of thing he would never ask if he actually wanted an answer. However, he was interested as to what exactly he’d get for it. There were a number of conceivable ways to get around it, some more astute than others, and of course to come out optimally advantaged in this scenario, she would want to give him as little information as possible, possibly under the hypothesis that boring him was the best way to get rid of him (it was). Sadly for her, Balthazar, though easily bored, was also capable of finding interest in what others considered mundane. It was how he’d earned his position, actually.

So the question was a trap, of sorts, or at the very least, a test. He was more interested in what variety of nonanswer he’d be receiving than in what she’d say if he’d pinned her a little more closely into saying anything at all. Already, his schemer’s psyche was running itself in mad little circles, eddies and ripples of thought that did run deeply, but invisibly, for that was the mark of a master of the craft: may no one ever know just how much you do.




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Sydney’s lips pursed, an outward sign of her growing displeasure with the situation. To anyone else, the tiniest of little things. To her, to them, really, evidence that the upper hand was his. Clearly, it was time to change the rules. “That’s impossible,” she replied shortly, “because nobody is unimportant.” She was pretty sure that chauvinism of his bled right into elitism simpliciter, and she was not fond of the trait in anyone. It seemed most annoying in him, whatever the reason. Still, she knew when she was staring down a stubbornness immovable, and for once, she opted not to try and hit it with a force unstoppable, but to opt instead for the path of least resistance.

She smiled then, but it was cool and far from genuine, and that stare still unnerved her so, when the full force of it was directed at her. It was not a fear so much as an awareness, one that she did not usually have. A knowledge of her location, her orientation in space, and presently, of the sorry state of her hair, among other things. It was like… he looked at you, and you almost believed him when he said those ridiculous things, like that whoever had called was “no one important.” You didn’t even have to know who they were, because just right then, everyone seemed much less important than him, yourself especially.

She reviled it. More than that, she was afraid of it. So no, he didn’t inspire fear, but what did happen was something to be feared. Of course, that didn’t stop her from meeting it, at least until the motion of standing and walking past him made that impossible, in which case, she was honestly glad to be rid of it, however temporarily. Best case scenario, she’d get that phone back sometime this evening. Worst case, well… she’d file a report with the police on Monday morning. It wasn’t like she had no idea who took it, after all, and maybe she’d add a no-contact order, just because she certainly didn’t have time to be dealing with more of this.

Syd reached the library’s phone shortly thereafter, dialing Simone first. There was no particular reason for it, other than perhaps that the redhead was her oldest sister. What she heard was most unsettling, the mechanical operator’s voice chirping at her over the line: “We’re sorry, but the number you are calling has been disconnected or is out of service. Please hang up and try again, or press pound for more options.”

Well, she certainly wasn’t doing that. Sydney knew most of the numbers in her contact list by heart, part of the same paranoia that had her memorizing bus routes and so on in her area. Never be without another option. Her fingers picked up a frenetic rhythm on the side of her leg, and she thought over it for just a second before dialing her sister’s work number. If she’d had to leave for an emergency, there were only so many things it could have been, and work was usually the best guess.

Nobody there had heard from her since she left to go meet her sisters, and Syd hung up the phone with an air of palpable dejection. She knew of one other thing to try, but no buses ran that way for an hour, at least. Simone had once told a funny anecdote about a friend of hers, who ran a bar in the city, who’d called her in to remove a raccoon. She remembered it mostly because she’d been confused over the name of the establishment. Blues Pub. Was it called that because they played the blues or because the owner was named Blue, for some odd reason? That had gotten her a laugh, but apparently the answer was neither. She still didn’t know why it was called that, but she did have the address, and maybe the owner would know the contact information for some of Simone’s other friends, which Sydney was without.

It was a place to start, anyway.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Alexander II Chartes Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Daniel Bowman Character Portrait: A Princess, a Noblewoman, and a Captain Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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Oooh, so now he was denying it, hm? How could he when he had just now admitted to not being aware of what he wanted from her. She didn’t doubt herself in spite of this denial, mostly because it was incredibly obvious to her that he was feeling rather uncomfortable talking about it. A reaction like that usually meant she’d hit something he knew was right but didn’t really want to admit to. Curious, wasn’t it? The way he raised his chin proudly made her snort, a show of dry humor. Really? He was going to try to make her feel like he was beyond her intellect?

To her it seemed as if he refused her evaluation of his inner workings simply because he could not admit to it, and as such, it was much easier to attempt to raise himself above her. Too bad it wasn’t working. She wasn’t played that easily, and fortunately for Sapphire she was a very confident woman. It took one hell of a lot to make her feel small, and as such, she merely quirked an eyebrow, giving him a skeptical once over. “Am I, now?” She then hummed, a dry smile playing at her lips, clearly letting him know two simple things: 1) she didn’t believe him for a second, and 2) she found his attempt to degrade her rather amusing.

Her anger had evaporated, because honestly she was far too amused right now. It was funny, really, last time they had met, Sapphire had been certain he was only hanging around her because he liked to bother her, but during the past two years, Sapphire had grown older of mind as well as body, and it seemed she saw more in him now. There was more to this man, and to them, than he let on. She didn’t know what was going on, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to, but it was a little funny that he was trying to hard to deny it, yet he kept coming back. This was the third time they’d “bumped into each other”, and she’d not been the instigator a single time. That told her plenty, whether he wanted to admit to it or not.

Then he, completely turning to another subject, spoke again, "it's growing late." When Sapphire merely pursed her lips at him, waiting for more to follow, he continued "If you do not stir yourself we won't make it home before nightfall." At this, the blonde woman laughed, shaking her head, “We?” She asked him, amused, “Who says I’m going home?” In truth, Sapphire wasn’t at all planning on going home. She’d only started walking to get away from him, without any real direction. She’d most likely pop into a few bars, give Simone a call to see if her older sister would like to join her perhaps. He responded by pulling out a clock, checking it before speaking. She remained quiet, still sort of amused with him. What was he playing at here?

"Should I not return within the hour I'll be off schedule and face distasteful curiosity from the household." He then finally said, and she smirked at him, raising both eyebrows. Household? Interesting. Why did he want her to know that? Was he trying to prove to her that he was rich and therefore better than her? Hmmm. It didn’t take her long to shoot back a reply. “I don’t see how that’s my problem.” She considered that little piece of knowledge from him completely pointless. She didn’t give a shit whether he had stuff to do. He wasn’t the boss of her, and she’d do as the damn well pleased.

Her lips fell slightly apart when he basically shooed her on, more or less talking to her as if he expected her to “obey” him. Oh, that bit of bastard was back, was it? Well, she wasn’t falling in this time. No way. Nuh uh. This time, Sapphire was going to use that bit of awkwardness she’d spotted just before. Obviously that was why he had changed the subject, and why he was suddenly in such a hurry. The blonde smirked, stepping close to him, completely breaching any personal bubble he might have had as the tips of her fingers came to rest just below his chest. “Aw, honey, did I hit a nerve?” She asked, both taunting and tempting at the same time.

She was so close she had to lean her head back to look up at him, but somehow that didn’t bother her at all. She had the upper hand right now; who cared about height? Oh, she was done playing into his hand. It wasn’t that she was trying to seduce him in any way, but he struck her as the kind of person who’d feel even more awkward if she moved closer, so that’s what she did. He was too tense anyway. And maybe the proximity wasn’t exactly a bother to her. From what she could feel, although Sabine was slim, he was all muscles. Firmness; the body of a man who used it well. Then there was of course this matter of her odd attraction towards him in the first place.





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Alanya watched her handsome captain coolly as he acted his way through a very overdone apology. That was not the way to go about it. She needed to be able to feel the sincerity, and until she did, she would continue to be cross with him. She wasn’t feeling it at all here. First he seemed amused, theatrically dramatizing every single word out of his mouth, kissing her hand as though he was a gentleman. Something they both knew he really was not. Not in any way. She was without real expression through it all, but she did let him finish in an attempt to be polite, even though she was not accepting this show for one second. It fact, it only served to piss her off further. Her certainly lived life dangerously.

