The Queen's Games -> Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.

Welcome to The Queen's Games, a future/AU Tortallan based forum headed by a Matriarchal Monarchy in the Queendom of Kalim. Gaining independence little more than a century ago, the Queen has been pushing for contact with Tortall and other lands to the east in the past decade. With the victor of the Games to win the Crown Princess's hand decided, the Darshani Empire has set its eyes on conquering Kalim and regaining power through force.

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Coming down from its January cold spike, the weather creeps up unusually warm for February, turning what would normally be frozen ground and light snows into a slushy wet mix throughout the country. This creates poor travel conditions throughout the country: avalanches in the north and roads so muddy they threaten single mounts and caravans alike.











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» Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever., Anraide
Req Damhaen
 Posted: Apr 12 2012, 10:09 AM
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Early November
Outside Richilde


The wind was an absolute blessing. It cut through the air and stung faintly on Req’s cheeks and knuckles, making the rings go cold against his lips and in his eyebrow. And it was glorious. Only the sheer force of restraint kept him from throwing his arms out and trying to take it all in. If it had just been Vrynna, perhaps, but they had other company. With a faster horse, he would have galloped until he and horse were out of breath, lungs cold and clean from the crisp air. But this was enough. This was good.

They had been gone from the city a few hours by now. The walls were out of sight, the signs of habitation growing fewer and farther between, and for the first time in ages, without Braith or anyone else hovering about his shoulders, waiting for a mistake, Req felt free.

He chanced a look over at his companions – well, one companion particularly. Vrynna had roped the other two off into a conversation while the other Khirosian girl remained back a bit, looking like she was enjoying the trip… rather less than Req was. He had tried not to stare at her. He really had. It was difficult though. The resemblance was powerful. She was softer than Caitriona, and a small bit shorter, he thought, unless his mind remembered Cait always being taller from when they were children. Similar hair, strong features, strong personality… and now she looked miserable, posture slouching ever so slightly as she drew her arms in to her sides and kept her cloak tight around her. Her far too light cloak. It was enough to provoke a bit of boldness out of him.

Steering Pie over with his legs, he took the cloak from around his shoulders – a proper Sarainite thing of heavy cloth lined in thick, quality fur, made for real winters – and leaned over to drape it around hers, tucking it snugly around her neck and settling it over the back of her saddle so it wouldn’t wad up uncomfortably. He let Pie wander a bit further away again, but still within a polite speaking distance.

“Sarainite winters are much colder,” he explained mildly. “I brought the cloak for a Sarainite November. This is like spring to me. The cold doesn’t trouble me. You should wear it.”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: Apr 22 2012, 04:34 PM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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All the excitement of getting out of Richilde was being worn away with the chill in the wind. It was colder than she had been expecting, with the mild weather up until now. She hadn't needed much more than a light cloak so far, so when she was packing she only pulled out a moderately more hardy one. It was just her luck that there was wind. And not just any wind, cold wind. Not even listening to Vrynna's rambling conversation could distract her from that miserable feeling of cold setting into her bones.

None of the long string of profane insults Anraide was throwing at the wind, Vrynna's ridiculous idea of traveling in November, and the cold in general were having any effect on her ability to keep warm. The previous strategy of using her Gift had worn old quickly as her Gift drained and she started getting tired, an even bigger folly than just being cold. If only she had thought to plan ahead for camping in November. What sort of person did that anyway? 'Right,' she thought sullenly, 'We do.'

