Old October 15, 2017, 01:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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[Jaedaxia] The Art of Friendship (Kailin)

Winter, Era XXIV PF

Petite feet made only the slightest of marks in the fresh dumping of snow Jaedaxia had gotten over the darkening candlemarks. Niven hugged her woollen cloak closer as she moved swiftly towards her destination. Le Refuge de l'Artiste was hard to miss as it was a vast building in the traditional Jaedaxian style. She stopped for a moment to admire the architecture before a breeze blew and chilled her face, inciting an increased desire to not linger out of doors much longer.

Inside she asked for directions to the studio belonging to Kailin. Niven prayed that there was only one as she hadn't managed to catch the woman's surname when they'd met a few brightening's previous. As it turned out, with the name and a brief description, another artist was able to point the elf in the right direction. She thanked him and set off for the studio, though whether she was thanking him for the directions or for the fact that he didn't make her model as Kailin had warned her might happen.

As she walked, she thought about how crazy the past couple of brightenings had been. It was still a little surreal to Niven that Kailin was real. Their initial meeting couldn't have surprised the Sylrosian more. For eras she'd just thought that was a strange, yet vivid dream. She was certain she just must have eaten something odd before bed. But Kailin's presence meant that it was a shared dream that happened to more than just her. Over the last couple brightenings it she had wondered about the others, where they were, if they knew what she and Kailin now knew.

When she was upon the right space, she took a deep breath and knocked on the door, hoping she wasn't disturbing Kailin's muse.
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Old October 18, 2017, 05:59 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The approach to Le Refuge was every bit as impressive as one might expect from a gathering place of artists. The courtyard - as it was called - that she she had to navigate was expansive, boasting streams, gardens, small copses of trees, and vine covered trellises, all of which looked peaceful and still in the pure white blanket that covered them now.

It was, of course, rather misleading, for a riot of activity greeted Niven once she stamped off the snow and made her way inside the three-winged building. Le Refuge had its moods, sometimes somber and quiet, brooding. And other times, like now, the halls rang with the somewhat manic effusions of her inhabitants.

Niven was lucky to receive only directions, then, and not a soliloquy on the perfections of her bone structure followed by a proposal or two, not all of them decent. But as she made her way out into the wing in which Kailin had her studio, then up the stairs to the third floor, the sounds lessened until they were mere echoes of revelry, and occasional shouts of laughter.

Standing in front of the right door, there was only silence coming from the other side. And a lengthy pause followed her knock.

Just when it seemed that Niven had come all this way only to find Kailin not in residence, the door was pulled open by a rather disheveled looking person that certainly resembled the woman of Niven's dreams. Dark hair cascaded out of the loose bun she'd tied atop her head to fall around the decidedly human features, and green eyes were distracted, almost absent as she opened the door.

"I..." her focus sharpened, pulling away from whatever it was that held her attention to the elfess before her, and a smile broke over her features, "Niven!"

"Tul a e'!Come in!" Kailin spoke in elvish without even thinking, having spent so much time with Calanon recently. And stepping back from the door, she waved the female through into the well-lit room beyond.

The windows of this particular studio looked out on the courtyard below, with a sprawling view of the city beyond. Amidst multiple tall, oversized desks was the expected mess of easels, and the room smelled strongly of paint and turpentine.

The studio had high ceiling, and the three walls that did not boast windows were filled with sketches. Kailin had never had so much space for her artwork before, and it still made her giddy to look around at everything she'd accomplished, both the good and the not so good.

There were many faces in those sketches that lined the walls, but also landscapes, and the occasional glimpse of something that must have been seen only in Kailin's mind, whether abstract or unusual.

As always, when a new guest stepped into this most private of spaces, Kailin held her silence, allowing them a moment to take in the semi-organized mess. Almost every available surface was covered in sketches, works in progress stood to the side on their easels.

The artist herself boasted no small amount of paint on the long buttoned shirt she wore over leggings, with only woolen socks covering her feet. It was, perhaps, exactly what one might have expected. And on the wall near a serviceable - and well used by the indentations - couch on the far side of the room, a small fireplace served to keep the studio warm enough.