Ah, but then he leaned back, asking her whether he had taken more than ten seconds, and then it came… the bored exterior. She narrowed her eyes at him, the amber depths glittering with her irritation as her lips thinned ever so slightly into a line. Alanya was vain, she was arrogant and she was honestly rather self-absorbed, but that did not mean she would take overdone apologies and compliments. “The most beautiful creature in all of existence”? Really? Anyone knew Alanya was merely a twisted reflection of her stunning mother. She did not appreciate dishonesty, nor did she acknowledge this kind of groveling and ass-kissing. If he could not be honest in his compliments, she would rather not have them.

She was about to speak, when he began talking of his teasing, and how he was only doing it to keep her entertained. In response, the princess pursed her lips, irritated. He was right, of course, but that excused nothing. And it certainly did not remove the sting of the many insults he had just slung her way. No one got away with that and Daniel was no exception. He’d learn that much very soon if she had her way. And in all honesty, she always did.

The brunette princess easily moved from Daniel as he straightened, seeming to finally become invested once more. So far, Alanya had not let a single word escape her perfectly formed lips, but rather expressed her mood through her facial features, letting hints slip. Hints he had obviously either ignored or been oblivious to. Her right leg swung to the same side as her left one and she easily moved into a standing position beside him, turning around to face him, amber eyes seemingly seeking to burn a hole through the captain. She’d had it with him for today. Her patience was unfortunately not at the level of her father’s. Then again, she was a woman, and she had to admit that women were generally maybe a little less patient than men. Well, that, and her father had a good 3 millenniums on her at least.

She had a feeling Daniel wasn’t quite grasping how pissed she was. Alanya looked him over slowly before straightening, her hands moving down her dress to even out any odd creases it had gotten through her strange bout of make-out with Daniel Bowman, which had unfortunately ended rather abruptly. She tilted her head slight to the side, contemplating him silently before finally saying, “I sincerely hope this brief moment of amusement on my expense was worth it, Captain.” She then turned around, walking out the door while her mind worked through it all, trying to figure out what kind of punishment exactly to exact on Daniel. She’d of course have to confer with her father first, but she’d become very good at getting what she wanted from him too. Then again, he’d never really sought to deny her the things she wanted.





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The servant girl didn’t exactly like the circumstances she found herself being in. Balthazar was not an easy one to deal with, and she was quite certain he had more than one trick up his sleeve. It seemed as though he always had. He was not King Sabine’s leading adviser for nothing, and one did not come into that position easily. Not by a long shot. Keeping that in mind, Lena was wary of the man. She was a mere servant, yes, but she was intelligent enough to recognize that certain people were too difficult to deal with for her to get involved, which was why she had always stayed out of Balthazar’s way. Now, however, it seemed he was set on dragging her into whatever game he had in mind.

And he was very much playing a game with her. She figured he was bored. Over the years she’d come to discover the man grew bored easily, and when he did, someone usually found themselves the victim of one thing or another meant to briefly entertain the adviser. Of course Lena had never spoken of this observation, but she’d always been a rather vigilant little thing, and for a while about a century ago, she’d taken an interest in figuring out at least a little about the mysterious adviser. Quietly she’d taken to observing him whenever she had the chance, him and all the things which had a tendency to happen around him.

She was perfectly aware that she had no rights to demand anything, and she wasn’t really, because she very much figured he didn’t particularly mean to debouch her answers to anyone in particular, but she wanted to make sure he could not use the slight loophole… just in case. She wasn’t sure whether such a thing would be below him or not. She figured if it benefited him, it wouldn’t be, but then, aside from what she’d gathered about him over the years, she didn’t know the man. She doubted anyone actually did. He didn’t seem the type to needlessly reveal anything about himself, perhaps because that would betray his purpose in some way. Balthazar wasn’t easy to read, and a part of her guessed that was intentional.

She nodded once when he spoke to her, rephrasing their oral deal. Of course one could never really trust a deal not written, but she didn’t wish for it to be written either. To think who could find it… the king could find out somehow. And then… oh gods, he’d realize things were much worse than he knew of. She didn’t wish for him to know that. She really didn’t. He didn’t need more on his shoulders right now; it seemed he was plenty preoccupied. Lena might not know why his majesty was so distant, generally behaving oddly, but she did know it was big to him if he let it affect his behavior in such a way. Or, rather, it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone who didn’t spend a lot of time with him.

However, she didn’t have a lot of time right now. It was getting late and the king had been out for a long time. She finally bit down on her lower lip. If she answered his question, it meant the two of them had a deal. It meant she would be healed up well enough by the time the king came home, but it also meant she’d have this odd tie to Balthazar, a man she had avoided like a plague. This time back on earth was starting out badly. She didn’t have much of a choice, and so Lena sighed discreetly before glancing up at the adviser only briefly.

“I know very little of the king’s reasons for this trip to earth.” She told him, easily avoiding any detail in answering. Of course she knew of some more than that, considering the king and all, but she wasn’t going to let him know that. There was no need to when she could easily answer the adviser vaguely.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garreth Vilhei Frost Character Portrait: Sydney Parker Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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Balthazar smiled a catlike smile, the glint in his eyes pure mischief. ”Oh, good. I’d thought you were intelligent. This will be fun.” He certainly had no qualms about revealing that much of his purpose to her; it was a little unfair if he didn’t. Not that fairness was particularly important to him, but he was ever a logical fellow, and he knew that, in certain circumstances, leveling the field a bit could make things much more interesting in the long run. Give a little, gain much; it was practically the guiding principle of politics.

”Ah, but I have kept you for much too long, haven’t I? You should feel free to mention such things, Miss Anguaren—logic and practicality are never the kinds of things that can offend me, and I care not from whence they issue.” Her status was, to him anyway, entirely irrelevant for the purposes of this exercise: being born a certain way was no merit, but a sharp mind certainly was, and he rather looked forward to testing the edge of hers. Actually… a ghost of a thought flitted over his mind, but for the moment, he let it be. That, he would chase down later.

“The supplies you require are in my office, the cabinet to the left. You are free to enter and use whatever happens to be necessary. Please do not remove them, however, as we would not want them to disappear as yours seem to have done, hm?” He didn’t bother with the usual warnings about touching nothing else in the place, as he was both quite certain that at this point she wouldn’t dare and also in possession of a number of little magical warding tricks that would inform him if she or anyone else did. Next to that, a mere verbal entreaty was paltry and unnecessary both.

He inclined his head then, just slightly, a measure of politeness that served as his farewell, for he ducked back out the door to the kitchen immediately afterward, allowing her to proceed as she pleased. The pieces had been set, the game was afoot, and Balthazar was quite pleased with himself, actually.

He was in such a good mood that, when he made good on his earlier intentions to rearrange the furniture in the guards’ rooms, he spelled the walls a bright, sunshine yellow, and set the furniture on the ceiling to return to its proper place after only an hour of useless attempts by the soldiers to move it, rather than the five he’d originally been thinking.

As usual, he didn’t stay to watch the aftermath of his work, returning instead to his personal quarters to answer a few of the more boring missives he tended to receive—presently mostly offers for advantageous marriages. Advantageous to whom was what he always found himself inclined to ask. He had all the status he’d ever want, and it hadn’t taken him imposing a lifetime’s worth of dull coexistence on anyone. He was… disinclined to allow anyone to similarly inconvenience him. He found, for the most part, that spousal relations seemed to impose a tedium of obligation upon both parties, and furthermore he seldom found persistent company all that worthwhile. He was, as a rule, largely uninterested in the other benefits of domestic arrangements (though not always), and the idea of children was somewhat repugnant to say the least.



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Anyone who knew Sydney could say with certainty that while among the most intelligent of people they knew, she was incredibly prone to becoming lost in thought, and during such occasions, relinquished much of her perceptiveness and tended to stare into the middle distance or down at whatever was immediately in front of her. Such was the case then, and she was no more aware of Garreth’s presence than she was of the weather outside or the present state of the stock market.

