Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 07:04 AM
"You haven't even told me what a Queensman has to do," Marcello pointed out, looking very much in earnest. "Ah," he said, glancing around. "In a duel? I might. I've won my share, mostly in the name of maidenly honor. Or, ah, well, I was usually dueling for a lack of maidenly honor, but then, half the time I hadn't dishonored the maiden half as badly as her brother-or-cousin-or-fiance thought. On a battlefield? I'd be lucky if I didn't stick myself, I think."
He looked a bit abashedly at her. "I told you, I'm useless at this," he said apologetically.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 07:25 AM
"He's the Queen's chief diplomat, betimes her chief advisor as well. The Queen rarely leaves Tir-Nan-Og, so he goes forth with her seal in her stead and settles things in her name." Niabheara caught her foot under the thick end of a fallen stick and kicked it into her hand. "You're still a share up over me. I suspect they taught me archery first so that if a battle ever broke out I could be put well off to the sidelines, firing into the fray."
She feinted, marched, and then the stick, half-rotted to begin with, broke under the force of a particularly sharp down-swing. She let the other end drop and kicked a spray of leaves over it before proceeding. "You and your maidenly honour." She chuckled. "You can't have been that bad."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 07:39 AM
"I can be diplomatic and advisorly," Marcello informed Niabheara pointedly, thought it was clear he was joking. "And I'm very good at stamping things."
He shrugged, then picked up a stick of his own, launching into a very pretty piece of footwork that seemed more for show than anything else. "I grew up a bit, I think," he explained. "I realized that there's quite a bit more to love than trying to seduce every pretty face I happened to cross, and I also realized that pretty faces don't always make for pretty people. I know that sounds terribly shameful of me, but you're probably going to hear worse from Jamilah as it is."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 07:46 AM
"We've got to have something to do with you." She stood politely by, trying to stay out of the way of Marcello's footwork. "By the way, if anyone who looks official asks you if you're a formal hostage of Cnoch-na-Niall, I need you to say yes."
At present, she did not care to delve further into the subject of love. "I've not yet met your Jamilah. Should I? Does she know what she's coming into?" For the moment, she did not sound at all teasing.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 08:01 AM
"Of course I'm a formal hostage of Cnoch-na-Niall," Marcello agreed, finishing with his stick pointed at Niabheara. He closed the distance between them, tapping her on the side with the stick before he tossed the stick to the side. "I've been saying that for months. It's the best time I've ever had as a formal hostage," he assured her, nodding deferentially.
"As much as I would like to say that you should keep your distance," he answered, "you should meet her. She's smart as a whip and she's been all through the palace, she might know something we haven't considered. She's a priestess," he added. "She tells fortunes. She wasn't that when I used to know her, of course. But I didn't-- our reunion was brief," he admitted to Niabheara. "She knows a little; she-- she met Tristan before he died. And she knows he was taken from us. But the magnitude? All the specifics? Unless someone else has been thoughtful enough to fill her in, I think not. You-- you'll either like her very much or you'll hate her; I can't quite decide. She's got a temper like-- well, you haven't done anything to anger her, so she'll probably be as sweet as honey to you. And if she says anything about my cheeks, she doesn't mean it as a compliment."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 06:27 PM
"Then I should see her," she agreed, and then added wryly, "Though I'll ask nothing about your cheeks unless she mentions them first. If she's in well enough condition to travel, we might best send her on ere we become engaged--although at present, I know no safer place for her than here. I shall see if there is a way to return her to her home."
Then, in a slightly clipped tone, she asked, "Friend of yours?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 06:48 PM
"She'll mention them," Marcello assured Niabheara. "And she's definitely fit enough to travel. She's fit enough to--"
He stopped, then blinked at her. "Jamilah?" he asked. "I thought I told you. She lived in my house when I was a boy. She was my father's student. We were childhood sweethearts. Until she found out I had about four others," he added sheepishly. He shrugged. "She's still angry at me for it, but she's been pleasant enough since she hasn't been a prisoner of the Puck."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 06:56 PM
"Do you think I can keep track of all the women you've offended?" she asked kindly. "At least she'll be pleased when she finds out the Puck's in irons; perhaps she'll join us in kicking it in the head." Niabheara felt an instant kinship toward anyone who found herself a victim of the Puck. On the far side of the grove, at the edge of the Tuatha camp, she glanced back and forth amid horses and flaring pennants and tents. "Let's see to her, then."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 07:00 PM
"I offered her first shot at him yesterday," Marcello answered. "She just wanted to stay away from him."
