Old 11-21-2016, 07:02 PM   #26
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"Da said it was alright." Viola said as Alex kissed her forehead and smiled down at her. "And I almost have everyone's cookies baked. Mama even helped me with them before Ru pulled her away."

Her tradition, which she had done since she was little, was to bake everyone their favorite cookies for the Solstice. Her parents encouraged her in her enthusiasm for cooking and she practiced all the time after she had finished with her lessons.
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Old 11-21-2016, 07:12 PM   #27
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"Well, I appreciate it," he told her as he settled in Theo's chair where the man usually prepared herbs and cleaned out jars. Alex had turned out incredibly like Valentina had been in her younger days, always on the move and always taking care of someone. Vincenzo often teased Valentina that it served her right to have to deal with the same worry for Alex as Vincenzo did for her.

"Papa should be coming over tomorrow," Alex murmured. "I'll be making rounds at the keep for Ma so she can stay and spend time with him and the rest of you. She hasn't seen him enough lately."
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Old 11-21-2016, 07:16 PM   #28
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"Mama's worried you're working too much." Viola told him as he settled in their father's chair. "She wants you home more, especially during the holidays. She told Da tonight that she hasn't been feeling well and might be taking a break soon. Besides that, Ru has been naughtier lately and she has to keep him in line."
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Old 11-21-2016, 07:21 PM   #29
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"I'll have to have a talk with him, then. But if Ma's not feeling well, I'll need to take up more of her work anyway. I'll be fine," he assured her. "I might have to ask you for a little help keeping up, though. If Da's busy taking care of everything here, I could use your help with my stocks so I can focus on patients rather than sorting out medicines."
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Old 11-21-2016, 07:35 PM   #30
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"I can help." Viola promised, giving him a smile. "But I also want to go to the festival. Some of my friends are going and Da said I can go on my own this year. It's the first time I've gotten to go on my own."

Her excitement was apparent as she talked to her brother. Like Frannie before her, Theo and Valentina were starting to treat her more like a grown up than a little girl. She retained a child like sweetness, however.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:18 PM   #31
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"I won't keep you from the festival, I promise." Alex smiled at her excitement and relaxed back a little more. It wasn't long before he'd drifted off to sleep. Like his parents, he could sleep anywhere at any time.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:20 PM   #32
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When Viola had finished with her cookies, she left them on a plate beside Alex before she retrieved him a blanket. Draping it over him, she let him sleep, banking the coals in the fireplace so that he would be warm before she, herself, went to bed.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:28 PM   #33
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Come morning, Alex was already gone by the time anyone else got up, having refilled his satchel. He'd taken several cookies with him, storing the rest away for later. He'd left a note for Valentina, telling her to take the day off and he'd take over her rounds. He was off toward the north end of town and the keep.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:33 PM   #34
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Valentina looked over the note as Theo started breakfast, the children still asleep. Glancing towards her husband, she shook her head and chuckled to herself. Alex was doing too much, just as she had tried to do when she was his age.

"He's a good boy." Valentina said softly, placing the note away before she took a seat to relax and wait for the children to wake and her father to arrive.

Yasmine was already wide awake by dawn, having dressed and exercised before her meeting with Durban Ghis. She had pulled on her thick uniform against the bitter cold that morning. Her head scarf was the same dark color as her uniform, worn more out of habit than anything religious. Her mother had always worn a scarf and her grandmother before that. She wore it as a matter of pride.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:45 PM   #35
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Yasmine's hand was in a worse condition than the night before, the middle knuckle having turned a dark shade of purple. Even putting her gloves on was a bit painful, but holding a shield was excruciating.

Durban was waiting for her in the first dueling ring an hour before noon just as Malitov had said. Unlike most of the Axemen, named for the majority of their ranks being axe fighters, Durban had always fought with a Claymore like his father before him. Boar had been the axe fighter of the family. By the time Yasmine arrived, Durban had set up an archery target and was practicing with a strange-looking shortbow, his longbow leaning against the fence beside him. The Mongol shortbow was decorated with leather wrappings and goat horns set into the hold to protect the hand. He also used a strange draw with his thumb rather than just his fingers like isles archers. His claymore was leaning beside the longbow in its sheath, and a range of training weapons were ready there too on a rack.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:00 PM   #36
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Yasmine's hand was in terrible pain, but she wasn't one to show pain. Her face was schooled, even as her fingers throbbed inside her tight leather gloves.

"Captain." She said, giving him a respectful bow as she saw him, interested in his crossbow. "That is a fine looking weapon that you have there."
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:10 PM   #37
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Durban let an arrow fly before lowering the bow, looking to Yasmine. "A gift from my Mongolian family," he told her with a small smile before setting the bow aside. "It's been a while since y'came t'find me an' impressed me enough t'earn a place trainin' with the Axemen. Sam would've been here t'test you, but I'm glad I get the chance. I had a good feelin' about you, and Matilov tells me yer one o' his best. Most recruits undergo a longer trainin' regime, but he's confident you're ready."