At least, not until she was made aware of it, and she jerked slightly, realizing what was going on in enough time to prevent her from jumping away from him, if only just. She found the nature of the contact a little pedantic and paternalistic of him, which honestly didn’t explain why she swallowed thickly, throat suddenly dry. Of course, anyone who knew Sydney could also say that she was first and foremost a logical, goal-directed woman with little time for frivolities such as emotion, and as such, she was able to shove her discomfort away and pretend quite effectively that it was not there.

She was expecting amusement on his part, and the kind of callus disregard for others that she’d come to associate with him, as though the world around him should just hurry up and kiss the ground he tread on already. She was still seeing shades of that, but then perhaps this was her own natural suspicion setting in, for the words themselves were not at all as she’d thought they’d be.

Oh. His use of her given name was not lost on her, and in fact, she dwelled on it for longer than she should have or would have liked to. Sydney was not exactly certain if she should be mildly offended at his unlicensed breach of their formality (not the first one, and definitely not the worst), or… well, she wasn’t precisely sure what the other options were, but somehow she wasn’t offended. So.

She regained some of her balance at the word generous—that was most certainly laying it on a little thick. Still, whatever ridiculous humor he found in yanking her around like this might play to her advantage, and there was very little if anything she wasn’t willing to do for the sake of family. She had no doubt Simone would indulge some bigot for exactly as long as it took to find her in a similar situation, and though stubbornness and pride had their place, this was not it. This was the place to be logical and do what was necessary to achieve her end. If he was going to use her for… whatever he got out of this, then she wasn’t going to say no to the opportunity to reciprocate.

A muted exhale relaxed her shoulders a little; the tiniest of sighs, the smallest of concessions. She didn’t like using people, but, well… there wouldn’t be another choice for an hour at least, and if the worst were to be the real, Simone might not have that long. ”My sister, Simone, carries a phone in an otterbox, which means it should be protected from just about anything. It’s always with her. Except apparently right now, because it’s disconnected, which means that either she forgot to pay her bill—which she wouldn’t-- or it was intentionally broken, say run over by a car or something. She left for some sort of emergency earlier today, so… I need to find her.” A pause. She didn’t really know why she was telling him all this; maybe she just wanted to make the methodical nature of her thoughts obvious, though whether to her audience or just herself, she didn’t know.

”The only place I can think to look is on Ninth and Lex, which is too far to walk in any reasonable amount of time. The next bus going that way doesn’t come for at least an hour. I… you…” she fumbled over the sentence a bit, before shaking her head and forcing it to come out right. ”I need to get there, somehow. If you can help me, I would appreciate it very much.” She was more than capable of politeness when it was called for, and she was quite aware that the request was an imposition of sorts. She’d have just called and asked one of her friends, but she had exactly five: Simone, Saph, Jack, Liz, and Norman, the elderly gentleman who played first chair violin in the symphony. Simone was the issue, Saph was probably still busy, Jack and Liz were on vacation, and she wouldn’t feel any more comfortable asking Norman for a favor of that sort, leaving her options sorely limited.

Sydney hoped she wouldn’t regret this, but she couldn’t believe that it was possible to regret something done for her present reasons.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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She didn’t know why it was so funny. It just was. Downright hysterically so, actually. So the blonde kept laughing as she stumbled, her knees buckling beneath her but just as she fell forwards, she felt Sabine grab her and pull her up. Huh. Quick reflexes. And it seemed to easy too. Her laughter fell to silence instantly as she looked up at him, her lips slightly parted as she breathed. His hand shot out to pull her closer and she grinned, looking up at him. “You caught me,” she stated happily, hands moving up around his neck once more as they’d apparently paused. "I told you that you are not sober enough to dance." He countered, bringing up their former conversation. She laughed, moving her lips to his jaw as she leaned into him, stabilizing herself. “Yes… yes you did. I still say you’re wrong.” She placed a kiss on his cheek them, grinning.

“So...” She trailed then, curious to see what he was planning. “Now what, lover?” She finished by asking. Was he going to take her home? Wait… no… he couldn’t do that. She never went home with guys. She always took them home. Not the other way around. Crawling out of a man’s bed at four in the morning sort of made her feel dirty… and not in the good way. Mostly because it was coupled with this odd level of… submission. Like she was theirs to push around. It had never quite felt right. In fact, she’d hated it. The sex was fine – it wasn’t that – but afterwards she found herself more or less kicked out. Not that she didn’t want to leave, but she rarely got around to it before they told her to get lost. More or less. Then she’d discovered it much more fun to be the one doing the kicking.

So she’d long ago changed that game; turned things around. She didn’t see why a man had to be the empowered one and women were reduced to feeling like they’d been used, even if they’d wanted the one night stand. Her only problem was that guys became clingy when she did that. It seemed they always wanted what they couldn’t have. Oh, sure, she’d give them sex well enough (at least she would’ve two years ago), but her heart had been locked in a box. She’d always remained aloof.
Except with Sabine. With Sabine she’d even begged. Ah well, didn’t matter. Done was done, and she was having fun… and getting laid! The thought made her grin as she looked up at him, her arms tightening to draw her closer. "Hold still for a second," He then told her, apparently as a reply to her “now what?”

She blinked up at him, but remained still. “Why?” She inquired, but she soon had her reply as he literally lifted her into his arms like a bride. The lift itself tickled in her stomach, and so she laughed, moving one hand to rest on the side of his neck. Oh, this felt funny. She’d never been carried this way before. Never with such ease. She giggled, hugging herself closer to him. “Gonna carry me home, are you?” She inquired, grinning. She didn’t care anymore. He was carrying her! It was so sweet and considerate… and he as so strong. She loved it.

As Sabine walked, Sapphire rested her head against his left shoulder, just as her right arm wrapped around him to have her hand resting between his shoulder blades, grounding herself a bit as to not fall down… or, god forbid, get dizzy. Her left hand was kept gently against the side of his neck. She smiled dreamily as she relaxed in his arms. She felt so… safe and protected, and it wasn’t even entirely unreasonable. Was it? No. It wasn’t. He’d saved her before from being raped, and he’d just prevented her from falling. He wouldn’t drop her, and he would’t harm her. She just knew it. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t question the instinct, although she’d probably berate herself once she was more sober. That didn’t matter right now. All that mattered was the warmth of his chest and the firmness of his grasp on her. He was taking what he wanted. That thought brought another grin to her face.

Then suddenly she was put down and she felt rather wobbly, her legs bordering on jelly. She blinked up at him, wondering why he’d put her down, before she seemingly woke up and realized what he was doing. As he took her hand, she steeled herself, trying to regain the ability to walk, and fortunately it worked as he began pulling her with him. Her eyes scoured the place. They were walking down a pathway from the impressive gate. The road was broad, and trees surrounded it, creating a beautiful arcade. She was completely awestruck at the size of this place, as they then made their way inside, so much so that she’d completely missed the fact that Sabine had a guard stationed outside his house.

She was still trying to take it all in with her much too inebriated senses when Sabine stopped and looked at her. She met his eyes, a sudden, soft laugh escaping her. “So… you carried me home to your gigantic mansion.” She said, the surrealistic quality of it all not lost on her; maybe he was a little bit richer than she’d first thought. She grinned mischievously then, moving in closer to place her hands on his chest once more. “Why are we still in the hallway?” She asked him, hands sliding up around his neck to bring them closer. Then she moved her lips to his jaw, trailing kisses up the smooth skin until she placed one just below his ear.

She only stopped then because she heard footsteps and she turned her head to see a small Asian-looking girl approaching them carefully, the look on her face rather… shocked. She was staring at Sapphire like she was some rare antiquity. It was rather curious.





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The End

The last words of her book made her smile vaguely, eyes scanning the almost blank last page. It was a sad, yet beautiful story; The Little Match Girl. She’d read it many times and still it left her with this feeling that in truth her life wasn’t as bad as it could be. But also… a sense that even the worst fates have endings. Well… they do if you’re human. So lucky, they were. So many humans wished for immortality, but Lena could not help but wonder how much they’d enjoy her own endless years. Probably not so much. She closed the book quietly. It was a gathering of several short stories by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. He wrote such wonderful fairytales, he did. Lena was rather privy to The Ugly Duckling, as well. Such messages he tried to send.

