Beneath the Frost


Offline Ophelia Shore

Beneath the Frost
« on: February 13, 2018, 11:29:24 AM »

There had been whispering. Male whispering. After the press of darkness, when she had been sure Mother Night was taking her into the Abyss. To return to the true Darkness, where is was quiet and safe. Whispers and burning.

Healing, they called it. Hot fire in her stomach. Like but unalike the cold kiss of the blade. Blood not her own pumped into her body. Stinking of Prince. Of male. Making her stink too. Promises spoken softly to her. Ophelia had heard promises before. But it had been a long time. Threats were all she remembered now. Male threats. Dark Jeweled threats.

Pain atop pain atop pain.

And then she woke up.

Alone. A room with four close walls and no other beds. Ophelia could sense the emptiness. Scrubbed clean of any scent that might have come before hers. The bed was big but not too big. The room small but not too small. Bigger than her room at Nin. But emptier. Unlived in until now. Was she living?

Ophelia fanned fingers over her stomach. Tender, but not open. A sort of ache on the inside she was not familiar with. Moving required slow carefulness Ophelia discovered. Inching carefully up against the pillows until she sat, shaking, against the headboard. Eyes open wide enough to actually see.

Fresh yellow drapes over the windows. Crisp white sheets beneath her body. A decorative, lightweight quilt over it. Empty, quiet room. Safe. Far away from Nin. Ophelia plucked at her bandages. Hard ridges beneath her night dress. Was she safe though? She could sense her, somewhere. Shahllene’s Black Widow Queen. Little Terreille’s now, she reminded herself, shivering.

Still in danger then. She had promised retribution if Ophelia failed again to control the males of her court. Did having it broken count?


Was that why there was no one here with her? Mended and set aside for later punishment?


Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2018, 11:44:46 AM »
Knock, everyone said. But it was always such a bother, thought Aeon, and especially when his hands were full; impractical, at best. But he’d been scolded enough now to take this preoccupation with knocking into account, and so, as unintrusively as he could, he poked his head through the closed door of Ophelia’s room.

“Knock knock,” he said, with a grin. “I’ve brought you something.”

The rest of his body materialized from behind the door, an ornate tray balanced carefully in his hands. A glass of water. Porridge, a little bowl of fresh fruit, and a majestic slice of cake. In the center was a tiny vase bearing a tiny rose, yellow-pink and newly unfurling.

He sat the tray on her bedside table, moving slowly and deliberately as though afraid he would set the entire room collapsing.

She was shaking. Aeon stood awkwardly at her side, eyes twinkling with childlike eagerness.

“I stole the cake,”
he told her, beaming. “He’d just frosted it, and then he turned his back, so I grabbed some for you. I thought it might, um, pique your appetite.”

He folded his hands, wringing them against each other nervously.

“How are you feeling?”

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2018, 12:21:14 PM »

It made her stomach clench, the shriek she caught behind her teeth. Turning it into a low moan at the pain that rippled through her. Healed, nostly. But not whole just yet. Sort of like the head peering at her through her door. She didn’t recognize him at first.

”Huhvuh!” Was all the frightened chatter Ophelia managed before the rest of him came in. Like before. From no where. Except this time through the door. She knew him now. The strange prince who had come to her for information. And then again to save her. She couldn’t remember his name. Or if he’d said.

He had a tray in his hands. Not actually waiting for her to invite him in. Bringing himself and the tray all the way to her bedside. Tray set down while he smiled at her. Ophelia pulled the blankets a little higher, turning some, to keep him head on. Not sure what to do with him. Thank him? For saving her or bringing her food? Ask him to leave?

”Will you be in trouble?” How could he be? Who would scold him with Jewels that dark? They made her nervous, his Jewels. Even if he seemed nice enough. A little strange, but nice. It did look good, though, the cake. Ophelia touched her hair. Loose and wild around her head. Where were her pins? She’d had pins in earlier...