"Amin naa ikotane saese a' elea lle. Ikotane saese lle caela tul a!I am so glad to see you. So glad you've come!" Her voice was warm, and she gestured to Niven's cloak, "Feel free to toss that on the couch near the fire, if you like."
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Old October 19, 2017, 04:49 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The silence after she'd knocked on the door seemed to last forever. Niven had just about given up hope of Kailin being there when the door opened. Kailin looked surprised, yet happy, to see her and Niven grinned.

As she passed through the open door, the Sylrosian unfastened her cloak, pulling it over one shoulder and folding it over her arm. "Amin estela lle serennen naa sal’ quel. Amin uma il- merna a' be rashwe," I hope your invitation is still good. I don’t want to be a bother. she replied, finding it comforting to be speaking in her native tongue with a non-elf. Very few bothered to try to learn Elvish. Not even Dante spoke it to her. She found it sweet that Calanon was teaching it to Kailin.

If she was honest, Niven wasn’t quite sure what she was expecting on the other side of the door. The room was larger than she expected, but she supposed that was necessary with the amount of painting paraphernalia that was around, though the amount of furniture made the room feel smaller. The side of her mouth twitched, betraying only a hint of a smile as she thought about how only an artist could find peace in such a space.

The windows overlooking the beautiful courtyard gave great amounts of natural light which only illuminated the pictures showcased on the walls. On some faces of different people looked back at her, while others were windows to other places. As her eyes took in the different mediums Kailin used and the incomplete pieces littering the tables and her nose took in the scent of paint and what she could only imagine was paint cleaner, a smile finally did grace her lips. This must be what creativity looked like.

“It’s brilliant,” she breathed, her eyes moving back to the human woman, noting the strange attire, but not remarking on it, save a momentary brow furrow. Niven supposed she could hardly expect someone to work in heavy skirts. They would really only get in the way.

“Oh!” Niven nodded and moved towards the warmth of the fire, careful to not stir any furniture as she went. She neatly laid her cloak on the arm of the couch and turned to the radiant heat coming from the fire, warming her hands for a moment.

As she stood before the fire, her gaze travelled to the art hung closest to the hearth. She was captivated by a landscape she saw. Marvelling at Kailin’s use of colour and how they all complimented each other, Niven’s eyes sparkled with wonder.

"These are amazing," she said, turning back to look at Kailin. "I don't know much about art, but your talent is astounding. You are quite the artist!"
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Old November 13, 2017, 01:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Laying on the couch next to where Niven placed her cloak was a pile of clothing. She could see skirts, a fur-lined winter cloak, everything Kailin would need to be presentable outside of this rather unconventional refuge. There was also a blanket folded underneath the clothing, with a small pillow making up the base of the pile.

Most of the art decorating the three walls was in Kailin's long-preferred medium of charcoal. Indeed, if Niven were to look closely, most of the skill on display in the room lay in those sketches. But all that charcoal certainly made the landscape a draw for the eyes, as it was a riot of color amidst a sea of black and white.

Niven's praise brought a soft, startled laugh up out of Kailin, and the woman moved to stand at the elf's side. Her head cocked over one shoulder in an unconscious gesture of consideration as she looked at the piece, before grinning down at the blond, "my best efforts at replicating one of the master's pieces hanging in the Chateaux Mavloix." Dark brows raised above sparkling pale green eyes, as the grin stretched wider, "you would not think it quite so amazing if you saw the original, I fear."

Reaching out a hand, she brushed her fingertips down along the side of the canvas, sighing as she let her gaze travel between the landscape and it's surroundings, "It is hard to learn the use of color after working in charcoal for so long. And some days I fear that the subtleties of paint are beyond me."

Her hand dropped to her side and she turned to set her hip against the arm of the couch so that her body was angled toward Niven, shoulders lifting in a slight shrug, "but I enjoy the challenge of it, and my friends here tell me I am making improvements."

"I'm glad you braved the hallways to find me, Niven. I was unsure when you were leaving to head back home to Demios, and I think if Calanon had not been with us to assure me that you were real, I would have thought that entire afternoon yet another dream."

A soft blush colored her cheeks as she moved toward one of the tall working tables that sat in the center of the space. Pulling a thick book toward herself, she opened it and pulled out a pile of sketches. Similar to those that filled the walls, these papers were wrinkled and rough edged, and some of them even looked to have been folded at one point in time.

