a sip of the freshly squeezed orange juice, you smile at the servant.
wonderful, thank you.”
there’s anything else you want, don’t hesitate to call, my lady,”
the young man responds with a little bow. “The
Chancellor has instructed to make sure you have everything you might
quite happy with this,” you reply, taking a look at the breakfast
spread the servant has brought in, big enough for four people. It has
everything from pastries to porridge, from scrambled eggs to fruit
salad. Over-compensating a little, are we Ardyn?
The dark-haired female stares at herself in the mirror, staring at every blemish and scar decorating her own face. If she’d been a tapestry, she’d been strung and strewn over layers of needlework, many loose strings and scissors surrounding her.
“Oh, how your kingdom will fall
when you find that your discarded pawn
was the queen all along”
[Nessian Assassin AU]
Varian had patched her silently as she stared blandly at the wall. The faint sounds of water droplets hitting the cement broke the silence, with the atmosphere of the void of emptiness persisting. The empty warehouse had been a meeting point of theirs, just to trade information that leaked through her employer’s mouth or the ones that the streets whispered when she coasted on the rooftops; he just told her anything she asked to ease her mission stuffed into her arms she had no part she desired of.
One of the notorious underground crime lords, he had become one of her unlikely allies as she had posed as one of his escorts to kill one of his contacts—also one of Tomas’s targets. Varian hadn’t noticed her among his personal escorts and immediately ordered her capture, but she’d escape, only to see him the next day, holding a silver dagger through the heart of one of her targets. He offered a deal, and she took it, needing every ounce of help and assistance she could find in this black and dark world where it seemed only monsters thrive.
He slew the last stitch through her, a slight hiss escaping her throat. A tap to her wrist indicated that he was done, and she flexed her shoulders.
She knew Varian had most likely looked her up as soon as they started seeing each other in the most unlikely places that was not meant for a consort. It didn’t matter as soon as he saw her snap the neck of one of the other target’s bodyguards and shoot the target through the head. He knew that she wasn’t pure and what she stood for. He knew who she worked for, and had stood disgusted, not that she blamed him.
Until she could pay off her debts to Tomas for the shelter, however unwillingly, and all the weapons she used, she remained hostage to him. Varian had set up a trust fund in the underground markets for her, and some nights, she would see him surreptitiously dropping a gold coin or two into her bank deposit.
He was the Phoenix’s shadow, or no way near her guardian angel. An older brother of sorts. They had never had a full on normal conservation, discussing this arrangement of theirs, but Nesta didn’t mind.
She pressed a ruby necklace in his hand, the one he’d been eyeing from the shops the last time they’d stood together at the end of the sewers, searching for one of the other crime lord’s one-eyed informats scurrying around.
A faint smile graced his lips and he slipped the pendant into his pocket. She changed out of the hospital gown cut open at the back and into her gear as he washed his hands with brutal efficiency, packing his medical kit. She saluted him as she headed for the door, throwing open the metal panel. However, before he returned her usual farewell with a tip of his hat, and jumped out the window, he whispered a request in her ear, leaving her face ashen for a split-second.
Nesta nodded, and a viper’s smile formed on her face.
The hardest part of the ordeal was shopping for clothes. She had headed for the athletic section, still finding the entirely cotton shirts worthless and unnervingly short pants absolutely ridiculous.
Dismissing one of the store employers who didn’t seem to know the difference between a strain and a sprain, Nesta grabbed a set of blouses and other unnecessary pairs of jeans that would hinder her maximum performance if she was caught in the middle of a fight. The most dangerous enemies knew what her true face looked like without a mask and would most likely be tracking her every moment.
She didn’t like this different approach, and gritted her teeth as she went to the cash register. When the worker dared to short-change her, Nesta called the manager and threatened to sue, pulling up her shades to indicate that she meant business. The tiny man had profusely apologized and let her choose another set of clothes for free, in which she took up, sneaking in a pair of boots when the cameras weren’t looking.
Sighing, she closed her trunk shut, and cursed loudly as her earpiece crackled into existence.
“Get your fine piece of ass over to second base,” Tomas said, and then shut down the link.
