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

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
*Five and a half years ago*

The ballroom was enveloped in a warm orange glow. It emanated from the candles sitting in wooden holders which had been carefully placed around the room. All was still; the only sound which dared to disturb the silence being a harsh, labored breathing.

Christine Drax was sprawled on the floor, wheezing as his hands clutched at the spear growing from between his ribs. A fit of coughing overtook him, black blood pouring from between his lips. He wasn’t dead; he would be soon. And yet, his features were contorted in a horrible grin, those dark unnatural eyes of his filled with unholy joy. “You’re too late,” he sputtered, tears of agony sliding down his golden skin, leaving scorch marks behind. “That’s the funniest thing here. All the sacrifices you’ve made; all you’ve left behind? It was for nothing.” The man started laughing as blood seeped from his wound and painted his expensive clothing and the ballroom floor onyx.

Valentine knelled beside the King of Lir, the sight of the man before him squeezing his heart in a painful grip. This was yet another memory which would haunt him forever. The creature which had once been strong enough to terrorize entire kingdoms had been brought to the lowest of the low. And rather than die a quick, painless death, Valentine had doomed him to a long, drawn out torture. “I’m sorry,” he breathed, forcing himself to watch Chris as the life bleed out of him. “It was supposed to be quick.”

He wasn’t used to throwing Kirian’s spear. He’d missed Chris’s heart, and the metal had instead lodged itself into his lung. “I swear on the storms, you weren’t supposed to feel anything.”

Chris’ entire body shook with laughter which served to push the spear deeper into his chest, much to Valentine’s horror. “Are you feeling sorry for me?” the King coughed, more blood finding its way up his throat and onto his ruined silk shirt. Chris was dying, yes. But somehow, he seemed more alive than ever. Unbeknownst to the guard, he was taking a savage delight in the pain he’d soon cause Valentine. “You should be…feeling sorry…for yourself,” the King of Lir choked out, the light of life in his eyes becoming dimmer by the second. He reached out his filthy claw of a hand and grabbed the front of Valentine’s shirt, pulling the bodyguard closer. Valentine moved to accommodate him, knowing fully well Chris was too beaten up to try anything. “He’s married,” Chris coughed out, his breath bringing the metallic scent of blood, mixed with cinnamon and ginger. “He forgot you…as will everyone else…”

Valentine watched Chris intently, waiting for the man’s next words, his entire body braced against the vicious blow he was sure they would administer. But no words came. It was strange, how easily life could leave. One second the King of Lir had been holding on to life with everything he had. The next, he was gone. There was no one to mourn for Christine Drax.

Valentine pried the dead man’s fingers from his collar and closed his eyes, murmuring a prayer to the Stormking, asking forgiveness for Chris’ sins, and begging for safe passage into the after life. He apologized to the dead man for causing him pain, hoping Chris would be able to forgive him.

Much to his surprise after he finished the prayer, Chris’ body started to morph, his skin lightening to an eggshell white, gorgeous chestnut-brown hair shifting to a bright red Mohawk, and maybe most sickening or all, spikes growing from his limbs. The thing which had replaced the king had a line of dagger-like pieces of bone sticking out from the back of his arms and running down the line of his spine. It was absolutely terrifying. By praying for the demon, Valentine had unknowingly dismissed his glamour, revealing Chris’ true form.

It was so long after the demon’s death that Valentine actually understood his last words. He’d spent months repressing the memory of Chris, which still haunted his nightmares. Seeing him suffer the way Valentine had forced him to. It was sick. In his dreams, Chris didn’t talk at all. He curled up around himself, gripping the spear and crying in pain, his entire body rigid with agony.

When a bard finally brought word of Artie’s wedding, it came as a shock. Storms, shock didn’t describe it. When Valentine heard, everything shut down.

*Back to the ball*

Valentine’s grip tightened on the blade he’d slipped up his sleeve as he listened to the Queen talk. The couple stood together before him, united, yet stone cold. How had Artie survived with that woman for so long, Valentine wondered. She would have driven the bodyguard to drinking or wolfsbane. Speaking of, he was aching for a cigarette right about now. It would calm his rising panic better than holding Ace would.

Ah yes, Ace. It had been maybe two months on the road when Valentine had ridden in a weapon master’s shop and made the dagger, using one of the stones Artie had given him for the hilt. The other hung around his neck resting just above his heart, out of sight. They were good luck charms of a sort. Ace had never failed to give killing blow, and Valentine suspected the other stone had kept him safe, guiding away blows aimed for his heart. Physical blows, that was. In the end, Artie had been to one to rip his heart out of his chest and shatter it. Valentine supposed the stone wasn’t about to help him with that.

And as he watched the two, he could finally feel the wall Artie had built between himself and the world. Storms, Valentine could practically see it. He was staring into Artie’s eyes, hoping to find some of the light which used to fill them. But he saw only a frigid cold, and distance. It scared him, how far down his best friend had gone. And it’s your fault. You shouldn’t have left. This wouldn’t have happened if you had stayed put. Valentine was finally standing before Artie, after ten years they’d been apart. His throat had closed up, not allowing any words past. What was there to say anyway? He was no good at talking. Never had been. Storms, his whole life was built around the edge of his sword rather than manners and politics.

Only now, it was starting to dawn on him that just by being there, he could screw things up for Lir. Yes, the position of King was merely a rubber stamp to many people, but the royals were in charge of armies and trading relationships.

He loved Lir more than any other place. It connected to him in a way this cold, wretched kingdom never had. The people, the atmosphere, everything felt…right. He was more than prepared to risk his life if it meant protecting the kingdom. But screwing everything up just by talking? That was a new kind of danger he wasn’t sure he was prepared to face. Stormfather, I pray, give me the strength and intelligence to deal with this, he pleaded silently.

Valentine took a deep breath, pushing down the sudden flare of anxiety which had bloomed in him. His thoughts hadn’t shown on his face, thanks to a lifetime of playing poker. A knowing eye would have maybe spotted a slight discomfort in the way he changed his stance, moving from offensive to defensive. Squaring his shoulders and parting his legs slightly for balance. But Artie, no, King Arthur didn’t know him. Valentine hadn’t quite realized how much he’d stacked on Artie recognizing him until that moment.

Well…if he’d learned anything from having to deal with merchants, it was to always look like you had more. Never show weakness. Make it seem like you have other places to go. He could do this. At least, he could walk out without disgracing Lir, and himself.

“I’m afraid I can’t linger,” King Julian said, his broken voice coming out soft and apologetic. “I’ve come to introduce myself. Now that it’s done, I must hurry back.” Yeah, I gotta run home and ask Kirian what in the Stormfather’s name I’m supposed to do here. King Julian opened his arms in a somewhat helpless gesture. “It was an honor to meet you both. I hope we can meet too discuss an alliance at a later date. May the Stormkin be with you,” That being said, he took another graceful bow and left.

As soon as he was out of sight, he sagged against the nearest wall, squeezing his eyes shut as he struggle to breath. “Storm it,” he groaned. If it ended up being a battle of wits between him and Artie, he would lose. There was no denying a fact, and that was a fact. The King was acting as if they were on different sides. He was cold, unapproachable even. Julian could storm everything up for all of Lir. Just because he wouldn’t appoint another to go in his place. It would have been so easy. Curse his stubbornness, and his thick-headedness, and storms, what the hell was he supposed to do?

Before anyone could spot him, he slipped away, so deep in his thoughts he doubted even a fire would have caught his attention. He was so busy freaking out, he nearly walked into a tree. “Stormfather…” he hissed, putting a hand on said tree, dragging his fingers against the alien silver bark for comfort. In Lir, all the trees were covered in vibrant violet moss and filled with leaves as green as emeralds. It was yet another thing he loved about his country. It was life, stacked on top of life. If Artie’s kingdom was silver, Valentine’s was a huge expanse of green. Hell, the only good thing about this country was Artie, but even he had been twisted out of shape, transformed into something ghastly.

His village, gone. His family, gone. His best friend and love of his life…gone?

It was much later that he would realize how royally he’d already stormed everything up. For as far as he knew, he was the only person who still prayed to the Stormkings. Valentine had been the only follower of the storm religion in his entire village, and maybe the whole of Gailux. He’d most certainly been the only one around King Arthur who’d used the Stormfather’s name.
 
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LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
“What an… odd, king. Dear husband, what do you think of this… King of Lir?” Kitra wondered aloud, glancing Arthur with a perfect regal arched eyebrow. It seemed as though all anger and scolding had diminished, with the previous conversation before the interruption having never happened in the first place. This was not out of the ordinary for the couple.

Arthur’s gaze had followed the departing King, the slightest of frown tugging at his lips. Odd indeed. Shaking his head the king turned and silently offered his arm to his wife, before the two re-entered their party.

As they resituated themselves with their guests, the King of Gailux couldn’t get the scarred King of Lir out of his mind. It was rare nowadays that that happened, being able to put others out his mind had become easy for him. Yet, for some reason this particular man captured his attention like no other. ‘We didn’t even really speak either.’ He thought in frustration. Keeping a cool facade, the male charmingly excused himself and slipped out of the ballroom and into the hallway. Facing the doors he noted that Kitra was speaking with some Lords before he pulled the doors shut.

‘Just a breather. I need to get that man out of my head!’ Arthur thought firmly, gritting his teeth together.

“Ah, Arthur Quentin Silas… It has been a while, hasn’t it?” Voice as smooth as silk, words interwoven with venom. The words themselves did not cause the chill had seemed to almost suffocate the king, rather the terrifyingly familiar voice did.
Swallowing, Arthur found that his hands had automatically placed themselves on the cold doors handles. Yet, in spite of only needing to turn the handle and push, the man found he simply couldn’t. He couldn’t move a muscle.
“Now, now. Let’s not be hasty, My Lord. I just wanted to speak with you. That is not a crime, nor is my being here. You did invite the commoners here,” words were murmured far too close to his ear, warm breath brushing against his skin.

Dual eyes were locked on his hands that refused to listen to his mental commands, then his breathing hitched as a scarred hand appeared in his vision and soon found them placed over his own hands. “What do you want?” Question asked in a shockingly steady tone; even though he felt as though he were back to being nothing but a frightened and powerless child.

"You. Always you." A soft raspy chuckle sounded and then, one of the scarred hands intertwined their fingers and Art was led to the nearest private room on this floor. The thought that no one outside of the palace should know their way around the palace so easily never crossed his mind.

-----

*Late Evening*

A black cloak billowed around the feet of the Artisan of Blood as he swept down the darkened palace halls. The echoing steps of his boots were the only thing to be heard. Farther down he went, past the cells, past the hidden doorway. Farther into the ground and away from prying eyes.

Without hesitation, he entered a small stoned room. Dried blood was on the walls and ceiling, a single table and chair standing in the middle of the room. A rolled of cloth lay innocently on the center of the wooden tabletop.

Cloak ripped off, gloves following suit, swift steps to the table, unfold the cloth. Needles. Vials of liquid. Knives of various sizes. An assortment of tools needed for his trade, each one used in more than one way. Every item was placed just so and cleaned thoroughly. Yes, perfection. This calmed the storm in him.

Arthur’s glowing gaze slowly weaved through his tools. A needle. Vial with a clear liquid. A clean cloth set aside. Ready. The only sound in the room was his ragged breathing, which began to slow as he picked up a needle and rolled it between his fingers. It was a thin but solid piece of metal. Opening the vial he dipped five needles into it. Then taking a breath, he raised his free hand and slowly began to push the needle into the tip of his index finger. Down it went until it could just be barely seen. One down and four to go. This process was repeated four more times, by the time the last one entered the veins on his hands could be seen and were pitch black.

Faintly his hand trembled with pain and he breathed out deeply. It hurt but, the important thing was that he could feel it. Careful to not curl the needle-filled hand, the King let the pain soak in for the next few hours. As dawn began to creep up, he slowly pulled the needles out. After cleaning each one, Arthur put them back in their rightful place, rolled up the cloth and put on his gloves. Willing his still throbbing black veined hand to stop trembling before he left the solitary room.

This room was made for one reason alone, torture. Arthur’s father built this room at his son’s request, bringing in only wrong-doers for his son to… hone his skills on. What the man hadn’t known was that his son came down to inflict his own self0torture at times, when torturing others did not help his cracking sanity.

----

“Arthur!” Lorelei called to her brother and king, moving swiftly to catch up with his strides. “Good morning, My King. I hope you are feeling better,” she said with a small smile.
Arthur simply arched an eyebrow. “What do you want, Lorelei?” he demanded to know, having no patience to play games with his sister.
A frown. “I just want to know how you feel. You left suddenly and then never returned to the party. No one saw you for the rest of the day,” the eldest daughter explained. Honestly, she was worried about her brother. How he changed to become this feared King and just his overall behavior was not normal. It was all that guard's fault. “Is it because it’s nearing the day that he left? Come now, dear brother. You have a beautiful and cunning wife, let that man go. Can’t you see by now how worthless he was? Father sent him away so that you could see that too-” Words stalled as the cool touch of a sword pressed against her throat. Raising her fearful eyes, she gasped at the fire burning in her King's eyes.

“Listen to me, dear Lorelei. You will not speak to me in such informal mannerisms. Nor will you ever, ever speak of him. If you even breathe a negative whisper about Valentine, I will destroy you. Slowly!” Arthur’s voice was rough and boiling with untamed rage. He could feel his magic beginning to unfurl. Right here and now all he wanted to do was cut her down. “Excuse me,” the king hissed, before turning on his heel and stalking away.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
*four and a half years ago*

Valentine collapsed into bed, his entire body aching. A day of carrying stone up a mountain to help the rebuilding of one of Lir’s monuments, had rendered him cold, tired and more than a bit depressed. The guard couldn’t even be bothered to undress. Wasn’t it sad? He was a king, a warrior, and a man, but he still referred to himself as ‘the guard’? What was more pathetic of him? That his entire life had revolved around a man who couldn’t wait for him, or that he was still hoping that it would get back on track?

There he was, on a mattress made out of hey, covered by Bowl’s blanket and shaking like a little bitch. Even though it wasn’t cold, every limb he possessed was trembling. Maybe it was a new sickness. The pounding headache, accompanied by uncontrollable shivering and a persisting need to pass out spoke of nothing else. He wanted to sleep so bad, but he couldn’t. His brain wouldn’t shut off. Thoughts of Artie, his family, and Lir swirled around his head, stealing away his ability to sleep.

He’d failed everyone. His family was most likely dead, Artie was married to some bitch, and Lir would most likely go to hell with him as king. And that wasn’t all. He’d also failed as a person, a warrior and a man. The scar which ran from his wrist and up his arm seemed to be screaming his weaknesses out to the world. Sure, he’d been in a dark place. But was Artie really worth all that? Valentine had been willing to take an arrow for the prince. He’d chosen Artie over his own family, and for what? To be forgotten. Chris had been right. The bodyguard had done too little, too late. And now everyone who’d ever known him was paying for it.

Val removed the necklace which was resting right above his heart, the stone having warmed up from his body. As soon as he pulled it over his head, he could feel its loss. The familiar weight of it on his chest had disappeared, and along with it, so would Artie’s watchful shadow in his life. He couldn’t do it anymore. Be so in love with someone who’d chosen some chick over him. Even the thought of it tore at his soul, making him wish for death. Which was why Artie needed to vanish. It was either the prince or the guard.

Val slipped out from underneath Bowl’s blanket and towards the hearth. It was raging, huge flames licking up the stone sides and devouring the wood Valentine had fed it earlier. A fire spyrate was hanging out in there, making sure its surroundings didn’t get out of control. “Hey,” Valentine said, kneeling beside the fireplace, and holding out his necklace to it. “Will ya take care of this for me?”

The spyrate was about ten inches tall, and loved to talk. Especially about how inadequate Valentine was as king. Alke seemed to hate his guts and no matter what the bodyguard did, it was never right. Even now, it was glaring at him over those fiery sunglasses it wore. “No.” the spyrate snapped, crossing its arms. “You’re rude to me. I don’t see any reason to help you. Also, the inside of your head is messy, and I don’t want to burn something you touched. What if it’s contagious?”

Valentine rolled his eyes at the spyrate, resisting the urge to pick it up and strangle it. Another disadvantage of having Alke as a house guest was that he could sense his mood. Apparently, it ‘colored the air around him a miserable shade of gray’ or some shit. “I’m pretty sure depression isn’t contagious,” the bodyguard sighed, fishing ten copper pieces out of his pocket. “I’ll pay you,” he offered, knowing fully well that if he simply tossed the necklace in Alke would make the fire avoid it. “Plus, this holds memories.” Alke huffed. “Like I want to see people getting slaughtered,” it snapped, crossing its arms.

