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Shield of Silverhall

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Shield of Silverhall

Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:26 am

17th of Neth, 4711

The wind blew through the streets of Silverhall that mid afternoon, sending up delicate whorls of freshly fallen snow that had yet to be tramped down by the usual bustling populace.  It was cold.  Even by the standards of the hardy Brevoyans it was cold, and Kuthona had not even yet arrived.  The talk about town, indeed in many of these northern nations, was that this incoming season would be a difficult one.  

There was at least one out on the streets of Silverhall that day that didn't mind the cold.

Crunching lightly over the frost-covered cobblestones, Wynnsaren moved unerringly toward the Winter estate, blanketed and hooded in her gray cloak with the white fox fur trim.  She needn't wear the cloak for warmth, her celestial blood giving her the preternatural ability to resist such temperatures, but she also did not want to appear too out of place in the city.  Her companions, Kazimir and Glas stayed in Novastasia for this trip for the purpose of not drawing attention.  

Perhaps it was an overly cautious step, but she didn't want her visit to the merchant prince to be misconstrued as anything political.  Indeed it was anything but!  With the tensions in Brevoy at their height now, she didn't want to make trouble for Master Winter, nor for King Thaddeus with word that his Ambassador was visiting Silverhall.  

Wynnsaren had only disembarked at the docks two hours previous, immediately purchasing a room at the Swaggering Swan, before sending her silver raven figurine off to deliver a message to the Winter estate notifying of her arrival.  Being the man that Rasven was, and tensions in the nation being what they were, she had no illusions that he would not be entirely busy, so she believed sending a message and awaiting his convenience would be less obtrusive than simply showing up at his door and demanding audience.

The aasimar had settled in for a wait, but it was hardly more than ten minutes later that she was unpacking her belongings, when a small nightingale alit on her open window pane.  Clearly this was not a natural songbird.  Its plumage radiated in a silvery, moonlit glow and it cocked its head to look directly at her with a large luminous eye, showing no fear as she came closer to inspect it.

To her utmost surprise, the magical creature opened its beak and began the most beautiful serenade!  Each note was a tangible thing; forming into a wispy mist that held aloft in the air.  After a few moments Wynnsaren realized that this mist was forming letters!  It was Rasven's response to her message. . .

"The Winter estate warms with the promise of your arrival.  My home awaits your convenience."

She had not been able to stifle her smile ever since.  

Her things never did get completely unpacked, eager as she was to see him, and the quick response she'd received told her that she was not the only one anticipating this second meeting.   That made her smile all the wider.

A warm bath washed away the usual grime of travel and Wynn scrubbed herself until she'd raised the pink from her porcelain skin.  The dress she'd chosen weeks ago for this occasion was a silk sheath of frosted lavender, fitted to the hips where it flowed in sleek waves to the floor.  The only embellishment, an intricate flourish of tiny embroidered snow blooms of blue, purple and yellow, lay along the neckline and the sleeves which were set just off of her shoulders.  The aasimar wore no other adornments.  No pendants this time, no rings or other baubles, for she had few and even then rarely wore them.  

Twice she'd fussed with her hair, trying to decide what to do with it, and both times she felt her creations entirely too formal, so settled for wearing it down to spill over her bare shoulders.  It would have to do.

By the time she approached the gate of the enormous estate with promised package in hand, Wynn was filled with anxious anticipation.  For two months she'd waited for the opportunity to see him again. . .to learn more about him, for she had so many questions that yearned for answers.  Two hours was entirely too short a time when in the company of a man the likes of Rasven Winter.

The glittering stone walk was somewhat difficult to make out against the glittering snow that blanketed the ground, but it remained magically dry to her step, and when she reached the great hoarwood doors, Wynnsaren had only laid a hand against the platinum filigree when the portal opened effortlessly before her.

Apparently Rasven's bird sang true and his home did indeed await her!  All nerves washed away at that moment and her lips turned up in a smile that must have melted the snow for yards around as she stepped through the doorway.

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:22 pm

Two dozen feet beyond the double doors awaited Rasven Winter, his posture straight and genteel with hands lightly clasped behind his back. He wore a tunic the color of midwinter frost splashed with diamond dust across the shoulders and down the upper arms. Sleek pants tucked neatly into ice-blue speckled high neck boots four inches below the knee. A rippling sapphire belt of water wraith hide loosely adorned his waist, dipping low on the left hip where his magnificent ice-and-diamond rapier resided in true swashbuckler fashion. Lustrous silver-blond hair cascaded down to his shoulders, while two thickly-braided strands fell before his pointed ears. Just below the hollow of the throat, a thin platinum cord cinched the small fragment of siccatite she had gifted him tightly against his skin.

The mid-afternoon sunlight streamed through the open doors, brightening his platinum-grey eyes to a polished sheen as they settled with admiration upon the woman passing over the threshold of his home. "Welcome, Wynnsaren." Rasven offered a slight bow in greeting. "You redefine elegance," he complimented with a widening smile.

"I am overjoyed to have you as an honored guest within my home once again," Rasven proclaimed, moving casually forward to meet her. "The hour is early yet. I thought perhaps a walk through the gardens might please you." The half-elf produced his left arm in anticipation of her acceptance.

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:57 am

Wynn's heart did a quick somersault in her chest when she saw Master Winter waiting there for her, which she realized with some surprise was a reaction that she couldn't recall ever experiencing before.  

"Heavens but he is beautiful. . ."

Her own metallically-hued eyes rested unabashedly upon his a long while before they drifted down to the familiar pendant at his neck.  A single dark brow peaked in curiosity.  There where it settled against the soft of his throat, the metal should have burned him.  The aasimar had worn it on their first meeting for a multitude of reasons, one of which was a subtle indicator that she was not exactly as she appeared, and now this tantalizing man had seen fit to use her same tactics against her!  

Wynnsaren grinned.  This mystery was going to be a quite enjoyable one to unravel. . .

She shrugged the cloak from her shoulders only to have it and the package of Osiowet that she'd brought, whisked away immediately by a servant that had suddenly emerged from a hidden room to the left of her.  It was only the second living soul -- aside from the Master himself -- which she'd seen within the estate.  All else seemed to have a life of its own in the remarkable place.  Something about knowing that there were people about, even unseen, comforted her a bit, for at least he wasn't completely alone in this enormous home.

