Update: The Raven and the Songbird
A fluffy little jaunt in Velaris
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To say that Gwyn held onto his arm for dear life might have been an understatement. Both of her hands were clutched around his bent arm, knuckles white, and Azriel could feel the pleasant warmth of her body against his. He kept his gaze on her, as much as he could while still navigating them down the street, alert for signs of panic or discomfort. But, while her grip was vice-like, her eyes were alight with awe and a small smile graced her pink lips.
His shadows flitted around them, seemingly also content with their freedom and foray into the city. They floated around their joined arms and brushed through Gwyn’s hair, the dark tendrils a stark contrast to the sun-kissed copper.
“I’m sorry about them,” he murmured. “They are particularly excited about this trip, it seems.”
“You needn’t continue to apologize for your shadows,” the priestess answered, granting him a quick glance of shining teal eyes. “They’re lovely. And they seem quite friendly.” He felt her sigh contentedly, hands pulling against his arm. “And they are a part of you, so I know I have nothing to fear from them.”
He stopped, nearly causing her to stumble back against her grip on him. Heat bloomed across his cheeks as he took a moment to stare down at her as she looked to him, confused. His jaw was slack, her words slicing through his usual internal reverie – a whirlwind of self-loathing and fear, a storm that would calm here and there as he allowed thoughts of her to settle in.
“Azriel? Did I… did I say something I shouldn’t have?” Teal pools narrowed with concern and he quickly shook his head.
“No, not at all. You just…” Azriel huffed out a breath, the corner of his mouth tilting up. “You always surprise me, Berdara.”
Her head tilted, satisfaction shining in her smile. But Gwyn’s eyes were still clouded with bewilderment. “As much as I enjoy hearing that, Shadowsinger, I’m going to need you to elaborate.”
His grin widened and he tugged on her, pulling her over to a darkened alcove between two stone buildings. Hidden from the sun, he let his shadows thicken, darken, shield them from the occasional passerby.
“You realize, Gwyn, that my shadows typically send people running. That I could plunge someone into mind-shattering darkness with just a thought.” It wasn’t that he was trying to intimidate her, but ‘lovely’ and ‘friendly’ were not usually on the list of terms associated with the shadowsinger. Which was why her statement had been surprising. And his statement was met with a raised eyebrow and shallow pools gleaming with challenge, shimmering almost in defiance of the darkness of the shadows around them.
Azriel’s head tilted back as he chuckled, mirth and admiration warming his chest. This female – priestess, warrior, survivor – was not just surprising. She was so painfully special.
“You’re incredible. Do you know that?” he murmured, expression sobering slightly. He faced her fully, even as she kept her grip on his arm, and reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear.
“Of course I do, Shadowsinger,” she scoffed, a grin still dancing on her lips. “But you still haven’t explained why you seem to be so surprised by it.”
A sigh escaped his lips. “Because nobody describes my shadows as lovely or friendly, Gwyneth. And nobody simply assumes their benevolence based solely on the fact that they’re mine.”
“Well then nobody has taken the time to know you as well as you deserve.” Gwyn’s hands left his arm, and before he could mourn the loss of her warmth she reached them up to cup his cheeks. “You’re not a monster, Azriel. I promised that I’d continue reminding you of that, and so I am.” His breath hitched, and he could feel his jaw slacken again under her palms. He focused his gaze on the sincerity reflecting back at him, finding himself tempted to trace the freckles splattered over her cheeks.
“I like it when you call me by my name,” he whispered. Those warm, gentle fingers drifted down, hands coming to rest against his chest. The priestess tilted her head in confusion.
“Do you not like when I call you Shadowsinger?”
“Rest assured, Gwyn,” he snickered, giving a quick jerk of his head. “I enjoy our banter immensely. But…” Azriel wasn’t sure how to explain it, how it felt when she spoke his name.
“I told you before that I have felt like I was losing myself to the dark, that I had no tether to the light. But, somehow, when you say my name it’s like an anchor. Grounding me. Settling me. It’s like a reassurance that who I am is who I’m meant to be. That who I am… Azriel… is enough.” He gave a shrug and his gaze dipped to the ground beside them, suddenly uncertain of the admission.
But this was Gwyn, and though he was unused to expressing himself in such a way he knew in his heart that the Valkyrie would not judge him. She would likely appreciate the sentiment.