But the images they boasted must have been as familiar to Niven as they were to Kailin. "After that brightening, I searched through my trunks to find these..." and one by one, she laid out sketches of the faces of those that had shared the dream with them. Niven herself, of course. Tirion. Etienne. The katta, and the three others of their group.

"It's still hard to believe..." her gaze lifted from the portraits, brows pulling together slightly as she gave a small shake of her head, "that they could all be just as real as you and me."
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Old November 13, 2017, 10:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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A wry smile formed on the Sylrosian's lips as her friend critiqued her own artwork. She supposed, as all are, that artists were their own worst critics. Being the person wielding the medium gave a unique perspective. To a more untrained and untalented eye like Niven's, she didn't see the flaws or what comparison Kailin was addressing, but instead saw only the beauty.

"Charcoal is your preferred method of sketching then,"
the elfess stated, rather redundantly as there was evidence to that fact surrounding her. "Who would have thought that something as ordinary as charcoal could be used to produce such beauty?" she wondered aloud.

"I must be truthful, I am in awe of your work,"
Niven said, her eyes moving from the wall to the human woman leaning against the sofa. "It's all quite fantastic." Her jade eyes crinkled as her smile reached them.

"I can imagine," she replied, following the woman as she moved towards a specific table. "It was more than a little surreal for me as well. I almost think I came here to be sure you truly existed just as much as I came to view your artwork. I did not have the same assurances."

The book Kailin pulled out was hefty one, but well worn, like it had seen more than a few eras. Niven looked a little confused, until Kailin explained and the first of the older and minorly tattered parchments was laid out in front of her. Her breath caught in her throat as the first face gazed back at her. "Tirion...... Etienne.....the Katta....Fizden....Veridia.....Morgana.....me," Niven recited from memory as she either picked up or placed her hand on a sketch. It wasn't until later she'd placed Fizden in the dream with them. The Katta had never given his name. The rest had given names. Whether they were their true names or not they'd likely never know. But it was how she remembered them.

Nodding slowly, Niven considered the possibility. "Fizden is real," she confirmed. "I knew him before the dream but I couldn't quite place him then. He was a friend of my fiancé's." "Is a friend?" she wondered. She had no idea if the man was still alive. Most of their friends before the eclipse were, likely due to the Xet invasion. "The rest....." she trailed off. Unless she ran into them too, she'd never know.

As her eyes rested on her own portrait a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She'd seen herself in a portrait before, but it didn't seem alive like this one did. It was almost as if her own eyes were staring back at her. "Incredible," she murmured as she raised it for a closer look.

"You did these all from memory,"
she said, tearing her eyes away from her face on the parchment to look into the live one standing next to her, her expression one of amazement. She was impressed. The portraits were all so vivid and accurate. Looking back, she found details that she hadn't even thought of that Kailin had managed to capture. The devious smile on Tirion's lips. The firm set of Fizden's jaw. The glint in Etienne's eyes. It was all there.

Niven put down the paper in her hand and stepped back from the table. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Etienne's face haunted her. He had killed her, him and Tirion. But he was so twisted, so evil. Niven bit her lip trying to get control of herself. A shiver ran down her spine.

Exhaling forcefully, Niven opened her eyes again. "I'm sorry. These are all so well done. I..... They just bring it all back," she said trying to explain herself.
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Old November 17, 2017, 07:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Kailin grinned, and lifted black-tipped fingers to waggle at the woman, "I can hardly remember a time when I did not have a piece of charcoal in hand. Once my parents realized that, if they did not supply me with parchment and pencils, I would draw on the walls with what I could sneak out of the ashes in the fireplace, I was rarely without something to draw on, and with, wherever I went."

She gave a small shrug, her chuckle quiet, "it remains true to this day."

As Niven spoke the names of those in the portraits she laid out, Kailin's brows rose. She'd forgotten that the female had an uncanny memory for details that her mind had long released, if it had ever retained them in the first place.

Still, seeing those faces, and having the elf put names to them lifted the small hairs on Kailin's arms. She was surprised when Niven admitted to having known Fizden, and the prickle of goosebumps intensified uncomfortably.

