Private Tales Answers With the Ancestors

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer


The Unbound
Character Biography

No more words passed from his lips. He was not sure he could have found them if pressed.

It had felt like a lifetime since he'd allowed himself the tranquillity of peace. Since he has truly let himself relax. Yet as Trista shifted, the weight and heat of her body slowly sidling up against himself, Talmanes could not help the wave of utter exhaustion that was cast upon him.

In the back of his mind an alarm sounded.

Paranoia and monomania sparked within his mind. Whispering of a dagger between the ribs, a knife across the throat. A screaming in his skull spoke of the lack of trust, the foreign invasion of comfort on his side.

Yet he did not move.

His fingers gently drew back, and then slowly slipped around Trista's form. His touch sailed against the small of her back. Gently coaxing against her skin, before drawing back and forth. His eyes faltered, lids slowly falling shut as his touch continued to gently stroke across her flesh.

“I never wanted this…you know.” His words drifted, tired, exhausted. Barely audible as he began to drift.

“I was to be the fool.” The Prince whispered. “But they made me...”

Slowly, his touch drew over her skin, spinning until he mumbled in his sleep. “They made me what I am.’
There was no blade at his ribs, or throat, only her fingers pulling gently through his fiery hair as she listened to the faint murmurs of Talmanes' wearied words, the quiet admissions of a burden carried unwillingly. His touch, now a tender reassurance against the small of her back, echoed the vulnerability beneath the facade of strength he often presented to the world.

As sleep claimed him, and his words became fragmented whispers, Trista's gaze softened. The shadows in the wagon played across his face, etching lines of fatigue and vulnerability, unveiling the human behind the title of Prince.

"I know.." she whispered back, her own voice strained under the weight of exhaustion. "Rest."

In the midst of uncertainty and the weight of their shared journey, Trista found herself caught in a moment of compassion. She understood, perhaps more than he realised, the weight of expectations, the pressure to become something more, something greater than oneself.

With a silent promise to keep watch over him, Trista forced herself to stay awake for as long as she could, until sleep gave her no choice.
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The next two days went by without incident. The caravan continued to move beneath the mountain, and unlike their trek through the ash wastes the tunnels proved to be almost hospitable. Though a near constant cold and moisture reigned within the air, it was a thankful reprieve from the heat of the sun they had previously experienced. With food enough, and water gathered from underground streams, the second leg of their journey was almost pleasant.

Though the Prince assured those who remained that what lay beyond the mountains would be worse than even the wastes in some ways.

Not that Talmanes spoke much at all.

After the small moment of vulnerability within the wagon, The Prince seemed to retreat to the way that he had been within the wastes. Often he would go hours without saying a single thing at all, ranging ahead of the caravan, or looming far behind. Offering words only for direction, or when the rare question was asked that he found himself willing to answer.

Most within the caravan did not seem to mind. Content that the strange Prince was still leading them to their fate, holy ground, or unspeakable wealth. Volstus kept a weary eye upon his friend. The question of The Prince's intent still hanging above the Ogre's head.

As the sixth night came and camp was made, the Prince wound his way through tents. Sitting himself down next to where Trista had perched herself.

"We'll be leaving the tunnels tomorrow." Talmanes said, the first real words he had spoken to her in two days. "I would ask-"

His voice carried an odd sort of stillness to it. Not hesitation, but something like it. "That you not tell Calliope, or anyone else, what it is you will see."
Whatever connection Trista had thought she and the Prince had forged in shared struggles seemed to unravel a little more each day with Talmanes' detachment. None of the other travelers dared to engage with the slave girl who had dared to murder her own master weeks prior, either. In their eyes, she bore the stain of rebellion, a reminder of defiance that unsettled the delicate balance of their caravan. The whispers and sidelong glances painted her as an outcast, a solitary figure walking a path of shadows.

Yet, amidst the silent judgments, Trista found solace in the companionship of Volstus. His presence, a balm against the isolation that threatened to engulf her. In the quiet moments between their journey, she sought refuge in their quiet chats as they walked or sat by the small fires they camped by. Volstus became her tether to sanity.