“You are. You are exactly who you are supposed to be, and I… I am quite fond of who that is,” Gwyn offered, patting her hand gently on his chest. Azriel allowed his eyes to rise to her face, anxiety disappearing as he took in her expression: gentle smile and solemn, ocean-deep gaze. His lip quirked. “Even the parts that you think should scare me away.” The admission was barely more than a breath on her lips, and his heart stuttered. The shadows around them loosened, lightened, began floating and curling and dissipating, allowing the sunlight to wash back over them. Azriel couldn’t find the words, struggled for a response that could even begin to express what those words meant to him. What it meant that she spoke them adamantly, confidently.
So instead he placed his scarred hands – those pieces of him that were always a reminder of his guilt and shame, the solitude and worthlessness to which he had resigned himself – over hers, curling long fingers under them and giving them a gentle squeeze. “How are you feeling? Now that we’re in the city?”
“I am… anxious, I admit.” Her sheepish grin and blushing cheeks accompanied her confession, and he hoped she didn’t think herself weak for feeling such things. But he knew she didn’t want pity, knew that their banter – allowing her to resort to her impressive wit – was a comfort to her. So he goaded.
“Is that why you’ve been holding onto me for dear life, Berdara?” Azriel grinned as she gasped, feigning shock and slapping his shoulder.
“I have been doing no such thing!” the priestess balked. The shadowsinger chuckled, shadows thinning and settling over his shoulders and wings as he pulled at a freckled hand and led her back into the street.
“Of course not,” he cajoled. Azriel shifted his grip, lacing his fingers between hers, and lowered a shoulder to murmur softly, “Fortunately for you, my Illyrian healing will take care of any broken knuckles or fingers before I can even cry out in pain.” And while he loved to make her blush, he thought maybe that scowl with scrunched nose and mirthful shimmer in those narrowed teal eyes was his next favorite expression for her to wear – for him to draw out of her.
As if to threaten such an injury Gwyn tightened her grip. “How can you be so sweet and yet so insufferable all at once?”
The spymaster let his laugh rumble through him, deep and genuine. Drawing their intertwined hands up to his lips, he grinned. “It’s a gift.” He let his mouth graze over her knuckles, lifting his gaze to catch the sprinkling of pink joining the freckles on her cheeks. Pulling away he added, “Hold onto me as tightly as you need, Gwyn.” Turning to look down the street, he gently drew her into step beside him, feeling her hold tighten slightly. He cast a glance her way and smirked, finding that the redness in her face hadn’t lessened after that offer – a promise of support he would do all in his power to uphold.
They walked slowly. Azriel kept his steps measured, allowing his priestess to set their pace. His shadows were calm, although they still seemed to reach for her and took particular interest in twining around their joined hands. Although they never spoke to him in anything so clear as words, their satisfaction was obvious. As he considered the smile that seemed plastered upon his face, the ease with which he was able to be vulnerable with her and express his feelings, he tended to agree. He had to stifle a laugh at the notion that not too long ago he had found himself struggling for words in her presence.
Before he understood that she – like him – had wanted more.
He had never considered himself gifted with words, but he had always kept quiet more from a position of observation and strategy than his being unable to use them. The shadowsinger found that he cared more for measured expression, made sure that his contributions were born of thoughtfulness and consideration rather than a need to participate. Perhaps his uninhibited conversation with the copper-haired Valkyrie was due to the fact that he had known for some time that she was special, different than any female he had known. That those thoughts of how he felt at her easy acceptance of him, how she made him laugh and look forward to each day, had been circling his mind so much that he already knew exactly what he wanted to say. It was as if he had practiced the sentences in front of a mirror, such was his surety.
“So where are we going?” Gwyn’s voice pierced his thoughts and he dipped his chin to find those stunning eyes alight with curiosity.
“It’s a surprise,” he answered, lips quirking. Her own lips pursed.
“That sounds to me like you don’t have a plan, Shadowsinger.”
Azriel lifted his free hand to press his palm against his chest with a gasp, letting playful horror settle over his features. “You wound me, Berdara. I am the Spymaster of the Night Court.”
“So?” she challenged with a raised brow, and he was sure if she weren’t gripping his hand like a vice she might have crossed her arms to express just how unimpressed she was by mere title.
“So,” he mused, “I make it my business to know the secrets of the city, including the locations that are of the highest quality and to whose interests they may cater.” Gwyn rolled her eyes.
“Are you the Spymaster or do you just have considerable shopping habit?”
