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About V'Neef Meles

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  1. The Daughter of Air nearby was talking softly to the large raptor in the tree, feeding it morsels and stroking it with the fondness reserved for a dear companion. A little way beyond her, the watchful Meles saw another young Dragon-Blood half-slumped on an ornamental bench, the look in his eyes one of relief and misery. The fierce-looking Fire-blooded woman was still on the verandah, having glared into submission the one man who'd approached her, she now took on the attitude of relaxation tinged with wariness, as though awaiting the next interruption to her reverie. All three were oddly alone in the bustle and noise of the ball, like he himself. Was it through their own choice? Meles thought it likely. They'd sought solace in the garden, even as he had, though their motives for doing so may be as wildly differing as the subjects were in appearance and attitude. He altered his song slightly, playing to them on a whim and tailoring the tune to his target audience. For the Daughter of Air, the segment of the tune was light, shifting and ethereal. Others would call it frivolous or flighty, but it rose above such earthbound, staid opinions and soared freely as the wind should. The passage he played to the Son of Earth was subdued, but reassuring in it's unwillingness to yield, the strength drawn from roots that went deep into the rock. And for the Daughter of Fire, the song became a proud, almost harshly-beautiful medley, changing form and demanding attention simply by virtue of it's existence. And all the while the flute player remained unseen, composed and relaxed in the cloak of anonymity provided by the ebb and flow of the music.
  2. A gentle, haunting flute filled the air of the veranda, a contrast to the distant sounds of the harpists providing the music for socialising to. This slower music was solitary and introspective, providing an oasis of calm reflection to those that lingered in the jasmine-scented haze of the outdoors. It was an unobtrusive complement to the setting, much like the musician himself. Legs folded in the fashion of a street performer and heedless of the finery he wore, Meles sat on a carved green marble bench near the veranda, soft amber eyes watching those, Dynast and patrician, who were taking in the night air and sipping chilled wine as they talked in low tones, laughed, and held forth in small knots. No-one really looked twice at him, which was his design. He had taken the least showy and jewel-encrusted jacket his sister had chosen, added a shirt to wear underneath it rather than going bare-chested like so many of the young Dragon-Blood males, and had left his hair loose but for the single warrior's braid at his left temple. No jeweled sword hilt or weapon of power adorned his person, nothing save the intricately carved jade flute he was currently playing. Ordinarily, this would be enough to ensure that a Dynast was a dull crow among swans in such a gathering as this, but Meles had a few disadvantages. Being of obvious pure blood was one - his green tones and the permanent garland mixed with the locks of his flowing hair was a sure indicator of that. And he was, as has been mentioned and for want of a better word, beautiful. So it was that he had already had to use considerable misdirection to dodge the bevy of eligible women his sister had tried to force on him and escape here to the gardens, where he had promptly drawn his flute with all the speed of a swordsman pulling steel to defend themselves and settled into the inner discipline of the Invisible Street Performer Technique. He knew that Aliset would find him sooner or later and force him back into the throng, but for now he simply watched the crowd, noting the similarly solitary red-hued young Dynast sitting by herself. She was striking, too striking to be alone at a gathering such as this, and so with idle curiousity Meles watched to see whom she waited for. Click to reveal..
