08.14.3013: The Jewel in the Rough
Summary: Ariana brings Declan to Obsidia as a way for the Heir of Arboren to learn more about his betrothed's favorite things.
Date: 14 August 2013
Related: None
Ariana Declan 

Hanging Gardens — Obsidia, The Crescent
A green oasis in the midst of the white city of Obsidia and the gray and brown continent of the Crescent, the Hanging Gardens are kept cool and bright with misters placed at the top of the white maze-like walls that twist and turn through the half-mile expanse. The white stone of the walls is almost invisible beneath the fall of greenery descending from hidden planters within them. Clinging ivies and draping vines make what would otherwise be a stark space soft and comfortable, the flora carefully chosen so that there is always something blooming somewhere in the Gardens. There are benches and arbors tucked here and there into the near-maze, providing places to sit and relax, and there is even a small lawn around an equally-small pond at the center of the Gardens.
14 August 3013

It's been a while since Ariana has stepped foot anywhere near the city of Obsidia. The Crescent, in itself, is a hideous backdrop to what the young Larent lady considers to be a place of unique beauty. The pristine white marble structures that can be found throughout the city give Obsidia a clean and rather ethereal feel, very much like how pristine and white and heavenly Summit is. So when asked by her betrothed where some of her favorite locations are, though Ariana has been absent from this gem in the rough for some time, Obsidia is one of the first places on her list. Dressed in an elegant gown in a snowy white, the fullness of her skirts blossom out to accentuate her slight hips, while their hems trail over the floor when she walks. The bodice she wears is tight and pulls in even further at her thin waist while intricate gold and black embroidery trail patterns over the trimmings of the gown to add that bit of color to it. Her long blonde hair is done up in one of her usual fancy updos with several tiny white and yellow blossoms intertwined with her locks. If Ariana were the type to become easily excited, this may be the time for her to show this, but instead she retains to her normal level of calmness as she drifts through the maze-like walls, admiring the lush greenery and flowers as she does so. "Despite Obsidia being a part of the Crescent, I cannot help but find their gardens to be one of the most beautiful I've ever seen."

"I do enjoy them myself, although it has been some time since I have been able to come," is Declan's remark as the young Lord moves along beside his betrothed with measured steps. While he wore the silvery jacket for their outing to the casinos of Summit, he's chosen the black one for this trip. It suits the landscape, although it contrasts with the white marble of the city. But once in the overgrown maze of the gardens, he blends again, with the few touches of emerald worn in the rest of the outfit. Even far from the Spine, he does seem to rather easily and effortlessly fit into any such natural background. "However, I feel that they are something of an illusion. They go to a great deal of effort and use considerable resources to make this place appealing to outsiders and to make one forget the desolateness of their lands." He glances side to side. "Still, it is quite lovely." Then, with a thoughtful pause, the man wonders further, "You prefer them even to your own gardens?"

Unlike during her time spent in the thick of the Arborenin woods, Ariana feels far more relaxed in this setting. Something which may seem very clear to the Young Lord's observant eyes. Her words do not hold the same negativity that came out while in the woods and the tone which she uses is far lighter. "Oh, you speak the truth, My Lord. Not any amount of superficial beauty can mask the ugliness of the Crescent that we can see in the horizon, but yet, these gardens are, as you have said, an illusion. A grand illusion. They have put quite a lot of work to make this place Paradise." Navigating her way through the maze-like pathways, she pauses briefly, before switching directions and continues onward once more. "Though do I find this place more beautiful than our gardens at Summit?" Half-turning to look over her shoulders, she looks thoughtful, a faint smile on her lips. "Not exactly. It's beautiful in a different way and I do admire the structures and design of many of the buildings. Perhaps, one day I'll create a garden such as this one… but to be far more beautiful in design."

