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 [HC Event] Star Catchers

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   17th October 2018, 12:19 pm



She lost herself to the thrill of the physical match, though she was always aware of exactly who she faced against. Never would she lose herself so much as to hurt Kitty, but as promised, she wouldn't hold back, either.

Her earlier thoughts were pushed to the back of her mind, a difficult endeavor when her hands gripped the slick of Kitty's mud-wet skin. Thankfully, the adrenaline kept her mind clear enough to focus on the game and give a good show for those watching.

It wasn't at all like a story, not really. Not at all like the tale she wanted to build up in her head before reaching this final match. The realness of Kitty's presence, the warmth of adoration for this girl thrumming strong in her chest, kept Cassandra's head clearly in the present and devoid of larger-than-life imaginations.

But for once, that felt okay.  

The match drew long, their strengths more or less equal to one another, but she felt as Kitty lost her footing that lead to the end of the match. Cassandra grinned, happy in her victory. The match could have easily gone in Kitty's favor, and the fact it had been so close only excited her further. "Thank you," Cassandra replied, smiling still. "That was a close call. But it was a lot of fun!"

She wanted to say more, wanted to ensure that Kitty got cleaned and warmed up—the heat of adrenaline would wear off soon, leaving them both in cold wet clothes that hung heavy with half-dried mud—but there was the prize to accept. Cassandra had forgotten about a prize at all, having entered out of curiosity and a desire to test her mettle.

As she moved to wherever the officials directed her, Cassandra paused, noticing two familiar shapes in the dimming light. Leon and Saphira... she'd heard tell from the crowds earlier that other Star Catchers had made their way through the town recently, but with how intent and serious the two were, Cassandra assumed they both would have been long gone. To see them here, so unexpectedly, caused her to falter. For once, she wasn't entirely certain how to feel about their presence. Happy, to see them alive and well. Thrilled, to know that the two capable Star Catchers were not so unreachably far ahead after all, reviving the chance that Kitty could get there first. But anger and frustration also featured high amongst her emotions, caustic amongst the rest.

Cassandra turned her attention back onto the Mayor, those her smile had slipped as she thought of the ramifications of having Leon and Saphira amongst them all once more.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   17th October 2018, 12:39 pm

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"Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our Champion!" Mayor Bramblebush cried, taking Cassandra's hand and holding it to the sky to a wave of applause. 

"This ribbon," Mrs. Clearwater announced, holding the white satiny fabric up for all to see, "shows that you have rightfully and fairly won this competition and are welcome at any time between tonight and the next Summermoon Festival for a spa treatment that will leave you so relaxed all of your cares and worries will melt away! Mudbath included," she said, and the Mayor snorted with quickly-covered laughter. Clearwater reached out and carefully tied the ribbon to Cassandra's wrist. 

"Should you care to take part in your prize tonight, you can follow Mrs. Clearwater back to her establishment and maybe you can start with that mud bath just to really wallow in it," the Mayor instructed, "But should you wish, you could join the other contestants over there for their cold shower!

Kitty was ushered towards the cold shower area, her clothes safely out of the way. They stood beneath a great bucket of water, with a swimming hole not too far away; the other contestants, far from being disappointed, were teasing each other in a friendly manner about the cold rush that was about to come.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   17th October 2018, 12:52 pm



Kitty braced herself for the chilled onslaught—this wouldn't be the first time in her life that she'd been hosed off unceremoniously and she thoroughly hoped she'd survive the Trial long enough that it wouldn't be the last, either. It hearkened back to time in the fields or working closely with the animals, often a task messy enough that a warm indoor bath was a second step rather than the only. At least it wasn't winter! She felt a sort of pleasant tiredness after the exercise of the competition, and she certainly didn't begrudge Cassandra the prize. Honestly, the other girl probably would appreciate the pampering a bit more than Kitty might have.

On the whole, she felt satisfied with this foray into participation in the Summermoon Festival. This would be a fun story to tell her siblings when she returned home, wouldn't it? She was careful not to dwell too deeply on that thought or focus on any particular member of her family. Not now. Instead, she tried to distract herself with the antics and comments of the other "losers" in her vicinity and whether or not the winner would join them or take advantage of her prize now.
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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   17th October 2018, 1:01 pm


Cassandra and Kitty finished their match, the taller of the pair victorious. As the Mayor and Clearwater left to officially announce the winner and deliver Cassandra her prize, he felt acutely aware that Shashka was close but, for the moment, silent; he had no idea what the other was thinking or whether she had been paying attention or ignoring his conversation with the Mayor; he didn't know whether she was stewing in the disagreement they had had when last they had parted, or whether she was deciding how she would react to the revelation of his true identity, but one thing was for certain: he did not intend to broach that subject or his following offer without Cassandra and Kitty present. He hid his silence in the cheering of the exuberant crowd, his attention on Cassandra and the Mayor, where it should respectfully be at this point. When the Mayor offered Cassandra her choice of spa or cold shower the crowd did not disperse, rather started shifting their attention to the mud-streaked gaggle of contestants standing not entirely far away. 

With dusk falling the air was starting to catch a chill; he was fairly certain that they would not just let the contestants shiver it out after being doused, so he looked and found what he searched for and started making his way in that direction.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 3:15 am



So it seemed Cassandra would get to enjoy the bath Saphira dreamed of. That must be nice. Still, like William said, there ought to be other bath houses that were just as good here. Maybe he could ask about it when he talked to the mayor about the inn. While waiting for the conversation to be sorted out, she wandered within the perimeter in which William could still see her, but she was far enough away from Shashka so as not to be left alone with her, since she couldn't promise a fight wouldn't break out. Idly, she wondered if the girl had had her broken nose fixed yet or not. She was itching to get that bath and a good night's sleep, now that her stomach was full and the wine filled her with a comfortable warmth.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 11:20 am



Being claimed a Champion was invigorating. It reminded her of all the different tales she loved so much, the way a hero would reign triumphant amongst varying challenges, reaching the coveted prize at the end, whether that was to be a crown, riches, or love. Was this what it felt like to be a true hero? It felt close, she imagined, the swell of pride and some embarrassment pulsing in her chest, eyes of onlookers staring up at her, recognizing her as the victor.