She sat alone when the Prince eventually approached her days later, the coolness of his request causing her brow to knit. "As you wish, My Prince," she replied, her voice carrying the formality expected of her station. Her words remained composed and obedient, yet the faint edge of hurt and resentment lingered beneath the surface.

"Is there anything else you need?"

It was clear that she had felt the sting of Talmanes' distance after the vulnerability shared in the wagon, the blood she had shed to unlock the path through the mountains, and the silent companionship she had offered during their journey.

She turned her gaze away, focusing on the flickering campfire instead of the enigmatic figure beside her. The scars of her recent battles, both physical and emotional, marked her journey in a silent testament to her commitment.
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For a moment, Tal just sat there in silence.

His gaze lingered on Trista as she turned her attention to the fire, her curt answer and the way she regarded him making the displeasure she felt clear. It wasn't difficult to read the hurt in her words. The anger that had bloomed during his detachment the last few days.

For him, such a thing should have been nothing. He had used people every day of his exile. Men, women, slaves, soldiers and Kings. All of them had been his to move around like pawns. All of them had danced to his tune and played upon his strings. He had not cared about them, for they stood in his way. Trista had thought she earned a sliver of trust, that she had made a mark within the shell that surrounded the Prince.

The problem for The Prince; she had.

Trust was no small reward, and even the slight piece that he had offered her was a dagger that could be driven into his ribs. A weapon that would, in his mind, one day turn and drive itself into his flesh. He knew that it would happen, because it had happened before.

It had happened every step of the way.

His eyes, still set on Trista, lingered for a moment more before they too drew to the flames.

A snap rang out, a crackle within the fire echoed by Talmanes' fingers. The air around them seemed to shimmer for a moment, translucent, and yet thicker than before. The noise of the camp seemed to dull, the sounds of the cavern around them becoming almost indiscernible.

"When I was young." Talmanes voice carried softly above the flames, that same weariness drawing across his tone. "I cared for nothing. I had power, more than my siblings, more than my father. A snap of my finger would turn even a Dragon to ash."

A small smile touched his face. "Or so I would say."

"There was nothing, no one who could control me. I knew this, and I tested my limits, but I was loyal. I loved my family, my father. Calliope would remember. The tests they put me through, the offers of Marriage and power I rejected. Despite the trouble I caused, I was a good son."
A small smile touched his face, as if there was a memory he did not share. "But that didn't matter."

His fingers slowly laced between themselves. "My father could not control me, so he chained me. Binding my magics and setting me to exile in the Ash Wastes. A sentence close to death, for the loyal son whom he could not command."

There was a short pause, but before Trista could offer her wrath or rebuke, Talmanes continued."It was Tigris who found me, saved me. It was six months among those we left behind, here in these mountains, before I found my will once more."

"When I left Sheketh, I traveled to Mallian."
How long had it been since he'd told this story. "There I met a man."

Five years? Perhaps longer. "He was good, or so I taught. From him I learned the skills to survive within the world. I entered the city of Mallia as a Prince of Fools, barely understanding what it meant to be a man. Egrich taught me to fight, to be strong. He took me to his people, and with them I began to understand the gift that had been my strength."

He absently seemed to rub at his arms, where the great scars of his former chains now marred his flesh.

"We went north, in search of his daughter who had fallen in a raid to the Orcs of the Blight." A smile flickered on his face for a moment. "I swore that I would help him get her back."

His head shook, and then he continued. "And I did."

"When he sold me to one of the Sons of Menalus." As Talmanes spoke, he never looked away from the fire.

"I toiled for a year, a prize of Naghi Dread of Dragons. Most would have tried to sell me to my father, but he saw me only as a prize to be paraded." His lips thinned. "In my captivity I met another slave, by the name of Urich."

His hand now stroked slowly over a scar on the back of his palm. "For six months he and I planned and plotted. Working within the deep mines of Nexthint. We crafted our escape, and when the time was ripe...we made our move."