Declan continues along at that same well-measured stride, turning when they reach a particular juncture and Ariana chooses a new direction. "Once we have married, I would be happy to see what changes your own expertise might bring to our own gardens, how they might be expanded and improved. Obviously it is a different sort of setting, a different context than your garden at the Sky Palace, but I am sure you could bring some very interesting additions to what we have now. And we are already quite proud of it, so just think where your efforts might lead?" It seems that this, at least, is a fairly agreeable, multi-cultural and universal sort of topic. Gardens. "Should we perhaps start heading toward the falls? There is still much to see, I imagine."

"Improving the Gardens of Nora?" Ariana inquires, but this time she does not make any move to look at Declan; she merely saunters forever forward, only pausing to admire… or at the very least, observe a blooming blossom here or a hanging vine there. "I've only been there less than a handful of times, but I can see what can be done. I just felt that it was… kept like that for years and generations. I wouldn't think anyone would expect any major changes to your gardens, but we shall see." Hearing out Declan's suggestion that they see the falls, she nods slowly and turns to find her way back out and towards the entrance of the gardens once more. "Of course, My Lord. While these gardens may be a work of art and beauty, the falls here is Obsidia's true natural beauty." Considering the topic of conversation, she returns to the discussion on gardens, "Our own Courtyard Gardens, unlike your own, is ever changing. We create and build new structures, add new design elements to attract and keep the attention of our visitors. Yours, from what I know of it, is far more traditional a garden in a sense. Rather ancient as well, I would think."

Declan chuckles a little at Ariana's more dubious reaction, but shakes his head in the negative. "Kept the same for generations? But that is not how nature works, my Lady. Certainly, the overall… form of it, is a thing of tradition. But life grows and changes. Never, in any two moments, will it be precisely the same. This you know as well as I. And so I see no harm in allowing the Gardens to also grow and change. Besides, you will be the Lady of the house, and should not one of our greatest natural treasures reflect the beauty and personality of that lady?" A faint grin forms. "People might be upset if you made all the plants glow, but I expect you would appreciate how to blend your changes with the local scenery, as that is very much a part of such tasteful design, is it not?" He waits for her to turn about and then again takes up after her as they walk back toward the exit, although his steps are hardly hurried.

When Declan reminds her that she will be the Lady of House one of these days and that it would be fine to make changes to the Arboren gardens, while Ariana still looks skeptical of all of this, there is a gleam in her eyes that yes. There are many changes that she would like to make. Not only to the gardens but… everywhere. While there is no enthusiasm or any verbal response to this, the young Larent simply nods in Declan's direction, gracing him with a passing smile, as she walks past him on her way towards the entrance. There is this long moment of silence, before she finally states, "Then I will see what can be done. I truly do enjoy the maze-like structure of these gardens. I do wonder if that can be incorporated in your Gardens of Nora." Finally, they step out from the gardens to once again view the black glass falls from their lofty perspective. "What do you think of the falls, My Lord? I find it interesting, the black in contrast to the pristine setting here." She then carefully, makes her way down the steps so that they may view the lakeside.

Obsidian Falls and Lakeshore — Obsidia, The Crescent
The Obsidian Falls form a wide curtain of shining, glistening black glass running down the front of a cliff a thousand feet high. A lift runs alongside the Falls, allowing easy transport between Obsidia and the base of the Falls. The base of the Falls is protected from the attentions of tourists by a shallow lake that runs half a mile from the base of the cliffs out toward the veldt beyond. Canyon walls — and a few carefully-placed hard light shields — shelter the lake from more than the slightest gust of wind, letting its surface reflect the Falls and the white city above in near-perfect mimicry.
14 August 3013

The suggestion of a maze draws another light laugh. "I am not sure how easily that would be accomplished, but it is certainly something for you to think on." With that, Declan falls into an easy pace behind the Larent lady, following along on the path toward the overlook and spending a moment just taking in the sights around them once they have arrived. "I've always thought they were somewhat interesting," he admits, looking out over the lake below. "Although also somewhat… eerie? It is strange to see something you normally expect to exist in motion held still in this fashion, as if frozen in a particular moment in time. It is quite beautiful, though."