Close, perhaps, but not exactly the same.

Ultimately, she decided to wait to use the prize. It didn't feel right to take advantage of such luxurious treatment, not without sharing it with her friends at the very least. Not when all the other contestants had to deal with a cold rush of water as their shower. And, how could she allow herself to be pampered at a fancy spa without sharing that experience with Kitty? She had until the next festival to use the prize, after all. Maybe after everything was finished and they were on their way back home—victorious, of course—they could treat theirselves. Together.

Cassandra felt another blush heating her cheeks at the thought, as her mind colored the "together" with a romantic twist, rather than the platonic friendship she and Kitty had grown with one another. She grinned at the other wrestling contestants as she joined their ranks once more, pushing those thoughts aside, but her eyes sought Kitty soon after that. She didn't say anything, amused at the way that bit of mud still clung to Kitty's cheek, but stood next to her friend in silence as they awaited their fate.

The cold of the water sought its way in every nook and cranny, goosebumps prickling at her skin. She laughed despite the jolting reaction, amused and shocked at the same time. Expecting such a sensation somehow only made its final arrival more startling. But cold water was how her family most often cleaned themselves after a long day in the fields, so it didn't bother her much at all.  

She didn't waste it, though, knowing that water was precious and she scrubbed at her skin and hair, ridding it of all the mud. It was no luxurious spa treatment, but there was a certain camaraderie here amongst the others as they all rushed as a group to get clean while cursing the cold shock of water. Being with them all felt more exhilarating, more rewarding, than a fancy tub.

As they finished up, Cassandra grinned once more at Kitty, only a small hint of homesickness tainting the expression. "The joys of bathing in true Lorham tradition. There's nothing quite like it!" There was humor in her voice and a smile on her lips, but it all cut off abruptly as she spotted who held out towels for the each of them, a silent but somehow still imposing offer.

Cassandra stood there watching Leon for a few moments, dripping with water and unease, before finally reaching out to accept the towel. No matter her conflicting feelings about his arrival, she wasn't one to turn away from an offer of something useful. "Thank you." She began to pat herself dry, trying to come up with something to say to someone she'd once thought she'd never see again. "It's a beautiful festival they have here."

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 11:43 am



Cassandra's presence definitely enhanced the "homey" feeling of that brisk, intense cold. Still, Kitty welcomed it. It washed away the mud from the contest, but also the grime from their travels. The deluge refreshed her skin in a way that a hasty dip in a nearby stream couldn't quite compare to, even if it wasn't as nice as a soothing warm bathtub in front of a crackling hearth. She took a moment to really scrub at her skin with the now-wet burlap, exfoliating whatever she could. Her clothes wouldn't be any cleaner, but she'd feel a bit like she was when she put them back on.

The drips of water from her pale hair obscured her vision, and at first she didn't realize that there was a towel being held out for her—but when she quietly offered thanks and rubbed it across her face and through her messy locks, the blue eyes found themselves looking up at a familiar face. The shorter girl blinked to see Leon, unsure of what to say. She hadn't parted poorly with him, but with a bit of searching she saw that Saphira was nearby... and very much hoped that the elegant young woman would not accidentally cross paths with Shashka. That was unlikely to work out well again for anyone.

"Thank you," she repeated, clearer this time, glancing over at Cassandra as she spoke. She braced herself for whatever Leon might say, finding that it gave her significantly more unease than the threat of the cold water had.
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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 12:09 pm


The contestants showered off, ridding themselves of most of the mud, only a few shrieking on initial impact with the cold water. He held two folded towels, his first diplomatic act as he waited for the pair to finish. Cassandra saw him first, looking somewhat ill-at-ease when she saw him; he tried to look nonthreatening as she and Kitty approached, offering the towels to them silently, waiting to see what they would do. Cassandra took one and he mentally sighed with relief, taking it as a sign that at least she were up to talking. She thanked him, he nodded and handed Kitty the remaining towel. As Cassandra began to dry off, Shashka made her way over, standing beside the wet pair as though they were in a stand off. He wanted to look around for Saphira, but doing so may encourage the idea of a face-off rather than the bridge he had hoped to build. 

"I agree," he replied, keeping eye contact with Cassandra, "I find the whole thing uplifting, not least of which their treatment of strangers during a celebration of their community. I am glad to have come upon it. Congratulations on your victory; both you and Kitty fought well." He paused, considering what he knew of Cassandra and Kitty and decided to just get on with it rather than go through pleasantries, "Would you mind a private word?" he requested, the meaning of 'private' clearly including not only Cassandra but Kitty and Shashka, as well; were Saphira near, she, of course, was intended to be included.

Shashka:
 

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 12:37 pm



She felt slate-blue eyes on her, but Cassandra kept her attention focused on Leon. Her anger simmered a little lower, as he talked of the community of this town, a feeling of which she definitely agreed. She may not know as much about Leon as she would have liked, but that, in her eyes, said a lot about him. It helped put her at least a little more at ease, even though she could feel previous emotions still bubbling below the surface.

When he asked for a private word, Cassandra took a second to look for Saphira, spotting her not too far away. It felt embarrassing, in a way, for Saphira to be there, watching Cassandra wrestle in the mud wearing burlap and showering in such a homely way. She had forgotten, in the days they'd been separated, just how much she felt the need to impress Saphira, but that all came back now, though it angered her that she still felt that way after everything that happened.

Cassandra turned towards a softer presence, one that helped quell those feelings, seeking delicate slate-blue before turning to look at Leon once again. "Lead the way," she said with a nod.

She didn't know what to think, that much was true. Cassandra didn't even allow herself the time to think of what this could mean or what Leon or Saphira could possibly want, for fear it was taint her view of the actual things they said. The two of them being here still felt as though someone had inserted a set of pages into the wrong book. It didn't hurt to listen, despite it all, despite the hope and apprehension dancing together in the pit of her stomach.