Valentine nearly picked up the bucket of water nearby and dumped it on the spyrate. Only a spasm so violent it made him drop the necklace stopped him, running him over and stealing away any control he had over his limbs. It was several minutes of unstoppable shivering before he could grasp at the necklace again. “Come on,” he begged Alke, holding out the necklace. “Let me appeal to the pervert in you. There’s a memory of two really hot dudes kissing.” Alke actually seemed interested for a few moments. “Okay, hold up, let me see,” it said, gesturing for Val to hand the necklace over. Sighing with relief, Valentine tossed the necklace into the hearth. “Well, that’s the end of that,” he breathed, making his way back in bed. Maybe once the necklace burned, it would be a little easier to let go. He fell into an uneasy sleep afterwards, haunted by nightmares of Chris and his Mistress.

It was maybe the middle of the night when someone shook him awake, interrupting a rather graphic dream, much to his relief. Almost every time his eyes closed, he was greeted by the same horrifying images. It started out with him chained up on his Mistress’ floor, and after she had her way with him, it advanced to Chris bleeding out, every detail about the way the king had died portrayed in vivid detail.

But the warm hand which had shaken him out of the dream wasn’t Chris’, and his Mistress wasn’t lurking nearby. Instead Valentine awoke to Kirian hovering over him, a look of deep concern in his silver eyes. Travel had been kind to the former slave, taking away fear from his posture and healing the bruises and cuts he’d been branded with. Kirian had filled out and grown into a handsome man with a bright future, if he played his cards right. “I get them too,” the tiefling murmured, sitting down beside the warrior. He brushed Valentine’s hair out of his eyes, handing him a cup of undiluted wine. Custom around here was to water down wine before drinking it so you wouldn’t get drunk and ‘rape the village’. Both of them thought that was absolute bullshit, since, as Kirian liked to point out, most of the time he’d been abused, his ‘akria’ had been completely sober. They defied the law. The king could do that every now and then, couldn’t he? Especially if the king was sick as hell, somehow sweating but shivering from the cold at the same time. “I want to tell you it stops,” Kirian said, his voice breaking on the last word, “It doesn’t.”

The tiefling had been getting them for longer than even Valentine could remember. There was a time Kirian had believed his nightmares were the reality. He’d thought the time spent with Valentine was a dream, and whenever he went to sleep and dreamt horrors, it was actually him returning to reality. Valentine hadn’t been able to convince him otherwise until Kirian had fallen down a cliff and broken his arm. But now the tiefling believed, and he was holding on to the guard, telling him it would be okay. Valentine melted into his friend’s arms, grateful beyond words for the support. He couldn’t speak for the longest time afterwards, and Kirian didn’t try to start a conversation either. The guard simply let himself be held, resting his head in the hallow of Kirian’s neck as his friend rubbed circles into his back, releasing the tension which had built up in his muscles.

They both remembered the night Kirian had been in a similar position; only difference was Valentine had been the strong one back then. “You’ll be okay, akri Valentine,” his friend murmured. “You’ll be alright.” His voice was full of kindness and empathy as he handed the guard his necklace back. Save for a few singed ends, it was unharmed. “Alke didn’t want to burn it,” the tiefling murmured sadly, giving it back. “Said seeing the good memories wasn’t worth seeing the bad ones.”

*back to present*

Kirian opened the ancient iron door and beamed at Val, his entire face lighting up as soon as his eyes settled on the bigger man. “Akri Valentine,” he greeted, pulling him into a hug. “Welcome home.” Over the years, the tiefling had managed to get more comfortable around him. It was little things at first. Holding on to each other as they walked on black ice, or not flinching every time he accidentally brushed against Valentine. Then it started getting more pronounced. Handshakes, the occasional ‘bro hug’, as Valentine had nicknamed it. It was maybe seven years in that they’d tried being together for the night. It hadn’t worked out for either of them, both being overcome with horrid memories.

So they’d stuck to being friends, Kirian eventually finding the nicest boyfriend ever. Speaking of, Quinn walked into view, wrapping his arms around Kirian possessively after Valentine let go of his friend, and playfully hissing at the guard. “Get your own,” he snapped lightly, batting Valentine away. Kirian’s boyfriend wasn’t exactly human, which fit wonderfully well since Kirian himself shared the same affliction. They made the oddest couple ever. An ex-slave with his dark red skin, sliver pits for eyes, and horns. Quinn’s with his fur covered body, leaf-green eyes, feline ears and huge fluffy tail. For a half-cat, he was dashingly handsome and the proud owner of a winning personality. Also, he was so deeply in love with Kirian it was disgusting. All the two ever did nowadays was sit in bed and cuddle, Kirian resting on top of Quinn, their tails intertwined and eyes closed as they talked. Valentine had never seen a fluffier love story, but it made him so incredibly happy to see Kirian and peace that he kept his cat jokes to a minimum. Which was rather hard, considering Quinn was a freaking furry.

“I have something for you,” The guard told Quinn, hanging up his coat near the door and sliding out of his boots, much to the auguri’s horror. “I didn’t know whether you liked pink or purple so I got you both.” He pulled out two balls of yarn from his bag and tossed them in Quinn’s general direction, smirking when Kirian’s boyfriend struggled to catch them. “Remind me why he lives here,” Quinn whined, tossing the yarn at Valentine’s head. The king ducked, but not before he got a face full of bright pink threads. Kirian smirked at the two of them, draping himself over an armchair near the fireplace. “Quinn, you realize this is his house, right?” The auguri grumbled something unprintable about Valentine’s mother. “Fun fact,” the guard chimed. “She was a lesbian.” Kirian’s eyes widened. “Why is this the first time I’m hearing about this, akri?” Valentine shrugged, enjoying the look of shock on Kirian’s face. “Just never came up. She figured it out after seven kids. You’d think the first time would have done it, eh?”

At that point the fire spyrate started coughing loudly, making its displeasure known. “Nobody needs to know anything about your families, you dumb gays!” Alke was still alive, to Valentine’s extreme displeasure. “In fact, nobody needs to see ya’ll doing shit either. Valentine mate, help me out here. At least tell them to take it in another room.” Now it was the king’s turn to stare at Kirian, fake shock visible all over his face. The tiefling proceeded to die before his eyes, his dark red skin turning even darker. “Is this bestiality?” Valentine demanded. Before Quinn could strangle him, Valentine ducked out of the house laughing like an idiot. Getting Quinn mad was way too easy, and way too much fun.

But now he was alone, coatless and barefoot in his front yard. The weather still hadn’t gotten colder in Lir, and a thick grass grew everywhere one could see. Stars were out, their light shining brilliantly in a pitch black sky and painting everything around Valentine a beautiful silver. “Damn,” he breathed, filling his lungs with Lirian air. After the panicked ride back home, the laughter and warmth which had greeted him had done a lot for his rattled nerves. Lir was peaceful, as it always should be. Crickets were singing at the tops of their lungs in the knee-high grass and the forest sounds were slowly but surely calming the man down. He couldn’t let this country die. And he knew with a growing certainty that even though he didn’t want to be king, he couldn’t let anyone else take his place. Lir would transform into a money and power obsessed monarchy like all the other countries, looking for more and never satisfied. As long as he was king, he controlled the armies and external affairs. He could freeze the country in place, stop it from trying to expand, but also defend its borders. That was what they should have been focusing on. And securing an alliance with Gailux was a good start, but it wasn’t enough.

His nation couldn’t go to war. Wouldn’t. So what could they offer the other kingdoms? They had good farmland, meaning they could grow a lot of food. Forests took up most of Lir, so they had lumber as well. Valentine wasn’t willing to help fight other nations wars, so he wouldn’t be helping them with armies. Magic thrived in Lir; they could trade the service of mages for peace. And they made good weapons. Like, insanely good weapons. Castan steel was not only durable as the Stormfather himself, it never needed to be sharpened. All the knives, spears, basically every weapon Val had bought in Lir had served him for years, and still looked good as new.

As the king thought, he paced back and forth in his front yard, wearing down a path in the thick grass to the displeasure of several nature nymphs. They started cursing at him, their high voices sounding rather amusing even when they called him things which would have made a sailor blush. “You guys, help me out,” Valentine pleaded, stopping before the bush they lived in. “If you had to form an alliance with someone who doesn’t need anything you’ve got, how would you do it?” The response he got wasn’t the one he expected.

“Blackmail,” one of the nymphs called out, “or marriage. Although I doubt anyone would wanna marry a werewolf.”

Akri-male master

Akra-female master

Akria- owner

Akribos-master of my heart
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
As Arthur left his sister behind, his shoulders sagged and the flame in his eyes died away. Tired, he was always so tired. That or angry. So little ever made him happy, truly happy. His wife, the chambers deep underground, ruling. None of it brought him real joy, just frustration. Shaking his head, the King didn’t say anything as his bodyguard that appeared beside him and he continued his long strides out of the palace towards the stables.
“My Lord. The Queen requests your presence,” words coming out formal and montone. This bodyguard was a young man named Lukas, who was four years younger than Arthur. A few inches taller than his King, with pale skin and golden strands of hair. Framing soft blue eyes, not exactly blue enough to be called sky-blue. He was also just that, a bodyguard, nothing more. Neither King nor Guard have ever expressed wanting anything more of a relationship other than Master and Servant.

Today Arthur just didn’t have it in him to even try to get along with the witch. So, without a beat of hesitation, he waved the ‘request’ off. “Please inform my Queen that I’m going out. You’re dismissed from my side and are to escort her around for the day. I trust you to protect her at all costs,” he spoke in a cold tone, sarcasm dripping from the words, while also leaving no room for argument. Not that Lukas would even try, of course. Feeling done with the blonde-haired guard, Arthur entered the stables and began to ready his horse.

Content to ignore the bodyguard's response and only pay attention to when the other presence left the building, Arthur finished settling his stead. Climbing up, he led the horse named after Chaos, out of the stable and into a gallop in no time.

Away. Away from this strife and hate. From the ‘home’ that bled him of his humanity. All he wanted was to escape. So for the time being, he did.

---

A giggle, as mischief danced within light brown eyes, tinged with blue. A sneaky grin spread crossed a child’s lips and he jumped; mimicking the frog he’d found in the tall damp grass. Standing nearby with an expressionless face, was Arthur. Only the slightest glint of happiness could be detected in his hardened gaze, and that’s only if you knew him well.

The boy before him was four-years-old and for the first time in a while, the child wasn’t in bed ill. Blonde-brown hair down to the middle of his back- as it would be like a rat’s nest otherwise, and light brown eyes. This child was the firstborn and so far only child of Arthur and his wife. Yet because of his tendency to become ill, Kitra refused to acknowledge him. In reality, it was this child who began the spiral in their marriage, not that their marriage had been very happy anyways.

“Syaoran, please come inside. You’ll catch a cold again!” Arthur called to the boy, still seeming serious. If it were anyone else they’d go running and cowering. Yet, Syaoran had the gall to look over at his Father grin and continue hopping; though he did turn his direction towards the King of Gailux. That was something… More or less. Shaking his head, the man stepped inside while leaving the cottage door open and moved to the small kitchen. There he put on a pot of water, glancing at the older woman sitting at the table eyeing him.
“May I help you, Mrs. Graven?” he drawled, arching a regal eyebrow.
A scoff, “Come now. Don’t you go speaking like that to me. I’m doing you a favor staying here to watch that child.” The old woman was a widow and a feisty one at that, having no qualms about putting her sovereign in place. Well, most of the time. Even she knew her limits.
Opening his mouth to continue this light battle of words, Arthur was effectively cut off as a heavy, damp body crashed into his legs. Turning his gaze downward, he gave the child clinging to him an unimpressed look. “May I help you?” Dry. Distant.

In return, Arthur received a large grin. “Yes! Come bathe me? I’m cold!” the boy exclaimed, eyes twinkling. Somehow he was completely unfazed by his Father’s obvious icy persona. There was only one time that he acted frightened around the man and that was during a very loud screaming match between him and his Mother.

An exasperated sigh, then the boy was scooped up and onto the hip of the usually ‘do not touch unless you want your hand cut off’, king. With a slight nod to Mrs. Graven he took his son to the bath, nodding absently as the child babbled on.

A few hours later Arthur stood in the doorway of the child's bedroom, watching the slow rise and fall of his chest. After reading two books, begged into playing a song on the piano, and a promise of visiting sooner, Syaoran was finally asleep. Lips briefly twitched into the tiniest smile, “Sweet dreams, my Little Wolf.” Words whispered to the sleeping boy, as he turned away and went toward the cottage door. Vaguely noting that the pain in his fingers had seemed to vanish but now was creeping back.

To this day, the dark-haired man did not know why he named the child Syaoran- meaning little wolf, nor why he chose ‘little wolf’ as a nickname. It couldn’t possibly have to do with Valentine, there was absolutely no connection there. So, it remained a mystery why he argued so hard with Kitra to name the child that. Yes, a mystery indeed.
---
The night never ceased to amaze him. From the bright light of the moon’s rays to the nocturnal animals roaming about. Still, he had no time to admire this. Trotting through the forest, along the marked pathway, he felt eyes upon him. Eyes that didn’t belong to an animal of the forest. He’d been in such a good mood too.

Pursing his lips, the king silently stopped his horse near a river. Swinging down, he let go of the reins and watched it take a drink. With his back towards the treeline where the idiots were gathered and cloak obscuring their view, Arthur subtly pulled a simple dagger from his belt and cut along his right forearm. Blood trailed down it, a drop fell from his fingertips and then for a split second froze mid-air. Then more for it began to do this, shifting and molding.

A sword began to take form, the entirety of it made from his own blood. The blade was interesting enough darker red than the hilt, with an almost translucent look to it. The hilt was simple but, if seen close up you’d see the connection to the hilt head were what looked vines of red. Follow that and it can be found connected directly to the cut on his forearm, which continued to bleed allow blood to now flow down the sword itself.

A cold-blood smile spread across the man’s face and as he heard the group of assassin’s dart from the treeline, he turned and raised his sword.

Blood was everywhere, pools of it around cut up bodies. Soaking the earth. Standing- breathing albeit shakily, was Arthur. Blood covered his clothing and was splatter upon his face. Eyes alight with the moons light and a look of desperation. Lips formed into a shaky smile and he laughed softly, falling to his hands and knees. Sword vanished into the pools of blood he knelt in and the wound on his arm slowly started to cease its blood flow. He was pale from blood loss, hair matted with others' blood, and he felt so very empty.

Yet he stood, legs feeling like they could disappear underneath him at any moment. Arthur had to keep going, there was no other choice. So, you did. Walking to his horse, he silently clambered on and started on his way towards the palace once more. All prior happiness from visiting his Little Wolf outdone by the blood he spilled that night.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
*four years and nine months ago*

Kirian was lying on the floor melodramatically, a pool of blood gathering under his limp form, despite Valentine’s best efforts to bind his arm. “Just hold still, storm it,” the guard hissed when Kirian jerked his hand away yet again. “Why, akri?” Kirian demanded grumpily. “Your new best friend thinks I is the food, no? Maybe you should just let it eat me.” Valentine let out an annoyed hiss, tying up the bandages way tighter than he should have, much to the displeasure of his companion. “You’re such a drama queen,” Val grumbled as Kirian made a miffled noise and pushed himself up to a sitting position. “Your bear just bit me,” the tiefling shouted, crossing his arms over his chest angrily. “You know, the bear which you have been spending all the time with, and ignoring me?” Valentine made an incredulous noise, his mouth opening in surprise. “Excuse me? You don’t even wanna come hunting anymore!” Kirian’s tail wrapped itself around his leg the way it often did when he was pissed off. “Yeah, because you left me for a bear! And because we live in an actual town now. We do not need to eat the squirrels anymore.”

Valentine sighed as he started wiping away the blood which his best friend’s theatrics had left behind with a spare shirt. “Okay, fine!” he snapped. “I get it. Now, tell me the real reason you’re angry, please.” Kirian had started talking less and less to him, and leaving the room whenever he entered it. Maybe he was getting sick of seeing Valentine around. Or he was pissed off about something. Six years on the road together had made them work out all the kinks and annoying habits, but what if Valentine was doing something new which irritated the tiefling. “I is angry,” Kirian hissed, “because you try to kill yourself for a man who do not want you.” Valentine sucked in a shaky breath, closing his eyes and bracing himself. Once the tiefling started talking, there was no stopping him. “We spent five years on the road for your akribos, akri. We fought, and we froze, and we killed, and it was all for nothing in the end. Yes, it is maddening. But you do not end the life over that.” Val choked out a bitter laugh, tossing the blood soaked t-shirt into the hearth and letting the fire spyrate devour it. “What have I got to live for, Kir?” he demanded, turning around to face his best friend. “You’re okay mentally. Artie’s got his bitch wife. Nobody needs me anymore. So why am I alive?” He was taking up the air of somebody with an actual future. A decent human being. What was he? A crappy king, even worse friend, and a failure for his family. “To go get him back,” the tiefling replied, standing up to his full height. Which was rather impressive, even if he was two inches shorter than Valentine. “You do not give down,” his best friend said, completely oblivious to the way he’d butchered the figure of speech. “You do not believe she is his akribos, do you? The bard said he hated to even look at her. So why not go back, akri? Claim what is yours?”

