"She presses into him greedily, hungrily, and demands more. She does not know how to be gentle when she is with him—does not know how to quell the aching in her belly, the neediness in her touch. She would devour him whole. She would sacrifice herself completely. She would give and give and give—" --Tabytha, written by Laura
Eyas' visit was a peculiar one to say the least. She came of her own volition and, she left him with so many more questions than answers. What happened to Lavendel? Obviously, she was strong enough to birth two children. But, was she so weak from torture that she didn't make it? Jesper hoped that when Lamb escaped from Sylva, his torture would be over. Instead, the news that his first borns were birthed in the great forest will constantly remind him of that horrible chapter of his life; their lives.
He could not just let the information she delivered go. He had to see to it himself. His questions did not just center around Lamb. Why had his son never sought him out? Does he know that his father exists? How long after Jesper stood outside the Sylvan border, calling for Lamb, were Juice and his daughter born? Where was his daughter? What was her name?
The black shakes his poll and sends bronze-highlighted streaks askew. He clears his mind and focuses on the Nerine cliffside that his aquamarine gaze locks upon. Moments later, Jesper plunges into the arctic sea and begins pushing his way through. Chunks of ice graze against his cold legs as he swims. Muscular chassis keeps limbs moving beneath the surface to prevent him from becoming an iceberg. Jesper's strokes are powerful as he has made this swim frequently.
When his front hooves strike the rocky floor, stallion pulls himself onto the coastline. He brings himself upright and, once steady on all fours, he shakes his body. The heavy winterized water clings to the tendrils of his mane and tail though his pelt seems less soaked. Before the salty coastal wind can whip his sides, the black calls upon his newly acquired environmental adaptation. He grows a dense and dry undercoat that is similar to that of his canine pelt. In moments, he can feel his torso thawing and, a sensation of warmth replaces the freezing cold that had begun to settle in.
Once he is no longer in jeopardy of developing frostbite, the black stallion pushes towards the center of Nerine. He arrives today in equine form to avoid any negative connotations associated with foxes. His intention is to hold a diplomatic meeting with his queen and, the king of Loess. In a show of mutual respect, he feels it best to present himself in a trustworthy, sincere fashion. He would hate for any miscommunication to arise because either leader could not interpret his canine body language. Jesper permits his olfactory sense to track the location of the blue roan sabino mare. He marches confidently towards her until his light blue gaze recognizes her regal features. He offers a warm smile and both ears prick forwards atop his poll. Jesper halts a respectable distance away and offers a brief "Good day, my Queen." Afterwards, he makes a point of scanning their surroundings for the familiar two-toned stallion with hair a metallic shade that mirrors his own highlights. Jesper offers a respectful nod of his poll and a warm smile as well. He waits until Castile is close enough before he greets him as well. "Castile, I am relieved you got Leilan's message. Thank you for meeting me, here." The black falls silent and permits the two leaders to exchange pleasantries. All the while, he compiles what he needs to say and, how he will say it.
This meeting is long in coming, no doubt, though the source from which it is arranged does come as something of a surprise. Of course, she had placed her trust in Jesper when she had given her blessing upon Leilan handing over the reins of the northernmost territory, and she has no reason to believe that trust misplaced. She had long ago come to the conclusion that Jesper is a very capable stallion. Brennen’s trust bolsters her own, and he had successfully defended Icicle Isle on more than one occasion.
As far as she is concerned, he had earned the benefit of the doubt. Though her trust, and the freedom that comes along with it, is often a double-edged blade, Jesper had thus far handled himself admirably.
And so, when he arrives in Nerine, purpose in his step and the subsequent arrival of Castile on his heels, Heartfire meets them with cool amiability, any comments she might have made well within check. She’d much prefer to hear their reasons for coming without prompting from her anyway. And what part they expected her to play in this particular scene.
Whether she would play it or not however, remains to be discovered.
“Jesper,” she greets, her tone friendly despite the neutrality of the greeting. Her gaze shifts to Castile then, sharp and assessing, giving little away as to her thoughts regarding this little tête-à-tête. She offers him much the same she had offered Jesper, her simple greeting giving away as much as the chill blue of her eyes. “Castile”
and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
There’s no grand display of power, nor of strength. Castile’s arrival is as placid as a lake, unsettlingly quiet without ripples, as he soars low across the Nerinian rocks. His shadow stretches far beneath, swallowing everything in its path until both Heartfire and Jesper slide into his vision. Together, they patiently wait for his muted arrival. A practiced shift of his weight and adjustment of his wings softens his landing among them. Pebbles groan underfoot as they scrape against his cracked hooves.
Castile knows nothing of why they are here, why it was decided to congregate within Nerine.
Curiously, his mismatched eyes blink away from them to instead observe the cliffs and to admire the roaring sea. His vision reaches desperately toward the horizon and drink the scenery feverishly all while his ears pivot to listen for voices above their own. Each minute brings him a collection of information before he regards them again just as they skim across pleasantries.
