Confrontations and Surprises

The redhead at the top of the waterfall spins around swiftly, raising her pistol to threaten the scorpion-spider-shark beast, but not as swift as someone else: an arrow swooshes past first, strikes the beast, and the fiery explosion that follows rips a massive hole in the armour plating that covers it, and the concussion wave sweeps the redhead off her feet! The redhead triggers her pistol as she falls over the waterfall and swift light burns forth, striking the beast also, blinding perhaps all of the eyes on the head of the beast, even as it opens a toothy maw to roar in pain and fury!

The falling redhead plunges into the pool of water below the waterfall and vanishes from sight. The beast gathers itself as though to leap down…

The water is warm as Aurora falls into it, and the pool is deep, but the communications linkage with the Ghostwheel has terminated abruptly.

She flounders a moment before righting herself and looks wildly around for her attacker. But she wasn't foolish enough to hang around and look for it. A thought spell for direction and she kicks for the surface, angling for the shore.

The man in the silvered armour has charged forth from cover as the swimming redhead breaches the surface of the pool below the waterfall, firing a second arrow from his bow at the hole in the armour of the beast! Another, smaller, explosion of fire occurs! The beast roars again, but this time in agony, and does not leap down, instead swiftly retreating from sight! Then the man in the silvered armour discards his bow and races toward the water as the redhead swims toward the shore…

The redhead flips over and dog paddles to make sure the thing isn't still coming after her.

"Merde!" she curses in French. "Most places would have feral cats, but noooo, not Mandorways."

Once the man in the armor sees that the woman is coming safely ashore, his pale eyes narrow, before he turns on his heel to retrieve his bow. From there, he turns around to watch the woman, leaning slightly on the bow. His face is impassive, but his gaze remains intense and alert.

There is no further roar of anger or agony from the beast, which has withdrawn from the battlefield, for parts unknown. The waters of the waterfall continue flowing over the rocks, and the pool steams gently, for it is hotter than it should be. Yet there is no scent of sulfur. The fronds of black-and-green that crest above the lip of the waterfall above both the redhead and the man in the silver armour part delicately, a feline leopard-face peers out, eyeing both of the humans. There is no sign of the silver sphere.

The redhead spots the feline face before she does anything else. "Avarya!" she calls out. "Find Ghostwheel!"

Flipping back over, the petite woman in black and purple finishes the swim towards shore. It is as she looks up to check the nearness of it that she finally spots the man in armor. The sunlight behind him keeps her from getting a good look at him as she stands to wade the rest of the way out.

"That was you with the exploding arrows?" she ask as she moves forward, water dripping off of her and making an already form fitting cat suit even more so. "Thanks. That is the second big ugly we've encountered since we got here." She pulls her soggy braid over her shoulder and squeezes the water out. "Though I'm curious how it is that you did not show on our initial scans."


The armored man looks up slightly at the feline face peering at him from above. His expression remains neutral, but rather than lean on his bow, he holds it properly in his left hand. His eyes return to the redhead, his flinty sky blue gaze following the woman's lines, and exploring her face as she squeezes the water from her hair. He takes a breath, but does not move any closer. "Yes. I did not know they exploded when I fired." The voice was deep, a baritone, and the words were carefully spoken and imparted with the same tone one might use to report something as mundane as the arrival of mail. There is a moment of silence after the redhead makes her statement of curiosity, before the armored man speaks again, thought this time there is an edge to his tone that may or may not be intentional. "Why are you wearing that form? that face?"

She stops at the edge of the shore with a confused expression. "Because this is the only one I have? What kind of question is that?"

The woman is almost a good foot shorter then he is now that she is out of the water. She has continued dealing with her hair, loosening it from its braid and finger combing out the wet ringlets that are going to be a nest of curls when dried. Green eyes watch him, study him. There is something about him that clearly confuses her, something that deepens the confusion in her eyes when he speaks. She knows without being told he could be a dangerous man; it's in the way he stands, the way he holds his bow…

There is something about the way he holds his bow. She takes another step onto the shore and her breath catches as she finally gets a good look at his face.

The archer straightens at her answer, and with a gaze like twin blue laser beams, surveys the red-haired woman once again. "This is Chaos. The people here can wear many forms." He words have the same dangerous edge, "How you came to know about that form, I can only guess, but I do no appreciate being toyed with in this manner." He half-turns away, and then stops when the redhead gasps. He looks at her for a another long moment, and then shakes his head. "I am leaving this place. Do not try to stop me."

He hears her finally move behind him. "Wait," she says uncertainly. There is a desperate edge in her voice. "Please. Who are you?"

The armored man stops, and turns around, "You do not know? I find that difficult to believe, considering the skin that you are in." His right hand flexes, "I do not believe in coincidence." He regards her, his eyes icy cold. The eyes of a predator considering how best to take down his prey. "I am Prince Julian of Amber, Warder of Arden."

She just looks bewildered at his reply. "I don't understand," she says in confusion. She turns, looking around as if for some assistance, some answers. Then she looks back at him, biting her lower lip thoughtfully as she studies him again.