A weight seemed to draw into his words.

"The journey was harrowing, through tunnels filled with skulking Etrin Spiders, across the barrens of Yrud, and through the caustic rivers of Turmir." The words almost seemed to conjure an image in the air as he spoke, his voice dropping softly. "It was near the Wylds, in the fields of Draghin that they found us. Wargs were on our tail, and the blue-orcs came soon after, but Ulrich knew they did not want him. He knew that he was nothing, and no one."

Another pause, as if the words were difficult to say. "So he cut my leg, and left me for them."

"After another year I escape on my own. Crawling my way across the Spine and to freedom. There I was found by a tribe of Orcs. One among them took a liking to me, her name was Igrik."
Again that rueful smile flickered across his face. "She helped me regain my strength, and protected me within her tribe."

This time there seemed almost a moment of genuine warmth, and without him saying another word Trista could see the brief flicker of lost love within the Prince's eyes.

"There is a tradition, among their people. The Warlords of her tribe may hold no mate nor love. Duty first to their people, and nothing more." A single glance, and Trista would see the scar across his neck, feint, but illuminated by the light of the fire. "So when her time came, she cut my throat."

His hands dropped, a breath drawing into his lungs. "It was a gnoll that found me, interesting creatures."

Talmanes laughed bitterly.

"But the next betrayal came not from him." He shook his head, and continued on. "Her name was Senya, and she taught me the final lesson I needed to learn."

This time there was no detail to the story, the smile on his face now completely gone. "Trust and truth."

He said quietly.

"The two blades which have cut me again and again." For a second Talmanes let silence linger, and then slowly he stood from where he had been sitting. He expected nothing from her, no answer, no forgiveness.

For he had not the ability to offer it to even himself.
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Trista's senses sharpened as she felt the subtle shift in the air, the odd sensation of a ward being cast around them, the sounds of the bustling camp dulled to a distant murmur, as if a thick curtain had been drawn around their secluded corner. That he intended on keeping what he was about to say shrouded from the others was a sensation that both unnerved and intrigued her, and as he began to speak, her attention was fully captured.

She listened in silence as Talmanes recounted the trials and betrayals that had shaped his journey, her expression a mosaic of emotions that mirrored the tumultuous narrative as it unfolded. With each tale of deception, her frown deepened, and her gaze lingered on the scar etched across his throat with undeniable anger.

As the weight of his words settled around them, she felt a pang of guilt and pity, and a sense of deeper understanding. It was no wonder he bore the weight of his past so heavily, for the scars he carried ran far deeper than the physical. She knew the loneliness of a world where trust was such a rare commodity, where betrayal lurked in every shadow.

When Talmanes stood and seemed ready to retreat once more into the silence that had become his refuge, Trista's heart ached with the weight of unspoken words. But before he could leave, she shifted, her voice soft yet resolute.

"Talmanes...?" Her hand reached for her satchel, fingers curling around the blood journal nestled within. With a brief moment of hesitation as she considered the consequence, she made her decision, and cast the book into the flames.

The fire flared bright crimson as the magic burned away, consuming the pages that held the secrets of their journey. Trista nodded to him in silent acknowledgment before wrapping her arms around her knees and turning back to watch the journal burn without another word.
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Talmanes stood there, frozen, as he watched Trista move. For a moment he expected her to withdraw a blade, a message, something she would use as a prob to admit another betrayal.

The truth he had told her was not one he had shared before, not with anyone. A few knew snippets, one small part or another, but even the short version he had told her was more than Volstus knew. That truth, the story, was another knife to be wielded against him.

He half expected her to use it.

Then the journal was thrown into the fire.

For a moment, he simply stood there, watching. His eyes set upon the journal as the flames began to consume it. The creeping heat biting onto the pages and quickly catching. Sparks flickering as the blooded ink upon the pages popped and shifted, eventually turning to naught but ash.

Talames stood there, watching the flames, the slightest smile touching his lips before slowly he moved back towards where Trista was sitting. His steps were quiet, muted within the dirt as he lowered himself down to sit besides her.

