Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Oliver invites Caius for some wine and business.

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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Oliver Venora » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:38 pm

The Fourth of Zi'da 717

Notrerevé. The very name inspired thoughts of elegance, with the mansions constructed in the old Ryn style, tall and expansive. Soft colours were kept pristine on the outsides of the mansions, and the gardens were the most exquisite in all of Rynmere. Sitting inside the familial estate of his parents, Oliver considered the trial set before him. It was just before midday, and he knew that he'd set the time and date for the meeting, but he was nervous. Though older than the boy, and presumably in the same standing politically, Oliver knew that Darcyanna had befriended him, and that mattered. He needed to protect her, but he had never had to do so from a man before. Fingers turned white gripping the overstuffed chair as he awaited Caius' arrival.

The Venoras were legendary entertainers, and he refrained from touching the dark red wine before Caius arrived. Instead, a water, infused with small bubbles by some sorcery he did not understand, sat next to him, the glass' condensation dripping down the side. Though it was colder outside, the fire kept the small study warm. It was not Oliver's study, per se, but instead belonged to his father, who was out on business. In his absence, it served as Oliver's office, and across the black cherry wood desk were scattered a few papers, one with the drawing of a theatre on it, the other with several figures scrawled in narrow lines.

He looked down, shuffling the papers around for no real purpose. Nervous fidgeting was not his style, and it disconcerted him that this meeting was unhinging him so. Standing from the chair, he walked over to a replicated painting of Lady Cyrene, staring up at her regality in envy. Every Venora aspired to something more, moreso than many other nobles of the Seven Families. It was in their biology to attain grandeur and regality, and Oliver was no different. However, he understood that there would be little to aspire too if the Kingdom kept its current track. Hence the papers scattered about the table.

Outside, he heard the whinnying of a horse, and the clatter of horseshoes on perfectly sealed cobblestone. Frowning slightly, he slid gracefully to the window, looking out. In the sunlight, the heat of his wine-red sweater reminded him that his nerves were heating him up. Sighing, he watched as Gustauv slipped from the driver's seat and opened the door to the carriage. His heart thumped against his ribcage, hammering a tattoo into his chest.

This is the man that Darcyanna had befriended. Oliver was not so naive to believe that it was only friendship. He understood that Darcy was growing up, and that she was already thinking as a woman thinks. It pained him, but it was inevitable. All he could do was ensure that the man she'd chosen was adequate and would treat her well... Or meet the end of his sword. Either way, Oliver was going to decide this trial, and that was that.

He gauged the time it would take from the carriage to the study, and resumed his place in the chair. He sipped the sparkling water, smiling as the gasses popped on his tongue. He was less nervous now that Caius was here, and the Venoran confidence made its way back into his soul. Touching the tips of his fingers together, he awaited the expected knock at the door. Gustauv was quite well versed in the etiquette, and when the gentle knock came, Oliver answered firmly.

"Enter."

And so Gustauv did. Oliver rose when Caius entered, a soft expression etching his elegant face.

"My lord, may I present to you the Lord Caius Gawyne of Fort Gawyne." Gustauv's voice, heavy with an accent from the South, rang clearly and loudly. Stepping forward, Oliver offered a firm handshake to the Lord Gawyne, bowing only to his king.

"My Lord, my deepest gratitude that you accepted my invitation. Please, make yourself at home." He smiled, but there was a dagger's edge behind his eyes.
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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Caius Gawyne » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:31 pm

It had taken some creative arrangement with his professors and a bit of loud cursing from Basilius, but Caius had managed to arrange on very short notice the round trip by carriage from Andaris to Bellesoir in Venora. The whole process had been irritating, rushed, and while he was very sure the visit requested by Oliver Venora, eldest and only brother of Darcyanna Venora, had less to do with the younger Gawyne's particular talents and more to do with how often he'd been seen with the blonde pianist, he wasn't about to refuse on the basis of personal inconvenience. No matter how uncomfortable the nagging feeling was that there was more under the surface of his somewhat formal invitation, he did his best to consider things from a more educated, professional one instead of from the more immediate, emotional one that gnawed at the back of his ribs from inside of his chest.

That said, he'd barely made it back to his room, let alone the carriage late in the morning of Zi'da the First. Wild, heart racing, Caius was quick to change clothes, to madly attempt to tell himself that everything that had happened, that had kept him away for the past trial and a half had perhaps been more dream than reality.

Only the young Gawyne hardly ever slept.

Everything had been real. Unreal. Beyond real. Something sarding else, and he didn't even have time to see Darcyanna, to tell her where he'd been or what he was doing, slipping his key under the mat in front of his door as his sign to the blonde Venora that he wasn't home but that his hearth was hers, Smudge always needing a cuddle and his bed for her even without him there.

And then, suddenly, he was in a carriage and blearily watching Andaris slip away. Whatever the heir-apparent Venora wanted, Caius might have over-packed reading material for the trip. Three sarding trials one way meant he'd have a lot of time to himself, even if he realized he couldn't really inhabit the interior of a carriage in the same way ever again. No, it would always feel a little different, distracting. So, he made sure to bring far too many books and not enough snacks, much to his disappointment.

