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Shield of Silverhall

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:59 am

"It would delight me," the merchant prince replied while gallantly accepting her proffered hand in his. Her touch quickened the beating of his heart and promised a world made perfect, at least for a short time.

Coaxing her into step beside him--a practice he admitted felt more and more natural with every opportunity, Rasven expressed his own thoughts on her earlier comments, "I wonder if language might not be more than that, however. Accepting the nuances and discrepancies explicit in all languages, most particularly in how they relate to one another, mine own inclination leads me to believe that it reveals more to us than merely a viewing glass into culture. Much more, in fact."

He hesitated as his countenance clouded over a moment, and he cast a sheepish gaze sidelong at the aasimar accompanying him. "Not that I dispute in any form that language offers such means, of course. I simply intend to advise that it can provide significantly more depth of knowledge to one's character. If eyes act as a window to the soul, I would contend that language offers a window to the heart and mind. It's usage can paint a clearer portrait of an individual--provide insights, validations, absolutes. Even those who seek to mislead disclose extraordinary amounts of information about themselves here and here," he explained, pointing to his head and heart respectively.

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:17 am

"As I have had less than half of your experience in dealing with languages, both in number of tongues and years of practice in them," Wynnsaren smirked, "I have little recourse but to defer to your expertise on the matter." She considered his comments a moment, as she enjoyed the tender sensation of his hand enclosed around hers.

There had been a greater formality about Rasven today, a certain distance he was keeping that hadn't been there last evening, and for most of the afternoon Wynn considered that she might have offended him in some regard but that formal, physical distance was oddly juxtaposed by a scorching intensity in his gaze that sent a thrill of electricity up her spine. The conflicting signals were building a tension so palpable that she felt she had to choose between going slowly mad or attempting to diffuse the energy by bridging the gap with the offer of her hand. Thankfully, he'd accepted that offer!

Infinitely more relaxed now by that simple connection, the aasimar continued. "I certainly have not yet developed the level of sensitivity you have found necessary for your line of work, though I do understand that how a language is used may afford one a more superficial type knowledge of a person's background. . . Location, employment, status in society, how they were raised. . . But, I am not possessed of such remarkable skill as to determine motivations and deceptions using that medium alone! Personally, I find a person's mannerisms and non-verbal communication to be more telling. Do you not find it to be so?"

She could not help but contemplate what her own use of the language revealed to him about her upon their first meeting. . . What it was revealing to him now! Not for the first time, Wynn considered that keeping secrets from this man would be an exercise in futility and unlike Pitri, he needn't resort to magic to probe the mind. Certainly not when it was all laid out for him like an open book! It was little wonder that Rasven Winter had found so much success as a merchant, and little wonder why he was so respected and feared by those with whom he did business!

Before he had a chance to respond to the question, she turned to him more fully to lend weight to her next statement.

"You must know that you are most welcome at any time to dispute me, Rasven," Wynnsaren offered warmly, in light of his earlier uncertainty, "there is no reason for hesitation! I should say that you hardly seem the type of man to ever hesitate to give a well founded opinion and to do so with me would smack of insult." She flashed a teasing grin. "If I were to shrivel like a wilting flower at the first sign of disagreement then I certainly would not have accepted my current role in Novastasia. So please! Disagree with me. . . There is little I enjoy more than a good dance." Her grin curled further into what could only be described as a daring smile.

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:34 am

A modicum of bashfulness lingered about his eyes, though her revealing smile inspired him to answer in kind. "I shall make mental note of that for future rendezvous," he teased.

"But, to properly address your question, permit me to very simply replace 'more' with 'as' to adequately reflect my position in the dispute. One's usage of language enables those listening to create a portfolio of understanding about the person. Proper or improper use of morphology, syntax and semantics, as well as phonetic tendencies, reflect upon the various dichotomies of preference that feed directly into our personality. We are not born with the intricacies of language written on our tongues; we develop them over time according to our preferences and grow accustom to them."

Rasven brought her hand before him, turning it over so that her palm and fingers were open. Gently, he ran the fingertips of his opposite hand along her palm all the way to her fingertips. "Language, then, becomes very much equivalent to the lines and creases that decorate your hand only. Others have them too, but the patterns they form belong distinctly to you. Your language becomes a map of tendencies speaking to who you are, comprised from all you have ever done."

He lowered his eyes to her hand, running his fingertips back along its soft skin and many contours. "The best actors learn to disguise it," Rasven explained, though is voice sounded distant, distracted, "but none can do so absolutely." His index finger drew a tender circle in her palm as he continued, "There are always discrepancies from the familiarity you have known all your life to the familiarity you have not."

Slowly, he raised his eyes from her hand to take in the slender curve of her neck, the fullness of her lips, and finally the star-filled beauty of her eyes--for he believed he could see those eyes in all their majesty now despite the sun having not yet set. "You are no flower, Wynnsaren, but a meadow . . . a meadow of starlight and celestial petals as vast as Elysium, but infinitely more mysterious and alluring in that to walk with you for a lifetime, regardless of its count in years, would leave one yearning to know more and yet wholly fulfilled."

Rasven closed his eyes and dipped his head forward ever-so-slightly, as though seeking to recover a mind entranced. As an after effect, he whispered, "Wishing only to add to your analogy of how I see you . . . "

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:51 am

Briefly, Wynnsaren had thought to ask whether second languages were more difficult for interpretation, for Tien was the language she was raised in, but the question was burned like away like chaff; scattered as ash across her mind at the gentle ministrations of his fingers upon her palm.

"Rasven, I . . ." She staggered at his sudden and unexpected rush of dazzling sentiment. With her free hand, the aasimar reached for him, grazing her fingers delicately beneath the line of his jaw to lift his eyes back to meet her own.

"Thank you," Wynn smiled softly, adoringly. "A more beautiful analogy I have never been offered, and how much more precious coming from a man such as yourself! A man whose own personal mystery and allure has the singular effect of weakening me at the knees," she blushed at the admission. "I can only hope that your perception of me always remains so."

