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 Fantasy To Begin Anew (Porcelain Quill & Epicurean)

Discussion in 'Roleplay Execution' started by Epicurean, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. Epicurean

    Epicurean Well-Known Member Member

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    They had traveled quickly up from the coast; men and horses alike could feel the strain. It was late in the summer and the heat was oppressive in the valleys of the Eburan Hills, whose white stone seemed to trap the heat between the trees, whose leaves were slowly starting to lose their green. “Dillayne is not far now,” Emric heard himself say. His two knights, three soldiers and two servants did not know, he had hired them overseas. They were riding through a copse of ancient oaks. The beauty of his homeland touched him, brought tears to his eyes. How much milder, how much gentler was this land compared to the Overseas Realms! It had been summer, too, when he had departed, Emric remembered. A beautiful day just like this one, comfortably warm instead of hot. Elyse had wept in silence, the children had wept aloud, and Emric had not wept at all, still overwhelmed by the enormity of what he had to do.

    Damn the King, Emric of Dillayne thought as they left behind the oaks which were replaced by a meadow with apple trees. How often had he thought these words? Almost each day he had cursed his liege lord who had forced him to leave the place of his happiness and his duties and all that had ever meant something to him. These apple trees were his, he remembered, and he was entitled to an oak each year and the hunt in these valleys. He had enjoyed none of it in four long years, ever since the King had made him join him on that fool’s errand, that accursed war overseas. Emric shifted in the saddle, trying to adjust his mail, the long one he had been given as bounty from one of the countless skirmishes. He had grown thinner than he had ever been and it no longer fit right. Four years. He had not burned incense on the graves of his parents in four years, had not kissed his wife in four years, had not seen his children sleep in four years. Would they even know him? The older ones would… but Bertal, the youngest, wouldn’t. He had been a toddler when Emric had left. The oldest, named for the father, was fourteen now. Ready to be a squire… and Elyse the younger must almost be a young lady at twelve. Emric had never been so eager for anything than to see them all, but there was a shadow on that feeling he ignored for now. He could not stop asking himself how the children might be. Was Richard still so much like himself, calm and unperturbed by the world? A father was not supposed to have favorites, and Emric loved them all equally, but Richard looked so much like himself, talked like him, laughed and walked like him, that they shared a special bond. Would that come back? Emric nodded to himself. It had to.

    They came to the toll hut at the river crossing. He wondered why it was not manned and showed no signs of recent use. He raised his eyebrows; this had to stop. This toll was one of the best sources of revenue they had. But maybe it was just today, he told himself. His heart started to ache as they turned the last bend of the road and saw the yellowish white stone of Dillayne Castle above the village. Tears started to run down his cheeks into the wild beard that had grown on the long journey home, first grey hairs mixed into the earthy brown. Emric could feel the tears clean away some of the dust. The horses fell into a trot of their own accord and he remembered – this palfrey was one of the last possessions he had taken.

    “There it is,” he said, his voice shaking. “There it is, all good spirits, there it finally is…” Folk in the village of Dillayne looked up and watched in silence as they passed by. Emric had no standard with him and his tabard was so bleached his colors were not readily recognizable. Did they even know who he was? He heard the horn blast from the castle; they had been seen.

    The gate stood open and for a heartbeat, it struck Emric as wrong – but then remembered he was home. There was no war, there were no sneaking assassins here, Dillayne was as peaceful as it has ever been. As he entered into the bailey, guards and servants coming to meet them, he could see a female figure descending the stairs from the aboveground entrance into the castle proper, a figure he would have picked out from a mass of thousands, a figure followed by smaller, youthful ones.

    “My lord,” grey-haired Uldyn said hoarsely as he held his stirrup, but Emric stared at his wife, transfixed, and began to shake. He had truly made it, he was home. As he felt the ground under his feet that had seen him grow up, Emric of Dillayne realized there were four children where there should have been five. He could see the truth in his wife’s face as she approached, but he still had to ask.

    “Elyse… my love…” he greeted her in a strained half-whisper, his voice sounding horribly broken even to himself, forgetting all formality. “Where… where is Richard?”

