Campaign of the Month: April 2019

First Blight

Episode #44.2

Resisting Temptation, Rhea Style

09.11.840 TE
Alyinarra, Revas, Rhea, Sargis

Princeza Juliana

Alyinarra, finishing up her notes, shifts her gaze back up toward Asbelvahn and the others, still speaking in Elvhen without really realizing it.

“I feel there’s a lot I could learn from you and don’t even know where to start….like, what you’ve experienced since leaving the homeland, anything you’ve discovered along the way.” She says, partially rambling for a moment before stopping.

“Apologies, I sometimes do not know when to stop when I find something so fascinating as new knowledge…I made the promise of finding something truly beneficial to my clan, and well…solving the darkspawn issue seems like a truly big achievement.”

Rhea, with only the vaguest of ideas of what Valeria and Arna are sneaking off to discuss, allows the pair to escape and instead turns her attention back to Princeza Juliana, idly studying the other woman’s tattoos and markings. The Princess is much more richly decorated than Rhea’s father, Gaspar, but then again, the Biel family are mere fishmongers, best known for Gaspar’s piracy, and in certain parts of Rivain, for their smoked fish.

“How did you come to meet Ser Rois, Princeza?” Rhea asks in Rivani, her curiousity getting the better of her. “I imagine that must be quite the story.”

Asbelavahn smiles at Alyinarra, her hand fiddling with her headband.

“Ir abelas, da’len. I may have misspoken. I have not solved anything. And certainly not the darkspawn taint. I have… I have found a way to prolong one’s suffering, found a way to stave off the effects, but that is all. No one is saved, and they are all doomed to die. I am so sorry,” she says, looking towards the adjoining room where five of her patients still lie.

“Truly, however, we must speak of the homeland. I have not been there in quite some time. I miss the grandeur of our city, and the libraries, full of knowledge. I miss it all dearly, but I am not welcome there anymore.” A flicker of sadness crosses her face, and then it is gone, replaced by indifference.

“Do tell me your story, da’len. I would love to hear it, if you have time. And of course we may speak of all the things I have found. It is encouraging to find someone interested in the art of alchemy, after all.”

Princeza Juliana, sitting in the armchair like it belongs to her and the entire room with it, sends a smirk Rhea’s way which could sink entire armadas.

Her look radiates utter superiority as she crosses her legs, enjoying the look some in the room give her as she does. The dark tone of her skin is gloriously contrasted by the stark white of the dress she is wearing, which reveals long legs thanks to slits on the side, and a colourful chest decorated with tattoos.

One of her hands fidgets with the jewelry hanging from her neck, and the smirk on her lips never leaves, even as she speaks.

“Quite the story indeed, prilinca.” Her grin grows wider, and she clicks her tongue in amusement. “A story too long to tell right now, but let me assure you, duels and lions were involved. And a shoe, for some reason. It was all rather ridiculous. My wife tells the story a lot better than I do, and the best version of it you will get if you pour her some wine. She’s quite the wine enthusiast, I assure you.”

Leaning against a wall in one corner, Revas looks idly around the room and the people there while trying to not look as nervous as he usually looks and feels.. He glances over to where Rhea is talking to the one she called princeza or something… Juliana was her name? Well, whatever the name, her demeanor alone made the elf want to stay far away, so he wouldn’t accidentally offend her in some way.

Then realising he’d been looking at the two for a moment longer than strictly necessary, lost in thought, Revas turns his gaze away, to look what the others are up to.

Sargis pokes Revas in the ribs. “Stop flirting, Val told us to behave and she is not going at full sail at the moment so it is probably best to not do anything to upset her.”

Revas jumps slightly at the sudden poke in his ribs, turning to look at the culprit, not even a little suprised to find it to be Sargis.

“What? ..I’m.. not flirting with anyone”, he mutters, leaving out the part of how he’s pretty sure that even if he was even remotely interested, this Juliana would probably bite his head off for even attempting. Instead he turns to look at a random point in space, if only to try and hide the fact that he’s embarrassed that his unintentional staring was noticed.