He made a face at her first comment, then looked around. "If I know Jamilah, she'll be eating," he said, and made a beeline for the mess tent.
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 07:08 PM
Jamilah was indeed in the mess tent, having figured that she might as well take advantage of the chance to eat whilst she could. She was engrossed in picking apart a bread roll, demolishing the soft inside first, and completely ignoring her surroundings.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 07:16 PM
The Italian-or-whatever-he-was cleared his throat and started for Jamilah, nodding Niabheara over. "Ah, Jamilah?" he said hesitantly. "This is Niabheara. Ah--" He glanced at the redhead, wondering if he should be handling this more formally. "The Lady Niall. Niabheara, this is Jamilah, the...priestess of...something?"
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 07:31 PM
Jamilah dusted the crumbs off her hands, caught somewhere between amusement and disdain at the somewhat less than pleasing introduction. She rose to her feet, offering a short bow in place of a curtsy, which she didn't much fancy attempting in trousers. "It's delightful to get to finally meet you, Lady Niall," she said, eyeing the Fishy Countess speculatively. "I've heard-" She stopped short, realising she'd made a mistake, but finished weakly with - "So much."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 07:37 PM
Niabheara laid a hand to her breast and nodded deeply over it, looking over the other young woman with interest. She had a completely different picture in her head when Marcello spoke of Jamilah; for one thing, she had expected someone older. "You have me at a disadvantage," she replied politely; "I've heard very little about you, considering the source." Somehow, without so much as looking at or gesturing toward Marcello, she managed to implicate him for all of the above. "It is good to see you well, lady."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 07:44 PM
"Good, then, we're all introduced," Marcello said, shooting Niabheara a helpless look. "You've got everything you need?" he asked Jamilah. "Niabheara wanted to let you know that we've still got the Puck imprisoned and in irons and very much in need of a good kicking."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 07:52 PM
Jamilah raised her eyebrows at Marcello, finding it easier to think of him under his new name in the presence of Niabheara. "That is comforting, thank you," she answered, not entirely sincerely. "I'd not trust my foot near him, all the same."
She cleared her throat, returning her attention to the Countess, spreading her hands open. "Marcello seems to be able to accomplish far more than myself; I fear there is probably very little to know, Lady Niall," she said, tone entirely without malice.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 08:00 PM
It was a clear struggle to keep her mind on business, as this would have been the perfect moment to ask what all this cheek-business was about, but she managed to keep her smile under wraps. "I had hoped to find you for another reason, lady," she said. "We are preparing for military action here, as you must see. I would know if there is anything I can do for your safety. I would not ask you to remain in such a circumstances."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 08:14 PM
If there had been anywhere Jamilah could think of that was safe to go, she would have been delighted by such a suggestion. As it was, she frowned, rubbing her palms together. "I- ah. Thank you, Lady N-" She cleared her throat, lowering her eyes. "Ah. Thank you, for considering my safety, but I - do not want to trouble you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 08:18 PM
Marcello looked worriedly between the two women. "Da would take you," he offered. "If there's some way to get her back to England? He's still at Oxford. It might do him some good to have you there, too."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 08:24 PM
Jamilah's face brightened instantly, although she felt slightly sick at the thought of delaying her task even further. "That would be wonderful - if he doesn't mind. I'd even be willing to part with my fortune-teller's outfit."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 08:30 PM
"The only trouble being that there are no direct means from Tir-Nan-Og to the outer realms. Not without going through Titania herself, and she, of course, is largely unavailable. The Puck might could, but . . . " She let the statement trail off, with a disgusted look, at the likelihood of the Puck willingly doing anything useful just now. With a thoughtful expression, the girl sat herself down on the bench near Jamilah. "But there are still places in the Erins that will put you safely out of conflict." She gave the other girl a small, wry look. "I know your experiences with my people so far may not have been the most trustworthy."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 08:38 PM
Jamilah bit her lower lip, staring down at her plate. "The Puck is the only one I distrust," she answered with a shrug. "As long as he is not nearby, I am content to go anywhere."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 08:41 PM
Marcello looked worriedly from Jamilah to Niabheara. "We won't let you come to any harm here," he added reassuringly. "And Niabheara won't-- anywhere she sends you will be safe."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 08:46 PM
Niabheara gave Jamilah a more encouraging look, her black eyes dancing. "And for the present it will be good to finally have someone my own age to speak with. Everyone else is either immeasurably older and knows what's best for me, or else Marcello, who thinks he's best for me."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 08:57 PM
Jamilah started, having been examining her palm, perhaps in the hope of seeing her future writ there. A smile spread over her face, and she let out a startled laugh. "You should have him recite poetry for you," she said, grinning at Marcello. "There was this lovely one I read in my youth - do you remember how it went, Marcello?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 09:03 PM
Marcello's face, on the other hand, had gone dead white at Niabheara's pronouncement. "I never said any such thing," he said quietly. "And I will not be made a mockery of. I'll leave you to it, then," he said, giving Niabheara a cold stare before he turned on his heel.