”I’m not sure yet.” Sick. Frightened. Confused. Maybe hungry? ”Ah.” Mouth dry. ”Maybe some water?” There was no here for him to sit. Just the bed and the table. A closet door. She pulled her knees up, tucking her toes under her. Making room, but not inviting him to sit. Not sure she wanted him to. Not sure of anything really.

”Thank you.” She whispered softly.

Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2018, 12:34:54 PM »
A sheepish, apologetic look was Aeon’s only reply; someday, perhaps, he’d be able to come into the room without startling her. But then… well, their first encounter had set a bad precedent.

She looked so small, there, bundled in blankets, pallid and wide-eyed. The room was terribly bare; it felt like a prison, and Aeon didn’t like it.

“Trouble?” he asked, cheerfully. “No, I don’t think so. I committed myself to your service. I’m doing my job.”

Matter-of-fact. Did she remember? He’d told her, but the circumstances had been dire then. And more than anyone, he empathized with lapses of memory.

“I’m Darion,” he said. “But most people call me Aeon. I’ll care for you, Lady, if you’ll have me. I am… not otherwise engaged.” His voice grew sullen with the admission. He might as well have told her flat-out about his broken mind, the shattered chalice at the center of his soul held together precariously by threads of Irisviel’s power.

His mouth opened, expectant, then closed again.

“Here,” he said, quietly. Picked up the glass of water with both hands and gently, carefully, offered it for her to hold.

“You’re welcome.” Beaming. Dark eyes twinkling.

Behind him, a chair appeared from nowhere and sank delicately to the floor. He sat, nervously rubbing the wrinkles out of his trousers with open palms.

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2018, 12:57:26 PM »

”Service.” Ophe repeated the word to herself. He had said it before, she thought. To her. For her. Service. Ophelia thought she remembered what that meant. Not sure she wanted it. She used to. Had good, sweet males she could pet and who pet her back. Good males who let her have her way.

He seemed upset for a moment. Sad, the way children were sad. Ophelia felt that way sometimes too. A bitter sort of upset when you couldn’t have what you wanted. What you deserved. She smiled at him. Not ready to answer. To agree. But to encourage him, because he seemed kind.

”Do you have a preference?” She asked, taking the glass of water. Holding it. Not sure if it wouldn’t all leak out if she drank any. ”Between the two, Aeon and Darion?” Ophelia smiled back, spilling a little water as the chair appeared. He had done that before. For her. Smiling, she drank. Cool. Not cold. Just right for parched mouths and unsure stomachs.

”Imm glad you won’t be in trouble.” Hoped she wasn’t either. Eyeing him. Would he protect her if she was? If she accepted his service? It had been so long since she’d felt protected.

Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2018, 01:16:27 PM »
Aeon watched, waited. His hands were patiently folded in his lap, all the better to keep them from nervous fidgeting. It wounded him, the sight of a timid Queen. He remembered suddenly the wash of fear that had stained the walls of her previous home.

“I think Aeon is friendlier,” said Aeon, with a small smile. “Shorter, with less weight behind it. But Irisviel calls me Darion, and I do not mind.”

Irisviel. Aeon remembered the way she’d looked at Ophelia, that day in the healing hall. It had not been a look of kindness; but then, Irisviel showed kindness differently from anyone else, and he didn’t think it was fair to assume.

“Here….” A handkerchief appeared between anxious fingertips, and he offered it to her, fussing over the water spill. “I’m sorry. I keep startling you. My Craft isn’t the graceful sort, I’m afraid.”

A weak smile, then temporary silence.

“Hard to be in trouble when you are trouble.” The peaked smile widened into a grin. “And, anyway, there’s nothing to fear. I’m by your side. Whatever happened… whoever threatened you… they will have to go through me. And I don't mean to brag, but no one has gotten through me yet.”

A flash of remembrance, then; dark eyes widened behind his spectacles, and his grin turned sheepish again.

“After they pushed me out of the healing hall, I went to fetch your things,” he said. A moment’s pause, then, like a silent apology. “I, um, didn’t think you’d want to go back. I hope it wasn’t too intrusive of me.”

