[ORP] Firestorm Manor

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Nikola
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Nikola » Sun Nov 11, 2018 11:27 pm

Nikola listened with interest to TK’s tale. She found she enjoyed listening to his voice, and could hear in it the memory of pain and suffering that had been a part of his story. She dared not touch him as he spoke, for fear that he might lose his train of thought and leave something important out. She understood some of the pain and anguish he felt, albeit not all or for the same reasons that he felt them. They were very different, and yet not so much in some ways.

Donovan and Orla were napping peacefully under the tree, a testament to their comfort around the orc. Orla lay next to Nikola and she stroked her golden fur affectionately as TK spoke. She noted the faraway, haunted look in his eyes as he looked out over the lake and tucked an errant lock of golden hair behind her ear as the wind tossed it across her cheek. She considered carefully where to start with her own tale as he packed his pipe in preparation for a smoke.


“I was raised by adoptive parents. I barely remember my own, although I often had a nightmare in which I almost saw them but would forget as soon as I was awake. I came to Secfenia with Bannon, my foster father, when I was still young. My foster mother, Rose, died along the way. At the time we had settled in a small village north of Secfenia, I don’t recall where now, and I thought my foster father would stay where we buried her, but he seemed determined to go as far south as possible, no matter what, as though it was not safe where we were. He never spoke of my real family at all. I think perhaps he planned to tell me when I was older, but he never got the chance.

We made it as far as Paz where Bannon looked for a ship to take us farther south, but none ever came. We lived in an inn in town for some time before he finally decided to make our stay permanent. He found a small cottage, deep inside the woods outside of Paz and we settled there at last. The vigilance in his manner and the worry in his eyes never waned, although he would never speak of it or where we had come from. I suppose he thought that the less I knew, the fewer the chances might be that we would be discovered.”


She thought back on those early years, a sad smile curving her lips ever so slightly. How she wished she could have spoken with Bannon of her real family, to learn from him who they had been and who she was. But it was never to be.

“As with the time we spent in the inn, Bannon rarely allowed me to wander beyond the confines of our home and the forest that surrounded it. I did not understand it at the time, but I obeyed. Whenever I questioned him, he always said it was for my safety. He did take me into town with him a few times, but only if I hid my face with a scarf or within the cowl of my cloak. I learned a little about the layout of the town during those rare visits, so that once I was on my own, I was not totally lost.”

She paused, remembering that last summer with Bannon. Her voice was soft as she continued. “He died during my sixteenth year, leaving me all alone in the world. I buried him myself under his favorite tree out in the woods back of the house. I was so afraid and unsure of myself then. He had sheltered me from the outside world all of my life, but now he was no longer there to protect me, I had to discover the world for myself.”

Orla raised her head and sneezed, licked Nikola’s hand and shifted her position, her eyes slowly closing again as Nikola stroked her head. “Johnstone was one of the first people I met when I finally got the courage to go into town the first time. I had made some soup to sell on the market and a Yvrm stole one of the bowls. I chased after it and John joined in the chase after being bowled over by the thief. Balerion also joined in for a short time. He was the first dragon I had ever met and I was a bit awed to have an actual conversation, however brief, with a dragon and counted myself fortunate to not have ended up as his lunch,” she grinned.

“At any rate, John and I became friends and then more than friends, and it was he who talked me into working with him on the Bravian Council. I knew nothing of Bravia at the time, other than how to get to the market in Paz and back home, so that was a whole new experience. As it turns out, I found I enjoyed being useful, and learned to do several of the jobs available. I even served a couple of terms as mayor of Paz, but most of my time was spent on Council.”

She stopped there, wondering just how much more to say. She did not want to monopolize the conversation, but her tale had been relatively simple up to that point. Now it diverged and became entangled with other events of the day. She looked over at the orc, marveling at how fate had seen fit to bring them together. He was a wild creature in many ways, yet noble and good at heart. He had married her cousin before she had known that she and Aida were related. She knew that he had taken Aida’s death very hard, yet somehow, they had become friends of a sort when she had moved to Fenia. Now…well, now she was not entirely sure what they were, but she knew a bond was growing between them and she both feared and treasured it. She feared opening her heart to another creature and giving them the opportunity to break it, yet she treasured his friendship and marveled at how safe and secure she felt in his presence. Something about him drew her to him and she knew not why. Part of her worried that he would find disappointment in her, or that she might somehow lure him unknowingly down a path that would lead him into more pain. Both options were born of fear, she knew, and she consciously shook those thoughts away. She had loved once, and still treasured the friendship she shared with John, but this felt different, although she could not have said why if she had been asked.