But even in her uneasiness, she still couldn't help but admire them both.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 1:19 pm


He nodded in return, then did as she suggested and lead them away from the crowd of people as an announcement rang out to remind everyone about the upcoming card tournament; as the last of the sun's rays fell beneath the horizon, he decided that, no matter the outcome, he would not keep them for long. Even though it was summer and so not all that chilly, standing around in wet shifts could not be comfortable. When sufficiently far enough for eavesdroppers to have to actively work to overhear any of their conversation, he turned back to face them, standing with the night behind his back and the town glittering not far off before him. "I would like to start with an apology," he began, "I am not whom I claimed to be. I am not a murderer of Highwall, nor am I, as Saphira had graciously suggested, the son of the wealthy man of Highwall; my first name isn't even "Leon", though you are all free to continue referring to me as such," he found himself adding, without much prior thought; while not his birthname he found he had grown attached to it, though going by it now when everything was out in the open seemed ridiculous. With a breath, he continued. "My name is William Percival Leonidas of Thelline, first son of Percival George Henry, Crowned Prince of the Realm, and my grandfather is George Edward Alexander, King of Esoria. I apologize for not being more forthright with my identity, and I hope you understand my motive was in pursuit of fair play rather than with any malicious intent.

He waited just a moment before continuing, not wanting to ask too much in such a short period of time, "Saphira recognized me at the highwayman's camp and has kept my secret ever since, though in guarding it I fear our group's original intention of finding the star together ended before its time. While no one can say how things would have turned out otherwise, my identity has since been made public and so I felt it was only right to come to you myself and clear the air. I had hoped, too, that without hidden identities in the way I could gauge your interests in joining together once again."

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 1:41 pm



He wasn't named Leon?

Kitty stared at the young man, having followed behind Cassandra and stood quietly while he issued his very long string of heritage and revealed that he had lied about his identity. She didn't even notice the coolness of the air as it toyed with her damp hair and the simple, still-wet clothes she wore. She felt hurt that he had misled them—her first impressions had been that she liked Leon, although she supposed that would have to mean she liked William, but Leon was a fancy-but-nice young man and William was related to the king-but-possibly-nice-maybe-continuing-to-lie-to-them young man.

"You're lying to them, too," hissed an unhelpful voice. She gave a tiny shake of her head, trying to dispel it, ignoring that it wasn't untrue. She could understand why someone would be driven to cover up their actual goals as a Star Catcher.

Although really, Kitty didn't understand the significance of his position as grandson of the king. The "king" ruled the land, but to most of Lorham this was not a man, but an abstract concept. They would never see him, except perhaps in a picture that may or may not resemble much of the truth. His name could be signed on a decree, but it was the decree that mattered more than the person marking it so. Kitty didn't know what one was supposed to do around a king or even what the son of prince should be called—was he also a prince or was there another word for that person? Maybe Cassandra would have learned it in her stories.

The only point she really cared about was that he wanted to travel together again. She could scarcely believe it, as it was the thing she thought for sure would be impossible. Although... was this once again an attempt to create a group of four instead of a group of five?

"What about Shashka?" she asked, uneasy. If he was asking them to leave the other girl again, she wasn't sure she was ready to do that this time, either.
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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   18th October 2018, 2:04 pm


"Shashka as well, if we can all let bygones be bygones and agree to trying to keep the peace despite various personality differences," he answered neatly, glad to have the inclusion out on the table before any negotiations or further stipulations were offered; he had claimed running interference for Saphira but he hoped that offering peace as a guideline of group formation would minimize instances of having to diffuse future interpersonal situations, else have something in place to remind everyone of expectations before they got to the point where interference was necessary. Perhaps sitting down to write a contract together would prove fruitful? But then...

He pushed the thought aside, awaiting either further questions or preliminary answers.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   19th October 2018, 2:16 pm



The lengthy and impressive list of names and titles stood out to her as if she'd were reading them off the very pages she loved so dearly. The specifics were different than the tales she knew by heart, but the idea behind them were the exact same. Cassandra stared at the person in front of her as she tried to process everything she'd just listened to.

A real person of royalty, standing right in front of her. She'd wished for adventure when starting out on this Trial, but something like this felt oddly surreal. She tried to imagine Leon amongst refinery and thrones, but all she could see was the friend she made, colored slightly different with a concept she couldn't quite grasp.

When Leon—William?—mentioned Saphira recognizing him back in the camp where he'd been tied up, Cassandra looked to the other girl. This, at least, was not a surprising revelation. Of course Saphira would know, being the true hero of their group, with her quick wit, silver tongue, and incredible battle skills. What was there that Saphira didn't have some superior knowledge?

Kitty's question on Shashka's behalf and the answer given helped her feel more at ease that this wasn't just a repeat of them wanting to leave the fireball girl behind. But still, it made no sense. Hadn't Saphira made it clear she wouldn't work with Shashka? This was the reason they'd broken up to begin with. Why would they want to join up again now, after everything? Had something changed, something more than Leon's true identity being outed? Had it been simply distance and time that allowed fires to cool, for them to seek out the rest of the party?

That didn't feel quite right either. She obviously did not know either of them as well as she would have liked, but one thing she knew for certain was that both of them were more than capable of completing this Trial without anyone else.

She'd fought tooth and nail to try and get Leon and Saphira to stay with them. So why did she feel so uncertain about jumping at this chance? Why look a gift horse in the mouth? A gift was a gift, and wasn't this the best outcome for all of them? For Kitty?

But something worried her, confused her, prickled at her senses that this made no real sense, when looked at from the outside.

"Why?" The word escaped her lips before she could think of a better way to phrase it. She frowned, at the situation, and at her own actions in feeling so strangely mistrustful of these two people she admired. "Why now? What has changed? It must be more than your true identity being discovered."

She hesitated then, wondering if she were meant to call him by a title, calling back to some of her stories. Your Majesty? Highness? She'd read them all so many times, how could she have forgotten which title was proper in this situation? But no, until Leon said he wanted a title to be used, she wouldn't use one. It felt like too much of a barrier to someone she considered a friend.

"If you had continued onwards past this city, chances are any revelation about who you truly are wouldn't have mattered to us as we followed behind. So what else?" Cassandra shifted her position, glancing from Leon, to Saphira, and back again. "I'm confused by this offer, even if it's what we wanted back then. But as happy as I am to see you both right now, it doesn't change the fact that this is all completely different from the song you sang so strongly only a week ago."

