The Bitter Cold
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A rp between Repsychus and me. A demonic scholar who majors in the anatomy and knowledge of angel bodies is caught in Starc Country robbing a grave... Will contain violence and sex (yay!) later on.
The snow swirls even in the start of September as the great pines shudder under soft breezes. Autumn is wrought with these flash storms - speaking of the cold bitter winter to come high up in the mountains. These jagged peaks overlook the Vale, beyond that the Tenshihana Citadel and its white gleaming castle. Even now, it seems a speck of ivory in the distance, when it is several hundred feet tall. Here live the Starcs, protectors of the northern border stretching along treacherous mountain passes and high icy peaks. They live in a world of black and white and grey, holding no sort of tangible warmth or colour to proclaim that, indeed, life strives here. The winter wolf stalks the forests, silent and illusive. The mountain deer and elk bound over fallen logs and into thickets, hiding with their grey dappled colours of winter. Rabbits and foxes and woods birds all hide as the snow casts its white shadow over all. Here though, even in the coldest of places, the earth is still able to be moved.
With pick axe and shovel, a grave may be dug up with a good amount of determination and a strong hand. Such is it for Aerin, lover of corpses of the Angel sort. The Starc gravesites that litter these mountains are a treasure trove for her...Not for the jewellery or the swords left with the dead. Oh, no, she seeks their mortal bones themselves before they become ashen as the earth. Here she digs, in the midst of the snow, growling and cursing at the ground for not divulging what she covets.
Aerin gasped a little, out of breath from all this hacking at the earth. Pausing for a moment to lean on her pick axe, glaring at the scar she'd made in the earth beneath her. In this weather a corpse would still be well preserved but she'd still gone after the most recent one.... it was still like cutting through concrete. On another day she might have called the corpse to her but with the ground like rock you risked damaging the little one's hands or even arms because when you called a body from its resting place it came and wouldn’t stop till it reached you.
She braced herself again and lifted the pickaxe to loosen up the soil some more, the thick petticoats she wore for modesties sake rustling about her legs as she braced her body and swung down. She was dressed in her work clothes, the clothes she usually dissected in, a leather jerkin and gloves that unnamed fluids could wash easily off and her petticoats a cheap and coarse material. It never occurred to her to wear pants on these expeditions, she was a lady of the necro demon court, wearing pants just was not done!!
So focused was she on her attempt to get the corpse that she desired, Aerin did not note the sound of horse hooves sinking deep within the snow. Indeed, her head only came up when a man swung himself off the saddle, his sword making a beautiful sound of metal sliding along metal as it was unsheathed.
"What in the HELL do you think you are doing?" a voice both commanding and cold demanded. She turned and beheld him, standing over her with his blade gleaming in the pale light. He was handsome, dressed in heavy clothing and armour, a wolf's fur about his neck. Black hair cut short and neat was rustled lightly by the cold north wind, eyes like two gravestones - hard and unfeeling and finite - glared down at her, and his skin.. Oh, it was almost as white as the snow...as white as a corpse. "Why do you desecrate the graves of my ancestors?! Speak, woman! Speak or lose your tongue..." The sword came to a point at her head.
~Oh shit....~ the more sensible part of Aerin's brain managed as she realised she had been caught, something that had never happened to her in all her exploits. A slightly more silly parts went ~So that’s what they look like when they're alive!!!~.
"Uuugh...." she managed eloquently as the others sword pressed against the tip of her nose, her wings, small and fragile beating for a moment as her body experienced a surge of purely instinctual fear, the material of her cloak rustling as the wings beat against them. "Uh.....well......" she stared again " ..... you see...." damn, what did you say?! She'd never been caught before! She was totally unprepared for all this!!
"You're a grave robber, aren't you?" the man snapped, seeming to catch on rather quickly to her hesitance. In most instances before, she could simply bat her lovely lashes and look coy and sweet, only to kill the man if she needed to and run. However, this one didn't seem prone to that sort of approach. He was as stern and stoic as a marble statue, as though he was made of the icy realm in which he lived. However, to her silence, he only sneered with rage. "Drop your tools and step slowly this way." His order was not to be denied.
"You know..." she squeaked in alarm as she obediently dropped her pickaxe and stepped away from the shovel, wings fluttering again, a nervous painful tightness in her stomach as she watched him glare down at her. "Technically this isn’t the grave of your ancestor...." her eyes flicked to the grave and then back to him, the silver threaded through with lines that appeared to be in constant motion over the sterling surface seeing beneath, beneath his skin and beneath that of the corpses, into the flesh, into the blood and bone to a level that was only achievable thanks to her small monocle "..... he's only your cousin.... three times removed in fact...."
