2014-09-20 - Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

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Once Upon A Midnight Dreary

Nephrite receives an unexpected visit from a Raven. A deal is made.


Princess Kraehe, Nephrite


Nephrite’s Mansion

OOC - IC Date:

20 September 2014 – 17 March 2014

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

He doesn't quite know the reason for it. Perhaps the mountain mansion's dark makeup drives them away, or perhaps they simply can't exist in this space that borders so closely on the Dark Kingdom. Either way, his home is always bereft of birds, and thus, the air hangs stagnant and silent around it.

Just how he likes it. The maddening tweet and twitter of birdsong would push his already chaotic mind to the breaking point.

To be fair, Nephrite hasn't spent much time in the more, shall we say, 'mortal' areas of the mansion these past few days. No, his time is spent far more productively in the observatory, the room so infused with enchantment that it barely adheres to earthly geometry at all. It's anybody's guess whether noise from the outside world could penetrate his thoughts in here, where projections of far-off galaxies and long dead constellations hang in the blackened sky. But he certainly hopes not. The stars are known much more for their fickleness than their forgiveness, after all.

Today, the lights that lazily orbit above his head are more mundane than cryptic: it is an average night sky one might see, albeit from a high altitude and on an intensely clear evening. To the right of the great dome, a kind of holographic map of Tokyo is suspended, various dots of color smattered across it in a display likely readable by the Dark General alone. One of these tiny beacons appears unlike the others, however. The only speck of white against the backdrop of criss-crossing grey and red.

Slowly, he brings it more into focus, and almost unbidden, an image of a young girl appears between the map of heaven and the map of Earth. Makoto Kino, as he had seen her on the night of the concert. His eyes linger for a moment.

"You're quite an enigma, aren't you," he remarks to no one in particular. "What are the secrets that you guard?"

The stars, sadly, twinkle in laughter, and provide no answer.

<Pose Tracker> Princess Kraehe [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

There's someone in the house.

A door downstairs slams. It's inside, and loud enough to be heard even in Nephrite's star-scarred sanctum. The memory of the noise hangs in silence for a moment, and then it slams again. No, maybe another door. Two at once--those are definitely different. Then more, and more, building to a rattling crescendo as the paintings and furniture and walls shudder and creak, the sound rising to some unnatural climax where perhaps the groaning begins to sound like violins sliding smoothly up note by note--

Then a blast of chill air throws open the observatory door, rushes about the room, and slams it shut again. No noise. Just dark. Definitely magic. Definitely dark.

"Fascinated by some hulking lump of humanflesh, are you? A low pleasure for a general of the dark queen."

In a shadowed corner of the room, two beast-red eyes reflect the scant light back at Nephrite. The creature steps out--a lump of humanflesh herself, though admittedly more a dancer. Princess Kraehe, resplendent in her twilight-black tutu, stands effortlessly en pointe, arms spread in greeting.

"No fear, general. Your secret is safe with the ravens. I come to give aid, as is our pact."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

It's hard to say which came first: the slamming of the door somewhere in the mansion, or the prickle of wrongness and intrusion on the back of his neck. Either way, Nephrite is at attention in an instant, battle-hardened mind snapping out of its meditative haze into razor sharp clarity. The Dark Crystal appears in his hand out of nowhere, and he lets it hover threateningly in his hand as he pivots around to survey his territory, which is becoming more and more disturbed by the second.

"Who goes there?" he demands of the slamming doors and creaking walls, amplifying his voice until it booms over the din. He does not have time to do much else -- he barely has time to think before the very threshold to his observatory is thrown open.

And the man is suddenly very glad he stayed his hand, for it is not a foe that greets him at the door, but the familiar form of a certain dancer. Not that he would have much cared had she been hit by a bolt of dark magic, of course; his knowledge of the crow barely extends beyond their exchange at Infinity's pool. But, things being as they are, it would be best not to cause an incident in Dark Fall relations.

"It has been some time, blackbird," he replies after a moment, lowering the Dark Crystal so that it is no longer threatening, but not dispelling it entirely. Even among ostensible allies, some caution must be taken. "I would be curious to know how you located my base of operations. Much about it seems to repel your winged friends." He smiles cynically. "Though you are not the only uninvited guest I've had, of late."

He bristles at her mention of the mortal girl, glancing back at the projected image with a glare. This was, indeed, an unfortunate time to be walked in on, though certainly *not* for the reasons she had implied. "I am fascinated by what she represents. There's no secret for you to keep, I'm afraid. She is as meaningless to me as any of my other targets."

Here, the Dark General turns back to her fully, face as stoic as he can manage, given the circumstances. The mention of aid gets his attention, but Nephrite is no fool. In Dark Fall, as in life, there is always a catch. "Do you speak of our political alliance, 'raven'? Or is your offer more personal in nature?"