Valentine sighed, the anger having gone out of him in a huff. Of course that had been what was bothering Kirian. “Because,” he replied softly, picking up the cup of tea he’d deserted when his best friend had come in the house screaming about Tiny having bitten him. “I want to hurt her. And if I see that woman, I’m afraid that I will not leave until I have her head tied up and tossed off a cliff.” The tiefling seemed a lot more delighted by the idea than Valentine had ever expected. “I’ll help,” he offered, smiling brightly. “NO! Storms, Kirian. You can’t just go around killing people.” Kirian raised an elegant eyebrow. “Why? That’s what your akribos does, from what I’ve heard.” Uh, here we go again. “Oh yeah, and how do you think he’d react to this scenario? Hi Artie, I know you thought I was dead, and I know you cannot get a divorce and stuff because you’re a king, but here’s your wife’s head on a stick, I hope that cheers you up.” Kirian let out a small giggle at the thought of that bitch’s head on a stick. “Okay, not that,” he laughed. “Bad for kingdom relationships. How about you kiss him? Remind him what he is missing?” The guard shrugged, taking a sip of his orange and cinnamon tea. “He cannot be missing it that much,” he replied, smile vanishing in thin air. Tadaa! “And even if he is, there’s no place for me in his life anymore. I used to be his guard and best friend. But now he’s a king, man. And from what I heard, he has no need for friends.” Kirian frowned, his red skin scrunching up as he thought. “You can still be his lover, can you not?” The guard nearly choked on the tea at the thought. “Yeah, no… Storms no. I spent over a year being someone’s fuck toy. I don’t need that again, even if that someone is Artie.”

*Back to the present*

Morning found Valentine pounding on Jackson’s door, the entire frame shaking from the force. It only took a few knocks for the tattoo artist to drag himself out of bed, but it was a few knocks too many. “Can I help you?” Jackson snapped, dark circles under his eyes and black hair messed up. He slept in a room at the back of his tattoo parlor, since he was too lazy to walk to his house. Val nearly felt bad for waking him. The man didn’t exactly get enough sleep as it was. “You’re a bastard,” Valentine hissed, picking him up by the collar of his shirt and slamming him into the wall, right next to the InkedInDreams sign. Jackson didn’t look overly impressed. “What did I do this time, darlin?” the man demanded, not even bothering to fight Valentine’s grip on him. “You spiked the tattoo ink with silver, didn’t you?” The king growled, tightening his hold on the artist. For the first time, Jackson’s eyes were crossed by a flash of panic. “Ah, shit,” he groaned. “You found out, didn’t you…” Well…that pretty much confirmed his guilt.

“You knew and didn’t bother telling me?” Valentine growled, his body trembling with a violent rage. Jackson tried to pry his hands away hopelessly, fearing for his own safety. “Everyone who sees your eyes knows, stupid,” the heavily tattooed man snapped; yes, he might have been getting choked, but he sure as hell wouldn’t cower before Valentine. “The fact it took you this long to figure out is hilarious.” Valentine started pressing down on the man’s windpipe, slowly but surely depriving him of air. He wasn’t thinking, his entire mind controlled by an animalistic fury. The guard would have loved nothing more than to see the life drain out of Jackson’s eyes, to feel his body go limp under his hands. The werewolf pulled out a knife, pressing it against his friend’s stomach, taking a sadistic delight in watching the man squirm. He would have killed Jackson too, if it weren’t for Daemon.

The tattoo apprentice walked out of the store calmly, magic crackling from his fingertips. “Let him down, Valentine,” the artist said softly, pink and purple sparks flying from between his outstretched hands. “I don’t want to hurt you.” Valentine glared at Daemon, bloody murder written all over his golden eyes. “If you set him down now, I’ll pull the silver out of your tattoos.” Silver. Yeah. That was why he’d come to the store in the first place. The silver was slowly killing him. It would take years, and it stopped him from transforming. But it was also sapping away at his health. And Jackson had known. The bastard. He’d done it intentionally. That was why everyone asked him what his jewelry was made out of, and why the blacksmith had given him a weird look when he’d requested the handle of Ace be made out of silver. He finally understood all the strange comments people had made over the years. Everyone had known but him. Everyone. Hell, they were probably laughing at him about it. What kinda werewolf was he, that silver only hurt him if it was inside his bloodstream, and wolfsbane didn’t kill him? What kind of werewolf didn’t know he was one, and lived cut off from his brothers and sisters? He was a joke. And Jackson had tattooed him the way he had, just so he would never be able to transform. Yeah, he still wanted to kill the man. But now, Daemon was offering to fix it.

Jackson crumpled into a wheezing heap at Valentine’s feet, all the fight having gone out of him. “Help me,” the werewolf growled at Daemon, walking towards him. “Now.” The warlock sighed and started chanting, his eyes glowing a bright pink as he talked. With every word, Valentine started getting weaker, his limbs growing heavier by the second. He was swaying, the world spinning around him and shadows disappearing, until everything became bright. Too bright. The small lamp inside the tattoo parlor started glowing, its light swallowing up everything up.

The werewolf leaned against the wall of InkedInDreams, unable to hold himself up any longer, and slowly sliding downwards. He was out before Daemon could finish the incantation. But when the warlock finished, the liquid silver which had entered his bloodstream was gone. The next full moon, Valentine would finally be free. Daemon crouched beside Jackson, who was laughing hysterically, hand to his throat, where dark marks left by Valentine’s fingers were starting to make themselves known. “King Arthur is screwed,” the man wheezed. “After a werewolf turns for the first time, everybody better watch out.” He was giggling, clutching at Daemon’s shirt. “This is gonna be so much fun to watch.”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Several weeks had gone by since the meeting in the gardens and two days after, since Arthur abandoned his work briefly, to spend some time with his son. Now as he sat on his throne, dressed in simple but regal navy blue clothing; lined with golden, he’d just finished the last of the meetings for the Lord’s and Ladies of his kingdom.

As the double doors closed, he closed his eyes and titled his head back, breathing out deeply. Ever since the king returned to the palace after cutting those bastards down, all he could think was how tired he was. Everything he did felt like it took more energy than before. It wasn’t just mental either, he found his sight was getting… strange, as well. At times he could swear that the image before him was enveloped in darkness. But, it was only for a few seconds and then he blinked and could see once more. Being King he had to make sure his health was at its peak of wellness, so he saw his personal healer who did several tests and saw nothing wrong.

“I will meet you in the gardens. We will have tea together,” Kitra hissed, shooting a warning glare at her husband. “Need I remind you of your responsibilities, hmm? You need to get over those men you killed, they attacked you and you killed them. It has been days and I allowed you to wallow long enough,” she muttered, with a sniff. Standing with utmost grace, she motioned for her guards to follow and she swept out of the throne room and towards the gardens.

Arthur shook his head and slowly stood, “Go to the gardens. I’ll be right there.” Addressing Lukas and the others he dismissed them and watched as they filed out. With them gone, one of the doors reopened a few moments later and a messenger stepped in with a bow.
“My King, the King of Lir has arrived. Shall I show him to the gardens for tea?” the female messenger offered.
Pressing his lips together, Arthur shook his head. “No. Show him to my study. I’ll be right there,” he spoke curtly and sighed once the messenger bowed and left. Arthur knew he had forgotten something. About a week ago he’d sent an invite to King Julian to discuss alliances. Apparently he had forgotten about the meeting and had yet to inform his Queen about it. Great.

“She’ll never let this go,” he grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose. What were his options? One, take the King to the gardens and surprise Kitra, who’d no doubt be pissed at him for not telling her about this meeting or… Not tell at all. Have the meeting without her and she’d be none the wiser.

Nodding to himself, Arthur left the throne room and headed to the study. Kitra would be annoyed that he didn’t join her for tea but she wouldn’t bother sending anyone to find him. It wasn’t his company that she wanted anyways.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
Valentine stood before an ornate window somewhat stiffly, hands clasped behind his back in an attempt to look royal, and all that stuff. One of the guards had escorted him to Artie's study (like he needed to be shown the way for storm's sake!), and Val hadn't known where to sit down, or whether it was proper to sit.

The werewolf was full of badly concealed twitchy energy. This wasn't where he belonged, in a room filled with expensive crap and windows which he didn't know how to open. Winds and clouds called to him from outside. Even Galiux's terrible air was better than the stifling heat which filled the study. Valentine could barley move without fear of knocking things over, and if that wasn't bad enough, every time he blinked, the walls seemed to inch closer. Maybe it was all in his head, but he felt like a bear in a pottery store.

"Oh thank the Stormfather," Valentine breathed when footsteps could be heard from outside the door. They were heavy, as if weighed down by a burden their owner didn't know what to do with, but they were still, unmistakably, Artie's. He turned around just as the door opened, cursing Kirian mentally for having made him go without his coat. The beautiful Lirian clothing he'd worn at the ball was back home, neatly folded in a drawer. He looked decidedly less impressive in the simple black shirt and old riding pants. As a Lirian king, he was not allowed to own anything fancy. What he wore were the best clothes he had. On most days, he was incredibly grateful for the law. Now it just made him feel less than all the royal snobs parading around the palace.

It was harder to hide the knives without his coat. So he hadn't bothered hiding them. Ace was strapped to the ripped up leather belt he'd taken to wearing, and his ancient longswords were resting in their familiar place on his back. Over the years, they had served him well, and their weight on his skin was the most comforting thing in this place.

"Your Majesty," the Lirian man greeted, bowing gracefully. His golden eyes took in Artie the way a man dying of thirst might look at a glass of water. Seeing his friend again made having to wait in his hellish study almost worth it. "I trust you are in good health?" He had no idea why Kirian had told him to ask that, but it sounded fancy, so he had.

For the first time, Valentine noted Artie's hair. The king had always wanted to grow it out, so at least one of his dreams had come true. A small smile lit up Valentine's face, filling his features with a spark of true joy, so different from the fake smile he'd given Artie at the ball.

He bit back the 'you look good' which had been sitting on the tip of his tongue. So many things he wanted to say, so much to hold back. He stood tall, proud as an oak, hands clasped before him to hide the way they were shaking. Val ached to pull Artie in a hug, hold him tight and never let go of him again.

In an instant, all the horrible things he'd heard about the king which had enabled him to act as a stranger at the ball fled, leaving him with only his best friend standing before him. Not a murderer, but his first love. A man he was willing to walk through fire for. Because the heart was stupid. It wanted what it wanted with no regards to what the mind told it.

"A long time ago," the king of Lir said softly, "a young man swore he would return to you, and that 'you'd live happily ever after'. Do you remember that day, King Arthur?"
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
As Arthur made his way down the palace hallways, Arthur rubbed his face and sighed softly. He was exhausted. Ever since that night with the assassins, he’d not been able to sleep well, waking several times a night. Lately, he’d taken to just not going to bed and rather going down to the punishment chambers and spending hours there. Only once did he try to… vent, his frustration on another.

The bastard was a serial killer; all the men that were brought there were evil in some way and so the torture wasn’t… on an innocent, at least. Still, after finishing his punishment, Arthur finally went to bed. Yet, as soon as he closed his eyes he found himself stuck in reoccurring nightmares and the stench of blood was overwhelming.

After that horrifying experience, he only went down to dole punishment on himself. Outside of that the king never went down there and had stopped his torture on others, focusing on paperwork and meeting during the day.

Pausing the double doors to his study, King Arthur straightened his posture and made sure his clothing was pristine as always. Deep blue cloak over his blue and gold-trimmed tunic. Sword at his side and crown steady upon his raven hair. Satisfied he addressed the guards on either side of the door. “When I go in you are to leave,” he muttered, not looking either guard in the eye when he spoke. It was risky sending the guards away but for years now he chose to send them away whenever he spoke with others in private. Arthur could easily be attacked in such a setting however, many couldn’t help but wonder if that is exactly what he wants.

Doors pulled open, the King of Gailux swept into the study and immediately bi-colored eyes fell upon the King of Lir and he arched an eyebrow slightly. ‘How simple.’ The man thought wryly, though his face stayed neutral in looks. He also found the weapons impressive, if not blatant. Then again from the looks of his clothing hiding them would be… a chore.

“I’m doing well. I hope you and your people are in good health, and that the rebuilding of your Kingdom is going well,” he murmured, dipping his head politely. Formalites.

The slightest of a crinkle appeared on his face as the King of Lir spoke. “Pray tell, how did you hear such a… rumor?” Arthur retorted voice tinged with cold fury. No one dared to speak of that… man, to Arthur’s face since the changes in his personality were first appearing. The evidence of torture and killing adequately stopped such speech.

The mere mention of Val- the guard, caused Arthur’s chest to grow tight and for him to realize how dry his mouth felt. Why? Why would this King speak of him? Could he have met him? Knew him? ‘So what, it changes not the fact that your former Lover is dead.’ A heartless voice supplied, voice aching familiar and terrifying.
Pressing his lips into a thin line, Arthur clenched his hands at his side and with silent anger, the king took a few steps towards the other man. “I suggest you watch your next words very carefully, King Julian,” he ground out, eyes frosty.

All thoughts of being a polite regal host flew out of his mind, with his anger taking center stage. He wouldn’t- couldn’t think of that man. The one person who made him feel, feel so happy and eventually such pain. The single person who could’ve stopped him from going down such a dark path. Without a doubt in his mind, Arthur would kill himself before seeing the utter disappointment and hate that the dead man must feel; what with the dual eyed man choosing to hurt others rather than protect them like he once swore.

As Arthur gazed at the other King, hate-filled eyes boring into the opposite persons’ eyes, something in them felt eerily familiar. But what?
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
“My good man,” the king of Lir said dryly, reaching for a sword strapped to his back, and extending it hilt first to the king, “If you’re gonna threaten me, you might as well do it with a weapon in your hand…” Although I doubt it would do you much good. Even with a sword at my throat, you’re at a disadvantage, aren’t you, Artie… he added silently, his position shifting seamlessly into a fighting stance. Even if Artie had brought a dozen guards with him, Val liked his odds. Over the years, he’d toned his body into a weapon, as deadly as any sharpened knife. His blades were all covered in Castan poison, he had reflexes quicker than a snake and most importantly, he lived for fighting. When he was in combat, everything else fell away, his thoughts becoming crystal clear. The only thing he focused on was the next move. “I’m not here to fight, King Arthur,” he said after a few seconds of studying the other man, expression having grown frigid. He’d been just about to tell him. If Artie had shut the storms up, all this would have been over. But the cold, anger filled words had made him see red.

Rage had never been one of his best qualities, and it got ahold of him way too easily. Over the years, he’d turned to drugs and charms, hoping it would help him control the snake, which was now rearing its head back and preparing to strike. His fingers were itching to either kill something or to reach for a cigarette. He chose the latter after a few seconds of breathing deeply, paying attention to the way air travelled down his throat and into his chest. It calmed him down a bit, but the shot of nicotine going through his bloodstream was what help bring him down. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. “I did that to see how you’d react. I’m sorry.”

And Artie hadn’t passed the test. Does he really hate me that much? It fucking hurt to think that. Did the king supress the memory of him that way, as to not ruin the image of his marriage? Because if so, they were gonna have a huge fucking problem. “It was rather interesting to watch,” he noted, again, to get a response out of Artie. The small, masochistic part of him wanted to enrage his friend. To get him riled up and see what he’d do. He could take him no problem. Hell, he ached for a fight at a time like this. But no. That wasn’t smart. Artie was a king first, and his ex-lover and friend second. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “My bad.”

Cigarette in hand, he ran his fingers through the black and white hair which had become notably shorter in the past ten years. After getting out of his Mistress’ service, he’d started shaving his head every summer. The way She’d used his hair to control him still gave him nightmares, and some days he could feel Her phantom hands on his skin, pulling at the strands and whispering in his ear.

Every single time it was cut, the hair grew back thicker, longer and curlier. A few months of leaving it alone had resulted to it falling to his jaw in beautiful black waves. It was a pain to care for, but he quite liked the result. Strands he’d killed off with wolfsbane hadn’t regained their colour, and since he’d recently started smoking it again, more and more had appeared. It was strange combination of raven black and silvery white hair, and gave him a sort of magical air, in Kirian’s opinion. The old guard had started wearing it that way in part to annoy Quinn, in part because Kirian liked it.

“The reason I asked, King Arthur,” he said in his broken voice, “Was because I know for a fact he’s okay. He’s had some rough couple years, but he’s alive and as healthy as he could be.” Let’s see his reaction to that… “But now I see bringing it up like that was a mistake. I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot, let’s try again.” He snuffed out the cigarette on his wrist and put it in his pocket for later, golden eyes watching Artie for the smallest twitch or change in expression. He’d changed. Val could no longer read him as he’d been able to, and it freaked him out.

