The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return

Much is missing, but here are a few of the highlights:

Walter (missing)

Walter watches as she moves, and the house could catch on fire before he'd look away. He steps up to the edge of the bed, but doesn't lay down with her. He touches her legs, his hands reverently moving along her pale skin. "Do you think I'd deny you anything?" he asks, shifting his touch to the backs of her legs. "Nothing, I tell you."

"I love you, Catriona," he whispers, and seems to mean the words. "And from this moment forth, I seal you to me. One soul, one flesh."

**~~**

Walter laughs, a deep rumble. He gives a nod and steps in closer to Catriona.

Privately, to Catriona, Walter says, "How daring, my love."

Vosah (over)

Vosah says, "I see." That grin widening just somewhat, as he decides to lean back and tug Catriona as if she were a warm, comfortable, well-scented blanket. "Don't mind me. You are warm."

**~~**

Vosah listens, and is silent for a time. Listening, and - Unicorn forbid - thinking about Catriona's words. He smiles, slightly, and says, "It's an interesting thing, Catriona. Partly because we will tend to work together. Partly because there are moral reservations in your mind for it. And, in no small part, I think you're afraid of what defines it as wrong." He reaches, touching the tattoo upon her arm lightly as he says, "I wonder, a little, of something. Walk with me? I want to give others the peace of the candles - and, perhaps, it is unfair to you to listen to your words and be distracted by the color of your hair against candle flame."

**~~**

"When one is around a woman whose beauty is such as yours," Vosah tilts his head, studying Catriona, "They feel ageless, like you. It is one of the comforts. Laughter warmer than fire, and eyes brighter than a night. Perhaps not so easily would I be put to pasture."

Taran (deceased)

Taran smiles, and offers his hands, palm up. "I realize you would like direct answers," he says gently. "But direct answers will not help you. You *know*. Watch, listen, and recognize your fears for what they are. I have been true. Even while not betrothed, I have been true."

**~~**

Taran shrugs. "Trist enjoyed the costume. Celeste has already had her shouting match. And clearly, you do not see any attempt at looking magnificent as being intended to catch *your* attention."

**~~**

It takes Cat a moment to digest that last bit of knowledge, to let it settle in her soul. She settles back on her heels, but remains level with the dead Solaris. "It will bring me peace. To know you rest at last will bring me peace. I will find a way to hold on, if I can but know that. I will raise a monument to you, that I might never forget it." There's a moment of silence in the graveyard, and she adds, "I miss you." A hand lifts, but of course, is destined to touch nothing corporeal.
Taran raises his hand, to let spectral fingers brush briefly through Catriona's. "Then she may send me where she wills. I will await you there, my lady."
If her cheeks are suddenly wet, it may be that something is in her eye, so rapidly does Catriona have to blink to clear it away. "Thank you, my lord. You were more than I ever deserved. Far more. If there is a time where I may meet you there, then I am more fortunate than I have any right to be. I'll remember." It's a vow to herself, the words spoken brokenly, though they bring a sad smile to her lips. "Good bye, Taran."

Taran says quietly, "Good bye, dear one," and looks to Lisette. Whatever the Feldane's meant to do, now's apparently the time to do it.

Jaymesin (over)

Jaymesin shrugs. "A few things," he replies, "But nothing I can think of at the moment. The sight of you has driven all thought completely out of my mind."

**~~**

"Sukho," Jaymesin agrees with a warm, sleepy smile. The usual barriers between him and the world are missing, leaving a young man - a very young man - in full view. The arm that was under Catriona goes around her again, and he sprawls contentedly.

Jacen (over)

"It's a handy waypoint between my own lands out in Shadow and Amber, the forests are close to home, so to speak. Julian and I never got along over well, so I try not to spend -too- much time there to be honest." Jacen replies with a faint smile, lifting a hand once she's put her own back in her lap to reach towards her face, and if she doesn't turn away to brush fingers along the line of her jaw. "Duchess or not, Cat, you are a dangerously beautiful woman."

Caine (it's complicated)

Caine pauses his usual beeline for the back and meanders toward the group, pausing just behind Catriona. "Aye, but never as well as I'd like." He bows slightly to the Lady first, one arched brow saying things not spoken in polite company.

**~~**

Privately, to Catriona, Caine whispers, close enough for his lips to brush her ear, "I look forward to it."

**~~**

Caine is unmoved by the light comment, but at the touch of her hand, he takes it in one of his and presses a kiss to the back.

**~~**

Hrafnkel casts a sidelong smile to Catriona. "I think he /could/. He is not quick to lend such, but I do know you find his fondness more readily than any I've seen." He grins, again. "He doesn't suffer behavior like you've shown from many."