<Pose Tracker> Princess Kraehe [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Kraehe tilts her head and affects a pointedly artificial smile. She does not react to the tension of the situation. Being on stage is tension. The audience is the enemy. The prima ballerina shows no fear. This is all familiar territory.

"Find you? How could I not? Here I thought you would have reveled in your ostentatious excess."

The raven princess floats forward, moving not inhumanly but with supreme art of motion that renders her enviably nonchalant. She spins and falls as if struck, landing with theatrical roughness into an invisible chair. Not quite invisible--there is a scratchy-black outline of where the fainting couch supporting her would be. She places the back of one hand to her forehead.

"It's all politics, for all politics are drama. Would you like to make it personal? I'm a prettier catch than your target girl."

Kraehe smiles again. It's a mean smile.

"You have my curiosity, first. What does she represent?"

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite opens his mouth to reply to her remark about excess, brow already furrowing in irritation -- but, after a moment's thought, he lets it go, albeit with some effort. He's attempted to explain the reasons behind his extravagant mortal lifestyle: to Zoisite, to Jadeite, to any minion of Dark Fall that happened to mention it, innocently or otherwise. He has learned by now that they prefer to believe he is some kind of foppish debauchee, never mind that he needed such a mountain to focus enough dark energy for stargazing, never mind that his manufactured wealth granted him influence in the mundane world that held up under scrutiny. It just wasn't worth the effort, especially with someone as coyly sardonic as this girl.

So the man doesn't say anything, though mild displeasure is painted all over his expression.

"Typically, a personal alliance is not forged in anonymity," he says when she makes her big show of collapsing onto a barely-material fainting couch. Something in his gut tells him this girl and Zoisite would get along famously.

Or loathe each other, he supposes. Either is as likely as the other.

He grimaces at the talk of beauty and 'catches.' "Funny. I did not think crows liked to be caught," he says, raising an eyebrow. Two can play at witty repartee -- though, admittedly, Nephrite is not the most skilled player. Still, he continues, "The girl represents knowledge I need to complete my mission. A loose end in a plot that could very well stretch across two eras."

The man highly doubts his visitor is aware of the Silver Millennium, so he doesn't bother to elaborate on that point. Besides, though he wants to keep this potential alliance viable, should she truly be useful, it would be catastrophically unwise to reveal all the cards in his hand. "She has proved pliable to the gentler means of interrogation, but the answer eludes me yet."

<Pose Tracker> Princess Kraehe [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"Caught? Who said you'd actually succeed?"

Kraehe stretches luxuriously out on the couch, adopting a position of painting-like languidness rather than theatrical defeat. She looks up at the stars, lips curled upward in an idea of a smile.

"Ah, so you wish to find your way into her heart and steal what's inside. I'm familiar with this game. Tell me of your gentle interrogation. I am curious what sort of velvet gloves dark soldiers put on to hide their stony fingers."

The princess gestures dismissively. "I have kind things to say to you, as well. Have faith in me. I am within your power inside this mansion, aren't I? I would not be able to deny you my punishment should I be lying."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.


Nephrite crosses his arms slowly, face still as cold as he can manage, though the slightest ghost of a smile hovers at his lips. He should rightfully be furious with this intruder; had another member of Dark Fall arrived in such a way and started swooning on illusory couches, he likely would have thrown them out with little hesitation, diplomacy be damned. But the raven-girl holds his attention, though why he cannot say. It's not quite amusement -- even being only briefly acquainted with her, he knows such a thing would trivialize the threat she represents, as well as the boons he stands to gain from pursuing an alliance with her.

No, it's not amusement. Perhaps he simply appreciates a good wit when it is not aimed exclusively to make him look the fool.

"I have a certain mortal alias that she is fond of. Though whether it is for his wealth or his appearance, I cannot say," the man explains, wondering if he should simply come clean about Masato Sanjouin's true identity. Such things rarely posed a threat between Dark Fall members, but it was probably best to continue playing it safe. At least for the time being. "Romance opens her heart to me well enough. I only wish her mind would do the same." He pauses for a second, recalling the events of the Planets concert, the conversation they had on the rooftop. "Perhaps when terribly dark things begin befalling him, she will loosen her tongue. She is ever eager to prove herself a hero."

But that is quite enough about him.

"You are wise to realize as much," Nephrite confirms, a sly glint igniting in his gaze. "And I'm sure you understand that my information is strictly quid pro quo." He takes a few, powerful strides closer to where she lies on her fainting couch. "Tell me your name, blackbird."

<Pose Tracker> Princess Kraehe [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The dark princess watches with impenetrable amusement as Nephrite considers and speaks. If his tale rouses any reaction in her, she hides it well. It is the audience's place to react. She remains a flawless performance.