Here it was. The moment of truth. He’d dreamt about this for years, and, well, he couldn’t wait any longer. “So.” his voice had gone soft now, and hand had shifted subtly to Ace, hoping he wouldn’t have to defend himself from the king, but wanting to be prepared just in case. “Hi Artie, I’m back,” the ex-guard said with the rainbow wave he used to do back when we were young. He would have left it at that, but his former lover had proven himself surprisingly dense for someone so smart. “It took me around ten years, eleven months and twenty three days, but I hope you won’t be too mad about that. Also, your hair looks nice.” As he spoke, he pulled out the simple silver chain on which one of the stones Artie had given him so long ago was resting, holding out into the light as proof of who he was. “Your wife’s a bitch, by the way…” once he started talking, he found he couldn’t stop, even if he tried. “You know what the old king of Lir said to me after I stabbed him? He said ‘you’re too late’. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I found out a few days after that you were married, and than all hell sorta broke loose, you know? Did you really think it was a coincidence that I was proclaimed dead exactly one week after your marriage? Haha. What a sick joke, right? That’s on me, I’m not sorry, and you can be mad about it all you want, but if I could go back, I’d do the same thing over again.” He’d caught the king’s attention now alright. If the necklace wasn’t proof enough, he also pulled down the collar of his shirt to reveal the ugly scar down his throat that he’d gotten defending the king from a hellhound back when they were young boys.

The stupid dog had managed to give him one good bite before it died, and he’d passed out from blood loss a few minutes later. Been out for a few days. “You know what’s funny, Mr.King Man?” Val demanded flexing his fingers. “I used to hate your stupid horse when we were young. Thought it was the most horrid thing I’d ever seen. But in all honesty, I preferred that Old Mutt, to the nightmare you ride around on now. At least it didn’t look like you’d bought it from a demon, for Storm’s sake.”

He wasn’t done. Not even close. “You know, I’ve heard a lot of things about you over the years, Artie,” he went on, crossing his arms over his chest. “I couldn’t come back here for the longest time, just because I was afraid I’d hurt both you and your wife. But I’m back now, yeah? And judging from your reaction, I’m not welcome here. Which is all good and fine, but before I leave here, I need to have two conversations with you, yeah? One from person to person, and one from king to king. The first one because you’ve changed a lot, and I get it, I screwed up by leaving, and that’s on me. Part of it is my fault. But we’ve still got a few things to clear up, such as why you would choose someone who hates your guts over someone who literally gave up their life, family, and job for you.” He was out of breath now (he blamed the cigarettes), but he sure as hell wasn’t letting Artie get a word in before he was finished.

“The second one because yeah, you don’t want me ruining your marriage and crap, but I still need to talk to you about an alliance. I love Lir. I love it more than I’ve ever loved anything in my entire life, save for you and my family. And I need you to promise me you won’t attack us. In return, you’ll have a good trading partner and a guarantee that if a war happens, I won’t side against you with anyone. Which, if you think about it, is a pretty good deal since Lir is thrice as big as Gailux and has four times the army. Plus, we have some of the most educated, well cultured magic users in the nine realms, so you’d have to worry about that as well, if you ever decide to go to start a fight. Soo…yeah, that’s my big speech. It’s nice to see you Artie, I hope you won’t hold our past against Lir... Okay, thanks for listening, you can talk now…”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Arthur stood with his back straight and his face a mask of stern emotion. With the scars and his reputation, most people’s first impression of him is one of intimidation. This impression tends to only be carved in concrete as they speak with the voice voiced man. Very few remember his personality when he was younger, and when they dared to look back on it... truely, it boggles the mind. Such changes in action and personality weren't uncommon but for certain people like himself, it was never expected.

Back when he first started to change, it was subtle.

---
Arthur had visited the chambers beneath the palace three nights in a row now; going down more than once a month was unusual, so this was a definite sign that something was off with the Prince.

“Father, did you need something from me?” voice interwoven with curiosity. Turning his head to face the King of Gailux, his hair- now down to brush against the top of his shoulders, flowed loosely. An eye caramel-colored and an eye pale blue gazed at the King with curiosity. However, simmering beneath that innocent questioning gaze was a dangerously familiar coldness.
“Arthur. I believe that you shouldn’t… visit, downstairs tonight. Go speak with your Mother or sit with your sisters and brother. Being alone with only a prisoner and your inventions is not healthy,” pausing here, Richard hesitated. The news of that cursed guards’ death had changed his son and heir. When it was announced, Richard had pointedly looked to his son to see his reaction. Yet, nothing. A flash of several emotions had flickered through his gaze but then he was calm and collected, as a prince should be.

Now it has been a few weeks since the news and there was still yet to be a reaction of any kind. Just these past few nights did Arthur start going down to the chambers. Hours upon hours spent there. Then the next day he was completely unfazed, no hint of exhaustion or falter in his studies. Aside from that, the only other noticeable difference is how the dark-haired male had smiled less and less.

Cocking his head to the side, a frown graced the princes’ lips. “I see. May I ask why you are so concerned? Were you not praising me for my focus and advancement in my studies and swordsmanship just earlier today? I see no reason to not do what I wish with my free time if it isn’t hindering my daily activities.” Words perfectly tranquil and yet eyes contradicting those words as they let that iciness surface for but a moment.

A chill ran down the man’s spine and he suddenly felt unable to breathe clearly. Then a strangled gasped escaped the old man’s throat as he found his son mere inches from his face, mouth turned upward but not in a manner befitting smile. Least not a sane one.

“Mind your own business, My King. This is your only warning.”

That was that day that started King Richard Zoren of Gailux downward spiral. Eventually with his paranoia monopolizing him in every way.

---

Fury wasn’t something new for Arthur, it was something he was surrounded with and allowed to consume him slowly but surely. The man before him pulling his weapon did not scare him, put him on edge yes. He wasn’t stupid, despite certain choices he’s made over the years. The look of pure strength when you looked at King Julian of Lir was obvious. It would be a hard fight, very hard. Yet, Arthur did not mind taking him on if need be, a good fight was always welcome. As for the risk of dying… It was not bothersome enough to think of.

Then that anger was gone as a cigarette seemed to calm the other man. ‘Wanted to see me react… Why?’ The man thought with a faint frown. Why was this King questioning his reactions? It would be one thing if they were in Lir but, to do it on foreign soil was odd. That said, the apology was even stranger. It was seen among the nobility to apologize at any given moment, but especially when testing another. This King was far from a natural-born royal.

Mouth parting to speak, all words and thoughts came to a standstill at the other man’s next few words. Everything around him felt out of place and he couldn’t comprehend what was going on. So many words and thoughts stormed his head. He couldn't find his focus on anything. But there was one thing that stood out, that offbeat tone he used to state this fact.

Why did he sound so… hurt? Arthur had no time to dwell on this singular question as the next moments hit him in full force. So many answers and yet just as many questions in the King of Lir- No, Valentine’s words.

An inkling of a dream from years ago tugged at the recess of his short-circuited brain. Well, in all frankness it was multiple dreams. All where Arthur was reunited with the one he loved over all others. Yet, as reality hit and time passed, these dreams faded to black. Not once did he believe it possible after a certain amount of time had passed. No, this was the last event he had ever expected to happen. In this life or death, Arthur had long ago accepted that he wouldn’t see Valentine ever again. All of his choices were his fault, every single one. One thing he never allowed during all these miserable years, was the allowance to not blame himself. To not take responsibility for his own actions. Arthur knew he was a monster and that no one controlled his choices.

As half his mentality tried to process his dead former lover being alive, in front of him, and a king; the other half was going over the words that the other man spoke.

Right.

Silently he listed off what the dark-skinned man had said. The apparent time since all this shit started. The wife Arthur now had. The irony of the former King of Lir’s last words. The proof of who he was, so no way Arthur could protest even though everything in his wished to. Comments on his… horse. The blatant point towards the darkness that Arthur had nurtured for years now. Finally, it all ended with a plea to not attack Lir. That was all of it in all its glory.

‘Huh. This… This is not how I imagined my day or this meeting to go at all.’ Arthur Quentin Silas thought sardonically. The King knew he needed to respond, to react in some form.

“I’ll have someone write up a contract for an allegiance for Gailux and Lir. There will be no war between our Kingdoms. The contract will be given personally to you to look over to make sure that all is in order. Once you deem it worthy it will be signed by both of us and put into effect,” Arthur spoke quietly, face emotionless and words monotone. Mentally he was yelling at himself for not commenting on anything else the former guard had said but, in truth, he had no words to say.
“I need a drink,” these words mumbled to himself, he silently turned and moved to a nearby cabinet in the study. Made of white birch wood and with five shelves of various liquor, from bottom to top each row was stronger than the one below. Needless to say, he grabbed one from the top self.

Pulling out a crystal glass he poured the dark liquid into the glass, watching it swirl as it fell in. Next Arthur picked up the glass and took a long swig. Not even the burning running down his throat caused a reaction. This whole thing felt… weird. Surreal.

Turning with glass in hand, he stared at Val for a long moment then he promptly tossed back more. Yep, the man before him was real. This conversation was real. Maybe he should’ve gone to the gardens or at least brought the bitch to this meeting. Shit.

Before he knew it he was saddened by his glass being empty and while he was feeling the strong urge to down the whole bottle, he restrained himself. ‘At least until he leaves.’ Arthur thought dryly.
“King Julian of Lir and Artisan of Blood. Gotta say that neither of the Paths we walk on now, was at all considered to me, back when we were kids.” Thankfully he could hold his liquor… Well, for now, he did not slur his words.

So many conflicting thoughts were coursing through him and he simply couldn’t pick out of the lot. Should he be angry? Should he be relieved? Happy? Sad? What? None of it felt right and yet, all of it did. The want to cry, to scream, to just break. Interestingly enough, Arthur overall felt nothing. Not a single emotion. It was wrong and in spite of it all, it felt right for this moment.

For the longest time now, all he felt was hate. Towards the world. To people and the circumstances of his fate. God’s above. Time after time. Day after day, he complimented… Well, in the end it was all just thought and no strength to go through with anything. Like a broke puppet, he continued through the motions expected of him.
 
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Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
Valentine fought the urge to laugh. Hysterically. Truly, he tried, even attempting to take another drag of his cigarette and steady himself. But no, he couldn't. It’d been so long since he'd smiled, and he couldn't prevent the loud, dry laughter which spilled into the room as his heart broke once again. It started off soft at first when Artie reached for the bottle, but built up into a broken, hacking sound by the time the king had finished his glass. "Your first reaction," he breathed with tears in his eyes, "was 'I need a drink?'". Oh, that shit hurt. "Damn, son. I'd figured at least a 'welcome home', but I guess I was wrong, eh? You really are far gone..." Before it could get awkward, he pat Artie on the shoulder and stole the bottle and a glass, filling it halfway and downing it in one go. "Storms, I forgot. You guys drink such weak shit..." Artie’s liquor was the equivalent of a light beer in Lir, where they had stuff strong enough to kill ya with two swings.

It was fun, mostly because he was always the last one to get drunk. He would get to fully enjoy the sight of his friends mumbling incoherently or crying. In the king’s experience, there were three types of drunks. Drama queens, who started fights and ended up scratching each other’s eyes out over who did the frick frack with who. The depressed dumbasses, who got real quiet or started crying. And the happy drunks. Those last ones were the most amusing; they spilled all their secrets while laughing their asses off. Valentine was rather curious what type Artie was. He was willing to bet the guy would be a depressed drunk. “If you ever feel like actually drinking good whiskey, swing by The Thorn and The Whisp and ask for Mr. Lockwood,” he dared, setting the glass down. “And if you’re gonna do that, drop the angsty teen routine, yeah? I get it, you’re fucked up, but nobody’s gonna take your bullshit over there. I learned that the hard way.”

After Kirian had walked in on him mid-suicide attempt, Valentine decided to do the whole ‘I don’t care about life anymore’ thing. Walked into the bar two days later not having shaved, changed his clothes or combed his hair. He could still see Anthony bursting out laughing, his entire body shaking so hard he’d had to grip a counter as not to fall over. “Really?” the guy had gasped out between giggles. “You’re too old to do that. Get your shit together, man.” So he had. Eventually. Sort off.

The ex-guard shouldn’t have spoken to the ‘king’ like that. But he wanted to see what Artie would do, words spilling out of him unfiltered, as they often did when someone hurt him. He'd lived with the thought Artie didn't want him for so long... now that his suspicions had been confirmed, it didn't feel very different. That sensation of falling, your heart being ripped out of your chest, and air being sucked out of your lungs? He'd known if for five years. Now it was simply being confirmed as valid. “I’ll show myself out,” Valentine said, flipping his glass upside down on one of the tables, as was Lirian custom. It was believed that if you set it the right side up evils spirits would make it their home, or some bullshit. The werewolf wasn’t overly superstitious and normally wouldn’t have cared, but after years of being yelled at by Anthony, he’d finally gotten into the habit of putting it down right. "I'll be in town for a bit, if you want to talk..." Valentine took one last look at the king, trying to memorize his features. It was likely the last time he’d see Artie, and despite the hatred which he felt bubbling up in his chest now, he knew it would soon be replaced by a deep longing. Val was simply preparing for it. “I suppose you won't, since you cannot brave my presence without a glass in your hand,” he added as an afterthought, hand curling around the doorknob. “Send the contract through a messenger, or something. I’ll return it with the revisions and signature. I'm glad we reached an agreement."

It wasn’t until the door clicked behind him that he realized how much he'd been hoping for a smile. A look of acknowledgment. Something to let him know that throwing his life away had been worth it. But it never came. So he bit his tongue and smiled, like he'd been doing his entire life. Only Kirian would have been able to see the rage which was bubbling beneath the surface.

The king managed to act civilized until he got to the main road. Then, he took off like a bat out of hell, running as fast and hard as his body would allow. He ran, and ran, speeding up with each second, past where Tiny was hidden, his old home and the stables. The soldier barracks he’d spent way too much time in, and the Brass Talon pub, where his sister’s body had probably rotted away in. It was along time before the stabbing pain under his ribs and failing lungs overrode his thoughts, and even longer until he collapsed, black spots covering his vision. Storms, he didn’t even know it when it happened; one moment he was on the road, eyes glazing over, breath coming out in short, painful gasps. The next, he was staring at the icy blue sky above him, white shirt covered in dust and blood trickling down his temple from where his head had hit the ground. And judging by the light, he’d been lying there for at least half an hour, his body having simply shut down. He lay there, stunned, throat closing up from the rage and tears he wouldn’t let out. Val had gone four years without breaking down over Artie, and his stupid wife, and the stupid rumours, and having left. It was a pretty record, and he wasn’t about to mess it up now. So he got up, first on his hands and knees, that small masochistic part of him enjoying the way it storming hurt to move, a flaring pain taking over every limb he owned. His whole body was trembling, beyond exhaustion and nearly asleep, eyes closing of their own accord. Now, he just had to find his way back, no biggie. All he had to do was follow the road. A road which had disappeared.

Somehow, the king had ended up in the middle of the woods, small cuts and bruises covering his body from where branches had whipped at him. It was getting dark, a warm blanket of fog setting over the trees. Everything looked the same. For the first time in his life, Valentine Julian was stuck in the middle of a forest with no idea where to go. In his defense, the run had stripped him of all conscious thought, and he was barley awake enough not to bump into trees. So he did the only remotely sane thing. He sat at the roots of a huge silver oak, lighting a joint and setting his head down against the rough bark, a hacking cough taking hold of him and wreaking his body. “Fuck me,” he wheezed. Everything hurt. Even breathing was a struggle. It was storming amazing. In all honesty, he often longed for this exact state of being, but rarely had the discipline and determination to reach it.

Not long after he’d sat down, Val fell into a deep sleep with his fingers curled around Artie’s stone, still lit joint in his other hand. Which turned out to be a good thing. It took around five minutes for the fire to burn his fingers, and four minutes for a strange creature to find his motionless body.

“Hey there mister, whatcha doing?” something asked. The said something was a young boy with ruby red hair which fell down to his hips. Around thirteen, he was shirtless and all bones, wearing nothing but a pair of ripped up brown shorts which hung off his skinny frame unflatteringly. Valentine rubbed at his eyes, trying to dispel the apparition. But no, the little dude was still there, with his huge purple eyes and sunken cheeks. “I don’t mean to be rude,” the thing started, kneeling beside Valentine and putting a dirty hand on his forehead, checking his temperature, “but you look kinda sick. You shouldn’t be sleeping out here, mister. It’s really cold, even for werewolves. Look, you can see your breath! Also, you’re kinda trespassing faery territory, and they said that if you don’t move, they’ll kill you. Just thought you should know…”

Valentine looked up at the boy, his foggy mind taking a long time to process what he was being told. Yeah, that made sense. He was in a part of the woods he’d never walked before. Usually, the fey blocked other creatures from entering their home, but they must have let him in for some reason. And so, he made an attempt at push himself up, only to find his body had simply shut down. Nothing was listening to him anymore. All will to live had left him anyway, so maybe it was a good thing. “I guess I’ll die,” he laughed, golden eyes meeting violet. The boy frowned, a pure sadness taking over his features, the emotion so strong it coloured the air around him an inky blue. Strange. That didn’t usually happen for faeries. In fact, Valentine couldn’t remember any species which was affected by emotion like that. “No, you shouldn’t say that,” his newfound friend protested. “The Queen will listen to you. Come on, you’re only a catwalk in. That’s what, two kilometers in human terms? Look, I’ll help you up.”

