Open Chronicles Are You Here?

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Down came the stein from his lips. A bit of froth still clung there where new stubble made his upper lip rough. He wiped it off with the back of his still-warm left hand, and let the drink the bartender'd brought during the speech down near his lap.

He peered into its contents. Stared at the dark drink as he let the quiet between them grow, and his thoughts settle through the gaze of squinted eye.

"Let it end, huh?" He chuckled, took the last drink from his cup, and let it down. Clacked with relish against the countertop. His smile returned. His eye back to the faithful before him.

You big on poetry?" he asked, felt a little burp coming up. Turned his head and covered his mouth with his pale right hand, and said small, "'scuse me," looked back to the young woman. "Here's a little ditty I'm quite fond of myself," he cleared his throat, and spoke clear, and smooth,

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.

The last word felt like smoke come pour from his lips. He smirked at the sound if.

Slapped the countertop, and left another silver coin pressed there beneath the flat of his hand. Fell into a lull as he thought on the last time he had read that poem, and the company he kept. How he had taken them far afield, and found later that they had left that place. No trace left behind to follow.

He grumbled a bit at that feeling. How it gnawed at him. Bitter and dark.

Marta Maisal
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Marta glanced off for a second toward the tavern dancers, they who reveled in life, they who were experiencing a joy and a pleasure far closer to the questioned word, and then back to Garrod.

"But if it is my opinion of the poem that is the question, I shall give the answer. Far from producing anything resembling fun, I find it to be a wretched work, loathsome and bleak, depicting a contemptible thing, a deplorable, willful condition that is anathema to the good life and to a worthiness that is pleasing to the soul and to the gods, and this all with the gall of presenting itself as profound. But I am not here to speak of art, or what attempts to disguise itself as such."

Long fingers entwined, and her elbows rested on the bar counter. A light smile accompanied again her intent gaze.

"Shall you be forthright? What need have you of allegory, when there is no better speaker of what is contained within your breast than you who intimately knows it?"

Garrod Arlette
"Very well," said Marta after a small moment's consideration. And with a parting cordiality she added, "Enjoy your evening..." she knew not even his name for a proper direct address, and so improvised, "...and may what is good be yours."

With that she stood from the stool at the counter, collected her staff, and simply returned to her original table. One of the barmaids was nearby, and thus was she able to at last put in her order for supper. And as she came to wait, she sat with folded hands in her lap, watching the revelry of the dance proceed while at the same time considering the night's events.

First Naervo, and now the green-eyed man; both had gone less than ideally. Of the first it was simple trepidation and uncertainty of a kind she had seen many times before, for great were the matters of spirit. Of the second, what else was there for her to take from his account? His deliberate opaqueness was a cause for concern, or perhaps merely an indication that he'd truly no interest in collaboration other than what the weight of silver could purchase.

Nevertheless, her plan remained unchanged. Artenhild was close by, reachable within a small matter of days, and here at the crossroads of Exeter, well evidenced by the wide assortment of patrons in the tavern tonight, were a selection of warriors, adventurers, and mayhap even those given more to the Church's own Regulators in profession, character, or both.

In Regel did she have faith, and she believed in the favor he would show by placing all the necessary things which would spell the Artenhild vampire's end. Merely was it up to good men and women to make it so.

Garrod Arlette
In short order did her dinner arrive at her table: a modest serving, with no meat portion tonight. Marta finished most of it as the dancers danced and the tavern's general revelry continued. She unshouldered her satchel and set it on the table from it produced a quill, an ink bottle, and a small sheet of parchment fit for a letter.

She began writing her dispatch to the Church:

To Bashrahip Mustafa Junnal,

Priestess Marta Maisal reports that she has entered the town of Exeter, north of the Falwood of Liadain.
Already have I encountered several Letai in my travels, yet (sadly, I will add) none have been receptive to the flame of Jura and the light of Regel. Ajam ways are difficult to fully unravel, even if these poor souls seek remedies to ailments of the spirit. The Empire of Amol-Kalit remains my destination. There I shall maintain care and caution above all, and entrust myself all the more to Regel's guidance.

Briefly, I must write of a necessary detour in my mission, for I believe providence to be at work. An overheard conversation revealed to me that a foul Jin—a vampire, specifically—butchered nearly the whole of a company of fighting men and now threatens a town called Artenhild. Candidly: I am no Regulator, and Regel's peculiar distribution of gifts and talents among the faithful bestowed not unto me a formidable martial ability. Yet no one is called by the gods to a task which they find themselves comfortably capable. We are tested at the pleasure of the gods, and are in this way favored. I do not plan on slaying the Jin by myself, yet even among a hired company of my own, peril persists.