    @Porcelain Quill
     
  2. Porcelain Quill

    Porcelain Quill Wild Member Member

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    The soft, sing-song twitters of the aviary created a perfect ambiance of peace for Lady Elyse of Dillayne. It was the only section of Castle Dillayne that the woman could find escape, to do away with the burdens she faced day after day. She adored her domestic birds as they flapped about, vigorously ruffling their feathers clean within the stone fountain without a care in the world. Elyse, as silly as it was, was quite envious. They didn’t have to face the struggle of maintaining order of one’s status, collecting dues from peasantry work, nor be infringed upon by their neighbors and of the like. They hadn’t a clue of what the last four years had brought.

    What Elyse wouldn’t give for some of that blissful ignorance. Perhaps then, she wouldn’t harbor such dismal feelings and thoughts. Her husband’s absence had left his wife in a state that could hardly even be recognized. His call to arms left his family in shambles, more so his wife than the five, young children they shared. His departure left a dark void of hopelessness in the depths of his dear wife, but she was never keen to outright show it. She couldn’t. There were far too many roles to play. Her children needed her, she became the sole dependent on their livelihood.

    Life as they knew it had to continue, Elyse couldn’t falter a single thing, less Castle Dillayne fall to ruin. These were the hours of the darkest days, and seemingly more ahead.

    There were plenty of nights where Lady Elyse stained her pillows with her sorrows, her heart aching for the comfort of her husband’s tenderness. Night after night, she prayed to the clouds above for his safe return, yet she was always given silence. That, in turn, lead to many fears that buried themselves into Elyse’s mind. It also left her availability open, inviting multiple suitors to attempt and inflict their charm upon a probable widow. Although, Elyse would have none of it. Some would claim it was foolish, but Elyse knew better. As long as there were no news of her husband’s demise, she refused to be tempted by another man’s offer of her hand.

    The vociferous sound of a horn bellowed across the castle grounds, prompting Elyse to freeze. Her heart quickly picked up on speed, then force by hammering hard against her chest. Her hands shot down to the skirt of her lavish dress, swiftly lifting the hem to assist in her haste of a trek out of the aviary. “It can’t be,” she murmured to herself as she skirted across an open courtyard to reach an archway that would lead her to a connecting corridor. Guards stood at attention as she passed them, servants were wise to step aside.

    Eventually, Elyse found herself within the entrance hall. Behind her, she could hear the jubilance of familiar voices; her children. Having heard the horn themselves, neither were hesitant to match their mother’s speed.

    Soon enough, they each greeted a face that differed from when they last saw it. The children became hesitant, shooting glances at one another to remind themselves that one sibling was missing. Elyse narrowed her blue orbs for eyes, folding her hands across her stomach once she took note of her husband’s obvious observation. The woman’s heart swelled to find that her husband had returned home, albeit a bit...unkempt? “Emric…” She fingered the end of her golden, blonde hair’s loose braid that hung over her shoulder. She shot a glance over her shoulder to find her children avoiding their parents’ gaze.

    She swallowed hard and turned back to face her beloved husband. Her hand cautiously reached out to take his hand; it felt so calloused and worn. But with no contact for four years, his touch meant everything and more to Elyse despite what was to come. “Richard...drowned last year, darling,” she revealed. The pain of losing a child remained fresh in her voice. The third child out of six children, Richard had been the second child to succumb to an early grave. The first being the couples’ youngest, an unnamed daughter, of whom died a stillborn.

    Her brows sank as her eyes searched Emric’s features. “We shall discuss this later,” she muttered. “Come, embrace your children, they have been lost without you, my dear. Especially Errol.” She turned to squint at her firstborn, shaking her head. The boy had quite the temperament now that he was growing into a man, one that absolutely drove his mother mad while Emric was away.

    @Epicurean
     
  3. Epicurean

    Epicurean Well-Known Member Member

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    Emric’s chin fell to his chest at the news; he had known that he had lost another child when Richard had not been present, but to have it confirmed brought an all too familiar pain. He had learned much about loss in these last four years. When Elyse had miscarried, even when they had the stillborn daughter, it had been different: His main concern had been his wife, if she would recover. Now, she and the other children stood in the best of health and there was no worry to overshadow the sorrow of loss. But it still felt less terrible than he had imagined in the sort of nightmare every father has. The pain was sharp only for a moment, then numb and dull, like the weakness that lingers when sickness has receded.