So she was shaking her head, one hand running up and down her forearm briskly as Niven apologized. "No... I understand entirely. It was not a pleasant dream, and it is hard to reconcile how those in it with us acted, if they are truly real."

Clearing her throat and giving a little shake to dispel the feeling memories of the dream had called up, she turned to lean against the table, and nodded at the surrounding walls. There was a clear prominence of portraits to be seen there.

"I have a memory for what I see, though I find the subtlety of expression to be fascinating, and suppose I have made a study of it." Her smile was softly sad as she looked at those many faces, and a shadow passed briefly over her own expression before she turned her attention very purposefully back to the blond elf.

"I have other sketches, though I did not think either of us would enjoy seeing them again, of the strange things that happened in the dream. Sometimes," she paused, frowned slightly, and shrugged again, "sometimes it feels like I have to draw something, to get it out of my head, to stop seeing it over and over."

"A compulsion, of sorts, I suppose," she said, then forced out a sigh as she reached to settle her fingers - the ones not covered in charcoal dust - on Niven's arm briefly. She did not wish to linger on the dream any longer, and her compulsion to sketch was another dangerous path to wander toward, best avoided.

"You are getting married, Niven."

Kailin's cheeks were suddenly filled with a red that would have done any sunsset proud, and she took her hand back. "I thought... I wanted to ask..."

Could you make this any more awkward, Kailin?

"Do you think your fiance would want a portrait of you? As a wedding gift, perhaps?"

Her eyes held a cautious hope as she met the vivid green - so reminiscent of Calanon's - of Niven's, and she offered a smile, clearly embarrassed, "Is that something you would want?"
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Old November 20, 2017, 06:16 PM   #7 (permalink)
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As she nodded in agreement, a cold seemed to wash through the elf. The ethics of some of those involved in the dream were questionable at best. The diabolical laughter of the Trelorian echoed in her ears and the elf inhaled sharply and shook her head to clear it. It was the last thing she'd heard before.....

Looking up at Kailin as she cleared her throat, Niven followed her line of sight and visibly relaxed at the change of topic. She, too, took in the different charcoal faces and the expressions on them. The details in the ones hanging around the room were impressive too. Each sketch accurately captured enough of the person that Niven could almost feel the different personalities of each subject. When she felt Kailins eyes on her again, the elfess met them.

She frowned at the mention of other sketches of the dream but nodded in understanding. "I envy you that ability," Niven admitted, a sad smile on her lips. "I do not have the ability to get the images out of my head and somewhere else. I'm afraid they continue to haunt me from time to time." The gesture of the hand on her arm was welcome.

An eyebrow raised at the sudden conversation topic shift. Mirth glistened in the elfess' jade eyes. She tucked her lips to suppress a smile. "Yes, yes I am." Her amusement only grew as the woman flushed. There was a point to this, she knew it. She just had to be patient.

Her patience paid off, but her other eyebrow joined her first one. "Kailin," she breathed, trying to wrap her head around the idea. A porcelain hand went to her breast and her vision started to blur as tears welled up in her eyes. She felt honoured that her friend would want to not only use her as a model but offer her talents as a gift.

"I'm sure we would both love anything you might want to create for us."
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Old November 25, 2017, 06:41 PM   #8 (permalink)
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"Oh..." Kailin said, and her mouth tightened into a frown, something in her eyes hollow and haunted for a moment as she met Niven's eyes, "they don't go away."

Her shoulders lifted as she took a deep breath in, "They're as vivid to me now as they were after I woke up. But," she gave half of a nod and tried to soften her expression, to dampen some of the discomfort she knew was set to linger around her eyes, for the images from the dream had been nothing compared to other images. Nothing compared to those that she... that she stole, from those around her, "the compulsion... that does fade. And I have more control over when I see things, after getting them out on paper."

It was more than she usually talked about that aspect of her art, and Kailin was happy enough to change the subject, as it was getting too close to speaking about the secret she held. Something she had not done since Duncan, and doubted she would do again, given how things had turned out with him.

Niven's reaction to her offer was everything she could have wished for and more, and Kailin felt her own tears pooling in response as she smiled across at the Sylrosian. Where she was strong and confident in every other aspect of her life, or very nearly so, she still felt on shaky ground when it came to painting, to becoming an artist. Not just someone who couldn't seem to stop sketching, but someone who created works that might someday hang in the Chateaux along with the works of the masters.

