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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:46 pm GMT 
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Fernán felt the play of his touch as he had the snag of branches against his cloak during those long hours off road. The fever had burned high, then. Now a similar heat stole into his chest and head. Perhaps it had been simmering by the fire, stoked by the odd glance he stole at the figure slumped just out of the range of the light. Long legs sprawled out before him, arms crossed like a shield before his chest, he'd looked foreign. Feral. Untouchable. It was surreal to have him so close now; like coming face to face with a dream. And the dream's fingers slid along the leather of his jerkin, played his ties, fell from the ridge of his belt. With each trespass he felt his breath quieten in his chest till the point he realised he was holding it.

He's not real, Fernán remembered. He ached for him. Neither of us are.

The nameless rider turned away, and his hand with it. Fernán imagined himself reaching out, pulling him around and pushing him against the wall and letting them melt into one in the shadows of the hall in a haze of copper taste, and the scent of old blood and newly burnt wood. He found himself about to speak out, call him back-- and without a name to call him, couldn't bring himself to break the silence. His pockets tethered his hands. The ache in his ribs was enough to remind him just how much their bodies continued to suffer.

Alsan's hand would have just alighted on the handle when he heard him speak over the click of another lock. So Fernán had turned away too. Alsan's weren't the only collection of scars and little arteries that need knotting together under the veil of sleep.

"Midday. We can afford it." The groan of the door met his words. "Need the time."

A flash of a sea coloured eye, and with a murmur of goodnight, they stood apart once more. The door shut, and the corridor grew a little colder.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:53 pm GMT 
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He glanced back over his shoulder, only once, paused on the threshold with his door already ajar. Those eyes gleamed briefly in the darkness, and disappeared into the shadows. The soft click of the latch echoed around inside his skull and dropped like a rock into the pit of his stomach. Where he'd been frozen, suspended in a moment made infinite by possibilities, the sound of the shutting door propelled him back into the hard, unpleasant certainty of the present. As though making up for lost time, he stepped through into his room and shut his own door behind him. Even here, in the privacy of darkness and solitude, his mask was impeccable. Still, he'd taken that step a fraction of a second too fast, and had closed the door just a little too sharply for a man whose outward composure was bolstered by peace of mind.

Alone in the deep gloom, he leaned back against the door and exhaled a slow breath, as though by emptying his lungs he could clear the haze that clouded his thoughts. He was seized by one mad impulse after another: to leave his door unlocked and see what happened; to go back now and knock on the door with some flimsy excuse, or no excuse at all. With his eye closed, he could feel the memory of dark hands on his wrists, his waist, in his hair. His skin crawled, and he pressed one hand to his stomach, clenching it into a fist. He felt like a man burning from the inside out. Worst of all, he knew where this road led: to ruin. The last time this sort of mad, feverish desire had taken root in him, he'd spent two years with the Dothraki and lost an eye for his trouble.

Didn't stop him from thinking back on it, though. Sometimes. He could remember sitting aside his horse with a cool steppe wind drying the sweat in his hair, the blood congealing on his sword, watching the khal with that same, sick animal hunger. He'd fallen in with the rest of the khalasar, but his eyes had tracked the khal, watching him ride, watching the muscles in his broad shoulders, the bare skin of his back. And when the khal had glanced back at him, their eyes had met.

Alsan locked the door behind him and crossed to the window, muttering a few breathless curses as he went. Even here, alone, he didn't allow himself to limp. He unlatched the window and pushed it open. Frost glazed the panes, obscuring the world beyond. Immediately, a gust of freezing wind swept past him into the room. He stuck his head out, gasping as the cold stung his face and set his eye to watering. He should have remembered that this window faced north. The land stretched away in all directions; the vast, glittering lake lay to the south, obscured from view. The moon had risen, but gray clouds masked the sky and dimmed its light. The wind carried a smell of frost, one that threatened snow. In the darkness, the winter landscape took on a ghostly blue cast.

The North. He would be glad to leave this place behind him. He withdrew into the warmer confines of the room and shut the window. Where he'd touched the pane, the frost had melted just enough to reveal a glimpse of the world outside, framed in a smudged print of his hand. He sat heavily on the thin mattress, eased his boots off, slipped the knife under his pillow, and rolled over, intending to sleep.

He lay awake for a long time.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:13 am GMT 
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His sleep blistered him.

New images arise like smoke, and the story of his dreams twisted and fragmented, lost in a sadistic maze. Sometimes it would be the pale silhouettes of trees, piercing the ice beneath him to strive their way up through to the sky, through their bedrock of rotting horses, and matted furs stitched onto the skin of men. He wandered, drunkenly, and the tread of his bare soles never seemed to touch the earth. And then, bending down to drink from a steam the colour of pale wine, he found himself far to the south. He was dressed still in the blackened furs of the Watch, and the weight of it half-buried him beneath the familiar burn of the sun. There was no point to struggling. Thin silk banners wove above him. There were voices here. Before it had been silent, still as the first snows.

The cloak shifted, and he watched her shrug off the thick darkness, pluck raven feathers black as her eyes from the curve of her shoulderblades. Using one as a quill, she fell to her knees and began to write in the dust with her blood for ink. Try as he might, he couldn't muster the strength to stop her. A dress of crimson trailed behind her like a wine stain, and gold snaked around her throat and formed a chain.

Black. Breath in his ear; hot, fast, mesmerising. (He had to break it off. The collar. He couldn't remember who's.) Their hands, their mouths, the unseen interplay of their bodies. Even in the dream he couldn't stop himself groaning. Light began to move through the darkness like the first rays of dawn. His fingers, soft and tender slipped beneath the ridge of the eyepatch and lifted it.

The eye beneath was black. There was no soul. And he felt a pair of hands as small and clever as hers slip around his throat and began to squeeze as a soft, husky voice began to sing his name in his ear over and over, hers and his, his and hers, and they clawed through his windpipe and ripped the lungs from his chest.