He stopped at Jamilah's request. "EVEN as the sun with purple-colour'd face," he recited back at her, still facing away from the girls, his tone cold and clipped, "Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn, Rose-cheek'd Adonis hied him to the chase; Hunting he loved, but love he laugh'd to scorn; Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him, And like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him."
And then he started out.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 09:12 PM
Niabheara slapped her hands down on her knees in pure confusion. "Lugh's arrows, what's this now?"
She tapped Jamilah on the shoulder, a silent request for the other girl to hold a moment, accompanied by a quick, questioning look--do you know what he's on about?--before rising quickly and managing to appear directly in front of him without covering any space between. "I was joking," she said quietly. "I was not mocking you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 09:22 PM
Marcello looked startled, then gritted his teeth, taking a step back from her, which mean one closer to the table. "Then perhaps you might not joke about quite such a sensitive subject," he said quietly, his cheeks going flush, and he glanced back at Jamilah. "I don't wish your entertainment to be at my expense."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 09:30 PM
"Then I'll be silent." She followed his look back to Jamilah. Her eyes flared briefly, face stiffening, before she proceeded back to the table as if the glance had been a directive. "Forbid I cause you grieve before your old friends."
She resumed her seat at the table.
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 09:48 PM
Jamilah's mouth quivered, dangerously close to another smile. Figuring that she might as well have fun whilst she was still around, she placed her elbows on the table and cupped her chin with her hands. "You recited that beautifully," she informed Marcello sweetly. "I was distraught when you said that your cheeks were not so rosy anymore." She paused, feeling it safe to smile without fear of it turning into a grin - or worse, a laugh.
"If you still feel you must leave, I'm sure Lady Niall and I will find something to talk about," she said, sounding entirely sincere, and frowning, as though contemplating what they could possibly find to talk about...
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 09:55 PM
Marcello stayed standing where he was, glaring first at one girl, and then the other. "I'm sure you will, and since my lady has found it meet not to speak in my presence, I had best remove myself so you can discuss all my shortcomings at length, as I'm certain I am very much exactly the boy you remember at seventeen," he growled at Jamilah. "I'm sure you'll have her very well convinced of why I'm not best for her, if she ever deigns to speak to me again, not that she needs any convincing in that arena."
His cheeks were extremely rosy at this point.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 10:04 PM
Niabheara vacillated somewhere between mortified and indignant. "I don't e'en know anything about the length of your shortcomings!" she fired back.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 10:08 PM
Now Marcello's cheeks went crimson. "You've never expressed any interest!" he retorted.
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 10:21 PM
"I would hope that you'd have more respect for me than to assume my aim is to break down your friendships," Jamilah said quietly, breaking a piece off the crust of her roll. "I assure you, I have no interest in divulging your shortcomings."
It wasn't, of course, entirely true, but she wasn't keen on an argument that she couldn't participate in.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 10:32 PM
Now Niabheara was somewhere between mortified, indignant, crawling under the table, and ordering Marcello to go turn chain-maille until she felt prepared to look at him again. Briefly she hid her face behind her hands, then immediately put them down flat on the table so that she couldn't seek that particular escape route again. "Perhaps if some people has as much confidence in my judgement as they claim, they would not be so terribly concerned that a moment's conversation might undo several months' friendship--unless they do, indeed, have something worthy of hiding."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 10:40 PM
"That," Marcello informed Jamilah indignantly, "is not one of my shortcomings, and if I recall, you wouldn't know, either."
