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PG-18 Jealous Love {MxM, w/Jester}

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
As the soft keys of a piano cascaded throughout the music room, the guards posted outside the large pinewood double doors felt their bodies instantly relax. The chill that caused many to bundle under layers upon layers of clothing seemed to fade as warmth coursed through them, the music reaching their ears as well.

Sitting at a Grand piano in the middle of the room was a young man. Dressed in regal clothing, a simple crown adorning his head, and gloves fingers dancing across the clean white and blacks keys. A serene smile upon his lips, the dark-haired male finished his piece and let go of a content sigh, hands falling loosely onto his lap. For a millisecond the young man dared to start to slouch and found his shoulders none-too-gently rapped by a stick.
Wincing, he quickly straightened and sent the stern woman standing just behind him an apologetic smile.

“I apologize, Teacher,” the young man- known as Prince Arthur Quentin Silas Heir to the throne of Gailux, gave a charming smile as he spoke.
The pursed lips on the older woman relaxed some, though she did give him a pointed look. “Your highness, your charming smile does not make up for atrocious posture,” she said sternly. ‘Teacher’ was an older Lady within the court, one who the prince knew since childhood and who taught him to use his charms, to say she was beginning to regret such action was not far from the truth.
Arthur let go of a deep sigh of exasperation before that mischievously charming grin was again gracing his lips. “Are lessons done for today? Please?” voice laced with plea and eyes no better.

Lips twitching at such a face, she seemed to resign herself before making a shooing motion. “Go before I change my mind-” she was cut off as the prince darted from the room, the only evidence of his previous presence was the single rose laying on the piano bench, no doubt left as a ‘thank you’ to the older woman.
---
Barely keeping from screaming ‘freedom’, the dual eyed prince hurried out of the palace and towards the stables. There he would be meeting his best friend and… lover? Steps slowing, Arthur unconsciously frowned just slightly. What were they? The teen had been raised alongside this friend of his, the two knew each other better than anyone else. Joined at the hip, many said. Nowadays though, Arthur kept hearing those around him faintly whispering about them be more than just best friends.

Realizing the frown was growing, the prince quickly wiped it away and focused on the fun they were going to have. That helped his smile return to his face and be genuine. Humming, he strode quickly and only pausing when he passed a guard or anyone of importance whom he had to look at as a regal prince and heir.

“I’m here! Sorry for my lateness. Teacher compiled more work than I thought she would, for that prank I pulled,” Arthur automatically apologized as he entered the dusty, heading straight for the stall where his black and white stopped mare stood. Words formal but slowly unwinding as he spoke, the prince had a habit of speaking rather formally after being around his Teacher or at galas.

Cooing to his beautiful mare, he didn't hesitate to kiss that soft nose of hers. "Nyra, my sweet. Are you ready for a ride through the forest?" he asked, voice light.

====


Our characters grew up together, royalty (LadyDovah) and personal bodyguard (Jester). Though the bodyguard position was not given until both our characters were in their early teens. They did everything together in fact. They were absolutely the best of friends. As the two grew soon enough rumors spread far and wide about their impending engagement, as it had to happen being that they were so close their ranks matter not. Behind the scenes the two were very much in love but rank was an issue.
The King refused the marriage between them, unless that is, the bodyguard (Valentine) proved himself. How? The King declared he would go to war and either win and come back to marry his heir (Arthur), or fail and never return. At the time the prince was 22 and the bodyguard was 26.

Though Artie insisted that Val ignore the challenge- as it was more likely he would fall against the powerful enemy, the guard decided to take this challenge and win. Though unbeknownst to the Gailux Kingdom, the enemy really wasn’t the Kingdom of Lira. But someone else disgruntled with the world.

Five years passed and because so much time passed with no word, everyone believed the warrior to be dead. With no other choice, Arthur married. Two months or so after, an official message was received and the former bodyguard declared dead.

Now at 36-years-old, low and behold Val- who is now the Ruler of the Lira Kingdom, has returned to find their Art married. But that doesn't deter them, as they came back to take back what was theirs and no one will stop them. Right?
The land seems endless mountains and forests. For the most part, everything seems normal. But what makes it stand out with its trees and plants. The trees have silver bark, snow-white leaves, and bare golden fruit. While the flowers when at full bloom seem to glow with magic. There are also caves with rare to common gems.
Edit- Where the stuff from rp goes. It'll look weird because it'll be directly from the rp itself. Will hopefully edit it later to sound better...
"nearby waterfall, gently brushing the vines that started to appear in their way to the side. The vines were long and dark green, with the flickering of golden when you moved it. Stepping out into the clearing where the waterfall pooled, the prince grinned. The water was as clear as crystal and other than the spot where the water hit the rocks as it fell, the water was shockingly still. There were bushels of flowers lining the edge, with silver flowers that only blossomed when the moonlight rays touched them. As they opened a glowing bits of diamond could be found mixed among the pollen."
There are six levels of this castle. The first level is underground, the dungeons. There are over thirty cells that can hold two prisoners at a time. Also on that level are empty rooms where interrogations are held. The second level is the main area where the great hall is, ballrooms and kitchen's- of which there are two of each, throne room, and courtyard where some training is done, are. Leading to two gardens as well. The third consists of studies, libraries, a couple of lavatories, several baths, and the guest chambers are found. The fourth level where the main royal chambers are. The fifth and sixth are private floors that only the King and his two most trusted advisors are allowed.
 
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Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Valentine stumbled out of his Aunt’s house giggling, a pack of freshly baked cookies under his arm. The next moment he was bolting through the village, the wind blowing through his hair and messing up his clothes. Shouts followed him, along with a screeching pack of children. Their screams and laughter raced behind him on the badly made dirt roads, as he dodged merchants’ carts, street musicians and chickens. He stumbled, crashing down into the dust and bracing himself for the inevitable. Seconds later, children were on him. They tore at his hands and clothes, trying all kinds of dirty tricks to get to the cookies, going as far as starting to tickle him. “Okay,” he gasped, tears of laughter in his eyes. “Okay, I yield!” he handed over the still-warm cookies, grinning like an idiot when they left him. Their victorious shouts resounded throughout the streets. “The little bastards,” Val breathed, not wanting to get up. It was so nice there, in the middle of the road. The sky was a clear icy blue, with no hint of clouds in sight. Winter was still a long way off, and boy, did people take advantage of it. Almost every night there was a party in someone’s back yard. Nothing too big. Just some lowkey chillin with mugs of home-brewed beer and homemade bread.

That was their notion of a good time, yeah? It was as simple as bringing a lute and drinking till you passed out. Talking about nothing and everything.

“You okay there lad?” his cousin’s mother’s friend’s husband asked, helping him to his feet. Val held on to the man for a couple seconds to regain his balance, still smiling like a goof. Aleahandro was a good man. Worked as the town’s blacksmith, and made everything from horseshoes to swords. “I gave the kids a run,” Val grinned, seeming quite proud of himself. “Poor things. All they do is bake all day, you know? Aunt Linda had them slavin in the kitchen. They’re kids, man. They should be racing outside like wild things, not coped up in some house…” Aleahandro ruffled his hair affectionately and then picked up his bag, slapping the dust off it before handing it to him. “Y o u are a wild thing, Jules,” he laughed. “Come on lad, get out of here. You’re scaring away my customers.”

“I’m related to most of your customers!” Val protested while throwing the bag strap over his shoulder. “If anything, you’ll sell more stuff if I’m here.” Before Aleahandro could chase him away with a broom, Val waved him goodbye. He didn’t want to get the dude mad, considering he could totally floor him if it ever came to a fight. One didn’t spend all their days shaping iron with a hammer and not bulk up. His cousin’s mother’s friend’s husband was ridiculously muscular. He looked half giant. Probably w a s half giant, although he always denied it.

Valentine made it to the stables early and had time to climb one of the wooden beams which supported the ceiling. There he sat, legs dangling over the edge, as he waited for the prince. There was a hole in the celling nobody had bothered to fix right above him, and if he ever wanted to, he could climb through it and onto the roof. It was actually the best view in town. Caught all the dope sunset light and the stars, when they weren’t covered by clouds.

He hadn’t told Artie about the spot yet. It was kinda a street kid thing. A whole bunch of them gathered onto it maybe once or twice a year. Drank cheep spirits and bitched about the guards, the merchants. The fact none of them had well payed jobs and people treated them like crap was a popular subject of discussion. Even Val, who guarded the royal heir, had all sorts of trouble paying his rent and buying food for his siblings.

Speaking of Artie. Val was really confused about the subject. On one hand, he loved the man dearly. He had for a very long time, and even from the start, had been bad at hiding it. On the other hand…w h a t could possibly go wrong in loving the royal heir? And even if they did have anything going on, Val would honestly die if he had to spend time around royals more than he had to. They way they talked. The way they dressed. He couldn’t keep a straight face. He just couldn’t. It was too hard. Speak of the devil…

““I’m here! Sorry for my lateness. Teacher compiled more work than I thought she would, for that prank I pulled,”

Val took one look at the prince, and for a moment debated whether to let that line slide. “Yeah no, I can’t,” he decided. “I admire you Artie. Really. How can you keep a straight face when saying shit like that? It must take a l o t of skill.” The man hopped down from the beam, landing in a near perfect crouch beside him. Meaning, he attempted to land, got his foot stuck on the beam he’d been perched on, and fell flat on his face. Majestically. Gracefully. “That was fun,” he grinned, looking up at the prince from where he lay on the ground. “Let’s do that again.” After a few seconds of just lying on the ground and contemplating the meaning of life, Val climbed to his feet and opened his bag, pulling out a pack full of still warm cookies and a carrot for the horse. Auntie had hidden the second pack in his bag and told him to act like he was stealing the first, just so she could get ten minutes of being alone. The children all fell for it, much to her glee. “Okay, so here’s my thought process. Piano lessons= bad. Cookies=good. So, you eat cookies after piano lessons, so you don’t strangle the teacher. Deal?”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Turning away from Nyra to face Valentine, Arthur rolled his eyes playfully and very maturely stuck his tongue out at his bodyguard and friend. In honesty he knew how he spoke was different. There were a lot of differences between the two; from how they spoke to how they lived. Sometimes when he thought about it he wondered how they could be as close as they were, but it was soon dismissed because what mattered to Art was simply having Val as his friend.

Watching the other completely trip up, the young prince stood there with his mouth opening and closing. Dumbfounded. It’d been a while since he saw such profound footwork. Staring down at his usually more… balanced friend, his lips twitched. Unable to speak for fear of what he’d do, Arthur was silent as the bigger male clambered to his feet and spoke. Finally, the straw that broke the camel’s back was Valentine speaking. Just that casualness, putting the previous clumsiness to the side… It was hilarious.
Shoulders shaking, he finally found himself unable to hold back and a peal of giggles burst from him. Tears of laughter touched his dual colored eyes and he bent over, gasping.
O-Oh, my g-g-od!” he choked out, giggling helplessly. White streaked black hair fell in front of his face as he tilted his head down and struggled to breathe through his laughter. If nothing else, Valentine Jules brought excitement to his dull life. “I-I’m sorry! R-Really,” Artie said, shaking his head as his hand covered his face. In the back of his mind, the prince knew that if he kept laughing like this those cookies would probably be forever out of his reach but, he couldn’t help it.

It took a good few minutes for the uncontrollable laughter to die away and by then his stomach ached from it all.

Groaning faintly, he stumbled back and leaned against Nyra’s stall, breathing in and out slowly. A tired but very happy smile was on his face as he finally raised his head and looked at the muscular man. “Sorry?” he offered, face flushed. Absently, he noted that if his Teacher or parents were here he’d undoubtedly get whipped for his improper conduct and rudeness. It was lucky for him that he figured out how to somewhat change personality when around Val or his family, at a young age.

Prince Arthur Quentin Silas. That was who his parents saw him as, and so did much of the court. Heck, even the common folk saw him that way. The only one who got the opportunity to see him relaxed was Val. With Val he was Art or Artie, male with royal status and weird speech patterns… But also a friend and whom Art hoped the other felt he could trust and confide in if needed.

Shaking his head, Arthur carded a hand through his dark hair making a bit of a face when his fingers slid through all too quickly. Right. The Queen Mother demanded he get a haircut and now it was just above his shoulders. He preferred it long and swore that once he was an adult he’d grow it out again. “How are your family and the village doing?” he questioned, a soft smile upon his face. The male could count on one hand how many times he was allowed outside of the palace and in the village. So, he tried to find out how things were through other sources such as his bodyguard.

