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 Death and the Maiden, Tags Arthur

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Nov 4 2015, 07:01 AM / Post #: 23007 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

The head made a dull thud as it struck the heavy oak of the table and rolled in a less than linear path towards the man seated at the far end. It struck a platter of roasted potatoes covered in some kind of cream sauce and splashed a dollop onto the table to mix with the oozing, dark coagulated blood that dripped from the tattered flesh at the neck where it had been severed from the body.

Gwenhwyfar stood at the far side of the table, still holding the burlap sack from which she had produced the head, her black gloved fingers sticky with the clotted blood. The man at the end of the table looked a little green around the edges as he waved one of his servants over to pick up the grisly item and remove it from his feast. “Yes, yes, I can see that you performed your task as it was assigned, you need not be so uncouth about providing me the evidence. A signet ring would have sufficed.”

“A signet ring can be stolen from a living man; a head can only be severed when one is dead.” Gwen answered, walking around the table and reaching out to dip her bloody fingers in his boat of gravy, swirling them around until the drops of blood were thoroughly mixed into the sauce.

The fat man wrinkled his piggish nose in distaste and muttered under his breath about sellswords before he gestured again to one of his servants. This one stepped forward with a velvet bag resting in the palm of his hand. “Your payment, as promised.”

Gwenhwyfar took the bag the servant dropped into her hand, hefting it once to gauge the weight. It seemed sufficient, but she did not take chances on things like that. So, with a simple tug of the rope that kept the bag tied shut, she opened it and upended the contents onto the table. When her eyes beheld the dim gray instead of the shining gold she expected to see, she reacted without even blinking an eye. Her sword was in her hand as if it had materialized there by magic. Before any of his servants could even react, she’d buried her blade in his chest and drawn the scarlet coated blade free in time to block the attack of the first servant. “I have no qualms with you, I only want to be paid. As per our agreement, if he failed to deliver the gold when I delivered the head, than I could take my payment in blood.” And so she had. Now that the lord of the manor was dead, she also intended to exact her payment from the wealth that remained behind, as soon as she had dispatched the servants standing in her way.

They were large men, strong, and probably more than adequate guards for many of the knights and brigands who roamed Ga’leah, but not for Gwenhwyfar. When she had been just sixteen, she’d escaped the prison her father had sentenced her to and fled to Solhara. She’d lived on the streets there for weeks until she’d finally convinced someone to take her on as a mercenary. She’d fought hard, proving herself time and again until she’d begun to make a reputation for herself as a sellsword not simply in Solhara but throughout Ga’leah.

Her birth name she had abandoned years ago. Now, she was known only as the Queen of Swords. It was not a name she had chosen for herself, but one that had been bestowed upon her when she proved that she was one of the most formidable swordspeople in all Ga’leah. There were some that suggested that perhaps only the High King himself showed more skill with a blade than the Queen of Swords, and someday she fully intended to test that theory for herself.

She left behind the manor at Ballyvaughn in Xehacora with her payment safely in hand. She had not a scratch on her, but there were nine dead bodies in the manor all having tasted the steel of her sword in their final moment. She had tried to go about this peaceably. The man should have known that no one attempted to cheat the Queen of Swords and live to tell the tale. He was not the first who had attempted such a thing that she had killed, and he would not be the last.

Gwenhwyfar had no home, no place that she called her own. She felt no desire to put down roots or return to the same homestead when her work was done. She had acquired a magic bag in her travels, one which allowed her to store all of the gold and jewels in her possession, all of the clothing and weaponry she needed to survive within a single saddle bag. Individuals had tried to steal it before, but they’d soon discovered that stealing from the Queen of Swords was ill advised.

The other sellswords knew how to contact her, and often relayed messages of inviduals who wished to acquire her services, knowing that she would pay them handsomely for the service. Of course, there had been a few who had attempted to trick Gwenhwyfar into riding into a trap where the only service they required was her death. Gwenhwyfar had dispatched her would be attackers with only the simplest of injuries, and then ridden back to destroy those who had attempted to trap her. She’d made such a spectacle of their deaths, that word soon travelled. While the honor amongst thieves might sometimes be questionable, the honor given the Queen of Swords by sellswords of Ga’leah was without question.

It was through that network of mercenaries that Gwen heard of another contract. She did not like to travel to the capital very often, but the promise of her weight in gold had the woman intrigued. What could they want her to do that would be worth such a price? When she heard their proposition, she could not help but laugh.

“Kill the King? You want me to kill the High King of Ga’leah for you?” her blue eyes sparkled, [color=red] “I was wondering when one of you might have the meddle to ask such a thing of me. It will be my pleasure to deliver his head to you.” It had been so long since she’d been given a proper challenge, she just hoped that the King’s abilities with a blade were not embellished for his ego’s sake.

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Nov 6 2015, 04:44 AM / Post #: 23058 Quote

He’d requested to go on this trip alone, not wanting his knights, or his advisors to come with him. Perhaps it was nontraditional, or improper of him but he didn’t care. There would be an escort in Thrine to meet him for the way back, and he wasn’t about to just sit and wait for them to come to him. It felt like sitting in his room while the castle was under siege, waiting for the enemies to batter down the outer walls. It was a few days of solo riding, most of which would be done at night when nobody recognized him. He would be traveling a very safe road, and even when he was not on the road, he would be taking the wooded routes he knew very well. Well enough to discourage people from thinking he was the High King. Besides, once he was out of Caerleon, not everyone knew his face well. On the way back, he wouldn’t need to ride light or fast, he would be with a massive party and a carriage for his bride to be.

For that was where Arthur was going. He was heading to Thrine to meet his new fiance. She was not technically a princess, but rather the cousin of one. Regardless, she was the daughter of an important, wealthy nobleman who was responsible for a great number of trade routes between Caerleon and Thrine. He managed most of the crops, workers, and was highly influential in the court. After a few squabbles earlier in the year, it had finally been smoothed over, and this was going to seal the deal. Personally, Arthur did not think this alliance was essential. Caerleon was a well stocked city, with grain reserves that could sustain it for several months in an emergency. If Lord Burkham was really so finicky about how he ran things, why couldn’t that be his own damn problem? Yet even still, it was a good idea. And Arthur was nearly thirty-five years of age and did not have a High Queen to rule by his side. He needed an heir to secure the kingdom. That was what this really was about, and even Merlin had - very grudgingly, in his defense - agreed with the advisors that it was a good move.

Yet Arthur was quite upset. He’d hidden it well, but the thought of marrying a complete stranger was not only frightening to him, but it also felt wrong. From what he’d heard, the Lady in question was a cruel woman. She was also a solid fifteen years younger than he was, and that alone was enough to make him uncomfortable. He did not believe her to be nearly mature enough to be a Queen...and so he had to accept the idea that she would not be one. She would hold the title, but she would not exercise any sort of power associated with it. She would simply be a pretty thing, game piece in a political chess match. Arthur hated it. He hated treating anyone as a means to anything, even if she was awful like people said. However, Arthur did have a desire to secure the Kingdom, and so for Ga’leah alone, not for his advisors he had agreed to do it. Yet he would likely be doomed to an unhappy life for the rest of his days. It was why he treated this trip with such care. He didn’t know what was going to happen after this ride...and he wanted it to be memorable.

He saddled Bristile slowly, checking all of his supplies, strapping Excalibur to his belt, as well as tucking a few knives on his person as well; one in his boot, one on the opposite hip to his sword. Giving the stallion a pat on the neck, he hoisted himself into the saddle, and made his way through the royal stables and out through the courtyard. There were a few people out to watch him go. Arthur rode as though he were going to battle, and some were observing if that were also the case, their expressions solemn. Bristile picked up on the slight tension in his master, and responded magnificently. He raised his shoulders, arching his neck and Arthur could not help but be proud of his mount as they fairly pranced through the courtyard, Bristile making himself out to be every bit the striking war horse that he was.

Once out of the courtyard, Arthur picked up a canter thinking that perhaps if he went faster he would be less tempted to turn around and put a stop to the whole thing. By the time he reached the gates, he was nearly galloping and once he was out on the road, he gave the animal his head and let him run. They continued like this for ten minutes or so until he came to a stop, allowing the winded horse a chance to catch his breath. Arthur was practically counting down the hours to the end of this trip, which would mark the end of the life he knew, and the beginning of something completely different. Perhaps he was overreacting...perhaps this girl was not so bad. Perhaps it would work out. Regardless, it was a big change, and Arthur did not feel ready for it at all. Mostly because he knew that he would not love this person. Of course, love was not important when it came to royal marriages. Even was a dismal prospect for him.