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   19th October 2018, 3:17 pm


Cassandra thought the offer through, which he respected. Patiently he waited, and when finally her question came he waited it out, too. Of course she'd wonder why. Motives were important. When she hesitated he did not jump in, choosing to hear her out completely before attempting to address the question and all the while weighed his own answer. It was... honestly not the best reason - definitely neither the most noble nor inspiring, but at least it was honest.

Following Cassandra's glance to Saphira, he returned his attention to the trio and, taking a breath and letting it out slowly in preparation for sounding so... pampered, he replied, "Because I'm tired. I thought we were farther ahead of you than we were, and the idea of having to leave right now to keep our lead when this may be the last town we step foot in within the borders of Esoria caused me to reconsider. Yes, we could continue tonight and I have no doubt that just Saphira and I could make it to the star and successfully retrieve it, but there have been no sightings of any other Star Catchers so there is no need to look forward so critically to attempt to get there before Shashka's ex-partner does, and if an alliance is made with you three then there is no dire need to look back, either. The freedom that affords is tempting enough to me to extend an olive branch, and Saphira has graciously agreed.


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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   19th October 2018, 9:14 pm



His reasoning was sound. She had yet to be in front of anyone on this journey—a fact she tried not to think upon too closely—but she could imagine the kind of stress being in the lead would press upon a person. The way it must push and creep into your every thought that you had to keep going and going, that it didn't matter how much exhaustion weighed you down, it didn't matter that you needed just five minutes. Those five minutes could be the reason you lose that hard-earned lead, and then you'd only have yourself to blame.

The fact that he was honest and admitted such a thing, especially considering just how capable he and Saphira both were, counted for a lot in Cassandra's eyes. She respected and appreciated it.

"Okay," she said with an accepting nod, watching Leon as she did so, before continuing. "My thoughts are the same as they were before. I think we have something special here, between all of us, and I'd like to see what becomes of us working together for the same common goal, as a team, to get the wishes everyone desires so strongly. I think, together, we could do what no other Star Catcher has done in a long time."

She looked to Shashka for a moment, uncertain what the other girl would think, but didn't want to prompt Shashka into talking just yet. Who knew what she would say once she began? Instead, Cassandra looked to Kitty. "What do you want to do?" she asked of the pale-haired girl, her voice softening. Before, in the heat of the situation, she'd pressed for them to walk past exhaustion in a feeble attempt to remain a cohesive group. It had been a mistake, to not ask Kitty's opinion on the matter, and she wouldn't make that same mistake again.

If Kitty decided she'd prefer to stay separated, then Cassandra was ready to accept that continued possibility as well. As much as she liked the others, it was by Kitty's side she wanted to remain.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   20th October 2018, 12:20 am



As she noticed William ushering the girls to somewhere more private, she rejoined the group, though still hovered somewhat behind them, close enough to listen in on the conversation but not completely in anyone's space.

She was surprised, however, to hear William introducing himself as his real self. She looked at him in alarm, but did not say anything, not wanting to interrupt. She thought he still wanted to keep his true mission a secret. Perhaps he was only outing himself because he had been outed here, and sooner or later the others would hear about it? Maybe he simply preferred to have them hear it from him.

His explanation said as much, and she watched the other two's reactions. They didn't seem too... impressed? Excited? They probably never even thought about the king and his family. He was probably a figure far too distanced from their lives to give much thought for. And so, in a strange way, William standing here probably didn't matter much to them.

Cassandra showed her wisdom by asking the reason for them wanting to rejoin, and William answered it with, while not the whole truth, enough truth to make it believable, like all the best lies. She was again impressed by his calculative thinking, and decided to remain quiet unless directly addressed, not showing any outright reaction whether denying or confirming what he said about her.

Cassandra seemed agreeable to the idea, and now Saphira waited for Kitty's answer. Wisely, Shashka's opinion hadn't been asked, and she 100% had no problems with that.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   20th October 2018, 8:48 pm



When Cassandra asked her question, Kitty answered almost automatically:

"Be a team."

It's what she had wanted back at the inn, when that seemed possible. Personal differences existed everywhere—Lorham might have been "quiet" and "small", but even with the constantly-crossing marriages that often made a distant relation exist somewhere in the lineage of one's neighbors, there were still differences of opinion or different personality traits. Even people raised together from birth might find that someone else's manner of expressing himself bothered her, or some similar thing, but being from such a small town, they knew something important: it didn't matter. It was more important to share resources and skills. That was how they survived. She still believed that was what they needed, as Star Catchers. They didn't have to like each other—they just had to get along. It had been hard without Saphira's diplomacy and Leon—um, William's knowledge.

Kitty just didn't think their chances would be good without as much help as they could get, and at least when they helped each other they wouldn't require the coins and contracts that had to be balanced with other people. This wasn't about her own personal pride; this was about trying to get something she needed.
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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   20th October 2018, 10:04 pm

DM wrote:
Shashka shrugged, then nodded. It would still be some time before her mouth recovered; that kebab the dude was selling? Did NOT sit right with her, but as she had had the other half of one of theirs she couldn't exactly call sabotage...


He kept a calm composure when listening to her thoughts, nodding in understanding when she mentioned the common goal and wishes. He agreed: together, they could retrieve the star, breaking the decade-long trend of failures. She favored joining together, then. She turned the question to Kitty, who immediately agreed to "be a team." She had been a strong supporter of teaming up that night at the pub in Tembrell, too; it seemed important to her. With the pair of them in agreement, that just left Shashka, whom he prepared to go back and forth with but she simply shrugged and nodded, non-verbally agreeing to the arrangement. It was a lot less... annoying than he had anticipated, but then things had only really heated up back then when Shashka and Saphira spoke together, so maybe this silence was an attempt to start their new chapter off on the right foot this time. If so, he appreciated it. 

"I'm glad to have come to this agreement." He said, nodding his head definitively. "Right then; while you two get changed, I'll speak with the mayor about accommodations for the night. They're holding a card tournament at one of the bigger inns - once you're dressed, head that way and, with luck," he glanced at Saphira, "I can show us to our rooms." With another small nod in farewell, he made off for the glow of town. 