He sat, reluctantly, down on the bench, a bit further from Niabheara than he would normally. "If there's anything worthy of hiding, you're more like to know it than she is," he told the redhead quietly, eyeing the bench as if he were talking to it. "And it's not your judgment I'm worried about. Jamilah, you never told us what you're a priestess of."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 10:53 PM
Jamilah mumbled something about how she thought everybody knew that Marcello didn't have very much worthy of hiding, reducing her bread roll into crumbs on her plate.
"You're worried about the judgment of a god?" she asked, eyebrows raising. Her face sobered and she closed one hand into a tight fist, covering it with the other. "It's... hard to explain," she began, lowering her voice, simply out of habit. "It's not quite a priestess, I suppose we're more - guardians, of an ancient spirit." She gave Marcello a level look. "We don't usually bother anybody outside our own lands, so you needn't think I'm not trustworthy enough to sit with. I'm just looking for something that's been lost, that's all."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 11:00 PM
Marcello blinked at the girl. "Oh, hell," he muttered. Suddenly, he was wishing they were still discussing his shortcomings, physical or not. "When the hell did you go from being a literature student to that?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 11:01 PM
"What are you looking for, then?" Niabheara asked, partially out of genuine interest, with a small fragment devoted to ignoring Marcello--although she gave him a rather alarmed look at his tone.
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 11:08 PM
Jamilah blinked at Marcello. "I was never a literature student," she said calmly. "Not really. I was raised to be a guardian. The Oracle needs-" She broke off, studying her hands. "Dedication," she finished, as though that was the word she had been meaning to say all along.
She frowned thoughtfully at Niabheara, remembering what had happened the last time she had shared her task with somebody. "I am searching for a man, a few years older than me, with three lines marking his left palm. Unfortunately, since men tend to move around, it has not been particularly easy."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 11:11 PM
Marcello blinked again. "What the hell were you doing studying Shakespeare?" he asked her, looking completely perplexed. "Is it an oracle of the dramatic arts or--"
He decided it might be better to hold both of his unmarked palms out on the table for both women to see. "So what happens when you find him?"
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 11:21 PM
"I already saw yours," Jamilah reminded him, looking a little exasperated. "Back in the prison. And I don't know why I was sent there, but the Oracle requested it as part of my training."
She unclasped her hands and reached up to fiddle with her hair. "When I find him, I'll just bring him home," she answered. "That's all the Oracle wants. Nothing sinister, just to talk to him, to find out what he's discovered."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 16 2007, 11:27 PM
"Then you do need to be returned home," Niabheara mused. "How did you come to Leabharcham? What were you in the Courts?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 11:30 PM
"You have to specify 'nothing sinister'?" Marcello asked dryly. "I don't know what kind of deity wants girls to learn about a dead filthy playwright from a drunken Englishman as part of their formal training."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 11:34 PM
"I won't be able to find him there," Jamilah said, a little desperately. "He's not from my country - or, at least, he's not in my country. The Puck got me, told me he'd take me to people who would help me find what I was looking for." She broke off, frowning at Marcello, remembering that had been at least partly his fault too.
"I only specified that it wasn't sinister because that's what you seemed to be suggesting," she said coldly, her eyes narrowing. She ignored the rest of his comment for want of a decent response.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 11:42 PM
"What I'm suggesting is that it's a little strange for an old childhood--" he glanced at Niabheara-- "friend should show up out of nowhere and tell me that she was living some terribly secret life the entire time I knew her."
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 16 2007, 11:47 PM
"Which was a matter of months!" Jamilah snarled back, losing her temper. "It wasn't some terribly secret life, and I'd probably have been turned out of your house if I had told you! Anyway, I'm far more interested in how you managed to gain seven extra years!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 16 2007, 11:55 PM
Marcello gave the girl a hurt look. "Turned out of the house when you left before you were meant to because of a milkmaid?" he asked her. "Maybe if you'd told me, I would have understood a few things about you better than I-- and I didn't gain anything! How the hell does the magical oracle priestess have a right to accuse me of aging too fast when she's the one who isn't aging at all?!"