"The first time that I'd ever seen these falls, I thought that the water was dirty with its inky blackness." Ariana says somewhat wistfully as they make their descent; her eyes looking outward to view the shimmering black falls all the way down to the lakeside. "But then I caught sight of the glistening glass that sparkled and radiated so strangely. It is the glass that makes it all the more lovely." Without even looking upon Declan, she continues to speak, her gaze looking out into the distance across the black lake. "Lord Nitrim actually gave me a gift of black glass several months ago. I've yet to do anything with it, but then again, I thought it was beautiful enough in its natural state."

"It is beautiful, for all its strangeness," Declan must admit, his attention often on the cascade of glass as they descend, viewing it from changing angles and perspectives. And when his attention turns, it is likewise out upon the still water below, toward which they draw nearer. "The reflection is also quite impressive." Nitrim's honorable mention draws a quick glance sidelong away from the natural wonders and to the more human beauty beside him, although after a moment his lips curl in the revelation of an oddly pleased smile. "A thoughtful gift. Actually, I have brought something for you as well, although it can wait for later, and I am afraid it is store-bought. Somehow, I did not think you would be fascinated by pinecones gathered in the Arborenin wood." His sense of humor seems to be adapting to her feelings regarding his homeland!

Perhaps the mention of another Lord bearing gifts was an unintentional one, or something that Ariana did not think much about before she had said it. So once those words leave her lips, there is no expectation of a reaction from Declan regarding this. In fact, she does miss the quick glance which is soon given her…that is until the Young Lord brings up a gift as well. Turning quickly, herself, there is a look of gentle surprise on her features. "A gift..? Oh, but you have already given me a gift. The lovely cloak which I had worn to Niveus and am pleased and honored to add to my collection." There is no smile of jest or even recognition of the man's little joke and jab at his own homeland. All there is is a look of wonder on her features now, her own shrewd eyes studying the Arboren Heir as if trying to gauge what he could have bought her. Gifts actually do seem to spark some life into the usually subtle and somewhat stoic young woman.

"True," relents the man to her objection about that prior gift. "But then again, you are my betrothed and we are courting, and so it is somewhat expected that I should be generous with such things, is it not?" Declan's question is rhetorical. And her apparent reaction to the news also seems to please him, a slightly mischievous smirk alighting on his lips. If only she knew! And then the subject is turned back to their environs. "Though I understand their reasoning, it is a shame that they go to such efforts to shield people from the area below. It would be interesting to sail on the lake, don't you think, and to look up toward the top of the falls from their terminus."

Curious eyes now remain on Declan even as he changes the subject from his gift to… well, the falls and the lake itself. So Ariana's focus shifts briefly as well, her gaze moving from the glistening surface of the lake, before being drawn up towards the falls. "That would be an interesting endeavor, to be certain. Just as long as you aren't sliced open by stray glass that is, but yes. I can see the fascination of how such a view would look like." She quiets down now, thinking back on the conversation which had brought them here to begin with, when she asks, "You were curious about places and things that fascinated me or that I looked upon with favor. What do you think, My Lord? I mean, I know that this is not your first visit here, but I believe you have a better understanding, perhaps, of what I take interest in."

"Getting sliced to ribbons is always a terrible way to spend a vacation." Humorously agreeing to this point, Declan then takes another wide-angle survey of the place, perhaps trying to take in a full picture of his betrothed's preferred landscape. "I do not know if I can fully say that I understand your preferences, although I can at least draw some inferences. Obviously, you enjoy natural beauty as many people do, but there is a certain sort of… austere and regal grandeur that seems to appeal to you. And, naturally, heights." The latter is added considering the obvious view enjoyed from the city over the falls. "It may yet take me some time to get the full picture, however. Still, clearly, you are a woman of refined tastes. I realize that the Arborenin landscape is a little more wild that these places, its beauty sometimes concealed, hidden away and perilous to reach. But I will do my best to show it to you, nonetheless."