“I have also been told, by the High Lord,” he continued, ignoring her jab, “that I am a brilliant strategist. The most powerful High Lord – in all of Prythian – trusts my instincts. Now, does that sound like someone who wouldn’t have a plan? For something so monumental as Gwyneth Berdara’s first trip into Velaris?” Azriel watched her beautiful face as she reacted, and he felt his heart squeeze as her features softened – that playful, nonplussed expression sobering into something he wasn’t sure he could read. The light glittered in her eyes more brightly, and he thought she might shed a tear. Was it understanding? Realization?
“It is monumental, isn’t it?” she murmured, as if she truly hadn’t thought of it that way, and turned a wistful gaze down the cobbled street lined with stone buildings and colorful awnings. “I’m… I’m really here.” He ran a thumb over her hand in quiet comfort.
“Indeed you are.” Pride warmed his soul as he studied her profile. He had met many beautiful females. Bedded some. Pined after others. He knew he was an outwardly attractive male, regardless of the hellscape inside him, and many women would spare a second or third glance his way. But Gwyn outshone them all. And it wasn’t because of the freckles that danced over her nose and cheeks, her plump pink lips, or those stunning eyes that belied her nymph heritage. There was a light inside of her, a bright ray of sunshine that flew in the face of the darkness that had shrouded her short life. She brightened the lives of everyone around her. She was bold and intelligent and strong and funny. It was all of those things, and the wonder in her eyes as she took in the city around them and truly understood what that meant, that made her quite possibly the most incredible female he would ever know. His High Lady and Nesta Archeron included. “How does it feel?”
“It’s a lot,” she admitted, and for a moment he thought she might have had enough for the day. But she just took a deep breath and faced him with the most dazzling, gut-wrenching smile. And then her arms were wrapped tightly around his neck, her weight thrown against him. He circled his arms around the small of her back to keep her from sliding down. “I did it, Azriel. I made it to Velaris.” He felt her chin on his shoulder, heard her voice only inches away from his ear. Taking a breath, he tightened his grip on her, inhaling her scent and her shampoo and reveling in the closeness of her and the gravity of this moment.
“You did it, Gwyn. I’m so very proud of you.” He could have stayed there forever, unconcerned with anything outside of this moment. No passersby, no responsibilities, no thrumming city current. Just Azriel and Gwyn and the deep admiration he hoped she could feel in his embrace. She had truly accomplished so much, in possession of a strength that he was uncertain even he or Cassian could muster. Her arms loosened around his shoulders, and he bent to plant her feet back fully on the cobbled ground. Wanting nothing more than to gaze into her shallow teal pools, he pulled back. Her fingers traced down the length of his arms, a feather’s touch leaving a trail of flame. His skin prickled at the caress. Her eyes crinkled, lined with silver, and he lifted a thumb to brush away a tear that threatened to fall. Her grin grew impossibly wider, glowing in the morning sunshine, and he thought his heart might burst. “You are so strong. So next time that bat Merrill gives you any trouble, you can tell her where to shove it.” The priestess threw her head back with a cackle.
“Very professional of you, Shadowsinger.” She stepped back, turning her attention to the mottled skin of his hand and laced her fingers with his. “Alright, master strategist who definitely has a plan. Lead the way.” Azriel grinned, something he was wearing more and more these days, and they fell into step together down the cobbled side street of Velaris.
Gwyn sighed contentedly as they roamed down a nearly empty side street. The cobbled path they had started on that morning had become a bit more bustling, and Azriel had so thoughtfully led her down a block and onto a thoroughfare that was much less crowded. Their clasped hands a comforting anchor through the entirety of the day.
He had indeed had a plan – pastries and books. She couldn’t imagine that anyone would dislike such an afternoon, but it was still a delight. Because he had chosen to do it with her, to make sure this first step was one of happiness. A joyful first step into a future that was full of potential, new and exciting and achievable.
The book shop had been particularly lovely, a small storefront with unique works and art and baubles. But what had warmed Gwyn’s heart the most was when the owner beamed at Azriel, asking if she was the girl she’d heard so much about – the girl he always said would love the little shop. When he’d confirmed as such the priestess had been whisked away, down narrow aisles of pristine shelves packed with gold-stamped leather bindings, paper works, artworks. It was such a lovely little place, and had she not been reeling from the emotions of the day, the jitters, she may have indeed left with a quite a few new novels and knickknacks.