    He opened his eyes; Elyse had grasped his left hand, just like always – back to the days when they had both been very young, but old enough to understand what it meant that they would soon be husband and wife. The infinitely familiar gesture warmed his heart. He kissed his wife formally. That, too, was still pleasant. He had forgotten her smell, he realized, but now that it touched his nose again, all the memories revived themselves, again became part of his soul. The Lord of Dillayne turned to his children. He clasped hands with ‘Errol’, as they had always called his eponymous heir, in knightly fashion, only then embraced him. A tall, strong-limbed boy; one could already see the beginnings of a barrel chest, a contrast to his father, who had always been sinewy at an average height.

    “Welcome home, father,” Elyse the Younger said quietly as he embraced her briefly (because he knew he could not smell very pleasantly).

    “Thank you, my little dove… your lisp is gone, I hear,” Emric remarked, earning a smile from ‘Elly’.

    “Yes, father. Mother made an offering and it went away,” she explained in a voice more hushed than Emric remembered. Had she always been so meek? He did not think so – but no lordship without the lord is ever a good place to be.

    Emrica and Bertal, the two youngest, looked at him, unsure what to make of the strange armed man. He had hoped Emrica would remember him, he had always thought her the most affectionate of the children. They locked eyes for a moment and she smiled. “You’ve much grown,” he said gently, knowing that all children wanted to hear that. “Do you remember the day I left?”

    The girl, as fair-haired as her mother, swallowed, then nodded. “Yes. It was summer… you didn’t have a beard like now… and we were all very sad… I hid behind mother’s skirts… but I’m glad you’re back…”

    “You weren’t sure I would ever return, were you?” Emric asked, his voice barely more than a whisper. Emrica nodded again.

    “I’m sorry, father, I know you don’t lie, but…” He extended his hand and touched her cheek.

    “Do not worry. It was not certain I would return – even though I wanted to.” He swept his gaze over the assembled family. “Every single night I wished I could be back with all of you.” Silent tears ran down his cheeks once more. He did not hide them; any soul who thought that these tears were unbecoming could go drink from a latrine.

    Bertal held his nurse’s hand. His face was still very soft, like a babe’s, but he had the sharp blue eyes most common in the Hills. “I don’t remember you,” he stated in a voice most sober, strangely so for one of his age. “But mother told us about you often. I know you like pheasant best and that you won Thunder in a tournament,” he added proudly.

    Emric chuckled and tousled his hair. “True! The ladies of the court thought me among the most chivalrous men that day, so I was given that prize. Is Thunder still here?”

    Bertal nodded fiercely. “Oh yes. He is getting old, but he is still quick. I want to ride him, but it is too dangerous. Errol rides him, though, and he hasn’t died yet. I ride the ponies, but they are getting boring. I want to ride a destrier!”

    The thought of Bertal on the high-legged, stout war-horse amused Emric. “You must wait a few years yet, I’m afraid – but I brought a destrier. I’ll show him to you later.” The fallow war-horse was Emric’s most valuable possession along with the coat of mail, and he had not sold it at the port, because everyone from the returning army was trying to sell their horses, ruining prices, and Emric would need a destrier again sooner or later in any case.

    *

    They went inside and stood in the main hall. The shutters were open and the large, high room was just light and warm enough without being hot or bright, as it had always been on warm summer days. The lingering smell of fire, of countless meals and the earthy wooden scent of the oaken beams was like another embrace to Emric, and despite the shock at Richard’s death, it felt undeniably, profoundly right to be here.

    “Can you see to a bath for me?” he asked his wife, still holding her hand. It felt wrong to command, even though it was his own house. “I think I have never been so much in need of one.”
     
  4. Porcelain Quill

    Porcelain Quill Wild Member Member

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    Elyse stepped aside as Emric tended to his children. Her fingers rose to graze against her lips, still reeling on the phantom kiss. Even after four years, his taste remained as warm and loving as she remembered. She could only thank the clouds above that war hadn’t changed him in that aspect; it didn’t feel like a stranger’s kiss. Well, despite his whiskers ticking her skin.

    The scene before Elyse was quite wholesome, and it left the woman practically beaming with absolute joy. As she watched Emric greet their children, she took note of each interaction. Errol acted accordingly, as one would expect of a blossoming young man. Though, that joy somewhat faltered at how reserved Elly had become in the presence of her father’s approach. Elyse narrowed her gaze; their daughter had adopted such a personality the very minute the man had left. Her mother believed it to be a phase, but then again, phases didn’t last for years.