There he stayed as the journal slowly disappeared into the flames, and only when it was gone did he speak again. "What else do you want to know?"

The Prince asked, opening a door which had been closed for a decade.
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Trista felt a mixture of relief and apprehension as she watched the flames consume the journal, the weight of its secrets fading away with each lick of flame. Calli would know. Perhaps she'd assume something terrible had happened to her. Would she care?

As Talmanes approached and settled beside her, she turned to him, meeting his gaze with a flutter of anxiety over what she'd just done, though she quickly steeled herself, drawing a deep breath.

"What else do I want to know?.." she echoed quietly, her features softening as she turned to him. For a moment, she studied his face as she thought on the trials he had faced, and she grappled with the flood of inquiries that surged within her mind. There were so many questions she could ask, so many mysteries she longed to unravel.

But in that moment, one question burned brighter than the rest, fueled by a newfound sense of understanding and connection.

"Why did you trust me with your truth?" Trista asked, her voice barely above a whisper. It was a question that lay at the heart of their shared journey, a question that held the power to bridge the gap between them or widen it further.

As she awaited his response, she couldn't help but feel a glimmer of hope stirring within her chest, a hope that perhaps, amidst the ashes of their pasts, they could find a path forward together.
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For a long time the Prince did not answer, instead just watching the fire.

It wasn't like it always was, when he remained quiet. There was no dramatic pause, no little game he was playing, nothing dangling in the air that Trista could just about grab. No, instead it was obvious Talmanes was simply taking the time to think about his answer.

"I am what I am." He said finally.

"A monster, a Prince, a Criminal, a killer." Talmanes had never shied away from it, had never tried to hide the facts of himself. Once he had been a different man, now he was razors edge. He did not try to paint himself as good or just, there was no point. "But I don't kill for fun. I don't steal because I enjoy it. I don't..."

For a moment Tal paused, stopping himself before he continued. "I'm not a good person."

He told Trista.

"But I am still a person." Tyrian. "I have power, I have knowledge, and I have used it in ways that many would say make me inhuman."

"Monsters do not seek empathy."
A dry chuckle escaped his throat, for he knew how much of a joke it was to say he deserved any sympathy at all. "But I still do."

Talmanes stared into the fire, quieting for a moment before he continued.

"Why did I tell you the truth?" The prince parroted, finally arriving at an answer to her question. "Because, I thought, perhaps you would give it to me. For a time."

The fire crackled as he spoke. "Because of who you are, because of what was done to you, what is still being done to you."

"[/color] He said quietly, then slowly, his expression finally pulled away from the flames and looked to her. "You've shown me again and again who you are."

"You deserved to know."
He gestured towards the fire where the curled up pages of the journal still crackled.
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Trista listened intently as Talmanes spoke, his words cutting through the silence like a knife. There was a raw honesty to his admission, a vulnerability that she couldn't ignore. And as he laid bare the complexities of his identity, she did feel sympathy.

When he finally turned to her, Trista felt a surge of emotion welling up within her. She had expected many things from his response, defiance or indifference perhaps, but his honesty still caught her off guard and she found herself facing a mirror of her own doubts and insecurities.

When he gestured towards the fire, where the remnants of the blood journal still smoldered, Trista felt a sense of closure wash over her. In that moment, she knew that their shared journey had brought them closer together, forging a bond that transcended that of whatever friendship she had with Calliope. Had the Princess truly cared for her, she would have freed her as she had Xander. She wouldn't have used her on such a mission as this one and told her to spy on a man she believed to be so terribly dangerous.

"Thank you," she said softly, her voice carrying a depth of emotion that she couldn't quite put into words. "For trusting me. And for giving me the chance to see beyond the labels that others have placed upon you. You may well be those things, but not to me. You've shown me more humanity than most." she offered a small smile, and reached to settle her hand on his.

She met his gaze with unwavering sincerity. "You've faced unimaginable challenges, and yet you still seek empathy, understanding, and connection. That in itself speaks volumes about the person you are. You deserve compassion, and the chance to forge a new path forward.." she frowned gently.
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A soft smile touched Talmanes' lips, lingering there at her words.