If another dispatch does not follow in one month's time, then fear not, for Regel has taken his faithful servant Marta into his embrace.

The last flame of Jura rests with us,
Priestess Marta Maisal

[Exit Thread]
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Kerrick had made his choice before rising from his stool to whisk her away into a melody of movement-- He wouldn't have accepted her offer if there was any hesitation left in his mind about being seen. How could he worry about such a trivial thing, when this was so much more? Mave not only saw him but felt the chill of his pale flesh as he held her hand in his own, and met the pale, murky gaze of his eyes with the searing life that coursed through hers.

If Vandergard was going to allow himself to fully embrace this night as a man and not a Vampire, there could be no second-guessing himself.

Their dance began slow, a gentle sway to both the jaunty music cocooning around them and the ancient tunes that bounced around his head in archaic echoes of a time long forgotten. The vampire had not been lying when he'd claimed himself out of practice, but a partner so brimming with grace and vitality as Mave quickly pulled him from the muck of sloth and reawakened the memories burned into his muscles. It was natural, as much as breathing or drinking, the movements they made.

The longer it lasted, the lighter he felt. With the bouncing drumbeat of revelry resting underneath the merry tones of the song, Kerrick pulled the elf in closer to his chest before dipping her low enough that his hand at her midsection was nearly all that held her aloft and brought her back to balance. "I didn't realize I was dancing with such a natural..." Kerrick muttered with a soft grin on his face "You move with me, and not in response to me. That's a rare treat."

Kerrick lifted his arm to spin her, then extended it outward as she finished and quickly pulled her towards him once more, bringing her back against his chest. Vandergard held her there briefly before lifting her up by the hips and allowing her to rotate in his grip, landing to face him once more.

"Impeccable, Mave."

Maveriel Valthoras
Amid the breezy beats, of bustling drums and spruce flute and buoyant violin, those dancers move.
They thundered, boots and shoes thudding upon the tavern wood, eyes like lightning that flashed.
One, two—step and bounce—two, three and four more dancers anyhow—on the floor, in a groove.
Yet, amid the revelry, this scenic setting of patrons giving in, a woman saw a man in their dance.

No devilry, no vampire, amid his pallid visage, as he suddenly pulled the elf in closer toward him.
She hadn’t expected the movement from what she suspected less than accustomed to all of this.
So she held back a gasp and a giggle, letting the fiddle laugh for her, as the music began to shift.
Still violin, still drum, but neither so still, as either man and woman drink in one another’s vision.

In a moment, after being dipped backward, Mave was back standing straight, Kerrick before her.
His face inches away from her own, so mysterious, supernatural, speaking of her as a natural dancer.
“I move with the music,” she grinned back at him. “You’re just lucky you’re moving in unison to it.”
She winked, and in the next moment he spun her, as if in a challenge; all the while she just grinned.

Can't help it, flying in the wind, spinning into the distance, tempting her partner to let her go.
Only, he didn’t. He couldn’t. Kerrick kept Mave’s hand in his grip then twirled her back to him.
A moment of closeness, breasts against chest, wherein the pair might have kissed, but nope.
He lifted her, she twirled like a whirlwind, whipping her legs, bereft of dress, hands on hips.

Mave landed, gazing into her partner’s face. “I’ve had practice.”
She looked left, looked right, suddenly aware of their audience.
Out of practice, my backside. “It looks like the pressure is on...”
Fire in her eyes. “Now stop staring and show me what you got.”

The creature in her arms was equal parts enchanted and dumbfounded by the power she held over him in this moment of mutual movement and the growing number of patrons who watched on and admired. Did they understand? The true beauty of what they were bearing witness to? No, Kerrick doubted that very much. Only he and the woman beaming and laughing in his arms knew the significance of their dance.

Mave was life, luminance of being poured from every pore of smooth skin as she twirled and moved as though she were one with the subtle vibrations in the air around her, every brush of her flesh against his was pure energy, burning fire that spread across the floor and drew in their onlookers with its tempting warmth.

So powerful was the searing vibrance that it permeated every cold, dead pore of the Vampire she moved in time with, warming the blood that had long since gone cold within his veins, thawing the heart that had frozen over with time and isolation. After so long spent numb and cold to the world around him, only as Mave pressed herself to him did he again feel his heart beating in his chest, as though it had never truly stopped.