  3. The house was opulent, as befit the home-from-home of a noble House of the Realm. Jade, marble and other luxurious materials were exquisitely designed and put together in a shining example of architecture that was designed to humble and inspire those who beheld it. Gardens perfumed with the scents of blooms from every corner of Creation ringed the palatial central building and could be found within it also as one turned a corner to come across, unexpectedly, a small garden within the walls, sunlight filtering down through crystalline windows and ceiling high overhead. Some gardens were water-features, harbouring flowers of dazzling hues that floated on the surface of clear pools lined with gold and green jade. Others were hanging gardens, benches of ornate carved marble covered in rich fabrics above which bobbed multicoloured jade baskets magically suspended and overflowing with tumbles of colour. "Trust the youngest son of House V'Neef to find the most tucked-away and remote garden of any dwelling to secret himself away in." V'Neef Aliset told the seneschal as he hurried to keep up with the striking woman, who strode rapidly through the halls of the palace. She'd had been through most of these gardens once already today looking for her wayward brother ever since she'd received word that he'd entered Lookshy this morning on one of the Merchant Navy vessels controlled by their wealthy family. And she was getting heartily sick of them. "I'm certain he must be in this next one, Lady." the man said in an appeasing tone. Aliset shot him a fierce glare, causing him to gulp. "You were supposed to see to it that he went to his chambers, availed himself of a bath, and changed into suitable clothes for the damned festival." she growled. "I tried, great Lady." the miserable seneschal said. "I did try. Your brother, no disrespect intended I assure you, is..." he hesitated. "Difficult." Aliset finished for him. "And no offence is taken, though had you said that to any outside this House you might have found yourself minus a tongue." "Lady, I keep this palace and run the affairs in Lookshy for the House V'Neef because your mother, may she live for ever, sees value in my honesty." The seneschal said with some pride. "And thus it behooves me to say that your brother's, uh, uniqueness is not exactly a secret." "I know that, damn you." Aliset said, increasing her pace as they ascended yet another set of stairs. "Five betrothals ruined, and mother still won't disown him. Our baby brother has been much indulged. If he wasn't so obviously loyal in other areas, he'd be out on his ear." "He did perform very well in his first action, great Lady." the seneschal said appeasingly. "The Guild are furious, I hear, to lose the crop of slaves that their agents had spent months harvesting from Dynast lands along with five hundred of their mercenaries. A magnificent ambush, so I hear." Aliset couldn't help but smile proudly at that, but swiftly schooled her expression into a scowl as she heard flute music drifting down the corridor ahead of her. "There is more to being a Dragon-Blood than sneaking about the wilderness and feathering slavers with arrows." she said. "Leave me. I would have words with my brother." The seneschal fell back at her command, turning to start the long trek back to the ground floor. Aliset moved to the end of the hallway and emerged into the bright sunlight of a balcony garden, flowers growing wild across the green grass partially shaded by a cherry tree with blossoms of delicate pink and white. Sitting under the tree, his back to the trunk and playing a haunting tune on a finely-crafted jade flute, was the Dragon-Blood she sought. V'Neef Meles, youngest scion of the House, was beautiful. That was never in doubt, and had caused the boy to be doted on from birth by his mother, his nurses, and even his sisters. It was unusual in Dynast society for mothers to have much to do with their children before Exaltation, but V'Neef had been convinced that Meles would Exalt even before he did early, at the age of ten. His Exaltation had added an exotic component to his looks, the purity of his blood all too obvious in the forest-green of his skin and the warm amber colour of his eyes. His rich brown hair was commingled with naturally growing small flowers, a permanent garland, and his features were elegantly refined and possessed the classic strength of the Dragons. Meles was also talented, winning competition after competition against other student of the House of Bells in the field of archery. He was thoughtful, and a respectable strategist. The small force of rangers that served under him respected their young commander and the victory he'd already brought them. In fact, in every way but two, he was the perfect Dragon Blood. "Meles." Aliset said, moving out into the garden as she caught his attention. The beautiful flute music stopped and her brother lowered the instrument to his lap, an expression of resigned patience on his handsome features as he stood and bowed without a word. This was the first problem. Meles didn't speak much. As in hardly at all. Even in small gatherings, he had a painful shyness that meant that he could barely speak above a whisper. This meant he had, since his Exaltation, dodged every public engagement, every opportunity to socialise and form a web of allies and connections that would serve him later in life. And heaven's forbid that he had to give a public address: to stand before a crowd and speak was so utterly terrifying to the boy that he would hide rather than face it. Aliset didn't understand it. Her mother didn't understand it. They'd given him command of a small force of scouts primarily because his quietness would prove an asset there rather than a hindrance, as it would be for a conventional force, where rallying the troops with stirring oratory was a prerequisite. "Why aren't you changed?" Aliset demanded, taking in his travel-stained clothing and armor and the presence of his weapons propped against the tre beside him, with one caustic sweep of her eyes. "It's a festival, and we have invitations to the most prestigious gatherings in Lookshy, which we will be attending to represent our House in a seemly and cultured manner. Meles didn't say anything, merely shifted from foot to foot and gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Don't even think about it." Aliset narrowed her eyes and pointed at him. "You will be attending. And you will be attending in suitable raiment for the youngest and most eligible son of House V'Neef. There will be daughters of other great Houses in attendance, some of them friends of mine, and I'm sure they want to meet the hero of the battle of Thorns." She smiled at him. "Your mother is proud of you, little brother. And so am I. You've caused a stir with your bravery and instinct of battle. Why not come and enjoy the fruits of conquest: accolades, toasts, female attention..." Meles sighed softly and shrugged again, turning to walk to the stone balustrade. Aliset rolled her eyes. "You don't have to marry them, you impossible child. Just be a man for a change and enjoy the attention. You do like women, don't you?" she asked him scornfully. Meles simply nodded, looking out over the city. Aliset rolled her eyes. Yes, Meles did like women - apparently. He'd never, to the best of anyone's knowledge, done anything about it though. "Trust me, brother. They won't be interested in your conversation. You can be strong and silent, but you will be there. Your mother expects it." Meles gave another sigh, his shoulders slumping a little, then he just nodded acceptance. Aliset smiled - invoking their mother was an effective way to get Meles almost anywhere... except to the betrothal. Aliset didn't understand why, and nor did V'Neef herself. All they knew was that Meles was utterly intractable when it came to getting married. Threats, sanctions - nothing seemed to work. "There will be bathing attendants and fresh clothing in your room. Avail yourself of them, and soon." Aliset told him shortly before turning and leaving. Meles stood for awhile longer, his amber gaze somber as he looked out over the splendour of the city. Then he sighed very, very softly and went to bathe.
