Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Quaxo9
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Quaxo9 »

The McIvors

Rhiannon thought it was cruel that the agents were insistent on the fact they needed to question the children out on the sidewalk. The cameras. Of course she'd noticed them - Cait had pointed them out and she had been all too right about their distinctive hum. And now...and now they must have recorded the thing she'd feared. She could feel their eyes on her now. They were waiting for her response. Watching her every move to see if she'd been lying to them back at their office when she'd denied the children's involvement in the curse.

'Steady on.' Cait's voice echoed in her head. The ground below rumbled, not that she could feel it. The SHIELD agents eyed her, glancing at the street below as though they could see the pipes that were moaning like they were about to burst. Rhiannon forced her face back into a neutral form and released her fingers from the fist she'd inadvertently made. She turned her head enough to make brief eye contact with her sister who was shuffling up the street with that Marshal fellow. Cait wore her characteristic smirk, but the hardness in her eyes betrayed her. At least they could share their anger, if nothing else.

"Is this really necessary? Don't you think they've had enough for today? I mean, I know I have." Cait had caught up to the little group and lifted a hand to her hip, fixing the agents with a steady glare.

The agents ignored her, one bending down on one knee to speak to Evan face to face. Rhiannon bristled.

"So, son. Why don't you tell me what you saw?"

"He saw nothing 'cause he's blind, dumbass."

"Charis! Language!" Rhiannon's protective anger dissipated with the surprise that her child would be foul-mouthed to an authority figure. "I am so sorry Agent. Clearly everything that has happened today has taken its toll. If you already know what happened from your cameras, why torture them further?"

The Agents paused, listening to the chatter in their earpieces, then nodded at the family.

"Very well. Please go home and remain inside until this situation is resolved."

"Wait, we're under house arrest when we were attacked on your watch?" It was Cait's turn to be annoyed.

The Agents opened their mouths to reply, but Rhiannon cut them off. "Of course we'll do our best to comply with your requirements. Come along Evan, Charis."

"Well at least they didn't say we couldn't have company over..." Cait grumbled loud enough for Marshal to hear and Rhys to ignore.
Monkey Kitty
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Imiel and Marshal Knox

Marshal grinned at Cait, pleased both by her casual bravery and her wish to have him there. He was grateful for her... friendship. Yes, it was a good friendship, and he was fortunate that she trusted enough to include him at a such a difficult time.

Imiel, on the other hand, was less sure what Rhys wanted him to do upon the regrouping. Marshal was walking so confidently with Cait, knowing he belonged there - Imiel envied what he imagined was the other man's certainty. He didn't want to push himself into a family situation that had nothing to do with him, to intrude upon a private moment; nor, however, did he want to leave Rhys without support if there was anything he could do to help.

"Can I... uh...?"

Imiel belated realized that sounded like Can I come over?, and abruptly turned crimson. This wasn't the time for awkward attempts at flirtation.

"Can I help, I mean? I could make you something to eat? Or if you want to talk about it? Or... or anything else. Including giving you space if that's what you need. Anything, truly, Rhiannon."
Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Quaxo9 »

A Remote Location in the Swiss Alps

The stone fortress lacked modern amenities - at least at first glance. Parts of the rough exterior were in ruins, single walls standing against the wind and snow, the ground littered with cobbles less fortunate. As far as tourist destinations went, it wasn't terribly popular due to the well-known fact that nothing of value was left in the ruin, nor was there a good view of, well, anything. A convenient truth for the Coven of the Nail. For underneath the bleak ruin, was a vast network of tunnels of a most contemporary vein. Still, they did their best to keep to tradition. The walls were rough-hewn. Staircases were made out of stone where they had not been cut from it. Stone made up the dais upon which an ebony bed festooned with crimson sat. The series of medical machines and paraphernalia looked out of place here, but clearly whomever was in the bed was being kept alive at all costs.

It was into this room the five hooded people bustled. Even the hum of the respirator and beeps of the monitors could not disguise the sound of the fabric as it brushed the stone - the sandals slapping the stone steps, the soft thuds of knees and fists coming to the ground.

