Realm of Terreille => Raej => Lys => Topic started by: Heidi Ranum on September 26, 2020, 07:14:23 AM

Title: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on September 26, 2020, 07:14:23 AM

"I'll take that." Heidi slid a smile onto her face just as she slid the tray from the witch's hands. She cast a wink in the startled face that greeted her theft. "Healer's orders and all that." She teased, settling the tray against her stomach and wondering how these women managed to flounce about the place with such things all day. It was heavy.

"Thank you!" She tossed over her shoulder as she hurried down the hall. Mother Night, this had to be what pregnancy felt like. Weight biting into your ribs. Hauling at your arms. Heidi's lips pursed as she puffed. She knew she'd helped draw up the schedule that kept Nikki properly fueled, but she didn't remember suggesting the snacks be quite so dense. "Oh well," she breathed to herself. Not quite panting.

He probably needed it. Especially if Fritter was around to sneak bites for himself.

"Knock, knock!" A quick warning before her craft was rattling the door knob until it opened. Hands to full of an ever growing snack to be of any use. A bump of her hip swing it wide enough for her to maneuver inside, desperately searching for a table to drop her burden onto. "Good afternoon, prince." Heidi smirked. Such formal words, when she tumbled into the room in layers of multicolored skirts. The rainbow pattern shifting as she walked, the bodice of white lace to tight she might as well have painted it onto her skin.

"Heard something about headache, my friend." Weird how that had come to be. Heidi all but spilled the tray onto a side table, pulling the top off and vanishing it. Her parent's had angled to make them companions. Heidi had known her duty. But her affection for Nikodemus was real. Probably one of the most honest things in her life. Dusting her hands off, she surveyed the spread the kitchen had sent and then turned her attention to her friend. Arms crossing over what some might argue were breasts, she plastered a fierce scowl onto her face.

All furrowed brows and twitching lips as she tried very hard to frown and not laugh.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on September 27, 2020, 10:01:30 PM
Every day of the week - barring the set Mandatory rest day and the rotating Negotiable rest day - were scheduled as smoothly as possible to be as stress free as possible. He had his days detailed down within the five minute mark. He had the calling cards for his appointments filed by order of appearance on a sleek rotating index, decorated in color coded notes and symbols pertaining to all manners of nuance - a favored tea, a political rumor, a recent trip - that might prove relevant to the meeting. After, he'd summarize the experience, make additional notes, potentially issue some inquiries, and put the card away with all of the rest of the file belonging to that specific individual.

Nik was very thorough.

Which was why, when he looked up at exactly twelve past midday in anticipation of the door opening to Berit's expressive eyebrows, he was suspicious of the delay that kept it closed. Berit was punctual in the extreme after years in his service, and capable of haranguing the kitchen staff in an emergency. The few times she'd been late she'd had a cart sent up in advance, for his records. He had three.

Weighing curiosity and suspicion in equal measure, Nik sent a probe down the hall just in time to glance off Heidi before drawing back into himself.

Now there was a meeting he knew was scheduled for later in the week, and at a well-to-do eatery in the garden district, no less, as a show of proof of his own adherence to good personal maintenance. Perhaps Frit had sent her his way to secure approval for something. They were not above using their long standing friendship to poke and prod him in the directions they wanted, after all.

Then the door was swinging open to admit her and Berit's lunch tray, and the delay clarified itself. He marked down the adjusted time and reached out to Isak at the primary reception desk, instructing him to issue out calling cards to the days appoints regarding the schedule change, and to request rescheduled meetings for four of his longer winded visitors. There was always a healthy buffer calculated into each of those sessions, of course, but he knew Heidi would leave when she was ready or when he physically ejected her from the office, and not before. There were too many original copies of important documents on his desk to risk trying to wrangle her.

Leisure lunch it would be.

He'd finished his dictations by the time she relieved herself of the tray, a brow already arched at the formality neither of them leaned too heavily into.

"Good afternoon to you, Lady." Papers shushed through his hands as he neatened the stack. His attention drifted, placing several more pertinent pages on top - only to slide back to her with such absolute incredulity that he felt his own lips twitch before he strangled the smile down.

"Since Fritjof isn't present and you've only just arrived, I can safely report that this morning was headache free." He rejoined, tilting his head that he might look down his nose at her while sitting. Flat, almost derisive, and he knew she'd see through it, understand that he teased as much as she did with her ridiculous statement. As though she had to manufacture a reason to drop in unannounced. They'd been together too long for that.

Standing, he bridged the gap between them to take her hands and drop a kiss on either cheek, chinning her crown in passing as he straightened. Never one to miss an opportunity to lord his height over.