Sargis stares skeptically at Revas for a moment. “I know it is hard for you to control your natural elvhen magnetism, but you have to try. We have to stay on these Order people’s good side, at least until they figure out how desperately they need us or at least until Val has… recovered.”

Revas turns to look at Sargis again with a very confused expression on his face.
“..My.. natural what? But.. I’m not… I haven’t even said a word to these Order people, so… I don’t understand why you’re so worried about me getting us on their bad side.”

The thought ‘Unless my general existence is offending to them’ enters his mind but he doesn’t say it out loud, finding it somewhat unlikely since they didn’t seem to mind working with Asbelavahn.. Though the doctor is clearly good at what she did and not working with her would just be foolish.. and he is just a random elf, so he really couldn’t say which way that might be.

“..I’ll be sure to stay quiet and out of the way if that makes you feel more at ease though.”

Sargis eyes Revas with some suspicion before nodding once.

“Okay, but I am keeping my eyes on you.” Sargis turns and addresses Juliana

“The rest of us will be getting something to drink too right? It’s been a long day and we could use something to ease away the nastiness of the day.”

Still stuck in Elvhen without realizing it, Alyinarra continues on. “Oh…I um….I see.” She says awkwardly as she rubs the back of her head, looking elsewhere for a moment before refocusing on the doctor.

“Well…it has been some time since I’ve been to the homeland. Me and my sister were born mages, by tradition, it meant that a Keeper would take us under tutelage. I left with the Vethari clan not long after to study, under Keeper Orrelis, who was like a second father to me. I spent a long while looking to reunite with my sister, Siona, and the clan traveled a long while as I became the clans First.

The years that followed we traveled quite the ways…blissfully unaware of this threat like many others, as when this group…," she says, motioning to the others, “arrived and we heard of Darkspawn coming our way…and that Jader came under attack. My sister was trapped by them and we rescued her…my first time with these…sometimes strange set of individuals.” She says with a somewhat wry smile.

“We managed to fend off the attack with good souls lost to the fighting. I decided to join them to um…find a way to benefit my clan and our people out in the lands…to return one day and earn such a position as Keeper when the day came. As for um…alchemy, I am rather new to it I must admit.”

Asbelavahn nods as she listens to Alyinarra speak, the expression on her face scrunching up her June vallaslin. She seems empathetic to the things the Vethari Clan has been through, and mumbles “dareth shiral” quietly, to wish them a safe journey.

“I appreciate those who take it upon themselves to further the knowledge of our people. My clan still has a lot of information hidden away in the grand libraries, but a lot of it is written in such an old dialect that only a handful of us can still read.”

She busies her hands by lining up a few potions on the nightstand nearby, counting them out. A quiet sigh escapes her when she realizes she only has three of them left.

Leaning back up she smiles gently. “Alchemy is a demanding subject to study and a dangerous one at times, but it is certainly worth the effort.”

Alyinarra offers a soft smile at the words mumbled out, and pays close attention to the details Asbelavahn shares.

“They must have a lot of very rare information if it is hidden away…how I’d love to be able to see such ancient text, to be able to read it and study the hidden knowledges within.” She says, almost wistfully, as the topic of alchemy is mentioned again.

“It does look like that…but it provides so many benefits. I’d like to properly practice the craft, but I have no means to do so…I’ve only read the proper practices for it.”

Rhea only just manages to keep her gaze from following the direction of the princess’s movements as she crosses her legs. Rhea is aware of the movement of course, sees it in her periphery, but doesn’t let her gaze trail down to Juliana’s exposed, ebony skin, even if the temptation is there.

And, who could blame her for being tempted? Rhea knows that Juliana is high above her station, and moreover married, but those facts don’t render the warrior deaf, nor blind.

“I don’t usually indulge, but… well…” she sighs softly, a light blush decorating her cheeks at the word prilinca. Pretty one. It is a high order of compliment, coming from one such as her. “Were that I had some retsina to share with the both of you. I don’t usually indulge, but… tonight… well, I am sure by now you must have heard about the dragon in Wutherford. I have a duty to uphold.”