"My lord." The man made an effort to stabilize his breathing. "My lord - we have it."

Someone behind the curtain coughed and a liver-spotted hand flopped into view. The glowing yellow diamond was placed reverently into the palm of the hand. Fingers curled slowly around the gem. The words "e...eter...nal......lifffffe" were spoken softly before descending into a barely-audible mumble. The gem glowed brightly.

"My lord, I would remind you to be cautious as to how much life you take in at once...HUURRK." The man's voice was stopped short by a pair of slender yellow arms embedding themselves in his chest. His scream was sucked out of him by the translucent young woman's breath.

The nurse stared in horror as the man's hood fell away and she watched him wither into dust. She fell back against the respirator, catching the attention of the strange young woman. She looked...sad - pained, even...like she were just as much a prisoner as the rest of them. The expression was so pure and unexpected that the nurse found herself calming in spite of what had just happened. The young woman vanished into a yellow mist and disappeared.

The monitors behind her started screaming in alarm and the nurse sprang into action, pulling back the curtain to begin life-saving measures on her charge. She cried out in surprise, again backing away. Without the machines to stop her advance, she slipped on the edge of the dais and fell down the stairs. The wet crunch as her body hit the bottom left nothing to imagination. None of the remaining four cloaked figures moved.

"You would remind me?" The voice from the bed was no longer weak. There was authority there, and more than a hint of danger. Bare feet swung into view and ground themselves into the pile of dust on the floor, sending what remained of the man billowing upward.

"Does anyone else have any advice?" A pause, then a smile. "Very good."

Ancient words were once again whispered and the room soon filled with the pale, glowing bodies of the bean sidhe. They circled their new master, moaning, confused. Glowering, the figure flung out her fingers and the banshees disappeared. They returned moments later, plunging into the stone, igniting it with new fire. The stone was lifted, another spell cast, and light shone down on the bearer and the four hooded coven members below.

Another smile as they inspected their body. "I always did enjoy my mid-twenties, didn't you? Rise. Our real work begins."
Quaxo9
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Quaxo9 »

Rhiannon McIvor

Rhiannon was distracted, devastated, and more dishevelled than she generally liked to appear. She wanted nothing more than a long soak and a full night's sleep. Of course, even as she thought this, she could feel the world pushing away from her. There was no way she could get water to stay in a tub with her at this point. No, she was going to be spending a long sleepless several days until she finally passed out from sheer exhaustion.

Leaving her family open to another attack.

Not again. She couldn't allow an attack on her family again. So...what was she going to do about that. How could she possibly protect them alone when she was compromised? Her hand fluttered up to her chest where the marks still burned. How could she care for them when she needed care herself?

Her eyes slid over to where her sister walked alongside the bodybuilder down the street. Cait was supposed to be her protector. It was her role. She too, had failed. Her head bobbed wearily. None of these thoughts were helping right now.

Imiel's voice broke through the fog and she blinked at him, uncomprehending for a moment. His words caught up to her and she quickly smiled and ducked her head. "Of course, that...I would like your company. I...yes, please come."

She had almost said 'I don't want to be alone' but that seemed so silly when she had her sister and children with her. And if she was totally honest, there was something about Imiel that just set her about her ease. She wasn't sure how or why, but she was willing to allow it to be true.
Monkey Kitty
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Monkey Kitty »

-Imiel

"Of course," Imiel said. "I'll get the girls' stuff and be right over."

What are you doing? he asked himself for the hundredth time. Why are you letting yourself get attached to these people? You're only going to get burned in the end.

Eventually he wouldn't be able to delude himself anymore that Rhiannon shared his feelings - or worse perhaps? - if it turned out she did, but it would end anyway because of his prior commitments. How could he explain to her that he had voluntarily put himself in the middle of a war by taking in two Kree children as a Skrull, the significance of that act? That it was a suicidally insane thing to do. But he had done it, and there was no going back. When he inevitably had to choose between his daughters and romance someday... well, the choice he would make was painfully obvious.

That day wouldn't be today, though. For the moment, they might as well take comfort where they could find it.