Smile beatific, he continued, "But since you're here, I suppose I must recall those hazy memories of etiquette training mother attempted to have beaten into me." a light, exasperated sigh, full of drama as he pretends not to see her twitching lips "Might I avail myself of you on the couch? You know how I hate to stand." And then, with none of the genteel manners of his position, he released her and focused his entire self on the food, taking great care to arrange small meat pies and fruit tarts on his plate and not look at her face or offer her anything.

A snacks and juice in hand, he seated himself primly in a wingback catty-corner to the end of the couch, with Heidi between him and the food. He knew how this game was played, and it would involve a lot less mess if he didn't try to take the whole tray with him. "I don't suppose you would reveal the name of the kind soul who pointed you in my direction?" He doubted there was one, but if one of his staff was worried for him it meant he'd have more to discuss Heidi at their scheduled lunch.
Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on October 03, 2020, 07:08:47 AM

He never stopped her work at her entrance. Heidi considered playing at being offended, but it was a ploy she would have carried on forever and always. Nikky never stopped working. She was certain he dreamed schemes and solutions in his sleep. There was always this sliver of him he held apart; in reserve for work and always working.

But much like herself, he had been bred and groomed for a specific sort of life. More so, she imagined, considering the differences in their stations. And the spiral hidden at his brow.

Heidi's mouth parted on a little puff of breath. A scoffing bit of laughter at his absolute rudeness. "Are you quite sure Fritter isn't here using you as a mouth piece?" She accused haughtily, half threatening to cover the tray again before vanishing the lid. But it was all a game. Feet sliding through the steps of a dance. Teasing, exposed by little smiles that might be missed if they weren't looking.

Joining hands with him, Heidi tipped one cheek and then the other to his administrations. As always, she imagined being skewered, or even skimmed, but his horn. But it never touched her. It didn't even ruffle her hair in passing, though his chin did. Ever the warlord prince, he had to saturate her in his scent to be happy with the world. "She should have beat you harder." Heidi quipped, squeezing his hands before they separated.

A nod before she acted out her agreement, skirts smoothed and fluffed as she sat. The couch edge perched on so she could slid her toes back and her elbows forward. Leaning in to watch with a healer's interest. "And get them in trouble for flagrant gossip?" Her fingers fluttered below her throat in dismay and faux fear. "It was Fritter, of course." Heidi announced after a pause, waving the name between them with the same hand that had fretted.

Without asking, she poured juice for herself, glass summoned from her cabinet. Usually it was used to force concoctions on patients, but it so often came in handy for moments such as these; spent with greedy men. "You've jam on your chin." She taunted, sipping the tangy fruit drink and grimacing. "Have you though?" Heidi pressed, eyes slanting with suspicion.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on October 06, 2020, 12:53:38 AM
"You would know if he were using my mouth," Nik allowed lasciviously, one brow ticked up. There was enough rumor about where he lay between his two closest confedants that he didn't feel bad bandying it about a little. It wasn't like there was anyone else who wouldn't take it seriously, barring the man in question.

Her declaration brought a croak of laughter out of him, almost enough to jostle his plate. "Oh, then all her good spoons and hairbrushes would have been broken. She learned after five, I think," said with an air of pride at ones own stubbornness that, he imagined, fairly smothered his guest. Nikodemus was quite good at smug, if he said so himself.

His mother, of course, had never had to raise a hand to him, let alone one wielding an object intent to hurt. She was too well bred. Her disappointment and censure had been weapons enough, something he knew he hadn't yet pinned down and that Heidi was just as likely to use against him. Surely there was nothing good to be had about having childhood friends in ones court - they didn't need retellings of the stories of youth, they'd been there for it and could offer their own color commentary.

Of which there was no end in regards to Nik's staff. "They gossip flagrantly either way," he scoffed, attention catching on the hand at her throat. Maybe he should take her jewelry shopping instead of out to lunch. Getting her something shiny to wear would be settling. "You'd think I don't punish anyone, ever, they way they go on." Perhaps he should go out and fire a few of the worst offenders, but the idea immediately rankled. He'd hate to have to train up replacements. Caught, he thought, scowling delicately at his plate. Curses. Heidi and Frit would end up laughing at him the whole time, either way.

Of course. He was probably laughing now, too. "Of course." He hadn't even seen the man yet, but he wasn't surprised at his meddling. He rubbed the base of his horn with a fingertip, smoothing his expression into something calmer before his hand dropped, napkin appearing between fingers to dab at his chin, only to squint in consternation when it came away clean.