"Shut up, witch!" he snarled at her, making her jump. He then stepped slowly over to his horse, his eye on her at all times. From his saddlebag, he pulled a piece of thick and durable rope. Already he could see the fear in her eyes, motioning with his head for her to come over. "Stand over here by my horse. Turn your back to me and do NOT do anything stupid...I have no care if I kill you or let you live. However, this terrible act of yours will not go unpunished."
Aerin swallowed, a nauseous feeling rising in her stomach as she slowly turned and presented her back to him, her thick sturdy cloak with the two small bumps of her wings poking against the cloth, trembling and flapping again at another surge of fear.
"I dont suppose this punishment will be monetary?" she asked in the softest, most liquid tone she could manage while her throat seized up uncomfortably, her ears picking up the sounds of the rope being uncoiled. This was going from bad to worse by the second.
He didn't even talk to her as he grasped one of her hands and shoved it behind her back, grabbing the other and roping them together so that she was well bound. Then she felt his hands - gloved, but very firm and strong - lifting her up onto the saddle. "If you do anything funny, it will only count against you," he reminded her with a stern glare, getting onto the horse behind her. She could feel his body, the press of his belly against her hands. She could only imagine what was just below that, likely to rub up against her supple buttocks. Yes, this was getting quite worse. "Hya!" he cried, kicking his horse into a full run as he headed down the road again, not being mindful at all to go slow so that she might not feel pain. Such a cruel and cold man he was, this strange living Starc...
She sat stiffly against him as his hands at her sides and grips the reigns, gritting her teeth as one shoulder protested being twisted around at a slightly too unnatural angle. The jolting movement of the horse didn’t help her either. What a tough bastard this one was... she considered reaching inside him and stopping his heart but that had the implications of leaving her knocked out from the blast of power it would take to do it... and then she'd be on a horse tied up even more tightly for murder! She shifted for a moment as they hit a particularly hard jolt, body bouncing in the saddle ungracefully, making some of her tightly pinned silver curls pop loose and bounce right into his face, tickling his nose. Let that be a lesson to the bastard! She decided with a petty delight, pushing away the highly disturbing thoughts about how very nice his warm muscled body was lined up to hers... clearly she needed to get laid when she got home.
The Starc doesn't even seem to wince at the fact she is rubbing so beautifully against him. He surely must be made of stone, as the hard ride across the snow-covered road doesn't seem to effect him in the least. How it is that he feels nothing, she cannot imagine. Still his face and his body seem to be reacting as normally as though he were riding easily over smooth unbroken terrain. These Starcs are a whole new breed of Angel she's never experienced before...Even now, she wonders how they can live in such an unforgiving world. Surely, this constant snow almost all year round provides no way to grow things and, even though they trade, it is not enough to sustain an army. Perhaps they are a ragamuffin band of nomads like this one?
Think again, dear Aerin. It is when they round about the mountain that she is able to see the full extent of the Starc stronghold. House Starc sits between two mountains, high up where the frigid peaks graze the sky and cut jagged lines into passing clouds.
It is a vast fortress with high stone walls as firm as the mountain's foundations, turrets that reach into the air, towers and battlements and large catapults for extra defence. Here do the Starcs reside, thousands upon thousands living together in their bleak world under a stern code that would make those sunny, sweet, and happy Angels wince. After all, in Starc country, pain and suffering are the only ways to heaven.
Aerin tried to curl up a little, the painful twisting in her stomach a raging agony, her nervousness/fear almost becoming a proper nausea. Her captor had better be careful, he was within seconds of getting her last meal all on his leg. "Wh-where is this?" she had to ask. She really hadn’t scouted the terrain or made any enquiries when she'd popped through the portal, all she'd been after was a new subject to inspect, some new type of angel for her to look at, if such a thing existed, at the time it seemed like she'd studied them all!
Ah poor Aerin, her own lands were so different, thick green pastures to be precise and orchards though that was only in the immediate vicinity of her dwelling, the land in the area she dwelt was mainly large open fields for grain growing and large areas set aside for huntsman ship... both for nobles and for the local inhabitants. The female closed her eyes for a moment, how she was wishing right now she'd never decided to take a late night jaunt to collect some new bodies.