Imiel hastily packed a bag for Mia and Annie - he didn't know how long they would be gone, so he threw in a pair of pajamas for each girl as well as the usual toys, snacks, and Mia's diapers - and headed over the McIvor house.
Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Quaxo9 »

The McIvors

While Cait was projecting a calm exterior, the longer she watched the twins, the more she worried. It happened. They experienced the connection. Except there was no collection of years...no banshees...and no training. She'd failed them. Completely failed them. She shouldn't have let Rhiannon have her way in this. Her kids, her rules...blah blah. No, she should have done her job. Hers.

In all fairness, she'd never been prepared for this eventuality. Nabu had not given her a heads up that he was planning to replace them - which, she'd suspected as soon as she'd heard about the children. But now, now it was all too real. They were out of time. And...well, perhaps it wouldn't matter anyway, if they couldn't get them back. Did she even want them back? Could she even make that choice...

Was anything ever up to them?

She realized that she'd been standing in the living room, hunched over her right hand as she chewed on her cuticles. A terrible habit. She should have given it up centuries ago. Enough training and indoctrination had been pushed on her that she should have been able to deny her base instincts. This whole situation...it was shaking the very core of her existence - their existence.

"I...I'm sorry Marshal. Um. This...this got really big. I admit, I never expected this. I should've, I suppose. Magic folks are always after immortality and all that shit." Cait raked her hands through her hair. "What if...what if we got pulled here for this? What if all those people...all those people got ripped out of their lives...for us?"

Rhiannon had just let Imiel and the girls in the front door as Cait said this. She turned toward her sister and the two of them gasped in unison as an invisible force pushed on their chests. In front of Imiel and Marshal's eyes, each woman aged a good five or so years. Wrinkles sprouted at eye corners. grey hair appeared at temples. It happened in an instant, but both women swayed on their feet, shaken.

"Well...that was new. For us." Cait was first to speak.

"They wanted us to know." Rhiannon whispered. "They wanted us to know that they have a new master."

"And they seem pretty pissed about it." finished Cait.
Monkey Kitty
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Imiel and Marshal Knox

Imiel and Marshal just watched, shocked and uncomprehending, as the sudden change came over their friends.

"Rhiannon!" Imiel rushed to her, reaching out to steady her as she faltered. "Are you alright? Are you... are you hurt? What was that, exactly?"

He hastily maneuvered a chair into place so he could help her sit if she wanted to, then hovered, worried.

Marshal was equally taken aback, but less coherent in his response. For a moment he just looked at Cait and then...

"Huh," he said. His expression was a mixture of confusion and... could he, perhaps, be slightly impressed? "Well. Wow. Damn."
Quaxo9
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Quaxo9 »

"We should inform SHIELD at once." began Rhiannon, sinking herself into the offered chair, her hands grasping at the chair's arms. "It was bad enough that they were taken, but to be wielded?"

"There's no point in informing anyone about this as they're already looking for the bean sidhe. This will just throw everyone into a panic." Cait was inspecting her face in a mirror, poking at familiar wrinkles that had shown up just a little sooner than normal. It was a face she recognized all too well. She supposed that other people living their one life might have found it horrifying. She wondered how many others had more time stolen than they could handle...

"It's not really stealing."

Cait's eyes flickered to the reflection of her niece standing sullenly in the middle of the room. Well well. So they'd be airing all the family laundry today.

Rhiannon was in the middle of saying "Pardon me?" when Cait turned and gave her sister a tight-lipped smile.

"Oh come on, you had to have known."

"Known what?" Rhiannon was immediately riled, her hair puffing up with the emotional indignation she was giving off.

"That they've been listening in this whole time. They're telepaths."

Both children immediately looked simultaneously deflated and guilty. Ewan mouthed an 'I told you so' in Charis' general direction. She didn't see it as she was watching her big toe make an indent in the carpet or she might have offered a snort in reply. The lack of reply was a suitable cue to him that he should take the lead.

"I'm sorry we kept it a secret, Mum. At first we could just hear each other, but now we can kinda hear both you and Aunt Cait when you're...you know...yelling at each other."