Settling back into her chair with exaggerated casualness, Princeza Juliana keeps smirking at Rhea, exposing perfect teeth and showing off the piercing just below her lip.

She very clearly enjoys the effect she’s having on Rhea and others, and she runs her hand up her leg, widening the slit in her dress as she chuckles lightly. Once she’s done so, her hand comes to rest on her chest, playing with a necklace there, in an obvious attempt to draw anyone’s attention to her décolleté.

“Oh but you should, you should indulge, prilinca. Lady Affraic has the most wonderful wine selection. Most of it is Rivaini, of course. I may have spent a good amount of coin on having it transported here. Nothing is quite as good as the wine of my home country, is it not?”

At the mention of a dragon, Princeza Juliana raises an eyebrow and seems to look at Rhea with more intent and curiosity.

“I have heard something of the sort, indeed. Do you intend to slay it all by yourself, malisa? Or do you have help?” The smirk that follows is one of pure mirth, and Princeza Juliana’s eyes twinkle as she smiles up at Rhea.

Rhea’s spine goes ramrod strait, her eyes gluing themselves perhaps a little too intensely to Juliana’s as she resists the urge to get a better look at Juliana’s legs, her bosom, her lips—but then the woman begins to speak. Despite Rhea’s own lack of finesse in that particular realm, she welcomes the distractions, relaxing a fraction.

“Palm wine was always a favorite of my father,” Rhea agrees softly, remembering many a Urthalis during which Gaspar would whip up a hot toddy for them to share. He would only give her a sip or two until she reached her teenage years, but, to this day, the scent of cinnamon is enough to conjure memories of each holiday they shared together. “Though, I’m not sure it is cold enough yet to serve it warm.”

Rhea inhales sharply when Juliana questions her further with regards to the dragon; it’s plain that the princess is only teasing, but the teasing chips at Rhea’s hard exterior. There is a part of her that isn’t certain she will return from this battle, that doesn’t believe the odds, as they are, can be turned. And the nickname, malisa—little one—only make the words hit closer to home. In his letters, Rhea’s father still does not cease to call her as such. She wonders, briefly, if there will be anyone left to tell him of her passing after the dragon reduces the lot of them to ash. Then, she pushes that thought away. No time for despair, at least not yet.

“No, your grace,” she answers simply, then, after a long moment, elaborates, “what is left of the forces at Wutherford. A few others have volunteered as well.”

Another pause, then, “forgive me.” Rhea smiles, a bit sadly, “the situation is not ideal, Princeza. If your offer still stands, I would be honored to join you and Ser Rois for a drink later. I find myself… rather tightly wound as of late.”

“It is forgiven.” Princeza Juliana waves her hand in an elegant yet authoritative manner, accepting the apology, while making it clear that she sees it as nothing but polite words.

“You honour me, Rhea Bastion Biel. I will make sure to have the servants put out some toddy for you. I will also have them get some apricot liquor and plum wine. Both are of a very good year, I assure you.”

Her hand grabs the little amulet hanging from her neck, and she moves it back and forth across her chest, watching Rhea’s reaction with a sparkle in her eyes.

“I’m sure my wife will be delighted to meet one such as you.” Princeza Juliana laughs to herself, almost like she just told a joke only she understands. “We shall see whether we can loosen you up somewhat, malisa.”

Rhea’s blush dims slightly, brought to heel by sheer force of will, but when Juliana says her full name, her expression betrays her surprise and pleasure, her eyes widening just so, and a shy smile pulling at the corners of her mouth before she can even think to stall either response.

She clears her throat, tries to school her features, but her eyes continue to smile as she replies, “Thank you, your grace. I doubt I have ever sampled anything of such quality. I look forward to it.”

On the topic of Ser Rois, Rhea adds, “She did not care for me much before, but…” she chews on her lower lip in a brief moment of weakness. The Princess is quite clearly flirting with her, despite, well, the woman in question. She almost seems to be flirting for the woman in question. Rhea wishes Faustus were here. Sometimes just looking at Faustus made Rhea feel more confident in herself. “Under such circumstances, I am sure it will not be so. It is difficult to imagine that anyone could maintain a disagreeable disposition in your presence, Princeza.”