Without waiting for consent, the tiny boy had wrapped his abnormally long fingers around Valentine’s wrist and tried to pull him to his feet. It took an abnormally long time for him to give up. Storms, the small bean tried everything from counterweighting (ha) to pushing him from behind. After a while, Val got sick of seeing his disappointed face after each failure, and struggled to his feet, a wave of dizziness passing him over. Okay, that’s fine. I’m standing. I’m good. It’s all good. I only have two kilometers to walk. I can do this. His new friend let out a victorious whoop which promptly died on his lips when the werewolf’s knees gave in under his weight. “Fuck,” Val groaned, already growing weary at the thought of two kilometers in the woods, at night. The werewolf seriously doubted he could walk twenty meters. “Sorry,” he added. “That’s a bad word. Don’t say that.” For some reason, the small boy started giggling. “I won’t,” he promised. And then he did something creepy. Something Valentine wouldn’t want to admit or explain for years to come. He put his hand on the king’s shoulder, and Saw him.

Val could feel the boy poking around in his head, separating memories the way one might separate the wet pages of a book, careful not to tear anything but still wanting to see the pictures. The creature’s presence in his mind was alien and unwelcome…threatening in fact. Because in the instant it took him to sort through all of Valentine’s memories, he also took over Valentine, pushing his consciousness somewhere in the back, as if stuffing it in a box and placing it on some far off shelf. “Sorry, mister,” the boy said, his friendly, childish voice echoing through Valentine’s head. “I know this feels weird, but I’m going to try and get you up now.” Which was what he did. One by one, he got control of the werewolf’s limbs, forcing them into a standing position. He seemed pretty confident that it would work; imagine his surprise when Val’s knees buckled once more, and he collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut. The boy freaked out, to say in the least.

In an instant, he was out of Valentine’s head. “I’ll be right back,” he promised, panic painted all over his face. “I won’t let you die, upon my word.” His was gone an instant later, seemingly having blinked out of existence.

-Mykola-

Mykola appeared in front of a castle, and took a second to shake off the Numbness their Move had brought on. The Numbness happened when they passed over into the human realm. It didn’t feel very nice. Before they walked into the castle, Mykola made sure to change into a form King Arthur would find acceptable. They had Tailored their appearance for Valentine, guessing at what the young man would find the least threatening. Now, they did the same for Mister Arthur. They Changed. One moment, they were a small boy, the next they became something Else. Tall, with hot pink hair and porcelain skin, a dusting of freckles across their cheeks and well made elegant clothes. They were copying a half-pixi who’d talked to them about three hundred years before. His name had been Earl, if Mykola could remember right. It took 1/4 a Jeremy Bearing (1/1000000 of a human second) to get Earl’s voice well, aiming for the right amount of breathiness and innocence. Satisfied, Mykola made their way to the castle, finding Mister Arthur after 10 Jeremy Bearings.

They went up to the King and tapped his shoulder. “Okay, so here’s what’s up,” they said, copying the slang Earl had used. “I sorta know someone you know, and he fucked up. And you are, like, the last person he wants to see right now, but you’re, like, the closest person I could find who cares about him, which kind of blows, but not really, since it is kinda your fault for him fucking up, and anyway, he needs your help, or he will die. You should know him, cuz he kinda thinks about you every other second, which like, kinda sucks for him, right? But it would suck even more if it was one sided. Which I don’t think it is, cuz, I like, heard you loved him a while back, but I guess feelings change, since you’re married now. He really hates your wife, by the way. Don’t let him tell you otherwise. So anyway. He’s like, really tall, and kinda freakishly muscular? Like, seriously, it’s not normal. How does he even fit into doorways? Um. Like, really dark skin, curly hair, golden eyes? His eyes kinda glow in the dark? Has like, scars, like, everywhere? Um…I dunno what else to say dude. Again, I think you should know him. He killed like, so many things to keep you safe. You have no idea, bro. Half the time you were sleeping, he was outside your window keeping watch, even tho it wasn’t his turn, right? His turn... right that was important. Oh, yeah! He used to be your bodyguard when you were, like, kids? Anyway, bottom line, please come. You used to be his friend, and that’s all that should matter right now, because his other friends are like, fifty catwalks away, and there’s no way they will get there in time. Cuz he just ran like, fifteen catwalks, and someone let him into the fey territory, which pissed off the Queen, right? And she’s saying we have an hour of human time to get him out of fey territory, but there’s like something wrong with him, and I need help. So, we have like, half an hour left, bro, otherwise, both him and I are toast.”
 
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LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Arthur kept his mouth closed and his body still, watching the former guard move and speak. The pain he could see the other man was in, it was obvious to him. It hurt to cause such pain to someone he’d once cared so greatly for.

‘You still care.’ A voice taunted mercilessly.

Pursing his lips, the King felt a stab of annoyance at how he was spoken to. Not because of the tone or disrespect that was blatant, but the fact that it was all true. Painfully so. He knew this attitude wouldn’t be stood for if he weren’t King, yet he pushed it and continued to act this way. At first it was because of grief and the feeling of being so utterly lost. Eventually though, it became so ingrained that he genuinely forgot how to be any other way. The only times he felt… himself, was when he was around Syaoran and even then his body was stubbornly tense.

‘How could I welcome you back and act as though nothing has changed. Everything and far too much has changed.’ Arthur thought bitterly. The man felt as though he wasn’t really within himself, as he watched Valentine’s mouth move, the words echoing within the king's mind and not really sinking in. How the other looked, spoke, and even his movements were foreign to Arthur. It felt so surreal.

Then, in a blink of an eye it was over and Arthur found himself alone in his study. Now- Now, he realized what a fool he’d been. How he said the wrong thing and then proceeded to say nothing, absolutely nothing.

Silently, Arthur put the glasses away and left the empty bottle where it sat. Feeling hollow, he shuffled to his desk and took a heavy seat behind it. Arthur could honestly say that he hadn’t felt this…. Muddled, in years. The past several years he just kept moving forward, cold and distant from everything and everyone around him. It was easiest, though admittedly cowardly too.

The King could remember the day King Richard approached him. Without either male’s speaking, Arthur knew that his King father wished to speak with him about his relationship with Valentine. From the first budding moments of intimacy between the two young men, the king had made it clear he did not approve of the guard. Something Arthur and he vehemently argued about quite often.

Start of flashback
“Arthur, I have a proposal for you and… the guard. I will allow your marriage, but only if you continue focusing upon eventually receiving the crown. As for Julian, he is to prove his worth. The kingdom of Lir is a threat, one who’s finally crossed the line. He will go defeat them and return to marry you, if perchance he fails and lives-” Richard paused here, giving his son a firm look, “Then you will marry a young woman I have in mind for you. While the aforementioned guard shall leave this kingdom to never return.”

Arthur was silent, right hand unconsciously reaching up and fiddling with a simple but very important gem. Faintly, the memory of the waterfall came to mind. Breathing out, the prince let it fall harmlessly against his skin and he looked up at his father, his own expression stormy. “No. This isn’t a fair compromise in the slightest! I’ve heard of the death’s caused by their king, how is sending a bodyguard a good idea in the slightest?” his voice was eerily calm, not a single note of tone raised. He saw no point in being furious and yelling, it didn’t fix things.

For a good few hours both father and son stood their… debating, the rules of this deal. Until they were interrupted by the bodyguard himself.
End of flashback

“Yet… I still let him go. God’s, why did I ever let him convince me to go along with such a farce?”
Bewilderment laced his words. Choice after choice was wrong.

Shaking his head, Arthur closed his eyes and in mere moments fell into blissful darkness.

Cold laughter echoed throughout the darkness, then light seemed to cast through the darkness. Arthur opened his eyes and had to keep himself from flinching. Four walls of dampened blood-splattered bricks surrounded him and a child knelt on his knees. ‘Ah, a hallucination. Fucking wonderful.’ Venomous sarcasm gripped his thoughts.
Pursing his lips into a thin line, the king moved forward and around the child. Chains held the scrawny boys’ arms up and to either side, heavy chains were also locked around his ankles. His head lolled downward, blood matting his dark hair. The knees he was forced to sit upon were scraped raw.

The only piece of clothing on the child was torn trousers, otherwise, his ghostly skin was for all to view and his bones were so prominent it seemed as though he were a skeleton with skin crudely draped upon it. Just barely the chest moved, revealing that the child breathed.

Screams from other children were deafening, causing one;s ears to ache and head to throb mercilessly. Then a soft creak coursed through the cell and a figure in all black stepped inside. Dress made of silk and just hovering above the dirty ground, elegant gloves, and heels with intricate golden details carved into them. A blood-red mask covered the identity of this woman.
“Have you finally broken, my darling?” The question was spoken in a bored drawl, one could almost feel the smile that was spread across her masked lips.

The questioned child shifted, a pained hiss emerged from the boy. Then a beat of silence and a taunt stillness was felt around the small room. Head slowly raised and a cold smile spread across his bloodied face and he suddenly tossed his head back, cackling. Eyes open and wild looking. He looked every part of a human being who’d gone insane. But, the woman before him swallowed and suppressed a shuddered, as they knew that was far from the truth. Oh no, he was as clear-minded as ever however, something had altered in him something dangerous.

‘Dangerous indeed.’ Arthur thought with a wry smile, eyes glinting with hate as he gazed at the woman. She, the bastard who kept taunting him, as well as others had still not been found to this day.

The image in front of him blurred and he closed his eyes slowly, reopening them a second later. Arthur was still in his study, he’d just fallen asleep. Grunting, he stood and stretched but then jerked as a presence appeared and a finger tapped his shoulder.

Whipping around, his right hand automatically took hold of the hilt of his sword and his stance was defensive. The pink-haired half pixie was talking right away, accent and phrases odd, but what he said was even stranger. Cursing, Arthur let go of his sword and wordlessly stalked out his library, just to run smack into his wife and current bodyguard. “What?!” the king snarled, not even bothering with politeness.

Kitra eyes widened and then her nostrils flared in anger. “How dare you speak to me in such a manner! I-” she was cut off as Arthur rolled his eyes and stepped around her, continuing his quick pace towards the stables.
“Arthur!” the woman screeched, hurrying after him while swearing up and down.
Sighing, the man stopped and turned to face the two people he least liked in the palace. “Lukas, confine the queen to her rooms,” the caramel and blue eyes stern.

Lukas frowned and opened his mouth to protest such sudden orders, something he did far too often for Arthur’s liking but was too tired to argue with. “But your-”
“Leave. Get out, tell whoever is below you that they are promoted and you have been permanently demoted,”
Arthur cut in and glared, purposely reaching and beginning to pull his sword.
Luckily, the guard seemed to see this wasn’t a light threat but a promise. So, he bowed and took the queen’s arm, dragging her tantrum self away.

Satisfied for the moment, he continued to the stables. Arriving, he dismissed the freaking out stablehand and moved towards his horse, Isfet. Hands-on the stall door, he paused and sighed heavily. ‘God’s just kill me where I stand.’ With great reluctance, he moved to the next stall where a deep brown and white, with a few spots of black, horse stood. “He’s gonna have to deal with you, if not Isfet,” Arthur muttered, opening the stall and entering.

“Can you take me to him? Are you allowed in the fay territory?” Arthur addressed the pixie. Of course, he assumed so, but it wouldn’t hurt to triple check. The last thing he wanted was more creatures than necessary getting harmed because of all this foolishness.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
A little after the boy left, Valentine fell into a deep slumber. Whoever saw him then would have believed him dead, for he was not moving, even his breathing having slowed to a near stop. There was only the slightest rise to his chest, a sign he was still among the living. The sun had set over the forest, enveloping the place in a darkness so think one would be able to cut it with a knife. A warm, comfortable fog had filled the air, and under normal circumstances it would have hidden him from view.

Not now. Because shining through the darkness where Valentine’s tattoos. They glowed, painting the surroundings in a peaceful neon blue light, depicting forests, animals, the fey, mermaids, demons, and angels. He’d turned his skin into a piece of art, making it a tapestry of dreams, and magic, inking out all his hopes, and the horrific things which he didn’t dare say out loud. But there were four most notable images, which would have sent chills into anyone who knew him. His Mistress and her whip had a proud place on the back of his leg, her likeness eerie. Wrapped around the werewolf’s neck was a tattoo of wolfsbane. On his forearm, right where his suicide scar could usually be seen was his patron Stormking, Kaladin, holding his spear in one hand, dark eyes promising an agonizing death to whoever dared harm him. The last tattoo was that of a dreamcatcher. It hadn’t caught any dreams as far as Valentine knew, but it was still nice to have it nearby.

As he slept, a glimmering form made out of pure light appeared beside him. The shape was a tall man with shaggy hair held back by a headband, grey eyes and stubble growing on his cheeks. His clothing was absolutely shredded and rust colored skin was covered in bruises. On his forehead was a mark which any slave would recognize as a master’s sigil of ownership. It appeared to have been brutally cut into him and taken years to heal over. The man put a transparent hand on Valentine’s shoulder, spear held at ready, body tense, his silvery eyes watching over the werewolf and forest, ready to spring in his defense at the slightest sign of danger. And while all this was happening, Valentine slept.

Back at the palace

King Arthur wasn’t exactly a Beacon of light and hope, and under normal circumstances, Mykola wouldn’t have touched him with a ten-foot pole. “If your wifu okay? She didn’t seem very happy? Did you two have a fight?” All this was asked on a light, innocent tone, out of pure curiosity. They were trying to understand Arthur, decide whether they should go find someone else. Even though the King seemed willing to go, maybe having him around Val especially at one of the guy’s most vulnerable moments, wasn’t a good idea.

“Yeah, I can take you,” Mykola replied softly as they entered the stables, wincing at the guy’s thoughts. They couldn’t exactly hear everything which was going on his head, but his body language and aura gave them a pretty good understanding. All around Mr. Arthur, the air was coloured a dark crimson and stormy black, Colours which Mykola had learned to fear. “Um. On second thought…maybe I can get his brother…” They took a step back, preparing to leave. Their eyes had already started to glow, signaling a teleportation spell, when Arthur turned towards them. “Okay, yeah, um.” In the blink of an eye, they Appeared behind the guy and put a hand on his shoulder like they’d done to Valentine just a few minutes before. Maybe if they could understand him, they would be less scared. Unlike with Valentine, they weren’t welcomed in. The werewolf had broken almost immediately, very nearly inviting them, desperate for someone to see what he couldn’t say out loud.

This time, it was different. There were so many defenses in Arthur’s head that they nearly gave up. Nearly. When they finally managed to make it past the barriers, stuffing Arthur’s consciousness into a Sphere so they could look around undisturbed, they wished they hadn’t. Because Arthur’s thought were absolutely terrifying. Mykola stumbled around the man’s head, so overwhelmed at first all they could think about was finding a place to hide. It was so loud, and chaotic, and there was so much pain. His aura had warned them, but they hadn’t expected the amount of nightmarish situations they’d found.

A few seconds in Arthur’s thoughts were all they could handle. They slipped out, tears pouring down their face and leaving dark burn marks on their ivory skin. “W-what…” they gasped, stumbling back from the king, struggling to breathe. “H-how...” they gray eyes were filled with tears which spilled uncontrollably down their cheeks. In that moment, their shape flickered, falling to reveal the form underneath. Blue skin and violet eyes. A set of feathery, turquoise-white wings which shimmered in the semi-darkness of the stables, pure white hair and a vague humanoid shape which appeared to have been twisted into something strangely childlike. Without their glamour, Mykola radiated innocence and goodness. They were a soul not yet tinted by the ugly of this world, still full hope and light. A light which seemed to dim as they got as far away from the king as the cramped stables would allow. “I-I s-shouldn’t h-have d-done t-that,” they said, desperately trying to throw the glamour back on. Their form flickered, once, twice, thrice, and then finally fizzled to a stop, simply refusing to chance. “I-I’m s-s-so sorry.”

So there we have a small fey…thing, as one couldn’t possibly put a label on what Mykola was, curled up around themselves with scorch marks on their blue cheeks, tears still falling from huge purple eyes. They were rocking back and forth slowly, head between their knees, unable to get a grip. After around 20 Jeremy Bearings, they finally managed to calm down. After which they proceeded to climb to their feet unsteadily, using the Bad Horse’s stall as a support, and hug Arthur. They held the king tight, wrapping their wiry arms around the guy in a way which prevented him from moving, surprisingly strong for one so thin. “I’m so sorry,” Myk said softly in a low voice, full of compassion and so much love the king should have been able to feel it as a physical thing. “I’m really, really, really sorry. Nobody should have to go through what you went through.” Without their glamour, their head came up to the King’s shoulder. “I made a snap judgement about you, and I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry.” They were going to have someone look over Arthur from now on, make sure something like that didn’t happen to the king again. Not that the guy needed a lot of help, but it was an extra reassurance he’d be fine. “Okay. We need to go now. We have twenty-five human minutes to make sure your friend/ex-fiance/bodyguard/friendly-werewolf-guy is okay. So!”

