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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: June 14th, 2011, 2:49 am 
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[Running over here to add hastened apologies before I disappear for the day, yet again. I've been weighed down with my end of year exams since mid May and haven't had a chance to so much as think about the internet, really very sorry for disappearing without saying so. I'll be back up to speed soon and shall hopefully have a post readied sometime in the next week.
At the minute I'm off to a university to see if I can't find something awesome to... encourage me to pay the outrageous fees I need to get there. :P
@ Will: I've not forgotten your PM, I just don't have to time answer right now and I thought telling you all that I'm not dead would be a good use of my time. :teehee:]

ETA: Oh my. I really hate that exams make me miss the exciting parts! :swoon: Definitely have a post up soon. Adrianna's going to be so fun to write... :D ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: June 14th, 2011, 4:27 pm 
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Taloned fingers wrapped themselves around Alexander's wrist with a gentleness he wouldn't have thought possible for such a woman: the very air about her suggested that she had never shown kindness to another soul in her life. The muscles in his forearm tensed automatically, triggered by his senses interpreting the action as a threat. It turned out to be a misinterpretation: Gardenia wished to exchange words now, not blows. A shame, for Alexander would have dearly loved to have given the woman exactly what she deserved - a good dose of the medicine she'd given to everyone her Governor doled out to anyone who didn't meet his expectations and requirements. The cold expanse of ice that was Gardenia's face had come alive with a savage glee, a vulturine pleasure.

At her words, the contempt Alexander felt was palpable, so potent it poisoned the air about him. It was quite apparent that he was at a crossroads; he couldn't turn back, the roads to the left and right both culminated in his arrest and the only remaining option lead him somewhere he couldn't predict. To get him out of the situation he found himself in he'd have to rely solely on the word of someone who would have, with relish, taken up arms against him only minutes before, and would likely do so again given the chance. Gardenia was his enemy and as such he treated her with the level of disdain her position merited. Beyond that, his feelings for her were indifferent. Friends meant little to him now, only a pale memory that stood barely visible against the bleak backdrop of his memory; if he remembered them at all, he chastised himself for losing himself, even for the briefest moment, to a whirlwind of nostalgia.

Alexander contemplated this only as Gardenia began to drag him away from the scene of their earlier struggle towards goodness knew where. The streets of the district were immaculate, characteristic of the upper class sites of accommodation, well-lit and all houses were occupied, as opposed to the poorer districts where every other house was damaged, boarded up and avoided by its vaguely superstitious neighbours. After the last turn, there was time enough to think properly, to assess the situation, for which Alexander was intensely thankful despite the welcome rush of adrenaline that fuelled his heart and senses and made him feel spectacularly... alive.

Though nothing showed on her face, Alexander learned quickly enough that he had stopped looking for emotion in places where it obviously couldn't be found, the faintest twitch as she walked told him that she felt pain enough that walking was uncomfortable. He felt her ‘soldiering on’ was terribly pointless, a move to save face rather than cope with her discomfort. The house before them mirrored its owner: tall and imposing, it stood tall and unwavering with nothing in it to suggest warmth or homeliness. After a moment he shook his head, having caught himself wondering what kind of person could live in such a place - the answer stood before him, clad all in black and carrying her stilettos in the hand that wasn't holding her front door open for him.

Stepping across the threshold with the slightest feeling of claustrophobia at being confined within the house, Alexander couldn't help but follow through what was his normal procedure: you've entered a building, find strategic exit points, anything that could be used by or against you as a weapon, any places that would be ideal to conceal a person or weapon. Bright eyes scoured the shadows, checking and double checking as he absent mindedly ran a finger down the length of a small knife. Even though the house was sizeable, Alexander was fairly sure that Gardenia was enough of a minimalist that it would be impossible for her to hide one of her Warden friends in a corner even if it was dark; he was also aware that in such a place, his assortment of weaponry was, indeed, overkill. If it really came to it Alexander knew Gardenia wouldn't be able to keep him in the house - however it was the enemies outside that posed the greater threat to his survival.

“Well,” came Gardenia's quiet voice after a significant pause, “are you going to kill me now?”

With a non-committal noise, Alexander met her eyes for a short moment. “Jury's still out,” he told her, his voice entirely without inflection. The comment left little room for reply, and rightly so in Alexander's opinion; conversation ought not flow easily between a wrongdoer and one who would promote justice. Still his eyes flashed around the hallway, noting insignificant details - the way the curtains fell, the number of doors leading to different rooms, the presence of a man's coat and shoes but the lack of any masculinity in both the décor and the paraphernalia. Humans connections must be hard for the heartless, he mused unsympathetically.

“I think thanks are in order,” Gardenia continued, breaking the silence again with her smooth tones. “You're only alive thanks to me. So you might show me a little courtesy and remove your weapons.”

The laughter that slipped by his lips, he thought, could well have been the first the house had ever seen; belonging to such a cold woman, Alexander would certainly not have been surprised.

“Lady, I didn't think you'd manage to surprise me any more. Guess I was wrong,” With a smile full of black humour, Alexander leaned just a little closer and questioned her, perfectly seriously.

“Do you honestly expect me to surrender my weapons to the woman who, in quick succession, attacked me, accused me of treason and then threatened my life? That, by the way, will probably need stitches.” As he said the words, he gestured to her injured foot, expression unchanging.
“I think you should just count yourself lucky that I'm in a benevolent mood today. I could be much less forgiving.”

Gardenia's belief that her action to ‘save his life’ redeemed her of all her other crimes was ignorant and pathetic in his eyes and, at that point in time, he wasn't sure which irritated him more. It raised a question he'd been debating with himself for some time: did he believe in second chances? Certainly he'd been given one of his own, whether or not he'd been wrongly prosecuted and whether or not he deserved it. Many times since his return to the ‘underworld’ he'd wondered if he was indeed the right person to have been given such a chance, wondered if he wasn't too reckless or bitter or vengeful. There had been moments when he'd been tempted by rash, on-the-spot plans, contemplated leaving the world to strangle itself or weighed the pros and cons of taking the life of an enemy to satisfy his bloodlust. Each time he'd denied the impulse but each time he'd felt his doubt about his future choices increase just a little, enough to make him uneasy.

That night had turned out very differently than he'd expected it to; he'd had goals to accomplish and although he'd taken care of them, the abrupt turn of events with Gardenia had upset his carefully laid plans. Now she had confirmation that she was alive and, even if no-one else believed her, she was now a threat to his secrecy and therefore his safety. Whether or not she knew it, she held a power over him - not one that made him powerless but one that would ensure he listened when she talked.

“I feel I should tell you that, quite aside from everything else, your household manner leaves much to be desired,” the off-hand, almost teasing insult flew over his should as he stepped past her, hoping to alleviate his feeling of confinement by stepping into empty space. No longer was he used to the small interior of the houses the general population lived in, he longed for the open night where he could spread out as far as his senses, and adjacent shadows, would allow. Truly a creature of the night, Alexander felt he didn't belong in the world of the living any more; a warm, comfortable house held no attraction for him. Now, he only felt the call of the alluring darkness, the black that covered his movements and let him pass unnoticed. If he hadn't been before, Alexander was now a ghost in truth: he sought the night, not the day, and pursued the living only to bring warnings of death.

[Adrianna veeeeeery soon.]
- - -


Though she didn't know it, Lilly was the first person to have voucher for Adrianna and prove her innocence - though Lilly was young, and surely from Allegra's point of view easily influenced, she spoke with conviction. As Lilly clutched at Adrianna's hand, the latter clung on tight, hoping desperately to keep ahold of the only friendly person for a considerable distance. Helpless she was, unavoidably so; to cause a scene by arguing would undoubtedly bring the Wardens down on them, especially after all the commotion in recent hours, so she had to remain meek and quiet and let Allegra's thinly veiled threats and openly venomous tones simply wash over her. She found not long into this plan that it wasn't working very well; already her self-control was slipping through her fingers - further, further, further... gone. It took everything she had to keep from crying out when Lilly was pulled away and replaced with Allegra's cold, immovable presence at her side, for the elder woman held none of the redhead's bubbly warmth and kindness that made her so endearing. No, Allegra was all ice, from the casually coiffed blonde hair to the resplendent heels she wore. Every inch a picture of majesty and grace, an idol to be worshipped and admired and, most importantly, feared.

Perhaps not most know or saw her so, but in the circles Adrianna travelled, Allegra was a force to be reckoned with - and not simply because of her family ties. The woman had a reputation all to herself, full of exaggerated rumours about bribery, sophisticated and well-executed threats and, of course, her charming way of manipulating anyone and everyone who fell for her airs and graces. No wonder she was a star guest at every notable person's dinner parties, she was what everyone spent most of their time talking about.

Not Adrianna. If anything, she avoided the Governor's sister, and with good reason: Allegra held a personal grudge, seemingly for Adrianna's mere existence. The younger woman had little idea as to what she'd done exactly to offend Allegra but she had the faintest idea that when she found out, she would not only be held accountable but she would not be able to talk her way out of that situation as she tried with so many others. In the past she'd found that words held their own sway, if one had the correct level of eloquence to use them properly, and so she did, aiding the capture of many 'dangerous crinimals'.

Inexplicably, that made her think of Gardenia. Gardenia! If it had been her walking by instead of Adrianna... if she'd seen Allegra walking with Dylan freely they'd both be dead by now. They ought to be thankful it was her and not someone who could do them harm and enjoy it, she thought defiantly. Evidently, though, no-one except her saw it that way; here she was the enemy, a position she had never considered herself to be suitable for before. It hadn't come into her contemplations that she might one day find herself on the wrong side of the fight, even if the fighting was so subtle. It scared her to know that there was such a rift between her and those she stood so close to physically; being dragged along beside Allegra gave her an odd sense of claustrophobia and the urge to try and struggle free was nigh uncontainable. To Allegra, any weakness she showed did two things: confirmed Adrianna's obvious guilt and fuelled her pitiful distain. Steeling herself with all the strength her dwindling pride could give her, Adrianna yanked her arm away from Allegra. Though she didn't manage to break free she slowed her own progress and jolted Allegra a little, enough to gain her attention.

“And what if I don't want to?” she hissed in Allegra's direction, for a fraction of a second feeling her own venom match the elder woman's. “Are you going to make me and prove yourself to be your brother's sister?”

Doubtless she'd regret the harsh words sooner or later but for the first time in years she cared nothing for the consequences of her actions. Adrenaline filled her blood and it was only the intense panic, fear and threat of interrogation that mattered. Backed into a corner with no other way to turn, surprised by the sharp turn of events and her lack of control, she felt unbalanced. No longer could she rely on having the advantage over the doctor for saving his life: so long as he ran fast enough, he was safe now. The mere thought of what Allegra would do if she even thought about threatening her back made feel faint and while Lilly was present she was unwilling to taint the redhead's opinion of her. The innocent contentedness the exuded was contagious and Adrianna longed, more than anything, so see herself the way she thought Lilly thought of her.

Already past the point of no return, Adrianna saw no point is stopping her tirade of bitterness. Allsorts of dark thoughts had been preying upon her mind in recent hours and she felt them spilling from her in a wash of anger and frustration.
“I don't owe anyone an explanation for anything, least of all you.”

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: June 24th, 2011, 11:20 am 
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(I couldn’t resist posting Gardenia’s section – I’ll reply with Allegra after Will’s post. =) By the way, the music Gardenia puts on is Ludovico Einaudi’s “Le Onde”. =D
Also, Adrianna is so going to regret squaring up to Allegra XD)

Alexander’s refusal to give up his weapons served, predictably, to anger Gardenia, but she made no movement to object, only meeting his gaze wordlessly as he leaned forward. What she viewed as his pointless bravado was faintly irritating. If he thought that he could stay in her house and keep his weapons, he was under some strange misunderstanding. However much disgust he felt for her and her occupation, he had no where else to go, and the wardens still roamed the streets outside. Without her “protection”, it was only a matter of time before he got caught and was clapped in irons once more. Gardenia was quite sure that he knew all this, and it probably grated at him. It mattered not. She’d find some way to disarm him one way or another, whether he liked it or not.

She bent down and neatly dropped her stiletto shoes directly underneath one of the hooks in the hallway. Neat by nature, Gardenia didn’t have to arrange them a second time. She kept her back turned as she heard Alexander’s stupid comment about her household manner; she could find nothing clever or amusing about that remark. It felt too deliberate, placed before her to fill in a pause Alexander was probably anxious about. She decided not to reply to any of his provocations; in any case, she believed herself to be in the right as far as his accusations went. He had attacked her first, or had he forgotten the knife he’d placed against her throat as she made her way home from work? Glancing over her shoulder, Gardenia saw that he was stepping away, looking the house over. He somewhat resembled a trapped animal. He didn’t like it here, or rather, he wasn’t used to it.