The Ugly Duckling in particular referred back to the author himself. As far as she’d been able to read her way to, the story itself was bordering on a biography. It was rather interesting. No matter, though. She needed to finish the last of her chores, then change her clothes and be ready for the king’s return at some point tonight. He had been so terribly moody the last two weeks. Since their last trip to earth he had been acting oddly, yes, but the past two weeks had been extreme. She really did need to figure out what was going on with him, because she really was starting to worry for her king.

But then… if she found out too much, she feared Balthazar would ask her and although the adviser was loyal to the king, she never liked to betray Sabine’s trust. He was the sun and the moon to her, after all. Though… Balthazar’s questions had yet to dig beyond the surface. Four times, she had had to come to him, and four questions he had asked questions, and to pay for the ointments he gave her, she had answered them. The wordings had been precise, but that did not matter, because the point here was that they didn’t have to. None of them were questions Lena saw much of a problem answering. But then, she supposed that was what he wanted; to put her at ease so that when he finally asked something she did not wish to answer, she would feel okay with it anyways.

First he had asked what her favourite colour was, then how long she had served the king directly. The first one mattered not, and the second was something he would have been able to find out on his own, simply by looking through archives, but then… she imagined he didn’t really care what she answered to these questions. Thirdly he’d decided to ask her what her least favourite household chore was… but that one had been difficult. Mostly because Lena truly didn’t prefer one thing she did over another. It was all things she did to serve her king, to pay back a debt she could never put a price on. Besides, none of Lena’s duties were bad in any way. Being the king’s personal servant meant she was not around the true pig sty, with the guards. Others dealt with that.

Lastly he’d wanted to know whether she feared him or not. Lena was still a little confused why he’d asked; wasn’t it obvious that she did? As she thought of the adviser she shook her head, sighing as she walked out of the king’s chambers and on to the smaller library situated in his quarters. She daintily placed the book in his rightful place and ran slim fingers over the leather bound backs, smiling to herself. This was her favourite place in the world. It wasn’t too big like the main one, and it was close to the king so no one but he entered safe for her.

Hours passed as she finished the last bits of her cleaning before showering and dressing in a brown dress, adding black flats and a black, simple cardigan. Lena usually only showered both before and after her chores so as to keep herself clean and proper for the king. It had become habit after a while truly, but at first the instructions had seemed odd to her. Why shower twice a day? But that was the message she had been given among many others, before even meeting her king. Soon all of those stiff messages and ways to walk and behave herself had become so instinctual she stopped even thinking about them.

She was brushing through her dark, damp strands when she heard the king returning. Perhaps it was his distinct walk… or perhaps it was the instant flurry that was suddenly coming to life in the mansion. Either way, his return was not something Lena missed on earth. Back home in the castle, someone was always sent to fetch her. She could not hear him or sense him the same way there because distances were so much greater.

She stood up, hastily brushing the rest of her hair before hurrying down the stairs. It was rare, but today no one had actually put a single hand on her. She had enjoyed the lack of aches. Mostly because she knew they would be back tomo-… Lena’s thought trailed off as she caught sight of her king. Her eyes widened instantly, lips falling apart slightly as he movements paused as well. Was that… a woman? Lena blinked twice before picking up her pace again and soon she was only two meters from the pai, her nose twitching at that… scent. Wait… was she? Noo… she couldn’t be… not human? The king had brought home a human woman?

Lena stared at the beautiful blonde in both surprise and curiosity, but she hurriedly shook it off to let her gaze fall to her king’s feet as she moved her body into a deep curtsy. Would he want to hide his true identity from this human, then? Because if he did, perhaps Lena should not address him as the king he was so obviously. Perhaps she did not have to; he would speak to her. Yes of course. Perhaps Lena could stay quiet. She glanced up at her king, questions in her big, brown eyes.

On second thought… what was he doing with a human?! Lena’s mind was instantly sent into a flurry as the questions passed, and she couldn’t stop it. She folded her hands in front of her to keep them still. The human was touching him. She was actually touching him… and not in an innocent way either, but… but Sabine had long ago abandoned any wish for the more carnal of pleasures. What was happened to the world? What was happening to her king? Was this a symptom of the disease, or the cause of the disease itself?

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Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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Sabine Marx

Her laughter was lovely. Simple in a way, perhaps. She felt like laughing so she did. The way she settled in his arms was pleasing as well, arms around him, but not clinging. On the contrary, her body felt relaxed. Perhaps it was her intoxication, but he liked the the easy way she rested in his arms. It felt like she trusted him, and maybe he liked that thought? Trust was not something easy to come by. And her face was curved with a smile. He couldn't imagine what exactly she was grinning on about, but like the laughter it was simply nice company. Her expression changed when he set her down, however, taking on a slightly bewildered look. She made it past her apparent confusion and she was taking in the moonlit scenery when he glanced at her again. When they halted she looked up at him, a faint laugh on her lips.

He shrugged his shoulder slightly at her question, "I suppose I did." he replied. The grin she'd worn earlier returned and she drew nearer, resting her hands again on his chest. "Patience, Sapphire." he murmured in response to her question, wrapping his arms around her waist as she slid hers over his shoulders to rest against his neck. Her lips played across his skin as if a teasing pass time while they waited, though she did not know whom they were waiting for. Lena was not long in arriving, and when the sound of her footsteps presumably reached Sapphire's field of hearing the blonde turned her head to see who it was. He waited until Lena had neared to an acceptable proximity before turning to look at her, one arm remaining on Sapphire's waist.

He caught the end of the little servant's surprised stare at Sapphire. Ah, that was the reaction he'd expected. Lena curtsied deeply, her eyes filled with silent questions as she straightened again, looking up briefly. He liked to fancy that his Lena was rather intelligent for a servant, and indeed, she kept her mouth shut. He nodded faintly at the girl before speaking. Though Sapphire would likely not remember such a thing in the morning, it was best to be on the safe side. There was no need to explain any of that tangled mess to her.

"It's not polite to stare." He admonished Lena gently, which meant that he would be answering no questions about his guest. It would actually be quite simple if he could just keep her separate from the court itself, but it was too late for that. Oh well. He really didn't care either way anyway. They could think what they liked. Just as long as they didn't get it in their half-empty heads to ask any questions. He didn't take very kindly to gossip either. Idle hands and idle chatter. Of course, he had no room to talk, especially when they were on Earth, since he spent most of his time idly, walking, thinking, reading, and other such endeavors. Well, he was the king and they were not, so he could do what he liked. They could not. That was the way things worked.

Sabine made a gesture with his free hand, motioning that she follow him as he made his way up the stairs, shortening his gait to match Sapphire's much shorter one. He'd kept her close after Lena had arrived, as if in open defiance of the rules of his own nature. The closer they moved towards something more than teasing kisses and holding each other the more interested he became. He really had forgotten the pleasures of having a woman so close, hadn't he. Those memories were old and cold. Or maybe they really had been cold with lust and Sapphire was something different. Maybe it was simply for the reason that she was human. It made her different. A curiosity. Soft and trusting. Though that was in part because of her intoxication, he had to remind himself. She wasn't usually this pliant. Or this demanding. Although there had been hints, when they were standing nose to nose that evening two weeks ago, he'd felt a now familiar shiver run up her spine.

"I would not like to be disturbed tonight, Lena, " he continued after a moment, glancing back to make sure she was indeed following, "Cross can handle any emergency that might transpire." He paused for a moment speculatively before turning his attention away from the servant and back to Sapphire as they crested the stairwell and began a padded trek through the wide hall that sat at the top of the stair. Lena would understand the entirety of the statement, which obviously reached on until late the next morning as well. He was usually an early riser, though he spent most of his nights late, but his little human friend would likely awake with a hangover, and probably wouldn't take well to being woken at sunrise. He did not make a specific time though. He could already see his small dark-haired servant dithering outside the door, trying to decide if it was late enough to wake him or not. She needed to be more assertive and he would teach her so. Though so far it had been a slow and painstaking process, because Lena seemed very determined to continue acting in a timid manner. It was an enjoyable little project though, and prevented the girl from becoming too comfortable. She was already allowed to curl up with her own book while he was reading in his quarters or the library, and seemed wont to spend most of her time in the same room as him. Of course, when they were on earth he spent little time in his manor, and he had no idea what she made herself busy with while he was gone beside her chores.