The shadowsinger would have bought them for her. She’d nearly balked when he had asked if she had found anything that she liked. Gwyn hadn’t really thought through the need for money on the trip, and thought she might die of embarrassment as her realization was likely painted across her face in a wide swath of heat as her mind had raced. Azriel had simply chuckled – one of her favorite sounds – and had assured her that he wouldn’t have brought her to this place if he hadn’t intended to purchase whatever she’d wished to have.
“That is quite the relief, but I think my mind is so overwhelmed by the day that I wouldn’t be able to choose,” she sighed, gesturing to the shelves surrounding the two of them.
“Next time, then.”
He had only given her a winning smile. For a male who claimed to be inexperienced in relationships – courting – he sure seemed to know exactly what to say, how to reassure her and encourage her.
And so they walked now, still hand-in-hand, as they enjoyed the sunshine and the city.
“So what did you get?” She had spied the small bag he had carried out of the book shop and had successfully kept herself from asking about it until now, but she couldn’t help herself. The curiosity was eating her alive.
“Nothing of importance,” Azriel answered with a shrug. The priestess scowled.
“If it’s not important, then tell me what it is,” she demanded, glaring up at the side of his face. Mother, he was beautiful. He dipped his chin, casting her a sideways glance.
“If it’s not important, why do you care to know?”
Gwyn opened her mouth to retort, but her eyes were drawn to a window across the way. Behind it was a mannequin clothed in a gown of navy velvet, studded with crystals and embroidery. She had never had occasion to wear or own such things, couldn’t imagine that she would anytime soon, but the beauty of the garment rendered her speechless.
So speechless that it had apparently alarmed the shadowsinger. “Gwyn?” he asked gently.
“It’s… beautiful.” Her voice was a reverent whisper, and she pulled him over to the store window to look more closely at the dress. Silver and blue and teal stones formed a belt at the waist and rained down over the bodice and skirt. Sheer sleeves. Gwyn wondered if having something sheer like that over her arms would make her feel more comfortable with the attention that would be attracted from wearing something so lovely.
“It would suit you.” His voice felt distant, an echo in the midst of her wonder, but she felt him squeeze her hand. She averted her gaze and lifted it to the spymaster, finding hazel eyes twinkling with a casual affection. “Would you like to go inside?”
For some reason the question made her anxiety peak. Did she want to? Should she? Did she want to shop for clothes? With Azriel? Was it appropriate? Did that matter?
As if he sensed her uncertainty the spymaster tugged at her fingers again. “Hey,” he murmured, and she blinked back into herself before locking eyes with him again. “There is no hurry. No pressure. We can come back any time you like. I have no doubt this is not the last trip to Velaris that you will make.” Her eyes crinkled, appreciation warming her cheeks. He was so damned considerate, so patient. She was endlessly grateful.
Gwyn shrugged and turned toward the street again. “I should hope not,” she sighed. “I have no occasion to wear anything so elegant, anyhow. This is probably the nicest thing I’ve ever worn.” Looking down at the dress Nesta had let her borrow, she smiled. It was indeed lovely, the deep blue had caught her eye almost immediately.
“Does the warrior priestess wish to don such finery?” Azriel chuckled, and she lifted an eyebrow at him.
“Dresses may not be the most convenient when it comes to keeping daggers on my person, Shadowsinger, but I am not unlike most females. I admit the thought of dressing up in something nicer than fighting leathers – nicer than this dress, even – is rather enticing.” Gwyn lifted her chin as they continued to walk, quiet falling over the two of them. It would be nice… to look pretty, perhaps even feel that way. She had never worried much about her appearance, knew she was attractive enough. But she knew she was no great beauty, not in the midst of the likes of Nesta and Mor. How would it feel, though, to do more with her hair than just tie it out of her face for training? Would the pin straight strands manage to curl? What if she might paint her lips and eyes? Would Azriel like it?
A yawn escaped her lips before she could stop it. Her cheeks heated as she covered her mouth with her fingers. “Pardon me,” she squeaked.
“Am I boring you, Berdara?” the spymaster snickered. She reached over and slapped the muscled curve of his shoulder.
“I suppose I didn’t realize how tired I’d gotten,” she answered thoughtfully. “It’s been a big day.” The Valkyrie couldn’t help but glance around again, a smile parting her lips as she took in the citizens and city street they had been walking.
“Shall we return to the house, then?” Azriel was tucking the small bag – whatever secret trinket he had purchased – into a pocket when she turned back to him. Warm hazel eyes greeted her, and a soft quirk of his lips. He was so handsome; it truly wasn’t fair. His hand left hers, and even as he opened his arms to her she felt a twinge of disappointment at the loss of that joining between them. But she stepped up to him and he scooped her up under her knees and shoulders. This time, though, she wound her arms around his neck. She swore she might have spied the smallest dusting of pink across his tanned cheeks.