Deciding to let him rove about if he wished, Gardenia opened the door to the living room and lightly pressed a switch on the wall. At once, the room was filled with light, revealing a slightly minimalist but none the less stylish and sophisticated décor. At the center was a black couch, and placed before that was a small, dark, low table. With surprising and almost comical agility, Gardenia hopped on one foot towards the couch before dropping herself onto it. She examined the injured foot, frowning, before taking action quickly. With one swift movement, she took hold of the edge of the glass shard and pulled it out of her foot. Her expression twitched but she showed no sign of pain otherwise. Stitches, indeed.

She slipped her feet into a pair of black slippers before rising elegantly up off the couch. Her gaze swiftly grazed the room, before lighting up with glee. She strolled over to the mantelpiece, and removed the ornamental letter-opener which sat atop of it. It had been a gift from her parents on one of her birthdays. It was slim and easy to conceal, the tip extremely sharp. Alexander had still not entered the room. Holding the weapon behind her back, she approached the couch and slid it underneath one of the seats. Let him try and threaten me in my own home, now.

Still in considerable pain, she walked with perfect ease towards her stereo CD player, feeling the need for a relaxing piece of music. It was her house and Alexander couldn’t object to a calming backdrop. She selected a CD and slotted it into the player, before selecting her favourite track. Music was one of Gardenia’s favourite indulgences. Some might have even called her collection extravagant, but she liked to see herself as a supporter of art. However, although she would never admit it, music actually helped her to connect with her soul.

She placed herself neatly on the couch, feeling smug and reassured by the weapon near at hand. She leaned her dark head back against the couch, aware of Alexander’s presence in the house, but feeling infinitely superior when considering the possibility of another skirmish. All she had left to do now was wait.

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: June 26th, 2011, 10:51 am 
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[It's been ages since I did a narrative for Alexander. :teehee: So, carrying on from HERE, here we go again. :P
Note: It's a bit lengthy. Do feel free to ignore it... otherwise, there's some headache tablets over there *points* good luck, soldier. :P]


ELEVEN MONTHS AGO


Innumerable times, in the darkest of days, Alexander had thought of all the things he'd never see; he'd never imagined a sunset, so he'd never missed it. Now he knew it was a picture he'd paint in his memory every time he questioned what he was fighting for - he was fighting for wonder, for beauty, for freedom. Never would he let himself forget the wash of colours that held his attention, never would he let go of the captivity it held him in as he comprehended that which no-one in many generations had seen. Overwhelmed for so long at just the sight of the open sky, the ferocious, burning colours of the dying day were incredible to comprehend and impossible to articulate in words.

It had taken enormous willpower to drag himself away from the wonders of the outside world and drag himself inside the shadowy cave so he might sleep to recover his strength. Sleep didn't want to come and would not be coaxed easily; hours he spent chasing it, eyes fluttering shut for only minutes or an hour at a time only to open once more. Eventually, as dawn broke Alexander gave up and stood, a stark silhouette in the mouth of the cave against the pale morning sky, and breathed. Just breathed. There was nothing he could have desired more than to stay out in the warmth, feel the gentle breeze teasing his exposed arms and face, follow the abandoned road until he found himself amid the city, a city of ghosts. Already steeled for the actions he'd have to take in order to make his residence on the surface permanent, Alexander didn't let himself consider staying even a moment longer than he planned. Now was the time to strike back, when his enemy was unsuspecting; every day he waited there was a greater chance that they'd make this discovery themselves, a greater chance he'd decide against his mission because it was so impossible, likely even suicidal. Combat-ready and filled with new reasons to live, to fight, Alexander felt stronger than ever, despite his ragged, dishevelled appearance. Now there would be nothing to hold him back, nothing to stop him; he'd be a ghost in the shadows, a knife in the dark. He would be invisible because his existence was ridiculous: the enemy's close-mindedness would shield him from their very eyes. At last he saw a way to use all of their flaws against them, to find holes in their reign so that he might put a stop to it.

Hardly daring to hope for the future, Alexander readied himself.

Bones of corpses picked clean by wild things that lived in the distant trees left only frayed remains of fabric behind and, many years ago when the atmosphere was still dangerously toxic, any corrodible material had long since been attacked by the corrosive gases. The old elevator shaft of the mine - for that's what it was - was decrepit and dangerous; the Government down below knew this, but why should it concern them if the prisoner they were executing died of asphyxiation or fell to his death? It wasn't of consequence, just so long as society was rid of them.
The shaft was narrow but steep, the only features of it protruding metal from the walls which had, many, many years ago, been used to support the men who mined the valuable materials that had littered the mines. Precious metals, mostly, Alexander knew: it had been a blessing in his career because the caverns that encased the city were so rich in metallic minerals that the electrical parts he needed to manufacture or have manufactured for his work were in abundant supply. Honourable men, he hoped, had mined those metals before corruption had polluted the atmosphere then the underground city, and one day honourable men might return to finish the job their ancestors started.

The metal scaffolding built into the stone was climbable, though the task would doubtless be a dangerous one. Risky, Alexander mused, but necessary. Without any way of measuring the passage of time, Alexander was left in the dark as to how long he'd been clinging to the metal supports and slowly making his way downwards; the only thing he'd been able to do was light a torch made of a few scraps of cloth and hang it above the entrance to the shaft. It would burn for a few hours, though by the time it had burned itself out he figured he would either be out of sight of it or he would have fallen to his death.

The latter seemed more likely every minute. Sweat made his numb, and likely bruised, fingers slip, the exertion made him gasp for breath but the prolonged exposure to the darkness had heightened his senses; he could hear the very slight trickle of water somewhere to his left and feel the supports creak ominously, though quietly, underneath his weight. What seemed like years might have been hours or days, Alexander had no way of knowing: he measures time in heartbeats, in breaths and in the distance he covered and he descended. Blood now mingled with the sweat covering his palms making them sticky as well as slippery; the further down he climbed, the more difficult the going became.

When, at last, the wandering foot he tentatively reached downwards collided with the frame of the elevator. Startled by the impact, Alexander found himself unbalanced and before he could reaffirm his grip he tumbled backwards and was caught, luckily, by the still sturdy floor of the elevator. Having had the wind knocked out of him by the fall, Alexander spent minutes simply gaining his breath back and hoping to whichever gods were listening that no-one had heard his less than subtle landing. Even when he'd recovered his breath and his nerve there were no warning footsteps, no loud calls to arms or alarms. It looked, just then at least, as if he had passed back into the city unnoticed. Unsure whether to feel elation or despair, Alexander stood tall and looked through the translucent doors and comprehended the room in which he'd heard a man read aloud the warrant for his execution. A kind of glee filled him at the thought of that day and those men and women - curse the pale, green-eyed demon who did nothing to save him - who thought they'd been sending a man to his death. A laugh escaped him, for it was amusing to him that in trying to send him to his death, they'd helped him towards his rebirth.

As the elevator itself was simply a platform on a pulley system, it had no doors. Instead there were several doors set into the thick walls of the room beyond to protect it from the poison that floated - had floated, Alexander corrected himself - on the air from above. Beyond the first set of doors was another pair, visibly reinforced this time, forming a small square chamber between the two so that only one pair of the doors might be opened at once to save the occupants of the room from the fate they made their victims endure. The pair adjacent the elevator itself were the trickiest to open, mainly because the doors had purposefully been made out of a heavy material, with a pane of glass set into it so that the traitor's face might be see by the witnesses, so that it was impossible for the weary, weak and starving prisoners to break out of their bindings and through the door with sheer brute force. None would have the time to think of a strategic way to break through the door, which is what Alexander set about doing immediately, making sure he was always out of view of the window so he wasn't seen by anyone who happened to walk into the room - should that happen at all.

Smashing the glass and undoing the lock, though it was the easiest way to get through the door, was also the most obvious. It meant that the next people through the door would be able to guess that someone had made it back from the surface and would send someone to investigate. They'd find the bones of their traitorous forefathers but they wouldn't find his body and, if the investigator lived to tell the tale, he'd be able to report that Alexander was in fact alive and well and, most importantly, in the city. It couldn't come to that.

Instead, he set about looking for pressure points on the door. The hinges were solid, so no luck there, but the lock was old and despite the lack of handle he might, undo and open it without too much difficulty.
The hardest part was finding an object suitable for the task; it ought to be a slim, smooth instrument, no longer than a man's finger, bent in the middle but sturdy and flexible. It wasn't ideal but as a substitute he found two fragments of wood; as he worked at the lock he concentrated hard - not just at the task at hand but also hoping that the fragments would hold out long enough for the lock to spring open. As it happened, simultaneously the lock clicked open and the wooden fragments snapped. He guess that wouldn't be too much of a problem; they'd broken as he was trying to pull them out so it was probable that when the correct key entered the lock the pieces would be pushed out of the other side of the lock.

Pushing the door open cautiously, Alexander made his way into the square chamber facing the clear glass pane that covered one entire wall, its flawless surface broken only by the contours of the door set into it. The door closed behind him and, as he suspected, locked with another loud click, this one somehow sadder than the last. Turning to face the blank sheet of rock that was all he could see behind the window of the heavily fortified door, Alexander felt something akin to melancholy wash through him and knew he'd remember that moment as the one in which sacrificed his own certain freedom for the sake of everyone else's. Unsure as to whether or not the future would make him regret that choice, Alexander pushed through the dark thoughts and unhooked the comparatively simple latch to the glass door and stepped into the room he'd stood in maybe a few days before.

There were no guards, he noticed first of all, but then he supposed that they weren't needed; Nylander wouldn't send men to guard the dead because it was a pointless exercise. The point was that the Governor's enemies didn't come back - why guard it if it didn't pose a threat?

True to this, Alexander met no-one in the dark passages. He walked as a man possessed, expression hard, cast in stone, eyes dark and glittering with the bitter rage that had destroyed better men. Every step he took was sure-footed and he didn't hesitate: his belief in facing his enemies head-on kept him moving without pause. Until he descended several floors downwards he met no-one, and the man he did meet wasn't facing him.

A Warden - he had the insignia sewn into his cuff. Young, perhaps twenty or so. A boy looking to prove himself a cruel, ruthless man and further himself in the world. Shaking his head, Alexander stepped forward and wrapped and arm around the boy's throat and squeezed, only long enough that he passed out. Dragging the unconscious kid over to a chair - one there fore decoration more than anything else, he presumed - and sitting him in it, Alexander left, knowing the kid would wake with nothing but a little amnesia and the thought that he'd fallen asleep on the job and the dread as he wondered whether or not anyone had discovered him.

The remaining floors were quiet and most Wardens were easily avoided; these front hallways, the ones adorned in all the wealth and finery of the upper classes, were deemed until for the Wardens and so their patrolling efforts were concentrated more on the roughly hewn stone passages that ran from the back of the building into the stone of the cavern that it rested against. Appreciative but wary all the same, Alexander made slow progress, pausing more frequently as he got to the lowest levels of the Tower at the slightest of noises.

It wasn't a quiet noise that made him stop before he reached the second floor, however, it was quiet the opposite. A man's voice, bellowing at the top of his lungs, outraged at some injustice that vexed him more because of the injury his pride suffered other than ought else. The closer Alexander crept, the more distinct the words became and the more interested he found himself. It would be ridiculous of him to think he could interfere but gathering that little bit of information, especially as he could not progress until the two had passed, wouldn't hurt.

“... and when you've quite finished giving out orders to my men, I'll see to it that you're reprimanded for your audacity! You make sure that -”

There were a few words that sounded as if they were being mumbled from where Alexander was sat; apparently, though, the soft voice was rather more coherent when heard at close-quarters because the male voice rose even louder to match the fury behind it as he began again.

“Have I not made myself clear? Forgive me,” the voice sneered. “I care not who you serve or why you continue to circumvent my authority but it will cease. Now. Unless you wish me to take further action.”

Peering around the corner and making sure he was well out of sight, Alexander watched the two figures: one tall, masculine and unrelenting, the other smaller, slighter and distinctly feminine. The woman had her back to him but the dark waves that fell just short of her shoulders were somehow familiar, here stance seemed to spark a distant memory, something he ought to remember but had forgotten. More murmuring brought his attention back to his present and he realised the voice belonged to the pale demon who watched the war but never fought. Suddenly rid of the urge to intervene, Alexander was filled with contempt and naught else; the woman deserved what ever the man gave her, though it irked him slightly that the unjust should be dolling out justice. The world needs to be put right, Alexander mused to himself. I swear, no matter how long it takes...

The oath evaporated as the sound of flesh impacting flesh rang throughout the corridors and a faint cry emanated from the young woman. For the first time, as the girl recoiled and touched hesitant fingers to the tingling skin where she'd been hit, Alexander got a clear look at the man's face. Commander Nicholas Darrington was a cold, proud man, definitely of military upbringing - and he'd been the head of the Wardens' Guild for nigh on seven years. He obeyed his superiors and ruled his inferiors without compassion or mercy; any who crossed him regretted it soon enough. Darrington yearned for nothing other than power, which was what he had been gaining when Alexander had been hauled in due to the charge of treason - and he'd gained it by sitting, like a good little lap dog, in Governor Nylander's pocket.