With a sigh she looked out over the lake as she continued.
“I eventually became Vicerine and during the first weeks of my first term in that office, Balerion overthrew the castle and Rieron stole Cork from Bravia and handed it over to Kiene. I was young, and new to the role, and I had no idea how to handle either crisis, although I did what I thought was best. Looking back now, I should have done several things very differently, but I did what my heart told me to do at the time. I had an entire province to protect and I did what I believed was in the best interests of the people.” She closed her eyes, perhaps trying to shut out the memories of that awful time and all the heartache that came after. “Right or wrong, I did what I did because I believed it was best for Bravia. I served multiple terms as Vicerine and it was then that I met Aida. She invited me to your wedding,” she smiled at TK now, hoping he understood that she, too, treasured his wife and her cousin. “I had not actually met her until I arrived for the wedding, although we had corresponded on occasion on matters of state. It was an honor to have been invited and I attended the ceremony to represent Bravia. I don’t believe I ever got to actually meet you then, though.”

She thought back over his question, about what made her … her. How to explain? There was still so much she did not understand, but the reams of knowledge she had gained about her ancestry and heritage over the past couple of years had changed her entire perspective on life itself.

“My…powers.” She hesitated, not quite sure where to start. “I first noticed something was different when my drinks would suddenly become boiling hot whenever I thought about warming them. Without effort and without coherent thought. The real use of it first came to light on a trip I made with John into northern Secfenia during a break from Council duties. I had always thought I was a simple human girl from a family I barely remembered and from a land I never got the chance to know. What I did not know until recently was that I am not completely human. My first inkling of this came during a yvyrm attack when I was alone in the wilderness with only my horse. John and I had gotten separated and I had acquired Starr in an attempt to catch up with him. One night as we camped on the road, the yvyrms came out of nowhere and attacked. To her credit, Starr did not bolt and run, but stayed and fought alongside me with her hooves. She was as scared as I was, though, and I think it must have been that fear in such a desperate situation that awakened my powers. I did not even realize I was using them until later. At one point, I somehow encased her in a bubble of light that projected from me and protected her from the worst of the yvyrm attack, yet still allowed her to smash with her hooves any that came too close. I guess it worked kind of like how a glove protects the hand but still allows the fingers to work, if perhaps not as freely as when unsheathed. I did not even know how I did it, or that it was done until after and I could see the sheath of light surrounding her. Once I saw it, and drew near to her, it just vanished, but I could feel it as though something had returned to me. We were found by a peasant and his son who had seen what they called a light show from some way away and had come to see what had happened. I was very weak from the expenditure of so much energy and they took me in their wagon to the nearest village which happened to be the same village that John was in.

Sometime later during that same trip, we were attacked again by yvyrms. This time the power manifested itself as light and flame that streamed from my hands and engulfed my weapons without burning me or them. That battle and the use of my powers completely drained me of energy and strength and I fainted after it was over. John took care of me, but…”
She sighed at the memory of the fear in his eyes. “I don’t know whether it was the magick of the power or that I wielded it, but there was fear in his eyes and he pushed me away for a time. It wasn’t until sometime later when we were at sea and a group of yvyrms attacked us during a storm that I used the power again, this time to save his life after he was washed overboard and the yvyrms attacked us with him in the sea and me on the sailboat. We never really talked about it, but after that he seemed to just accept that I had magick and was not the simple human girl he had believed me to be.”

She brushed another errant wisp of hair out of her eyes after the breeze had teased it loose and sent it curling around her face. “I think it was the fear in his eyes that kept me from trying to learn how to use my powers. I was afraid of them and yet fascinated at the same time. Apparently, though, it is not good to not release them from time to time. When things in Bravia began to go all wrong, and people, who had not lived through what we had, began trying to destroy all that we had accomplished, I grew frustrated, and the power roiled within me to the point that one night I simply screamed in frustratoin one night while in my kitchen at home and the power raged through the scream and when I was done, I discovered I had rent a hole between this realm and that of the Summer Realm of the Sidhe. Specifically, I had created a portal between my house and the Beloved Vale, a sacred site to the Sidhe of that area over whom ruled Valen, Lord of the High Vale, King of the Mystic Mountain, High Sidhe of the Summer Realm…and my great grandfather.”