"Only this morning, from reading late I'd guess." He admitted, aware of how late 'late' was and how he couldn't give that information up without a fight. "But I drank plenty of water and rested with a cold towel over my eyes between meetings, and its about gone now." That, at least he'd divulge, because to say it was gone completely would be to invite even more suspicion. Nosy woman.
Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on November 14, 2020, 05:45:37 AM

"I don't think I'd want to." Heidi felt heat rise with laughter along her cheeks. She knew people whispered. Her married status protected her to an extent, but not even national pride could keep the people from guessing and gawking when it came to Nik and Fritjof. Heidi couldn't blame them, or she shouldn't, because truly she did. There should have been more reverence and less fascination. Especially with Nik's dick and where he might be sticking it.

Head shaking in mock dismay, Heidi allowed him a few bites before she continued her own teasing. Nikki's was truly worse. It was his nature, all that Black Widow tension and Warlord Prince protectiveness. It made him terribly contrary. "I pity that poor woman." What must it be like to race such a creature? Heidi could not imagine, and she spent much of the year living with one. But she rarely had to share especially close quarters with Nik. And friendship was much different than parenthood.

"Maybe you need to break a few hairbrushes." Heidi challenged, eyebrows bobbing querulously above the rim of her glass as she drank. The idea was preposterous. Fritty she could see pulling a maid over his knee to spank, but with Nik... violence seemed a much sharper idea, and less tangible. From him she would not want to suffer punishment. Fritty could take whatever Nikki dished out, however, since she doubted it would ever come to blood between those two.

Heidi licked juice from her lip and watched Nik dab primly at his chin. She had to tuck the corners of her lips in to keep from smirking. Which made her face look only more pinched by the tartness of the drink. "I don't know how you stand that stuff." She complained, taking yet enough mouthful and setting her cup away. She scrutinized him. The glare of a friend as much as a healer, though there was no craft to back the glance.

"The latter you read, the more you plot," she accused, folding her hands on her knees and leaning forward slightly. "Is there anything I can help with?" She was an excellent spy, if she did say so herself. And a few territories farther from her husband wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on November 22, 2020, 05:35:12 PM
Her statement made him laugh. The rumor mill trundled on, endlessly, about everything, tossing Heidi, Frit, and himself in at intervals, in intermittent combinations, for all sorts of reasons. Trials, drama, fights, tension - if there was one thing the court and the staff and the people all seemed to agree on, it was gossip. Even if they could never keep what the gossip was about straight.

His next allowance was a scoff, however. "Lady Lovise deserves none of it. She has retired delightfully into the country to rule over her estate as she deems fit. Apprentice Blackwidows flock to her, the town council sits at attention to her every word, and my father visits on occasion enough that they can pretend he is busy with work and she's been having numerous torrid affairs for him to disrupt with his arrival." Nik was glad his parents had parted amicably, enough that they could keep up their friendship, an undisturbed type of love that he wasn't experienced enough to understand. He could do without the updates to their little manufactured dramas, however. "She is exactly where she wants to be, with time enough to send me letters about my own maintenance."

It was definitely a combination of effects that had him attempting to simultaneously inhale and snort his drink, pressing his handkerchief to his mouth to stymie the little coughing fit that did, in fact, disrupt his plate. Damn, he thought, looking at the one meat pie that had been disturbed enough to land face down on the carpet. Such was luck. He set his dish on the table and knelt to vanish it and make sure it hadn't left a stain that needed addressing immediately.

"The response to that type of outburst couldn't be borne," he said, dabbing at the carpet. Not too much of a mess, at least, and it kept him from having to look Heidi in the eye when his next thought became words. "They'd either shrink in fear of me, or deem it some kind of extension of whatever I do in the bedroom." Any real anger Nik could bring to bare would be. Well, difficult to mitigate the after shocks of, if it were genuine. Perhaps he should delegate the task to someone from whom the rebuke would be better received, although the implications of that would have to be considered in full too.

People were so terribly difficult sometimes.

Another advantage of his decreased angle - the smirk that pulled his mouth up at her tone, and her look when he chanced a glance up, was able to bloom in full. Not that he had any fear of her being ignorant of it. Sometimes it was worth it to pretend he was good at keeping secrets from one of his best friends. "It was one of the blends suggested to better boost one through the transition from fall to winter," he said, looking up fully at last. He'd inform a maid of the little mishap later, but his own ministrations seemed to have lifted some of the juices from the weave. He demurred, blinking coquettishly, "It has health benefits." Supposedly. He'd gotten used to it with a bit of sugar to take the edge off.

He sighed as he stood, and settled back into his seat. "Plotting runs this territory, dearest." So, so much plotting. And only the very, very best at out-plotting other people's plots got to have the job of guiding all the other plots toward a common goal. Nik was, at least, good at plotting. Weather or not that was a good thing would be proven in time.

