Eagles of Silver and Gold [Closed: Ajax Only – IC]

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Lacus Magni
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Founded: Apr 02, 2011
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Eagles of Silver and Gold [Closed: Ajax Only – IC]

Postby Lacus Magni » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:53 pm

OOC Note: This thread is closed except for members of Ajax. If you are a member of Ajax and would like to participate, please fill out the form in the sign-up thread before posting.

The following thread may contain scenes of implied adult situations. Reader discretion is advised.
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User avatar
Lacus Magni
Posts: 750
Founded: Apr 02, 2011
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Lacus Magni » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:54 pm

“The Gathering Storm”
Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium
5 December 2017

(Co-written with Ghant)

Days out from the Coronation and Imperial wedding, Palatium Supranio, or the Palace above the River Anio, had started to see an influx in activity and guests that it had not seen since the days of the Claudii petty emperors in the 17th century. Always the focal point of western Latium, Palatium Supranio had been the traditional power base of the Claudii family dating back as far as the 5th century with the construction of a now long lost villa. Over time, the family improved upon the estate and structures, purchasing or evicting more and more of the surrounding land to build one of the country’s largest castles and estates, with the most recent renovations being completed a little over a month earlier.

Resting atop a mount overlooking the city of Adrianople, Palatium Supranio was surrounded by castle walls with the occasional watchtower standing near 25 feet high. And within those walls, the former Imperial palace — or ducal palace, depending on the point of view — that bore the name Golden Palace sat as the focal point, with gardens, a chapel, and a plethora of other buildings, including an art gallery and even a courthouse.

And it was only after much deliberation that Constantine finally decided to have Adrianople and Palatium Supranio play host to his coronation, followed by the wedding. Castellum was one option, though no Imperial coronation had taken place in the city since the third century AD; another was Alexandria, however, Basilica of Holy Apostles required renovations that rendered the ability for a coronation, wedding and celebration untenable for at least the next two years.

Initial reactions to the decision were mixed, though that was expected, what with Adrianople’s historical role in coronations related to only that of what are now the dubbed the pretender emperors of Adrianople by nearly all historians. Yet it was here that Constantine was born, and even where his reign had truly began with the estate playing host to Constantine’s temporary Imperial court during the succession crisis of the previous year.

Today though, would prove to be interesting, as Constantine and Anastasia were preparing to welcome her family to the estate, amidst all the last minute, minor preparations. By now, Anastasia’s family would be on their way to Palatium Supranio, where they would be welcomed by Constantine and his soon-to-be consort. Though not wholly nervous, Constantine was anxious for his first meeting with Anastasia’s family, especially after hearing stories of Anastasia’s father, Richard, and his infamous dealings in certain nations of the world. His mother, just days prior, had advised him to make sure that Richard was shadowed by Praetorians at all times, “just to be safe.”

Upon hearing that the Gentry arrival was nearing, the Latin Emperor had made his way outside the main entrance of the palace where he, Anastasia, and Zoe were waiting, though for now Zoe was speaking with Praetorian Prefect Santella. It was a particularly bright day in a week otherwise plagued with cloudy skies, causing Constantine to lift his arm to block the sun as he looked towards the winding path leading from the main gate. Praetorians could be seen standing at attention at the doors behind them, and along the entire estate’s perimeter and gates.

“At least the weather turned out alright today,” Constantine stated, bringing his arm down as he peered at his watch to make certain that everything was on time. “I thought we were going to rained on today.”

“We are,” Anastasia sighed softly in a rather plain yet fashionable yellow sundress. “It just won’t be water…” the Princess’s train of thought was derailed when she observed an unmarked black limousine appear from around the corner and slowly pulled up alongside the curb just in front of the Palace. A chauffeur emerged from the vehicle to open the passenger door in some haste, though no one emerged.

“Come on now, how bad could it be?” Constantine tried to reassure Anastasia as he looked on to the limousine’s open door. He rubbed his hands nervously, however, before brushing off the right sleeve of his gray suit. “This is them, isn’t it? Let’s go take a look.”