Maybe it hadn't.

"There is no pressure. The only one I'm looking to impress now is you."

Both of Kerrick's hands now came to her hips, pulling her flush against his body as she looked up at him with that blazing stare. Pivoting, Vandergard spun the both of them around and trusted her to lift her legs in a dazzling flourish. As she came back down the vampire brought his arms underneath her to sweep her into a bridal carry, one hand against her back and one tucked into the crook of her legs. He moved without her for a few second's time, dancing to the music with her in his arms before lifting the arm under her legs and allowing her to flip backward back onto her feet. The moment she did, he used the hand still flush with her back to support her as he dipped her low and brought his mouth to her neck.

Time seemed to stop for a moment.

It was now that he would have ordinarily taken his bite and claimed his prey. When they were at ease, vulnerable and defenseless. Her blood, so hot and full of vigor, could have been all his were he only to sink his teeth in. But he did not. Kerrick merely held his lips across her flesh for a moment, holding that urge back with a silent whimper before raising her back to her feet and stepping away, still gently holding one hand.

"Forgive me. Force of habit."

Maveriel Valthoras
Oh... So smooth... What else was a vampire if not deadly of tongue? To this, Kerrick was true.
Trying to impress me, is he? The man’s efforts were working so far at least while he moved.
He was looking, his eyes into her eyes, but he wasn’t just staring. This was a man of action.
Kerrick’s hands found Mave’s hips, tugging her in, as she emitted a bit of a gasp in reaction.

He spun her, trusted her, and his judgment was permitted as much as rewarded in its effort.
Mave lifted her legs, spreading them, feet whipping within wind, twirling in a dancer’s curve.
The backs of her knees suddenly grasped, his hand beneath, with another cradling her back.
The woman wrapped an arm round the man’s neck, his chest being met with another hand.

Had she been wearing a dress her modesty might have cost her as she flipped this moment.
Landing on her feet, Mave arched her back into the dance, her lithe figure curved as beckoned.
Moving like liquid, a river of momentum, a current of unison, both dancers in shared essence.
They didn't know each other, this elf and this vampire, although they were waves of one ocean.

Mave went low, the small of her back guided by a firm hand, supporting her upward.
She saw the ceiling, the crowd upside down, breathing while her heart was pumping.
As if time had stopped, the woman spread her lips, given to the dance, blood rushing.
Something touched her neck, lips, while she closed her eyes, biting her lip with thirst.

She was swung upward, pushed at a distance, gracefully, forcefully, her hand in a man’s.
Mave narrowed her gaze, blazing bright firelight, challenging the vampire just to stand.
“Mercy,” she bared her teeth, whispering. “We will see if you deserve any.” Hand in hand.
Her turn to get aggressive. Elven strength. Jerking him in. Lifting a leg for him to grab.

Kerrick Vandergard
Mave continued to impress Kerrick, disallowing the flattering tension of his lips and the points of his teeth against the soft flesh of her neck to throw her off balance for more than a moment. If she were any lesser, if she had shown any less vibrance in his arms, the Vampire may not have restrained himself in that final moment. Oh, but what a shame it would be to stop now when his own blood surged with a warmth that had eluded him for such a long, agonizing time.

No, hers was a life he would not extinguish. It was not his place, nor was he worthy of such a gargantuan task. Instead, he would revel and bathe in her fire, allowing each touch, each breath to thaw his cold and frozen heart. Those touches grew fervent and hungry between them, their breaths became thick with excitement and beat across their faces each time their eyes met, a shared cocktail of excitement and exertion in every gasp and sigh.

With quiet, hushed words she so temptingly threatened him, her passion stoked by his actions. When they'd started she was but a glowing ember, and with hands and lips he had ignited a raging inferno that now dared him to soak in its searing tongues without being incinerated by the heat, a challenge he was more than happy to accept. With impressive strength she grasped his hand, taking the lead in this mutual motion and all but thrusting her leg into his grip.

Kerrick took more than what was offered, sliding his palm up to her thigh and pressing himself flush against Mave, tucking his head against her shoulder as though he may again tease at the skin of her nape. Alas Vandergard was not in the habit of using the same trick twice, and his cheek merely rested against hers as he used his grip to lift her up off of the ground, trusting her to loop her other leg around his waist so that he could spin across the floor while holding her aloft in his arms.