”Jesper. Heartfire.” Their names roll from his tongue in a low drawl, his expression unreadable for another moment while assessing and cataloguing their surroundings. His muscles are eager, prepared to take action if ever necessary, but the stoicism of the conversation thus far provides no reason to expect the worst. With a slow, calculated breath, Castile turns his head to steadily scrutinize Jesper. ”And what, pray tell, is the reason for this meeting?” His eyebrow lifts underneath his metallic forelock, a muted break of his stoicism to betray the curiosity lurking beneath.
He notes how stoic the Loessian king approaches. Jesper remains at ease while Heartfire and Castile are settling in. As soon as the other male's mismatched eyes lock with his, the black stallion begins to feel the shift in the conversation. He begins to feel a burn in both cheeks and, a pounding within his chest. Jesper takes a deep breath and reminds himself that he called this meeting. Taking point was inevitable and, it seems that the time had come for him to do just that. He organizes his thoughts and, checks his tone to ensure his delivery is untainted by his emotions.
With a sigh the only sign to betray what is to come, Jesper begins, "I received a visit from Eyas." His aquamarine gaze finds Heartfire's blue eyes in the hope that she recognizes the name. Regardless, he allows his gaze to dart between theirs as he continues. "She brought to light that I have a child. Children, actually. Lavendel gave birth to twins. I had no idea." He swallows hard as memories resurface and, his throat becomes thick. He pushes on, his voice slightly tainted with the heaviness scarring his heart.
"After Sylva tortured me, I thought I was shattered beyond repair. It was only when Sylva took Lamb that I truly broke down. Nothing that happened to me in those woods compares to how much I suffered worrying about her and, what she was going through. And now, I learn she endured everything while carrying our kids." Jesper's voice cracks as his last efforts to hide his sorrow fail. He promised himself he would not cry but, he feels his tears welling up in the corner of his eyes. His already light blue gaze grows misty just before he closes them. So much for not getting emotional, Jes, he thinks to himself.
He takes a breath. When they open, his tender gaze has become icy in determination. His aquamarine gaze finds Castile's as he continues; his tone steady and sincere. "I have to see for myself if this information is true. I must know for sure if what Eyas said is real. You see, if my son does exist and he does live in Sylva, I must ask myself why he has not sought me out before now? I figure, either his mother died before she could tell him about me and thus, he does not know I exist. Or, he knows I exist but does not wish to know me. I owe it to Lamb to find him and find out. However, I cannot travel to Sylva. I physically cannot bring myself to return and please do not ask me why. I also cannot ask anyone else to summon him for me. I must do this. Therefore, I plan to summon him using the laws of Beqanna. He cannot avoid the law of the land; the law of the faeries. Though it may seem drastic, he will have no choice but to honor a valid steal. I called you both here because, before I take action, I wanted to pre-emptively clarify that my intention is entirely personal. I mean no ill-well against Loess or, you, Castile, for that matter. And, I thought Heartfire should be present, as a witness but, also as my Queen. I greatly respect you both and, I wish to honor that respect with the courtesy of explaining up front. Albeit untraditional, I hope by telling you in advance, you understand that stealing my son is in no way an attack against you."
At long last, Jesper falls silent. He can only hope that his plea suffices. The black feels that he has said enough for now. He waits, patiently, for their response. In the interim, he cannot help but get lost in the sound of his own heart pounding against his chest in anticipation.
There are many things she might have expected to come from this meeting. However, Jesper declaring intentions to steal his son from Sylva, and thus from Loess, was not one of them. Of course, she had been aware of Eyas visit to Jesper. She has a vested interest in the girl, after all. But even she could not have guessed Jesper might choose this road to travel rather than any number of other ones.
None of this is displayed on her features. Her gaze remains impassive as she studies Jesper for a long moment before flicking her eyes briefly to Castile to catalogue his reaction.
There are many things she might say in response, but given her role here as largely that of witness, she remains silent. It is not her place to say what Jesper should do in regards to his family, even if, having met the boy, she does think his son will not appreciate being stolen in such a manner. Perhaps he had changed drastically in the intervening years, but she doubts it.
Her involvement would only become a necessity should Castile object to the plan. And as she peers at him, she does have to wonder at just how this revelation might sit with him.
and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
Respectfully so, Castile stands patiently and quietly as Jesper proceeds with his purpose. The scenery is strange, almost a warning. Meet in a more or less enemy territory. Acutely aware of his surroundings, Castile takes another sweep while his ears reach forward to heed the tale purposefully unraveling.
It’s strange, he muses, to be thrusted into a familial predicament. It spurs his mind into action as he considers the two sides, imagining from both a father’s standpoint and the child’s. Relatable, really. A twinge in his heart reminds him of his follies and the mistakes he has made in the past. The memories twist and turn throughout the chambers of his mind, replaying with each breath he takes. Heartfire is silent, observant, which surprises the draconic king though he makes no comment of it. Instead, he rolls his shoulders in calculated conclusion to Jesper’s peculiar request. ”Interesting,” he murmurs, his voice a throaty growl, predatory by nature and not spurred by the situation. He mulls is over, tossing the idea side to side and uncover every angle, but his thoughts eventually screech to a halt.