    Then, there came the worry that abruptly brewed within Elyse’s stomach. The youngest two children had been little things during their father’s departure to the Overseas Realms. Why, Bertal had been just a babe! So, while it was a bit refreshing to know that the youngest daughter, Emrica, still recognized her father, it was crushing to listen that Bertal did not, despite Elyse having assumed as such.

    Still, it didn’t seem to matter all that much. Bertal knew of his father well enough through the stories his mother often told him throughout the years. And as he stated as much, Elyse felt a that relief.

    She let out a contented breath, one she would have guessed to be holding in for the last four years. Oh, how it felt so satisfying to actually breathe again.

    With Emric finally returned to Castle Dillayne, all was right in the world.


    ***

    Once back inside the entrance hall, Elyse’s hand never left Emric’s own. She couldn’t be bothered to tear herself away from him even if she wanted to. She’d missed him more than words could describe, and she would not pass up the opportunity to devote every ounce of her attention to the man. The children, on the other hand, scattered. Though it was a time for celebration of their father’s safe return, education was important. Elyse assured that once they completed their lessons, a celebratory evening dinner would be prepared and served.

    Elyse kept her blue orbs firmly fixated upon her husband. A part of the woman couldn’t believe the man was there, that he was real. She’d had many dreams of this moment, but they were just that — dreams. How could she be sure this wasn’t some cruel trick her mind had conjured up for a night?

    His hand entangled with hers; the reminder she needed that no, this wasn’t some dream that tormented her.

    Oh, but Emric would as he asked for a bath. Elyse had every desire to protest against it, for he had just arrived, but...the stench of him nearly mimicked that of a rear end of a carriage horse. She could practically feel his grime. Without much to protest, Elyse nodded. “Of course, my dear,” she smiled wide, pleased to satiate any of her husband’s wishes. “I’ll draw a bath at once, and I’ll even boil chamomile to assist with any aches you may have.” Normally, a servant would tend to such trivial tasks, but...this day was a special one. Elyse had the intent to cater to every single one of her husband’s wants and needs. She had four years to make up for it, after all.
     
  5. Epicurean

    Epicurean Well-Known Member Member

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    “Aches I have plenty,” Emric mumbled as his eyes swept over the hall. It was well-kept as it had always been (under Elyse and his mother before), but some of the beams needed replacement, some of the furniture was clearly past its prime and the few tapestries were careworn. He was loathe to see the account books…

    A while later, he sat in the hot water inside the wooden tub. For the first time, he felt self-conscious in front of Elyse. Having never been very powerfully built, he had grown thin. Discolored pieces of skin showed battle wounds old by now and a few bright scars showed where he had escaped death more closely. He had never been one of those men who relished the fight, even though by now, he had no fear of even the worst battle. Having trained all his life and possessed of quickness and endurance, he had done well enough – but rather than heroics, the battles and skirmishes overseas had made him feel like a man who swims not for fun, but so he won’t drown. He doubted he would ever even ride a friendly joust again. Silence had fallen between him and Elyse. Emric’s eyes were closed. There were so many conversations to be had. Emric didn’t know where to begin, so many confusing feelings were struggling in his heart. He had grown rougher in spirit, he knew – but not enough that it no longer bothered him that he had. Yet, he thought it best to address the hardest thing first, to get it out of the way.

    “What…” He had to clear his throat. “What happened to Richard?” he asked, eyes still closed. He had not meant to, had in fact tried not to, but he knew he sounded accusing.
     
  6. Porcelain Quill

    Porcelain Quill Wild Member Member

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    As requested, Elyse made the effort to have six servants fetch six jugs of boiled water to fill the wooden tub within the private washroom of the couple’s chambers. She also made do to collect that chamomile as promised in order to bring her husband the relief of his aches. There wasn’t any doubt in Elyse’s mind that the man would need it, for he seemed so distressed. Then again, she supposed anyone would after experiencing the things Emric had. And he hadn’t even began to describe them.