Once they got walking, Arthur on his horse, Mykola walking beside it, the pixi thing kept pulling carrots from out of nowhere and trying to feed them to the animal. They soon got to the nearest fey access point, and Myk didn’t waste any time in getting Arthur to turn around and plug his ears. By the time the King got any thoughts about peaking, the strong glamours had fallen away and they were somewhere in the middle of the woods. A few Jeremy Bearings later, they’d arrived by Valentine’s motionless body.

“Mister Kaladin!” the creature squeaked, throwing themselves at the glimmering form of light which was watching over Valentine. The Stormking rolled his eyes and hugged Myk as well as he could, considering he didn’t have a physical body. “Next time you let anyone into fey territory,” the god hissed, “Mind giving me a heads up?” He pealed the small fey off his chest and gave Arthur a glare before vanishing in a puff of smoke. “He doesn’t like you,” Myk told the king, kneeling beside Valentine and checking for a pulse. “But then again, he doesn’t like anyone, so don’t take it personally.”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Rumors spread throughout the ‘Underworld’, swift as a forest fire and just as dangerous. Sadistic laughter and cold smiles surrounded a woman dressed… uniquely. This woman was an idol of sorts in this world, a queen of her trade and not to be trifled with. Everyone knew of her and yet only a handful had ever had the pleasure of meeting her. She worked the nights away, careful to always stay one step behind the line that would cause lawful trouble. Intelligent and fearless. These were two simple and blad words to describe her.

Enthralling and Malevolent. The Mistress favored these words, finding them as delicious and delightful as her trade.

“Mmm, tell me, what excitement has the Underworld caught?” The question was purred, as red-tinted green eyes glinted with curiosity.

Long lush curls of red hair were brushed from her shoulders and fell harmlessly against her bare snow-white skin. Standing with utter grace, the woman’s sharp heels sounded against the cement ground, echoing about. As she moved, the flickering torch lights danced against her… clothing. Siad clothing consisted of leather straps weaved throughout one another as a less than conservative one-piece, and tight shaping leather heeled boots. Black gloved hands loosely held a barbed whip, which trailed on the ground as she walked.

The woman’s name was hidden from the Underworld, coming to simply be known at The Mistress or Mistress. In reality for those who are now long gone from this land; her given name was once Eris, named after the Greek Goddess of Discord. It seemed to solidify the darkness of the Path she would take. A last name was never given or at least, has never been spoken.

The cracking of a whip silenced any unnecessary noise, and a smirk slowly spread her blood red lips. “So, my Pet has returned.”

---

Arthur was not surprised when this creature started to doubt asking for his help. If he was in the pixi’s shoes he never would have thought to ask someone like him. That said, there were exactly two who could possibly help Valentine. Either choice would probably not be ideal. ‘Val’s brother… I never met him.’ The king thought to himself. After Valentine’s death, Arthur could barely find the will to think about his lost love, so visiting his family… Twas out of the question. About to comment on that, all thoughts slowed and fell away. For but a split second, Arthur was gone from that moment in the stables. Instead, he could feel another in his mind, someone was exploring the shards of his mind. That was wrong. It felt so wrong. So, he fought as he always did. Doing his damned hardest to keep anyone from seeing, hell- knowing, what he went through and still allowed to torture himself. Yet, for the first time ever, the man failed and this creature was in. At first the man felt fury, but that was only a singular second. Someone innocent was seeing... everything. No one, not even his worst enemy, deserved to see or experience what he had, at an age far too delicate. In place of fury was sadness, guilt, and absolute fatigue.

After a swift period of time, as though none at all had passed, the other was out and stumbling away. Once again Arthur was in control. Turning his blank gaze upon the beautiful and yet strange-looking creature, he expected rage from himself. Yelling, or cold curt words.
“That’s enough… little one,” his voice quiet, almost monotone but at least no anger was shown. Breathing out a bit shakily, he blinked back tears he had not realized were stinging his eyes. Shaking his head, the king moved forward and knelt on one knee, eyes scanning the other. “Where you hurt? You obviously saw too much but, can you physically be harmed by any of it?” A hint of worry questioning could be heard. Seeing no visible injuries, he concluded that if the other was injured it would show through time, so he stood and returned to his horse, rechecking the horse's saddle.

Arthur’s body tensed up as arms suddenly wound themselves around him, it took every inch of willpower to not unsheathe his sword out of instinct. Breathing out deeply, he tried to relax, at least a little bit. This winged being was no threat, well, for now. No need to act rashly. “I’m just sorry you had to see any of that. I’d encourage you to forget what you saw, but- I know how difficult forgetting can be,” a faint bitter snort, “Difficult. More like impossible.” These last words were mumbled more to himself than his company.

Thankfully, that awkward scene ended and they were on their way. While they moved steadily along, Arthur went over all he knew about magic healing. While he mostly used his Blood Magic for more… offensive, measures. The man did master healing techniques as well.

Arriving at the location, Arthur found himself itching to ask questions about how exactly they arrive here, something that felt nostalgic. As if he was a teenager once more when knowledge was something he craved. It was something he looked for now too, of course. But now it was to destroy, rather than to protect. Eyes falling on the mystical figure of… the Stormking? Yeah, that one was so not what he expected. “Matters not. Whether someone likes me or not hasn’t fazed me for a long time now,” he gave a small non-regal shrug.

After brushing the creature who brought him here, apologies away, Arthur placed his attention on Valentine. The two-toned eyes slowly crawled over the other man’s appearance. Neither in the gardens nor just this morning did he really get to look at him. Now that he did, he was stunned. The dark skin and rippling muscles, shortened dreadlocks, scars, even his clothing was not something Arthur recognized as the former bodyguards’. Besides those obvious differences, the glowing tattoos were incredible. Mystifying.

Swallowing, Arthur silently scolded himself for standing around and strode forward. “How’s his pulse? Carrying him… It won’t be easy. I can do it though. That said, I will need an idea of what direction we can go and possibly how far it will be before we’re safe,” speaking quietly, his voice was all calm. No hint of anxiety, he was thinking one step at a time and showing his talent as King. Fear was his main known skill, but outside of that he was born and raised to be King; his skills did not end at fear. Any other emotions he felt, they had to wait and be put on the sidelines for now.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
“He’s alive,” Mykola mumbled with a goofy smile. The soft light of innocence in their eyes was shining once more. Kaladin’s sudden appearance had put them in an incredible mood. They stood up clumsily, obviously not used to the wings which adorned their back, and trotted over to the horse’s side, pulling out yet another carrot. “Hey there baby…who’s a good horse? You’re good horse, yes, yes, you are!” The horse looked at them skeptically, but took a bite out of the carrot, ears perking up at the shower of compliments falling all over it. Despite the original mistrust, with every word the small creature cooed, Artie’s animal seemed to fall more and more in love with them, eventually kneeling down so Myk could reach its head and scratch behind its ears. “Awww, babyyy…” In a few seconds, the horse and Mykola were sitting down cuddling, with Valentine’s friend curled up at the horse’s side like a kitten. “I like your horse, Mister A,” Mykola said, happiness written all over their blue face.

Meanwhile, Valentine was still unconscious, his skin shining like a beacon and white hair appearing silver in the strange light. He was breathing but just barely, and every minute spent in fey territory was killing him a bit more. Unbeknownst to them, the thick fog which had filled the air wasn’t natural. It looked like someone had reached into the heavens and plucked clouds from above, forcing them to stay on the ground. With a twist. For the air contained fain traces of silver. “Fifteen minutes,” Myk muttered, looking up from the horse. “Come on, we have to get him out of here.”

They gave the horse one last goodbye scratch and made their way over to Artie. “You just have to get him up. It’s roughly ten human kilometers, but that won’t be a problem.” That being said, they gave a sharp whistle, which echoed throughout the forest like the cry of some sinister bird. Nothing happened for a few seconds. And then the trees began to shake, signaling a large, monstrous form approaching. Several of the said trees got slightly bent as Tiny attempted to squish between them with a screech, a loud crack resonating when one of them cracked. “This is Tiny!” Myk exclaimed, throwing themselves at the humongous shape and hugging it tight, their small frame practically getting lost in the Bowl’s huge fur coat. “She’s going to help us!”

This would be a good time to remind the reader what the Bowl looked like. A strange mix of feathers and fur, large as four well bred horses and a carriage stacked atop one another and with the face of an owl and body of a bear. She also stank of campfire smoke and had a hungry look in her eyes, which spoke of her eating you before helping you. Tiny walked over to Valentine’s motionless figure and poked him with a great clawed foot, giving a concerned cry when her attempts solved nothing. Glaring at Mykola accusingly she tried to pick him up and failed, his white shirt tearing when she grabbed him and held him. “Okay, so you’re Strong, right?” Myk asked Mister Arthur. “Because this guy is 280 pounds of muscle…” The number was rounded down, because the creature doubted that giving Arthur the exact number of decimals was going to help anybody. Quinn had Repeatedly told Val, ‘Stop lifting, you’re getting too big.’ but the guy, stubborn as a mule, had continued to be an idiot. And now that idiocy was going to get him killed.

“Okay, so…how do we do this?” Myk asked Arthur. “I’ve never seen anyone Stronger than the two of you, and I can’t Change shape in either of you, because you’re both still Living. Also, even if I do shift in someone stronger than me, I wouldn’t know how to use the Muscles. So really, it’s all up to you by this point...he has twelve minutes to Live…the Fog is killing him. Come on, think fast.”

Tiny looked towards Mister Arthur as well, periodically nudging Val to see if she could wake him up. If she could have crossed her arms and snapped at him to hurry up, she would have. And while all this was going on, Valentine dreamed a poison induced dream.

-Memory-

Valentine lay curled up around himself, tears at the corners of his eyes, blood pouring down his body from the deep gashes she’d left on him. Down his back and his legs. Around his thighs and his chest. He’d lost count after thirty, his head going into a pleasant dreamlike state which allowed him to receive the punishment without really registering, learning to just roll with it. One of the first things he’d learned from her was to relax. Tensing up made the pain so, so much worse. The second thing was to breathe. She’d gotten so scared at one point, her humanity shining through for the first time since he’d met her, when he passed out. He’d been holding his breath like an idiot, and it had been the lack of oxygen rather than the agony that brought him to his knees.

The bodyguard had done something to displease her. Didn’t remember what. But in the end, it didn’t matter what he’d done. She beat him because she could. Because she liked to. Because he allowed her. Ha. And you call yourself a man. That’s real funny, Vali. You’re almost crying, and she’s not even hitting you anymore. Once she’d stopped, all the adrenaline had left him, and he’d simply collapsed as he usually did. It was nice. He was so worn out that he couldn’t move if he tried, and his head was filled with the remains of his adrenaline high, making for euphoria and a warm, ecstatic glow. “Hey there,” she murmured, her voice soft and kind as she wrapped a blanket around him. “You were so good today, pet.”

He smiled tiredly as she sat down beside him, pulling his head on her chest and knotting her fingers in his hair to keep him from moving. The bodyguard was practically glowing under her approval, pressing in close to the woman who tortured him night after night for her own pleasure. “There’s a good boy,” she whispered as the man’s eyes fluttered closed, his breath evening out in a few minutes. Every now and then, she’d dig her nails in one of the open wounds on his chest making him whimper softly, his body filling with tension for a couple seconds before relaxing again under her warm touch once again.

They did that every night. He’d show up wearing the clothes she liked him wearing, and kneel by the door, knees apart, head down and hands flat on the ground, waiting until she paid attention to him. Sometimes she made him wait for hours, other times she was by his side in seconds, pulling his head back by his hair and kissing him so hard she drew blood. And then she’s screw him. It was never just pure vanilla sex with her. Sometimes she held a knife to his throat and dragged it down his body slowly. Other times, she’d tie him up. She had an endless imagination for how to make him suffer and bleed while they had sex. Afterwards, if he displeased her, she beat him. Whips, brass knuckles, canes, whatever the hell she wanted. He’d never said no. Never would, no matter what method of torture she dreamt up. Because as long as he kept her gratified, he’d have enough money to help his family. She had a noose around his neck, and he feared that if he ever dared protest, she’d tighten it and leave him to hang.

But what was so notable about this particular day? Well...it was the one year anniversary of their fucked up relationship. He remembered it vividly, although it had gone down no different than any other night, except for one notable thing.

She woke him up in the middle of the night with a rough kiss. As he’d slept, she’d bound his wounds, making sure he wouldn’t die of blood loss or something. “I want to try something on you,” she’d purred, smiling a wicked smile as Valentine sat up obediently. Long ago, he’d been trained out of talking back to her. She pulled out a vial of something and handed it to him. “Drink it,” she ordered. And he did. It would take a few months for him to realize it was liquid wolfsbane, and many years to realize that she’d known. His Mistress had been perfectly aware he wasn’t exactly human.

Mint and chocolate exploded in his mouth and down his throat, getting him high in a matter of seconds. His wounds healed up, and a huge section of hair at the back of his head turned complexly white. A knife and his Mistress’ quick hand took care of it before he noticed. His hair was so thick that nobody else did either, for the missing strand was quickly lost in his giant mane. From then on, she’d have him drink the strange silvery liquid before and after a session. It strengthened him and raised his pain tolerance levels, meaning he’d be able to go for much, much longer. Sometimes she didn’t even let him sleep, sending him to work high instead.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
“The horse’s name is Merendaer, it means Festive or Joyous. He’s quite mature now but as a foal he was… troublesome,” Arthur commented idly, a wry grin just barely touching his lips. The king often was called to stop the horse from tearing the gardens to shreds and to convince the young foal to calm down. At the time it was nothing but a nuisance, especially with Kitra breathing down his neck and scolding him for not just putting the beast down for being so disobedient. Now though, it was rather amusing to think about. These memories, as brief and inconsequential back when it happened but now thinking back, weren’t so bad.

Kneeling beside the larger man, shook his head. Handsome Valentine may be, but big and heavy because of pure muscle was also rather annoying at severe times such as these. As he calcuted how to get this lug out of here the whistled caused him to flinch and then the ominous sound caught his ears. ‘What in the world… Oh fuck.’

Eyes fell on the large, ah, bird? Bear? Beast? Animal. It was that much, he was sure. Arthur took a step back as it approached and nudged Valentine. Huh, okay. So many odd things. ‘I’m delusional. Gonna wake up and have to be put on some heavy medication for this.’ The king thought wryly, because no way could this be real. Nu-huh. That said, real or hallucination mattered not.

“Alright. I’m gonna get him to his feet… Ah, Tiny is it? I’m going to need you to get as low to the ground as possible, to get this guy on your back. Mykola, once I get V-Valen...tine-” Arthur stopped here as he chocked on that name and took a deep breath, “Mykola, if you can get on Tiny’s back and try to keep him somewhat steady, I’ll ride Merendaer and hopefully keep Valentine from falling off either side.” Nodding himself, the man prayed this would work and not be a huge disaster like he thought it just may be. So he pressed on and one by one took hold of the fellow king’s arms and yanked him up slowly but surely. Heaving the ex-bodyguard to Tiny’s back, Arthur positioned him facing the bird and then pushed him up and over. Comfortable? Probably not. Sadly comfort was not top priority though, time was.
“Merendaer, let’s go,” Arthur quickly turned and clambered onto his horse, moving it alongside the large creature carrying the guard.

As Arthur and Merendaer went along, the king wondered exactly how the unconscious male managed to make his way into the forest and so deep, just to collapse. ‘Well, probably the dark creature in him.’ He thought with furrowed brows, eyes flickering to the dark-skinned man. Even long after the once prince learned of his lovers' death, he still refused to look further into what else the not fully human was. True, he kept away from the knowledge in fear of losing the other and now with him truly gone… What could stop him? At the time it was more out of the pain that he avoided anything about the guard but, it also occurred to him that if the news had gone out about what Valentine was depending on the creature he memory would be stained forever. So Arthur continued to ignore the itching questions and eventually pushed Valentine to the back of his mind as best he could.

Vaguely thinking about needing to do his ritual once this was over.

Flashback

Arthur wouldn’t break, he couldn’t. Nothing was going right, true. Still, he had a kingdom to run and a son to care for. Love was out of his reach and it would never again be reachable. Fine, he could accept that and move forward. Just keep walking, don’t stop, do not look back. No. No No!

“Your majesty?” a somewhat concerned voice spoke up, invoking a distracted Arthur to jump slightly.
Straightening, the king looked at one of his female advisers- Lady Lilian of UnderBridge Port, with a serious expression and arched eyebrow. “Yes, what is it?” His voice was calm as he questioned the woman’s presence.
The lady looked rather reluctant at being addressed now, “I’m afraid that the Council has rejected your plan again.” As Lilian told him this, she could see the rage flash through his gaze. Shifting on her feet, the woman spoke up once more, “They are awaiting your audience Do you wish for me to ask them to come another-”
“No. Do not bother,”
Arthur cut in, voice as icy as his gaze. Running a hand through his long hair, the man turned his back on her. “I’ll be there in a moment, you are dismissed.”