“...You’re about to find out.” Right after Anastasia spoke, a shapely woman in her early fifties emerged from the limousine with the help of a chauffeur. She was wearing large heels and a gaudy mink coat and cap that concealed her dark brown hair. Her eyebrows were a dark brown that stretched out over a pair of bright hazel eyes, and for a woman her age she was still quite pretty, or at least that’s what Anastasia was willing to concede. Beneath her coat she wore a designer dress, and to compliment it she had two large designer bags, each with a small toy dog poking its head out of their respective bags. The woman stood dignified on the curb as she looks around, before locking eyes on Anastasia.

“Oh, my Anastasia,” Minka said in a husky Nekulturnyan accent. “Come to mama, baby girl.” Lowering her eyes, Anastasia obliged, and embraced her mother, kissing her on both cheeks as she did. The woman, not one to be undone, kissed Anastasia four times, once on each cheek, on the nose and forehead.

As Anastasia approached her mother, Constantine waved for his own to near him. Appearing as dignified and proud as ever, Zoe and Constantine approached the limo together and when the time was right, Constantine said, “Welcome to Adrianople, your Highness. I am Constantine, and this is my mother, Zoe,” to Minka. “It is an honor to finally meet you.”

Zoe stood next to Constantine in a dark green dress, covering her arms with the hem reaching down to her ankles. She simply smiled and added, “Welcome, I pray you had a comfortable flight.”

“You should pray for the sick and dying,” Minka said with a wide grin, revealing two rows of straight white teeth. “Not even God can make long plane flights comfortable, my dear.” To Constantine, she extended her hand, letting it dangle from a limp wrist, and waited for him to oblige her. “So you must be the Emperor Constantine. It has been some time...I’m sorry for your losses,” she said to both he and Zoe. “It has been a difficult year I’m sure.”

Constantine nodded, and took Minka’s hand before kissing the back of it as the custom dictated. “That is very kind, thank you. Yes, it had been very eventful year or so. But that is all in the past and we’re all making due as best we can,” he said before glancing towards Anastasia with a small smile.

“Did you not travel with your husband or any of your children?” Zoe gave a curious look once her son gave pause.

Minka let out something that seemed like a cross between a snort and a chuckle. “Oh no...they choose to do things their own way. Not that I mind...I already have all the company I need.” Minka patted a feminine hand on the heads of her two toy dogs, who stared wide-eyed. “Pooka and Bartok are adequate travel companions. They’re like my kangaroo babies,” she smiled before reaching into one of her bags and pulling out a Nekulturnyan cigar and a golden flip lighter.

“Adorable,” Zoe smiled facetiously upon the mention of the two dogs. “Should you like, I’m sure there’s some space for them to stretch their legs in the gardens at some point. Though I should warn you, falcons and eagles are rather common around the mount this time of year.”

“Pooka and Bartok are from Ghant,” Minka pointed out politely as she lit up her cigar. “They know how to hold their own against eagles.” Pooka was a fluffy pomeranian, while Bartok was an albino chihuahua. Anastasia kept quiet, though she did pet them on the head, with each dog licking her hand in response, knowing quite well who she was.

“I suppose we should show you to your room, instead of simply waiting out here for the rest of your family to arrive,” Constantine said and waved over Prefect Santella. “John, have one of your men see to it. Once everyone else has arrived, I think we will all be able to properly acquaint ourselves.”

Minka nodded her approval. “Yes...otherwise we’re likely to be waiting here all day. Richard is never on time for anything,” she groaned as she puffed on her cigar and walked forward.

At that, they all entered the palace, finding the main entry way with its black and white checkered marble floor, crystal chandeliers, and a walls lined with marble busts or statues of Constantine’s prominent Claudii ancestors. “Have you ever been to Latium before, your Highness?” Constantine asked Minka while they all walked the halls towards the living quarters.

“I have,” she answered. “Many times, though not very recently. Perhaps you didn’t know, but when I was young, my father strongly considered your father and your uncle as potential suitors for my hand. Of course that didn’t come to fruition, seeing as how your grandfather and my father were not friends.”

