Private Tales A rare encounter

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
Tharu was oblivious to the strain such a display of magic put on Maeve, but he was impressed nonetheless. The Prince anchored himself to her by the hips as the noble creature fled the wicked scene before them in a panicked gallop. If San'Seya had even a second to think clearly, he could have calmed the creature down easily, but the chaos of the situation offered him not a moment of clear-mindedness.

Well, not until they passed through a very familiar barrier underneath a bent willow tree. Once the shimmering glow crossed over them, The Spring fae was much less concerned for their well-being. Smiling as the Unicorn slowed to a stop and dropped its head, Tharu lowered a hand to stroke the side of the creature. "They truly are wise beasts..."

Without answering Maeve's question immediately, Tharu slid from the Unicorn's back and stepped forward into the patch of sun that shone through the trees and onto the rocky pools of water underneath their feet. It was funny, how being home could wash one's worries away so quickly. The Prince found himself taking a deep breath and spreading his arms a bit.

"This grove is protected. If that barrier that we passed through is any indication, it's plausible to assume it's under the care of my Father. These shielded areas dot our court, usually, they're historically significant or serve an important purpose." Tharu couldn't be totally certain, as he hadn't been to this particular grove... but the magic that surrounded it felt like a San'Seya's for certain, and Tharu knew of only two who lived.

Well, two and a half if one counted that strange Sidhe from the Vitae who seemed to have some of their blood within her. Tharu still hadn't told his father about her.

"The unicorn likely felt the call of his protection and fled here by instinct. Conservation is one of our primary tenants, of course, so no harm would be allowed to come to her under our watch."

A small, pause, and Tharu smiled, then bowed his head.

"That was an incredible piece of work back there. I see why the Autumn Prince is so keen on you. Were it not for your quick thinking, I would be dead. The Spring owes you a debt, Lady Maeve."

"I... wish I could take credit for thinking," Maeve rubbed her arm sheepishly, unable to bring herself to meet Tharu's eyes as she said it. If she had been thinking properly she would have fled when he had told her too. Her magic was the result of powerful swings of emotion still - what if she hadn't been able to conjure what she had in that moment? What if it had guttered and failed? They could have both been dead, and Lorcan... She had been stupid and she was feeling the guilt of it now. "My magic is just... Well, I'm a bit behind on the rest of you I suppose," which was putting it mildly.

Tentatively she made her way over to the faerie pools and sat down. With deft fingers she begun to undo her boots then slid her feet into the cool waters with a sigh.

"I didn't know places like this existed everywhere," she admitted again, revealing her ignorance of a world she should by all rights know more of. "Is it a power just Kings and Heirs have?" Endora, as far as she knew, was the only safe haven in the Autumn Courts but maybe she was wrong. Maybe pockets like this existed everywhere.
The prince turned his head to the ruby-haired woman, dangling her feet into the crystalline waters of the pool glistening in the sun. "You don't give yourself enough credit, Lady Maeve. To feel panic is natural, what matters is that you fought through that panic and saved my life." Tharu hated to admit how weak he was compared to his father or Razareal, the Sower, but then that was why he was so often set on these tasks. To grow and mature until he'd blossomed as a beacon of the Spring. "Worrying about what didn't happen is a waste of the gift of life."

As he spoke, Tharu made his way over to the pond, sitting in front of it as well, crossing his legs and leaning forward to dip his hands into the pool before lifting the water to his face. "Honestly, I couldn't tell you. I don't have this power, and my father has never really explained it to me. I'm... not too different from you, Maeve. I'm behind the rest of Spring." He let his hair loose for a moment, smiling at the warmth of the sun against his scalp, even though the locks.

"My blood is supposed to give me strength, but I'm no more powerful than your average Duanann. Even the commander of our soldiers, a Sidhe, is more capable than I." Suffice it to say that tharu empathized with Maeve quite a bit. His body fell back onto the grass, his eyes sliding shut for a moment. "With a title like Prince on my shoulders... It's a bit much to bear somtimes."

Maeve made a quiet note to ask Lorcan when she was back home, or perhaps even Fiadh would know. She was her fathers heir after all and she had hidden a whole island from the rest of fae kind as their own personal paradise.

Whilst another fae in her position might have used what Tharu said to her advantage all Maeve did was give her new budding friend a sympathetic look. She hadn't thought to find someone who could understand in the form of the Prince of Spring, but there it was.

