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The Fourth Bargain: Polling 3/20
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:08 am    Post subject: The Fourth Bargain: Polling 3/20  

After a bit of encouragement I decided to try once more to get a second story going. After all, you miss 100% of shots you don't take. Enjoy.
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Chapter One:

And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell,
Aye at the end of seven years,
We pay a tithe to hell. ~ The Ballad of Tam Lin
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The moon gleamed through the branches made naked by autumn winds and sound carried in the clear, cold air. Owls hooted, the wind sighed, and the stamp of each hoof and jingle of each bit of tack seemed too loud in comparison. The men of the small squad glanced around as they were gripped by an unfamiliar fear. Ever had the kingdoms myriad woodlands been tame and tender to them. As safe as any farmers orchard and as welcoming as any gardeners thicket. These woods were different. Something old lurked here and there was the ominous feeling that they were trespassers, allowed passage but unwelcome and unwanted. Was it any wonder they were forbidden to the trapper, the woodcutter, and the traveler.

There seemed to be only one path through the twisted black trunks and the thorn thick underbrush. It wove and wound its way like a ribbon and twisted so often that several of the men half thought that they were going in circles. A weight settled upon their cloaked shoulders and a sudden deeper chill turned their breath to vapor in which all manner of haunts seemed to reside. Hands gripped hilts and knees pressed tighter to the ribs of their steeds. All the while the carriage creaked and it's elderly occupant reclined without doubt. Her Royal Majesty, Queen Sibold the Elder spared not a thought for danger and her mind did not play with imagined horrors. She knew what lay at the end of the path.

Soon enough a new sound split the air. A sound altogether monotonous and mundane. The thump and crack that came with the task of splitting logs for firewood. The men of the Queensguard looked at each other in puzzlement. These woods were strictly forbidden by the command of the Queen herself. What poor fool had dared to set up camp within their borders? What madman would want to? The feelings of cold discomfort and unwelcome intensified with every step the horses took and the noise grew ever louder. Macabre thoughts grew. What if that wasn't wood being split? What if they were leading the Queen into some dread trap? What if those rumors surrounding the Queen were true and there was some gruesome secret hiding here in the woods?

Then suddenly the trees gave way and with them went the claustrophobic feeling. The pressing darkness abruptly lifted and the light of the moon shone more radiant than ever before. In the center of a wide clearing stood a pristine cottage that seemed built from black wood and white stone with a roof of cunningly laid tiles. Near enough the leeward side sat a stump with rounds of wood lined near it waiting to be set upon it and split. Standing with his back toward them was a man as fit and fine as any of the Queensguard judging from the flex of his back and the set of his shoulders as he lifted high his axe. Smoothly he brought it down in a single clean arc and where once a round of wood sat there were now two pieces waiting to be further split.

The figure straightened suddenly, the axe embedding itself into the ground inches from the hooves of the Captains horse and caused the beast to shy. Half turned now it was clear for all of the Queensguard to see the woodcutter was no mere man. His skin was white as milk and his hair seemed to be spun of moonlight itself. Perhaps most startling were the antlers that rose from the crown of his skull and twisted like a halo of thornwood. He stretched out his arms as he faced them fully, the moon shadows gathering to him and racing to cloth his figure. "You'll come no further Sons of Iron and Rust. If she wishes to speak with me she may approach." His voice was ageless and imperial.

The door to the carriage creaked open and the whole of it listed to the side as Queen Sibold shifted to exit. Her great gowns were cumbersome and caught at the edges of the lacquered wood and her joints protested the motion. Yet she waved away the hands that reached out to assist her and took a moment once she'd made the ponderous descent of the steps to smooth out her skirts and adjust the thick cloak of furs that didn't quite hide the stoop of her shoulders. She crossed the grass to him slowly out of necessity more than dignity and despite the weight of her ornate wig her head was held high. "Prickly as always Ser Thorne."

He folded his arms across his chest. A single frigid brow arched on a face sculpted from sharp angles above eyes reminiscent in shape of a hunting cat. His teeth gleamed as he spoke with his sharp fangs giving his words a sibilant accent. "It is not Midwinter aging Queen, what else would bring you to my forest."

The Queen's spine stiffened and her fists clenched in her muff. "Your forest only because I so choose."

"A bargain struck and a bargain paid. The forests of your kingdom are tamed and the beasts within them placid or timid. Your smallfolk take from them what they please and your lords have their sport. But this forest is mine and here your presence is suffered only because I wish it." Pale eyes gleamed angrily. "Should you wish to reclaim these lands then by all means. I shall take my boons and be gone."

One bony hand came forth from the muff now and Sibold pointed her finger at the fae lord that stood before her. "Thorne you forget who it was that set you free in the first place!"

"And for my freedom I killed your dragon. A bargain struck and a bargain paid. Will you now also say that I have been less than generous in our yearly exchange. Do you seek to withhold the small offerings I demand as well? I have been more than fair to you Sibold. So why do you come and disturb my peace unannounced? Why do you come bringing weapons of iron when they should be of steel?" His pale eyes swept over her and his stance softened as he saw the fearless Princess that had once been in the set of her jaw and squared off shoulders. When he spoke again it was with a much softer and gentler tone. "You come to ask another boon. Oh Sibold I warned you. Four and forty years ago I warned you. Bargain once, bargain twice, bargain thrice...but ask no more of me. What could be worth the risk?"