He knew what he was. He knew what he would be. There were things that he had done that could not be forgiven. His own friend would kill him for just one of those things, and yet he knew that he would keep going.
Knew that he would take more lives, destroy more beauty, and continue to tarnish this world.

Talmanes knew it to his core.

He had not lied when he told Trista that he wanted more. More for himself, for his city, for his people.

To get that, to get what he wanted so very badly, he had to be the monster. This was no trek that kindness could take him on. This would not be a 'new' path for him, for it was one that he had walked since he reached the harbors of Alliria.

His plan was brutal, vicious, and utterly without mercy. It had to be to take the city of his heart. Had to be to break those standing in his way.

"I hope you still think so." Talmanes said softly, seeming to reflect on that thought.

On what was to come. "By the end."
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Trista's smile faltered slightly as she considered Talmanes' words, the weight of his intentions settling heavily upon her shoulders. She couldn't shake the memory of Volstus' warning, the lingering doubt that had gnawed at her ever since.

As she met his gaze, her expression grew serious, the softness in her eyes replaced by a steely resolve. She took a moment to gather her thoughts, choosing her words with care before speaking.

"Prince Talmanes," she began, her voice calm yet firm. "There's something I need to ask you, and I need you to answer me honestly."

She paused, steeling herself for his response before continuing. "You never intended on me retuning to Tyr, as Master Ridoc's. You held more value in me because of my blood, and you needed me to help you open the doorway.." she dropped her gaze. "I can't help but wonder where my purpose ends, or whether I will live to see the city again. Or.. Whether you intend me to."

Her tone was measured, devoid of accusation or anger, but beneath her composed exterior, a storm of emotions raged. She needed to know the truth, no matter how painful it might be. For her own sake, and for the sake of the fragile trust they had built between them.
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Tal couldn't help the smile that tugged at his lips. The small expression lingering as he listened to Trista's words and heard the measure of her tone. There was a calm to the way that she spoke, and as she continued his eyes drew to meet hers.

Holding Trista's gaze until her eyes dropped to the floor.

Despite the way she spoke, the way she asked her question. Talmanes knew there was fear in her. There had to be, for even he would cow at the face of his own death.

For too long he stayed quiet, a beat of the heart, two, and then she would see his hand reach out towards her. It drew out from beneath her palm, and then slowly touched her chin. His thumb and forefinger drew her gaze back towards his. "I am not going to harm you."

Talmanes told her softly, his eyes locked with hers so that she would see the truth in his words.

"The Blood Rains will require sacrifice." He continued, choosing not to deny her anymore. "But it will not be you."

For just a brief moment, the Prince looked away from her, glancing towards where the others had gathered. Where five slaves, still sat. Each of them smiling, conversing, enjoying the food cooked by one of the others. His eyes lingered for only a moment before drawing back to Trista. "If you choose to, you will return to the city at my side."

There was a pause, then he added.

"And stay there." The Prince offered. "If you wish it."
Trista's heart pounded in her chest as Talmanes' hand gently lifted her chin, his touch surprisingly tender against her skin. She met his gaze, searching his eyes for any hint of deceit, any flicker of manipulation. But all she found was sincerity, a raw honesty that resonated with her in ways she couldn't fully comprehend.

As he spoke, reassuring her of his intentions, Trista felt a wave of relief wash over her. Despite the lingering fear that gnawed at her insides, she found herself believing him, trusting in his words even as the warnings of others lingered at the edges of her mind.

The mention of sacrifice caused a knot to form in the pit of her stomach, and a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding tumbled from her lips as she followed his gaze toward the others. Tris swallowed, her brow knit as she considered her options. Option. What other choice did she really have? She couldn't help those people, their fate was in their own hands just as hers was in hers, and she chose to live for as long as she could. She chose herself.

There was a moment of hesitation, a flicker of uncertainty in her eyes as she considered the consequences of her choice. But in the end, there was only one option for her, one path she could follow.

