RP Pirates of the Hard Nox 2

The threat wasn’t lost on Summer, and Alys was right about her not being able to guarantee anything. Despite not getting a positive response from her superior, Summer tilted the handle and stepped outside, keeping her guard up in case Alys decided to do what it takes.

***

“What’s taking them so long?” Sam muttered to herself, trying to decide if she should knock or not. The footsteps behind her caused the girl to freeze, looking over her shoulder at the tall lady with vibrant scarlet wings.

“Could you not find them?” Mrs. Edgar, the head housekeeper of the estate asked. Before Sam could reply the door was opened again, and the maid she’d first encountered stepped outside. Mrs. Edgar raised an eyebrow. “You’re not Sarah.”


Summer knew something like this could happen, so the lie readily slipped right out of her tongue.

“She was feeling indisposed, so she asked us to be at the ceremony in her place. She’s deeply sorry for it, but my cousin and I have done this multiple times before, isn’t that right?” She turned to Alys, hoping she’d play along.
 
Dread pooled into her gut as another voice entered the room, this one belonging to an older woman. Summer had opened the door though, and with just enough time to slide the remaining knife out of sight, tucked away and hidden within the white fabric clinging to her bronzed skin, Alys was forced to step out behind her.

The woman appeared stern, wise, someone who was likely more involved in the wedding planning than the mousey girl. Perhaps she was the one to convince. Straightening her shoulders, Alys gave a slight nod before stepping towards the bundle of flowers that were meant to accompany the dress. Flowers for the happy occasion. Plucking a few from the pile, she stepped behind Summer and began to weave them into her hair, as best as she possibly could. "We won't disappoint you," she grit out. Then she weaved and silently considered whether it'd be possible to stab all three of the women without staining her dress.
 
Mrs. Edgar grimaced, displeased with the two replacements, especially the one who’s spoken first.

“Cousin, you say?” To Summer, the disgusted look was familiar; She’d seen it before, many lives ago. It was at Alys’ beautiful sky blue wings that the housekeeper glanced at, before turning her attention back to Summer. “If you’ve done it multiple times, for proper people, I’m sure you know you must at least look the part.”

For the first time in a long time, Summer’s expression wasn’t fake. She was hurt by those words, and despite knowing this could make Alys, at the very least suspicious, she’d put herself in a situation that gave her no other choice.

From her shoulder blades she grew out a lump, that like a flower blooming blossomed into a pair of two large dark blue wings. Sam stared at her in awe, while Mrs. Edgar seemed at the very least, satisfied. She turned her back at them.

“Hurry up, you’re already late."
 
Waves of emotion crashed into her, one after the other. Relentless, hardly allowing Alys to come up for air. She felt Summer tense beneath her fingers, though she didn't see her face. Her gaze snapped to the woman, to the ugly look on her face as she peered down at Summer, as if she were a speck of dirt upon her shoe. Then, as if on queue, as she finished with Summer's hair, the wings began to sprout. It was difficult to hide her initial shock, eyes wide, as she stared at them, nearly identical to the pair attached to her own back.

A changeling. But for it to be another? Her thoughts began to race. A third? Within two weeks? The questions kept coming - Juniper? But why? Or was it Sky? Her eyes bored into the back of Summer's head, flitting down the length of her dress, down to the edge, where the fabric sat neatly over her shoes. Alys was deathly silent as they finished getting ready, mind racing.

And once they were ready, their appearances fit for a noble wedding, Alys had no choice but to follow, back to where they came from. After a moment, she dared to reach over and take Summer's hand in her own, silently hoping she'd be able to tell from the touch. Selfishly hoping it was Juniper, despite knowing that the woman's words would've destroyed them. Yet also dreading the touch, as if anticipating the other option.

The hand was warm within her own - nothing else. No spark of flame or electricity, no wave of nausea. She gave it the slightest squeeze. And as they walked, she whispered, almost pleadingly, "At the ball, what was it that you told me?" There were three possible answers, but Alys only wanted the one. If they answered correctly, and if things went wrong within that chamber, she'd fight for the person beside her. Otherwise, they should've done as she'd said.
 
Summer didn’t need to look at Alys to know what her reaction would be, and that she'd quickly put two and two together. Perhaps if there had been no witnesses she would have been stabbed, or shot, or choked, but there they were, covering their hair with flowers and putting on a smile, looking pretty and proper on their way up to the wedding.

The voices and the music got louder at each step, the two of them walking together with a question and an answer in each of their minds. When Alys suddenly grabbed her hand, she didn’t feel her bones be pressed together, or the sharp edges of Alys’ fingernails, like she'd expected.

The question wasn't the one she was expecting either, and it sent him back that night, triggering memories of the gunshot, the pain and the fever.

“Without her, it’s a sinking ship.” He'd said, right before she pulled the trigger.