Pain in his knees. He was gasping, kneeling, only dimly aware of the way his hands clawed at his shirt. Still half-buried in nightmare he tore it over his head to stare down at his chest and stomach, and press his hands to the scar that divided them. His palms felt dry, though he could feel cold sweat beading across his shoulders, chilling the back of his neck. Disbelieving, he pressed a hand to his mouth, tasted it, half-convinced he could smell the reek of iron in his nostrils. But as his hand fell away and he slumped against the side of the bed, there was no blood in his mouth.

Gasping.
Kneeling.
Tortured.

For almost an hour he stayed like that; measuring the passage of time with each fractured breath as each droplet of sweat threatened to freeze on his skin. Only then, when the imagined blood had drained away and the pain in his chest extended only to the edges of his lacerated ribs did he try to stand. Even then his hand was clumsy as it wrung out the flannel and smoothed it over his neck and chest. As he let his forehead sink to rest against the cold stone walls, he allowed himself the luxury of a touch. Here, to the memory of the rider's gentle bite. He lingered for a moment of the side of his neck, caught in the hollow pleasure of it. He regretted now that he'd not let it go on longer. The sheets still smelled like him.

Thoughts of Dorne threatened to draw him back into Hell, so he turned and buried his face in the blankets, remembering other things. The sound of that voice, and the desire that came when it cracked. The intensity of his eye, the beauty of his mouth. When sleep came for him it was kinder, and smelled like smoke and had a knife resting at its back.


Dawn came and lit the surface of the lake a liquid silver. The little girl pulled up her skirts and chased the chickens for their eggs. Her mother beat out ragged old furs, and began to split wood with an old chipped axe. And, one by one, the fisherman's boats became mere dots floating on the water's surface like fallen leaves.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:15 pm GMT 
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It was his custom to arise early. Even when recovering from injury, even here where the dawns came later and morning were veiled in darkness, some merciless internal clock stirred him from sleep at what would, in more southerly latitudes, have been first light. He'd slept alone in hopes of making the most of the chance to rest. In the end, though, it hadn't done him much good; now he regretted not being more forward with Fernán when he'd had the chance. He couldn't remember his dreams, if he'd dreamed at all. Alsan was not a creative man, though his subconscious still dredged up the occasional horror to torment him with. He'd certainly seen enough of them.

A restless fire burned in him. Midday, they'd said. Fernán was probably trying to protect him, given his wounded condition, but midday was hours off, and the wait would be torture. Alsan knew he needed rest. The upcoming ride would sap his strength. He lay still, his chest rising and falling rhythmically beneath the blanket. Sleep continued to evade him. His eye wandered over the ceiling. After a while, he sat up. It felt as though he'd been waiting an hour, though in truth it had been perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. In any case, his patience was at its limit.

His boots lay beside the bed, where he'd discarded them. He turned them over and shook them before pulling them on, a habit he'd acquired from long years in the parts of Essos that had scorpions. This morning, he didn't bother to check the bandages, as he'd already done so the previous evening. A gingerly prodding finger confirmed his suspicions that, yes, he was still injured and had not miraculously finished healing overnight. There was nothing left with which to busy himself. His small bundle of gear was already fastidiously packed; his sword was clean and sharp. He could just glimpse the beginnings of a peach-colored glow through the frosted pane of glass.

He kept his steps light in deference to the early hour, and stepped out into the hall. Out here, the temperature dropped immediately. Turning up his collar, he crossed to Fernán's door and knocked.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:14 pm GMT 
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At first, all that seemed to greet him was a surly silence. Whatever extra sense intruders seem to gain on trespassing would be enough to tell Alsan that he'd been heard. Fernán clearly had yet to stir. Evidently he knew as well as Alsan did that the murderous intent of the Night's Watch seldom knocked. It was a toss-up, then, between the promise of an excruciatingly early breakfast call or his new found travelling companion.

They might kill me if I ignore them.

In Fernán's mind, the thought didn't care to elaborate whether it was the rider or the innkeeper he was referring to. Realistically there was a good chance of both.

He was tangled up in the blankets. Mercifully whatever nightmares had come after he'd wandered back to bed sank away from memory as he forced his heavy eyelids open. All he knew was that they had left him drained. His shirt lay discarded on the floor. Some inherent fear made him prop himself up on his forearms to glance down at himself, exposed. In the faint blush of dawn through the window he saw the familiar, ugly sight of the scar. Still, there was no sign of the wound that had ripped him from sleep; no sign of bruising fingermarks on his throat. With an exhausted sigh he let himself slump back -- which his ribs made him instantly regret -- and rest an arm across his eyes. For a moment he steeled himself. Turned his head to relish their gentle warmth against his cheek, and Alsan's lingering scent.

The shirt was cold where it lay on the floor, a little dusty. He balled it into a fist, tossed it onto the bed. The stolen tunic would do. He slung it over his shoulders and paused just long enough to run his hands through his hair. For a moment his skin felt thin as paper, and the floor loose beneath his feet. Dimly he remembered the shadow of a forest, and cast it from his mind. No use in agonising. Instead, his hand checked the position of his dagger, and he unlocked the door.

Tall collar, gazing the sharpness of the man's jaw. In the growing light, the dream-like morning after, Fernán found his breath catching a little in his chest. So it hadn't been embellishment. He hadn't just imagined the strong lines of his face, or the unexpected beauty of his lips.

"... You're eager." He leaned against the wooden frame of the door. Dawn was running its fingers across Alsan's cheek. As the clouds parted, he began to be painted pale gold as Fernán watched. The light touched his mouth, chin, pooled in the hollow of his throat. Fernán's voice was quiet; lazy and low with sleep.

"You miss the King's Road that much?"

