Description: Amandine von Karnstein has found herself betrothed to the handsome and strapping Baron von Podiebrad, her boring life swept away into the endless parade of passions and pleasures that becomes the favored of the Baron. But it seems that nothing compliments a thick piece of steak than a light salad, especially one dressed with the sweet juice of the forbidden fruit. The scullery maid Zsa Zsa has found herself obsessing over the beautiful fiance of Baron von Podiebrad, fawning and stalking her in the shadows of Castle Alucard. While Amandine had long rejected her scandalous attentions, when the young maiden is caught alone in the kitchen, having snuck away a peach from her cupboard, the lusty servant finds a way to punish the naughty Karnstein. Will Amandine be able to resist the overpowering appetite of the low-born serving girl? Or will she find herself enamored to the scent of... The Lilies of the Valley? (The cover shows Zsa Zsa and Amandine hiding behind the central island of a kitchen, having ducked just out of sight in the midsts of their passions. Amandine is on top of Zsa Zsa, seemingly having just pushed the maid down. Zsa Zsa is clutching a set of pearls around Amandine's neck, while lilies are scattered all around her. Zsa Zsa has a peach in her mouth. Sharing the same peach, Amandine is biting down on it. Both have their cheeks blushing faintly, and a chain leads from around Amandine's ankle to a bubbling crockpot on the table. Walking into the kitchen from the opposite side of the island is the silver-haired Lord Podiebrad in his leather breeches, his sweat-glistened pectorals exposed. Following him at his side is the the lavender-haired Belladonna, who is covering her face with a fan, and her eyes stare jealously out towards the open window. A black stallion is peering into the window, eating a small cherry pie sitting on the windowsill) ($2.99)
Amandine Karnstein is a noble, elegant member of a aristocratic Novus Orbis Librarium who is above the petty squabbles of the rank and file and their grueling, sweaty everyday labors that keep the NOL functioning.
Or at least she likes to think she is. The reality is that Amandine Karnstein has a big mouth and a short temper and is not particularly well liked by the administration nor is she particularly equipped for a cushy leadership position. Instead, she belongs among those "rank and file clods" like the 43th Expeditionary Unit, which is presently tasked with scouting out Castle Alucard and mapping it for clearly benign reconnaissance reasons definitely not related to a potential invasion. The fact that House Podiebrad has the NOL's attention elsewhere in the castle is also most certainly unrelated.
"What the HELL," Amandine exposits to no one in particular. Her subordinates have mostly taken to ignoring her as they tromp down a long, candelit hallway. She has, at least, taken to carrying Tantalus on her back rather than draggin the cauldron through the halls as she did initially. There is a certain lack of effort to her lugging the pot that has led the three soldiers who attempted to lift it earlier to keep their distance from her.
"Who makes HALLWAYS so LONG. SUCH A POINTLESS WASTE OF SPACE."
Belladona Shimotsuki was part of the escort party, of course.
The woman has is with black hair tied up into two buns. She is dressed in black and white, with an awful lot of lace trimming on the tops, disconnected sleeves, stockings, and skirt. Her shoulders and thighs are exposed, and there seems to be ample support in the front. Her stockings are trimmed in lace, with yellow bows tied at the top of the stockings and just above the start of the skirt. She holds a lavender fan over her face. But what was supposed to be a well balanced lady, was now rather uniform in her shape. Her waist measurements had matched her bust and hips, with a little assistance of discreet undergarments. She had been serving under Amandine for a long time now.
And she would NEVER allow poor AMANDINE to have a terrible, just horrible accident at the Castle Alucard where she would never ever be found again.
"Y-yes, Oh Lieutnant Karstein!" States the well rounded assistant, fanning herself meekly. "These hallways are far too long, and also a pointless waste of space. It's clear that that worthless Rachel Alucard completely and totally has no sense of proper interior design or decoration." The lady fan fan fans, as she turns her eyes to the soldiers. "And no thanks to these soldiers! Why haven't any of you offered to help your poor commander carry such a heavy burden on her shoulders! Really, we should have simply gotten rid of these useless soldiers, and just been you and I, Amandine." One of the soldier suddenly chokes a bit, clearing his throat as he averts his gaze. Belladonna, for her purposes, fan fan fans, leaning in closely to Amandine. "I would help you myself, but well, I hardly have the build or figure for heavy lifting-" She suddenly sniffs the air. Her eyes go wide, as she lowers her fan.
"Did you smell something?"
"I KNOW," Amandine says, "See, I KNEW I could count on you, Belladonna." Amandine says, shifting Tantalus on her back. The chains are presently wrapped around her shoulders in a sort of backpack-style setup that keeps the weight relatively easily carried. At least, it seems easy enough for Amandine to carry.
"Oh, I can't BLAME them. I mean, they at least TRIED." Amandine eyes one of the soldiers who cleared his throat. "But they just don't have the ROBUST CONSTITUTION of a TRUE KARNSTEIN!" The tiny chef puts her hands on her diminuitive hips proudly.
"WHAT? Well it wasn't ME--oh."
Amandine sniffs. "There certainly is SOMETHING isn't there?" She sticks out her tongue in disgust.
The soldiers start sniffing too.
"You do have an... incredible constitution." Belladonna strains, keeping her optimism up. Two soldiers look to each other, and nod grimly. The assistant comes over to Amandine, and gives a great big whiff. "Oh, it's certainly can't be you. It's not of sweat and rotten sardines and cheap cooking wine or -anything- of that nature. It's smells like... like... "... Ham!?"
She suddenly blurts out, mouth watering. "Or a great big pork loin roast! Doesn't it? Oh, drenched in sauce and peppered with rosemary-" She fan fan fans herself, face turning bright red. She was very, very nervous, as she eyes Tantalus. "You haven't been... cooking anything back there, have you? I mean, you know I've been trying so hard t-t-to correct my figure." Was she talking to the pot, or to Amandine? "Sorry, I really shouldn't be thinking about that, but-" She quickly glances at the soldiers.
"WHAT YOU LOOKING AT?!"
Amandine's face slowly scrunches, her eye twitches. Her teeth grind. In the moment, pressure seems to be building, like a pop coming to boil.
"EXCUSE ME," Amandine says, "but SOME of us do have to work around a KITCHEN you KNOW." Amandine stomps a foot, knocking loose dust and stone from the hallway.
"What? Really?" She sniffs several times herself. "What?" There's a moment of weakness and, big cat stalking its prey, Amandine smells it more poignantly than the scent in the air. "Oh, you WOULD like that, wouldn't you? Well, of course, if I cook anything you'll be the first to know, Belladonna dear."
"But no...there's something here." Amandine sniffs again. "But what is it...?"
Belladonna starts fanning even faster now.
"Oh ho ho! No, no, I wouldn't- I would never like that!" With the stomp, the fanning blows the dust away; though one of the tapestries was shaking more than the others. "You don't have to cook anything for me. Please!" She looks at Amandine, her eyes wide, almost begging. "Please don't, please." The soldiers look at each other again, adjusting the collar. They could see how... hungry Amandine seemed, that dominating feminine energy to the clearly more submissive Belladonna. They didn't want to say something.
But they were thinking it.
"I smell it too, ma'am." One of the soldier states, coming to the loose tapestry at the side of the hallway. He begins to jab at it with a spear. There is a snapping sound, and the tapstery falls down. "Oh! Shoot. Sorry!" He states, as he stumbles back. Behind it, it looks like it a brick wall. Which normally wouldn't be something that matters.
Except it's not brick on either sides of it.
Belladonna waddles to the wall, and gives a deep whiff. "Hmph. Obviously, it was behind there. Only a complete idiot would just touch things without carefully inspecting it first." She states, rapping her knuckles on the wall. "It looks like it has been sealed off there. Hm. How strange. And..." She places here ear against the wall. "There are sounds. It sounds like laughter, oh, it must be the party! But..." She trails off, pulling away. She was frowning.
" There is also crying...?"
Amandine looks extremely smug, in that moment. She has the air of someone who, having been challenged, has been reminded why she's the top of the herd. She is blissfully unaware of the entourage's opinions. They, in Amandine's mind, are beneath her.
Amandine cranes her neck to look at the soldier who speaks up, her massive mane shaking behind her, as luxurious as a Buick in a junkyard, but minus the smell of cigarettes.
"Well," Amandine says, trundling over. "Only ONE way to find OUT!" She cups her hand around the edge of Tantalus, hoisting the pot from her back. Her greasy fingers slide along the length of chain, pulling it taut with a rattle. She tugs, swinging it back over her head, winding up to swing the cookpot, like a flail, toward the bricked section.
"KNOCK KNOCK MOTHER F--"
Belladonna sputters something, as Amandine just -smashes- the wall.
"Eh-eu?" That is all she can muster, as left to her own devices, with many days fell away with nothing to show. The impact from Amandine shatters the brick wall. And the walls kept tumbling down in the castle that we love. Grey clouds roll over the halls, bringing darkness from within. But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you've been here before? "How am I going to be an optimist about this?" One of the soldiers states, as the clouds clear.
There is blood.
It's a feasting chambers of sort, though of a much older style. The ceilings are vaulted, not matching the architecture of the hallways. There are braizers located in the eight corners of the room, the features taking an octogonal shape. There are eight doorways on each side of the room, and a long, rectangular table in the middle of it. A massive, hulking statue sits at the end of the table. In one hand, is some kind of rake. Porcine features sneer over the table, as the fanged maw lays slack over a snout, thin eyes leering over the table. There are 8 places. Seven are stained with blood, seven silver platters are set before the statue, each cleared except for the thick red sauce clinging to it. There are eight sets of chains, with eight sets of shackles. Seven are placed in blood-stained chairs.
THe eighth is around the wrists of a sobbing, giggling woman.
She is short, red haired young lady, with all too pale skin. Freckles pepper her gaunt cheeks, a little nose above thin bloodless lips as she looks with pale eyes of no iris, just black and white. The woman is garbed in a dark crimson maid's outfit with black apron, she wears brown boots and a red headdress with black lace. A thin red scarf of silk is wrapped around her waist in a neat bow. Her dress is poofy, spread out concealing her legs below the knees. Up to the knees, the brown boots rise up. She is modestly endowed; with her bosom flat and her chest confined by the uniform and corset underneath. She is covered in blood, and other stains, as she sits there, knife and fork still in her hands, laughing, and crying, and laughing, and crying, and trembling. Endlessly tremblings. There is the smell of ham, and pork, and all kinds of feastings here. But there is nobody else. Just the lone lady, sitting there. Trapped in her shackles. She hasn't even looked up at the harrowing gazes of the soldiers, the shocked expression of Belladonna, as she lowers her fan.