In times past if he’d heard of things wrong he bought it up with his Father and they were fixed promptly. Sadly though, it took Arthur finding out and pressing his Father for him to get certain things done. While not a tyrant of any kind, Art would be the first to agree that his dear father- King Zoren, wasn’t the most prompt man. He did get things done but, he tended to take his sweet time if not nagged by his son. For this reason Arthur was determined to be a better King one day.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
“Ah you know. Same old. Although my friend’s sister’s uncle just got remarried. Third time this year. I wonder how the dude can afford it.” Valentine handed Artie the carrot, staying away from the shambling mound of flesh and terror the prince rode. “That thing is gonna kill ya one day,” he warned grimly, glaring at the horse. “It’s a wonder it hasn’t killed me yet. The Mutt has wanted my blood every since you got it.” He didn’t like the horse, and the horse didn’t like him. Every time he got near it, it had the nerve to snap those ugly yellow teeth at him. “I think your horse is racist,” Valentine begun. “And sexist. And homophobic. And ageist. And an overall bad horse. It would be better off in the butcher’s shop.” Valentin rubbed his hands eagerly, all Big Bad Evil Guy™. “I swear to the Stormking, Philip makes the best horse salami in town. We aught to give him a visit man, what do you say? He won’t charge you if he sees were together; I brought him that black bear that tried to kill us last winter, and he’s been my bff ever since!”

He looked at Artie pleadingly, giving him The Smile. It was a smile of epic proportions. One that made chicks, dudes, and everything in between do whatever he wanted them to. One that had gotten him out of trouble so many times he’d lost track. He’d even gotten out of jail that one time. The guard who was in charge of him had, admittedly been, his mother’s brother’s wife’s cousin (twice removed), and the dude tended to let things slide.

Now, he was using it on Artie, all charm and rugged good looks.

He ripped open the seal which covered the cookies, still giving the man a grin. Instantly, the delicious smell of melted chocolate filled the stables. His aunt was the best baker in town. Even lesser royals bought her sweets. The secret recipe had been passed down in her family for generations, and every person who made it added something to it. Currently, they were at the twentieth version of it. The Mutt looked sold. “Here,” Val handed the royal a cookie before wolfing down his own. The moment it touched his tongue, he closed his eyes with a delirious moan. “Storms, this stuff’s good!” He pulled out two more before stuffing the pack in his bag. “You get one more now, and the rest after the job’s done,” Val announced. “The Stormfather knows what they’ve been feeding you in that palace! You look paler than my grandmother’s gambling partner’s corpse. Dude was Illuskian, so that’s sayin something, too. Plus,” he poked the prince between the ribs, “You’re way too skinny.”

He tried making a joke out of the way Artie looked. Truth be told, he was worried. The dude seemed so damn stressed and depressed. How was he not on drugs, Val had no idea. If he had to live like the prince, he would have died. Legit. Yeah, there were perks to being a royal, like not worrying whether you were gonna freeze to death, and not having to deal with bitchy landlords. But at the same time, Storms! It wasn’t worth it. Val gave the prince a sad look, his carefree attitude falling for a brief second. “Dude, I swear. If the palace life ever gets too much, you can always crash with me. There’s this cute little cabin out in the woods my sister’s husband’s mother’s niece left me. It’s got a really dope view, and there’s enough pemmican to last you at least a couple months. Plus, it’s in the middle of nowhere, so no one will think to look for ya there.”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Remarrying wasn't allowed in the Gailux royal family. Not even if death is involved. If the current King's lover died then they would continue life without them, only bedding with another if there was no heir or the heir unexpectedly died. The carrier would be given a nice cottage outside of the palace grounds, watched and taken care of until the heir is born, and then be tossed aside. Love wasn't forbidden or not believed in, but either you get lucky and marry the one you love and them never dying or you are simply out of luck.

Whenever Valentine brought up the remarrying of anyone it almost fascinated the prince. Not because he necessarily wanted to ever have to marry another but still, as royalty it was unlikely that he’d marry someone he loved.

Caramel and blue eyes twinkled with mirth at the bodyguard's dramatics. He could deny that Nyra was scary but no way could he object to the fact that his stead hated Val. For what reason the prince could not understand. ‘Then again, he is talking about butchering poor Nyra.’ Art thought bemusedly. In ore of an afterthought, he remembered being almost killed by that bear rather fondly. Not because they almost died but he got to spend a few days away from palace chaos and with Valentine. Yeah, his priorities were spot on.

Arthur would swear to all the God’s that one day his sweet tooth would be the death of him. Want him to jump off a cliff without a second thought? Give him chocolate-covered strawberries and he’d do it with a smile. Gratefully, he took the cookie and nibbled much like a mouse on it. These baked sweets were the best he’d ever had and he savored every time he ate them. The sweets that the royals had were excellent but, they didn’t give Art the same feeling of… comfort? Happiness? … Love? Well, he wasn’t sure exactly what that feeling was, just that he only ever felt it around Valen and or eating these sweets.

Yelping softly at the sudden poke in the ribs, he pouted for a second before giving a small smile and shrug. “You must be blind if you think I’m too skinny. Mother says I look fine,” he shot back, mock heat touching his words. Even as he said this, the prince could feel that horribly cold grasp of memories best forgotten- as though they never happened, grip his chest. But a smile of ease was on his face and he seemed in good spirits.

"No one can know. Do you understand, Arthur? You can’t tell anyone. It’d ruin the family and any chance at the throne for you. We’ll keep this between us and get you a bodyguard."

That curt one-sided conversation had decided what path Arthur would take. It confirmed that it had to stay secret but also that he needed to find release in another manner. So, he did. He was a resourceful child who’d been through hell and back during that one year. There was one thing he knew better than anything at that point in life and, if he did things right, his skill would continue to grow as he grew.

It as that night that Prince Arthur changed. It was that night that the torture plagued him night and day became his own sort of salvation.

---

Smile. Face relaxed. Body somewhat slack, no outward signs of his mounting distress. A perfect prince. Arthur the friend. Push past that sad look shot his way.

“Thank you, Valen. I genuinely appreciate your offer but… I am better suited as a Prince I think. I’d be hopelessly pathetic trying to be anything but what I’ve been born and raised for,” Artie stated with a light shrug and lopsided grin.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Valentine smirked. “Darlin, your mother hasn’t seen a normal looking person in years,” he pointed out, golden-gray eyes alight with laughter. “Of course she thinks your fine. All she has for comparison is other rich people. And ya’ll don’t eat enough. You eat expensive, though. I’ll give you that.” Valentine walked towards the door, starting to hop on the balls of his feet impatiently. “Dude, come on. Get The Mutt out of its cage and let’s go.” The few minutes he’d spent sitting down had been enough to make him restless. He was dying to move. The sunlight and fresh air outside were calling out, just begging to have him in their grasp again. He spent a few seconds spent pretending to leave without the prince, doing the whole Restless Mom™ routine. But when he turned back around, he froze. Artie was smiling That Smile. The one full of broken glass underneath. It looked all genuine and chill, until you made eye contact. Then, you could see him screaming.

“You’re doing the thing again,” Valentine sighed, his mood darkening. He pushed back the neon blue and black dreads from his face so he could glare at the prince. “Stop thinking of shitty things. You think you’re a good actor, but you’re not, Artie. Really. So stop. You can think of crap when you’re alone.” The thing was, Artie was a good actor. He’d just had such a long time to observe the prince that he noticed the slightest shift in posture or catch in his breath. There was something dark in his best friend. Val didn’t know what it was, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. “Okay, enough deep talk.” He decided. One didn’t poke a snake with a stick if one didn’t have a taste for pain.
Valentine fished a silver wolfsbane joint from out his pocket and lit it as he waited. “Come,” he urged. “Take a drag out of this, man. It makes all your problems go away.” It did. Sorta. Technically, it was only supposed to get werewolves high. He had absolutely no idea why or how it worked on him. All he needed to know was that it made him stronger, faster, and it smelled great (sorta like mint and chocolate at the same time). He took a deep breath, inhaling the delicious smoke, and Reset. The worry lines on his face went away as the smoke entered his blood stream. A truly carefree, youthful smile appeared on his face, making him seem ten years younger than he actually was. He didn’t appear to notice the strands of gray hair which instantly made themselves known in his otherwise coal black mane.

“You’re wrong, by the way.” The bodyguard said. “You would be a fantastic stripper. Storms, I’d play to see that…” Valentine smirked as he pulled a scarf from his bag and tied it around his hair. He didn’t want it falling over his face in the next two hours or so. Whenever they took the horse out, Artie would ride it and Val would run beside them. Yeah, the bodyguard would beg for mercy after a couple miles, but it was a great way to shake some nerves off. At the end of the run, Val would be left gasping and chocking for air. He loved it.

Plus, it stopped him from worrying too much. When he was with Artie, there were no landlords threatening to kick his family out, or having to think about what Derek would do when people found out he thought weird. His dad wasn’t dying of some unknown illness that nobody had a cure for. The pond where the village drew their water from hadn’t been poisoned. And most importantly, he didn’t have to think of what he did to stay ahead of bills.

It was just him and his best friend.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
The faintest of snorts slipped form the prince. It was true enough that his Queen Mother was always around Lords and Ladies, so her perception of other types of appearance wasn’t at the forefront of her mind. But really, besides that she refused to see any of her family as unhealthy. Even with all their money and status, if an illness hit too hard they’d die. So, they simply weren’t allowed to be ill, in any manner.

Eyes began to soften as he watched his beloved friend pace. His restlessness was always amusing to watch, like a cage animal itching to be free. Once it was, it was truly a beautiful sight to be held. So distracted by this he was roughly jerked from his thoughts by the bodyguards' words. The words were hard and clearly frustrated. For Valentine to see past his carefully cultivated trick that he gained after his kidnapping was a tad unnerving, of all people it was preferable that it was him but still.

As Val pushed his way past the ‘deep talk’, Arthur was grateful and intrigued by what he was smoking. He’d seen other Lords smoke various things but this one looked different from those. Shaking his head, he gave a small smile and wave. “No thanks, Val. I’ll pass,” he muttered, eyes flickering over the change of hair color for a second. Opening his mouth to comment on that, his words were cut off as he choked on air.

‘A stripper?! Seriously?’ Arthur thought in horror, face flaming red. The Heir to the throne did his best to not judge others but that particular occupation was so not in his future, thank you very much! Uh, nope. Without a word, he strode to the pen and released his beloved Nyra. He was so done with this conversation.

Swinging up onto his stead, Arthur clicked his tongue and trotted her out of the barn. “Let’s get going!” he called over his shoulder before urging the horse into a gallop towards the thick forest.

A brilliant smile spread across his lips as the wind blew through his hair, eyes twinkling with excitement. Free. This was what it felt like for him. God’s, if only he’d never have to go back to that stuffy palace where he had to wait on others. Think of them and do whatever they wish to please them and keep their fragile alliance.

---

Unbeknownst to the teenager, several years later life would be very different from now. Carefree rides through the forest and long conversations with his bodyguard Valentine would be a long-faded memory. A wall would be built high above all those around him and the darkness simmering under the surface from his childhood kidnapping would be a weapon he used often.

“A marriage of power, you say? You have quite the confidence in even suggesting such an idea to me, Princess Kitra. I’ve had many women ask for my hand in marriage, offering my kingdom more power and knowledge. Now, tell me why I should give your small kingdom even a sliver of my time?” a cold voice questioned, tone low but otherwise calm.

Dual colored eyes glowed with contempt, as they peered down at the women who’d pulled him aside at his own Ball. His advisors insisted that this particular ball he chose a wife and so far not a single woman here satisfied him. Though he kept that no woman could ever satisfy him to himself. ‘What could you possibly offer me that those frivolous women before you haven’t, hmm?’ King Arthur, known now at the ‘Artisan of Blood’, thought with a sneer.

Breathing out, the woman straightened her back and looked him directly in those cruel hate-filled eyes. The woman’s aura was dangerous and her sky-blue eyes glinted with her undeniable intelligence. “Your Majesty, I have little to offer your Kingdom. I shan’t deny that. That said, I do have something to offer you solely. You are known for being merciless to your enemies. While you fight well, and many believe that that is how you turn the tide of war so often. I know that isn’t the truth,” pausing, she smiled. “The information you gather while deep in the dungeons. Your 'special talks', that is how you turn the wars in your favor and I can help with that.”