“Oh, I was not aware of that,” Constantine nodded, his eyes momentarily shifting towards Zoe in the hopes the mention of his father didn’t result in an unwelcome comment from her. “You’ve met my father before then?”

“I have, many times,” Minka answered candidly. “First time was in the seventies...seems like such a long time ago.”

“I’d like to hear more about that sometime,” Constantine nodded.

“Everything seems to have worked out the same in the end,” Zoe added as they turned a corner and came to a flight of stairs “Seeing as your daughter is soon to be an Empress, isn’t that right, dear?” she smiled to Anastasia.

Anastasia replied to Zoe that it was “by happenstance.”

Minka on the other hand pursed her lips and said “I always thought Cassandra would marry first, and I still hope she will. I’ve always had high expectations for my children.”

“Are any of your three boys married yet?” Zoe asked as they finished climbing the stairs and came to the second level of the opulent Claudii estate. “I apologize, their names escape me at the moment.”

“No,” Minka answered with a wince. “Bryan and Christopher have been in negotiations, and Cameron is in school. Perhaps soon, but not now.”

Zoe nodded as the Praetorian leading them came to a stop and Prefect Santella reached for a door handle and said, “Your chambers, your Highness,” to Minka.

“I hope this will do, of course if you require anything further, the staff has been instructed to see to it,” Constantine smiled.

“That is good, thank you your Majesty.” Minka inclined her head to everyone before seeing herself into her room.

“Well, that’s one down,” Anastasia said, rubbing her temple as she looked back the way they came.

“It wasn’t so bad,” Constantine put an arm around Anastasia, and lightly kissed her forehead before they began to make the walk back to the entrance. “She seemed nice enough, how much worse could it get?”

Taking a deep breath, Anastasia replied, “once my father gets here, you’ll find out.” Then she started walking back in the direction that they came, in anticipation of that event.

Eventually the pair made it back to the entrance, with Zoe trailing behind as she was pestered with last minute preparation questions. Looking out a window, clouds began appear from behind the hills further to the east, eventually blocking the once blinding sunlight. Constantine turned towards Anastasia with a sigh, “That’s rather...ominous looking.” Taking her hand, he tried to reassure her by saying, “Everything will be fine.”

“Oh, I know it will,” she replied with cool confidence. “Especially with all these Praetorians around…”

Another limousine came rolling around the corner, this one pulling up alongside the curb just as the one previous had. No chauffeurs emerged to get the door, and instead a young man with bushy brown hair and eyes stepped out, dressed in semi-casual dress attire. Then came another, older young man, this one with short, shiny black hair and dull, sullen eyes, wearing Ghantish court dress and wielding a black and gold cane that he used to walk, as he was without a left leg. Following him was another, this one older than the other two, with shaggy brown hair and flashy hazel eyes, wearing a set of black slacks and a sweater.

“I think your brothers are here,” Constantine stated after turning towards the window momentarily. He and Anastasia exited the palace once again to greet them. The Emperor approached the car and said, “Welcome, you must be Ana’s brothers,” with his hand extended to shake theirs, with his Praetorian following behind, along with staff to help with their belongings.

“That’s correct,” answered the oldest one. “It’s been quite some time. I’m Bryan in case you don’t remember, and this is Christopher,” he gestured towards the one with one leg, “and that’s Cameron,” he said, gesturing towards the youngest. “And then there’s…”

She labored out of the limousine, clumsily assisted by Cameron. Her gown was a platinum silver affair, her slippers shining in the light of the sun. The diamond tiara that adorned her thick, wavy brown hair sparkled unlike her mud-colored eyes that seemed to drain the light cast upon them. Twas none other than Princess Cassandra of Ghant and Cumberland, Lady Protector of the Realm.

