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When Walls Crumble [RP Thread] [R] [Private Fantasy RP]

*Jean Grey*

Night Triumphant
Sylvia Edelstein
Khusha (just outside Capital)

Sylvia shielded her eyes as the Khushan sun beat down on her. While this place was home for her, at least for the last seven or so years, there were just some things that were more difficult for her to get used to than others. Khushan food was easy, but she couldn't say the same thing about the heat. She was a creature of the night by nature after all, and unlike Dimmy, she hadn't grown up in Khusha. Still, seeing the burning sands and the familiar landscape, she couldn't help but feel almost comfortable. Khusha was a place, at least, where she didn't have to watch her own back too much. She still was feeling a bit nauseous after her ordeal in the forest, with Lyn's concoction of antidote herbs not being the most...palatable.

As the princess argued with her knight about involving Khusha, Dimmy suggested that they head to his family manor first, to prepare and bide their time until the evening, and told Lyn that she would have to change into something more suitable for dinner. At this, Sylvia groaned. She wasn't the sort who liked to wear dresses, especially after the incident that she would rather forget, though Khushan court attire WASN'T the worst, to be fair. She glanced at Lyn's expression and leaned closer to her.

"Don't worry, there's none of those heavy skirts and high collar shit around here. Better be comfortable in your own skin though," she commented as she unfastened her cloak and draped it over her arm. Her own armor was Khushan-made, and she was thankful for its forgiving cut and bare legs that allowed her to move with ease. She sprinted forward as the stone walls of the capital city came into view. Dimmy was already ahead by a fair bit, but she noticed that he had stopped. Pausing and looking up, she saw him crouching over what looked to be a man, accompanied by a horse. The vampire was waving his arm, as if to beckon them to come, and Sylvia narrowed her eyes in response. From a distance, it seemed as if the stranger was dressed in what looked to be Lochesterian armor. She couldn't be too sure, but she knew the telltale features of Lochesterian armor all too well.

She strode towards Dimmy, readying her scythe. If it was indeed a Lochesterian man, she wasn't going to be merciful just because he was hurt. She didn't know his intentions, and she wasn't about to go easy on him just because he was hurt. Once she caught up, she got a closer look at his armour and it confirmed her suspicions. The colour, the cut and even the embellishments were all familiar ones to her eyes. In fact, they looked too familiar, now that she saw them...

She gripped her scythe tightly as the princess apprehended the man, asking where the rest of his army was and whether or not he was targeting Khusha. Sylvia looked around for signs of Lochesterian soldiers, but saw nothing save for the man's horse, which looked to be in equally bad shape. Lyn then began to clean the soldier's wounds with Gwen's help, and she asked Dimmy to help bandage him. Sylvia remained motionless however. Lyn had cleaned the blood off the soldier's face to reveal VERY familiar features. Features that Sylvia remembered as she languished in Lochester's dungeon more than seven years ago. The man was one of the guards assigned to guard the area of the dungeons where she was imprisoned. The man who accompanied Jurgen, the guard who freed her. Only one of two men who knew that the girl dressed in starlight and glass who infiltrated the King's masquerade ball wasn't dead. Well, the King himself too of course, but he wasn't alive. Jurgen assured her that his companion was to be trusted...but that was more than seven years ago.

"You...I know you. Raleigh, what the fuck are you doing here?! Did someone bribe you to rat out to the bitch who calls herself queen?!" She growled, getting down on one knee and grabbing him by the hair, glaring dangerously as her lavender-blue eyes met his golden ones. She wasn't about to believe that he was in Khusha purely by accident.


Raleigh Ferghus Eachainn
Khusha (just outside Capital)

Raleigh realized he’d lost consciousness only after regaining it.

For that, he could thank an unknown voice. It was distant and unintelligible, but it broke the perfect silence that had cradled Raleigh so far. Even then, he had half the mind to ignore it and give back in to slumber. He was so, so very tired.

The voice persisted a few words more, and then disappeared. It must’ve been his imagination, after all. Content with the thought, Raleigh’s consciousness begun to slip away. Back into the caress of darkness, where respite awaited.

If only.

A sudden yank of his collar rattled Raleigh awake. The voice was back. Closer, louder, angrier. The words it spoke floated about in Raleigh's mind for a good while until he could make any sense out of them. Then, ever so slowly, he understood.

A... good reason not to... kill him?

There was none.

Raleigh couldn’t have voiced it even if he’d wanted to. He'd forgotten how to speak.

But the threat of impending death did give him reason to try and open his eyes, nigh impossible a task as it seemed. Out of all the heavy things he’d lifted in his life, his eyelids were by far the heaviest. Yet he could not bear the thought of dying without at least seeing who delivered the killing blow. So, he struggled. He struggled until at last, the bright desert sun shone into his eyes. He blinked to clear his vision, but it remained blurry. The man in front of him seemed like three. No... not a man. Raleigh saw the fangs; he was a beast.

So this was how he would meet his end, in the hands of the very creatures he’d hunted. He supposed it fitting.

He closed his eyes, waiting to feel fangs on his neck.

Another voice reached them before the vampire's fangs could. It was a woman’s voice, this time; condemning, authoritative, cautious. She demanded to know where his army was. Raleigh only managed a brief look at her. A crown sat atop her head, and she was draped in fine clothes. She was holding a sword, but the daggers she glared down at him were much sharper than any blade.

Raleigh’s mind slipped, and the next he knew, someone yanked his head back upwards - violently. Another crowned head, though his attention did not linger on that detail for long; instead, it was drawn to the sub-human ears.

A werewolf.

This must’ve been someone’s sick idea of a joke.

More alarmingly yet, she knew his name - though Raleigh could not fathom why. No werewolf that had met him had ever lived to tell the tale.

His eyes met a blurry glare of familiar blue. It was as if he’d looked her in the eye before, somewhere, somehow. The dungeons? But none had ever left them. Or.... had...?

Raleigh could catch a glimpse of a memory, gone as quickly as it came. The more he tried to chase it, the darker everything became - until his whole world went black. Even the sun was gone, swallowed whole. If there were more voices, he could not hear them.

He died.

... Or so he thought.

The next he knew, there was shuffling around him. Voices, noises, movement that his eyes could not track nor his mind comprehend. Something was being crushed, but it wasn’t his bones. Did he still have bones? He could not feel them.

Someone lifted his head. Gently, not with a violent jerk. He felt something against his lips, and then--- then, he tasted it. Raleigh's body convulsed from the foul taste, and his mind flared with panicked alarm. Poison. He must’ve ingested poison. They had swords, claws an fangs at their disposal, yet the way they chose to end him was the slowest and cruelest of them all.

He supposed he had no right to complain.

Raleigh coughed, instinctively trying to fight away the offending liquid, but it was too late. All that remained of it was the aftertaste. Soon, the effects would start, no doubt. He should have given in and slept away when he had the chance. He’d seen poison at work before; now, he would not be granted a peaceful death.

All he could do was wait, so wait he did. For how long, he could not tell; he wasn’t awake for half of it. Every time his consciousness returned, he was surprised it did - until it finally stayed with him a moment longer.

He opened his eyes to find one more blurry person. A human woman, though seemingly of lesser birth than the other. Even so, she looked radiant, with the desert sun her halo. She bore no weapons, despite her close proximity to him. In her hand was an empty container; one belonging to the liquid he'd mistaken for poison, he assumed. The ones that had threatened him were further away now. Had she... saved...?

Raleigh wanted to reach a hand towards her to make sure she was real, but it felt like such a difficult task.

“... Mh.” His own voice startled him so much he forgot what he’d tried to say, and to whom. Even the hand he'd tried so hard to move lay forgotten in the sands. It didn't matter, though. He could speak now. He wanted to ask questions, but he felt as though he should have given answers to the many questions he'd been asked first.

His thoughts were too complex for his brain to perfectly convert into the spoken word, but he managed to breathe out the gist of at least one answer: “I’mh... ah... lone. No... others. ”

What else had they asked? He couldn't remember, and the mere attempt to recall brought him nausea. So, instead, he squinted to try and focus on the woman next to him and voice the one question that bothered him the most of all: “Wh...y?”

Why didn't they kill him? Save for her, he could tell they wanted him dead, after all. And, were the tables turned and the order given, he would kill all of them in a heartbeat.

