Black Lavender and Old Lace

Black Lavender and Old Lace
Summary: It is the morning of the following day since the Westmark family came to visit the Temple of the Four in the neutral city of Laketown. Castor is troubled by something and has not slept, and neither is Coriaria… however something far more sinister is at work here. Brother and Chosen to the rescue!
Date: 01/06/2013
Related: None
Players:
Castor Coriaria Alyona 

Temple Chambers, Temple of the Four
Slightly vaulted ceilings continue into the common room of the Temple of Four. The common room begins the area of the Temple that serves as living quarters for the Covenant and Chosen of the Four. Before the hearth that usually has a fire within it, a small collection of tables and benches for the residents of the temple to share meals, give and take lessons, or simply take a break from the day.

Along the far wall to the west are several alcoves that serve as kitchen and several panties. And to the east a doorway to a long hallway can be spotted. Off of the hallway are the individual quarters for the Priests and Priestess and their Chosen along with the group rooms for the orphans and Acolytes.

1st June, 1329

It is that time of the morning when the residents of the temple gather to break their fast. By now, several of the seats at the tables are vacant - their occupants having finished their meals, and returned to their studies, worship or other activities. Some of the tables have already been cleared so that men and women may conduct lessons in the same hall, as the morning meal draws to a close.

Castor is sitting at a table all by himself, with a simple meal in front of him that he has not touched. He looks bothered, tense, pensive - and tired. The young man is wearing the same clothes he wore the night before (boots, gloves, leather armour and cloak bearing the colours of his House: black, brown and gold), having spent the night here in the temple with his family. He has not spoken to anyone, beyond a mere greeting.

And inside his cloak, his right hand drums idly away on the pommel of his dirk.

Her brother — her friend — seems to be in the same emotional state that she herself is in. The scalding heat of the talking-to she'd received from her parents has left her stunned and rather hurt, unsure of how to go about the business of daily life without inviting more reproach. It's with slow, even paces that Cricket approaches Castor, not wanting to startle him.

"You look the way I feel," the girl begins, sitting down and folding her arms over one another on the table, "I take it you didn't sleep well?" Neither has she, her dreams plagued by strange episodes of being made to stand in front of an angry crowd of tenants, their hatred of her palpable. Why it is that they're angry, though… she has no idea. A small shudder runs through her at the recollection. "Our parents are mercifully out. They intend to leave us here on our own for a time. I can't say I'm not looking forward to the separation."

Castor doesn't look up.

He doesn't need to.

"Of my nineteen winters," he begins by saying. "Nine of them have been spent with our parents, Sister. Of those nine winters, I can recall… perhaps five or six of them. I cannot recall much of seeing our little sister, either." He purses his lips, lifts his eyebrows in a contemplative manner and then lifts his chin.

"I have grown used to being apart from them; these last three years… I think Mother and Father still see the six-year-old boy I was when I left, rather than who I am now. Hmph, I am not even I know what that means…"

He finally turns his head to look at his only confidante.

"Perhaps this is their way of saying, 'things have changed'?" A pause. "I should shut up now, I think." He flashes as close an approximation of his usual cocky grin as he can. "The only son of the Shadow-Baron should not be seen moping - even by religious people. They would talk. People always talk."

His fingers on his left hand, still appearing to toy with his food, flicker minutely. I wish I could hide as well as you. Something inside me… makes me not want to be seen.

She reaches up to scratch absently at the base of her neck, a nervous itching sensation having begun to bother her. "Things have changed," his sister nods, "We are expected to behave ourselves at all times from now on. Not that this wasn't always the case, but… Mother and Father have much less humor about it now than they used to." A hurt look enters her eyes and she glances away for a moment, not wanting to unduly stress her twin with her own morose mood.

She forces an artificially bright note into her voice, trying inject something more pleasant into the conversation, aware that she isn't fooling anyone but sticking with it all the same. "Don't reproach yourself for your feelings, brother. They are, after all, not things of logic. We cannot help our emotions." Hiding's the easy part. It's facing others that's difficult. Even for me. "You know I'll always be on your side, no matter who says what."

There is no warning, not even scrape of a boot or a darkening of shadow. Just a voice, curious, quiet. "I've seen this thing that you two do with your hands. Clever imps."

Then the woman is standing there, quite possibly because she wants them to see her. Like an optical illusion, it is quite impossible to see how she wasn't obvious all along, in her boiled leather armor and scarves in the four colours of the Guardians tying back her hair. "But not so clever that you don't sit here and sulk about growing up. You should listen to your sister, Castor."

The son of the Shadow Baron all but jumps out of his skin. With his right hand already on his dirk, he spins in a half-crouch (basically turning out of his seat without standing up) and holds his position there, dirk poised to surreptitiously strike at the apparent threat.

Then he spots Alyona.