The interrogation was still, after so many years a secret he held close. But, it seemed this woman not only knew about it but could help him improve it?

“I see. I believe we have a lot to discuss if we are to forge a proper alliance with one another… Kitra. There are still tests that you must pass to have marriage be put upon the councils table but, from what I can see you should pass those with flying colors,” the King murmured, an easy smile touching his lips.

A year from that time, Arthur Quentin Silas and Kitra Elizabeth Kalvin married.
 
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Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Val snuffed out the joint and took off after Artie with a loud whoop. With the smoke coursing through his veins, he felt invincible. It was much easier to keep pace now, as he pushed his body to go faster and faster, never tiring. There was a point he actually passed the horse, racing a head of it with an inhuman grace and ease. Of course, there was nothing graceful about him when he turned around and stuck his tongue out at it. The Mutt could suck it.

His victory was short lived. When Val ran, he didn’t look at the ground underneath him. His whole body, mind, and soul was focused on one thing. Forward.

So, of course he tripped on a root. The storming thing had sprouted out of nowhere and wrapped around his foot, nearly sending him plummeting down. He was thrown by his momentum and only a couple seconds of incredibly undignified stumbling helped him regain balance. “Hey, at least I didn’t fall,” he wheezed. “Third time today,” he admitted, sounding rather sheepish. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to live life as if it was your last day on earth.

In perfect honesty, he wasn’t usually as reckless when he ran. Even the dash from the village had been careful, his fall timed so the children would catch him. He’d hoped if he ran as fast and hard as he could, his body crying out in pain would take over his mind. And he wouldn’t have too think about the look Artie had thrown him. The wolfsbane he’d smoked hadn’t been quite enough to block out the disgusted horror on the prince’s face when the word ‘stripper’ was mentioned. Would Artie look at him like that if he knew? Would he be repulsed?

He did what he did so he could pay for food. Rent. Beatrice wanted to go to school, and it was really far away, so there was that to pay for as well. Maya wanted to get married. Yeah, his job was shameful, especially for a man. After he was done, he spent a great deal of time hating himself and swimming in suicidal thoughts. But it brought food to the table, and that was all it mattered.

Speaking of things that matter. It was strange, how easily he tripped and lost his balance. Maybe the smoke was affecting in ways his dealer hadn’t told him. From what he could tell, it was a short, explosive burst of power, and then he was left winded and clumsy. Frowning, he fished the joint from out his pocket and chucked it into the forest. He’d been on it for a couple weeks, and little accidents kept happening. “Okay, well that was the end of an addiction,” If it interfered with how he did his job, then he couldn’t do it any more.

“Sorry about that,” He glared at the horse, which seemed to be mocking him. “Like you could do any better,” he growled. After a few seconds of breathing in air and trying to get the rest of the smoke out of his system, he set off again. He was considerably slower, but could still keep easy pace beside Artie’s Mutt. He even ran more carefully, pacing himself rather than bursting forward with everything he had.

“So,” he huffed as he ran, “What’s wrong with strippers, man?”

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*A couple weeks before*

Valentine slipped out of his house, debating the morality of what he was about to do. Underneath the long, crappy cloak, he wore clothes She’d told him to wear. They were tight and revealing to the point it made him uncomfortable. This is for Bea, he told himself. This if for Maya, and Nico, and Derek. She paid well. He’d had Bea do the math for him, and if he worked for Her six months, all their debts would be payed. Bea could go to collage. Maya could get married. Derek would get special education, and he’d be able to pay for his father’s medicine. And Nico…well, he’d get drawing supplies.

Speaking of drawing, Nico had helped him unknowingly. Val had asked his little brother to draw the symbol of a tsoulus slave on his neck. She had ordered it. So he did it.

He reached Her door and knocked loudly, three times in quick succession, praying to the gods for strength in the next hours. Looking back, he would need all the strength and dignity they were willing to give.

The door swung open silently, and in its frame, She stood.

She
held herself like she could get anyone and anything to obey her will, be it man, beast or god. Dressed in leather from head to toe, riding crop in hand, Her platinum blond hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. She was light skinned, and light eyed, with a solid frame and a warrior’s stance. And there was one more thing She was. She was his master.

Taking him in as hunter would her pray, She smiled a cruel, feline smile. “Valentine,” Her voice came out as a seductive purr, gray-green eyes lighting up wickedly. “Come in, pet.” Valentine obeyed Her, slipping inside. “I’ll take the job,” he said, trying not to let the disgust slip into his voice. He was shaking, not knowing whether it was from fear or cold. She dragged the riding crop down his neck and stomach, watching for reaction. He tried not to flinch, to keep still, to be submissive, as She wanted him to be.

“I see we have a lot to work on,” She smiled.

That was the night Valentine became Her sub. Her pet. Her scratching post. That was the night he crawled back home, feeling used and humiliated, but with enough money to feed his family.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
As the prince rode his concentration on riding faster and away from his princely responsibilities was broken by the man running beside him... tripping. Now, Art found that highly unusual. The bodyguard was far from a clumsy man, though from the earlier stumble in the stables those who did not know him would say otherwise. But Arthur knew Val, he knew he was strong and swift, almost graceful. The earlier fumble was an accident that wouldn’t happen often at all. So as he slowed his horse Art gazed at his friend with some concern.

After watching the male throw his drug away, he silently hoped it would stay that way. Whatever that was it wasn’t good, that much he could tell. At the question Arthur frowned and slowed Nyra down until she stood still.

Deep within the forest now, his caramel brown and pale blue eyes scanned the trees. Chirping sounds of the songbirds floated around them and he absently patted the horses neck, before climbing down. The soft snapping of twigs underfoot seemed to echo as it sounded off in the otherwise quiet group of trees. Summer was just around the corner and even this deep within the forest you could feel that seasons’ heat building.

Exhaling, the raven-haired prince eventually addressed his friends’ question. “I don’t see anything wrong with strippers, Valentine. I just don’t approve of myself as a stripper nor the reason’s that are often why someone becomes a stripper,” his voice and words even, followed by the slightest shrug. “The reasons that cause most people to become strippers anger me. No one should have to lose that part of them when they themselves don’t want to… Or to have it be taken by someone they aren’t in love with.”

Reaching up, Arthur pulled out the ribbon holding his hair in a loose braid, carding his fingers through the dark hair. ‘Innocence shouldn’t be taken against one’s will. Whether it be a child’s innocent view of the world or someone's body.’ The young man thought firmly.

Once either was gone, it could never be erased. A part of them would forever be scarred and darkened. How that individual dealt with it is up to them, but in the princes’ opinion no one should have to ‘deal with it’ at all. Sadly, many did deal with it and there was nothing Art could do. He couldn’t even keep himself from having his innocence taken away.
---

‘"Please, stop!" A boy's voice cried out, backing into a corner his arms held up in defense. New blood and lash markings covered his arms, the rest of his body soaked in old dry blood. Bruises of various stages littered the thin frame. Dirt smeared his body, infection clear with some more visible wounds.

Approaching slowly, a large figure in a black cloak glared down at the child. Disgust evident in his brilliant green gaze. "How pathetic. You are worthless. Now, you better shut your mouth before I sew it closed!" he snarled, throwing the whip to one side. Lunging forward and he took the boy by his thin shirt, lifted him on the ground and promptly shoved him against the closest wall, blatantly ignoring the scream of agony. Whether the man had forgotten about the newly carved words upon the boy's back or not… well, either way, he wouldn’t care.

"You are nothing, you are my slave and will be forever. I will make sure you know this for the rest of your life," the green-eyed male hissed, leaning close to the boy's tear-stained face. With his free hand, the monster of a man pulled out a dagger, which glinted in the dim light of the flickering torches about the damp cell.

Then without warning, the knife cut into the child’s skin- slowly, achingly, and horrendous screams of the child tore through the still night.
~~
Hours upon hours passed with the boy being tortured, the screams slowing dying off only because his voice wore out. Tears stopped flowing because it only made things more painful.

“I’m tired now, Little One. A pity I have other responsibilities to attend to come morning. I’ll have to wait all day before I can return… Do rest up,” the voice eerily calm, while tinged with glee. Then satisfied for the time being the man sheathed the dagger and walked out of the cell, stripping his outer blood-stained clothing as he went. These few pieces of stained clothing would serve as the boy’s only source of warmth.

Laying on his back, the burning feeling that raced throughout his skin and bones body was suffocating. Squinting glazed-over dual-colored eyes stared at the cracked brick ceiling up above him. The torches had mostly gone out by now and so his sight was rather bad and only getting worse as the nights continued on like this. For the most part, he felt like death warmed over, he couldn’t move even a centimeter without feeling like shards of glass are being sliced against his skin. What did he do to deserve this? How could his body continue on like this? Shouldn’t he long dead by now?

Dizzy, so dizzy. As his stomach growled for food, he couldn’t help but allow a tiny cry to tumble from his lips. God’s. The hunger pains mixed with nausea and burning… It was unbearable. When would he be rescued? By the time they find him, would he even be sane?

“A… Art-Arthur… Q-Quentin.... S-Si-Si… i… Silas. P-Prince… of-f… G-Gailux. I-I..I’ll surv-ive… this…” Words whispered through struggled breathing. This would keep him together, he had to go home. His family, his best friend, his people needed him, right? He couldn’t die yet, not here.

---

“Have you noticed how wonderful the air is? The smell I mean, of the forest?” Arthur murmured, a genuinely loving smile tilting his lips upwards. Kneeling, he brushed his fingers against the soft grass. Clean. Fresh smell.

Since Arthur returned memories of that place overtook his closed eyes when he slept. While he hated that, it did help him keep his appreciation for the fresh clean air that he breathed daily. So, that was a good thing.
 
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Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
As soon as they entered the forest, something visibly loosened in Valentine. The man took a deep breath, as if he’d spent a life time breathing in smog, and this was his first lungful of fresh air. Here, he was in his element. All around them, everything was connected. Life and death thrived hand in hand, keeping the natural order of things in check. And within all that, magic had managed to wave itself in, its threads visible wherever one looked.


Pixies chattered in trees and birds sang as loudly as their petite lungs allowed, in constant competition with the stream nymphs which were murmuring nearby. Sunlight filtered through the golden and purple leaves, painting the entire forest with a warm, orange glow. “Thank the Stormking,” Valentine breathed, leaning against the nearest silver trunked tree. As soon as he did so, a small faery sat down on his shoulder and started talking in his ear, asking him his opinion on her new rose petal skirt. Valentine assured her she looked divine, before focusing on his charge, a brilliant smile lighting up his features.


Unbeknownst to him, his golden eyes glowed with a light of their own, the way wolves’ eyes sometimes did in the dark. Nobody had told him about the strange effect, blaming it on the lighting or their own drunkenness. But after a good couple years spent with the prince, Artie should have caught on that there was something eerie going on. Being surrounded by so much life and magic awoke something within him. He saw and heard far better than he did in the city, and could sense things no one else could. It was one of the reasons he was Artie’s bodyguard in the first place. He instinctively knew when they were in danger.


The bodyguard zoned back in somewhat guiltily, realizing Artie had started talking and he’d missed some of what he’d said. “I just don’t approve of myself as a stripper nor the reason’s that are often why someone becomes a stripper,” Valentine met the prince’s eyes with his own golden gaze, trying to push down the relief at Artie’s words. So the prince wouldn’t hate him. He smiled then, feeling as if someone had taken a huge clawed hand from out his heart. “The reasons that cause most people to become strippers anger me. No one should have to lose that part of them when they themselves don’t want to… Or to have it be taken by someone they aren’t in love with.” At that, Valentine raised a thick eyebrow. “Says the guy who will lose his virginity in an arranged marriage,” he teased, punching him in the shoulder. “Of course, that’s assuming you’re still a virgin…” Valentine looked at him questioningly. They’d never talked about that stuff before. The bodyguard talked about his girlfriends and guyfriends all the time, but he never went in depth. For commoners, hooking up was just hooking up. There was nothing more too it. And people got sold into marriage more often then not, usually for a cow or two. “Funny story, “ he started cheerfully, realizing he didn’t actually want to know whether Artie had fucked anyone. “This one time my cousin came over, right, and this woman, sh…”


Valentine’s hair stood on his arms and the back of his neck, drawing his attention to the sudden quiet. The faery had disappeared somewhere, and the river nymphs were nowhere in sight. The entire meadow had gone silent, save for his own booming voice. The body guard slowly moved in front of the prince, silently drawing the two long swords he’d strapped to his back, and widening his stance. “I call the fur if it’s a bear,” he whispered to Artie with a grin, adrenaline shooting through his veins. Nothing better to draw attention away from an awkward moment than a good fight for one’s life.