That said, it was only a short matter of time, curled up in a few blankets and surrounded by his notes and books, the snowy landscape of southern Andaris slipping by fogged windows, that Caius was simply asleep. For breaks. Long, beautiful, uninterrupted stretches of sleep went by as Gustav avoided snowdrifts and a bit of ice, sloshing through muddied, rough roads, passing another carriage or two, and the printer's diri's far too busy mind greedily hoarded each precious break of sweet, delicious sleep it was allowed—the jacadon's share, for sure, and it was sarding everything.

By the early morning of the third trial, the northern noble had made some headway into the start of this season's research for Professor Verigan, organized by date and first word all the snippets of information he'd managed to find on Treid's Sanctum (which was, admittedly, very light reading to be fair), worried far too much about Darcyanna alone without anyone else but Smudge for six trials too many, fretted about what Oliver Venora could have really wanted to see him for, and slept for well over half of the entire trip.

Caius felt like a new noble, crisp and dressed in an elegantly disheveled white shirt that may have had a permanent scuff of grease on the left cuff mostly hidden from view; his favorite brocade vest in the rich violet of his House colors, and comfortable, well-worn grey leather breeches tucked into even darker knee-high boots. Oh, and his thick, navy wool coat. This was, as far as he knew, a meeting of peace, and so he'd not donned his saber. He may have packed it, however, just in sarding case. He was even awake to see the lovely estate unfold out of the cold landscape and foggy windows, stirring and running permanently stained fingers through his ever-unkempt hair before Gustav opened the door and let all of the frozen, Zi'da air into the small space. It was finally once he stood in the courtyard and let the wind sting his lungs that the young Gawyne realized he was, indeed, nervous, that he allowed the weight of things he knew and things he felt settle uncomfortably into the pit of his stomach.

He sighed, warm breath a frosted cloud of mixed emotions.

Sard it all. This had better not be another Fates-be-damned fiery shitstorm. He had another three trials to even get back to Andaris so long as he survived to-trial.

The coachman was the one who led him into the estate and through the halls until he brought them both to the door of what was probably an office, a study, or Fates be praised a library perhaps.

Gustav opened the door when bid to do so and as he introduced Caius in a superfluous, formal sort of way, the young Gawyne's sharp blue gaze took in the man who rose to greet him, the older, darker-haired man who was Darcy's brother. Handsome and graceful as was expected of Oliver's House, the northern noble couldn't entirely bring himself to feel intimidated. He smiled, however, lopsided and warm, so well rested that he felt as though he could print newspapers for a handful of lifetimes and never get tired again, his heart racing, nerves tingling. Caius' handshake was firm, strong, and his fingernails still marked by the black ink of his passion,

"Lord Oliver Venora, it's good to put a face to the name I've heard so much about. Perhaps that thought is mutual." The northern noble's tone bordered on the coy, the teasing, but he wasn't at all ignorant of the way the other man watched him. He did not return the judgmental glare, however, even if it already stung him. He was on the losing side even before he stepped out of the sarding Fates-be-damned carriage. What a cruel trick, and Caius was not about to play at a pissing contest. He was himself, only better after so much blissful sleep, and as far as he was concerned in this moment, he had nothing to prove, far more burdened by knowledge and feelings he was confident Oliver wasn't even remotely aware of,

"Thank you for having me. Even in the cold, quiet of Zi'da, Bellesoir is lovely." The printer's diri could play at poise and manners. He found himself a seat once invited, removing his coat and running his palms over the brocade of his vest to smooth it. Even though he'd been sitting so sarding much for trials and probably could have gone more for a frigid walk outside, he willingly folded himself into a comfortable chair and watched carefully the brother of the young woman he'd become rather attached to over the briefest of two ten-trials.

He could have asked what he was here for, but Caius assumed Oliver would tell him either way.

So he kept his warm, curious expression and waited.

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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Oliver Venora » Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:41 pm

Oliver Sebastian Venora

Oliver did his best to hide his surprise at the young Gawyne's use of proper etiquette. Oliver knew his sister, and it seemed unlikely that she would befriend someone who would uphold the same standards that were demanded of them as children, though it did occur to him that she did the same thing. She was the White Rose of Venora when she needed to be, but he knew that her clever mind would not allow her the rigidity that the station demanded at all times, especially behind closed doors. His dark eyes softening to a storm-grey, indicating his relaxation, and he leaned back in the chair. The room was warm, perhaps made stuffy by the fire and the strange situation in which the men found themselves. Smiling, Oliver tilted his head, looking at Caius still.

"Please, just call me Oliver. Lord Venora only placates falling from the mouths of those too jealous to use my birth name," he responded, slyly. There was a satisfaction in throwing lavish events in which those benefitting could not themselves have pulled off the same elegance in a thousand arcs. In his eyes, they could eat their hearts out.