Arthur rode like this for most of the day, alternating paces, stopping every so often to allow himself and the horse a water break, pausing for meals, and even occasionally walking next to the horse instead of riding. Having left in the early afternoon, he stopped for the night at an inn that was expecting him just a few hours outside of Thrine itself. They were expecting him, and it was a pleasant stay, though he slept very little. Eventually he gave up just before sunrise, and so he left some extra silver behind the bar, and quickly saddled his horse and set off once again. Now, he was not in such a hurry. At the end of this trip was a girl with whom he would likely be spending the rest of his life with. After all, she was so young he would be an old man when she was his age. Shuddering at the thought, he continued to walk, finding himself alone on the somewhat narrow road and allowing his attention to slide. It was not exactly the smartest thing to do, but having slept poorly the night before, and dreading the coming day, he allowed Bristile to act as his eyes and ears. It was a lovely morning, the sun just beginning to creep over the trees, a bit of mist on the ground, not a sound to be heard but the soft thudding of Bristile’s hooves against the ground. Letting the reins go slack, Arthur stared ahead without really watching and let his mind wander.

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Nov 12 2015, 02:20 AM / Post #: 23198 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

Gwenhwyfar had no love lost on the High King of Ga’leah. It was the antiquated laws of his father, the laws he had sworn to uphold, that had given her grandfather the right to sell her off like chattel to whatever man promised the most in trade for her hand. It was those same laws that would have made it very hard for her to ever earn a knighthood of her own. She did not respect nobility and certainly not royalty. It was a crime that some were afforded every opportunity while others were forced to scrape and beg and plead for a means of survival. She would be honored to have the opportunity to make this man pay for what he’d already done and what he would do if he was permitted to continue ruling.

She’d spent a few weeks in Caerleon, living under the guise of a young woman in a modest apprentice ship. She’d gathered all sorts of intelligence about Arthur, not the least of which was the importance of this trip. Apparently, he was going to be meeting his new bride. A new queen. By the gods, she had been asked to kill him just in time. To think that if the request had been much later, than the king might well have an heir that would grow to continue the Pendragon legacy…being shite kings, making shite laws.

She was mildly amused by the complete lack of royal procession. Really, shouldn’t the king be arriving to escort his wife back to Caerleon with all of the pomp and circumstance befitting a High Queen? A single man arriving on horseback after tarrying too long in the woods did not sound like a man eager to acquire a woman to warm his bed. Maybe the High King did not fancy women. She’d met several sellswords that had such sexual provocations. In fact, those were some of the only men she would willingly work with because she only had to watch them around her gold and not around her body. Then again, perhaps the new queen was fat. Perhaps she was ugly. Perhaps she was terrible. Maybe she was all three of these things. That would only be fair, that the King find himself stuck with a hideous troll as a queen after sentencing many women to a similar fate. Not that the King would ever live to claim his bride.

It was all carefully prearranged. Gwenhwyfar had taken great pains to make sure that everything would go according to plan and that Arthur would be her victim. She would deliver his head to her wealthy benefactor and be paid handsomely for her troubles. So what if the kingdom was thrown into disarray without a king? They would likely be better off governing themselves anyway.

She’d ridden ahead of Arthur’s intended path and made her arrangements early that morning, changing out of her tight fitting ebony garments and into a much simpler linen dress. She soiled it with dirt, matted her hair and added a few leaves for effect. She scuffed her face with grass and rocks, ripped her skirt, and even cut herself with her own blade, slashing her arm and delivering a stab between her ribs in a location that would not damage any major organs. She needed the King to believe that she had been attacked. She knew that Arthur Pendragon fancied himself a man of action, and she was counting on the fact that he would not be able to leave a woman to suffer and die alone in the forest if there was something he could do to help her. She would present herself as a helpless victim because that was likely all that Arthur would see when he looked at the woman before him. He would not see a warrior, a sword woman, an equal, and his own prejudices would be his undoing.

When she was fairly certain that he was within range, she took off through the forest, making every effort to make as much noise as she could, stomping on branches, grabbing onto trees, pushing through bushes, and sobbing to herself as real tears poured down her face. She exploded out of the trees and into the roadway directly in front of him, stumbling and landing hard on her knees. Her hands were covered in blood from the wound she’d self-inflicted. She tried to push herself up, looking up at the man on horseback in sheer terror before she pushed herself to her feet and tried to continue running. She stumbled and fell again, this time unable to catch herself on her knees and fell instead onto her stomach on the road. She was sobbing, shaking, and still trying to pull herself away from the man on horseback.

Would he stop to help her? Only a heartless man would keep on riding, and she did not believe the king was heartless. Stupid, perhaps. Naïve, certainly. Overconfident, most assuredly, if he thought it was safe for him to travel alone. Perhaps he merely thought that no one in Ga’leah meant him any harm, that he had no enemies of note, that he was safe. He would be sorely mistake, and soon, because she was counting on the King to stop and assist the bleeding, frightened young woman in front of him. She was depending upon him to be sympathetic to her story and offer to help her. If he did, all of the pieces would fall into place and the king would be dead before sundown.

It was a shame, he wasn’t an ugly man. She’d expected him to be a great deal uglier. She had not, however, gotten a good look at his eyes yet. Perhaps they would be as vapid and empty of serious thought as she expected them to be. Any man who depended as heavily upon his advisors as this one did, could not have any thoughts of his own that held any merit at all. He was a puppet, and she was determined to end his show once and for all. Without a mouthpiece, the advisors of Caerleon would no longer control the kingdoms and they would all be free.

She’d be an international hero.

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Nov 12 2015, 03:31 AM / Post #: 23200 Quote

He had to stop this soon. It was happening whether or not he liked it, and whether or not the girl liked it either. You’re going to marry her and you don’t even know her name… the voice in his head reminded him mockingly. It wasn’t for lack of trying either. He’d asked, but nobody had been listening. Merlin always said that he needed to be more assertive, and while most of the time he did a pretty good job, sometimes it really was best to just let his advisors have their way. Sometimes keeping the peace was better than doing what he thought was right. There were people who thought Arthur to be a shadow of his father, and that sickened him. The notion that he was similar in any way made him feel like a complete failure. He didn’t want to be like Uther Pendragon...and he certainly didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

Arthur was brought back to earth when Bristile came to an abrupt stop. Blinking, he looked around as he heard the racket, and tensing immediately, his hand went to Excalibur. He could have cursed himself; of course, all the times he traveled alone, this would be the time he ran across trouble. With a light touch of the reins and a shift in his seat, the horse scrambled backwards a few paces, and he turned the horse sideways so that he could better face whoever might come rushing out of the forest. Heart pounding, he jumped slightly when they did, and even Bristile side stepped a bit as the woman flew out of the trees. For a moment, Arthur’s expression went from battle ready to simple shock. He was so stunned by the dramatic appearance that he was only brought back to earth when she gave him a look of terror. Nobody should have to feel like that...and it was then that Arthur changed tactics immediately. He gathered his wits, becoming aware of the blood on her hands, the state of her clothes, but mostly it was the look on her face that was what moved him to jump down from his horse.

She was trying to run away from him, so Arthur did not chase her. He moved around her, slowly making his way in front of her. “Hey,” He called in a quiet voice. “Slow down, it’s all don’t need to run away from me.” When he realized that she was not getting up, he edged closer, holding out his hands cautiously, not wishing to frighten her any more than she already was. What the hell had happened to this girl? Her arms were cut, and it was a clean line, which meant it was likely the blade of a knife or a sword. Somebody had attacked her, and it made his blood churn. The major wound seemed to be at her side, and Arthur wondered what had occurred. There was no town nearby that he knew of...which meant she had either been running a great deal or had escaped somebody. However, exactly how she’d come to be like this didn’t really matter. All Arthur knew was that he needed to calm her down if he could. She wasn’t making much progress, and while her injuries did not appear to be too severe, she was likely in shock and running on nothing but adrenaline.

Arthur dropped carefully to his knees, edging closer. “You’re all right,” He murmured, his eyes glancing around in case her attacker had followed her. From the way she was running, he figured it wasn’t out of the cards. “Can you speak?” He asked. “Can you tell me your name?” There was a long list of questions he wanted to ask of her, but he decided not to overwhelm the poor girl. She looked fairly young, maybe in her mid twenties and he noted that she looked quite fit, even though the dress she wore masked a great deal of her figure. While she appeared slight for the most part, her arms were well toned, and it gave the king the impression that she very likely had fought her way out of whatever horrific situation she’d come from. He was impressed by her resilience, but fear was fear, and pain was pain, and Arthur did not want her to feel either of those any longer than she had to.