Just as she was about to change her mind about using her Gift to warm up again a comfortable weight settled around An's shoulders. She watched as one of the men- not Vrynna or the prince... what was his name? R- r-something- arranged his own cloak around her shoulders and over her saddle. "Thank you." Let it never be said that her father raised her without manners, Anraide was not fool enough to refuse a kindness. Especially a kindness like this. His explanation of his actions made An feel like she had to defend herself so he didn't think she was just some silly noblewoman, even if he hadn't implied anything of the sort. She spoke with a smile though, so he wouldn't think she was ungrateful, "I wasn't thinking about what being gone for most of November meant in terms of weather, unfortunately. It's been so mild lately I doubt I was thinking about the weather much at all when I was packing." If she was being completely honest, the excitement over getting a change of scenery had a great deal to do with her mistake as well. "Though I still would bet that Khirosian winters don't compare with yours. I hear they're twice as cold and twice as long. Though that's just gossip." It could have easily been three times as cold with the way he seemed to be reveling in this so-called 'spring weather'.


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Req Damhaen
 Posted: May 4 2012, 07:49 PM
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“Certainly not when the summer was so blazing hot,” Req agreed. “The temperature dropped on us fast. It just happens most of what I own is too warm for this country in general. I hardly own what you would consider summer clothes, so I assure you, I’ll be entirely unprepared next season.”

Req smirked a bit and ducked his head. “I’m from a part of Sarain called the Highlands,” he explained, and he tried to speak clearly. He knew his accent could be overwhelming at times. “They lead up to the mountain known as the Roof of the World. It’s the highest and coldest place in the whole of the eastern lands. Maybe the world. The Highlands still have lots of green, but even in summer, the waterfalls sometimes don’t fully melt. The water flows, but down at the core? Still ice. And my people, we didn’t own houses. If it got truly bad – the kind of bad where men lose fingers and toes to it – then we’d put up in inns and the like, but all in all, we were out for the whole thing. We are not a people much suited to being indoors. But put me out in the heat…” He drew a breath in through his teeth and gave a slow, somber shake of his head. “I thought I was turning to mush all summer. Is it always so hot? I don’t know if I can take another season of that.”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: May 21 2012, 07:08 PM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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Anraide chuckled, imagining this rather intimidating-looking man being affected by anything. Instant judgements, she was finding, could be hilariously wrong. "I doubt you'll have to ask more than once to get your friend to help you find more appropriate clothing," An smiled, glancing meaningfully at the back of a laughing Vrynna. "If you have any doubts about his... taste, I'd be willing to join you. Repay the kindness of lending me your cloak."

It was interesting, to hear him talk about his home. Anraide might have been imagining it, but she felt like she heard the same sort of wistfulness in his tone that attached to her own voice when she spoke of home. Even using the past tense when referring to his people was somewhat familiar. An never gave up hope that they'd go home, but she couldn't talk about the people at home like they were living the same life they had been before the wars. It was a burning curiosity and a lack of forethought that led to her question that might not have been completely tactful, "What happened to them?" She realized that might not have been very clear, so she continued, "You make it sound like that's not how it is anymore." Anraide shrugged in response to his question, "I couldn't say. Most of the time I don't notice the difference between years."


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Req Damhaen
 Posted: Jun 16 2012, 11:16 AM
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“Oh, I am certain he would be delighted to put me in all manner of clothes,” Req snorted, giving Vrynna a wary look before glancing back to An, “but my concern with what he might choose runs much similar to my concern with what you would. I have seen the Khirosians at many events now. You seem to set the standard in extravagance. It’s a powerful image – refugees edged in gold while their supposed conquerors look like dull brush-hens by comparison. But I am a simple man. I prefer simple clothing in the sort of colors that make a man invisible. I’m not sure you or he would stand for it.” He gave a small bow of his head and smile to apologize for any offense he had made.