  4. "Hmm. The wizard summons me, eh? I'm much in demand, it seems." Diarmuir finished dressing, buckling his weapons belt into place as he thought that over. He met Nayobee's eyes, his own mismatched gaze cold. "I've no love for gaols or gaolers, but it's a big favor you're asking me, to break someone out of the Hallows. I'm in enough hot water as it is." He let that hang in the air as he swung his cloak over his shoulders and fastened it. "That's no refusal, just making sure you know what level of debt your going in for." He took a scrap of vellum and some charcoal from his pack and quickly scribbled a note to Heln, outlining that he'd decided not to impose on her further and she could enquire about him at the Jade Tower if she were of a mind to. Signing it simply 'D', the manhunter looked over at Nayobee. "Let's slip out, then. Doesn't do to keep wizards waiting."
  5. "You need my help, eh?" Diarmuir managed to get to fifty sit-ups then relaxed, feeling tired but mildly elated at how quickly he seemed to be recovering. He stood up and stripped off the over-large trousers before digging into his pack for better-fitting garb. "It'll be a day or two before I'm at top form, but let's hear the problem." he told the Elfmaid. "I trust your word when you say you'll owe me." He pulled on a pair of close-fitting black britches as he talked, then reached for a white draw-string shirt of good linen.
  6. "Yes, I'm... lookin' for a copper... penny. Be a... darling and bend... over and look... in the corner for me?" Diarmuir said between pushups, sparing a moment to give Nayobee a wry grin before resuming his exertions. "The watcher. Be they gutter, or guardhouse?" He asked matter-of-factly as he stopped the pushups after fifty, then turned over and started to work on his stomach muscles. He had taken off the oversized shirt Heln had loaned him and the wiry muscles of his torso could be seen to flex and stretch as he moved, the flush of exertion removing some of the pallor of the illness.
  7. "Just my belongings that the Elf grabbed. I'll let you have your clothing back once I can change." Diarmuir seemed to deflate, his head sinking back onto the pillow and his eyes closing. Heln stared at him for a moment longer, then went and grabbed the knapsack and flexible leather armor from downstairs and brought them up. The bounty hunter seemed to be asleep when she came in, and with a faint snort the Master Smith dropped his belongings next to the bed and walked back out, closing the door on the infuriating man. Diarmuir's eyes cracked open as he heard Heln walking away, and with a slight groan he rolled out of bed and began to stretch before dropping to the ground and beginning to do some shaky, slow pushups. Be damned to laying around helpless: it was time to get his edge back. He had a lot of work to do.
  8. He sighed faintly, then rolled his head towards Heln, opening his burnished copper right eye to study her for a moment. "Then have little confidence, Mistress." His tone was bitter. "If I wanted to spend my days telling people what they want to hear, I'd be a swining priest. And as for my 'personal integrity', I already owe you, Nayobee and the girl my life. The names and faces of the guilty I have, and I will collect on them what they are worth, not give them away in a vain attempt to convince you of my sincerity."