Not wanting to frighten her more, but also feeling the need to do more, Arthur’s gaze fell on her fingers scraping against the dirt as she trembled and shook, and he bit his lip for a moment. Then, he reached out his own hand and laid it on top of hers, before giving it a gentle squeeze. “It’s all right,” He repeated. “Just lie still for a moment...nobody is going to hurt you, okay?” For the first time since he’d announced his betrothal, Arthur had completely forgotten about his impending wedding and future life in a loveless marriage. While he was not pleased by what was happening at all, it was a relief to have somebody else to worry about for the time being. Somebody he could help, take care of, see to that their needs were met. He would see that she found her way to a safe place, that her injuries were properly treated. And wherever he left her, he would also make sure that he checked in on her on the return trip back to Caerleon. There would likely be opposition to this, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care that he would be late, or that he might stir up trouble, he cared only for this woman’s safety. It was simply who he was...and unfortunately, it was as much a flaw as it was a virtue.

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Nov 13 2015, 04:15 AM / Post #: 23211 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

He reacted just as she hoped he would. Although he was still little more than a mouthpiece for his father’s laws and policies, the king fancied himself a man of chivalry, someone who acted in the best interests for the poor and oppressed. It was laughable, but it was also easy to exploit. He saw a woman who was frightened and injured and he moved to help her without any thought towards the consequences. Still, the time was not quite right to attack, not yet. She shifted a little, looking up at him through a curtain of her hair, still whimpering with fear and pain.

She pulled back from him as he moved closer, though she made it clear that she was too weak to go far. She nodded an answer to his first question, swallowing hard and silencing her tears. “Winnie.” She whispered, her voice raspy, presumably from screaming or crying out. “Me father called me Winnie.” She offered, clutching her side a little harder until blood pooled between her fingers and coursed down the back of her hand as her other hand continued to claw at the dirt nervously.

“You shouldna make promises you canna keep.” She whimpered, looking from him to his hand and back again. When he’d reached out to touch her, she’d visibly shrunken away from his touch as if she expected to be struck, her entire body rigid until she’d been certain that he was only going to touch her hand. And even then, she continued to watch him like an animal that might attempt to run at the first wrong movement.

Good. He was buying into her ruse perfectly. He completely believed that she was an injured and helpless woman, and when she told him her story, she was fairly certain that he would promise his assistance to her as well. Such was the way of it with men who considered themselves noble of spirit. The idea made her almost snort her derision, but she held it back. “Ye may no’ hurt me, but they will.” She filled the word with as much hatred and fear as she could muster. “I got away. They werena watching, they were busy. I shouldna have left her. Gods forgive me, I shouldna have left her. She’s me sister and she’s my responsibility, she is, but I was so scared and I wanted to was to get away…”

She was shaking, the tears once more gathering in her eyes as she looked away from him, burying her face in the dirt and curling in on herself. “I deserve to die. Ye should leave me to die.” She moaned, her repeated whimpers took on the form of a single name, ‘Imogen’, moaned over and over again.

Oh yes, she had it all planned out, she had carefully concocted her story to be believable and tragic, to spur that chivalry in the king into action and lure him to a location where he could be quickly and easily killed.

Some part of her paused at the man’s tone. It was gentle, as was his touch. He seemed to genuinely care about this worthless peasant girl whose life was meaningless and whose value to society was nearly nonexistent compared to the nobility. It did not simply sound like his own self-importance spurring him into action, though she was probably wrong. He very likely simply wanted to be a hero, to have another song written about his bravery and skill in battle, to have her coo and fawn over him for taking the time to help her. He did not seem like a horrible human being now, to be sure, but that would change soon enough. If it always did. Not a one of the nobility deserved to live, least of all the royals.

“Me sister and I were travelling to Wyldgate. Me mother spent every piece of gold she had to buy us an apprenticeship there with one of the bakers. He was going to teach us his profession, he was, but our wagon broke an axle on the road some ways back.” It was likely that Arthur himself had encountered the deeply rutted roadway where recent rains had washed some of the surface away and created a somewhat treacherous terrain for a shoddily made wagon. “We was stranded until two nice men on horseback came, they promised us they would fix the wheel. They offered to take us back to their home while they got the tools they needed, but they tied us up and dragged us into the woods instead.”[/color] Here her voice became broken with sobs again, her face pale and her voice quivering as she continued. “They tried to hurt me, they did, but I fought back. I did not want to die. I did not want them to ruin me. So I fought…but my sister.” She shook her head hard and closed her eyes, burying her face in the crook of her arm.

[color=red] “They left us tied to a tree for two days with no food or water. I don’t know where they went or what they did, but when they came back they told me that no one would ever find us, that we belong to them now. And my sister, she’s still with them. She’s still with them….”

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Nov 23 2015, 10:45 PM / Post #: 23427 Quote

When she introduced herself, Arthur felt like he ought to give her a name. However, since Arthur was not the most common name in Ga’Leah, he didn’t fancy her realizing that he was the king and becoming even more worked up. People tended to either be extremely frightened by him, or awestruck. Or they hated him. This girl did not seem to know who he was, and seeing as she was from Calladahn, that did not surprise him. Outside of Caerleon, Arthur was not necessarily known by his face. Deciding he ought to play it safe, he smiled at her. “Hello then, Winnie. Call me Robert.” It was the first name that popped into his head...the last stable hand he’d spoken to before his departure. He’d been talking about how Bristile had kicked another hole in his stall wall, and why Arthur remembered that conversation particularly, or the stable hand’s name was beyond him but he remembered it none the less so he used it as an alias.

He didn’t like the way the blood ran down her fingers, and he had some medical supplies on his saddle...however he didn’t really expect her to trust him enough to see to her injuries. She did not seem quite as afraid of him anymore, which was good. Then, she spoke up, telling him her story and he listened quietly. He had a feeling that she was being chased, and as much as he wanted to shrug off the threat, he knew he couldn’t; as much as he was convinced that a fight against a couple of mangy rotters would be a simple, short battle, underestimating people did him no good. So he kept the thought in mind, his senses alert, even as he listened to Winnie tell her story. He frowned at the mention of a sister...that complicated things, but it was not the first time he’d ever encountered something like this. She was shaking terribly, asking him to let her die and Arthur shook his head, scooting closer. He couldn’t stand to let her bury her face in the dirt like that, so he reached out carefully pulling her upright, and helping her into a sitting position.

“Winnie,” He said, his tone almost stern. “You do not deserve to die, all right?” He reached out and brushed some hair and dirt out of her face, his other hand on her shoulder to steady her. He continued to listen to her story, not interrupting, or even really moving at all. The story was believable enough, as the roads were a little rough this time of year. It wouldn’t be hard to break an axle, especially if it were a smaller wagon with an inexperienced driver. Then came the two nice men, and by this point, Arthur knew where this story was going. The two men had kidnapped the girls, and it was at this part that her voice became broken with sobs again. He gave her a moment, still trying to keep her steadied, and despite the sobs, she managed to continue. Arthur felt his heart go out to this girl, and her sister as well. That people would take advantage of others simply because they did not fully know the nature of the world was a terrible thing...but it was also reality. So he did his best to be a force in the opposite direction.

He was surprised when she told him how they had been tied for two days. No food? No water? Arthur’s expression did not change, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized something was a bit off. While she was hysterical, bleeding, and trembling all over he could scarcely imagine how she’d gotten this far, let alone how she was speaking. She looked beaten up, but she did not look quite as emaciated as he thought she ought to have. Perhaps she’d found something to eat or drink along the way, though that didn’t seem terribly likely. However, there was the chance that she simply had left pieces of the story out...that he was only getting a portion of the tale to go on. While this was a likely option, Arthur decided he did not completely trust this young woman. Regardless however...he would see to it that she found a safe place, because whether or not her story was true, she was definitely injured, and that was much harder not to trust.

“Winnie, I promise you that I will do everything I can to help,” He told her quietly. “You have my word that my intentions are good, and while it isn’t much, it’s the best I have. You’re a brave woman, Winnie so keep being brave, and let me help you. I can get you to a safe place, and I will do everything in my power to return your sister to you safely.” Arthur was confident that he could track down her attackers...he need only follow her erratic trail through the woods, but first he needed to get her to safety. He knew these roads fairly well...and if he was correct, then they likely were not far from her captors. In fact, they might even encounter them along the way if they cut through the woods where she’d came from. There was a small village nearby, and if he was vigilant and Bristile was quick on his feet - and he always was - then the trip would be fast and a rescue mission would be underway soon.

“Do you think you can ride?” He asked after a moment. He knew she could stand if she really wanted to, and he was more than happy to help her. So he would be delayed in getting to his destination...but that was fine by him. This would only take a few hours at most, and he didn’t have to explain himself or anything either. He could just say he was held up, and let that be the end of it. After all...he was the bloody High King. He could make his own damn arrival time if he wanted to.