Nesta instantly shut her car door, and changed into her gear, sending a blessing for the tinted windows. By the time she arrived at the warehouse, the clouds had matched her mood, gray streaks piercing the air. Soft rain pattered down her windshield, and Nesta shoved her bags under the seat lest one of Tomas’s goons catch sight of her non-contraband materials by any chance.
When she stalked inside, forcing herself to loosen her muscles, the man of her nightmares sat at the head of a table, another of his acquaintances in a black trench suit sitting on his left.
The man turned, and she recognized the one-eyed man. Or at least, now two-eyed man. Varian had pinched out the other orb at as a means of last resort in extracting information when the man wouldn’t speak of Tomas’s plans.
“Hello, Nesta.” Tomas grinned, and gestured to the empty seat to his right. “Why don’t you take a seat?”
Dining with the wolves. Her favorite.
She obediently sat, wondering why he was here. Varian nor her hadn’t tipped him off of who she was, wearing one of her random masks that she fine-tuned to change a bit in appearance every time she hit the streets.
“This here is a man who was attempting to rise to the top of the hierarchy.” Tomas gleefully gestured to his left, but the man showed no indication of hearing. Her employer frowned, eyes flashing. “You see, Nesta, he’s blind because two bitches on the streets took his eye. The first was his employer, and the second a man he wants to kill.”
She slid a dagger out of her sleeve, and glanced at the man warily. Those pinkish, dirty yellow colors swirling around in his eyes were the first sign of infection. He should be demanding treatment, but—
“Tonight, this man will take you, and then you will continue with your latest mission.” Those black eyes pitied against, and Nesta felt bile roll up in her mouth. It had been a month since her employer had scheduled her appointment in the sex trade, choosing instead to use her abilities out on the field where a different type of monster of degradement awaited.
The man, looking straight ahead, placed a pair of steel chains on the table, the clinking sound having her insides shudder. She knew what he wanted to do to her, and her toes curled in protest.
“No,” Nesta said, watching the man’s eyes furrow. “No,” she repeated, this time louder.
“No?” Tomas snapped, almost disbelievingly. “You don’t have any choices here. You have no say and no freedom, and no right to decline.”
Her eyes turned to storm, and her back straightened, a pillar of steel and ice. “You had no right to kidnap me a rape me no more than any other female around here. You shaped me into a weapon when I was weak. You are lucky I continue to kill and pay my debts that I should never had accumulated in the first place. So no, Tomas, look for another girl to pick on.”
“You will respect me!” Tomas roared, and within a second, a whip laid wrapped around his wrists.
She flinched, and he grinned, one smile full of vile and vices. The way he moved that whip—
Nesta lifted her head. “This is not respect. This is control and dominance. This is abuse.”
The other man cocked his head, rubbing a knuckle. Slowly, his head turned towards Tomas, who was breathing heavily. “She’s a bitch, isn’t she?” He lowered his voice. “I don’t need to see her to know what fun she’ll be under me.”
“I may be a bitch, but no female deserves to be treated like this,” Nesta hissed, and flung the dagger outwards, a second following a different path. She didn’t watch them hit their targets as she fled the building, starting the engine.
No one followed her as she jerked the truck forward, the taste of blood clogging her nostrils and the tang of metal ringing in her ears.
The bar was a sorry excuse for one, with cheap shots and disgusting liquid that stung as it poured down her throat. Nesta didn’t care, as long as no one recognized her. She’d braided her hair and changed into one of the fruitless pieces of material that exposed more skin than she’d liked. Loud music drained out any thoughts as she tried to imagine the expressions that would cloud the other trained faces she’s seen walking in the hallways—what they would think when their boss no more.
She knew someone would seek retaliation against her for the second man’s death. There was always unwarranted ties and unspoken alliances that spun through the underground streets, fueling the tensions and cracks in their bittered society. The second man’s eyes had been gutted partly because of her, and his death had been laid in her hands. His last wisps of air, Nesta had decided, would serve as a symbol to others that would seek vengeance against her.
Her blade had flung at an expert arc horizontally that had sliced through his neck completely. A beheading.
An execution. Those soulless eyes had blinked no more.
Tomas was a different story.