She hasn't even wiped her mouth yet of the thick, black grease.
The wall, like many things in Amandine's life, meets swift destruction by the gothic lolita chef's hands. A disaster like many others before.
"DAMN IT," Amandine says to the soldier, "POSITIVE thinking in THIS unit, SOLDIER!"
Amandine's eyes follow the walls of the feasting hall. She stares at it, wordlessly, mindlessly, almost, as she takes it in. She opens her mouth, closes it. Opens it again in a gape. "Someone is into some weird sh--"
"Tsa Tsa?" Amandine mouths it, almost a whisper despite her usual volume. She coughs in the face of dust, then wipes her eyes before shuffling that direction, stopping, and adjusting the chain of Tantalus. She fluffs up her skirt, then assumes a more "refined pace."
She could not be too excited, too worried. Only composure is becoming of a lady.
And the laughter and sobs stop.
The mask of madness peels away, as Zsa Zsa gives a bright and cheerful smile! Instinctively, she flattens the hem of her skirt, smoothing out her clothing as she glows. "Amandine- I mean, Lady Karnstein!" Tears build in her eyes. "I- I- I-" She stammers, turning and trying to stand up. The chains rattle, trapping her in place. Zsa Zsa was struggling to keep her composure, her happiness overcoming her. "It's like you're an angel!" She blurts out, her airs gone, almost casual to Amandine. But as she tries to find her words, trying to control herself, Belladonna begins to darken, flapping her fan. The woman steps in front of Amandine, as the soldiers peer out behind the two. And she practically hisses out, puffing out her chest.
"What are -you- doing here?"
Belladonna stares daggers at the maid, belly popped out a bit, the buttons of the uniform strained. The maid, for her purposes, tries not to look at Belladonna, but as the woman continues to speak, she slowly turns her head towards them. "Don't get too close, soldiers. This isn't one of the minions of the Castle Alucard. It's far worse! She's one of those Podiebrads. One of those... serving wenches!" The soldiers gasp, as one nods disgustedly. "Lt. Shimotsuki warned us about them!" "I have a cousin who got impregnated by one of them!" "And she's one of their household whores?" Zsa Zsa flinches, her smile broadening as the soldier pour their disgust. But the one who looked the most forlorn shushes the other men. Belladonna sneers, as she peers from behind her fan looking sideways. "We have no reason to meddle with -those- types, Amandine. Best to leave her on her way before we catch someth-"
Zsa Zsa interrupts Belladonna, by clearing her throat very, very loudly.
As she makes a retching sound, Belladonna is startled, jolted just enough for the maid to look up at Amandine pleadingly. Her cheeks are red, but she refuses to let her smile break. "Lady Karnstein." She says softly, eyes watering slightly. "I beseech to your good nature and kindness. Can I please stay with you? Please? I-I'm kind of scared, something has- something has gonna terribly wrong, and the others are-" She looks across the table, hands trembling. "I'm all alone and I'm scared. I- I want to be around people I can trust." She folds her hands in her lap, looking down at her chains. "I need you, as a f-f-friend." She breaths hard, trembling, exposing herself. One of the soldiers looks from Zsa Zsa, to Belladonna, to Amandine. Slowly, he covers his mouth, his eyes going wide as a thought passes him. Zsa Zsa doesn't notice, as she bends over, despair struggling over her. ANd then, she straightens her back out, a thought bursting out of her.
"I- also know where there is a lot of food!"
Amandine bites her lip anxiously, nervously. Her teeth sink in like fingers digging into a cliff, desperate for a handhold, for something to keep pull out of the precipice. "What," Amandine says, blinking several times. "I mean, OF COURSE. I AM pretty DIVINE." Amandine puts her hands on her hips, chortling with her distinct noblewoman's laugh.
And then Belladonna is there. Belladonna was always there, but in that moment, Amandine had a brief reprieve, a few moments in which she could be forgotten.
"Well I NEVER," Amandine says, "the Podiebrads may be--" Amandine furrows her brow and scrunches her nose. What are the Podiebrads? "ECCENTRIC, but they are an esteemed house of the EN OH ELLE." The tiny chef shuffles on one foot, then shifts the other. Is she really thought of so poorly? Do they think of the Podiebrads like the Karnst--
She looks at Zsa Zsa. Truly looks at Zsa Zsa, for a moment, her eyes glazed slightly. She looks, but she does not fully perceive the severity of what she sees. Even so, Zsa Zsa makes her intent clear.
And, perhaps more importantly, she sweetens the deal.
"W-well, OF COURSE I am ALWAYS ready to help my ALLIES." She lefts her head haughtily in what is truly a comical gesture with Amandine's height. "And I KNOW Zsa Zsa," she huffs. "And this castle is kind of. YOU KNOW." The chef makes vague gestures. "WEIRD. So it's CLEARLY best to stick TOGETHER." She nods firmly, but then looks at Zsa Zsa. There is a bit of a smile there. A cheeky, 'That'll show them' grin. In that moment, Amandine thinks herself the most clever.
Zsa Zsa begins to smile.
It's not her mask of a smile. It's a legitimate smile, as she nods along to Amandine's brilliant defense of helping Zsa Zsa. Amandine's impish grin just made her feel... feel like a person. Like she was part of something. But that smile fades as Belladonna cuts off between Amandine and Zsa Zsa. As Belladonna turns her back to the maid, the Podiebrad's happiness deflates. "Amandine, I simply must insist that we leave this... this uncouth creature behind." Belladonna sticks her chest out, as just barely, a little bit of bust manages to extend past her tummy. "First of all, she is clearly chained in place. We can't just cut the chains; they are probably magically enchanted, if -she- can't slip out. And who knows what kind of traps or guardians we would alert if we break her out!" She turns a bit, not enough to look at Zsa Zsa, but gesture to the hideous, leering porcine statue. "Really, it's so -obvious- how much danger we would be in if we dragged her along. To say the least of her... instability." She flap flap flaps her fan. Zsa Zsa actually slumps her shoulders, looking down at her lap. "Who knows what she would do to me- to you? Or to our poor underlings..."
One of the poor underlings looks a bit excited, the soldier straightening up his back.
Belladonna folds her fan, and gives him a thwack on his head with it. "In a -bad- way, you dullard!" She scolds. She brings the back of her wrist to her hips, handing the fan as she looks back at Amandine. "So really, Amandine, a -proper- NOL officer would leave this wench behind. It would take far too long to cut those chains, put us in far too much danger, and too say the least, it would absolutely ruin the chances of this scouting expedition to be a success! It -pains- me that we have to leave that slut- that poor little maid behind." She pretends to have tears, and pretends to wipe them away in the best attempt at acting sympathetic she could muster. "But it's the right thing to do! I hope you aren't going to have your judgement changes over the promise of..." Belladonna smacks her lips, trying to keep herself from salivating.
"A little food!"
"WELL," Amandine says, "I MEAN." She looks at the chains, then she looks at Zsa Zsa. She looks at Belladonna, then she deflates slightly. "I mean..." She chews her lip, rubbing her tongue across her dark lipstick.
"WHAT! I mean, NO, OF COURSE NOT!" Amandine puffs out her lack of chest, hands on her hips proudly. She looks at Belladonna's, then frowns again. "UGH, this is SO ANNOYING. Why do they have to keep PRISONERS. Doesn't that give THEM some NEGOTIATING posture? What would the PODIEBRADS say?!" Amandine hefts Tantalus off her back, one-handed, and sets the massive cauldron down with a heavy clank and the sound of its feet against the floor as it slides slightly.
"I've got to at least INSPECT the chains, OBVIOUSLY." Amandine says, stomping that way. "I mean, this could be VALUABLE INTELLIGENCE."
"Which is something we CLEARLY need." Amandine does not seem to realize she just caught herself in the crossfire.
She paces forward, eyeing the porcine statue. Sticking her tongue out, she continues toward Zsa Zsa. "HMPH. Traps." She reaches down, lifting one of the chains and rubbing her greasy fingers around it. "Is there....you know, a lock. OR SOMETHING?"
Belladonna turns -red- as her advice is ignored.
She and the soldiers all jump as Tantalus goes down. Zsa Zsa -doesn't-, and nearly falls out of her chair. The chains keep her in place, the shackles almost jerking back to the seat. But as Amandine comes to her, she blushes bright red. She locks her knees together, averting her eyes. Yet, with Amandine's back turned, Belladonna folds her fan and -shakes- it at her. Shakes like she wants beat the woman with it. But then, she looks over at the cauldron, and with a burst of fury, she releases her temper by -slapping- the edge of the pot once with the fan.
"There was a fly." She lies passively.
Zsa Zsa, meanwhile, tries to her best to keep her composure around Amandine. The soldier notice, but are too afraid to get... anywhere where Amandine is working. Their commander was unpredictable. As Amandine lifts the chain, Zsa Zsa gasps out a small moan, the chains suddenly tightening. "Pl-please!" She exclaims. "We aren't supposed to let others play with them. If we mess with them too much, or fail the task, then the..." She looks up to the statue of the pig. Did it's face change? Was it looking at Zsa Zsa or... Amandine now? Zsa Zsa trembles, and she suddenly laughs, cackling wildly. "Then we learn our lesson! We have our trial!" She chokes her laughter in a murmur, writhing in the shackles a bit. "I don't know why it's not letting me go; I won! I won the trial! I won the challenge! But it won't let me go! I don't want to be eaten, Amandine." She suddenly states out loud.
"Can you- can't you break the chain?"
Amandine turns her head when the fan whaps against the side of Tantalus. The metal rings like a low groan, haunting in its pitch and treble. It rolls to the bones, but it passes as soon as it starts. Did anyone else hear that?