"He thinks it's 'cute'," Catriona offers with a perturbed wrinkle of her nose.

**~~**

"Well, my first thought -was- making love to you," Caine says, philosophically.

**~~**

Caine has to bend a bit to come through, what with her lounging, and so ends up looking a bit courtly there, bend with her hand in his, as though he were about to bow over it. It doesn't help that he shifts just a bit to make the image complete, moving his fingers to take her hand in a more gentle grasp. "What a vision," he murmurs with a half smile.

**~~**

Caine gazes back with a madness, but one that is much more familiar and normal. It smoulders similarly in her eyes. There are no questions or hesitations or assurances before he loosens his grasp only enough to pick the Duchess bodily up into his arms. "Let's talk a bit about a common constellation in the night sky," he murmurs. "The Lovers."

**~~**

"No," Caine says firmly, meeting her gaze. "I accept that I cannot escort you in, Cat. But I'm attending of my own free will. And I will dance with you, and let them gnash their teeth at it."

**~~**

Caine considers that seriously, and reaches a gloved hand across the table, palm up, fingers relaxed. "I want you to remember, then, when I do make you really angry... stop and wait for the second story. You're an excellent observer, you'll need that to avoid hating me. Don't fall for perceptions staged for the masses, alright?" He pauses, shrugs minutely, adding, "You're in my mind up with not rendering reality. I don't think I've given that much consideration to one person in centuries."

**~~**

"Yes." Caine's agreeing to everything and then some, and probably not that she should be Ladylike. He straightens his leg grudgingly and recalls the hands to let her gain distance. "There's old people here tonight, we wouldn't want to kill any of them. Minor lords and such." He grins at her, and lifts a hand to smooth her hair. "Fine, Ladylike behavior, and non-monster behavior from me."

**~~**

Caine renews his high, though isn't cad enough to offer her a hit. "True, that. But you went on about me being dishonorable and whatnot... that works only if the man has enough in him to honor that responsibility." He considers a moment, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully at the ceiling. "I trust you."

Cat smiles with great, unfeigned pleasure at that. "Thank you. I think you have untapped stores of honor in you, for what it's worth. But you are unusually grim tonight for... well, for you. Or mayhap I am unusually exuberant for me."

"Because you're high as a kite," Caine observes with a grin. The sweet smoke is renewed and no longer stale. "I'll respect your trust, Cat. There'll be times you won't believe it, but I will. Yeah, just a few things on my mind. Worries, nothing for -you- to worry about."

**~~**

It's briefer than they would both remember the first time, though Caine seems more at ease. It could be that it's a kiss of goodbye and not one of beginnings. When their lips part, he holds her still against him, loosely with one arm, and his smile is wry. "You've grown since last time."

**~~**

Cat sits in silence a moment, contemplating Caine and his reaction to hers. After a breath, and some mastering of what has always been a snappy temper, she offers, "I don't believe you. I love you." Pause. "But I don't believe you. Do you love me? You did save my life, once. You didn't have to. Remember?"

Caine rests an arm on his bent knee, hand dangling as he takes a long minute in consideration. The look is a frank one, the malice has gone away, or underground, and he considers. The other candle in the room finally drowns in its own wax and goes out, leaving just the one next to them. "Yes, I think I do," he says after the long silence. "I think. It's harder to imagine love these days. But.... yes, I think so."

  • Current Music
    Alibi - 30 Seconds to Mars

The Wonderful Thing About Dragons - Quest Scene

Arden is foresty. And cold. And it's waaaaay early in the morning. Only crazy people are out at the crack of dawn like this. Crazy people, and Catriona, Alexis, and Kiernan. Cat has dragged both her beloved cousin, and the Ranger who saved her life, with her on this dangerous scouting mission. No horses for these three. It's all on foot through narrow forest paths at the bottom of a large, sheer cliffside.

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A Following - Bulwark Quest Scene 3

Turns out that finding men and women both willing and able to fight demons isn't that difficult, at least not when you can wander way out into any direction of shadow you want. Jacen's led the way, once more, slowly working around to find a realm not that far distant in attitude and danger from that of Karm's origins and now he and Catriona ride down a dirt path that leads into an obviously war and magic torn valley.

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  • Current Music
    A Call to Arms - 30 Seconds to Mars
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"Summoning. Not the right chant."

Catriona is wearing... a lab coat. That seems ominous. It's a little large for the diminutive Karm, too, giving her the slightly-unkempt look of a madwoman. There are splatters of blood, of course, but that's standard for most lab coats, isn't it? She peeks into the library, silver-blonde head shining in the fading daylight. "Pascal? I need your help."