Breath faltering in her chest at his nearness, Wynnsaren lowered her hand to the hollow of his throat where her thumb brushed along the familiar facets of the siccatite shard she'd carried for so long. Her dark brows drew together in thought, creating a delicate furrow between them.

"Since I met you, Rasven, I have had set before me the impossible task of reconciling my own perception of you with that of others to whom I have spoken. The two seem so completely opposite one another."

For a long moment, her eyes were riveted upon those of the merchant prince before she tore herself away, encouraging him on toward one of the oak and silver settees.

"In Arodus, I came to you prepared to go to battle with a monster," she began hesitantly. "Poorly equipped I realize now. . ." Wynn managed a self-deprecating smirk before continuing. "But after talking with Pitri, whom I hold in the lowest regard and another fellow, whom I believe to have had my best interest at heart, I thought a mere misstep with you might result in my flaying and other manners of torture! Upon advisement, I even chose a dress that I could run in if it came to it!"

The aasimar stifled a giggle. "No doubt I had the most dumb-founded expression upon my face for most of our meeting, for the man I had come prepared to deal with was so starkly opposite from the man I met that night!"

They reached the seating and Wynn retrieved her hand in order to settle herself comfortably upon one end of the settee, folding her legs and smoothing out the length of her skirts.

"If I might be so bold to inquire, my dear, why do so many have such a dark opinion of you? Even those to whom I have mentioned your name in Novastasia have done all they can to warn me away! None have met you personally -- with the exception of the otyugh, Pitri, whose disfavor I take as high praise of your person," she winked, "but all seem to fear you.

"You are a man of unparalleled force of presence, that much is clear. . . Gods know, even if I was completely blind I think I could sense your person from a hundred paces in the middle of a city square!" Wynn smiled appreciatively with no hint at overstatement upon her features. "That alone would be enough to send those with ill-intent to tuck tail and run in the opposite direction, but your infamy seems much more widespread. Have you nurtured these false rumors purposefully? I really can make no sense of the dichotomy otherwise. . ."

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 09, 2013 11:51 am

Rasven slid onto the settee beside her, listening closely to every word, knowing precisely where their logical progression led to. This would be the moment, he knew. He had hoped somewhere deep within himself that they might have more time--that he might have more time--before this subject was broached. As close as Rasven felt to Wynnsaren now, he had strongly desired for more opportunities to meet with her, to impress upon her the truth of the man he had become before unveiling the truth of the man he had once been.

The thought of lying never crossed his mind. Months ago, the merchant prince had made an uncompromising commitment to a woman he barely knew . . . he would honor that commitment with nothing but truth. He trusted she would do the same for him and had not been disappointed. What would he be if he refused to trust her now? No. Falsehoods would never have a place in this relationship, even if it meant an end before ever having tasted fruits of the beginning.

A cost I would pay a thousand times more at greater severity, if need be. He recalled those words vividly when challenged by his own pragmatism in a state beyond consciousness. He wondered now if that severity might encapsulate a cost higher than mere physical suffering at the tenets of an Oath whose words he barely remembered.

Let be what will be, he vowed and steeled himself to the possible consequences of the truth.

"Fourteen winters had come and gone in my young life when the Fire came," Rasven said evenly, not daring to take his eyes from hers. She deserved to see it all in him. He would not look away. "There were no rivers of blood, so the witnesses said, only the crispness of blackened flesh and scorched earth. Some whispered that the sun refused set for days on end as it consumed the mountains in ravenous flame.

"What followed might only be described as hysteria and confusion." The half-elf's metallic eyes glazed over in recollection of a time long past, yet ever festering as a plague scar beneath the surface of the skin. "Some had already bent the knee at first sight of him, tamed and cowardly and eager for power that only the Fire could grant them. Many others fled, terrified by the might of the Conqueror and unwilling to stand against the Fire of his blood. Fewer still fought against the Fire--against the fear of bondage . . . .

"Against hope."

Rasven fought the urge to look away, then fought the moisture that threatened to collect in his eyes. Decades of practiced control enabled him to win both battles and continue on as though nary a problem lingered in the fringes of his memory. "The Fire came. The Conqueror followed. The Lebeda Clan faced a darkness enshrouded in deadly light that day, but measures were taken to ensure the name might live on beyond it.

"I saw nothing of the battle, hidden safely as I was in a location the whereabouts of which I am still uncertain today. I remember a lightless place of frigid cold that burned at the touch of bare skin. I remember hearing my breath fall to the ground in small clouds of crystalline ice. I remember the whispers that compelled in the darkness, that smothered thought and corrupted hearts of children. I remember feeling fear so tangible as to create fearlessness evermore.

"I did not know how long I served in that place until my return, when I learned that the Lebeda name yet remained . . . and my true service to its newly formed House had begun." Rasven released a drawn out sigh through his nose, drawing out a bit of tension that had crept into his shoulders. This was his first recounting of that time since "living" through it, and apparently it affected adversely to this day. "Twelve years. I had been gone twelve years.

"The Silverhall I returned to differed from the one I had been sent from. Though it appeared much the same, its heart had shriveled and become hollow. The Lebedas I knew best were but whispers in the corners of dark halls that once exclaimed their names proudly to the heavens, that all gods and mortals alike would hear and respect those names and their accomplishments. [/i]'Gone,'[/i] those whispers assured. 'Taken by the Fire; consumed by the Sun like the mountains in the Valley of the Conqueror; without bones to be buried or remembered.' Those were the Lebedas of legend . . . the family that I knew here--" he tapped his temple with two fingers, then subsequently performed the same action on his chest--"and here. Yet, these new Lebedas were those I had been sworn to, Wynnsaren."

The sudden usage of her name shocked him from the memory, brought him back to this place, to this moment of trial and possible loss. He needed to say her name, he realized; needed to form it on his lips and draw strength from its promise all the same.