"This is the home of those you will answer to...House Starc," the man replied with a bit of cruel satisfaction as he felt her trembling fear. Oh, yes...criminals always trembled at the sight of those impassable walls. It was a fortress that represented nothing but the most honourable things in life - justice, strength, and loyalty. To poor Aerin, it was the place where she would be kept until she could no longer see green pastures - until she was a corpse herself. "Come, Argenta...Hya!" the Starc ordered his horse onward, riding down the mountain pass towards the back gate. It stood as a tall and formidable thing, looming over them for at least a couple hundred feet. A man looked down from a small window, holding in his hand a crossbow and looking just as grim as could be.
"Who comes to pass through my gate tonight?!" calls the stern looking Starc guard who stands at the gate. Aerin can see that the black hair, ashen white skin, and grey or dark eyes is a trait of this strain of Angel. She has never seen anything like it.
"Lycius, son of Lycan! I come to bring a grave robber to trial!" the man called up behind her, his voice carrying over the frigid air. Lycius...so that was his name.
Aerin growled low in her throat as the other drew up, her ears catching his name, memorising it. She doubted the other would care for hers but there were a lot of nasty spells one could use if you knew your victims name... if she managed to survive this she would definitely be able to go after retribution.
The female glanced at the guard at the gate for a moment in curiosity, a almost childlike expression of interest on her features as she noted the similarities, slowly building up a profile of the race she had trespassed upon.
The older male looked down at her with a cruelty that was just as icy as her captor. Lycius held her firmly against him as the gate went up with the slow crank of metal gears. It was like the tolling of a death bell as each crank finished until, at last, the heavy reinforced gate was opened. It allowed her to view the snow-covered courtyard beyond and the soldiers that stared at her. All of them had varying degrees of grey eyes. Some were a stark coal grey, closer to black than anything she'd seen. Some had gazes so pale, they looked like ice. One thing was certain, none of them wore any shred of colour save that of a dull purple. Their uniforms were heavy, hiding their bodies and whatever might show any sensual curve of muscle.
They were not like the Valens, who, though wearing rather modest clothing, would wear garments that suited their particular shapes. The Maestars could be found in long flowing robes, but never as constraining as this. And even the Tenshihana, the priests of the Angel world, did not look so miserably uncomfortable as these people. All heavy armour, heavily starched collars, and lots of layers.
She had little time to think longer on it, however, when she felt her captor getting down from his horse. A young male had arrived to take the reins of his beast, allowing him to slide off easily and then take her down as well. He has such powerful arms...
Aerin shivered and hoped he thought it was fear that sent the sweetest of shudders racing right down her spine. She cursed her body and its natural wants, telling it that if her mind was to be terrified then it would act accordingly! If this was the trouble that having a occasional lover brought her when she was home then she'd lock herself in a monastery when she returned till she had proper control over herself.... if she got home that is. This place seemed worse than the graveyard she was in...
And so bleak, necro demons are a rather gaudy race, they love their colours, bright fresh ones are the best, ones that go or compliment the highly colourful, decorative wings that have been breed into their bloodlines. Just the lack of colour save gray made her insides curl up and freeze and she wasnt even on trail yet.
Suruptitiously she cast a glance up at her captor's face for a moment then looked back down, blinking fiercely as a ball of helplessness introduced itself to the other balls in her stomach.
"Come along," Lycius orders as he grabs her arm in his vice-like grip and drags her along over the snowy cobblestone. Starcs stop and stare at her, their pale faces contrasting beautifully with their black hair. Some of them have paler faces than others, allowing for Aerin to distinguish who is a simple worker or hunter and who is of a higher station, prone to be indoors. By gauging the palest face there against Lycius, she can indeed determine that he is both noble and yet a soldier. His sword at his side speaks for that much.
He takes her deeper into this massive stone compound, passing by tall pillars and statues of equally stern men carrying weapons. She cannot read the language written in the stone, but she imagines it is of Gaelic origin. Everything here has a very Nordic theme, for Aerin can see eternity knots etched in the stone that she passes.
Equally interesting to the architecture are the people who watch her as she goes - women wearing long black veils and very constraining black dresses, young boys covered in bruises and carrying clubs over their shoulders, naked save for heavy pants and boots, young women with their faces veiled to hide their beauty all shuttled along by a stern tight-bunned woman. And then, of course, there are the soldiers like Lycius. They watch Aerin with a suspicion and anger that borders on hatred. She can't imagine why an outsider would be viewed so coldly, especially when these soldiers don't even yet know her crimes.