"I do love a breathtaking view." Ariana says lightly, though turns slowly so that she is now following the length of the lake to an extant. "And you are right, My Lord. I do love the regal grandeur which can be seen both here in Obsidia and at Summit. The clean lines, the elegant and artistic architecture." There is no mention when heights are brought up, but her lips do purse into a little smirk as she begins to make her way back once she reaches a certain section of the lake. "I am eager to see what more that your forests has to offer." This is said genuinely enough. "I did enjoy my time at your hidden pond oasis, but as I had mentioned before, it is difficult to feel safe in your deep forests. It does make the perfect hiding spots for the Hostile, for one."

Declan has no argument for her there, and in fact, he nods his agreement. "You are sensible to be concerned, my lady. Even before the Hostiles returned, our forests were not totally safe, although I would say that in the presence of someone who knew them well a guest would have had little to fear. Even most of the predators are easily scared away when presented with would-be prey that knows their habbits and is not afraid of them. But, since the coming of the Hostiles, it is true that the forests have taken on a more sinister nature. And it does pain me to know it, to think that they are still lurking, that we may never hunt them all down. I imagine it must worry me in the same way the landings on your own moon worry you and your family, since you have no way of knowing if they have survived the surface or what they might be up to. The only difference is… that no one takes hikes on the ground, on Nubilus." He shakes his head. "But you have my assurance that I will always do everything to keep you safe when we tour our lands. And if you wish to remain back, I will not fault you for that, though it will sadden me that I cannot show you some of the things our lands have to offer."

A little hint of negativity does finally reach the young Larent's lips when she says, "The forest itself.. seems dangerous. The twisting of vines and gnarled branches. I suppose, it's always wise to keep to the well-traveled path, because otherwise… the way would be treacherous, I would think." When reminded of the Hostile presence on Nubilus, Ariana lets out a heavy sigh, being the most expressive than she usually gets when it comes to what she is feeling, "We continue to remind our populace that things are under control and that the Hostile are being heavily observed on their plateau. But yes, it is worrisome and eventually, we will need to work on ways to… be rid of them. My Lord Father has been working on details for such a plan and hopefully, we shall see it put in motion." A pause, "I assume you know of House Peake's plans to capture a live Hostile in the mountains of Khar-Mordune?"

"Well, I suppose there is truth to that as well, although it is not so sinister as you make it sound. Twisting growth can make for treacherous footing, but it is a danger easily overcome by a bit of familiarity or caution. And it is really no different from the dangers of many lands - the heat and mountains here, the vapors of your moon, or even the winds for when you take your gliders out. Just as one practices to be a competent horseman or glider pilot, one learns to traverse these lands, and it becomes easier over time." Declan does offer a sympathetic sort of look when she speaks of the concerns her own moon faces. "Naturally, if the Lord Larent requires any sort of aid, he has but to ask. It would be a gesture we would be happy to offer, considering our coming union." Then a small nod follows. "Of course. Though I am unsure what to expect out of it, even if they are successful, considering how little our first captured hostile achieved."

"Oh, I would hate to live in the Crescent as well." Ariana adds in, despite her appreciation of Obsidia's beauty. "It's so dark and ugly," The dark is what this place must share with the Arborenin forest in her eyes. "Why, The Shard really glows like a beacon on the cliffside compared to everything around it." And once more, her gaze lifts to view the fortification of House Ibrahm high atop the cliff. It is when Declan mentions the dangers and such of living in other areas, such as Nubilus, that she has to arch a brow. "I… cannot see that these are the same. I need not dress like a horse groom," Or however else Arborenins tend to dress "to ride in a glider." Turning away now, she shrugs her elegant shoulders, "And I understand that is why your people dress the way they day, but your environment certainly isn't elegance friendly when it comes to attire." The topic of dress has come up in their previous conversation and she is certain to make a point about it now. "But it is like you have said. I will stick to using the Waygates." So nothing snags at her skirts of her gowns! The Nubilus topic simply gets a nod, but whatever is on her mind regarding that, she refrains from mentioning, moving on to something that she knows will go down very shortly. "It's all because of a dream. Well, for the most part." Once again, she drifts forward, her hands bunching portions of her skirts as she walks. "Lord Aidan Peake told me of this dream that he and the Awakened have had, where a Hostile, that very much resembled one of us… practically begged the dreamer to 'Release' them. Now, I've been in attendance enough at several Hostile autopsies to know that they aren't particularly human, though they may look human. So I am uncertain as what this dream means or what Lord Aidan expects to find. It is not an autopsy they are looking to deal with now, but a lived specimen, which I warned him, would be dangerous. Look at the damage that was caused to the Ring."