Zsa Zsa squirms and Amandine drops the chain. She looks at the statue and squints. When she turns back toward Zsa Zsa her hair whips with the movement. "Won the TRIAL?" she says, "What TRIAL?" She looks around the table again, carefully. Tromping, she turns to look at Belladonna.
"I AM listening, BELLADONNA," Amandine says, "But I'm trusting YOU ALL to watch my back as I DEAL with this THING." She looks at the chain again.
"I'm not GOING to--" Amandine blinks. "I MEAN. What do you THINK is going to EAT you, Zsa Zsa?" She looks at the statue again.
Belladonna's turns a brighter red at the groaning.
Caught, she slumps a bit. "Watching your back- well, there's not a whole lot to look at back there." She mutters bitterly, as she forces herself to -glance- at the statue. Huffing, she unfolds her fan, and flap flap flaps. Zsa Zsa giggles nervously, the maid trying and failing to get her composure back. "I got caught." She murmurs. "At least, I think so. They were all... they were all strangers." She murmurs. "Trespassers like me, I think? No, no, I was scouting for the Patriarch. I was doing this- I was doing a good thing." She rocks a bit. "This was the trial. We had to cook the most perfect dishes with what we had, and the loser would... would have to get eaten... And... and we started running out of food, and... and..." She trembles, gesturing under the table. There was a carving knife and fork under there. "And we had to... I figured out... that we could cheat... I could cheat... and then we would go... into the great big cookpot..." She trails off, shuddering. Depravities of the like that not even she seemed to have endured before.
"A cauldron...?!" Belladonna gasps.
"Oh my gosh!" She blurts out. "I think- yes! Amandine!" She interrupts, shaking the fan. "Look! Look! The statue! I think... yes! It looks just like you, Amandine!" She covers her face with a fan. "See, it has that mole under your lip." Belladonna sighs, gesturing calmly at it all of a sudden. Her eyes narrow at the pair briefly as she continues in the most syrupy sweet innocence she can muster.
"Do you think the -Karnsteins- could have their origins in this awful place?"
"What was that?" Amandine grumbles, not looking at Belladonna when she does. Amandine looks at Zsa Zsa with a sort of vacancy, a failure to grasp the full depth of what she's saying right away. She eyes the utensils, then looks at Zsa Zsa's mouth. Something seems to have clicked.
But before she can say anything, Belladonna speaks up.
"WHAT?!" Amandine, "I--NO, the KARNSTEINS, are from Romania, and before that Wallachia, not some WEIRD CASTLE IN, IN, CLOUD CUCKOO LAND!" Amandine balls her fists and stomps her foot.
But then she turns on her heel, stepping up to the porcine statue. She stares at it, getting dangerously close.
Then she steps to the side of it, standing side-by-side.
"It does NOT look like ME!"
Zsa Zsa, Belladonna, and the soldiers look at Amandine, as she stands next to it.
The soldier look at each other. Belladonna gets -such- a smug look. WHile Zsa Zsa? She looks terrified. The soldiers try very hard to describe a polite way to answer. "Well it doesn't have the.... same body shape?" One bravely declares. Zsa Zsa tries to stand up, struggling with the chains again. Another soldier nods. "Yes, and it has a different outfit too!" Belladonna scoffs out a laugh. "They even have the same pose! Except of course, it's not holding the-"
Belladonna's expression changes to horror.
The soldiers ready their swords as the statue suddenly -turns-. Chains begin to rattle from it, as its stomach turns into a great pot belly. Chains begin to lash out, as it hurls out a great 'SUEEEEEEEEEET' howling. Eyes looking down, chains rush out at Amandine, threatening to entangle her, as the statue reaches down with porcine, cloven hooves. Drool pouring from it's craggy snout and maw, as unnatural, dog-like teeth bare out in a hideous grin. Belladonna pipes up, even as a chain lashes to her leg.
"Why it even has your smile!"
"W-WHAT," Amandine says, "This ISN'T HELPING!" But then something else less helpful occurs.
"YOU!" Amandine shouts, more furious than frightened. "You're...MAKING ME LOOK BAD! YOU!" The tiny chef slams her boot down one of the chains as it tries to grab her, causing a rattling impact so fierce that spiderweb cracks dance across the floor. As the boar looms, she slams into its belly, slapping the sides as she engages in a grapple with it. Soon, the two of them are likely in what is the most mismatched sumo wrestling match ever seen.
"YOU! ASS!" Amandine digs in her heels and threatens to lift the boar entirely off the ground.
"YOU'RE making ME look like a FOOL!"
As the chains seize up the soldiers now too, it looks like it was going to have another game.
The soldier gasp and groan as they are shackled, and struggle as it pulls them to the chairs. As for the maid and the servant, Zsa Zsa and Belladonna are pulled up like little puppets to the eye level of the statue. The pig leers at them, as both dangle up and over. Zsa Zsa is quickly trying to keep her skirt up with her hands, crossing her legs in desperate defense. Belladonna, for her part, doesn't even both, letting her stockings come in full view in utter shamelessness. The pig is distracted, as the chains surge at Amandine. But when the stomp comes?
The statue suddenly looks scared.
The chain snaps like it was floss, as it recoils away like hurt snakes. The boar looks away from his girls, tongue lolled out as it looks down at Amandine. As she slams into its belly, it suddenly lets out a squeak. The grips of Amandine easily stop it dead, as it dangles the two girls on each side of it. The belly begins to crack, as the pig makes a horrible squealing sound. And it blinks. Staggering backwards, the chains around the soldiers unshackle. Which is good! But the ones around Zsa Zsa and Belladonna release too. The statue stumbles, hooves flailing as it tries to return to the head of the table.
And the pair scream as they fall down, right in the general area next to Amandine.
The attempts at decency are presently lost on Amandine, whose single-minded focus is on avenging the wrong committed against her, real or imagined. The tiny terror digs her heels into the worn stone of the castle floor, aiming to get better footing as she hefts the statue up---until the cracking starts, shackles release, and ladies fall.
"W-" Amandine looks back and forth, as if debating who to make an effort to catch. Wheels turn, the machinery of Amandine's mind slowing starting up--
Slowly being key. "GUH," Amandine protests, "TANTALUS!" she beckons, the pot suddenly lurching to life to position itself under Belladonna as she moves to catch Zsa Zsa.
Fortunately, Tantalus is not -presently- cooking at anything. Or at least it's not boiling.
"You ... YOU ... BIG PIG!" Amandine sticks out her tongue at the statue again.
That stunning retort seems to be the end of it
The Statue recoils, all the chains and like pulling away, looking -quite- ashamed of itself and avoiding looking at Amandine, the superior porcine master. Zsa Zsa herself squeaks as she is caught by Amandine, the maid always being fairly light. Belladonna, for her purposes, falls into Tantalus with a garbled splash, and does not come up just yet. As the status returns back to its static state, the soldier still shoot some feeble jolts of magical bolts at it. As one pokes it a bit, it seems that the encounter has ended in Amandine's failure. Legs hooked up, and arms instinctively up and over Amandine's shoulders to brace at the back of her neck for support, Zsa Zsa blushes profusely. "Oh... oh my... Amandine... you saved me..." She was trembling, as she sweats. She was holding her so tightly, nuzzling her head under the sharp-tongued Karnstein. "Thank you." She says, her voice very soft. "I was scared, and- Y-you're my hero-"
That was the absolute sound of disgust, as Belladonna bursts herself out from the depths of Tantalus. She is covered in fish bones, clam shells, and what looks to be living crabs. She peels a live crab out from her hair, as she struggles to emerge from the pot. "UAAAAGH! I HATE THIS! I HAAAAAAAATE THIS!" She struggles some more, her bloated form seeming to grow only larger within the pot as she pulls. "WHY! WHY FISH STEW? THIS- THIS IS UNSPEAKABLE! THIS IS BENEATH MY FORM!" And then, the outrage turns into tears. "Iiiiii hate this! I don't want to be in this stinking castle, with the stinking soup, with stinking Amandine and her stinking pet maid. Bwaaaaaaaaaa!" She begins to sob, her tears falling into the bisque. "BWAAAAAAAA! I USED TO HAVE SUCH A WONDERFUL FIGURE, AND I USED TO HAVE FRIENDS, AND I USED TO BE HAAAAAAAPPY." She cries harder, as Zsa Zsa looks over at her, still holding on to Amandine. She looks over at her, and up at Amandine. And as the soldier look at the display, watch as Zsa Zsa, still blushing, goes up to Amandine and whispers something in her ear as Belladonna continues to have her meltdown.
She pulls away, blushing even brighter.
Amandine scowls as The Statue makes its way back to its spot. If she had free hands, she would put her hands on her hips defiantly. If she were not holding a beleaguered Podiebrad in her arms. The Karnstein straightens up as Zsa Zsa pulls up close, and then Amandine starts to redden, just a little.
"Well, of COURSE. It's the only REASONABLE thing to d--"
"GAH!" Amandine almost falls over as Belladonna bursts out of the pot. For a moment, Amandine looks at her in shock. She sees the crabs, the surrounding goop. For a moment, her tongue pokes out of her mouth, then she regains her composure.
"UGH, well, I couldn't catch BOTH of you. I have SHORT A--" Amandine bites her tongue. "IT'S A LOT TO CATCH TWO PEOPLE!"
Amandine reddens when Zsa Zsa whispers in her ear.
"I couldn't do THAT. At least, not in FRONT of EVERYONE."
Zsa Zsa pulls at Amandine's dress.
"They don't have to watch..." Zsa Zsa lets out a rapid giggle, a nervous one. She clings to Amandine tighter. Belladonna stops her tantrum, squinting from Tantalus with a hideous pout. "What are you two hens clucking about? Why aren't you helping me get out of here! Why aren't -any- of you HELPING ME!" She screams at the last words, as she glares at the soldiers.
The soldiers are kind of paralyzed.
One is -very- interested in the exchanges between the three girls. One is trying to do everything to NOT look interested in the exchange, and having failed, is content to look at his feet. But the third one just glances from one, to the other, to the next, with a dawning understanding passing over him. Finally, it is this one who raises his voice. "Ahem." He says. "Maybe we could relocate to the place with food, that the prison- the girl was mentioning. It sounds a lot safer than this place." Zsa Zsa kicks her legs. "I did! I did say that! And it is safe! And it has -tents-, Miss Karnstein." She looks over to the stuck Belladonna, and then, to Amandine, leaning in so her forehead touches hers.