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2018, 03:37:54 PM »

”Aeon then.” Ophelia decided. ”Prince Aeon.” She corrected. Remembering. The urge to rub her wrist only halted by the glass in her hands. Aeon. It was nicer. And not what Lady Crag called him. Ophelia did not wish to be similar to the lady, or seen as copying. Usurping. Wait. She thought he had been in Irisviel’s service before?

No time to ask. Water dampening her linens.

”I’m just not used to chairs suddenly appearing.” Or men, through doors or nothing at all. She still felt a little sick whenever she thought of him half hanging out of the Darkness. Most of him missing, smile sweet as ever as if it were perfectly normal. A very strange prince indeed.

Finishing half the water, Ophelia handed the glass back to him. Hands turning back to the bedclothes now that they were empty. Eyes wide and dark.

”I believe you.” She’d never met Jewels so dark. Had never hoped or dreamed to. Was not sure she wanted to accept their service. He seemed nice enough, but Ophelia knew the twisted minds of dark Jewels now. Abusive and arrogant.

She eyed the cake. Drawn back to him as he turned from calm to sheepish. His face expressive beneath the pale sweep of grey hair. How had that happened?

”Not back. No. At least not soon.” It had been hers! Nin was hers. Ophelia wasn’t sure she had the heart to take it back. Or the willpower. He was dead, her adversary. But he had friends. Powerful friends. Ophelia turned bright eyes to her companion. Well. Now so did she. Hopeful, she smiled at him. He wanted to serve. Said he served her already. There were no contracts for him to trick her with.

Surely it would be okay.

”It was wonderful of you.” Did he have her pins then? Ophe ran fingers through her hair. She could do with pins. Later though. Not right then. It would be rude. ”Would you like to share the cake with me?”

Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2018, 04:10:54 PM »
Lady Ophelia,” said Aeon, testing the title on his lips and finding that he liked it. It had been such a long time since he’d served a Queen like this, face to face, alone. A long time since he’d fussed—most people he met had others to look after them, and he never got the chance. Always moving. Always somewhere else to be.

But here, now, he felt useful. Nostalgic, too, but he did not know for what.

“I’ll try to warn you next time,” he said, gently. “Now, in fact. I thought this seemed important to you, so I brought it to brighten up your room.”

He called in the vanity, letting in hover in midair for a few moments as he tried to get the angle just right against the wall. Their faces were reflected in the mirror, two wide-eyed strangers. Aeon turned back to her, smiling hopefully.

“You don’t have to go back,” said Aeon. “You don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to go. I will fetch anything you need in the meantime.”

His heart soared at her praise. He marveled at her, pink-cheeked, eyes bright behind his off-kilter glasses.

“I will… have what you can’t eat, when you’re through.” That seemed fair. “If you really don’t mind.”

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2018, 04:24:39 PM »

She liked the way he said her name. Lady Ophelia. It was proper, but not so formal as to ignore that she was also a person. A living, breathing, feeling queen on the other side of the title.

”Now?!” Almost unprepared. Ophe laughed as her vanity appeared, hands covering her mouth. Anxiety washed away by surprise. The good sort of surprise. One that didn’t slip around the corner with a knife in hand. She smiled at him in the reflection. Turning as he turned.

”Thank you, Prince Aeon.” How sweet of him. And he could, couldn’t he. Vanishing whole vanities. Moving through the Darkness. Bringing her cake and roses. Ophe liked him very much. ”That sounds fair.” She held her hands out for the cake, watching him grin like a child on Winsol.

It was almost Winsol, in fact. Ophelia wondered what she would do.

”Your glasses are crooked.” She warned him, taking the cake and fork from his hands. Waiting a moment before taking a bite. Cake fluffy. Frosting airy and sweet.

Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2018, 04:59:12 PM »
She had a beautiful smile. No smile like that should ever be locked up in a place of fear, thought Aeon; and in that moment he was wholly glad for her, not that she had been attacked, but that she had been found, and now was safe and served.

