Reprise

Nothing like the opera for bizarre reunions.

The capital city of Anaxas and the seat of the government.
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Tom Cooke
Posts: 85
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 20
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: Ψυχάριον εἶ βαστάζον νεκρόν.
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Writer: Graf
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Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:53 pm



aeterna theatre, uptown
evening on the 12th of intas, 2719
O, vorsvas,” intoned a woman on stage, her short, bulky form draped in black. Cold light gleamed in the ivory tangled in her dark braids; her chest rose and fell with each breath, her bare shoulders proudly squared. One hand was pressed flat against her sternum. More words tumbled and flew from her mouth like the winter wind as she addressed the audience; she swept the amphitheatre with her dark eyes, her calm, unreadable face.

A few paces off knelt another actor in black, a man with greying hair pulled in a neat bun. His fingers were curled around the hilt of a dagger, and his other hand covered his face in what appeared to be a subtle and masculine expression of grief.

Tom Cooke didn’t know what the fuck was going on.

He didn’t even know what language they were speaking, and it was too late to ask now. Besides, he was far more interested in the show that was going on in the audience: wealthy, important folks milling about, whispering and chattering in their cliques, occasionally flitting from box to box like bees touring flowers. A ways across the theatre, a little lower down, he could clearly see an entourage of important-looking toffins gathered round a seated figure swaddled in heavy furs and blankets. He even saw a few faces he recognized from earlier that month, and he tried to keep track of them, commit them to memory.

That, at least, felt useful, though he couldn’t say he was enjoying the evening otherwise.

This whole outing had been Incumbent Alcide Perreault’s idea, but at present, he wasn’t known to be the finest host. He hadn’t been married to Marie a year, and they were already hissing and fussing at each other like stray cats begrudgingly sharing the same alleyway. Half an hour ago, she’d idly pointed out the leading man, a slim Hoxian baritone with a distinctive cast of features, and said some words in his favor; as far as Tom could tell, it’d fired up old Alcide, and Marie still wasn’t hearing the end of it. At this point, she’d cut across him to point out something or other about some Rochester woman, but they were speaking in hushed tones, and Tom caught about every third word.

Some ways behind Perreault, all the way in the back, sat a Judge Nicholas Swindlehurste, though you wouldn’t have known him from a theatrical prop. He must’ve been older than time, and he kept drifting off, his wrinkled hands folded in his lap. Unfortunately, he had the unsettling habit of sleeping with his eyes open, and Tom kept glancing over to see him staring through half-lidded eyes, lips moving slightly as if he were working through his thoughts. Occasionally, a loud noise would rouse him to startled wakefulness, but he’d drop off almost immediately after.

Closest to Tom and Diana were Cassian and Verity Warwick. Cassian was roughly Anatole’s age, a well-respected advocate in Vienda and (evidently) an old friend from Brunnhold. If Tom had harbored any worries about this, Verity soon assuaged them; Cassian couldn’t get a word in edgeways, and had, in fact, begun to look a little ill. So he’d nodded attentively, hummed the requisite toffin laughs at Mrs. Warwick’s juicy bits of gossip, and let Diana lead the way.

That was just as well, because it was the seventh member of their little party that bothered Tom the most. He knew Corwynn, of course – Corinth Wynngate III, as they called him Uptown – but not like this, and he reckoned they hadn’t left off their last meeting on the most normal of terms. He didn’t quite know how to deal with the King’s taxman anymore, not in this context, not with both of them in on Tom’s little secret. Not with both of them in on so many secrets. It was surreal, being here, being who he was now, seeing a familiar face from a different world.

He tried to ignore it, but his mind kept drifting away from Verity’s chatter, drifting toward the towheaded gunman. Nevertheless, he was torn from his reverie by the sound of shuffling and coughs, a whispered apology – he glanced over to see Warwick headed swiftly toward the exit, face slack and pale. Verity stood and began to follow him, but a lingering glance at Diana told Tom he’d missed something important.

When he turned to her, she was tight-lipped, a hand on each knee. Her eyes were on the departing Warwicks; they flicked to Tom’s face, studied it for a tense, wordless moment, and then moved toward the stage. She moved as if to stand, then stopped, sitting on the edge of her seat.

“Er – my dear—” He leaned over and placed a tentative hand on her wrist.

(It felt bizarre and wrong. He wanted to get away.)

“My dear,” he continued, feeling strangely like an actor himself, “are you quite…?”

“I’m fine.” She patted the top of his hand, then slipped her own arm out from underneath it. Though it was clear she tried to keep it in check, her field seemed to balk at the thought of touching his; the perceptive mona, usually so elegant and smooth, avoided his frayed edges as if disgusted by them. She offered him a smile – one smile after another, always that perfect smile – and then folded her hands in her lap.