"You know, for privacy~"
Belladonna gives an indignant huff. "Well at least pull me out. It would be un-DIGNIFIED for me to be carted around like a STUFFED PORK PUDDING in this awful, unclean pot!"
Amandine's face reddens further at Zsa Zsa suggests, but then she is interrupted by the tantrum of Belladonna.
"Well DAMN," Amandine interjects. "I'm GOING to HELP you KNOW!" She looks at the soldiers, as if expecting them to step in. When they don't, she huffs indignantly. The one looking at his feet gets a brief squint before Amandine makes her way toward the cauldron, Zsa Zsa in tow. "Of COURSE. I knew at least ONE of you had some sense! That's right, Zsa Zsa. Let's head there--"
Amandine reaches for Belladonna, her mouth watering a little at the description. She wipes it with her sleeve. "Here, DAMN," Amandine reaches up to take Belladonna's arms, put her boot on the lip of the cauldron, and try to pull her out.
The soldiers instinctively look away, as Amandine begins to pull.
Zsa Zsa is still giggling, as she straddles the pot from the other side. Once she gets her leverage, she puts her arms around Belladonna's armpits. Belladonna, for her purposes, starts groaning and wincing as the two ladies start tugging and pulling at her. "You BRUTES! You BARBARIANS!" She croons and moans. The red-faced soldier turns purple, while the twitchy one starts rubbing his right wrist. And the third just nods with wisdom and understanding. There is a screaming sound from Belladonna, as finally, with a great grunt from Zsa Zsa?
A gigantic popping sounds.
"UUUEEERRRRGH!" Belladonna screams, as she flails her sopping, slimy legs in the air. She wasn't quite righted up, and now, Zsa Zsa was kind of tangled up with her too. "GET OFF! GET OFF! GET OOOOOOOFFF!" "Yes mistress!" Zsa Zsa says, as she tries to wriggle off her. The three soldiers draw in a heavy breath together. And exhale.
They do not turn around.
"UGH! Well WHAT do you EXPECT? Should I OIL YOU UP?!" Amandine says, still tugging and now assisted by Zsa Zsa. The two work and work, and eventually pull her out, after which she nearly lands on Amandine.
Actually, she does land on Amandine, who is not in the pile of skirts and lace.
"Wow, Belladonna. I didn't KNOW you were SO--" Amandine trails off for a minute. "I MEAN, your skirt must be so WET. WOW."
Amandine grunts, sliding around to try and get enough leverage to pick the two of them up once again. This undoubtedly makes it worse for the soldiers. Or better?
There an audible gulp from the soldiers.
As Belladonna lands on Amandine, pressing down on her, she gives such a huff. "WELL! It's not my fault! You went for that dainty little maid, forcing me to wait with such AGONY!" As she tries to roll off, Zsa Zsa giggles wickedly. "Oh, you can't get off -that- fast! Come here-" Belladonna shrieks. "No! No! Not her too! This is obscene, Amandine! You can't have -both- of us like that! Ahn~" There is a clattering sound.
One of the soldiers actually -faints-
Unable to handle the sheer endurance of his lieutenant, a poor soldier drops. THe others bend over, to carrying him on their shoulders. But it's clear, as their legs knock together, that even they are at their limits. "Ma'am! Please! Please! Feast hall! Girls! We are-" "We are feeling hungry!" The enlightened soldier speaks up, finally having a good idea. "Yes! WE are so weak with hunger!" There is a moment of pause, as Zsa Zsa and Belladonna each sit on Amandine's shoulders.
"Also are you... are you not... can we turn around, or are you still indisposed?"
Amandine continues to wiggle, pushing, grunting as she tries to get to her feet. This definitely does not make things seem even worse. No sir.
Eventually, she manages to get her to her feet, hefting the two of them onto her shoulders with...relative ease, all things considered.
"Well, OF COURSE I CAN," she says. "I can HANDLE IT!" Pause. "WHAT? Oh, right. There's FOOD to be had." She looks at Belladonna, then Zsa Zsa. "ARE -- are we?"
Zsa Zsa nods, as Belladonna -huffs-.
"It is through that door..."
The feast hall is of a middle eastern style.
It's a long chain of sprawling tables, connected only by cloths spread between them. Hundreds of dishes as delicately arranged, many repeating across in desserts, appetitizers, and entrees. Tents of multi-colored silk drape are positioned alongside the table; it seems that the table is restocked, and guests within their tent can heap along their food buffet style in their private tents. Within are a variety of ottomans, reclining couches, and cushions well suited for comfort. The soldiers are in a daze, as they look at the vast feast. "Oh, how disgusting!" Belladonna states loudly as she covers her face with the fan, barely concealing her watery mouth. Zsa Zsa is -blushing- as she clings on to Amandine's sleeve. "It's all safe to eat..." She whispers loudly to Amandine.
"Do you... do you want to have a tent, Lady Karnstein?"
Amandine takes several moments, wide-eyed, to look around the feast hall. Her mouth starts to water in a most uncouth way before she, with equal crassness, wipes it away with a frilly sleeve. She starts to dive toward the nearest tent, but Zsa Zsa's clinging does act as a rein, however brief.
Suddenly snapping to attention, Amandine shakes her head.
"Who LEAVES perfectly good FEASTS lying around?" she asks. "WHAT KIND OF--"
Amandine looks at Zsa Zsa, her cheeks flush slightly. "Well, I ...want to...but..." She whispers too loudly. "How did you find this, Zsa Zsa...?" She eyeballs Belladonna. "That's not DROOL I see, is it?" She soaks in her own hypocrisy.
Belladonna turns away, turning bright red.
Before she can regain her composure, Zsa Zsa bows her head, as she explains. "My master, the well and beloved Patriarch, order me and the Raven Guard to seek out across the Castle, and plunder and pillage and ruin every event we could. We have gotten... so separated. I found this feast hall, and I was thinking how nice it would be if you were here. I always enjoyed how you cooked, but I always enjoyed how much you could enjoy something so delicious-"
Belladonna finally and neatly interrupts, as the soldiers freeze up. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!" She exclaims, folding her fan as she chides them. Shaking it furiously at them, she comes to the table that they all were at. "Drop those ROLLS at once. Haven't you learned ANYTHING!? These could very well be cursed, or poisoned, or trapped! Mmph! You never know- you never know what these- mmph- could do! You could fall asleep forever for all you- mmph!" Belladonna was yelling at them further, but the meaning was lost as her mouth found itself filled with fistfuls of dinner rolls, shrimp puffs, and all kinds of cream-filled desserts that kept finding themselves heaped in.
Eventually, Belladonna couldn't even hold her fan anymore, as she begin to bend over the table, devouring heartily.
"Oh, so HE told you to look for it." Amandine says, as though it explains everything. "And you thought of ME? Well, ZSA ZSA, I'm FLATTERED. You're SO GOOD at what you do." She pointed looks at Belladonna for a moment, just in time to be rudely interrupted.
And as Belladonna berates the soldiers, Amandine chews her lip. She huffs, ready to interrupt--until Belladonna starts helping herself. Instead, Amandine looks at Zsa Zsa.
"Well, if it IS trapped...." she considers. "But if it's NOT..." Amandine swallows, considering, in a rare moment of forethought. Perhaps one for the recordbooks.
The soldiers were a lot more interested in what Zsa Zsa and AMandine were about to be up to, than what Belladonna was doing right now.
They both look towards the young ladies in a way where they try to make it look like they were inspecting something other than Belladonna snarfing down everything in sight. Zsa Zsa draws closer to Amandine, closer to her ear. "I don't think it is. There is... there is something special here, mistress. I mean, I didn't have any. I didn't eat any, because of my figure-" Zsa Zsa suddenly grabs her own forearm. Clenching tightly, she digs in, letting the nails and needles draw blood. She lets out a moan of pain, as she starts to tear up. "I'm so stupid. I'm sorry mistress. I'm sorry my lady. My tongue is just-"
Belladonna bellows at the soldiers.
"OH NO YOU DON'T!" She screams, as the soldiers turn their attention away from Zsa Zsa and Amandine, and back to the hungry woman on top of the table. Mindlessly stuffing her face with a recently pulled apart roast chicken, her face is bright red, her eyes bloodshot, as she furiously snarls between bites. "I AM NOT GOING TO BE LEFT HERE ALL ALONE! While you all STARE at those little STRUMPETS! No, you are going to EAT! SO EAT! NOOOOOOOOOW!!!!" The soldiers, desperate not to fall under the wrathful madness, struggle to eat from the table.
Giving Zsa Zsa a moment to wipe the blood on her dress.
"I was exploring... and there was this place that was, it had all this broken glass, and it was a ballroom." She lowers her voice a bit, clinging tighter and tighter to Amandine's arm. It seemed with Belladonna and the soldiers being occupied, Zsa Zsa was trying to pull Amandine very softly, subtly, and gently away from the tables to one of the silken tents to the side. "That was... that was apparently, um... the Ballroom of Countess Karnstein." Zsa Zsa says softly, as Belladonna suddenly screams with a mouth full of pastries at the soldiers, who stop looking at the two ladies again.
"Which would mean this is the feasthall of the Countess too..."
"You have NOTHING to worry about," Amandine insists, holding her head up proudly, self-assuredly. "WHAT," Amandine says, "NO! You found all THIS." Amandine says, reaching for Zsa Zsa's arm. She pulls her closer, then gives her a hearty slap on the back. "You just NEED--"
Amandine tilts her head toward Belladonna, the moment ruined. She frowns, her lip stuck out melodramatically.
"TCH, SOME PEOPLE," Amandine says, planting her hands on her hips. "I'm sure they'll be FINE." Amandine seems to follow the lead, which is likely good, since pulling her along seems like hauling a lead weight despite her height. "WHAT," Amandine interjects. "Countess KARNSTEIN?" She catches herself, then more softly, but not too softly. "Countess Karnstein? Why HERE? Here."
Zsa Zsa exhales passionately, as Amandine forgives her.
