THE St. Louis Speakeasy
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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 11:22 pm GMT 
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His eyesight was not so keen as it had once been. Through the faint haze of smoke, air thick with the smells of wax and roast meat, his tired eyes missed the trembling of the fan. Still, he didn't need the eyes of a hawk to see the transformation which settled over the boy like a veil. Then the sound of that flute pierced his chest, wrapping around his heart with its cold tendrils. He stood unthinking, transfixed. Behind the slats, he held his breath. Frozen in place, he no longer felt like the hunter so much as the prey, and yet he couldn't tear his eyes from the ghoulish spectacle of the dance.

And then the dancer stumbled, and the spell was broken. He was a boy again--or would have been, were kings allowed the luxury of a boyhood. He watched as the last Targaryen rushed past, nearly stumbling again in his haste to depart. Stark was no healer, though he'd learned to staunch the flow of a wounded comrade's blood in battles fought both north and south of the Wall. Still, the glimpse he caught, however faint, left him perturbed. His eyes slid past the fleeing figure and met another gaze, across the room. He wondered how much of this was for his benefit. And was it his imagination, or did Falmari smile?



As he was led down one gloomy corridor after another, he found himself unbalanced by the lack of a sword, by the lightness of his shoulders unburdened by the Lord Commander's mantle. It was a disconcerting sensation, as though he'd been uprooted and set adrift on the breeze, unable to plant his feet on firm earth. I should never have left the North, he thought, the images in his mind's eye not of the few weeks he'd spent as a fugitive-presumed-dead, but of a young idiot riding south to King's Landing with a bright future rolled out in front of him and all the world at his feet. But there was no time now for regret, because his guide's footsteps had already begun to slow. With a soldier's precision, he straightened his tunic, fully aware of his salt-stained cloak and the dust on his boots. Nothing for it now but to meet the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms.

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"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: Thu Mar 23, 2017 4:06 pm GMT 
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His rooms allowed little scope to hide.

The main room, where guests were received, was long and high. At the far end sat a chair. Crafted with sharp , hard edges but laced with silken cushions, it was coated in the same somber tones worn by Braavosi nobles. It was just large enough to dwarf him; enough to make him rattle within it like the clapper in a bell.

Even if the boy before him couldn't remember the sight of that other throne, Johann would. The ugly, towering mountain of steel warped by dragon fire; black iron too damaged to gleam in light. A thousand foes fashioned forever into a seat.

Some pale joke, this little throne.

One guard flanked it. His broad hand rested on the pommel of a sword, and he watched impassively, as much a part of the room as the hangings. On a stool by the chair's feet perched a little man, back bent and wizened with a necklace of rings. He watched Johann approach with an almost disfiguring squint, eyes pale with cataracts, hands gnarled with rheumatism. As the foreign footsteps paced closer, and the door was shut behind him with finality, he shifted to murmur something in the ear of the boy in the throne. His advice was hissed over yellow teeth.

The boy barely acknowledged him.

The rigidity from the banquet was gone. Instead he sat- almost lounged- across the useless chair, narrow chin wresting on a bony wrist. He was dressed differently. The ribbons of silk were gone, and without them his hair sprang loose across his forehead, childishly thick and untamed. It cast a shadow onto the sharp cheeks. Where the punishing necklace had been only existed a thin line of irritation. Perhaps he'd ripped it off. Perhaps he'd had to be painfully, painfully patient.

His mother had had a lovely face. She'd been soft, strong, a little too tall so that she'd made a habit to sit and wear unheeled sandals. They'd said his father had looked noble; creased here and there with pain from an old battle wound, but with hair like starlight, a royal bearing.

Their son was gaunt. Hard-edged. Pale eyes glowed with a simmering malice his parents had never had to bear.

The little whispering man fell silent, and creaked back into place to watch Johann Stark where he stood before them in darkened hall. The candles spat; the scent of hot wax filled the air.

"They tell me you've crossed a sea and a continent to come to me."

That boy's unbroken voice unsettled for a young man of sixteen, spoken with a mouth that curved in a withering smile. He made no secret of the way his gaze lingered on Johann's torn hems and stained cloak. Nor did he try to hide the flicker of amused disgust that crossed his face at the sight of them. His eyes rose lazily back to Johann's face, and looked at him in a way no one had ever dared do before.

"Introduce yourself. And kneel, if your knees allow it."