Or... would he? It must've been the dizziness, but he was not sure.
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Well-Known Member
Princess Gwendolyn
Khusha (just outside Capital)

Gwen had barely gotten instructions to Lyn off her tongue before Lyn was sharply pressing back at Gwen with orders of her own: to lower her sword, explaining they had no way of knowing for certain that he was indeed from Lochester, and besides that, he was injured. Gwen's sword arm wavered, mostly taken aback by a commoner giving her commands she'd been trained to issue herself. Emerick stepped forward when Gwen hesitated, his stern gaze focused on Lyn. "The armour he wears is certainly Lochesterian in origin, there is no mistaking it. He is either a trained soldier or a desperate thief. Furthermore - "

"Furthermore," Gwen cut across, finding her voice again and anticipating Emerick was about to scold Lyn for speaking out of turn, "I don't expect he is alone. I don't understand why he is here at all in truth, but..."

"If you're so worried about an ambush, might I suggest Sir Emerick keep watch?" Lyn suggested. "Besides, I might need your hands."

Gwen stole a glance at Emerick and finally went to sheath her sword. "Very well." Emerick quirked a brow, but nodded and drew his own sword in substitution, then walked a few paces away to guard their parameter. Gwen walked closer to Lyn and imitated her motions, kneeling next to the wounded knight. She watched his laboured breathing quietly, took in the bloodstains on his horse, saw a sprig of blonde hair poking out of the helmet that was emblazed with the symbol of the enemy nation. She gently lifted the knight's visor and then pried the helmet from his head. She should be doing as she was taught - to slip her sword into the back of his neck and swiftly end his suffering. She had no way of knowing if any of her comrades had fallen at his hands. Their nations were at war, and he did not deserve her compassion. But when Lyn handed her a pestle and mortar and began showing her how to make a salve, she listened and imitated the motions. Slowly and awkwardly at first, but she picked up the rough technique after a few attempts.

Just as Gwen was starting to gain some salve-making confidence, she started as Sylvia's voice abruptly cut across. "You...I know you. Raleigh, what the fuck are you doing here?! Did someone bribe you to rat out to the bitch who calls herself queen?!" Sylvia yanked up the man - this "Raleigh" - by his hair, but she didn't get a response out of him. Gwen could see him blearily struggling to make eye contact before falling unconscious, and Lyn shooed Sylvia off him.

"You know this man, Sylvia?" Gwen asked sternly. "Why do you know his name? Who is he?" Lyn redirected Gwen's attention back to her task of grinding the salve and began pulling bandages out. Gwen glanced between their patient and the bandages. Well, in theory, the worst of the wounds should be on exposed parts of his body, but they would need to remove the rest of his armour to properly treat him... but now wasn't the time, not in the middle of the desert. They needed to move him, but Gwen was doubting he would even survive the journey at this rate.

Lyn carefully instructed her on applying the salve, which Gwen repeated. "Like this?" she asked, frowning as the man understandably flinched as she massaged her fingers into an open wound. He struggled worse when Lyn forced their precious supplies down his throat. They may not have the finesse of the castle nurses, but they were all he had right now. That fact weighed heavily on Gwen - she did not want to be in this situation. She knew for a damn fact that Prince Hendrick would never do this for one of her soldiers. Knowing what the Lochester soldiers had done to Yloria - Gods, the whole realm for that matter - she struggled to rationalize her actions.

“... Mh.” Gwen turned attentively toward the man in disbelief as his voice warmed up. “I’mh... ah... lone. No... others.” He could barely articulate, yet he answered her question. Even though she had no right to trust him, he wasted what little breath he had trying anyways.

Gwen let out a slow breath she hadn't realized she was holding. It hit her all at once why she felt compelled to help him. Because if she didn't - if she judged him solely on the armour he wore and let him die without a second thought - she would be no better than the enemy she had sworn to eradicate. "We need to keep moving. We need to get him out of the sun," Gwen decided, swiftly standing and gesturing Sir Emerick back to her side. "Let's try to get him onto his horse." The creature had gotten him this far, after all. Gods, how long had he been lying here before they found him? Emerick nodded and went to lift him, but the man's gigantesque stature combined with his heavy Lochesterian armour made him impossible for a single person to lift. Gwen went to assist and gestured for the others to help as well.

How the poor horse was managing it was beyond Gwen, but eventually, they were set to leave. "Dimmy, lead us," Gwen instructed, then turned to Lyn. "And I trust you can keep an eye on the soldier?" Gwen herself took the horse's reins, gently leading the creature after Dimmy. The enemy soldier's helmet was tucked under her free arm.


Internet Overlord
Lord Dimamire Nightshade
Khusha (approaching capital > Nightshade Manor)

Still loosely gripping the collar sticking out of the man's chest-plate, Dimmy glanced from the horse to the approaching party, as he awaited an answer to his question. Gwen herself seemed to be understandably torn between questioning his motives at sword-point and getting medical help for him. Lyn was focused on being that aid, and was suspiciously quick to point out that he may be a spy. Dimmy doubted she even believed it.

Swept aside, he watched her prepare to work, and start giving out instructions. A crooked smile crossed his face when she handed him a roll of bandages asking that he wrap the worst of the exposed wounds. Taking the man's armor off in the middle of the desert would not be practical. But then suddenly, Sylvia pressed in, grabbing the man's hair and proclaiming that she knew him.

Dimmy leaned back a bit, looking at the others, as he was unsure of what this meant or how to deal with it. Gwen thankfully addressed the issue before she started applying salve. Dimmy followed suit, he wrapped the wounds, making sure to pressed firmly as to disturb the sore flesh.

Finally then the man answered her, saying he was alone. Dimmy meanwhile looked at the traces of blood on his hands, it smelled good, but it was mingled with salve, and he didn't imagine the salve tasted good. He pulled out his handkerchief and started wiping off his hands as Gwen suggested they get him on the horse and get moving. Dimmy nodded and got up, stuffing the handkerchief back into his pocket. After 'helping' get the man on the horse (he was not strong and he knew it), he turned towards town, and bit his lower lip lightly. Dad was going to love this. . .


Nightshade Manor lay east of the palace, a three-story white and grey 'house' on it's own fairly large piece of real-estate. The front entrance had double doors with a guard standing silently to either side. To the right of the entrance in front of the right wing was a large pavilion casting shade on the dust below, and beyond the left wing of the building lay stables and other outbuildings. Workers peeked out of these to gawk at the strange sight of their group. Dimmy straightened up and started barking orders. He turned first to the nearest guard, “You, carry this man inside please,” then shouted over to the stable hands, “I need you to take care of this horse. Treat it as well as you would any of our own.”

Inside the house opened into a decent sized foyer; a parlor, dinning hall, and two corridors were immediately visible from there (one going off to the right, and the other to the left). The interior of the house mimicked the colors of the world outside, dark tan wood and stone floors, dark tan half wall panels, giving way to blue and white floral wallpaper halfway up the wall, and dark tan boards and rafters running overhead. The furnishings were stained a slightly darker brown than the floor and paneling, with pops of color where there were cushions and decorations.

A man with scaly looking skin and sparse grey hair, wearing a crisp suit stood silently beside the door, looking almost as if he was in a trance. Dimmy glanced his way, “Richard is father home?”

“No young Dimamire,” replied the man softly, without changing position, “He and your uncle are both out.”

“That's probably for the best,” replied Dimmy before starting off down the right wing corridor with a wave for the others to follow. He stopped at the nearest guestroom and opened the door, ushering the guard carrying the Lochesterian inside. The guard dumped him unceremoniously on the queen-sized bed with a grunt and then locked eyes with Dimmy, “Your father isn't going to let. . .”

“Yeah I know, please return to your post. I will deal with it when he returns,” dismissed Dimmy before the guard could finish the warning. The man looked irritated, but nodded and left. Dimmy moved over to the window and pulled closed the thick white curtains. He stayed facing the window as he suggested to the group, “We should probably bind his hands and feet.”


