After the engagement in Vanished Point and spending some time in Megs Mechworks, Ardul had retired to her lodgings after extending an invitation to Hunter to join her for a meal. Warriors have to eat after all, and they’d been busy today. And she owes him.
Located on one of the higher floors in one of the Sarens Rest lodging houses, the winged womans room has a balcony, where she plans to eat … but it also makes for a convenient entrance point for herself. Wings come in handy sometimes.
Her guest though will have to take the elevator or stairs.Fortunately the elevator here works. That’s not the case in all of Saren’s Rests’ higher buildings. So it is on the thirty eighth floor Hunter steps off the lift having changed from his jumpsuit and cooling vest to more casual shirt, vest and trousers. It’s cool and getting cooler by the day in Vanished Point but so far he hasn’t had the need for too much additional layering here. On the Mainland it’s another story.
When Hunter knocks the door, it opens and Arduls voice calls out “Come in, Hunter. I’m on the balcony.”
As the wolfen makes his way through the room, he’ll note her armour stood up in the corner, gleaming again. Her energy rifle propped next to it. The winged woman seems to take excellent care of the suit and weapons – perhaps more than she does for anything else.
On the balcony, she’s got her back to him and is dressed in a pair of loose trousers and flowing top, her blonde hair piled on the top of her head in an artful knot. Above the neckline of the top, several thick scars are visible … disappearing down her back and over her shoulders.
“You found the place without issue, then?”“Took me a little bit but not too many problems, yes.” Hunter had been told just to bring himself, which is fine. Any food he might have procured would have been from the local establishments and the local booze is…
… strong. And not particularly…
Well it’s just strong.
“I appreciate the offer of dinner.” The wolfen looks about. It’s not a bad place. Intact too. With all the furnishings. The people who had lived here vanished along with the rest of the populace. “Nice place.”
“Well that’s good.” The blonde glances up at Hunter and casts him a faint smile. “Drink? It’s just local stuff, though I’m led to believe it’s a little better than the standard. I hope so, at least, I paid a pretty fee.” On the table next to her, is a bottle of vintage scotch. It’s intact and clearly been found in a stash somewhere.
… It’ll be a toss up as to whether it’s kept or turned…
Glancing around the apartment, she nods slowly “It’s a step up on my last accomodations, that’s for sure. They were … considerably … more cramped.” A scent wafts out from the apartment. Hunter will recognise the distinctive scent of stegosaurus roast and hint of spices and herbs.She paid for it? Well that might explain why this place seems relatively… secure. Someone is probably watching the front door. Not that he saw anyone but hey, doesn’t mean there wasn’t.
Or someone took her for a ride. Most people squat in the residences here and maintain possession of them by mauling anyone who disagrees but he’s not going to mention that just at the moment…
“Mind if I have a seat?” He’s been on his feet quite a bit lately… and in his bot quite a bit too. “Food smells good. I didn’t know you cooked.”
She’d paid for the scotch, not the lodgings. But it’s possible she’s got someone watching the place. Or it’s possible she’s already beaten someone to a pulp for disagreeing with her.
“Take a seat … of course.” There’s chairs on the balcony or lounge chairs inside. She lets him make the choice as she sets out two tumblers.
Glass tumblers, preserved but chipped. They didn’t fair so well when the city disappeared.
As she pours the amber liquid into the glasses, she’s silent, watching the wolfen as much as she watches what she’s doing. From this angle, scars are still visible, tracing her collarbone. These are not the marks of battle. These are something more.
“It does smell good…” she breathes in deeply through her nose “… and I like cooking. I used to sneak into the palace kitchen and cook for Princess Nina and myself. Cook would always be rather miffed.”
Once Hunter is seated, she hands over the glass. “Don’t know what it’s like.”The wolfen takes the drink, swirls it around the glass a couple of times and takes a sip. Good scotch. Twelve year, tastes like. Hard to find these days since there aren’t that many places dedicated to making it and caches of old booze aren’t really that common.
“I think you may have mentioned that name once before. Nina. Back on your world, I take it?” He doesn’t know much of her story. She hasn’t told him.
It’s possible Ardul had mentioned the name to Hunter. They’d spoken on a number of occassions since she arrived in this dimension. Though she hadn’t said much about her history.
Grey eyes watch as he tastes the Scotch, a slight exhalation of relief and her wings flex slightly as it seems to be alright “Yes …” she says quietly, folding her hands in her lap, holding her tumbler there “… the crown princess of Iyesgarth. My charge and … my friend.”