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:39 pm GMT 
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In the boy's face, he saw their ghosts. He'd known the king and queen--not personally, but well enough by sight. He'd expected to rule the North in their name one day. On the day the city fell, he'd caught one last glimpse of them in the throne room, its air hazy with the smoke of a hundred candles that, untended, had sputtered themselves out. Sword drawn, free hand holding a scrap of cloth over his nose and mouth, he had paused just long enough to wonder about the crumpled bundles of cloth that lay near the base of the dais where the Iron Throne sat, empty and unattended. Of course, by the time he'd reached the Red Keep he'd seen plague casualties by the hundreds, and should have known the instant he laid eyes upon them. It simply hadn't occurred to him that in this lonely, pestilent silence a thousand-year dynasty could fall, and not a single drop of blood be spilled.

Whatever remnants of righteous wrath had lingered in his blood as they'd stormed the unmanned gates of the Keep had dissipated as he stood, alone, in the heart of Westeros, suffocating under the absolute silence of death. And then a child's cry had shattered the hush: distant, weak, but unmistakably alive.

"Stay BACK, damn you!" The ringing clash of steel. A thin line of blood welled along his adversary's pale brow and cheek, having barely missed the eye. Septimus drew back and set a hand to it, gingerly, though he did not lower his sword. His fingers came away stained with red, and as Han watched, the look on his face went from incredulity to an icy rage. Running footsteps and the clank of armor echoed through the passageway outside, and with a silent prayer to the Old Gods, he resigned himself to death. But his voice, when he spoke, was low and hard and grim, as stony and unyielding as the ancient hills of the North. "Not another step."


The boy's eyes met his and bored into them, burning with strange fire, making no effort to hide his derision. Johann, in turn, found himself thinking about all the death which had brought him up to this point: on the fields of Westeros and the cobbled streets of King's Landing, before the damp hearths of Castle Black and in the frozen forests beyond the edge of the world. For a moment he held that feverish gaze and did not look away, did not so much as blink. And then he bowed his head and knelt.

"Johann of House Stark, Your Grace."

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"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: Sat Apr 01, 2017 2:49 pm GMT 
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" 'Stark.' " he echoed. Was it really the same throat that had uttered that scream, so long ago? It was apathetic now. Before he'd wept for him. "Wolves and bitter winters."

The boy was unmoved. For all that, there was a momentary silence; a narrowing of the feverish eyes, as if he were running his fingers down the spines of words and drawing them carefully from his library of hate, laying them gently on his tongue. With an insolent stretch he slumped back further in his play-throne and watched the jewels glint dark on his fingers. He didn't bother to force a smile now. One wasn't even conjured to his lips when he watched Johann's head sink. Perhaps he was taking the time to consider inflicting his own little entertainment; perhaps to place the heel of his embroidered slipper on the nape of that noble neck and crush him down. 'Lower.'

But now he was just watched. Watched the quiet stiffness in the legs, ones which weren't accustomed to the act of bowing. All men knelt in the end it seemed. Princes, lords, exiles, deadmen and the ones that should be.

For a long moment he watched Johann's breath stir the new dust on the stone flags.

"Raise your head."

The scar that glistened, ragged across Johann's cheek in the candlelight was a curiosity and nothing more. Who was he to know that the story of his life was etched into the living tapestry of the face before him - that he had just to reach out to run his fingers across an act that even now kept the clamour of his heart more than just a memory? Perhaps he had long since forgotten. Perhaps he had never been told.

The sharp chin rested on a sharp hand once more. At his feet the old man stirred nervously and let his destroyed hands grip his knees. The guard shifted, and his fingers on his pommel tightened, unconscious of ever having done so. Even here, that name sent ripples. The Braavosi knew best that old steel could still cut deep.

Only the boy expressed no unease; didn't seem to share in the growing tension that winched higher through the room, like a crossbow eased taut. Oblivious, or dismissive of the pungent scent of blood that name brought with it.

"You're a long way from your fells, Master Wolf.' His drawl was soft, and numb to the faint wince that darted across the Maester's face, the sharp glance the guard sent him in warning and that went unheeded. The smile crept back. Lifeless beneath burning eyes.

'It begs the question 'why'."

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 5:30 pm GMT 
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The maester. The guard. Even before he raised his head, he could sense their unease. He was attuned to the presence of fear, its scents and sounds. He'd been gone for so long, balanced on the edge of the world with an army of misfits and criminals on the knife edge of starvation, that he had begun to forget the world outside. It had felt less cruel than forcing himself to remember. In that time, however, it seemed the world had not forgotten him. He'd been told at some point in his former life that he was arrogant, had been called it more than once in fact. And yet the only emotion that stirred in response to the Braavosis' apprehension was a mild, apathetic surprise. Strange that even after ten years, as an aging man bleached by salt and weathered by sun and ice, his name could evoke such a reaction on the wrong side of the Narrow Sea.