"Rasven Winter," she pronounced with a soft smile, as she dipped into a graceful curtsy.  "It is a great pleasure to see you once more.  I must say that your presence is enough to banish any road-weariness I may have previously suffered."

Wynnsaren took his offered arm, resting her hand comfortably in the crook of his elbow.  "The gardens will be lovely I have little doubt, and how much more so in such company!  Lead on, Sir, and I will follow."

It struck her then how tall he was.  Something she hadn't acknowledged during their first meeting, probably due to the fact that she'd spent most of the time completely flummoxed by how off guard this man had caught her, but her head barely topped his shoulders.  Not an unusual thing at her own modest height.  Somehow though, his presence made her feel all the smaller.

"I should thank you, Rasven, for the lovely bird you sent me."  An appreciative smile lit her face as they walked past treasure after treasure adorning the walls of the hallway, but her attention remained fixed upon the man at her side.  "A warm and most unexpected greeting."

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:20 pm

"I had hoped you would find the songbird pleasing," Rasven expressed warmly. The long central hall yawned before them with riches enough to accommodate some dragon hoards. Despite the cavernous feeling of the enormous passageway, the exquisite acoustics permitted no echos from their voices, but simply amplified their words and captured the magic of their tonal qualities. To not hear a word spoken clearly in these halls required one to be either deaf or decidedly uninterested . . . unless Rasven Winter stipulated otherwise, of course.

"In our last meeting," the merchant prince extrapolated, "I witnessed a rare quality--one of many you undoubtedly possess--that I could not help but reflect upon with growing adoration. You have an unquenchable desire to seek the beauty in everything you see. In many cases, that element you strive to discover might be buried so deep beneath layers and layers of darkness that to uncover it would seem time consuming at best, futile at worst. Sometimes, that spark might be snuffed out of the subject all together. Yet it never stops you from looking. Cynicism creeps in--I cannot fathom it otherwise, but you refuse it safe harbor lest you may unintentionally overlook what beauty exists there. When one considers the world in which you and I live, well . . . it warms and strengthens the heart to discover someone so uncompromisingly compassionate."

The pair had walked some distance in the time it took for Rasven to convey his musings about her rare quality, and he had led her down two additional passages in that time. Thus, as he deliberately put the finishing touches on the small, heart-warming speech, a silver gate created in the likeness of a twisting latticework of thick, leafy vines with winged, lithe-bodied fey playfully hiding and dancing amidst them slowly opened as they approached. Beyond the skillfully crafted gate a winding pathway of shimmering blue ice wide enough for three people to walk abreast was flanked by snow easily a foot deep or more. Numerous species of vibrant flowers in various shades of red, purple, blue, and white with greenery of frosted white, icy blue, or minty green were naturally arranged in small groves and hedges. Short wintergreen trees and looming hoarwoods spotted the large garden so as to provide the ambiance of a forest wonderland without blotting out the open sky overhead.

"Also," Rasven half-turned his face toward the fetching woman on his arm, "identifying so wondrous a quality spurs me onward to find moments you need not strive to seek so hard."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:18 pm

Throughout his brief dialogue, Wynnsaren couldn't help but wonder at this remarkable man.  She could not think of a time when she'd been complimented on the way she viewed the world, rarely ever much deeper than the surface of her skin in truth, and what was said resonated so closely to her heart that it sent ripples of warmth from the point at which his words had struck.  

Did he personally identify with such a quest, she wondered?  Had he given up on such a view of life himself, or perhaps he was the one whose beauty could only be found beneath layers of darkness?   Call it what you will, naivety. . . hope. . .the aasimar simply refused to believe the latter to be true.   Layers of mystery surely, but darkness?  Only in rumor. . .

When the gates opened, Wynnsaren's eyes widened with them, lips parting slightly in astonishment as she sought to absorb everything that fell beneath that limited gaze.

Soft flakes of snow drifted lazily to the ground, alerting her that it was open to the outside though she couldn't see to be sure.  The flowers themselves, none of which she recognized, appeared completely natural in this setting.  Not at all magically fabricated.  When asked, the merchant prince revealed them to be unique species that grow in the wintry environments of Irrisen, Land of the Linnorm Kings and Crown of the World.  She wasn't willing to give up Rasven's arm so soon after reuniting, so Wynn ended up fighting -- often poorly -- the urge to pull him along the path as she marveled over every new display of beauty.

Hidden hollows detoured from the shimmering pathway every dozen feet or so.  Private places of meditation or relaxation.  One of the hoarwood trees which towered above them, had great, white roots arching out of the ground high enough to form a small pavilion, with flowering vines clambering around the structure, creating a canopy of frost blue blooms in the shape of trumpets.

Along the path grew a single, gorgeous white blossom, which had managed to push its way up through the deep snow but still remained partially concealed beneath a blanket of frost.  Wynnsaren couldn't resist.  Detaching herself from her escort, she gave his arm a squeeze in promise of return before stepping over to the flower.  She knelt and cupped it carefully in her hands, gently breathing warmth upon the silken petals until the snow melted away to reveal the color of a deep crimson flush at the center.

"Rasven," she breathed, a calm smile playing upon her lips as she rose, "you have shown me more beauty in the short amount of time we have had together, than I have beheld in years. . .decades I dare say!  Your home is. . .incomparable in its grandeur.  Your hard won wealth has granted you such extravagance and splendor the likes of which would have put the imperial governor to shame.  

"That said. . .  It is important to me that you know that this," she gestured to the glorious garden about them, "is not why I returned.  I am so. . .amazed by everything here!  So honored that you would allow me to explore at your side!"   Wynn glided back to the half elf as if pulled back by an invisible cord and with a gentle palm, patted the blue tunic at the place above his heart.  "But, this is why I returned."

She dropped her hand and reattached herself at his elbow as they continued moving along the path.

"You seek to show me true beauty, Rasven Winter, but do you realize that you need not look any farther than your own heart?"

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:24 pm

The simplicity of that question, spoken with such sincerity, struck hard at the very core of the man for whom it was aimed. Rasven leveled a searching gaze toward the woman beside him, studying her countenance with casual intensity. The fairer sex often preferred the trappings of the heart when attempting to coerce judgment or extract information, but rarely in his experience would they breach the subject so quickly. Even as his keen instincts raised the warnings, however, his intellectual senses rapidly probed all the tell-tale signs and detected no hint of falsehood in her tone, posture, or facial expression. Certainly the inquiry was leading somewhere, but nowhere malicious.