“A taste of all your insolence will earn you. Tread carefully, now.”

The Commander spat the last few words before stalking away and turning a corner - likely towards his office. Allowing himself to breath once more, Alexander let his gaze rest on the small feminine figure who turned her head only once, to glance in the direction Darrington had walked, before heading off on a course of her own which lead her away with a speed he wouldn't have thought her capable of; it wasn't what had attracted his attention, though, it was the picture her face had been. As the girl had looked over her shoulder, pale profile in sharp contrast to the dark tones of her hair, tears slid down her cheeks and she made no attempt to hide them. The expression she wore was one of vulnerability and utter fearfulness. Every single time he'd seen her before she'd looked uncomfortable even when simply beholding him; at times she'd seemed sad, sometimes frustrated, other times anxious, but never had she worn her feeling so freely as she did when no-one was looking.

Her gentle footfalls fell away quickly and he soon found himself able to continue, though he did so with more caution than before, onto the ground floor. Here he faced the greatest difficulty yet, for he knew that one of the reasons that the upper floors of the building weren't guarded so heavily was that the outside of the building was. The place was nigh impregnable, however, no-one ever mentioned anything about how hard it was to get out.

As it turned out, there were a few doors for serving staff on the ground floor behind the staircase, where it wouldn't be too much of an eyesore for the rich and the powerful, which remained unlocked - just in case. The only ones around were a couple of apprentices working quietly, obliviously in a room down a long, narrow corridor and the overweight head chef who dozed in a moth-eaten armchair set to one side, occasionally snoring loudly but peacefully.

Seeing the opportunity to snatch a uniform to cover his tattered and stained clothing, Alexander pulling the servant's garb off its hook and raced to a quieter space where he was sure he'd remain undiscovered. The room he ended up in was better than he could've asked for; he realised lately that it was likely the chef's sleeping quarters - he would be expected to remain on-site to cater to all those hard working officials who stayed in their offices past midnight, just in case they got peckish. The room was equipped with a small brass bedstead, a small chest for belongings upon which sat an empty wash basin and a jug and a wardrobe to contain the man's uniform. Changing quickly into the uniform he'd scavenged, Alexander felt better. After hesitating slightly, he checked the jug and found it filled with water. swallowing wondrous mouthfuls of the liquid, he allowed himself a small smile before filling the basin and ridding his skin of the dirt and blood it had accumulated during his incarceration.

Once he'd removed the evidence of his passage he headed for the exit. Before he reached it, movement to his left caught his eye and he found himself stood next to a man both familiar and unfamiliar.

The mirror cast dark shadows over his face and made him look as if her were stood amid an ethereal, gothic painting. His face was thinner than he remembered it, his jawline more prominent; there was something dark and bottomless in his eyes that made him uncomfortable to comprehend himself and he watched he saw that he'd changed irreversibly. There was no way he'd be able to change back into the complacent, headstrong person he'd been before, he was this now: a dark character flitting from shadow to shadow. The tips of his fingers grazed the cold skin of his doppelgänger's face and he realised that he lived a different life now. Who knew, maybe - just maybe - something good might come of his rebirth.

Exiting swiftly without looking back, Alexander found the cooler air bracing, it helped him to collect his thoughts. The streets he meandered through he knew well, it was all he'd known since he was a child, after all. As he walked he barely had to register where he was, the only thing he paid attention to were the soft noises of the night, to which he listened closely lest they conceal harmful entities just waiting to ruin all of his carefully laid plans. Since actually arriving back beneath the surface he'd not contemplated exactly what he planned to do once he got there. Now he stood where he did, in the very situation he'd both planned and dreaded to find himself in, he was taking himself to the sole place of comfort he could remember: home.

Where was home now? He was a ghost, and he knew ghosts didn't belong with the living. The thought only increased his sense of sadness and loss, the two emotions that weighed heaviest on him. If asked before, he would never had said he was a man who would dwell on the past or the value of material things, now he had the vague sense that he was an entirely different person, changed by that he'd seen on the surface, and this person he'd turned into was someone who was entirely alien to him.

The house he lived in, alone, was a small place tucked away on an old street with only a few occupants along the length of it. It had once been a family house but since he'd mostly lived there alone, the word had never quite suited in his eyes. Stood before the stone building he felt small, old and tired all at the same time; it was a swirl of emotion he was unused to but, nowadays, he was used to very little in life, if anything. Absently he stepped forward, climbing the steps with ease and lifting the latch on the door with the casual, practised finger.

A part of Alexander died a little when he saw the inside of the house. The walls had been whitewashed, all furniture removed, all evidence of him had been scrubbed from the place. He would have hazarded a guess that no matter how closely he looked, he wouldn't have even found a fibre that indicated someone had lived there. The only sign of recent activity were the scorch marks on the floorboards, the traces of controlled fires. Where melancholy had once been there was now only anger, and Alexander felt its power, its strength, course through him. Where doubt had once chipped away at his thoughts, there was now only solid resolve and steeled nerves. Where all mercy had once lived, there was only bitterness and a lust for justice and vengeance.

I'm a blade in the crowd, a knife in the dark.

As Alexander left the house, his expression surprisingly peaceful, he left everything he'd ever known about himself behind in the house where everything else of his had died in flames.

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: June 29th, 2011, 8:05 pm 
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(Darky, I kind of copied your idea and wrote a narrative for one of my charries ;) Apologies for the length, guys, but I had sudden inspiration and had to act on it :lol: It's about Gardenia, set six years before the present, on the night she first saw Lucius. I wrote it listening to Ludovico Einaudi's "Love is a mystery" =D)

Six years ago


Gardenia stood at the edge of the room, gracefully clutching a glass of champagne with one beautifully manicured hand. Although she was not in the center of things on this occasion, she was surrounded by a small cluster of people who appeared intently interested in what she had to say. One young man in particular was hanging on her every word, gazing into her ice blue eyes as if they held the secret of life itself. Gardenia, on the other hand, appeared cold and aloof as she made some dryly amusing comment, lacing it with a small laugh. The people around her, who were all young and liked to think of themselves as academics, immediately laughed too. Gardenia was only twenty years old but she was an incredibly intelligent young woman; she had been given the very best education, and she had a sharp mind. Her intellect drew people to her, as did her beauty.

She looked like a snow princess that night, clad in a beautifully cut sleeveless cream dress, with matching cream high heels tied with silk at the ankles. Her long, glossy black hair was left loose down her back, a gorgeous contrast to her flawlessly wintry skin. Her appearance demanded and seized attention. However, Gardenia was not a social butterfly, and did not feel inclined to mingle tonight, however important the event. She was content to stay in her little bubble and go no further (although the company didn’t exactly dazzle her), whilst her parents discussed grand matters with the other well-to-do guests.

Gardenia was well aware of the fact that Allegra Nylander was here tonight. She didn’t even need to look around to know this; something in the air made it obvious, and it wasn’t just the cigarette smoke drifting from the fireplace, where the woman herself was seated, smoking like a chimney and glittering like a star. Allegra was encircled by a thick ring of people, which explained the lack of space in, when empty of people, what would have been a fairly large lounge room. The youngsters surrounding Gardenia would not have been considered stimulating company for Allegra, although had they actually managed to reach her Lady Nylander would have been pleasant to them. As it was, they were happy to fawn over Gardenia instead.

“I wonder what she’s wearing,” one of the young women said, leaning forward. Gardenia’s lips stretched as if she was smiling, but her eyes remained cold. “They say that she has a gown studded with diamonds.”

“How thrilling,” Gardenia remarked. “I daresay she enjoys floating about in it for all to admire her.” She took a sip of champagne, and her devoted male admirer, who was named Alistair, laughed uncertainly. Gardenia handed him her glass, her expression flickering for one moment in a glare. She didn’t exactly relish being a substitute for the dazzling company of Allegra Nylander.

“Gardenia…” Alistair said, handing the glass to the girl fascinated by the diamond-studded gown in his turn. He hesitantly touched her arm. Gardenia glanced down at his hand calmly, her eyes flashing fire. “…may I speak with you alone? Perhaps?”

“Perhaps not,” she replied. “Perhaps never.”

Poor fool. Obviously in love with me. If Alistair had been a more compelling young man, she might have been tempted, but as it was, he was pathetically below her standards. As one of the immaculately dressed waiters passed by, Gardenia pulled her arm free and reached out to take another glass of champagne from the tray the man was carrying aloft.

She soon drifted away from the group, knowing that a few minutes later they would join the queue to catch a glimpse of Allegra; all apart from Alistair, of course, who would probably run off to cry somewhere. Gardenia didn’t care if he threw himself out of a window; the act would rid her of a particularly boring acquaintance.

She withdrew towards the bay windows, sipping champagne and looking out onto the street. She felt immensely bored. Whilst she enjoyed the champagne, she was largely disappointed by the evening. Her parents liked to bring her to these kind of events, but she wished they wouldn’t. She wasn’t sure that she could pinpoint exactly why. If she was honest, she really hoped for too much. What Gardenia would have loved would be to find a man here tonight that she could really call her equal, someone who’s intellect and style matched hers. But boring event after boring event, she never found him. Perhaps he was an impossible dream.

As her mind lingered gloomily on this thought, the doors of the lounge were suddenly thrown open wide, and there was a small hush. Gardenia lifted her head and caught sight of the tall, imposing-looking man accompanied by a small entourage. Quite suddenly, her breath caught in her throat, making her feel as if the oxygen was slowly draining from her lungs.

She watched in silence as the room slowly became a little less cramped, as people made way for the dark-haired man who strode in, looking at everyone with a detached, cold interest. He was dressed in dark shades. Bizarrely, Gardenia instantly found herself wishing to be dressed in black, to appear arresting like him. Cream gave the impression that you invited friendship; black threw such ideas to the lions.

Her gaze followed him around the room as he stopped here and there, exchanging small conversations with guests. Who was he? Gardenia’s legs moved without her permission as she set off in pursuit of her parents.

She found her father enjoying a glass of brandy on the other side of the room, inspecting a book that looked too old to be read. Gardenia waited impatiently for him to notice her, before he suddenly looked up with a surprised smile.

“Gardenia! My darling, how lovely you came to find me,” he said. Gardenia inwardly seethed with impatience. Her parents’ affection for her was useful when it came to getting what she wanted, but also incredibly annoying.

“I’m afraid I have an ulterior motive for seeking you out, father,” Gardenia replied, crisply, before kissing his cheek.

“You always do. I know very well I’m of no real interest to you, my dearest,” her father remarked fondly. His light-hearted comment was truer than he knew. “What can I do for you?”

“The man who just walked into the room.” Gardenia went straight to the point. “Who is he?”

Her father’s eyebrows raised in fond shock. “Well, I know you had a sheltered upbringing, Gardenia, but I never imagined you’d find yourself not recognizing one of the governors. Lucius Nylander,” he replied. Gardenia’s heart gave a wild leap as he spoke. She knew the name but she had never been able to place a face to it. “But of course, how could you know what he looks like? Not a very social man, Nylander, not like his sister. Not like his sister at all.” He laughed. “Brilliant mind though, brilliant man. You saw him, then?”

“Of course I saw him,” Gardenia said impatiently. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be asking. Father, do you know him?”

“Yes, yes,” her father answered, slightly distantly, as he glanced back towards his book. “Good god, Gardenia, can you imagine how old this book is? No, take a guess, really! Can you possibly imagine how it was salvaged? Dear goodness, how the book keepers do beaver away, and it’s all for our good, might I add! Enhancing our knowledge of ancient literature…”

Gardenia didn’t catch the rest of his speech, as she had already slunk back into the crowd, to catch a better glimpse of the man she now knew was Lucius Nylander. She observed him from a distance, taking note of the way he stood, the way he carried himself. She didn’t stand close enough to hear any of his conversations, but she was near enough to get a proper look at him. All the while as she did this, she pretended to converse with people, laugh at jokes, and make sarcastic gags of her own. Her attention wasn’t fully committed to it though. She felt as if she had been stolen away, as if she was no longer her own. Gardenia looked upon Lucius with the devoted ardor of an unworthy worshipper directed towards a god who didn’t even know that she existed.

Unworthy? Something in Gardenia’s expression flinched as the word flew through her head. Unworthy…? What made her beneath him? Beneath being good enough? Nothing, surely, apart from the fact that she was not allowed to approach him, to speak to him. She had no station, no standing apart from the grandeur of her parents’ existence. Other than that, she was surely in every a worthy person for him to know. Lucius was, in one manner of looking at things, lucky to have won Gardenia’s regard so quickly, and without even being aware of the fact.

There must be a way. Surely. There must be a way.

Gardenia had been on the edge of becoming panicked, before her mind quickly clicked like a well-oiled machine, the cogs falling into place with perfect timing. There can be a way. To receive a governor’s attention, one had to work for him. One had to be trusted by him. Being the daughter of Lucius’s acquaintances simply wasn’t good enough. No.