There was an ear-splitting screech from the nearby tree, and Valentine slowly looked up to be confronted with a Harpy. It chewed at the body of a faery, looking very self satisfied. The poor thing was still alive, and the rose petal dress was unmistakable. “Plug your ears,” he shouted at the prince, narrowing his eyes. The thing about harpies was, they looked inoffensive, right? A naked woman with clawed feet and hands. Dumber than a sick dog, and uglier than anything else one had ever seen. But. They sang beautifully, much like mermaids. And, also like mermaids, they had developed a taste for human flesh. The only difference was, Harpies had wings. With one graceless bob, the Harpy dove down from the tree, its filthy claws extended towards Artie’s beautiful eyes. Valentine managed to swipe at its feet, causing a cascade of black blood to start flowing down upon them. While it seemed quite peeved, the Harpy came back at them, again, going for Artie. It took him a while to realize the prince didn’t have a weapon, which was the only reason the beast kept going at him. He tossed one of his swords in the prince’s direction hilt first, so Artie wouldn’t get impaled.


The Harpy suddenly veered off course and headed for…the prince’s horse. Cursing like a sailor, Artie’s bodyguard leaped up, grabbing onto it’s wounded leg and brought it down in the dirt. He slammed it down like a sac of potatoes and plunged the sword down through its chest. Blood spurted out, staining him from head to toe. “My mouth was open,” he complained loudly, spitting the vile blood to the side and wiping it away from his eyes with his equal dirty coat sleeve.


He looked up at Artie and then at horse, which looked either really scared or really constipated. “Remember this moment the next time you try to bite my fingers off,” he told The Mutt, flicking some of the beast’s blood in its direction.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Magic in itself was fascinating to those who didn’t have it. The strange warmth and power that it radiated was almost God-like. If one wanted to see or feel magic all they had to do was wander into the forest and it was all around them. Invisible to the naked eye but undoubtedly there. No matter how long Arthur lived, no matter how often he visited the forest, he would always find himself filled with childish glee. From the colors, creatures, and feeling.

Opposite colored eyes fell on the pixie and bodyguard as they spoke in soft tones. What a cute sight. The tiny brightly colored pixie beside the gruff large man… Curiosity and concern briefly flashed through the prince’s gaze as he took in those glowing eyes of Valentine’s. Since they were young those eyes seemed to glow at various times, also during certain emotions.
Art could remember the first time he swore that other boy’s eyes glowed golden. A trick of the light, that was what his father said. Still, once the prince was curious about something he had to have it solved. So determined, he researched what could possibly cause eyes to glow gold. Deadends were hit constantly. None of it seemed to be the reason, Art did not know why but, when he read it he automatically denied it being that reason. Eventually, when he was in the middle of a research project on dragons for school, a thought occurred to him. ‘What if the reason wasn’t human?’ With that thought in mind, the child looked deeper into mythical creatures and magic.

It was a while after that that while he found certain creatures that could have a human form and those instincts Val had, more options were in the darker side of magic. When he realized that he stopped looking if it were to come out that his best friend was some sort of dark creature he’d lose him. So he put the research away and refused to seek answers anymore.

As Valentine teased him, Art rolled his eyes and very maturely stuck his tongue out at the bigger male. Yeah no. He was not going to be baited and most certainly wouldn't touch the subject of his own… virginity. Glad as his friend started to big up yet another amusing family story, the young man’s guard was down. Watching as Val interrupted himself and then changed his stance, Arthur just nodded slightly at the others dibs on potential fur while realizing he was empty-handed. Shit. He had instinctively gone for his sword usually at his side, just to find air. Of course, Art would forget that of all things.

A strange tingling feeling coursed through him and he took a small breath, even his emotions. Losing control was against the rules. There were many rules he was given by his Father but, one most important out of all of them was that he couldn’t lose control. Ever since the King rescued his son all those years ago, for some reason the man was almost obsessive that Arthur kept his emotions in check. For what reason Artie did not know, all his Father would say was that the boy had been found in a lake of blood, bodies of the enemy strewn about- each body mangled beyond recognition. The prince had no memory of what could have happened to them, found from when he woke and found that out; blood didn’t scare him and for some reason whenever there was a large amount of blood nearby for whatever reason, Arthur could swear that he felt stronger or even like adrenaline was rushing through his veins.

Shaking his head, the prince cursed his absentmindedness. Harpies were the top of his annoying list now. Dodging the especially ugly creature, he was quite relieved as one of Val’s swords was tossed to him. After catching it, the annoyance decided to head for another target; successfully making Art relieved and horrified at the same time. Fear appeared in his eyes as it lunged for Nyra. Yet, it barely started in that direction when low and behold his trusty bodyguard caught it and promptly killed it.

“Thank the Gods!” Arthur cried, a grin breaking across his face. Moving over to Valentine he gave him a lopsided grin. “You saved Nyra, thank you. I know you two hate one another.”
Shaking his head, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket- teacher insisted he had one on him at all times, something about being prepared for a Lady in distress or whatever. “You really got it on ya. Guess it’s a good thing the waterfall is close by, we can get you washed up there,” he murmured, wiping at the black blood on the guard's face and around his mouth. This would at least keep any more blood from getting into the poor guys' mouths… hopefully.

Remembering himself, Arthur flushed and pulled away directing his attention to his beloved horse. “You young lady better start treating Val better after this. You would’ve been harpy food otherwise,” he warned her, as he walked over and patted her nose.

Taking her reins, he glanced at his friend and motioned for him to follow. Then he led the way to the nearby waterfall, gently brushing the vines that started to appear in their way to the side. The vines were long and dark green, with the flickering of golden when you moved it. Stepping out into the clearing where the waterfall pooled, the prince grinned. The water was as clear as crystal and other than the spot where the water hit the rocks as it fell, the water was shockingly still. There were bushels of flowers lining the edge, with silver flowers that only blossomed when the moonlight rays touched them. As they opened a glowing bits of diamond could be found mixed among the pollen.

This was his favorite place to go at night, it was also where sometimes unicorns came to graze. As a child, he’d stumbled across this place after one of his night terrors, one that appeared after being rescued. Finding this area he’d been sobbing and the purest looking horse approached him, comforting him and driving those terrible memories away. Sadly, as he’s gotten older the unicorns came less and less. Though Arthur would not say it aloud, he knew it was because of his dark choices. No longer was he a child who had his purity taken by force, he was a young man who’d chosen to walk along a darker path. It was no wonder that they stopped coming.

"Strip and get in the water to clean off," Arthur said to Val, as he stayed a safe distance away from the beautiful but frightening water. Water held bad memories for him now. Once he went into a lake with his siblings after his return, he'd taken his shirt off as the reactions to his scar was... unpleasant. From the nagging questions to the looks of disgust.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
The bodyguard paused above the harpy’s motionless form, his body still surging with adrenaline. “That was kinda disappointing,” he admitted, wiping some of the ichor out of his eyes. “I sorta hoped the bitch would last longer…” That really had upset him, for whatever reason. He kept seeing the moment he’d slammed the harpy down play out before his eyes. It had been an epic slam, but two minutes of slashing at its legs weren’t quite deserving of such a gesture. “Does that bother you as much as it bothers me?” he asked the prince as he took the handkerchief, starting to walk. His clothes dripped with the black blood, which was starting to eat at the leather, speaking of the creature’s demonic nature. He wiped away the last of the blood from his face an hands, fearing for his skin and his Mistress’ reaction to finding it destroyed.

He’d wanted to draw it out longer, really enjoy the last moment of the fight. Maybe his Mistress’ nature was starting to get into his head. “Well that’s fucked up,” he muttered, not realizing he’d spoken out loud. He feared for his body because his Mistress owned it, and he was starting to turn into a sadist because he spent every night in Her presence. The prince’s voice blessedly interrupted the slope he’d been about to go down.

“The Mutt is a girl?????” he demanded, conflicted surprise entering his voice. He glared at his nemesis, not quite sure whether to drop the brawl because he didn’t war with ladies, or some gentlemanly shit. “It’s not too late to turn her into human food,” Valentine reminded the prince, deciding he wasn’t a gentleman. “She can still be a salami.” The though of taking The Mutt to the butcher pushed the fight down in some lower level of his mind, for him to stew over unconsciously.

From behind them, there came a monumental crack. Val turned around, his golden eyes widening. The Harpy’s body was in the process of being swallowed up by a tree. Huge roots had curled around it, and the motionless form was slowly but surely getting devoured by a hidden mouth somewhere deep in the foliage. Before the prince could turn and look, Val was gripping his shoulders and helping him along, out of sight. Mimics were rare in this part of the woods, and they posed no threat, being scavengers rather than hunters. They were a gruesome sight, however. This one was ripping the harpy apart, nomming at its flesh loudly. The crack had been one of the bitch’s bones.

He spent the rest of the walk with a hand on the small of the prince’s body, pushing him to walk faster. He hated mimics. One had been pretending to be the celling of his house at one point and fallen down on them, starting to eat them. His brother had broken his leg trying to get out and was still addicted to his pain meds. Walked with a cane to this day. This one had been fed and wouldn’t try to attack, even if it wasn’t a monumental coward. Mimics only ever fought when they had been starving for years and would die without food. And, they were a messy fight. Part of his job was knowing when to engage and when to not. The prince wasn’t directly threatened. So they just kept walking.

They reached the waterfall a few minutes later and Val released a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding. Just the thought of Artie seeing the Harpy’s mangled body made him sick. As far as he knew, the prince was a light of innocence. He didn’t want to change that. Yeah, the bitch had died before his eyes. But a little blood was nothing compared to empty eye sockets (mimics, for some reason, really loved eyeballs) limbs twisted the wrong way and ribs piercing the skin. “Sorry,” he said awkwardly, removing his hand.

Val took in the surreal beauty of the glistening water, afraid to taint it with his ichor covered body. He watched the lake, his golden eyes filled with amazement. Compared to the horror which lay behind them, and the even bigger horror which waited in his Mistress’ dimly lit dungeon, the peaceful lake seemed like the stuff of dreams. “Wow,” he said, his voice choked with wonder. “Like, dude, wow.” This looked like the kind of place forest elves had parties.

“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you…” Val said absentmindedly, still gaping at the forest’s beauty. The flirt caught up with his brain after an awkwardly long time. Too late to take it back, gotta roll with it. “Shit. I mean…Yeah.” He pulled the shirt over his head, not knowing what else to do, and completely forgetting about the number She’d done on his back with a whip, a week before. It was at the point Her punishment had stopped hurting, but it could still be clearly seen, places where the whip had broken the skin having trouble healing. He was facing the prince, however, and She was graceful enough as to leave his front unmarked. It wasn’t like she hurt him often. Only when he displeased her. Last week, he’d shown up late. He’d been out drinking with his buddies, and missed half their session. He’d deserved that one. Plus, She’d gone easy on him. Allowed him to kneel and brace himself against a wall, for one. Hadn’t made him count out loud either. He hated it when she did that. She’d only given him like, twenty strikes anyway. His hair covered most of them, so it was all good. He was more worried about the marks on the back of his legs and ass, which was why he didn’t take his jeans off. It was hot enough that he’d dry off by the time they were back in the village anyway.