DM - Synopsis~ wrote:
When Prince William arrived at the card tournament (being held for the best set of rooms in the most expensive inn in town), he met again with Mayor Bramblebrush and explained the situation and requested her assistance in finding and reserving a room to accommodate the five of them for the night with security in mind and preferably with amenities. The Mayor looked a little uncomfortable, as though not quite sure this was crossing a line or not, and so he passed on Saphira's suggestion that, as Cartman had in Tumbrell, if the Mayor picked up the tab he could repay her with one of his coins to cover the cost of information and lodgings.  

She quirked a brow, suggesting that she could give him the information for less - that she'd consider it a fair exchange if he would judge a contest for her if she did this for him, but, recalling the conversation over dinner and how leaving tomorrow morning had been a priority, he politely but with clear regret suggested that if she were uncomfortable accepting his coin they could discuss such arrangements. This, of course, she had to refuse as otherwise it would suggest she did not think him equal to the task, and so she agreed. An assistant brought a piece of paper and, under her instructions, started to draft the invoice as two other assistants left the Inn altogether on errands and gathering information. "I'm not sure how much success she'll have," the mayor commented as the pair left, "this being Summermoon Festival, rooms are typically booked, but we'll have a look at the more reputable places for you and see if we can lean a little on it."

"I would prefer that no one be displaced," William hinted. 

"With the hour so late..." the Mayor started, but soon trailed off and politely excused herself. 

Not long after, with all Star Catchers together, Saphira and William's belongings were returned to them from their safe keeping at Town Hall and the runners reunited with the Mayor, who listened to what they had to say and made her way back over to the group. 

"Well, it is as I feared - all rooms on the Town Square are booked, but I have an alternative in mind. The game is finishing up, so if you'll just wait a few minutes for me to announce the winners, we'll be on our way."

William nodded, and Mayor Bramblebush smiled and was off to the last remaining table, where shifty-eyed players eyed their cards and the pile of chips in the center of their table.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   21st October 2018, 11:21 am

Welcome to Bramblebush Bed and Breakfast wrote:
The cards finished, with one of the last two players carefully choosing a card from the other player's hand... then VICTORIOUSLY SLAMMING DOWN HIS LAST PAIR AND MAKING A VICTORY LAP AROUND THE TABLE TO THE APPLAUSE OF EVERYONE EXCEPT THE "OLD MAID". The award ceremony was brief, the winner was presented the coveted room key and the Mayor invited everyone to continue enjoying the music but not to sleep in too late, because in the morning they were having a CHICKEN JUDGING wherein lucky audience-chosen judges can taste the chicken-contestants eggs in omelet form, starting bright and early in front of Town Hall! People clapped, cheered, looked towards the Star Catchers and either waved or whispered, but Mayor Bramblebuck was soon back and, putting a hand on Prince William's back, escorted them from the card room into the foyer and out of the fancy inn. 

"As all rooms are booked, we have but one alternative," the Mayor stated, her tone business-like as she hopped onto the front of a wagon, indicating for the others to climb in. "Bramblebush Bed and Breakfast."

As they rode out of town towards the Mayor's own home (a sturdy estate built nearly sixty years ago by her great-grandfather, a carpenter who helped build this town), she explained that the rooms of her her house had been occupied by her children, but all but two were grown and had a place of their own, so she kicked them out for the night. They didn't mind, she explained quickly, and she was even using her three sons and two sons-in-law as extra security for the place. They had volunteered to help, but she stated she wold be giving them a small stipend because of the unique circumstances. 

The estate was a large ranch house made of sturdy wood that must have been shipped in from the east due to the general lack of trees in this geographic area; it had a large "great room" that served as a comfortable relaxing space (couches, rugs, cushions, most all of which looked home-made and well constructed) with a large hearth and connected to a huge kitchen with a table large enough to sit 12 comfortably. Someone worked in there, cooking up something that smelled great. The Mayor called out in greeting and a girl's voice called back, but before introductions were made she was showing them to their rooms, which were all off the same hall at the top of the stairs. Lucky for them, the Bramblebushes had always had larger families, so each of them got their own room, fully furnished, and they dropped off their things before being asked to come down for dinner and socializing, though she made a point to mention that the bath was being heated and would be available. 

In the last room - the one that Saphira would be staying in - was a teenager that looked to be their own age. He had thick brown hair and was just making the bed when his mother opened the door. "Looks like I finished just in time," he said, his accent similar to his mother's. "All sheets changed, floors swept, and ready for comp'ny." He grinned, eyeing Saphira, "Evenin' Miss," and tipped an imaginary hat in a way the didn't look corny at all. With a simply dashing smile he exited the room - did he wink at her when he passed her?! - and called back something about seeing them at supper before disappearing down the stairs. 

"That boy," the Mayor said halfway under her breath.

DM wrote:
WELCOME TO THE MAYOR'S HOUSE the last homely house they will visit. Spoilers not spoilers. 

Settle in and come down to dinner~ there's homecrafts everywhere - knittings, crochet, quilts, carvings, etc.; it's obviously a well-loved home with well-loved people in it.

Sitting at the dinner table was Mayor Bramblebush, Mr. Bramblebush, the 5 grown sons that would be serving as "security" for the evening (stationed outside the house on horseback, where they belong) and the two children that were still at home: fraternal twins, both handsome and gorgeous and unabashedly flirty : Kedron (the boy from upstairs) and Eulina ("Lina," she corrected with a wink to Cassandra) who had made dinner. The pair were 18, and both had chosen to continue on in the family's ranching business - though Lina heavily suggested that she wouldn't mind the life of a housewife - and were single, For the moment. 

Throughout dinner conversation was light and friendly and on anything BUT Star Catcher business, mostly keeping to lighthearted family talk while somehow still naturally coming off as friendly and inviting - just not ones to pry. Dinner over, all (but Lina, who had asked to show Shashka the bath) helped to clean up and put dishes away, and then the men left, putting their boots back on and mounting up for the night, a song on the wind as the door shut behind them. Mr. Bramblebush and Mayor Bramblebush excused themselves - it had been a long day and would be an early morning! They just didn't have the energy of teenagers anymore, hahaaha! - and went to bed.

