Cherriana smiled a soft smile as she stepped through the ankle-deep snows of Kannard Vale. She walked up a small mound of snow near the iron fences surrounding her regal estate. She looked over the lands - her lands, she reminded herself - with eyes as green as grass and a smile as white as the snow at her feet.
Absent-mindedly, she ran a nail through her long blood-red hair.
She simply stared at the trio of rising moons in silence for a moment, the moonlight reflecting off her pale skin. She smirked. "I am glad I took this from you, Mother."
The harsh winter winds tore at the black leather and golden chainmail she wore. The wind seemed to be displeased at her attempts at modesty and seemed to want to strip her bare before the moon. The Goddess of the Moons - Nyr - wanted her presented with nothing to conceal her. "How romantic," Cherianna said aloud, sarcastically as she smiled faintly at the thought.
Her joints began to cramp from the cold and thus, she began to move away from her home and towards Kannard Vale proper. As she moved, the winds increased in bitterness and strength. To try and counter it, she pulled the black furs around her shoulders closer.
As a Vampiress she was hardly concerned by mortal concerns such as the cold or heat. However, she had an appearance to keep up. To the people of Kannard Vale, she was mortal. To them, these petty matters of nature and God's whim were a concern and to keep them appeased, to her they must appear. They must appear to all her family: The Kozma Clan.
She shook her head in disguist invisible to the plebs who hailed her as she walked. 'Honestly,' she thought to herself, 'For nearly three hundred years our dark family has ruled and yet no has noticed we are more than human?' Sometimes, she truly hated the masses.
She stopped beside the arena, its white marble walls glistening in the moonlight. She thought of the gladitorial games that had occured over the last three days to celebrate her rise to the throne. And her Mother's death, on a less significant note.
Brave men saluted, fought, bled and died under her eye. The thought of the blood , crimson and hot, splashing on musclar body, shining armour, glistening sword and sand-covered floor caused her mouth to water and a tounge to run across her fangs. She decided to go in, her black fur-covered boots impacting on the black granite floor with a wet thud. She stepped through the arena's entryways and followed along to the battleground itself. She stopped for a moment, however, when she noticed a figure dueling the very air around him. A Gladiator.
"Pray tell," she called out, "And who are you?"
The Gladiator spun swiftly, his iron shortsword's tip aimed at her. It was lowered and sheathed almost immediatly when he noticed the green serpant crest on her black leathers. "Emira Kozma," he said with respect, addressing her by title "I am but a Gladiator."
Cherianna walked into the arena further, leaving footprints in the blood-splattered sand. "Gladiator? Is that your name?" she asked with a hint of amusement, "Fine then, Gladiator. Tell me why you still stand within my arena when all your kind are either slain or with Kannard Vale's finest whores and barkeeps."
If Gladiator was taken aback by her approach, he made no sign. "I am above them, Emira," he said simply, "While they spend their time among whores, they weaken. I train. I am strong." He smiled faintly, "That is why I am alive still."
"No time for women?" Cherianna smirked, raising a coy eyebrow.
Gladiator was taken aback. He tried to form words, mumbling slightly. "I... Well, I sometines do... I don't often... Sometimes..."
"Relax, foolish man," she said sternly, "I am not concerned for that sort of sword. I am concerned for that one." She pointed to the longsword in his hand.
Gladiator was on the defensive now, "Why?"
“Why so short with me, Gladiator?” she asked before sighing, “I grow tired of your title. Tell me your name and quickly.”
Gladiator eyed her up with a mixture of suspicion and curiousity. Cherianna did not smile but was pleased. He was curious as to what she was seeking...
“My name is Orphée,” he replied calmly, his tone edged with suspicion.
“Orphée,” Cherianna mused slightly, walking up to him slowly, stroking his cheek. He stood his ground to her touch, not showing any response. “A truly heroic name.”
“Blessed be to my parents, then,” he replied before hastily adding, “Emira.”