She reflects as she pulls the Karnstein along. She loved Amandine's kindness so much. She always saw how Amandine treated other people. She was always aware of how special she was, compared to them. She liked feeling special. She wanted Amandine to always feel the same way she made her felt. Always. Where awful people like Belladonna would die, and it would only be Amandine and Zsa Zsa. Not even... not even the Patriarch needed to be around. Zsa Zsa was always used to the Patriarch picking and choosing favorites. Sometimes he cared about you. But then something else came up. Someone new. Someone more interesting.
But Amandine never had that problem.
Zsa Zsa wanted to cry. She wanted so much to cry, because she's never felt so happy. But Amandine didn't want her to cry. It would be embarrassing. And Zsa Zsa would never, ever want to embarrass her Amandine. So as Belladonna sits upon the table, her thick legs stretched out in front of her, the rolls of her neck bulging out as she screams and devours, Zsa Zsa gets a strange look on her face. A troubled face, but not her often deranged appearance. She pulls Amandine into a tent far away. Far away from the gluttonous Belladonna. Far away from those poor soldiers, who the chubby assistant demanded to eat a two bites for every bite she makes. Far away into the layers of silk surrounding and obscuring the interior outside of shadows. In the center, there is a Turkish teapot, with countless desserts and appetizers upon little trays and tables, all surrounded by colorful cushions. Zsa Zsa would help Amandine to the cushions, to lay her down on them, right in front of those those tasty snacks. She would then release her, to go to the tent. She was breathing harder now, heavier.
She closes the entrance flap.
"I want to tell you." Zsa Zsa says softly, turning back around to Amandine. She brings her arms behind her back in a coquettish, her face flush. She comes closer, and closer, chest heaving with every breath. "But I am afraid. I'm afraid, because- because I shouldn't tell you, I'm afraid, because they might- might HURT you-" Zsa Zsa pauses a moment. "But we're alone now." She smiles, fluttering her eyes as she comes to the cushion beside Amandine. "I... I think..." She stammers. She draws in a heavy breath, and she brings her arm forward. She shows Amandine the crimson stains. She whispers, as Zsa Zsa stares at it.
"I think we share something special, Amandine, that we're not supposed to let other people know about."
Amandine does not seem to appreciate the depth of Zsa Zsa's affections. Perhaps this is ignorance. Perhaps it is the nature of Amandine. Instead, she is pulled along by the Podiebrad to a tent, her eyes following Belladonna for a moment as they pass between the silken curtains.
"Can you BELIEVE her? I mean, REALLY. It's one thing to be such a PIGGY, but to DEMAND others to make her look less so. I NEVER."
They're alone now. Zsa Zsa is closer. So close. Scandalous close. Amandine breathes in and holds it.
She is sat down, and Zsa Zsa sits with her. She's so close. Amandine's breaths smells like alcohol. She reaches up, threads her fingers into her collar, and tugs slightly.
"Well, ah," Amandine is uncharacteristically soft. "Well, you know, I--" Amandine runs her tongue across her lips. "I couldn't let anything happen to you, Zsa Zsa. Back with the pig. You know. I had to step in for you!"
It was okay.
Zsa Zsa liked the way Amandine's breath smelled. She could imagine how intoxicating it would be to just keep it inside her, inhaling and exhaling her poison deep within her hungry chest. How her tongue could run over her lips. How drunk she would let herself be. Sharing their lung, their blood, their flesh. Some people hated Amandine. And every single one of them was disgusting and wrong and the living filth that crawls on the earth. Worms and slime that needed Zsa Zsa to go down on her hands and knees, wiping and scrubbing away the filth. How much she wanted to go down on her hands and knees now, to make herself and Amandine so pure and clean.
But she needed to focus.
Zsa Zsa rubs her knees together as she holds her arm. She was hot, her face was flush, her heart was pounding. She was still thinking of Belladonna. The noble trollop, the swinelady. Oh, but Zsa Zsa knew she was so much more eager to please. She felt so naked right now near Amandine. And she just wanted to tear off her clothes, her skin, her muscles and organ until there was nothing but pure white bones for her to gnaw on, to be stewed in her pot. "It's... it's more than that. Nobody would... ever do that for me. You put yourself in so much danger. I- I don't deserve it. It's not my place to receive your kindness. I'm either useful, or dead. I- I have to be useful to you, my lady. I have to be- I have to be used." She feels a surge, she turns over to Amandine, her eyes so soft, so tender. She... she can't control it. She touches on the knife tucked away at her sash. She had to be used, she had to be useful-
There is screaming outside, right before the sound of a table collapsing.
That moment of interruption is enough for Zsa Zsa to keep her psyche together. She releases the handle of her knife instictively, and brings back her arm. "There is... a secret." She struggles, trying to claw at the depths of her mind. "You're... you're so curious about things. I see it in your cooking. You don't just- when I cook, I follow recipies. I follow direction. You... you just use your tongue- your ~tongue~" Zsa Zsa wipes her mouth with her hand, the saliva oozing a moment. "You... you just expe- experiment with it, my lady. You just know what is good, and and what is bad. I wish more people could see how much of an artist you are, a genius you are, because cooking is something you really love." She halts a moment, the expressive sensitivity and vulrenability nearly dominating her id. She swallows deeply, unable to control it anymore as she places a gentle hand on Amandine's thigh. "I... have come... my blood have come over this place, opening the doors. My master's blood, the Patriarch blood... I... I wonder if your blood too, if a Blood of a Podiebrad can open doors... oh Amandine..." She tightens her grip a bit, as she gives the longing, bedroom eyes straight into Amandine's own.
"Have you ever let your blood spill in secret places before?"
Many people hate Amandine. Many people have perfectly good reasons to hate Amandine. Perhaps it is more natural to hate than to love, in her case, but here is Zsa Zsa, and the maid's mind is made up. It is made up, prepared and presented before Amandine, and for once, when something is set before her, Amandine has no idea what to do with it. This will not be the last time.
"W-well," Amandine says, her voice fluctuating like someone attempting to adjust the volume on a speaker. It starts to peak, to hit that range that is simply too loud, and Amandine forcefully and awkwardly adjusts it. In this quiet time, this private time, she is at a loss for words. For a change, she is at a loss for words. "I care about you, Zsa Zsa. You are a good friend. A GREAT friend. You're my b--"
The table breaks. Amandine scowls, sniffing the air. It helps Amandine clear her mind as her face starts to flush, her temperature rising to a boil and, for once, not from anger. Not her fury, not from hunger or from being deprived. No no no. It's like the ball, like the moment at the manor; all at once the same, but different. Desperately different but dangerously the same.
"Well," Amandine says, "I--I AM the most curious, and the most INNOVATIVE." She puffs up her chest in futility. "I AM a genius, aren't I?" There's a hand on her thigh. Amandine swallows and with it a circuit breaker seems to fire. A short circuit, perhaps.
"I, uh, well, I. I. I. I." Amandine frantically twirls her black hair around her fingers.
Zsa Zsa had to tell her.
She had to tell her what she found in the castle. How important it could be to Amandine, how important it was for them to understand each other and their houses. It was just so hard, because she wanted to do things to Amandine, do things for Amandine. And she was so scared, because, well, she didn't know how to have friends either. She knew what she had been taught, but Amandine was different. She knew she was different. She knew in her head. She could see it in her face. She was getting... Getting scared. It made Zsa Zsa scared. Angry. There is a scream.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING OVER THERE?"
Belladonna's howls come out, and Zsa Zsa let's go of Amandine's thigh. She looks down at the tables, at the cakes and tarts. And she just... She just talks. "Your my only friend, Amandine. My best and only friend. I don't know what I am supposed to do, though. I want to... make you happy. Bela used to be like that when were younger. We used to be friends. Well. More than friends in some ways. And less in others. Bela would be so smart and sharp, and critical with people, and they would make fun of them and it would be so nice to see just how free Bela was." She trails off. "We aren't supposed to talk about that, but they were so different then. When Bela left the manor, I wanted to be taken away too. Work in the manor. But no. Bela didn't want me to come with them. Because it was fun while it lasted. But I had to stay with the house." She glowers coldly at the cakes, as Belladonna is heard hitting something outside. "Because that's what we end up as."
"I was just decoration left at the house. I wanted to die Amandine. I wanted so much to die, because everything was gone, and- and nothing felt real. But someone... Someone told me that the time we spent together was real. That you can tell when you have special attention from them, just like you can tell when you don't. And you can tell when other people are making him take it away from you. It doesn't change how much they love you, and how strongly they cared for you. And caring for you is part of preparing you for when you grow up. I believed him. And then..."
"And then he came back as the Patriarch."
Zsa Zsa shakes her head, turning to look at Amandine with puffy, bloodshot eyes. "It wasn't like when he left. But he was mine again. I just- I just think about how I could have made things different. How I can make sure not to lose you too. How you and I can be different." It was subtle, but she was closing in on Amandine. She was on her thighs now, climbing up. "And maybe- maybe I shouldn't be so afraid-" She holds on, staring so close to Amandine. And she lunges in.
To kiss Amandine.
Zsa Zsa forces her lips into Amandine's grabbing her by her top as she pulls her in. To try and see that is what will make her feel. A long, hungry kiss, devouring and drinking in deep that acrid breath, those trembling lips, taking in the crumbs and leftovers that somehow still lingered. She pulls away. Desperately she pulls away completely. Watching Amandine.
Trying to understand how she felt, in that moment of passion.
Amandine's back straightens as Belladonna bellows, and for a moment, she seems ready to return fire as though it were a shot across the bow. Perhaps this is her more natural element. As she opens her mouth to bellow back, her eyes meet Zsa Zsa's and she stops.
"Oh, that's..." Amandine trails off. Her brow furrows. She bites her lip. The gears seem to turn, the mill working to produced something. What should she say? What should she do? People don't talk like THIS to Amandine, they don't CONFIDE in Amandine.
"What is it, my little papanasi? This is important business." Amandine's father, a portly man with a well-groomed moustache reaches out and pats her on the head. While the height remains a non-issue, he meets little resistance, except her cheeks puffing up. "Can't you do it later, Papa?" A younger Amandine, though not much smaller crosses her arms.
"Why don't you go see your mother?" Papa Karnstein says without looking up.
"She's powdering her nose. Or something." Amandine frowns.