"Caius, if I may call you that... Caius, I am organizing a charity gala in the middle of this season right here in the duchy, and I've heard that you may be able to aid me. I need a large quantity of posters for the event, to draw interest, and I'd like to offer you the chance to produce them. I'll need around five hundred by the fiftieth of Zi'da, if that is doable." He smiled, the practiced art coming easily to him in that moment. Motioning for Rhiannon, one of the serving girls, to serve the wine, he leaned back and swirled the dark red wine in his glass. Even held up to the sunslight, the glass appeared a deep red, not allowing the light to pass through it. Smiling, Oliver was happy with the colour, it seemed. Sniffing the glass, he observed as Caius examined it as well.

"Let me save you the mystery, my friend. It's the driest red in Venora. My tastes are strange. I like my wine like I like my humour, dark and dry." He grinned, coyness creeping into the storm grey orbs. "I've asked you here this trial not only to offer you the work, but to get to know you. My sister seems quite taken with you, and I like to know the men with whom I do business. So tell me about yourself, please. I knew your brother, moreso from a distance than anything," he added, nodding. Hunter was a touchy topic, he was sure, but no more touchy than the idea that the young man before him had taken his adored sister's virginity. He flushed slightly, with no apparent reason to Caius, before resuming his posture.

"Actually, if you don't mind, let's take a walk through the grounds. Try as I might to be professional about these proceedings, but tsu," he shrugged, using the trade language of his father. He used to love hearing it in stories, and it was so open and fluid compared to the rigid structure of Common they were taught. Though he only had a basic understanding of Rakahi, he knew quite a bit of the pidgin, especially the swear words. It allowed him to get away with quite a few curses in gradeschool, where only a few of the Burhans understood what he was saying.

He stood, and Rhiannon brought him his coat. A heavy black coat, made from dyed wool from the sheep shorn in the duchy, with silver buttons carved in the likeness of roses stitched onto the front. Donning it, the Venora waited for Caius to resume his cold weather gear, and then dismissed the servants. With the crystalline glass still locked firmly in his hand, he began to lead Caius through the estate through the back door, into the gardens succumbing slowly to nightly frosts. A sigh brought a cloud of air ethereally in front of his face as they exited the estate, and a smile found itself on the older man's face. Instantly more awake and alert, he led Caius down a red-bricked path towards the heart of the garden.

"Now, about you. And none of that sarding 'I'm a noble' business. You and I both know that for Darcy to be interested, you could not be quite so droll." He smirked, the backhanded compliment used expressly for the purpose to gauge Caius' reaction.
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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Caius Gawyne » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:33 am

Caius watched the older man watch him, keen to observe the shifting color of his eyes and listen to the tone of his voice,

"Oliver, then." He grinned, not one for titles either, despising the pretense. Most of the time. Perhaps there were rare exceptions, but this was not one of those moments. The dark-haired Venora cut right to the point, and the young Gawyne couldn't help but appreciate that, even if under his skin, suspicion still crept slowly like frost on a well-manicured garden hedge,

"You want me to print for you? By the fiftieth. Let me think a moment—" He shifted in his seat, moving to sit up and let his mind calculate the request, ink-stained fingers curling into his eternally unkempt hair as he considered his time and abilities. It was already the fourth of Zi'da and it would take him three days to get home to Andaris, another two or three days to gather supplies, especially the paper. He probably had access to enough wood and type at the Gazette, and he'd probably be able to toss some coin at the other apprentices to give them the experience Basilius insisted they needed and to get the work done faster. His eyes followed Rhiannon at Oliver's request, accepting the wine before he answered,

"—Yes, five hundred posters is, for the most part, an accomplishable task. It will be a rushed job, Oliver, but don't let that word imply a lack of quality on my behalf. There won't be. You should have come to me in Vhalar—ah—but, I suspect my name didn't tickle your ear until recently, did it?" Caius grinned then, an expression that bordered on the defiantly wicked, and the tone of his voice was clearly taunting the older man as he smelled the fragrant wine but did not yet drink it, "I will need details before I can estimate the cost for you, but it'd be my pleasure to do the work."

The shift of focus to the wine was a momentary distraction, a theatre trick to shift the gaze of Oliver's audience while he changed the scene.

Ah, there it was.

"Of course you have. You have every right to."

Darcyanna. It was no sarding surprise that Caius had been invited all the way to Bellesoir so that Oliver could take a measure of the man his sister had mentioned by name. Not just any man, but another noble, a Gawyne. He recognized the cheeky expression, the lack of an apology as pretenses fell away. The offer of doing business together was genuine, but the real interest was in who the northern noble was, not what he could do for coin. The words brought a flood of emotions, wild thoughts of the whirlwind of experiences Caius had found himself facing over the past two ten-trials and while his expression became something perhaps less readable to the dark-haired Venora, he didn't entirely miss the hint of color that rose to the other man's cheeks.

Yes, make that Fates-be-damned assumption like everyone else. Go on.

Caius sighed, having not even touched his wine, at once feeling as though he had nothing and everything to prove, suddenly torn over his promise and his fiery desire to protect the blonde pianist. Did Oliver have a sarding clue? Bogs. What a mess.