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Last edited by Nerfiti on Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:19 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 5:59 pm GMT 
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Alsan's gaze took him in unhurriedly. Even after months in the frozen darkness of the North, his skin was a soft cinnamon brown. His throat was exposed beneath a jaw darkened by stubble. He was still a little disheveled, his hair standing up here and there. He clearly hadn't had time to comb it, though in retrospect he wondered if Fernán could get a comb through his hair, ever. Now, as he leaned in the doorway where the light had not yet reached, he had a tell-tale drowsy look which suggested that Alsan's knock had roused him. The truth was, he'd come here intending to get him up and moving. Alsan had grown restless lying in bed, unable to go back to sleep though he knew he needed the rest. He was rather heartlessly willing to inflict the same fate on his new traveling companion. After all, they had a long way to ride in poor conditions.

When he'd lived with the Dothraki, he'd learned to feel a group of riders coming, estimating their speed and numbers by the way their horses' hoofbeats shivered through the dry earth. Looking at Fernán now, he had a similar jittery sensation, as though a whole khalasar was bearing down on his stomach. He'd had some flippant remark ready, but as he stood there looking him up and down, the words dissipated on his tongue. The look on his face was either cool and distant, or trying very hard to seem that way.

His hand moved almost of its own accord, an echo of their parting the night before. His palm flattened against Fernán's chest, slipping one callused thumb beneath the tunic's open collar. Fernán's skin was warm to the touch, warmer by far than Alsan's scarred hand. With a cursory "May I come in?" he exerted just enough pressure to steer them back over the threshold and into the room. Alsan eased the door shut behind them. Diffuse light was just beginning to creep across the warped floorboards. The room bore a few telltale signs of a restless night: the wrinkled shirt, tangled sheets.

"Not the King's Road." He let his hand fall and shrugged off his own tunic, slinging it over the back of a rickety chair. He jerked his chin towards the shipwreck of thin blankets. "Back to bed."

Alsan slipped past him, as gracefully as possible given his bad leg, and sat on the edge of the bed. He pulled his boots off, though he'd only just put them on moments ago. The leather hadn't even begun to warm to the temperature of his skin. Having thus invited himself into Fernán's bed, he stretched out on his back on one side of the mattress. He was almost too tall for the bed; with his legs extended, his heels reached the edge of the mattress. It felt warmer than his own bed, and he settled in automatically, folding one arm behind his head. Only then did he pause and glance up at Fernán, eyebrows raised in an expression so mild as to be almost suspicious.

"...you did say midday."

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:20 am GMT 
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"I did."

Fernán watched him undress. Whoever he was, this man took his time; the way he pulled off his boots and slung his tunic across the back of the chair as if he owned it was almost infuriating. Uninvited, he lay back on Fernán's bed as if it were his birthright and looked across the room at him. Almost as if daring him to reclaim it for his own. He'd encountered similar people like that in the past; spoiled brats for the most part, drunk on their parent's names and the weight of the insignias stitched onto their chest. When first dipping their gilded toes in Dorne they usually found it easy to mock Sands. They weren't aware of the blistering smiles they'd meet or the hackles they'd raised. For the first time in their lives they would have the chance to meet with scorn.

Unchecked - by shyness or fear of rank or discipline - Fernán looked back. At first to that one eye, till the rest of him claimed him... the curve of his throat, the way his fingers flexed like claws. Rich, to be sure. But not quite spoiled. Just a man who knows what he wants.

Or knows just how much he's wanted.

The touch of his hand left a lingering cold; the sight of him a fever. In the pale haze of the morning and his own lingering sleep, they seemed to pass a little dreamlike... Each of these sensations and images a little out of step with time and his own body. Perhaps the night had been so fragmented that his mind hadn't had time to process his new reality; that these were the shoulders he had stolen his clothes from, that this room was his own, that for the next few months this would be the eye that watched his back. There was a surreality to it. At any moment, Fernán found himself thinking- I'll open my eyes and wake up.

Perhaps that was what dulled the annoyance slightly. He probably would have thrown something at Alsan's head under other circumstances. The urge was still there, as he threw the bolt to and shut them away from the rest of the world. Something like frustration, lust, relief, caution. He walked over and shrugged off his jacket to lie it alongside its brother. His knee sunk into the mattress as he gazed down at him; the walking dream, the man that had saved his life and now made him ache. As he spoke his fingers strayed over the blankets where his desperate hands had twisted them to knots. Had the rider seen? Stupid question; of course he had. For a man with one eye, Fernán couldn't shake the suspicion that he saw more than most men.

"I thought I was taking pity on you, like a good sellsword."

The nightmares were lost to him now, becoming nothing more than a lingering unease... but he remembered slipping back into sleep. He'd dreamed about him. The forms were vague as smoke, but their contents had come alive the moment Alsan had touched him. In the early morning they were dulled; made softer, gentler. Control crumbling, his touch left the creases and folds of the blankets to chart the shadows of his stomach. A lazy, light drag of his fingertips. The warmth of a long morning pervaded him; something golden and slow and near sleep.

A laugh; a crooked grin. "Who'd have thought you were so restless."

That laugh hadn't yet died when he let himself recline back into the bed. The knife kept guard in his belt. It provided just enough sharpness to arch his back and keep him wary; an anchor to this world of the living he found himself haunting and not quite able to reach. And the backs of his fingers continued to stray over the battleground of Alsan's scars.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:48 pm GMT 
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"You have that effect on me."

The bed was not built to accommodate an unusually tall man, much less two of them. Lying side by side, their legs and shoulders touched, brushing against one another in the narrow space. Alsan wasn't sure what he'd been thinking; most logical thought had drained from his mind like lukewarm water after a bath, starting from the moment Fernán answered the door. Only minutes ago he'd convinced himself that one more second spent lying in bed would permanently atrophy every muscle in his body, demolishing what remained of his sanity along with it. Yet here he was. Rather, here they were. Fernán's fingers traced lines of warmth across his stomach, a lazy, meandering touch that lingered on his skin.