A lofty goal, and not one she expected to reach, but it meant a lot to her that Niven would want something of hers.

"Really?"

Clearing her throat again softly, she spoke past the gratitude she felt, "Oh, it would be my pleasure, Niven." Pulling a pair of stools out from underneath one of the nearby desks, she placed them on either side of a corner of the desk where there was actually clear space, and leaned forward toward the elf.

"So then tell me... What do you think Dante loves most about you, Niven?" Kailin's eyes were bright with excitement at the prospect of creating something for the couple, something that would speak to them on the most personal of levels.
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Old November 28, 2017, 10:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Niven's mouth formed a straight line as her eyes left the face of the woman and fell to the floor. So the dream hadn't left her consciousness either and surfaced regularly for her as well. A curse if there ever was one. Kailin was just fortunate to have not made it as far as Niven had. The horrors that followed the girl's demise were forever branded in her memory. Kailin had no idea how fortunate she was that she would soon succumb to death and her misery would be over. Niven had centuries of these memories in her future.

As Kailin's eyes filled with tears Niven's spilt over. It really touched her that Kailin wanted to do this for her and that it moved the artist that she accepted was more than she could handle without shedding a few tears. "Really."

"Gods, look at me!"
Niven laughed, wiping her cheeks with her hand. She sniffed and then smiled as Kailin pulled out the stools and sat.

Niven tried and failed to suppress a smile. "Ummmmmm....." What did Dante love most about her? Niven couldn't even begin to describe which aspect her fiance preferred most. The number of times she caught him admiring her figure when he thought she wasn't looking. Or that he would spend long moments just gazing into her eyes. Then there were the lingering kisses he placed on her lips. And the time he spent running his fingers through her corn silk blonde hair. Niven wasn't sure she would be able to narrow it down.

"I'm not sure. He hasn't exactly specified a preference for one specific feature. What do you feel about me is the most striking?"
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Old December 4, 2017, 09:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Kailin laughed along with Niven, grateful for the chance it gave them to clear the air of the awkward gratitude she felt, and she waved her hands at her own reddened cheeks before wiping at her eyes, "you're in good company, my friend."

And then it seemed that she'd stumped the elfess, and Kailin's pale green eyes set to twinkling as it soon became clear that she hadn't specified well enough what she'd meant to ask. By the time Niven had asked her own question, though, Kailin was engaged in a very detailed - if in no way sexual - cataloguing of Niven's appearance.

She'd leaned back again and was squinting at the elf rather dispassionately, before she caught herself and grinned, shoulders lifting in a small shrug of apology.

"Well now that you ask... How about you get back off that stool and I take a good long look, hmm? And while you stand there, stay still, and try not to blush," another quick flash of her grin, "why don't you tell me what Dante loves about you. Not how you look, but who you are, hmm?"

The grin softened to a smile, and before she made any move to look the female over, she reached out to set a hand on one slender, perfectly elfin wrist, "You are stunning, Niven, but I'm sure you already know that. I'm just going to take a look to see if there is anything that stands out that we may wish to highlight, okay?"

And then Niven had the floor, while Kailin made a slow circle around her, taking care to leave plenty of space between them. She probably should have been making notes, but was worried it might make Niven nervous. Or would it make her less nervous? So used to working with models who had plenty of experience posing, or with her fellow artists, Kailin realized she would have to figure out what might work best for those of the public that she worked with.
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Old December 6, 2017, 11:30 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Amused that her friend went immediately to scrutinizing her, Niven's mouth quirked an amused smile. Kailin seemed to then catch herself and offered a mildly embarrassed apology. "Force of habit," Niven mused, her amusement now clearly evident on her pretty face

At her direction, Niven removed herself from the stool upon which she was perched and stood a bit away from it. A rosy flush rose in her cheeks due to the power of suggestion and the elfess giggled at herself, which turned into a full laugh at the question next posed to her. "I feel like these are questions best put to Dante and not myself, but I will do my best."

The tender touch on her wrist and kind words brought the red hue to her cheeks again. Kailin was kind and the more Niven got to know her the more she liked her. She nodded as Kailin took to appraising her and her figure.