"At times I think the maids are more capable than me," Maeve laughed, hoping it would ease the tinge of sadness in the air. She swirled her feet in the water causing the fish that had swum closer to disperse once more into the deeper parts of the pool. "At home I was a lot more confident. Princess of a small tribe nobody has heard of is a lot less daunting than Princess of the Autumn Court," she wrinkled her nose. "Lorcan tries to protect me and I think he would be happy if I didn't think of myself as such but... I can't leave him to do his duties alone. It isn't fair," she sighed.

"Did you not grow up in Spring, then?" Maeve asked curiously, peeking at her friend out the corner of her eye.
It was often easy to forget in one's woes that others had their own troubles and regrets. As Maeve shared her own worries and fears of inadequacy, Tharu fixed his gaze on her, a light smile dancing along his lips at the story she told. Lorcan had a reputation among the other courts, but Tharu didn't doubt from the way she spoke of him that the Autumn Prince truly adored her.

"I believe we often place far higher standards for ourselves than the ones who love us most." He sat up as he spoke, his hand dipped into the water as he spoke and bringing a splash of it to his face. What he said was true enough, but that was debatable in his case... Nairth expected much of him. "The simple fact that you strive to live up to your title is evidence that you deserve to have it. Complacency is the widest road to inadequacy."

Tharu had noticeably skirted around the question about his upbringing. The Prince's youth wasn't something he liked to speak of, and merely the thought caused an uncomfortable bubble of emotion to rise from his gut. "I did, but..." He kept his eyes elsewhere. "I was isolated until recently. Unable to do much of anything, you could say..."
Maeve wasn't an empath but she didn't need to be to sense the sudden shift in mood. Idly she stroked the unicorn's mane and simply let the Prince speak whilst she dangled her feet in the pool. When she sensed there was nothing more he wanted to divulge she only nodded for she could not relate in any real way to what it sounded like he had gone through.

"Well, what do you want to do now you're not isolated?" the Princess of Autumn asked, turning their thoughts to brighter things and futures they could have a hand in creating. She began to braid the unicorns mane. "I've been told fae can live for thousands of years, so I would imagine you have a few left on the clock to create a life you've wanted for some time?"
A little chuckle escaped him. It was true, he was still relatively young in terms of the Fae. It was something even he forgot sometimes, with everything that had happened to him already. "I'm working as the Ambassador for the Spring, visiting the other courts and handling our relationships with them." It was a job suited for Tharu, who was known to be a tad more personable than his father. The Prince leaned back, stretching under the sun that peeked through the treetops. "Except for Autumn. Father prefers to work with the Erlking directly."

His eyes traveled over the unicorn as Maeve's hands traveled dextrously through its mane, making long braids as they went. Moments ago he'd felt awkward around the both of them, but sitting in the Grove and speaking so casually was a contrast to tiptoeing around powerful dignitaries.

"It can be difficult work, but traveling from court to court is supposed to help with my training in the ways of my blood. Our family has unique abilities that I've yet to fully inherit, hence why you found me so oddly dressed."

The paint on his face and body wasn't his usual attire, it seemed.
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Maeve's lips quirked.

"Where I'm from, how you're dressed is the norm. I find all this courtier... stuff the thing that is odd," she waved at her own dress. Fiadh was always so disappointed when she wanted to wear something more 'mortal', and she didn't have the heart to deny her when she visited. The fae was becoming increasingly like a mother and a sister all rolled into one, and it was a relationship Maeve intended to keep nurturing. Even if it meant silly outfits.

"But I asked about what you wanted to do, not what your father has you doing, though it does sound interesting... I've always wanted to travel," and look where that had got her. Shot, kidnapped, tortured, mated. Sure the last was not a bad thing but it had still been a storm that had torn apart everything she had known.

"What's your dream?"
Tharu stifled a laugh, though the smile made it through. "You're right, I suppose it's not unusual for Fae to wear revealing outfits, but it's new enough to me that it all feels so foreign." He found Maeve's dress to be rather fetching, though he didn't say as much aloud out of respect to her mate. "We're both trying to find our way through unfamiliar territory, it seems. We're more alike than we've realized." Such idle kinship was certainly welcome; Tharu couldn't say he had many friends, but he was feeling far more comfortable around Maeve.

The more forward-facing question she followed up with was a bit of apprehension. Tharu looked away and brought his knees to his chest, as though he'd been exposed somehow. The truth was that Tharu didn't have much of an answer. He'd been subservient so long, that now he wasn't sure who he was. Aside from Nairth's son, anyways.

"I... I don't know if I have one. All I've ever done is serve. When I try to look forward... it's all fogged and unclear."
As Maeve watched him she got the impression this was not a side he readily showed to people. No doubt as a Prince he was much more like Lorcan than she had initially thought; a tool for a father on the throne, having to pretend to be something he was not in order to survive the intrigue and politics the Courts so delighted themselves in. She hoped this small encounter would do for him some of the same it had done for Lorcan.