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Bulwark Quest Scene 2

With Jacen's help, the group has reached the Bulwark at night, or at least the very outer edges of the Shadow. What once was rolling pastoral land, filled with lush greenery and the trappings of farms and folks to fill them, is now blackened desolation. There is not a spot of green to be seen. This far out there is still no evidence of life, save the occasional single patrolling monster, easily dispatched. But the fires that burn in the far off, mostly demolished structure and the guttural cries that echo through the vast, ruined land leave no doubt that this, now, is enemy territory. Catriona has come on foot, the Karm woman in travelling gear with a particularly nasty black-and-twisted sword strapped to her back. "I risk no candle here," she murmurs to the party. "Their light is not secret and would give us away as a beacon. Might anyone have a smaller light?"

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Gifts of Giantesses

This place is an Eden. It's hot, but paired with a cool tropical breeze, and there's an open-air bar to go with both of those things. How could it be anything less than paradise? Catriona is, in fact, on the beach where the trump comes out to, wearing little more than a white shift, her silver-gilt hair unbound and loose, woven through with bright flowers. She is reclining in the shade of a beach hut near the bar, reading something that could very well be romantic smut.

Cyndre appears. She is not dressed for the beach, but then heat is something that doesn't really bother her much. She's garbed in white with black trim, and is currently in possession of a very large oak box. It is unadorned, but polished to a shine. She looks around, sees Catriona, and starts her way.

Catriona isn't really expecting anyone else, on her honeymoon, except for maybe Jacen, who is currently nowhere in sight. So when she hears footfalls, she seems to assume it is him returning. And then she looks up, and colours ten different shades of crimson and shoots out of her lounge chair, groping for a weapon that is not there.

"Catriona Karm, stand ye down for I bear you no harm or ill will." Cyndre announces in a clear voice, and does nothing to reach for her own weapons. Indeed, she makes her hands quite preoccupied carrying that really big box. "My timing is poor, I'm certain, but I bring you good tidings, and a gift."

Since there are no weapons at hand anyway, Catriona has little choice but to follow orders. It's either that or chuck a coconut and there are none close enough to use as fodder. Still, as Catriona settles into a wary stance, her fists remain bunched, though her dark eyes stray to the box that the Giantess brings. "Dame Cyndre. Do they not say beware the gifts of thine enemy? I admit, I know not what to make of your sudden appearance here."

Cyndre says, "I have never been your enemy, regardless what you may believe. You yourself appointed me Seneschal, and Gilgamesh saw fit to keep me on in that capacity. Even were I wroth with you, I'd not wish you harm." She approaches closer, and looks down at the box, smiling wryly. "But indeed, this is a gift you should beware, as it carries a burden as great as its boon." When close enough, she will set the box on the lounge chair, and step back to allow Catriona to inspect it.

"You support Random and Caine in their illegal bid to the throne," Catriona replies without mincing words, and without much heat to her tone, just statement of fact. "We can be naught but enemies, regardless of the history that I now have cause to regret." She eyes the box a long moment, as if waiting for it to explode into flames, before finally approaching. "What manner of burden do you speak of?"

Cyndre says, "Karm does not support Caine or Random; Gilgamesh himself was maimed in the attack on the palace, and we would not condone a violent coup in any case. A peaceful turnover? Sure. Random's efforts to help the people? Yes. A bloody coup? No." She turns left, and paces three steps as she continues, "The rest of that you should discuss with Gilgamesh." When, she faces Catriona again saying, "Use it against a magical foe, such as a god or a dragon, when you face them in battle, and you can bind your fate to theirs through the magic of the blade. It will cruelly encourage you face each other in battle, and thereafter seek to draw you together in battle until one of you perishes."

For her part, Catriona listens. And when Cyndre finishes speaking, she offers, "I have seen Gilgamesh, and spoken to him. He came to the wedding. I believe he does not support Random. However, I have accounts of both yourself and Emma Feldane proclaiming to support Random's coup. And now I have heard that what we thought was Bleys has been a Chaos clone for quite some time, and that the real Bleys is lost somewhere in time and space. With Chaos involved, how could it be other than Caine who has locked his brother away? But even Caine is not so strong as to hold Bleys indefinitely. A House is helping him, mark my words." Even as she spews her paranoia, Cat pads on bare feet towards the box. She opens it and stops speaking, tongue caught in her mouth by the craftsmanship and obvious power of the blade.

"I would have supported Random on the throne, had he gained it through peaceful means. But he hasn't, and now my Patron and my Duke both are against him. Even if I wanted to support him now, I will not go against those to whom I owe my loyalty. Random does not hold my loyalty, nor do I wish to support his bloody coup." She tucks away the rest for later, but does say, "Caine is not the whole of Chaos; if Chaos is involved, Caine is but one suspect. I wouldn't put it past him, mind." She allows herself a small smile at Catriona's reaction to the blade.