Declan can't help but chuckle when the objection she raises to him is largely wardrobe-based. "No, you're right that some of the concerns are different. I simply meant to point out that whether hiking, riding, or flying, there are always concerns. Fortunately, there are few obstacles to dressing how you like within the city itself, or when traveling between the ways. Even your riding gown seemed suitable enough. And I think I will enjoy having a bride who brings a bit of style and elegance to my side." Is this telling about how people often desire the exotic, that which is different from the common experience around them? "I realize the point is to seize it alive, but ultimately I'm not sure how it will be much different from the prior incident. We thought that one was dead, but it turned out not to be, and it used every moment of consciousness to kill and destroy. I fear that this will be the same. Not that it is reason against an attempt, but I hope security will be at least tripled this time around, and I fear that for all that effort the gain may be minimal. Perhaps there is more to be gained in studying their technology, for at least it is not so… inherently hateful of us."

Ariana doesn't understand what is so funny when Declan does get a little laugh out of her distress and so her eyes narrow ever so slightly for a second even as that ghost of a smile lingers on her lips. Seemingly satisfied enough with his response, she speaks in a dismissive fashion, "I am no ranger, nor an archer, nor a scout. So yes, I do not expect to venture all that far from the safety of the Ways. Though, I am glad that this much is clear." She cannot help but recall how poorly dressed 'her' people will soon be and that, in itself, is distressing. Turning away once more, she simply states, "Perhaps, they are trying to find some form of humanity beneath the cybernetics. These… things are known for removing the organs from our own dead when our fighters are slaughtered out on the field. Are they using these on themselves? And if so… do they gain anything from their victims' organs." Quickly, she adds in to keep things straight, "I've studied up enough on organ transplants as it is and I know there is no transference of thoughts and memories, but from what I recall, one of the victims… your Lord Cousin's wife, I believe. Her body was found with her brain removed."

"I know what you are, Lady Ariana. Have no fear. If I had wanted a ranger or archer or scout as a wife… there were plenty enough of those who might have suited." Nevermind that he was actually betrothed to one, this is not something that Declan points out directly. "Well, we know there must be people beneath the equipment… for it is thought that they were once part of the same group who colonized the whole of the Haven system, yes? But we have seen many examples of them removing organs, yes, so it does follow that there is some further sort of connection, and that perhaps they require or seek some connection to what they once were. I am hopeful that this effort will reveal more, even if I am not confident that it is likely."

Satisfied once again by Declan's response to her concern, Ariana moves as if much of this heavy and unpleasant weight has been lifted off her shoulders. Her chin is held higher, her every movement done with her usual grace and even her face is lit up, all signs of her concerns regarding her place in House Arboren have faded completely. She looks as happy as someone like her can look. That subdued smile is there, but there is more of a radiance that glows at her cheeks. "Doctor Hadrian Orelle will say otherwise. He specifically stated that we will not find a human beneath the cybernetics." A pause. "Will you help to supervise House Peake in this experiment? Lord Aidan has promised me that the captured Hostile will be locked up deep within Khar-Mordune and I do know that Lord Brigham will be conducting these experiments. I am hoping to offer my assistance in that and Doctor Hadrian has shown his own interest as well."

