Private Tales The Starling and the Bear

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Lynus Anireth

The Prince of Vel Anir
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It had just passed a year since his world had fallen apart, though it'd felt like no time at all. He felt no less angry at the world today than he had that day, if anything his bitterness had grown, and there hadn't been a single moment where it hadn't clawed at his chest like an animal intent on ripping out his heart. The day Lynus' wife and child had died, Lynus had too. He knew it, his father and siblings and anyone who'd known him could see it too. He found no worth in life, no pleasure in anything and sought the aid of anything to numb his aching body and mind rather than face his reality sober.

'It will get easier.' they'd said. He'd heard this this numerous times before he threatened to murder the next person to utter the words in his vicinity. It wasn't comforting, it was infuriating, and he needed no reminder that his life would never be the same again.

He'd heard polite knocks at his door several times already this morning, but the guards and servants were more than used to being ignored by now. Still, they'd been particularly insistent until Lynus had promised that if they didn't fuck off, he'd have them put to death for treason. The next knock at the door was not so much a knock as a meaty fist pounding into the solid oak.

"Get up, Lynus!" His father's voice caused his eyes to open enough to squint at the door and realise how badly his head pounded. He groaned and ran a hand over his face, only to wince at another, more insistent pounding of fists on the door. "Must I have this door beaten down?!" the King bellowed, and Lynus growled irritably in response.

"Alright! Enough!.. Fuck me." the Prince huffed and pulled himself out of bed and into a pair of loose breeches. He didn't bother to make haste toward the door, but he could hear his father's muttering to guards on servants on the other side of it. The second he'd unlocked the door, it was pushed open and his father swept into the room, leaving Lynus looking more than a little pissed off at the intrusion.

"What's going--" he'd started, but his father slammed a hand down on the crook of his neck and shook him, and his headache.
"Gods. Look at the state of you. Get yourself cleaned up - we've guests arriving within the hour and I need you looking your best. It's not a choice, Lynus." he added quickly when his son had looked intent on protest. "Now, shape up. I'll see you downstairs." he slapped twice at his cheek and turned away before his son could say anything else.

Lynus had absolutely no intention of entertaining guests today. There was little doubt in his mind that it would be yet another eligible bachelorette who would sit there awkwardly as his father and her father discussed how suitable the match was, as though the pair were not in the room at all. No more, he'd said, and he'd meant it. Lynus shut the door to his room and opened that of his more frequented cabinet, usually housing the finest of whiskies, and now emptied by some treasonous snake as he'd slept.

"The fuck is this?!" Lynus bellowed as he slammed the cabinet shut and moved instead to his wardrobe. Behind all of the finery was an outfit far more befitting of someone who wished to blend in. Muddied boots and thick grey cloak adorned, he pulled up his hood and slipped between tapestry and wall, taking the lesser known escape stairs and tunnel out of the keep.

The Prince was going out for the day.
 
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She had always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the streets, finding herself watching from the second story window of the Crowing Cock in the little off time she had between ‘clients, as she called them. It was almost slightly less humiliating than saying she entertained (desperate) men.

Isla never planned for this lifestyle. The degrading she received from men, the strange tasting tea they forced down their throats anytime they felt a little sick, covering up bruises with makeup so you could continue on and earn your keep. It was all shit, but she had no other options.

The Montesseret family she was born into should have guaranteed a cushy lifestyle and a marriage to some noble boy as soon as she became of age. The very ground she would walk on, her father used to tell her as a child, would be paved in gold.

Cyrus Montesseret, of course, fucked everything up for their entire family. It was out of nowhere that he began openly protesting anything and everything he could in Vel Anir. Not long after, rumors spread, her father’s business partners pulled out of contracts, and their wealth had quickly dried up. The Montesseret name became naught more than a distant memory amongst the noble houses.

The day she turned eighteen, he forced her out of the home to work all the while he and his wife did nothing. Her mother claimed she couldn’t possibly leave her two young sons behind and her father was never sober long enough to work.