It's so shiny!
Lyn Grier
Khusha (just outside capital > Nightshade Manor)

As anticipated, there was a fair share of grumbling and protests from the group. But still, despite their protests, her temporary tirage unit did as they were told, getting to work on treating the soldier's wounds, whilst Lyn waited to see how the medicine went down. He coughed and spluttered, most likely repulsed by the taste of medicine, but didn't immediately throw it back up which was a great relief. The only troubling aspect proved to be Sylvia interrupting her work, yanking the man harshly by his hair demanding to know what he was doing here. It was glaringly apparent that she knew this man - this Raleigh - whoever he was.

"Do you mind?" Lyn went to say, narrowing her eyes at the other woman for interrupting her work, before Gwen turned to Syliva questioning her on how she knew him. With a shrug, Lyn went back to her work, watching the man intently and almost jumping in surprise when he began to speak. “... Mh.” He seemed just as startled by his own voice as the others were. “I’mh... ah... lone. No... others.”

Lyn glanced up at the rest of the group, trying to gauge their expressions and determine what they were going to do next. "We need to keep moving. We need to get him out of the sun," Gwen decided after a long moment, rising to her feet and signalling Sir Emerick back to them. "Let's try to get him onto his horse." Sir Emerick attempted to do as requested, but the man's heavy armour made it impossible for one man to lift alone, so Lyn and Dimmy were called over to help. Once he was safely on the horse, or safe as could be given the situation, Gwen gave the instruction for Dimmy to lead them and asked whether Lyn would keep an eye on him. The healer would give a simple nod, and with that, the group were on their way.


The walk to Dimmy's home was not long, or at least it didn't seem that way to Lyn. Then again, she spent the majority of the journey keeping a watchful eye on their soldier friend and trying to ignore the effects of the hot sun bearing down upon her. The manor was fairly impressive and decent sized. As they walked through to the stables, Lyn spotted what she presumed to be workers staring down at the ragtag group from the windows.

After seeing to Raleigh's horse, the group were lead inside where they were met by a very oddly stoic man. Dimmy asked about the whereabouts of his father, and the man responded simply that he was out. Dimmy mused that it was probably for the best before leading the group down a long corridor and into what appeared to be a guestroom, where the guard carrying Raleigh dumped him rather unceremoniously onto the bed in the room. The man named Richard who they had met earlier, began to grumble about how his father would not approve of something before Dimmy hushed him and sent him on his way. Lyn then saw the opportunity to see to the soldier, perching herself next to him on the bed, and using her hand to feel his forehead. At Dimmy's words, she tensed.

"Is that really necessary?" She began, gaze flickering between the man and the group. He still seemed too incapacitated to be deemed as a threat, but with his possible origin, she could understand the need for caution. There was a moment of hesitation before she conceded to his suggestion. "Alright, I suppose we could restrain him. Though I'd recommend only binding his hands, I can't imagine he'll be running or walking anywhere anytime soon by the look of him."


Well-Known Member
Princess Gwendolyn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

With the help of Dimmy and Lyn, the Lochesterian soldier was loaded onto the back of his poor horse. After what was a relatively short trek – though, given the blaring heat, it certainly felt much longer to Gwen – they arrived at Dimmy's manor. Though she'd admittedly never heard of the Nightshade family, she was starting to wonder if perhaps she should have. It seems Dimmy wasn't lying when he mentioned his family had significant political influence, if the sheer size and presence of staff was any indication.

Gwen followed Dimmy inside, listening quietly as an old man in a suit stiffly stated Dimmy's father and uncle were both out, which Dimmy seemed to take as good news. They rushed the soldier into a spare room, where Dimmy quickly suggested to bind his hands and feet. Lyn began bargaining to only tie his hands, and Gwen shook her head. She placed his helmet aside and knelt over him, gently beginning to remove the rest of his armor. “Let's get him out of his armor first so we can better address his injuries. I think it's best to be safe and bind his hands and feet, Adrenaline can be an incredible drug if he suddenly has any wits as to where he is and who we are.”

“I'm sure Prince Alarik would be interested to know of a Lochesterian soldier in his territory,” Sir Emerick remarked, standing stoically off to the side.

“Maybe,” Gwen said dismissively, as she unsheathed the Lochesterian's lance and examined it curiously before setting it a safe distance away, “but if there were an ambush he would already know about it, and on the chance the soldier wasn't lying to us, then there is no real threat. Just a lot of unanswered questions...”

“Princess,” Emerick pressed. Gwen did not look up. “You can either take a long route through to Immost Outpost, somehow cross the border into Swifthaven, and, assuming we survive that, trek across to the main Capital, where I assure you, we will be stopped – or take even longer attempting to climb the mountains.” Gwen ignored him. “Or we can bargain with Khusha's monarchy for assistance.”

“I know...” Gwen said slowly. “I just... there are risks. For one, I am realizing that they – er – may not be pleased with me recruiting a respected Khushian Lord to traverse the realm with us.” Really, that was the least of Gwen's worries – though it was much more of one than it was an hour ago – but at least the golden artifact on her wrist would warn her if this really was a trap, and her father was waiting at the palace for them to come crawling for help.

Once the man's armor was removed, Emerick returned with some thin rope – assumably he'd procured it from a staff member somewhere in the manor – and Gwen worked on tying the solder's hands and feet for good measure. “Please keep an eye on him,” Gwen instructed Emerick, who nodded. She looked wearily at Dimmy. “Would you direct me to your bathing room?” She was feeling really worn down and grimy from the last few days, and especially from the last hour in the sun. She certainly wasn't feeling presentable to the Khusian monarchy, at any rate.


Internet Overlord
Lord Dimamire Nightshade
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

Dimmy stared blankly at the thick curtains for a moment. No doubt Chenille had opened them, that maid was insufferable. His kind abhorred the desert sun, but she kept insisting the house was too dark and went around opening curtains as she cleaned. It wouldn't be half as annoying if she'd closed them afterward. Behind him he heard Lyn voice reluctance and suggest only binding their prisoner’s hands. Gwen and Emmrick however seemed to understand. He turned, listening as the pair discussed their options after that. Dimmy smirked at the mention of his own recruitment, “Ah, so that worries you now, does it?”

He watched as she and Emmrick tied the man up, after which she left him to watch the prisoner. She then asked Dimmy about a bath, which he had to admit sounded pretty good after what they'd been through. Dimmy nodded and started for the door. He gestured for her (and anyone else interested) to come, “The manor was built over an underground oasis, plenty of space for anyone who'd like to bathe.”

He lead them back down the hall to the foyer, Richard watching them expressionlessly from his spot near the door. Dimmy addressed him as they got close, “Richard, please ring some of the maids to bring towels and fresh clothes down to the baths.”

“Of course Young Master,” replied Richard. He turned, painfully slowly, and opened a panel on the wall, that had been concealing as series of ropes, which when pulled set off a series of bells through out the house. Dimmy continued on, leading them to the front of the opposite hallway and the first door on the right. Instead of a room, this door opened into a stairwell. The stairs were wooden at the top near them, but switched to stone about eight steps down. The walls went from wood to stone similarly.

The air got cooler as they descended, and the stairwell opened into the dimly lit natural chamber below. Candles and torches were scattered around, their light sparkling off the various pools. A few servants scurried by carrying barrels of water, and went up a different rougher looking staircase. Dimmy ignored them ushering the group down to low carved hexagonal pool that appeared to be designed to catch water that trickled and splashed down from the main source, without back-washing into it. Simple wooden chairs, tables, and clothes stands sat at the edge of the pool. Dimmy approached these, removing his cloak and placing it on a stand, then started to unbutton his shirt.


Raleigh Ferghus Eachainn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

Raleigh could not tell how long the journey to the Nightshade Manor took. It felt like his poor horse carried him for an eternity, the relentless sun blaring down on them all the while. He could feel the back of his neck burning. Breathing was difficult - and then, just as quickly, it wasn't. All of a sudden, his neck no longer burned. He could smell manure.

Opening his eyes, Raleigh realized they stood outside a building of some sort. People were approaching him. No... no, he supposed they were not truly people. They were vampires. He tensed, trying to push himself up. They were reaching for Tempest's reins. If they wanted to harm the gelding, they'd need to go through him first.

Go through him they did. Raleigh was unceremoniously lifted right off his horse - a staggering feat, considering his weight. What manner of a monster was carrying him?! Raleigh couldn't see. All he saw was Tempest being taken towards the stalls. One of the stable boys was petting his mane.