Rasven Winter lowered his platinum eyes, ashamed at his brief moment of doubt concerning this woman who had regarded him with nothing but honest trust since the first moment they'd met. In all his recollections, she was the first that could lay claim to such a boast. His practiced senses would maintain their vigilance for the presence of untruth and deception; mayhaps with Wynnsaren he need not be so blatantly precautionary.

The half-elf smiled with an unaccustomed meekness. How do I answer such a question? he pondered, having never had the opportunity to do so honestly!

"Think of all this as an extension of my heart, Wynnsaren," Rasven explained, lifting his eyes up to lose themselves in hers. "I am rarely so blessed as to witness the beauty inherent in people. Instead, I identify it in my surroundings and bring it back here that I might lose myself in it for a time.

"This," he mimicked her earlier gesture encompassing the garden around them, "encapsulates all the beauty my heart could safely permit . . . And so, now, I wish to share it with you."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:14 pm

There was a quality in that smooth voice that seemed hesitant, as if there was something he would not -- perhaps could not -- yet express to her. It caused Wynnsaren's serene smile to falter almost imperceptibly as she looked up into his eyes.

"I have pushed too far", she thought. "Too fast." That moment confirmed for her that which she'd suspected from the first. Rasven Winter was not a man to be pushed into divulging anything about himself that he was not ready to, and if she wasn't able to keep her ravenous curiosity in check, it might do much more harm than good.

"For. . . Forgive me. . ." Wynn stumbled over the words, held transfixed as she was by the intensity of his eyes. "It is not my desire to belittle any of these spectacular sights that you wish to reveal. You are allowing me to experience a precious part of yourself, and that being the case, then I wish to see all of it, Rasven." The corners of her lips lifted into a smile once more, though tinged this time with a bit of remorse.

"Everything you can safely permit."

Perhaps one day he might trust her enough to share that which was not safe.

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:46 pm

"Hmm." Rasven became contemplative for a moment, bringing his free hand up to tap a finger against his chin. "No," he said at length. "I have yet to adequately express my meaning to you, I believe. Let me try again, that perhaps I might better convey my position for you."

The half-elf stopped their meandering progress along the path so as to give her his full attention. Before beginning anew, he placed his right hand upon hers and slid it down his arm that he might tenderly hold her hand between both of his. "When you came to me in Arodus, it was with a design to extract information important to you. Naturally, you are not the first woman to approach me with precisely that intent. In my world, knowledge equips one with power far greater than any sword or staff. Forgive me if this sounds self-indulgent--such is not my intent, but knowledge I possess in great quantities, and should I not possess it, I own the means to attain it. For these reasons, takers pass through my gates daily with the intent of manipulating me into divulging information important to them and, oft times, to my detriment.

"They fail," he proclaimed without a hint of arrogance, "because I am not so easily manipulated.

"You did not fail," he offered her the wisp of a smile, "because you brought unique gifts to our meeting . . . sincerity, honesty, truth." Rasven's smile grew more enticing as he added, "And a rarest beauty just as unknown to any of them, which holds me transfixed whenever I am near you . . .

"Which I find at times causes me to ramble on." His smile transitioned into something more akin to a bashful smirk. "Let me progress to the point, that you will know I have not said all of this for mine own benefit only!

"I have never been here, Wynnsaren," Rasven admitted, squeezing her hand gently in emphasis. "This experience--being with you for no other reason than because of you--is entirely new to me. I cannot help but believe it absurd that after knowing you for a mere two hours I have come to trust you so explicitly, yet that does seem to be the case. Old habits will surface," he glanced away contritely for the briefest moment before snapping his attention back to her, "but I am determined to make them the exception with you, not the rule."

He instinctively lowered his head and tilted it slightly to the side in an unsuccessful attempt to match her eye level. "My wealth is a part of who I am. I cannot hide it from passers-by or pretend I do not own it. Just as you feared I might mistake your intentions for joining me this day are based solely on greed--a notion I summarily dismissed in my first hour of conversing with you, so, too, do I fear that you will mistake my desire to show and give you beautiful things as an attempt to purchase you. Such distractions, I must believe, are only natural. Yet this is what I know, and I pray to whatever gods might listen that you will accept my desire to share with you what I have as a token of the affection I bear you.

"Let me also declare this, for I believe it necessary that you hear it: As a gift to you for the kindness, for the selflessness, for the trust you have shown me, I will grant to you that which I have never granted any other . . . . Free reign."

On impulse, Rasven removed his hand from atop hers and reached to caress her cheek. As if instantly realizing such intimacy might be undesirable so soon, the half-elf caught himself and lowered the hand to settle back in its original location.

"I cannot guarantee an answer to all your curiosities," he informed her hurriedly and with a pleasant smile to mask the blunder, "but never do I desire you to feel wrong in the asking. Should an inquiry cross into territories impermissible, I simply request you accept my humblest apologies at the necessity of harboring a few secrets.

"In short, Wynnsaren, let the pleading for forgiveness be my burden, not yours."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:07 pm

A long moment passed between them with Wynnsaren's heart hammering hard against her chest, then she lowered her head and chuckled. How terribly she had misunderstood him!

"Your gift for reading people is nothing short of stunning," she smiled self-consciously, peering back up at the half elf through long, dark lashes. "Somehow, in one speech, with heart laid bare, you have stripped away all of those insecurities to which I was yet holding fast. Most especially insightful was the fear I might believe you to be attempting to buy my affection. As you have expunged my own fears, Rasven, let me help do the same for you with an admission."

She lifted her free hand and placed it atop his, running her thumb gently over the knuckles of his right hand.

"Time and time again the world teaches us through cruel lesson that we cannot ever trust -- that we dare not, and in our eagerness for self-preservation and to avoid further pain, we believe. I was taught at a very young age that my worth was based on what I am, not who I am," Wynn attempted explanation. "That my value hinged upon what I could provide, be it entertainment, oracular insight, or. . .baser diversions, to one who was willing to put forth the coin. That was what I was told. . .it was never what I believed. Those who attempted to force such will upon me learned quickly their mistake. However, instruction given at young age is not so easily forgotten. I am ashamed to say that even now that lesson pulls at my heels and gnaws at my confidence. A failing strengthened further by my well-intentioned friends at home who worry for me being here for that very reason.