She chuckled wryly and gave the orc at her side a lopsided grin. “In short, I met the reason for my powers, he revealed my family’s history to me, the human side at least, and sent me to the Grimstad Estate as my house was being swallowed up in the healing of the rift I had created. He held the healing back long enough for me to return home, pack what I could carry with me and retrieve my horse. Starr and I watched from the road as my house was basically gobbled up by the wood. There is no trace of it there now. I didn’t search for it, but the wood itself seemed different and I suspect even Bannon’s grave is gone.”

She sighed again and looked down at Orla who had shifted again and laid her head in Nikola’s lap, pawing at her to be petted. Nikola obliged and ran her fingers through the dog’s golden fur, massaging her gently with her fingertips. “I learned much about who I am and where I came from that night. I learned of my blood connection to Aida, Casamir and Camelia along with a myriad of other family members I have never met. I saw my own parents as my mother locked away my powers and sent me away to safety. I saw their deaths at the hands of traitors.” She blinked back the tears that stung her eyes at the memory. “I saw them through Vaelen’s eyes,” she explained softly. She thought about saying more, but it seemed the wound was still too fresh even after all the time that had passed since that night. Shaking away the memories for the moment, she took a deep breath and gave a small smile to her companion. “I did as Vaelen bade me do and sent my steward, Iris, ahead of me to prepare Grimstad House for my arrival. I did not warn her that I intended to do one last hunt before leaving Bravia. That was during the Xanthreel invasion. They were destroying our mines and wreaking havoc on our markets. I somehow managed to talk Aishe and her family to join me in one last hunt and we went out to one of the mines hardest hit and faced the creatures on the battlefield. Bravia was in discord where it was not steeped in apathy. My family was dead. I had just learned about my heritage and was still confused as to what it all meant. I was wounded during the battle. One of the Xanthreels must have had iron stuck to its skin from the mine and a sliver was embedded in the last wound I received before I went down. I have never experienced so much pain as I did from that sliver. I am told that Morjiana suspected something was amiss and Aishe was able to find and remove the sliver from my body but by then I was delirious. Apparently, the power inside me needed to be released and just…well, exploded out of me. When it was over there was no sign of a single Xanthreel, dead or alive. My memories were wiped clean as well. I had thought they were erased, but as it turns out, Vaelen had a hand in that and simply locked them away for a time, to allow me a chance to heal, I suppose. Somehow in the aftermath of that explosion my body was completely healed as though I had never received a single wound, and a power bond formed between myself and Morjiana that I still do not completely understand.”

There was more, of course. Much more, but perhaps she had said enough for now. “The tale does not end there, but to make a long story considerably shorter, I slowly regained my memories over the ensuing months. I did eventually make it to Grimstad House and from there John and I made our escape from Bravia to Fenia by sea, not daring to pass through Kiene during those uncertain times. It was during that tumultuous time that John and I agreed that while we would always be friends, our paths simply did not align. What I needed he could not give and what he desired I could not fulfill. I remember meeting you in the Mysts Tavern not too long after arriving in Fenia and how you seemed determined to grill me for personal information.” She chuckled and added, “You sure know how to leave your mark on a girl.”
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Texas_Knight » Sat Nov 24, 2018 7:06 pm

TK listened as he smoked his pipe. He felt the emotions in her voice as she told her history. She and he were more alike than he realized, and yet while having traveled much different paths, have arrived at the same place. When she got to the part about burying her guardian he placed a hand on her to let her know she wasn't alone now. It seemed to him that she was in a distant time and land at the moment, and he hoped to keep her somewhat in the here and now.

He chuckled as she finished. "Ah, I just like to know as much as I can about people that seem to have intelligence. You seemed to have intelligence, and you have far surpassed what I had originally surmised about you." It was true that he was intrigued by her then. That had changed in the last few weeks to something more than simple intrigue. He now wanted to know every detail about her. He snuffed his pipe and tapped the ashes out in a hole he'd made with his foot.

"So tell me something if you would. Would you ever see yourself in a romantic relationship again?" That didn't come out exactly as he'd intended. But it was the way most of the things he wanted to know came out. Kinda blunt, but there wasn't really a chance for misinterpretation.
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Nikola
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Nikola » Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:24 pm

Romantic? The question startled her, and she looked up into his eyes with wonder. “I…erm….that is to say…” she stopped to regain some semblance of composure and considered how to answer, for it was a question and as such demanded an answer. Not that he was demanding an answer. No, he was just…oh, fiddlesticks, she thought. She tore her eyes from his in order to compose her thoughts. She could not think while gazing into those eyes. She thought about the question, which made her think about John and all that had befallen them in Bravia and since coming to Fenia. At last she tried to answer.