“Hold on tight,” he whispered, dipping his chin so she could hear. Then he flared his wings and they were enveloped in darkness. For a moment she was weightless, then felt the fanning of wind from his wing beats as he lowered them beyond the wards and onto the balcony of the House of Wind. Too soon, he was setting her down, and she somewhat begrudgingly released her hold on him. She held her hands clasped at her chest and looked up at the shadowsinger.
“Thank you, Azriel. Today was… it was more than I could have ever hoped for.” Gwyn could feel the prickle in her eyes, even as the corners crinkled with her bright smile. She could feel the color blooming in her face as the spymaster tucked a hair behind her arched ear, hazel eyes burning nearly golden in the summer sunlight.
“It was an honor, Gwyn. Truly,” he answered, then held up the small paper bag he’d had in his pocket. “To commemorate.”
Her cheeks were aflame, now. She could feel it. But she quirked an eyebrow at him. “So you wouldn’t tell me what you bought because it was for me?” she balked. “You didn’t need to do that –“
“I did it because I wanted to, Berdara,” Azriel scoffed as he gestured with the small parcel, urging her to take it. Her eyes narrowed at him, though she was secretly gleeful at his thoughtfulness. How could so many people think him so intimidating and cold when he was the epitome of consideration and care? She fished a small box from the bag and opened it, revealing the small contraption inside. Her eyes widened as she brought her fingers up to her lips, parted in surprise.
“A book light? Like the one you gave Nesta for Solstice?” she breathed. She had been fascinated by it when Nesta had shown it to her and Emerie, and had longed for one of her own. Of course, Azriel would have known it was a gift that Gwyn would also adore.
“The very same. I told you how much I enjoy the book shop. That’s where I bought it for her,” he explained. “I hope you like it. That you will use it often, and each time you will remember how your conquered your fear this day.” The pressure behind her eyes grew, and she couldn’t stop the few tears that fell from her lashes.
“I love it. I truly don’t know what to say,” she sniffled and then let out a quiet giggle. “And you know how rarely that happens, Shadowsinger.” Her gaze followed one of his hands, callused and scarred and enormous, as he raised it to her face. There he waited, and her heart pinched at the gesture, so she turned her cheek to feel the roughened skin of his fingers against her flesh. His thumb brushed the wetness from her cheek as she closed her eyes. She let her shoulders sag, immersed in the serenity and safety this male always gave to her.
“I think that, if I can render you speechless, I should either be very proud of my efforts or very concerned.” His words earned a wet laugh.
His fingers drifted down to her jaw. Others may have been surprised at Azriel’s ability to be so gentle, but the priestess knew better. He was so much more than his fearsome reputation, and while she understood that he was indeed the shadowsinger, that he was the spymaster – known continent-wide for his wrath and his skill for pulling information from unwilling victims – he was also a male of great depth, his silent observation and thoughtfulness often mistaken for cold aloofness. And while he did brood, and often, she could see how he continued to open himself to her and to his friends. She could not feel more honored that she was a part of his journey. Those long, deft fingers reached her chin and tilted it up, so she lifted her eyes to meet his.
All of him was beautiful, but even that word did not do him justice. High cheekbones, strong angular chin, full lips, and lush onyx hair that Gwyn wanted nothing more than to comb through with her fingers. And his eyes. The hazel that melted into gold when he was willing to let her see what he was feeling. It was one of the first things she had noticed when they had begun their evening vigils. His stare could be so frigid and terrifying, but when they softened with vulnerability, as they had been with each other, she felt like she could shroud herself in his warmth and be protected from the most violent winter winds.
“If you would like an occasion… to dress in finer things than leathers,” the spymaster began, lifting his fingers to tap thoughtfully on his lips. “Not that I don’t think you are obscenely attractive in leathers, by the way…”
Gwyn felt the flush course through her, heat coiling low in her belly. She knew her ears were likely as red as her hair. Azriel grinned devilishly, and she tried to hide a scowl. He reveled in making her blush, and Cauldron damn her if it wasn’t hellishly easy for him to do.