"A statement of truth you have made regarding old habits, for I cannot say that I am able to leave this weakness by the wayside so quickly, but I give you my word that where you are concerned, Rasven Winter, I will try, for I believe what you have said."

How did she get here again? For perhaps the thousandth time she wondered at herself and at him, remembering with near disbelief the fact that she'd only spent just over two hours with Rasven Winter!

"Stars!" She remarked, proceeding a short burst of lilting laughter. "I have believed every word that has emerged from your lips since the night I met you! Shared things that I have never shared. Agreed to a second meeting during the middle of a business arrangement!" Her head shook from side to side in obvious incredulity. "You said it correctly! Absurd! I thought it thusly to the point that I spent two weeks convinced that I had been put under some sort of enchantment!"

When Wynnsaren lifted her eyes to meet his once more, they were filled with conviction and warmth. A slow smile spread across her face to cement the sentiments that her eyes displayed.

"I have some understanding of how precious is this free reign you have granted me. Better than most I should think, considering my past predilections. I also know just how rare. . . how absurd -- a perfect word for it truly -- is this inexplicable trust that we share, and I want to doubly assure you that I could never betray such faith. Some secrets must remain so. It is the way of things, especially with the work that you do, and I will most certainly not begrudge you such necessities.

"But now," she smirked, biting her bottom lip mischievously before proceeding, "I get to commence with the inquisition I have held in check for months! Do not fear though, I will be gentle," she teased, "and I know just where to begin. . . With the same question you first put to me at dinner."

She took both of Rasven's hands in hers and turned them so the backs of his hands were facing upward to display all six of his white gold and gemmed rings, and the two fingers that remained conspicuously without.

"How is it that you have not come to be fixed with a proper title? And by that I mean the title of husband. . . Or lover perhaps?" Despite her attempt to appear bold, she still flushed at the asking. "How are you of all people alone in this enormous palace? Please tell me if I am missing something, my dear Rasven, but from where I stand, this impossibly captivating man before me should have women falling all over themselves to spend time with him. Even those wicked rumors -- which I suspect he spun himself, should not be enough to keep them at bay!

"You must have occasion to meet so very many women. . . Between your business and the social circles of Silverhall, surely not all of them have fallen short of your desire for an honest heart?"

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:38 pm

Rasven had confronted succubi during his span of years and easily brushed aside their lascivious advances. Yet, exposed to such minor flirtation as her playfully nibbling upon the fullness of her bottom lip, he fought a sudden weakness in his knees and an excitement that left the tips of his fingers tingling against the soft touch of her hands. Warmth surged through him and carried a power so extraordinary that he nearly turned away from her in an attempt to catch his breath and steady himself. Lucky for him, many decades of practicing self-discipline in the direst of circumstances enabled Rasven to uphold proper etiquette during this most indescribable event. Even so, he found the notion of momentary overstimulation at so casual a gesture disconcerting!

And, perhaps, overwhelmingly glorious!

"Well," he said, but immediately lost momentum to lightly clear his throat; so he paused the explanation before ever it truly began with refocused concentration to prevent any bewildered look from plastering his countenance.

The hells? he chastised himself inwardly. Do not become a stuttering ass, Winter. Get hold of yourself, man!

"Certainly," Rasven started again, "I have never lacked the attentions of women desirous of companionship--be it short term or long. Rarely have they fallen over themselves to get to me," he winked at her with the use of the description. "Though I have faced the occasional overt throwing of one's self at my feet, most are graceful enough to approach me in a manner befitting their social rank. Admittedly, a few acquitted themselves admirably . . . very few, if I must be honest in my discourse, but enough to surprise me, surely. Those harboring genuine intent offered pleasant conversation, but my heart never yearned for them. In truth, none of them should be blamed for my disinterest.

"From the very beginning, my upbringing prepared me for a life of dedication to Silverhall. She was to be my first and only love, you see, and thus a life incorporating the trivialities of a relationship with anyone of true flesh and blood would be worse than mere distraction . . . . No, it would prove detrimental to the House I have a binding oath to protect and nurture above all things. Mine has ever been a life of service to something far grander than myself, Wynnsaren." Rasven permitted a knowing grin to tug at the corners of his mouth. "Such a life, I have come to understand, may be one you are familiar with, yes?"

His wide grin diminished, but never fully disappeared, as he continued on to more completely answer her inquiry. How could a man peer into the windows of this woman's eyes and not maintain at least some hint of joy, after all? "As to the title of lover . . . " Rasven paused ever-so-briefly, appreciatively mesmerized by the slight flush such mention brought to Wynn's features. "I could not bring myself to such behavior. In the time I have served Silverhall, Wynnsaren, I could count on my hands the number of noblemen who have not taken lovers into their beds--regardless of age or marital status. I have witnessed how such liaisons darken the hearts of men, but, worse still, how they so dangerously corrupt the hearts and lives of women. Dare I say that I struggle to recall when the term lover aptly applied to such a union, as love--actual love--rarely played a notable role in them. Occasionally, love can grow from such a relationship, I will not deny it, but the practice of self-discipline suffered its beating long before.

"I required the maintenance of self-discipline to flourish in my service to Silverhall. As such, it occluded any desire for dalliance. In addition, I must confess a strong inclination against using a woman in such a way, for such a purpose. It reeks of selfishness and the lowest form of dishonesty." Rasven forced a chuckle, afraid that his reply may have darkened the mood and not wanting their discussion to travel down such a path. "Thus, for two hundred twenty-six years, the only love I have sanctioned myself has been to Silverhall and her sustained prosperity."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:51 pm

Wynnsaren was just chiding herself for how wicked she was for being so wholly pleased by his answer -- for well did she understand how lonely a life of service could be! -- when she heard Rasven deliver that final comment.

The admiring smile that had been playing at the corners of her lips dropped open in shock. Rather stupidly she quite imagined.

"No. . . How could you possibly. . .? " Undoubtedly an utterance that could only add to the absurdity of her appearance just then, but a more honest remark she could not hope to formulate.

Two hundred and twenty-six years??!!