Her eyes seem to loose focus as she looks into the middle distance, her wings flex once again in an unsettled way “She was with me, when the portal opened. The last I saw of her when I got sucked through was her fleeing to find safety.”
It’s possible the winged warrior sacrificed herself to save the Princess. But if there’s one thing Hunter can be sure of – Ardul is distressed by the memory, even if she’s maintaining a mostly stoic mein.Hunter swirls the drink around and takes another sip before setting the glass down. There hadn’t been anyone left when Ardul had come through her rift so she was most definitively on Iyesgarth or wherever she was going. The wolfen is unclear on that point but it hardly matters. Ardul isn’t with her and she isn’t there to safegard her, possibly what’s eating at her.
“You’re concerned. That she didn’t make it or that she did and she’s on her own now.”
Wetting her lips, Ardul looks at the liquid in her glass before taking a sip. Hunter would be forgiven for thinking she was stalling, because she totally is even if it’s just to gather her thoughts.
Raising her eyes to meet his, the blonde nods slowly “I’m concerned, yes. Concerned that they caught her and carried out our sentence … that I failed her and our people. I was supposed to get her to safety with our allies.”“I’m going to guess that the sentence was death.” Palace revolutions of this sort are rarely bloodless. To prevent a challenge to the new ruler, the old bloodlines often have to be purged. It’s especially nasty when the two bloodlines are related. “You can hardly be blamed for that Ardul. It’s not like anyone could have predicted a rift opening, nor you falling into it.”
“It was … is.” Ardul shakes her head “Both of us… Death by beheading, as befits Royalty.” That’s something she hasn’t mentioned. Her own standing within the Iyesgarth court. Nor has she spoken on what happened. She’s not spoken much of herself at all.
“I blame myself, Hunter. It was my duty to see to her safety and I failed. We were taken to begin with and … held.” She shudders at those words, a hand tracing one of the scars on her collarbone. “It was sheer luck that I was able to get us clear when they moved us … and whilst the rift was an unexpected, her safety is all that mattered. Now her Uncle will take the throne.”“Whether he will or not there isn’t much you can do about it from here, I’m afraid.” Hunter points out. To affect the situation she’d have to get back home and to do that she’d need to find someone who knew where ‘home’ was. From the sounds of things that’d be a tall order. The multiverse is a big, big place.
“I’m sorry to hear that though.” He doesn’t say she needs to forget it, but it’s clearly not doing her any good fretting on it.
“I know that.” Ardul says in a resigned sort of way, rising and starting to pace. Taking a sip of her whiskey, she pauses at the balconey again, looking out to the ‘city’. “And it doesn’t look like I’m going to get back there in a hurry.” Even if she could find someone to open a rift – and the location is only part of the difficulty there. It’s likely her people have put safeguards in place – to warn, and possibly act, against a portal opening.
Ardul wouldn’t know where a rift, if one could be opened, would drop her.
The smell from the kitchen wafts through again, tantalising and enticing.
The blonde looks back to the wolfen “You’re taking the news that I was sentenced to death rather … calmly.”“You came through a rift with people on the other side shooting at you. I didn’t exactly think you’d gone with a fond sendoff.” Hunter points out. He can smell rosemary. Thyme. Perhaps some parsley and sage? It’s a good combination. Brings back old memories of home, spicing up game birds in the same way.
“I think the food is about done.” He says rather quietly.
Ardul doesn’t really know the herbs and spices she used on the meal, but his nose is good – those are what she used. They smelt … right. She’d likely be amused that there was a song a few centuries before that spoke about that exact mix.
“Being shot at for a misdemeanour and being sentenced to death are rather different.” She responds, turning in the direction of the kitchen and lifting her nose. “Mmmmm, it seems that way… Would you care to carve? It’s part of Guesthonours in my House.” The capitilisation of the H is audible. “I found a knife that should do the trick in the kitchen …”“Of course.” The wolfen rises and Hunter has a fleeting moment of hoping that the knife isn’t a vibro knife or something. Fortunately it isn’t and shortly there are nice tender slabs of meet on a cutting board for transfer to plate. If it smelled good coming from the oven it definitely smells good now.