Thinking for a moment on the woman's question, Niven's brow furrowed and her lips pursed in concentration. What did Dante love about her?

"Well,"
she started, "I think he loves my independence. I don't need him as much as I want him. I stand for what I personally believe in, not what I'm told to believe..." Niven was thinking of the attitude towards his race. By all accounts, Niven shouldn't have fallen in love with him. He was a Dracon, an undesirable by elvish standards long before it was the general attitude. "I judge based on who a person is versus what they are."

Another thought came to her, "I believe he loves my passion. My passion for him, for life, for our children, for what I know is right. I stick to my guns and don't easily give up on something I believe in."

The Sylrosian's look turned sheepish. "I don't know if any of that is helpful. Like I said, you'd be better off asking him."

Feeling a bit more on display than she was comfortable with, Niven searched for a conversation topic. "I wanted to apologize again for the other brightening. I didn't mean to poke into such a private part of your life and into your grief. I pray your forgiveness, I didn't know."
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Old December 13, 2017, 02:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Kailin listened, letting Niven answer the questions as she made her way slowly around the female, smiling softly at the answers she gave. It was not lost on Kailin, the way the elf chose the wording of 'what they are', as she spoke of making judgements about others.

And she couldn't deny that the knowledge put her at ease a bit. Whether Niven had meant it for her, Kailin was a human, and she had met a fair number of elves who held her at arms length because of their different races.

"No... it's all very helpful, Niven," she stopped in front of her and her smile warmed even further as Kailin gestured her back to the stool she'd been perched on before. "It gives me more of an idea of who you are, and that is important for me to understand."

Then her smile softened as she let herself drop back onto her own stool, "and I also want to understand, to get to know you... so it's doubly nice for me. But don't think I won't ask Dante, if I get the chance to meet this man of yours, someday."

Reaching into the mess of papers on the table near her, Kailin pulled out a clean sheet and a small stick of charcoal. She stilled, though, looking back up to Niven when she mentioned the slight awkwardness and misunderstanding around Lilia.

Reaching out, she settled a hand on Niven's, already shaking her head as she began to speak, "goodness no... No forgiveness is necessary, Niven. There was no way you could have known, so please do not trouble yourself over it."

Her gaze shifted past Niven to the wall behind the elf - lit well by the light coming through the windows this time of the brightening - and she nodded toward a small grouping in the center that held a number of framed portraits.

"That's her, there..." in the very center, and slightly larger than the rest of the portraits surrounding it, there was a sketch of a young girl of perhaps three of four eras. Sitting on the floor with a book nearly half her size laid open across her lap, she was looking up at the viewer with a rather stubborn set to her jaw and a familiar twinkle in her eyes, as if she was trying very hard not to smile. Where the hair was tucked around her ears, Niven might have noticed that they came to delicate points.

"Lilia," she said simply, and with a smile that held love and grief in nearly equal measure.

Letting her gaze roam over the wall around that beloved face, Kailin decided not to point out that the sketch next to it, also holding pride of place - though this time of an older man whose weather-worn features held an echo of Kailin’s, and whose smile she had - was her father. Or that the rest of the very great number of faces surrounding those two were all people she had lost, most of them when Paxia was destroyed.

It was her way of remembering those dear to her, but she always felt sure it would make the room an uncomfortable place for her visitors.

With a sigh, then, she looked down to the blank paper before her and began to sketch in the rough outlines of a face, feeling grateful that this would be a portrait that brought only joy to those who saw it.

Clearing her throat, she peeked up at Niven, one dark brow arching high, "you should know you're not off the hook that easily. I've heard what you think your fiance loves best, but now I want to know when you feel most like yourself. What brings you to life, arwenamin?"
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Old December 14, 2017, 03:13 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Nodding in understanding, Niven took her seat again when invited to once more. She could imagine that knowing more about your subject allowed for the slight nuances that Kailin had been able to capture in some of her renderings.

It was impossible to keep the smile from her face as Kailin expressed her personal wishes to know her better as well. "I would like that too," the elfess replied softly. She chuckled then. "I can only imagine the picture you'd get if you asked Dante. But it would be lovely for you two to meet. I think he'd like you immensely."