"I, uh… my apologies, Chosen," he sort of half-stammers. "I… thought you were someone else." The excuse is a lame one, perhaps deliberately so. The dirk goes back into its sheath at his side and he rises slowly to his feet.

"Clever, perhaps," he says in half-agreement, half-defeat. "But not clever enough - if we were, you would not have noticed. And I was not sulking, as you so tactfully put it. I was… pondering. It is not the same thing."

He glances at his sister.

"Is it?"

Cricket starts visibly at Alyona's sudden appearance, unused to being on the receiving end of such surprises. She is usually the one to seemingly come out of nowhere, after all. Castor's reaction causes her to gasp and she's almost out of her seat before she realizes he's backed down already, willing her heart to stop trying to leap out of her throat. "Chosen," she breathes, a hand on her chest, "We didn't realize you were there."

Alyona's observation about their secret twin-language manages to draw a terse laugh from the girl, nervous energy dissipating with the sound. "You have a good eye. My brother and I… we share many things. A tendency to ponder — reflect intensely, really — is among them. But Cas wasn't sulking… and we're certainly not averse to growing up and taking on the duties expected of us." Under the table, her left hand trembles a little.

The Chosen seems to have very little concern about the dirk poised at her gut. In fact, of all things, she smiles, that pale little half-smile that seems to denote great amusement from the older woman. There is little question that she sees right through the excuses. "Of course. Pondering. Reflecting intensely." She agrees amiably enough. "Well, might I join you?" A slight wash of wiped away sweat and a gleam of adrenaline in her green eyes may indicate that she has just come from the practice fields, and not her bed. And all along, she has been holding a plate of food, as well. Leftovers, it looks like, saved from the fine breakfast served to the Mother Superior.

Though the question is asked, the Chosen waits only two heartbeats before sitting anyway, and quickly arranging her food about the plate with a fork and knife. "You both seem rather upset about things you cannot control, for people who are not averse to growing up. Emotions, the opinions of others." Her voice is rather droll and placid. She is like a heavy rock dropped into the nervous, energetic rivers of Castor and Coriaria's lives.

Castor's eyes look to the side, at his sister. He doesn't say anything - only glances - but for Cori it would be enough for her to know that he knows. And he's there for her. Wordlessly, a moment later, he pulls out his chair and sits back down to his meal that he has yet to touch.

He takes to watching the Chosen - Alyona - for a while. His eyes are tight, tired, and distrusting. He wets his lips with his tongue. "I just haven't slept well, Chosen," he replies finally. "That, at least, should be something I can control, don't you think?" His eyes take half a second to flick toward Cori and back again to Alyona. It could mean there's more, and I don't feel like talking, in equal measure.

Her protective instinct kicks in, admonitions of her parents be damned. "If you're going to form an opinion of my brother, now isn't really the time to make a fair assessment. I don't think anyone is at their best when they've been unable to sleep. It's easy to be upset when tired, no?" A look is leveled at Alyona, as if daring the Chosen to oppose her, gaze narrowing a touch. Cricket is a Westmark, after all, and doesn't suffer criticisms directed at her family. She watches the other woman for a few moments, envying her the equanimity so obviously a part of her nature. Truly, Alyona is the product of a very peculiar Temple-upbringing. "I wonder," Cricket sighs, wishing she didn't suddenly feel so oddly nauseous, "You have such a… peace about you." She scratches at herself again, this time choosing to assault the crook of her elbow. "How do you manage it?"

"No, in fact." Alyona answers Castor quite levelly, hooded lashes just barely flickering up from the thick piece of bread that she is buttering. "Sleep steals away from the spirit of the one that needs it the most, and lays heavily on the dumb and happy. And the more you fight for it, the less success you will have in finding it." Her motions are sparse and economical as she eats, but with a certain strange delicacy. The Chosen would never be mistaken for a lady of the court, but in this simple place, she almost seems elegant.

Cricket's protectiveness and her nervous itching gets the same even assessment, with just a slight flash of the eyes and curious quirk of the brow. "You shouldn't care about my opinion, either, Coriaria." She had, in fact, been quite careful not to make a judgement of anyone, though teenagers were always quick to read scorn where there was simple equanimity. "And that is the only place my peace can come from, since you ask. I know here-" she taps her chest; it resounds with the hollow thump of armor, "What is right. And I do it, and all else be damned. And then I do not worry about things that I cannot control." She sweeps her dusky eyes from child to child, making careful eye contact. "What do you think is under your control?"

Confusion.

That is the look that Castor gives his sister.

His eyes speak volumes for the one who shared the womb with him: what is WRONG with you?? and Sister, 'tis not like you to… fidget. But above all else: What is wrong??

All of this is left to a single glance, since the Westmark youth does not seem keen to try 'signing' again only to have this very perceptive woman at the table with them… notice and rub their noses in it.

Again.