He did not tell her about Lady Pyralis and Prince Medin. They were well on their own, just as Lady Ophelia was well here, with him. Perhaps it was jealousy, but Aeon thought he preferred it that way.

“You’re welcome, Lady Ophelia.” Eagerly he plucked the cake from its tray, settling it into her hands and placing a shining dessert fork at the edge of the plate.

It pleased him to see her eat. She would recover well if she ate, and rested, and smiled.

He placed a hand at his temple in response to her words, wide-eyed at the sudden observation. Then he laughed, a hearty and good-natured laugh although his face was turned shyly away.

“My ears are crooked,” he informed her, still grinning. “One is lower than the other. I try to fix them, but they won’t stay.”

Her hair had come loose, curls falling freely along her cheeks and forehead. Ah—yes, he’d forgotten. A couple of hair pins appeared at his fingertips, and he paused, pressing them hard between the pads of his thumb and forefinger.

Reached over, slowly, gently, and brushed a single curl away from her face. Pinned it there. His body thrummed with the force of his heartbeat.

“Um,” said Aeon, who drew his hand away and set the unused pin carefully on the bedside table. “Is it good? Your cake?”

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2018, 05:17:00 PM »

She’d forgotten what it was like to eat with an audience. The last meal she’d taken had been in her room. Her old room. Plate balanced on her knees while she looked out the window. This time she sat on the bed, plate in her lap. Chewing carefully. Waiting for pain or discomfort or rebellion from her stomach.

Twinges. But nothing worse. A little unnerved at the attention, but pleased with it too. Licking frosting from the fork as he laughed, hiding his face from her and checking the lie of his glasses. Ophelia smiled around another bite, shaking her head at him and his crooked ears.

”I’m so very sorry. Oh well. It suits you anyway.” Strange slant of his glasses to go with the strange ways of his person. Chewing, not that it took much, the cake all but melting in her mouth, she watched him curiously. What would he pull from the Darkness this time? Hair pins. Ophelia made a pleased noise, eyes glittering with avarice. Her hairpins were her link to sanity.

Slowly, carefully, he used one to pin the most bothersome curl out of her way. Ophelia sat very still while he did so. Gooseflesh running up and down her arms, tingles spreading over her scalp. The fork clanking against the plate as it slipped from her nerveless fingers.

”Ah.” She cleared her throat, picking up the fork again and tasting the cake just one more time. So she could answer him honestly. ”Probably the best I’ve had yet. Here. Try a bite.” She offered the fork to him. It felt heavy in her hand. Body flushed with warmth now. Stomach full of cake and water and blood.

Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2018, 12:02:45 PM »
The air hummed with feeling—his, and hers. Pleasant, if tentative. His outer barrier opened a hair’s breadth, the better to connect with her.

“Oh… thank you.” Heat still lit his face, burning under his cheeks and tingling at his neck and chest.

For a moment, he thought she would refuse him—brush his hand away, protest. But she did not. His fussing went unpunished, this time. He met her eyes again, smile bright and warm. The cake had been a great success, he thought; only when she offered the fork to him did his smiling falter, and the heat returned in force.

Should he? His fingers twitched, uncertain.

“You don’t mind?” he asked, again. “Er, sharing a fork with me, I mean. I could get you a clean one.”

But she was still holding it out. So he took it, and pressed the tines down into the edge of the cake, cutting out the smallest piece he could manage and lifting it to his mouth.

It was very good. He made a muffled sound of approval, straining to keep his mouth closed as he smiled.

“He makes excellent coffee, too. The small one,” said Aeon, after a polite swallow. “I’ll bring you some when you’re feeling better. Do you take sugar and cream?”

He returned the fork, holding it out to her handle-first. Shy, again. Thinking.

“I suppose there’s much we have to learn about one another.”

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2018, 05:38:13 PM »

Wonder. Childlike. Ophelia ate her cake, marveling at him. So very unlike anyone she’d ever known. Less frightening, even with his Jewels. He seemed soft, somehow. Sweet like her cake. Airy. Strange creature.