"Most of them had been boys younger than I, still living after the Valley of Fire incinerated their fathers and brothers, leaving nothing but ash and recollection to mourn. Few remembered me--hardly surprising since my training had kept me silent in their lives. Lord Javic knew who I was, however, and what I was destined to be. The man before you now acquired his name and land during Javic's lordship in Silverhall," Rasven bowed slightly to Wynn, as if introducing himself for the first time. "In truth, I was not the man then that you visited on that day in Arodus. The man you met those months ago," he reached out and took up her hand in his, "grew out of the old well over a century later." Rasven manipulated her hand with both of his, rolling her fingers across the rings that now adorned his own, letting their tangibleness complete a part of the story he could not.

"This history established me within my current position," he pressed onward, releasing her hand into her own possession again. "It became important that Master Winter be recognized as a shield to protect Silverhall against any that would do her harm, but also as a sword that would strike against them. In those days, I had yet to acquire wealth like what you see today, and in its stead I required a reputation. More than that, a reputation was expected of me to perform my due diligence for Silverhall.

"I must admit that anger at the loss of virtually all I had known spurred me to dark things . . . dark things made all the easier by the loss of any fear that might draw a man away from them. I will make no excuses for the things I have done, except that I did them that Silverhall would not only be protected but flourish. I cannot regret them, and while I would rather not speak of them, you know I will if you deem it necessary. I will hide nothing from you, Wynnsaren, if you have a desire to know . . .

Know, however, that while rumors have been embellished through the decades of retelling--a practice I do nurture for many reasons in the current day, my history is replete with acts that fostered such a reputation honestly."

He paused for a long moment, his countenance borderline stoic, yet his eyes quietly searching hers. "Would you wish to know more?"

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Nov 09, 2013 3:41 pm

"I wish to know everything," Wynnsaren managed in a voice strangely resonant and thick with emotion. "Someday. . ."

Loss was something the oracle was deeply acquainted with; a constant consort through all of her adult life and the only companion that could claim such familiarity. She knew anger. She knew loneliness. All of it was spurred by Loss. Wynn could understand what depths of depravity a person could be driven to when an isolated life appeared to span out before you like a countless drone of years and nothing but suffering stretched out behind. You grew numb to everything and you welcomed that numbness because it was infinitely better than the agonizing alternative. Memory was pain. You made yourself cold and hard and angry. It was better that way. You could function that way. . .

How close she had been to taking a darker path! She was there on that precipice with a brick in one hand and holding up her tattered blouse with the other, standing scraped and bitten and bloody in that alley in Old Korvosa. She could have killed them all, stunned and gaping at the slowly spinning stars as they were. They couldn't have put up any resistance. Maybe they even deserved it for what they had been about to do, but Wynn clearly saw the divergence in the path and she made her choice. She turned and ran.

Unfortunately -- or perhaps fortunately -- for her, she ran straight into a patrolling Hellknight who presumed her a prostitute and when she couldn't produce the required license, the hulking woman in full black plate let Wynn rot in the Korvosan jail for an evening. A long night, but one necessary for the young aasimar to take a step back and make some important life decisions.

Rasven Winter had faced even greater loss and chose the dark path for many, many years, from the sound of his testimony, but somehow he had summoned the strength to turn from it and that was what had her more curious than all of the details of what might have come before. Yet even those he vowed to share with her if she but asked. She plainly saw the vulnerability displayed in the half-elf's mesmeric eyes.

Wynn struggled mightily against the sudden wave of desire to hold him then. She wanted to whisper that she understood as she breathed in the scent of him and felt his warmth pressed against her. She wanted to tell him. . .to show him that he wasn't alone. Remarkably, she held her ground and mentally shook off the heady and unfamiliar sensations.

As she spoke up at length, an affectionate smile turned up the corners of her lips. "Lives rarely follow a perfectly linear route, my prince. Especially those as long as yours has been. Sometimes circumstances turn us off course, but what matters most is that we get back on the right one before time and bitterness make that correction all but impossible.

"I do not know this man that you once were. I have never met him. Whoever you had been and whomever people think you to be, Rasven, I see the man that you are now." Wynnsaren reverently took his hand in hers, sensing that he needed that small contact at that moment as much as she desired it.

"While I hope there will be time in the future for me to get to know all those details about your past, as they are part of you and therefore of particular interest to me," she pressed his hand lightly between her own, "this is the man that I wish to know better in the hours that are left to me here.

"You must have made a choice to become who you are now. A decision to take a different path," she led. "What happened, Rasven? When did you see that you wanted to be something other than who you had been?"

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:13 am

"One day, I opened my eyes," Rasven said simply, and the smile with which he graced her shone with a calm serenity. His free hand rose and covered one of hers, completing their connection and strengthening it.

"When you perceive the world through a cloud of bitterness and hatred, everything drips with those things. Everything you touch becomes smeared with the poisonous blood of the irredeemable. The air you breathe coats the lungs with noxious decay and sows your words and thoughts with corruption and discord. Spite and malice tainted my interactions and condoned my actions. An irrepressible gelidity permeated my heart and soul . . . . "

Rasven allowed those words to hang in the air for a long moment because he wished for their significance to sink in. For decades since his eyes were opened, the half-elf had pondered whether the coldness that had inhabited him all that time had surfaced through the darkest recesses of his being or whether it had been planted within him over two centuries ago. The answer hardly mattered, of course. He could not escape the culpability of his own actions, be they reaped or compelled, but oft he wondered if knowing for certain might help him to piece together those lost years. Should he be able to do so . . .

"I grew exhausted from it all," he admitted, punctuating the phrase with a short sigh. "More than once, I deemed it unnecessary to continue and sought to drown in the festering morass of my being. When this occurred, I took . . . unnecessary chances with my life as I sought to destroy others. Those chances led to rather excruciating periods that obliged me to continue my work.

"Then I saw them: the people of Silverhall. Industrious. Innovative. Resolute. Fathers and brothers that selflessly broke themselves to provide for their families. Mothers and sisters that selflessly endured the hardships of paupers' lives without complaint, but encouragement. Parents that sacrificed for their children; children that appreciated those sacrifices and learned to make sacrifices themselves. Where, before, all I had chosen to see was murder and rape and disingenuousness and all the other depravities brought about by deceitfulness and corruption, finally I had permitted myself to glimpse the adoration, self-sacrifice, and hope possessed by the people of Silverhall. In some cases, I saw these qualities in people that had no business adopting any of them.