“Do you want to leave, too?”

Diana glanced down, frowning. “Yes. I’m afraid I’m beginning to feel a bit faint, myself.”

“Well – of course, we can…”

“No!” she replied quickly, reaching out and patting his knee. She might’ve meant for it to be an affectionate gesture, but the way Tom saw it, she looked like a woman touching a big, ugly fly: it was a fast, light motion, as if she were worried that she’d catch something from him. In response, he shifted away from her, and her eyes softened. “No, it’s just – I’m really not feeling well, and I’d like to go home alone. The Warwicks already offered to take me.”

“Oh. Did they? Well, that’s fine, but being honest, I’d like to—” He broke off. A muscle jumped in Diana’s jaw. It wasn’t a look of anger, exactly, but Tom knew it well enough by now; he knew it meant he’d slipped, used some turn of phrase that Anatole wouldn’t have. In a hurry to redeem himself, he went on, “I mean to say – I would hate for you to spend the evening by yourself, Di.”

“Oh, no, my love, I wouldn’t inconvenience you.” Seeming to muster up her courage, she took one of his hands in both of hers. Her fingers felt bony and chill underneath the silk of her gloves. She met Tom’s eye and smiled sadly. “Please, do stay out – enjoy yourself, Anatole. Will you do that for me?”

“But you’ll be leaving for Hesse in—”

He broke off again. Her eyes seemed to say, Exactly. Behind her, a woman’s shape at the entrance of the box waved a plump arm and called, “Diana?”

She pressed his hand and turned, gathering up her skirts as she maneuvered her way past the other seats and up to Verity. The two women hovered there a moment, back-lit so that their faces were unreadable; Verity leaned to whisper something in Diana’s ear, and Diana shook her head brusquely. Then they were gone, leaving him deeply conscious of the empty seats around him.

That left the five of them. Swindlehurste was, as usual, lost in some dream; across the box, Perreault and his wife were still engaged in their squabble. Tom took a deep breath, shooting an uncomfortable glance at the blond galdor a few paces off, and shifted in his seat. Being honest, he didn’t know the etiquette for this shit, no matter how many times Diana had explained it to him; Swindlehurste was dead, the Perreaults were bent on being difficult, and he hated all these toffins, anyway. He was a hair’s breadth from getting up and leaving, but he’d no idea where he’d go. With that bird in the roost, he certainly didn’t want to go home, and none of the usual drinking holes appealed to him.

He drummed his fingers a little agitatedly on the table, then took another sip of brandy. It must’ve gone down the wrong pipe, because he spluttered, throat burning, and had to thump his chest and cough awkwardly.
word count: 1498

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Corwynn
Posts: 104
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:03 am
Topics: 7
Location: Ol' Rose
Race: Galdor
: The Taxman
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Writer: Muse
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Wed Apr 17, 2019 9:13 pm

​​12th of Intas, 2719
​​AETERNA THEATRE
Sometime in the EVENING
​​
​​To say that Corwynn was glad to have not been invited to Silas Hawke's rather grand meeting of the minds here in Vienda a week ago would have been a gross misunderstanding, but to say that he was instead disappointed would have been just as inaccurate an assumption. Truth be told, the blond gunman wasn't entirely sure how to feel about the gathering, his hard-earned paranoia seething uncomfortably in the back of his mind at the thought of so many powerful men assembled in the same room, all of them with different opinions and far different goals than his chosen King of the Underworld.

At least, he assumed their goals were different even if their opinions were not. Circle forbid that Magister Devlin and High Judge Azmus ever find themselves on the same side of any coin! All of Vita might crumble at the very thought.

Hawke wanted to secure his economic stranglehold for another year, that much the older galdor knew. He wanted to make sure he wouldn't end up with a Seventen-shaped knife in his gut somewhere on the streets of the Rose. He wanted to make sure the Resistance wasn't any less of a distraction than it always had been. He wanted to pick the minds of those he considered not simply his competition in the world of power and prestige in the Kingdom of Anaxas, but also those he considered his peers. The sly wick had given himself his honorific, and while he didn't bow before the galdori who called themselves better than he was, he certainly had no qualms taunting them with the outrageous concept that he was their equal.

And they hated it.

Deliciously so.

Tolerating his existence, condoning the Vein and his trade dictatorship, helplessly allowing him to continue gripping the very testicles of the Anaxi economy, Corwynn had heard far more than he really felt necessary about the meeting and all of it had quite frankly left a sour taste in his mouth.