“I have not really given the idea of romance much thought, to be honest. At least not until…” She hesitated, then continued. “…well, un…until now, I suppose. I mean, I did not expect romance when I met John, and when it ended, I just kind of thought that might be it. Not that I was not interested in meeting someone, but…”

Why did she always get so rattled around this orc? No one else had that effect on her. Why did he? It was unsettling to her, to not have more control over her thoughts and words than this. “If I’m honest, I do not know much about romance as my experience is fairly limited. I’ve never been one to read romantic tales, as my studies always seemed more important. So all I really know about it is that sometimes creatures meet, they become friends and that becomes something more and then sometimes…sometimes that leads to mating, or marriage, or whatever it is creatures do at that point.”

She had a feeling he was not especially looking for a dissertation on her views about romance in general, and that’s what she was giving him. Was she just stalling? She let out a sigh and then turned her body to face him, letting her eyes find his before she spoke again. “I don’t really know the answer to that, TK. To be honest, I have little experience with such things and I know that I really like being with you and I don’t know why that is, but I do and I like that I like being with you and I don’t know what I expect to come from being with you or liking being with you and I’m not even sure that you are asking about you and me or, or me and you when you say romantic relationship but if you mean you are interested in seeing where this goes then the answer is yes, I am interested because I really do like being here with you.”

She only stopped speaking because she ran out of breath. She took in another breath and held it without realizing it, not knowing how he might react. She hoped he didn’t think her a babbling idiot, although that was how she felt at the moment. Was that what love did to people? Turned them into babbling idiots? She felt her cheeks color with embarrassment as she realized she had just equated whatever it was she was feeling with love. Did she even know him well enough yet to love? “I’m sorry,” she attempted to apologize. “I’m not very good at this…”
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Texas_Knight » Sat Nov 24, 2018 10:05 pm

TK looked at her as she fumbled for words. He listened as she rattled on. He hid a smile behind a drink from his flask. He liked hearing her rattle on when she got flustered. She was just cute as a puppy when she was rattling on speaking while searching for the words to say and then saying them before they had time to be processed.

As she started to apologize,he acted on an impulse and he kissed her. Not a peck on the cheek, but a full kiss on the lips. He held the kiss a moment before releasing. He didn't say anything, he just looked at her and smiled a nervous smile.
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Nikola
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Nikola » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:41 pm

He surprised her with the kiss, cutting her rambling short. When he released her lips and pulled back, she stared at him, mouth slightly agape. Both the dogs were watching them curiously, Donovan’s ears pricked as he looked from TK to Nikola. Orla tilted her golden head to one side. Nikola was speechless. That did not often happen, but she had nothing to say. She could still taste him on her lips. He seemed a little nervous, and for some reason that gave her the courage to do what her heart wanted.

She reached out and took his face in her hands, leaning forward to press her lips to his and returned the kiss. She had no idea how long she might have held the kiss, but Orla chose that moment to interrupt, padding over and licking her ear. Instinctively she pulled out of the kiss and giggled as Orla licked her face and then licked TK’s face.
“Orla!” Nikola protested, and the dog plopped herself down between them, looking up into her mistress’ face and panting happily, tongue lolling to one side.

“I guess she wanted in on that,” Nikola said, blushing as she looked over at TK. "I can't say that I blame her," she said a little sheepishly, not quite sure whether her boldness was the right thing or not.
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Texas_Knight » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:14 pm

TK was caught by surprise when Nikola leaned in for the kiss. He quickly recovered and returned the kiss. Sweet taste of honey mixed with... WHAT!!?? .. Okay... dog... TK pulled back the same time Nikola did and laughed as Orla licked his face. TK laughed heartily.. "Aye, I suppose she did!"

So now that was out of the way, but where to and how to proceed from here? Those were the questions in the air. He leaned in one more time. Slowly this time. As their lips touched he felt a shock of electric energy. The day had turned to nearly dusk. He stood, helped her up, and the four of them made their way back to the house just as the sun was dipping below the treeline. There was much to be discussed and worked out.
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Nikola » Sat Dec 01, 2018 5:56 pm

The next few days seemed to pass both slowly and rapidly, all at the same time, as they spent time getting to know one another and just passing the time in one another’s company. By the time TK took his leave to return to his own home, all three of the dogs had grown accustomed to his presence, as had the rest of the staff at Firestorm Manor. As she watched him ride away on Oblivion, a last stolen kiss still fresh upon her lips, she wondered yet again at the mysteries of the mages at how two such creatures should be drawn together so. She had no idea whether Vaelen would approve, but he interfered very little in her life now that her powers were under control.