It was becoming worse and worse. Aerin's stomach twisted and curdled as she was walked along, her boots thumping heavily on the stones, good solid leather, a few rather odd stains upon the leather but good shoes none the less. She blessed them, knowing if she was wearing the usual dainty slippers she wore inside or the normal healed boots of a lady her feet would be freezing by now.
Such a cold angry looking race, so reserved as well, everything points to a highly moralised society built on rules… upon more rules. Her teeth worried her soft lower lip as she was dragged along. The veiling didn’t disturb her as much as the tight constrained dresses and the black that the women were wearing. Veiling occurred in her own culture though only in special circumstances.... but those constrained dresses, looking as if they were crushing the life out of the faceless women... a further lack of colour. Aerin's throat trembled in a whimper that she kept between her teeth, her eyes wide in her paled face.
~Are these like..... viking angels?~ the silly part of her mind asks again as they continue onwards, where are they going? Probably to a dungeon... someplace even colder than here!
Oh, if only she was going to a dungeon. Perhaps there she would have a better chance at living. Instead, she is brought through the columned square to a set of double doors that have an icy chill about them. They look like the gate of Death, two figures of stone above them - one an Angel and the other a skeleton. Again, she cannot read the Gaelic-like script, but she can only imagine what the words say to her...
"Say anything out of turn and you'll be flogged," Lycius offers to her as his only advice before two Starc soldiers take up the heavy handles of the doors and strain to pull it open. The stone scrapes along the stone floor, the sound making Aerin's blood chill as the darkness beyond welcomes her. A long hall of those heavy stone columns awaits her beyond the threshold, there being little manner of light to guide their way in the vast room. The gloom reveals pale faces watching her, for they are the Starc Court.
Fine ladies in black with covers over their hair stare at her in disgust for her utterly immodest appearance. Men stand in gleaming armor and heavy furs, barely paying attention as their eyes trail forward towards the only source of real light. It is a hole in the roof - puposefully set over a great granite throne. Snow falls through it in the ray of light, landing on the tiled floor, the throne, and the man seated there.
He himself seems almost a statue, as stern and unfeeling as the granite which makes up his chair. She can only imagine how cold he must feel up on that throne the snow and ice gathering around him. To subject one's leader to such frigid conditions seems pointless, but it is obvious that strength is greatly admired in this society. In fact, it is demanded of every last member of the family. Aerin can only imagine what they do with the weak ones...Either way, she is led to a side of the hall where they stand and wait, the cold air rushing in from that gaping hole in the ceiling just about the throne. She watches the flakes drift to the floor before the man that kneels there.
"My Lord, the boundary to the North has been breeched by brigands. Several villages have been massacred. The Tenshihana call for our aide to stop the looting. They offer several fine horses and sacks of gold for our services," the kneeling soldier said, his head down as the snow collected over his shoulders and neck. The man on the throne listened quietly, his eyes blinking now and then the only sign that he is alive.
"Give them 400 horsemen and be done with it. They cannot expect us to fight their battles every time their useless treaties give way."
The very mention of a flogging makes the skin on Aerin’s back crawl. Her father had no compunction about having his daughter horsewhipped by his stablehands when he thought she was getting too out of place, never mind it was the allowance the government gave for her tuition because of her promising abilities that kept him from having to sell their mansion. The girl has a strong loathing now of any sort of instrument that ends with whip, flog or ‘tails’.
That awe inspiring door opens and her stomach heaves, the female gagging, causing Lycius to pause for a moment. Is she going to throw up? And in front of all these lords and ladies? For a moment her small body trembles like she really will but then she manages to calm her stomach again, her spine beginning to straighten with the beginnings of her usual pride as the women glare at her. She lifts her head from where its been nearly bent to her chest, the silver in her eyes glowing in the gloom, the black lines swirling about her thinned pupil in cryptic letters. She is a lady of the necro demon court, she wont cower for these women nor these men! Lycius’ is worth cringing at because right now he’s the one holding onto this horribly tight rope around her wrists but the rest… the rest don’t mean anything… at least not yet.
The man sitting on the throne catches her attention though probably not in the way intended, she’s seen far more impressive displays of power… though gods he’s starting to collect a small snowdrift in his hair, it causes the silly part of her mind to pipe up again ~his balls must be stuck to the stone…~ the female is forced to hastily snort down a hysterical giggle at the thought. Thankfully the men are too busy discussing horsemen or something to hear her tiny twitter of amusement. Swallowing Aerin gathers up more information, little pieces clicking together of what she’s already seen. A warrior race then, it seems their entire life revolves around the creation of strong hard warriors… ice cold ones too if the whole décor of this fortress extends into the living quarters.