"It's more than that now though, isn't it. When did you start hearing our thoughts?" Cait's tone was even, but there was no mistaking the bitten ends of her words, nor that those invisible teeth were directed at Charis.

"Just now, okay? Sheesh, I haven't been creeping around in your brain or anything like some kind of perv, okay?" The girl was immediately defensive, but the fear in her voice was real. She hadn't meant to overhear her aunt's thoughts and the idea that she could was just as terrifying to her as it was to the adult.

"Wait, so you two..." Rhiannon was slowly starting to see where the conversation was going.

"Yeah. They experienced the connection."

Silence reigned for a moment. It gave Cait a chance to check in on Marshal and George...or Imiel as her sister called him. She needed to ask him about his preferences. The two men were confused, but supportive. That was...refreshing.

"So how about we have a little storytime to catch our friends up on what's really at stake here - and fill in the gaps for the two newest players in Fate's schemes. You know, in case you didn't quite catch the whole thing from their mother and mine's previous discussions."

Rhiannon had lifted a hand to her head at some point and it remained there even as she nodded at her twin. Cait inclined her head in reply then gestured at everyone else as she grabbed herself a seat on the arm of the couch.

"Mighaswell have a seat. This is kind of a long one." Cait wet her lips and took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she slowly let it out. When she opened them again, it was as though they belonged to a different person entirely. One who had seen too much. Was burdened by centuries of woes. One who had simply had enough, but kept going in spite of it all. Someone very, very old.

"A long time ago, in a mysterious and wonderful place called Camelot, there lived King Arthur Pendragon and his lady, Queen Guinevere. They were happy and the country was prosperous, as he was a good King and all the land loved their monarchs. Humans and fey lived together in harmony and no one was want for anything.

But there came a blight on this fair land. A group of fey, called the bean sidhe, had always had important work. They warned people of the deaths of loved ones and even helped spirits move on to the other land. They carried on their duties always, sad and burdensome as they were, and people thanked them for it. But, as magic and medicine brought cures for ailments once deadly, the fey became...unsettled.

No one knows if it was boredom or the violation of some unwritten contract that drove the first 'collection'. The bean sidhe had decided that if someone lived who was supposed to have passed on, then those years the person had lived afterwards were then forfeit to fey. They decided as they had the most experience with death that they could choose when to collect on those years and did so on any whim they chose to follow.

Chaos ensued. Ten year olds would suddenly become twenty, their lives having been spared by the midwife when they were born. Soldiers withered on duty, some injury from a long forgotten battle now remembered by the fey. And so on. The humans lived in fear of when they might lose the lives they'd gained and cried out to their King to save them from the bean sidhe's unpredictable ways.

In dealing with the fey, King Arthur had learned that one needed both magic and a contract. He contacted the wizard Merlin to find a solution to the problem. Though Merlin worked day and night, he could come up with no solution that was acceptable to both the humans and the fey. They were at a stalemate and the country was falling into disarray as humans took out their frustration on other fey groups and magical creatures - and the creatures retaliated against the unfair treatment. The bean sidhe became outcasts from the rest of the fey, but as they couldn't take years from their fellows, the rest of the fey left them be.

It was then that a saviour appeared. A man in a golden helm with a strange symbol on his cloak appeared in the royal throne room, promising that he could bring order. Desperate for a solution, the king gave him audience and called a meeting with this strange wizard, the fey and the bean sidhe. The wizard had come up with this solution - the bean sidhe would not collect time for one hundred years, allowing people to live without fear of sudden loss of time. But, every one hundred years, they could roam the countryside and collect time owed to Death, but only for a total of the same one hundred years they had not collected any time.

What the wizard expected was that by the time one hundred years had passed, there would be more people to gather time from - and only being allowed to collect so much time meant that the bean sidhe were more likely to take only small portions of time owed from many people instead of taking vast quantities from individuals. A good plan. But the bean sidhe were not impressed by the restrictions. If time had been given to humans by medicine, why was Death not allowed to take it back? They were merely agents after all. Restorers of balance. Why should they have to stop what they were doing?