Val sank into the lake, careful not to turn his back to the prince. The ice cold water rushing to meet him had not-so gently reminded him of the marks. A soft hiss escaped him, golden eyes glowing. Quickly untying his hair, he let it drape itself over his back, covering the stuff. “Join me,” he called out after a few minutes of scrubbing at the black blood, and trying to get over how frigging cold the lake was. He was standing bare chested, in all his muscled glory, black skin glistening as he swam up to the edge of the water, gesturing for the prince to get his skinny ass inside. “Dude, come on,” he smirked. “It’s much harder for me to protect you when I’m in here, and you’re out there. Plus, I wanna see ya wet…” That last one slipped out before he could stop it. His dark skin made it impossible to blush, but if he’d been as light as Artie, he would have turned red like a little bitch. Val still didn’t know whether Artie liked it when he hit on him or not. The prince knew Val was in love with him. Artie had overheard him talking to Bea a few years before. They were maybe about…fifteen. So that was that. Val hadn’t hinted he wanted, or needed Artie to feel the same way, afraid deep down the prince didn’t reciprocate.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
The touch of his bodyguard and friend wasn’t exactly uncommon, not to mention that the prince was used to being touched in some manner. From his mother’s gentle hands carding through his hair to clasping hands of other royals in greeting. Minor and major touching was a part of his life. That said, being touched even innocently, by Valentine made him feel… warm. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy it or the attention that the other male gave him continuously. The spotlight was always on a royal, but it was different with Val. It was a sort of attention he craved day after day, and during the times they weren't together he longed for it.

Feeling that strange warmth fade as the larger male pulled his hand away, Arthur covered his faint disappointment and focused on the amusing reaction of the warrior. “If you can’t find me in my normal hideout, you can find me here. Now that it is Summer of course,” he muttered as he took a seat on the grass beside the water. During the Spring he had another place he enjoyed to slip away to, while Winter was far too cold. Art liked the cold and spent days out in the gardens dressed in far too thin clothing but, even he wouldn't risk coming out here. Too much of a risk of being lost or stuck.

‘Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you’ Echoed in the gentle princes’ mind and he ducked his head, cheeks heating up. Trying to focus on anything but his strengthening feelings and embarrassment at how much he was blushing, his sense honed in on the gasp. Eyes flickering to the guard, he had to hold his back his own gasp.

Wet. Glistening. Gorgeous. With the dark blood washing away in the clean water, Arthur had the utmost pleasure of seeing exactly how handsome his friend was. The rippling muscles, battle-scarred body, and the inhumanly glowing eyes. Everything about him screamed inhuman. The prince could certainly see why the Lords and Ladies spoke so much about Valentine, how they couldn’t break their gaze from him.

The teasing was endless when it started, something that Artie always found lightening. Of course, the slip here and there did not escape him. Still, until today the prince never really acknowledged it. He never outright rejected his best friend but, he never commented either. It was easier to avoid any miscommunications that way. Now, however, he felt like he wanted to try and explore those feelings and the rumors that danced around the two men.

Biting his lower lip lightly, he shrugged to himself. A swim wouldn’t hurt. Right? “You’re lucky the weather’s just getting hotter,” he shot, a grin on his lips. Standing the prince took off his clothing, folding it and setting it to the side. Shaking his head, he hoped he didn’t catch a cold before wading in. Cold. Ice cold. But nice. Much nicer than other pools of liquid that he’d been in before. After he got a bit farther from the edge, he dove headfirst into the crystal clear waters.

Opening his two toned eyes, he smiled with his mouth closed, even with the murkiness of the blood that washed off his friend the water was still very clean. Swimming deeper and deeper, the prince grasped a shiny glint buried in the sand and he yanked it out. With it in hand, he swam upwards, breaking through the still surface with a gasp. He could hold his breath for some time, but his lungs had a tendency to ache quite a bit afterward. Breathing shakily, he swam closer to where his feet touched the ground.
Once there and his breath slowing, he raised his fisted hand out of the water and opened it. Two small gems twinkled softly, both a beautiful golden. Smiling, the prince began to think of the perfect gift for his friend with these beauties. “They match your eyes,” Artie mused, looking up at Valentine with a grin. “Beautifully mesmerizing, like yours as well.” This time he did not blush, feeling completely unabashed at his compliment for his friend.

Using his free hand, the young man brushed his wet hair from his face and returned his gaze to the sparkling jewels. A sword? Nah. The bodyguard has those. Jewelry? True the dark-skinned man wore necklaces but… No, not quite the right idea. Well, what about rings? Too easily lost and most nonroyals didn’t seem to care for rings, other than women of course. ‘Seems too… feminine for Val.’ Art thought with a sigh. ‘There has to be something! Could it be put on his armor?... A possibility. Oh, what about something for his hair? Beads for his hair? Maybe… Dunno if that is possible with these though, they’re pretty tiny.’ The prince thought furiously, zoning out.

“I mean… Beads? For a courtship gift? Gah. Sounds so lame!” Arthur blurted hitting the water with one hand. One… Two… Three. Eyes widening, he very slowly sunk down until only his nose up was out of the water. Shit. What was he supposed to say now? If he didn’t say anything Valentine could take his words as him wanting to court some noble or whatever. But if he told him he was wanting to court him!? Who knows what trouble that could cause; trouble Art wanted no part of.

Deciding, the prince shifted and waded a little away from the larger male. Yes, Artie knew that Valentine had strong feelings for him. Still, better safe than sorry. Almost achingly slowly, he rose so he could explain himself clearly. “Erm, um… So… You see… b-beads. With the gems…. And uh, well. Would you possibly, kinda sorta, be against a courtship…?” posing the question in probably the least elegant way possible (something he’d no doubt be scolded for if eve his mother or teacher found out), Arthur then realized he didn’t add to whom. “Ah, a c-courtship. I mean… with me?” Prince Arthur would never ever admit to him barely squeaking those two last words out. Never.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
It was so incredibly easy for Artie to set Val off. What had done it this time? Seeing him bite his lip...Val genuinely put in the effort of looking away. He studiously examined the plants on the edge of the river, totally not watching the Prince's movements. He didn't notice the way Artie meticulously folded his clothes. All of his clothes. The Prince didn't stop at jeans, the way Val had. But then again, Artie's clothes cost more than ten copper pieces. Val could always buy another crappy pair of jeans.

Yes, good. He was focusing on his pants rather than Artie and his gorgeous ivory skin, and his lovely mismatched eyes, and the grace to his movements, and oh storms the man was bloody beautiful..."Storm me..." The guard watched the surface of the water, awaiting anxiously for Artie to resurface. Part of it was duty (what kinda guard would let his charge drown???) but most of it was purely out of selfish reasons. He w a n t e d to see Artie wet. He wanted to look at the Prince's flushed skin, red from cold, and to run his fingers through the Royal's hair. And then there was so much more he wanted to do to him. Things he dreamt about unconsciously, but never fully dared to think about, fearing he wouldn't look at Artie the same way. Things he'd been wanting for longer than he could remember.

And now his head was full of them, even as he Waited for the Prince to resurface. If his Mistress could see inside his head now...she'd whip his ass so badly.

She'd made it perfectly clear. He was not to be with anyone else. He was not to engage in a n y t h i n g with another. Because 'your pleasure is mine alone'. Not that she gave him any pleasure, but the intent was there, he supposed. Yes, she beat him, and yes, she fucked him while he was tied up and gagged. But after she had her fun, she sorta treated him like a human? Made him sleep and fed him, bound his wounds so he wouldn't bleed out on her carpet. That sorta thing. He actually got in a real weird mood when she did that. Confessed to everlasting love and how she was the most beautiful person in the world, or some crap. He'd even proposed to her once. Looking back, it was probably the adrenaline rush coming down real low and fucking up his brains. He hated her with such a passion that only the thought of his sibling pushed him through her door night after night. She got into his head, that was all. Somehow reduced him to something inhuman.

Val's thoughts were broken up by the Prince, who, by some heavenly mercy, burst through the water just at the right moment to steer his mind away. He gasped out, water streaming down his face and messing up his hair. Val couldn't help but laugh with delight, swimming towards his charge. "Dude," Val smirked, splashing the Prince. "You looked like a majestic fish down there. Maybe you're secretly related to mermaids, or some shit." He wanted to reach over and grab Artie. To do what, he wasn't sure. There were so many right answers. Pull both of them down and see who could hold their breath the longest, or swim the farthest. Just hold him, and ask about the word carved in his back, so the Prince couldn't get away without answering. Or kiss him, the way he'd been wanting to for years. Put a hand in his hair and one under his jaw, tip his head just so....kiss him long, and hard, all passion and no breaks for breathing. He'd had so long to fantasize about it. So many late nights spent with someone else's limbs entertained with his own, but still wishing for Artie. So many men to practice on, so many people that always came short, in the way Artie never would.

And then the Prince opened his palm, revealing two of the semi-precious stones lying on the bottom of the lake. They were glinting in the sunlight, shining with a dull golden glow. "They match your eyes,” Artie said, with a grin so gorgeous it took his breath away. “Beautifully mesmerizing, like yours as well."

Damn! The Prince had slipped that one in real smooth. His Artie could be a damn good poet someday. Val watched the Prince as he slipped in thought, going to some far away place the bodyguard knew he wouldn’t be able to reach him. Even so deep in thought, Artie had a royal quality about him. Who knew that even in the middle of a lake, holding rocks, his hair plastered to his neck and back, Artie could still look like a prince. He made everything else around him just a little more elegant, simply by b e i n g. Over the years, his calm nature had even managed to tame Val a bit. Where before he’d been reckless, thinking of only the very next second and saving no thought for those around him, now, Val had learned to move around him and keep energy for after a fight.There was a difference between going forward with everything one had, throwing their whole being into one move, and pacing oneself. Truth be told, if it hadn’t been for Artie, Val would surely have killed himself by now. Burned out in one, brilliant flash. If there was one thing he would be forever grateful for, it was the other man’s presence in his life.

But then, Artie was talking of a courtship, and it was like everything around Val turned gray. He made a small, choked noise at the back of his throat he hadn’t known he was capable of making. Suddenly, it felt like the whole world was spinning out of control, the ground having been pulled from underneath his feet. Here they were, surrounded by happiness and laughter, yet the prince was thinking of courting. Of being with someone else. Intellectually, Val had known this day would come. He’d dreaded it, with every bit of his being, praying to the gods each night that the deadline would be pushed away. That he’d be spared the pain for one day more. Maybe this was his punishment for selling himself. The gods had chosen to kill his heart, the way his Mistress killed his soul.

Almost as if knowing the anguish his words had caused, the prince suddenly slipped under the water, making it so only his eyes were visible. “You’re bound to run out of breath like that sometime,” Val smirked, pushing every bit of humor he had into the giant chasm the prince had opened up in him, hoping to fill it up before it broke him. He couldn’t see it, but the drug which hadn’t yet left his system tried frantically to fight off the wave of desperation and agony Artie had started, and in its efforts to do so, started eating away at his hair’s natural colour, turning some strands an eerie snowy white.

“You can court whomever you want, Arthur,” Val shrugged, trying to keep the chill out of his voice. “It’s the privilege of the prince after all. I don’t think it’s my blessing you should be asking for, as much as your parents’, eh?” He’d died. He’d just died on the spot. But then Artie was asking for a courtship with h i m, and Val suddenly forgot how to breathe. Hell, he forgot how to stand. How did people walk? He didn’t know, but he must have managed it somehow, because suddenly, through no conscious thought of his own, he’d picked up Artie and hugged him. “You scared me,” he mumbled in the Prince’s hair, his poor heart, which had been beating like crazy for the past five minutes picking up the pace even more. “You bastard, you scared the bleeding hell out of me…” Yeah, that wasn’t the ideal response to his charge. Not in the least. But the next thing he did made all the years of wait worth it. He kissed Artie. It was a desperate, rough kiss, which spoke of a lifetime of anticipation and fear that the Prince wouldn’t want him back. He’d had so long to imagine this, perfect it in thought. He held the Prince tight, afraid that when he let go, after the moment was over, all would go back to normal. All would be just as it had been before. And he wasn’t ready for that. He didn’t think he’d ever be ready.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Time ticked by, beat after beat. Arthur watched and waited for a response, taking note of the other man's words and waiting to see the moment when Valentine realized exactly what the prince was saying. The delay before the answer. During these few moments, it was astonishing how slow timed seemed. Thoughts danced around his muddled mind and he found he couldn't really hear them. Like, he knew they were there and probably screaming insecurities and how he was foolish for wanting to be closer to the larger male. But for some strange reason, he simply couldn’t process them, so a sort of silence fell over his mind.

Even as his nervousness grew and eyes stayed locked upon his protectors moving lips, the prince heard nothing.

‘...Scared me… Bastard… Hell…’ These very faint words touched his ears just as he found himself engulfed by the dark-skinned man’s arms. Lips curving into a smile, the prince slid his arms around Val, eyes closing as their lips met.