  9. He pulled the proffered clothing on, fastening the rope around his waist before sitting down on the bed before looking up at the imposing blonde woman, his head tilted and his weird eyes catching the light as he gave her a wry look. "You seem sure I kidnapped her, Mistress Ironwright." he stated a little plaintively. "So quick to assume I am the villain, and we've barely met. Perhaps I rescued her, but fell ill before I could safely return her home, eh?. Out of gratitude she nursed me back to health, knowing I'd be mobbed, murdered and my body burned if any learned I had a sickness. The Elfmaid told you I am a bounty hunter. Those men were sent by the man who wanted her kidnapped, then murdered if her father didn't pay his debts. I was after the reward, but the damned Ague slowed me down." Diarmuir lay back on the bed, his bow resting across his chest and his eyes closing wearily. "Now there'll be no reward for me, but at least the girl saved my life in turn. Sometimes life is the best reward. Wouldn't you say, Mistress?"
  10. He relaxed in the tub as they all left, smiling wryly at the girl's protest before the closing door cuts it off. Hopefully, Nayobee would keep her temper with the talkative Annalise, Diarmuir found himself thinking with some mild surprise. He shrugged to himself: he DID owe her his life, after all. By Khaine, he owed all of them his life. Debts didn't sit well on the hunter; obligation of any sort was a shackle around his soul. But there was little to do about that now. He sighed as he enjoyed the first clear thoughts he'd had for seven days, the short violent exertion of fighting for his life having taken what little reserves of strength he had left after the plague's ravaging of his body. Nayobee's words came back to him as he looked at his gaunt frame balefully. "You sure look wasted..." "Indeed." he whispered in quiet agreement as he held his arms up in front of his face, mismatched eyes studying them impassively now after his initial distaste. The muscle was still there, but softer and weaker after his time being bedridden. Good enough to kill one pig-slopping hireling, though. he told himself sourly. If he'd been on his normal form, he wouldn't have needed help to leave all of the scum choking in their own blood. Damned disease. He looked at his legs and torso, then his jaw firmed as he made a decision. Hearing splashing, Heln peered into the room to see her guest forcing his muscles to obey his will as he tried to get out of the bath on shakey legs, grabbing onto the wall for support as he nearly fell. He hadn't noticed her as, with a low growl of determination, he took a deep breath before bending down to scoop up his crossbow and weapons belt from where they lay near the tub, on a pile of inn bedding. Painfully he straightened again, the corded muscles of his legs and back shifting and straining at the unaccustomed exercise. He was panting a little as he stood upright, then nodded to himself as though satisfied with this small victory before turning around and spotting her there in the doorway. "I'll be needing to stay here perhaps, but I have coin for any food and such you'll need." He gazed levelly at Heln, then inclined his head respectfully. "I'll be no drain or burden to any." At that, his lips quirked self-mockingly. "Well, no more than I've already been."
  11. Diarmuir started to curse as the large blonde woman hoisted him up in the bedding, but the stream of gutter profanity was cut short by an extended coughing fit that left him gasping for breath like a landed fish. When he finally recovered, still clutching his crossbow, he fixed his rescuer with a dully curious stare, all his vitriol seeming to have taken whatever last reserves of his fire were left after the desperate fight. "The girl asks a good question." He said in a voice that was more whisper than speech, so weak did it sound. "What now?"
  12. Diarmuir's world was pain, his mind hazy as to what was going on as the girl helped him from the bath and, towelling him off, slipped him into bed. His teeth chattered as sweat broke out all over his body under the sheets. He felt a cool bony hand touch his brow gently, then a damp cloth wiped his face. He cried out as cramps shot through his muscles, feeling ashamed. A female voice murmured comfort to him. "Shh... do not cry so loud! It is alright... I know it must hurt." Annalise's cultured voice was full of sympathy: he wanted to curse her but was stopped by another wave of pain. But worse than the pain was having someone see this and offer him false pity. He grit his teeth, his narrowed eyes seeing not the concerned features of his caretaker but mocking handsome faces hovering in the night gloom above him. His rage blackened his mind and he scrabbled for his knife hilt, spitting dark curses. "Don't patronise me, you whoresons. I'll kill you. I'll kill all of you...!" Click to reveal.. "Don't patronise me, you whoresons. I'll kill you. I'll kill all of you...!" He voice was higher pitched, but still tempered with boiling fury that would give caution to more experienced fellows than his current tormentors. Laughter met his words as the young noblemen stepped back out of reach of their sport as he staggered to his feet, brandishing a skinning knife. The laughter was high and shrill from these boys only a little older than their ten summers old prey as he swiped at the air between them, teeth bared under his bloodied