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Nov 24 2015, 03:10 AM / Post #: 23434 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

It was all Gwenhwyfar could do not to laugh out loud at the man. Were there really grown men and women in Ga’leah who could not identify the High King on sight? The thought was ridiculous, but she supposed that there were plenty of fools in the kingdoms who might not be able to recognize their ‘sovereign’ if he was standing right in front of them. Gwenhwyfar was not one of those people, and she was mildly offended by the alias. Robert, indeed. So he did not trust her enough to give her his name and take the chance that she might know who he was. Interesting. Perhaps he wasn’t a complete and utter fool after all.

The kindness was unexpected. She had anticipated that his kingly attributes, his hero complex and his own chivalric code would urge him to help her. She had been counting on it, in fact. But she had not considered that he might treat her with any kind of tenderness or care. In her experience, the nobility cared very little for the wellbeing of the low born. If it would not affect their ability to pay taxes to their liege lords and the crown, than it mattered nothing to any of them. Why then did he care about her so much? There was no one else here to witness it. No one to fawn over him for being such a gentle and kind king. It left her perplexed and a little uncertain about her plan. She certainly hoped this would be the only time he surprised her.

She sat up with his assistance. Although she barely felt the pain from her stab wound, she’d endured much worse since killing her grandfather and leaving Dokrayth behind forever, she feigned pain as he pulled her to a seated position. She pressed her free hand to her side and let tears of pain fall down her dirty cheeks as she looked up at him. Her breaths were broken by barely withheld sobs, and she didn’t look as if she completely believed what he was telling her.

For the most part, he seemed to be buying her story. She watched his face intently as she spoke, taking in the knowing look and the concern. He knew where her story was going to lead before she finished, and that was a good thing. With luck, it would make the story more believable and help to guide him into the trap she’d so carefully laid out for him.

He had the reaction she had anticipated, the need to get her to someone who could care for her injury before going off to find her sister and save the day. She had to time everything perfectly. She was confident in her own skill with a blade. There was a reason they called her the Queen of Swords, after all, but she also knew that the High King was quite skilled himself. Skilled enough that she did not want to chance his escape. If he got away from her before the deed was done, than it would be that much more difficult for her to kill him. He’d likely surround himself with guards and she would forced to put on a disguise to even get with killing distance. No, all of this had to be perfectly timed and prepared.

She already had a poison on her person, a potent thing of magic that would end the King’s life the moment it was inhaled or ingested. She need only find a way to get into him, and he would be dead in a matter of moments. Of course, poisons were not her usual method of execution. She was the Queen of Swords, after all, and as such typically killed with a blade of some kind. But she was not so proud to admit that sometimes an occasion did not call for a good poison.

Was killing him immediately the best route, though? She couldn’t be sure. Her contract was merely for delivery of the head of the High King. But who would think for a moment that anyone would be capable of bringing the king to them alive? Perhaps she would be awarded even more for taking such initiative. She never stopped to consider that she might be making excuses because some part of her responded to the kindness the man had shown her thus far.

The poison was not the only thing on her person. She had one other item, especially for emergencies. That was why she’d purchased the tincture of forget-me-nots from the witch outside the Forgotten Swamp. It was made from flowers that grew within the swamp itself. It could be administered in a number of ways, and without something to subdue the effects, it brought on a slight fugue state. Not unconscious, but not fully aware either. Awake but nearly asleep. She only needed to make him smell it, drink it, or introduce it into an open wound somewhere on his person, and the King would be putty in her hands. It wouldn’t last indefinitely, perhaps a few hours. But plenty of time to bind him, take him somewhere from which he could not escape, and send word to her employers that they could pick up delivery at her location in a few days time.

She didn’t like the idea of making changes to her plan on a whim, but she also did not relish the idea of k¬¬¬¬illing the king so quickly. He very likely had information that might prove useful to her. Things she could extort, if nothing else. It seemed such a waste to kill him so quickly without attempting to gain as much as she could from him first.

Yes, the tincture was the answer. She would drug the king, and re-evaluate her plan when he was hers to do with as she pleased. “I can ride,” She answered weakly. ”I think. If…if we arena goin’ far.” She stumbled, palming the tincture vial from a secret pocket in the folds of her skirts. Falling hard to one knee, she discreetly smashed the vial on the fabric of her skirts and then ripped off a swath of fabric. “Will you help me bind my side?” She asked, bunching the fabric in her hand. When he came close enough, she’d do her best to make sure he inhaled the tincture on the cloth and the deed would be done. Barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Nov 27 2015, 04:36 AM / Post #: 23472 Quote

Arthur was patient. As far as he was concerned, Winnie was more important than his current destination. If they respected him at all as a king, then they would understand why he was late. Yet even then, he wasn’t sure if he’d even tell anyone about this detour. At least...not as an excuse. Perhaps on the way back when he insisted they drop by to see her he would explain himself, but for now, this was his own detour. A wonderful distraction from his own self inflicted misery. Why the hell was he complaining so much when things like this happened? The chance to take care of somebody else for a change, to try and make a difference felt good. It felt it was what he was supposed to be doing all along. That more than anything was what allowed him to continue being a king. It reminded him that his purpose was not signing treaties, or making public appearances or pleasing people with deep pockets, but helping the people he was responsible for and doing what he could to improve their lives.

She cried when he sat her upright, and he wasn’t surprised. Hushing her softly, he wiped the tears from her dirt covered cheeks, and when she actually looked up at him, Arthur noticed that she was a very pretty young woman. It didn’t make any difference to the way he treated her, but he hadn’t really noticed until just now. She was still trying to choke back sobs, and if she hadn’t been nursing what appeared to be a stab wound in her side, Arthur might have ventured to put an arm around her or embrace her. However, he also did not wish to frighten her or make her any more uncomfortable so he rested his hand on her shoulder again, being there for support and letting her decide on what she wanted to do. It was a little while before Winnie actually spoke again, and while Arthur was anxious to go so that he could begin his search for her sister, he also knew that rushing her would do no good. Whatever pace she could afford, he would have to make do with.

At long last, she gave him an answer and Arthur was relieved. He hadn’t been looking forward to carrying her, but he would have if necessary. Though not entirely convinced by her tone, he was sure that he could make do. Arthur had ridden with people who were far worse off than she was before. He’d even carried the body of a fallen knight off the battlefield, since they’d been on the edge of a steep ravine. He remembered that battle as though it were was the first time he’d truly lost a friend. Not only that, but the man had died to save him too, taking a bolt straight through the heart. To this day, Arthur still felt as though he owed him. Shaking himself out of this dark spiral of thought, Arthur nodded. “No, it isn’t too far. There’s a village a five minute ride away if we can move quickly. I’ll help you, so you need not worry.”

He jumped forward instinctively as she fell to her knees, and frowned as she ripped the cloth off her skirts. What was she doing? However, she made it clear when she held it up in a ball, and then asked him to help her bind her wound. Reaching out for it, he took it uncertainly, and then shook his head, dropping it to the ground. “Of course, but here,” He turned, and then whistled sharply. Bristile never left without being told, but when Arthur had proven that they were not going to be going anywhere soon, he’d wandered over to the side of the road to nibble at the sparse grass. However, at the whistle, the horse looked up and around at his master, ears turning forward and back a couple times before he made up his mind and walked over to them. Arthur stood up for a moment, first giving the horse a pat on the shoulder and then reached for his saddle bag, where he had in fact, packed fresh bandages. Arthur was nothing if not prepared for anything...although it was really just a habit he’d gotten into ever since Bree had run afoul of a jagged rock once and he hadn’t been able to bind it, resulting in a great deal of trouble and stress for the poor beast.

“This is Bree, by the way,” He added. “He’s quite friendly, if a bit of a twat sometimes, but he gets me around all right.” The horse observed Winnie curiously, looking at her with interest, but the beast made no move to go any closer, simply standing quietly and watching the young woman through liquid brown eyes. Kneeling down once more, Arthur went about properly binding Winnie’s injury, which also gave him a moment to get a better look at the wound. It wasn’t deep as he’d expected, though stitching it up would likely be the best course of action. Of course...Arthur wasn’t about to inform her of this. No...that was for whatever healer he was able to get to her. He worked quickly, making sure to bind it securely enough so that it would slow the bleeding, but not too tightly either. Once he finished, he smiled at her. “Okay, let’s get you up, and then we can go.”

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Nov 30 2015, 02:58 AM / Post #: 23526 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

He was not going to make this easy. She was trying to spare him pain, trying to make this as simple and effortless as possible. Instead, he seemed hell bent on causing himself as much injury as he could. If he’d just taken the cloth and let her drug him, it would have saved them both a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, that did not seem to be an option.