He gives the Chosen his attention a few moments later to answer her question. "I should like to think," he remarks a little tersely, "that the power of choosing 'rest' lurks somewhere in my command. Alas for me - 'twould appear I am somewhat, sadly mistaken." A breath escapes him in a sigh.

"Forgive me, if I seem rude. You and the Mother Superior have… some history with our parents. I… I'd like to know. We haven't really talked since I came back - about the only thing I have in common with them is our love of games."

He frowns suddenly. Confused. At himself. "Why am I telling you this…?"

His fingers THEN sign to Coriaria: His Lordship would be disappointed. I'm hardly very 'shadowy' am I?

"You are very sure of yourself," Cricket observes, her words without the weight of any strong feelings behind them, either positive or negative. This colorless form of speech has required practice — a /lot// of practice — and given Alyona's keen powers of observation, now's a good a time as any to continue training. "But I must disagree with you on one point, Chosen: you have the luxury of ignoring others' opinions of you. My brother and I… well, our effectiveness as rulers will be tied to people's opinions, be we fair with our folk or not." Perhaps it's curious that she's spoken of some kind of shared power — she is still sole heiress to the responsibilities of command — but perhaps it also isn't. The twins are inextricably linked in many ways, and whatever fate befalls the one will certainly affect the other.

Damnable itching. Suddenly her clothes seem too tight and she tugs at the neckline of her dress. His Lordship is often disappointed, she signs, stumbling over the 'words' with an uncharacteristic slowness, His natural state, yes? "Castor brings up an interesting question. I too would like to know…" What's the word she's looking for? "History."

The Chosen simply shrugs and continues to eat, placidly. It could be the answer to many of the questions or points brought up. Or all of them. She also chooses the luxury of enjoying the meal; it was not often that good food was snuck past Father Byron's hawkish eye. It is an aesthetic form, a savouring of each bite instead of a gluttony. She brings a cloth to her lips to brush away a crumb. "I did not say ignore, Coriaria. I said 'care.'" She speaks as if there is a very obvious line of distinction between the words.

"You cannot change someone else's thoughts, no matter how you act. You have no control over that fact, and thus it is best not to worry about it. Certainly not to tie your self-worth into it." She pauses. "That is true whether you are high-born or low. My only luxury is that I have few placing their regard upon me, and so the temptation to worry about their opinions is not as heavy."

The shared question does bring the Temple soldier some pause, however, and she glances between the two twins again, as if weighing them in her mind. "I'm sorry to disappoint, but I merely know of your parents; I met them for the first time yesterday, at your side. My only tie to them is through the Mother Superior. History, I might be able to speak to, if only because of my advanced age." A smile again, at last, and a self-deprecating sweep of her fingertips onto a bit of silvered black hair.

Castor Westmark lets out a breath.

More defeat.

It would appear that getting to know his parents by this means is not going to work. 'Relationship by Proxy' a failure. "What do you all… do here…?" he wonders aloud, for Alyona to answer. Then he looks again at his sister, intending (from the expression on his face) to curry some sympathy to go with his confusion and frustration - but her fidgeting (and the slow, halting way she signs to him) has him… concerned.

What is WRONG with you?! he signs rather 'loudly' (meaning his finger motions are so pronounced a blind man could see them). That is how strange her behaviour is to him - even on a bad day she had always been better at subtlety than he. He is now staring at her, eyes wide, eyebrows steepled in worry, and body tense. The man is a coiled spring.

On legs.

"Ohhh?" the girl slurs, looking at Alyona with a strange sort of incredulity (why are there suddenly two of her? By the Four, that's some trick!), "No… history? I see." She begins to chew on her lower lip out of habit before she finds that she can't feel it. It makes speaking a slightly uncomfortable task. "You are right… we cannot change th —" Oh, WHAT is with the nasty metallic taste at the back of her throat? In a rare gesture of boorishness, she reaches for Alyona's cup and drags it across the table to her, eyeing the Chosen over the vessel's edge before staring down in slight confusion at the contents. She knows she wants to drink. The task simply seems a logical impossibility. Suddenly she snorts, looking from Alyona to Castor and back again. "It's hot in here," Cricket complains, setting the cup down with a thud and causing the liquid within to slosh over, "What's wrong with you people?"

"We worship the Four Guardians according to our calling, heal and guide and bring peace to the people, and in my case, knock any fools that want to stop any of that…" The out of character - or remarkably in character - words of violence trail off into silence as all this youthful fidgeting escalates past the still Chosen's level of comfort. So it is that she is watching Coriaria very carefully long before the girl snatches away her cup, and when the cup is thrown back down, Alyona catches the girl's wrist in her calloused hand and immediately reaches for a pulse.