It had been unspeakable to lay a hand nor speak a syllable in front of her master. There were no consequences for killing a boss since no one would dare in the first place. Except Nesta knew she hadn’t murdered Tomas with the first blade that had landed directly between his eyes. If she had, she would have accumulated more death and decay her already full plate would have no means of rejecting.
She’d thrown the dagger so softly at Tomas it’d barely pierce his flesh. No, at most the blade would hit his frontal bone and spur him unconscious. He’d bleed out, risk brain damage, but be alive—and live to torture another soul.
He wouldn’t die by her hand. She had made sure of that.
“I need a body to experiment a new drug on,” Varian had whispered in the warehouse hours ago. “By the end of the day.”
So Nesta had obliged, providing him with Tomas’s body.
Varian had headed over and stolen his body, interrogating his last minutes on Earth. He had asked why she’d provided him with this body over the blind man’s; she’d only replied with a sick smile plastered on her face, over their untraceable phone, “It’s him.”
The man who had created this nightmare and kept her under it for years—when she needed respite with peaceful dreams rather than the undulating, poisonous thoughts. The one who had touched her where she had deserved to be worshipped. The man who had broke her when she needed someone to build her up.
So Varian had informed her he had pumped Tomas’s body with morphine and other drugs to keep his brain fluids from leaking and heart beating—so that after the tested the opiate, he could further wreck pain like no other on Tomas’s body.
Nesta had merely stated to make sure that his dick was caught off and he was whipped.
Tomas’s last moments here wouldn’t be pretty, nor would it be grand. It would be brutal and messy, Varian gutting apart each socket and stuffing pins and needles through his sunken flesh.
A cold smile seared her face, and she sipped the cup harshly.
“You’re looking a little tense there, sweetheart.” A male voice, dripping honey, appeared next to her. A large, well-built body slid in the stool next to her. “Can I buy you a drink?”
Beautiful, deep brown eyes with ropes of corded muscle that white-collared shirt could not hide. Each movement had a ripple of tendon as he flexed his arms in a casual manner Nesta knew all too well. He looked oddly familiar as he waved the bartender over, and there was something to that rugged face that sent her on edge.
No rutting way. Even though that shot had been across ten buildings, she would never forget that smirk as her bullet had sunken through the wrong person. Her first missed shot. Her first whipping. Her first realization that she deserved more, than just pain and emptiness.
His own appearance didn’t seem quite as fully relaxed, those arms tense as if readying for a fight. The gauze and pad on his shoulder had her more suspicious. Her nail jabbed it, not too nicely. “Where did you get that?”
The male huffed and flinched as pain shot through his shoulder. “Just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
That confirmed her fears and she flung out of the seat and headed towards the bathroom. A sense of calm rage appeared over her, and senseless feelings of violence and the absence of peace had long nagged at her. Two women emerged from the bathroom, clad in skimpy clothing and red lipstick dotting their mouths.
She froze as they passed her, completely oblivious to her ignorance.
Those mouse brown strands of hair, one shorter than the other, her giggle—the older one’s hand on the younger’s elbow as they sashayed onto the dance floor—
Her sisters were in town.
Nesta cursed herself and the world as she went into the parking lot, the cold air kissing her skin. She found herself shivering for no reason, not when this night was nothing compared to others of being locked outside, chained to a lamppost, where other males would paw and jeer at her.
She didn’t know silent tears had flowed down her face until a thumb gently wiped it away, and the male at the bar stood in front of her. It had taken her entire willpower to allow him to sneak up on her and let him carry on his business. Except she didn’t think he would approach her.
“I’m Cassian,” he offered, his own body radiating heat and warmth.
She deserved to rot in empty coldness for every body that was now decaying and decomposing because of her. They taught her to have no remorse, and to not think except to focus on her next assignment. But Nesta was human and had a family before, so she’d transformed into a shell instead of a truly empty weapon. She’d become fixed between knowing her own mortality and the deaths of others, her mind shattered beyond repaired. There was no healing and mending save for her own injuries.
Cassian stared at her, an unreadable expression on his face. “Crying is just a sign of being strong for too long.” He hesitated for a second before extending an open palm. “Would you like to go out for dinner?”