Could that be what Alys was referring to? Luckily she wouldn't have to answer right away, for the doors were pushed open and they were pushed through it, placed next to a larger group of girls wearing flower crowns, that began running down the aisle to form two rows, one of each side of the married couple's passage.

Summer was pulled to one side, with Alys opposed to her; they were the last in line. While the guests cheered, the girls dove their hands into their baskets and bathed the newlyweds in flower petals as they walked past them.

She'd need to think of an answer, fast.


***

The duke of Goswick had been in better shape before. Ever since his wife's death he'd gained some weight, and his hair completed the process of turning as grey as his wings.

His children had all inherited his silver wings, a proof of the strenght of his genes, he'd heard from many of his tenants. He stood by the door waiting to kiss his new daughter, but before they made it down the aisle his smile died down, as his eyes landed on a ghost, dressed as a flower girl. She looked the same as she did twenty seven years before.
 
Lucien’s ears perked up as he heard the voice approaching, one of an old (at least in the normal sense) woman and some beleaguered accompaniment, her son by the sounds of it. He sounded exasperated, as if his mother was at the age where anything she said could not truly be held against her, and she intended to exploit that fact until her death.

The fae woman emerged and Lucien bowed slightly at the compliment, smiling politely, although it was as false as the life that flowed through his veins.

“Thank you for the compliment, my lady.” He chuckled. Lucien’s face was a mask of politeness, even if his insides seethed at having to serve this lady. He could not lash out yet, however. Not until this damned bracelet was removed.

“If you do not mind my asking, has the ceremony concluded? I have only recently arrived.” Information, then murder. If this old woman was one of their targets she would be far easier to pull from the others and leave lying in a gutter.
 
Argent rolled his eyes at Ciaran’s suggestion, though he kept his doubts silent and barely attempted to cover the expression with a nod of his head as he took the flask. He was content to search upstairs, of course, but he sorely doubted the Captain was to be found there. Argent wouldn’t verbalize those thoughts; there was always the possibility that the Nox crew were right about Caleb’s actions. If the elf spoke his suspicions of the Captain’s cowardice it would only work against him if he were wrong.



”Perhaps,” Argent replied to Ciaran’s question while falling in behind him, corners of his lips lifting into a slightly confident smile. He had spent his life watching the Empire’s guards’ behaviors, developed an understanding of them from being on the opposing end of chases and battles. The benefit of military training was also a benefit to his disguise; when everyone behaved a certain way it made blending in that much easier. If his mimicry was enough to convince someone who truly had that training Argent felt confident he wouldn’t be picked from the ranks as an imposter.



”Regardless, I hope to get this done quickly and cast these colors aside.” Argent adjusted the collar of the uniform again, as though it were tight and uncomfortable. Before handing the flask back Argent took a long draw, the warmth of the brew infusing his bones. Almost as an afterthought he added, ”And yourself? Do you regret changing sides?” It wasn’t exactly in line with Ciaran’s question, but it was an important one nonetheless. If the gentleman pirate had second thoughts about his allegiances it could spell disaster for anyone around him.
 
It was too late. She'd asked too late. Flung into a regal room with dozens of finely dressed fairies on either side, staring. That's what it felt like, to her, dozens and hundreds of eyes staring at her. Yet Alys stared at Summer, gaging her reaction, gaining nothing. For now. Happy cheers thrummed against her eardrums, growing rhythmic with the roar of blood that rushed through her veins.

Breathe. A basket was shoved into her hands. Alys blinked and looked away, down the aisle, to wear the newlyweds stood. She inhaled sharply as they began to walk down the aisle.

Fucking smile. She forced it, gaze drifting past the pair, to the nobles that stood beyond. Each one of them dressed in their finery. Each of their garments probably costing more than her mother's lifetime salary. She gazed upon each of their unfamiliar faces until looking to the Duke, who appeared to be looking in her direction. Her chin lifted as she looked beyond, and after another moment - another moment where she wasn't thrown to the floor and arrested - her smile widened. They all had distinguishing silver wings.

Tearing her gaze away, Alys looked to the Duke's son and his pretty princess, the only one who didn't fit the mold. The one who'd been responsible for an unjust arrest. Petals rained down around them.
 
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The duke blinked and she remained there. Not an apparition, but not the person he thought she was either. He hesitated, like he’d done many years ago, but he was older now, soon not to be duke anymore. Soon to have his son take his place, have his things moved to the downer house, have less responsibility on his shoulders. The duke breathed deep and approached the flower girl.

“Alysandra?” He asked, cautious, blue eyes sparkling with expectation while his voice faltered. “You’re Karina’s Alysandra, aren’t you?”


***

As the bride and groom approached, Summer struggled to find a proper answer to Alys’ question. When nothing came to her and a man with silver wings blocked her view of Alys, she did what she did best and blended in with the crowd.

***

He’d scanned every single room, and was pretty confident the one at the end of the hall, with flower petals over the sheets was the bridal suite.