Listening to her skirt brush along the wooden flooring, then the soft click of the doors being closed behind her; the king sighed audibly. Shaking his head, his hands on the desk drummed lightly in impatience. Once again they are making things far more difficult than they need be. Yet, because of pre-existing laws he couldn't just overlook the old fools.

Stepping away from the desk the king paced. From the hearth to the bookshelves along the opposite sides of the room. Right, left, right, left. The only sound of his boots clicking against the floor could be heard in the room, stopping in front of his desk his eyes trailed to where his left hand was shaking uncontrollably. Twitching too. Silently, he raised his hand to eye level and looked at the back of his hand; clean and scarless. Turning it, his eyes fell upon the small scarring on his palms, where his nails dug in so deep they bled. A dirty habit.
After examining that, the King looked at the tips of his fingers where there was the slightest scar the size of a needle was. Unless you knew about them or had the chance to see the hands up close without gloves, no one would notice them.

Arthur blinked and raised his left hand, only a tiny bit surprised to see the familiar needle already being held. It was coated in a special sort of poison, specially made by Arthur himself. Well, for the most part. Itw as tweaked from its original form so that it was ten times stronger but it lasted a much longer duration.
Hand no longer shaking, Arthur pushed the needle into the tip of his index finger. Slowly, carefully. Any permanent was not allowed, no matter how… intriguing, it would be to do so. The needle slid down his finger, mindful of the nerves until it was just barely sticking out. One by one he did this to each finger on his left hand.

A knock sounded on the door, Arthur looked up from his work and scowled. “Yes?”
“Your majesty, the council is still waiting,”
Lillian once more.
‘You poor thing, sent by the other Lords and Ladies to fetch your worthless King. I wonder what childish game they play to decide who’ll face me.’ Arthur thought this flatly. “Ah, I apologize. I’ll be there in just a moment,” he called out, before turning and taking out a magnet. Raising it to the tips, he let go a soft hiss as it forced the thin metal to slide up and out. Flexing his now poison-filled hand a few times, he made out the faint black-webbed lines beginning to appear over fingers; this would travel down and around his hand as the hours went by. Pulling his gloves on, the King left to face the Council.
End of Flashback
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
Mykola climbed on Tiny’s back, their hands digging into the fur and pulling themselves up with surprising agility. They held on to Valentine tightly, positioning him a bit better so he wouldn’t fall off. “He’s gonna be so embarrassed,” the creature giggled, picking at the man’s ripped up shirt. His dark skin was showing, revealing a whole forest glowing in neon blue light. “Hey!” Mykola exclaimed, lifting the man’s ruined white shirt once they were out of the woods. “You guys kissed here for the first time!” They weren’t wrong. Because on the small of the werewolf’s back was the lake and inside the water, their dark outlines. “That’s so cuuute!” Mykola squealed, poking Mister Arthur. “He really loves you, you know that? You’re all he ever thinks about.”

The shift from the fey woods to Galiux’s regular forests was subtle. The most noticeable was the fog disappearing. As soon as it was gone, Valentine’s body was wreaked by coughs, strong enough one might have thought he was trying to get rid of his lungs entirely. But he didn’t wake up. Mykola hugged him from behind, their shape shining with a soft white light. “There’s a lot of silver in his body right now,” the small creature explained as a white cloud left from between his ex-fiancé’s lips. “And ya know how it is. Werewolves. Silver. They don’t really mix, do they?”

Soon, the forests became more and more familiar, until the old dusty road which led to Val’s old village and the palace was in sight. “Did you know wolfsbane kills werewolves?” Mykola rambled on, oblivious to any damage they might have been causing. “He’s been slowly killing himself for years without knowing it. Because he only found out he was a werewolf like, two weeks ago? Which is kinda funny? I mean, has he ever seen his eyes? And he’s never even turned…The next full moon is like, a week from now, so that’s going to be fun.” Finally, fog stopped pouring from the Lirian king’s lips, and Mykola let go, the light which had been surrounding them dying out.

“I think I will go home now,” they said softly, sliding off Tiny gracefully and landing on their toes like a dancer. “You two will work this out, I know you will,” they said, giving Mister Arthur a big hug before they left. “One last thing? Please don’t hurt yourself Mister Arthur.” They were looking up at the king, their purple eyes wide and full of innocence and compassion. “I know you’re thinking about it. And you don’t deserve it, Mister.” They didn’t give Arthur a chance to respond, disappearing into the trees before the man could fully process. And in the instant they left, Valentine’s eyes fluttered open, almost like Myk’s presence had been keeping him unconscious.

He didn’t move at first, breathing in Tiny’s familiar smell of campfire and feeling her rough furthers (fur + feathers) under his skin. “Hey there,” he mumbled, reflexively scratching the Bowl behind her ears. She gave a happy screech and shook him off, tossing him onto the ground and poking him with her claws like a dog would its favorite toy. He groaned, slapping her away with a tired laugh. “Easy,” he breathed, tears in his eyes from the impact. His entire body was sore and he was bleeding from several places. The best shirt he owned was also ripped for some reason. The werewolf hadn’t noticed Artie yet, and his head was filled with foggy thoughts. “So…I guess I’m not dead? Did you save me Tiny? Did you? Is that why my shirt is ruined, woman?” Tiny didn’t respond with a screech, contrary to popular guess. Instead, she stomped over to Artie’s horse, picked the man up with a clawed foot, and waved him in front of Valentine’s face, not giving a damn about the King’s thoughts or feelings.

“Ah shit…” Valentine closed his eyes again, wishing himself dead. For real, he would have rather died than have this conversation. “Put the poor man down,” he snapped from where he was lying, opening his golden eyes to glare at Tiny. “Gently.” She listened. Sort of. Her idea of gently was simply letting go of Arthur, and watching him fall down with an amused screech. Which quickly turned into displeasure when Val threw a nearby rock at her. It didn’t even come remotely close to hurting her, bouncing off her and breaking in two. “Should have let me die,” he mumbled, trying to get up. He managed to struggle into a sitting position and no further, severely weakened by the amount of silver they fey had so kindly pumped him full of. So he decided to go with it, and Tiny helped him out by lying on him… “You’re a lot heavier than you think you are,” he growled, scratching down her neck and behind her ears anyway. He was studiously ignoring Artie, having decided that he’d let the man start a conversation this time. After spending years chasing him, he was done. If the guy wanted to talk to him, all he had to do was walk up and talk, storm it. “I don’t have any food,” he told Tiny, waiting for her loud complains.

Which never came, for some reason. Maybe she’d decided to cut him a break after nearly watching him die. “We’ll go back home tomorrow, yeah?” he said, “Your other daddy will have been sick of his boyfriend by now. And we’ll drive the boyfriend crazy when we get home, right? We’ll cover the front lawn with mugs and say it’s really muggy outside?” The Bowl gave a large yawn, opening her mouth so wide she could have swallowed Artie, Valentine, and the horse at the same time. “Or we’ll give him some catnip in his coffee…what do you think? And when Kirian tries to kill us, we’ll ask him if the boyfriend can purr…”

He was very nearly cackling with glee, having almost put Artie out of his mind. Almost, but not quite… “Will you go thank my ex for saving my life, Tiny?” he asked her, still avoiding looking at the king, and talking in that voice people talked to their dogs in. “Because your Daddy is not talking to him right now, no he’s not. He’s done being Arthur’s good little boy. So you’ll go thank him for me, right? You’ll do that for me? And then we can go home and annoy the hell out of your demon Daddy?”

And then, to his complete and utter surprise, Tiny got up. Went over to Artie. And licked him, her humongous tongue about as big as the man, patting him on the head gently with a ginormous paw after she was done. “Tiny!” Valentine snapped, horrified. “Come on, woman, we talked about this! Not everyone’s clothes are cheap as hell!” The Bowl gave an amused screech, poking Artie with a claw and making a loud, hacking sound which could have only been classified as laughter. Valentine groaned. “No fish for you,” he decided, managing to make it to his feet at last. He stumbled over to Tiny and pulled a joint of wolfsbane out of the pack she still had, thank the Stormking, lighting it and taking a deep breath, eyes rolling back as the drug entered his system.
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Arthur just had to be deranged, that could be the only explanation for this… this…. What even was this ludicrous spectacle? Like, seriously? V-Val… Nope. Adrenaline had faded now. Anyways, that man. He was suddenly alive and- and King? Of Lir? Them? Then just to add to his circus-like thoughts, it turns out Lir was not bad just the fucking former King? Like really? That was the whole problem? Of course, something relatively simple and did not need a bodyguard sent after them. Wonderful. Moving onward.

‘The lake…? Oh, yeah. That. First kiss… mmm.’ Arthur was barely thinking of his own free will at this point, it would only make matters worse for his messed up head. That said, he couldn't help but react to the thought of that memory with the slightest heating of his face. Why? Because of pure impulse.

Thankfully, to both his relief and horror yet another subject pulled him from his reverie. Silver. Wolfsbane. Ah, so he supposed pretending to not see the werewolf in that man was impossible. Wait… wolfsbane. The same shit he’d been smoking for god knows how long?! Frowning, he titled his head down as he thought quickly. That particular product just happened to fall into an unknowing werewolfs’ hands? No, not without someone knowing. But who…? Yet, no one came to mind. Odd. A mystery.

Shaking his head, Arthur had to do a double-take at his surroundings. They were out and the being was hugging him. The king flinched and ground his teeth together, to physically keep from snapping at the small winged boy. No, the creature didn’t deserve to be snapped at. It was an innocent- Oh no he didn’t! Duel eyes snapped to where the boy was vanishing. He could read thoughts, that was obvious from the boy’s musing about V- that man’s apparent thoughts. Sadly, up until that little comment it hadn’t processed it surely did now though. Thoughts and memories. So innocent for someone who had to see such horrific things. As a result of everything happening so quickly and suddenly, with barely enough time for the king to really think things over the fact that he had not changed at all yet and would this very next week got lost among so many other thoughts.

‘Please don’t hurt yourself?.... Don’t deserve it.’ These thoughts invaded Arthur, poking and prodding like needles. Blunt. With only one meaning. A plea to stop. It was all simple in retrospect. Sadly, not within this mind. These words turned and twisted swiftly and mercilessly. Even as they echoed through his mind, like a child's game the true mean was lost and contracted until it was completely different. What did the king now hear?

‘Please, darling. Hurt. Show me that delicious pain. We both deserve a treat like that.’ Words spoken so slowly and in a darkly bewitching method.

Briefly, the long-haired male closed his eyes flashes of memories darting in and out of the darkness. But as quickly as it all happened, he reopened his gaze and was watching Valen- him. ‘Woman? So the fluffy cuteness- Ah, creature. It was female. Good to know.’ This thought was more out of dazed ‘what the fuck is all this’. So, he moved on-

Shit! Before he could blink Arthur’s world around him was suddenly blurred and his body being… thrown around? No, not quite thrown. Waved then. A voice- thank the heavens, told Tiny to put him down and she did. True, it was not what a normal person would call gently but whatever. Least he was on safer ground, Arthur would take it. On to the state of… this. Having half-listened to him wake from the dead and talk to Tiny like a woman would to her cat, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Both sounded pretty nice right about now.

Death. Heaviness. Food. Thank you. Boyfriends. Daddys. Then a bunch of other nonsense that could only be understood by… someone who wasn't Arthur, tumbled from the not-dead-man’s mouth. Wonderful. Oh, and a demon too. At this point, there was no waking from his little dream… Nightmare? Well, half of it seemed so but, the other just seemed too far fetched to be a nightmare or dream. Again, delusion. No need to try and give it a name-
‘Did… I just get licked?’ Such a thought had his mind stuttering to a stop. Blinking and then looking down at his now… licked clothing. His tailor was gonna skin him. Turning a dumbfounded face to Tiny, he opened his mouth to comment on her paying for his clothing and the lecture he would get got halted by that man striding over- Yes, Arthur could tell he was pointedly avoiding saying or even looking at Arthur, and taking out… wolfsbane?

Eye twitching, the king resisted reaching over and slapping it out of the wolfman hands. Not only were they not that familiar anymore but a werewolf. Instead, with utter confidence he opened his mouth to tell him off. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

“V-V…. Val… gods,” Arthur stammered over a name he once spoke every day for years. It was so foreign and the emotions running as high as the sky wasn’t helping matters. Shaking his head, Arthur quickly looked around for… something- There. That could work. Striding to a nearby tree, the king knelt and rummaged through a pile of leaves and branches. Finding a nice thin one, he picked up and squeezed it in his left hand. The slight poking of where the branch was broken pressed against the palm of his hand. No bleeding or poison. It would do though. He just needed something to occupy his hands for… this. Right.

Holding it tight, the man took a breath, turned on his heel and walked back towards the pair but still stayed a proper distance back. As he stopped and opened his mouth once more, the stick unconsciously moved to his other hand and was held tight. “Stop-Stop smoking that. J-Just stop. B-Before you s-s-snap or-or, wh-what-e-ever. I-I’m not telling you to order you around. I just need you to stop. Please. Th-This shi-shit is really not processing and when it finally does… I d-dunno. Hon-honestly. B-But b-being that you alr-aleady almost just -just died like mo-m-moments ago. I-I’d really like to not have to w-watch you purposely k-k-ill yourself with that-that,” voice shaking, he shook his head and looked up at the sky. Endless. Starlite sky. It was nice and calm.

Snap Jumping, Arthur looked down at his poor stick. It snapped. Even though he knew it was in his head, the man couldn't help but feel like it had echoed necessarily. That also resembled how he was feeling. Snapping. Not… Not the yelling kind, but the emotional one. After years of working, moving forward non-stop everything just… snapped. A strange feeling touched his face- no, trailed down it. Tears. Lovely. If anyone deserved to cry, it was not him. No. No. No.
“D-Don’t.” Rasping this word out, he wasn’t sure what ‘don’t’ meant. Don’t judge him? Don’t pity him? Don’t come closer? Was he back on the subject of wanting him to put that cursed drug out? Don’t smoke? Or… Or could he be talking solely to himself? In a last ditch effort to not break, to keep moving forward? ‘Don’t crack, don’t break, don’t let anyone see, don’t seek true relief, don’t try to get someone’s pity. Just don’t.’

Do not forget that this is the result of your own hand chosen choices. Don’t forget when you take your last breath, people will smile and cheer. Don’t forget that they’ll celebrate your death. Do not forget that they will forget you mere days after. Don’t forget the sown hate that you so carefully put into the ground. Into your legacy.

Jerking as though someone slapped him, Arthur put his focus and gaze solely upon the werewolf. No regrets. They had to be let go. “I’m sorry. For… everything, I guess? I’d say for the pain but, but I guess I’m more sorry for the good times. After all, the bad wouldn't have happened if not for the good. Not saying of course, that I would take those moments back. Just that they were the beginning of everything else bad. Honestly, I can say with confidence that I’m sorry and that everything going here on is myself. True, you and others can say otherwise, say that partly this or that is not on me but you. I guess that's true, in a way. But overall? From the day we met I made choices that weren’t good, childish ones. To darker genuinely evil ones. So, not everything's my fault but a nice gist is.” Was he rambling? Somewhat. It was all needed to be said, so why not say it in one go? Then, maybe then he could move forward? No, things were so simple. Why? Arthur would leave this night and continue his daily life, starting with his ritual then branching out with the usual. That was how the world worked, an endless loop.

Not really satisfied with everything he said but needing a new stick, he turned and dropped it. A step. Shoot. Legs buckling under him, Arthur stumbled to one knee breathing a bit heavily. Breathless. It was now that he noticed his face felt… off. Why did it, ah. A smile was spread across it, devoid of warmth or its customary coldness. Empty. Something in him boiled over and… and he laughed. Laughed and laughed, tossing his head back and shaking. An unhinged shattered laughing. All pieces of his life shattered right before him. The small cracks and grown quite large and deep without him noticing. It was going to shattering with the bare hint of a touch and now? Gods. It hadn't been touched, rather, it was punched straight through without mercy. Considering everything, it fit. It really, really fit.

To finally shatter felt so good. So freeing. Even though his life was shattering it also felt like those pieces were coming together, being glued shard by shard. What would it be once it dried? Well, it would finally reflect everything in his life. No longer would he be able to hide behind ice or anger.
 

Jester

Can we pretend airplanes are shooting stars?
Community Volunteer
Valentine looked at his former friend and lover go kneel near a pile of leaves and pick up a stick with which he proceeded to stab himself with. He fought the urge to rip the stick out of his hand and toss it as far as he could. Which was pretty far, considering his record was two miles. Him and Kirian were constantly flexing at each other, doing little things like, say, chucking Quinn’s coat into a lake as revenge for somebody leaving cat hair all over the couch. And Kirian just casually hurling one of his knives into the woods and wishing him good luck in finding it. Which sounded really funny when said by the demonic Greek dude.

“You stopped having any sway in what I do when you married someone else, darling,” Valentine laughed, taking a deep, wolfsbane filled breath. No you didn’t. That’s a lie. I’m trying to hurt you. Don’t listen to me. Some strands of hair right at the front went completely white, and more and more started losing their color as the king talked. The drug was frantically trying to patch up his heart, bring his emotions to a manageable level, pull him back from the chasm he was looking down in.