Sipping a small measure of champagne, Gardenia continued to watch Lucius. Ten minutes passed before there was a small disturbance in the room. It seemed that Allegra Nylander wanted to vacate her position by the fireplace. The guests parted respectfully, and the blonde goddess herself strolled cheerfully through the throng, exhaling smoke like a dragon. Gardenia’s attention was stolen from Lucius in that moment, as she looked at the beautiful Allegra with more than a touch of dislike. It wasn’t long, however, before brother and sister were united. Allegra touched Lucius’s arm and spoke laughingly to him, receiving a polite smile in return. The two exchanged a few words, before Allegra laughed with even more radiance, and moved away, leaving him behind looking more than slightly outshone.

There were more than a few whispers exchanged that night, comparing the two siblings, though thankfully none of them reached the governor’s ear.

Gardenia’s hand started to shake, so visibly that she had to put her glass down. She looked at Lucius from a distance with a full heart. From this evening on, he came first with her. She was twenty years old the first time she ever saw him, and throughout the years, she nursed a dangerous obsession for him that continued to kindle like a fire. Men came and men went, but her fixation for Lucius never altered or faded.

Twenty and besotted, Gardenia considered that never in a thousand years would her feelings change. She believed that there would never be another man for her. But six years along the line, that would change. It would take her a while to see it, but the man who would one day have rightful ownership of her heart was not Lucius Nylander. No. He wasn’t a man with a title and power. He was the least likely man in the world.

But that night, the night of the party as Allegra left and Gardenia looked at Lucius with her hands shaking, she did not know this. All she knew was that she wanted possession of Governor Nylander, and she meant to have it, whatever the cost.

_________________
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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: July 27th, 2011, 9:55 am 
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[ Sorry for the long wait guys, but here's my post.. finally. ]

Somehow, even before Lilly had darted towards Adrianna, Dylan sensed that Adrianna spoke the truth. Whether it was his intuition, that usually told him if a person's word was true and his intention genuine, or perhaps the fact that not even Adrianna could harm a girl like Lilly, it didn’t matter at that point. It did offer Dylan more clarity on Adrianna’s character. Earlier when he had waited in the dead of the night for his arrest, shivering from the cold under that bridge, or when he’d not been able to sleep in his damp cell, he had wondered why the brunette had ever consented to help him. She obviously had considerable power, judging from the fact she was able to give order to the Warden’s and sabotage the Tower’s security system, but then, she was also just a puppet of Nylander and like the complete city she was dependant of the whims of this ruthless man. So why would Adrianna have been tempted to help him? He was only a common criminal in her eyes, a traitor to the system. Helping him would jeopardize her career or even her life.. Now with Lilly’s proclamation another thought occurred to him; Adrianna had not offered help out of any selflessness but it had been done out of remorse of her past wrong-doings. Obviously had she been confronted with the amorality of her life and actions and had her conscious not allowed her to be responsible for the ruin or end of another life.

Dylan’s grey eyes flickered to Allegra. He noticed her restlessness; her frustration. Like an angry swan with ruffled feathers, she glared from Adrianna to Dylan, now and then it seemed like she was about to say something, but she remained silent, even though it seemed like she was about to explode with vexation. A hushed whisper in his ear seemed to confirm this as the woman expressed her anger about remaining uninformed.
Dylan turned to look at her. He inhaled her sweet perfume and had to suppress a grin at the thought that nothing about this woman’s character was sweet. She needed to be in control of the situation in order to exert her power. In that aspect the blonde did not differ that much from her younger adversary.
‘For some details to be revealed the right place and the right moment is required,’ Dylan spoke calmly as he looked at Allegra thoughtfully, as if almost disappointed by her rash conduct. ‘I don’t think that now is either the right place or the right time.’

As Allegra explained in only a few words to Lilly that she had to come with them, Dylan nodded his head and walked over to the pregnant woman and he put his arm around her shoulder, noticing that she was shivering. Allegra was right about not sending her home by herself. Lilly could have been spotted, wandering the streets in the dark, and being Dylan’s regularly visited patient, she was bound to be interrogated. Aside from being a good acquaintance of an escaped detainee, she was also to be single mother, unwanted by the government, and therefore doubtlessly already condemned. Lilly’s eyes were wide with confusion and Dylan saw how panic seemed to overwhelm her. Tightening the grip around her shoulder to offer her support, Dylan said softly: “Don’t be afraid.. Everything will be alright. Allegra is a good person, someone you can trust.” He gave her arm a soft squeeze and looked past Lilly’s red curls to Allegra, who had linked her arm into that of Adrianna, a rigid look lay on her face. “As soon as we’re at her house I will explain what’s going on, but you don’t need to panic okay?”

He’d seen enough women going into preterm labour because of anxiety or stress. That couldn’t happen to Lilly. Secretly, he felt somewhat relieved that the cheerful redhead would come with them. His affection for this girl, whom he almost considered as his sister, had grown over time and he didn’t want to see any harm come to her. If she would stay at Allegra’s he could watch over her for a while, make sure that she was alright. But, a little voice in the back of his head whispered, wouldn’t she be much better off being as far away from him as was possible? They would search every house in the city to find him, put a price on his head.. So was he keeping her out of harm’s way or consciously putting her life in danger?

--------------------------------

Lilly reluctantly let go of Adrianna’s hand. A flicker of fear shone in her eyes when Allegra announced that she was to come with them. She looked questioningly at Adrianna, but her face remained blank. What was going on? Was doctor Whittaker in danger? Was she in danger?
She felt the doctor’s arm embrace her shoulder but somehow she had the urge to resist, to shake off his arm and just go home, but her feet could not move. Waves of panic overwhelmed her slowly but steadily, like a toxic it spread through her body, as she fully realised what not going home meant. “I.. I can’t” she stammered weakly, somehow not able to form the words she wanted to use. “I have to- .. my work. If I won’t show up they’ll fire me.. I..I..”
Dylan’s soft words silenced her desperate pleas. His reassurances did soothe her worst panic and slowly she let him guide her further down the maze of streets. Lilly trusted him without hesitation; Dylan was the only real friend she had. He had always helped and would never to anything to harm her.. But still a lingering fear remained. The fear of not being able to return home, the fear of being unemployed, the fear of not having the resources to care for her baby.

Silently Lilly looked over her shoulder and watched how Adrianna broke loose from Allegra’s grip and hissed something inaudible to the gracious woman. Although both their demeanour seemed calm, their contempt towards one another was very clear. Adrianna’s fiery expression showed as much hatred as Allegra’s glance which seemed as cold as ice. Quickly the redhead turned her head again, not wanting to give the impression she was listening to their conversation and focused on the dark street ahead of her. She tried not to look up to the dark Tower and tried as hard to ignore its looming presence as the strange feeling of foreboding that she’d felt the entire night.

_________________


O children, lift up your voice, lift up your voice,
Children, rejoice, rejoice..

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It doesn't matter you don't believe in God, He believes in you.


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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: July 27th, 2011, 2:23 pm 
Maia
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(Brilliant post, Will! =D)

As Adrianna jolted her, Allegra kept on walking, tightening her grip around the younger woman’s arm. A dangerous look sparked in her grey-blue eyes when Adrianna hissed at her with malice that Allegra had never before heard in her usually soft-spoken voice. The girl was panicking, quite clearly, and so she should. She wasn’t in her safe little bubble anymore, guarded by her master, Allegra’s brother. Couldn’t the girl grasp that sooner or later she’d have to face up to her appalling actions? Didn’t she understand the concept of responsibility?

“Oh, that’s very interesting,” Allegra whispered so that only Adrianna could hear her, keeping her pace steady. Delay was not acceptable in this situation; they needed to get away from the streets, and most importantly, as far away from the Tower as possible. Allegra’s home wasn’t too far away, but it was enough of a distance to make Allegra concerned about their safety. “You think that you don’t owe anyone anything?” Her tone was low and stolid, but it carried a perilous edge. Her clutch on Adrianna’s arm became an iron hold, making it impossible for the girl to break free.

“You owe far, far more than you know to so many people,” she continued, swiftly turning a corner that led them down another narrow walkway. She wasn’t taking her usual route back home; this way was quicker and safer. Her voice was as soft as feathers and yet simultaneously hard as iron. Adrianna’s declaration that she owed nothing angered Allegra more than she would ever show. She felt like taking the girl by her stupid, skinny shoulders and shaking some good old-fashioned sense into her. She wanted to strike her across the face, slap a piece of reality into her silly head. Over the years, Allegra had seen so many people’s lives destroyed, and it broke her heart that she had been unable to help them.

Eight years ago, two people Allegra had been honored to know had simply disappeared one night. The Smiths had been teachers who wanted above all to teach the children in their care the truth about the world they lived in, and also the one above theirs that they had never known. They’d wished to give the children hope and a wish to change the status quo. Allegra had been twenty, and had very recently received her inheritance. Having heard of the Smiths’ difficulty in purchasing books and other teaching material, she had done what she could to help them. During their short acquaintance, Allegra had been unable to help herself becoming fond of them. But one morning, Allegra had woken up to the news that they had both disappeared, leaving a fifteen-year-old daughter. Everyone knew what that meant. They had been killed.

The pattern had repeated itself as the years passed by. Too often had Allegra heard of deaths concealed as disappearances. Too long had she struggled against her brother’s unshakeable power. The pain she felt inside was one of the driving forces of her determination to bring Lucius and his control down; Allegra had slowly built up her own power, gaining knowledge through an intricate network of spies and moles placed strategically in every section of the city. And she had engineered escapes like Dylan’s before, but usually with more planning. She had helped people to become ghosts, finding them safe housing and shelter. Even though there were many cases she had been powerless to change, there were even more cases that it had been within her power to give aid.

But still, this pain inside. If Allegra felt it with such a sting, then who on earth was Adrianna, a pawn of Lucius’s, whose job it was to destroy innocent people, to say to her with such conviction that she owed nothing?

“You listen to me, and you listen well.” Allegra turned her gaze towards Adrianna, her tone revealing none of her inward fury. Adrianna’s little hissy fit was nothing compared to the depth of Allegra’s settling of scores, and they both knew it. “And don’t you so much as dare to throw another tantrum because believe me, such displays will get you nowhere. Do you know what you are, Adrianna? You are vermin. You’re worse than vermin, you are an infection.” Her words could only be heard by Adrianna, so quiet was Allegra’s whisper. She leaned closer towards the other woman as they turned another corner, onto a wider, more sophisticated-looking street, lined with elegant houses.

“How many people have you watched die as you stood back? How many have you sent to their deaths? You, everything about you, makes me sick to my stomach. You’ve done so much hurt and caused so much damage throughout your career and yet you refuse to accept the price and the blame. You deserve retribution, child. I wonder… there are some names familiar to me, I wonder if they are familiar to you too? Brian and Emma Wellsby – disappeared. Gordon Lane – disappeared. Angelina White – found beaten to death. William Cave, disappeared, Melinda Aske, disappeared, Luciana Rivers, imprisoned and found dead in her cell… oh, there are so many more.”

Allegra finally released Adrianna’s arm, looking away from her as if she could not bear to touch her any longer. “You obey Lucius’s orders, day after day. Even if the murder is not committed by your own hand it still taints you. You believe that you’re not responsible? Well, you are.”