"Release your grip, only use your lower body." He murmured into her ear. "Trust me."

Should the elven beauty entertain his request, Kerrick would grip her by the legs wrapped around his midsection, and lean forward just enough for the scarlet-haired woman to begin arching back towards the floor, once again staring at their audience inverted. Trusting in Mave's strength, he slowly loosened his grip on her legs and allowed her to hold herself up with her lower half, and his hands slid towards her hips, grasping her sides and pulling her back up, where she could unhook her legs and land on her feet in front of him once more.

Inches in front of him.

Maveriel Valthoras
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The woman’s leg lifted in the dance, gripped in the hand of the man, as bidden. Against the fabric of her pants she could feel his fingers, firm as the drums, as they slid upward with the thumb. He held her in place, one another pressed together, but what never stayed still was Mave’s heart as it thrust against her ribcage.

For a brief moment, time was motionless, as her bright ambers burned into his dark greys. What was it about him? Amid that pallid complexion, the hunger and thirst of a being both dead and alive, was it some semblance of a spirit within that did it?

She had no time to figure it out. An instant later, she felt his cheek slide against hers like his hand had slid along her thigh. His face was cold and hollowed as it touched her own; warm, angular, elven beside the vampire.

She might have closed her eyes, but he would not let her. Neither would the dancer within her. Kerrick raised, and Mave gave in. The music drifted in their midst, a violin as smooth as a woman’s skin, the drum as hard as a man’s muscle.

The instruments in unison, like the dancers, Mave reacted as if the pair were reading each other’s mind. Her other leg swung upward, wrapping both limbs around Kerrick’s hips, as he took her for a spin.

He whispered for her to only use her lower body, his words like embers in her ears, demanding she trust him. She had no choice at that moment. She was at his mercy and they both knew it. So she went low as beckoned.

Her thighs gripped his hips, arching her spine, her long hair, red as firelight, flowing from her visage to hang toward the floor as her eyes glimpsed the spectators. A moment to recognize that there were no other dancers. Just the pair, surrounded, like a mountain amid a forest.

Fingers squeezed Mave’s hips as Kerrick shifted, letting her find gravity, and as soon as her feet did she bent her knees. She went low again, squatting, trailing fingers down his chest, lips inches from his stomach, hands in hands.

Upright again, she let him twirl her before pressing her back into his front, stepping to the rhythm. Craning her head into the crook of his neck, one hand draped across her shoulder, fingers interlaced at the spaces in between hers and his for him to do as he wished. A moment, quick as a heartbeat, but in a dance like this those moments were endless.

Kerrick Vandergard
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This had long ceased to be a simple dance between two strangers, eager to forget their woes and quicken the arrival of the moon and stars. With each move that shifted from practiced to profound, from simple to sensual, the illusion of formality dissolved in the heat between their bodies.

Hands wandered, breath was lost agasp, and each time they met once more their lips flirted more and more with flesh.

Kerrick felt alive, as though Mave now shared her essence, her will to exist with him. It channeled through her fingertips as she explored his body with her touch, came through every heated breath that rolled across his face and neck, and boiled within him from the searing flame within her eyes.

The tightness of her thighs as they lock around his waist, the grace with which she allowed him to fully support her, putting her beauty on display for all of their drunken, awestruck onlookers.

It captivated him just as much, drew him even further into the web he was already thoroughly ensnared in. In life, Mave thrived. And in watching her thrive Kerrick felt himself do the same. He craved this, and yearned for it more than he ever had blood.

As she lowered herself nearly to her very knees before him, he looked down at her with eyes no longer dull and gray. There was a spark, some flickering ember of existence behind the death that was so prevalent in him as he stared down at the crimson-haired beauty.

Rising with a spin and pressing her back to his, Kerricks' arms immediately found their way around her waist, holding her snugly against his warming body. Her head lulled back, again exposing her neck to him. This time he acted, tilting his face and bringing his lips to her skin.

There were some gasps, those who had discerned Kerrick's nature were concerned he'd just bitten the elf. Indeed, Mave would feel the slightest hint of pressure, Vandergard's fangs barely pressing against the thin layer of flesh protecting her throat. But he did not bite. Instead, Kerrick kissed her nape, a gentle, slow expression of the feelings she'd awoken within him.

He did not allow it to last too long. This wasn't the place for such things. Pulling his lips away from her neck, he whispered into her ear.

"I won't apologize for that one... That was intentional."

Maveriel Valthoras