"I, too, only know Hunter from a distance these days, so there's nothing to tell there, unfortunately." Caius admitted, somewhat more darkly than he should have, "But I'm not sure where to begin—"

He blinked at the invitation, the hint of a relieved smile tugging at the mixed blood's features both at the idea of walking but also at Oliver's use of familiar words. Words of his mother, who was, much like these particular Venoras, half Biqaj,

"—actually, that would be just fine, more than fine, nelo qe." The young Gawyne was quick to reply, and even flashed a smile of recognition with a language they both knew. Much like Oliver, Caius knew far too many of the words he shouldn't, but he knew those in Common, too. The northern noble left his coat and set down his wine, only tugging on his scarf for appearances, still finding early Zi'da in southern Andaris a comfortable temperature when the wind wasn't blowing too bitingly. He needed the chill, anyway, the heat of inner conflict roaring in his chest and racing through his veins.

By the Seven, what did he even say?

He shoved his ink-stained hands in his pockets once outside, his breath thick in the cold. Biting his lip as Oliver asked his question once more, this time with an air of casualness that caught Caius off guard, the young Gawyne didn't look at him right away, choosing his words carefully even while he felt the wildfire raging in his thoughts swiftly turn his resolve to stay silent about all he knew into ash. He managed a laugh, though, coarse and quick, uncomfortable, revealing to the older man that he was far too aware why he was under his scrutiny,

"I'm at a disadvantage, qa’akor, on the wrong foot already and you know it, for I've got no sarding clue what Darcy has said of me to you. It was enough, was it? Just enough for you to invite me here." He finally looked at him then, but the mix of colors in his irises were unreadable, conflicted, "I'm a student at the moment, pursuing Degrees in Religion and Printmaking, both. My father was reluctant to let me leave Gawyne, but perhaps you know that, so I'm there by the work of my own hands. Which is fine. I feel like I'm getting an entirely different education, working for the Rynmere Gazette and hearing the voice of the people."

The printer's diri chuckled, letting his gaze wander the fading garden, shoulders sagging as his resolve faltered. He couldn't play this game forever, not under the older man's curious, equally protective gaze, "Oliver, humor me, would you—did she tell you how we met?"

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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Oliver Venora » Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:36 pm

Oliver Sebastian Venora

The Venora had spent many trials and seasons examining men for their weaknesses, trying to figure out how to best protect himself from the weak or power-hungry, as if they were the only two distinctions in the world. But this Gawyne, he was neither of those. Oliver could tell from his demeanor and his honesty that Caius said what he was thinking, the Seven damn the consequences. It was something that Oliver appreciated, respected even, and his Biqaj eyes stayed their typical shade of near-black.

Oliver knew that he'd put Caius in a tough position, because he held information that Caius did not know he held. Sure, he did not hold much, but Caius could not know that. Instead, Oliver had the leverage to pinch Caius for what he wanted, even if that meant allowing the younger noble to assume that Oliver knew more than he did. Of course, that tactic was one of deception, and that was not how Oliver had intended for their first meeting to go. So far, it appeared that Caius was being direct and honest with him, and so he too should reciprocate.

"Studying religion, qes? I suppose I understand that, given your family's lineage. Myself, I believe that Rynlism is the only correct path to follow. The Immortals are fine, but they do not care about us. Not really. The only people who will look out for us is us. It's unity that will guarantee our success, qa'akor. I don't care if you follow Immortals, but never remember where you came from, ze?" Oliver smiled, keeping the tone lighthearted. He intentionally avoided the subject of his sister, but he knew he could not run from it forever.

"I will be honest with you, Darcy has told me very little," Oliver admitted, deciding to remain honest. It was not in his constitution to falsely extort information from someone, especially someone his sister was seeing. "But I am not a naïve little boy, either. I understand that Darcy is growing up, and that her interest in men is becoming more than platonic," he said with candidness. Pausing in the cold, he looked around the garden, returning his gaze to Caius. His eyes were a strange mix of blue and green streaks, swirling outward from the center. Embarrassment.

"Pretenses aside, that is the real reason I asked you here this trial. While I am interested in hiring your services for the gala, I could have relayed the offer and logistics through a letter. But you can't judge a man's character through a letter. No, you have to look him in the eyes while he speaks to you in order to truly know him," he confided. His eyes returned to their normal shark-black, and he started walking again, wine glass in hand. He took a small sip from the glass, exhaling.

"I hope you know that I had intended to fulfill my obligatory eldest brother duties and threaten you if you hurt her, but I do not think that is necessary, qa'akor. Aside from a foul mouth, which is the least worry I can have, you seem to have a decent head on your shoulders. I appreciate that," Oliver said through a smile, using the hand holding his wine glass to survey the gardens.

"You know, I came out here once and found Darcy crying. Our sister Pythera was picking on her, and she really hurt Darcy. And when I found her, I swore I'd let nobody else in this world hurt her. Not myself, not Pythera. I swore I'd pull down the kingdom brick by brick if I had to, and I intend to honour that. I hope that you understand that it is not a threat, Caius. It is not. It is a promise I made to a young girl who was hurt and confused. I am a man of my word."