He didn't hear pained neighs once the horse disappeared from view. Perhaps, just perhaps, he'd be okay.

Raleigh heard the creak of a door, and suddenly the hot air was no more. He heard mumbling, but could not make out the words. And then, he fell. But instead of hitting the ground, he found himself sprawled on a bed. His head was spinning, but the cooler air and lack of motion was already starting to bring him some ease. The pain was subsiding, too. Perhaps it was the draught kicking in. It really had not been poison.

The woman who had given him the drink in question sat by him on the bed, and Raleigh felt a tad more at ease. He dared close his eyes again, this time out of his own will.

He slipped into a state between sleep and wakefulness. When he next stirred, he realized two things: he was feeling much lighter - and he was bound.

... Oh. They must've truly feared what his uniform represented. Raleigh wondered if they'd fought his comrades before. If they'd lost family and friends.

If someone they'd lost had died by his hands.

... All of a sudden, it did not feel as inappropriate to have his hands bound.

He was feeling more like himself, anyhow - perhaps they'd anticipated that. His vision was still a little unclear, but his mind was not. Now, he was acutely aware of the terrible thirst in his throat. And when he heard one of his captors ask to be taken to the baths, he could not help but grow painfully aware of his own state of uncleanliness, too.

The group started to follow one of the vampires out of the room. Raleigh realized this was his chance. If he were to speak, it had to be now.

"If I may," his voice was hoarse, but it was clear enough. His question was not addressed to anyone in particular; he did not know who was in charge. "I would... if I could have water. To drink, and to..."

He remembered his bound hands and settled to nodding towards the rest of his body - which, he now realized, was no longer draped in armor. No wonder he felt lighter. When had they...? It made no matter.

"... to wash," he finished, then looked around the room to plead with all those that hadn't yet left, adding, "if you'd be so kind."
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It's so shiny!
Lyn Grier
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

At her request not to bind his legs, Gwen would calmly shake her head, earning a small sigh f defeat from Lyn. Despite being disappointed at the outcome she would consent to the wishes of the others, knowing she would be outvoted either way. “Let's get him out of his armour first so we can better address his injuries. I think it's best to be safe and bind his hands and feet, Adrenaline can be an incredible drug if he suddenly has any wits as to where he is and who we are.” Gwen said as she went about removing the pieces of his armour. Gwen seemed to have it handled for the most part, though Lyn offered her help when moving the armour to one side. Once it had all been removed, she was able to get a better look at his injuries. They were severe, as expected, but at least she had a clear idea of how to treat them now.

As she made a mental note of supplies she would need, noting she was missing some from her restock back in Zlelmore, she listened in to their conversation a little bit, or at least the first half when they were discussing Raleigh. After a while, she zoned out, focusing on her own work as she did not want to appear nosy. When Emerick and Gwen came over to bind his, she sat back a bit, letting them do what he needed to do. “Please keep an eye on him,” Gwen instructed when they were done. She then turned to Dimmy and asked whether he would be so kind as to direct her to his bathing room. Dimmy nodded and gave a brief explanation about how the manor had been built over an oasis with plenty of room to bathe.

Feeling a little grubby and sweaty herself, Lyn decided to follow when Dimmy led Gwen to the various underground pools below the manor. It was refreshingly cool down here, a far cry from the stifling weather outside, and Lyn was quietly relieved it was no sauna. She followed Dimmy over to the simple wooden chairs and tables and peered into the hexagonal pool. When she turned to say something to Dimmy, he was already unbuttoning his shirt, and Lyn turned away from with a flushed look on her face. She then went about stripping off herself, carefully removing the small pieces of armour she wore, followed by her boots, and the rest of her clothing. When she was finished she wasn't naked, but still wore some strategically worn cloths to protect her modesty. They were bound to get wet in the pool, so she would simply change them later. One of the cloths was wrapped around her chest, exposing her midriff, and the other tied at her waist, forming a skirt of sorts. With little fuss, she quietly made her way into the pool, opting to swim over to the opposite side where she would lean against the side watching to see what the others would do.

As Emerick and Raleigh eventually caught up, the solider leaning against Gwen's protector as he moved, Lyn would wave the others into the pool. "The water is lovely," She said contentedly.


Well-Known Member
Princess Gwendolyn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

Dimmy nodded at Gwen's request and began leading them out the door. Gwen almost didn't hear Raleigh – it sounded as if the rough Khushan sands themselves had stolen his voice – but hesitated at the door when he asked for water. She looked back at him- injured, bound, and by all means very pathetic sounding. His armor and weapon sat out of reach. Gwen felt a pang of pity – then her brow furrowed in irritation at the emotion and she turned away. “Fine. Sir Emerick, follow us.”

Emerick gave a swift nod and raised his sword. “Hold still,” he muttered, then cut the bindings around Raleigh's feet. “You try anything,” Emerick warned sternly, “and I will give your neck the same treatment.” He guided one of Raleigh's arms over his shoulders and slowly hoisted him to a standing position. He paused to see whether the man would fall down again, then grunted and followed several paces behind the others.

As Gwen followed Dimmy, he explained that the bathing room had a lot of space, which Gwen found to be odd. Surely that would be a waste of space, but perhaps they really enjoyed bathing in Khusha. This idea was encouraged by a staircase purely for the bathing room, and then magnified even more by the room itself. There were servants bustling around, vampire-appropriate lighting, and even chairs and tables near the pool itself. How odd to have such a setup in a room designed for one person -

Gwen honestly did not think anything of the situation until Dimmy began unbuttoning his shirt. “H-halt! Cease!” Gwen spluttered, really not sure of the right word for this situation, but it was effective nonetheless. Her face turned pink and she stared at the ground. “Have you no decency?!”

Emerick and Raleigh limped in at that moment, Emerick out of breath from hoisting the soldier down a flight of stairs. Gwen looked over at them – if only as an excuse for somewhere else to look – and finally realized that this soldier was several inches taller than Emerick without armor, and Emerick was far from a small man. She looked between them in bewilderment, for long enough that Emerick instructed with an embarrassed mutter “please stop that, Princess.”

Gwen gathered the courage to look back over, and to further confuse her, Lyn was in the pool waving them in, stating that the water was lovely. Gwen shifted her gaze away again, though it wasn't as embarrassing coming from somebody of the same gender. Finally catching onto his charge's discomfort, Emerick spoke up. “Bathing with others is normal in Khusha, Princess. It is a social activity.”

Oh, well, that explained a lot, but did little to ease Gwen's awkwardness. “Ah...” she murmured. Well... she really did need to bathe, and to have her dress cleaned. She started by removing the inordinate amount of gold jewelry she wore, the golden artifact from her wrist (gods forbid she would need it now), and even her golden tiara. She handed the items one by one to Emerick, who did his best to help her store them in his travel pack while balancing an injured Lochester soldier in his other arm. She already felt naked without her tiara. “Turn around!” she instructed seriously to Dimmy and Emerick, the latter of which was forced to rotate the soldier the other way too.

She removed her boots and unclasped her dress, leaving them aside. Then she quickly slipped into the water. It felt heavenly on her skin, and she let out a pleased sigh. “Okay. I am in the bath,” Gwen announced, still instinctively covering her chest with her arms. At least the lighting in here was really low...
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Internet Overlord
Lord Dimamire Nightshade
Khusha (Nightshade Manor, Subterranean Baths)

Dimmy's hand halted on the third button down, and he stared at the princess blankly as she accused him of. . . indecency? Nearby Lyn was undressing herself it seemed, but Princess Gwen was being very vocal about her objections. Behind her, Emerick half led, half carried their dirty bloody captive. It was true that man could probably use the bath worst of all, but Dimmy didn't feel particularly sympathetic towards him. Emerick though, was thankfully there to explain simple cultural truths to the sheltered princess, while Lyn proceeded into the pool. Dimmy nodded lightly to the man, “That's right, but also, since water is a limited resource it's generally seen as a selfish waste of resources to bathe alone. We can leave our undergarments on if it makes you feel better, but to be honest our people see nothing shameful about bathing with strangers.”