Actually, he'd half-expected to be lashed out at in some way, for his presumption. He thought he'd seen a flicker of annoyance in Fernán's tell-tale eyes. Who knew how Alsan might have reacted, had their roles been reversed; he'd never frittered away time on speculation. But the sort of man or woman who'd fall readily into his arms had never piqued his interest, not for long. Two months, maybe three, and they'd be back in King's Landing. It seemed like a long time, but--assuming they lived--the days would fly by. Two months was not nearly enough time to unravel a man. Not this sort of man, in any case.

Once it became clear that Fernán had no intention of throwing him out, he rolled onto his side and eased the other man along with him so that Alsan could lie against his back. Immediately, the cool hilt of the dagger dug into his ribs, but for the time being he ignored it. One powerful arm slipped around Fernán's waist. Now it was Alsan's fingers which wandered across his stomach, unconsciously echoing the scar which spanned his torso. His sharp profile rested against Fernán's hair, his slow, even breaths stirring the dark curls. This was a lazy, indulgent sort of intimacy, free of urgency or demands. It was something that Alsan, prior to his wedding, had rarely experienced. With Mariana, he'd quickly become accustomed to it, and it was what he'd missed most during their separation.

Now and then, he'd stir just enough to press a kiss to Fernán's ear, or to the side of his neck. He wasn't a lovestruck idiot who'd trust Fernán with anything other than his life. For the moment, though, he savored the drowsy idleness of the morning, Fernán's warmth and not-quite-familiar scent, the gentle contours of his muscles beneath his hand. White winter sunlight crept across the floor of the room. For now, this was enough.

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"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:04 am GMT 
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His half-open eyes watched their passage.

Here and there the light picked up stray little things usually lost in the sprint of day to day life. There, a little bit of twine from an earlier traveller. Frustrated, they must have cut the bindings on their packages and presumably regretted it later. The sheet of sunlight blanketed the far wall and painted it anew. Peering shyly out from behind the chair there a little scrawled drawing of a horse, scratched deep into the thin plaster. Perhaps that had been the little girl's work, or even her mother's back in the days of her childhood. In its scabbard, Fernán's pillaged sword was picked out along its chipped edge. The rest of his meagre pack stood patiently behind. Their jackets lay overlapped. He watched the light be cut into thin lines between their hanging tassels.

For some reason the pillow felt softer beneath his head, and the air more still. The scars on Alsan's chest moved across his shoulder blades with each breath; little gentle ridges. He found himself counting his breaths, and then becoming lost in the wandering touches, and then coming back again. One, two, three... They deepened, slowed, painted over the back of his neck. Ah, Gods, this felt like Dorne. The soft press of his mouth came now and then... In the dip behind his ear, the side of his neck. And when Alsan's hands finallly fell still, Fernán's rose to meet it to retrace the way he had caressed weeks ago, his eyes laced tight beneath bloody wrappings.

Perhaps this was Alsan's revenge for leaving him so soon. That had been cruel, he thought. It had always been cruel to leave them. But it couldn't be helped, not when it was too painful to stay.

The light fell across the bed. Idly he raised a hand and watched how the light streamed between them and danced across the sheets and their skin. Who knew when they'd next have the luxury of lying bare like this and feeling their heat steal into one another. The North Wind bit deep to the bone, and the dales and valleys held little shelter. It would be layers of stiff wool and fleece and leather, at least until Winterfell where the sun became a little less watery, and the mornings held birdsong once again.

It was then that Alsan's hand wandered across his scar. It was enough to make his eyes flicker down to watch, and grimace in quiet disgust. He didn't have to pull him away; his body acted well enough on its own to urge itself back against Alsan's chest and guide that weathered hand up to the base of his throat- to gentle pulses, and the faint, intermittent touch of his lips against the scarred knuckles.

Not there. Whilst his touch was tender, they hadn't hesitated the night before. Neither of them had, as they'd purposefully sought of eachother's wounds with the quiet intention to hurt. Knives ready in their belts. Just in case. There had been no telling what had waited downstairs for them. Even now, survival's instinct still found him checking the sounds from downstairs, the rate of his own healing, the locked up pain in each of Alsan's steps. He wasn't lovesick enough not to.

Nothing felt quite safe. But in that moment - in the stillness and the pale gold light and bodies still held together with bandages - he found himself sighing into the pillow that it felt good.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 2:44 am GMT 
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The force of the reaction took him by surprise. In his drowsy, inattentive state, it took Alsan a moment to realize what must have caused Fernán to wince and flinch away from his touch. He'd noticed the scar, of course he had. It was hard to miss. Fernán had other scars, though. They both did. Any man who lived by the sword ran a good risk of ending up with his skin defaced, his body mutilated. The battles added up and took their toll. When his hand was drawn away, towards the base of Fernán's throat, he did not object, nor did he offer resistance. His callused palm flattened against the arch of the other man's clavicle, the edge of his thumb tracing a gentle path up and down his windpipe, exerting only the faintest hint of pressure.

He had to remind himself that Fernán was not necessarily a fighter, not in the way Alsan had been. His own scars had, for the most part, been rendered invisible to him with the passage of time. Now he scarcely saw them. Even once his current wounds healed, three more scars would hardly make a difference. He wondered whether Mariana would even notice them. Yet he had no idea who Fernán had been before the Night's Watch. How had he come by a scar such as this? His instincts told him that this was not the consequence of some ordinary battle, as much as any battle was ever ordinary.

One parallel was obvious, though Alsan resisted it; of all the scars he carried, the only one he never quite managed to forget was the grisly mess of tissue that lurked beneath his eye patch. He'd glimpsed it, briefly, in the tarnished, warped metal of this mirror or that, but only ever when he was alone. Mariana had never asked to see it, for which he was grateful. Seven years after the fact, it was not so much the appearance of his ruined eye which caused him to keep it covered at all times. In that moment, he'd lost more than the eye, much more. For all the scars he carried on his skin, many more were invisible to the beholder. A few were open wounds, even years later; invisible, yet still raw, still festering, as surely as any injury of the flesh. He would not begrudge Fernán his sensitivities.