"Then have Bogdan take you around the grounds. Or go find your sister. Or your brother." Beat. "Just remember what's off limits, my dear."
Amandine huffed, tromping off through the castle in tiny heels. "They don't want to spend time with me EITHER," Amandine protests, glancing back over her shoulder. Her father does not look. "Don't worry, Papa will come find you when he's done with his work."
"OH, uh," Amandine rolls her tongue in her mouth. She reaches out, slowly, to try and pat Zsa Zsa on the head. That seems...right. That seems natural. "Well, I LIKE you, Zsa Zsa. I--"
Suddenly Zsa Zsa is upon her, pulling her in close. They kiss. Amandine is more confused than anything, blinking several times.
"Uh." Amandine smacks her lips, her cheeks flushed. "I--don't. I didn't..." Amandine seems to remain confused. Bewildered, even. Has anyone ever kissed her? Especially like THAT?
"Kiss you? Gross! That's like kissing a pig. A short, scrawny little piglet!"
Tossing his blonde hair back, the NOL noble turns to laugh with his friends, making soft oinking noises.
"I didn't REALLY want to ANYWAY. YOU. POMPOUS ASS!" Amandine shouts after him, but he does not turn back.
She touches her mouth. "No one's KISSED me before, Zsa Zsa. I MEAN." Beat. "I'm FLATTERED. I think." The second part is much quieter, less confident. Less ... Amandine. "... you're a good friend, Zsa Zsa. I. UH."
"THIS IS AWKWARD AS HELL." Amandine flounders. Out of options, she reaches forward and firmly, affectionately, pats Zsa Zsa on the head. "I like you a lot. You're a good friend. There. I SAID IT."
Just a friend.
Zsa Zsa eyes shudder and twitch. She stole it. She stole her kiss. Zsa Zsa remembers when she had her first kiss stolen from her. And her second, and third, and fourth. There were a lot of things stolen from her then. She looks away at the table. Where the cakes and desserts and tea sit. Away from AMandine. And she feels so hot now, as she remembers how she felt then. How Amandine must feel now. Zsa Zsa remembers when she was told how she had the potential to be a Patriarch, and how she had both the power and the character for it.
And Zsa Zsa believed in that now more than ever.
How stupid she was to think that she could make things better. She remembered how strongly she felt when so much was stolen from her. At first, she was hollow. Ashamed and awkward and embarrassed like Amandine was. ANd then, the loathing, the horrible self loathing. And then, anger. A hateful anger, a murderous anger. A murderous fire that never fanned, never ended. It was an anger that could only be twisted, that could be reshaped into other passions. Love. If you loved it, then you couldn't really hate it. But the fires of anger would never die. "YOU IDIOTS! YOU STUPID IDIOTS!" Howls Belladonna outside. Zsa Zsa realized it would only be a matter of time before Amandine would hate her. How much time? Zsa Zsa remembered how long it took for her numbness to turn to self-loathing, and then, hatred.
Zsa Zsa grips the handle of the knife.
There is a scratching sound as Zsa Zsa pulls out the knife. "I think." She says with an icy, focused chill, as she holds up the knife. She keeps her head lowered, her face hot with shame. "I think if I was a good friend. I would do something that you would be comfortable with. And not make you feel awkward. And not make you feel like... like I'm a friend that is doing things that friends shouldn't be doing. I should be better than that. And- and I think." Zsa Zsa raises the knife. "I think I should have done this in the first place, instead of robbing you of your beloved innocence, my lady!" She plunges the knife down.
Zsa Zsa cuts off a piece of cake.
Zsa Zsa is still steel-faced. But she clutches the piece of cake, and comes to Amandine, down on her knees. "It's wrong for you to soil your hands." She states with a neutral tone. "Let me soil myself for you. Let me be dirty so you can stay clean. And free of crumbs. Please." She eases towards Amandine, her black eyes wide and watery. Her motions alluring and sweet. And delicately, she brings the cake to Amandine, offering it to her, as she stays on her knees. Not the dominating, aggressive predator as before. But as a sweet, submissive servant.
"Would you... have me like this?"
"NO!" Amandine objects, patting with more determination. "Not at all! You're a GREAT friend, Zsa Zsa! You--" Amandine eyes the knife. She chews her lip. She looks at Zsa Zsa, then the knife, then Zsa Zsa. And then--!
"Oh." Beat. "OH! Uh, WELL," Amandine says, hands back on her hips. "Well, I LIKE you just fine, Zsa Zsa, but if you INSIST, WELL," her voice goes up in volume just a bit more. She looks to the side briefly. "It's just..." Amandine says, "Well, you know. People don't---" Like me. They hate me. They think I'm gross. They think I'm noxious. They--
"APPRECIATE me. Of all PEOPLE. Not like YOU do, Zsa Zsa. That's why you're WONDERFUL." Amandine eyes the cake, then looks to Zsa Zsa. A bit of saliva runs down the corner of her mouth.
"I'll accept you whatever the case. Not like those JERKS." Amandine opens her mouth expectantly, waiting for the cake.
Zsa Zsa was okay with being a great friend.
As long it was what made Amandine as happy as she was. It's just that Zsa Zsa didn't really know how well she was supposed to be a good friend. Neither did Amandine. They were like children, little toddlers uncertain of how to make friends. Do they parallel play? Do they fight each other, pull each other's hair? There was a lustful purity in this moment that radiated around Zsa Zsa. So when Amandine speaks? When she declares that no matter how foolish Zsa Zsa, how -clumsy and uncouth she was-? That she would accept her? Not like those highborn jerks?
"Those people are jerks."
The words are cold and precise, like a killer. But honest. Zsa Zsa takes her position. She had seen Amandine eat, so many times before. She stares into those moistened lips, that soft, inviting tongue. She keeps to her flank, like a sweet nuturing matron. Physically over her, and yet, the position is lined up to her chest, like a baby. She nods her head along, as she levels the cake carefully. She had to be careful. She had seen Amandine eat. One was liable to lose fingers. She was focused now, now that Amandine had given her the invitation. Not even the sound of slapping and stomping outside could break her concentration. "People are so inconsiderate. You deserve to be appreciated, Amandine. You deserve to be happy. And I'll accept you, no matter what. I can see you for who you really are. And I just want to... just want to..." The cake trembles, sprinkling the first crumbs into the awaiting maw of Amandine.
Delicately, softly, precisely, she lets the piece of cake plunge through the awaiting lips of the young Karnstein. She doesn't let her skin linger on her. Only the sweet, sumptuous taste of chocolate layered cake, filled with chocolate, filled with caramel and almond cream. Zsa Zsa moves swiftly. Another small piece of cake is ready. But Zsa Zsa waits. Watches. Studies Amandine as she empathetically traces those feelings and emotions. That pleasure, that passion. That primal hunger of love, that Zsa Zsa so desperately craved. She could imagine being that cake. And she would, as she prepares the second slice for Amandine's indulgence.
"I KNOW, right?" Amandine is lost in the moment and in hearing what she wants to hear. "You TOO, Zsa Zsa. They just don't KNOW what they're missing out on. They're JUST--"
Suddenly, Amandine has a mouthful of cake. Perhaps this is her natural state. The Karnstein chomps away at it, losing a few crumbs as she speaks with her mouthful.
"My GODH," Amandine says, her words distorted. "If's DELICHOUS." She swallows. "What the HELL? Who MADE this?" She eyes the cake. "OF COURSE."
"I mean. Of course. Thanks, Zsa Zsa. You're AWESOME and people should RESPECT you." Amandine says this with a firm nod.
Zsa Zsa delicately feeds the yearning maw of Amandine again. Like a mother bird to her chick. She was gentle. Giving. And patience, watching Amandine enjoy and indulge in every bite. And after every bite, showering Zsa Zsa with the best praises she could muster. Zsa Zsa was used to praises like this when she did good. When she served well. Like a good pet, or a piece of the furniture. But Amandine was different. She was a friend. It just meant that being Zsa Zsa's friends had a different sort of benefits. Of course, Amandine asked a question. Who made it. What the hell.
And Zsa Zsa could think clearly again, now that she was satisfying Amandine's appetites.
Zsa Zsa had a lot of experience thinking when indulging appetites, and found it very comfortable. Sometimes, it was the only time she found time to have inside thoughts. She continues the steady rhythm as she pleases Amandine, cutting and serving, occasionally giving Amandine a taste of the sweet lemon tea in neat little cups. But as she yearns and serves, she's able to articulate her thoughts clearly and precisely. The soldiers and Belladonna were eerily silent as Amandine and Zsa Zsa continued their moment of privacy. ANd yet, Zsa Zsa made herself whisper at Amandine's ear, as she continued to serve her friend.
"I think our bloodlines are intermingled with our host in some way."
A clear thought, expressed as she draws the sweetness in and out of Amandine in that steady rhythm. Every surge of pleasure, every taste of indulgence. "I think the Karnsteins and the Podiebrads were... part of this place. Part of the vampire culture, of the vampire society. As family, or special relations. When I smeared my blood on the door, it opened to me. And it opened for you so easily. The magic of the food here is almost as good as your magic. The chains, the pig statue... This place is somehow part of your family. And my blood is the key to open doors." Zsa Zsa feels the pulse of shame, of horror. But that energy is used to stuff a particularly thick and creamy piece of cake into Amandine, a piece so big, it might not even fit properly in her. "There are vampires in the history of the Podiebrads. I am supposed to only know the stories. I'm not suppose think about what the stories mean. I'm not supposed to mention such things. They will kill me if I even suggest it. But... They wouldn't kill you." She pauses a moment, to allow the piece to work its way down.
"Are there any vampires in your family's history, my lady?"
Some might assume this whole exchange to be a delicate or even sensual affair. In reality, it's a bit more like a child feeding an overzealous dog, or a pig, as many would call this travel-sized terror, this picayune purveyor of pastries, this bantam bonne vivante.
In other words, Amandine is anything but charming or delicate as she munches away at cake, risking Zsa Zsa's fingers. It does not stop her from trying to talk anyway, and Amandine seems quite good at gabbing with her gobbling. She is not at all aware of Zsa Zsa's philosophizing about appetites, but literal and metaphorical.