Her eyes roved shamelessly over his features seeking for clues she hadn't thought to look for. Wynn had assumed him a half elf, but at well over two centuries he would be ancient in the extreme! Those gently pointing ears seemed to indicate elven heritage in some amount, but if he was indeed part elf, what could be the other part? Human? Now she somewhat doubted it with this admission of age, his silver-blond hair that she was sure felt like silk (a theory Wynnsaren was most desirous to test if she would ever work up the nerve), and the metallic tone of his eyes that seemed to almost mirror her own in the light, but her constant assumptions about this man would be her undoing!

Wrong. . . Her breath caught in her throat as his lips turned up in amusement. That delicious grin would be her undoing. . .

Of course he knew what she was thinking then. An aurochs would have known exactly what she was thinking by the ridiculous expression set upon her features! How might one politely ask what a man was?

Curious yes, she was desperately curious, but while she gave herself a moment to work out how to best phrase such a rude question, another. . .perhaps more worrisome query was given voice. The thought that she might be a detriment to his duty was a troubling one.

"So you have been raised to be a champion of House Lebeda and a defender of her cause. . . At over two hundred years, that would have put you here during the time of Choral the Conqueror," Wynnsaren's eyes widened at the realization. Impossibly, even more questions now burst into mind in a great rush. She shook her head and tried to focus, a difficult feat with Rasven's penetrating eyes resting on her.

"In my own service, the gods never troubled with the formality of a binding oath, though their will seems just as unavoidable as if I had taken one," she admitted with a smirk, "but from what bond does your own oath spring? Blood? Fealty to the House? Or perhaps something more complicated. . ."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:45 pm

"Something far more complicated, I fear," Rasven replied, and instantly a cloud washed over his countenance. A low light ebbed from within all six priceless gems adorning his fingers. The glow appeared subdued deep within each gem, a speck of brightness equivalent to a star's tiny pinhole within the Dark Tapestry. He closed his eyes from her and bowed his head to prepare for the assault he knew to be coming. "And far less forgiving," he whispered in a soft, resigned tone.

Within seconds, a powerful radiance erupted from the gems to enshroud both of them in cascading colors. Rasven clenched his jaw at the sudden influx of torment, the muscle and sinew all along his throat going taut as though two invisible forces with divine strength played tug-of-war with his neck as rope. Hands trembling uncontrollably within hers, his entire body suddenly lurched to the right so quickly the half-elf lost all balance and crumpled to the ground in the snow, muscles spasming throughout his body.

All the while, Rasven Winter kept his eyes closed serenely, afraid of what horror he might see spread over her features at the sight of him now. The words forgive me repeated over and over inside his mind as he calmly battled against the invading torment with willpower forged of adamantine. Skin rippled as if the flesh within was desirous of bursting free. In places, the pores stretched themselves like gaping maws in his body, opening and closing, opening and closing.

Throughout the constant deformation and reformation clawing and twisting and racking his body, the lids covering his eyes stayed at peace.

"Lisssssss," Rasven hissed behind his teeth after feeling some control return to his tongue. "C-c-c-c-all . . . Lissssss . . . . 'Eeeeee w-w-w-will-ll-ll . . . 'eeeeelp-p-p y-y-you-ou-ou . . . ."

The pain he could cope with; having Wynnsaren see him like this might well tear him apart.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:39 pm

She should have panicked. Any sane person would have. If she'd been a gently-bred lady of society, Wynnsaren would probably have shrieked and danced around in a circle crying at the terrifying sight of the agony that was being wrought upon Rasven's body, then fainted dead away. Maybe she simply should have fled from his home and never looked back. But she was no noble lady and no shrinking violet. If the gods had given her anything, they had given the oracle the ability to very quickly adapt to changing and often frightening circumstances, though Wynn may never have thanked them for that before, she certainly thanked them now!

The aasimar went to the ground seconds after Rasven was ripped from her hands, scrambling over to his side and pulling his head and shoulders from the deep, wet snow to rest on her lap. She didn't know what to do! This was hardly a physical wound that she could heal with her magic and she wasn't sure if simply touching him would bring further pain. In truth, she wasn't sure the man could be any more in pain than he was now!

He was fighting something, though what that was she could hardly begin to guess, but the way his face seemed so at peace made her believe that this was not the first time this had happened. Not by a long shot.

Wynnsaren heard his ragged plea and didn't hesitate. While she wasn't sure who this Lis was, if he wasn't nearby, than one of Rasven's servants would be surely!

"LIS!!!!"

The force and power of her cry rippled through the once peaceful garden and echoed like the reverberation of an archon's trumpet down the adjoining hall. Someone must be close enough to hear!

She leaned her head down beside his, her voice turning abruptly to velvet against his ear. There was no fear when she spoke. No horror or sympathetic pain or pity. Oh, she felt those things in spades, but projecting them to him at this time would only have done him further harm. The only thing she could think of to lend him some semblance of aid, was the strength of her voice.

"Fight it," she whispered decisively, her lips brushing against the tip of his ear as she spoke. "I am not going anywhere."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:51 pm

Within moments, the servant appeared along the ice path, hustling as quickly as his middle-aged legs and the long, flowing white robe draped about him would allow. A ring of greying brown hair encircled a bald head now leaking with the sweat of exertion.

"My lady," he greeted her breathlessly, bowing hurriedly at the waist as he rushed up beside her. The servant crouched down beside her and inspected the man whose head she cradled upon her lap. His first glance fell upon Rasven's hands, and, with a subtle nod, he sought to raise the man up to a sitting position. "Would you help me move my Master to his balcony?"

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:10 pm

Wynn responded before the man had even been given the opportunity to finish his question.  "Yes, of course!"  Quickly she helped him get Rasven seated upright and then positioned herself at the half-elf's left side, pulling his still-convulsing arm over her shoulders in preparation to lift him.

"You must be Lis. . .  Please call me Wynnsaren," she offered politely, clutching to formality like a lifeline to calm her nerves as the servant took the position opposite her.  "It is a pleasure to meet you."

And it was.

She took an instant liking to the man, whether that be due to his calmness of spirit as he aided her in this situation in which she felt so completely helpless, or because of the concern in his eyes as he tended to his master.  Wynn could think of few greater gauges of a man's heart than how he treated his servants.  Lis was singing Master Winter's praises simply through the way he was caring for him with such devotion.  