His kiss was soft against the roughness of Alsan's knuckles, breath warm as a drowsy sigh eased past his lips. A sudden wash of empathy flooded Alsan's chest. He knew pain when he saw it. Would've been easier if he hadn't. His judgment was compromised enough already. Propping himself up on his elbow, he leaned over Fernán, easing him onto his back. We should go. ...so he should have said. The words lingered in the back of his mind, and yet he couldn't quite pull himself away. Eyes the color of deep water lured him closer, into a slow kiss infused with all the warmth of this quiet morning.

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"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2017 6:53 pm GMT 
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Their bodies shifted in a moment drowned in sunlight. It felt more like a distant summer memory with the illusion of warmth. Half-awake. It seemed natural to him that he should be beneath him and their bodies should be drawn together, as inevitable as the wounds etched into them or their shared pilgrimage south. (That had been destined too, hadn't it? Its foundation was laid in the reining of their horses true through the pain and exhaustion, as if some internal compass tapped deep into the earth and pointed them the way. Blueprints painted in blood on snow.) Fernán, half lost in dreams, knew he'd been here before. His lips parted and the kiss deepened.

Half-asleep, the coarse wool felt like silk. The woodsmoke grew pale and crystallised into sea salt. It was there, studded along their necks, at the corner of their mouths. His hands combed through Alsan's hair with a stranger's tenderness to rest at the base of his skull and angle him, keep him closer. A murmur of something quiet, intimate and in a language he wouldn't know, and a name.

"Aman."

If his fingertips had been dipped in ink they may well have been painting on the same designs Alsan had seen on his wedding night. Vines snaked up the trestle of his ribs. Simple silhouettes of birds flew across the wing of his shoulder blades, and rivers flowed down the valley of his spine. Perhaps this man had had a Dornish bride of his own once, in that other life that came before he had ever seen snow. But the name he had spoken had been a man's.

Their stomachs touched. Old wounds pressed and wove together, and grazed on the scar. Just for a moment, Fernán's head fell back to the pillow- to avert his gaze and trace the border of Alsan's shadow with his eyes. For just a moment it seemed that he was holding his breath. As if he were expecting something he could not bring himself to watch.

The shadow of a nightmare passed.

In its wake came a quiet laugh; a little forced, and a kiss pressed against the side of his neck. Alsan's skin was soft there. He breathed in the scent; earthy and bound in leather and ash. It made him ache, and want to sharpen his knife. The last of whatever memories Alsan had caught him bathing in fell away with it. His eyes met Alsan's, and they were dark, remote.

"... That's what I'll call you."

The silence before a Dothraki charge, punctuated only by the creak of leather and short breaths burning on the desert air.

A taste of his tongue, a bite. He kissed him again-- harder, more urgent, wanting. Almost cruel. That same tension in the corridor the night before found him along with the frustration of closed doors and a night spent alone. He slipped out of the threat of Alsan's shadow to push him down, as his hands cradled Alsan's jaw, his neck, his beautiful, scarred forearms - wary of his wounds and half drunk on his own. The blanket slid off his shoulders to let the sunlight break across them.

Lost in him, he forgot to shiver.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:05 am GMT 
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He did not remark on the name. Still, it pleased him. By luck, it was close enough to the sound of his true name that he'd have little difficulty remembering to answer to it. But those same syllables took on a rounded warmth as they slid past Fernán's lips. Aman. A new skin to wear for a while. He could feel it settling over him like another man's shirt, warmed by the heat of an unknown body, coming to rest over his shoulders. Naturally, as though it had always belonged to him. For as long as he could remember, some part of him had always longed to be somewhere else, someone else. In Essos, he'd had the chance. With his family name stripped away, he'd lost his chains and his shield all at once. He'd paid a high price for his freedom. In the end, he'd learned the hardest truth of all; what he'd mistaken for freedom had merely been permission to wander at the end of a very long leash. When Ignaz had reeled him in, he'd come running, more dog than lion. But in this moment, the old thrill caught up with him.

Fernán's kiss stole the air from his lungs. A brief, blunt pain burst from his injured shoulder as he was flipped back against the mattress. The coarse straw filling prickled against his spine. It left him breathless, burning hot and cold. In the pale wintry light, his eye searched Fernán's face and found him inscrutable despite the myriad emotions betrayed in his eyes. Where had he come from? What did he want, what had kept him alive in the frozen hell beyond the Wall? What had caused him, in the final seconds of his life, to grip his executioner's sword?

Two months. Two months, and they'd part ways at the gates of King's Landing, and the rest of Alsan's caged, bureaucratic life would stretch out before him, as though none of this had ever happened.



The sea was cold. It seeped through his boots as soon as he stepped out of the boat and into the rocky shallows of the little cove. The man who waded ashore was dressed simply, in plain leather armor and brownish-gray garments of undyed wool. Only the sword and bow slung across his back would set him apart from an ordinary commoner. He might have been a soldier, though he looked old for the battlefield. A sell-sword, then, perhaps. One side of his face was marred by the faded track of an old scar. Whoever he was, or whoever he'd been, a very long time had passed since last he'd known peace.

The sun over Braavos was bright and fierce, yet there was a chill in the air, above all when the wind blew. The little cove was sheltered from the weather, and so after unloading his simple pack from the boat, he picked his way up the beach and sat down stiffly on a flat rock. He pulled off his boots and socks, wrung water from the latter as best he could, and set them in the sun to dry. Wrapped in his cloak, he could feel the sun seeping into his skin and warming him with his heat. How strange, to find that these lands still existed, that there were vast tracts of earth where snow had yet to fall. His world had shrunk so small, grown so dark. Now with the sea air still crisp in his lungs, he felt himself settling back into the world of the living.