"You know, Lorcan likes to paint?" she half asked and splashed her feet through the water again. "Sometimes he'll sit with a piece of canvas for a whole day and night. His father took that away so I don't begrudge it of him. I think his secret dream is that nobody every disturbs him," her lips twitched. Her artist prince.

"Dreams don't have to be big things, earth shattering things. They can seem small, they just have to have meaning to you."
Tharu endeavored to be a good listener. As sheltered as he was, much of what he'd learned about the culture and social norms of the Fae were from the lips of those around him. It wasn't the most efficient way to educate oneself, but it had done him well enough; he'd become a fine ambassador, and while he didn't enjoy the work, he had a talent for delegation with other Courts.

Maeve's words now seemed another important lesson he needed to absorb, and while he still felt his body tense and mind reluctant, her words did indeed reach him. With a gaze that flickered back to her, he forced a small smile. "You're very right. I just haven't had any time to think about myself. I always have work to do, or training. Every day is focused on becoming what my Father needs me to be."

He hadn't realized how thankless it all was until she pointed it out to him.

"I'd like..." Tharu began, closing his eyes and mulling it over. "To feel as though I mean something." Vague maybe, but all he could think of. "To anybody." He'd been treated as lesser for his entire life, and the only thing he truly desired was to feel a sense of importance.

The barrier around them, invisible to the naked eye, flickered slightly.
Maeve felt her heart break a little for this man. Was it the prerequisite of all fae fathers to cast their children out and show them nothing but coldness and hate?

"I think that's a very lovely goal in life, Tharu," Maeve said and gave his shoulder a squeeze. She foresaw on reason either that he would not find it in life. Lorcan professed he was lucky to have found her when he did, lest he have lost himself even more. Maeve hoped that in Tharu's case he found someone and in doing so, found himself.

"I would love for you to come visit our home, I'm planning a little tea party just of a few fae I've met when the weather gets warmer," she stroked the unicorns mane. "I think you'd really love our little city."
Tharu smiled, thankful for her words. Though the conversation had been brief, The Prince did feel a measure of relief washing over him with the assistance of her affirmations. Maeve hadn't said anything that he didn't already know, but it was almost as if he sometimes required a reminder of his own self-importance. Yes, he would very much enjoy visiting her home someday.

He opened his mouth to say as much before another crackle of the magical barrier around them drew his attention. Louder, and more severe this time. The willow tree that hung above them trembled slightly, and the pool of water at their feet rippled with vibration.

"...Something is trying to get in."

Tharu slowly rose to his feet, peeking out in the direction they'd come from over the small hill. Movement of the brush, but nothing he could make out besides it... Turning his head back to Maeve, he muttered. "Something with some power behind it if it's making the barrier flicker. It'll hold, but we'd best be careful on our departure. It's possible our friend followed us. "

It was mostly truth that left his lips. The barrier would indeed hold if it was made by his Father, but they hadn't confirmed that for certain. They needed something more, something that would help protect them further.

It wasn't until he cast another worried look back to his companion that an idea came to him, with the help of the lovely red hair upon her head. Of course! Tharu spun, his own silver mane flying about as his head darted from one patch of flowers to the next, seemingly on the hunt for something.

"Red mushrooms! Do you see any red mushrooms among the plants here, Maeve?"
Maeve turned to glance over her shoulder at what had drawn Tharu's eye. There was nothing even her improved vision could see until - there - the whole dome that surrounded them shimmered outwards from a point almost exactly where they had entered. So something had followed them. For a moment she wandered if was Balfour; the hound would no doubt be wondering where she was now but their connection surely would let him pass into the grove without resistance.

The unicorn was on her feet, ears flicking between being pinned forward and flat against her skull. The mare's nostrils flared and a thin sheen of sweat was breaking out across her flank.

"Easy girl,"
Maeve said soothingly in her native tongue. The unicorn bent its head to nudge at her for comfort and Maeve scratched her ears before casting around for signs of red mushrooms. "Stay there," she said and then went to check the opposite side of the grove. Nothing she saw looked close to a mushroom or where one might grow. It was only when she began to look up in the trees having heard some shrooms grew up on the bark that she spotted some.

"Like those?" she called.
He had to act fast: If whatever had tailed them was putting up this much of a struggle against the barrier, then it was dangerous enough to warrant precaution. Both he and Maeve were too important to their respective courts to put to risk. Maeve directed his attention to some mushrooms growing on a tree branch, and Tharu gave her a thankful smile.