"It opened my eyes," Rasven reiterated, then chuckled in a self-deprecating fashion. "Not immediately, of course. It required time for me to piece together the puzzle of what my eyes beheld; a good amount of time, sad am I to confess it. Eventually, however, realization emerged in me that the Silverhall I had come back to--the one I despised and cared nothing about--had faded into the oblivion of my past, and this new Silverhall was worth saving . . . worth protecting.

"Alas, a change of heart does not a change in politics mean," he winked playfully to help ease the brutal reality of that statement. "While the malevolence slowly leaked from my heart, uncompromising ferociousness, unerring retribution, and absolute fear remained the desiderata required of me by the Lebedas. To remain effective against all threats to the House and its seat, my reputation must remain dark and secretive. Thus, I work in dark circles, with dark people, and relentlessly spin and cultivate dark rumors, many of which were not altogether untrue throughout the course of my life. I find that any rumor which develops from a bud of truth grows far more powerful than those completely fabricated. The end result of all these mechanizations equates to fear and loathing, and with good reason for both. As I have confided to you already: the leaders and people of Silverhall are my charge, Silverhall and its demesne are my home, and I will do all in my power to protect them. Enemies everywhere beware."

Rasven gripped her hand reassuringly. "Especially now that I have even more to fight for."

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:18 am

Wynnsaren smiled warmly, sincerely touched by his tale of finding a new perspective in the face of so much adversity. Upon a moment's reflection however, her silvered eyes dulled with concern.

In these past two days, the aasimar had discovered a great many similarities between the two of them. More than simply the superficial similarities of likes, dislikes and interests, but deep-seated, view-of-the-world and dedication to purpose similarities. In truth, Rasven Winter was the only man she'd met with any kind of chance to truly understand what her life had been and the choices she'd had to make because of it, and she believed entirely that she had some understanding of his choices as well.

However, for all of those similarities, there was a stark difference between how he was required to live his life in Silverhall, and how she currently lived her life in Akiros. While he was feared and loathed by all, Wynn's presence was coveted at most social events, from royal balls to family birthday parties. She was liked! Loved even by a large portion of the populace, far more than she had been on any other of her missions! So drastic seemed the difference between them in that regard that Wynn worried what might be the ramifications of two such opposite worlds colliding. Would she make his life harder? Stars, but he didn't need anything making his life more difficult!

"I must confess that I hate that you cannot allow others to see the beauty of your heart, Rasven, though I understand why it must be so. You should be loved by those very people you swore an Oath to protect, and they most certainly would love you if they knew you! How could they not?" With a shy grin, she lowered her eyes to their joined hands. Drawing from that strength, Wynnsaren continued hesitantly. The last thing she wanted to do was to turn him from this course they were on, but she felt it necessary to lay all her cards on the table.

"What you have told me does give me pause. Is it even possible for me to fit into such a dark and secretive notoriety? I have played the secretive role and I have known what it is to be hated in past lives, but those times were different than now. In Novastasia, I am most like myself for the first time in many decades. I fear that I am not a complete unknown in your city any longer and my own reputation in Akiros is decidedly not. . . dark.

"Should I worry that my presence here with you could cause you trouble? Could our. . . involvement put a strain upon your life? I would not want to polish your perfectly tarnished reputation. . ."

Wynn raised her eyes to meet his once more. While she wore an impish smirk following her last comment, she was very much concerned that there would be no room in such a tenuously balanced life for someone like her, and she had no desire at all to have him suffer further on her behalf.

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:21 am

Rasven matched her impish smirk with an arched eyebrow and sly grin of his own. "Do you believe you could?" Two centuries of fear about the unknown Master Winter had created a living mythology surrounding him. Reversing such an engrained culture would take years, even decades, and that if he started openly performing his public works!

"Have you not heard it spoken: 'Nothing worth doing is without difficulty?' Adversity is the spice of life, Wynnsaren," he professed passionately, glancing down toward the ground rather conspiratorially before returning his steel gaze back to her perfect eyes. "Perhaps not . . . I stand convinced it all depends on with whom you speak. This much I promise you: there exists no amount of trouble in this world great enough to keep me from you . . . if such a promise entices you.

"Though perhaps I am speaking out of turn," he amended after a brief pause. "You have found a new home with a people that accept you unconditionally. Might the thought of me--of my reputation--hinder this new opportunity for happiness you have found?"

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:23 am

"Do you believe it could?" Wynn teased gently, as she freed one of her hands to draw her fingers down the hem of his silver half-cape. "Many of Novastasia's people have emigrated from Brevoy, so I suppose your self-imposed smear campaign may indeed have such lengthy reach, but if a rumor of association can change the opinion of those that have actually come to know me, than I would conclude they had accepted me quite conditionally. Happiness among such acquaintances would not have lasted anyhow if that be the case.

"Whatever the people think of me, no amount of rumor will change King Thaddeus' opinion of who I am. We are quite close," she offered confidently in a voice devoid of hubris. "He well understands my purpose in the Stolen Lands and the warnings of visions have not fallen upon deaf ears. As long as that is secure, than I am content."

Wynnsaren had a hard time fathoming such a villainous notoriety! She'd heard a scant few opinions of Rasven and yes, they were very dark, but was it truly as terrible and widespread as he inferred? Could the simple linkage of his name with hers actually turn people she knew against her? It seemed unlikely. Yet neither did he seem a man given to exaggeration. . .

"I have little recourse but to weather any adverse consequences that may come of our association, my enigmatic Master Winter," she smiled, "for I find myself completely unwilling to let you slip through my fingers." Those same wandering fingers found their way to the half elf's ear, where they brushed ethereally along the outer edge and the gently pointed tip. "Even if that means I become a pariah in Akiros, it is nothing I have not known before, though it would be a shame for I do enjoy my time among the people of the city. I do not believe it will come to that however."

With a slight flush of embarrassment at her brazenness, the aasimar placed her wayward hand safely across the back of the settee.

"Do you ever have the opportunity to get out and enjoy the Silverhall you so avidly protect?