--no. He couldn't quite believe in it, not yet.

He sat quietly as his things dried in the morning sun, chewing some of the dried fish from his pack to ease his hunger as he waited. His people were not seafarers by nature, but long years in King's Landing had familiarized him with the ocean. Truth was, he'd been mad to attempt the crossing, but that had never stopped him before. The air was clean and cool, and smelled of salt. Even now, the scent transported him to another time and place, to a sun that burned more fiercely and heated the red stones of the castle walls as he leaned against them, watching the vast green expanse of the sea. Those were the memories from another life, and they belonged to an idiot boy who'd died a very long time ago.

In time, his things dried. He pulled on the thick wool socks, relics of yet another life shed like snakeskin. A gift, hah, sent by the Lady of Winterfell in all her charity, darned first by a steward's inept hand, and later still by his own. Then, with protesting joints, the man rose to his feet, shaking grains of sand and salt from the hem of his cloak. No fur, for the first time in longer than he cared to remember. Then, clambering cautiously over the rough gray stones, he picked his way out of the shelter of the cove. It wasn't until he reached the top of the ridge that he saw it: the strange city, sprawling out before him, a wild terrain of granite and marble and tile, of domes and shingles and spires. Squinting into the sun, the lines on his face crinkling deeply as he resisted its glare, he could just make out the hazy contours of its distant port, where the Titan stood guard with sword raised high. Then his glance strayed beyond: to the Southeast, where a line of stormclouds darkened the horizon.

Johann Stark drew one last, deep breath. Then he started down the hill towards the city, and the dust of Essos rose up and clung to his boots and the hem of his cloak, staining them the color of pale clay.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:40 am GMT 
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Deep in the labyrinth of the city, in the shadows of the canals, half-lost in the lap of cold water, he would first begin to hear the whispers. At first they were inconsequential. Vague allusions to the cursed name of Valyria, with its split crown still painted with the blood of their forefathers, would lie half buried in overheard conversation. With it would come coupled reference to the Bank. Impassive, untouchable, the institution towered over not just the city but the Known World- its shadow inescapable and reach long as the seas.

The Iron Bank and the Valyrian Freehold were marble and ruined stone. At least at first. Then, as his footsteps cautiously entered deeper into the world of rumour, they began to melt into other forms. They took on other names; a seal, a crown, a fist of power and a broken back. Then, muttered into a cup of mead to the music of a bag of coins, another name: Kathna Falmari. From there, the path widened.

The Iron Bank was made of many pillars, and some of those pillars had faces, with mouths that uttered the words the people of Essos knew as though by prayer; The Iron Bank will have its due. Living men and women formed the cogs of the infallible machine that spat out coin and took flesh as its fine, and through the years they were replaced as they wore thin. Some, however, through some unique strength and tenacity, refused to die. Kathna Falmari was one such cog. As the Bank ground on, devouring dynasties in its wake, she remained to watch the fall of empires with impassive eyes.

From her belly came another dynasty. Kathmar Falmari was a man said to have his mother's ingenuity, but little of the subtlety that had secured her position for so long. Instead he was charmismatically aggressive, unapologetically competitive. The family's merchant dynasty spread along the coast like a fungus, setting in deep roots and preying on the weaker minded- those who did not seek to monopolise even the stars. The jewel of the empire lay embedded in Braavos, beneath the shadow of the Bank, its gaze cast forever south to the waiting world.

From deep within it sprung a rumour; a sigh on the wind.



The woman eyed him with a gaze the same colour as Braavos sails. Little light managed to catch them. Were it not for the shift of his pupils, you might have thought her eyes were carved from stone and slipped deep into the recesses of her skull. The silence was a long one.

"I have heard of you." The voice was low, and contemplative, and only just reached Johann where he stood across the room. He was weaponless. They had stripped him of his blades before he had even stepped through the threshold. "Kathmar Falmari has been informed of your presence. I cannot confess he was overjoyed. Few would dare look as closely as you have; even fewer would act on the knowledge you possess. He has, nevertheless, entertained the prospect of your visit."

She rose to her feet. Falmari's right hand was only of middling height; the dark thickness of the cloth of her robes made her seem taller, with a skin thick as armour. Her face betrayed nothing. Between them the air smelt of vellum, and the gentle acidity of ink.

"The company feasts now. You may wait in a side passage until you are called for; if you are called for. After ten years, I am sure you can endure the wait."



Between the slats, he would be just able to make out those assembled within. The company was laid out between four tables, all of which occupied the same level. In the space in the middle was a raised stage; something in preparation for amusement later in the night. The men and women within shared no common feature apart from their dress; the somber darkness of the cloth a far cry from the peacock opulence of a Westerosi court. Of course, these were not ladies, these were not lords. Long ago their ancestors had arrived to these islands with weeping marks, burns in the shape of initials pressed deep through skin and muscle and names that came from the mouths of their Valyrian masters. None of the servers here were slaves; none of the people was ate and breathed and lived in this maze-like city belonged to any other. The room was filled with different languages, spoken by people with faces that came from the wilds of the Deep North to the Summer Islands, and all with the same hunger and intelligence in their eyes. All, bar one.

Trapped in the thin serving corridor, if he shifted to the right, narrowed his eyes, Johann would be able to seem him, or a glimpse of him. There- no, now lost, cast out of the light by the man who towered above him where he sat to his left, and who exuded power with each rumbling laugh that quietened his neighbour' and made heads tilt in deference. Kathmar Falmari had a face smooth and polished with thick almond butter and riches and small, quick eyes and hands. He was bent forward to listen in to some conversation. Then, satified, he shifted back to pop a grape into his smiling mouth- and there.