Cyrus passed shortly after his fall from grace. Her mother claimed the cause to be some sort of brain rot from his drinking habits. No one truly knew what happened, but no one really cared about him. Isla least of all.

For a while, the controversy surrounding her family was an asset. Her pay was higher than other girls; men paid more for the opportunity to be with someone who was so far above their status. That, too, came to a bitter conclusion when the hype had settled and she was no different than any other common whore.

“Isla!” An older woman’s voice called out to her, summoning her to the floor. “If you don’t want to lose your free room, I suggest you get your ass down here now and look busy!”

“Coming!” Her tone always seemed so cheery when she spoke. True to her word, she came flouncing down the stairs just in time to be handed a tray of drinks to serve while they were still not too busy.

Lynus Anireth
 
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He was one of many shifty looking people on the streets of Vel Anir. None paid him any heed, and that suited him perfectly. It wouldn't take too long for his father to realise that he'd left the keep, and he had little doubt that there would be some discreet search party sent out after him before long. Lynus had no intention of being found today, and tomorrow, he could face whatever verbal lashing his father felt appropriate.

He needed peace. He needed a drink. Though, taverns would no doubt be the first to be searched. He kept himself to the smaller streets, those which he should've been wise enough to avoid, or, those which those who might search for him would be certain that he'd be wise enough to avoid. The candles in the windows and women beckoning at a few men from their balconies drew his attention to the bordello. Lynus had never once set foot in a brothel, and yet, a thought formed in his mind that drew him toward it.

It was quite as he'd expected, though surprisingly a little more inviting. An older woman who had been quite clearly beautiful in her younger years, approached him, beckoning him inside from where he'd paused in the doorway.

Don't be shy, she said. We don't bite, she insisted, and asked him what sort of pleasures he sought, for they could accommodate most things.

"A quiet corner, and a drink.." the scruffy man had asked, but the Lady tsked at him. This was not a tavern, she'd pouted. If he wanted no pleasures of the flesh, he should take his business elsewhere. Blue eyes drifted over the women in various states of undress, some of whom winked or wriggled their fingertips at him. His gaze, however, settled upon the blonde with the tray of drinks balanced on her palm.

"Her. The drinks too." he said, holding up a silver coin for the woman as she quirked a brow at him expectantly. Happy with the payment, she gestured him toward the room, and looked to Isla..
 
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When she first started working, Isla was feisty. A pinch here, a squeeze there- Isla bit back. So much so that it had become a problem. Some men liked the fight, but the Lady claimed it was bad for business. Isla was a lady no more. Not since entering this domain. She was no better than any of the other whores.

After nearly a decade, she seemed to ignore it. If they weren’t paying her, she paid them no mind.

At least that was what she told herself.

An almost healed bruise on her cheekbone said otherwise.

Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the shifty newcomer as he arrived. He didn’t particularly stand out amongst their regulars, but she did notice a look of urgency from the Lady as she clutched onto a coin. With a slight nod towards the private rooms, Isla yanked the drinks away from the (protesting) man she was serving and began walking away from Lynus and the Lady.

She would turn once to beckon him to follow her and the Lady would nudge him in Isla’s direction where he would be led out of the main room and into a maze of hallways. They would pass a series of doors, some open, some closed. At the end of the hall she would stop in front of a double door. With her free hand, she would unlock it and swing one door open to let him in first before she followed.

It was slightly larger than the other rooms, but still intimate with dimly lit candles that illuminated her golden locks and fair skin as she began to undress. "What is it you're looking for?" She questioned him, never quite making eye contact. "You've got money. You must be looking for something other women won't put up with, yeah? So what is it?"

Lynus Anireth
 
The man wandered to the window as the door was closed behind him, drawing down his hood and standing to the side of the drapes to peek out onto the street below. Satisfied that none were trailing him, he turned to the woman, who's company he had apparently paid for.

He suppressed a grimace to see that she was already in the process undressing, but not because anything about her was offensive to look at. On the contrary, she was exactly the opposite. Still..