“Right, it has been a while, but a refresher never hurts. And thank you for agreeing to be groomsmen. I was very relieved that all three of you agreed,” he first spoke to Bryan and then to all the brothers before Cassandra appeared. “And of course, hello to Princess Cassandra,” he smiled after glancing to Anastasia, and then addressed the whole group. “We’ll walk you all inside. Though if you leave your things the staff will see to things are brought to your rooms.”

“That sounds pleasant,” Cassandra said dryly as she got out and stood tall. “We appreciate the hospitality.” Anastasia embraced her brothers affectionately, and then Cassandra. It seemed rather rigid and formal as far as familial embraces went. “You’ve finally done something right, little sister,” Cassandra told her. “I’d say I’m proud of you but I wouldn’t want it going to your head.”

“I’d expect nothing less,” Anastasia said with a smirk to her older sister. “All the same I’m glad you’re all here. When it comes to father there’s strength in numbers.”

Cassandra let out a throaty laugh. “You’ve always been good about counting your blessings, sister.”

“Do you know if he’s on his way? I haven’t heard back from the man we sent to pick him up in some time,” Constantine added, walking towards the palace steps with Anastasia and her siblings, a Praetorian opening the door as they walked past.

“With father, there’s no telling,” Cameron replied dryly.

Inside was Zoe, still speaking with staff, just as she was when they left though now she was also joined by her nephew and Constantine’s elder cousin, Laurentius Verruscosi. But when she noticed a new group enter she ignored the staff and, with Laurentius, approached with a large grin. “My apologies, this is my mother, Princess Zoe,” Constantine stated, “and my cousin Laurentius Verruscosi, Procurator of the Imperial Estate and Chancellor to the Duchy of Ausonia.”

“It has been some time, hasn’t it?” Cassandra asked rhetorically as she curtsied to Zoe and Laurentius, while her brothers bowed.

Zoe smiled to the group while Laurentius eyed over them, as he adjusted his tie and remaining silent. “Certainly,” Zoe said, standing near her son now. “I’m sure you’d all like to see to your rooms now, yes? I know just how lengthy flights from Ghish can be.”

“Actually, I don’t believe I had the pleasure before,” Laurentius chimed in with a polite smile, turning to Cassandra. “The Midwinter Princess certainly lives up to her reputation.”

“You’re too kind, Laurentius,” Cassandra feigned bashfulness. “My brothers and I are quite eager to go to our chambers, for the flight was a long one indeed.”

“Flavia,” Zoe turned slightly to grab the attention of one of the palace staff. “Would you show our guests to their rooms.”

“I’d be happy to take care of that myself, Aunt Zoe,” Laurentius interrupted with a smile, “I’d be far more entertaining than sending a drone.”

“If you’d…”

“Why don’t you go along too, mother,” Constantine added as Laurentius began to walk away with the second set of Gentries, “You need a break from all the running around.”

“If you say so,” she smiled and soon after followed after Laurentius and the others.

Constantine pinched the bridge of his nose, momentarily closing his eyes before taking a deep breath, after his mother left him and Anastasia alone near the entryway. When he opened his eyes, he walked to an empty curule seat to the far side of the room. He slumped into the seat and looked out of the windows he faced, which looked out into the courtyard. “Did you know about what your mother was saying earlier? With your grandfather hoping for a match with between my father and your mother, I mean.” He kept silent for a moment before adding, “It’s interesting, people never talk about those things here. At least in my family.”

“There’s a lot of things that your family doesn’t talk about,” Anastasia observed as she found a place to sit. “I knew about it, but it was sort of one of those things that slips into the back of your mind and you never think to mention it. Mother was grandfather’s only daughter and so he angled for all the best possible matches, but couldn’t secure anything because people found him...unpleasant to deal with.”

“That sounds like the way some talk about my grandfather, ‘as stubborn as any Claudii,”’ Constantine covered his mouth as he yawned. “Even my father though, for as open as he tried to appear to be, you could always tell he was hiding this thing or that thing. Or just never giving you the whole truth for some reason.”