Regardless of success at that, she stands and rounds the table, her left hand motioning to an acolyte in the universal symbol for 'go get a healer.' "What did you have to drink today? Did you eat the same food as your brother? Any strange bruises or cuts?" Left hand down, feeling the girl's forehead, then down further to loosen her collar and look for flushing or rash on the neck. Her actions are as swift and decisive as her voice is placid. "That…" She glances at Castor. "That smell is familiar to me." A sickly sweet smell, not Coriaria's normal perfume.

Then, suddenly, the Chosen frowns at her own hand, or more properly, the fingers that loosened Coriaria's chemise. "Oh. No. Poison."

"I knew it!" Castor hisses, more in horror than in victory. "Cricket, I'm so -" he cuts off as he practically spins out of his chair to reach Cori's about the same time as Alyona. He glances at the Chosen, and then at his sister - and the chemise. His face is pale with fear.

His jaw is so tight it might as well be set in stone.

The second Alyona whispers 'poison' the young man attempts to all but push her out of the way. "She already has a healer," he grates protectively through his teeth as he tries to smell his sister's chemise. Under any other circumstances, this would make for a horribly embarrassing anecdote.

But here? Now? It is just horrible.

His face contorts in disgust. And horror. "Black Lavender," he hisses. Whatever repressed anger he has harboured rises to the surface like the blast of a volcano. "The… shirt is soaking in it. We have to get her out of it now!…" he stammers, clearly on the point of losing it. "Cleansers. What have you got here that will flush out the poison? How can you be so CALM??"

He just looks at Coriaria, not willing to strip the chemise himself (that would be weird), but he does not trust himself to speak. Instead, he reaches for her hand, risking accidentally crushing it in his heightened emotional state.

By now insensible to any sort of logical process, Cricket is apparently on a mission to scratch herself out of existence. "Don't TOUCH me!" she howls as she staggers out of her seat, the force of her movement enough to pull her hand free of Castor's, "Don't…" The added tactile sensations from the others are completely unbearable and a confused, half-formed idea of escaping her environs wends its way through her mind. Yes, escape! It seems… possible, no? Something convinces her that if she can just get outside, all of the horrible things will stop. No more scratching, no more nausea, no more feelings of being smothered and having to gasp for air.

She's intrepid — and damn determined — but unfortunately for her pride, she makes it all of five steps towards the entrance before her knees buckle and she finds herself on the floor. Wait, how did she get down here? Ugh, breathing is so difficult. If only she'd been able to get outside… and why is there a bird flapping frantically about the place?

As Castor makes his intentions clear to heal his sister, but then makes no progress towards that aim other than identifying the villain, Alyona realises that she is unfortunately the adult in the room. She places a firm hand on both siblings, intending to steer them towards the apothecary. Who, in any luck, should also be heading their way. They can meet in the middle, the professionals can handle this, and she washes her hands. They're already starting to itch, and she doesn't need to look to know red splotches are starting to break out upon her pallid skin. "The apothecary will have an antidote. Here, love, let me just get…"

As Alyona reaches to fish Coriaria's chemise out from underneath her dress - knowing perhaps better than Castor how to do so with some aplomb, making certain assumptions - Coriaria instead erupts into a fit of claustrophobia and hallucination. Unfortunately, Aly has her hands down the girl's dress. And oh, it is a knee-length chemise, not a waist-length. She tries her damndest to shift her grip to pick the shorter woman up off the ground to keep her from fleeing, instead. As any Temple Chosen, Alyona is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and wrestling. This should be easy. But her hands go black lavender numb, she gets a fist-full of noble flesh, recoils, and just as quickly, both of their center of balances collapse.

Luckily, for the healer and his assistants that show up just after the knick of time, Alyona does manage to fall the other way. All nobles have their reputations left unsullied by unwonted opinions, and the hallucinating one is crippled by her own legs. Leveraging herself up carefully, the elder Chosen sighs in a most uncharacteristic way. "I don't think I've ever been happier to see you, Thom. The girl first, she's been in contact longer."

Fortunately for the young man, he is wearing gloves and the same leather armour he wore the night before. By the time the healer arrives, Cas does two things at once: he rips off his cloak and throws it over his sister, then he bends down to scoop her up in his arms.

Youth has its uses.

He rises steadily to his feet, now more than ever very appreciative of the fact that he shares his father's stature, and turns to the healer, Thom. "Black Lavender," he says laconically. "Her chemise reeks of it. Someone must have gotten to it during the night." He looks at Thom as if waiting to be told where to take his sister, and then turns to look down Cori in his grasp and forces a smile onto his face (which still looks like it could be set in stone).

"I'm here, Polly," he murmurs for her ears (not that other people are far away). "I've got you. Stay with me, Sister. Eyes on me. I won't let you fall. I won't let you fall." He looks again at the healer and prepares to walk through the assistants - refusing any help to carry Coriaria. He pauses only to await instructions before setting off to get the antidote with them.

"Help me save my sister…"

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