The bony hand reached up to the thick golden locket around her neck and unclasped it. She took hold of Thorne's hand and placed it in his palm with an anxious look upon her face. "My granddaughter is to be married. My son, the fool, has chosen for her a prince far and away to the west. From a kingdom so large it is said that the sun never sets upon it. But Thorne...they are cursed and if she marries him...she will be too." The aging Queens hand dropped away leaving the chain of the locket dangling from between the Thornes pale fingers. "So I beg of you one last bargain, one last boon. Protect her from that curse, that she may live a long and happy life with those she loves best. Please, protect my Abigail."

Thorne raised the locket, his thumb caressing the side of the golden shell gently and flicking the catch so that it opened to reveal the painted portrait nestled within. He stared for a moment at the guileless beauty portrayed within. A striking woman who reminded him of nobody so much as the old Queen in her own youth. He snapped the locket shut again. "Tell me of the curse and then we shall speak of payment. A bargain struck...and a bargain paid."

~*~*~

Abby sighed and bit her lower lip, her cheeks squishing a bit where she rested them on her fists as she stared deep into the painted eyes of the portrait before her. "Are you truly this handsome? Or do you simply have a cunning painter like those my Maman employs?" A ringlet of ruddy hair tumbled down into her eyes again and idly she reached up to tuck it away before tracing a fingertip along the painted curve of the jaw of her betrothed. "Are you really so bold as your ambassador implies? Are you really so brave as your letters suggest?" She flopped backward on her bed with a dramatic sigh. "Are you really that boring?"

Abigail had known from her littlest days that to her fell the duty of marrying well and forging an alliance where her father most needed it. Or, perhaps, if she was lucky, she'd marry a lord closer to home. That hadn't made the shock any easier to handle when her father had finally announced the decision he'd made for her and sat her down with the portrait of Prince Sigmund and the ambassador from far off Vryion to answer any questions she might have had and deliver the first of the letters Sigmund had written along with this portrait. Suddenly Abby had been faced with the reality that she'd very likely never see her home and family again in a few short months time. Her less than enthusiastic reaction had paled in comparison to her Maman though. In all her sixteen years Abigail had never seen the Queen so angry.

She sat up and stared at the portrait again, propping an elbow on her knee and her chin on her fist once again as she furrowed her brows at it. Speaking to it as though she expected answers back. "Is it true that your family is really cursed? That if I marry you I'll be cursed too? Or is that just Maman worrying over nothing again?" It was certainly true that when her Grandmother had been her age that there'd been strange dangers in the world. Dragons and devils and the fae. Evil wizards and terrible monsters. But those were little more than childrens stories now. Or perhaps caged up in the exotic travelling shows that sometimes came to entertain them. Yet the fury with which Maman had argued with her parents had seemed to imply that she still believed the threat was real. "It doesn't make sense, none of it. Fae and Dragons and Magic...I don't believe in any of it."

As one her candles snuffed out, vanished into darkness by the blast of chill air that followed her leaded glass windows flying open. She turned toward it with wide eyes to perceive a figure standing there. A dark silhouette limned in silver moonlight.

"Well thankfully we don't require your belief to be real."
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How does Abby react to the sudden stranger in her chamber? Faint? Fight? Flee? The choice is yours and yours alone.
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Heavy on flavor, light on any real happenings. Tune in for things to be slowly fleshed out. Hope you enjoyed!
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titanholding1



Joined: 24 Aug 2019
Posts: 13

Posted: Wed Nov 27, 2019 1:51 pm    Post subject:  

For someoe less fanciful to disbelieve is of the disposition of a fighter no? Pick up the nearest candelabra.
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8762
Location: http://www.NeilHarlteyBooks.com

Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 2:28 am    Post subject:  

Mmm, sudden appearance of stranger in bedroom. It wasn't me!

Ahem.

Er, a tactical retreat, with afore mentioned candlestick for defence, followed by many questions.

Also:

Quote: that the son never sets upon it

Assume you meant sun here.
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:14 am    Post subject:  

New year, new poll! Lets get some votes in and see what happens!
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8762
Location: http://www.NeilHarlteyBooks.com

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:25 pm    Post subject:  

Mmm, sorry Rai. Missed the poll. Or it's just broken. :shock:
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2020 10:01 pm    Post subject:  

Everyone did honestly. *chuckles* I'll re-run it in a bit when folks seem more active.
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8762
Location: http://www.NeilHarlteyBooks.com

Posted: Sun Feb 02, 2020 6:03 am    Post subject:  

~waits~
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Fri Mar 20, 2020 8:07 pm    Post subject:  

Lets try this poll again folks! Only going to leave it up for a couple days to see if I can't get the chapter written!
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8762
Location: http://www.NeilHarlteyBooks.com

Posted: Fri Mar 20, 2020 11:47 pm    Post subject:  

Voted. And guess what?

Winning. :cool:
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Key



Joined: 08 Feb 2004
Posts: 2603
Location: The Royal Palace

Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:29 am    Post subject:  

Sorry had to tie it up.
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