He dipped his head to murmur against Sapphire's temple, "Don't worry, Miss Parker, we'll not be in hallways for much longer." He gestured a dismissal to Lena with his other hand, if she hadn't left already, he wasn't going to bother opening his senses enough to check. No servants would be in his wing of the manor at this time of night, so he'd not have to worry about running into anyone, which meant he could afford more attention to Sapphire as he led her through the hallways to his quarters.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Simone Parker Character Portrait: Sydney Parker Character Portrait: Ceana Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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When Sabine directed a faint nod in her direction, Lena knew he was telling her she’d done well in staying quiet. She breathed an almost indistinguishable sigh of relief. It was a good thing she’d learned how to read her king, wasn’t it? Certainly. Because if she hadn’t, she’d have no idea what to do in a situation such as this. After all, she’d actually never been in it before. In all the years she’d been Sabine’s personal servant, he’d never as much as caressed a woman, much less a human woman. It wasn’t a secret among demons that the king did not consider humans worth more than a shallow glance, which was in part why Lena did not understand her own position. He was disgusted with humans; considered them base creatures… yet he took pity on Halflings. It was like an odd paradox.

Regardless, now he was here with a human woman, and he clearly intended to… to what? Take her to bed? Did Lena really dare guess at the king’s intentions? His mind worked in the oddest ways at times, so maybe… maybe he had some plan. Maybe there was a rational explanation for this, and it was merely on too high a level for her to understand it. Yeah, that would make more sense. Much more sense. Because… Sabine didn’t… he didn’t take to humans. He barely let anyone touch him, and yet Lena had just witnessed the blonde with her arms around his neck, her lips on his skin. This situation was starting to scare her.

Lena’s eyes had fallen to Sabine’s feet as they usually did, her demeanor submissive as ever, so luckily the confusion on her face could only be guessed at. As Sabine spoke, however, she was pulled out of her almost panicky state and she blinked a couple of times, quickly glancing at Sapphire in sudden reaction, but quickly letting her eyes fall even further to the floor as she, instead of looking at Sabine’s feet, looked at her own. Then she softly, almost fearfully, murmured, “my apologies, Miss,” to Sapphire. The human, who Lena wasn’t looking at currently, made an odd sound before saying, “Hey, don’t apologize. It’s not like I died.” Lena knew nothing worse than to be admonished and the human’s assurance didn’t help one bit. She knew her staring had been impolite, and she regretted it already, but she’d simply been so shocked.

Of course… her king knew all of that, which was why his tone had been so gentle with her… and why Lena wasn’t cowering in submission. Besides, she had to pretend to be… what? A… normal servant to a rich human? She could do that. Right? Well, she’d have to. It was obviously what her king wanted her to do. His admonishment also told her something else; he wouldn’t be answering any questions, so she might as well pack away all her unspoken ones. Not that she’d ever really question him; she had no right to. But… others… certain others… might. She wouldn’t put it beyond the captain, while the adviser would be a bit more… sly about it, most likely, but he’d want to satisfy his curiosity. Luckily, Lena had nothing to tell him.

She almost jumped when Sabine suddenly began moving, motioning for her to follow. Lena bit her lover lip nervously, but managed to start moving, a little bit behind her king and his… companion. She said nothing as her small feet padded across the floors… down the halls. Even as they spoke, she kept her head down and her mouth shut. She didn’t even dare look to see what was happening. When Sabine finally spoke to her, Lena took in a deep breath. Okay… he was definitely taking a human to bed. Oh gods… what if she became pregnant?

Lena’s brown eyes widened, and her voice stuttered just a little as she said “Yes o-of course. I’ll… make sure to deliver the message…” Her voice trailed off. Something was missing. Lena always addressed her king formally, almost by Your Highness, Your Majesty, or My King. None of these could be used, obviously, so now she felt like she lacked closure. Calling him sir would be downgrading him, since he was far above such a title. Maybe… again… it was better to not say anything at all. That was normal for human servants these days, right? She hoped so.

She didn’t dare leave yet… in case Sabine had more to say, and she had yet to be dismissed, so she kept pace behind the duo, although she would much rather be… anywhere else. This was too… weird. When Lena heard him speaking to the human, his voice dropping to a husky murmur, the servant girl blushed, embarrassed to be around the two. She wasn’t… accustomed to sexual encounters being… pleasurable for both parties. She’d never seen seduction, nor had she ever experiences sex to be a thing one would ever want… yet the human woman seemed very eager. Lena hadn’t even heard of that outside of her books. When she finally noticed the king gesturing for her to leave, she practically sped off, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.

She stopped by the foot of the stairs, drawing in a deep breath as she closed her eyes and slowly let it out. She couldn’t think about this. She needed to not think about this. Balthazar. Yes, she needed to find Balthazar and… inform him of the king’s wishes. She could busy herself that way. Yes, that would work. And then she’d find the captain… and tell her too… and then she’d… clean the kitchen. Or something. Anything to not think of what would be happening upstairs very soon. And so Lena opened her eyes, blinking a couple of times as she breathed, before finally heading towards Balthazar’s office. That’s probably where he was. Once she’d reached the dreaded door, she carefully knocked twice.

“My lord?” She inquired, wanting to know if he was there… and if she could come in.





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“Patience?” Sapphire countered as she felt Sabine’s arms snake around her waist once more. “I don’t do patience very well.” Then she laughed softly, leaning in to brush her lips against his skin… until the little Asian appeared, staring at her so very curiously. Sapphire turned her head to see her properly, but her eyes dropped quickly to the floor, and Sapphire tilted her head slightly. She was a pretty thing, wasn’t she? Sapphire had always found Asian women rather gorgeous, and this one was no exception, yet she had this… innocent to her that just made her downright adorable. She looked to be in her late teens, and Sapphire briefly wondered if Sabine had underage staff working for him.

Maybe so, but it wasn’t that was illegal… was it? Huh, maybe she should ask Syd. Oh gods… no… she couldn’t think of Syd right now, because thought of one sister led to thoughts of… another. Sapphire tensed just a little, closing her eyes briefly until Sabine let go of her with one arm and turned slightly. She let out a soft sigh, turning her attention towards the happening at hand. She needed to focus on that… she needed… she needed Sabine to start kissing her again. He… he had to kiss her again. It worked before, right? Took away everything; a magical cure.

When Sabine spoke, almost… what? Admonishing the girl as though she was a mere child. Huh, perhaps she was. Perhaps she was his own? Nooo… no, he didn’t have children. Did he? Nah. The girl seemed much too submissive. She had to be a servant. The girl seemed to cower and Sabine’s gentle words, and soon she was murmuring almost… fearfully. Sapphire looked up at Sabine, surprised. What was she apologizing for? It wasn’t like Sapphire was even offended. Jesus. This was a weird place, wasn’t it? She snorted, responding in slight amusement.

“Hey, don’t apologize. It’s not like I died.” She told the girl, still a little confused at the whole situation. Maybe it was just the booze. Yeah… it had to be the booze. She wasn’t thinking clearly. Sapphire nodded to herself, glancing from the servant to Sabine as he began moving. She expressed a surprised sound, blinking several times as she stumbled a little to get her feet to walk properly again. “You… really need to warn a person before you just start dragging her,” Sapphire noted, giggling a little as she found her balance, walking along with him well enough now.

She merely walked along with him, the servant forgotten as expectations and excitement began building. She was a very sexually inclined woman and she’s been without it for much too long. Now she’d finally have it… now she’d finally have him. She could hardly wait. He seemed determined to get them somewhere specific as well, so she merely accompanied him, resisting the urge to kiss him… to touch him properly again. A kiss would make everything better. The lingering thoughts of Simone would disappear, the odd feelings she had about this place… everything. She’d drown in desire once more. She wanted that so much right now.