The fool. He was too trusting. Too kind. Too stupid for his own good. A man such as this should not be allowed to wander the countryside unattended. But alas, his safety was none of her concern. To the contrary, she was supposed to be killing him…even if his tenderness and worry for her own well-being made that task a bit more unsavory than she would have liked. Well, if she could not drug him the easy way with minimal pain or mess, than she would simply be forced to do it the hard way.

Concealed in the sleeve of her white cotton blouse was a very thin three-sided stiletto dagger. It had no cross guard, simply the hilt and the blade. She could arm herself with a flick of the wrist, and though the blade was incredibly small, barely thicker than nail, it was still just as deadly as a sword. The blade itself was fashioned to slide easily between plates of armor or even links of chainmail. Of course, the king wore neither of these things. He was woefully unprepared for an attack, nothing but his enchanted sword to keep him safe and she did not intend to give him the chance to draw Excalibur. Therefore, it was still incredibly important to confront him with a weapon so slight he should not even see it. She picked up the balled fabric as she stood and followed him to his horse. Bree was lovely, but she did not want to stop and admire the horse. If anything, she was a little wary of the stallion. A knight’s horse was an animal unto itself, loyal and deadly. Not something she wanted to contend with on the roadway with an injured and incapacitated King. She had very few options, though. Not unless she just wanted to kill Arthur then and there. If she killed him, all she would need to concern herself with was removing his head. Why, then, did she suddenly find it so important to take the man her prisoner?

She should kill him. That was the wiser of the options set before her, but for some reason Gwen balked at the idea. If her employers wanted the king dead, let them do it themselves, her heart told her with some force. She was not going to be hanged or burned for regicide. Besides, the man was a King. He likely had information that could prove useful to her later. It would be a shame to cut his life short too quickly and waste the opportunity. No, she would capture him, and they could do the deed themselves.

As she walked to the horse, she concealed the thin dagger in her hand, pressing the blade against her middle finger as she ran the drugged cloth up and down the blade several times to imbue the steel with the drug she had not been able to force the man inhale. Stabbing him with it, introducing it into his bloodstream, would be enough. In fact, it would likely work even faster than it would have after being inhaled. As long as she could get the blade into the King, the end result would be the same. Incapacitating him. Likely long enough for her to take him somewhere they would not be disturbed until her employers came to pick up their prize.

“Thank ye for helping me, Bob,” Gwenhwyfar spoke up softly, swaying on her feet. “After everything that happened to me sister and meself…I didna think I could e’er trust anyone again. But you’re kind…your wife is very fortunate.” She added, knowing full well why he was on the road. Of course, he very likely did not realize that she knew precisely who he was and was aware of his little lie. Did he even know that there were those in the kingdoms who wanted him dead or was he simply that blissfully ignorant?

She teetered again, nearly falling to her knees and reached out to steady herself against Arthur, stumbling into him and simultaneously closing her hand around her dagger. She intended to stab him, to slide the thin blade into his side. She had no intention of mortally wounding him. She would not aim for any vital organs or blood vessels. Had she intended to aim for something deadly, she would have been more precise about her attack. Instead, as she collided with the king in an effort to keep herself upright and from falling to the road once more, she angled the stiletto in her hand and made to stab upward into the meat of his side where she would avoid grievous injury but still introduce the blade into his bloodstream and the drug she’d coated it with as well.

She was not unprepared. Her own mount was not far. She could lead the drugged king to it easily enough, and if she pushed the horse hard, she and her captive could be at a stronghold where she would be able to keep the man prisoner and send word to her employers. The hardest part, it seemed, would be drugging the man in the first place.

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Dec 3 2015, 12:54 AM / Post #: 23628 Quote

Arthur smiled at her words, but the expression did not last as Winnie brought up the one thing he was trying to forget. The smile faded from his lips slightly, but he did not say anything about it, simply taking his time as they made their way over to Bristile. The horse fidgeted a bit, bobbing his head and snorting as they approached, but Arthur just gave him a pat, talking to him and once he was still, he turned to help Winnie into the saddle. He found it a bit funny that she called him Bob...and he might have laughed too if there wasn’t so much on his mind at the moment. “I do my best, and you’re welcome. It is no trouble at all.” Arthur really did try. He tried to keep a good face, he tried to be kind to even some of his nastier advisors. Sometimes he was unsuccessful, but he tried. He was going to have to keep it up too, put on a good show and at least pretend that he was happy being married to a total stranger who was also a good fifteen years younger than he was. There was the off chance that he would actually be happy, but he wasn’t optimistic. The gap was just too big.

He was distracted enough by this that he only noticed her teetering at the last moment. Reaching out instinctively, he meant to catch her when something else happened. Something he should have seen coming, something he ought to have been suspicious about from the moment he caught sight of her. A sharp, stabbing pain in his side erupted as she braced herself against him. Reacting immediately, he let out a shout of shock and pain, jumping backwards and straight into Bristile. The horse stood his ground, and Arthur gripped the saddle for support, instinctively shoving her away from him. He was about to go for Excalibur and fight back when he realized what had happened. While the wound she’d inflicted stung like hell, he also recognized a precise attack...even if it was on him. He’d been hit, shot, and stabbed enough times in his life, and had seen enough people who had been hit, shot, and stabbed enough times to know that what she had done was not lethal. It probably wasn’t even that deep, and while he could feel the warm blood soaking his shirt, it wasn’t about to kill him.

She wasn’t here to kill him. What the hell was she here for? Then, he felt something odd. The world swayed slightly, and he blinked hard, looking up at her a moment and giving her a look that was difficult to decipher. It was almost a look of betrayal, even though he really wasn’t surprised. He should have seen it coming...her timing had been too perfect, her situation too believable. There was nobody around, and he ought to have been more suspicious when the details hadn’t quite added up. Yet even so...he wished that she hadn’t had ill intentions. He knew it was a silly thing to wish for; he was a King, there were always going to be people who hated him. Yet he’d always thought that if he didn’t act like he was always going to be attacked...he might not get attacked so much. Stupid really...he would have to start wearing armor more. As well as taking a guard. What had he been thinking? Dropping his head, his shoulders sagged as he stood, trying to clear his head, but of course, he was unable to.

It wasn’t long before he wasn’t really thinking all that much at all. His breathing slowed, his expression relaxing and becoming slightly more vacant. He felt sluggish, like every thought was a laborious task, and that it was much easier to just let his mind drift, maybe even go blank. He knew he was in trouble, he knew that this was not how he wanted to be, but he found he didn’t really care all that much. At long last, he let go of the saddle, and was vaguely aware of Bristile moving away from him. Letting go, he continued to stare at the ground for a moment. The horse had sensed something off in his master, already on alert from his cry, and was now looking between the two people as though he wasn’t quite sure what to make of them. The pain in Arthur’s side subsided somewhat, and he finally looked up, blinking at his attacker for a moment. Well...he wasn’t dead. That was good. Though what she planned to do with him he hadn’t the faintest idea, but as the drug settled in and took hold, he really found he didn’t care.

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Dec 3 2015, 03:13 AM / Post #: 23630 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

Gwenhwyfar stood back and waited, watching him through veiled blue eyes and waiting for the drug to take effect. She was patient. He wasn’t going to die. His blood would clot and the wound would heal given time. He was in no inherent danger from her or anyone else. Of course, given a few days’ time, he would be in plenty of danger.

The look in his eyes gave her a moment’s pause for reasons she could not quite identify. Why did she care if the King looked on her that way? She hardly cared if he saw her as a murderess or a traitor. She was both of those things, truth be told. She waited until the light of intelligence in his eyes dimmed and she was fairly certain that the drug had done its job. She stepped forward, reaching out to take his hand. “Come with me, Your Highness,” She instructed, lips curled into an evil little smile and dropping all pretense. What was the point? Even if he remembered everything that was about to transpire, it would make very little difference in the long run. He knew she was aware of his true identity, and she was fairly certain that he’d deduced that she was not the innocent girl she pretended to be. Holding his hand firmly, she cast one look at the horse and led Arthur off into the woods.

She’d made camp not far from the main road and left her own steed as well as her provisions and her weapons behind. She was unconcerned about anyone stumbling upon them, and even if they did…she would be able to ride herself of them easy enough. As the entered her small campsite, Gwen dropped Arthur’s hand and moved to retrieve both her destrier and her belongings. She strapped the simple iron sword and sheath down her back, slipped knives into position at her thighs and content that she was no longer ‘naked’, she turned back to her guest. “We won’t have too far to go.” She told him conversationally as she guided him to her horse. “Go on, you should have just enough coordination left to get up there yourself. If not I’ll have to throw you over and take you in a very uncomfortable manner. It’s really all the same to me, though.” Either way she and Arthur would be on their way to the Black Keep.