He pressed his lips together tightly as the inevitable question surfaced sooner than he had anticipated. His wet his lips and squinted off ahead of them again, taking a slow breath to buy himself time to prepare to answer. It was still so strange to have to tell anyone about. “They lost a war,” he explained quietly “The warlord, Cadr zhir Lyall – his highness Braith’s father – had an army far larger and better equipped. Of course a warlord wants to rule all that he can, without the restraint of satisfaction. More than that, he wanted to make an example against anyone else who would refuse him. Most of them died in battle. Many of them died for being traitors after, and the rest were scattered to keep families and friends from staying too close and reforming any sort of group. We were erased, as chalk from a slate. Not to be spoken of, or to speak our own tongue, not to worship our gods or sing our songs or tell our histories. The warlord is nothing if not a conqueror, and he got to be such because he does it well. A couple hundred of us still live as… groomsmen, or scullery maids, or some other variety of servant, but they keep us far from each other, so it is hard to say. I know the ones are dead whom I saw die, but for ones such as my sister? I haven’t any idea, or any way of learning.” He looked over and tried for a smile. “I have great sympathy for what I have heard of your people.”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: Jun 20 2012, 11:03 AM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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Anraide laughed quietly at his concerns about her and Vrynna's combined fashion sense. "I do not begrudge you your worries, but I know I, at least, can restrain myself." Her smile faded a bit though, and in a surprising show of control, she didn't immediately jump to the defense of her country as he commented on their collective style. An guessed he hadn't meant to offend her, and it would be quite rude to snap at someone who had given her his cloak. There was a difference between snapping and correcting though, and maybe An could explain her countrymen's extravagance without seeming conceited. "I wouldn't have them dress any other way. It's part of our culture. Our way of showing the Darshani that even though they won, we aren't defeated." Anraide pulled the edges of the cloak tighter, making unneccessary adjustments just to give herself something to do, her pride muted by the moment she took to consider her companion's feelings.

She was glad she had taken that moment, listening to what he said next. It seemed unbearably harsh and hauntingly familiar with one shining difference. All of a sudden even her thought-before-spoken response seemed callous, because his people were defeated. Anraide had been able to escape, save some of her family (though not all and didn't that just feel like a knife in her belly every time she thought of it), and begin planning retaliation. Whatever his people had been called, they didn't have that chance.

For some reason Anraide felt incredibly small next to him and the story he told. She knew how much the ghosts of her past weighed on her mind, but she couldn't even begin to imagine the immense sorrow that would plague her if she had seen her father die... if she didn't know what had become of Cass... feeling completely and utterly alone in the world. Hope was a mighty thing indeed, and Anraide was glad she was allowed a taste of it.

"Thank you," she finally said, not really feeling as though she deserved his sympathy. "And I for you, now that I truly understand. That's why I keep fighting, I suppose. So that sort of thing doesn't happen to me... or to my siblings. Khiros isn't free, but we have a chance to win her back." It was her turn to hope she hadn't offended. An wasn't good at talking about this stuff, nor did she really want to dwell on the heartbreaking reality of either of their pasts. Besides, she was getting much too emotionally comfortable with this man and she didn't even know his name. "I'm Anraide," she laughed hollowly at the backwards way they introduced themselves. Raw pain before exchanging names. "Of House Bladesinger."


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Req Damhaen
 Posted: Jul 2 2012, 02:08 PM
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Req started slightly at the gentle defense, suddenly worried how he had come across. “Nor would I!” he hastened to assure her. “It’s beautiful, on more than a visual level. Especially to me. In Sarain, they worked to stop us from exactly that. Our clothes, our language, our customs – they were outlawed. They only didn’t try to cut the tattoos off our skin because it would take too much work and kill the half of us they kept for servants. I have the utmost admiration for your people. Just no desire to emulate their sartorial choices.”

“I haven’t seen much of your people, but if the ones I [i]have[i] are representative, I think the Darshani will be hard-pressed to keep it from you.” His tone and expression gave not even the faintest suggestion of anything other than absolute sincerity. From what he had seen, the Khirosians were a fierce breed, but unlike his people, they were organized, of a similar martial variety as their foe, and they had allies. They shone in the ballrooms and on the practice courts, drawing people to them, where his people had kept away by design. Fire and mist.