nose. "Watch out, fellows! The rat has teeth!" Cried the eldest, a pimple-faced youth of sixteen summers. Giggles met his mock-alarmed tone. "A tooth, certainly. Which is more than his mother has, I don't doubt." sneered another. "Fancy this trash calling US whoresons." More laughter as they spread out, some drawing cudgels from under their rich cloaks. Felix put his back to the wall, mismatched eyes narrowing as he regarded them with hatred. "We told you to stay off our street, rat." The eldest told him earnestly, a wicked grin accompanying the swish of his stout club. "We don't care how you earn your measely copper, but we don't want you running messages through where decent folk live." "Decent? You dung-tics? I've met more decent lice in a waterfront whore's knickers, you back-stair bastards." Felix hawked and spat, blood and saliva splatting onto the eldest boy's doublet. The boy cried out in disgusted rage, looking at the red-tinged mess, then looked at the ten-year old urchin with death in his eyes. "You will pay for that, you slattern's bastard." The last came in a half-hiss, half scream as he raised his club and lunged at Felix, meaning to dash his brains out. The street-smart boy stepped forward, lifting his left arm and taking the blow on his forearm before it could gather real crushing momentum. The thwack of the club on flesh still made him cry out, but he stifled the pain and thrust hard with his small knife, right into the noble child's face. The elder boy squalled, falling over backwards and dropping his club as he tried to push Felix back. The street rat was not so easily shaken off, though, and fell over on top of his tormentor, drawing back the knife and stabbing again. And again. And again... Anna was more cautious after that episode, realising that if it hadn't been for the palsied quavering of his muscles his first thrust would have sliced her cheek open rather than going wide by half a foot. She made sure she always knew where his knife was and to move away when he started to reach for it. There was something deadly in him she saw in these moments, and it chilled her. When he finally slept, albeit uneasily, she would draw up a chair nearby and read, now and then looking over at her patient. He would occasionally half-awaken, his fever-bright gaze fixing on her as though she was all he ever loved. Even though she knew he was seeing someone else when he started mumbling, she treasured those moments, wondering if any man would look at her so and envying the woman he saw sitting in her place... Click to reveal.. "Felix! Stop that!" Lissa giggled musically as she glared at him in the mirror, trying to fasten up her hair. The eighteen year old tradesman's daughter was endeavoring to undertake a tricky new hairstyle based on Elven styles, and contrary to his protestations was not being 'helped' by the dashing young rogue standing behind her. She shivered as his fingertips tickled her ears, then stamped a foot as her involuntary movement let auburn tresses escape. She shot him a mostly mock-angry look. "Don't you have some noble's house to 'case'?" The well-brought up girl loved using criminal argot, feeling it added to the illicit nature of their affair. Felix was SO much more exciting than her boring fiance. All Rutger could talk about was what he would do once he took over her father's shop! Not only did Felix woo her with trinkets that once graced the bodies of baronesses, but he wasn't at all hesitant about stealing kisses... and more. Hard to believe that he was only sixteen summers of age. Two years her junior, and so worldly. Still, he was totally unsuitable for marriage, which was a pity. Soon she'd have to break it off with him. She repressed a sad sigh. It would be hard: the young man adored her so... "...no... Don't say that! I love you! Marry me instead! I have money! I can apprentice myself to an artisan and change! I'd do it for you, don't you see?" Annalise hated these moments more than the knife-bearing ones. There was a heartwrenching grief in the man's voice that would not be quieted. "Marry me, Lissa. Please? I love you..." the pitch of his voice would raise to dangerous levels, and then the girl would have to act, crossing the room and sitting by him on the bed, cool cloth in hand. "Shhh! It's alright. I will stay with you. I'll not leave." She would bathe his brow and he would smile, his weird eyes not seeing her but this 'Lissa' who in these moments Annalise despised for leaving him. He'd grab her hand and kiss it fervently, and she'd have to work hard not to cry at the adoration in his eyes, knowing it wasn't for her. So it went, with him fighting battles, weeping, cursing, laughing and singing lewd songs. On more than one occasion he slapped her backside like she was a tavern maid and commanded her to 'bring me another beer, and there'll be a penny in it for yourself'. Other times he propositioned her for a 'tumble in the hayloft' and acted offended when she pulled away. It was as exhausting for her to tend him as it was for him to fight the illness, to be sure. But now footsteps came pounding up the stairs. Something bounced off the door. Annalise had kept it locked all the time. A shoulder was put to the door again and the wood cracked. Diarmuir's shaky hands reached for his crossbow, but he dropped it. Anna drew her dagger and stood between her charge and the door...
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