The bean sidhe left the meeting, leaving the King, his court, the wizard and the other fey behind. The fey court was willing to make a deal on behalf of the bean sidhe. Certainly, they did not much mind their brethren's antics, but they also did not want to put up with listless bean sidhe for that one hundred years, so they too opposed that portion of the wizard's plan. But, they had also suffered greatly at the hands of the humans as a result of the collections. They understood why the humans needed to see some restrictions placed on the bean sidhe, but they were unwilling to make a deal affecting their kin without some sort of offering in kind from the humans.

The wizard looked at the royal couple, then at the Queen's protruding belly. King Arthur rose to protest, but the damage was done. The fey demanded that the royal child be offered as part of the deal. The room erupted in chaos and shouting, the strange wizard standing alone in silence. As swords were drawn and spells prepared, he stepped into the centre of the room and held up his hands. All activity paused as he explained his plan.

The royal child would be offered yes, but he would not be subject to fey law. He would become the reliquary for the errant bean sidhe - thereby ensuring the sanity of the fey and the obedience of the bean sidhe. The hundred-year law would still be in place, but those one hundred years would be placed into the reliquary, ensuring the years collected did not exceed the years agreed upon as destruction of the reliquary by the bean sidhe would collapse onto them, banishing them forever into the unknown. The King and Queen asked for one more thing to be included in the deal - that their child, their firstborn, would always sit on the throne of Camelot as a symbol of the agreement between humankind and feykind. This deal was amenable to all sides and the contract was struck.

While awaiting the royal birth, the wizard began the preparations for making the royal child a living reliquary. When the time came, the fey sent a member of their council to the birthing chamber to ensure the wizard and the King upheld their end of the deal. All of Camelot waited in the courtyard below for the birth announcement. All, including the bean sidhe.

The child emerged, a girl. Small, but healthy. The wizard began the rites even as the midwife wrapped the young bawling infant in a blanket. Queen Guinevere cried out, clutching at her abdomen. The midwife soon realized what was happening and placed the first child in the crib and began to work to deliver the second. Another girl. Identical to the first in every way.

The King was overjoyed. He suggested that they be allowed to keep the second child, giving the first to be the reliquary as the contract proposed. The fey disagreed. The contract had laid out that the contents of the Queen's womb would be the reliquary - it did not specify only one child if there were two. No, both children were under the contract. And each would take one hundred years. The humans protested that this was unfair, but the contract had been signed.

The deal was done. The bean sidhe in attendance found themselves drawn up into the birthing chamber and howled in defiance as they were sucked into the bodies of the freshly born babes. The fey were ecstatic.

It wasn't until much later that they found out the side effects of having two children share the responsibility of being a reliquary. These reliquaries had been designed to be opened, after all. And magic? Magic works in mysterious ways. One cannot always control how magic manifests. At least, that's how the wizard had explained it. That the children simply had to touch each other to force an opening of the reliquaries. And an early release meant that the contract was a nullified until the bean sidhe were returned to their reliquaries. After all, the bean sidhe hadn't themselves agreed to the basis of the contract. They took every bit of wiggle room and goodwill they could steal in defiance of the deal struck without them.

And so, the eldest would stay in Camelot while the second-born would become a travelling sword. A Crown-Protector. Forever. The two would only meet every one hundred years to officially release the bean sidhe who would gather their hundred years twice over and return to their reliquaries - making them babes once more. The cycle starting afresh each century. Forever."

Cait bowed her head briefly, taking a moment to rehydrate her mouth before continuing.

"And there you have it. How Fate tricked Arthur Pendragon into selling his children into slavery to the Lord of Order for eternity."
Monkey Kitty
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Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Monkey Kitty »

Imiel and Marshal Knox

"King Arthur is real...?" Marshal muttered under his breath.

Imiel gave him an odd look - that was the part of all this that the other man was struggling to come to terms with?

But it was. It really was. There were things they didn't know... maybe not important things, not to the world, anyway. Not like this. To Marshal, though? It had mattered a lot.

He didn't talk about his past much. Not anything before the Army, anyway. He tended to let people assume he had appeared fully-formed in a uniform with a gun in his hand. People rarely wondered. Well, except to ask about his name. When they asked that, he would reply with an awkward half-grin, 'Yeah, my ma couldn't spell.'