Together, as gently as they could, they heaved Rasven to his feet, with some difficulty due to his size, and began to drag him from the garden.  Wynn's hand was wrapped tightly around his waist in attempt to get some modicum of leverage and every few moments, she could feel the skin beneath his tunic writhing and pushing at her fingers.  It was highly disturbing. . .  Spasms still wracked his body, making it impossible for Rasven to aid them toward their destination.  In truth, she couldn't tell if he was even conscious.   Gods she hoped not.  Wynn hated the thought that he would still be aware enough to feel the pain that tore at his body!  It had to be incredible.  Breathtakingly agonizing.  His face maintained a mask of serenity, but the muscles that strained taut in his neck and jaw told of the war that was going on in his body.  

But why??  Why was this happening??  What did the rings have to do with it?

"And far less forgiving," Rasven had said.

The last words he uttered before collapsing into spasmodic pain. . .

Was he being punished for something?  Something to do with his oath?

A new heat rose in Wynnsaren's chest that had nothing to do with embarrassment or the burgeoning enamor she felt for this man.  It was anger.  Fury that anyone would use this horrific form of torture as a punishment for any crime, let alone whatever Rasven might have been deemed guilty!  That it obviously was not the first time he'd been subjected to such torment only infuriated the aasimar further.  

Step by step, Wynn and Lis dragged Master Winter deeper into the enormous compound that served as his home.  Though his muscles still convulsed, Rasven's skin had ceased its gaping and undulating by the time they reached a circle of runes.  Lis led them into the midst of it, wheezing out the word, "Eighth."  

The world twisted suddenly, wrenching them from one space to another, and Wynn's knees almost buckled beneath her at the shock of the teleportation spell.  The gods hadn't exactly been gentle with her depositing in the past, but it was different at those times, less. . . nauseating.  Lis seemed to feel no such effects though as they quickly hefted his master back onto their shoulders and started down a new hall.

Eighth?  Were they on the eighth floor?   Stars, she thought, how big is this place!?  Wynn had no hope of ever seeing the scope of it in the daylight and she could only see upon approach that it continued skyward past the third floor.  Once again she was glad to have Lis here, as she realized that she could easily become hopelessly lost within these halls.

It was another few minutes before they came to a large section of windows.  Lis, breathing quite heavily from the exertion at this point, stepped up to a particular section of the wall and whispered a word under his breath.  Well, not quite under his breath as belabored as it was, for Wynnsaren clearly heard the word, "Serethail."

The sliding door, which she suspected was made of a sheet of translucent ice, moved aside to allow them access to the expansive balcony.  A single divan occupied the terrace; one of those lovely, white orchid petal seatings that Wynnsaren had experienced upon her first visit to the Winter estate.  Certainly there could be no more comfortable place for Rasven to rest while this. . .condition passed.

Carefully, they lowered him onto the divan, putting up his feet and laying his head back onto one of the silken petals.  Wynn noticed that the tremors had lessened in severity by that point and she was glad, but he still seemed to be battling against the pain.

A gust of northerly wind whipped the aasimar's hair into a whirlwind of onyx locks, and while normally her attention would be inexorably drawn to their surroundings, Wynnsaren found herself unable to tear her eyes from Rasven's face as his body suffered.  She had never borne witness to such strength. . .and she found herself humbled by it.

"Lis?"  Wynn finally looked up to see the servant leaning over to catch his breath, and it was only then that she felt the exhaustion tingling in her own arms as the adrenaline drained from her veins.  

"Will he be alright?"  Her voice sounded hollow and small to her own ears.  Rasven was shaking again.  She gently pushed aside a few strands of silver hair that had fallen over his eyes, and choked on her breath when she realized that it did indeed feel like silk.  "Please tell me if there is anything more I can do. . ."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:52 pm

Lis gulped down a few mouthfuls of air before finally finding the breath to answer her. "Undoubtedly, my lady," he replied and showed her a tremulous smile. "I have yet to witness the hardship that Master Winter could not overcome."

The cool autumn day made more frigid by the biting wind nipped at the beads of sweat upon his brow from the long, laborious journey getting his Master to this spot. Lis comfortably placed the Master's hands one atop the other over the man's abdomen, then took an extra moment to be sure the man rested in as leisurely a position as possible before wiping the moisture from his own brow with a sleeve. He rose from beside his Master and circled the divan to lean in close to the lady's ear. "It would be for the best if you would accompany me now, my lady," he informed her, unwilling to call her familiar while still in the presence of Master Winter. The servant feared no strong repercussions should he do so save for the displeasure of his Master on account of not giving this lady her rightful due, but that was enough for him. The very thought of such turned his stomach, in fact. By a moment's perusal, he could tell her uncomfortable with courtly titles and respects, but he had never yet met the woman who would not abide by them.

Lis leaned a little closer in practiced fashion and whispered quieter yet, "Surely, knowing that you have seen him as such distresses him more than this current condition. Master Winter is a glorious man, I promise you . . . but he can be prideful." He said that last part even more hushed, and his eyes flashed toward his Master's face just to be assured that he had not been overheard.

The servant stepped back then and motioned back toward the sliding door of ice. "I am, of course, at your service completely unless Master Winter should call," Lis hinted in an attempt to persuade her, adding a deep bow.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:50 am

There was not even the remotest of possibilities that Lis would have missed the scowl sweeping over her features at the mention of leaving Rasven's side. Just as quickly as the cloud rolled in however, Wynn's shoulders sagged and she nodded, conceding to the wisdom of the servant, who certainly knew his master better than she did.

Before accompanying Lis, she turned her attention to her surroundings for the first time and saw. . . nothing. A gray expanse rose above her. Wynnsaren walked out to the edge of the rail-less balcony until the toes of her slippers peeked over the edge, and she saw a similar gray expanse of nothing falling beneath her. There was such a remarkable feeling of openness! This had to be the second best thing to flight itself and the sensation brought a small smile back to the aasimar's face.

"This must have an amazing view of the city," she continued the smile as she turned back to face the servant, who was patiently waiting for her by the door. "I cannot even begin to imagine the symphony that could be heard from this height in the evenings."

Reluctantly Wynnsaren retraced her steps back to the divan and leaned over, gently placing her hand upon Rasven's.