When Sabine then once more spoke to his servant, Sapphire couldn’t help the eager grin that played across her features. No disturbances all night? She bit down on her lower lip once more as images began playing through her head, her body remembering every pleasure he’d inflicted on it in that club. She could scarcely imagine the intense heat once clothes were off and they were alone. It took all she had for her not to get too worked up already. The servant was still there! And they were in the hallway… did that really matter though? She looked up at him, her eyes filled with desire once more. She barely noticed the servant replying, but she very much noticed the second Sabine leaned down to murmur against her temple.

Another of those infamous shivers danced down her spine and she drew in a deep breath. Sapphire looked up at the man who seemed to set her body on fire with mere words. If they weren’t there yet she’d… oh… screw it. She gave the hallway a glance, finding the servant lacking. Couldn’t be better. “Here looks good to me,” Sapphire shot out before she put her hands on Sabine’s chest, her hands fisting around his shirt to stop him from moving as she stood on her toes, her lips taking his instantly. Her lids fell down to cover her eyes as she leaned into him, letting the desire wash over her, making everything else disappear entirely.

This was what she’d wanted. A soft moan of bliss and relief escaped her as her hands relinquished their hold on his shirt to slide up his shoulders and around his neck, her breathing pattern deepening. Just… one kiss. That was all she needed. Then they could move on and pick things up more privately, but she needed that kiss. Right now she couldn’t remember why, but she did.

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Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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Though the sun had fallen behind the horizon some hours ago, the adviser’s mind was as busy as ever, and he presently sat at a worktable, kept some distance from his desk and constructed of much more resilient material than the expensive mahogany and cherry of the latter. In front of him were several scattered glass vessels, which had been neatly arranged up until perhaps an hour ago. His hair had long since fallen out of the neat slick he usually kept it in, and hung instead in soft, feathery, slightly-curled strands about his head, occasionally venturing into his line of sight, only to be brushed away with irritation. His clothing, too, was different: the suit jacket was gone, and instead he’d rolled the sleeves of his emerald-green shirt to the elbows, though his vest remained, the silver chain of his pocketwatch dangling from one pocket. Overall he was less… pressed than usual, perhaps even a touch disheveled.

There was, of course, good reason for this. He was expecting no visitors this evening, and furthermore he was in the middle of an experiment. His interest had recently turned to innovation and improvement of technologies in the homeworld, where the human’s electricity was neither wanted nor operable. This left most of the lighting duties to either torches or occasionally magelights, which were essentially conjured flames, slower to wear down the tapers on a candle or the oil in a lantern. They still carried all the other hazards of fire, though, and more than once had a careless servant or drunk noble burned themselves in a moment of inattention.

Hence the present experiment, cold fire as he liked to call it. The initial discoveries in changing the properties of mage-fire had resulted in a reduction and eventual smothering of the flame, which was not what he desired, but he was presently close to something much better. Along the way, he’d discovered that it was also possible to change the color of it, and though his magic was naturally black, making him a rather poor choice for lighting mage-lamps, he could now alter that at will. Having no particular inclination at first, he’d moved to green, which was his second house color after black, but on a whim, the flame was presently the clear blue of the sky on a cloudless summer day, white burning at its core. It reminded him now of his other project, as he was coming to regard her, and the symmetry brought a small smile to his face. No need to hide it from anyone here; he could be amused or pleased if he wished.

Slowly, slowly, he was sapping the heat from the fire, and this time when he passed the block of wax through it, it came out only slightly melted. Adjusting the level of magic within the flame, he felt the little pleasant click at the back of his mind that was his own form of instinct. And people swung swords around and declared themselves mighty for it! How little his kind understood of subtlety in truth. With satisfaction, he passed his own bare hand, for once not gloved, through the pale blue fire, pleased when it was simply pleasantly warm, like a spot in the grass heated by the sun.

With a flick of his long fingers, Balthazar directed the fire into one of the glass vessels, pleased when it sat easily therein. With a snap of his fingers, he extinguished the rest of the lighting in his office, and his satisfaction only grew when the illumination from even just this little thing was about equivalent to a human lightbulb, but not nearly so harsh on the eyes. Must be the color; perhaps he should thank little Lena for that bit of inspired thinking. He was, after all, nothing if not a man of manners.

He dimly registered the reappearance of the king’s aura on the premises, but paid it little mind. If he were required, he would be summoned. Until then, he fully intended to test the limits of his new little device. It had been a very complicated process to get the ball of flame to the right size, color, and temperature, and he was certain there would be a way to link all of these qualities together for a single conjuration. Perhaps there might be some use for orange or yellow ones as decorations at the Festival of the Sun. It did resemble a little contained star, anyway.

Raking a hand through his hair, he didn’t even have the irritation left to stop it from getting in his face. Instead, he grinned triumphantly and decided to work on shape first. Coaxing the sphere from the glass, he let it float harmlessly in the air and visualized the form he wanted, applying the faintest brush of magic to the desire. Before his eyes, it shifted to the form of a deer, then a small person, and finally a rabbit, which cavorted happily about his head. Oh, yes, this was good indeed.

He’d added a mare and a large cat to the procession of blue flame-animals by the time the knock sounded on his door, and Miss Anguaren’s voice filtered through the wood, seeking entrance. He presumed she was here on the king’s business, as whatever befell her was not usually so cruel as to act twice in such a short span. She’d been by quite recently for his medical supplies. That, naturally, brought him back to her last answer, and his face went blank a moment before he replied.

“Enter,” he called smoothly, and the cold fire-creatures descended from about his head and did circles a few inches from the surface of his worktable instead.

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Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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She could hear him in there, yet for a moment he did not reply to her request. Lena stood, obediently silent, outside his door and waited, her brown eyes scouring the hard wood of the obstacle in front of her. It was odd, really. Ever since she’d first started using the adviser’s remedies, it had dawned on her, that unlike almost everyone else, he had never hurt her. Not even psychologically. Oh, but he could, she had no doubt. Balthazar Cross had the power to do many things and get away with them, yet he, to her knowledge had never hurt her. She didn’t think he intentionally scared her either and still she found herself cowering under the powerful depths of his eyes.

She couldn’t quite explain it well enough, but he scared her. Or maybe… he just made her uneasy. Perhaps it was because she knew he was capable of so many things beyond her imagination. Perhaps Lena deep down feared that, in spite of the fact that he had never hurt her, he one day would. When you had lived under the cold feet of others for so long, you learned to expect the worst of them. You learned never to expect any favors. You became paranoid, unsure and afraid of interaction, because every word could possibly prove fatal. Balthazar and her deal with him, to her, was only a disaster waiting to happen. She feared what he could make her do. And he feared what he would do to her should she resist.

Maybe it was simply the fact that she didn’t know the adviser very well, but like all other full-blooded demons, he was cold. He couldn’t care, and that made her afraid. It appeared genetically built into every demon, and there was nothing she could do about it, so perhaps she merely needed to shut her mind off and stop hoping for some shimmer of care from someone. Perhaps she needed to stop seeing care and some odd level of concern for her, in the king as well. Her mind was most likely just playing tricks on her, trying to make her think that was what was happening. Hope was a cruel mistress. She would play with your heart and mind… and then she’d leave you broken.

Lena shook of the somber thoughts as Balthazar’s voice came through the door, and she gulped in a deep breath of hair, trying to clear her head of dread and fear. The small servant slowly and very carefully opened the door and warily stepped inside, letting the door slide shut behind her, her head down. Her brown eyes were fixed on the ground which was… lit in an odd light. Come to think of it, this entirely place was lit… oddly. She blinked a couple of times, glancing up, but instead of looking back down immediately, Lena’s attentive gaze caught sight of the most beautiful, blue, fiery little creatures.

Completely captivated, the servant seemed to forget where she was and with whom she kept company, as she slowly inched forward. Once by the desk, she crouched down to watch the things closely, her eyes lit by the beauty. A slow, tentative smile came onto her lips. She’d never seen anything like it. The way they seemed lit from within, the white spreading to become blue little flames. Where did the colour come from? It was utterly fascinating and so… so beautiful. She said nothing as her mind revolved around the fiery animals. How did this work? Magic? As that word came to her mind, Lena seemed to snap out of whatever had held her captive.