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Rasven Winter

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:28 am

Rasven soaked up the sensations that flooded through him with the tenderness in her touch like a thirsting man suddenly immersed in pure, crystalline water. He quickly locked the memory of this brief period away in a special place, certain it equated to the very epitome of happiness. It would take very little to lose himself within such ministrations, to choose a life filled with these moments over the constant mechanizations that needed tending. Noting the modest coloring of her porcelain skin suddenly became the most majestic thing his eyes had ever seen as she pulled her hand away.

So very little, he thought honestly.

"Occasionally," he answered her inquiry after only the briefest of hesitations to come back down from the soaring plane she had sent him to. "Certainly not in the same vein as you might have. I do not sample its inns and taverns or other such establishments, though I have heard good things about many of them. I sometimes finagle a stroll or two through the city streets, listening to what the people say, watching them at work and at play. Too often, however, Silverhall becomes rigid when I am identified traipsing about its thoroughfares. Its occupants stop being themselves until I have gone from sight. For that reason, I prefer to let them carry on normally and take my pleasures in other, more solitary ways, such as rides in the countryside when time permits, or short voyages aboard Frozen Myth. Lake Reykal grows especially magnificent in the Spring and Fall seasons.

"Have you a desire to let the wind blow your hair about, Wynnsaren? The day fades to its completion in a short time, but surely it is not too late to watch the sun set fire to water from Myth's forecastle."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Nov 16, 2013 1:31 am

It pained her to hear of such a solitary existence as was required for Master Winter's duties to Silverhall. The estate, as lavish and grand and beautiful as it was, suddenly took on the feel of a platinum wired, gem encrusted cage. Even an expensive cage was still a cage and the aasimar side of her seethed against the being that would have locked such a man within one.

"You have a ship?" She startled momentarily at the words 'aboard' and 'forecastle', then fell into a bout of chuckles. Of course he had a ship. . . "I am sorry. I do not know why that should surprise me so.

"All of my journeys have been landlocked thus far, so I have no experience with anything larger than a transport raft. Yes, I would love to see the Frozen Myth, Rasven, and to hear the sun fade away in the distance from such unaccustomed vantage!"

Wynnsaren poorly hid the excitement that bubbled into the tone of her voice, her grin and eyes betraying her just as wholly.

"I have read many books on seafaring adventures," she explained, a bit abashed by her juvenile display, "though I have little doubt they were highly romanticized.

"Your own travels have taken you much father than my own. You have been to the Mwangi, you have mentioned. Did you take a ship there, or arrive by magical means? Surely by sea that would be a very long voyage!"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:00 pm

"Whenever possible, I choose the mundane over the magical for spanning the Inner Sea," Rasven informed her. "Any distant destination demands a journey equally monumental. To deprive one's self of the voyage is akin to depriving one's life of its very soul. Perhaps in the end awaits beauty beyond all imagination, but can it honestly be appreciated if its significance is lost to ignorance? The journey unveils the splendor inherent in the terminus, or so has my contemplations thus far revealed to me.

"Truly," he smiled softly, even sadly, at her, "the gods have treated you unjustly by eliminating the journey from you so often. I would strive to offer you a chance at obtaining that which they have denied you, if at all possible, Wynnsaren . . . a venture of such grandeur its memories would see you smiling for decades . . .

"But such a voyage surely requires proper outfitting." His smile widened as his eyes hinted that she should perhaps peek to her right.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:32 pm

The thought of embarking on an epic voyage with Master Winter at her side held a startling amount of appeal and brought a wistful smile to her lips. If at all possible. . . And therein lay the rub. If Brevoy wasn't upon the precipice of war, and if a great alien threat wasn't rising in the Stolen Lands, and if his Oath didn't demand his presence in Silverhall, and if the gods would allow her the time without whisking her away to another far flung corner of the world.

A great number of stars would have to align for such fancy to become reality, but if it were at all possible, it would be a proposition Wynnsaren could never turn down.

Curious at Rasven's last statement, she followed the leading gaze of his eyes to her right and there, a few feet away, a cloak hovered in mid-air, undoubtedly held by one of the invisible servants of the Winter estate. The brief shock at the sudden proximity faded as Wynn studied the garment.

The deeply cowled cloak was made of a fabric so dark that it seemed to drink in the surrounding light. Twinkling points of radiance were sprinkled over its surface and at first, the aasimar believed those motes to be haphazardly cast upon the inky surface, but upon closer inspection. . .

Wynn gasped. With large, silver eyes shining with incredulity, she turned back to Master Winter. "Rasven is this for. . .? Did you make. . .?" Clearly the half elf was enjoying her stumbling response, and nodded with an ever-widening grin.

She rose from the settee and moved to get a better look at the recognizable patterns that adorned the cloak. Never had she seen the constellations this way. Not like this. . . Wynn drew them in her star charts as whorls and paths, the best representation she could come up with for the songs they sang to her, but those were her personal musings. For her maps she placed them as single points as her father told her most men saw them. Dots on parchment. These lights twinkled in brilliant splendor, fixed in positions she recognized with otherworldly precision.

"The Caravan," Wynnsaren breathed unsteadily as she brushed a finger against a cluster of stars. "Gigas Major. . .and Minor! That means that. . ." Her finger trailed up the cloak. "The Stair of Stars and on to Cynosure." The pole star, said to point the way to Desna's palace rested high on the right shoulder.

Reverently she lifted the cloak from the invisible force and held it up for closer inspection. As she turned, the constellations moved, adjusting their positioning in direct relation to her own! These were exactly how the stars would show themselves from this point on the globe! Wynn's bottom lip quivered. For the first time in her seventy-five years, the aasimar saw the stars. Saw them, as other men did! Perhaps not a perfect representation of the night sky as was spanned above them stretching to infinity, but this was far, far more than she ever dared hope to experience.

"Rasven," she choked, her voice thick with gratitude and she found herself employing every ounce of strength to keep her tears in check. "You cannot know what this means to me. You have given me the heavens! Why, it is almost as if I can hear them singi--"

At the mere thought of the song of the stars, the cloak began to emit a sort of humming tune, an enchanting melody that Wynnsaren could not place. The perfect strains curled about her, enveloping her in the hauntingly beautiful emotion they conveyed.