"That's it! Thank you!" Quickly, Tharu reached out and gestured to the branch with the red fungus, beckoning it towards him. The tree obliged, extending the branch down towards Tharu as it had been commanded. Gently, and with a muttered word of gratitude to the plants, the Prince gathered them and began crushing them in his hands as he hurried back towards Maeve.

"Here, let me put some of this on your face." With her permission, Tharu brought two of his fingers to Maeve's forehead and quickly painted her skin from brow to hairline with the dusty red substance. She wouldn't feel any different, and as soon as Tharu was done with her, he did the same for himself briefly explaining "This powder will cover our scent. If the barrier falls, we slip out the other side and hope we aren't seen."

Taking a glance at the Unicorn, he passes Maeve the last uncrushed mushroom. "Give her a bit as well."

Again, the barrier flickered, this time vanishing for the entirety of a few seconds. Enough time for things to slip through, if they were quuick...
Maeve tried not to sneeze as the mushroom mixture was painted over her face - and failed. But she was listening to the instructions as they came, her gaze flickering occasionally to the barrier as it rippled now and again. Surely the shadow creature wasn't that strong. What was it? She hurriedly took the mushroom paste and began to smear it over as much of the unicorn as she could. The horse danced away from her fingers with a snort but with some coaxing she managed to paint a few symbols over her white flank.

When the barrier finally flickered again Maeve got ready to run.

A shadow of something suddenly bolt through in the few seconds it was down and hurtled straight for Maeve--

"Balfour!" The redheaded fae laughed as the dog-fae collided with her and proceeded to run his rough tongue over her face, his tail wagging furiously. "Good boy! Good boy for finding me," she ruffled the pups fur.
Tharu had never gone from terror to relief so quickly in his life. When something had come from the shadows at a blistering speed and tackled Maeve the Prince was convinced for a split second that he'd failed; The Autumn had lost one of their most precious and it had happened under Spring's protection. Whatever hope he had of garnering any respect at all flew away in a breath.

That's when it dawned on him that the strange dog creature wasn't mauling Maeve, it was licking her. When she finally spoke his name in confirmation, Tharu felt himself fall back to sit on the grass with an exasperated sigh.

A pet. He'd been panicked over a pet.

"I think my heart nearly stopped, Maeve. Your friend is certainly sharp with his timing, isn't he?" Once the adrenaline started to wear, he couldn't help but laugh at the fact he'd covered them in mushroom powder and prepared to fight to his last. Still...

"What is he that he could slip through the barrier like that?"
Maeve took the dogs kisses all in her stride until her face felt covered and with a laugh she finally stood, though Balfour still leapt in an attempt to get in one last lick. In the end he contented himself with pressing into her legs.

"A Cù Sìth," Maeve pronounced carefully as though it were a word she had just learned. For Tharu it was probably a word he had heard far more than she had in her mortal life. The wolf-like fae were rare, having been hunted to almost extinction in the fae world for sport, but had once been known to be great protectors of all manner of what the fae had found valuable. Their bonds to fae, when tamed, were the stuff of legend. "He was a present, from Lorcan. To spy I suspect but I couldn't resist the face," she smiled down at Balfour who returned the look with pure adoration.

"He's saved my neck on more than one occasion."
Cù Sìth, of course! He heard tales of them before, but being as rare as they were meant even the Spring Prince hadn't actually laid eyes on one before. It made sense, a Fae being would have been able to pass through the barrier with nary a flicker.

"If he's here now, perhaps somebody has taken note of your absence?" He chuckled, crossing his arms as he watched the beast shower its master with love. A weight lifted from his shoulders, no doubt, knowing he wasn't about to stare down death again, especially not with such stakes. "We can still make it to your destination before nightfall, if we leave now."

Even now the day waned around them, but the prince wasn't too concerned about the setting of the sun; His power lay within shadow, and he would be much more competent in a fight should the need arise. He wouldn't make Maeve save him a second time.

"No point in dawdling anyway. We've applied some of the powder, so we should be fine."
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"That's probably wise," Maeve nodded, glancing up towards the sky. When had the sun dipped so low? She had a healthy habit of pushing her mates boundaries when it came to her freedoms but she also know when she was being stubborn to the point of being unsafe with it too. Her magic and fae body were young still and whilst she was powerful she did not wish to test her limits in a place she didn't know.

Standing, Balfour came to heel and trotted at her side as she joined Tharu on the walk back. After a moment the unicorn also joined them.

The way back was far less harrowing than before and she gave a quiet sigh at the feeling of home when they stepped over a line of mushrooms that marked the boundary to Fiadh's home.

"Will you take care of her?"
she asked Tharu, giving the unicorn a final scratch behind the ear.