“We have family dinners every week. I’m sure you’ve probably heard myself or Cassian or Nesta mention them from time to time. Perhaps, sometime in the future, you would like to accompany me?” Gwyn tilted her head, considering his offer. She had indeed heard mention of family dinner. Nesta had even invited her once or twice, though she had declined at that point. But now…
“I think I would like that,” she answered, letting the smallest hint of a grin lift her lips. “Eventually.” That was the caveat, after all. She had faced something monumental today, but she would be a terrible liar if she claimed that dinner with the High Lord and Lady, their inner circle, and the family that had been built there did not make her stomach lurch.
“Of course,” Azriel conceded, patient as always. “I believe you do know most of the people who would be in attendance: Nesta and Cassian, Rhys and Feyre. And Mor is always dressed so immaculately that you could wear that gown we saw in the window today and still not consider yourself overdressed.” Gwyn snickered.
“I suppose, then, that next time we go into Velaris to satisfy your shopping habit we will have to stop in so I can try it on.” There wasn’t any part of her that was touching him in that moment, but she could still feel that deep, rich laugh down to her bones.
“Indeed, we shall,” was all he said.
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A Court of Song and Serpents (2)
I didn't mean to fall off the face of the earth, but it just kinda happened. Anyways, got a grip on my life and I'm back! Love you all and thank you for your patience<3
Summary: What a time to be alive as Nesta Archeron, going backward to move forward and finding that the places she once called home are now empty tombs.
By the time Nesta was tucked away in a corner of the alley far from any onlookers’ eye, she had decided to peel the flesh off of Mor was sufficient enough after the trip they’d endured.
Standing next to someone for hours on end trying to tell you that you should die would make any sane person wish the same fate.
Nesta was not a naturally violent person. Cold, but not violent. Glaring at the wispy golden strands crowding her vision was a test of morality. Even weak and thirty pounds less, she was almost positive she could take the bitch down, if not by skill but spite.
When Nesta was younger, she was once told she could rule the world.
But that world was on the other side of a wall.
A place that did not want her back.
“If you were half the woman your sister was, maybe we’d actually put up with your bullshit, Nesta.” The red devil glided across the stones, like a goddess reigning terror.
Nesta was silent in turn. Anything that came out would be vile beyond measure, and not something she wished to associate with.
And so there they were, The Morrigan and Lady Death. One blessed with no retribution for her crimes, the other a bastard of twisted fate and abandoned stories.
As Mor led Nesta down an avenue Feyre once walked, she asked herself what truly made her so different- but the answer was simple.
A mother who hated her.
Pillars of ivy littered the black jagged path, the sky a star-kissed midnight blue, as if Feyre took the dresser and splashed it across the horizon. Further ahead, lay a palace fit for Nyx. White-crested towers adorned with hanging lights contrasted the dark expanse surrounding the two women. Lanterns that kept their station, and never flickered, floated above.
Nesta, with her striking beauty, was oddly plain in comparison to the city before her. In a tattered white shirt that hung too loose and bottoms that sat far too low, all her new sharp edges jutted out. What kept men leering was still there, but not enough to be the focus anymore.
It was a sad sigh of relief, to not be put on display so openly- even when she was modest.
“I find this silence of yours so becoming, Nesta. Finally your actions and speech align.”
“I find that dress of yours becoming too, Mor,” Nesta spoke, “Basic, dull, and pointless, like the five-hundred-year-old fae whose so-called power of truth doesn’t do shit.” And she stepped forward with that.
A small gasp came from behind her, heels clicking to catch up.
“You little bitc-”
“I’m assuming this is where I’ll be, correct?” Fingers stretched toward the palace, “It’s beautiful.”
Mor paused and took a breath, “It is. Vile and wretched inside, but glorious from afar, it will serve you well in the coming months. I’ll be sending Rhys your compliments and taking my leave now. Any parting words?” She was stagnant now, looking at the Archeron sister.
Nesta turned to meet Mor’s eyes, then back toward the palace, and spoke, “Yes, tell Rhys I’ll thrive here.” Nesta began to walk, “And he can suck my dick.”
Nesta had explored the ghostly halls of the Moon Palace for hours until she finally found the library. It was dusty and dark, but it was the closest she could get to home. Vacant and isolated.
There was no royal to greet her, or eyes to preen in, but rather the sweet silence of stories and fairytales. It was a wondrous thing, what books could do. Nesta lived in between the crooks of chapters and buried herself in the margins. If she’d died on those fateful days years ago, she would’ve asked to lie in a grove of trees with a tale tucked under her hands.
But death was not kind to her.