Kedron settled in an arm chair in the great room as Lina returned from leading Shashka to the baths and curled up on one edge of the couch. "Care to visit for a bit before bed?" she asked of the remaining four.

>D enjoy, starcatchers.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   21st October 2018, 11:45 am



She felt... useless, being ushered around like this. It was clear that William—just like Leon before him—knew what he was doing and was prepare to do it well. Even though Kitty dried off and changed as quickly as she could, pulling her bag back over her shoulder, he seemed to have accomplished much even during that brief pause. She kept out of the way of the boy and the Mayor as they waited for the card tournament to come to a close. She hadn't been able to follow whatever had gone on in their conversation, but she could see the way that William's sea-coloured eyes conveyed the seriousness of what he spoke of. It was a negotiation—yet another like all of those he apparently had done before.

Kitty resigned herself to watching the card tournament, attempting to feign more interest than she really felt, and tried not to be a distraction to the people of this place even as whispers reached her ears. William had mentioned rooms, and she certainly wouldn't turn down a place to sleep more comfortable than the camps they had made so far, but as she waited for the game to come to a close she wondered about the Mayor's statement. Where exactly were they going to wind up sleeping? If they had to camp that certainly wouldn't be problematic; sleeping under the stars was simply the lot of a Star Catcher. If so, why the delay?

And now they found themselves in the Mayor's very home, among her family. This place... it reminded her so much of home. She remembered her mother's patient work when she saw the quilts, obviously handmade, smoothed on the beds of their accommodating rooms. The smiling faces in various picture frames could so easily be swapped with the smiling faces of a family much closer to her own heart. The smells of the kitchen and the chatter of lively conversation awakened similar memories of a now-distance place. She shied away from one of the rooms as she passed it, not because it had been assigned to William but because it followed enough of a layout that she feared who she might see if she opened the door.

She wasn't ready for that, not yet; she hadn't found the Star Piece.

Dinner tasted wonderful, and the atmosphere almost made her utterly homesick. She almost expected to see her mother sitting at the head of the table, laughing merrily at one of the jokes from her littlest brother. It felt almost jarring to realize that instead the seat remained occupied by the Bramblebush family, even though it was the most natural thing in the world. She could't use feeling tired as an excuse—it really hadn't been a terribly strenuous day. She just had to keep her thoughts from wandering, didn't she? At least washing up gave her something to focus on instead.

When Lina returned and asked her question, Kitty looked over at Cassandra, wondering what she would say. It was still so much easier to defer to her traveling partner than initiate anything.
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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   21st October 2018, 8:17 pm


He hadn't expected her to offer up her own home for their use. 

He hadn't expected her own family would volunteer as security detail.

He hadn't expected being treated so... normally. The energetic dinner conversation glanced right over his station after introductions were made and, from that point, they were all treated like they were long-time members of the family; part of him thought it was a little odd that they didn't spend a lot of time on questions about each of them like where they were from and why they were on this final trial, but the other part actually appreciated it. While he may not know any of the people they talked about, the stories were no less amusing and anecdotes no less interesting. When the meal ended they were all roped into cleaning up, him included, though putting clean dishes away seemed like a cherry-picked task for him compared to some of the others. After that they dispersed, with the older men leaving to stand watch, the Mayor and her husband retiring, and the twins serving as conversational hosts for the remainder of the evening. 

He was fairly certain that one of them had playfully kicked his foot under the dinner table, and judging by their banter throughout the meal he would probably have favored speaking with their mother over staying with them. When the invitation was offered, however, he hesitated; Shashka was currently out of the room so his intent to run interference between her and Saphira was not currently needed, but whether it would stay that way remained to be seen. He regretted that Lina had arbitrarily chosen Shashka to bathe first, as part of why this decision was made was that Saphira had mentioned wanting a proper bath and that he was fairly? sure? that afterwards Saphira would have retired to her room rather than come back out here and potentially picked a fight with the other girl. He really did not know much about Shashka beyond that she faced things she had problems with head on, whether she had the full picture or not, and that she and Saphira did not get on well. Saphira had even told him that she had broken Shashka's nose when they first met. So, if there was even a slight chance that he would need to intervene, he should stay. At least until either Saphira or Shashka went to bed, even if that meant waiting up for Saphira to finish her turn in the bath room, should Shashka remain to chat with the twins.

Keeping his feelings to himself, rather than answer directly he sat down on a smaller couch with a crocheted blanket over the back and waited.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 1:12 am



So... they were all back together. And then they were somehow in the mayor's own house. That was not what she expected. She was expecting to relax in a nice inn, where she could finally be with her own private thoughts, in her own room and in her own bath. Instead she was surrounded by all these people, more than she had agreed to. However, they turned out to be... nice and less nosy than she would have expected, and before long she had lowered her guard and relaxed into the homey atmosphere. Dinner was... way more conversation-y and warm than any dinner had ever been in her lavish, yet cold house, and it was a jarring experience. Who talked this much while eating? Not her parents, that was for sure.

Seeing everyone exchanging smiles and laughter and so much warmth filling the house... it was noisy, sure, but was that what it felt like to be... a real family? There was so much love in the eyes of these people, so much comfort, and gentle teasing, and closeness that seemed only foreign to her. Nobody was concerned about manners or which fork to use for which meal or what noises and posture were appropriate for the dinner table. The only thing she and her parents had ever talked about at dinner was business and the achievements and progresses they had made throughout the day. It was more like... a briefing session, really.

Cleaning up after herself was new, but not too terribly hard with how many people were involved. It wasn't even unpleasant.

She was still dazed when everyone left, half disappointed that she didn't get to enjoy the bath first, and then suddenly there were just them and the two kids, one of whom had definitely winked at her earlier. He was inviting them for... something, and Saphira wanted to wait to go to bed until she could have that bath, anyway, so she might as well take him up on it.

"What do you do for fun around here?" she asked, challenging him to entertain them.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 6:01 am

"For fun around here?" Kedron repeated incredulously, sitting up in his seat to slap the armrests, "Shoot, Saphira, didn't see enough of that earlier today?