She continued walking, glancing momentarily over her shoulder towards Dylan and Lilly. Although she did not know it, a faint smile formed on her lips as she looked at them, before she turned her gaze back towards the street. Dylan and Lilly's presence were comforting factors to her. Deciding that it wasn’t sensible to let Adrianna flounder and perhaps escape, she took her arm again, less tightly this time. The list of names she had reeled off had left her feeling physically sick, and the girl beside her sickened her even more.

~~~

After they had left behind several streets, Allegra’s home finally came into view. They had formed back into one group again, instead of remaining divided into twos. Allegra’s house was a breathtakingly beautiful sight, but it did not seem to move Allegra as the beautifully crafted black iron gate was opened for them by the trusted guard, who was on night watch. He was paid by Allegra, and so he was loyal to no one else; they could all be sure that he’d not breathe a word about Lady Nylander’s peculiar guests. He also nurtured a personal hatred of Lucius Nylander; Allegra had not yet discovered the reason, but whatever it was, it made employing and trusting the man perfectly safe.

Allegra led the way up the path, removing her house keys from her handbag and fitting them in the lock. She entered the house quietly, holding the door open for Adrianna, Dylan and Lilly. Once they were all inside, she closed the door and locked it, before securing two bolts.

It was dark in the wide hallway. Allegra pressed on a light, revealing a stunning interior. The walls were painted white, and the floorboards were light and polished, making the long, sweeping staircase leading to the upper floors the center of attention. If the guests raised their heads, they could see a large, arched stained glass window on the landing above the staircase, glittering under the lights.

Allegra removed her fur shrug and put down her handbag, pressing another row of lights, which lit the way into the living room, which sat on the left side of the entrance hall. “Make yourselves comfortable,” she said generally, hoping that Dylan and Lilly didn’t feel uncomfortable. The grandeur of her home embarrassed her slightly; she wanted them to feel at ease, equal. If she’d had the choice, she would be living in an apartment, far more suitable for just one person, but upon getting her inheritance her father had insisted that she take up residence in a house befitting her “rank”.

One of the things she liked about her home, though, was that it intimidated Lucius whenever he was forced to visit; not that he showed it, but she knew him inside out.

Allegra led the way into the living room. Facing each other in front of the ornate mantelpiece were two comfortable-looking velvet couches.

“Please, do sit down,” Allegra said. She glanced towards Lilly, before moving towards her, gently touching the young woman’s arm. “You must be tired, Lilly; you especially should take some rest.” She guided the pregnant woman towards one of the couches, helping her sit with care and gentleness that seemed more suited to a nurse rather than a bejeweled lady. Allegra herself did not sit, instead pausing by the mantelpiece, her eyes resting on Adrianna and Dylan.

“By the way,” she addressed Dylan, “don’t worry about the guard at the gate. He can be trusted, and will not say a word.” The confidence of this statement allowed no dispute. She watched the doctor and Adrianna, her eyes thoughtful. She did not regret what she had said to Adrianna. But she needed to know the source of her acquaintance with Dylan; however, she did not say another word about it, knowing that patience would invite an explanation more than aggravation.

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: August 3rd, 2011, 11:28 am 
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Dylan looked at Lilly with a look that contained a mixture of pity and worry. The world in which the young red-haired woman lived, must have been so ungrateful, so insecure; dictated by some rich family, which thought themselves to be of elevated rank and despised the girl for what she was. The fact that she seemed all alone in this world made her vulnerable and dependant. It made her an easy prey for those who had more power, more wealth and more opportunities. Dylan had always tried to fight the inequality that had become an accepted aspect of life for many people. The unequal distribution of wealth and resources, the imbalance of power and the lack of political representation, so many had just gotten used to it, but not Dylan. Raised as an only child, his parents worked and saved almost their entire life to get him into Medical School. He could never forget the look of disappointment on their faces as when he told them that he would not apply for a job at one of the many Prodigus hospitals; renowned and specialised institutes which were only open to those with either money or power. Having a –well-paid- job there, would ensure any doctor of a successful career and a life without worries, which was only a dream to many but something his parents had wished to make reality for their son. Instead, Dylan accepted a job at a Communis hospital, which was not a satisfactory job as it bad badly and the working hours were long. There, the harsh reality was a painful aspect of the daily activities. The lack of supplies, lack of funding, the lack of doctors and a hell lot of misery eventually drove him to trespass the law in order to help the helpless. He had been inspired and he wanted to do something selfless, something stupid and suicidal. He had been inspired and he wanted to do something selfless, something stupid and suicidal. He had been inspired and he wanted to do something selfless, something stupid and suicidal. In the end it happened to be not that stupid but all the more suicidal after all.

“I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I do know that you will not be alone.” Dylan said in response to Lilly’s exclaimations. “I’ll be there and Allegra might be there as well. Trust me, it will be alright.. You’re going to call in sick tomorrow. But first you should rest..”
His hope of reassuring the shivering girl, whom he guided through streets that were now flanked by prestigious mansions, was overshadowed by his own dark thoughts. This was perhaps the last time he would walk these streets freely. The fact that he was not imprisoned by stone walls didn’t make him any more free. The thought that he couldn’t be seen live by anyone, not being able to go anywhere he wanted seemed almost unbearable. Only now he seemed to fully comprehend what it meant to leave everything he knew behind – for good. Not to tell those he loved that he was unhurt or to have a home ever again. Doing this without any remembrance of his past life, of where he was fighting for seemed impossible. His most valuable possession, which gave him courage and consolation in dark times and what he carried with him at all time, had he, ironically, left on the kitchen table, as he never brought it with him on one of his ‘tours’ . There seemed now, however, no possibility of returning to his house anymore. Perhaps it was for the better, he thought sadly. It was better not to look back. Much easier than to realise what he once had and what he had lost…

---------------------------------------------------------------

The roads became broader and were well-kept. Shabby flats made place for luxurious villa’s. Even though it was still dark and her eyes ached of tiredness, Lilly tried to take in every little detail of this so beautifully designed neighbourhood. Alongside he sidewalks were strips of artificial grass and a soft, dim light, other than neon, was spread by artistically looking street lanterns. The manors were lavishly decorated with stained glass windows or front doors of material which almost resembled real oak. She had never been in this part of the city, but its obvious grandeur overwhelmed and impressed her. She felt strangely safe, with the doctor’s arm around her, walking through this other world. Lilly tried to take Dylan’s advice and tried hard not to think about the next day, which at the present was not that hard as Allegra’s house came into sight. Allegra had joined them now and spoke a few words to the man who was seemingly guarded the entrance to her beautiful house. Only when Allegra opened the door for them and when Lilly staggered into the dark hallway, she actually felt how tired her legs were. The surplus of walking were now taking its toll as her back ached and the stinging pain in her side had not subsided yet.

When Allegra turned on the lights in the house Lilly couldn’t supress a sigh of delight. The hallway was most beautifully decorated and in such a way that it did not only show Allegra’s unimaginable wealth but also her refined taste for fashion. The house was not at all like that of her employers, the Grenci’s, which did have its share of rare art and expensive furniture to show off, but the house was uninviting and its atmosphere was cold. Lilly walked into the living, marvelling the splendour around her. “Your house.. it’s very beautiful,” she said breathlessly and she did not object when Allegra guided her towards one of the couches. As she sank in the soft cushions that were lying on the couch, she sighed with relief as her muscles could finally relax again. “Thank you,” she murmured softly before closing her eyes for a moment and enjoying safe environment of the house and that she was surrounded by people, whom she all considered to be her friends.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dylan quietly took in the beauty of Allegra’s house. It was modern, comfortable, fashionable and luxurious. It was provided with everything a person could wish for. Although Dylan had always known that many of his fellwo doctors, politicians, businessmen or others who’d obtained either wealth or status lived in abundance, it still stung that only earlier that day he’d been to neighbourhoods where there was a shortage of everything. Upon entering the living room Dylan had to admit that the rooms seemed warm and inviting, just like the owner of the house. His own house had been the opposite. Perhaps it was because he was hardly ever home; the hospital had been his home more than anything, or it was because his house had been furnished with only the most practical items, that once had known a woman’s touch. The place was simple and impersonal, but it had functioned as his home –sort of- for years...

In the well-lightened room his appearance seemed even more wretched. There was a nasty scratch near his temple from his fall and his face and t-shirt was covered with scarlet stains, filth and dust. Although his complexion was almost greyish and dark bruises marred his skin, the look on his face was that of grim determination.
Dylan did not sit down, not wishing to dirty Allegra’s beautiful couches and stood behind Lilly’s couch, facing Allegra. “Although I’m dying for some painkillers or something stronger, I think some things need some clarification first,” he said with a faint smile, knowing that he could let Allegra wait any longer for an explanation. “This woman intercepted me this evening when I was out in the city.” The doctor’s gaze met that of Adrianna’s and he realised that he didn’t even know her name. She had probably purposely concealed her identity for him for if he had been caught, they would have made sure that he would tell who his auxiliary was.
“She was sent to arrest me for, I believe it was theft or treason?” Those last nonchalant words were addressed to Adrianna, but in fact he did need an answer from her. “Although her motives or personal gain unknown to me, she decided to help me,” he continued, his gaze directed to Allegra. “With no other choice than to trust her, I was caught by the Wardens and brought to the Tower. There she again spoke with me in my cell about a plan she’d formed to help me escape from the Tower, while your brother was only to know that I was executed. Had you not stepped in to smuggle me out, then a similar plan might have executed by her only some hours later..”

For a moment Dylan remained silent. His headache seemed to prevent him from thinking clearly. When he thought of earlier that evening, when he’d met Adrianna on the square, it seemed like it had happened days ago.. How strange it was that this morning he’d still been doing rounds with patients as his only concern. And now he probably never would be doing any rounds anymore..

“The question remains,” Dylan finally said, turning to Adrianna with a thoughtful expression on his face, “on whose side are you?”

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: August 4th, 2011, 6:56 am 
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[Woot! :D I'll have my post up soon. :P]

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Last edited by Darkheart on August 4th, 2011, 8:30 am, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: August 6th, 2011, 6:37 pm 
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[WAHEY! Glad to see we're still definitely up and running! :D @ Goldy: I'll get Alexander up and about soon but I figured, for the centre plot to move forward, I'd get Adrianna into gear first. :D
FYI, I'm VERY EXCITED over here. Just sayin'. :tongue:]

Allegra's tirade, her show of concern and anger for people of the past, washed over Adrianna in continuous waves. No longer listening to the elder woman's ranting bitterness, the younger concentrated solely on what she might do to get her out of yet another sticky predicament. Escape was all she thought of, not of Allegra's iron grip, not the woman's scathing words. Her petty manipulations, both of her words and in general, meant nothing to Adrianna, who now saw not the fashionable woman of note by her side but a copy, a clone of the Governor in grey splendour. The panic and malice and anger she felt blurred into one, a great whirl of emotion that blinded her mind and rendered her almost unable to think coherently; the walk in the cold night was harsh rather than refreshing, the tug of the gentle breeze felt like harassment rather than a gentle caress and she felt more and more that with every step she took she was on her way to the gallows. The people she'd seen sentenced to death had shared one thing in common: the air they'd had about them, the tangible doom that clung to them as if Death himself waited just around the corner, his black shadows already worming their way into his victim's being. They had all walked as a person condemned, as one resigned to their fate, but none had taken it quietly. All had fought to the bitter end...

“How many people have you watched die as you stood back? How many have you sent to their deaths?”

The words were said with such passion, such intone of feeling that Adrianna looked away, no longer able to face the source of such abject hate. Unfortunately, Allegra hadn't finished: the names she spoke aloud, listed so coldly, matter-of-factly, tore any semblance of calm she'd managed to dredge up in two, for each name brought with it the swimming memory of their faces, words they'd uttered and, eventually, their unceremonious ends. Adrianna's face was mostly obscured by her hair and for that she was thankful: it meant the tear that slid down her pale cheek went entirely unnoticed and, therefore, without comment. She had no wish to be mocked for the blatant show of all-too-human emotion.

She remembered them all, some more than others. Angelina White, twenty-seven, had an audacious tongue and a fiery spirit. She'd gotten herself into a heated debate with a Warden who had denounced her status because she was a woman. Angelina had taken none of his nonsense, she struck back with cutting retorts, perfectly sculpted sarcasm and devastating insults. For that he had struck her, in front of the crowd who had stood wide-eyed and watched; the Warden hadn't been ashamed of his actions but he might've regretted them/; Angelina had been tall and athletic and had very nearly won the fight that caused her death. The Warden she'd fought had been discharged by his superiors who regarded him with disgust because he had allowed himself to be beaten by a woman of inferior status to him. Adrianna hadn't seen the proceedings but she'd seen her face and filed the report, just as she had a thousand times before.

William Cave spoke out against inequality among socialites but refused to be silenced, so he was removed by other means. Melinda Aske had posed questions that cast the Governors in an uncomfortable light, so she vanished. Gordon Lake had been different, an agent inside the government had recommended him for a particular task because of his trade. When he'd refused, well... he was of no use to them any more. Luciana Rivers had taken no action against the Governors themselves but had had the misfortune to be engaged to a man who had. Instead of being directly punished, the man had seen his beloved whisked away in the middle of the night to be locked away. For a short while he protested loudly, denouncing the government, but his agony only deepened when the news reached him of the “discovery” her captors had made, that she'd died in her cell. Tortured over the responsibility for her death, Gordon turned to suicide, the only option he thought he had left.

The image of Emma Wellsby hadn't left Adrianna's mind for months after their deaths: Emma's tear-streaked face, vivid blue eyes and the plea she'd made for hers and her husband's life. For their child who would grow up an orphan. Please! We did nothing to deserve this, please Won't you help?

Tainted, yes, that's how she felt: every death she'd seen had coloured her and with every day that went by she felt as though she were painted in greys and blacks, the only sharp colour being the ribbons of red interwoven with the shadowy shades. Her mask might disguise that for a while but it lay all but destroyed at her feet; no-one here believed she was anything other than the Governor's pet, an obedient and equally guilty servant. There was no way of escaping that unless she could change their opinions and that, she was sure, she would never be able to achieve with Allegra.

The huge gate that opened before them stood as tall and imposing as Allegra herself but it wasn't that which garnered her attention: the man at the gate watched her with a dark look in his eye, something like hatred. Unsure of herself in light of the intense negativity she'd received from a stranger, Adrianna increased her pace a little as to be out of his sight more quickly. Was it not enough that she endure the scrutiny of Allegra and the doctor?

Once or twice she'd accompanied Lucius to Allegra's home, a visit she announced to be most odd considering that neither had been invited. Of course Nylander cared not for the inconvenience on his sister's part, he simply went about his business as he pleased; in fact, if his day-to-day goings on disturbed Allegra's day, all the more reason to intervene. The house held no wonder for Adrianna as it had then: she'd marvelled at the tall ceilings, the intricacy of the decorations, the taste and thought that had gone into adorning the place. Now it was sickening, a reminder of the woman who lived their and the family she belonged to. It symbolised everything hateful and her life, everything that preyed upon her insecurities and weaknesses. The interior was large yet she felt a little claustrophobic for she knew that this, for the time being at least, would be her cage, one she would be confined to until Allegra deigned to let her go. It was a far cry from her own home, small as it was, and she knew which she'd choose in a heartbeat. Her family's home meant warmth, comfort, safety and, if she was lucky, company - Cameron might be around a while, or Garnet might visit. The urge to back away and press her back against one of the white, spotless walls was overriding most of her other instincts, for now she thought firmly of self preservation, mostly because she was sure that, now in the comfort of her own home, Allegra would be setting traps and waiting for Adrianna to step, unwittingly, into them.