”Yes. I don’t mind.” She did, but Ophelia hadn’t thought that far ahead. To the return of the cake. Or the fork. So she continued to hold it out for him until he took it. Settled deeper into her pillow with a sigh. Wondered if her face had looked like that on her first bite. Or even the last.

”The small one?” Ophelia asked, confused. Had a child made the cake? She supposed there was no end to circles in a court as large as Irisviel’s. She’d heard whispers, though, that the new queen was doing away with her males. Maybe she needed children to replace them.

”I do. Both. But I prefer tea, with a lemon slice and sugar.” Ophelia pushed the fork back at him and shook her head. ”I’m full now, thank you.” Her Jewels required little. And her stomach felt as if it required even less. How long had she been asleep? How long had she...

”Yes. I suppose so.” Ophelia looked at him, eyes wide, remembering and trying to forget. She glanced at his kind face, and the deep, dark Jewel he wore. She was safe now. For now. What if she couldn’t control him too? What if, what if? Ophelia rubbed her wrist. This one had killed for her, though.

”I will finish that water. If you don’t mind.” She was safe. Even from Lady Crag.

Offline Darion Greenstone

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2018, 10:53:33 AM »
Aeon paused, considering. He’d never mentioned the small one without the other party immediately understanding who he meant. It occurred to him that he didn’t even remember the man’s name—Applegrove, or Joe, or something.

“The Warlord with hearth Craft,” he explained, delicately. “Irisviel’s Steward. Portly, with glasses. He’s kind, except he fusses like a mother hen.”

Iris’s court was home to many such strange people, and indeed he was one of them. He smiled at Ophelia, warm and reassuring.

“It takes some getting used to, this place.” Obediently he removed the plate and fork from her hands, replacing it on the tray. Only when he made to hand her the water did he notice her fidgeting: a habitual rub of her wrist. He’d seen her do it before.

He placed the water gently at the edge of the table, and turned his attention to her, eyes longing and serious.

“Did he hurt you?” Hardly a whisper. “Is that why you were afraid?”

Careful hands enveloped hers. He braced his fingertips gently along her wrist, barely squeezing.

“No one will ever hurt you again. No one will ever lay a hand on you in anger and live. That is my promise to you, Lady Ophelia.” A lingering pause. His throat was painfully tight. “If you will accept it. Will you have me?”

Offline Ophelia Shore

Re: Beneath the Frost
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2018, 11:33:21 AM »

Ophelia's lips twitched, first upward and then down, at his explanation. She knew now, who he spoke of. Didn't need to know him intimately to know of him. So many knew of Lady Crag's Steward. There were plenty of whispers about the pair. Together as long as anyone knew. A mismatched pair of Jewels. A dozen others things said nearly too quiet to be heard.

"Lord Redgrove." She supplied, not sure if she needed to, or if he simply expected her not to know. So often people went one way or the other. Expecting her to know things she did not. Or assuming she did not know what she did. It was frustrating on either account, but being assumed ignorant always prickled her temper.

She was a Queen!

"Yes it does," Ophelia agreed as he swept away the plate. Tucking the other side of her curls behind her ear once her hands were free, forgetting about the pin he'd placed on the bedside table. It took but a moment for them to spring free again. Surprised when he set aside the water rather than handing it to her.

Ophelia looked up from her lap, into dark, earnest eyes. Hands sliding to encompass hers. Pressing the delicate, aching bones in her wrist. She shivered, eyes burning. She didn't like the memory his question pulled to the surface. Sapphire power shattering her shield, backing her against a door. His hand crushing her.

"Yes." She whispered back, swallowing the hard lump in her throat. "I couldn't control him and he was awful." She whined, his promise drawing the tears down her cheeks. But he was gone now. Aeon had killed him. Sweet, strange Aeon. Sniffing, she nodded. "Yes, of course." Aeon would keep her safe. Gentle Aeon. She wouldn't have to worry about controlling him, right? He seemed to do it all on his own.


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