He chanced a small, faintly nervous smile. “Req Damhaen. It is an honor to meet you, Lady Anraide.”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: Jul 12 2012, 08:26 PM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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Anraide's nose wrinkled slightly in unconscious disgust as he explained that the Sarainites called his people outlaws just for being themselves. It was dirty business he was talking about. The slaves in Khiros were treated according to their behavior, not according to where they came from or what gods they worshipped. It didn't matter that he used the word 'servant', An would have been willing to bet that he was called 'slave' by his warlord. Dirty business indeed, and Anraide had no taste for it. She nodded at the real meaning he was trying to convey and attempted to smooth the emotion from her face, taking a slow breath through her nose.

It was an ill-fated attempt though, as they were talking of Khiros. Anraide smiled genuinely at his assessment of the Khirosian people, and the sound of his confidence when he spoke of them taking back their home. "We're of a mind to make them regret invading our country." An would have to be careful that she didn't get too caught up in revenge, but the prospect of the Darshani running away with their tails between their legs was largely satisfying. She might have expressed condolences that his own chance for retribution was passed, but her companion didn't seem like the type to thirst for that type of justice. Given the Sarainite party, it seemed strange that he was so quiet. "How did you get mixed up with the Prince and his entourage anyway? It seems like a bit of an odd combination, considering how nice you are." It was simply curiosity, because none of the other Sarainites were just nice.

"An honor," she echoed, smiling faintly. "But please do away with the title... at least when we're in private. Friends should be equal." Anraide did not often accept others as friends so quickly, but things were different when you shared such personal feelings with each other.


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Req Damhaen
 Posted: Jul 15 2012, 10:46 AM
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“Well at the time it seemed a good bit better than the alternative. They were culling the men of my clan like an infected herd of animals to ensure we wouldn’t rise up again. Executioner gets to me, lays his sword on my neck, and asks me what the tattoos on my hands and arms mean, because he hasn’t seen them as often. I’m so scared I can’t speak. My cousin, one of my girl cousins, she speaks up for me. Screams, really, from down the line, that I’m a healer, trained by our clan’s priest.” He shrugged, lifting a hand to show her the wheels of blue ink that covered the backs of them. “A healer’s a terrible thing to waste, especially in a country that spends so much time cutting on itself. One strong enough to be trained as a priest, well, there’s an asset. And the great warriors like to have a healer just for them, so they’re not burnt out halfway through the battle if some great lord takes a spear. They asked me if I would serve, and I was still so scared I couldn’t speak. I must have whimpered or nodded or something. They hauled me up and took me off, moved on to the next man. I was seventeen. The prince was thirteen, which was old enough to be out in a real fight. They gave me to him, to keep him alive.” He shrugged. “I’ve debated the choice many times.”

“Friends and equals?” Req asked, giving a quiet chuckle. “Two concepts still very novel to me. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I fail to follow them perfectly. Vrynna’s been working to break me of many bad habits regarding their absence, but if you need ever grumble about my overwhelming inability to look people in the eye, you will find no more passionate ally in that uphill battle.” He ducked his head and blushed a little bit. “…Though he seems to have broken me of not talking. Anraide, then.”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: Jul 23 2012, 02:56 PM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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"Well, I'm glad for your choice. If you had been less scared or more foolish you might have told the man no and I would be stuck on this gods-forsaken camping trip in the middle of November," she said a bit louder so perhaps their other companions- one companion in particular who planned it all, actually- would catch the annoyed tone to it, "without even a good cloak around my shoulders." There was another part of Anraide that wanted to let the subject of fallen countries die, because there was only so much talking about Khiros in the past tense she could take, and hearing his stories did nothing to help her outlook on those she left behind.

Anraide's mouth twisted into a superior smile as he asked for forgiveness before he'd even failed, anticipating what seemed to her to be shyness and a large amount of propriety, "Perhaps not characteristic of all Khirosians, but of me particularly, is a fact of my personality not to be particularly forgiving. Not that it is out of the question, but I would suggest appealing for forgiveness over something more dire than using my title when I would rather you not." A bit cheeky, but at least Anraide was obviously making a joke about it and hadn't leveled the trademark Bladesinger poker-face on him so he wouldn't know whether to laugh or retreat to the company of someone else. "I'm glad for at least one thing Vrynna's done then," An grinned, "You're a fine conversation partner once you get past making sense of that accent." She hoped her teasing would be received well, though she might have tested that water a bit more before jumping right into it.