"I have no desire to interrupt Master Winter's peace in this place." A begrudging sigh and she withdrew her hand and circled back around the divan toward Lis. "In that case, perhaps you could escort me to an area where I might take some rest myself and sit awhile. It has been rather a long journey."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:19 pm

"Of course, my lady," Lis answered with another bow.

He quickly turned away from her and silently muttered, "Serethail" to open the dangerous door of ice. The room beyond was sizable and immaculately clean. Though sparsely furnished with only a canopied bed with hangings that resembled a thick fog blanketing a silky, frozen tundra of covers, a finely-crafted desk of white oak complete with matching chair and armoire in the far corner beside a long mirror posted to the wall, the chamber was lavishly decorated with wintry tapestries of ice fey, winter wolves, and yeti communities.

As Lis ushered the estate's honored guest into the chamber, he explained, "The Winter estate awaits your desires. Have you any requests as to entertainments, comforts, or cuisines? I can have a bath drawn for you if it is my lady's wish? Master Winter would not have you wanting in his absence," the servant framed his comment with a warm smile.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Oct 08, 2013 11:27 am

"Really, Lis," she returned the man's smile with equal warmth and just a hint of mirth, "We have exerted ourselves to the point of perspiration, working side by side as comrades. Wynnsaren will do just fine," she offered a wink. "And thank you for your generous hospitality, but I find myself quite content at the moment."

Wynn looked over to glance through the ice door toward the occupied divan that lay just beyond. Her brow creased ever so slightly in thought, but she turned away and glided over to the edge of the bed where she sank into the feather-soft cover, with a deep, satisfied sigh of pleasure.

"There is one thing I might request of you, if you have the time," she asked at length, motioning to the white oak chair across from her in invitation. Certainly the servant appeared as if he could use a rest as well, so her request accomplished a dual purpose. "Would you mind sitting with me for a short while? Considering the singular event that brought us up here, I find myself quite replete with questions.

"Now, I have no desire to put you at odds with Master Winter. I would never wish that," Wynn reassured, "but I was asking him about his oath to House Lebeda when this. . .attack happened, and from his comments I am concerned that perhaps I should not have pressed him on that particular matter."

The aasimar briefly shut her eyes and swallowed with some difficulty as she remembered the merchant prince collapsing to the ground in spasms. Gods help her if her incessant prodding was the trigger for such punishment. . .if could even be described as such. Why couldn't she just start with something simple? Like favorite color? Maybe if he liked to dance! Normal people asked those kind of questions, didn't they? Normal people with normal lives who would normally be pretty assured to be around the following day or not going off to war. . . Why did she always have to push!

After finishing with the mental berating, Wynn continued. "Might you be able to tell me what causes this condition? I would hate to be a burden to him, and perhaps if I know what I should avoid. . ."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:26 pm

"Forgive me, my lady, but to call you common would be beneath all decency in my Master's house," he lowered into an exonerating bow. "It is not my place to forget proper etiquette even in Master Winter's absence. It would reflect poorly upon him should such practices get out, even by accident. And my lady has my deepest gratitude for her assistance in escorting Master Winter to his place of rest."

Lis watched as the woman settled upon the bed, answered, "Of course, my lady," to her request that he sit with her for a time, and hurried over to the chair to which she had motioned. He digested her probing statements with the casual air of expectation, having known ahead of time that such were coming.

"It would be my pleasure to answer any such queries, my lady," he replied comfortingly to her own hesitancy, being sure to offer a knowing smile to help ease her tribulations that perhaps she was prying. "Indeed, upon receiving your message of intent to call, Master Winter immediately beckoned me to his side and obligated me to satisfy all inquiries you might have just as he would . . . " the servant dithered shortly before finally finishing, "if circumstances permitted his doing so."

Lis sat straight-backed in the cozy chair of white oak, his servant senses disallowing him from truly relaxing. He prided himself on preparedness, which meant being light on his feet and able to spring to life at the first intimation that his services would be needed. What's more, it pleased Lis that his readiness to act shone advantageously upon his Master. Emboldened by his Master's confidence, he pressed forward, "My lady, I do so hope that you will bestow upon me some small right to be judicial in my responses. Though not necessarily granted me by the letter of my Master's command, I would so desire that you sanction for me discretion. There are some things--some questions--that Master Winter would delight in discussing with you, and I would be remiss if I snatched such opportunity for joy away from him." Lis smiled wide suddenly, almost shyly. "You see, my lady, I have never seen him act as he does with you . . . at the mere thought of you, if I might say it. Master Winter tries to hide it around the servants, of course, but I fear that in this he fails to adequately contain his elation."

The servant chuckled aloud, something of a mix between surprise and amusement. "I have served him all my life, you see, yet I have never seen him like this. I believe it good for him. I know it to be good for him." He looked her directly in the eyes, then, and nodded with approval. "Regardless of how things work out between you, I wish to thank you for that. It does my old heart good to know that--even if only for a short time--Master Winter has felt happiness."

He nearly fell upon her with a huge, appreciative hug, but in dutiful fashion showed restraint!

"With those words spoken aloud," he said, rubbing warmth back into his legs despite the pleasant temperature of the chamber, "let me now respond concerning your question, yes?

"You say that the attack occurred upon mention of his oath to House Lebeda?" Lis asked simply for clarification. Upon seeing her slight nod in affirmation, he knowingly mimicked the gesture. "I fear this current bout brought on by that very subject, my lady. Please understand and accept my words completely when I say you cannot be blamed for this. Surely, you did not know the ramifications that would come from such an asking because it's impossible for him to speak of it, at least openly and with intent to inform."

Lis stopped there and brought a finger up to tap against his lips in thought. After a long pause in deep contemplation, he released a long sigh before continuing. "What I am about to unveil to you is as much conjecture on my part as it is true knowledge. Naturally, Master Winter cannot confide in anyone the truth of his oath, which includes myself, of course. However, I have been his servant forty-four winters now, his head servant over half of those, and I have watched him in that time. So, I feel as though I have come to know him very well; certainly better than most. Thus, I feel confident in my assessment that his oath to House Lebeda is binding by more than mere honorable words, my lady.