Inevitably the aasimar lost the fight, and a single tear of liquid silver slid down her cheek. "This song is. . .exquisite. Where does it come from?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:39 pm

"It originates from the foothills of the Ndele Gap in faraway Nex," the half-elf answered, rising from the settee and moving up to her. "From there I first laid eyes upon the exquisite jungle of the Mwangi Expanse with its warm winds blowing across my skin."

Rasven could hardly keep the smile from his lips, appreciating the incredibly positive reaction to the gift. With a sensual touch, he tenderly brushed the solitary stream of silver from her cheek, and his hand lingered there a long moment. "You will not recognize any of the compositions immediately, though perhaps a selection of them will tug at the strings of memory. Each is an original work, hopefully capturing the emotion of unique recollections in my life . . . memories, such as my first sight of you, my conversations with you, my adoration of you . . . " he paused, permitting those words to sink in before finalizing the thought with, "And other less important, but still invigorating, moments in my life. You have a great many questions about me; I thought to perhaps enchant you with a few of the answers musically. Now, you can listen to these stars and share in my joy even when I cannot be with you to reminisce about them in person."

He gently brushed his thumb across her cheek once more, then chanced the intimacy of pushing a stray strand of hair back behind her ear. "It will help protect you in battle, as well as allow you to more easily find your way in the wilds. One more dweomer has been woven into the cloak, however, that only you can activate or deactivate whenever you desire. Wherever you are in the world, so long as this cloak is in your possession, you need only say my name with intent, and I will be able to find you." Rasven cupped her cheeks in his hands to steady her eyes squarely into his steel gaze.

"The gods may take you where they will, Wynnsaren," he whispered, "but you will never be alone."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:50 pm

Wynn stood in stunned silence. In one sweeping gesture, the merchant prince of Silverhall had opened her eyes to the stars, opened his heart to her with his songs, and opened her mind to the possibility of a world where love might live beyond a single god-given purpose, that indeed, it could even span and enrich them! A world where deep connection was no longer something to be avoided for fear of pain, but to be embraced.

"Thank you, Rasven. . ."

The simple phrase was spoken with such gravity and her eyes brimming with such passion and devotion, that those three words might have been translated to mean a different three altogether. Words that she could hardly bring herself to think this early in their acquaintance, let alone utter aloud! It was madness to feel this way. A most blissful and wonderful madness!

"I cannot begin to fathom how to repay such kindness as you have shown me," she sighed with a smile of perfect contentment as he cradled her face gently in his hands, "but if there is a way I might assist with something that was troubling you. . ."

Wynnsaren bit her lower lip in contemplation before going forward with her inquiry. "I do not know how it is possible that my presence could revitalize you after such suffering as I saw yesterday, but I fear that once I leave here tomorrow, it may be some time before I am able to return to you, for rumors of immanent war in Brevoy grow more concrete as the year draws to a close, and as Sword and Shield of Silverhall, I can only believe that you will be heavily involved.

"Have you any concern that your condition might make your duties more difficult to perform? Might there be some way I could hasten recovery from such distance as we will find between us?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:06 pm

"Nothing I will ever do for you requires repayment, Wynnsaren," Rasven whispered with an accompanying smile. "You reciprocate the gesture by the contentment that lives in your eyes just now, by the smile you wear which I have grown to adore so much, and by the excitement that abides in your heart."

The half-elf lowered his hands to take both of hers into a gentle grasp. "It should come as no surprise to you by now, I'm sure, that I long to have you beside me, Wynnsaren. With each step you bring promise of beauty to my home, with each smile comes warmth, and every word summons music unmatched by the loveliest of songbirds. I have said it before . . . I am in awe of you. How could my life be anything but lessened when you are not here?

"We, both of us, have our parts to play in this great saga of kingdoms, however. Mine own part ties intricately with Brevoy through Silverhall; your part through the newest kingdom of this region and encompasses a fate of far surpassing significance than any of this," he glanced quickly about the library as an analogy toward the entire surrounding region. "The distance between us exists as an inevitability of our parts. It cannot be altered in the short term, perhaps, but . . . . "

Rasven raised the hand she had given him and kissed it lightly on the backs of her fingers. "You have freely granted me possession of this hand," the half-elf stated factually. He then placed that hand upon the center of his chest and pressed it tightly there against his heart. "I grant you this in return, Wynnsaren, and I offer it just as freely.

"I am strengthened not merely by your presence," he said with conviction, "but by the reciprocation which I see in your countenance at this very moment. Don't you see?

"I live for Silverhall . . . but I would die for you."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:08 pm

As she listened to merchant prince's tender words of affection, heat bloomed from the core of her being, spreading from head to toe and carrying with it a crimson blush that was becoming quite commonplace since her arrival at the Winter estate.

"Shhh. . .no, please do not speak so, my dear Rasven," she pleaded in a soft, velvety voice, "it is ill luck, and fate has already required enough sacrifice! I would never desire such a thing; not to be lived for nor died for. Heroics may have their place in life, but I would infinitely prefer to have you with me, flesh and blood."

Wynnsaren's silver eyes drifted down to where her hand was pressed against the hard planes of his chest. That impertinent appendage desperately itched to explore this enticing new terrain, but she necessarily squelched the desire in its infancy. A difficult feat. . .

Though clearly distracted by his nearness, she attempted to string a coherent thought together as she continued. "I have lived among many different peoples but I have never really felt a part of them, no matter how long I was able to stay. Not only is the time of each purpose I am sent upon a nebulous thing, but there are few who I felt I could relate to. Certainly not much more than on a superficial level! How do you properly communicate the burden of a vision, or the song of the heavens when no one else can hear? How do I explain that the gods shunt me around here at there at their whims? That I come to warn them of a danger whose nature is often unknown even to me? It is nigh impossible to share these things with people and not be given names. I prefer 'eccentric,' though 'crazy' is popular, and 'off her rocker' seems to be favored in the greater Brevoy and Stolen Lands regions. . ."