Nesta looked down at his hand. At what he could give her: happiness and contentment and undeserved fortitude.
So she stared at him, letting that calm mask fall over her face. “No,” she firmly said, and headed towards her truck. She could feel the other male’s eyes burning in hers, and she wondered if he had been outright rejected before.
She needed to think, and Cassian had already started to plague her mind. Too much emotion in too little time—her sisters were here, and Nesta needed to get her hands on that file, and see what Tomas accusations against Feyre had deemed her worthy of death.
As she started pulled the gears in reverse, the male stood outside the bar, his hands in his pockets, watching her go—and flee from him as usual.
“She doesn’t recognize me.” He grinned into his earpiece. “At all.”
Princess Leia Organa Hoth costume displayed at the Star Wars Identities exhibition, London.
Today we lost a princess and a general, so what better time to look back at one of Leia’s most understated leadership looks. Empire Strikes Back showed a princess who was giving her everything to the Rebellion, maintaining moral and hope in the harshest of environments and in the face of absolute destruction, abandoning her post only when absolutely forced. Remember: She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.
The first costume worn by Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, this costume continued Leia’s familiar iconography whilst firmly placing her in an active and practical role. Unlike the gowns of the previous film, Leia now wears a combat snowsuit. This is the most identifiably ‘real world’ costume worn by Leia in the original trilogy. She both blends with and stands out from the rebels around her, maintaining her air of regal leadership even as she mucks in. The stand collar of her suit and the padded collar of her gilet both echo back to the collar and hood of her famous hero gown in A New Hope. The clean silhouette of this costume, with subtle quilting details and the simple lines of the waistband a zip-line continues the refined, understated Alderaanian elegance already established.
The colour palette worn by the rebels of Echo Base sits in shades of tan, beige and off-white. Leia’s shades of white and ivory are all her own, making her stand out and easy to follow on-camera on Hoth, and making her an isolated figure of light in the carbon freezing chamber when the snowsuit is worn again on Cloud City.
We followed the colour palette of the first one. It was just creating the winter variants of the same things. John Mollo, Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy
Note the difference in boots between this image from the set of Empire Strikes Back, and those displayed at SWID. The higher-wedge, grey boots are clearly visible in the infamous hallways scene with Han Solo (along with the cunningly disguised box Fisher was standing on) and in a number of other scenes, whereas the lower mukluk-style boots from the exhibition are clearly worn when Fisher is running towards the Falcon during the Echo Base evacuation. Skimming quickly through Empire, the darker boots show on camera more often giving the impression that the exhibition boots are Fisher’s stunt boots and the grey pair are the hero boots. However, the grey boots appear to be modified purchased boots. The exhibition boots have been made to specification. The most likely explanation is that the grey boots were intended to be off-camera boots to lend Fisher height, but they ended up being established on-camera against design (due to change in angles/shot order etc. before changes could be made or noted.) However, in Star Wars Costumes book, the mukluk-stye are described as the hero boots. A mystery!
You arrived at the studio before Norman and were introduced to the photographer and set assistants.
“Now don’t be nervous, this will be fun I promise!” The photographer tries to put you at ease. “Let’s take some photos now without Norman and get you used to it.”
This was your first photo shoot that wasn’t to do with the walking dead, and you had both been chosen to do a set of photos for a small fashion campaign. You weren’t ‘model-looking’, but this was about every body shape and several other shows had gotten involved too. Norman had done this kind of thing before which made you even more nervous about the day, as you had no idea what to do.
“Okay, what you’re wearing is great for the warm up shots, just stand over there and do your thing.”
You position yourself in front of the white backdrop in your black boots, black jeans, black top and long black coat. You didn’t intentionally wear all black, but it was a happy accident. It was your favourite coat, feeling like you were wearing a long cape when you swished it around.
“What’s your favourite music?” The photographer asks, handing you his phone with Spotify on the screen. You find a country music playlist and as it starts playing you hand the phone back and start moving around.
“I’m a country girl at heart!” You say over the music. You flick your coat and smile as your favourite song starts playing. The photographer snaps away as you do this and you don’t even notice Norman’s arrival and him standing there staring at you. After a few minutes he speaks.