Life returned more or less to normal at Firestorm Manor. She had received a couple of letters from Quixote to let her know he was well and had returned safely to his home in Bravia before planning his next hunting trip. She sincerely hoped that the spelled armor would indeed protect him well. She and TK and returned to the general busyness of their lives but took time out occasionally to meet at the Mysts Tavern and play games of dice and chance. One duty after another kept them from getting to spend more than a few hours together, but she enjoyed what time they were able to share together.

Summer gave way to Autumn and soon November swiftly came to a close and the day of the Royal wedding was upon them. TK would be by soon to pick her up and escort her to the event of the year. She had chosen a simple but elegant gown of dark blue silk. The bodice was ornamented with exquisite embroidery in matching dark blue thread and finished with a scalloped neckline. The embroidery continued along the long sleeves that left her shoulders bare. The wedding would be in the Cathedral in Fenia City, so they would not have far to go, and her heavy winter cloak would keep her warm enough. If not, TK’s body heat certainly would, and she smiled as she considered the prospect of snuggling in his arms again. Iris was putting her hair up in a simple but elegant bun, a style that seemed right for the dress she had chosen. Once Iris was satisfied with the results, the steward nodded and allowed Nikola to finally stand and survey herself in the mirror.
“You’ve done a wonderful job as always, Iris,” she praised her steward and gave her a hug. “TK should be here soon. Am I forgetting anything?”
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Texas_Knight » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:42 pm

TK had returned home and had been working, studying, and all the things that he did on a regular routine. He was out one day on one of his hunts and came across an old travelling carriage . It needed work and he worked over the few months to get it completely repaired and fixed up nicely. Then he added some paint to the newest addition to his stable and covered it up in his barn for a while.

He and Nikola grew closer as the weather turned to the cooler months and before he knew it winter had fully descended upon Fenia. The King would be getting married soon and he had to find something appropriate to wear to such an occasion. He consulted all the tailors from the lands and finally settled on a very elaborate piece. At least for him it was. When the week arrived he had Ethan uncover the carriage and clean it up, dust it off, and prepare it for Lady Nikola.

When the day arrived, TK cleaned up especially good, in both forms, and back in orcish form he dressed up in his new attire. Standing and looking in the mirror he approved of the way this fit and the way he was still able to move about while wearing it. He had Ethan hook up Oblivion to the carriage and put a few things inside. "Ethan, you will be driving today, at least to Lady Nikola's house. After that she may have other plans, but I think she will approve of your skills." This wasn't the first time Ethan would meet her, but TK was still a little nervous about it.

They departed the ranch just about noon and arrived not too long afterward at Firestorm Manor. As they made their way down the drive to the manor TK was hoping the carriage would be met with approval. As they pulled into the circle in front of the manor TK had to wait for Ethan to open the door before he stepped out. He once again gave the carriage another look to make sure everything was just right. He walked around each side of the carriage looking for spots that might have been overlooked. Finding none he smiled and walked to the door. Of course his presence had been announced well before by the one that kept watch over things. As he walked up to the door he checked his attire once more. Everything seemed in place and looking back at the carriage he saw that Ethan had everything perfect for Nikola's arrival. The steps were lowered, and he awaited her presence.
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Nikola » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:27 pm

She was still upstairs letting Iris do a few last minute touches to her make-up and hair when she heard a carriage arrive. She exchanged glances with Iris and went over to the window to see whether it was TK. The carriage was beautiful, not overly ornate yet elegant and great care had obviously been taken with it. Although she was expecting TK, she had not realized that he owned a carriage, but she recognized Ethan in the driver’s seat and knew that it was her orc. She was still peering out the window, shadowed from sight by the curtain, when Ethan opened the door and a very handsomely dressed orc alighted from the carriage. She had never seen him dressed in such finery before and the sight of him looking so noble nearly took her breath away.

Quickly she left the window and headed for the stairway just as TK was announced. She glided gracefully down the stairs to where he was standing just inside the door.
“You look very grand, TK,” she said. “I have never seen you dressed in such finery before, but I have to say that I heartily approve,” she gave him a bright smile as she greeted him.