And he meant that.
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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Caius Gawyne » Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:17 am

Outside felt so sarding good that the northern noble sighed, shoulders sagging, body desperate to keep up appearances. They walked through the snow-dusted garden and Caius could imagine what plants and flowers grew where just by the corpses left behind from the seasons before. Oliver seemed to be straightforward, intelligent, likable even, the protective trait he seemed to possess striking a chord with the young Gawyne who was too tired, too distracted to pretend to be anyone else but himself in front of the older brother of the woman he'd come to care about. He had, in a way, nothing left but honesty.

"Qes, religion is but half of my studies, honestly. That said, it doesn't matter whether the Immortals care about us or not—they sarding exist, ot djal?" Caius smirked, flashing the other man a curious expression of both amusement and curious interest, "How can you believe that one way is correct when you already know that both are true? My House exists as proof your opinion is questionable, Oliver, for Ziell has taken good care of his children in Gawyne—Warren was both one of the Seven and a Half God, so don't pick and choose your histories to believe in with me."

Caius grinned at the end to reveal he wasn't as serious as he sounded, shrugging his narrow shoulders as if to imply that there were far too many opinions about truth across Idalos. When the older man spoke of Darcy again, however, his smile faded slowly, feeling the weight of understanding sink into his chest at the Venora's assumptions of the extent of their physical relationship, the northern noble watching the shift of the other man's irises without a hint of shame in his own. Oliver was right, even if he didn't like the way it felt: Darcyanna was an adult and could make her own choices.

Whether or not Caius was a good one had yet to truly be decided, and he wasn't there to be his own judge and jury.

"More than platonic? Well," if there was color that rose to the printmaker's assistant's cheeks, surely it could be blamed more on the cold than his admissions, "I assure you, qa'akor, I have the honor of her House, of yours, in mind." Mostly.

He wasn't about to go into detail, that was for damn sure.

"I understand your reasoning." The young Gawyne offered a quick agreement, falling into step again alongside the older Venora, "I'm not offended, of course. Sarding flattered, really, that you'd really think I was worth all the trouble of a coach and a job, that I'm not merely a passing fad or a momentary infatuation, being just another noble. It's somewhat refreshing that you'd rather get to know me than decide who I am from afar. I have a sister, too, well, three of them. I can appreciate your mindset, thank you." Though he felt as though he had failed her, at least Oliver didn't have—

He wanted to laugh at the other man's comments on his mouth, about his threats of harm, but then the name Pythera spilled from the older man's lips and Caius' heart sank in his chest like a stone.

He stopped walking, the thin veil of his public self caught in the wind of Oliver's words, blowing away like a sheet from the laundry line. Once. The northern noble heard his pulse in his ears and thought of Darcy so wasted and half-insane at his doorstep, he thought of her stories, her scars. Here her older brother spoke of one moment in their childhood with this younger sister, and it was all Caius could do not to lose the mind he barely held onto. The hurt she'd shared with him, that they'd shared together flooded his thoughts. He told himself he'd be okay, that he'd be able to handle it, but he'd been so afraid. Just three trials ago, he'd been more terrified than he'd probably been his whole sarding life. Restless, worried at having left Darcy alone without so much as a word, Oliver's short anecdote of a personal story became a trigger,

"Just that one time, qa'akor? Just once did you protect Darcyanna from Pythera's wrath? Or were there other times? When did you stop?" He attempted to keep his tone even, hands still in his pockets even as he curled ink-stained fingers into his palms, making fists,

"Where the fek have you been all these arcs, Oliver Venora?"

He'd been invited. He'd agreed to come, knowing full well why he was here in Bellesoir's lovely garden with the other man. He'd told himself to be polite. But his heart ached, Darcy's scars not easily forgotten where they marred the enticing landscape of all her pale skin,

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you'd best get started on those bricks. Pythera's haunted your sister for arcs, got her so sarding terrified—" Caius paused, eyes a pale silver with the passion of his anger and displeasure, churning with darker hues of his concern and fear, and he held his tongue, not willing to go into the details of how Darcyanna was affected by her terror: her addiction. It would have been better had the Ivory Rose been here by his side so that—he hoped—Oliver and himself could address her more personal struggles together.

He wanted an ally, a friend. He needed one. Another sword in the battle that he could see unfolding in front of him the more time he spent with Darcy, the more he began to allow himself to feel for her. He was desperate to not feel alone in shouldering the blonde pianist's burdens: not Pythera, not the drugs. They were heavy and he was tired.

So sarding tired,

"—Your youngest sister more than tortured her, do you know that? And she's so Fates-be-damned terrified that Pythera will make good on her promised threat to come and kill her in some gruesome way just because she's told me, and now because I've told you. By the Seven, it was hard enough to leave her alone."

The heat of his breath steamed quickly in the cold air, but Caius felt like he was sweating. He hadn't raised his voice so much as practically whined, failing at staying composed and calm,

"Oliver, where have you been?"

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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Oliver Venora » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:01 pm

Oliver Sebastian Venora

Near-black eyes glued themselves to the blue of Caius', staring into the man's very soul as he spoke. Where was I? The question echoed around Oliver's mind, ricocheting through cerebral functions and tearing his ability to react. Staring, blank-faced and open-mouthed, Oliver considered the young Gawyne's words.