Green eyes narrow after a moment. "That is not funny."

The archer shrugs elegantly, "That makes two of us then." He considers her expression, the way she bits her lip, and the way her lovely green eyes narrow, and turns away again. Quietly he replies to her final statement, his tone, though subtle, is one of regret. "I do not think this is funny either. If this is your true form, it is — unfortunate. He takes a few steps away, and adds. "You remind me of my First Wife."

She becomes almost unnaturally still. Then there is a faint rattle of small metallic objects against each other; like a necklace with several pieces. He hears her walking towards him a few paces then stop and draw a breath.

"Inis vitae sed non amoris."

Julian stops in his tracks, and straightens from a stalking posture he had assumed out of instinct. He does no turn around, but becomes almost unnaturally still for a long moment. Suddenly, he spins on his heel and marches back towards the woman, his eyes like pale fire. "How do you know that?" Julian demands, his controlled voice remains clear, but the hard edge of anger and surprise is much easier to discern. "Who are you?"


She has her finger through a narrow silver band hanging from the chain around her neck. A crystal and silver pentagram dangle free as she holds the ring up between them as if to ward off his anger. She is pale and very obviously bewildered by his reaction to the statement that had been the last thing the love of her life had said to her before he rode to his doom.

She looks up at him, into his eyes. Silent a long moment before she answers in a shaky voice thick with hope, confusion and a little uncertainty on how they could have possibly found themselves here in this moment.

"I am your first wife, Lord Longbow. Pour toujours et partout."

Julian sees the ring, and yet again, a feeling of shock runs through him, as the sight of this woman and and her ring summons up very old memories. Memories that Julian, Prince of Amber, had buried long ago. Then she speaks, and he drops his bow to the earth, and closes his eyes. "Aurora." He whispers her name with all the reverence due to the first woman he loved, and lost. "Please, " He swallows a lump in his throat, as blue eyes open, and some of the ice previously seen in his gaze seems to melt away.. "If this is some trick of Finndo's, some Chaotian idea of torture, stop now." Julian looks into Aurora's eyes, searching for the Wife he knew and loved. "Is it truly you, Aurora?"

She is there, under her own shock and surprise. He sees her there in the green eyes swimming with tears as she lets the necklace and ring fall back against her chest; as she takes two steps closer. "I am Aurora, Countess of Huntingdon; wife of Julian Longbow, Earl of Huntingdon. Though 'wife of Julian' was the only part of that that ever mattered to me."

"Mon Julian," she whispered, and the accent caressed his name and made it more.

Julian stands very still, centuries of reflexive suspicion and affected detachment melting away from his eyes and his previously impassive expression. There is something close to pain behind his gaze, and his empty hands rise, as if to touch Aurora, and then fall back to his sides. When she identifies herself, her words force this Prince of Amber to take a step back, and take a deep breath shaking his head slightly. "But you can't be her." He protests softly, but when she speaks his name, in that particular, intimate way, he moves closer again, as if tugged towards her by an invisible strand. "Goddess, Aurora — how is this possible?"

"I don't understand!" she cried. "I thought — You left and I felt our connection break!" Her hands raked back through her hair, leaving it dry as her hands passed through it. "How did we not know?" The full weight of all those miserable years without him hit her and pulled a sob from her. "They even told me after we woke up about a Julian, Warder of Arden, but it never occurred to me it was you. My Julian was mortal! Lost to me in a thrice damned Crusade!" She groans. "Oh, gods, Julian…"

Julian stops the flood of questions, despite his thoughts running parallel to hers. His hands finally touch her, gripping her shoulders and tugging her to him, before he wraps her in his arms, and lifts her up from the earth. He kisses her like he did all those centuries ago when they claimed each other surrounded by stars and moonlight. He kisses her like he would have kissed her had he ever made the journey home. Julian kisses her like he has wanted to kiss her for centuries, like he wanted to when every leaf and breeze reminded him of his loss. There is nothing held back, no reservation, and it is not a short kiss.

Aurora makes a small sound of surprise that turns into something decidedly different as he kisses her. Her arms go around him, her hands bury themselves in his hair. She melts into it like she always did. Kisses him with all the love and desire she did in that tower, in that bower, in countless other times and places, when they said goodbye, and how she had wanted to kiss him again every night she woke up and reached for him when he wasn't there. Her legs wrap around him as if the armor wasn't there. She forgets everything else. The universe condenses to only two even after the kiss eventually breaks.

Her forehead rests against his, a hand caresses his face as if to reassure her of the realness of the moment. Of him. "I have never stopped loving you," she whispers.

When the kiss breaks, Julian makes no move to put her down. He holds her close, supporting her just as he would have so many years ago. One hand unconsciously smooths over her tightly sheathed thigh, even as he kisses her lightly once more, sighing softly after tasting her lips again. "I told you that you were mine. Inis vitae sed non amoris." His hand rises to slip into her hair, his thumb stroking her cheek. "That has always been true." Julian kissed her lightly one more time. "My Wife. I have missed you."

TOCReunions and Confessions

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