“You’re a natural (Y/N)! You look beautiful like that,” he shouts over the music. You look up at him shocked, then blush and look down at your boots. The camera flashes one last time and you exit with the stylist to get changed into your first outfit. You walk past Norman and he reaches out and squeezes your hand as you do. Your eyes meet his and you smile up at him then carry on walking.
“I don’t think I can get away with this,” you say looking in the mirror at the mini dress you’re wearing.
“Of course you can! You look hot! It shows off your curves and tattoos perfectly, this is why it was chosen for you,” the stylist explains.
“Hmm, it does show off my thigh tatts pretty well. Is it too tight though?” You ask, patting your belly.
“Don’t be silly, I bet Norman will love it, you’ll see!” She winks. “Now come on, he’s waiting for you!”
You walk out in chunky heeled ankle boots and your mini dress, pulling it down as you take each step. Looking up at Norman you see his mouth open slightly and he licks his lips as he looks you up and down.
“Damn girl. Damn,” he whispers as you get to him. He’s dressed in a smart suit and you go weak at the knees at the sight of him.
“Not so bad yourself,” you nod at him.
The photographer then gets you in position, Norman’s arm around your waist resting on your hip, you’re side on with one hand on his chest and one on his back and your head on his shoulder looking at the camera.
“Perfect!” The photographer says snapping away at you both. Norman turns to you and moves you in front of him so that you’re head on to the camera. He slides his hands around you to rest on your stomach and leans his head on your shoulder.
“Lean back, look as if you’re whispering to me, put one hand on mine and the other up around my neck,” he whispers into your ear. You do as he says, your lips millimetres from his cheek and the photographer loves it.
“Amazing! This is great!” He beams from behind the lense. “Right, think we’re done with this set, onto the next outfits please.”
Norman lets go of you, his hands slipping down your thighs as he does so. You bring your hand down from his neck, brushing his chest, then walk away with a flushed face.
“Wow, that looked so good,” the stylist gushes as you get back to the dressing room. “Norman could not take his eyes off you.”
“Ha, probably making sure I don’t trip up or make a fool of myself! I’m definitely known as the clumsy one on set,” you laugh.
“It was way more than that if you ask me,” she smirks.
Once you’d changed, you looked in the mirror and liked how this floor length gown looked on you, cinching your waist in and accentuating your chest. You walk out with confidence this time, heading straight for Norman, his eyes fixed on your body.
“I really like this one,” you say excitedly when you get to him.
“Yeah, same here.”
He takes your hands and pulls you into a dancing pose, placing your hand on his shoulder, his arm around your waist and your interlinked fingers up by his chest. His eyes stare into yours as you both sway to non existent music. Your stomach is in knots and he lets go to spin you round. The room is completely silent as he does this, needing no prompting at all and you completely forget this is all being photographed.
“Guys that was fantastic. Time for the last outfits already. You’re both naturals!” The photographer smiles. You both break away reluctantly and go back to your dressing rooms. Norman picks up his phone and calls Andy quickly.
“Hey Norman, how’s the shoot going?”
“Man, I’m gonna blow it. This is killing me, I’ve gotta tell her.”
“Then do it! Everyone can see you’re crazy about each other. Don’t call me again until you’ve told her okay?” He demands.
“Haha, okay man, deal. Wish me luck.”
“You won’t need it, trust me. Speak to you later.”
Norman ends the call and gets changed. It’s a casual outfit with jeans and a slightly unbuttoned checked shirt with biker boots. You’re in black denim shorts, a baggy muscle vest and cowboy boots which you adore. This outfit is by far your favourite and you feel so comfortable in it. You walk out the same time as Norman and he smiles at you, knowing you’d love the clothes.
“Aren’t those your own clothes?” Norman teases.
“I wish! I’m gonna have to buy these boots for sure,” you laugh.
“They look great on you,” he says sincerely, looking down at your legs. You smile and blush.
“Okay, last one then you’re free to go guys. Get over there and lets get going!” The photographer claps.