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Req Damhaen
 Posted: Sep 10 2012, 11:35 AM
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Req ducked his head sheepishly and tried to fight down a smile – he felt guilty, but her tone lobbied at Vrynna amused him. “If I hadn’t been here, my lady, I’m sorry to say, neither would you. He’s doing this for me,” he explained, and even voicing that fact, acknowledging it, made his stomach flutter.

A flutter that turned quickly into a clench at An’s… joke? It may have been a joke. He was pretty sure it was a joke. He hoped. But then, it didn’t seem entirely an inaccurate description of Khirosians, from what he had heard, so better to just start worrying about doing something apology-worthy now and get a head start on it. The worrying. Not the insulting. The sound that managed to make it out of his chest was something of a weak, airy laugh, and not in the least convincing.

The would-be laugh turned into a groan at the mention of his accent and he slumped so far forward in the saddle that his forehead bumped Pie’s neck and there seemed to be a legitimate danger of him toppling right out of the saddle. “It is horrible, isn’t it?” he moaned miserably. He tried to speak clearly, but the slump and his tone made it possibly harder to understand him than it had been before. “I know it’s hard to imagine, but I really do try, and I’ve gotten so much better the last few years. It’s embarrassing! I can’t even get food or drink at a tavern without an ordeal!”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: Sep 15 2012, 11:01 PM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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A quizzical look passed before she responded, not because it was strange for him to claim such a friendship, but because she didn't expect Req to claim anything at all. "That's kind of him."

Anraide let him look uncomfortable with the joke. He'd learn the truth of it quickly enough without her explaining it. Besides, she was getting a kick out of his inability to figure out how to react to that particular statement. Her smile dropped when he looked like he was about to fall off his horse, though. One hand was extended, as if she was going to try catching him if he did decide to fall. When he mumbled something about his accent, she figured it was safe to assume he could keep his seat.

She let out a light chuckle, “Gods, lighten up and stay in your saddle. I don't know if my father would be disappointed or proud that I pushed a man off a horse with nothing but a few words." An could only imagine. She hadn't even been trying. "It would be even more embarrassing if you hurt yourself in the process.”

"And I don't mind your accent so much unless you're muttering." Anraide had a good hunch that no one understood him because he never spoke loudly enough for them to hear over his appearance.


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Req Damhaen
 Posted: Oct 22 2012, 01:52 PM
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Pretty Brick


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Req turned his head sideways to look over at her, resting his hands on the pommel to push himself back upright. “I wasn’t going to fall,” he told her, voice a bit huffy with a hint of pride. “I used to sleep on horseback. It’s harder to get me out of the saddle than that. And Pie’s a steady ride, he would never drop me.” The last part turned half into a coo as he leaned to scratch under the piebald’s mane, earning a snort and shake of appreciation from his mount. All at once he caught himself – baby-talking a horse in front of new people! – and sat bolt upright again, clearing his throat and mumbling – yes, of course mumbling – “Soft spoken’s in my blood. My da was a dozen times worse at least.”


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Anraide of Bladesinger
 Posted: Oct 29 2012, 07:46 PM
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BOOM, BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY.


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Anraide smiled, for once not enticed to argue by another person's disagreement with her own statement. “I knew there was a backbone in there somewhere,” she said, with no small bit of her own pride. “I could imagine he'd only say something if a person questioned the quality of his horse then, and perhaps only a muttering at that.”

A glance forward saw that the rest of their party had pulled away. “We should probably catch up,” she said, nudging her horse to a faster pace. In a much better mood and feeling much more positive about the entire trip with the addition of Req's cloak. “Race you there?”


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