Caleb laid on the bed, with his eyepatch back in place and his working eye staring at the ceiling for heaven knows how long. The plan to wait for the bride and groom in their chambers ended up not being ideal, considering he’d had all this time to sit alone with his thoughts, and he had many of those.

Sinead was actually Lady Eilidh Realta, and she, or more likely someone, faked her death. The pain on his hand hadn’t returned, and he was beginning to doubt leaving without as much as a note had been his brightest idea. It had been an impulsive one, like most of his ideas. He found himself wondering what Alys' plan would have been, probably a better one.

Caleb jumped up with the sound of voices outside. The servant's door had been blocked with a chair, that he could easily remove in case he needed an escape route. Trying not to make a sound, he stealthily walked up to the door that lead to the hallway and glued his ear to the hard wood.
 
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"Oh, who knows how long they'll go on," the Lady answered Lucien's question dismissively. "Every time I think they're finished, someone pulls out another paper to read or there's another bit of music. At this rate, it'll go on until I die of old age. And to think, I'll have to go through this again with the princes..." She trailed off with an indecipherable grumble.

"Ah, well. The things we do for grandchildren. Tell me, have either of you seen my daughter? Or that boy who was supposed to bring my paint, where has he gone? Ugly lad. Missing an eye. Not even the uniform could save him."
 
The happy couple passed and as they did, exiting the room, the rest of the fae began to mingle, their chatter rising above the soft music. Alys had turned to face Summer, eager to turn word into action. And to re-visit her last question. But she found another figure approaching, his eyes directly on her.

She took half a step back, fingers twitching for the knife hidden in her sleeve, expecting a set of hands to clamp down onto her shoulders. To pull her arms back and drag her away, discarding her into the bowels of this goddamn city. Someone had recognized her, and better yet, it was the Duke himself.

The Duke, who's words caught her off guard. Her jaw slackened and she stared wide-eyed at him, those names ringing in her ears. How could he possibly know those names? She shook her head once; not in response but disbelief. Then she took another step back and turned away, heading for the door.

Perhaps it was rude to hurtle herself away from a conversation with a noble, but there were far worse things she might've done instead.
 
Her reaction gave it away; it was her. But before the smile had fully formed on the duke’s round face she turned and ran out of the saloon, as if she’d been caught red handed.

The duke followed, stumbling through the crowd and perhaps spilling a few glasses of wine as he struggled to maintain her within his sight. He saw the hem of her dress up the stairs and ran after her.

“Wait!” He shouted, hoping it would make her stop; he was too old for this. “I mean you no harm!” Before his knees gave in, the duke batted his wings, flying as fast as he could to catch up to her before she made it past the last step towards the top floor. “Alysandra!”


***

Sam knew she had to go back to the kitchen, but she couldn’t keep herself. She had to try and catch at least a glimpse of the princess. She’d heard she was the prettiest woman in all the empire, and even though she knew she’d be living there from now on, it wasn’t everyday that a poor girl raised in the slums of Costa Duba had the chance to see a wedding gown worthy of a queen.

A pair of pointy ears caught her eye, peeking through cascading dark brown hair. It reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t quite remember who that someone was. Slowly she approached, removing the cloth tied to her apron to wipe away a small wine puddle on the floor, temptatively looking up to try and catch a glimpse of her face.
 
Through the crowd, weaving in and around guests like the faintest wind, and then up the stairs. Lifting a fistful of her skirt, Alys bounded up the stairs, one at a time, then two, deeming herself far enough away from the crowd for anyone to notice. She was nearly there before she halted, her other hand gripping onto the banister to steady herself.

The Duke stood over her on the top step, peering down. She straightened her back and lifted her chin, eyes steely. "Let me pass, your Grace." She refused to acknowledge what he'd said or what it could possibly mean.
 
As soon as she stopped the duke’s feet touched the ground, perhaps a bit too abruptly. He might have fallen had the banister not been there to keep him up.

“Alys…” He panted, unable to complete the word while catching his breath. “...I thought you were…”

He panted a while longer, and a moment later he stood up straight and reminded himself of what she was, a maid, and who he was.

“No.” The duke said commandingly, even though there was no anger in his voice. “Join me in the sitting room.” He started walking, glancing back, just in case.
“It’s an order.”
 
Alys narrowed her eyes. Here he was, panting, as though he'd just pushed his body to the limit, when in reality, he'd climbed a set of stairs. A man who relied on others to do the heavy work. And yet he stood above her, peering down at her, like she was insignificant. Reminding her that he held the power. Not just in the obvious sense, but the fact that he somehow knew her and she couldn't say the same.

Obeying would satisfy curiosity, though she wasn't entirely sure she wanted that satisfaction. Denying him or running back down the stairs could very well draw unwanted attention. And a simple fact remained: she still had a job to do. So really, there wasn't much of an option.

She climbed the final stair and strode after him, letting him lead her away from the rest of the wedding party. Leading himself away.
 
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