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 17 2007, 12:04 AM
"I am not magical," Jamilah snapped, inhaling sharply. "And you know very well that it wasn't just the milkmaid! I'd have been able to handle the milkmaid, but my first - and you'd - and I am aging! Just because I'm doing it at the same rate as normal people doesn't mean I'm not aging."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 12:07 AM
Marcello threw his hands up. "It was ten years ago! And you're the one who's travelling around to magical worlds. I'm supposed to believe I'm the one who's not aging normally?"
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 17 2007, 12:10 AM
"You're travelling to them too," Jamilah gritted out, her own hands clenching into fists.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 12:14 AM
"Only once!" Marcello answered. "I don't make a hobby out of it!"
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 17 2007, 12:18 AM
"Well, you've certainly encouraged me to never leave my country again," Jamilah rapped out, her lip curling in a snarl. "And you are surprised that I didn't tell you where I really came from in the first place!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 12:19 AM
"I wouldn't have been angry if you'd been honest!" Marcello snapped back. "And I might not have slept with the milkmaid, either!"
Posted by: Jamilah Ai'livahzi Oct 17 2007, 12:27 AM
"Honesty!" Jamilah spat, her breath catching in her throat. "Why - you - that-"
She seemed to run out of words, but fortunately, she had always held that actions spoke louder than words.
She leaned across, raising her hand to slap him, aiming for his rosy cheeks.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 12:43 AM
Automatically, and before even she knew what she was going to do, Niabheara threw up a hand--but only to catch Jamilah's before it landed. "I'm sorry," she explained; "while I can completely understand the desire to slap someone, I have currently been cursed to intervene when this man is placed under threat of harm. You may slap me instead, if you like," she added cheerfully, "although I realise it's not at all the same satisfaction."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 12:46 AM
Marcello, who had been in the process of flinching, gave Niabheara a slack, jawed look and rubbed his cheek. "You can let her slap me," he said, after a moment, sounding quite miserable.
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 12:58 AM
Moira blew into the mess tent, looking winded and agitated--although the paused tableau was enough to take her aback for a moment. "My lady," she said, eyeing the three young people warily, "the Queensman has arrived from Leabharcham. He waits outside the gates. No retinue. Your guard have him under arms. He states he has orders to speak to none but you, on pain of death."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 01:03 AM
Marcello stood up, straight, his expression tight, the conversation behind them forgotten, and he held a hand out to Niabheara.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 01:11 AM
"How long have you been back?" Niabheara asked, concerned. She took Marcello's hand and rose to follow the bard.
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 01:11 AM
"I've been looking for you since my return," Moira returned crossly. "I hadn't been here long enough to find you when someone found me. First negotiations?" she asked.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 01:16 AM
"Very likely," Niabheara said bitterly, "or the start of the death threats. Have him brought in. Make sure he is alone." She shoved through the tied tent flap and stepped out into the rain, making for the makeshift spiked gates as quickly as she could without tripping in the muck.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 01:29 AM
Marcello gave Jamilah an almost apologetic look, taking a deep breath as he followed Niabheara out. "Does none but you mean you alone?" he asked quietly, turning back toward Moira. "And how did your part go?"
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 01:32 AM
Trul are not known for taking chances. As soon as the Tuatha at the gates had identified himself as the Queensman, the guards broke over him like a flood, lifting him bodily from the ground to carry him to the Countess.
Mortoch followed behind the quartet of Trul holding the prisoner, ax ready in his hands.
Looking to smaller woman, Mortoch saluted.
'M'Lady, a visitor"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 01:32 AM
"He's come to our camp," she replied, looking straight ahead; "he'll take whate'er we give him. Mortoch." She put her hand to her breast and bowed politely over it. "Set him down. Lord Gaoth-Dobhair." She had to peek around the guard to make sure it was, in fact, Lord Gaoth-Dobhair and that he was carrying Titania's seal around his neck. "Set him down," she said again.
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 01:36 AM
"It went well enough, for a start," the bard said stiffly to Marcello, trying to keep at wary attention for the prisoner's sake. "We won't know for a few days' time."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 01:39 AM
"Niabheara told me everything. A few days may be too long," Marcello informed Moira quietly, before turning to stand beside the Countess, straining for a look at the man Mortoch carried.
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 01:42 AM
Mortoch lowered his axe, the flames racing up the crystal blade flickered and dimmed with the motion.