"Don't.." he murmured and strode toward her only to lift a drink from the tray. "I just want a drink, but apparently, this 'isn't a tavern'.." he looked her over with a shrug and drank down the amber liquid that burned pleasantly in his chest..

"What's your name?" he asked, already reaching for his second cup.
 
Her hands hesitated on the buttons of her dress, but eventually she would concede and obey her companion’s order. It was his coin that determined her fate, after all. If he wanted to take things slow for whatever reason, again, she would oblige.

“Indeed sir, this is not a tavern. I am not sure what would give you such an impression.” The mistake almost got a chuckle from the woman. Almost. “Was it, perhaps, the lovely women with their breasts out on display? Or perhaps the bald man with the little black-haired girl dancing for him?”

She stared only at the tray as he finished one drink and went for a second. Men like this one made her glad they had a tendency to water down the liquor for if they didn’t, he’d be out a liver and they’d be out a business.

Isla.” Most of the other women wouldn’t dare share their real names, but she had nothing more of hers to lose. And he’d forget it anyway if he kept inhaling drinks so quickly. “Now will you answer my question, please? I cannot do my job unless you tell me what you wish for."

Lynus Anireth
 
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He could help but laugh under his breath at her sarcasm, his eyes rolling beneath the shadow of his hood. "I know it's not a fucking tavern.." he muttered to himself with a huff. That was precisely the point. "Your matron wouldn't allow me to simply, drink, so here I am...talking to you." he gestured lazily toward her, observing her over the rim of his cup as he took another long sip.

"What I wish for right now is just a quiet corner and some fucking peace.. No offense, Isla, but I'm not here for what you're selling." he said, his voice carrying a weight of solemnity.

"Can you provide that, Isla?" Lynus asked as he leaned against a nearby table, his expression a mixture of weariness and defiance as he held out the once again empty cup toward her.
 
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She felt his eyes linger on her, his words dripping with an unfamiliar condescension as she exchanged cups for him. He wasn’t disrespectful, no… and if he was, well then that was just a part of the job. There was something just so irritatingly annoying about him. Could he not read the signs scattered about the place that informed him on the services they provided? A study in which he could drink and mope about his life was not amongst them.

“Well…” She set the half-empty tray on a table and crossed her arms over her chest. Her toe tapped as her frustration grew. “You paid for my time, so I expect you to take advantage of it. Otherwise stop wasting my time and go be miserable somewhere else. Fuckin’ waste of money if you’d ask me. Not that I’ll see even a fraction of it. ” She scoffed and turned on her heels, heading towards the door.

She was sure the Lady wouldn't mind if she left him to sulk while she found someone else to entertain.

"Enjoy your peace and quiet sir." She paused to point at some contraption attached to the wall. "Ring this when you're done moping around and I'll have someone escort you out. Got it?"
 
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Lynus' frustration surged, and he reached to seize her arm as she began to leave, tugging her back to him with an intensity that reflected his displeasure at her earlier words. "Yes. I paid for your time, and I'll make use of it as I see fit. Are you so desperate to have a man between your thighs that you can't take a fucking break for a few hours?" His words, laden with irritation, were delivered in a low, snarling tone, the scent of whisky heavy on his breath.

His free hand delved inside his cloak, retrieving another coin that glinted in the dim light. Holding it up to her face, he declared, "Double. And you don't talk to me like that again. Got it?" he parroted with disdain. The intensity in his eyes bore into hers, a storm of rage and indignation brewing in them he waited for her compliance.
 
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She tensed, not as his grasp but at the barrage of cruel remarks wearing her down. If he wished so badly to turn their conversation into a battleground, she would defend herself against his jabs.

She briefly acknowledged his presence as she turned to face his coin and listen to his proposition. Double? Perhaps she could afford another week's rent. The hardness of her face softened and she appeared to abandon her integrity. With a smile, she grabbed the coin from his hand but only before delivering a sharp, resounding slap across his pretty face.