    Once all was set and accounted for, Elyse dismissed the servants, claiming that she would tend to her own husband without any assistance. Now, she stood beside the tub, laying out an array of soft sponges, each for particular parts of the body. As she did so, however, she couldn’t help but to allow her blue orbs to roam over her husband’s physique. The man had never been that of broad in stature, but his lean appearance seemed rather gaunt, for lack of a better description. She figured that all the man needed was a proper washing to rid the grime and dirt, plus equally proper meals to fatten him up. Needless to say, Elyse didn’t think of her husband any less when it came to appearances; it was only temporary.

    Just as she turned, a sponge in hand, Elyse was hit with a loaded question that nearly knocked the wind right out of her lungs. She paused, eyes narrowing off to the water of which Emric sat, half submerged. It was clear just by his wife’s face that the subject of their deceased son was still a painful one, even after a year of seasons had come and gone. Though, as a father, he deserved to know.

    Yet that didn’t stop the brief silence that Elyse allowed to permeate between them. Truthfully, she didn’t quite appreciate Emric’s accusatory tone. She already harbored enough guilt that she had been absent in the hour of her son’s death, she didn’t need her husband to fuel anymore of that fire. She reached to wrap her fingers around his wrist and dipped the sponge into the herb-infested bath water, only to squeeze it dry moments later. She brought the sponge to Emric’s arm and scrubbed. “That morning,” she began, though with a bit of a shaken breath, “Elly had taken Richard and Emrica down to the riverbank to catch frogs.” She sniffed, clearly attempting to hide her sudden sorrow. “I was asked to accompany them, but I had been ignoring the toll for the week before, and I needed to collect the dues…”

    Elyse squeezed her eyes shut, lowering her chin to her chest to quickly gather her bearings. With a trembling sigh, she re-opened her eyes and lifted her head. She wrung out the sponge and slid it to his shoulder. “So, I left a sentinel in charge while I was away. When I returned, Elly ran to me in hysterics, claiming that something terrible had happened to Richard. Well, it was then I came to discover our son lying in the arms of an equally hysterical sentinel. From what I was told, the boy had been running on the edge of the bank to catch a particular frog that had bested him at some chase. He tripped and fell in. The current carried him out into the center, and by the time the sentinel noticed that Richard couldn’t swim, it was too late…”

    She dropped the sponge into the water and brought her face into her palm. A soft sob escaped Elyse, though it was muffled. Truth be told, it was the first time since Richard’s death that she ever spoke of the boy, for her heart was far too fragile to reminisce. “I should have went with them,” she cried. “Perhaps if I had gone, I could have done something, anything to prevent what happened.”
     
  7. Epicurean

    Epicurean Well-Known Member Member

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    Tears were streaming down Emric’s face when she finished. He felt like a swine for even bringing up the subject to soon, but he had not been able to wait. In a strange fashion, he felt relieved now, even as his pain mounted. He could feel his wife’s grief and her guilt, yet even that was some relief, because she was not a stranger to him. The merest shadow of a doubt that it had been a true accident, one of those things that just happened, was like a betrayal to him now. Emric reached out with a wet hand and drew her head towards him to kiss her hair.

    “Forgive me!" he half exclaimed. "I truly, truly did not mean to put blame on you. If I did… I might as well blame myself, for my absence put too many duties on you. The children… the other children look fine, you must have cared so well for them…” He was almost rambling now, desperate to avoid any rift between them and to soothe Elyse. The weakness and exhaustion of his soul was no secret to him – war, he had learned, taught a man many things about himself. He needed Elyse. “And I knew you would. Spirits, I swear I thought of you each day. Last year, it appeared we would return, and when the King decided to stay, I… fell into a desperation… it is shameful to admit, but I was prostrate with sorrow for days. I did not mean to say that you… all it was was misfortune, my love, and it does not do to blame yourself…”

    Emric was glad there were no servants in the room now, because Elyse was the only person in the world who, he dared to hope, would not think less of him for weeping. “Oh, I can hold you once more,” he whispered. “I made so many offerings for that. To be allowed this once more…”
     
  8. Porcelain Quill

    Porcelain Quill Wild Member Member

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    Though Elyse would forever be grateful that her husband didn’t blame her for the death of their son — he couldn’t bait the guilt that she would always carry. No amount of kind words or sweet gestures would rid her of that feeling, no matter who provided them. In the time after Richard’s death, it didn’t feel right to continue with life. One should never outlive their own children, it...just didn’t make any sense. So, while Elyse could agree that it was, indeed, mere misfortune, the woman would forever mourn, and her heart would never mend.