Iris had gone down ahead of her and was waiting with her cloak. It was one of her dressier cloaks, fully hooded and reversible falling full length in a lush double thick cascade of plush velvet with a rich red on one side and deep black on the other. The double thickness made it warmer than it appeared, and she smiled seeing that Iris was holding it for her to wear with the red side out, to complement TK’s attire. She Let Iris help her into the cloadk and kept the hood down for now, not wanting to disturb her hair and risk ruining the work that Iris had put into it.

After bidding her staff farewell, she and TK stepped out from the warmth of the manor into the chill winter air. She took his arm and let him lead her to the carriage.
“I did not even know you had a carriage, TK, but I’m so glad you do! It will be much warmer than riding Starr,” she joked.

Ethan and TK guided her up the stairs into the beautifully appointed interior of the carriage and she took her place upon the cushioned seat. She waited until TK had joined her and the steps had been withdrawn before she waved out the window to her people who were still waiting to see them off. Once the doors to the carriage were secured and they were at last alone within its interior, she took his arm and cuddled against him. For warmth, certainly, but mainly just to be near him.
“I almost chose to wear red,” she chuckled, “but decided against it as the gown I was considering seemed too flashy and I did not want to appear to be upstaging the Queen…I mean, the Queens. We would have been a matched pair if I hadn’t changed my mind,” she grinned as the carriage began the short journey from Firestorm Manor to the Cathedral in Fenia City.
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Re: [ORP] Firestorm Manor

Post by Nikola » Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:35 pm

Months have passed. The wedding of King Zuan and his brides-to-be was held, although never concluded, yet the two women were declared to be Queens of Fenia just the same.
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Nikola was home again after having spent an enjoyable time with TK at the Barony of Wyvernston. Today she had taken a walk with her dogs down by the lake. Orla and Donovan were playing in the water whilst Aiden kept more or less at her side, eyes watchful on the two larger dogs but showing no interest in joining them. She found a shaded spot beneath a tree not far from the water's edge and was seated, leaning against the trunk, with her eyes closed, listening to the splashing of the dogs and the whisper of the wind. She had one hand on Aiden's back as he lay next to her, and the other hand in her lap. She could feel the long history of the tree as she leaned against it and sighed quietly at the sensation.

She opened her eyes to watch Orla and Donovan play, a wistful smile curving the corners of her lips upward as she let her thoughts wander where they wished. She relived her recent visit to TK's new home, her smile widening a little with pleasure as she thought of her ... what? She was not entirely sure what "they" were just yet. He was certainly more than a friend, but exactly how much more she was unsure. She knew she enjoyed his company and he awakened sensations deep within her that she did not fully understand. She had enjoyed her time with him, but it was good to be home again.

Her thoughts went back to Bravia and the myriad of events that led to her migrating here to Fenia. Her life was good, but she was growing restless. She felt chained to her office and while she still enjoyed her work, such as it was, it had not turned out to be quite as promised. Unsurprising, really, but that was life, was it not? Nothing ever turned out to be as it seemed. Sometimes it was better than expected, often not. A longing stirred in her soul and made her feet restless. She rose to her feet, Aiden rising with her as he looked up at his mistress with a question in his eyes. She reached down to scratch behind his ears and then walked down to the water's edge to gaze out across the lake. Should she do it? Did she dare? She sighed again, feeling the restlessness stirring and knowing she would need to act on it soon or else find a way to satisfy the longing without actually going anywhere.

She called to the two retrievers who bounded out of the water, shaking their fur before trotting up to their mistress to receive pets and lick her hands.
"Let's go home," she said aloud and turned to begin the short walk back to the manor house, followed by her three canine companions. She met Ben on his way in from the stables. The young man loved working with the horses and the dogs adored him almost as much as they seemed to adore her. She smiled as all three of the dogs bounded over to greet him, blessing him with muddy paws and wet kisses. Once he had disentangled himself from their attention, he greeted his mistress. Nikki smiled affectionately and nodded as he gave her an update on the horses. He was also in charge of the two hippogriff eggs that she possessed and had been incubating them in hopes that they might someday show signs of life and hatch. So far they had lain dormant but had not rotted, so there was still hope that one day they would stir to life and hatch. He remained hopeful as did she, but for now they remained dormant, yet safe and warm in the incubator he had built for them.

"I think that it may be almost time for lunch, Ben, but afterward I would like to take Starr out for a ride. Plan to have her ready for me, will you?" She added quickly as the boy turned back toward the stables, "After lunch, Ben! Eat first. Please." She grinned and slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. "Come. I'm sure Cook has something wonderful prepared and we can't disappoint her now, can we?" She winked as he chuckled and together they climbed the stairs to the lanai and entered the manor house from the rear.
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