Nesta would’ve accepted both horrific ends, she was a tired soul, after all. Nesta dreamed of it since witnessing it so young. She had too much blood on her hands to deserve life anyways. The warriors she couldn’t save, her human sisters, the stable boy… The stable boy.
And just as Nesta had wiped a book clean of dust, it was haphazardly thrown back on the shelf. Her cheeks were wet and the aisles of towering novels became a blurry labyrinth. She couldn’t seem to remember how she got in, was it left, or right? No, no… It must’ve been straight.
With Nesta in the last gown Feyre would ever gift her, the woman in white ran rampant in the dead halls of a castle neglected. A ghost, again, in her own life.
A cry climbed the walls of her throat, scraping its way up to storm out of her mouth, but all Nesta mustered was a desperate choke. Her pants became more rapid, her face stained with liquid acid tormenting the collected façade of Nesta Archeron.
She was drowning once more in the only place she knew peace. The pitiful sadness that clothed her since youth followed everywhere- into dreams and parties. And then, she was falling. No longer standing but crippled on a cold floor with no one to save her.
If the Queen of All died in an abandoned library, would anyone care to catch her, to save her?
Devlon couldn’t stand Cassian, but often found himself to be a therapist to the General. Especially now. And so, Devlon opened his door, once more, to the man aged by dark days and countless lost men.
Cassian was weary and drained from his life, no longer fulfilled by his role. There was once a time where his purpose was everything, but now, it was fruitless. Cass didn’t want to settle down, but he was tired of what position he held amongst his friends, his family, his soldiers, his mate.
Devlon hated Cassian the least, and only tolerated this new behavior because of the destruction his intolerance caused last time. He shifted outward, arm stretched in the door to give way for the younger Illyrian. With his entrance, Devlon felt the temperature drop. Somehow, warmth darted away in Cassian’s presence, his Siphons draining the room of any sparkling lights in kind.
The Illyrian went straight through the narrow cabin hall and into the far right. Devlon took pride in that space, and understood what was happening now. His feet carried him toward the same room, only pausing a stride in. His strategy quarters was expansive, but homely; the walls covered in fraying layouts and plans- a small sign of Devlons experience. Books lined the far shelves telling stories of old and lessons learned, discipline and conduct, the finest recipe for a good solider, and their history- the Illyrians.
He found Cassian slumped over the table set midway in the chaos- fine wood from the tallest peaks in the Steppes, with sculpted edges telling their own tale- a twist of fate.
Devlon walked slowly toward the edge of his grand seat, and took a second to try and catch the hazel eyes across from him. Despondent. A cough of some sort worked it’s way through his throat into the air, and with a weighted drop, Devlon fell into the chair before Cassian.
“She’s gone.” He picked dust from the table that wasn’t there.
“Who?” Devlon perched over, hands intertwined on his chin.
“Nesta- they… they exiled her.” His eyes danced furiously back and forth, waves crashing on the shore.
“And where is she?”
“In the Court of Nightmares, but they won’t tell me where.”
Devlon shifted, his arms coming to rest over his chest. “Cassian, did you try to find out where?”
“Get more information and I’ll see what I can do.”
Cassian gritted his teeth, his knuckles turning pale with a balled fist tense before him, “I don’t have more information, Devlon. We aren’t speaking.”
“Well if you throw tantrums like a fucking child, of course you aren’t going to be trusted with the adult information, Cassian.”
“I am not a child!” The fist came crashing down on the wood, echoing through the halls.
Devlon quirked a brow, and rose from his seat.
“You can get the hell out of my house, or use some of the muscle and fight I taught you, boy. I owe that witch a debt, and I’ll be damned if I don’t repay it because you can’t muster up the courage.” Devlon took the steps to bridge the distance dividing them, and gripped the Generals shoulder, “I once raised you when no one cared, and trained you well. This is worth more than any battle, or testament of your duties to this court.”
Silence fell among them, draping itself over the maps splayed on the walls and in the empty space- as if it was, too, listening in.
“Why?” Cassians eyes kept still on the window, not meeting Devlons face. Shame or fear, Devlon couldn’t tell, but he felt for Cassian. Even just a sliver in his cold heart.
“Because...she saved my wife. Now, get out of my house and find her.”
And with a shove Cassian was out the door.
WOW OKAY HAHA DUBS, anyways, this will pick up soon I just gotta lay the foundation... Love yall!
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For the scene number 4 and for the sentences 9 and 28 and the ship is Gwynriel please
Did I do this right?