He stumbled and wandered through the court on short, stubby legs still fat from his nursemaid's milk. With each new thing he discovered there came a delighted chortle, gurgling, bubbling that rose above the hubbub of the court and drew their eyes. As he sat there, on the seat of power fashioned from the dead steel of a thousand foes, swinging his little legs, he saw Johann Stark and Septimus Baratheon for the first time, standing together. Raising a guilded little hand, beaming and fat with love, the small boy waved across the room. The light that fell through the tall windows lit up the pale silver of his hair and made it burn a cold flame, as if crowned in moonlight.


The colour of the stars. Bound back, braided tight with dark silk. Black jewels glinted at his throat like a choker of blood. Johann would only glimpse him, the boy sat there before an empty plate as, around him, hands danced over sweetbread, meat, fruits bursting with juice.

In the darkness of the cot the little girl lay, very still, her eyes half open and limbs frozen in one last contracture of pain. By her the prince panted and wailed, writhing away from her body. Little guilded hands, tiny perfect nails tried in vain to gouge out his skin. As he twisted, he caught sight of Johann Stark for the last time.
And then he smashed his head again, and again, and again against the bars of the cot till blood matted that beautiful hair.


The boy tilted his pale face back to watch the candlelight play across the ceiling with dull eyes. Shutting them, his fingers tried in vain to slide between the tightness of his necklace and his skin. After a moment the hands fell back to his lap. Wordless, motionless, the conversation moved around him; a sallow, wasted ghost.

A laugh like thunder, a rise to his feet to begin a speech and Kathmar Falmari's shadow crushed out his existence once more.

Where once there had been a scream, there was silence.

The melody of Falmari's voice began to play.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:25 am GMT 
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He was not a man well-suited to waiting. He'd held a mantle of power for so long that he'd lost the habit, yet even before he'd been named Lord Commander, his superiors had afforded him the due respect his abilities had earned. In his other lives--as a soldier, as a ranger--he'd stood aside more than once as more urgent matters took precedence. Yet never, not since the distant years of his childhood, had he been shunted aside and bid wait, like some hunting dog of middling pedigree. This waiting, this watching from the shadows, filled him with simmering irritation, something that bordered on anger. He knew the game that was being played here. Though of course, the knowledge that he was being deliberately toyed with didn't make it any more palatable.

With a voyeur's sense of shame still lingering like a bad taste on his tongue, he shifted his stance and let his gaze shift across the assembled company. Everything about this city still shocked him: its noise, its crowds, its extravagance. Oh, it was nothing compared to the opulence of King's Landing, he knew that well enough. But after the vast, frozen stillness of the North, Braavos with all its sights and sounds and smells settled over him in a smothering fog of constant distraction.

He scanned the assembled party with the eye of a hunter. How many times in his boyhood had he waited, motionless, in the underbrush, bow raised with only the faintest slack on the string, scarcely breathing as he waited for his quarry to betray himself with some flash of movement? Years later at Castle Black, those memories would come creeping back to him. He'd hunted small game, birds and rabbits, in the sparse forests and wind-scoured hills of the distant North. Once, in those distant days of his youth, he wouldn't have thought to waste an arrow on such creatures, unless a generous mood took him. Then he might gift his kill to one of the stone-faced peasants who scraped a living from that harsh earth. But provisions at Castle Black were tightly rationed, and the Brothers weren't overly choosy about what filled their stomachs.

Beyond the Wall, of course, they'd tracked bigger game.

He almost missed the boy. But then a flicker of white caught his eye: skeletal fingers, raised to tug at an unyielding collar. An instant later they fell again, dropped listlessly below the edge of the table and lost from view. Shifting, he craned his neck. He could vaguely hear Falmari's voice rumbling over the room like an oncoming storm, but he tuned it out, letting the words slide past him as background noise.

The Starks were not a superstitious people, though like all Northerners they paid their dues to the Old Gods. He had never seen a ghost, nor known anyone who'd claimed to... though of course there were always men who told stories of strange things glimpsed beyond the Wall, tales to unsettle green recruits on long, dark nights when the fires had begun to die down. Yet no story, no wildling savagery or act of human desperation had ever unsettled him so much as his first glimpse of the boy.

Sweat prickled across his palms. The air felt dead, stale.

He should've died. As far as Westeros knew, he had.

Until you are called for. If you are called for.

In the shadows of the corridor, Johann Stark waited in silence.

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Hey kid.
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:09 am GMT 
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"I find myself honoured to be able to entertain so many of my friends, my fellow merchants-in-arms, my brothers and sisters around such a humble table as this." Falmari's voice was low and resonant; enough to make wine tremble in its cup and quicken the hearts of the assembled company. He spread his large hands wide as he spoke, in gentle lapsing gestures as if he were orchestrating the words as they moved through the room. Punctuated by laughter- his own and others- and the odd shower of applause that he laid to rest with one of those beaming smiles, his speech rumbled on.

He spoke of the unveiling of the south, and the oceans that moved like silk beneath their blessed ships, the roads that turned smooth as parchment beneath the wheels of their wagons- "Thanks to the blessings of all our Gods." A brief interlude of murmured prayer and thanks, a few of the congregation lifting up their hands in praise of heaven and earth.

Then the topic moved on to the city. In its history, he explained, we find our own story. An enterprise kept and maintained in confidential care, a secret civilisation. And now here they were; released onto the gawping, stupified world as the extent of our wonder, and the ingenuity of our business. "From the ashes of Old Valyria," he explained in a dulcet voice, "We arose and burst forth with more beauty, more tolerance and more wisdom than those who sought to chain us." The applause broke out again, the heads of the company nodded and calling out praise in sharp, passionate words.

He raised a hand and an eager silence was left.

"But, my friends, I would never have us erase the past; both that of ourselves and the empire from which our civilisation was born. An empire that was evil, yes, full of unspeakable terrors. There was fire, there was blood, there were chains. But-- and I beg you forgive me my indulgence, but there was beauty too. You may decry it! I see you shake your heads. But to burn and render forever lost the cultural secrets of Old Valyria is to burn ourselves. And to that end I ask you to look on, for we have not only a prince in our midst, but one who brings with him the spectre of another time. And I am sure you shall agree with me that, beyond the ruin, beyond the violence and depravity of his ancestors, there lies beauty, too."