In fact... He propped his hand on his fist, snacks briefly forgotten, to give Heidi a look that he hoped communicated the exact level consideration that had gone into his statement. "Actually, yes." Because if anyone were to have words about his relationships with literally any person, Heidi would be fighting for the top of the list beside Fritt. His mother would be a close second, and only due to the distance between them physically. "I've plans to extend a neighborly hand to our... friends in Askavi," he said, as calm and bland as he could make himself. "The situation at the border must be investigated, and I refuse to make any declarations that may launch us into another conflict. With the state of our webs, we couldn't take it." The state of their webs, of course, being no one knows fuckall about what's happened, but something clearly has, which was not a point to be bringing up to anyone beyond their borders. Or outside the walls of some very thoroughly shielded rooms.

"Were it to come to be that a diplomatic party was to be sent up, who would you send?" With me, he tacked on at the end, although that was another little bit that he hoped she wouldn't divine. There were... few options that he truly, genuinely trusted to be as politic and Raej-serving as he needed, and. Well. He would not send a citizen to do a job he would not do himself.
Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on December 12, 2020, 06:04:11 AM

"Oh my." Heidi laughed behind her hand. The sound was small but the wicked delight in her eyes shone brightly. Her own family was much to stuffy for such scandal. Heidi was their shining star on that front, but since most of the whispers about her revolved around The Warlord Prince, it was allowed. The relationship was one of design, and Heidi always managed herself with the utmost decorum in public.

The people just liked to imagine her riding hog wild between Nikki and Fritter because they wished to. She understood and was amused by the notion. "Its kind of her to care." She teased mercilessly, not at all repentant to having made him spill his food. Leaning forward, Heidi watched him dab at the carpet with quiet glee. Such an undignified position for her lofty friend! She knew she was supposed to offer apologies and help, but Heidi did neither. Nikki had his own tormenting to do.

"Oh please." Heidi scoffed, even if what he said was probably true. "The people would forgive you anything." He as much beloved. How could he not be? Young, beautiful. Powerful. The idea of fearing him was ridiculous, even when she was in the midst of terror herself. It was strange, trusting the wolf that could eat you. Heidi had heard of performers who stuck their heads in the mouths of beasts. Was not living with Nikodemus much the same?

But she loved her friendly greatly. And trusted him just as much. Not all were quite so fortunate as herself.

"Oh? As prescribed by who?" Heidi questioned, finally sliding from her seat so she could help him up, not that he needed it. "Get off the floor, you foolish creature." It gave her a chance to fuss and soothe them both. "I have never forced a patient to drink something so horribly tart," she complained in a false whine. Patting his cheek, Heidi returned to her seat, leg sliding over leg, her interest perked.

Plotting was so delightful.

Delighted to be of help, Heidi leaned forward and listened. Nikki was always talking with things other than his mouth. Or he talked out of both sides of it and left a lady dizzy. Fingers twisting together, she frowned. "Is that wise?" She herself had been over the border before. Askavi was a rough place, its people prideful and unpredictable. Though she had heard good things about its current queen.

"True, but you needn't send anyone openly." She suggested. Nikodemus was, however, interested in diplomatic relations. Heidi tipped her head curiously. Did it have to do with the current queen? She'd heard the lady was quite beautiful. But no. Her Nikki was too level headed for that. Though Heidi thought he could benefit from a little romance on occasion. Fritter had the frivolity covered.

Knowing he wouldn't like the idea, Heidi still offered it, sitting back and straight in her seat. "I'll go. I've been before." She held up a hand to ward off any denial on his part. "I'm quite comfortable outside of Raej, and I've no horn to worry about hiding. My position, and caste, make a viable candidate." People trusted healers. And everyone knew she was more than just the court's healer. She played escort to Nikki too often to be anything but inner, inner circle.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on December 20, 2020, 06:58:58 PM
The sound of Heidi's laughter, rekindled his own. "Mmph," Nik huffed, doing an unsubtle job of hiding his rolling his eyes. "That, I doubt." It was enough, he thought, for both the topic of his mother and the people. Neither were what he would bet his good favor on - his mother because they were both adults and were expected to manage themselves, and the people, because - well. There was always a line. He didn't intend to try and find it on the Territory scale.

But her next declaration had him laughing again, a sharp haha! before he boggled at her. "By you!" he gasped in false offense, taking her hand to stand. "I believe that to be markedly untrue. Some of your brews over the years have been absolutely noxious." He dusted off his hands as he returned to his seat, crossing his ankles primly before retaking his modified tea.