"Bwuh?" Amandine says around some crumbs. It's sort of a dumb, unthinking noise, and it's followed by slightly more eloquent confusion. "You uh, think so...? I mean uh, why would you think that...?" Amandine seems to be sweating a little at the suggestion, and not just from the somewhat sultry indulgence in cake and lemon tea.
"Wait. You. Just...opened it with your BLOOD?" Amandine furrows her brow. She seems to be thinking back, back. "Uh, vampires? Well, I mean, we have SOME family we don't TALK about much, but..." Amandine taps her chin, finds chocolate frosting, and pokes her finger into her mouth before continuing. "I remember one time, I read..."
Amandine, younger but not much different than now, hefts a massive leatherbound tome onto a table in the Karnstein library. The whole table rattles a bit. There's the cacophonous sound of wood against stone as she scoots a stool over to sit upon before hupping up onto it.
She is slightly too short to actually sit comfortable and read.
"Where's the damn SEAT CUSHION."
"... nah, I got nothin."
Zsa Zsa nods, as she continues to fill Amandine.
The expression of passion, and the indulgence of appetites was never clean. It was always messy, and a little animalistic. And if anything, Amadine was far less piglike than some of Zsa Zsa's previous partners. After she washes her mouth out with the sweet lemonade. She was still introspective, though unconcerned about why Belladonna had gotten suspiciously quiet. Nor why the flaps of the tent were breathing slightly. Moving. "Yes, blood. Sometimes, when I am alone, I like to bleed. It feels nice." Zsa Zsa admits. Amandine isn't very helpful, but Zsa Zsa finds it so much easier to focus as long as Amandine felt for her.
"... Our manor was once owned by a vampire."
Zsa Zsa lines up some thick cookies, dabbled with powdered sugar. "It was a very long time ago. But as the stories go, when we killed her, we took her artifacts and her land, and used them for ourselves. We are still using those artifacts today." Zsa Zsa takes her sash, and wraps it around the cookie. Tiny needles prick it, before she passes it to Amandine. "Be careful, they can sting." She whispers. "All of the House of Podiebrad is one blood. One soul. Every marriage comes with exsanguination before consumation, every baptism is in the blood before you can partake in the flesh." She pushes the cookie in delicately to the waiting, eager Amandine. "All with a basin, a cauldron of sorts, my lady..." She waits until it is in, when the bliss washes over her, before she asks the most dangerous question.
"Where did Tantalus come from?"
"....huh," Amandine responds. "Well, so long as you're not putting yourself in DANGER. I mean. More than USUAL, OBVIOUSLY." Amandine adds, as if the inherent danger of working for the NOL came as an afterthought.
"Wait, SERIOUSLY? Like, a real one?" Amandine appraises the cookie with surprising precision. It is, perhaps, the same kind of eye she uses when she goes full food critic on her sous chefs and prep cooks.
Amandine now has a mouthful of cookie.
"Huh? Well, I don't KNOW honestly. It was in the sub-basement. Or was it the sub-sub-basement?"
Zsa Zsa nods.
"Then don't worry about it." She quickly adds. Zsa Zsa didn't feel like Amandine would worry herself with such things. But Zsa Zsa felt... felt so much better to tell Amandine. Safer. Much safer. She didn't know what the Patriarch was going to do. She didn't know why Bela was so far away now. But she told Amandine. "Thank you for listening to me." She says. "That deserves... something very sweet... and very special for you..." She palms around, looking for something around the table that would satisfy that. She procures the chocolate covered cherry cordial, holding it like a treat. Swaying as she approaches Amandine, she comes closer. "Open wide, my lady. And let me give you this cherry-"
And the flaps of the tent open.
Belladonna is standing there, her entire front sopping wet with a slurry of crumbs, leftovers, and gravy. Chest heaving, face bright red, she stands there, dress popping at the seams. Right behind her, looking like a trio of, well, they weren't scared, but they seemed very emotional in some way, but the soldiers were peering out at them. Belladonna growls, and then, -huffs-. "You see? I -TOLD- you they weren't doing any HANKY PANKY or SEXY STUFF! They are just EATING! How -DROLL- and -BANAL!-" She sniffs, as the men stare wide-eyed at Zsa Zsa and Amandine. Belladonna pouts. "Well, -I- just wanted to tell you, that I'm -exhausted- from our... our traveling, and I am going to take a NAP on the pillows until this STUPID ROSALIA is OVER. You can just... EAT or whatever! I am going to be in the tent next door. And -these- men are going to be GUARDING ME to MAKE SURE I don't get ATTACKED or something! And they will NOT be PEEKING OVER HERE and PLAYING with their... WELL!" She stamps on one of the soldier's foot, who gasps and scrambles. The other one follows, while the third looks at Zsa Zsa, and Amandine, and then, the waddling Belladonna. He looks back at the girls, and gives one word before he leaves too.
Amandine narrows her eyes. In that moment, something tugs at the back of her mind. Behind her grey eyes there is realization, as if something just clicked and the true nature of the world was unveiled.
It seems to disappear as quickly as it came.
"O...kay. YEAH. You're welcome. Oooh, is that a CORDIAL?"
"WHAT," Amandine suddenly turns. "We weren't DOING anything UNTO--"
Amandine eyes Belladonna and gets the most smug, self-assured smile. She looks as though she just won a major battle, metaphorical if not literal.
"Oh, of COURSE, Belladonna. You just lie down for a LITTLE while. If your bodyguards SLACK, I'll be sure to tell them to get back to WORK."
Zsa Zsa doesn't look ashamed, as Belladonna has her tantrum.
No, she radiates that dark energy of mischief. Almost like, she's doing this on purpose, right in front of Amandine. That poor last soldier watches, and after he gives that 'Oh', Zsa Zsa writhes and squirms a bit, falling to her knees at Amanadine legs. She looks directly at the soldier, when she speaks softly. "You can stay and feed her too, if you like..."
But no, that soldier slips away.
But not too far away.
As Belladonna retires for her -own- tent based feasting, the three guards were very eagerly taking post not too far away from the tent where Zsa Zsa and Amandine resided. Zsa Zsa, for her purposes, doesn't care how well they are taking sentry. She nuzzles her head against Amandine's knee, a cold, distant look on her face. "I love you Amandine. I wish I could be more like you." She says softly. "But I'd be happy if I could just be your servant, instead of... instead of..." She doesn't say it out loud. She just keeps her head lowered, smiling.
Hiding the tears, as she finalizes her confession.
Amandine has to stifle a laugh, putting a hand over her mouth. She tries to look classy about it, bit instead winds up like a bit like an over-pressured balloon when Zsa Zsa teases. Once he's gone, she snorts.
And when Zsa Zsa rests against her knee, Amandine slowly puts a hand on her head, pats uncertainly, and then starts to stroke her hair, shakily st first, then affectionately. "You're great, Zsa Zzz. I, uh," Amandine swallows, then quietly, "I l-love. Youtoo." She reddens and continues to stroke the maid's hair.
"More like me?" she asks. "And, I mean, you're always welcome at my castle."
Zsa Zsa feels the weight of reality descend, when Amandine says she is always welcome.
She takes the head strokes tenderly. "You have to ask for me." Zsa Zsa says somewhat bitterly. "I can't leave the manor. It's the rules. I am part of the house. And it's against the rights of the Bastards to have... special trips and vacations, if not ordered to be. And..." Zsa Zsa darkens her look, as she brings another delicate piece of chocolate to Amandine. "I don't want you to humiliate yourself asking for me. You... you deserve being admired. Those- those soldiers are thinking about us, you know? And imagining things. They are so jealous of y- so jealous of me, my lady." She states, as she pops the chocolate in. "And of Belladonna..." The bitterness becomes a flash of anger.
"She's free to come and go, isn't she?"
"When will you be done tormenting her?" Zsa Zsa asks bluntly. "I hate her so much, my lady. She hates you too. Can't we just get rid of her?" The maid gets that strange, wicked smile on her lips. "Then we wouldn't have any awful interruptions. Or nasty insults. She's become such a tubby piglet now too. Imagine how the Shimotsukis would belittle her and mock her. She would never save her face now. But..." She suddenly keeps a morsel just out of Amandine's reach, withholding it just short of her lips. A brief flicker of jealousy smolders
"Don't you get bored with her sometimes?"
"Well, I would ALWAYS ask for YOU, Zsa Zsa," Amandine says defiantly. "Even if that's COMPLETELY unfair. I mean, you ARE family, not some kind of ...servant. BLEH. If you ask ME," Amandine starts to say something else, but, for once, thinks better of it. "PSH. As if I could even BE humiliated. I mean, REALLY." Amandine raises her head proudly, completely unaware of the irony in this statement. She starts to lean in for the chocolate, then blinks. "Wait, REALLY? THEM?!" She seems genuinely shocked. To think someone would EVER be jealous of Amandine Karnstein, no matter how much they should be. She chews the chocolate with as much introspection as she can manage.
"She does that PLENTY to HERSELF, you know," Amandine says with a tooth grin. "But you know, it's kind of SAD, really," Amandine says. "--does she bother you THAT much, Zsa Zsa? Hrm." Amandine tilts her head. Then there's chocolate, Amandine moves slightly toward it.
"I SUPPOSE I could send her home..."
Zsa Zsa brushes the back of her hand on Amandine's stockings.
"I know you would." The maid says softly. She was scheming. She was plotting. And as Amandine praises her, she can't help but blush. She could bathe in her praises. The kind words of Amandine were so rare, so strange. And so beautiful. And when she talks about getting rid of Belladonna, on how sad she is... Zsa Zsa snaps out of her ectastic daze to blurt out.
Zsa Zsa clears her throat, quickly looking for a something to feed Amandine. They were beginning to run out of food. She quickly seizes a cucumber sandwich, and presents it to the hungry lady. "I wanted her dead, my lady. But you found a better punishment. You twisted her flesh, tormenting her, and all by her own hand. Her own hunger. Her own indulgence. When she returns back home, can't you imagine how humilated she will be? But..." She trails off, offering the sandwich again. "She will try to hurt you in revenge, wouldn't she? She would lash out at you, with her family..." She trails off, considering. "In a way, her punishment has become another responsibility of yours."