Allegra's passing comments went ignored by Adrianna, who purposefully stood a little further away from the others than she might have ordinarily, for she had no wish to make herself at home or sit down. She would stand, perhaps not with pride but with with enough composure that she would be able to undergo their questions without cracking visibly. Her feet were a shoulder's width apart and she'd wrapped her arms around herself tightly in what could have been construed as a defensive stance. As she hugged herself her eyes darted about the room, picking out details about anything other than the three figures in the room, searching for a distraction. Her chin was tilted upwards just slightly, a sign she still held something within her, something that allowed her to persevere without breaking even though she felt that each breath she took was a struggle, as if something weighed on her chest.

“This woman intercepted me this evening while I was out in the city.” Dylan's eye met Adrianna's for mere seconds but though she gazed back, she shied away from the possibility any wordless communication, for at present she had nothing to say to the doctor, malicious or otherwise, and she had no wish to drag out the proceedings any longer than was absolutely necessary.

“... Although her motives or personal gain unknown to me, she decided to help me. With no other choice than to trust her, I was caught by the Wardens and brought to the Tower...”

Adrianna mulled over the words silently, ensuring that she voiced no opinion on the matter and that her expression didn't so much as flicker. It seemed like seconds before Dylan turned and directed his question to her: she should have expected it, should have been prepared. She wasn't. How do you answer a question you've asked yourself countless times with no answer? Perhaps she was to spend her life searching for the answer to that question. The answer was that there was no answer because it was a choice, one she believed, incorrectly, that she couldn't make. Maybe she wasn't as much an expert in lies and deception as Allegra but she had still managed to lie to herself enough to make the illusion of no responsibility become the reality she believed in. Should that fallacy break down, she would have to accept the guilt and shame and the weight of the dead, none of which she wanted to face. Allegra was such a threat to her because Allegra was aware of this fact and seemed to have made it her personal mission to destroy any comfort Adrianna took in the “realities” she almost unknowingly created for herself.

“The question remains,” Dylan continued, his attention on Adrianna, his expression pensive, “on whose side are you?”

Immediately Adrianna opened her mouth to answer, however, before the words came she hesitated and so closed it again. her thoughts rushed around in circles as she attempted to find her reasons, her rationalisations, words enough to convince those around her that she wasn't the enemy but she couldn't call herself a friend.

“I...” still hesitant, Adrianna's soft voice didn't sound fragile so much as uncertain. “That's not an easy question to answer.”

Adjusting her weight distribution without moving from the spot she was in, Adrianna hugged herself more tightly and tried to make herself believe that she had a chance of convincing these people that she was telling the truth.

“I work for them, but I share none of their glory, none of their satisfaction. I don't share their ideals, I'm not one of them... but,” her eyes swept the floor and she bit her lip as she paused, doubting that the reception of her words would be at all favourable. “I don't think I could call myself your ally.”

The words she said slowly and carefully, the only intoned feeling one of muted sadness. Reassuring herself that obedience wasn't the same as loyalty, hoping that her servitude did not mean she was on the Governor's side, Adrianna looked up again and briefly met the doctor's searching gaze. Her frown belied her troubled thoughts; doubtless a fuller explanation would be demanded of her but she wasn't sure she could give it. How was she to explain to Allegra, of all people - Allegra whom she had been ignoring since they'd arrived - that she couldn't take the side of good in order to protect the lives of the people most precious to her? Allegra would hardly believe that she endured the hateful practices for normal, human reasons because Allegra did not see the younger woman as a human being: she, like almost everyone else, saw her as an omen of death and misfortune, a precursor to the Governor's wrath. Adrianna doubted very much she'd be able to dissuade them of this view but either way, it didn't matter: her friends would remain safe. That's all she could ask for.

- - -


As no answer came to his off-hand comments, Alexander made no attempt to continue conversation: he felt bad enough being in the woman's house, being obliged to make conversation with her was tedious at best, for all she had to say were words he's heard spoken before - arranged differently, of course - by the Governor himself.

The thought made his lip curl in disgust. He'd not laid eyes on the man since the day he was supposed to have died and that relieved him, for if there was any true threat to his existence, it was Lucius Nylander. Gardenia could call the Wardens, hells, she could call who she wanted, none of it would matter so long as the Governor put it down to rumours and misinformation. The rumour mill was by no means what it used to be but with a cleverly placed lie and a convincing delivery, the most ridiculous of tales could be made to seem like truth, especially if the person retelling it believed it wholly and completely. Alexander himself wasn't to adept at lying: he'd lived too long alone, he'd become out of practice. Those he did interact with required his trust and for him to trust them in return so lying was out of the question. This woman, however, was something else entirely. Alexander thought he'd never seen such a creature bred for deception and cruelty; he felt both repelled and attracted, she was both intruiging and horrifying.

Before he pushed the door gently and it swung open, gentle music drifted through it.The tone of it surprised him, the low, minimalistic piano notes set a soft tone that clashed with the previous atmosphere. Abruptly the place felt restful and calm, though it still lacked warmth. Before, Alexander had never had a chance to pursue many interests and, at any rate, indulging in something as pointless as simply sitting and listening to music had never been particularly high on his list of priorities. Gardenia seemed to be using it as a status symbol of sorts: quite aside from having the time to simply sit and enjoy, she delighted in letting him know she had the money so spend on such things as music and the medium through which it was played. A luxury, to be sure, and not one that many people at all could afford.

Making no attempt to remove his shoes, his hooded jacket or, indeed, his assortment of concealed weaponry, Alexander stepped into the room and analysed it, eyes narrowed ever so slightly. Though he doubted that there would be many surprises waiting for him in the house, after all Gardenia hadn't been able to plan for their encounter so it was highly improbable that she'd have something disagreeable prepared for him, he remained suspicious all the same. The only reason he had to remain was the Wardens patrolling the streets outside; should they troop away and give him sufficient time to make a hasty escape, he would... just as soon as he'd ensured that Gardenia would keep his existence a secret from her master and idol.

The setting was elaborate, too deliberate for Alexander's taste. She'd surprised him in more ways than he liked to admit to himself and he didn't feel comfortable in her presence in the slightest - but, he mused with some satisfaction, the feeling was likely mutual. Gardenia rested, perfectly at ease, lounging back on one of the couches, her expression twisted in a way that made Alexander glad he couldn't read it.

“Enlighten me,” he started abruptly, “why am I here?”

Though the answer to the question might have seemed obvious, there were layers within the question that he hadn't said but that were evident upon his face. Why did you not turn me in? Why show me where you live? He predicted that she'd answer with a quick-witted comment designed to simultaneously insult any irritate him; at present, however, with the light piano notes floating through the air, he felt calm, at peace, almost. Despite his instinct to find a way out as quickly as possible, if hanging around meant that he could garner information from the woman before him, he'd do it; her company was not too unbearable a price to pay for any valuable information she might possess. Besides, she'd seen him and he needed to keep an eye on her... speaking of which, he thought, it's probably best I watch my back, too. People like her are capable of anything.

[Note: I delete my last post and re-posted to include Alexander's part. The lengths you go to avoid triple posting. :teehee:]

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: August 7th, 2011, 9:49 am 
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(Posting with Gardenia :-D I haven't written Allegra's section yet =) I already can't wait for Alexander's response, Darky!
btw, Ludovico's music is seriously inspiring - he rocks! <333)

Gardenia looked up as the living room door swung open, revealing Alexander outlined in the doorway, her eyebrows raised very slightly in a perfect arch. She liked knowing that her adversary was uncomfortable; and why shouldn’t he be? Here she was sitting on the couch, listening to music, as if this strange situation was entirely ordinary. Her eyes followed him across the room as he stepped inside. It didn’t escape her that he was still wearing shoes, something which irritated her perhaps even more than the fact that he was still armed. The latter, however, did not bother her so much anymore due to the sharp letter-opener she had now had concealed.

She tilted her head a little upon hearing his blunt question, and she pursed her lips. The expression was deceptively endearing, and she probably knew it. However, she knew that a man like Alexander was far beyond deceiving. That was likely one of the reasons she was enjoying herself so much; more than anything she liked a challenge. Gardenia let a few moments pass, before she moved slightly, turning herself towards him. “The answer to that question is of your choosing,” she informed him. “I saved your life, and out of kindness brought you to a safe place, my own home in fact. You’re free to wait here a while until such a time you consider probable that the wardens have dispersed… and then go.”

It was a practical answer, but it didn’t reveal much. Gardenia knew very well that Alexander wouldn’t want to leave whilst it was still uncertain whether or not she’d divulge to Lucius that she’d seen him. So he would stay, for now. She watched him, her expression carefully disguised to resemble calm. She hated thinking like this, but having another person in the house felt weirdly… nice? Gardenia was mostly a solitary creature, in all ways apart from her unusual, unquenchable longing to find her perfect match. She wasn’t interested in groups of people; she was perfectly content to limit her social needs to one person. For a long time now, she’d pinned all of her hopes entirely on Lucius, the most unworthy man in all the world of such concentrated devotion.

The music had slowly melted away, followed a few seconds later by the beginning of another track. Gardenia was beginning to feel impatient. She needed something to happen. Alexander was as far from giving her any information as a criminal could get. But she had him mostly where she wanted him: unsure of what to do. And that was a start, at least.

She could still feel the pain in her foot, but still the map of her face did not crease or twitch. But as if to contradict the pain, she rose to her feet, elegant as always. She walked towards Alexander, her steps measured. Why was he so intriguing to her? He was the type of person she was paid to root out, to arrest, to punish. Nothing more than a common criminal on the run. He shouldn’t interest her. He interests me because I want his valuable information, her mind promptly told her. But Gardenia knew there was something more. It was all confusion, and muddled, and mixed up.

Gardenia had stopped so that she was face to face with Alexander. “You know,” she began, thoughtfully, “I’m not as detestable as you obviously think me. We’re supposed to be enemies, aren’t we?” she made a small gesture, indicating both herself and Alexander. “By all logic. But I don’t intend harm to you.” Her tone was different, but not dramatically; she had cleverly adjusted the tone. “You think me cold-hearted and hateful, do you not?” she turned her shoulders, moving away from him again. “Why shouldn’t you? After all, I told you that I don’t possess a heart.” She smiled over her shoulder. Somehow, she had managed it: a smile that carried no trace of malice. It was self-deprecating, inviting. She bowed her head a little, her long black hair shading her face slightly.

She looked at him again, through strands of midnight hair, and then raised her head to it’s usual confident tilt, walking away towards the stereo. She turned up the volume a bit, keeping her back turned away from Alexander, seemingly at repose. This was simply not true. If she picked up on any sign that everything was about to go wrong, she would hurl herself towards the sofa and make a grab at the letter opener.

She left the stereo and sunk back down onto the couch. Discreetly, she felt around the side of the cushion for the letter opener. It was still there, lodged in safely.

With extreme calculation, she launched herself up from her seat, and spun round to face Alexander. She had painted her face beautifully with a show of anxiety and confrontation. “Well, what are you doing to do?” she demanded of him. She moved towards him again, coming even closer than before. She grasped the collar of his worn shirt. “Just tell me.” Appearing to regret such a hasty gesture, she loosened her grip and let go of his shirt. But her fingertips lingered for a moment against his chest, before she snatched them away as if she had been scalded.

Someone should have given her a prize for best actress. The question was, would he buy any of this?

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2011, 7:24 pm 
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[Just wondering if you already made your post for Allegra, Goldy, dear.. :happy: ]

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2011, 7:41 pm 
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(I haven't started on my Allegra post yet, unfortunately :lol: Eeeek! I'll try and work on it v.soon :hug: )

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: November 1st, 2011, 4:04 am 
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[Hallooo there. Also, BUMP. :P]

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: November 4th, 2011, 8:09 pm 
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(Finally, here we are! :-D I really hope you guys like this <3 If anything needs changing, just say!)

Allegra stood before her antique looking glass, smoothing the ends of her blonde locks, which hung in an immaculately silken cloud about her shoulders. This morning, she was preparing to attend her father’s funeral. Even now, she wasn’t sure how she felt about his death – the life of that "noble" patriarch was finished, leaving the way clear for Lucius to take his place as official head of the family. That position had been in her brother’s keeping for a long time anyway. Nothing would change much.

Who had done it? Who had murdered Casimir, crept into his grand family home and stuck a knife through his heart? The murderer had quite obviously been careful. No fingerprints had been discovered on the handle of the ornamental knife. Allegra was surprised that she’d been informed of the circumstances of her father’s death; it had been her father’s people who had made her aware of them. Perhaps under Lucius’s closer scrutiny, the exact details might have been suppressed. But she was glad she knew. She didn’t want to be left in the dark. However, even if she had, she’d have had her informant in her father’s household do a little digging about for her to discover the truth. She was never without means.

Allegra stepped into a frighteningly high pair of black heels and smoothed the jacket of her black trouser suit, which was elegantly cut to perfectly accentuate her slender figure. She glanced briefly at her reflection, her grey eyes unreadable.

She knew that her father had loved her, in his own way. But that hadn’t been enough. Everything had been for Lucius: the expectations, the money and the education. Allegra had been educated, as a young lady from a well bred, intellectual family must be, but she had been forbidden from approaching any kind of degrees or official training. Once, it had been her dearest wish and great ambition to train to be a lawyer, to fight against injustice and defend the friendless. Such a dream, though, could never have been anything more.

She had not wept. She had other important matters on her mind, anyway, that were more than somewhat diverting. A week had passed since she had saved Dylan, and he had stayed here under her roof all this while – and he wasn’t the only house guest. Lilly, his devoted patient, had stayed too, presumably to make sure that no harm came to the man she looked up to so much. Allegra didn’t mind; she was a sweet girl.

And then there was the matter of Adrianna. Adrianna, that milky-faced viper. The revelation that Lucius’s aide had planned to free Dylan from the Tower had been astonishing, to say the least. There was no describing how Allegra had felt upon hearing it. It had been like a shove, a punch in the stomach. Adrianna embodied everything that was wrong with the world to Allegra, and she still did. Adrianna’s half-baked attempt at redeeming her conscience changed things, but not much. This was the only explanation Allegra could reach: the girl felt guilty for all the wrong she’d inflicted, and she had thought to do a good deed to reassure herself that she was still a good person.

A good person. Those words made Allegra want to laugh. She remembered the girl’s words with disgust.

“I work for them, but I share none of their glory, none of their satisfaction. I don't share their ideals, I'm not one of them... but, I don't think I could call myself your ally.”

Those were the words of a coward. Someone who was willing to reap the benefits of cruelty, of tyranny, but wasn’t ready to own up to the fact that she was a part of it. She an integral part of a well-oiled machine. Organizations of oppression are never possible without the small people: the Wardens who roam the streets, the secretaries who type up the death warrants, the man who puts his name on the dotted line to get his senior out of a legal hitch that prevents him from using torture in interrogation.

Adrianna was as guilty as the rest of them. One fleeting moment, one rash decision, one instinct to do one good thing in her life wasn’t enough; not nearly enough.

And yet, she had arranged for Adrianna to come here to her home, to meet her before the funeral, so that they could walk to the occasion together. Persuading the girl had involved Dylan and Lilly. That small window of time alone would allow her a chance to have a talk with Adrianna. She wanted to keep tabs on her. Adrianna may have been unable to reveal that Allegra was hiding Dylan, without risking the reveal of her own betrayal of Lucius, but Allegra still wanted to be sure that Scarlet knew just who was in charge.

She pinned a black net veil into the folds of her hair, sweeping it over her face. She was ready.