It was a modest castle just on the other side of the Dokraythian border sandwiched between the ocean and the Yarrow. It had once been home to a very terrible man. After his death, at her own hands, Gwenhwyfar had watched as more terrible men set upon the castle and the people who were unfortunate enough to live on land adjacent to the castle and its holdings. Eventually, the tales of the curse on the residents of the Black Keep became fairly well known. Each and every one of them died a terrible, but always ‘accidental’ death, until not even the most ambitious Ga’leahan in the kingdoms was willing to take a chance on the curse of Black Keep in exchange for land and a title. Content that no one would be bothering her, Gwenhwyfar herself had started to called the well-fortified stronghood home and tended to the abused people as best she could. They did not live in fear anymore. If anything, Gwenhwyfar was fairly certain, they were both grateful and loyal to her. She could take the King there and send a raven to one of her employers. No one should bother her, no one should even know where to look…and if the king’s knights bore down on the Black Keep, she would have plenty of time to kill him and mount his head on a pike on the front gate before making her own escape through the tunnels that led to the cliffs and the sea beyond.

Although Gwehwyfar had no love of magic, she recognized that it had its uses and so long as those uses benefitted her…she was willing to work through her indecision about it. One of the only magical items in her possession besides the various poisons and drugs she kept on hand for occasions such as this, were a pair of magical shackles with no lock and no key. In fact, to struggle against them was to bind the wrists more tightly. She’d had prisoners nearly lose their hands from trying to escape the shackles for days on end. She did hope that Arthur wouldn’t be so foolish.

When they arrived in the village outside the Black Keep it was early evening and the villagers did not so much as look up to note their passing. They knew that it was easier to deny something they truly had no knowledge of, and so it was best to remain ignorant to the business carried out by the Queen of Swords in the Black Keep.

The gates were opened wide as she approached and several servants rushed forward to take her horse to the stables and help her dismount with her honored guest. Gwenhwyfar dusted herself off and regarded the rather rough and scarred individuals who served as her staff. “See that our guest is fitted with his gift, not too tightly. I’m sure he’ll tighten them enough on his own. And give him a room in the west tower. He should be sobering up soon, so work quickly.” She started towards the castle and paused, turning around to regard him with a stern expression. “And do not touch his sword. If the legends are true, Excalibur is not a weapon to be trifled with. I will deal with it when I’ve had a chance to bathe and eat and change into something less depressing.”

The man inclined his head “Yes, my queen.”

Oh yes, the Queen of Swords was quite pleased with herself.

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Dec 4 2015, 04:25 AM / Post #: 23647 Quote

Arthur felt like he was floating in space, and it was very odd indeed. When she stepped forward and took his hand, he stared at it for a moment before she spoke. At her command, he hardly thought...he just followed her. The drug she had administered was a powerful one, because Arthur had very little sense of where he was, and what was happening. He simply tottered along with her, unconcerned with the pain in his side, or the fact that the woman he had been trying to help all this time had turned on him. No, that was a problem for five minutes ago. Now he was more concerned with trying to walk in a straight line and not trip over things. It took a great deal of concentration, but he managed it reasonably well. When she let go of his hand, he simply stopped walking. There was nowhere he needed to be. He didn’t stop to wonder what might happen to the big red stallion still standing in the middle of the road, nor what was about to happen to him.

Standing by himself for a few moments, he looked around when he saw the woman returning, leading a horse with her. There was no concern in his gaze as he watched her strap a number of weapons on her person, blinking slowly and waiting to be told what to do next. When she spoke to him again, he nodded slowly. “Okay,” He mumbled. Then, she ordered him to get on the horse, and he looked around at the animal. Somewhere in a distant corner of his mind, he was mildly offended by her statement, and without a word he swung up into the saddle without too much effort; it was about as automatic as breathing to him. However, he was still very much under the influence of the drug, and so he sat quietly in the saddle, and for the entire trip he simply sat there, still completely unconcerned. Time didn’t mean a great deal to Arthur, and while the journey was shorter than the remainder of his trip to meet his bride to be had been when he’d been captured, it was long enough. By the time they reached the outlying village of the old castle, Arthur was feeling a bit more aware of his surroundings.

He noticed how calm the place was, and he was also aware that he recognized it, if only vaguely. Mostly he’d traveled past it, occasionally stopping in the village for a meal or some supplies, but that had still been quite some time ago. It seemed far nicer now, and he was still too influenced by the drug to understand why he thought that was a bit odd. As they made their way through the gates, Arthur was far more aware; now that the drug had begun to wear off, he was burning it away like a fire in a grassland. The emotions began to return, particularly fear, and frustration. However, Arthur was well schooled at masking the way he truly felt, so he kept his expression bland and slightly unfocused, just as he had been since the initial attack. He dismounted with Gwen, letting himself once again complete the action as he always did, and standing by, staring at the ground, waiting. The weight of Excalibur was not exactly comforting, seeing as he was outnumbered and still feeling sluggish from the residual effects of the drug. As his captor spoke, Arthur made note of everything she said, and wondered if he might get a chance to escape. He considered it carefully, weighing out his options, but also realizing that they were few, and unlikely to end well.

At her final command, it took a considerable effort for him not to smirk. At least they had some measure of respect for him. As the self proclaimed “Queen” left their presence, Arthur was shackled immediately, and his chances at a successful escape were all but gone. Merlin had a pair of shackles like these...and he’d taught Arthur how they worked once and how to get out of them but he’d been half asleep at the time. If he survived this, he made a mental note to pay attention to what his advisor told him more often. Though in his defense, most of it was terrible advice on how to woo women. Yet even so...he didn’t have high hopes that he would get out of this alive. Or at least, unscarred. This woman obviously aimed to make a show of him, and as much as it annoyed him to feel that hurt. People acted all the wasn’t like it was impossible for her not to be genuine, but it had just been so believable. He wasn’t a stranger to people trying to trick him either; many people wanted to kill him, or at least take advantage of him, and there had been numerous occasions where people had tried to win him over or trick him into doing something stupid.

Yet this woman...Winnie, or whatever her name was, had used the one thing he just couldn’t get around: his desire to help people. Shame on him for being kind...but even if he didn’t die in here, it wouldn’t stop him. He wasn’t about to let her erase who he was. He allowed himself to be lead towards the west tower, and it wasn’t until the door was in sight that he decided to test his boundaries. Stopping suddenly, he kicked out at the servant to his right, hitting him just above the knee. The man let out a shout, and the other attempted to restrain him. However, Arthur didn’t fight beyond that. He simply dropped the facade of being in a stupor, and cast a withering glare over the man who restrained him as the other got to his feet. He caught a flicker of fear in the other man’s eyes, and a slight smirk toyed at the corner of his mouth. Good. He was shoved roughly into the tower upon his arrival, and the doors locked behind him. Once he was alone he made his way to the back wall, sitting down and trying not to panic.

There was no use being angry with himself anymore. The time for that had passed, now he had to focus on surviving. Perhaps Winnie (he didn’t know what else to call her) had other plans for him...after all, he was quite surprised she hadn’t just killed him. Most didn’t try to use him for ransom or information, because it was fairly well known that Arthur did in fact have a network of trusted ears and eyes. No, people generally wanted him dead, because successfully kidnapping him usually wasn’t as easy as Winnie had made it out to be. Although Arthur hadn’t done himself any favors. She seemed quite confident too, which did not make him feel better. Yet still...she hadn’t killed him, and that was a sliver of hope. Heaving a sigh, Arthur almost wished he was still drugged. His side was now throbbing with every heartbeat, which was of course, elevated now. He felt shaky, even a bit sweaty and whether that was the residual effects of the drug or the anxiety starting to set in, he wasn’t sure. Arthur closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths and trying to calm himself down. didn’t want to marry that you get your wish. He thought bitterly. Now he figured he ought to work out what he was going to say when Winnie came back...his advisors would probably tell him to bargain. To offer her money, more money than whoever had paid her in the first place to take him out. Yet Arthur balked at the idea. Perhaps it was pride...and perhaps it was something else, but for whatever reason, he decided then and there he wasn’t interested in playing a money game with this person.

He sat in silence, trying not to focus on the throbbing in his side, nor the frenzy that was his mind, staring at the floor much as he had been doing all afternoon. Where had Bristile gone? Home, probably. Or he’d just wandered off, waiting for him to come back...he couldn’t be certain, he just hoped nobody tried to steal him. Startled back to reality by the sound of the door opening, Arthur’s gaze snapped up to whoever was entering. He suspected it was Winnie, coming to “deal” with Excalibur. Well...if she intended to take it from him then she was in for a surprise.