The princess seemed to give and started to remove her jewelry before becoming embarrassed again. Dimmy sighed softly and turned away as he'd been commanded, not that he'd really been watching anyways, then finished removing his shirt. While they were undressing servants approached with trays of chilled water and a slightly sweet pale pink drink with a light fruit flavor drink most people in Khusha dubbed 'desert juice'. It was supposed to help the body restore proper balance of humors. They set most the trays on the tables, though one servant continued to the pool, offering those already in the water drinks.

Dimmy cast off the rest of his garments, save for his braies since the princess seemed serious in her objections, and placed them neatly on the clothes rack next to him. Then hearing the princess was finally in the bath, he picked up a glass of desert juice from it's tray and turned to join the bath. As he walked towards them, he could see the women still seemed to be anxious about their bodies, so he made an effort to avert his gaze and make sure there was some distance between himself and the ladies. While he was was pretty much certain this was about their gender differences, he couldn't help but consider other differences, such as their complexions. Despite being desert dwellers, he and the vampires he normally bathed with were so exceptionally pale they almost glowed in the dim light, often putting 'white' cloth to shame. Most of their group didn't have predatory eyes that reflected light in such dim settings either. Dimmy sat back against a wall of the bath, closing his eyes as he considered these things and enjoyed the water's embrace. Slowly, he sipped the juice as he soaked.

More servants came down, carrying loads of fluffy white towels and clean garments in the style of Khushan nobility. They laid these out neatly, and started to gather the discarded clothing, with questioning looks in some cases. Then one of the maids came over to Dimmy's side, speaking in a gentle voice, “Master, is there anything else we can get you? Perhaps some wyvern blood?”

Dimmy looked up at her, red eyes flicking open. He set down the glass of subtly sweet liquid at the edge of the bath, replying, “Yes, that would be wonderful.” Then he turned to the rest of the party, translating the name of the drink by offering, “Ladies, Sir Emerick, would you like some red wine?”

He purposely left Ral out of this offer. It was probably not best to offer their prisoner alcohol, and while it might ease the pain, it was probably not good for someone so injured either. The maid waited a moment so she could get a headcount, then with a little nod turned back to Dimmy, “I'll be back with that in just a moment Master.”


Raleigh Ferghus Eachainn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

It seemed the human woman with a crown was the one in charge. At her word, the knight bowed his head and approached Raleigh. His sword was drawn, and Raleigh could tell the man would've eagerly slit his throat if given leave to do so. As things were however, Raleigh was not worried. If they had intended to kill him, he would have died upon the sands an hour ago.

Raleigh did as he was bid and stayed still, watching the knight cut through the bounds around his hands and feet. But though his limbs were free, Raleigh himself was not. The knight made it very clear that his life could be forfeit at a moment's notice should he cause any trouble. Raleigh gave a curt nod to signal he understood. He was no stranger to following orders. He was a stranger to being helped, though. When the knight - Emerick, Raleigh reminded himself - started to guide him to stand, the Lochesterian found himself flinching away out of instinct. Emerick seemed determined to follow his orders however, and Raleigh had little strength to protest. So onwards they went, one sworn enemy leaning against the other.


The underground baths were unlike anything Raleigh had ever seen before.

As they'd descended the stairs, he'd found the thought of bathing underground weird. He'd always thought that to be a place for the dungeons; it was where you kept the people you'd loathe to see walk freely in the sun. It was a place for heinous people and heinous acts. It's where he'd lived his entire life. Had the dungeons been as intricate as the baths, perhaps he wouldn't have minded. The cool air felt divine on his scorched skin, and the dim light was a complete contrast to the relenting sunshine outside. The water was cleaner than any he'd seen, completely unlike the dirty pools he used to clean himself in.

Raleigh straightened himself the best he could to be better able to take in the view - only to catch the crowned lady staring at him and the knight.

He blinked.

“Please stop that, Princess," the knight muttered, and Raleigh could have sworn he heard embarrassment in his voice. He did not know why - nor did he have the time to mull it over. Princess, he'd said. Raleigh supposed that explained the crown well enough. Now, it was his turn to stare. Which country was she the princess of? It certainly was not Khusha. The head of Zlelmore, from what he recalled, had a teenage daughter - but she seemed too old for that. Yloria, then. The King had a daughter her age. He had not seen their royal garb, but he had seen soldiers'. They matched well enough. But then... they were currently at--

"The water is lovely," he heard a voice call out. Raleigh turned to find his savior already in the pool, waving for the others to follow. Raleigh was taken aback. Were they to bathe in the same pool? The baths for the lowest of Lochesterians were shared between the sexes, but to mingle among people of different casts...

He had yet to finish that thought when he heard Emerick mention that bathing with others was quite normal in Khusha - and then proceed to awkwardly rotate him away from the undressing princess. Raleigh moved along, turning just in time to catch sight of servants carrying in beverages. Water. They needn't even turn him; all he had eyes for in the moment was water. Raleigh found his legs and, after making sure no one was about to forbid him from doing so, helped himself to the water. It felt like heaven itself flowed down his throat, washing away the sand and the pain. It was invigorating. He felt as though he could think clearer; like his head was clean.

Now he just needed to clean the rest of his body as well.

He bowed his head to Emerick, wordlessly assuring him that he did not need help to undress - then got to work. In no time at all, he had managed to cast away his clothes. All of his clothes. Some had been sticky from blood, glued to his wounds in what could not have been a healthy fashion. Those that had not, he'd still worn for too long. He could not feel clean unless he was rid of them all.

Raleigh turned around and made for the pool with a limp, then practically fell in. Water splashed lightly at his entrance, but he didn't even notice. The second the water took him, his eyes closed and euphoria washed over him. He could feel the water lap away at his worries. For a moment, he even dared relax.

Then he heard one of the servants offer the vampire wyvern blood, and his muscles instantly tensed right back up. He opened his eyes to regard the vampire with suspicion. Was he bathing them so they'd be cleaner to drink from? He could not rule out the possibility. He followed the servant with his gaze as she walked away, then turned back to stare at the vampire in the bath with them. Wordlessly, because whatever questions he might have had, he was sure the vampire would not answer.
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It's so shiny!
Lyn Grier
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

Although she had entered the water with little qualms, Lyn could sympathise with Gwen's reluctance to get into the water. This might have been the custom in Khusha, but communal baths were something that Lyn was not accustomed to at all. The only vaguely similar experience she had had, would have been swimming in the river as a child back in Miredom. It was only after some assurances from Emerick, that Gwen seemed to relax, eventually beginning to remove the several layers of clothing and jewellery she wore. Before stepping in she ordered Emerick and Dimmy to look away, and though she hadn't asked Lyn, out of courtesy she did the same, averting her eyes until she heard the sound of the water moving as Gwen had stepped in.

“Okay. I am in the bath,” Gwen said, which Lyn took as her cue to turn back around. "We can see that," Lyn noted, a small smile playing on her lips as she spoke. She noted the princess had her arms across her chest and noted she was most likely not very comfortable being around the others in such a way. Not long after Gwen had gotten in, Raleigh followed suit. He dismissed Emerick from helping him remove his clothes, but Lyn couldn't help but wonder if he wished he'd asked for help getting in, considering the entrance he made. He limped towards the pool before practically falling into the water, disturbing the water as he joined them.

Much like their wounded soldier friend, Lyn was enjoying relaxing in the bath. From where she was leaning against the side, she took a deep breath before sinking beneath the water, resurfacing a few moments later after wetting her hair. She brushed a few strands out of her eyes, before taking up her position against the edge of the pool.

It was around this time that more servants began to appear, bringing towels and Khushan garments for the group to change into, as well as gathering up their discarded clothes. One of the maids broke off to ask if Dimmy if he required anything to drink such as wyvern blood. Lyn's green eyes snapped towards the maid for a moment eyeing her curiously at the suggestion. Wyvern blood? Well, that was certainly different and not what she had expected. Dimmy then turned to the group and asked if they would like some red wine. Lyn noticed he had left Raleigh out of the offer but said nothing, instead going quiet for a moment whilst she mulled over his offer before finally nodding. "I'll have a glass," she answered. "But only a small one please."

Once the others had responded and the maid had left, Lyn turned her attention back to Dimmy. "You have a lovely home," She complimented. "I'm still not sold on the Khushan weather, but your home is a welcome sight. Are all manors in Khusha of a similar style?"