The aasimar couldn't help but chuckle at that. Perhaps they were all more right than wrong!

"In spite of all of that however, I have still long desired to find a home where I could feel that I was doing more than simply passing through. Somewhere to belong. . . Until now, I had just never considered that the 'home' I sought, might be a person rather than a place."

Wynnsaren raised her gaze to meet his, a warm smile on her face, when she discovered that not only had she been drawn closer to him at some point during her discourse, but her right hand had conspiratorially joined her left against his chest in flagrant opposition to her will. She could feel the warmth of his skin beneath the pale blue and silver tunic he wore, and the rhythm of his heartbeat against her fingers. At such close proximity she could smell the clean masculinity of him. There was a scent of spiced sandalwood soap and a lovely crisp fragrance that reminded her of the air just before the first snowfall of winter. Her heart began thudding so loudly she was sure the half elf could hear and her corset suddenly felt far tighter than she remembered lacing it. Such physical reactions were confounding and certainly felt leagues away from proper etiquette!

"It. . .well. . .does seem to be getting rather warm in here," she cleared her throat gently after the verbal stumbling. "Perhaps, it would be beneficial to get some fresh air and save Lis from having to come help carry me up to the balcony this time!" Laughing aloud at the conjured image, she took a step back, her left hand still joined with his. "If it pleases you, I should still like to visit that ship of yours before the sun completes its descent."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:43 pm

"Lis would have no chance of stealing you from these arms, Wynnsaren," Rasven promised her with a sly smirk. He winked playfully at her to seal the deal and half-stepped back to produce enough separation between them for a slight bow. "As it were, I would be honored to escort you to the Myth. She awaits your pleasure at the end of the longest pier. We will need to hurry to catch the horizon at its most majestic, I think." He squeezed her hand gently, then whimsically twirled her around once in a quick dance maneuver before steadying her once more with his off-hand chastely at her waist. "But I believe we can make it," he smiled.

The spontaneity of the action surprised even him, but her heartfelt words struck a chord in his heart . . . Might that be giddiness? Whatever the peculiar feeling was, Rasven had certainly never experienced it before! He would need to learn how to control such emotion outside in the world, but giving in to it occasionally within the safe confines of his estate could hardly be considered harmful.

With a uniquely bright smile featured upon his countenance, Rasven repositioned himself to her left and cradled her arm beneath his in the semblance of propriety. "Shall we?" he inquired, pointing her toward the doors.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:45 pm

The pair hastened through the halls of the Winter estate in an attempt to beat the sunset to the Frozen Myth. Wynnsaren would have been more than happy to discuss nothing but maritime navigation, the thrill of adventure, and the particulars of a long journey at sea for the remainder of the evening, but there was yet a bit of business that could no longer be neglected.

"Before the singular experience of exploring your undoubtedly remarkable ship, renders me bereft of the remainder of my wits this evening," she grinned, continuing on without breaking stride, "there is something of a political matter of which you should be made aware. . ."

With an apologetic squeeze of his arm she pressed forward.

"As I relayed to you during our first meeting, Novastasia intends to remain neutral in the coming conflict within Brevoy. This continues to be true in spite of a less-than-friendly visit by Lord Coranious Medvyed just over a month ago. Lord Medvyed attempted to conscript my king into joining the Surtovan cause, claiming that he owed them such loyalty. King Thaddeus did not see this to be the case and was more intent upon attending to the welfare of his people and honoring his commitment to peace, which led to something of a nasty falling out between brothers.

"I asked and was given permission to communicate this information to you. Perhaps you already know of the meeting," Wynnsaren considered aloud, "but I wished for you to be doubly convinced that Silverhall need not fear threat from her southerly neighbors. Her northerly ones may prove more troublesome however. Lord Medvyed did discuss a theoretical plan of attack during his brief stay -- before it was utterly rejected of course -- that had Novastasia attacking Silverhall from the south while House Garess attacked from the north."

The aasimar glanced up to observe the half elf's reaction to the news. "The information is meager at best, but I felt that you should know."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:59 pm

"Confirmation never hurts when supplied by a trusted source," Rasven told her in a tone heavier than before, but in no way discourteous or hinting at any kind of displeasure. His steps remained quick and light as the pair closed on the hoarwood doors to the courtyard without; however, the joyfulness inherent within his stride slipped away momentarily. "I fear an attack was inevitable, and when it comes it will not be from the north only. Alliances form throughout Brevoy as we speak, though even those whom have yet to speak do poorly at hiding their desires. Brevoyan houses only play at intrigue these days."

Servants rushed out to open the doors before them and the pair stepped out into the cool air of Silverhall. "The apple has fallen quite far from the tree where rulership of Medvyed is concerned. Your king would be wise to watch him closely."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:11 pm

Wynnsaren grimaced. "It is a shame when one must exercise suspicion with one's own family but after that last encounter with Lord Medvyed, I believe he understands that necessity all too well."

Now out in the open, the aasimar could hear people traversing the streets, going about their business. Occasionally some walked near enough for her to see them in her limited vision. Clearly they were traveling through a very upscale portion of the city! The citizens, dripping wealth, all wore the latest trends in fashion; the brightly colored cravats with pins so bedecked with jewels as to blind passersby on a sunny day, those itty bitty hats that sat high on the hair which was teased alarmingly high on the heads of the most fashionable ladies. Wynn couldn't help but wonder how Rasven saw them. . .

She quickly became aware of the occasional whisper as they passed by, the sneers of derision or the look of fear in the eyes of the people on the street who hurried past, giving the pair a wide berth. These were the same people who Rasven lived to protect and see to it that they remained wealthy enough to buy their silk cravats and their ridiculous mouse hats, Wynn thought with a mental hrumph.

"My dear Master Winter," she whispered, leaning toward him slightly, a bit unnerved by the knowledge that they were being observed. "I do not mean to alarm you, but it seems that a goodly portion of the people we have so far encountered think that you make a habit of kicking puppies. . .