"Yes," she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper. "Yes, I will return by your side."
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Talmanes smiled. "Then you will."

His fingers, ever so gently, released her chin. Though his palm did not draw away from her. Hovering just a few inches away.

There was a moment, a long pause as he seemed to study her.

"Do not feel trapped." There was something in the Prince's voice, an honesty that hadn't been there before she burned the journal. Did he truly trust her now? Another question to be pondered. Another guess to be made. "Any path I walk is dangerous."

He told her softly. "And if you wish it, I will send you somewhere safe."

Talmanes let's his fingers slowly draw towards hers. His palm slowly drawing over hers. His fingers pressing softly against her skin.

"I didn't plan for you to be here." He reminded her softly. "It was Calliope who brought you onto this journey, not me, and you have already done more than I could wanted."

It was true. Before knowing Trista was coming he had intended to open the door by himself. With her help he had kept himself from falling into a stupor, and...well, found a reprieve that he could not have hoped for before. "I don't want you to chain yourself to me, Trista, if you don't wish it. I have more than enough gold to give you another option."

Talmanes frowned, his fingers still clutching hers. "You asked me my intent, but I will not be Calliope. I will not be Ridoc. I will not take yours."
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Trista felt a surge of warmth at Talmanes' words, a glimmer of gratitude blooming within her chest as she listened to his reassurance.

As he spoke of danger and safety, of paths chosen and paths diverged, Trista couldn't ignore the pull she felt towards Talmanes, and her eyes continued to search his face for any sign of deceit or hint of manipulation. But all she found was honesty, a sincerity that resonated with her in ways she couldn't fully articulate. A raw vulnerability that mirrored her own.

She dropped her gaze to his hand as she felt his fingers brush against hers, and there was another surge of conflicting emotions. His touch was gentle, his intentions seemingly genuine. She wanted to trust him, whether he had manipulated her onto this path or not, he was right - it was Calliope who sent her here in the first place.

Calliope...What would she think, when Trista returned (Gods permitting) by the Prince's side? Would there be any relief in her old friend at all that she was alive and well? She very much doubted it.

"I don't feel trapped." she said quietly. "I feel less trapped than I have done in a very long time." she told him honestly. If anything, his presence made her feel safe, and seen. "I don't wish to chain myself to you, nor to anyone. But I do want to be here." she frowned with a gentle squeeze at his hand.

She knew she was taking a risk. She knew that he would do terrible things to get what he wanted, but she had blood on her hands too, and he was the only reason that she was alive right now. There was a flicker of resolve in her eyes as she met his gaze once more, a silent promise to face whatever trials lay ahead, together.
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”Good.” Tal said without a single moment of hesitation.

Had she desired it, he would have sent her anywhere in the world. The gold he had earned during his time in Alliria was nearly untouched. Tucked away and hidden by the twins until it was needed. Had Trista wanted to leave, it would have been a simple thing to see her to anywhere that she decided.

The truth was though, he was glad that she chose to stay. ”You deserve to be home.”

Had it been that for her these last few years?

Talmanes knew that in Trista's situation he wouldn't have felt that way. How could you call any place where you served with a collar around your neck a home? The weight of his deeds, the betrayals he had suffered, were a burden, but she had carried some of her own. When they had met she had been a beaten, broken down thing. Cowed by the hands of Ridoc and those who would call themselves her betters.

Talmanes would never have it be so again. Trista was Tyrian, and even the lowest born of their blood deserved the dignity of their ancestors, and she? She was of no low birth.

”Tell me.” The Prince demanded softly. ”Tell me everything you want.”

As he spoke, his thumb gently drew over her skin. Caressing her skin.

She had confessed to a mirror of his desires. Had said that she wanted more as they lay within the little wagon, but the conversation had flowed as it always did. Now he wanted nothing more than to hear her speak what aspiration had held her. What dreams she had even beneath the weight of chains.
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Trista couldn't help but laugh softly under her breath at Talmanes' request. It had been so long since anyone had asked her what she wanted, so long since she had allowed herself to consider her own desires. A pregnant silence stretched between them, filled only with the crackling of fire, until she spoke.