Yep, and these are such adorable prompts! I hope you like this <3
WORD COUNT: 893
SUMMARY: Azriel and Gwyn settle down to watch a Halloween movie, only Gwyn doesn't realise until late that it's a little spookier than she was expecting.
When Azriel had said he wanted to put a movie on, she had expected 'The nightmare before Christmas' or 'Hocus Pocus'. She'd gotten their drinks, a hot chocolate with cinnamon sticks for her and a black coffee for him, while Az had put together a bowl of Halloween candies they had bought last week. It wasn't until she was tucked beneath the blanket, head on her boyfriend's shoulder that she realised what he had put on.
"You haven't seen this before right?" he asked, finger hovering over the play button.
She most definitely hadn't seen 'The Ring' before. She hadn't seen a single horror film. Her twin sister loved them, but she could never sit through them without getting scared. She shook her head, gripping his hand in a tight hold as she looked at him with what she hoped was a convincing smile. "Nope, never."
He smiled in return and pushed play, settling in close to her and leaning his head against hers. She gulped and wrapped an arm around his chest, curving around his body and practically sitting within his lap. They'd turned all the apartment lights off, the tv flickering the only source of brightness. he tried to keep her eyes on the screen, but she couldn't help but look away, glancing into the blackness of the kitchen. Her eyes tried to play tricks on her, making terrifying shapes out of normal items. She blinked and looked away, only to be met with the horrors onscreen.
Azriel was drumming his fingers lazily on his knee, feet up on the table beside the candy bowl. She peered up at him, the gentle light casting a white glow on his brown skin. His other hand was wrapped around her waist, resting warmly on her hip. She tried not to jump as he snapped his head to her just as someone screamed in the movie. He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head curiously. "Did you want something?"
Pressing her lips together, she slowly shook her head and turned back to the movie. A horrifying woman was crawling out of the screen. Her long black hair hid most of her pale white face, but still, her expression had chills running down Gwyn's spine. Someone slamming the door down the hall truly made her jump, her whole head whipping around to face the doorway. The shadows were dark there, her brain picking at the blackness until she couldn't handle it anymore. She turned, burying her head in Azriel's neck. She could feel him moving as she squeezed her eyes shut against his skin. It wasn't until the apartment went silent that she looked up, Azriel's eyes wide with concern, a gentle palm on her shoulder.
"Baby?" he started, lifting his hand to cup her face, thumb running along her cheekbone. "Are you scared?"
She blinked a few times before giving in and dipping her chin in a subtle nod. "Can we turn the lights on please?"
He practically bounced up, rushing across the room to turn on the overhead light. Gwyn squinted against the brightness, content when Azriel came right back to her, sitting at her side and pulling her into his lap. She always felt safe within his arms.
"Why didn't you say anything?" he asked, brushing the back of her head, playing with her strands of hair.
Knitting her arms around his neck, thighs wrapped around his hips, she gave a small smile. "It's Halloween. I didn't want to be boring."
"Gwyneth Berdara," he started with a sigh, "you are anything but boring. Liking scary movies doesn't make you any less or any more boring."
A blush rose on her cheeks as she buried her head in his chest. "I wish you had said that earlier. I doubt I'll be able to sleep for a week now."
He chuckled, fingers mapping her back. "Well, I'm sure we can fill our time with something better than sleep."
She gasped playfully, pulling back to see the wide grin on his lips. "You're such an idiot."
He hummed, hair across his brow as he leaned in to press a kiss to her nose. "You love it."
"I do," she whispered, cuddling back against him. "Very much."
It was then that he settled, both arms wrapped around her, pressing kisses to her hair as she curled against the warmth of his chest. It reminded her of when they first got together: the cuddles watching movies, cuddles in bed, hugs hello and goodbye. She'd felt comfortable with that, his body against hers in a non-sexual way but one that felt so intimate too. She heard him switch off the tv, the gentle click music to her ears as his focus turned wholly on her.
"You wanna stay like this, baby?" he asked, his voice hushed as he rubbed a hand up and down her back.
She nodded, closing her eyes. "Mmm... you're so warm."
Even though she couldn't see it, she knew he was smiling, that shy smile he only saved for his near and dear. She would fall asleep like this, the noise of Velaris outside, the warmth and protection of her boyfriend. She'd wake up tomorrow, having been carried to bed, and spend the day taking down decorations, eating chocolate and welcoming the new month with her favourite person in the whole world.
* * *
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