A sour taste that this third glass of whiskey was just not washing away.

Godsdamnit. Something didn't sit well and it gnawed at him. Silas wasn't talking and he wasn't about to go asking.

But, at Hawke's request, here he was babysitting the Incumbent. Or Tom. Whichever he really was. As if the man was in any more danger than the dying wisp of a Queen. Corwynn had admittedly left their last reunion more than just a little flustered and confused, perhaps even a little scared, but he'd also admittedly spent some actual time attempting to research the phenomenon (because that was the kind of creature he really was). He'd come up with very little, although possession wasn't out of the question. It just seemed so damn unlikely.

Or too likely. He'd stopped there.

There wasn't enough whiskey for all of this at once, especially because the Perreaults' weren't the most exciting of accompaniment to the theatre, especially when they were fighting with each other over an opera that was otherwise rather exquisite. That said, the older galdor had absoclockinglutely no complaints about Marie's level of excitement the night before, considering what an insatiable creature she was out of her clothing in his bed in his otherwise rather obviously unoccupied family mansion outside of Uptown.

Perhaps that was what all the fuss was about.

Oops.

Oh well.

It wasn't as if Alcide had a clocking clue what to do with the body of his young wife. Someone had to take care of necessities. So he did. It was totally worth the relationship kerfluffle he was currently casually observing without a care in all of Vita.

Leaning over the balcony to let his crystalline gaze study the crowds that milled about far below the bundled form of his Kingdom's Queen from beneath the murky last dregs of gold in his tumbler, Corwynn let the chatter wind it's way down behind him, the flutter of irritation in everyone's fields letting the Bad Brother know he wasn't at all welcome to the conversation. He lived enough of a life full of gossip and hearsay that he sure as Imaan's etherial toys glowed didn't need to step into more here in the Aeterna. Tilting his head at Anatole’s voice, he chewed the inside of his cheek with curiosity.

Once everything had settled, he emptied his whiskey and left the glass on the rim of their booth as if it had always belonged there, pouring himself into the plush, empty seat next to the Incumbent he knew far too well, tossing his legs casually over the arm of the opposite so that he was forced to nestle unnecessarily close to the other galdor's shoulder, offering him a firm pat on the arm while he coughed, ignoring the buzzing gnats of his own scattered aura as if it was just the most natural thing in the world,

"I don't even know how those toffins can sing in Deftung, honestly, what with all the clocking consonants. It's like that Gioran musical that breezed through a few years ago that was so full of vowels you didn't know if it was an orgy or a performance to music—" Corinth Wynngate III didn't even bother to keep his voice down, the gravely baritone of his coy observation audible by the other bodies occupying their shared booth, "—only this is decidedly the opposite. Worse, really. What you truly need to experience is an imbali opera in Mugrobi. Everyone may claim that Estuan is the perfect language, but, damn it all, I disagree."

Clearly, he wasn't in the mood for etiquette either this evening, strung out on a few too many days than he liked in Vienda and already tired of rubbing elbows with a bunch of stuck-up politicians instead of rubbing other bits with their spouses,

"That said, this opera is rather brilliant." Corwynn felt the need to offer redemption to the piece he'd just insulted, arching a fair brow as someone singing below hit a very beautiful, lingering vibrato at some particular sub-plot's climax, "For a people who don't enjoy sharing emotion publically, their forms of creative expression will usually rip your heart out with a song like these ones and then quietly watch you die while staring at it with the softest of smiles."

He grinned, wicked as ever, before sighing and settling into his seat, smirking at the back of Alcide's head while catching a subtle, curious glance from his obviously thoroughly fed up wife. Gods, was there any difference between Vienda and the Harbor besides the mix of monsters?

"Do you need to chase that woman of yours home, To-er—Auntie? She seems a little uptight, sir. Been slacking in your duties. Damn politicians."
word count: 1207
User avatar
Tom Cooke
Posts: 85
Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2018 3:15 pm
Topics: 20
Location: Vienda, but also hell
Race: Raen
: Ψυχάριον εἶ βαστάζον νεκρόν.
Character Sheet: Character Sheet
Post Templates: Post Templates
Plot Notes: Plot Notes
Writer: Graf
Contact:

Sun Apr 21, 2019 1:47 pm



aeterna theatre, uptown
evening on the 12th of intas, 2719
He’d just about finished choking on his Twemlaugh when the blond galdor came over, though Corwynn had caught him a bit flushed and teary in one eye. With an effort, he straightened and shifted in his seat, crossing his legs and smoothing down his waistcoat. Again, he’d felt the taxman’s heavy physical field before he’d seen him. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to the feeling that went with that, either, the way the mona in his own field, doetoed and wild as it was, reacted to the approach of another’s.