Princeza Juliana’s smile grows wider the more flustered Rhea becomes. She might be able to fool someone else, but Princeza Juliana knows exactly the kind of effect she’s having on the young woman. And she’s enjoying it, too.

“Oh, tsh,” she clicks her tongue, waving away Rhea’s worries regarding Ser Rois.

“My wife is the most striking woman I have ever seen, but she lacks tact, I’m afraid.” Princeza Juliana laughs, genuinely amused. It’s a laugh that crinkles the skin at the corners of her eyes, for the first time revealing that she is not as young as one might think.

Directed at Sargis, Princeza Juliana raises an eyebrow. She switches to the Trade Tongue:

“You must be one of those people who speak the universal language of alcohol. Or do you indeed speak Rivaini?” Before he can answer, Princeza Juliana continues. “No matter. Of course we will be serving all of you meat and mead in good measure,” she says to the room, her voice demanding everyone’s attention despite still being fairly quiet.

“I look forward to drinking with you.”

Sargis gives Juliana a warm smile

“Absolutely, and sharing drinks is a good way to truly get to know one another. And since you seem to be the one who is really in charge here do you think we could stay as guests for a while? At least until we get this whole Order and dragon business sorted out?”

A frown on her face, Asbelavahn’s hand plays with the three small vials laid out on the nightstand, pushing them back and forth thoughtfully.

“I wish I could help you procure the proper items, but as it is I am lacking equipment as well. During a… search of my quarters someone broke my lab and most of the potions I had left, and now I am struggling to come up with enough of them to save the subjects I have.”

She looks out of the window at the busy area in the courtyard, and turns back to Alyinarra with yet another one of her smiles.

“If you ever visit the old city of Arlathan, there is much you could learn from our elders. I am sure one such as you would welcome the opportunity to gain more knowledge.”

Asbelavahn straightens her head scarf and continues: “Should you stay here longer I am sure I could teach you some things about alchemy, but alas, it will have to wait until I have a lab again, and hopefully the right ingredients to help these people.”

“That would be nice…to learn more about alchemy.” Alyinarra says, giving a polite smile.

“I am not sure how long we plan to stay, but perhaps we can help find what you are missing to make more potions? Danger is no issue to us….I’m sure the rest of them would agree to the cause of saving those afflicted.” I hope anyways, but she refrains from saying the actual words, but the inclination is there.

“Maybe such a chance will arise to visit Arlathan, if our travels ever see us there, it would be quite the sight and venture, for sure.” Her voice very wistful at the idea of it all, before refocusing again on the conversation and Bela.

“I appreciate your offer of help,” Asbelavahn says. “Frankly, without more potions and a new lab to make them, most of my patients will die. Sooner rather than later. Ir abelas, but I am at the end of my rope here.”

Looking over at her patients, Asbelavahn lowers her voice, despite speaking in Elvish. Her eyes find Revas, and she makes it clear that her next words are also directed at him.

“I would appreciate it if you kept this information to yourself. Or at least far away from my patients. I have no desire to deal with a panic.”

“As for ingredients I am missing. Well. The last potions, these three, are not very potent. They contain the blood of a dracolisk, which the Bann graciously allowed to be slaughtered for this. But it is of course no dragon. Only dragon blood has been able to stave off the effects of the taint for years. Other potions require the patient to drink them in regular intervals, and that brings with it its own dangers.”

Alyinarra gives a slow nod when Asbelavahn finishes talking, processing it all very carefully and giving a slight glance to where the patients are before refocusing.

“Well…I’m not sure what we have to fix the lab…but I believe we are dedicated to dealing with the dragon…perhaps that will hopefully be enough to aid.”

Soon her attention was caught by the sudden rise of pitch from the Princeza, blinking a bit before looking to the doctor. “We will do our very best to keep this from spilling to their already troubled hearts.” She’d say, with a slight bow of her head, likely out of respect more than anything. “I appreciate the talk, it is not often I get to have such lengthy talks about anything of the sort.” making a point to ignore any mention of alcohol . . .


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