"As if she was chained to you just like that cauldron..."
Amandine inhales the cucumber sandwich, thinking aloud, but also with her mouth full once again. At least this time she's understandable.
"Well, I MEAN," Amandine says, "it wasn't just MY idea. I TREATED her to my cooking to show her how WRONG she was, and things sort of got out of hand." Whose idea WAS it, Amandine? Amandine furrows her brow. A responsibility? Chained to her like Tantalus?
"UH," Amandine says, "I hadn't thought of it THAT way..."
Zsa Zsa sometimes thinks of things in those ways.
She plucks up an armful of cucumber sandwiches, ignoring the shadows outside the tent. "I think you forget how strong your kindness can be sometimes." Kindness? She pops another sandwich in Amandine's mouth, keeping a steady rhythm. "You treated me with your kindness. Your generosity. If you were to deny me your presence, it would be like tearing my skin off with these needles. And Belladonna had a taste of it too. Your incredible cooking is so mouth wateringly delicious, that anyone who savors their gastronomical excesses practically slaves themselves at your feet, My Lady." She smiles softly at Amandine, looking with her black pools of eyes.
"Can you imagine how much agony she will be in, when you are out of her life?"
"Not only will all her friends and family mock her for being unable to keep her shape. Remember her old figure?" Zsa Zsa touches on her own body, each of the point as she explains. "How she was so proud of her hips, her chest, her narrow waistline? She may never go back to her old shape. ANd what's worse, is all the food she will eat will be so... empty. So tasteless. She will want more from you. She will slave at it. ANd yet, she will hate you for it. People who get addicted can become so easy to..." Zsa Zsa rubs her own knees together a moment, as she places another sandwich in.
"So easy to make dependent on you."
Zsa Zsa nods along. "She will find a way to get at you. Or steal your cooking. Or make you her slave. She's so jealous of you now. About your luscious shape, compared to hers. And if she could only steal your cooking, or worse, force you to cook for her, she would. She's going to hurt you soon." Zsa Zsa's body tightens up. "And will have to do something to protect you. She's going to hurt you, and I will have to stop her." Zsa Zsa pauses. She is out of sandwiches. She takes in a heavy breath, placing her head against Amandine's shoulder, nuzzling it slightly.
"... Isn't there a way to make her disappear forever, before she tries to hurt you?"
Amandine's eyes wander, if only briefly, before her focus returns to snacking. She seems to fall into sync with Zsa Zsa, responding in turn.
"Oh, Zsa Zsa," Amandine waves a hand at the wrist. "You FLATTER me. You're such a little DARLING." But then the mention of Belladonna again, of being out of her life. Amandine chews her lip in between sandwiches.
"Well, uh," Amandine considers. "I mean, I SUPPOSE," she considers something. She hadn't considered it that way. Is it so addicting? Is it so...intoxicating? Is SHE so intoxicating? No one had certainly told her.
"You're TOXIC, you little GREMLIN!"
Similar, but not quite.
"Do you really think so?" Amandine says more softly. She furrows her brow again. A hand rises slowly, and Amandine pats Zsa Zsa's head with far more delicacy than she is known for--well, at least in one meaning of the word.
"...well, maybe ..." Beat. "... how did you know about Tantalus, Zsa Zsa? Have you been ... reading things?" Amandine seems Concerned.
As she has her head pat, Zsa Zsa snuggles in a bit.
Zsa Zsa was a darling. She was a darling. Sometimes, she didn't want to be called darling. Sometimes, she wanted to be ignored. But not Amandine. Never Amandine, now. She would be okay being the only thing Amandine's beautiful little brain would think about constantly, always. She would be okay being food for Amandine. Sustenance. As she talks about how -good- Zsa Zsa is for Amandine, she starts to drift away into bliss, being pat so gently, so sweetly. Slowly, her eyes begin to shut.
But Amandine starts asking questions.
She's thinking too. Zsa Zsa's eyes snap open wide. She pulls off of Amandine's shoulder slowly, looking at her with big eyes. "Podiebrads have... have so much about artifacts." She sputters out loud, trying to get her bearings. She looks at AMandine, and she was so... so concerned. She had an imagination too. "... I have a brother named... he is named Matthias. Matthias is very slow, and he doesn't read very well, so I- I try and help him read. We read the bible, and- and other things. We're not supposed to be good at reading either, but- but I have to be smarter than the others, so they can't... so they can't..." Zsa Zsa barely suppresses a giggle.
A nervous, maniacal giggle.
She tries to strangle her own laughter, because she's focusing, hard. She's focusing. "And- and- well. There is a lot of writing about the artifacts we have found. Matthias focuses a lot on the artifacts, because that's one of his jobs. We have something like the Tantalus too." She gestures behind Amandine. "I was thinking about it, in my imagination. It's a basin, not a cauldron. We use it differently. We don't put food in, and- with weddings, and joining with the family... We..." She tenses up. She is a afraid. When she is afraid, she gets very different emotions. Some of them are murderous. Some of them are affectionate. Sometimes, it is both. Both was sometimes the most exciting. Her heart was racing. She felt so -dirty- now, so filthy with the most dark and insidious secrets. Murderous conspiracies. Family secrets. It was the purest form of Podiebrad passions.
"Do you know about the Countess Mircalla Karnstein?"
She states, a forbidden name in many families. Zsa Zsa could imagine herself being executed. It made her excited. Tortured Executed in the Arena of Ravenous Delights, the traditional punishment for traitors. And she couldn't stop. She couldn't stop the secret. "I do. She used to call herself Carmilla, but that was her real name." Zsa Zsa holds on to Amandine tightly. "Matthias thinks it interesting, but he has no imagination. He doesn't think about bigger things. But it's a secret that Matthias and I have, and, I think Dad-"
Zsa Zsa spasms a bit, an instinctive revulsion coming over her as she releases Amandine.
She moves suddenly, disgust forcing its way into her. This time, when she comes to the food, she grabs a withered, stale eclair, and forces herself to eat it. She frantically grabs at the nearly empty platters, grabbing whatever food she could, and forcing it into her mouth. Instinctive tears flood in her eyes, as the mental break washes over her, and then, ebbs. There is a clattering sound, as she flips over the tray defiantly. She swallows, long and slow, as she grabs her hair, legs spread out in a wide stance. She should be feeling naked, wanting to be, but she doesn't -feel- naked. She doesn't feel naked around Amandine, or a need to be naked. She steadies out, face red, as she looks back at Amandine. "I think the former Patriarch knows about this, but I don't think the new Patriarch does." Zsa Zsa says calmly. "That everything we own, every artifact we have, the manor, the catacombs, everything was plunder from the Countess Karnstein. Stolen from -your- family. But. That's impossible. That's completely impossible, because our blood... her blood... is tainted..." She says almost casually, lightly, like she completely forgot everything. "Matthias has no imagination. We're all... we're all... spoiled." She declares, before closing her legs back together, clasping her hands before her. The maid mask is back on again. "We are almost out of vittles, my lady. Do you wish to take a break?"
"Or would you like me to see if Belladonna left any on the tables outside?"
Amandine, for her faults, can be deceptively simple to please. Sure, sometimes she is terrifying, petty, overbearing, loud, crude, and unpleasant, but isn't everyone? Perhaps not so much as Amandine, but she is not without her good side. It is in this moment that Zsa Zsa has managed to bring out something greater, more pleasant. More ... normal.
"Uhhh, right, like the scepter thing. And weapons and stuff. Doesn't everyone worth something in the NOL have at least one of those?" Amandine seems to be following along. "Oh, right, another brother." Amandine's mind wanders for a moment, thinking to the Patriarch, thinking about--
Her focus comes back as Zsa Zsa breaks into a giggle. Amandine frowns. She chews her lips.
"Oh," Amandine says, "her." There's a familiarity there, though a distant one that is not especially pleasant. "We didn't REALLY talk about her back home. I mean, I SAW her name in a book that I wasn't SUPPOSED to read, but."
There's the outburst, and during it, Amandine's mouth gapes open. She stares for a long moment, then reaches out and pats Zsa Zsa comforting. FIRMLY.
"Oh, uh. Huh. I guess we ARE. Do you think she even did? If she didn't, I'm gonna NAG her."
Did Amandine forget? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Maybe Zsa Zsa could never keep normal.
"You could do more than nag her." The maid states warmly. "And if you did. I would support you, no matter what." Zsa Zsa rises up, and gives a bow to Amandine. "I will fetch more vittles. More sweets. More meats. More refreshments. I like to feed you, my lady. It makes me happy, to please you." She raises her eyes. "Don't worry about thinking. Just feel what you wish, and I will give you whatever you want. I will return soon." She turns, and steps towards the flaps of the tent.
Zsa Zsa pauses as she steps out.
The feasting was meant to be unlimited. Magical. But it looked like a fight had broken out. In Belladonna's battle between herself and her ever expanding waistline, the entire spread was to suffer for it. A single soldier was holding a platter, trying so hard to pick from the crushed table. The magic endured; it just took foraging in order to sort the leftovers from the fresh food. It was disgusting. A war zone. And a mess that would be impossible for all of them to clean. It was a disaster.
But not at the other tent.
There were the other two guards, right across from Amandine's tent. The table was smashed between them, and the two were standing straight at attention. Their legs and feet were -smeared- with gravy and frosting, and they were trying very, very hard -not- to look at Zsa Zsa. And now, Zsa Zsa leans over to pick up a platter. Like the other guard, she would focus on foraging. She would return soon enough. And then, she would continue her intimate camp out with Amandine. She would always remember this moment. And she would want it to last. A deep, long song of the organ begins to play, far away. But she wouldn't think much about it. She would stay with Amandine.
Something that the other guards -knew- they were going to regret.
Inside the tent they were guarding, Belladonna stares ahead, breathing heavily as she sits on the pillows alone. She was busy fanning herself. But her piggy eyes narrowed within. She had stopped eating for the moment; like in the other tent, all the food was gone from inside. But she was listening now. And she could hear better than people thought. She hadn't heard everything, no. But she heard something. Part of her feared for her life. And the other?
Was greedily looking for how to ensure her next meal, for life.
Log created on 15:47:16 06/15/2021 by Sven, and last modified on 22:10:22 08/24/2021.