Satisfied, she pocketed the coin and sat on the velvet sofa, leaving him where he stood. Her voice was sickeningly mellifluous as she spoke now. “I am desperate to have a roof over me, not a man.” She grabbed one of the drinks and sipped at it. "Unfortunately for me, I can't afford that and pay for whores and whisky whenever I'm in a foul mood. Now go on, sir. Sit. Enjoy the silence."
 
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The unexpected sting on Lynus' face resonated with simmering anger, and for a moment, a retaliation seemed imminent. However, a flicker of internal acknowledgment held him back — a begrudging admission that he had felt a pang of guilt the moment his harsh words had left his mouth, and perhaps the slap was a deserved consequence.

He stood there, body tense, eyes narrowed, wrestling with the urge to escalate the confrontation. A deep breath followed, a deliberate effort to regain composure as the room's atmosphere crackled with silent tension.

Ignoring the lingering burn on his cheek, Lynus, without uttering a word, lifted another drink, a quiet defiance lingering in his gaze as he scrutinized the woman before him with a glare. Nerve, he thought. She had nerve. The possibility of retaliatory violence loomed, a consequence he was certain she was acutely aware of. The fading bruise on her own cheek hadn't escaped him.

Resigned to the situation, he huffed and lowered himself onto the opposite end of the sofa, crossing his ankles. Taking a long sip, he let his head fall back, exhaling a sigh, waiting for the elusive peace he had sought in this, what he hoped to be, most unexpected of places.

After a moment, he rumbled, his voice low, "You always assault paying customers?". His brow quirked as he lifted his head, the hood falling away to reveal a pallor paler than the usual, eyes dark with fatigue, and his hair and beard grown and unkempt beyond what was acceptable.

"I'm unwelcome in taverns and so I came here, seeking nothing but peace and a few drinks, keeping my hands to myself while paying you all the same. Double, even. I'd have thought you'd have welcomed it considering what I imagine you must endure from what other scoundrels find themselves in your delightful company." The sarcasm in his voice was evident, though a glimmer of sincerity lurked beneath his worn exterior as his gaze drifted over the remnants of violence etched on her cheek.

"Drink if you wish and talk if you must, I'll pay for my time in this room. Just fuck off with your judgement. Bring me more drinks when I require them, try not to rob me, and perhaps keep your hands to yourself, Lady, and we'll get along just fine."
 
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Trying as they may be and no matter how much they deserved it, Isla had never struck a client before this moment. As she nursed the drink, she couldn’t fight the corners of her mouth raising up into a satisfied smile. That little girl, spoiled rotten by her father, had made her first appearance since the Montesseret family’s downfall. It was a curious reminder of the self worth she should have. Such a thing, so frivolous, had no place confined within these walls.

She maintained her unwavering gaze out the window, but took note from the corners of her vision that the stranger seemed to abandon whatever retaliation she deserved for her outburst before joining her on the sofa. A lost opportunity, she thought, to do what some other men paid for- laying hands on the woman.

You always assault paying customers?

“Only if they deserve it.” She lied, breaking her focus to look in his direction. Poor thing appeared in such a state that her regular clients looked like proper god fearing, church-going men.

She would chuckle at that thought.

“Are you unwelcome in taverns because you look like you smell of sewage? Or have you perhaps been bitten by a vampire recently? You look how they’re described in literature, you know. Pale, disheveled, looks like you haven't slept in centuries.” These words came from an area of concern, not judgment and so when she moved in to inspect his neck more closely she figured it would be of no issue to him and his rules.
 
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The way his brows rose and his head bobbed in a tilted nod suggested his agreement that he had in fact deserved it. The acknowledgement was as much of an apology as she'd get from him right now, especially since she then continued her barrage of abuse.

Lynus couldn't help but crack a wry smile at the audacious commentary, a brief glimmer of amusement in his eyes. Her words would likely have hurt if he didn't care so little, though he did frown and lift his collar closer to his nose, satisfying himself that he didn't in fact smell of sewage. "I assure you that I have quite recently bathed.".. not that he'd been too happy about it. He supposed she had a point.