"Ok, lads- set him down, Gently mind you. Stand ready."
The Trul eased the Tuatha to the ground, then moved into a loose semicircle around the party.
Posted by: Fortuna Oct 17 2007, 01:47 AM
The dark-haired man, in his court's black-and-gold, dusted himself off and gave a cross twitch of his sleeves. "As much as should expect, but no matter. Countess." He bowed briefly to the girl. "A pity we must meet under these circumstances. I bring you the word of my lady Queen. I have been informed to keep it for yourself alone. Is there anywhere else . . . " He took another look at the trul, then Marcello and the bard.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 01:54 AM
"These are my counsel, sir," Niabheara said, cold but polite. "I might invite you to speak out of the rain, but I will have them. Suffice it to say that there is little trust left between myself and Titania." She turned her back toward the lot of him. "Mortoch, escort his lordship to the pavilion."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 02:01 AM
"Form up! Mortoch barked- and the Trul bounced in to formation- Two on each side & Mortoch behind him. "Good as done, Countess." He said, bowing to Niabheara.
He looked to the man in the Queen's sircoat- waving his hand towards the departing Trul
"After you, mate."
Posted by: Fortuna Oct 17 2007, 02:09 AM
"As you will have it, lady. I suppose it's useless to tell you that come in complete peace?" He shifted uncomfortably to draw himself as far from the flanking trul as possible while still maintaining some semblance of dignity as he followed.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 02:12 AM
"Completely useless. Lead him in." She stood aside until the trul had taken the man within the pavilion, waiting until Marcello and Moira joined her before proceeding in behind them. "The lady has received the declaration, I take it. Shall I prepare to tell His Majesty the good news?"
Posted by: Fortuna Oct 17 2007, 02:15 AM
The dark man stepped slightly away from the trul, with a brisk shrug of his shoulders. "You have shamed yourself greatly with your underhanded tactics. You attacked His Majesty at a child's burial, Countess; what mettle are you made from?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 02:21 AM
"That child," Marcello put in politely, "was my Lady's betrothed. His Majesty's hobgoblin grossly interrupted the Lady Niall's mourning, and there was no attack upon His Majesty or his henchman."
He glanced warily between the women who accompanied him, with the apologetic look he got when he thought he might have spoken out of place.
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 02:23 AM
"Perhaps of the same mettle that would murder a child one harboured under one's own roof?" Moira added loftily.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 02:25 AM
"You're giving questions for questions, sir," Niabheara said. "Let's hear the answer to mine first: have you been sent to secure His Majesty's release in accordance to our demands? There will be no negotiations, and I am beyond being scolded like a child of three by a woman who has proven herself to be a killer and a harbourer of killers."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 02:30 AM
'And 'your King'"- Mortoch sneered- '"instigated the whole damn thing by drawing blade on yon tallfolk- one of the Countess's retainers- unprovoked."
Mortoch smiled at the dark-clad man, he teeth flashing in the gloom- "As to the Puck, or whatever it is, we're currently dicing to see who has the pleasure of taking his hide."
Posted by: Fortuna Oct 17 2007, 02:37 AM
"You will gain nothing by threatening me," said the Queensman. "My lady holds no claim upon what His Majesty does and does not do and washes her hands entirely of the Puck." He ignored the bard's remark completely. "There will be no negotiations for the king, lest he can secure his own release under his own merits. You have forsworn your oath of fealty with the Courts and are therefore no longer under her protection. The suggestion is that you prepare to defend yourself and your lands."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 02:41 AM
Mortoch's hand shot out, lifting the man from the ground by his face.
"Well, that ended about like I'd planned," Shrugging, he looked over to the Countess- "Shall I show the ambassador the door, M'lady? Or would ye rather have one of my men find something more permanent to do with him?
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 02:45 AM
"Mortoch, put the Queensman down," she hissed. "Gently."
She turned back to the courtier. "I hope this is not the final decision. Otherwise you will be receiving your king back, will you or never so, over the course of the next several days."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 02:50 AM
"Or weeks," Marcello suggested lightly. "My Lady should show her prisoners at least the grace Her Majesty does hers."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 02:52 AM
He very slowly sat the man back down on his feet, then crossing his arms with a clash of armor, stalked over behind the Countess. Under his breath- in Trul- he spoke to her.