This was different, Arthur tried to think of a word or more to describe this feeling. The softness of their pressed lips, that ungodly squeezing of his heart, the cool skin against his own. No words came to mind. Everything felt as though it stood still, flawless like a painted window on the palace stone walls. The feelings were in a jumbled mess, each so strong that they overlay one another and at the same time was too much to comprehend. Artie was far from an experienced young man, especially towards the feelings of the heart; his own or others. That said, maybe… This could be what love is like? There were various stages and relationships but this kind of love was many wanted and yearned for, unlike family or friendship.

Finally unable to keep this up much longer, Art very slowly pulled back from the delicious lips of his guard. Breathless, with adrenaline coursing through him, all Arthur could do was grin. No careful elegance to it, like when he faced court. No happiness held back, keeping his smile small. A large unrestricted grin. He genuinely didn’t keep like he could stop, even with his breathing heavy and knowing that it would be far easier to stop smiling so he could catch his breath.

Eyes bright and expressing his storming emotions; happiness, excitement, and love. The prince blinked in surprise at the numerous strands of hair that were brilliant white. Was that always that way? No… He was positive that was new. Maybe a change he had done very recently? Nope. Artie would’ve noticed right away. Well, it didn’t seem like a bad thing- certainly wasn’t unappealing. Putting it to the back of his mind, for now, the prince refocused on getting closer to Val.
Readjusting his arms to drape around the larger male’s neck, Art pressed their bodies closer and nestled his face into the crook of his partner’s neck. Partner? Lover? Well, that could be figured out at a later date. For now, his eyes fluttered closed and he breathed in the bodyguards' scent; his own body relaxing and feeling much looser than they had in some time.

The prince couldn’t help but wonder if they could stay like this forever, runaway and never go back. He’d never ask Valentine to leave his family or friends behind, so Art could stay in the village with them. Other than Jules he had no true friends. His family… There were good times, no doubt. But the bad times were only growing and his dear siblings- whom he hoped to never go up against, were beginning to start their true lessons in vying for the crown. Though he’d prayed night after night, he would find competition for the throne and when they really found their voices the vying would not end until Arthur fell. The dark truth about being royalty was simply that you could trust no one.

Briefly, he felt himself tightening his hold on Valentine but once he realized he loosened his arms once more. No. Right now he could be happy, here with Valentine. Breathing out against the warm skin he couldn’t help himself and he smiled, giggling softly. As long as he had Jules he would be alright. There was no need to worry about trivial things like that, compared to what was happening at this very moment.

Taking a breath, he steeled his wrecked nerves. "I... I love you, Valentine. I'm sorry it took me so long to figure that out," he whispered, putting all his emotions and honesty in his words. After everything that happened as a child, he never thought he'd feel truly safe or... loved, again.
 
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LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
**Offical timeskip to present day**

Arthur is now 36, ladies and gents! xD
~~~

“Streams of blood flowed down pale skin, as a hand clutched onto a blood-red longsword. The sword could be considered as mystifying as its wielder; from the way the entire sword was blood red but emitted a dull glow of magic, to the fact that if looked at closely, (not that any of its victims it's so far faced has ever gotten the chance) the blade it constantly dripping red liquid. If it weren’t for death befalling anyone who got too close, the knowledge that the hilt of this strange weapon was connected to a flowing stream of blood- which comes from the wielders own slashed arm, would be news that would shake the realms to their core. But, this would only ever happen if one simply survived… Something that has never happened, if faced by the one known as Death’s Mask…”

“Come off it. You truly want us to believe that such a monster exists?!”
a gruff voice scoffed. Rolling his eyes, the older retired warrior gave the young bard a look. “I’ve been alive for fi- ah, doesn’t matter how long. Either way, I’ve never come across such a beast! Nor have I heard of one like that,” the older man, Harrison, shot back with an unimpressed look.
The bard Nettle- whose names changed depending on where she was at the time, huffed. “I know that they exist! I’ve seen them!” she pressed, nodding to the barmaid who poured more delicious mead into her mug.
Arching an eyebrow, a younger man made a noise of disbelief, “Woman, you just said that no one has ever lived to tell this tale of yours. How could *you* survive?” Durni pointed out, receiving calls of agreement around the inn.

Opening her mouth to no doubt put more of her foot in said mouth, any words ready were stolen away as a few gold coins were tossed upon her table in front of her. Sky blue eyes snapped up to the patron with a cheerful ‘thanks’ ion the tip of her tongue, but it faltered when those eyes fell on the gifter and suddenly her throat felt very tight.

Dual eyes glowing with dark amusement, felt as though they were peering straight into her soul. All she could do was nod, taking note of the eerie silence that had fallen over the entire inn.

“That was an entertaining story, Miss Bard. I insist that when you gain the time you come by the palace and enthrall me with more of these fictionist stories of yours. I’ve not been so… honored, in a while with such wonderful images. I’m sure three nights from now should work? I shall see you then,” voice steady and rich laced with cool formality. Then without giving the red-headed bard a chance to respond, the man dressed in commoners clothing and a dark cloak turned and stepped away from the table. Eyes swept over the others in the inn, all of which averted their gazes, before making their way to the door. Gloved hand raised and brushed against the dark wood before pausing and the figure cast a glance over their shoulder to look the bard once more in the eye.

“I will be sure to send an escort to the inn you’re staying at, Marie-Anne Jindar. Oh, I apologize. I mean, bard Nettle. Please, try not to leave until after you see me,” words quiet, but echoing in the silent tavern and easily reaching its recipient. Then they left the tavern without another moment of hesitation.

“W-Was that...?“ Nettle, whose real name was Marie-Anne choked on her words. Turning her watering gaze to the old warrior, she looked at him with broken hope. What she received was a grave sigh.
“Yes. That was Gailux’s Great King. The protector of our kingdom, once an artisan with almost limitless imagination and- and kindness. Now, though… I suggest you heed his words. For if he knows your true name, then he knows everything about you and specifically about those you care for,” his old voice deep and rumbling, and eyes darkened as they gazed at the faintly trembling female bard with sympathy.

---

Meanwhile, the smell of dirt mixed with the metallic scent that permeated the air. In the bright moonlight, a dirtied black-bladed sword was sheathed, as it’s owner stood over the cooling body of a thief.

“A pity. I was just in a good mood after hearing that spectacular story too,” drawled a mockingly sadden voice. Looking over at his steely-eyed guard, the very man whom those in the tavern feared, smiled. A smile of tight annoyance. Without a word, King Arthur walked swiftly away from the body and to his nearby dark gray stallion named Isfet- sadly, Nyra had died many years ago and since then Arthur has taken in many horses but never cared named them or get attached, until now.

Swinging onto his stead, he didn’t bother to wait for his escort to do the same before clicking his tongue and heading towards the palace and place he called ‘home’.

---

How many years since his bodyguard and once lover left his side? How many since the once light-filled prince became King? When was it that he started to break? That the darkness and despair in him began to spread uncontrollably? How long since he gave in and allowed it to change him for the worst?

Eyes fluttered open, gazing into the darkness of the bedchambers he slept in. Beside him was the woman who had the same sinister mindset as him. She was fast asleep, undisturbed and quite frankly uncaring to what was going on with the man she married. Blinking rapidly, the king swiped at his eyes, hating the salt tasting tears that fell without his consent. Tears did nothing. They did not help, if anything they made things worse. Feeling restless, the man pushed the sheet away and climbed out of bed, not taking any measures to be careful. After slipping on a cloak, Arthur left the room with his cloak billowing around him.

Blatantly ignoring the guards falling in step just behind him, the male headed straight for his study and one of his only sanctuaries aside from the area far below dungeon level. Pushing open the double doors, he continued to his desk and there he took hold of a sheaf of parchment. This was the information on the ball Arthur was hosting the next day; it started late morning and went on into the night. His counsel had insisted that he hold the ball; as the last time he held one for the people below nobility status to attend, was a few years after his coronation. In truth, the King knew this was more so that his siblings whom he sent to the far reaches of the kingdom- after their last secret conversation about the throne, could return.

“The elders are fools if they believe that I don’t know about their hopes to ally themselves with one of my dear siblings. If they want the crown so badly, then they must take it from my cold dead hands!” Arthur snarled to himself, parchment crunching as he closed the hand holding them into a fist. With that thought in mind, King Arthur successfully distracted himself from his previous overwhelming pain and tears.
~~~~~~~

Isfet~ (meaning: injustice, chaos, or violence)
 
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Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
All was still for a long time after the noble left.

Golden eyes watched King Arthur from behind a dust covered window, narrowing after the man swung up on his horse, leaving a corpse behind. No doubt, whichever unfortunate boy had the early morning shift would also have the bad luck of discovering it.


Julian was sitting at a rickety table which had to be at least fifty years old. It was covered in ancient stains and scribbled over with lovers’ names, as well as a few rather gruesome drawings. As for him? He was holding a chipped mug of steaming tea, scanning the bar. It was quite the funny contrast. Here was a man at least half a foot taller than everyone else in the bar, built like a house, enveloped by shadows and silent as a ghost, with huge dark cloak drawn around himself. He was sitting peacefully with a cup that smelled strongly of oranges and cinnamon. He'd been there for the better part of an hour, watching the prince. And what he’d seen chilled him to the bone.


He hadn’t wanted to believe the rumors the bards brought back to Lir. For the better part of five years, he’d pushed down every blood-filled story, song and tale people told him, telling himself it was a fabrication. They were being overly dramatic, adding flourishes were there shouldn’t be. But now here he was, having been a witness to the prince’s unnecessary cruelty, and trying to understand. He’d once known Artie better than he knew himself, anticipating ever mood, gesture and word. Julian had come back for his childhood friend, the man who’s entire being was touched by light and kindness. He’d gone to war for Artie, killed for him. The man had been willing to suffer any abuse, take any blow for his prince. But instead of finding the man he’d longed for in those past ten years, he discovered a cruel, vicious creature which killed people in cold blood and scared bards for entertainment. He felt sick, watching Artie. No, not Artie. King Arthur Quentin Silas. That’s who his beloved prince had become.


When they’d been young and filled with life, Julian hadn’t thought he needed to pray for Artie to become a better king than his father. He’d thought it was a given. There had never been even the smallest doubt in him that once King Richard left the throne, Artie would lead right. Now, he wasn’t so sure.


Tossing a couple of copper coins on the cracked wooden table, Julian drained his remaining tea in one swing and left the empty cup on the table, next to a clumsily written thank you note. After a year or so filled with struggle, the man had finally taught himself how to read and write. Before, whenever he needed to figure out if someone was screwing with him, he’d always asked Artie to read contracts and such. Ten years away from the prince had taught him he needed to be independent when it came to such things. So yeah. He could read now. And sorta write. He was still messing up that last one, as his huge hands hadn’t exactly been made for wielding thin pieces of wood. He ended up breaking pencils more often than finishing a letter.

Julian walked out of the bar, just in time to see Artie and his new bodyguard take off. His heart gave a painful squeeze upon noticing the man at Artie’s side, where he should have been all those years. If he hadn’t left, would the king have taken such a wrong turn? Was that replacement bodyguard his friend, as Julian had been? Could the man read Artie the way Julian had been able to? He was torn between rooting for the new bodyguard or against him. On one hand, he couldn’t bear the thought that Artie had been alone for so many years. On the other hand, he didn’t want to know if he could be so easily replaced in the prince’s heart.


Before he could start spiraling, Julian kneeled over by the dead man’s side, closing his eyes and muttering a quick prayer over him, asking the Stormfather to forgive the man’s sins and to welcome him into the afterlife. Afterwards, he pressed a silver coin into the man’s hand as was customary when someone passed, and slowly climbed to his feet, the weight of what the prince had become in his absence finally starting to make itself known. Instead of letting himself dwell on it, he gave a sharp whistle, golden eyes turning towards the dark woods behind the bar.


From between the trees bounded a huge, furry form, knocking him over with a loud screech. The animal was large and covered in a shaggy coat, that looked like it wasn’t sure whether it was made out of feathers or hair. It was the size of a well fed bear and had the face of an owl which no matter what time of day it was, failed to look wise. “Tiny!” Julian snapped, not even trying to fight the humongous monstrosity. “We talked about this! Down!” The owlbear, most commonly known as a B-owl, removed itself from atop his chest, making its displeasure known with several ear-splitting screeches. Julian climbed to his feet and shook the dust off his cloak, noticing with exasperated annoyance that the Bowl’s razor sharp claws had left a multitude of holes into it. “This was a good coat,” the man snapped, picking up a big piece of fabric from the ground and waving it in front of the Bowl’s face. “You’re paying for the next one, Tiny!”