As she moved in to inspect his neck, he didn't resist, a strange sense of vulnerability accompanying the moment. Her observations, though delivered with a degree of humor, held an underlying concern that he hadn't expected, and he studied her cautiously.

"And if I were a vampire, you'd think this wise? Assaulting me, insulting me.. inspecting me?.." his head tilted, gently swirling the amber liquid in his glass. "I doubt I'd bother paying for this drink, for starters." Vampire bites would probably be a preferable excuse, he thought, his lips twitching with a hint of dry amusement. Then again, what a true curse it would be to live forever in such abject misery.

"Besides. It's the vipers you need to look out for.." he commented pointedly and raised his arm to shove her back into her corner of the sofa.
 
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"Assure all you wish," Isla leaned in, much too close for comfort, and sniffed him loudly. He had not been lying, which meant he must have had plenty of money to his name. Why he chose to waste it in such a cheap brothel, she knew not. There were plenty of other places with more exotic and expensive girls, where the drinks weren't watered down to save coin.

But his presence left her curious. She wouldn't send him off just yet.

"Well if you were a vampire, my nameless friend, what would you have done? I'll bet double my payment you wouldn't do anything. And if I were wrong... do you think I have so much to lose that I would fear death?" Her comment, while morbid, was entirely genuine. "Or an endless existence? Either would give me the chance to escape my fate."

She fell backwards onto her side of the sofa, a quiet thump as she landed. "Vipers? The snakes?" She gagged at the thought of reptiles. "Sure, we've had rats...mice...even the occasional stray dog make its way inside, but we have never had a serpent problem and I can assure you that."
 
Lynus stared at the woman with a lazy blink and a look of utter bewilderment, the effects of the alcohol gradually dulling the sharp edges of his weariness and easing the tension he wore whenever he was forced into sobriety. "You are an odd thing." he observed absently and snorted in amusement.

"Perhaps I'd bite you." he speculated, his eyes on the mouthful of alcohol left at the bottom of his cup. "But then, I imagine blood is to vampires as food and water is to humans, and thus blood would keep my mind alert and my senses sharp. So if I were a vampire, I suppose I'd be doing as I am now which is everything that I can possibly do to addle my oh-so-sharp mind.. So, I suppose I would do nothing, because I too have nothing to lose and do not fear death... And an endless existence would be fucking terrible." he frowned and huffed, finishing the last of his drink..

"Fate is fate. We can't change it, or escape it, it just is.... Just like it seems I was fated to have this ridiculous fucking conversation." he growled quietly, dragging a hand down his face, suddenly regretting giving her the option to speak to him.

When he looked at her again it was with a look of puzzlement, his eyes creasing as she rhymed off a list of animals, clearly having missed the point. "What - no, I.. Fuck me. I wasn't referring to actual snakes. I meant the human kind. You know, the ones with a talent for venomous words and a penchant for striking when provoked." he gave her a pointed look with a spark of amusement, and gestured to his empty cup.
 
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Her quiet laughter as he explained himself seemed foreign in such a miserable place. "I like to imagine blood is to vampires, how alcohol is to us. I know its necessary for their life, but when you read about the vampires its like they can't resist it. Like an alcoholic to whisky. You'd give so much to feel the warmth of it on your tongue. The feelings it brings when you overindulge. You lose yourself in the glass."

While Isla found humor in his comments, her mood shifted rapidly and soured the moment. "I suppose we have different thoughts on fate, then." She crossed her arms. "Perhaps you are stuck as you are. Stuck with your wife and kids you don't love or care for. Stuck in some high paying job the offers nothing. Nothing but money. You find no stimulation in your environment so you drink yourself silly every day and make it everyone else's problem. That's your fate."

She had not meant to come off so coldly. Feeling cornered, like a scared animal, she would continue her attack. "I am here to support the ones I loved. It is not ideal. But I know that there is more to my life than fucking and entertaining strange men." Perhaps she was the venomous snake to worry about.
 