~~~

This was an important day. Gardenia couldn’t deny that she was looking forward to it, in her own grim sort of way. She would be by Lucius’s side throughout the whole occasion. Close proximity to her boss was always a prospect worthy of anticipation. Gardenia sat on her bed, which was neatly made, the pillows arranged with almost mathematical precision. She observed her reflection in her pocket mirror, checking her make up. It was flawlessly applied. She needed to be flawless, every day of her life. Anything else wasn’t good enough. Speaking of not good enough… she sneered at the thought of what Adrianna’s funeral attire would be. That poor drab really brought new meaning to the word unstylish.

Yes, even on a day such as today, Gardenia had time to be vain. Why should she not? Even with things on her mind, she would never neglect or abandon any of her priorities. But she still thought. And thought, and thought, as she carefully brushed her hair; she thought about Alexander, the man who had left such an impact on her.

He was gone now, long gone. He’d snuck off the same night they’d met and she hadn’t heard or seen anything of him since. She couldn’t pretend to herself that the realization hadn’t been disappointing. She’d wanted to make him begin to trust her. Her own motivation in the situation seemed to have been hidden from her, the workings of her mind dark and dangerous. She’d wanted the information he had… wanted to please Lucius. Imagine the look on his face when she presented him with such a prize, a dangerous criminal who should have been dead. But, in a strange twist of fate, she’d wanted something else, which went far beyond dedication to her work, which was an obsession in itself. No, she had wanted Alexander. It didn’t hurt to think it; she didn’t have to admit it to anybody. She had, and still did, wanted to possess this man, to keep him to herself. But, like a dog found on the streets she’d tried to make her pet, he had ran away, out of her control and her keeping.

It was a dangerous game she had started. But the small time she’d had with him had been worth it, despite him threatening her life, despite him failing to play the rules of the game. She’d been reckless that night. Extremely reckless. And yet she could still not get that man, that criminal out of her mind. Would she see him again? Would he use his knowledge of her help against her?

He could not do so, without risking his utter ruin. Either Lucius would destroy him if he was discovered, or she would, if she was forced to. She truly hoped that she would not be forced to, if the matter came to it.

She sprung herself up off the bed, and snapped shut the pocket mirror, slotting it into her handbag. She was clad entirely in black, which made no change for her, but she’d made a particular effort today. Her dress was exquisite black silk, with Grecian style detail on the sleeves and beaded embroidery on the neckline, expertly matched with black diaphanous tights and a pair of black suede high heeled boots. Over this apparel she slid a black trench coat; she swept her long, black hair out of the collar and flounced it down over her back. Looping her handbag over her shoulder, she approached the bedroom door. There would be a car, the Governor’s car, outside her house soon to pick her up and take her to the funeral. She could not keep Lucius waiting.

~~~

Allegra went down the grand sweeping staircase, taking the steps quickly. Adrianna would be arriving soon. No doubt Lucius would be surprised to see them turn up at the funeral together, but that could be put down to nothing more than coincidence of timing. Never in a thousand years could Lucius imagine his sister and his aide conspiring together. Never, in all honesty, could Allegra imagine such a thing either.

She found her clutch bag in the kitchen, and looked around for something quick to eat. She’d not yet had breakfast. However, the doorbell soon distracted her, and beneath the net veil, her expression flickered. Into the hallway she went, wondering whether Lilly and Dylan were still asleep. It was strange, having other people living here, and yet it was not altogether unwelcome.

~~~

Gardenia walked into her living room, approaching the fireplace and picking up a bottle of perfume, which she used to anoint her neck with. A smoky scent filled the air, which was reminiscent of autumn leaves, dark forests and purple flowers. If one thought about it, the person who had concocted the perfume would never have even seen a forest, or flowers which had known natural daylight.

Suddenly, there was a small bleeping noise. In an instant, she answered her mobile phone, which had been in her coat pocket. “Yes?” she said, sharply. She waited. “What?” a glare formed on her pretty features, before she promptly smoothed them, sucking in her breath. A minor issue. A small issue. But one that would no doubt annoy Lucius. It concerned a one Diana Nylander. Loyally, someone in the know about the matter had instantly called her, hoping that she would warn the Governor. “Of course. I will tell him when I see him.” That was it. No other words were necessary.

Canceling the call, she heard a car horn beep from outside, a signal from Lucius’s driver. Gardenia smiled. It was an honor to sit in the same car as the Governor. It was an honor to sit next to him, an immense privilege for her knee to almost touch his.

She would distract herself from thoughts of Alexander by paying due reverence to Lucius. After all, this fascination with Alexander couldn’t possibly knock her boss from the high place in her heart. Could it? She would not waste her chance, as she saw it, with Lucius, on dreaming far-fetched daydreams.

Gardenia left her house, locking the front door behind her, and nodded unsmilingly as Lucius’s chauffer held open the passenger door for her. She slid carefully onto the black leather upholstery. Without looking at Lucius, she sensed his dark presence beside her as she neatly folded her beautifully manicured hands atop her lap.

“Diana Nylander will be there,” she said, quietly, into the silence. “I thought it was best you were informed before there was any embarrassment.” She paused, only now glancing towards Lucius, her gaze very steady. “I’m familiar with the fact that she likes to cause a scene.”

~~~

It was early morning. Garnet’s days always started even earlier, but before she had even reached the library, something had happened. Something she couldn’t believe had happened to her, but at the same time didn’t surprise her at all. The atmosphere of the city was slowly growing worse, and day by day the Wardens were allowed even greater indulgences, crimes that were perfectly acceptable to be ignored. Distressed and shaking, Garnet had abandoned all thoughts of going ahead with a day’s work and gone to the only place she ever felt safe these days.

She stood outside the Harts' house, knocking on the door hurriedly. The memories this brought were not lost on her. She had been thirteen then, when they had come for her parents, and she was twenty-three now. She felt almost like a child again, afraid for her life, seeking out her friends. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, the golden hues stained a bright, startling red near her hairline. One of the arms of her jacket was torn, the seams split as if it had been deliberately ripped.

She pummeled the door desperately. “Cameron!” she called, her voice shrill. She didn’t want to cry but it was too difficult. Tears poured down her face as she relived the scene again and again in her head, the warden stepping forward from the dim morning lamplight, not yet fully adjusted to the daytime setting. The man seizing her arm and trying to pull her towards him, ripping her coat when she made a struggle and fought against him, swearing at her and hurling her down to the cold pavement in fury, so that she hit her head.

She had been able to quickly scramble to her feet – thank heavens she was a fast runner. He had not caught up with her. She knew what he had meant to do. He had meant to violate her, to hurt her.

“Cameron!” she shouted. She was beginning to feel light headed. She knew that she needed to see a doctor due to the wound on her head, but there was no way she would go to the local hospital and wait hours in the so-called emergency room. She could not go to the local medical center either, because they would say that she needed an appointment. Appointments took days to book in advance.

She gave up knocking, and sighed deeply, running a shaking hand through her bloodied hair.

~~~

Diana Nylander lingered outside on the empty street, outside the home of her uncle: Casimir Nylander. She was a tall, delicate woman with hair as blonde as Allegra’s and smoky, thick black eyeliner. Trust her family to hold a private funeral, inviting only those whose loyalty was sealed and assured. Diana no longer fitted into that category. She slouched in the doorway, huddled beneath a long, black velvet coat. The ornate front door was closed firmly. It was always thus; left outside in the cold, ever since the disagreement. There would be only one person here today who would be pleased to see her, and that was Allegra. She would make sure that she was not cast out of the occasion.

Suddenly, the door opened, and she raised her head, surprised. A not so amused butler peered down his long hooked nose at her. No one else had arrived yet, clearly. She stared back at him, raising her eyebrows.

“I’m here for the funeral of my uncle,” she said.

A moment. And then a dawning light as he recognized the woman who rubbed her chilly hands together, hoping to warm up. “Ah! My good god, not Miss Diana? I was to believe… we thought you would not be here.”

“Really? I received my invitation not long ago,” she replied smoothly. It was a lie, but for a good cause. She smiled in the way she did so well; a warm smile, a bright smile. “Such a sad day. But at least we can all be amongst friends.”

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 Post subject: Re: Freedom is What You Survive To Fight For
PostPosted: November 5th, 2011, 2:18 pm 
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[I figured I'd drag Alexander back in when you've posted with Dylan and Lilly, Will. :D]

Day came quickly, with a persistence and cold resolution. The week hadn't drifted by, it has raced away; all her time had elapsed in the blink of an eye, except that which she wanted to pass quickly, most notably the time she spent in the presence of the Governor. His dark temperament had reared its head and she was acutely aware every time he looked at her that she was teetering very close to the edge. The line she walked was dangerously thin and showed no sign of becoming easier any time soon. When she could help it, she made innocuous excuses to avoid his company - and Allegra's, whenever the Governor's sister decided to poke her nose into her brother's business, which seemed to happen increasingly frequently.