No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stay mad at Tiny. He’d raised the Bowl ever since it was small, when he’d found it wounded and surrounded by a pack of snarling wolves. Despite his best efforts to release the owlbear back in the wild once it was big enough to hunt and defend itself, Tiny always found her way back to him. She’d once torn down an entire bar in an effort to find him, much to his horror. Julian had decided that since he couldn’t dump her, he might as well find a use for her. So she served as a makeshift horse now. Julian had never liked horses. They were too big, but skinny at the same time. And the hooves somehow always ended up hitting you in the face. Tiny was reliable. She was huge, and furry/feathery (he wasn’t sure), and warm, and basically his only friend.


Pulling out a hunk of raw meat from his bag with a pissed off huff, he tossed it to the Bowl and watched as she devoured it hungrily, grumbling as he took of his humongous, now ruined coat, and folded it, stuffing it in his travel pack for later use. While it couldn’t be used as clothing anymore, it would make a good blanket for the Bowl. One thing Julian had forgotten was how cold the weather got in Gailux. As soon as the coat was off, he started shivering violently. Tiny threw him a look, as if even she could see he wasn’t being very smart. “You’re warmer than the coat anyway,” he grumbled, climbing on top of her and sinking into the soft purple fureathers which covered her from head to toe. “This is your fault,” he muttered, urging her to move forward and after the prince. Tiny slapped him over the head with one of her ears, as if she could divert the guilt from herself that way.


And then the great beast took off, her entire body moving with a grace unexpected from something twice as big as a carriage (complete with horses). She ran, faster than any horse, crying out into the cold night air with a blood curling shriek, her mouth still full of bloodied meat.

@LadyDovahkiin -> Here are the edits.

Julian slid off Tiny’s back, giving her a grateful pat. They were right near the palace, under Artie’s old room. Once upon a time, the bodyguard had spent hours on end throwing stones at the Prince’s window, giggling like an idiot when Artie stuck his head out. They would talk for hours about nothing at all, just because they could. Julian had never wanted to go into the prince’s room after dark, just because it felt too…personal. Like that was a boundary they would never be able to go back on. The guard had been terrified they would run out of things to talk about and be left in awkward silence until he left.

Now, looking up at the Prince’s window, Julian experienced the same feeling of anticipation. The ride to the castle cleared his mind, bringing several things into light. First, no matter how much the prince had changed, Julian owed him a visit.

He hadn’t the guts to see him for five years longer than necessary. Fifty-nine months he’d spent doubting, fearing for his own ability to stay cool in the man’s presence. At first, it was a certainty that if he saw the man’s wife, it would break him so bad he wouldn’t be able to get back up. But then, it had been anger. He’d gone to war for Artie. Did everything he could to prove himself worthy. And then the royal had gone and married some other bitch, tossing their love aside like it was garbage.

Maybe that’d been the plan all along. Get Julian away from the prince. Or even better, get him killed.

A flash of pain struck him at the thought, bleeding him from the inside. No. I’m better than this, storm it! I promised myself I’d stay impartial. His job had been simple. Go back to the castle. Let Artie know he wasn’t dead. Drop by home. A two-step plan. And he’d already stormed it up. What was he doing under the prince’s window? Why was he there, with his heart in his throat, a handful of pebbles at the ready? They were no longer young boys. Artie was a king. Hell, he was a king. Valen-Julian dropped the rocks with a pained sigh, shaking the dirt off his hands. What were the chances Artie still slept in that room, anyway? And even if he did, that bitch would be there too.

Turning away from Artie’s window and back towards the woods, he put two fingers to his lips, preparing to whistle for the Bowl to come back, when a dirtied, ripped up piece of paper flew in his face, blown by a gust of cold autumn wind. Quick as a snake, he snatched it from mid-air, turning it towards him with a flick of his wrist. Right up there in silver-blue letters and elaborate designs were the letters “ROYAL BALL”, along with a date. Tomorrow’s date, if he wasn’t mistaken. Oh, that’s just stormin’ perfect.

“Guess I do have to get that new coat after all, eh, Tiny?”
 
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LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
The palace was decorated beautifully. From the beautiful foreign painting’s upon its walls to the exotic plants hanging in steel chandeliers in the middle of the corridors. Statues in alcoves along the walls and the shining floor beneath a dark rich blue carpet rolled out throughout the halls. Torches were unlit but the black metal holders were wrapped in green vines which had flowers still on them.

Then you had the ballrooms, not a scratch could see seen and the chandeliers had candles lining the three large rings. The three glass double doors in each of the two rooms were open wide to the gardens, on either side of the door tied back with silver string was snow-white curtains. Tables with drinks and light food were placed against one of the three other walls, each table hand-decorated by Queen Kitra. The theme was silver and white; white table cover, silver plates filled with food, and vases of icy blue roses.

The flowers were originally not there but Arthur during the night added them, having been restless but not caring to torture anyone at the moment. Not to mention as a child and up until his coronation, he was the one who did the decorating for balls, festivals, important council meetings, etc. After being crowned King he was too busy getting used to the crown and then he married Kitra… She was extremely vocal in it being her doing the decorating and that Arthur had no feminine taste and that it took a woman to appeal to the tastes of others- for once Arthur didn’t bother arguing and let it go. Besides, whether or not the King had gone down to his torture chambers and let go a bit of anger through some blood letting; well, that wasn’t to be pointed out.

With the gardens there were rows upon rows of flowers; statues or various Gods here and there, in the very center was a large stone fountain. Farther inward was a large hedge maze with pockets of stone benches, marble gazebos.

---

As the ballroom and gardens filled with chatter and drinks were being offered; Lorelei, Kai, and Preta all stood in the ballroom in one corner. Each had their own true reasons for being here and each had a noble house backing them up by inviting them here in the first place. Normal tradition would be the King sending their invitations but after what happened eight years before their relationship with the current King was precarious at best.

“I’m curious about this Queen of our dear brother. The rumors about her are… interesting, to say the least. The two work well together and have a strong but icy front when standing beside one another. The council has been insistent on grasping for friendship with Kitra,” Lady Perta of Ouen muttered, a look of faint disgruntlement settling on her face. As the youngest she was spoiled often by the former King and Queen, attention she got more than plenty of, yet without the responsibilities of being heir, she wasn’t disciplined as Arthur, Lorelei, or even Kai. But having married a Lord much older with pockets lined with gold; she lived a lavish life, though she made it obvious that she wished for more power.

Shaking his head, Prince Kai found for not the first time that how his parents raised him and his siblings as wrong. Too lax in certain ways and too strict in others. Really, with such different styles of how everyone was treated, it was no wonder that none of them got along, that there was no love lost.
“That’s enough, Petra. If anyone close to Arthur hears you… Well, he doesn’t want us here as it is. It’ll give him a good reason to exile us… again. For good this time,” his tired but clearly trying to mediate voice muttered.

Ignoring her other two siblings entirely, the eldest of them- Princess though just recently turned Lady of Zolbern, turned her gaze away and to King Arthur as he spoke with some commoners. As heartless as the king acted much of the time, when it came down to it he could be pleasant to talk to. Nothing near warm but still, not threatening and always radiating for blood. It was these times that he showed what a skilled actor he could be.

That said, Lorelei had to speak with Arthur, she needed to mend things. Was it for selfish reasons? Yes. Just not selfish for the crown or power, but for her own guilt. For promises made and broken.

---

Finally, after hours of mingling and acting almost but not quite- warm towards guests or differing ranks, Arthur broke away from the crowd and headed into the garden; bypassing couples, groups, and the occasional singlar drunkard. Sadly, not far behind was Kitra, determined to follow him and keep her hawk eyes upon his every movement. Not to mention Arthur had a feeling he was going to get a lecture about something, anything that he was doing wrong.

“An alliance. Power shared, half and half… Pfft. What a seriously bad joke,” Arthur growled to himself, eventually giving in once they entered the maze and gotten a decent way, did he stop to face his Queen and Wife. “May I help you?”

Queen Kitra, formerly of the Kingdom of Shivria but now Queen of Gailux gave a somehow graceful snort. “Perhaps. First of all, we had an agreement about the decor. I suggest that you keep your ideas to yourself from now on,” voice laced with a warning, “Secondly, I insist as the other half of this partnership that you try to be more pleasant towards your siblings. It won’t help my image if my husband is that cold towards his own blood. My parents are here and don’t approve!” she hissed, irritation in voice while the way she spoke was as if she spoke to a child.

Arthur… did not approve. “If your parents have an issue with how I treat my family then that is their problem. May I point out to you that the fact that you have blatantly ignored anyone of below nobility is not helping our image? This ball was hosted for everyone and if you continue to treat them as though they don’t exist it will cause problems in our kingdom?” His words shot out through ground grinding teeth, dual colored gaze reflecting his hatred of her and this whole situation.

At first, before and after the two married things went well and in some cases it was still working. Gailux had prospered and alliances are strong, even with Arthur being known as a King of death and no mercy. It was because of the couples' power and their intelligence in their own right. Arthur was stern and calculating towards those who would dare try to defy him, and Kitra was the shadow with endless contacts. Buit after so many years of hidden power struggles between the two, things were cracking and quickly.

Of course, that was actually the least of their concerns and issues…

“I would also love to remind you that the Gailux people are still expecting an heir to be born!” Arthur dared to touch the one subject that could ruin their entire night.
“How- You- God’s! If it weren’t for you we would have at least one!” Kitra screeched back, body shaking with rage.
Scoffing, Arthur shook his head a frigid smile spreading his lips, “Don’t even go there, My Queen. There’s a perfectly wonderful child sitting locked away because you can’t accept them being the heir.”

Undiscovered by the world, a child around four-year-old sat in a cottage far from people’s eyes or ears. The child’s name was Tirion and he was the firstborn of the King and Queen but, so sickly that the Queen refused to acknowledge it as heir. The only way she could get Arthur to argee was if they had another child but so far, that had yet to happen.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Valentine was clutching the solid outline of the dagger hidden underneath his coat, his entire body full of barely concealed tension. All the people around him strode around in their finest clothing, hair freshly washed and styled, nails painted in crazy colors, just to impress the king. It was surreal, how different these people could look after a shower. There was One Eyed Errick, with his fancy eye patch and good coat, sitting in the corner and chatting up the ladies with a drink in hand. Valentine had forgotten the man had hair; he always hid it behind a horribly dirty beanie. In the middle of the room was Ms. Maisel, dressed in a beautifully ornate emerald dress which cascaded from her hips, making her look like a flower. Conveniently close to the exit was Patrick, the village’s womanizer. But that was it. The rest of the people were all foreigners, their faces and stories unknown to Valentine.

If he’d stayed behind, he would know who those people were. It was one of the things he regretted the most. After he’d come back, he’d seen how easily the village had moved on without him. His childhood friends had grown up and left for the four winds. The elders had all died or were hidden away in the dark pits of their homes. None of his family was still here, save for one of his brothers. The rest had fled the new kingdom, terrified by their king and Valentine’s own absence.

The bodyguard hadn’t made his presence known to his brother. He’d watched Daniel from the shadows, his insides turning into a writhing knot of pain when he saw the people shying away from him like he had the plague. The village had, at last, found out about his thoughts. About how loud noises and lights were unbearable for him, and that he thought differently. They thought it was contagious, the idiot folk. It was Valentine’s fault. If he’d stayed and protected his family, none of this would have happened. Everything would have been all right. He would have aged together with Artie, and gathered enough money to send his siblings in a better place. They would have been together. All of them. And by leaving, he’d stormed everything up.

So there he was, dressed as elegantly as everyone else in the room, wearing a traditional Lirian cloak. It was long, coming almost halfway down his thighs, and covered in beautiful designs, which curled around his arms and bloomed on his back. Flowers, gods, clouds and mythical creatures could all be found embroidered onto the gorgeous black cloak. His looked amazing. Hell, he looked like a king, with his neat haircut, fancy clothing and confident stance. Too bad he didn’t feel like one. Underneath the coat were hidden three knives, two daggers up his sleeves, and tucked into the waistband of the fancy jeans he was apparently supposed to wear was a pen with a poisoned tip. Yeah, it didn’t seem like much, but one jab of that thing was enough to knock someone out for a good twelve hours.