It wasn't true, though. His mother had known exactly what she was doing. As much a title as a name, and itself a knight's name...

There had been no doubt about what he would be. A soldier. A knight. It had been clear to Marshal as long as he could remember what his role in life was. His mother loved her fantasy stories, her tales of quasi-Medieval daring, both real and imagined. He remembered sitting on the sofa in their small house, rain pattering against the windowpanes as she read to him. The Arthurian stories were her favorite. The ones she related to. The ones she imagined herself in... imagined them both in. You will be my little Mordred one day. You will be my Mordred. You will get my revenge for me... But it was just pretend. Just a game. He'd gone along with it because... well, none of it was real anyway, so what was the harm in making promises no one could keep?

Did that mean Mordred was a real guy too? Well, that was awkward. Hopefully they'd never meet.

He left it at 'awkward,' because this wasn't the time to probe any more emotional deaths. He forced his mind away from it, away from the past and the pain his mother caused, and focused his whole attention on the wild story being unfolded.

Imiel, of course, knew none of this. He was struggling in his own way to grapple it all - but really, was it any stranger than people from other planets, and all the other magic he had seen, when you really thought about it?

Priority had to be solving this. Keeping everyone safe. Of course.

But deep inside Imiel, a little flame of embarrassment burned. Rhiannon was a princess... no, probably a queen, now. And he had just... chatted her up at a barbecue like she was some ordinary hot single mom. She probably thought he was utterly ridiculous.

"Your... your majesties," Imiel said, stumbling over the unfamiliar title. It felt odd coming out of his mouth. "I... this is all fascinating. And alarming. But I can't help but wonder... how did you come to be here of all places? You are so far from home, and somewhere so...?"

Ordinary. Suburban. About as far from Camelot as a person could get, in surroundings as much as distance.
Quaxo9
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Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:33 pm

Re: Welcome to the Suburbs. Population: Odd.

Post by Quaxo9 »

"Well, he's real in our dimension, at least. I can't say for sure about this one." Cait offered the information with a shrug. Marshal seemed to be taking the story rather well, though she sensed that he was somewhere far away at the moment. That was alright. She had hoped to avoid bringing up the family past during their sojourn here. Fate had a way of messing with her plans.

"Also, if you ever call me 'Princess', you'll be eating soup for a week."

On the other side of the room, Rhiannon blushed before recovering. "Please, there is no need for formality. I am as I introduced myself. Rhiannon, currently McIvor, and nothing more."

"But if we really are royalty..." began Ewan.

"Our kingdom no longer exists. The point is moot." Cait cut in before being interrupted by Charis.

"But you said the contract was binding! So there shouldn't be a curse because there's no throne!"

Her aunt offered a wry smile. "I did mention that magic works in mysterious ways. A throne doesn't need a kingdom to stand. The throne of Camelot still exists. It just means nothing."

The family was quiet for a moment, contemplating the words that had finally been spoken aloud after all these years. Finally, Rhys spoke, as though she just remembered that Imiel had asked a question.

"We have lived in many places, Cait and I. Camelot ceased to exist, and we were not released from our contract, that is true. Every one hundred years we regress in age to babes and at that time, the Lord of Order always arrives to place our infant selves with families."

"Yes, as the future queen, Rhiannon is always placed with a noble family. You certainly lucked out not being placed with the Tsar's family last century." The undertone of disdain floated just under her intonation. Clearly this was a sore point with Cait.

"And Cait, as Crown-Protector, is always placed with whomever will teach her the most deadly arts."

"Forever in your service, my Liege." The younger twin snapped her heels together and bowed her head. While her bitterness had been prevalent in her speech, no hint of sarcasm could be detected in this action.

Rhiannon ignored her and returned her attention to Imiel. "The past few centuries we both decided to follow a less orthodox path. This lifetime, I left my royal adoptive parents and moved to the States when I turned eighteen. I wasn't their blood, so it didn't make headlines. I made my own life and..." her gaze drifted to her children. "Well, this century certainly brought some unexpected blessings."
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