    “Oh, Emric, I have been so lost without you,” Elyse admitted, albeit a bit shamefully. She’d spent years feeling sorry for herself, trying to find something or someone to blame for the pain that buried itself into her core. But that was foolish, and as a woman of her rank, self-pity couldn’t be tolerated.

    “I...understand your desperation,” Elyse revealed, her hooded eyes fixated on her husband’s gaze. “From the moment you left us, I prayed for the spirits to intervene with your war, win or lose, I cared not. Just as long as you returned to us, to me. I know it was selfish, but I could not convince myself otherwise.”

    Her hands rose to his face, and her thumbs gently wiped the remnants of his tears away. There wasn’t a care in the world as Elyse became overwhelmed with impulse. She wrapped her slender arms around her husband’s frame and pulled him to her, ignoring the damp stains that had formed on her garments. To hold her husband once more and so close, she couldn’t describe the feeling of contentment she felt. “Four years lost,” she whispered, pulling back only slightly. “Never again, Emric.”
     
  9. Epicurean

    Epicurean Well-Known Member Member

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    Fates willing, he thought, but he could not bring himself to say the words. What did he know? Little of what he had once thought secure had held against the onslaught of his years on campaign. Not his life with Elyse and the children, not his belief in the justice of kinds, certainly not his belief in honor. What if the King set his greedy eyes on another foolhardy attempt at conquest? What if he again called all his vassals? Not going meant breaking an oath Emric had made as a young man before his peers, before the King and the venerated ancestors, it meant losing all he was… so if the King called, he would have to go once more. All that remained was to pray that he never would.

    And yet, through the pain at their lost son and the lost years, his wife’s touch and her words gave him a measure of solace. He took Elyse’s head in his hands, turned her face to his own gently and kissed her on the lips. Now that the grime and dust were mostly gone, he felt renewed – and still he was surprised at the surge of desire the innocent kiss gave him. He wondered if it would be easy to share a bed after such a long time…

    As he turned to finish his ablutions, he saw the empty space on the low table next to the wooden tub. He paused, his eyes darting around the room. “Where’s my dagger?” he snapped before he could think, his voice suddenly harsh. He half rose from the water, looking around for the weapon. He had to have it near him, he just had to, the assassins could be anywhere…
     
  10. Porcelain Quill

    Porcelain Quill Wild Member Member

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    Deep within the woman’s mind, her subtle request could not be granted. Elyse knew very well that should the King call to arms once more, her dear husband would be forced to be beckoned. However, the desperation of hope remained within Elyse, and spirits willing, her husband would not be baited for anymore of the woes of war.

    The kiss sent a wave of relief throughout Elyse. Four years without one’s touch...oh, how had she made it this far without crumbling into pieces? Her hand gently rested on the side of his jaw, and it was though a shock ran up her arm. But not out of familiarity, not of the sensualness she’d craved…

    Elyse recoiled her hand, taken aback by the sudden outburst. She stumbled back, shooting her hand to her chest to calm her racing heart. Her blue eyes widened, stunned as he stood to seek out a dagger. After catching her breath, Elyse slowly advanced forward, her hands extending ever so cautiously. “Darling, please,” she said, her tone hushed and soft. She took his hand into her own, loosely entangling their fingers. “It’s alright. The weapons you returned home with have been taken to the armory, all secure and safe, I assure you.”
     
  11. Epicurean

    Epicurean Well-Known Member Member

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    “No!” Suddenly, every inch of his body felt hot and it was as if thousands of bugs were crawling on him. “Why would you have them put them there?! What good is the dagger in the armory?!” Emric shook his hand free of Elyse’s. Her, the room, his own hands, the bath, the chair, everything was behind a haze. “The dagger! I need my dagger!” he repeated, almost shouting. He had barely ever spoken harshly to his wife before the war, but she had not been this stupid then. Shivers were running over his bare skin, his body coiled of its own accord like a cat’s, his face had become a rigid mask. They were both unsafe here. Everyone was unsafe.

    Emric could see Gearoid of Tayde in that damn latrine, his blood mixing offensively with his piss, twitching like a hooked fish. That would not happen to him, not to his wife or children. He needed a weapon. Always. Always.
     
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