Grateful for Kailin's graciousness, Niven gave her a melancholy smile as the woman's warm hand laid on top of her own. The Sylrosian's head turned to look at the indicated picture."May I?" Niven asked, rising once again and going to look more closely at the picture.

The girl depicted was lovely. The look in her eyes and expression on her face put her in mind of her youngest son when he was that age. She'd seen a look very similar many times in Chariras' cherub face. But her eyes didn't miss the small detail of the delicate point that her ears came to. "Half elf?" Niven wondered, not entirely surprised considering Kailin's current beau.

"She's beautiful,"
Niven said, glancing back at her new friend. Her eyes gazed over the book on the child's lap that dwarfed her small frame. "It's a shame her life was cut so short." Niven bit her lip for a moment, wondering if she should ask the question that had been lingering in her mind. "Do you mind if I ask what happened?"

A smile quirked at the joke, but Niven returned to her seat and took a deep breath. "I have a special love for the outdoors, but I'm sure that could be said of many of my race. The woods especially are a place of solace for me. I spent a lot of time with my male cousins learning survival and other more useful skills and I enjoy putting them to good use. I did a fair bit of wandering before I met Dante and then a bit more before he asked me to stay with him and his family."

Her face brightened at the thought of her family. "I think now it's my family that gives me the most purpose. I adore each one of our children and find great pleasure in spending time with each of them. They each have taught me something different about myself, the little ones especially. I didn't take the time to learn the skills that my mother tried to teach me that would have aided me in being a better mother, but it would seem that they all found a way to bring it out in me. I learn from them just as much as they learn from me."

She thought for another moment before continuing. "I have a love for animals. I have a dog and a horse whom I love caring for and also add to who I am. There isn't much that compares to riding on the back of a horse, the wind whistling in your ears and your hair flapping like a flag. The freedom you feel, like you could go anywhere and do anything...." Niven closed her eyes and smiled. Riding Trigg was one of her favourite things to do. "And there is none so loyal as a dog. Juno has been my faithful companion for many eras now and I don't know how I would have gotten on without his help in more than a few instances."

"Now this is unfair,"
Niven said, smiling wryly at the woman after she paused for a few moments. "Here I am sharing about myself and you have not shared much about yourself."
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Old December 26, 2017, 05:14 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Kailin nodded her approval of Niven taking a closer look at Lilia, eyes soft and sad as they followed the blond elf toward the wall and it's portraits. Her fingers toyed with the charcoal she held, smudging her fingertips black as she rolled it back and forth.

Her gaze lifted from the bit of black when Niven spoke again, and a smile warmed her features around the pain that still pulled at the corners of her eyes. Kailin assumed every parent who'd lost a child felt as if the natural order of things had been inverted. How could one not rail against the cruelty of a life cut short? But her daughter, with her elven heritage, should have outlasted her human mother by a century or more, and there were days where the weight of such knowledge threatened to crumble Kailin's will, to press her to the floor and keep her there forever.

Niven's next question, however, pulled the woman out of reach of the creeping fog that was trying to settle over her, always at the edge of her consciousness even now. She nodded again, and her gaze settled on the image of her daughter for a moment, "It was the feeble pox. My husband was sick, too, though he was stronger, of course." Her focus shifted back to Niven, apology for the sadness of her own story in the falling curve of her lips, "he held on long enough for the cure to be available."

With a quick inhale, and an actual grimace of apology, Kailin shook her head briskly, "My ex-husband, I should say. Though that is likely obvious, given you know of my current..." her head tilted side-to-side briefly, as she tried to find the right word, "entanglement with Calanon."

His name brought a much easier smile unbidden to Kailin's lips, and the tension around her eyes eased as they dropped to the paper, her fingers gripping the charcoal with purpose, before she called her new friend back over while informing her that she was still in the hot seat, so to speak.

She listened then, watching the emotions light up the too-beautiful features of the elf before her as the female spoke of the things that brought her joy, that filled out her life. And her own grin returned easily as her mind memorized the expressions that shifted as Niven shared so freely.

Her fingers were busy as she watched, though, so that - by the time Niven had finished speaking about herself and turned the question back on Kailin - there was a passably recognizable outline of the elf. After an amused glance at the subject of her study, the human looked down to the sketch and added a few lines with the charcoal laid flat to capture the fall of golden hair, then used a finger tip to smudge the charcoal to highlight the sharp elvish cheekbones.