For arcs, Oliver knew that Pythera and Darcyanna had not gotten along, but how could he have known the severity? He knew Pythera's malice, he remembered her sadistic nature. But he had never considered that she would have truly channeled that onto Darcy. Sure, they'd argued and fought as girls, but there was never any indication that the words were real. Oliver understood sibling rivalry... He did not understand the malicious nature of Pythera.

And now, he did not understand the victimized nature of Darcyanna. Finally regaining his wits, Oliver's jaw clenched tightly, so hard that Caius heard the click of his white teeth as they gnashed together. Lithe fingers curled into white-knuckled fists, remaining at his side as he stared at the Gawyne. The printer had played with hues of blues, but never had he seen so deep or dark an indigo as when he looked in Oliver's eyes. The colour was the purest that Caius had ever seen in that shade, and Oliver's reddening face made the contrast all the bolder.

"Where was I?" He asked softly, voice strained under the weight of his guilt. "I... How could I have known?" The words were hard to choke out through the growing lump of self loathing and rage in his throat. Streaks of deep purple mixed with the indigo of his eyes, causing the colours to reflect the midnight of his anger. The blood rushed through him, his heart hammering a tattoo of embarrassment and anger through him.

"Where was I? I was protecting Darcy when the two of you were shitting your diapers. I can only help what I can see. And I don't need some pissant fucking schoolboy telling me I'm not there for her because he's become her new lover. I've loved Darcyanna more fiercely in one cycle than you will your entire fucking life."

How fucking dare he stand there and defiantly call Oliver a failure? The Lord Venora glared, the whites of his knuckles growing as his fingernails cut meniscuses in his palm. Staring into the accusatory face of Caius, the split second decision was made. Faster than he'd ever known himself to be, Oliver lashed out and smashed a bony fist into Caius' face, sending a right hook across his cheek to turn his head to the side. He was not a brawler, but the rage that fueled him enhanced his strength. Following through, Oliver tackled the young printer to the ground, quickly scrambling up to mount him, staring down with pure indigo irises.

"Where the fuck was I?" He rained down a left, splitting open a small cut above Caius' eyebrow. "I was locked in this fucking vacancy." The next hand was a right that rocked his head back into the ground. "I can't apologise for what Darcy won't tell me. I could have protected her then. I could have taken action against Thera then, and I could have put a stop to this before it ever started." He glared down at the bleeding noble underneath him. "But Darcy didn't tell me. She didn't confide in me. I told her everything. Eight arcs apart, and she was my best friend... And she didn't think she could lay that on me."

Rearing back his left hand, he smashed another blow down on Caius' nose, sending hot blood running all over his upper lips and dripping down onto the ground behind him. Raising his hand again, he paused, looking down at Caius' bleeding face. Casting a quick glance to his left hand, covered in a thin layer of gore, Oliver looked horrified. Slumping in defeat and rolling off Caius to lie on the ground behind him, tears rimmed his back-to-black eyes.

"... How bad is it, Caius?" He looked over at the bleeding noble, his eyes streaming tears like Caius' nose was streaming blood. His chest was heaving as he struggled to stifle the rising panic in his chest. Pythera was, according to the rumours, still out there somewhere, and the idea that Darcyanna wasn't safe was like a hot knife to his innards.

In that moment, through the rage and grief and guilt, another emotion surfaced: Appreciation. He appreciated Caius' defiant stand against him, calling him on his shortcomings. The Gawyne had endured quite a few strikes in defense of Darcy's overall health, and the overwhelming sensation of owing Caius a debt of gratitude washed over the Onyx Rose. Tears still streaming, he sat up quickly and pushed himself to shaky legs, still resisting the urge to sob like a young child. Offering the blood-spattered hand to Caius, he offered to help him up. He gave no apology for the violence, but instead urged the young Gawyne to accept the hand as apology enough. It was understandable that he felt the way he did.

"Nelo qe,"[/i] came the hesitant words, and he stared into Caius' eyes. "Nelo nelo qe. For taking care of her when I so obviously could not." Sincerity clad the words like armour, bracing them against the inevitable tirade of swears and vitriol. Should it come, Oliver would allow it to pierce him.

He deserved it all.
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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Caius Gawyne » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:41 pm

Song, just because.


Growing up in Gawyne, he'd learned to predict a blizzard. The air would grow heavy, the clouds lethargic, and sometimes, just sometimes, he could just feel the weight of the changing weather crushing his senses, pushing on his very existence. This feeling—this strange barometric anticipation—registered briefly as his last, desperately crass question left his lips. Everything was suddenly heavy, his chest tight.

Caius was not surprised, the curl of his expression defiant, aching, and the older Venora's anger was visual, tangible. He tensed at the word love, a visceral, selfish objection to such declaration of feelings forming against the back of his throat—

Then the weather shifted in Oliver's gaze. He watched it, even as his own irises paled into a wispy silver.