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Lynus listened with a certain detached amusement to Isla's laughter and musings about vampires and their supposed relationship with blood, the comparison to alcohol bringing a wistful smile to his lips. However, the somewhat calm atmosphere darkened like a sudden storm as Isla's tone shifted abruptly, taking on a bitter edge. Viper indeed.

As she began to speculate on his life, the hazy sheen in Lynus' eyes hardened into a cold, piercing glare, the words cutting deeper than she could possibly know. His fingers tightened around the glass, the several helpings of alcohol no longer a comfort, for it no longer suppressed the ever-present weight of grief and loss and it surged to the forefront in a torrent of rage.

The glass in his hand became a casualty of his tumultuous emotions as it shattered in his grip, but the pain he felt as the shards cut into his flesh were nothing in comparison. The unraveling threads of control snapped, and Lynus, consumed by grief and indignation turned on her. The movement was swift and reckless as the hand not currently soaked in blood shot out to grip the woman's throat, his grip vice-like.

"How fucking dare you," he seethed, the words escaping through gritted teeth. "You know nothing about me," he snarled, his voice a low, menacing growl. "You know nothing of them, yet you have the audacity to paint them as burdens I care nothing for?" His anger radiated from him, and his adrenaline surged so quickly his pulse stumbled to keep up.

The mask of calm he had worn moments ago had shattered, revealing the raw, exposed nerves of a man wounded by loss. The prince, cornered and wounded, was not one to endure such an assault on the memories he held dear, but it had been some time since he'd been so caught off guard. His grip only tightened as he fought through the rage and for a moment - a long moment - he wasn't sure if he'd be able to let go.

It was only when tears glistened in his eyes that he looked away from her, unceremoniously shoving her free of his grip and getting to his feet. Betrayed by the sanctuary he'd sought, he very air seemed to carry the weight of his shattered expectations, a bitter reminder that the refuge he had sought was a fleeting illusion.
 
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She immediately regretted her words, but her stubbornness would not allow her to apologize for her unnecessary cruelty. She watched the subtle shift in his emotions with each verbal assault until she pushed him past his breaking point.

The shattering glass brought a smile to her face. They had made progress in opening the gloomy man up. Perhaps not the progress she had anticipated when his other hand gripped her throat. But it was nothing she was not already used to, despite the gasp for air as his grip tightened and she was made to listen to his sob story.

She remained still throughout, holding her comments until he finally tossed her aside and appeared to be making his way out. “I know nothing.” She agreed, coughing as she rose to her feet and grabbed his bleeding hand, pulling him from where he stood. The Lady would be most unhappy if she couldn’t clean the dripping mess up.

“Yet you still travel alone.” She felt it would be uncouth to look in his eyes as she tended to his wound, still twisting the knife she had in it. “If I was fortunate enough to have a husband and children, I don’t think I’d ever spend a day without them.” She held his hand tight and grabbed one of the two remaining glasses of whisky, pouring its contents into his bleeding palm and spilling the mixture into her own hand that she curiously dipped a finger into and tasted.

Perhaps the vampires and alcoholics were on to something.

As she dabbed him with a white towel, she noted there was no wedding band on his hand. “Was it an arranged marriage?” He must have been ashamed of his circumstances, Isla figured. Poor sod must have worked for her father and couldn’t find his way out.
 
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Lynus' tension was palpable as he made his way toward the door, hoping to leave before he did any more damage or she tore him open any more than she had already. His step was slightly staggered. The grip of grief had not released its hold, and the room seemed to close in around him.

As Isla grabbed his bleeding hand and pulled him back, he winced at the sting of the alcohol meeting the open wound. His jaw tightened, the discomfort etched on his face, a silent plea for her to be more careful with the precious liquid. The whisky, once a source of solace, now mixed with the blood on his hand, a twisted cocktail of pain and regret.

Her assumption about his family, about leaving them, pierced through him like a dagger. The pain etched across his features turned to a cold, bitter resolve. He gritted his teeth, a quiet anger simmering beneath the surface. "Why do you assume I have that choice?" he retorted, his voice laced with a biting edge. "That it was me who left them?" he growled, attempting to take back his hand. The wounds of his past, still raw and bleeding, now felt exposed and vulnerable, the assumption adding another layer of torment to the wounds Isla unwittingly probed.