"To serve, Your Grace." His words came sparingly, the habit of a lifetime exacerbated by the loneliness of guarded exile.

A long way from your fells.

The boy truly had no idea how far he'd come. That much was obvious to him. Two hundred miles, as the crow flies, through the trackless wastes beyond the Wall. Unfortunately for him, this Crow hadn't flown; he'd come circuitously, evading wildlings and rangers alike, doubling back, hiding his tracks, detouring to hunt or forage until at last he'd reached the Bay of Seals and stood looking out over the barren cliffs and slate waters of the Bay of Seals. He'd traded his heavy black mantle for the faded wool garments stowed in his pack. Evading camp dogs and sentries, he'd stolen a skin boat, leaving his hobbled horse in what he hoped was a fair exchange. He'd navigated the bay by starlight, the moon a faint sliver in the sky, and had rounded the point into high swells that might have dumped a lesser craft and its passenger into the sea. The currents had carried him south, and he'd paddled along the coast until he'd come to a fishing village where he could barter for some dried fish and a boat the winds could carry. And that boat had brought him here, ten days across the Shivering Sea, and for the first time in his life he'd been out of sight of the land.

But he hadn't frozen, and he hadn't drowned. He raised his head slowly, unhurried. His eyes were dark, the color of peat. He found himself how long it had been since the rightful king of Westeros left this palace, these cold marble halls.

"Had I a sword, I would pledge it. But like sensible men, the guards took it at the gate."

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"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: Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:39 am GMT 
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"You seem to think that I have an interest in the sword of a turncoat."

He leisurely rose to his feet, and left the loose embrace of the chair. It seemed to liberate him. As he stood he slipped a pair of gloves from his belt to begin to pull them over his long fingers. He was unhurried by the stir of his guard, who told him with a tilt of armoured shoulders to return to the safety of his little throne. The hastily whispered words of his advisor were cast away with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"Ten years," he mused, relished, his voice brimming with contempt. Fingers flexed within their silk confines, and his body seemed to thrum with the quick pace of blood- not through nervousness, rather, but the scent of impending damage and despair and pain. Johann's. His own.

"Let me guess; one of three things. One; so hobbled by the wounds you gained years ago in my defence, only now have you found yourself hale enough to limp back to your beloved master."

He stepped closer, and for all the immature authority in his voice the silk slippers couldn't even offer up an audible footfall.

"Two; you delayed only to amass riches and armies in my name-- and then be foiled at the last conceivable moment. Come here to offer your mean body and gain my protection in a last push to prove your fealty. But at this point I'd expect more tears in your eyes, so that leads me on to 'Three'."

As if laughing at how stiffly Johann had sunk to a knee, he dropped to his own with supple dancer's legs and the flexibility of a child to look him in the face.

"Word of me has taken ten years to make a ten day voyage across the Sea. And now you come to me, a faithful dog anticipating a master's call." He leant in; they were very close now. Behind him his guard loosened his sword in its sheath and resisted the urge to drag him back, out of the threat of Johann Stark's shadow. But the boy only smiled that deathless smile, his gaze locked with one dark as black earth. "It's that one, isn't it?"

He was so close now that Han would be able to see the things that poor light and failing eyes denied him earlier. Before some powder, make up perhaps had been enough to make the pale skin glow, but now he looked pallored, dull, like a canvas or bone left too long in the sun. The shadows beneath his eyes were chronic and dark, almost giving him the impression of a skull's sockets were it not for the bright burn of pale eyes. His parent's cheekbones had been high, well-cut, and his child's cheeks had been found as apples. But the boy he'd grown into had the face of a child from Fleabottom, cheekbones cut sharp by need. He had little cuts at the corner of his mouth, and small blood ulcers; deficient anaemia. A fifteen year old boy with an unbroken voice and no signs of scars or cuts from shaving; kept ambiguous, androgynous, the perfect Boy Prince. Unfit, underage to pursue his inheritance. Sat at banquets before empty plates.

"You're not the first piece of Westerosi scum to come crawling to pledge what's left of their lives at my feet." His voice was quiet, but the intensity grew. He was close enough that he had only to speak in a murmur. "Exiles. Slavers. Rapists. Men with too many fingers lost with through Frostbite at the Wall. Even my father's enemies, Master Wolf. They've all come to try their luck. Sink their teeth into me."

Behind him the Maester had gingerly raised himself to his feet. The guard uneasily rocked forward.

"So let's hear it. Let's hear of your loyalty to my family. Let's hear of the blood you shed when they died, and how you fought to the death for us."