Well-Known Member
Princess Gwendolyn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

Gwen focused on the gentle trickle of water that lapped down from the upper pools. The cool water was unlike the hot baths of the castle, but after their trek through the desert, it was far more appropriate. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine being a child again, splashing with her cousins in the tall reeds next to the Crystal River. The scent of apple trees and fresh grass was missing... as was the security of having several suited guards watching from the top of the hill.

Gwen opened her eyes and automatically looked for her one guard that was in both memory and reality – and then flinched away the instant she realized that Emerick, too, was removing his armour for a chance at bathing in the underground oasis. If there was any way to destroy those precious childhood memories...

“Excuse me, miss?” A – thankfully – female voice echoed far too close to Gwen, and she sunk deeper into the pool and turned wide-eyed to the servant. “Would you care for a beverage?”

The woman was offering glasses of both water and a pale pink liquid on a tray. Gwen understood that she was meant to help herself, but instead she awkwardly glanced back and forth between the servant and the beverages and gave a stiff nod, her arms still firmly around her chest. “Er, yes, that would be lovely.” She averted her gaze until she heard the gentle clink of glass on stone, then swiped it as quickly and smoothly as she could manage. She sipped gently – the liquid was sweet and lightly fruity. It simultaneously tasted foreign, yet familiar.

In her peripheral, she noticed Dimmy beginning to enter the bath. Gwen said nothing, staring pointedly away. She continued to stay very interested in the stone floor of the bath as a servant offered them wyvern blood (were dragons not very important to Khusian culture? Odd it would double as vampire food) and Dimmy offered the group red wine. She opened her mouth to decline as she was supposed to – but instead what came out of her mouth was “yes, wine would be lovely, thank you.” She'd barely even tried wine before, perhaps once or twice at a formal event. The servants assured her a palate for it would develop in time.

Gwen waited for Emerick to scold her for accepting alcohol, but instead what he said was “yes, wine would certainly be welcomed.” After destroying the Marigold, seeking consult from the Zlelmore head of state, and nearly perishing in the Miredom Forest... Gwen supposed even Sir Emerick knew that the little girl from their memories was gone now. If only her father was so accepting, it would make this journey much -

Splash. The disturbance to the water snapped Gwen out of her thoughts, and she retreated to be closer to Lyn as Raleigh apparently belly-flopped into the bath. She flushed and realized she should probably be using this time more wisely. She put her drink aside and began washing her hair, grimacing as she freed a few twigs from it and the water turned lightly brown from forest dirt before the gentle water flow carried it away. She realized dirt still clung to her body as well as she moved on to washing her arms and torso. A peaceful cruise across the Southern Sea, an easy pass into the heart of Lochester... she was such a fool.

“Princess?” Gwen heard Emerick, but did not look at him. “May I ask what your next plan would be?”

Gwen did not look up, but nodded gently. “Yes... I believe we should rest until nightfall, as that is when the Khusian monarchy would normally converge. I do not want to alert them, in case that would give time for them to alert the Ylorian border military. Our nations have good relations, so I fear dragging Khusha into Yloria's political campaigns just as much as I fear the Counsellors trying to assist my father. I am hopeful that the artifact the Sage gave me will warn me,” her tone turned bitter, “but I am unsure if he can be trusted after... that.”

The servant returned with red wine, which Gwen politely accepted. Droplets trickled down from her damp hair as she swirled the wine gently as she'd been taught. She took a sip... she preferred the pink juice but nodded thoughtfully as if she didn't. Now, with her party gathered mostly naked in an underground bath in the middle of Khusha, the absurdity of the situation caught up to her. She had to push back the urge to laugh, which she knew was only caused by exhaustion. She'd dragged these poor people all around the realm to solve political problems that had nothing to do with them. Well... not all of them.

Gwen looked at the Lochesterian soldier, just as vulnerable as the rest of them, though not caught up in the same whirlwind the rest of them had been on. ...Not yet. Realizing she needed to address the elephant in the room, she gently cleared her throat, then blushed as she realized a moment late that this meant she would draw the attention of the room. “Er, you, soldier – Raleigh, I believe Sylvia called you? Is that your name?” Gwen stumbled a bit, but her tone quickly shifted back to her normal confident inflection. “Under what circumstances did you come to be lying half-dead in the middle of the Khusian desert, if what you say is true, and there are no other soldiers?” Her tone was dripping with suspicion. “You owe me – us – your life, so I suggest you speak honestly.”

*Jean Grey*

Night Triumphant
Sylvia Edelstein

In contrast to Sylvia's own simple abode in one of the seedier areas of Khusha, Nightshade Manor was positively grand, and that was playing it down. Merely a short distance away from the royal palace, the sprawling, three-storey chateau of white and grey marble, sitting on its own oasis, was a world away from the back alleys and run-down taverns that the werewolf was more accustomed to. The front entrance had double doors with a guard standing silently to either side. To the right of the entrance in front of the right wing was a large pavilion casting shade on the dust below, and beyond the left wing of the building lay stables and other outbuildings. Sylvia caught some of the workers staring, and she raised an eyebrow at one of them who had clearly been staring at her ears. Dimmy had started barking orders to them, telling the nearest guard to carry the Lochesterian soldier Raleigh inside, then shouted over to the stable hands to handle the horse.

The soldier was still unconscious, and while she had not forgotten him, she hoped that he forgot her. She didn't want to go back to the dungeons again. Sure, the king had ordered her to be released seven years ago, and if the rumours were to be believed, she was already presumed dead, but who knew this man's true allegiances? Compared to other dungeon guards, he was well, decent, but soldiers were trained people, and that included wearing whatever mask they had to.

As they stepped inside, they were greeted by a man with what looked to be scaly looking skin and sparse grey hair. Dimmy asked the man - Richard - if his father was around, to which the latter replied that he was not.

“That's probably for the best,” replied Dimmy before he started walking down the right wing corridor, motioning for the others to follow. He stopped at the nearest guestroom and ushered in the guard carrying Raleigh inside. The guard dumped him unceremoniously on the queen-sized bed with a grunt, and began warning the vampire noble. Dimmy shut him down, and told him to return to his post before he could finish. Once the guard left, Dimmy Dimmy moved over to the window and pulled closed the thick white curtains. He stayed facing the window as he suggested to the group.

“We should probably bind his hands and feet.”

"Hell yeah, I'm game." Sylvia volunteered, however, Lyn recommended binding only his hands, but the princess shook her head and proceeded to bind Raleigh's hands and feet after taking his armor off while discussing with Sir Emerick the next plan of action now that they were in Khusha. The princess then looked wearily at Dimmy and asked if he could lead her to the bathing room. Sylvia chuckled at that, but the princess wasn't wrong. They were all grimy from their travels, and one would be stupid to refuse a bath.

At this, Dimmy nodded and started for the door, gesturing for everyone to follow him “The manor was built over an underground oasis, plenty of space for anyone who'd like to bathe.” Sylvia's ears picked up at this. Underground oasis? She remembered that she was in a manor as well, and realized that whatever this bathing experience was, it would be an entirely different thing from her world of quick, cold baths and cheap bathhouses. She got on her feet and followed everyone else.


Dimmy led them back down the hall to the foyer, the scaly-skinned servant watching them expressionlessly from his spot near the door. Dimmy addressed him as they got close, telling him to have some of the maids bring towels and fresh clothes. Richard turned and opened a panel on the wall, that looked to be housing some kind of contraption. Dimmy continued on, leading them to a door in the opposite hallway, which opened into a stairwell. The stairs were wooden at the top near them, but switched to stone about eight steps down. The walls went from wood to stone similarly.

Sylvia noticed the air getting cooler as she descended, and the stairwell opened into the dimly lit natural chamber below. When she looked up, all she could whisper was damn.

It wasn't what she expected...and in a good way. There were various pools in the underground, candlelit chamber. Servants scurried around, carrying barrels of water and disappeared up a different staircase that definitely wasn't the one the group had descended. Curious, Sylvia broke away from the group to have a closer look, noticing that whatever was up there was more dimly-lit than the hallway they passed. She turned around and saw that Dimmy had led the group to a low carved hexagonal pool that appeared to be designed to catch water that trickled and splashed down from the main source, without back-washing into it. Simple wooden chairs, tables, and clothes stands sat at the edge of the pool. Everyone began to undress, and Sylvia made her way to rejoin the group.