Her eyes widened immediately as she startled, ending up on her bum on the floor before she frantically scrambled back, hurriedly murmuring, “Oh, I’m so… sorry, your grace. I… I… it won’t happen again.” Her eyes fell to the floor as she tried to force herself into a standing position, her cheeks pink with embarrassment and shame. She was too old for this! How could she just have forgotten her manners that way? She trembled slightly as she attempted to make herself look proper; straightening her dress, pulling on her cardigan. She had stepped so far out of line. So, so very far. If Balthazar chose to punish her, no one could blame him. She deserved it. What had she been thinking? She drew in a deep breath. She… she needed to deliver the king’s message first though. Yes, she needed to do that. It was priority.

As such, Lena quickly, without letting Balthazar get even a word in between her apology and her message, told him of the king’s message. “The king wishes not to be disturbed tonight. He… he has left all urgent matters to you, my lord.” With that, she bit on the inside of her cheek, fear and nervousness fluttering through her. What was he going to do to her? Her trembling intensified as she waited, completely silent, her brown eyes fixed on her black flats. Still, the memory of those beautiful animals remained. So… free, they had appeared. Playful even. She had not once even looked at Balthazar himself. Her gaze had barely grazed his chest before her eyes had landed on the fire, and now… well, now she was busy keeping her head down where it belonged. She had no business putting her nose into Lord Cross’ experiments.

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Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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The door swung open slowly, to admit the young Miss Anguaren, as he’d expected it to. He’d also expected the way her head immediately ducked, fixing her gaze to the floor. Honestly, he had excellent taste in oriental rugs, but his carpeting wasn’t that interesting, which obviously meant she was doing it from some misplaced sense of formality. Annoying, actually. Intelligent conversation was such a rarity in this place that he found it wasteful that she stemmed all efforts to engage her in such a manner with this deferential nonsense. He paid lip service to formality like everyone else-- when he had to. Otherwise, he preferred to do without it.

Which was perhaps why, when her eyes alighted on his newest creations and she crept forward to crouch before the desk, he remained entirely silent and still, watching with some interest as she was absorbed, for an ephemeral moment, in fascination, something which was entirely different from her usual demeanor. But of course; intelligent people were most often curious, and the best among them never lost their sense of wonder. Even he had moments of similar childish delight, locked away in his lab on the homeworld and far, far away from the asinine demands of court politics.

He resisted the urge to chuckle at her obvious delight, instead constraining his mirth into a smile so subtle it was almost invisible on his face. Nobody would see it, anyway, and that was the important thing. He was about to say something when she seemed to snap back into her previous model of behavior, apparently shocking herself with her own audacity. Hmph. As though he were so fragile that he couldn’t stand a bit of undisguised curiosity. As though this innovation were not intended for use and enjoyment.

He watched with apparent disinterest as she scrabbled backwards, standing abruptly and attempting to put herself to rights. Her apology was irrelevant and unnecessary; he was much more gratified by her moment of genuine enthusiasm than by a thousand silly platitudes and apologies. He waved a dismissive hand, but halted the motion when she barreled forward with the king’s message, naturally too important to stand on any right he had to deliver whatever retribution he saw fit (which was obviously none, not that she’d recognize this).

“Naturally,” he replied in response to the message. If the king had a desire for privacy this evening, anyone with brains at all would know to go to him. This was an established structure, though it was of course prudent to inform the household that it was in place.

He did not speak for a few moments after that, instead studying the young lady with narrowed eyes. She was shaking. Had he caused that? So strange; he was not making active effort to be intimidating. In all likelihood, she’d scared herself. He knew he was an imposing person, for his power and his position alone, to say nothing of his lesser known and more specific talents. So the fear was rational, which only made it more irritating than before.

“Do not make such unfortunate promises, Miss Anguaren. A little wonder is the sign of a worthwhile mind. It would be a shame to lose it.” Snapping his fingers, he simultaneously winked out the flame animals and turned on the usual lamps that provided his study with illumination. “But sadly some are doomed to prefer mundanity. I suppose it does carry a sense of safety, doesn’t it?” He moved out from behind his worktable and started pulling books from his shelves with an easy familiarity that meant he hardly had to look. His collection here was woefully abbreviated, but he would make due.

Pausing mid-motion, he turned so that he was in profile to Lena, able to see her from the corner of his eye. “Your message is received and understood. Thank you. You may leave whenever you wish.” Indeed, there were probably many more places to deliver the message, and he may have kept her longer than she was inclined to stay already, something he had no particular desire to do.

When she returned to her quarters that evening, however, she would find something quite new on the wooden stand beside her bed. A miniaturized, light blue fire-rabbit, contained in a small glass vessel, itself elegantly shaped. Beneath it was a simple note.

Tap glass twice to extinguish, thrice to ignite. I will be most displeased if this is returned to me. –B.C.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nebellia de Rozeriem Character Portrait: Sabine Marx Character Portrait: Sarai Ozeiel Character Portrait: Sapphire Parker Character Portrait: Simone Parker Character Portrait: Alexander II Chartes Character Portrait: Ceana Character Portrait: Lena of Anguaren Character Portrait: Balthazar Cross
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#, as written by Mela
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Alexander didn’t miss the brief frown touching Nebellia’s features as he told her that he would not be pleased should she harm the human. He hadn’t expected anything else; he wasn’t usually the picture of a caring man, especially not with humans, so he completely understood the thoughtful surprise. But then, Alexander had a sneaking suspicion that his dear adviser noticed more than she said. He knew she’d been able to smell Simone on him, and he knew she would remember the scent from two years ago. Nebellia didn’t often forget such things, although she may at times pretend to. However, she was also clever enough to know when to let such sides of herself show and when not to.

He watched her as she spoke in reply, having waited to continue until he had finished. Ah, she knew him so very well, didn’t she? He smiled wryly. She hadn’t needed to explain to him why she needed the blood. He trusted her with his life, and knew that she would not ask for his blood unless it served a proper purpose. She wasn’t just going to sell it. Alexander’s blood was old and powerful, and it could potentially provide a drug to enhance strength and speed in a vampire. “I see,” he told her, his eyes sparking with just a touch of amusement at the fact that she’d bothered to explain. Normally such things went unspoken between them. Once you had been with a person for a certain amount of centuries, some things didn’t need words.

Then she assured him that Simone would be safe from her, and he inclined his head slightly while looking at her still, green eyes observant. He smiled wryly and took both vial and needle when she handed it to him. He didn’t give it a single thought as he uncapped the glass container and put the needle to the tip of his index finger. As she curtsied respectfully, Alexander tipped his finger over the rim of the vial, letting a few drops of blood run into it before the small prick healed up and the bloodflow stopped. Then he licked the small remaining trickle off of his finger, put the lid on the glass vial. “What is it?” He then inquired, noticing the sudden frown back on her face.

As she spoke, explaining, he handed her back the vial, which now held three drops of royal blood. If she’d needed more, she would have handed him a knife instead of a needle, so he didn’t bother worrying about the small amount; it would do, or she would come to him at a later time, asking for more. If she could figure out anything about Simone’s blood at all, he would be plenty pleased. He wasn’t sure it could be replicated, since he was not even sure she was fully human, but nonetheless, perhaps Nebellia’s studies could clue him in on what made her so damned special. There had to be something tangible.

“I realize that,” he informed her calmly when she commented on Simone’s state. “She will not eat properly, nor will she sleep enough, which, on top of my taking her blood, has proven to be rather disadvantageous to her health,” he explained to her, a slight sigh escaping him. He was a king; he was supposed to know what to do, yet with this human… things got difficult. She was so different from the humans back home, and Alexander did not often take an interest in caring for the fragile beings. Suppose he’d forgotten to bring servants who were properly educated and trained to keep humans alive. He’d needed caretakers from back home; the vampires who ran the breeding facilities. Most other servants weren’t expected to keep the humans alive for longer periods of time. Perhaps he could not expect Sarai to do much better than she had.