"Maybe she's lookin' for a different kind of fun, Ked," Lina, "Bein' a star catcher 'n all, she probably wants a little more adrenaline than pie-eatin' contests and mud wrestlin'." She leaned closer, clasping her hands with interest, "You thinkin' rodeo stunts or something a little less lawful, Saphira?" She asked with a dangerous, heady tone. 

"Now don't go temptin' 'em into trouble," Kedron cautioned, though more for show than concern, "Star catcher title's not a get-outta-trouble free card." 

They eyed them playfully, waiting to see the reaction before continuing one way or another.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 6:19 am



She watched the two with amusement, already forming a profile in her head about them. It was obvious that these two could be trouble, but they were interesting, and she made it a point to always figure out interesting people and what made them tick.

"Well, something tells me pie eating contests and games of cards or horseshoes aren't what you two call fun, exactly. That's kind of boring, isn't it? You seem like more... exciting people. What do you do when the adults have all gone to bed?"

Did they have an illicit rodeo or something? She wasn't interested in breaking the law, exactly, but she still wanted to know the options.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 9:21 am

Kedron blew out his breath exaggeratedly, "Saphira, I love me some horseshoes - you did phenomenally earlier today, by the by," he winked, continuing in a playful accusatory drawl, "I just dont believe you think of us as ne'er do-wells.

"'Sides," Lina cut in, "We can't exactly show you with Mickey and the rest outside."

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 10:45 am



Kitty felt nervous listening to these strangers talk about... something "less lawful". She had chosen the path of Star Catcher, but that didn't mean she wanted to be a criminal... and that train of thought only brought her back to Tumbrell and all that they had been through just before it. That couldn't be the sort of thing these two wholesome-seeming young people were talking about, right? Not when they were children of a Mayor who had been so very kind and accommodating to not only her but all the other Star Catchers, and when they lived in this cozy and comfortable home. They had no need to do anything... bad, right?

She pulled one of the many crocheted throws on the sofa a bit closer, squeezing the material in the fingers of one hand while she listened to Saphira engage with them, wondering what would be said next.
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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 5:03 pm



Things almost felt normal in a way that felt very much not normal at all. Joining the Mayor and her family for dinner wasn't such a strange thing, considering every family had all other families over for dinner every once in a while back in Lorham. Still, Cassandra found herself glancing to Leon, wondering how he felt about all of this. He'd been very adamant about their involvement at the Inn back in Tembrell, what was different this time around? Perhaps the rank of his position allowed him to indulge in small things like this. Royalty was treated differently than those of lower ranks, after all.

During dinner, Cassandra was swept up in the conversation, listening and memorizing all of the details lovingly given by this kind family. She felt warm and full and entirely at ease. It almost felt like a night back home, so easy it was to forget that she'd soon be on the road again. Not that she minded that fare, either. It was, in fact, a large part of the reason why she'd taken up this journey to begin with, but there was a certain specialness that came with the warmth of homely comforts, friendly faces, and hot well-cooked food.

It felt good, too, to know that they were all a group once more. A true traveling party, working together for a common goal. They'd had their rough-goings—just as all true stories did—but that made their reunion all the sweeter. She kept looking to Leon and Saphira throughout the night, almost as if to remind herself that they truly were here with them all again. Cassandra also found herself looking in Kitty's direction more than normal, but that was for a different reason altogether.

With everything so new and full of stories around her, Cassandra wasn't ready for sleep at all after dinner finished—not even with the promise of a nice bath beforehand—so when Kedron and Lina invited them to "visit", she found herself a seat in the room, all smiles. She had a book in her hand, having yet to find a chance to read since she left home, but with exciting prospects all around her, it seemed the book would have to wait again. Luckily, she didn't mind much.

The conversation between Saphira and the twins almost felt like watching some sort of sporting match, one where both sides were still in the process of feeling the other out before making the final move. If she were a betting sort, Cassandra would have put her non-existent money on Saphira coming out as the victor. Through the conversation, Cassandra kept her eyes focused mostly on Saphira and Kedron, as the wink from Lina earlier left her feeling more flustered than she knew how to deal with.

Difficult now that Lina was the last to speak, but Cassandra smiled easily at her. "So what can you show us, then? The night's still early." She hesitated, remembering a past comment. "But nothing unlawful. Your family has been incredibly kind to us tonight. I have no interest in doing something that would cause any trouble towards them."

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   22nd October 2018, 7:57 pm

Those Handsome Twins wrote:
The twins caught each other's eye and grinned before Kedron dramatically slumped back into his chair and Lina stood up and resettled herself beside Cassandra. Close beside Cassandra. "Cassie - " she said, hands clasped and at her knees, and then laughed once, looking over her shoulder at the other girl, "You don't mind if I call ya 'Cassie,' do ya? 'Cassandra''s a beautiful name, and beautiful things make me all nervous, see?" she said, leaning in to tap Cassandra with her shoulder and continuing before the other had a chance to respond, "So ya see, Cassie, that's where we're in a bit of a pickle; we're more outside kinda critters, and while this is a fine night for it, we won't get two feet out the door with all them out there." She looked out the window wistfully, then back into the cozy room, "Knittin' and bakin' and all that is fine and all, but not exactly what I'd call fun, so I'm at a bit of a loss for suggestions. I mean," she paused, blue eyes fixed on the ceiling contemplatively, "We could play cards -"

"We will not play cards," Kedron quickly countered before pushing himself up out of his armchair and sitting down between Saphira and Kitty, his baby blue eyes looking at the taller girl appealingly, though there was amusement right behind the plea. "You all just saw a cards tournament, tell her you don't wanna play. And you've got nothin' to bet with and it's no fun without bettin, right Saphira?" As though she had already agreed, he turned in the seat, like he and she were a team, and squared himself off against Lina and Cassandra.

"He's only sayin' that cause last time we played with friends he lost the shirt right off his back," Lina replied with a secret-sharing grin, holding up a finger for each article of clothing as she went, "And his hat, and his boots, and his pants--"

"Now why would you - " Kedron gaped, his mouth open and arms up in a shrug as Lina listed everything he had lost in the last game, but when she got to pants he cut back in, "Now I kept the undergarments and those are the ones that count."