Allegra's out-of-the-blue appearances did nothing to help the Governor's mood, which declined rapidly the closer the funeral drew. Something about it riled him intensely, something he hadn't yet deigned to tell her: it couldn't have been the suspicious circumstances of Casimir's death, for not only did almost everyone know that, she and Gardenia had been sent to investigate the house the next day. What had horrified her had seemed to fascinate Gardenia for reasons she couldn't possibly fathom. She'd met the man once; he'd certainly never been kind but his son wasn't a carbon copy of him either; he'd been angry, misanthropic and entirely immoral but any ambition he felt had been directed inward. His self-absorbed narcissism had been amplified by his perfectionism: he was not content to settle and so he expanded his influence and gained quite the reputation by word of mouth - and by no effort on his part. The intense apathy he felt for politics and their fairy-footed words and veiled insults lead him down a different path. He hadn't been a ruler for he wasn't even a leader.

Adrianna blinked blearily for the fiftieth time that morning, wishing vaguely that she'd had more time for sleep. Tension in her workplace she'd managed to endure for three years without issue, the kind of tension she felt at home was entirely new. It felt like an old bruise: ugly and tender to touch.

Cameron seemed to guard himself more around her, and when he thought she wasn't looking he often glanced back, a frown overshadowing his contemplative features. It tore her apart to think he was taking a step backwards, further away from her when she'd fought to keep him close, especially as she felt his eyes on her every time she left the house and every time she returned. He seemed to be trying to gauge how deep a hold Adrianna's work had on her. She'd been so close to telling him but before she'd opened her mouth she'd known it to be impossible. He wouldn't understand and she couldn't find the words to explain.

Adrianna pulled a stray curl out of her line of sight and pinned it back gently. Her curls fell down past her shoulders in a carefully arranged cascade, kept out of face by half a dozen or so hairpins. The black she wore drained the little colour she had left in her face but it wasn't optional, she was to dress for the occasion, as always.

When she stood, the boots she wore tapped lightly against the floor. It made her conscious that her entrance to any room would be audible and therefore she couldn't avoid drawing some attention to herself - not that that mattered much, for she'd be arriving with Allegra, of all people. It there was one way to ensure she'd go unnoticed, it was that. She didn't doubt for a second that the entrance would be crowded with Allegra's sycophantic friends and admirers all ready to fawn over her and each give their personal, heartfelt condolences. Each was a different kind of parasite.

Finally ready, Adrianna made her way down the stairs and unhooked her coat. As she hooked in the last silver fastening, Cameron walked through from the kitchen and leant against the door frame, arms folded.

“Cameron...” she started quietly.

“Save it.” Cameron interrupted, his tone as quiet as hers but with a note of resignation.

“I can't get out of this.”

“I know. That doesn't mean I'll start believing that the guy deserves to be remembered as anything other than a villain.”

“I'm not sure when I'll be home.”

“No different than usual, then.”

Adrianna turned to the door and rested her hand on the handle for a second before turning it and letting the door swing inward. It did, soundlessly, and she was half a step across the threshold when Cameron's voice stopped her dead in her tracks.

“Be careful, Adrianna.”

The door closed a few seconds later and she pulled her coal-black coat around her, lately, after she'd felt the heat being dragged from her. She shuddered her way from the house she and Cameron shared to the tall gates that barred the way to Allegra's front door. A minute later she stood on the doorstep, immaculately dressed yet feeling inadequately so. The doorbell chimed merrily and she waited, facing away from the door itself, to be let into the warm for precious few minutes before she was thrust into the icy presence of Allegra Nylander.

- - -


The car was quiet but large and spacious; there was no need to spare expense when your budget was limitless. Lucius sat upright, his chin tilted upwards ever so slightly and his steely eyes grazing the back of his driver's head. The man had the good grace to exit the vehicle and open the door for Gardenia without turning to look at his charge and sate his curiosity. He'd already lost an employee this month who had been woefully unable to control himself regarding matters that didn't concern him, and as it was Lucius had no inclination to lose another so soon.

The lithe form of Gardenia slipped into the car beside him and he neglected to look or even acknowledge her presence. The calm he felt had surprised him, especially considering his state of mind of late, but still he could think of a thousand and one other things he'd rather do than spend the day paying respects to a man who hadn't deserved it. Appearances called for the rules of propriety to be observed but that didn't mean that his words were any more than skin deep. The man had as good as asked for his death. Lucius regretted only that it had not come at his own hand - such personal matters, he felt, should have been kept within the family so they went no further.

“Diana Nylander will be there,” were Gardenia's first words. “I thought it best that you were informed before there was any embarrassment. I'm familiar with the fact that she likes to cause a scene.”

“The only embarrassment shall fall upon the woman herself,” Lucius affirmed. “should she get it into her head to cause trouble.”

Typically Diana would choose this moment to try and torment him; she was an affront to the family - or, at least, everyone except Allegra. Diana had brought shame upon herself and had been cast out because of it. Society, too, had mostly turned its back upon her, that was unless Allegra decided to share her spotlight. There had been much disagreement among the ruling powers in the Nylander household about ‘our Diana’ but, eventually, she'd been disinherited and, once again, Lucius had gotten his way, despite the fact it hadn't been in the way he'd originally thought.

“The old man meant nothing to her. If she intends to disrupt today's events, she'll choose a moment with maximum impact upon her audience. I trust you'll ensure abandons any ideas of disquiet as early as possible.”

It wasn't a question, of course, and Gardenia would see it as her sworn duty to do his wishes. She was everything he could want in an employee, which was exactly why she remained where she was. A useful tool, indeed, one uniquely suited to halting whatever plans Diana decided she'd follow to try and ruin the man who'd cast her out.

- - -


A loud commotion at the door attracted Cameron's attention. He'd been readying himself for a meeting to discuss the progress of the building works, the first of many, he didn't doubt, and had just been about to do his tie. As it had been scarcely ten minutes since Adrianna had left, Cameron figured that she must have forgotten something, or been sent back or - he hoped, but didn't believe - she had doubts. In and out he breathed, pausing to set down the jacket he'd brought upstairs to dust off.

Moving to the top of the stairs he heard the person at the door knock again, more insistently. Rolling his eyes he descended, no longer of the belief that his sister was the one at the door - no, Adrianna had far more patience. Adrianna also knew that he was busy this morning and that his getting to the door would be delayed. In addition to that... Adrianna would probably have let herself in.

A shrill, fractured voice called his name. “Cameron!”

More knocking persisted and abruptly Cameron knew two things: firstly, his mysterious caller was Garnet and, secondly, she was shaken. She would never have called so early, missing her work, for any other reason.

Cameron unlocked the door in one swift, fluid movement and opened it to reveal Garnet stood, dressed in her casual day-to-day clothes, jacket torn and dirtied, hair dishevelled, her face bloodied around her hairline. Tears fell down her face without pause and he could see from a distance that she was shaking. In contrast he, in his business shirt and trousers, tie looped in a carefree way about his neck and dangling, more so at one side than the other. The shoes he were had been recently polished and he looked, for once, respectable, and almost nothing like himself. His intake of breath was his only obvious show of shock.

“Garnet?” he asked. “Garnet, what happened?”

With an arm extended to gently tug her into the house, he made eye contact and tried and reach her from what seemed like an incredible distance. The head trauma she'd suffered was still bleeding and she'd likely have a concussion, which meant they needed a doctor and fast. Cameron was no dab hand with a medical kit and he had no idea if Adrianna had had any medical training at all - not that that mattered, seeing as she wasn't there to help anyway.

“Garnet, you've got to come inside. It's alright.”

The chair he steered her towards was her customary seat next to the fire. No warmth nestled there now, but there was little need for it: the house was well enough insulated that it held heat well, so the place still had an atmosphere of warmth. The only thing that Cameron knew definitively about shock victims was that they were supposed to be kept warm and reassured. When Garnet was seated, Cameron crouched down so his eyes were on level with hers and watched her carefully.

“It's okay,” he told her gently, cupping the uninjured side of her face with his hand. “You're gonna be fine.”

- - -


Racing down empty streets at the crack of sparrows in heels wasn't quite Maggie's idea of a fun morning but, she knew, if she wanted to get into the funeral then that was exactly how she'd have to play it. Thinking longingly of the business suit she had put aside, she tugged at the dress she'd acquired for the occasion. It was the skirt of the dress that was giving her the most problems presently: she was used to walking with her usual confident, carefree strides, but the ridiculous thing restricted her leg movement so she couldn't walk nearly as fast as she wanted to. The soft black material formed a perfect V shape at the front and back, nothing extravagant, but eye-catching enough that she'd simply be slipped into a category with all the other women continually dressed to impress. The name that instantly sprang to mind at that thought was Allegra Nylander. Maggie attempted to suppress her smirk.

Casimir Nylander's house lay at the end of a very long street of houses, each more grand than the next, Nylander's home being the most spectacular. Even though the day was just getting started there were lights on in most of the windows and people already flitting from room to room downstairs, all wearing black. It seemed she wasn't late, after all.

The pavement clicked underfoot, carrying her forward. When she reached the main gate cast it a suspicious glance before tossing her long, straight hair over her shoulder and walking, with purpose, in the style adopted by the women of certain social classes. A young man stood by the door dressed in a simplistic uniform, apparently carrying out some menial task. Perhaps there was a window of opportunity there - there was undoubtedly considerable risk, too - if she was caught she'd be in an awful lot of trouble. Maggie tried to rid her face of the smile she wore in an effort to portray herself, convincingly, as a member of the overly-privileged social class.

As she climbed the magnificent marble steps to the house, the adolescent froze, listening the the rhythmic click of her heels, poised halfway between action and inaction. By the time she drew level with him, he'd half-turned to face her, enough that she could see how nervous he was at confronting her.

“Er, miss?” he started, his voice wavering. “Are you supposed to be up here...?”

“Excuse me?” she offered him only an arched eyebrow and a sardonic smile.

“Did you, um, did you receive an invitation, miss?”

Maggie made a show of being annoyed at the interruption and lifted the bag she'd been carrying. For a moment she combed through the contents, then allowed a slight frown to mar her features, just enough to display her concern.

“Well,” she answered slowly, “that's rather odd. I suppose it must've fallen out onto the street somewhere.”

“Er, miss, I can't really let you in without -”

“Oh, that's a shame,” Maggie cut him off and took a step towards him, which seemed to unnerve him even more. “You see, now I have a little problem. You should probably have kept your nose out.”

“Sorry, by the way.” she amended afterwards.

“Sorry for what...?” the look of confusion was only there for a moment before the electric stun-gun grazed the skin of his hand and he collapsed forwards, leaving himself as a dead weight on Maggie shoulders. Muttering unladylike curses under her breath all the while, she heaved him into something of a comfortable sitting position behind some conspicuously large shrubbery to one side of the garden. She glanced quickly around, down the street, along the front of the house and up at the windows to make sure no-one saw her as she made her way back up the steps and through the door.

As she'd expected, the place was a wealth of wondrous features. While she'd seen the inside of much more lavish homes, Maggie could see that the decorator had had a fine eye, and certainly one that didn't accept anything less than perfection. A servant walked forward to offer a warm welcome, a general message that the Governor and the lady Allegra would no doubt arrive shortly and take her coat and bag. She relinquished them readily and barely spared the servant a second glance, utilising exactly the same manner that everyone else in the room did - treating them as inconsequential.

She wandered a little, up on snippets of conversation as she went, and felt the room. When someone glanced at her, she gave a casual passing half-smile and then moved on, watching continually for a disturbance caused by, say, the arrival of the Governor or his sister. With each second that passed she made mental notes as to what she saw: her line of work required one to have an excellent sense of recollection, and that she did.

It was by an antique cabinet she finally came to rest, under the guise of examining some of the rare porcelain ornaments that the cabinet contained. The slightest hint of curiosity brushed her features, just enough that she looked innocently absorbed in her examination of the pottery. When a hand rested lightly on her arm she jumped and spun around with absolutely no need to fake her surprise. A man of similar years stood before her, dressed perfectly in a suit in such a dark shade of navy blue it was almost black, carrying two tall, slender glasses of a sweet-smelling drink the servants were carrying on trays, ones Maggie had purposefully avoided. The man smiled genially and handed it to her, raising his own ever so slightly.

“A lovely woman such as yourself should never be without a full glass.” he told her, his tone full of light humour. Maggie returned his smile with a small amount of soft laughter, not enough to draw attention to the two of them. Delicately she took the glass her offered her and raised it a little to acknowledge how charming he was being.

“Why, thank you,” she answered softly.

“Not at all,” he replied, sipping at his own drink and moving to stand by her side rather than in front of her. She couldn't quite see him in her peripheral vision but just so long as he kept his hands to himself, she didn't mind so much. “Just an observation: you might want to watch out for your friend in the bushes. He's a notorious tell-tale.”

The impact of what he said took a moment to sink in but when it did, she spun around to face him and saw... nothing. There was no trace of his being there and no obvious way in which he could have escaped. After opening and closing her mouth a couple of times, Maggie spotted the only trace of him that remained: the empty glass he'd stood on the tall table made of a rich, dark wood next to the cabinet. Turning back around with a confounded expression dominating her features. Absently she took a sip of the light, slightly alcoholic fruit juice she'd been served with and wondered what the hell it all meant.

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