She had barely reached the vicinity of the pool when she heard the princess' voice spluttering - rather loudly - out of nowhere.

“H-halt! Cease! Have you no decency?!” Sylvia noticed that the princess was addressing Dimmy, who had...not even stripped his shirt off. Rather, he had only unfastened a few of his buttons. At this, Sylvia couldn't help but let out a sharp howl of laughter. The princess was either a prude, naive or both. At that moment, Sir Emerick and Raleigh arrived. Gwen looked at the men in bewilderment, before Sir Emerick told her to stop that, informing her that bathing was a social activity in Khusha. Lyn, on the other hand, was comfortably in the pool.

Embarrassed, the princess began to undress herself. Sylvia shrugged and swiftly undressed as well - as swiftly as she could with the armor she wore, of course. First her cloak, then breastplate and her greaves, then her pauldrons and her bracers. She was still in her bodysuit and her gloves, standing naked shamelessly after the princess announced that she was in the pool. Sylvia smirked as she noticed the princess trying her hardest to preserve her modesty as Dimmy offered "wine". Sylvia gave a knowing glance at Dimmy. Was it really red wine? One glance at the drinks confirmed her suspicions.

"Make that two or three glasses for me," Sylvia chimed in. The sound of running water tempted her to get in. She quickly stripped off her remaining clothing, standing stark naked over the edge of the pool before undoing her midnight-colored hair from its twist and letting it down. Unbound, her hair reached her waist.

"C'mon, princess. Loosen up! I mean, we're all born naked!" As she spoke, she carefully took off her headpiece before wrapping it within her cloak. She then plunged in without hesitation, making quite a splash. The water was cool and clean, and she swam towards an unoccupied side and leaned against it. Within moments, a servant offered her a drink, which she downed in one gulp, grinning wolfishly after she finished.
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Raleigh Ferghus Eachainn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

The servants eventually returned with 'wyvern's blood' in tow. Raleigh's wary glare shifted from the vampire to the goblets filled with a vibrant red liquid. He craned his neck to peer at it, trying to discern whether it really was red wine - or something more malign. The lack of a distinct irony stench suggested it was the former, yet Raleigh remained unconvinced.

As one of the servants bent down to offer the others a goblet, a tiny droplet of the wine spilled onto the floor. Raleigh tensed, suddenly unable to avert his gaze. That single droplet became two, then three, a dozen - until red liquid overflowed from her hands. It stained the marble and spilled into the bath. Streams of blood slithered towards Raleigh like snakes, wailing like widows, and he had to pull himself upwards to avoid their bite. With the splash his movement caused, the snakes were gone. The servant's hands were clean as she offered another occupant of the bath their drink. Ever so slowly, Raleigh slunk back in. His mind had yet to return, however. The conversation the princess was having with her knight, the loud gulping of the wolf, the patter of servants' feet upon the floor... all the sounds that surrounded him seemed so very distant still.

“Er, you, soldier – Raleigh..."

Raleigh snapped out of his daze at the sound of his name. It felt bizarre to hear a stranger - particularly one of high status - utter it. He didn't give his name out on missions. No one ever asked. And Alastair was more likely to refer to him with insults.

His eyes darted to the wolf - this 'Sylvia' the princess spoke of. With his head clear and vision no longer blurred by the heat, he was finally able to take a proper look at her. Sylvia, a wolf with long, raven hair. He remembered her now. How could he not? She was the first and last cur to be pardoned by the king himself. On what grounds, he never found out.

"Quite the resemblance, don't you think?" he remembered another guard saying, once. "Do you think the King's got a secret?"

The late king held no such secrets, of that Raleigh was sure.

More pressingly, the fact that after all these years, Sylvia still remembered his name-- it could only mean she remembered what he'd done to her as well. Out of all the prisoners he'd ever interrogated, she was the only one to be let out the dungeons. And of all the places in the world, she ended up here, with him. Divine punishment, he supposed. One word of his past deeds out her mouth, and he would no doubt lose his head - unless the vampire sucked him dry first. ... So why had she not said anything yet? It must've been a game she played. She intended to give him false hope, then condemn him at the height of his relief. Wolves were cruel beasts.

Raleigh shifted in his spot, the water around him growing a degree or two cooler. He'd been quiet long enough. The princess wanted answers.

"Yes, Your Highness." Admitting to his name felt like confessing a crime. But by now, he was prepared for the consequences. "It is."

Her next question was much more difficult to answer.

"I let live a few..." curs, mutts, beasts; the words instilled in him fought for release, but Raleigh bit them back. "Enemies I was told to kill." Would mentioning they were children and that he impaled his commanding officer help his cause? Or make it that much worse? He supposed it made no matter.

"A grave offense, likened to treason. I fled to save my life," he spoke politely but curtly, the way he'd been taught to. "I lost the pursuers, but ended up lost myself."

His gaze threatened to wander to the red of the wine goblets, but he kept it focused on the princess. His words, however, were addressed to the group as a whole. "It is as you say; I owe my life to you. Do with it as you will. Should you end it, worry not; no one will mourn me - nor come avenge me. Lochester holds no more love for me than it does for you."

A familiar red threatened to seep into his peripheral vision, but he refused to blink it away.
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Internet Overlord
Lord Dimamire Nightshade
Khusha (Nightshade Manor, Subterranean Baths)

Dimmy relaxed, slipping deeper into the water once more. Though he did open one eye part way to look at the prisoner, who seemed a little. . . rough around the edges, as it were. Gwen certainly seemed weary of him, or at least his nakedness. - Apparently he did not get or did not understand the memo about appealing to Gwen's sensitivities.

There was a general acceptance of the offer of wine, with Sylvia asking for multiple glasses before jumping into the water. How very werewolf. Lyn asked for a small glass, as if a gentleman's household would present as lushes by offering her half a bottle. Of course her questions about the manors of Khusha also made it pretty clear she didn't have much experience. Dimmy smiled, dipping his hair back into the water before he replied, “Well, the style does vary a bit by era and as a result of outside influences, but some of the basics remain a constant, particularly the measures to protect from the sun and the use of calmer colors. The weather can be certainly be harsh during the day, so most citizens tend to be active at night. I think you'll find things much more agreeable in the evening as well.”

Meanwhile Gwen and Emerick discussed her plans. She still seemed to think them being lowkey was the best course of action, though Dimmy didn't think she understood Khusha's politics if she though they did subtle. She had to convince several governors her plans warranted attention.

He took a moment to try and scrub some of the days of gunk from his hair. Though a clink on the stone beside him told him the wine had arrive. Flipping back his dirty-gold locks he turned to look at the little crystal goblet, rimmed with gold, and half filled with deep red wine of a rather old vintage. Gently he picked it up, swirling the liquid appreciatively before taking a sip. Something for a refined palate, and also the sort of flavors vampires tended to prefer. . . well, in the absence of blood. He continued to sip this contently as he leaned back against the side of the bath.

Gwen however, decided it was time they question the soldier. Dimmy didn't move to show attention, but he still watched these proceedings curiously, still nursing his wine. Raleigh seemed to have a distant stare, but eventually started to respond. Apparently he'd let some enemies go? Dimmy figured that meant people like him and Sylvia by that, and maybe some of their lost companions. But the fact he seemed to think they would think him as vile as them was curious, even a traitor was likely worth more to them. Dimmy set down his glass and looked over at the princess to gauge her reaction.


It's so shiny!
Lyn Grier
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

Turning to respond to her question, Dimmy gave her a smile. “Well, the style does vary a bit by era and as a result of outside influences, but some of the basics remain a constant, particularly the measures to protect from the sun and the use of calmer colors. The weather can be certainly be harsh during the day, so most citizens tend to be active at night. I think you'll find things much more agreeable in the evening as well.” She nodded as he explained the situation, noting that measures to protect against the sun and the fact that the citizens tended to be more active at night, made sense given the vampire population that made their home in Khusha.

Ther servant returned with their drinks not long after Sylvia jumped into the water. Whilst some of their party might have been content to chug it down in one gulp, Lyn savoured her small glass, taking small sips whilst she listened to Gwen and Emerick discuss their next course of action. She didn't really know a great deal about Khushan politics, or anything politically related that wasn't connected to Zlelmore somehow, so she didn't really have anything to chime in on.