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Dec 7 2015, 07:15 AM / Post #: 23707 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

Gwenhwyfar gave little more thought to her honored guest as she strode within the Black Keep. It was so named for ample reason. The outside of the castle had been purposely scorched with flame to turn the grey-blue bricks an ash black. It was a square structure that rose high above the land with towers composed of sharp edges and glistening black roofs. The inside had been furnished completely in black as well from the obsidian inlaid floors to the upholstery and tapestries adorning the walls. Gwen had seen no reason to refurnish it after taking the castle as her own and left the dark furnishings in place to remind her of the first man she’d ever killed, and because she found that black quite suited her personality.

There were few servants in the Black Keep. Fewer probably than in any other castle in Ga’leah. Only a handful saw to the care of the castle and its occupant. Only the people Gwenhwyfar herself knew that she could trust implicitly. Six men in total, all of them built like bears and covered in scars that suggested a life of hardship. Every one of them had been freed from the dungeons of the Black Keep upon the death of Melwas. All six of them had been awaiting death or dismemberment at the hands of their wicked liege lord, and all six of them had been granted amnesty for their crimes by Gwenhwyfar when she declared herself the lady of the castle. Now, they served her. They cooked, they cleaned, they provided security, and they looked upon her as more than just the infamous Queen of Swords but as their Lady. It was she who kept their families safe. It was she who saw to it that there was no more starvation or hardship in the lands around the Black Keep. They would kill for her, and more than one of them had sworn an oath to die for her if need be. Though, as Gwenhwyfar assured them, there would be no call for that. The only people who died around the Queen of Swords were the ones that she herself killed.

She let the men draw her a bath and took her time in the steaming hot water, washing away the dirt and blood from the road. She brushed her long brown hair until it gleamed in russet waves down her back, dressed herself in one of the finer pieces in her wardrobe, and went to dinner in the large dining area below. The table was not devoid of guests. Gwenhwyfar never ate alone but always invited at least one of the families of the towns below to join her for her meals. She spent that time inquiring about their health, their happiness, their needs and wants and desires, and instilling in them the same kind of loyalty that she attempted to instill in all of her subjects. If they needed another cow because theirs had gone dry, Gwenhwyfar would send a man to market to purchase them one. If they had a daughter who was ill, the Queen of Swords would pay for a healer to visit them. She never asked anything in return for those simple acts of mercy, but she also knew there was no need to ask for anything. She was loved. The people of the Black Keep loved her in a way that very few of the nobility of Ga’leah were loved and respected. She could have ridden through the midst of them announcing the King’s presence as her prisoner for all to hear, and it was unlikely that any of them would have even considered turning her into the High Court. What had the High Court ever done for them? For any of the common people of Dokrayth or Calladahn? Nothing. Nothing but make laws and raise taxes. Worthless, the lot of them.

Of course, Gwenhwyfar was not without her faults. Her temper was hot and easily stoked. The one time she had been betrayed by one of the families of the Black Keep, she had dealt with them swiftly and without mercy. Not a man, woman, or child remained to carry that family name. And all because they’d divulged her activity to a man whose father she had killed. He had not succeeded in getting his revenge, and he had been dealt with as swiftly as his informants.

The Queen of Swords might be generous to those who appreciated her gifts and lived by her few mandates, but she was unforgiving of those who broke her trust. If, indeed, anyone in the villages below did not love and respect the Queen of Swords enough to keep the King’s presence a secret. Well, then, there was a very good chance that they were fearful enough of her wrath to hold their tongues and look the other way.

After she’d eaten, Gwenhwyfar put together a tray of food and drink for her prisoner and mounted the stairs to the tower that would be his home, at least for the next several days. The raven had been sent to her benefactors, but they would likely not arrive for some time.

She wore black, as was fitting considering her surroundings. The long-sleeved gown was cut off just above the knee to reveal a pair of black leggings and boots beneath. A simple black cap was fastened around her shoulders by a gold pin. It billowed behind her slightly as she climbed the stairs, revealing the gold living of the cape. Her waist was cinched by a leather corset covered in gold leaf that held the sheath for her sword. There was an accoutrement of other weapons as well, blades fastened to her thing, her shin, and even the hint of a blade up the sleeve of her dress if she moved her arm just right. Beautiful and deadly she climbed the stairs of the tower and gave a small nod to the man who stood sentry in front of the tower door. He unlocked it and swung it open to allow her entry.

Her lips curled into a little smile at the sight of her prisoner. “Ah, Your Highness, I do hope you’re finding the accommodations to your satisfaction. I wasn’t really expecting any visitors, you see, your presence here was a spur of the moment decision. I was contracted to kill you, and as you can clearly feel by the wound on your side, I developed other plans. Of course, I could have killed you if I’d wanted to. That knife could have easily found a vital organ and your head would be the only thing in my possession right now. Lucky for you, I believe you might be of more value to me over the next few days alive. Either I or my benefactors will dispose of you when they arrive. Doesn’t that sound fun?” She laughed and strode forward, eyeing the sword at his side. “They call me the Queen of Swords. It is, of course, nothing more than a fancy title. I am not a queen or a noble person of any kind, but since I will give no one no other name than that, it is precisely what everyone calls me. You can call me whatever you like, Arthur, but I will give you no further name.” Because names held power, and if he knew her name he might well know who she was.

Gwenhwyfar was not a common name. She did not know if the tale of her grandfather’s murder had ever reached the High King’s ears, but if it had than there was a good likelihood that the disappearance of Leodegrance’s granddaughter had as well. She did not want him to know who she truly was. There was power in knowledge and she would prefer that this man have no power over her. He did not need to know that she’d been sold to Melwas as his wife and come to the Black Keep as the mad man’s bride. He did not need to know what horrors had awaited her here, or what she had done to end them any more than he needed to know what she had done to her grandfather for putting her through such an ordeal. Such things were in the past and better left there.

“I would ask you if the stories are true, and if your sword is indeed only fit for your hand, but since I do not trust you to answer me truthfully I will simply have to see for myself.” She wasn’t afraid of a little pain, and she wasn’t entirely sure if she believed the stories about Excalibur anyway. Stepping forward she reached out to remove the blade from its sheath, her fingers only grazing the handle before it let off a static spark of outrage. She recoiled a little, staring down at her finger tips. “Clever, but in terms of the pain I’ve endured in my lifetime…that is not enough of a deterrent to let me leave Excalibur in your care.”

Honestly, I'd like a nap.

Dec 7 2015, 10:04 PM / Post #: 23725 Quote

Arthur looked up at his captor as she entered, an unpleasant smile creeping onto her features as she laid eyes on him. It was strange to see her like this. All of the dirt was gone, her little injury seemed to have been patched up quite nicely, and she’d obviously put on something far more suitable for somebody of her profession. She was well armed, and well tidied up to make her appearance to him. The way she spoke to him was nothing new, and Arthur had to keep himself from rolling her eyes. Oh she was quite pleased with herself, wasn’t she? She’d tricked the High King, and now she got to play with him as she wished. However, he raised an eyebrow the more she spoke. Spur of the moment decision? So she had been hired to kill him. Why the hell hadn’t she? It didn’t seem all that logical, while perhaps she might have been able to get information from him, it also meant that she was allowing more time for his rescue. It was unlikely that anyone would be able to find him here, but Arthur did have some very good knights. One of whom was extremely good at tracking.

However, he was not about to point this out to her. After all, Arthur was not interested in dying, but he wondered how she could have missed that. She was quite talented, and with the number of men who so willingly did as she asked, he found it difficult to believe that the Queen of Swords would so quickly underestimate Arthur’s knights. Arthur actually did roll his eyes when she started talking about how she could have killed him. Really, how stupid did she think he was? He had a biting retort to this, but he held his tongue until she’d finished her little speech. Why was he considering riling this woman up? She was probably volatile and unpredictable...she might just kill him if he said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Oh so he was lucky now? Brilliant, he could celebrate after she’d stuck his head on a pike once her employers had arrived. At least he would be at peace. Well...he hoped so anyways. Maybe his fate after death would not be so kind. Maybe he was doomed. It was difficult to say, but it really didn’t matter right now. He followed her, looking up as she stepped closer, his expression taut. She was awfully talkative for an assassin. Was it the overconfidence? Or was it just her nature? Once was difficult to say.

Was she trying to get a rise out of him? If so, he wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted to give her that. He was more than capable of controlling himself, but did he really want to? Her stress on how easily she could have killed him might have been an attempt at intimidating him, but it actually had the opposite effect, if that was what she had been aiming at. Though in all honesty, Arthur had no idea what she meant to accomplish. What sort of information did she even want? Also, how did she plan on getting it? Threatening him? Arthur had no close family, no friends who weren’t back at Caerleon, and even then they all understood that sacrificing themselves to keep information safe was a noble death. She could also threaten innocent people, but from what she’d shown him so far, that was not her style. Of course, she could torture him, but that was nothing really. He was afraid, sure, but he had been taught to withstand a great deal of pain, both physical and mental.