Catriona spares Cyndre a glance as she speaks, loathe to tear her gaze from the sword for even a moment. It's perhaps a sign of the gravity with which she holds such a subject that she does manage it for even that moment. "I do not know whether to believe you or not," she answers, truthfully. "But if you do not support Random then it gives me much to consider... would the blade work on Caine?" It was the inevitable question.

Cyndre says, "Not unless he is become more a thing of magic than a man. The blade is a Witchbane, meant to aid the Witch-hunters with, in time, overcoming their foes. If one is careless and leaves too many foes alive... well, that could be very bad."

Catriona reaches out to run her fingers tentatively, even reverently, over the hilt of the sword. "It is a powerful sword," she nods. "With powerful drawbacks, as well as benefits." The Karm woman looks up, the flowers in her hair incongruous with her somber expression. "Why me?"

Cyndre says, "I have named each blade after its intended inaugural hunt. Yours is The Nameless, because you are intending to go after the Bulwark, where that damnable thing escaped from. It would not surprise me to find it has returned there to gather strength, as it's been quiet all this time."

Carefully, Catriona pulls the sword from its casing in the box, not with obvious ease, but certainly not with the difficulty that someone of her tiny stature should have when wielding such a leviathan of a sword. "Ah, that. Yes. I can certainly use the help. The armies camped there..." she pauses, morose, then continues, "... they will make it hard enough to get at the Nameless One."

Cyndre replies, "I see no reason Karm cannot support your efforts there. I'll speak with Gilgamesh, and see what aid we can rally for you. There may be favors to be traded."

Cat hefts the sword, swinging it well away from Cyndre, testing the balance and thrust of the blade, quite obviously impressed by the way it almost wields itself. "I could use the Grey Guard," she admits, almost grudgingly. "They are best equipped for such battles as are to come. His Highness Prince Benedict has given me an army, and my husband has promised another but... the Bulwark is overrun. I could also use a squad of architects to consider the possibility of underground mines to attack the enemy from within."

Cyndre nods, "Send a wishlist to the House. I'll see what can be managed." Then, she says more softly, "Congratulations on your marriage, Catriona. I hope you and your husband enjoy many long and prosperous years together."

Catriona gives a nod to the former, and then to the latter, "Thank you, Cyndre." A shadow touches her pale brow for a fleeting moment. "I can only hope that we find a way to restore his father to him, and gain Bleys's blessing. It feels... well, it does not feel complete or real to me, without it... for some reason." There is a blink and Cat subsides, carefully replacing the sword in its box. "You are a craftswoman without peer."

"When Bleys is found, I cannot imagine he would turn his face from you." Cyndre replies gently. "And we will find him, I've no doubt."

Catriona's momentary weakness is banished and she is once more than small woman made of figurative iron. There is a nod of her stubborn chin. "We will. It's down to Feldane and Chantris. If only I could find Jack... he would help." Another pause. "You are welcome to stay awhile, if you like. There are guest bungalows in the forest."

Cyndre looks over, pondering. With a sigh, she murmurs, "I would love to, but I don't believe I can right now. While I've yet to be called to action by Karm or by Prince Benedict, I can't guarantee that will remain so." Lips are pursed, showing she wishes it were otherwise.

"Are you going to see Benedict soon?" Catriona asks, tilting her head. "He has requested a trump of me and Jacen has drawn it. But I will be here some small time longer. If you would carry it to him for me," and perhaps that in itself is a measure of the trust she wishes to be able to give, "I would be grateful."

Cyndre says, "I can certainly pass it along. I believe he wishes to see me anyway. A bird was sent."

"Come up to the mansion with me? The trump is there," Catriona invites cautiously, bending to pick up the box that houses the spectacular sword. "You have done me several kindnesses. If there is a way I can repay you...?" she trails off, arching a brow to Cyndre.

Cyndre bobs her head, "Aye." and she waits for Catriona. "It's not something I'll likely hold over you as a damocles blade, but if ever I'm in need of a thing, I'll beseech you humbly." she answers the latter.

Sexy Fun Times With a Bear, and Caine

The solar is somewhat busy, as Caine and two servants in his colors are... moving something large wrapped in thick, plain canvas. Some of the furniture of the room has been moved aside for the small cart bearing the thing, which is possibly larger than Caine's room door. Thus the problem. The three stand around smoking and pondering the problem; the prince is dressed down in work clothes that seem dirty with manual labor beyond the current task.

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