"Indeed, his very life seems somehow attached to his service . . . "

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:23 pm

There was something supremely heart-warming about listening to Lis describe Rasven's feelings towards her.  It was one thing to hear a direct compliment, but quite another to hear a second-hand account of it. . .something confirming, that she couldn't simply downplay.  Wynnsaren found more than her heart warming at the servant's glowing words.

Sadly, she was not surprised that his 'attack' was the direct result of her curious questioning, but she was surprised that he anticipated it.  Perhaps she shouldn't have been.  It seemed he knew her quite well considering the scant amount of time they'd spent together.  He had to know that she would hit on that topic, inquisitive as she was and yet he allowed her to ask it and even gave a brief, if cryptic response, understanding full well what was to come!  

What kind of man would willingly go through that kind of pain simply to show his trust?  Wynnsaren blinked away the moisture that was starting to form in the corners of her eyes as she began to realize the true extent of the precious gift he had given her and the precious gift she just may have found in him.

"Rasven. . .  Master Winter that is," she floundered as she collected herself, trying to decide whether she should be using his title or not in the presence of others, "told me that his years number two hundred and twenty-six.  Is he truly half elf as he appears then, with this oath to the House extending his natural life?

"It is a conundrum that I had been trying to resolve since his mention of it."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:03 pm

"Master Winter is of half-elven ancestry, my lady," Lis clarified with a quick tip of his head. "As to his longevity, that does pertain to his oath, I believe, though not in the way in which you may perceive. My observances indicate that his oath demands of him absolute adherence to the protection of Silverhall. Such, it seems, must be his predominant motivation. It does not appear as though it precludes him from other ventures, but I cannot verify this with the utmost confidence.

"What it does mean, I believe, is to allow himself to die clearly works contrary to his oath to protect Silverhall. So, while it may not specifically extend his life, it promises an existence of excruciating pain if he refuses to find his own way of extending it."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:35 pm

"What?!"  Wynnsaren gasped.  "Who would administer such a cruel oath?  And what would drive Master Winter to take on such a great burden?  He must truly love Silverhall above all else. . ."

While musing aloud, the aasimar absently smoothed out the length of her gown, barely noting that the silk had been scuffed at the knees when she'd gone to Rasven's aid, and water from the snow stained the fabric.  She had the magic to fix it, but such things seemed trite indeed compared to the revelations that were unfolding before her.

She settled her eyes once again upon Master Winter's most trusted servant, as concern drew her brows gently together.

"So he has, has he not?  Found a way of extending his life?  He must have for certainly he cannot often abide the kind of agony that I witnessed just now!"


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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Oct 13, 2013 5:05 pm

"He has," Lis assured her, though he opted not to expand upon the simple answer. "My Master has also discovered ways to surmount it, at least partially. There was a time in the past that he suffered less than he does now. He refuses to permit me to worry, however." The servant grinned to thwart some of that worry currently. "I take some solace in that he appears to have mastered it mentally somehow, but depending on the severity of the attack it can cripple him physically for days . . . or longer."

He looked away for a short time to recompose himself, forced a smile back to his lips, and returned his gaze to the woman across from him. "I do not know the whole history of the oath, I am sorry to say, and so cannot help you on that count. I do know that his father was a cousin to the lord of Silverhall before the coming of Choral the Conqueror, and that his mother was an elf originating from Sevenarches to the south. Their portraits hang in the Lebeda gallery below.

"His love for Silverhall cannot be questioned," Lis confirmed. "Despite the cruelty of his condition, Master Winter works tirelessly for its people, protection, and profit."

He stared at her for a long moment before showing a faint smile. "I would dare say my Master has put Silverhall before all things . . . until now."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:42 pm

The power of the servant's statement sank beneath Wynnsaren's skin and clutched firmly at her heart, squeezing it until she was barely able to breathe. How could it be possible to feel so much for someone. . . to care so deeply, after such a short time? She had been struggling with that question since their last meeting, for she hadn't believed it possible. Wynn remembered the love she had once felt for Akram those lifetimes ago. It had been a familiar and comfortable feeling that slowly developed over the course of time, but this this? This affection she bore for a man she had known for mere hours was something wholly different. It was sudden and fierce. A raw, consuming, gnawing desire to know him and be near him. If she were being honest with herself it frightened her, yet neither could she deny the excitement she felt!

Could Rasven possibly feel the same?

If he did. . . would that fly in the face of his insidious oath? Would love only lead to further agony?

The bizarre mixture of distress and adoration played havoc in her mind, and the aasimar propped her elbows onto her knees and lowered her head into her hands.

"He has found a way to extend his life," she contemplated aloud, "yet he uses ways to. . .subdue the suffering?"

Wynn chewed on that a moment, raking her fingers through her wind tousled hair. She halted abruptly. Lifting her head suddenly, she fixed Lis with widened silver eyes and a piercing gaze. The pieces were starting to fall into place. . .

"The Osiowet! He said it was believed to restore vitality! Is that one of the ways he has found to surmount the condition?"

She didn't wait for an answer but leaped to her feet and started pacing with her hands clenched tightly behind her back and a look of consternation on her face.

"He sent me two bottles, Lis! TWO! And I recall quite clearly that Master Winter said he had only two bottles magically sent to him per year. If that rare wine helps him to stave off the agony, why would he. . .?"

Her voice trailed off into nothingness and with her back turned away from the man, Wynn raised her hand and pressed it against the wall to steady herself as her legs suddenly turned to jelly.

"Why would he do that for me? I did not need. . ." Her voice cracked. "I would not have asked. . ."

The moisture she'd blinked away minutes before now made a second appearance, but this time refused to be denied. A bead of liquid silver spilled from her eye and down her cheek before splashing softly upon her chest. Rasven had taken a momentous chance with her, she realized. A risk that could cause him untold suffering. For the second time that day, Wynnsaren found herself humbled by this man.

"Lis?" Still facing away from the servant in a vain attempt to conceal her emotion, Wynn addressed him in a small and tremulous voice. "When I was last here at the Winter estate, Master Winter, in response to one of my questions said that there was indeed something I could do to help soothe his troubles but he would not tell me what that was.

"Might that have had something to do with the method he discovered for extending his life? If so, you must tell me." The aasimar finally spun around and captured his eyes with hers. "Please. . . If there is some way I could help to alleviate his suffering I would see it done."

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Re: Shield of Silverhall

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