His gaze snagged on the fading bruise on her cheek, and then fell to her throat, a muscle feathering in his jaw as he refrained from apology despite the guilt he felt. "We're not talking about my wife. We're not talking about anything." he said firmly, taking the coin pouch from inside his jacket to toss it on the sofa where he'd been sitting.
 
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"Not once did I assume you had a choice in the matter." Isla stated bluntly, pressing the blood soaked towel hard into the hand she retained her grip on. Preventing more of a mess prevailed over his comfort at the moment. "Stop wriggling, will you?"

She gave up as he pulled at his hand, leaving the rag in his palm. She only hoped he had enough sense to grip it tightly and keep the pressure constant. Many questions still lingered in the air. Why, if he was married, did he hide his wedding ring while visiting a brothel that he only wanted peace and quiet in? Had she left him? And the children? She had taken them with? Isla, however, forced her mouth shut and afforded him the quiet he had all but begged for.

She nudged the coin pouch back toward him before picking up the tray of drinks and leaving the room. After several minutes, she would reemerge with a light bruise already forming on her neck and a fresh tray which she set where the previous had been. The bitter silence as she stood by the door served as her apology. From her position, she would wait until the next tray was needed and do nothing else. She didn't want his money and he didn't want her time.
 
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Lynus hesitated for a moment, eyeing the rejected purse of coins that lay before him. For her, it likely held the weight of at least a month's worth of wages, a substantial sum for someone enduring the hardships of a place like this. The internal struggle was evident on his face as he debated whether to take it or leave it. He didn't wish to offend her, but his guilt was only fuelled by the visible bruises forming on the young woman's neck. He left it, acknowledging both that she had endured more than she deserved, and the line he had crossed.

When she left, the guilt doubled down and he cursed at himself, hands spearing into his hair rather than assault the wall and cause himself further injury. He wasn't entirely sure that she was coming back, and had taken a step toward the door when it opened and she stepped back inside. He stared at her for a moment - the fresh bruising she wore that caused his stomach to churn, the tray of drinks she held, inviting him to stay.

He should've had more pride than to take another drink. He should have apologised, and left, but his pride was long gone and he was still too wounded to apologise. His gaze fell as he took a drink from the tray and turned to wander to the window, keeping his back to her as he drank. For a moment he watched the comings and goings outside, a silent observer of the debauchery that surrounded him. Men staggered in and out of the bordello, soldiers amongst them - a sight that earned a disdainful sneer from him before stepping away from the window, rather than risk being seen by those he held in contempt.

His eyes met Isla's as he took another drink before taking a seat, sipping his drink in a tense silence. The air hung heavy with awkwardness, and he frowned, breaking the quiet with a grumbled remark.

"While I appreciate the peace, you're making me just as uncomfortable by standing there like that." he commented, his gaze scrutinising her. "What would you be doing if I were not here right now? If you were alone.." he muttered. "You have time, you have coin. Fuck, leave me enough alcohol to knock me out and go enjoy yourself.." he snorted.
 
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Reducing a man to little more than a guilty, vulnerable pile of coins was a skill Isla had perfected in an attempt to survive. Never had she felt something other than satisfaction in getting exactly what she wanted- another week's rent, enough coin for a meal and a drink that she didn't have to share with some other lonely, perverted man. Until now. The air was still heavy with her verbal assault and his retaliation. Her eyes lingered on his, bloodshot and shattered- mirroring the broken pieces of his pride and self worth. The power she sought to have over him had evaporated, leaving an emptiness that guilt seemed eager to fill.

His face was haunting, scars of whatever his past held becoming more apparent with each second she stared. Both of their shields had been broken and now they both remained in an awkward limbo as neither spoke for a few minutes. Finally, he broke the silence as her conscience overwhelmed her. He needed the last word, it seemed.