When she offered to hand over her observation papers, Alexander frowned slightly as he thought. “She’s different, Nebby,” he told her, his voice letting out some of the frustration he was feeling with Simone, “normally our humans conform to our daily habits easily enough, but she barely sleeps during the day. Two weeks it’s been, yet she continues to struggle with something so simple. I was hoping her own cooking might help her at least gain some nourishment.” He gestured towards the kitchen, “hence the current situation.”

The thought brought a wry smile to his lips, as he added, with a slightly amused countenance, “apparently we cannot pride ourselves on preparing proper human meals.” Then he rubbed the back of his neck, glancing at the kitchen door before once more watching his adviser. “If your notes can help Sarai deal with Simone, then I am open to it, but I do not feel certain they can apply to her.”





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The second Balthazar spoke, Lena expected to at least be admonished. But she wasn’t. She blinked a couple of times when Balthazar instead noted that her curiosity was a testament to her intelligence. Her eyes were still fixed obsessively on the floor beneath her, and her mouth remained very shut, but her shaking subsided along with her fear, quietly dispersed into nothing. Of course she was still wary of Balthazar, and her fear for him in general remained in the truest form, but he didn’t intent to punish her. She wouldn’t have blamed him if he had, though. She knew what she’d done was inacceptable and disrespectful. There was more to Balthazar Cross than one would think, it seemed. She drew in a deep breath, calming her body even more as her mind settled as well.

It was like when he’d asked her if she feared him, and she thought she’d sensed some kind of… irritation that she’d told him that she was. Why? Most demons she encountered rather preferred her to fear them, and it honestly wasn’t all that difficult; she was a fearful creature and she knew it well enough as well. And he called her Miss Anguaren. She didn’t know why, but it held meaning to her, like it somehow made her feel less like a big piece of nothing in the world. She was never Miss Anguaren. She was Lena, or Dove, or Flower, or whatever else someone chose to call her. By addressing her with outward respect, Lena couldn’t help but feel like he was trying to even the playing field a little. But… that was probably just her over analyzing everything.

Suddenly the illumination in the room changed, the sound of Balthazar snapping his fingers reached her ears. Safety? The word seemed to resound in the room with Balthazar’s next question. It was a rhetorical one, yet she felt like it was an odd jab at her. Like he was accusing her of doing exactly that; hiding her own intelligence simply to feel safe, and perhaps he was right. To some degree, she did, yet on the other hand, safety wasn’t something she could ever achieve. “There is no such thing as safety, my lord,” she retorted carefully. It wasn’t a luxury extended to one such as her. Hell, it wasn’t really a luxury extended to anyone, was it? Safety. It was an illusion people chose to don because it helped them move on and think of other things… it helped them feel comfortable. But no one was safe. As such, his phrasing did indeed seem appropriate; “a sense of safety”. That was all it would ever be too.

Wait… had she just said that out loud? She really needed to watch her tongue around Balthazar. He might seem to actually want to converse with her, but she was certain that was only up until a certain point; until she unintentionally offended him. Aaand… then it came. The dismissal. She nodded her head once. Whenever she wished? Why did he have to phrase it in such a way? She shook it off, and left with a soft sigh. Her feet carried her almost soundlessly in her search for the captain, her mind racing, trying to figure out the conundrum that was Balthazar Cross. Life had been simple and easy until he’d decided to make a game of her. Yet she wasn’t sure she wanted to go back.

She found Ceana not long after, in the grand garden of the mansion. She stood in the middle of a huge, green patch, her eyes cold and determined as she watched her men sword fighting, obviously making sure they stayed in shape. Lena carefully made it outside, drawing in a shaky breath. Ceana was the only woman Lena felt as terrified around as she did men. Not because she feared that the woman would rape her, obviously, but because she was the most ruthless person she had ever in her life encountered. And she completely dominated the violent men who had raped and abused Lena so many times over. Anyone who could demand respect or fear from them, demanded even more from Lena. Yet she had a message to deliver.

So she inched closer to the slender captain, keeping her focus on the long braid running down the woman’s back. It was funny, really. For as long as Lena had been alive, Ceana had been the king’s guard’s captain, and she’d often heard of the amount of vampires and lykae she sled, and calculating way she managed to control every battle situation. That was what Lena had heard of her, so when she finally saw her, she’d been shocked to see her looking so… feminine. The long, thick hair, the makeup, the cat-like elegance with which she carried herself. It had been astounding. Except then Lena’d witnessed the captain speaking to nobles, and that female elegance fell away to reveal the savage she really was. In comparison, of course.

Lena knew the king did not approve of his captain’s lack of manners, yet her worth meant he ignored it most of the time. Her thought trail froze up when Ceana glanced her, one eyebrow raised as though to say “what do you want?” Lena drew in a deep breath, trying to quench her fear as she hurried the rest of the way over to the captain, trying not to notice the many looks she got from the guards gathering in her immediate proximity. Lena’s gaze was on the ground now, but she glanced up briefly when she heard Ceana yelling “What the hell are you doing?! Get that sword up, back straight, eyes on your target, and for the love of the Sun, get those fucking feet in position! Is this how you plan to protect your king?!” The captain narrowed her eyes on the two guards in question. One of them had become distracted with Lena’s approach and he’d let down his guard enough for his sparring partner to cut his thigh open, a deep laceration now present.

Lena’s eyes immediately went back to her feet. She couldn’t interrupt this. She didn’t dare. The guard growled under his breath, but he seemingly obeyed, because all Captain Ceana did was murmur “four hundred years old, and he still fights like a baby,” under her breath. Then her eyes once more fell on Lena, not that the little servant could see it, but she could feel it very clearly. “Yes?” She merely said, inferring that Lena was allowed to address her now. The servant had to extend a surprisingly big effort to be able to speak without stuttering through it. “The king wishes to be left alone this evening,” she said carefully, “all matters of urgency have been left in Lord Cross’ hands.” Once spoken, she bit the inside of her cheek, keeping her head down, her hands folded in front of her.

“Yes yes, I realize he’s got some human broad here – been a while, huh?” She spoke, and Lena thought she detected some odd level of amusement, but then… she was almost swimming in her own fear right now. This many guards and the captain. It really wasn’t Lena’s favorite cocktail. When she remained quiet, merely shrugging her shoulders, the captain waved a hand in the air, gesturing for Lena to leave. “Get out of here,” she added brusquely and Lena turned, speedwalking as fast as she could towards the house.

After that, Lena spent most of her evening cleaning up wherever she possibly could, and exhausted by the end of it, her body wiped from the rollercoaster of emotions today, she went to her room, bowing her head and trying to ignore the… sounds… she heard coming from the king’s chambers. They were too much for her to handle on top of everything else, so she didn’t let her mind dwell. As she opened the door, the first thing she noticed was the light. It was surprisingly illuminated, like she’d left the lights on, but different. This was like… like the light in Balthazar’s office. She tentatively made her way inside, her eyes almost immediately detecting the little blue rabbit on her night stand. She let the door slide shut behind her.

Without much thoughts, she walked around her bed and over to the little blue thing. It was almost… more beautiful than it had been in Balthazar’s office. It took her a little while before she thought to read the note, and a vague smile spread on her lips as this odd rush of joy danced through her. She had her own fire rabbit. He’d made her a fire rabbit, and right now she didn’t even want to think of why, or what he’d want in return. Right now, all she could do was feel… happy. Happy, like she did so very rarely. And it took no more than a gesture such as this. A small thing such as this… but to Lena it meant everything.


The Next Morning



Why wasn’t he up yet? Was he waiting for her to wake him? What was she supposed to do? Lena paced the hallway outside Sabine’s chambers, her little feet bringing her up the floor, then back down, her eyes fixed on the door. The sounds had stopped… very late. She’d been able to hear a surprisingly loud amount of sounds through the walls, so she’d only fallen asleep herself a couple of hours ago. She’d kept the rabbit alight, trying to focus on it and the way it worked, but it hadn’t helped. She’d still been kept up. Breaks between the sounds had been few and brief… so she’d hardly gotten to settle in, and now he was torturing her even now, leaving her to this… uncertainty.