"Undergarments and suspenders," Lina amended quickly with a snicker, leaning against Cassandra again as she commented, "He looked a right fool havin' to ride home in that."

"I would'na had to if I had a sister with a heart," Kedron shot back, leaning back into the back cushion of the couch, his arms on either side, totally inadvertently putting his arms right behind Saphira and Kitty. He turned his long-suffering expression to Kitty, "You got siblings, Kitty? Any as mean as to leave you high and dry, practically naked in the first snow of winter for the simple act of not being able to get rid of the old maid?"

Lina rolled her eyes, "He was practically givin' all the other cards away to the first pretty face to bat a lash at 'im. Can you believe that bellyacher?" she said, though Kedron seemed to ignore her as he honestly waited on Kitty's response, though the hand behind Saphira seemed to inch just a little bit closer to her shoulder. Smiling at Cassandra, Lina continued, "If you wanna hear heartless, we were playin' manhunt in the fields one night and me 'n Tammy Brown thought it'd be a good idea to camouflage ourselves with some mud so as not to be seen, see? So what does that lout do first chance he gets? He's it, an' rather than catch us like normal he throws a cow pattie at us, claimin' he couldn't see nothin' and we ran off screamin' til we fell back into the mudhole, arms everywhere, tripping over each other and fallin' back into the mud tryna' get away, gettin' mud everywhere, only to find out it weren't cow patties but just a regular mud balls, and then he still had the audacity to tag us and make us it the next round. We tried to wipe it off each other but it was just everywhere so it did us little good. Surely if you got brothers they ain't as mean as all that.

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   23rd October 2018, 2:38 am



She smiled at the compliment, but resisted the urge to roll her eyes as Kedron said that they were definitely not troublemakers. It was true that they were unfortunately confined to the house, and they had to leave early the next morning. She hadn't had a fun all-nighter in a while.

Her eyes followed each twin, watching in amusement as one of them obviously tried to seduce Cassandra, excited to see the reaction from the girl who probably had never been flirted with before.

As the boy settled between her and Kitty, she nodded wholeheartedly, agreeing with him. "A card game without bets is certainly not as fun. I had to withdraw from the tournament, and I am still a bit sad about missing that luxurious inn experience. I could really use some pampering tonight..." Her hand casually moved to his thigh and rested there, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. As Lina recounted the story of how he lost almost all the clothes he had been wearing, she raised an eyebrow at him, her eyes sparkling with interest. She had heard of card games that bet on clothes before...

Seemed like she could easily beat him if she played him at his own game. They wanted seductive? She could be seductive right back. And she was interested on what they would do if she one-upped the game.

Listening to the other stories made her laugh, and at the same time a strange ache of hollowness throbbed in her heart. She had never had such stories. And she never would.

"Unfortunately - or perhaps, fortunately, based on your stories - I have no siblings, so I have never had as much... fun as that. You two seem close, though. Surely it's not all bad. Surely you have helped each other out of sticky situations too, ones you would otherwise have trouble with if you didn't have one another." She leaned casually into the hand behind her, so that her shoulder was firmly touching Kedron's hand, as she batted her eyelashes at him. "Right? Maybe you've even helped each other with... romantic troubles."

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PostSubject: Re: [HC Event] Star Catchers   23rd October 2018, 10:59 am


Their act wasn't amusing. Something a little less lawful? Like they'd try. Still, rather than cutting it Saphira encouraged it, prompting "Ked" to lean into it harder, "by the by" dropping that he'd been at the horseshoe competition to have seen Saphira's win, which meant he had seen his embarrassing loss. Great. The girl quickly pointed out that they couldn't do anything "unlawful" with her brothers outside - convenient - prompting the conversation turn to indoor activities, Cassandra thankfully attempting to steer them away from purposefully causing trouble with a caveat. That, however, just made Cassandra a target - he mentally noted to never call her "Cassie" unless expressly invited to do so - and things just continued to get better from there. The cowboy reseated himself between Saphira and Kitty - even though that couch hadn't been altogether big to begin with - and tried to team up with her against his sister's idea -

Did he have to keep saying her name?!

But rather than join him in his assurances, Saphira admitted her regret at having missed out on the chance at the luxury room. A chance she missed out on because of him. The general pressurized feeling of annoyance that he had been dealing with deflated a little for that, but when she mentioned wanting to be pampered and moved her hand to his thigh the emotion twisted and expanded again. He clenched his jaw but otherwise held fast to a neutral expression, and while staring off without focus he was still able to see her interest in the story about how Kedron had lost all his clothes. 

What was he even doing here?!

She could take care of herself - they all could - they had taken this trial on themselves, they didn't need him to stay here and deal with this. They were all adults, they could make their own decisions. And if she and Shashka ended up at each others throats then fine, they could deal with it themselves. Or maybe Kedron could intervene. In any case it wasn't his problem. 

Lina had stopped talking and Saphira had started and leaned back into Kedron's arm in the process. She brought up siblings and romantic troubles as she batted her lashes at him. Stomach twisting uncomfortably, he stood and left.

Quote :
"Where ya goin' Prince?" Lina called out after him, though her attention was still on Cassandra.
"Bed." William answered, the lack of formal title suddenly grating against him. His hand already on the banister, he ascended the stairs as the girl called after him -
Quote :
"Need help findin' your way?" Lina continued, raising her eyebrow suggestively in a playful manner for the benefit of the trio still in the great room, but her answer came in the sound of a firmly closed door rather than anything vocalized. She chuffed with pleasure at her play. "Poor thing's repressed!"

Kedron held more firmly to Saphira's shoulder, pulling her towards him slightly and flashing her one of his more charming smiles. "Sure it's not all that bad," he said, "She's a stinker, that's fer sure, but she's been there for me when I needed help. Or she's needed help apologizin'."


"He's kiddin'," Lina waved off, apparently content to wait for Cassandra's answer about her family. 

"So siblin's ain't so bad; you got any, Kitty?" he asked again, giving the smaller girl another chance to get back in on the conversation.

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