This bastard is cut from the same skin as that baby-slaying bitch. I say we send his head back as our answer to her boast.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 03:17 AM
Niabheara nodded to Mortoch, then frowned and shook her head. "Is this all you have for us? I'm afraid you've wasted your journey, sir. When should we expect this attack? I assure you, we are quite prepared."
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 03:20 AM
"I say we let the King speak to his lordship the Queensman," Moira remarked. "I'm sure he would like to send a last message to his lady. I expect it will be quite wordy."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 03:25 AM
"He should have word of his lady Queen's decision," Marcello agreed. "Of course, I would like our friend here to return to his lady in one piece."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 03:25 AM
"Yea, something along the lines of..." Mortoch paused, then continued pantomiming agony- 'OHHH God! It HURTS! please let me die! It's been three weeks! I don't have anything else left to burn or chop off! Mommyyy!"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 03:33 AM
"Mortoch." She shot the trul a glare.
Brushing her hair out of her face, she looked to the Queensman. "No. I'm sorry, I will not disclose His Majesty's location. If he wishes to send word, I'll permit him to write, but no more than that. If this is all you have for me, you may go. Tell your mistress that I hope she will reconsider. She now has one year from this day."
Posted by: Fortuna Oct 17 2007, 03:41 AM
The man bowed his head. "This is all I have for you," he said curtly. "I do, however, hold a second message for the Priestess La'Shaara of your company. Likewise to be given only to herself, under pain of death. Since you have proven unyielding, I would be taken to the priestess."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 03:55 AM
Suddenly, without warning, the ground under the pavilion began to ripple and flow. A red-dreadlocked head broke the surface of the sand, and a huge- even by Trul standards- Trul woman rose gracefully from the earth like a dolphin, settling down gently on the surface of the soil. She was clad in a robe of red dragonhide, the scales glittering darkly in the lamplight. Cruelly curved steel claws jutted from the bakq-na that adorned her hands. Her eyes gleamed a reddish-gold of molten lava and liquid metal. Etched deep in her forehead, just above the baleful eyes was the brand of Tssraath.
It was La'Shaara.
The dark man felt a hulking liquid force envelope his mind, and a message thrumed through him.
Greetings, Tuatha. I am La'Shaara, Daughter of She Who Walks Beneath us All. What is your message.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 04:02 AM
Marcello stepped back, looking rather shaken at the woman's appearance. "I hate when they do that," he murmured quietly.
Posted by: Fortuna Oct 17 2007, 04:12 AM
The Queensman turned, calm and unsurprised, to the trul priestess. "I come on behalf of the Lady Titania, Queen of the Erins," he said to her with surprising formality. "My message is for you alone. I would prefer some privacy."
Posted by: Mortoch Starhammer Oct 17 2007, 04:16 AM
We can discuss matters in private if you like, Tuatha.
The priestess walked over to the ambassador, the tent shaking slightly with each step. She placed her hand over his heart, and the pair sank slowly into the earth.
Floating in the cool darkness, he felt the words enter his mind-
We float in the Mother's Blood. Speak.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 04:37 AM
Niabheara was too furious to speak. "Gods!" she spat out. "Please spare me from having to explain what's happened to the Queensman this time! Damn it, damn, damn!" She rose and kicked her stool. "If this is the g-me she wants to play, she'll have it. I'll cube the monster small and feed him to Omaudaun and hang his skullcap o'er the fire, I'll . . . ."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 04:52 AM
"Shh," Marcello said, reaching for the girl's hands, his expression tight. "It was what we expected," he pointed out. "At least she sent the man to tell us, and didn't attack outright. I think...Moira is in some ways right. The King should know his wife would see him dead. Do you...is anything beyond this point decided?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 04:28 PM
"I don't believe it. Not for a minute." The girl calmed enough to unclench her teeth. "She's scheming. Titania does not let things walk away from her. I want guard doubled around the king. If we can't spare the men to double, I want it as close as can be. And I want to know what she put to the priestess. We're on alert. I would rather be gone from this place ere the lady Oisin brings down what troops she can. For now we guard the barricades and make plans to strike camp and move His Majesty back to Cnoch-na-Niall."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 04:40 PM
"I don't believe it either," Marcello agreed, nodding to Niabheara. The nod was part in agreement, and part to keep his voice from carrying to the trul guard. "Can the priestess be trusted?" he asked quietly. "And what do we do with the Puck? I suspect bringing him home with us is a risk I would prefer not to take."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 04:51 PM
"The priestesses are loyal only to the trul and the Dragon Courts. Mortoch will have to see to them." She was pacing, chewing on her thumbnail. "Lest we kill the Puck now, we have no choice but to take him. I would not trust him free."