"I want..." she began, her voice barely above a whisper as she struggled to put her feelings into words. Even those two words alone felt wrong. She drew in a breath and lifted her gaze back to his. "I want to hold my chin up high again. I want to speak without fear, to walk freely and go where I please, when I please."

A glimmer of longing shone in her eyes as she went on, and suddenly she couldn't stop wanting. "I want my dignity back, my pride. I want to build something for myself, to carve out a life where I am more than just a slave."

Her voice wavered slightly as tears threatened to spill from her eyes, the memories of her old life flooding back with painful clarity. "I want... I want friends, connections. I want to feel like I am a part of the city my ancestors built." her brow furrowed bitterly.

As Talmanes' thumb caressed her skin, her eyes fluttered closed for a brief moment, the sensation entirely new. Her cheeks flushed with warmth as she glanced towards the others gathered around the second fire, a few pairs of eyes catching her gaze before quickly looking away.

But amidst her longing, her desires, there was something else, but it was something she dared not voice aloud. Something she shouldn't want, not with Talmanes, not when he was married to Calliope. Yet the thought lingered in the back of her mind, a whispered temptation that refused to be silenced.

"I just want life to mean something." she sighed.
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"Then it will." Talmanes spoke with such conviction, that it was almost impossible not to believe it would be true.

The Prince had a way of doing that.

His words a strange transfiguration of reality itself. Bending the world and what lay within it to his wants and needs. There was little doubt that Tal had a will which outstripped many others. He had survived where dozens would have died, had made it half-way around the world and back.

It was hard to doubt him. Even in that moment, sitting in a dark and dingy cave with only the light of two small fires cascading over them.

He was no god, of course. His will could not be made manifest in an instant, but from the way he looked at her it was obvious that he would move heaven and earth to see that she would receive her desires. The conviction of his promise as strong as that of a Kings. "When we return."

Talmanes said softly, his fingers never leaving hers.

"No one will bind you." He continued. "They will balk, they will scoff, and then they will break."

Ever so slightly, she would feel his fingers squeeze hers. "You belong in Tyr, Trista."

"Not because of what you've done for me, not because of what you've done for Calliope."
His voice was firm, impossible to argue with. "But because of who you are."

His thumb stopped, his fingers slid from beneath hers. Slowly drawing up her form. His hand coming to cup her cheek. "You will get what you want, because I will burn those who took it from you."
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Trista's heart swelled with a heady mix of emotions as she listened to Talmanes' words, each one a promise of liberation, of a future unbound by the chains of her past. His conviction was palpable, his words a beacon of hope in the darkness in her very dark and dreary reality.

In that moment, she felt a surge of strength coursing through her veins, a newfound sense of power and purpose that she hadn't felt in years. She believed him. She felt that the world was hers for the taking, and she would be damned if she didn't seize it with both hands.

There was a tingling sensation that set her alight from within, the moment he settled his hand on her cheek. It was a gesture both tender and fierce, a promise of protection and retribution all wrapped into one. In his eyes, she saw the reflection of her own desires, mirrored back at her with a clarity that left her breathless.

For the first time in a long time, Trista allowed herself to believe that she was worthy of more than the life she had been given. With Talmanes by her side, she knew that she could reclaim the dignity and pride that had been stolen from her, that she could carve out a place for herself in the world where she belonged.

And as he vowed to burn those who had taken everything from her, she felt a righteous anger, like a fire burning bright and fierce within her chest. She felt alive, truly alive, and her loyalty to him in that moment was iron clad.

With a steady gaze and a resolute voice, she met the Prince's eyes and spoke words that echoed the strength and determination she felt.

"Then let them burn." she whispered.
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Hearing those words whispered from her lips sent a chill through Talmanes. Goosebumps crawled over his skin, hairs standing up as they resonated within his ears. The quiet murmur echoing as though it had been a shout.