Scratching the hinge of his jaw, his attention drifted over the walls, the clutter of his desk, the small flower arrangements that would need changing soon. Wisdom was something to strive for, surely, but he had no doubt that many would find him lacking. "I don't know," he admitted, looking at her again. "I don't think it right to show our hand too early, but it'd be equally unwise to risk inaction." He scrunched his nose at the myriad paths of action-response-reaction that spread out before them. "If we extend a hand now, open without hidden intent, it will be remembered. We could attempt to spy, but discovery would mean suspicion, perhaps future hostility. The same can be said for bluffing with any amount of conviction; maintaining it could be costly, and ultimately counterproductive." He didn't want to sink Craft, time, and marks into something that could grow too unwieldy to easily control. The longer a lie existed in activity, the more work it became. "Better to simply speak around the nuance of the effect of the Event on Raej, or be spare in the details of our hurdles."

He sighed deeply, sagging with a touch of drama against the chair. "Building the bridges of territorial comradery is so much harder when there's no reason for trust because everyone was partner to everyone else's mutual subjugation for generations." Politics would be so much easier if everyone just said what they meant. Which, Nik could acknowledge, was more than a little hypocritical, considering the very conversation he was having.

Her suggestion had him shooting up in his seat, spine and shoulders snapping to attention in surprise. The fabric of the chair arms creaked at his grip. "No!" was his immediate, bursting response, "No, I -" and then his mind caught up with his mouth and his teeth clicked together against the rest.

The issue, of course, was that she had a point. Several, in fact, and he hated it a little. If be approved Heidi to go, he could never leave himself. She'd know his shifted form at fifty paces, and never agree to let him accompany her in person if he outright said it. It was a bold move, put politely, to attempt a meeting between two territory leaders previously on less than genial terms.

Maybe it will have to be delayed, he admitted to himself. He'd act like it wasn't something he'd considered, and could admit defeat later. Whoever left could just be burdened with the multitude of letters he'd write to Askavi's leader.

"Mm," he sat back, pursing his lips. "Perhaps." Although the very idea had immediately had his hackles rising. "I would be remiss in sending you alone. Who else would you suggest to come?" Maybe if he just never added in that he intended to come too they could build an acceptable traveling party. He could surprise her on departure, leave Frit and the senior staff in charge for the trip. It'd be like a very abridged version of the Walk.

He did like little treks with his security entourage.
Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on January 09, 2021, 07:59:32 AM

Heidi quirked an eyebrow at Nik's daintly crossed ankles. "So delicate. So prim." She teased him quietly, her smile decidedly wicked. But then she quickly went back to being offended by his outright slander of her good work. "I have never made a noxious brew in my life, thank you very much. One of the other healers, or an apprentice, must have botched the job." She sniffed indignantly, turning her nose up at the very idea.

The playfulness passed. Heidi watching him over the curve of her cheek as he drifted. His body following his mind as it spun spidersilk web plots. He was such a little schemer, her precious friend. Heidi approved. She rearranged herself as he thought, easing into his words as he began to talk. Shedding her play indignation, for seriousness and attention.

"You could simply send someone without fanfare and entourage." Her lithe shoulders rose and fell. "You have sent a representative, but made no promises either way. Open hand, free of intention, little loss of life or comment if things go poorly." It was not the sort of thing a healer should condone. Life was precious. But one against the many weighed favorably on any scale.

Poor Nikki! So many worries on his shoulders. Good thing were broad, and strong. And exactly why he needed the people around him he curried. Herself. Fritter, much of an ass as he was. "Let no other hear you speak so. We're all innocent." She doubted anyone would stand being accused of helping Witch enact her evil. Except Dhemlan.

Her offer to help was met exactly how she should have expected it to be. Heidi raised her eyebrows at him, leaning back in her seat as he practically leapt toward the ceiling in protest. He was so very male. He even leaned in, like she hadn't heard him the first time. "No need to shout, my prince." Heidi shook her head. Maybe this was why Warlord Princes had such a hard time ruling. All their protective instincts got in the way.

"You know its not a bad idea." She pointed out, watching as he mulled it over. Whatever other objections he'd been about shout at her dying on his lips. Relaxing into her seat, rather than retreating into it, Heidi gave his question some thought. Fritter was an obvious choice, but she did not like to leave Nikki without at least one of them. And his Grey might be seen as a threat.

She couldn't remember how Dark the Jewels ran in the territory court of Askavi. The Queen was Sapphire, she knew. "Not many. An escort, obviously. Dark enough but not of a threatening Darkness. My Jewels are trouble to no one, which is both boon and issue." She was not defenseless, and had manged to take care of herself perfectly well all these years.

But she also had many powerful friends to help secure her safety.