“I think because your grandfather cast a long shadow over your family,” the Princess pointed out carefully, not wanting to give offense. “Your father, your aunts and uncles...all of their actions were reactions to their father, in some form or another. All of them tried to please him, in their own ways, and all of them had to sacrifice something in order to do so. A shame really that none of them came out unscathed, and that’s why I don’t think your father was very talkative, from what I’ve been able to gather. I barely knew him, but even from afar, you could sense the weight.”

“Everyone always says it’s grandfather, yet great-grandfather was the one who started it by all accounts. I’ve heard each of my grandmothers make remarks about it when they thought no one was around,” Constantine watched palace staff move and work throughout the main corridor, acting as if the Emperor was not even present. “He frightened everyone I hear. Even had Cotta’s hands and tongue nailed to the Senate door at the end of the Social War if you believe plebeians rabble.”

Anastasia grimaced at the thought of that. “Well I know my Grandmother Grace didn’t care for him, said he was a wicked man. War heroes are often wicked men in my experience, because they are willing to do the dirty work that few others are willing to do. Your grandfather probably felt his shadow cast over him too.”

“Probably,” Constantine nodded while wringing his hands. “Hearing or remembering things like that make me glad succession did not fully escalate to that level.” The succession crisis was something that Constantine rarely spoke of since around its end, and he quickly looked at his watch and changed the subject, “Does your father keep to Oxidentale times or something?”

“He keeps to his own time,” she answered with a heavy sigh. “Maybe he’s here, we should go check.”

“Alright then,” Constantine stood and offered a hand to Anastasia, which she accepted, before moving towards the entrance. When they stepped outside, he could see rain coming down off in the distance.

Anastasia stood on the curb as she watched the storm approach. “He comes with the storm,” she laughed. “Or does the storm come with him?”

“Even still, it’s going to pass us by anyway,” he stated with confidence, watching clouds cover the hills off to the east, though it forced a flock of birds towards the courtyard where they waited. A Praetorian approached each Constantine and Anastasia, holding umbrellas to cover them in case the rain reached. The longer they waited, the more it appeared the dark clouds would reach the courtyard and unleash rain upon it. And though Constantine doubted it would reach, the rain began to pour down and they were both promptly covered with umbrellas, though the wind did no one favors.

It was shortly after the rain came pouring down upon them that a lone black sedan pulled up alongside the curb in front of the estate. There were no chauffeurs or assistants, just a driver and presumably a passenger concealed behind tinted windows. When the passenger door opened, a man with rustic, bushy brown hair emerged slowly, wearing a long black coat and matching sunglasses resting above a broad nose. The man was of average height and with pale skin, and a wicked smirk etched into his aging face. Prince Richard of Ghant had come at last.

Constantine stepped towards the car, his foot splashing into a growing puddle while a Praetorian followed to shield him from the rain. “Your Highness,” Constantine addressed Richard, another Praetorian moving to cover the man with an umbrella. “Your daughter and I are pleased you could make it. Though we can speak more once we’re back inside.”

Richard extended his hand out in a stopping motion towards the Praetorian. “My mother used to say that the rain was God’s tears. Are the tears of God such a terrible thing that I ought to cover myself to keep it off of me?” he then turned to his daughter and flashed a crooked smile. “He speaks for you too now, child? To me of all people. I’m wounded.” Richard extended his arms, gesturing for her to embrace him.

“So pleased, father.” Anastasia walked forward and embraced her father, who in turn patted her on the back with one hand and held her hair with the other. He stared at Constantine from the side of her head.

“Let us speak more inside then, if it suits you, your Majesty,” Richard said to Constantine.

“Yes, of course,” Constantine nodded with a curious look towards Anastasia before leading the way back to the safe and dry palace. Once inside Constantine said, “The rest of your family has already taken to their rooms. I can have someone show you to yours if you like, or perhaps something else if not.”

Richard gave him a bemused look. “Why don’t you show me, your majesty? After all, we are due to be family soon...unless you have something better to do, but then again, what could be better, right?” he asked with a smirk.