The Fates-be-damned sardface swung at him, not once but twice, eliciting a hiss of anger that would have become a string of expletives had he not been tackled instead. The northern noble was expectant but not ready, raising his hands in defense but not fast enough. The other man was not necessarily superior so much as self-righteously pissed off, and when he moved, Caius had perhaps underestimated him. Maybe he'd asked for it, honestly, but he struggled to keep his footing, Oliver fierce and quick, knocking the wind from his lungs once he'd trapped him bodily between the cold ground and his angry weight.

Caius gurgled a growl then, hearing the older Venora's vehement excuses even while he was desperate to get out from underneath of him, but the third blow dragged a reluctant cry of pain from him, twisting him into a coiled spring at the heat of his own blood as it flowed down his face,

"Fuck you—" The young Gawyne snarled wetly, his grey gaze on Oliver's fist with his blood on it instead of the other man's face, unwilling to look at him. Just as quick as he had knocked him down, Darcyanna's brother scrambled off of him, but Caius didn't follow. Tightly wound, he held himself in check, trembling with the concentration it took to keep himself from retaliating. Had Oliver been Hunter, he would have turned on him like a rabid animal, but the older Venora was not his brother. He was Darcy's. He roughly ran the heel of his palm under his nose, gaze drifting down to the red smear as if reading the entrails of a pigeon to prophesy his future, "—she's told no one because your psychotic littlest sister's threatened to kill her, slowly, that's fucking why. She didn't confide in you because she's terrified out of her mind—literally out of it. She begged me to promise not to tell, but, you ungrateful bastard, here I am. That's how fucking bad it is. Now,"

He ignored the bloodied hand shoved at him, glaring at the older man's offering of peace without apology as if it added insult to his injury. Caius stood on his own, wavering a moment, before he made his move, snatching with a greedy suddenness for Oliver's coat and dragging him close enough that when the northern noble hissed his words, he left splatters of his blood on the dark-haired Venora's face,

"You're going to listen to me—I have a sister, jhi'nat, two of them actually, so don't you fucking presume I don't know what a brother's love feels like and the lengths I won't go to do anything about it. I've fucked that up once, and for Fate's sake, I was trying really hard not to do that again."

Fingers curled tighter in his desperation to be heard, and the young Gawyne fought to hold the other man's gaze, far too close into the man's personal space, far too unconcerned about the blood still flowing, dribbling, and ruining his clothes, "How bad is it? When she told me the truth, when she told me everything about Pythera—every damn thing—Darcy was so high, Oliver," Caius' voice broke at the words and his eyes burned, brimming with terrified tears and churning with color, the memory of that evening wrestling in his thoughts with the much better memory of the day after, "so sarding wasted on I don't even know what. Everything, she'd said. All of it, she admitted to me. She only told me about her torturous sister because she'd overdosed, washed listlessly on my doorstep, confused and afraid, haunted by the threats of some other piece of trash Venora—damn your House! I'm a Gawyne, Oliver. My meager hearth is meant for peace and yet I can't even give her that. Not alone. Not like this."

The northern noble groaned, shoulders sagging, loosening his grip on both the older Venora and everything else. He wiped his face on his sleeve and blinked, voice failing, "She hides it all behind drugs, drowning in that shit, and from that first night I carved up a pair of drunks before they did who knows what to her in an alley and walked her home, staggering from a party—by the Seven, I can't protect her like that. I don't even sarding know how to help her. I just know I want to. I do."

Caius managed a sneer, but it hurt, "I didn't have to fucking come here, but came because I had to tell someone. You seemed like my best choice, the way Darcy spoke to me so highly of you with a smile. Now, I've already been gone too fucking long, leaving her alone to be afraid in Andaris while I'm here ... for what? To ask you to help me? This is your help?"

The young Gawyne wiped his face again, unwilling to look at Oliver, choosing instead to stare at his bloodied hand,

"I should have kept this to myself." Now he'd just gone and made a mess of things, by Rynmere's Fire. He'd set it all ablaze: Darcy's trust, Pythera's threat, and Oliver's ire. He'd helped no one, not even himself by the way his face ached. He'd made a mistake.

Now he'd just failed someone else's sister as well as his own.

Sard it all.

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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Oliver Venora » Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:57 am

Oliver Sebastian Venora

Lord Venora glared at the smaller, younger Gawyne as he gripped his clothes and pulled him close. Not resisting, instead Oliver stared brazenly into the cool silver eyes of the printer, his own a rippling indigo in response. From their proximity, Oliver could smell the metallic scent of blood as it wafted from Caius' mouth. Staring at the crimson liquid when the Gawyne began his tirade, Oliver did not even flinch when the flecks of blood wetted his cheeks like freckles emerging in the suns. The crimson liquid soaked into his skin, his beard, but not his resolve. It would take much more to shake that.

Except it already was. Caius' words chilled the Venora, and it was everything in his power not to shudder in the cold Gawyne's grasp. For a peaceful family of scholars, the conflagration of rage staring at him from inches away was enough to sear away any notions that the younger noble was lying. Rapt at attention, Oliver's indigo orbs never once left Caius', not even to glance against the flowing red liquid that was sullying their clothing. Blood was horrid to get out, but in that moment, Oliver found that he did not care if he had to burn every garment he was wearing. The words that Caius was nearly shouting at him were far more important than his appearance. Far more important than his being.