"You know more of me than many people, already..." another upward flicker of her eyes, as she glanced at the elf from below arched brows, "but fair is fair, I suppose."

A few more lines and the image gained more clarity, as Kailin worked to detail Niven with closed eyes as she'd just seen her, "I love animals, too... but would rather be on one of my family's boats than sitting a horse, given the option. I've never gotten saddle sores from sailing," her grimace was purposefully dramatic as she sat back and gave her attention to the blond again.

"And I don't think any of us really know what in Aeternia we're doing when it comes to our children... I am the oldest of six, and thought I knew all about child-rearing." Toying with the charcoal again as she thought back to the late stages of her pregnancy, and how terrified she was, she gave a soft, partial laugh, "and I was still so scared as Lilia's due date approached."

Her gaze softened as she leaned forward onto her elbows, "I'm sure you're a wonderful mother, Niven. And those children are lucky to have you. Speaking of which..." pale green eyes flashed with a resurgence of Kailin's curiosity, "my daughter was not the only point of confusion at the end of our last meeting, as I recall. You said you have seven children, right? What are there names? How old are they? Who are they? You said Dante adopted them all?"
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Old January 6, 2018, 01:19 AM   #15 (permalink)
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oocThis will make what happens later just that much sadder

Pearly white teeth bit into a pale pink lip as Kailin explained about the illness that had stolen her daughter's life from her. To lose a child was tragic, but the loss of life in one who was destined to have a life as long as hers would have been was even more so. "I'm so sorry, Kailin," was all the elfess could think to say.

The situation was similar in a way to the tragedy of her own father's early demise. He should have still had centuries of life before succumbing to old age, but the accident had cut it short.

The Sylrosian tried to suppress a smile as she observed Kailin's smile at the mention of Calanon. It was clear the woman was smitten and Niven was happy for her. Love tended to bring out the best in people.

When called back over, the elfess returned to her seat so her friend could start her sketch.

"Ah, you are like Dante, then,"
Niven replied with a grin. "He adores the sea and would much rather be there than anywhere else. And I have never seen him on a horse. He has a strange aversion to them for whatever reason."

Niven smiled as Kailin mentioned her trepidation when it came to the art of parenting. "It's daunting, for sure," she said. "I couldn't imagine a baby. I think I would like to have a child of my own some brightening, though." Her expression softened as she imagined a beautiful baby in her arms. "We've talked about it," she continued, softly. "But I worry about the age difference. Our youngest now is twelve."

"Ah!" Niven said, a smile returning to her lips. "Yes, before we had met, Dante had adopted seven orphans. Maya, Kel and Jar are the oldest and they are Vystichi elves. They are in their early twenties and have left home to make their own ways in the empire. Maya is a Captain of her own vessel in Jaedaxia. Kel is a bard. Jar is a legionnaire."

"Next there is Meeko, Her age is unclear, but I estimate her around 17 or 18. She is actually the spirit of a girl that Dante released. The nearest living creature was actually one of the giant spiders of the Weavers Woods near our home in Demios. Unusual, I know. I will admit it took me some getting used to."

"Then there is Nelly and Nikki, or "the twins" as we like to refer to them," Niven continued, making air quotes with her fingers. "They are 16. They are the most beautiful redheads you've ever seen but Nikki especially was the most awkward, yet sweetest little girl you'd ever met. She's a force of nature now. If she wasn't human, I'd swear she was related to me somehow. Nelly, on the other hand, is quite the opposite from her sister. She is more studious and loves to read. I am better read since knowing her."

"And, lastly, we have Chariras," Niven's grin widened. While she loved all her children dearly, Chariras was the one she felt closest to. "He was only 4 when we first met and now like I said, is a young man of twelve. He's a charmer, that one, much like his father. I fear there will be many a broken heart when some lucky girl finally locks that boy down."

"Add me and Dante, Juno and our Nanny and Housekeeper Kala, we are one large family." The happiness that radiated from the elfess was almost palpable. "So, as you can imagine, the idea of adding one more, and a baby at that, is a bit daunting."
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