She stiffened as he addressed her, taking a shaky breath before she responded to his question. "If I were alone?" A brow raised as if being alone was such a foreign concept. In a way, it was. Being alone didn't pay her rent, after all. "I...don't know?" She looked away from him, back to the pathetic little sack of coins on the sofa. "That isn't a luxury I've had to think about since I was a child. I don't know what to do..." Her face crinkled with her frustration. She knew nothing other than how to make others enjoy themselves. "I don't know what I should do. What do you do to enjoy yourself? It's obviously not this."

Lynus Anireth
 
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Lynus stared at Isla incredulously. He was very much accustomed to the feeling of never being truly alone, but his experiences were clearly, vastly different. He was pestered by relentless parents, pompous and arrogant nobility, and by squires and staff, not by flesh-hungry men. The stark contrast between their lives filled him with a sense of shame as he considered the privilege he had so often taken for granted. He had wanted for nothing his entire life and the first true challenge he'd face had shattered him like so much glass.

Her question caught him off guard, and his brow rose in surprise. "Well, I... Can't say I've ever visited such an establishment before." He paused, his throat tightening with a mixture of regret and sympathy. "But this..." He lifted the glass, studying the amber liquid swirling within. "This has been pretty much it for some time now."
He paused, realizing the weight of his words, and then continued with a note of concern in his voice.

"Sorry... I... You really don't have any time to yourself?...What would you like to do? Do you read? Play music? Paint?" He glanced around the room, searching for any sign of such hobbies, unable to comprehend that Isla had nothing else but her work.
 
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"Mhm." She rolled her eyes. There was no shame in admitting it. He didn't have to lie about where he liked to spend his time and with whom he enjoyed spending it with. No shame to her, at least. Her face softened as he swirled the glass of whisky. A poor sot just like her father, drinking himself into an early grave. Leaving debts behind for his children to work off. Gods it was a depressing situation he chose to get himself in.

She followed his eyes as he looked around the room. For what? She didn't know. "Really, I do not." She shrugged, drawing one arm up over the other across her chest. "I sleep. I clean. I work. That's about all I have time for if I want to keep my room."

Isla hadn't realized how truly pathetic her existence was until she hear it out loud. She really did have nothing but a body to sell and a bed to sleep in. She could not remember the last time she saw daylight from beyond the dirty windows. The last time she felt raindrops on her skin. The last time she'd touched an instrument or a paintbrush or anything other than the flesh of another stranger. All things that she never would experience again if she knew what was good for her.

"I guess...when I was a child I enjoyed the piano." She released her arms, letting them hang by her sides. "I never quite got the hang of reading music, but I could mimic anything my mother played for my siblings and I. It's been quite some time since I have seen a piano. I doubt I'd still be able to play more than a couple notes." She cracked a smile, a small and sad smile. "Do you play?"

Lynus Anireth
 
For a long moment, Lynus simply stared at Isla, contemplating her life. He studied her pretty face, his expression softening with a mixture of pity and empathy before he withdrew into himself, his gaze growing distant as he returned to his drink. A brow quirked in amusement when Isla mentioned a piano, however, and a faint smile played on his lips at the memory.

"No, I never possessed such talents," he admitted with a shake of his head. "But I always enjoyed hearing my mother play." His tone was wistful, tinged with nostalgia for simpler times.

"When I was a child, I wanted to be a baker," he continued, the corners of his lips turning up in amusement. "I was forbidden after nearly burning the kitchen down." His laughter was quiet but genuine, a rare moment of levity in their somber exchange. "I wasn't particularly good at much, but I enjoyed building things, and I was quite something with a sword," he added with a hint of pride in his smile, though it was a fleeting thing. He'd be lucky to survive the first round of a tournament now..

Clearing his throat, he shifted the conversation, his tone more casual now. "Will you drink with me, at least?" he asked, extending an invitation for a momentary reprieve from their troubles. "Since I very much doubt I'm going to get much peace." he added with a quiet huff of amusement as he held out a drink toward her.
 
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