As Hunter serves the meat, Ardul pulls the vegetables from the oven and the stove top. She seems to be quite at home with using them. That’s something. It’s an interesting range that she’s found, tubers (like potatoes), beans and sprouts. It’s not long before the meal is laid out, along with cutlery that survived whatever happened to the city
Hunters lack of questions about her background is slightly refreshing, allowing the winged woman to relax a little. That doesn’t mean she’s not curious about him. “What of you, Hunter? You seem to be part of a unit… your combat gear has a patch, does is not?” She means the Northern Gun patch.“Mmmmm? Oh. I used to be a test demonstrator for Northern Gun out west. Waaaaay west.” Colorodo way. “Northern Gun makes a lot of weaponry and equipment. And the gunwolf that I pilot, actually.”
Hunter sits down and takes a few bites. It’s quite good this. “I worked for them until recently… let’s just say that a change in policy led us both to think that it might be a good idea for us to part ways.” There’s a story there clearly. “They let me keep the bot though. It was… slightly used anyway.”
“Northern Gun.” Ardul repeats as she eats as well, watching him solemnly as she does. She’s no idea what a test demonstrator is, but that’s secondary at the moment. “Did the change in policy have something to do with the Bot? You seem, attached, to it.” If there is a story, she’d like to hear it.
Taking another bite of her food, she savours it for the moment “Not quite as good as I could do back home but this isn’t a palace kitchen, either.”“Mmmm. More to do with politics.” Hunter says. “The powers that be signed a treaty with the Coalition States. They don’t like D-Bees like me, so I was very quietly ‘let go’.” It speaks to the relationship he had with his former employer that he was ‘let go’ with a multi-million credit bot in his possession.
But hey, a wolfen has to make a living somehow.
“It’s quite good, Ardul. And there aren’t many palace kitchens around here. Except in Dogwood.”
For the length of time she’s been here, Ardul has learned quickly. Hard not to really. But there are still some things that elude her. “Ahhh, that makes sense. Though I’m not sure I understand the dislike of D-Bee’s in general. These Coalition States, seem to be a major concern for anyone who isn’t human? Or is it somethig more than that?” She continues eating as they talk, though it’s much slower … “I confess that I’m still working the politics out of this dimension out. There seems to be a lot.”
Smirking slightly at the wolfen, the winged woman shakes her head “From what I’ve seen… down there … there aren’t many kitchens at all. Palace or otherwise. Maybe I’ll keep this place. If I stay in Sarens Rest that is.”“There are in any dimension, from what I hear.” Hunter says as he heats slowly, watching the winged woman accross the table. “This place isn’t bad. Power. Water. Furniture. No holes in the wall which is more than I can say for some places. So long as you can afford to eat Saren’s Rest isn’t a bad place to stay.”
Ardul snorts softly, eating just as slowly “Yes, you’re right. Back home … well, my plight is a direct result of politics. A game I didn’t play quite well enough.” She can’t help but seem a little bitter at that. It wasn’t a game and she knows it.
“This place is in excellent. Everything else I looked at … was really quite bad. It took some time to find it, though. Good things I have my wings. Gives me a small advantage I think.”
Still, it’s not all that secure and she needs to consider that.
“I might stay in Sarens Rest for a bit. There’s work that I can do, at least. What about you? I didn’t expect to see you here, to be honest.”“I go where the work is. I should be back on the mainland soon. There’s where I ply my trade the most. The work’s steady and less hard on the equipment. It’s not as well paying… but the repair bills aren’t quite so large either.” And he can always count on getting paid, something that’s a bit more chancy here in Vanished Point.
“If you’re here I imagine I’ll be seeing more of you though.” The wolfen takes a few more bites and pushes his plate back. “That was delicious.”
“That seems to be flavour of things here.” Ardul murmurs “People going where the work is. Not putting down roots, really.” Perhaps she hasn’t seen enough of this dimension.
Grey eyes rise to meet his as she finishes what’s on her plate, drawing his towards her and stacking them. For someone who has such a close connection to a crown Princess, the winged woman has an interesting range of skills. “I’m glad you liked it.” the smile that accompanies is sunny. She doesn’t smile often, Hunter might have noted this. “I might like that. To see more of you. I’ve enjoyed each time we’ve together.” So they’ll see.
“Shall we watch the lights of the city on the balcony? Or do you have somewhere to be?”
The plates … will wait for a bit.“Nowhere in particular and I wouldn’t mind a little bit of a relaxing view before I get some rest.” He’ll be sleeping in Saren’s Rest tonight. The ferry service won’t resume until the morning. “Perhaps a bit more of something to drink too.”
What? It’s good scotch.
It’s a big apartment that Ardul has staked out and there’s spare room “Lights it is then … ” she says, leading them back to the balcony, snagging the scotch bottle and tumblers on her way.
It is good scotch. She’ll be hunting down more later.