And because of their proximity, Oliver felt the shift in Caius' demeanor. The angry Gawyne had been direct and forceful, but something about his recounting of Darcyanna's overdose shattered him. Oliver resonated with that, his own heart cracking like ice under the strain of the weight of Caius' revelation. The two, as close as they were physically, had just become brothers in pain. Whether Caius never saw Darcyanna again, the misery they shared at her pain was a bond unbreakable by even their prides. Oliver stared, indigo slowly fading into a blue-cobalt. Tears gathered on the bottoms of his eyelids, ever threatening to rain down again and wash the crimson lifeforce from his features.

As Caius' accusatory tirade neared its end, and he released Oliver, the Lord's hands immediately balled into fists again. Staring into Caius' eyes, full of fear, defeat and anger, Oliver saw staring back into himself the very same emotions he was feeling. Clenching his jaw, the trills passed with the two men staring at each other, close enough for Oliver to deliver a painful blow. He wanted to. He wanted to strike the accusations from Caius' mouth, and every Fates-damned tooth with it. He wanted to put the scholar down right where he stood, to bury him under a rosebush and bloom from his acerbic persona the prettiest damned flowers the Seven had ever seen. Right there, Oliver could have beaten him into a mess, to make the Gawyne's appearance reflect Oliver's own damaged pride. But he wasn't truly mad at Caius.

Before he knew what he was doing, his arms came up, thrusting quickly at the Gawyne. Gripping Caius by the shoulders, Oliver yanked him forward, burying the smaller man in his arms with a massive hug. It was not a hug of warmth, or of comfort. It was the hug a warrior gave his shieldbrother after the latter emerged from a pile of enemies, battered and bloody, but alive. Caius had entered, willingly or not, into the war raging in Darcyanna's heart, and it was clear to Oliver that he'd sustained his wounds. Oliver's grip never wavered as the trills passed, the force of the action a desperate plea for Caius to understand his anguish and guilt.

"Damn my house," Oliver agreed at last, releasing Caius. Holding him to arms' length, the Lord Venora's countenance had changed. "You will never know how much your honesty has meant to me, Caius. I love her, and as you've boldly stated, you understand that affection. I have failed her, Seven know I have, but I won't fail her again. If you truly mean to help combat this, we have become family in more than just carnal affections."

It was clear to Caius from Oliver's pained expression that he meant to honour his oath. Gripping Caius' shoulders, Oliver squeezed, nodding solemnly.

"We will keep her safe. First from Pythera, then from herself."
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Behind the Curtain (Caius)

Postby Zipper » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:43 pm

Overview : I was honestly expecting a passionate kiss at the end there, but apparently me mis-reading a mutual bond of platonic respect built around protecting someone both parties love as homoeroticism is just what I do now. Really, I blame Legend of Korra's season finale. It validated me once and all I see is LGBT, LGBT, LGBT-

Anyway, incredibly strong thread. Really enjoyed the eb and flow: from noble strangers, to brief enemies, to a brotherhood forged around a common cause. Looking forward to how this develops.


@Caius
Points : XP: 15/15
Loot/Injuries/Overstepping :  Bruised, scabbed face - 5 to 8 trials to fade.

Fame +1 for a mutual show of honesty in a sea of lies.
Knowledge : Skill Knowledge
Business Management: Accepting a business proposal
Business Management: Keeping it professional
Discipline: Refusing to retaliate
Etiquette: Using familiar language to build rapport
Endurance: Taking the anger to your face
Endurance: Conversing through pain
Intimidation: Damn your house!
Rhetoric: Calling the other man out
Rhetoric: Breaking promises to tell the truth

Other Knowledge:
Oliver Venora: Darcyanna's Loving, Protective Older Brother
Oliver Venora: Offered you a printmaking job
Oliver Venora: Likes his wine like his humor, dark and dry
Oliver Venora: Weighed your worth
Oliver Venora: Dealt with anger using his fists and your face
Oliver Venora: Pretty much family now
Location: Bellesoir, Venora

@Caspian
Points : XP: 15/15
Loot/Injuries/Overstepping : Knuckles got punchy

Fame: +1 for a mutual show of honesty in a river of deceit
Knowledge : Skill Knowledges:
Discipline: Not lashing out in anger... again
Etiquette: Offering wine during a formal meeting
Etiquette: Allowing someone to finish before speaking
Persuasion: Making a reasonable offer of employment
Politics: Formally inviting someone to an audience
Politics: Making others more comfortable in your presence by being casual
Politics: Structure of House Gawyne
Psychology: Projecting one's own emotions onto someone else
Unarmed Combat (Brawling): Strike first, strike hard
Unarmed Combat (Brawling): Tackling an opponent to keep control

Non-Skill Knowledge:
Caius Gawyne: Lord of Gawyne
Caius Gawyne: Darcy's lover
Caius Gawyne: Printer and scholar
Caius Gawyne: Foul-mouthed
Caius Gawyne: Wants an ally against Darcy's issues
Darcyanna Venora: Has a drug problem
Darcyanna Venora: Tortured mentally and emotionally

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