"Frit should stay with you, of course. You'll need someone to make sure you don't wind yourself into a knot." She could take her husband. He was a likely candidate for escort. Heidi chewed on his name, and the corner of her thumbnail. But did she wish to take him? He very rarely accompanied her to official functions, and never on excursions that he probably would have greater apoplectic fits over than Nikki.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on January 11, 2021, 09:51:23 PM
The urge to stick his tongue out at her was redirected to a pointed eye roll at her willingness to throw her apprentices under the wagon, but he smiled all the same. Heidi could implicate whoever she wished, but he - and Frit - knew the truth. Had been subject to some of those early brews she so ardently denied.

He appreciated the easy slide of her attention too, a grounded presence while his own thoughts endeavored to travel the length and breadth of the territory. Heidi spoke truth as solid as stone, and he needed it/ There were too many paths to get tangled in if he forgot to come back to the core of the matter.

"A missive ahead of the party would suffice," he allowed. He'd already partially drafted several. "It'd look poorly on us if our attempt at friendly contact simply wandered in from the countryside unannounced." It was a comfort to know he wasn't he only one considering the potential ill outcome of their foray, even if it would shock others to hear such things from the mouth of the court healer. If anyone was lost, it would be Heidi they would be brought to first, if possible, to determine the manner of their death such that it might be better guarded against in the future.

But a small party would be preferable, even if the odds of their survival were not as high, should the entire attempt go south. Darkness have mercy he grumped to himself. No party he was ever part of got to be small.

Farewell, scenic jaunt, he thought, shifting to lean against the arm of the chair closest to her.

"They will not think so," he sighed, although he dearly wished otherwise. "Or, they might not think so, and that is what must be prepared for." Who knew who had suffered, or how, at the hands of a Raejian solider under Witch's command. He had read the reports of every returning soldier willing to provide one, but things always slipped through. Or were too painful to recount.

Her admonishment at his lack of decorum reminded him of his mother enough to more fully grasp his instinct and shove it away. It was a difficult thing, and the itch of it remained. But he had been raised to pick his battles better than that, and gave himself a moment for a centering breath.

Rather than commit to pouting, at least with his face, he stood and relocated himself to her couch, close enough to feel the shift of her skirts against his pants.

Just because it is good does not mean I have to like it, he thought, reaching to trace a fold of the fabric between them. She'd been in his office long enough to add fresh rumors to the pile already, it wouldn't matter if she came away with slightly more of his psychic scent. The room practically screamed of his regular occupation anyway.

"An escort, and a guard for each of you, at least" he stressed. The limitations of traveling outside the territory were so many he felt chafed. "I'd prefer two." Maybe they could just pretend they didn't have neighbors, and live on in pleasant oblivion a little more. "A Horned Guard scout would be a welcome addition, if the risk of offense at an illusion weren't so high." Another thing he was tempted to do himself. He might not have a calling for illusion webs, but a Gray was a Gray. He just didn't want to risk his envoy - likely Heidi - with whoever would try to break it.

Especially when he wouldn't be there. Ugh, how it grated.

He didn't temper the rueful smile that pulled at the corners of his mouth. "Of course. If anyone will work out my kinks, surely it will be Frit." He'd present diversion enough, at least, to have Nik forget his worries for Heidi. At least for a moment. But who else to round out their party? "There are a slim number of court members in need of attention," a slim number that he could potentially trust with the task, at least. All of them were jockeying for attention, or more responsibility, eager to prove themselves, to prove their worth. Messy, the lot of them. "Or a Web member. Even if they decline, the explicit invite may draw out one of their number." Likely they would tack themselves on as a guard anyway, meaning that Heidi would need to have open eyes and ears from the moment she left the city till the moment she returned to this very room.

Unless that was what they expected him to think, and they'd send no one, and find out whatever it was they wanted some other way. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes against the spike in his headache. So many pieces, and so often he felt he had so little influence over them.
Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on January 31, 2021, 07:37:23 AM

"And I'm sure you have at least one handy." Her amusement was apparent, though she didn't laugh and barely smiled. Heidi's eyes swept toward the waste basket near the desk. It was much in need of emptying. "But you are right. We aren't her farmers coming to call, but a foreign nation."

They'd all had too much of outside meddling.

Her dear friend. Heidi couldn't practically hear the gears grinding away inside his head. She certainly saw his thoughts moving through his body. It wasn't an expression, really, so much as the tilt of his head, or the shift of his body. The way he came closer, leaning toward her, spoke of worry.

She would have reached out to pat his hand consolingly if he'd been closer. "Perhaps. But as long lived as they are, they must think forward and forever back. Witch is dead, and if we are to put things back to right we all have to move on from it best we can." They'd never forget, however much the memory must have dulled for those who hadn't lived it.

Heidi did not move to make room for him. The shouting stopped, but Nik himself drew closer. She allowed it, as she most often did except when he was being too thoroughly a male nuisance. Sometimes a girl just wished to be by herself. This day he was being very good. And giving in, which she enjoyed immensely.