You both get in front of the camera and Norman gets you to sit on the floor in front of him as he stands casually against the wall. He helps you up after the first few shots then you both look at each other and laugh as the camera clicks away. For the last few photos he pulls you into his side then sweeps your legs up so he’s carrying you bridal style. You instantly put your arms around his neck to balance yourself and bury your head into his neck in embarrassment.
“Excellent! Right guys, that’s a wrap, thanks so much for doing this, you’ve both been great,” the photographer says, shaking both your hands. You say your goodbyes to everyone and go off to change. When you come out of your dressing room with your bag Norman’s standing there waiting for you.
“Want a lift?” He asks.
“Okay, yeah that’d be great, thanks.”
You head down to his car and he takes your bag to put in the boot. You get in the passenger side and he jumps in the drivers seat.
“Oh, by the way, got you this,” he says, reaching to the back seat and pulling a large bag through the gap. He rests it on your lap and you peek inside. You see a box and open the lid just enough to see the boots you were wearing earlier.
“Norman! You shouldn’t have! Thank you so much,” you gush, flinging your arms around him in the cramped car.
“I want my woman to have everything she wants,” he sighs next to your cheek. Suddenly he realises the words that have just left his mouth and he jumps back letting go of you. “Anyway, lets go. Getting late,” he rambles, putting on his belt and starting the engine. You snap yours into position after putting the bag down and look over at him as he drives. The ride is silent and when you get to your apartment he looks straight ahead instead of at you.
“Norman, do you want to come up and have dinner?” You ask as you’re about to open the door. He doesn’t expect this after what he said, but turns to you and shyly looks up at you through his hair.
“Yeah, that’d be good,” he softly answers.
You get out and head round to the boot to get your bag.
“I’ve got it, don’t worry,” he says, taking your bags from you.
“Thanks. I can’t promise a home cooked meal as I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in my fridge, but we can get take out if you want?”
You get up to your apartment and open the door for him to go through. He’s been here plenty of times before so knows his way around and puts your bags in the bedroom. He notices a small photo on your bedside table that he swears wasn’t there last time he came over. He picks it up and studies it, it’s of you and him on set dresses as your characters in the lunch tent. You’re pulling silly faces at the camera and Norman lets out a small chuckle as he remembers the moment.
“What are you laughing about?” You ask from the doorway.
“This photo, was remembering the day it was took. Didn’t know you had a copy.”
“Yeah, Andy gave it to me as a birthday present. I love it.” You smile.
“(Y/N),” Norman turns to you with a serious look on his face, “I don’t want to overstep a line or anything, but I just want you to know that I really like you. I’ve really fallen for you and I just wanted to put it out there because I’ve been holding onto this for so long and see if there’s the smallest chance you feel the same.”
Your mouth falls open a little, shocked that he felt what you felt about him.
“There’s a pretty big chance I feel the same actually. Like, 99.999% chance.”
“Not 100%?” He pouts playfully.
“I could maybe stretch to 100.” You smirk.
“So what now?” He asks nervously.
“I’m still hungry, so get some dinner and watch a film maybe?”
“I was thinking exactly the same thing.”
You go back into the kitchen and look through the menus you have in a drawer and he rings up and orders your food. You’re looking in your DVD cabinet for a film and Norman comes up behind you and reaches around you to pick up his film Air.
“So, you a fan of this Norman guy?”
“Hmm, he’s a good actor, but to be honest I’m not listening to anything he says.”
“Oh really? Just a bit of eye candy for you then?”
“Yeah, can’t lie!”
You both start laughing and he takes your face in his hands then kisses you deeply.
“You’re so beautiful when you smile.” He sighs when he breaks the kiss. Your face turns red and you look away trying to think of what to say.
“I think I love you.” As soon as those words leave your mouth you break away from him in embarrassment. “I mean, I didn’t mean to-” you’re interrupted by the doorbell ringing. You rush over to answer it, take the food and start unpacking it in the kitchen.
“This was yours right?” You ask Norman, not lifting your eyes from the parcels.
“Yeah I think so.” He purposely puts his hand on yours as you slide it over to him. “I love you too.” He says as you finally look up and make eye contact with him. You smile at him and he nods, “I really do you know.”