Lyn was washing her face with some of the water, when she heard Gwen speak to Raleigh, asking that he tell them the truth about what had happened to him. Given the circumstance of how he had met them, Lyn would have been lying had she said she wasn't intrigued. Nursing the last of her wine, she listened quietly as Raleigh eventually gave them the brief story of what had occurred. Apparently he had let some enemies live, which had been likened to treason and nearly seen him killed because of it. She looked at him solemnly when he spoke about leaving his fate up to them, wondering if perhaps any of them genuinely would consider ending his life, recounting the reactions when they had first found him.

"Lochestrian or not, I would not kill you for that," Lyn said, from where she was resting against the edge of the pool, her voice firm as she spoke. "Besides, I helped keep you alive for this long, it would be a shame if that were to be for nought."


Well-Known Member
Princess Gwendolyn
Khusha (Nightshade Manor)

The soldier acknowledged that the name Sylvia gave was his true name, which triggered a wave of confidence to wash over Gwen. Maybe partially because it gave reassurance that the brash werewolf currently greedily downing the gifted wine could indeed be trusted and useful, and partially because she felt she had some more power over Raleigh now. She tried to hold her gaze firm as he hesitated over her next question, finally admitting he let some “enemies” he was told to kill live, and fled to save his life.

“There are no Ylorian guards stationed between Lochester and Khusha,” Emerick huffed. Gwen looked automatically to gauge Emerick's expression. Her guard was eyeing Raleigh without turning toward him, his brow furrowed.

Well, of course not, they didn't even have enough guards to properly protect Seaside Village. “Lochester has far more enemies than just Yloria, unfortunately,” Gwen said bitterly.

Raleigh's serious stare kept a stony focus on Gwen. “It is as you say; I owe my life to you. Do with it as you will.” The bluntness of his expression was nothing compared to his voice, and he spoke so casually that Gwen blinked at him in confusion. “Should you end it, worry not; no one will mourn me - nor come avenge me. Lochester holds no more love for me than it does for you.”

Gwen visibly winced, which Emerick swiftly reacted to. “That's enough out of you,” he cut across, giving the opposing soldier more than just a side-eye this time. Sword in hand or not, Gwen didn't doubt that Emerick would take Raleigh up on his offer if she gave the word. Gwen looked away, contemplating his words...

“Lochesterian or not, I would not kill you for that.” Gwen glanced over at Lyn. She spoke firmly, without the doubt that plagued Gwen's mind. If Lyn were Ylorian, would her mind be so certain? Dimmy was silent on the matter, and Sylvia wasn't impartial. As far as Gwen could see, she only had two options, regardless of whether she trusted Raleigh's words or not. She could do as he suggested and end his life – a barbaric option that would turn Lyn against her, and that at the very least – or she could keep him close. If he were a spy, they could not let him out of their sight. And if he was truly a traitor to Lochester, he could prove himself useful.

Her mind made up, Gwen met Raleigh's gaze again. “No, we have no reason to bring your life to a premature conclusion. But I will not set you free. Your skills are useful to us, and I see no other way to prove that your words are true other than to allow you to assist us. If you flee, I would run the risk of you returning with an army,” she stole a serious look around the pool at the rest of her party, “so you are all ordered to eliminate him should he attempt it. Am I understood?” Emerick grumbled his assent. Gwen nodded, and shifted uneasily. “Er, one other thing - - is it true, what you said? Does Lochester... truly think so low of me?”

Emerick sighed. “Would that change anything, Princess?”

Gwen hesitated, then shook her head and glanced away, embarrassed. “No, no – of course not. Forget I asked.” Memories of curtsying to Queen Eleonora, sitting beside her father at Lochester's grand hall, dancing with Prince Hendrick as was customary... all less than a year ago now, yet so much had changed...

And so much more had yet to be changed.

Gwen drank the remainder of her wine and set her empty glass aside. She started moving away from the wall. “Kindly turn around,” Gwen ordered, blushing as she hastily exited the bath and into a silk robe provided by one of the servants. She retreated to the corner of the room – not interested in seeing the rest of her party naked – and took a seat facing away from the bath. She sighed and let her head fall into her hands. Now to wait for nightfall...


Internet Overlord
Lord Dimamire Nightshade
Khusha (Nightshade Manor, Subterranean Baths > Changing Room)

Dimmy was learning a lot from simply observing and scrutinizing the situation. For example, the princess and Lyn seemed to have some varying degrees of pity for their prisoner. Or at least some reluctance to end his life. That was fair. Even though Dimmy was sure he could end the man if necessary, he's rather not get his hands dirty if he didn't have to. Besides, wasn't there some old proverb to the effect of having a common enemy making you friends? And Raleigh certainly claimed to have made an enemy of Lochester. Though it was possible that it was the ruse of a desperate man or a spy.

Meanwhile a maid had come back around and started picking up glasses. Quietly, so as not to disturb the conversation, or startle the princess who seemed to be on edge already, Dimmy motioned to her as she got closer. With the faintest nod she came closer, picking up his glass as well, and he whispered to her, “Please have the changing rooms prepared, we intend to go to court tonight.”

Another slight nod, then she collected the rest of the empty glasses and slipped away. Dimmy turned his attention back to the conversation at hand, just in time to nodded at Gwen's order. He didn't necessarily agree she had authority over him, but he agreed that it was what needed to happen anyways. So he replied politely, “Of course My Lady. We all have an invested interest in keeping a former soldier of Lochester in line.”

He shot Raleigh a quick glare, still listening as Gwen and Emmrick had a more existential sounding conversation. He understood the current political climate between the four nations, but he'd not really considered the interpersonal relationships between the rulers outside of his own country. It was a kind of disturbing glimpse into the pressure the next in line for Yloria's throne had on her shoulders. He sifted as she requested they look away. Clearly he was right in anticipating they'd need the changing rooms soon. Though Gwen seemed particularly down.

Dimmy waited for the sounds of her moving and dressing to cease before standing up himself. He squeezed the excess water out of his hair and turned to climb out (at which point those still in the bath would be able to see the large family crest tattooed across his back). Since the princess was turned away, it seemed safe to drop his soaked braies so he could properly dry off before putting on one of the silk robes. It made him realize how much he missed the luxuries of home. He tied the robe securely. It made him wonder what sort of conditions his mother had been living in. Not that he could bring her back here if they were bad though, his father made it clear she was no longer trusted.

Shorty the maid returned, with a butler at her side. The maid addressed the group in a soft chirpy voice, “If you will all follow us, we have prepared a few options for each of you to wear to court.”

“Thank you,” commented Dimmy flatly as he strolled forward. He knew where they were going, but the others would need this assistance. Honestly, if it was just him, he'd be going upstairs to his own room right now, but they needed to make sure everyone was properly prepared for court. They followed the servants back upstairs to a pair of rooms along the same hall, the maid ushering the women into one room, and the butler guiding the men into another.

The rooms were pretty much identical, about the same size as the bedroom they'd initially gone to, but with different furniture and more open space. A couple armories and vanities stood along the side walls, and a pair of changing screens, as well as a small table stood along the back. The vanities each had an assortment of perfumes and colognes, hair care items, make-up, and jewelery. A fancy carpet was rolled out in the middle of the room, atop which stood a sextuplet of mannequins, paired off, with each pair displaying a couple outfits in the closest size of one of the room's occupants that could be found.

Well, except for those set-up for Dimmy, those outfits were absolutely tailored to his size. As Dimmy strolled over to this pair of mannequins, the butler who was still standing by at the door commented, “Will there be anything else, My Lord?”

“This will do for now,” decided Dimmy as he considered the outfits. Both were made primarily of fine silk, with bits of linen, leather, and decorative embroidery, all in traditional Khusha colors and patterns. The cuts were different though, one being a toga with loose pants and a sweeping side cloak, and the other being a vest and cape with tight cut trousers. Of course the manor held many more fine outfits, but these should have been selected with some sense of contrast and coordination for their group as a whole. Dimmy reached out to feel the material hanging from one of the mannequins, “Well gentlemen, what do you think?”