“Indeed...” she smiled to him. She held the gaze for a moment and his expression softened. 'No time for women,' she thought to herself sarcastically, 'You can make time for me...'
“I see great potential in you, Orphée. Great, great potential...” She let her hand stroke his cheek and work down to his chest. “I would be very much honoured if you would accompany me to my home and... Discuss your future with me.”
In that split second, she knew Orphée was debating this. He knew exactly what she wanted. He knew exactly what it would entail. What he did not know -or, at least, Cherianna hoped he did not know – was what would be the cost.
“Discuss...” he repeated after a moment, “I... I shall, my Emira.”
Cherianna smiled to him. Just as she had hoped.
They spent the night together, wrapped in the furs and velvets of Cherianna's bed. She enjoyed the passion he shared with her and he enjoyed the touch of a woman that he had not paid. They both fell asleep shortly after their love-making and awoke to the Bannerman's calls.
“Rise!” he called following with a flurry of drum beats, “The day of work has begun! Rise!”
“You should go, little Gladiator,” Cherianna whispered to Orphée. “You wouldn't want to miss your fight...”
“No,” he replied, standing and dressing himself, “I would not.”
“Fight well,” Cherianna smiled, “For you represent the Kozma.” He paused as he tied his boots together, turning to look at her.
“I am sorry, Emira?” he asked uncertainly. Cherianna smiled at him.
“You represent the Kozma, Gladiator,” she smiled, crawling closer and wrapping her arms around his neck. “You fight under my Banner... You shall wear the viper.”
He looked away from her, staring at the tapestry that had the viper she made reference to. A Gonfalon with alternating stripes of black and crimson. On it was the silver-crescent moon and the green viper, poised to strike. Every man and women knew how much of an honour it was to bear the moon and viper. Every individual sought the power, glory and honour it brought. Orphée knew this and he imagined what it would bring. He, however, also knew the risk. Should he fail the Kozma, he would be punished harshly. Could he hold his own?
“I accept the honour, Emira,” he said, turning to her. “I thank you with every depth of my soul.”
“May the God of War bless your sword arm,” Cherianna smiled as she wrapped herself in the covers.
“I hope Kakrn sees fit to see me through,” he nodded with a smile as he finished dressing. With that, he stood and saluted her with poorly concealed pride. A night of passion with the Emira of the Kozma and now the possibility of honour and wealth beyond imagination. This was a good morning.
As he left, he was replaced by Einar, the Captain of her Guard. He was already dressed in his black iron plate armour with a long red cloak. She could not see it, but she knew his symbol – three white interlocked triangles – was embroidered on the cloak's back. His twin silver long swords rested at his waist and his hands rested on the hilts. His face was hidden behind a helmet, imposing and strong, of the same black-iron as his armour.
“I do not truly wish to know what that was about, Emira,” he said with his usual gruff tone, but this time laced with warmness.
“It was about a nice night,” she smiled to him, “And ensuring control...” She climbed out of her bed, without clothing and moved to the window. She opened them and stood on the small balcony. She embraced the cold... It was wonderful for stirring the tired mind.
She could tell Einar was looking at her. Despite being partly-Vampire, he was still a man. She didn't really care. They'd shared a bed once. They had spent a long time together.
“You'll need to explain how this gains you control, Emira,” he said after a few moments.
Cherianna smiled slyly. “It's simple.” She looked over Kannard Vale. The circular marble Arena. The Honest Lad tavern. The Grand Market. The Smiths and the Whorehouses. Her city... And further still, her word was law.
“I need the people,” Cherianna said coldly with darkness in her tone. “And, well... The people love a fighter. And they especially love a winner. So when a Gladiator serves the Kozma alone and wins great victories, their love for he passes along to us.” She smiled as activity began to spark in the city. They were, mostly, making their way to the arena.
“Ensure his oppoent is suitably,” he paused for a moment, drawing out the word. “Demoralized.”
“As you say, Emira,” Einar nodded, turning to leave, his fine cloak twirling.
“And have Igor prepare me breakfast,” she called after him.