Valentine walked towards the king slowly, snuffing out the joint on his arm, right where Kaladin’s tattoo laid, still shining with a dulled light. “You need me to stop?” he asked softly, golden eyes glowing brilliantly as anger took a hold of him once more. He was practically trembling as he approached the one he’d have walked through hell for. And really, he had walked through hell for Arthur. Not only walked, but lived through and made peace with. “Don’t act like you care about my life, Arthur Quentin Silas.” His voice had turned into a near growl as he set the wolfsbane in his pocket, obeying him anyway. Like he always had, and would until he died. “You played me. And now you’re playing me again.” You’re giving me hope. You’re acting like you care. “I am storming DONE with being your toy.” He knew, all this time, Val thought, rage blinding him to reason. He knew I was a werewolf. I didn’t have to tell him.

A sharp, cutting pain stopped him dead, closing his throat and pressing his lips in a tight white line to keep the tears from spilling over. All he’d ever wanted, ever worked for and cared about, was this man. He’d only demanded one thing out of his life. For Artie to claim him. To feel for him the same desperate, burning love that haunted Val’s every thought and move. Artie had sent him off to die instead. And now the man was crying. “Don’t.” Arthur had said. And then he apologized. For the good times. For the bad times. For everything. It was what finally unlocked something in Val’s chest, allowing him a single agonized gasp. A silver tear made its was down his dark skin as he felt something in him break a bit more. “I can’t,” he breathed, lighting the joint once more. “I tried. I can’t.” You never wanted me, did you?

The poison stopped working. He was smoking it, filling his lungs with it, and it did nothing. Even it had given up on him. The werewolf could practically see the human version of the plant throwing up her hands and going “Yeah, I’m done, bro.” He felt the absence deeply, as if someone had taken away a crutch and told him to walk.

It was oddly fitting that Artie started laughing at that moment. He’d fallen to his knee, a hysterical, maddened laughter taking over his body and giving voice to his demons, finally free. His mask had shattered, revealing the broken mess inside, forcing him to drop the cold and cruel façade he’d been wearing like a shield for years. He looked eerie, then. A stormed up, hot mess, on his knees with tears streaks down his face and small bits of sticks in his hair from the walk in the woods. He’d finally stopped pretending, and it was terrifying. Because with each second that passed with that awful sound coming from him, he seemed less and less like a person, and more like a…thing.

I’m not watching this happen, Val thought, fear and fury mixing to make for a rather potent cocktail. He walked over and picked Artie off his knees like one would a sack of potatoes, disarming him, slinging him over his shoulder in a similar manner. After years of practice, he’d grown quite proficient in finding dangerous objects. Which was why he managed to find all the weapons the king had hidden on himself and stuff them in Tiny’s pack. “We’re going for a walk,” he announced, not caring very much about the man’s thoughts and feelings regarding his words. “You’re acting like a madman, and in my village there was only one cure for that.” His huge, strong arms had wrapped around Artie, successfully immobilising him, but also warming him up. The werewolf was like a furnace (a particularly big and muscular one), emanating heat and, well…life. Over the years, one of the things which had never changed was the way he smelled. Still the same mixture of the drug and campfire smoke.

“You know,” Val spoke as he marched the king through the woods which he still remembered like the back of his hand, “It wasn’t all your fault…I blame you for most of it, but that’s only because I have no one else to blame, other than myself… Maybe if I had come back sooner, you wouldn’t be this fucked up…” He ducked to avoid a branch scratching Artie, taking a path which no one had walked in over ten years. It was covered in weeds and thorns, the familiar silvery leaves which Val smoked growing in bunches every hundred meters or so. But they weren’t the only thing growing there. The deeper they walked, the fewer could be seen, until they disappeared altogether, being gradually replaced by flowers. White roses, mostly. Mint vines curled around trees, soaking up whatever sunlight it could find. It was everywhere, and whenever Val hit it accidentally, it would react by sending out a cloud of minty air. The plants here defied nature and common sense, growing and thriving where they shouldn’t have. “You’ve never been to my house,” he said, pulling out one of his longswords and slashing some grape vines out of his way.

“Most of these plants are my mum’s fault. That woman had green thumbs, she did. That tree right there?” he pointed backwards with the tip of his sword, so Artie could actually see what he was talking about. “She bought a branch from some merchant. And whenever me and my brothers fought, she’d make us take care of it for a week. If we took care of it well enough, she wouldn’t ground us for disturbing the peace.” The tree in question was a huge thing with moss covered bark and branches which extended for hundreds of meters in each direction. It had no right to have grown that big, even in the thirty years it had been alive, yet there it was, a giant compared to every other plant in the forest. “Anyway, the cure for madness in my village? Locking the said person in a room until they start acting normal. They did that to me a couple times…” he chuckled fondly, remembering how his friends had snuck him cheap liquor through the bars and joked around until morning found them. Even Artie had shown up and one point, to the awe of the old farmer guarding the door. The poor guy had nearly had a heart attack.

Eventually, a small wooden cabin came into view. It seemed to have been built over a century before, and there was a fire burning inside, the smell of meet cooking floating through the air. It wasn’t that palace crap either. It was bear meat, judging by the smell, and the fur which was hanging outside on a tree to dry. Knocking on the door three times in quick succession, Valentine barged in, Artie still over his shoulder. “Evening…or, morning. I dunno anymore. Anyway, hi Derek.” His brother looked up.

Derek had the same dark skin and curly hair, and broad shoulders. He was considerably smaller than Valentine, but about as tall, his eyes brown and a light sweeping of freckles across his nose and cheeks. “Hi Vali.” His brother said, as if the last time he’d seen him wasn’t ten years before. When he’d left, Derek had still been a scrawny, autistic 15-year-old boy trying to fit in. Now he was a scrawny, autistic 25-year-old (by Julian men standards, in reality, he was quite buff) who could kill bears without a problem. “Derek? Who’s that?” a voice from deeper inside the cabin called out as Valentine plopped Artie on the couch and wet up in a cupboard, finding a cup and filling it with jade. Well, not literal jade. Jade the drink. It was a sort of mixture of plants and honey, which tasted absolutely amazing and they always had a huge barrel off. It got its name because the plants his mother had taught them to use glowed the same shade of green as jade. “Drink this,” he ordered, downing a cup of it himself and pulling Derek in for a one armed hug. “You left,” Derek said, looking him up and down. “You said you were going to get some milk…what took you so long, and where’s the milk?” Valentine winced. His brother wasn’t kidding. The guy had waited ten years for him to come back with some milk. “You brought that thing instead,” Derek said accusingly, pointing towards Artie’s form on the couch. “And now I think Annie is mad at me…”

Before he could figure out who Annie was, she walked in. Hips and chest for days, skin as white as chalk and golden hair which she’d cut so short she looked like a man. The bandana didn’t help her case either. Eyes as green as emeralds and bright pink nails. Also, she was very clearly pregnant. “Who are you, and why are you in my house,” she demanded, crossing her arms, a storm brewing up in her eyes. “And…HOLLY FUCK.” She’d grabbed Derek and a knife, backing up against the door in the blink of an eye. “WHAT THE FUCK IS HE DOING IN HERE?” Valentine groaned. “Wow, okay, so when I’d brought him I didn’t think anyone would still be, you know…living here. And even so, have some decency, woman. Poor man has had it rough. ALSO, what in the Stormfather’s name is your problem? I come home after ten years with the man I love, and this is the reaction I get?”

Derek nodded wisely. “Yeah, he went out for milk. Must have bumped into lover boy…” Annie looked at the two brothers, blinking in confusion. A few seconds later, it was replaced by anger. “OH MY GOD.” She jabbed the knife at Valentine’s throat. “You’re Valentine aren’t you?” He barley had time to nod before she bitch slapped him. It was rather impressive considering her head came up to his chest. “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? ABANDONING YOUR FAMILY LIKE THAT?” Valentine shrank under her glare, hand going to his cheek in shock. Yeah, she had a point. “YOU. LEFT. THEM. TO. FEND. FOR. THEMSELVES.” Every word was accentuated by her poking his chest with the knife. Not enough to hurt, just enough to make her point. “YOU. SELFISH. ASSHOLE.”

“Okay, but they had enough money for everything,” he tried, letting her back him up against the wooden wall of the cabin with the blade to his throat. “OOOOOH,” she somehow shouted sarcastically. “YEAH. Do you wanna know what happened after you left? Your whore sister Maya left to have kids, Beatrice went to school, and they left Derek alone. Are you proud of yourself?” Valentine chuckled, pushing the knife away. “The way I see it, two out of three are okay. And this house will be yours forever, because I paid the landlord off, with money I got doing you-don’t-want-to-know what. Plus. Last I’ve heard you’ve been together for what, eight years? You’re all fine, sista. Get out of my face.” He pushed passed her with a scowl, going in his old room and pulling a shirt out of his closet, only to find it was four sizes too small. No one had disturbed the room ever since he’d left, and everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. Also, nothing effing fit. Guess he’d have to go back to Lir for a storming shirt, because not even his father’s clothes were big enough.

So, still shirtless and frowning like a teenager, he went to sit beside Artie. “Not how I envisioned bringing you here for the first time,” he admitted. “But ya know. Better than leaving you to fend for yourself against that wife of yours…”

It didn’t take long for the couple to join them, Annie handing each of them a bowl of bear stew with a scowl. “I don’t like you two,” she announced. “But at least he doesn’t look like a fucking gorilla…” She nodded towards the king. Val looked up at her, a bit hurt. “Yeah, that’s why I like him,” he shot back. “He’s out of your league, Monkey Man.”
 

LadyDovahkiin

Feel free to call me Dovah~
Voices danced within Arthur’s consciousness, good, bad, and all else in between. It was rather difficult to pinpoint any of them as well. Strangely, none seems to be vying to be the loudest. Vision blurred by the tears running continuously down his pale face, he felt himself being lifted and then the world seemed even odder. But, as if he wasn’t in control of his own body, Arthur was moving through the forest. The voices in his head continued to babble but another voice pierced through his voice. The larger male was talking about… something, it didn’t really come through but, the voice itself seemed to.

Hazily, Arthur wondered where the fuck they were going. Outside of that thought, he genuinely didn’t care where they were headed didn’t matter. None of it did.

So, even though a part of Arthur thought he should feel grateful for being taken somewhere other than the palace, with him of all people. The man just felt hysterical. Thus, he giggled. Yes, something in him thought that was the right reaction and he giggled. Having danced on the edge of a razor-sharp sword for so long and suddenly having it shattered beneath him… The fragility of his mind made itself clear to anyone who saw him like this.
Breaking was not how the man imagined it being, although that could because he was broken at this time in his life. Arthur had anticipated breaking years ago, contradicting what he often said…

Start of memory
“Well get out of here, together. Then we can run and run. No one to stop us,” a nine-year-old-boy who spoke so maturely for one his age, said with firm resolve. The gentlest of smiles upon his lips as his two-toned eyes gazed down at a girl with messy, blood-matted golden curls.
Coughing, blood stained the girls' lips, “H-How are you always so pos-s-tive?” The girl rasped out, eyes glinting with pain but her body relaxed. She knew she was safe right here, in these arms. They wouldn’t hurt her.
“Hmmm? Positive? Well, I’m not sure I would call it that. I just refuse to break,” words sincere and not a lick of deceit to them. Arthur, Prince of Gailux, had been in this prison for six long months now and yet still smiled whenever possible and had taken several of his fellow children under his wing. Even those older than him, such as the girl on his lap.

Golden curls that were cut haphazardly, pale dirt-smeared skin, the endless scars; mental and physical. But what really caught one's attention was her shockingly blue eyes. They literally changed color, from a lighter blue to a darker. At first, it could be said to be a trick of the light but as you spent time with her it would become clear that it was real. The girl was only eleven years old, having been here starting a year before Arthur and her strength now waned.

When the prince met her he asked her name and she responded with such ease that her name was a derogatory term. Mortified, Arthur declared that her name was now ‘Calypso’ and that was that. Among the children and away from the evil eyes of those who harmed them, each child was given a special name by the prince.

“C-Can you call me by my n-name again? I want that to be the l-last name I hear,” Calypso requested this of the prince who ran his fingers through the matter curls, gentle in every way.
A shaky nod, “O-Of course.” Arthur took a moment to clear his throat and force his tears back. “May the Gods shower you with the love you deserve and take away all your pain, my dear friend… Sweet dreams, Calypso,” he murmured, smiling visibly as he watched his friend take one last breath and use the last of her strength to meet his smile with one of her own. Then the light in her entrancing eyes was gone, forever.

Bowing her head, Arthur shook small choked noises forcing their way out of his grinding teeth. Then the prince raised his now tear-stained face and glared, pure loathing twisted on his face. Standing just on the other side of thick cell bars was a smiling man, eyes glowing with pleasure at the pain evident in the whole of the prince’s aura. Then he gave a mocking bow before turning and striding out, cold slaughtering trailing after him.

The boy breathed out shakily and looked around him with sorrow in his eyes and hate brewing within him. Besides Calypso laying lifeless in his arms, all around him were the bodies of all his cherished friends. Each one long-gone from this cruel world, leaving Arthur behind.

A loud creak from the dungeon door being opened sounded through the deathly silent air. Then armored doorsteps headed in the direction of Arthurs cell. Careful placing Calypso on the ground, the boy caressed her face one last time before folding her arms across her chest and slowly standing. Power began to gather and an aura of a blood-red color started to appear, clenched fists opened and the prince smiled viciously.

“I won’t break. But you… You will.”
End of memory

A couch, screaming, unfamiliar faces around her. Blinking, Arthur wondered when he got here and when he stopped giggling. Probably a good thing he stopped, so time mattered not. Swallowing thickly, he rubbed at his puffy eyes and bit his tongue to keep a somewhat pained hiss from coming out. The horrid feeling of vertigo spun the room. Ugh.

Though, he now could hear what the voices outside of his head were saying. ‘Fending against Kitra? Right. She won’t take this disappearance well. Fuck her.’ Arthur thought bluntly. But then he focused on the unfamiliar woman and Val- him, talk. Okay. So was he offended? No, not really. The King went out of his way to create hatred towards himself, but really. Did she have to call him a gorilla? A tinge of wanting to defend him came but as soon as the man recognized it, he flinched and shoved it away. Arthur had no right.

A smell reached his nose. Oh. Stew. Blinking owlishly at the bowl in his hands, he questioned when the hell it got there. Also how the hell he was holding it, his hands felt like mud. Cautiously, he shifted and scooted back against the couch, placing the bowl on his more steady lap before flexing his hands experimentally. The mud-like feeling was fading, so it should be safe to pick a small bowl of stew, right? Right. Keeping his attention- albeit more than necessary, he picked it up and brought it to his lips, at first sipping the broth.
Why all this focus? One, his strength seemed far from stable but secondly, so he didn’t have to really think about where he was, who he was with, and the fact that the voices continued to poke his brain. That memory of Calypso and his first real use of Blood-Magic, it was frightening.

Arthur had never forgotten, the king would voluntarily jump off a cliff if he were to dare even think about forgetting. But, he had managed to push those memories and the feelings along with them, to the depths of his mind. Locked away by chains and many, many walls. Now, however, he could feel those emotions so strongly.

“Th-Thank you… For the… s-st-stew,” Arthur whispered, eyes staring down at the stew. Gods. It felt like that one thank you took every ounce of energy he had left in him. When he said that, he had *wanted* to raise his slightly bowed head and look her in the eyes. Yet his strength went to his words and the rest of his body was too heavy to do anything with. Breathing in and out deeply, the king closed his eyes. ‘I’m so tired…’
Unconsciously, his body managed to move- all while somehow keeping the bowl held loosely and from spilling everywhere, until he was pressed up against the ‘gorilla’.

That recognizable smell and warmth. It was… nice.

As he thought that sharp pain and tingling raced down his spine. Body tensing up, Arthur’s breathing hitched and he carefully pulled away from *him* and once again focused on his probably cold stew. This time though, he was counting mentally. ‘10… 9… 8… 7…’ Slowly but surely, his muscles relaxed and the pain faded.
Looking up from his stew the male could only blink slowly as he looked between the woman and Val- his... brother? Achingly slowly all the words he couldn’t hear earlier were coming back to him.

So, time to review what had gone on while he was giggling as his insanity made itself known.

Valen- Nope, not quite there yet. He said that Arthur was nothing to him. Check. Then declared that the king didn’t care about him. Also mentioned that Athur saw him as a toy. Cure of madness. Check. That is wasn't his fault- It was. Arthur was fucked up. Double-check. Well, there was no need to twist that. Talk about his home and mother… Lots of other stuff that made as much sense as… nothing. Check.

Huh. What an interesting experience this was- The pain came again and he choked on the air. The pain was something he’d experienced before today but, not so close together. Not enough to cause any question towards it. Now though, it was… odd. Clearer somehow. LIke… Strings. Being yanked back. What was this?
 
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