Why all the weapons, one might ask? Simple. He was feeling so outclassed that he surrounded himself with things he knew. Weapons were an extension of his own body, so much a part of him that when there was nothing around, he felt like he was missing a limb.

He followed the prince around with his eyes for a long time, wondering if Artie’s gaze would land on him and he’d be recognized. It would be nearly impossible for it to be so, but in the end, it had been nearly impossible for Artie to turn into such a terror, yet there he was. Valentine was so deeply changed, he wondered at his own family’s reaction upon seeing him. Gone were the dreads he’d been so damn proud of. Gone was the tight clothing he’d been so fond of wearing. Even his eyes had changed after he’d stopped smoking wolfsbane and switched to normal cigarettes. They were no longer a silvery-gold, instead having changed into a deep, honey color. Or so he’d been told by Kirian.



*Ten and a half years ago. The night before Valentine left*

They were both lying curled up around each other, him and Kirian. Valentine was stroking soothing circles on the man’s back trying to comfort him as he cried. Kirian was a huge man with dark red skin and cobalt hair which fell down all the way to the small of his back. His eyes were silver pits. No pupil. Just silver. He also had horns and a tail, as was expected from tieflings. His only problem was; he was stunningly beautiful. The teenager was well built for someone who’d spent their entire life as a slave and despite being in the darkest mental pit he could be in, he was surprisingly docile.

The golden shackles around his neck, ankles, wrists, thighs and forearms had left painful looking bruises behind as had the whip which Val’s mistress had wielded. Kirian was not Her slave. He was a ‘present’ from some other fucked up person. And she’d used the tsoulus well. They’d had to have a go at each other, both unwilling, both knowing fully well the other person was scared mindless and drugged. Valentine had ‘roughed him up’ by order of his Mistress, and Kirian had obeyed his every command, in a way that sickened them both.

At last, She’d left, and they were sitting propped up against one of her walls, Kirian’s head on his chest. As soon as She’d walked out of the room, the tiefling had broken down, uncontrollable sobs wreaking his body. It was silent crying, as if he was afraid he would be punished for having feelings if he was discovered. So Valentine did the only thing he knew. He’d wrapped his arms around the boy, murmuring that everything would be okay, that he was strong and he’d get through it. Kirian hadn’t been able to talk for a long time. And when he did, his words were held back by a heavy Greek accent, and the difficulty of talking around the piercing in his tongue. For something which had caused the other man so much pain, the piercing was a pretty thing. A delicate line of silver balls which ran down the center of his tongue. Valentine didn’t want to think too much about what it was used for.

He couldn’t leave Kirian to Her. He knew She would use the boy without bothering with consent or common decency. Hell, he doubted Kirian even owned clothing. It was Valentine’s last night, which was why She’d used both of them so savagely. Something about Her satisfying Her needs one last time, or something.

He didn’t think before he acted, as usual. That was the night he freed a slave. It broke the law, yes. But she couldn’t report it, because technically, owning a tsoulus was also illegal, even if he had been a gift. They were both lucky it was so, otherwise they would have been so screwed. Even more than they had been.

Kirian had followed him in everything after that, forever silent and by his side. There was nothing amorous about their relationship. The slave had been scared so deeply, he couldn’t bear being touched, especially by him. And Valentine himself had been longing for Artie the entire time, even after the King’s marriage.

It was Kirian who’d discovered him after he’d tried to kill himself, and it was Kirian who’d introduced him to Anthony, the demon bartender who’d helped him fake his own death. Because he was dead in a way. Valentine was. Julian, King of Lir was not. Which was why he really should have stopped referring to himself as Valentine.

*Back to the present*

Back at the ball, Valen Julian noticed Artie slipping away, and followed, silent as a ghost. After ten years on the road, he’d learned how to go unnoticed even in plain view. He stuck to the shadows and stepped silently, making sure there was nothing on the ground in front of him before he actually put down any weight.

He watched, wide eyed as Artie argued with his wife. Funny. One would have thought that married couples would only start fighting after seven or so years. Maybe these two were just so advanced mentally that they didn’t need to wait. They could just skip years altogether, and go straight to hating each other.

Before an ugly fight over whatever could break out, Valentin Julian stepped out of the shadows with a charming, calculated smile. The one that he hated. It looked genuine, but felt so fake. “Your Majesties,” he greeted, his broken voice making him sound at least ten years older than he actually was. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” That sounded like a long word. ‘Acquaintance’. Royals like long words, didn’t they?

Val…JULIAN. Julian picked up the Queen’s hand and kissed it. “My lady, I’ve heard many wonderful things about you,” he said softly. He bowed elegantly before the King. Kirian had made him practice that bow over and over again the night before, when he’d gone back to Lir for the coat. It wasn’t a long journey when you had a Bowl. It was a very well done bow. He was incredibly proud of it. With it, he looked just like any other snobby royal anyone had ever met. “King Arthur,” he said. “I’ve also heard great things! I was told I’d want to stay on your good side by many…many people.” He paused for dramatic effect. “I apologize, I’m so forgetful. I am Julain, King of Lir. I came here to formally ask for your forgiveness regarding the rather long feud between our two nations. The last leader had ideas which were somewhat rash, and not supported by the people at all.” King Julian smiled. Save for his eyes, one wouldn’t be able to tell he’d once been King Arthur’s loyal friend. Everything starting with the way he held himself and ending with his clothes had changed. The only familiar thing left were the rings of gold. “I’m hoping tonight will be the start of a long lasting peace between us, my King.”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
With the interruption, the storm billowing in their sails went out, completely. Even if they couldn’t agree on much now or later, one they would was that they had to keep up appearances. For better or worse. Arguments, glares, and possible poisoning attempts could wait. So, straightening and looking ever regal, the royals didn’t act a bit surprised at the male’s presence.

Queen Kitra smiled coolly and dipped her head in acknowledgment. Piercing sky-blue eyes did a quick survey for the man in front of her. Handsome. Strong. A powerful man for having taken the throne of the former allies of Gailux. Smart to want to redo those ties. Still.
“Tis an honor to meet you, King Julian. I’m truly glad to see that a more competent leader has been found for those people,” voice as smooth as honey, laced with terrifying intelligence. Critical of anyone who crossed her path. Never trusting the person at her back.

You see, many years before her father with no true smarts had found himself infatuated with a woman he saw as a Goddess. Victoria was her name. A poor peasant with only her looks to make her stand out. Least, that is what she used. After all, Kitra had to get her twisted personality and brain from someone and that simply wasn’t her Father. Anyways, against the wishes of those around him he courted and wed this beautiful woman. Power and money were easily taken from his control. Victoria stayed with him and eventually produced Kitra, her beloved daughter. The one person she loved with all her heart and whom she taught to be Just. Like. Her.

Mother and daughter who were a dangerous duo, no one was able to beat them or suppress them if they wanted something. That said, the phrase ‘student becomes the master’ is all too true for them. Having enough of being second to her mother… Kitra killed her. An accident according to everyone else of course, though not her. She reveled in her success.

Queen Kitra lived a lavish life now. Before, she was the daughter of a Noble with little land and even less brain.

With incredible intelligence, she could've been a scholar or found herself as a high ranked adviser. But no, that wasn’t enough for her. Marriage to a puppet king was what she dreamed of as a child. Yet, as her father fell deeper into debt and she had to manipulate those around her to do her bidding… Kitra found that her liking for being the most powerful one in the room, faded. Marriage proposals came and went, with her finding no pleasure in being questioned or challenged boring. Finally though, she found someone she saw as almost equal.

*a year before she met with Arthur and had their meeting*

Blonde hair so light it looked as though it were white, flowed flowed her shoulders. Sparkling clear blue eyes flitted over the men around the small ballroom. At Kitra’s behest- though her Father believes it to be his, a ball was hosted for the Lady of Fernworth Port. Here she’d find an older gentlemen or a young niavee lad who’d dance for her and only her.

“How incredibly dull,” the balls’ hostess murmured, a sweet smile plastered on her lips but hate just behind that warm gaze. Several hours in and she had made a mental note of many decent looking men who’d be her puppet. Sadly, she found no pleasure in this, as she had in the past. Power was what overall, she wanted but, it had occurred to her that a challenge to her authority wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
“Goodness, Kitra. You are so lucky! When my Father hosted my potential marriage ball it was so small and not this nice. The money he spends on her is astounding!” Words chirped by Kitra’s- ah, best friend was filled with envy.
As always Kitra gave her ‘friend’ a humbled look, “Oh, Catalina. I begged Father not to waste such money on this event. The Port needs it far more than I do. I told him I’d find a suitable husband and he need not worry but... “ she trailed off with a simpering smile. ‘Ugh. That fool. How dare he not get the candles I saw in the window! So what if it would pick into the town's taxes.’
Was her actual thoughts as her gaze found the tables inadequate.

Gasps suddenly broke out and feeling her fury raise at the intruder who dared to take her attentive sheep from her, Kitra moved swiftly through the crowd and bumped into the culprit. Eyes shot up and mouth opened with her usual angelic words ready to start pouring, the woman for the first time ever found herself speechless.

“Ah, my apologies Lady Kitra. I hope you weren’t hurt?” voice as soft as velvet poured from the mans'- no, king's lips. A perfect smile that just barely hid his wrath. Eyes so bright one couldn’t look at them for very long, but if you did you’d see beyond that dual gaze... Darkness and your inevitable merciless demise. “Lady Kitra?”

Finally coming out of her daze, the woman never fazed and never once thinking she could find a truly worthy man… fainted.

In a blink of an eye, King Arthur Artisan of Blood lifted the woman into his arms and with a guide’s help, carried her to a secluded room. Laying her upon the soft couch, he dismissed his followers and the servants of the household.

“I must say, you are quite the actress, My Lady. I applaud you. I really do,” Arthur drawled, having moved from her side and his facade as concerned King dissipating much like water boiling in a teapot. “You’ve wrapped everyone around your perfect gloved fingers, they walk continuously into a pit of poisonous snakes the moment they lay eyes upon you. It’s magnificent.” Standing with his back to the figure on the couch, he meandered to the nearest window, gazing out at the darkening sky.

A glint of light just barely shined in a spot on the window and with ease, Arthur turned and raised his hand. Fingers finding themselves wrapped around the slim fingers of the previously fainted woman who now held a dagger mere inches from his face. Tutting softly, he smiled slowly. Lips spread into a smile of malevolent amusement. “Come now. I’ve already gained a scar upon my face by a woman. I need not another from you,” he spoke in a sarcastic pout.
“I’d heard rumors of your… change of personality, My King. Nevertheless, it’s shocking how true those rumors are,” Kitra breathed, a cold smile of her own upon her blood-red lips. “I must return to my party, I’m the hostess after all. But, I do hope that I receive an invitation to the palace to discuss… your upcoming marriage ball. I am afraid that no one at my party has fit my standards, so I’ll be more than free to attend yours.”

Silently, Arthur nodded eyes flickering with something akin to curiosity. If such a meeting were to be held.


---

Arthur watched this King of Lir greet his Queen, elegantly. How interesting that they had another become their King. The man seemed like he made a good King, trying to establish ties with Gailux.

‘A new King yes. Pray tell, was he friend or foe? Valentine had been sent to put down the opposition there and a new King had been put in place of the old. So had Valentine succeeded before he died? Had the bodyguard and this King met? Who exactly was his King of Lir?’ Arthur thought, curiously and a bit dettached.

As the dark-haired King was spoken to about an alliance, Arthur nodded curtly. “I see. We’ll have to discuss in more detail about an agreement between our Kingdoms. Please do stay after the ball is over. I’m very curious about what you could possibly offer My Kingdom,” he voiced, words formal and distant. It conveyed two things; he’d give this KIng a chance to speak for his people but, there was no friendship available at this time. Two Kingdom speaking on behalf of their people that is all. They weren’t even acquaintances as of yet and to be more was still very much not on the table right now.

The King of Gailux, known as the Artisan of Blood did not recognize his old friend nor lover. Whether it be because of the dramatic changes in appearance and manner, or because he simply didn’t want to connect such things. Only time would tell whether he did and how he’d react whence he did.
 
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