"This observation leads me to a much more thorough understanding of why you do not often mill about the city. In addition, I may have to concede that you might indeed have a greater chance of tarnishing my reputation before I get the chance to polish yours."

Wynnsaren grinned and patted his arm fondly. She'd concede his advantage, but she wouldn't concede defeat! Not yet. . . Besides, the citizens of Silverhall were regarding Master Winter with such scorn, that she believed them to be looking right through her. So much the better!

"Surely you must have a better relationship among those members of the House you serve," Wynn continued in a low voice as they approached the docks. "Do they understand about your. . .dedication to their cause?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:20 pm

"Those that need to," the merchant prince replied quietly. "Most know that I serve Silverhall, but few agree with my methods. Fewer still appreciate they remain only as safe as their loyalty to Silverhall. The Dame and her son rest peacefully at night. The rest aim to keep watch on me where and when they can. A practice in futility, of course."

The creak of wood and rigging joined the lap of waves against the pier as Rasven led Wynnsaren along the docks. Mariners and dock workers labored hard loading and unloading the large merchant ships. The waterfront taverns had barely come to life as yet, awaiting the night hours when their clientele would finally be dismissed from the backbreaking work to drink and gamble into the early morning hours. Most were too involved with their jobs to notice the duo walking by, but those that did attempted to glare in secret so as not to be openly recognized doing so by the half-elf.

"The Myth awaits only one hundred and fifty paces away," Rasven informed her as they turned onto the long pier. "She is a four-masted carrack--one of three that sales Lake Reykal. Only Dame Lebeda and Regent Surtova maintain vessels of this size to head their fleets. Most believe them too large to sail on a lake; however, their cargo capacity and armament capability make them perfect galleys for war or trade. The Myth equips for both. We shall make our way straight to the forecastle upon boarding. The view of the horizon is quite fetching from there."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:45 pm

"I fear I shall have to take your word on that particular point," Wynnsaren responded with a smile which was pulled all the wider due to the excitement welling within her. She tried to remind herself that this was just a ship in order to maintain some modicum of decorum, but as an utterly new experience to the aasimar and one that she'd so oft desired, there was no use in stifling the enthusiasm bubbling to the surface.

With her free hand, Wynn gathered up a handful of crimson skirts and hastened down the pier, trying to match the half elf's much longer stride. It was quiet when they arrived at the gangplank. No cargo was being loaded as on the ships they'd passed, and the crew was nowhere within earshot. Only the tranquil sounds of lapping waves and creaking planks were present to accompany her gentle steps and the swishing of her dress as she moved. Rasven, eerily, made no sound whatsoever.

The smells of fish and algae were muted by the cold, but they were there; different than the scents of the seaside dock that Wynnsaren remembered from Korvosa. Cleaner certainly and less briny.

As they made their way up the gangplank, the wall of the Myth's hull rose high within her sight, shining and well-maintained and when Rasven helped her over the rail she noted with surprise that the width of the main deck extended her entire range of sight, while the length remained a complete mystery. This was a good deal larger than Wynn had imagined a ship to be. . .

Every step further onto the great vessel expanded within her clouded vision a tiny bit more. A new discovery with each footfall! The aasimar stifled a giddy giggle as Master Winter urged her toward the bow. When the stars appeared in the sky, she'd be able to get a much better look around the ship than the sun permitted, but as they walked and walked toward their destination, Wynn couldn't help but wonder exactly how much of a crew was required to sail such a vessel to simply take their master on a leisurely jaunt about Lake Reykal!

"Tell me, if you would," Wynnsaren grinned, breaking the silence as she followed Rasven up the ladder to the forecastle, "do you happen to do everything on such a grand scale because you enjoy doing so or because it is part of the job description?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:53 pm

"It would not do the people of Silverhall to see Master Winter with anything but the most grandiose on display," Rasven replied conspiratorially. Upon reaching the deck of the forecastle, he offered Wynn a hand and regally hoisted her up to his side. As if to prove his point, he donned a most grandiose smile for her. "If truth must win out absolutely, however, I will confess having grown fond of grand scale. I pray you, believe me, Wynnsaren, when I tell you it has little to do with vanity--though I cannot wholly count it out, of course. Mostly--" Rasven led her up to the very tip of the bow stem "--I fall victim to the beauty of things, to the great care taken in shaping them.

"When I see something that threatens the fabric of my imagination, I study it a while," Rasven admitted, tenderly repositioning her at the foremost location on the Myth. "I listen to how it speaks to my mind." He silently stepped behind her while speaking. "To anything it has to say." He clasped both her hands in his. "I determine quickly whether it has my best interests at heart." He wrapped both their arms across her midriff and gently pulled her warmth close to him, finishing his explanation as a soft whisper in her delicate ear. "If I fall in love with it, how can I then turn it away? Nay. Not ever. I seek to earn its favor. I cherish it and welcome it to my family."

The half-elf smirked--almost bashfully--into the woman's ear. "Can I be blamed for having developed a most discerning eye?

"To your right, the city bustles with life; its good people seek an end to its many labors for the night, that they might partake of its many pleasures. To your left stretches a soft plain of snow until it reaches the place where the vast Gronzi Forest meets the foothills of the Golushkin Mountains. Straight on," he lifted her right hand and extended it directly forward to point at the next subject of his dialogue, "the sun sinks dangerously low in the distance, its fiercely blushing face mirrored in the flowing crystalline waters where the Awzera River consorts with Lake Reykal." Rasven replaced her hand to its original position just above her left hip and hugged her tightly once more. "Soon, very soon, the daystar will passionately kiss the horizon there, and the sky will catch fire like an artist's dream of orange, pink, and purple pastels. Ever so slowly will it press itself into the world's loving embrace, lost for the turn of an entire sparkling night in that sweet kiss that succors it with rejuvenating life to venture alone through the sky upon the morrow--dreaming, I believe, about the kiss that awaits it on the morrow's eve . . . the much anticipated reunion that fuels its journey each day.

"The kiss is but moments away, Wynnsaren. I have one more gift for you ere you should leave upon that morrow, if you wish to accept it:

"Would you like to see it?"

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