"Two and you risk insult. An escort and a guard is certainly plenty." He made perfect sense, Heidi was glad to see. Sometimes even her most precious friend fell victim to the foibles of caste, getting all over too protective to be rational. Not often, but occasionally. Because he was being so good, Heidi let him play with her skirt. Better he work some worries out on the fabric, silly male.

"Surely." She smirked. The territory was awash in rumors about the two. Not even Heidi knew the full truth of it one way or another, except when it came to the rumors involving herself. But she never spoke to them, other than to hush her husband. "I had not considered them." She admitted. Nik it seemed was having the same trouble as Heidi herself in choosing a second. "Extend an invitation, let us see what fish come to net, or flee it."

Her shoulders rolled delicately, and she settled a hand over his to keep him from pressing a crease into her skirt with his hands. Her other hand rescued his nose. "Here." Her fingertips were cool at his temple, craft gentle and unobtrusive. Just a sliver of power to ease the edge. Not even for her beloved Nikki could she commit herself to truly tapping into her Jewels. But it was just a little headache, and nothing to prove her loyalties over.

"Better?" She asked him, moving on to other things with a pet of his cheek. "There is a rather level headed male under the steward who might serve as escort." If only they could find no one else would she ask her husband. Mother Night only knew if he would agree, but Heidi knew he never would without a fight over the thing.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on February 15, 2021, 02:23:10 PM
Only ease of practice kept Nik's gaze from following her own to his rubbish bin. He'd make no mention of the several missives already drafted - although perhaps more than one was over doing it. He'd written them as things had occurred to him, and hadn't planned on consolidating them simply to save from looking like a long winded fool. Would it be worse to look like someone who couldn't keep a thought straight?

Her words lodged like stones in the well of his chest with their truth. Witch's shadow had not been quite so dark or deep as it had been in Askavi, but the touch of it lingered. There were those living who had been across the border to their winged neighbors land. It felt petty and selfish, but he was possessed, suddenly, to sabbatical at the border until her return. Maybe he would - he'd been out to the military posting there the first few days after the event; had walked it as a man and Nissi, for the scope of the thing.

He'd promised a return, and had scheduled it for slightly later, but such a delegation would be an allowable situation for his early return. Frit could come with.

"It would be plenty acceptable to visit our enlisted citizens, I think," he said, trying to balance a touch of teasing against how unwilling he was to reconsider being any farther away. "Within my own territory I surely wouldn't be a threat." Their outposts were reasonably distanced from the border, enough so that he wouldn't be seen as a looming threat on the horizon. More a guardian wringing their hands in worry, perhaps, but he would rather be perceived as over-caring than under-trusting. How aggravating that one's own presence could sabotage ones plans.

He wrinkled his nose at the idea of letting the Web pick and choose their attendees, but knew he couldn't force their hand into anything anyway. Elusive, ridiculous people. The only thing worse than being ignorant of a secret was knowing there was a secret to be in on and not being in on it. "We can shelve the second position for now. If your departure draws to close and it hasn't been filled, I'll assign someone - one of the less annoying court members perhaps."

A little jolt ran through him, and he felt foolish for not thinking of it sooner. "Should we consider caste more judiciously? Would it be insulting to send a Queen, or would a party with atypical makeup better represent our willingness to acknowledge the transition of power?" He wasn't particularly well versed in Askavi's history, but he was aware enough that the current Queen had, and potentially was still, faced with significant opposition to her taking of the throne. Male rulers had been the norm through force, instead of being instated through political machinations, as it was in Raej. "I could always summon a respected tradesperson, although I'd need to have them vetted." Likely by Frit, but there was an equally likely chance that attaching such an individual to the party would take up more time than it was worth.

The touch of her skin, her Craft, soothed like the opening of a window, his headache subsiding. He tilted his head further toward her, sighing dramatically. "Much. If only all my problems were so easily to be fixed." If such were the case, Heidi likely wouldn't be employed in his court - she'd be running the continent. At her suggestion, he flipped through the mental files he kept on his court members, but he couldn't pinpoint the specific male in question from the line up. "If he's available, we can add him to the roster. When would you be willing to depart?" The earlier the better, but if anyone knew how long it took to arrange transport and untangle themselves from one obligation for another, it was Nik.
Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Heidi Ranum on February 28, 2021, 07:22:09 AM

Heidi could imagine him now; like a mother, wringing her hands waiting for her children to return. She was flattered, but knew, too, he was as likely to worry so over anyone he sent into such danger. And it was not just about the safety of the people, but the importance of the mission.