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 04:52 PM
The bard's expression darkened. "Much as I mislike it, the Puck is now part of the parcel. I think he could prove useful if sufficiently motivated. He did come to you, after all, on his master's behalf. I vote we move yourself and your immediate retainers, along with the prisoners, to Avalon. If the Queen wants to strike, make her come to you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 05:00 PM
"Are we sufficiently fortified at Cnoch-na-Niall?" Marcello asked. "We brought a large part of our supplies to Oireachteigh, and I don't know what defenses we left at home. Are we going to be able to withstand a siege?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 05:16 PM
Niabheara stayed silent, weighing the options. "You're right. I don't believe we could do so well besieged as we are besieging. We can't support the trul contingent at Cnoch-na-Niall; here, we're prepared to forage the countryside if needs must. At the same time we might spend all our time here batting down Titania. Damn." She put her hands to her face, looking over her fingertips at the bard. "You've sent word to Fiona."
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 05:16 PM
"I have," the bard said, stiffening. "Are we prepared to stand ground until reinforcements arrive?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 05:18 PM
"That was the original plan," Niabheara said wryly. "We might as well not change it this late." Niabheara drifted closer to Marcello. She was shaking in the cold.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 05:29 PM
Marcello glanced at the remaining guard, stepping closer to Niabheara, looking torn for a moment in the face of potentially acting improprietously in public, and then took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. Which left him shivering, but he gritted his teeth and bore it amiably.
"Is there anyone else we may be able to attract as allies?" he asked. "Our biggest weakness if we're to stay put is that we have no defenses here. It's our tents against her walls. But our armies are here. Can the Trul build? And what is the situation at Oireachteigh? I know they are hard put, but if there is anything they can spare? Would we be able to trust the Duke with his brother's imprisonment, or is that foolish?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 05:39 PM
"The trul can build--are building. It's a matter of lending them time enough to do so." She clutched the jacket closed around her throat. "When last we left the Duke he was in scarcely enough shape to care for himself, much less defend the city. I can likely request supplies, but that's going to take more time in the shipping. And I would not trust him with his brother. Not in the condition he's in."
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 05:39 PM
"We've more allies than Oireachteigh," Moira said. "Beal-Feirste, Anvil Harbour, a few others--and Fiona. Word spreads fast through the baronies."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 05:51 PM
Marcello, meanwhile, was clutching his hands to his armpits and listening with growing concern. "So we're playing a waiting g-me, then?" he asked. "And Titania would be wiser to strike sooner rather than later, then. It would be better if we could move the camp far enough from the castle proper that she would be forced to show herself before-- oh, but she can appear at will, can't she?" he asked, looking a bit miserable at this revelation.
He shivered again, and then looked to the two women. "And I think I would suggest for the time being, if we can move somewhere warmer?" he asked earnestly. "As lovely as the company may be, I hate your climate."
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 05:56 PM
Moira burst out laughing, unexpected in the current dour mood. "If she were going to appear tonight, she would have done so already," she said, grinning. "And if I know her, she'll prefer to appear with some style and in relative comfort. Which means it might be best to seek her near the fires. Which is where I am going. Countess?" She raised an eyebrow at the girl. "Get some sleep, else I will drug you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 05:59 PM
"I've already tried that," Marcello answered, giving Niabheara a look. "Only without the threat of drugging. She's right," he informed the countess softly. "You should rest when you're able. The fires sound perfectly pleasant as far as I'm concerned," he added, nodding to Moira.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 17 2007, 06:01 PM
"I would sleep, save we are convening in my bed-chamber." She waved them gone. "If I promise to sleep, will you all promise to leave?"
Posted by: Moira an Tiompan Oct 17 2007, 06:01 PM
"Leaving," Moira assured. "Come, Marcello."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 17 2007, 06:06 PM
Marcello nodded, turned to Niabheara, and touched one finger to his lips, then turned the finger out toward the girl. "Rest well," he said softly, before following the bard out.
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