Arthur watched wordlessly as she reached out for Excalibur, and she recoiled almost immediately afterwards. He merely shrugged as she dismissed the attempt as clever but not enough to stop her. Once she had finished speaking, Arthur shifted, pushing himself more upright and giving her a bland look. “Of course, it gets stronger the more you try. To the point where no matter how good at withstanding pain you are, you cannot physically hold it any longer.” Arthur wasn’t sure if she would take that as a challenge or not, but it was the truth. It might be faintly amusing to watch her struggle with Excalibur, but he didn’t really think that was why she was here. He remained silent for a few moments after saying this, glancing down at the sword she was trying to reach. More than anything, he wanted to draw the weapon and take this woman’s haughtiness down a notch. However, that was out of the cards, because the so called, “Queen of Swords” had him powerless. Pity that she would not give him a name to call her. He understood why, but he certainly wasn’t about to call her by her “title”, and all the other options were in poor taste, which left only one for him.

“You’re quite an actress, Winnie,” He said after a moment. “Is that something you’re taught? Or did you learn from experience?” Oddly enough, there was no malice in his voice, and it was a completely serious question. Being angry required energy, and energy was not to be wasted. If he let himself be furious, it would be counterproductive and give her what she wanted. No...even though he was afraid, and even though he was angry with himself for being tricked, he refused to show any anger towards Winnie. Certainly he was resentful towards her for stabbing him and dragging him off to the gods only knew where, but just at the moment, he was tired, afraid, and a little bit curious. He shook his head, thinking back on what she’d said earlier about how easy it would be to kill him. “And you are right,” He chuckled humorlessly. “It is quite easy to kill somebody with a knife. I’d thank you but seeing as you plan on killing me in a few days, doesn’t really seem right, does it?”

“So after you’ve failed to lift my sword, then what?” He continued, uncertain of where he was going with this. “You going to extract information from me? I’m afraid there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed, because I really don’t have anything of importance to tell you. I have no family, no real friends, I’m sure my advisors would rather let me die than give up any information, and since you already plan on killing me later then you might as well just get it over with now. I only ask that if you see my horse you see that he’s cared for, gods only know the wretched beast doesn’t deserve the same fate as myself.” Hadn’t he told himself a moment ago that he didn’t want to die? Or perhaps he would earn her pity, although that was laughable. Or she might just get worse. Well, dying or having pity on him, neither of those sounded too bad. Yet the more he thought about it, the more he wondered if it really would be a kindness for her to just kill him. The life he had ahead of him would be dismal at best anyways, his advisors really didn’t give a rats ass about his well being, and wished nothing more than to keep him as a figurehead. Arthur had been fighting that for so long, he’d never stopped to wonder if maybe the world might be a little bit better off without him.

Of course...there were his knights, and Merlin to think about. He did care about them. Especially Merlin, he was the only one who really cared about what Arthur thought. He’d been the closest thing to a friend that Arthur ever had. Okay...Merlin was Arthur’s friend, but that wasn’t common knowledge. As far as most people knew, he was simply an advisor who also just happened to be half fae and very dangerous. Bringing himself back to the present, he leveled his gaze with hers again. “Tell me, Winnie,” He said after another pause, his voice somewhat coarse and soft, green eyes boring into her blue ones. “Why am I so valuable to you alive?”

Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Guess you better go and get your armor.

The Bard
Dec 24 2015, 12:47 AM / Post #: 24073 Quote

@who tags!
to die for

Gwenhwyfar could tell that the High King was not impressed. Typically it mattered to her very little if her victims respected her skills. They could dismiss her all they liked, it would not stop her from painting her blade with their blood at the first available opportunity. People had been discounting her and her abilities nearly from the moment of her birth, or so it felt, and she would not allow Arthur’s supposed disdain for her to rankle her. Not at all.

Did Arthur think he would be rescued? Probably. The legends of the Knights of the Table Round were well known. She could name most of them without hesitation because once, a very long time ago, she’d thought herself worthy of sitting amongst them. No longer. Not for many years. Not since the harsh truth of her existence became all too clear. Commoners were not knights. Women were not knights. As a lowborn womans he had no chance of sitting in their midst or having an honorable trade with her beloved sword. There had been no time to waste, so she had taken what fate provided and did her best to craft a life for herself that she did not despise with every fiber of her being.

Taking his sword had been as difficult as she feared it might be, she was still rubbing her fingers on the leather of her leggings to ease the tingling sensation as she regarded him sardonically. “The more I try? So…if I wish to take it, than I should make the second attempt count, is that what you’re saying? Something tells me that the second attempt to pick up your sword will not be the one you’re warning me about. You make it sound as if those drastic measures are at least a few attempts away. Good. I’ll make my next venture more successful, then. In the meantime, you are welcome to keep your sword. There is not much you can do with it bound as you are and no where for you to go if you escape this room.” She shrugged and leaned back against the opposite wall.

He did have to continue calling her by the name she’d given him before, didn’t he? It was too close to her real name and Gwenhwyfar preferred not to think about that. She hadn’t actually expected him to call her Queen or anything similar. If anything, she’d expected him to pick a slur of some kind as most men did in similar situations. She’d been called every name one could imagine and hardly flinched at their use any longer. “Experience.” She answered, her smile slipping from her face to be replaced by a small sneer. “The man who took me in when my father sent me away was not a kind man. He expected much. Wanted much. And made me pay dearly when I failed to please him. Eventually I learned to pretend to be a proper young woman in his company. It is one of the few things he’s give me that has served me well.”

She shrugged again at his rhetorical question. She didn’t really expect any gratitude from the King for sparing his life, because he was right…in just a few days, someone else would be taking it from him anyway. She inclined her head slightly as he continued to speak, blue eyes narrowing further with every word. She held his gaze through of a veil of dark lashes, finally pushing off of the wall and crossing the room to stand directly in front o fhim. “In case it has failed to escape your notice, Your Highness, but you are my prisoner it is not the other way around. I have no trouble answering the questions you have posed, but I feel it’s only fair that you provide equal disclosure on your part. So, it is my turn to ask a question of you and we shall see if you are brave enough to answer it.”

Her expression was very serious and her tone one of disapproval, almost as if she was scolding a son or a younger brother. “You are the High King of Ga’leah, Arthur Pendragon. You pulled your magical sword and got yourself crowned monarch of this world. No information in your head is more important than your life, especially so long as you sit upon the throne without an heir. Nothing you know is more important than who you are and if your advisers are too stupid to realize this, than you are a fool who picked equally foolish men to advise him. If they know and do not care, than perhaps you should thank me for eventually taking your life after all because what King would knowingly surround himself with allies who are, in point of fact, enemies.” She scoffed in disbelief. “You have no friends and no family, perhaps, but you have delivered into my hands the one way in which to hurt you. That ‘wretched beast’ of yours has a place close to your heart or you would not implore me to let it live and see that is cared for. You may not love much in this world, Arthur Pendragon, but clearly you love your horse. So I could send my men out to find it, bring it back here, and use it to get what I want from you.” She let that statement fall from her lips and remain in the air between them for a moment before she sighed.

“But really, that would be a last resort. I had a man take such tactics on me once and feed me my own puppy in attempt to prove that he was the bigger man. In the end it did him no good because he choked on my hatred and his own blood as he died. There is nothing I need to know so badly that I would harm an innocent creature to wrest the information from you. Perhaps if there was it would be different, but it remains that your presence here is more to satisfy my own curiosity and determine the bravery of the men who hired me than because any information you have is of life and death importance to me.” She saw no reason in keeping that truth from him.

“So it is your turn, then, to answer a few questions for me.” She pulled a stool over and sat down upon it with a hand casually sweeping backwards to displace her cape and keep her from sitting upon it. “The man stories I have heard about you since my childhood would suggest that you are not a tyrannical despot like your father. Why then do you insist upon enforcing his laws? The man was murdered because he was a terrible human being and you seemed determine to follow his path even though you know where it leads. It’s perplexing to me. I understand why the nobility is broken. They are arrogant and foolish and have convinced themselves that by virtue of birth alone, they are better than the rest of us and in some way more deserving of a better life. But you…you know better. You more than anyone should have been determined to change the course the kingdoms have taken. You still surround yourself with men who do not respect you and care more about their own self interests than the interests of your country, and you uphold laws that hurt the downtrodden from which you were elevated. Is it so easy to forget where you came from and what you were?”

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