Lycius knows better than to reprimand her for her soft giggling in this hall. The silence, other than the young soldier who has been permitted to speak, is deafening. The people shift now and then, the rustling of skirts heard and the light pad of footsteps. Yet no talking or whispering is permitted at all. A scribe sits by the icy throne, covered in a blanket to keep warm. He is obviously not Starc, for his hair is brown and his eyes are a bright blue. he wears the white and gold robes of a Tenshihana priest, for Clerics and Monks of that sort are quite welcome in Starc society. As Aerin looks around, she can see a wooden, iron, or silver crosses hanging visibly from most of the necks of the Starc gentry. Obviously, religion is a big part of their lives.
Bring forth the next complaintant," the clerk calls out into the silence when, at last, the young soldier nods his head curtly and gets up to leave. Lycius grabs her arm tightly then and shoves her forward, forcing her to kneel before the snowy throne beside him. She glances up in her fear, seeing now the features of the man who will judge her. He is handsome, but cruel. Perhaps 30 or even 40, he has a stone face of pale skin. His eyes are two dark blades that bite into her skin, his hair slicked back against his noble forehead as a few whispering tendrils brush against his cheek. Such a formidable man...Strong of feature, chiselled no doubt behind his armour. He has the cold demeanour of ice and is softly dusted with it.
"Lycius, son of Lycan, solider," her captor says sternly, his head still bowed.
"Stand, boy. You may speak. What is it that you bring to us?" the man on the throne growls, eyes flicking back to Lycius so that Aerin make take a breath.
"A grave robber. I found her across the mountain, digging into our family plot. She scraped the ground, but did not reach the grave. I have reason to believe she would have, had I not stopped her."
Aerin’s eyes slid to the scribe and she sent her power out to test the other, tasting that which was his very essence or in more clinical terms his DNA finding it very similar to one or two of the fully revived angels who refused to leave her household and return …
Knowing this she looses her interest and returns to staring at the lord sitting in his icy cold throne, the snow piling up around his body as time progresses. What a truly foolish way to show one is strong, its dicing with death, just asking for pneumonia to sit in such a condition for so long.
A sudden worrying thought hits Aerin, has she gotten herself mixed up with a bunch of religious fanatics? Christianity has never, ever taken off in her kind, they remember the days when their kingdom in the human world was vast, the human empires that flourished their toys to play with and discard when they grew bored or the empires in question began to break up. Then the crusades had happened and their empire had been wiped out completely from the mortal lands… no necro demons and heavy Christianity do not get along at all… they had had their final revenge if a petty one, when they’d influenced a French king enough to destroy the knights templar.
Forced to kneel suddenly the female’s mind is snapped back to the very horrifying present and what is happening to her, her stomach heaving again, face loosing all its colour as she stares up at the lord Lycius makes her kneel before. The way he presents her crimes makes her shift in protest, he makes it sound like she was some common thief in the night! She wasn’t going to do anything save dissect the body she was after… she would have put it back! Honest!!
"She disturbed holy ground?" the man on the throne asked softly after a moment of silence. Those eyes once more flicked to her, a stern gaze that held such power in it. She realized why they had him sitting on a throne of granite amid the softly falling flakes of snow and the outside elements. It certainly helped keep him viciously cold.
"40 lashes and 5 days of confinement. And, since it was your relative, Lycius, that she was intending to rob, I give you leave to do whatever else you wish with her... Outsiders of her kind are not welcome here and will be made examples of." That voice made her shudder almost as much as the pain it spoke of.
"As you wish, My Lord Urlander," Lycius simply nodded and stood, grasping hold of Aerin as he began to drag her out of the grand hall.
Aerin's body felt like it had been frozen solid as she was dragged away, her heart pounding in her chest, her limbs feeling to heavy to move. Lashes? As in being whiped? 40 of them?!?!? She is a petite woman, there isnt going to be a chance in hell of those lashes not crisscrossing multiple times.
She truly is terrified now, but at least it seems she wont be killed... wont be killed for five days. Her eyes drift to Lycius as she thinks that, the other's face so impassive and unresponsive. God knows what he will come up with, she'll have to find a way out of here back to the portal she left near the cemetery.
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