”Jesper,” he begins, sparing the Nerinian queen a final glance before disregarding her as the conversation steers between the two men. She is a bystander, null except for her place as hostess. Licking his lips thoughtfully, Castile lifts his gaze to meet the stallion’s. ”You can’t force the reunion. If the kid doesn’t want to know or meet you, then don’t force it down his throat – he may resent you for it.” Santana and Raul were not at all pleased with him when he tried interjecting their lives, reminding them they had a father that cared. Everything played out poorly, which may happen to Jesper if he pushes the matter. ”I will admit that I’m not a fan of the idea to steal him from one of my territories, as kind as you are to give me notification. It’s my role to protect Loessian territories and the wellbeing of the inhabitants. If he doesn’t want to acknowledge your existence, Jesper, then I will not push that onto him.” He pauses to draw in a breath, considering the options.
It’s a turbulent endeavor in every direction which elicits the hesitation gnawing as Castile’s bones.
”I can try finding him and making him aware of you. What he does then,” he sighs as another casual shrug ripples through his shoulders, ”is all up to him.” He will not send the boy away, nor push him any direction. It will be a neutral passing, a learning experience that he still has kin available at his fingertips.
The silence between the three of them has Jesper second-guessing his decision to call this meeting. However, he is reminded by his diplomatic training that this is how it should be done, even if he would not like the answer. Bronze-tipped lobes take turns rotating between Heartfire and Castile. That is, until the Loessian king speaks. Interesting, is the tobiano's first reaction. Well, it isn't a complete rejection, Jesper thinks to himself.
Then, Castile continues, addressing him by name first. Oh goodness, here we go. Castile's tone is laced with warning but, not the sort from an angry leader. Instead, he speaks from a place you would expect from an experienced parent. To be honest, Jesper had not given any thought to how forcing his son to come to him might cause resentment. The fox-shifter could only surmise that his kids either did not know he existed and, that he could explain everything; fix everything, just through talking with him. At the very least, his son should give him points for being clever, no? Well, someone should! The black steed quirks an eyebrow as Castile offers to find his son and enlighten him of his father's existence. Jesper certainly trusts Castile enough.
The black sighs, audibly, as he realizes that stealing his kid is not really the best course of action. At least not the best first course. His facial expression relaxes and, after a quick glance to check-in on Heartfire, Jesper realizes the conversation is between him and Castile. "I appreciate your advice here, Castile. I am new at this parenting thing though, with one on the way, I am sure I will learn lots." He pauses and, his lips pull into a nervous but soft smile.
His facial features shift and become more serious as he speaks again. "I worry that hearing the news from someone other than me, discredits me. But, if he truly does not know I exist, we may find ourselves at an impasse: him not knowing of me, let alone where to find me, and, myself unable to go to him. I also worry that he does know of me and has made his mind up about who I am without all of the facts; without hearing what I have to say." Jesper falls silent as his internal battle rages on. Should he allow Castile to help? He is his son's King. The thought makes the black a little uncomfortable though, the shiny-haired paint is preferred over most. At long last, Jesper comes to a decision. "I suppose a meeting between a King and his subject is worth trying. If Juice will not at least make an effort, I will find another way. I don't think it is too much to ask for him to at least hear me out. That being said, I fully intend to see this through to the end. I simply must. I owe it to his mother." If it was not evident earlier that guilt and grief drove the black to this meeting, it should be now. He was desperately clinging to what he knows is proper etiquette. But, a desperate fox is dangerous; dangerously iron-willed, impulsive and reckless.
As a woman who had spent the majority of her life as an observer, this particular moment is not especially different in that respect than many that had come before. Where it does differ, however, is the mere fact of her physical presence. Granted, there are very, very few others in the world who would truly be aware of such a thing. Nevertheless, it is a familiar role.
A fact that would no doubt alarm many if they realized just how truly reaching her presence is. She may be silent, but that did not make her absent or somehow less dangerous. In fact, it could be said that the very opposite is true. After all, it’s difficult to track the movements and actions of a silent predator. One only knew they were upon them when they felt their claws squeezing.
It’s a well known fact that noisy predators are the much less efficient hunters, after all.
So perhaps it is no surprise then that she maintains her silence. Truthfully, her presence here is only made necessary by the fact that she wishes it made clear Jesper has her support. The necessity of intervention on her part is unlikely, but Castile would know Jesper is not alone.
It’s unsurprising that Castile would be less than thrilled about the prospect of allowing such a thing. That he offers to intervene is, while not entirely expected, also unsurprising. She would do the same, were she in his place. Still, as the conversation continues to unfold, it becomes increasingly clear there is some kind of desperation fueling Jesper to pursue this. A desperation she would much prefer channeled in a way that wouldn’t further antagonize relations between the north and south.
To that end, she does, finally, interject. “While I won't offer my opinions here, you should know Jesper, that, if Castile is not amenable,” she flicks a brief, considering glance at the painted stallion before finishing, “there are other ways to arrange such a meeting.”
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