Falmari stepped back, then, to expose the boy in his shadow to the scrutiny of the room. A prompt, a gentle wave of Falmari's hand, and he rose to his feet. In the sudden silence, without laughter, without applause, the chair legs screeched discordant on the flagstones. The boy stood there for a moment, silently allowing the gaze of the dozen or so assembled to penetrate through his clothes and rake through his soul. The air was thick with the scent of good wine and disgust. His hair was braided back so tight, the necklace such a perfect choker that he did not have the luxury of bowing his head to look away from the eyes that watched him with such hatred.

Then, his steps agonisingly slow and stumbling in the caustic silence, he slipped between a space in the tables and stepped up onto the platform. He wore silk slippers. The soles were thin. He turned, and with a despondent hand took the pale fan offered to him by one of the musicians who sat in one of the delved corners, waiting. In the dim light and flickering shadow, down-lit, the nuances of his expression were lost. It was only by watching the very ends of the fan, and the way it moved in his grip that you could tell his hands were shaking.

Falmari sank back into his chair and leant back to watch, eyelids low.

The drums began first, and then some sort of a flute, a wailing, old sound, like a kite's cry on the air. A step, a snap as the fan split open, a long-fingered hand coming to rest by a black-silk side. And then... and then. The fan became a bird, limbs became water, sinuous, fluid. In the darkness the candles faded to be dull, made thin and weak by the flame at their centre that burned white and silver, that danced with the same feet as Water Dancers. There was no boy, no man there; something less, something more, a memory of a beautiful thing once dead that fed on the breaths that the company did not-- or could not-- take. Hands clutched tables, mouths parted in fury, in awe, too lost to call out and do anything but watch.

In the half-light, a dead prince came alive.

Unseen, Falmari nodded, once.

A drum crashed to the floor, and the spell was broken. The flame stuttered, faltered, slipped and was sent, hard, to his knees. The fan escaped his stinging fingers and slid across the platform. Suddenly the slip of fire was nothing more than a thin boy, panting, beads of sweat falling from his forehead with each ragged gasp. A few strands of his hair had escaped and hung about his face. He tried to get up, and slipped on the heaviness of his robes.

A ripple of smiles.

"A shame." Falmari spoke. His voice was soft with concern.

The boy finally made it to his feet. His robes were hanging lopsided on him now, exaggerating the painful tug of his shoulders. He looked down at where Falmari sat, and checked his hand when it rose to tug at the necklace.

"A shame."

They watched each other for a long moment.

Some unseen conversation flickered through the air; painted across their eyelids, hidden in their silence. And then, painfully, the boy turned, his shoulders back, his gaze focused above the lines of the company's heads, and spoke. His voice was unbroken, still that of a child's.

"I apologise for embarrassing the company." He bowed his head three times, one to each of the tables. The necklace pressed deep. Then he turned, and extended the same courtesy to Kathmar Falmari. Head bowed, tilted towards him, he seemed to wait for the words of release.

"Your Highness, truly. That is not necessary."

He began to raise his silvered head, and then--

"Please, next time, I beg of you to make any concerns you have about your education known to me. I am your faithful servant and friend, Prince."

The boy stopped, held in place by the words. Compelled.

"Of course." He bowed his head lower. The company looked on and held its breath. Falmari didn't speak. The boy cast up a glance, and saw that he had no intention to. What colour was left in his face drained away. He bowed deeper, at the waist now. His words were strained, now. "The fault is my own."

Falmari sat, and watched. He rolled a grape between thumb and forefinger. His silence seemed to reach out to rest one large hand on the back of the boy's head.

Slowly, under the weight, he dropped to one grazed knee. And then another.

"Lord Falmari, that I caused embarrassment to your guests is... is not befitting of my..."

Utter silence. The guests did not move, did not smile. There was no jubilation, no jeers, no cruel jokes. Instead there was the silence of the Sept. Of a courthouse.

"My..."

He raised his head to throw one last look upwards. And was met with no remedy.

He looked down. Thin hands curled into fists and fell loose. A clenched jaw relaxed, eyes fell half shut.

The last true King of Westeros leant forwards and pressed his forehead to the floor, and begged Kathmar Falmari to forgive him the sin of a ruined dance.

What felt like an hour passed.

With a creak of a chair, Falmari rose. And in the torturous silence, he answered, with the same stern love as a father-

"Prince Targaryean. Your humbleness is nobility itself."

The boy's shoulders shook. Fingers curled to dig their nails into the wood beneath them.

"But, I beg of you," Falmari extended a hand. "Do not prostrate yourself like this. You must remember your birth and name." Now came a note of softness, a gentle tenderness. "You must be exhausted. Perhaps away from the cacophony you may catch some rest. I shall have healers sent to your room. Your fall looked a painful one."


They all watched him; the way he drew himself back up with limbs that looked hollow as reeds, thin lips that only seemed to move when questions were asked of him, as if his words had been lost somewhere in the inches between his mouth and the greasy floor. They watched as he thanked him, and moved out of the torchlight, to stumble and accidentally send a decanter of wine crashing to the floor. The splinter of the glass was his applause. He skirted around the side of the room and--

Barely inches apart, separated by a wall, a slatted window--

The hardness of raw, reddened eyes focused forward. Hoarse breathing. A skinny wrist pressed against an anguished mouth to trap back words. He didn't see Johann where he stood. Why would he be looking for servants, after all?

He slipped through the double doors at the end of the room, and escaped the lacerations of eyes. And one pair, Kathmar Falmari's, turned instead to look towards that slatted window and the man who stood behind it. And then he ate his grape and resumed his conversation.


Seconds later a servant arrived at the end of the corridor and informed Johann Stark that the Prince would soon be able to receive him in his chambers, just as soon as he had changed.

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