When he nears, the dancer rises, slipping her legs off the couch and seating herself to be not so short against his tallness. She looks up, red eyes challenging but not defiantly so. There is confidence there where others would have eagerness to prove.

"I am Kraehe. Daughter of the Raven who slew the Prince. Eater of hearts. Princess of crows."

Kraehe reaches her hand up, offering it for Nephrite to take.

"And I offer you my royal favor. Take it, and you will one day aid my father in regaining his throne. Take it, and I will serve you up this girl's very soul on whatever plate you please."

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Much ado about princesses these days, isn't there?

Nephrite chuckles once, dryly. "I suppose I should have pegged you as royalty when you blew through my window, stately raven that you are." Granted, he does not recognize any title that his Queen does not recognize, but given her association with Dark Fall and tacit acknowledgement of Beryl herself, he suspects that the two are at least on neutral terms.

He did *say* quid pro quo. And, all his other faults aside, the Dark General is nothing if not a man of his word.

"Very well. I am Nephrite, one of the Dark Kingdom Shitennou, Heavenly King of North America." He narrows his eyes. "Though I believe you suspected as much, else I cannot fathom why you would come to my sanctum here. Barring a tempest on the night's Plutonian shore."

The man takes a few long moments to consider as the crow princess extends her dainty hand in offering. Of course, if she speaks the truth, then he has found a great blessing in the form of Kraehe; but, given what he's seen of her, what are the chances that she speaks truly? He will not swear fealty to her, or the liege that grants her her royal title. Beryl holds that ultimate loyalty and authority, as she soon will over the Earth entire. Short of that, however...

His gloved hand takes hers.

"I accept your generous offer, my lady. On one condition," he begins. Then, with a tug of his arm that is powerful but not forceful, he aims to pull her to her feet. Surely the dancer in her has noticed the parallels of this arrangement to partners in a macabre pas de deux.

"What's the catch?"

<Pose Tracker> Princess Kraehe [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Kraehe lives in stillness while Nephrite decides. The room is deathly silent. Not even a cough. Not even a mutter.

He takes her hand. Her corners of her lips turn up.

Then he pulls her, and she is not pulled--his motion becomes her motion, and she rises with smooth, contemptuous grace, settling into his dancer's embrace rather than falling into it. At every turn, she refuses to give away any part of herself that is not poised. No surprise, no weakness.

Her fingers thread through his. The princess smirks.

"You said it yourself, general. Ravens don't deal in catches. What I spoke to you is every word committed to the page: you want this girl yours, I want my father free. The best stories are a little open ended about what they foreshadow, don't you think?"

Kraehe turns her head to look out into the room, into the stars. "I don't expect you to break your other vows. But if you think your honor is not so great that you won't pay my father back with a worthy service... well, then I was a fool to think well of you, wasn't I?"

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Kraehe's father is imprisoned somewhere, then. Not terribly surprising to hear -- many of the great magical powers have found themselves bound, in recent days. A great shame.

"How fortunate that our interests coincide," Nephrite says, listening to her words and weighing them against his own good sense. It would benefit him greatly if this arrangement were truly mutually beneficial, but he knows his comrades in darkness. It is only natural to put your interests ahead of your allies'; after all, every inch she gains on him is an inch for her lord father, and an inch away from the Dark Kingdom.

But if that inch translates to a mile loss for the warriors of light, perhaps it is a good decision yet.

His face becomes stern when she reaches the end of her speech, and he raises her hand above her head, icy blue eyes meeting her beastly red. "Do not question my honor, princess. My loyalty is steadfast and unwavering, but I repay my debts. As does my liege." He takes that raised hand -- should she allow it -- and lightly spins her under it. A flourish to punctuate his sincerity.

But something is troubling him at the back of his mind. Something the general can't quite place until the words come out of his mouth, almost of their own accord.

"The girl. When this is done, will she live?" They are quiet words, not much difference in tone or timbre from his usual speech. But the question is undoubtedly sincere, enough so that he follows it up with an addendum. "It would be a waste to let the pawn be wholly taken by the queen."

<Pose Tracker> Princess Kraehe [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Kraehe watches Neprhite as he goes through the motions. He can do as he pleases with her: move her, spin her, pose her when he's done. She watches him through every moment, unblinking, always seeing, always judging.

She is still for a moment past his final words, and the stillness of the observatory is made all the more piercing by her lack of response. Her gaze turns half-lidded, eyelashes nearly hiding the predatory redness. There is perhaps now a hint of truth in her smile.

"She'll live, general. In fact, she won't have truly lived..."

Kraehe slips from his grasp, turning and dancing prettily away.

"...until she's survived."

The princess disappears into the darkness, with only a chill breeze to mark her vanishing.