After he’d set his snifter on the little table nearby, hand momentarily shaky, he gave the approaching galdor his undivided attention.

“Mr. Wynngate. My apologies – we haven’t yet had the pleasure of speaking this evening. How rude of me.” When he settled into the seat beside him, fluid and carefree as a cat, Tom stayed still, though he shot a brief glance to the hand that patted his arm. He offered Corwynn his most vapid smile, as if he hadn’t even heard the man compare Gioran opera to an orgy. What the hell is he doing?

He’d had a feeling that the King’s taxman wasn’t just here to enjoy the company of their lovely mutual acquaintances. (By those glances of Marie’s, Tom reckoned he’d already enjoyed some of the company, because of course he had.) That motley meeting of the minds earlier in Intas had been jarring at best, though since then, as before, he’d kept his head down and done nothing but what little his King asked of him. Even so, you could’ve sliced through the tension in Uptown Vienda like warm butter, and Vauquelin’s circles were no exception. He was still wondering at his host’s private connections, wondering what eyes were on him.

But what was this – this nonchalant, mocking attitude? This – Corwynn lounging at his shoulder – was a change from their last meeting; although he couldn’t say it was an unwelcome one, he couldn’t seem to account for it. Did he think he’d already brushed away the ghosts of that evening in the Lantern? Did he think he’d found some rational way to account for it? Seeing him sitting there, as perfect a portrait of the Incumbent as if it’d been painted and hung on a wall – seeing him like this, had he dismissed Cooke’s specter altogether, chosen to ignore it? But he wasn’t treating him like he would’ve treated Vauquelin, either. He was treating him in much the same way as he always had.

How was he supposed to act around this? Damn, but he was so tired.

“Imbali opera, huh? Fancy. I’ll have to take your word for it.” He tapped a fingernail agitatedly against the rim of his snifter, squinting down at the stage. Tom wasn’t feeling much in the mood for etiquette, either. In fact, he’d had his fill of it the moment Diana had walked out. Hell, he’d had his fill of it since his— well, he’d lost track of just how much brandy he’d had. A reasonable amount, he thought. Not too much. Just enough to make his head pleasantly thick. But it was getting harder and harder to play the role, and it was getting even harder to care. “I could listen to somebody sing in Mugrobi all day. But, uh, I’ll admit, all this, uh—”

Tom sucked in air between his teeth, shrugged. Gestured out at the stage, the sweeping, shadowy round, the other boxes, with his snifter – and nearly spilled a little brandy with the motion.

He went on, “I suppose you’ll have to excuse me for my, uh – what are we going to call it – less-than-cultured upbringing? But none of this shit really gets a response out of me. People moving around on a stage all dignified, singing, whatever. I don’t understand it.” A half-stifled snort. Lowering his voice, he leaned closer to the other galdor. “You know, Estuan, Mugrobi, Deftung… I’d give anything for a Falling Stone performance, or – I don’t know. You don’t hear a lot of Tek up here.”

He sounded comfortable with Anatole’s basso voice, a marked difference from last Achtus’ unsteady, too-high rasp; he’d picked up the accent, too, though the cadence was all Tom. It was almost as if the voice couldn’t decide to whom it belonged, Uptown orator or Old Rose criminal, and it had settled for some bizarre compromise.

When Corwynn brought up Diana, Tom was midway through another sip of brandy, and the boldness of it made him snort and dissolve into another round of coughing. Fucking Auntie? He set his glass down swiftly and pulled out Anatole’s embroidered handkerchief, stifling his hacking as best he could this time and swabbing a little spilt brandy from his hands. When he tucked it away, he turned to look Corwynn in the face.

“My wife is feeling ill, Mr. Wynngate, though I thank you for your concern.” He lifted his chin, frowning deeply. “She’s retired home, where rest, I should say, will do her wonders. Why, I happen to have been quite ill myself recently, and look at me now. All better, eh?” He studied those clear blue eyes with a hint of a wry smile, then turned back toward the stage.

His brow furrowed. One of the actors was lying flat on his back on the stage, one arm splayed out at his side, his robes a pool of dark silk leaking out around him like blood. The hilt of the prop dagger was a few inches from his limp fingers. His eyes were shut and his face was slack, but Tom, so used to this sight, was watching his chest rise and fall.

Tom shifted in his seat, fiddling with a cuff-link. His eyes kept wandering away from the stage, toward the Queen’s box. All those faces, some unfamiliar, some all too newly-familiar.

“Hell,” he muttered sidelong to Corwynn, “the real show isn’t on the stage, is it?”
word count: 1082
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