Durban stepped toward her. "First, I want t'inspect yer weapons an' see how well ye've taken care of 'em."
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:12 PM   #38
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"Absolutely." Yasmine said, allowing him to see her axe, her short sword, and the dagger that she had on her.

Her long bow and quiver were also presented for inspection, along with her shield. She took the utmost care of her weapons. She had spent a great deal of money on them and they were meant to last her a lifetime if well cared for.

"I do have to confess that I have injured my hand. Last night at the tavern. I had to teach a passing trader a lesson." She said, letting him know that she did have an injury but she was willing to continue on with the sparring.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:16 PM   #39
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"Injured how?" Durban asked as he tested the balance of her blade and found it just about perfect before testing the edge on a kerchief he carried. Looking over her bow, he took a practice shot with it. "Fine condition, but you might want to replace the string soon," he commented before handing it back.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:19 PM   #40
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"Noted." Yasmine said as he checked over her bow and found that the string might need to be replaced soon.

"A passing trader thought it was alright to slap me at the tavern last night. I taught him that it is never alright to touch a woman." Yasmine murmured as if it were something that she had done so many times before. "Seamus saved his life. I injured my hand in the process."
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:21 PM   #41
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"Some folks don' understand tha' we don' stand fer tha' here," he muttered as he was finally satisfied with her weapons. "Show me tha' hand."
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:23 PM   #42
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She wanted to tell him no, but as her superior, she had to. With a sigh, she took off her tight fighting glove, not wincing as the pain made her hand and arm shake. She extended it towards him, the knuckle grossly swollen and purple.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:42 PM   #43
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Durban took her hand gingerly, looking it over. "Tha's definitely broken, lass. I'm no' gonna ask you t'use a shield with tha'." He let her hand go. "I wouldn' even want ya t'try to draw a bow with tha'. But tha's fine. We can try again when yer healed." He crossed his arms over his chest. "It migh' be a disappointment, but y'didn't do anything wrong. I want ya in top form fer yer proper test. Yer hands are more important than any other tool 'r weapon. Go on into th'keep an' find my nephew. He ought t'be in th' kitchen with Chessie. He'll make sure yer hand's set. Yer welcome back t'me when he says it's healed enough."
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:47 PM   #44
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"It's certainly disappointing to hear that I cannot do the test today." She said as she drew her hand back and pulled the glove back on, letting out a long sigh. "However, I am not one to argue with a commanding officer. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to take the test again."
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:49 PM   #45
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"I don' deny people chances jus' because somethin' happened tha' they couldn' control. You standin' up fer yourself isn' a problem. Jus' means you need t'heal. I'll see you in a few weeks 'opefully," Durban nodded to her. "Go on inside. Get lunch while yer there, Chessie'll be glad t'feed ya."
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:15 PM   #46
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"Yes, sir." Yasmine said as he told her to go inside to see his nephew and to get fed.

After her weapons were stowed away again, she stepped into the keep. The great hall was decorated for the season, bright and sunny in spite of the winter landscape outside. Queen Julia had overseen every single detail, including the great tree that had been placed next to the fire and decorated with hundreds of candles. It was almost magical.

Yasmine made her way past the servants to the kitchen, feeling strange eating in the hall alone. She saw the cook hard at work, getting things prepared for the celebrations that would start soon.

"Chessie? Captain Ghis sent me in for some food. And to see his nephew about my hand." Yasmine said.
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:23 PM   #47
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Chessie turned from her work with a smile, cleaning her hands with a towel. "Hello, dear. Y'must be one o' the Axemen. You're just in time, I'm about to serve lunch for the whole keep. Alex is in the library talking with Brogan. Down the east wing, through the first set of double-doors. They won't mind you coming in if you need Alex's help. Tell them both for me that lunch will be ready soon."
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:38 PM   #48
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Yasmine nodded towards the cook and let herself out, walking through the halls of the keep until she came to the library. She could hear laughter on the other side of the door and she paused for a moment, afraid of intruding on something private. She knocked on the door and then waited until a voice bade her to enter.

She saw the King of Inverness seated on a low sofa, one of the twin princesses beside him with a black cat in her lap. The little girl was smiling and laughing at something that had been said just before she had arrived. In the opposite seat was the man from the tavern the night before, the one who had wanted to look at her hand.

"I'm sorry for intruding. Chessie sent me down here."
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:44 PM   #49
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Yasmine had never seen Brogan except from afar. And despite common knowledge about his health having been in danger in the past year, he looked just as powerful as his elder brother. He offered Yasmine a smile, an arm draped about his daughter's shoulders. "No worries, lass. What can we do fer you?"

As Alex looked up, a bit of surprise registered in his gaze, but he said nothing, assuming Yasmine was there for something else.
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:55 PM   #50
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"Lunch is almost ready and Captain Ghis sent me to have my hand checked out." Yasmine said as Brogan grinned at her, holding his daughter tightly.

"I'll go get Ma." Heather said, tapping Sunny's head until the cat stood and stretched, leading the way out of the room.

Yasmine watched as Heather stood, her hands reaching out to trace the furniture on her way out the door, more confident than she had been in years.
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