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Ahoy!
 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 4:50 pm GMT 
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His vision, though reliable enough in its way, was not without limitations. Leading up to this moment, there were details that had escaped him as a result of the haze of smoke in a dim hall, the poor light of guttering candles, or even simple distance. Long years of squinting at parchment in the drafty gloom of Castle Black, of snow blindness narrowly evaded on those long missions beyond the Wall, had taken their toll, carving deeper lines into his often-furrowed brow, creasing the skin around his eyes. Now for the first time, he had the opportunity to truly study the face before him.

What he saw disturbed him. The boy was not merely thin, as he'd supposed, but nearly skeletal. What excuse could his caretakers possibly have to offer for the disquieting fact that the king in their keeping was gaunter than any man at Castle Black? Had he ever held a sword? Could he even lift one? And he was pale, too, deathly pale, like the rangers' bodies they sometimes recovered from North of the Wall. When was the last time he'd seen the sun?

His train of thought was interrupted abruptly by a flash of memory. Springing unbidden to his mind came the image of another boy, in a time and place far removed from the present: the thin neck bone-white and bowed, ridged with vertebrae that pushed up from beneath the porcelain skin, its owner's face hidden by a curtain of white-blond hair as he bent over some dusty tome in the cavernous library of the capital, as it had been in the days of their youth. But those eyes were ice blue, a color he'd seen often at the Wall as it refracted the light from its depths. They were cold, keen eyes, distant and impassive.

Not these, though. These eyes burned.

When at last he spoke, his voice was measured and calm. He was not a man easily provoked. "I did not fight for your family, Your Grace. I fought for you." He rose then, aware but unselfconscious of the fact that it took the support of one hand on the ground to push him to his feet. He did not bother to dust off his knee. "But it's best you don't hear the story from me. Ask someone you trust. With your permission," he added, bowing, "I'll wait outside."

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"Because studies have shown that dvorak's a genius" - Dass
"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: Fri Apr 14, 2017 2:47 am GMT 
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Perplexed, Johann's King forgot to take to his feet in the moment the man before him did- and, for a brief second was made to kneel before him. The moment he realised it he shifted a little too fast, bringing himself up so that they stood on equal footing. Far flung from the memories of the banquet hall that must still have stung and suppurated. Even then the boy still stood a head shorter than the other man. In terms of breadth he was dwarfed; a sapling before a bear- one he knew to be clawless, but had yet to peer within its jaw and see whether fangs still lined them. It seemed that he still had the urge to. Curiosity. Self-sabotage. Both.

Not many people could endure to stand so close for long, not when the stories of old deeds wrapped around him like a cloak. Their eyes would flicker to his hands and the way steel had shaped them, the fathomless depths of the dark eyes that seemed to reveal so little, the memories of an age of battles long gone that were carved through armour and into his skin. The boy was close enough to smell him; leather and wool, earthy, a brown scent damp with sea spray from his worn clothes, and a lingering sharp taste, one that pricked the tongue and made the jaw clench. It had been a long time since the boy had encountered drawn and weathered steel, swords with blood crept long ago into the fissures in the hilt. It was something he couldn't place, yet knew to fear.

He didn't step back, and his sarcastic, cruel smile didn't fade. But Johann would have been able to see a shiver run through thin shoulders and down his spine.

"Someone I trust?"

The ulcerated lips twitched, and if suppressing a laugh. And then it, and the smirk faded, and he looked up at the older man with embers spitting from his eyes. And then, without warning a gloved hand raised to take his jaw in the vice of his fingers, and pull him down to his eye level. He was wearing silk. It didn't disguise the violence in his hands, or the way they shook.

"Where are they?" he hissed. "I ask the man who knows how they died." His thumb rubbed the end of that scar and didn't flinch away; wanting to pry his fingers into those old wounds and make them bleed. "I am Jetherys Targaryen. You never had the right to cleave me from my last name, old man."


The little boy waved at them shyly, and his laugh put the birdsong to shame.



"Your Grace--" The guard's shadow. Jetherys's grip, broken. Unsteady footsteps back, shielded by the man before him, whose hands already settled on the hilt of his sword.

The wizened man at the foot of the chair began to speak, in a high, crooning voice, persuading the young highness to come back to his side and calm himself. The words were lost on him as he stood there, his hands clawed into fists and teeth gritted and watching Johann with a stare too black for his years.

"Fine." His voice was sharp as broken glass, and he turned to walk back to the chair. His back too open; too thin. "Go. I'll listen to the reports rather than hear it from a coward's mouth."

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