"Supervise the experiments? We really do not have any technical expertise to bring to bear, unfortunately, although we will of course be offering them assistance in troops and logistics as they may need," Declan explains. "But if you are personally interested in being involved, I am sure that could be arranged, especially in light of your future place in their own Paramount House. I do think Khar-Mordune will make a good site to carry out the experiment, considering it's security. The Ring may be distanced from any of the planets, true, but there is so much commerce and activity on it, as well as the naval operations, that endangering it in the way we did previously does seem less wise." As their walk may inevitably lead back to civilization, he finally pauses, and withdraws a small box wrapped with thin gift paper and a nice little bow. "To pass along a little of the story, I recalled our shopping trips and your love of fine, elegant and dainty things… but at the store, found it would be difficult to purchase an outfit not knowing all your precise measurements. But, with the aid of a nice girl there, and being able to make some general judgments… I was able to purchase something that I feel you might enjoy. Or that we might both enjoy, once we are wed. Though, I may leave you to open this at home, since it is white and the air here dusty." He grins a bit, in on the mysterious nature of it.

"I mean, as their Paramount… that you would have some hand in these important projects held by your own Vassal House. Overseeing its progress and the like." Ariana intones with some curiosity, but she expects this to be so and doesn't really dwell on the subject. "And it is Lord Aidan's idea, so yes… I am sure that House Peake will not want this project to be in anyone else's hands, having a tight hold on it, so to speak. Though, I'm certain, that if any scientists and the like would wish to assist, that the Peakes may allow them to help out. I, for one, have given them access to a high dosage of anesthetics to help their plan along." It is the mention of this gift again that seems to raise her spirits further, but as is polite, she does not dare lift a hand to open the present up right here and now. In fact, with how her emotions have been so schooled, she doesn't hold as much excitement as another young lady might with their desire to simply tear the wrapping paper off of her gift here and now. Still, it has to do with fashion, so she looks all the more curious. "Once again, I thank you for your generosity, My Lord.." Her gaze drops to regard the box with a piercing gaze, "I'm sure that whatever it is, it will be lovely." Of course, she isn't quite certain of this, for she is still wary of an Arboren's taste in attire.

"Well, of course," is Declan's reply to the overall matter of the Peakes and he goes on specifically to add, "If you have already assisted them, it would seem quite impolite for them to exclude you. Or so I would think. Assuming we get to that point, of having a specimen in custody to study, if at that point they give you trouble over involving yourself I will speak with those involved." Otherwise, the man manages to school his somewhat mischievous smile into one a little more normal, although there are hints of it trying to re-emerge. "I think it is very lovely, just as you are, and that you will look exceptionally beautiful wearing it. You will have to let me know what you think of it later." Finally returning to the Ways, "I will follow you back to Summit, of course, though sadly I must then return home quite promptly, to deal with various matters including the Peake matter."

She has nothing much to add to the discussion regarding the Peakes or the Hostile, but Ariana does say, "I will be on hand, nevertheless, to assist in any injuries that might come of this trapping attempt." She seems eager enough to want to witness this entire event and her words are spoken with professionalism, as she would be there as both a medic and scientist, despite her obvious dislike for the surroundings which she will venture into. As observant as she is, the young Larent catches sight of Declan's sly smile and she cannot help but have her curiosity all the more piqued now. "I'm sure I will… look beautiful wearing it." These words are spoken with a hint of wariness, but the gentle smile never fades from her lips. She is appreciative of the gift, that much is certain. "Thank you for joining me today on this little excursion… I believe the next outing that we go on will be of your choosing?" This is more of a rhetorical question that she asks as he escorts her back up the cliff to reach the Waygate.

As they walk back and Ariana turns her thoughts toward their next meeting, the young Arboren lord seems to ponder the possibilities, although he does not take too long in offering a suggestion. "Well, now that we have these falls for comparison, perhaps you would like to see one of those to be found in the Spine," Declan suggests. "You did enjoy the pond, and these are similar but more impressive." His tone is somewhat musing, as if other options could still be on the table for this next trip, given that they have only just finished the last! "I am sure we will find something enjoyable, in any case." When the Way finally stands before them, the man looks to her briefly and then makes a flourish with his hand. "After you, my Lady."

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