"Have we sent any others to her court?" Before or after Nikki, Heidi could not remember. Any time she has crossed the border she had been playing at healer and acting with the utmost discretion. Listening to the talk. Looking at all she could see. And reporting everything back once she come home again.

She turned her palm upward in acceptance, a faint smile on her lips at his so obvious repulsion of her idea. The contention between her prince and the Web was intriguing, but something outside of Heidi's scope. The machinations of spiders were not for her to understand. Nor did she need to, for she would only ever back one of them. "I'm sure whoever is chosen, I can handle." She dealt with Fritter regularly, after all.

Heidi considered, her own thumb finding a stiff thread in her seam to worry. Her eyebrows drew together as she tried to imagine in. "I think a queen would make a strange choice, especially with you being a male yourself. A queen sending an apprentice on such matters would make sense. How they would take the choice from you, I wouldn't risk guessing."

Was it different, Heidi wondered, looking at her friend. Was the service to a queen a different kind of devotion than what she felt for this man, who had been her friend since girlhood? Did the caste make it less or greater, since theirs could be a strange sort of compulsion? Heidi didn't have the answer, and other things to worry about than the matter.

Like fixing headaches and soothing tempers.

"You are the most ridiculous thing." She teased him. So very dramatic over a little headache and littler craft. Probably because he lied about the extent of the headache. "Have Frit look a the trades people. Maybe one will jump out as most suitable. And I'll sniff around that extra body." Knee over knee, her foot bounced, nerves suddenly washing through her body.

"As soon as you need me to. I can send a letter to my husband, and my apprentices are always ready to serve." Heidi hated having to micromanage them. If they were incapable of using their brains, she found replacements for them as quickly as possible. She was too busy to be bothered with drivel. She looked at Nik, as if she could see right into his brain.

How soon would he send her? Oh Mother Night, this was not what she had expected from this afternoon. Stiffening her spine, Heidi steeled herself. She was perfectly prepared and capable. She'd been into Askavi before, and this time she wouldn't have to bow her head or hide her intentions. It would be fine. Surely.

Title: Re: The Nettle & The Needle
Post by: Nikodemus Vee on March 06, 2021, 01:01:50 PM
Nik shook his head on impulse, but thinking back, he knew it was right. There hadn't been any delegations since Witch, and even those had been closer to compulsory shows of attendance, another flex of her power over her subjects. Her reign had been shaken enough by the time he ascended that he'd never had to organize a party to her, for which he'd been greateful.

Now, he wondered if it would have been good practice, of if it would have colored his decisions further. "No, yours will be first since Her fall." And what a weight that was. He wished, again, that he could go in her stead. He could allow himself the private illusion that ruler to ruler meetings involved less stress than this one was giving him.

"Of course," he chuckled. "I can't imagine anyone standing against you, dear." None of the Web would try, at least, for all the nuance of it being too obvious to discern who it would be. Nik had never turned any type of anger against them directly, but he would for Heidi if anything happened.

The worry that his party would somehow be viewed as an insult to Askavi's Lady remained, however. The nature of Raej's politics were not something he imagined to be widely known, with so much of them secreted away. Did Lady Illithian know that a man presided over one of her neighbors? Would she care? Nik had yet to single out any one individual as a successor or favorite replacement, and likely wouldn't for some time. He had no true apprentice to send, and even Heidi or Frit, as trusted advisors, carried different weight than someone chosen by the territory ruler to succeed them. "We will avoid an Queenly presence in our party then," he determined. "Askavi's shift is something viewed as unconventional after their history before Witch. We are an equally unconventional territory; it might serve better to show that, in some way, we understand their struggle toward change."

He sank further into the couch at her proclamation, affecting a look of long suffering woe. "I am afflicted with ridiculous counsel who require ridiculous management," he sighed, but grinned at her all the same. "But the Darkness has blessed me with you, for which I am eminently grateful. I appreciate your intervention." He would draw up a short-list of prospective contacts for Frit to interview, with the stipulation that if none were found to be up to snuff that they wouldn't settle. The situation was too delicate to simply hand off, and, absolutely loath as he was to imagine it, he'd rather send another guard with Heidi than anyone who would be a detriment to her, Raej, or their budding relations. 

The timing of the thing was always the most crucial, and he looked up at the ceiling while he debated it. He'd not yet penned the perfect letter, which would grant a further few days at least, and the matter of filling out the party would demand its own time. "In three weeks, at the latest, I should think." That felt about right. "Two would be preferable, and proactive, but I'll be considerate of your time as well as Fritjof's. If there are further matters to delay us, I'll send something ahead about the change." He'd need the advance of party letter done soon anyway, which would need to be sent before the one he wanted to have for Heidi on departure. At least it would be a welcome break from all the communiques he issued to his circles - those got tedious quickly.