”They will.” He assured her, as if sealing a pact.

A thrill ran through him, as he'd only felt a time or two before. Her words a mark of the trust she took in him, the lengths she might be willing to go.

The power that she might seize.

”Every.” As he spoke, Talmanes gently began to draw Trista towards him. His touch gentle, easy enough to pull away from if she wanted, and yet without hesitation. Fingers curling ever so slightly against her skin as he whispered. ”Single. One.”

The Prince said, drawing Trista into a slow, deep kiss.
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Trista's breath caught in her throat as Talmanes drew her closer, his touch igniting a firestorm of longing within her. Her pulse quickened, pounding in her ears as she felt the weight of his gaze upon her.

She knew they were being watched, felt the eyes of the others lingering on them from across the cavern, but in that moment, she couldn't bring herself to care. All that mattered was the man before her, the one who had promised her freedom and protection, the one who had ignited a spark of hope within her battered soul.

His lips met hers in such a way that she melted into his embrace, her body trembling with a mixture of desire and fear as she kissed him back. It was a forbidden indulgence, a moment of stolen passion amidst the chaos of their lives, and yet she couldn't resist the pull of his touch, the intensity of his gaze.

In that moment, she surrendered to the heat of the fire burning between them, losing herself in the promise of a future where anything was possible, where she was no longer bound by the chains of her past. Calliope didn't love him, he didn't love her, and the others didn't matter in the slightest. He could have whatever he wanted, and she had her own free will, her own choice, and she'd made it.
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Talmanes didn't care who saw them. Didn't care that Volstus would surely bring down a rebuke of hellish proportions upon him.

They knew not the truth.

No one did. Not his oldest friend, not the slaves whose fate was to die, not the dreamers set up on the path of pilgrimage, and certainly not Calliope far away at home in Tyr. None of them could understand, none of them wanted to understand.

No one but her.

His fingers slipped slowly forward, thumb etching across her cheeks as his touch took her deeper into his embrace. Their lips only parting when lungs began to burn. Tal's voice rasping as he finally let her go. ”Always take what you want.”

He breathed, urging her to do the same as him.
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Trista's heart raced as she felt the heat of Talmanes' touch linger on her skin, the echo of his words sending shivers racing across her back. In that moment of intimacy, she felt a sense of liberation unlike anything she had ever known.

Her gaze met his, searching for reassurance, for confirmation that what they had shared was real, that it wasn't just a fleeting fantasy amidst the harsh realities of their world. And in the depths of his eyes, she found the answer she sought, a silent promise of more to come.

As he spoke, urging her to take what she wanted, a breathy laugh tumbled from her lips at the surge of determination she felt. For too long, she had allowed others to dictate her fate, to confine her to the shadows of her own existence. But now, by his side, she felt emboldened, empowered to seize control of her own life.

With a nod of affirmation, she whispered her response, her voice tinged with a newfound sense of resolve. "I will." she smiled, her hand raising to let her fingers comb through his fiery hair. A bold and scandalous thing it was, to dare touch a Prince, but she wanted to. The tension in the cavernous chamber was palpable in the silence that had fallen amongst the others there, as she crawled into his lap, and kissed him again.
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"Good." He breathed against her lips as Trista finally allowed him a second to draw air into his lungs.

The Warmth of her body pressed against his was a welcome revelation. As if it were something that he had not known he'd missed. His fingers slowly drew up, first dancing over her thighs before trailing across her hips and beneath the hem of her silks. Thumbs swiped across her ribs as his palms drew across her skin, fingers furling as he grasped her and pulled her close.

A moment lingered between them as, lost to time. In that moment there were no others. No one else in the encampment that could see them. No one that could judge them. The Prince stayed there, but knew that he needed even more.

"Then..." He breathed as she would feel his palm's slide around and beneath her, pulling her up and off the ground in a surprisingly deft sweep for a man that had been starved and parched for days. "You'll forgive me for doing the same."

Talmanes said, drawing her against himself as he began to carry her away. Away from everyone else, away to where they would be alone.
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