“I’d be happy to do so,” Constantine put on a polite smile, and began leading Richard towards the residential area of the palace. He took the same path as before when showing Minka to her chambers, walking up a flight of stairs past portraits of former Claudii rulers, be they emperors or dukes. Once they reached the second floor, Zoe was visible at the far end of the hall speaking with a Praetorian. Though Constantine looked to Anastasia and Richard, “Have you been to Latium this time of year? I believe there’s an LMH game in the city tomorrow if you’d like to attend.”

“Not for many years,” Richard began to explain to the Latin Emperor. “Your father and I were not on the best of terms, and your grandfather...held me in low esteem, to say the least. If you don’t mind I’d like to stay close to the palace during my stay...for reasons of security.” Richard removed his sunglasses, revealing sullen, beady brown eyes that equally shone laughter and reflected malice.

“Certainly,” Constantine stated with a closed lip smile, fully briefed by his Praetorian Prefect and other close advisors on some of Richard’s antics.

Though now Constantine’s mother and her Praetorian companion walked towards the group. She rolled down a sleeve of her dress down to its natural state and smiled to her son, Anastasia and Richard when she was close to them. “Hello, your Highness,” Zoe said, intent on disappearing once again after a brief hello with Richard.

“Your Majesty, Empress Zoe,” Richard said with a smile before offering to take her hand. “I was about to tell your son that he has excellent tastes in women, a quality no doubt inherited from his late father,” he said with finesse in his voice, prompting Anastasia to wince.

“Charming as ever, Prince Richard,” Zoe feigned flattery, extending her hand towards Richard.

“I’m afraid my mother is not an empress, but an Imperial countess,” Constantine informed Richard politely. “The Countess of Aarhusium in fact; Your Highness would be her proper style.”

Richard laughed. “I’m well aware of the fact, and yet, like how the sun never stops being the sun or how the stars never stop being stars, once an Empress, always an Empress. I just like to show people the respect they deserve,” he said with a smile.

“Oh sweetheart, he’s just being polite,” Zoe said to her son with a growing smile before adding, “And a little courtesy never hurt anyone. I greatly appreciate it, Prince Richard,” Zoe’s smile grew before she looked at her son. “But if there is one thing that my son inherited from his father, it was his penchant for formalities. Thankfully none of his father’s vices though.”

Constantine bit his lower lip, as he looked at his watch. “Well, mother, you had a few other things to take care of didn’t you? We wouldn’t want to hold you up for just showing His Highness to his chambers.”

“How disappointing,” Richard said with a feigned frown. “Here I was hoping Her Imperial Majesty could show me to my chambers.”

“I think I’ve actually seen to the last of my tasks for the day,” Zoe smiled. “Besides these are the final days and everything is nearly on autopilot. So I’d be glad to join you all.”

“If you say so. I think we’re nearly there anyway,” Constantine winced a smile, and began to follow after the Praetorian leading them to Richard’s room.

“Such a pleasure,” replied Richard in a resigned tone. “I’m glad you could oblige me.” Turning to Anastasia he told his daughter that “Such splendid in-laws you have, child,” as he offered her his arm, which she accepted as they began to walk together. “Far kinder than mine were…”

“Oh you’re far too generous, Richard, you’ve simply raised a marvelous daughter. We’ve all come to adore Anastasia,” Zoe smiled yet again, walking near her son. “Though this rain came out of nowhere, didn’t it?”

Richard laughed once more at that inquiry. “I appreciate your gratitude. Minka and I certainly tried, to varying degrees of success. As for the rain, well...that depends entirely upon if you believe in coincidences, or if everything that happens is deliberate...that it happens because it was meant to happen. If you believe the latter, then life becomes so much easier...for what are we then, but spectators in God’s great game?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, father,” Anastasia countered with a huff. “Fate is an excuse for people to not do anything. They say, ‘well what’s the point, if what happens was meant to happen?”

“...Well then, depending on your point of view, that’s what was intended all along,” the Ghantish prince laughed. “Though if you’re asking me what I believe...well, I believe that all men are the masters of their own destiny. Perhaps there’s fate involved, but if there is, it certainly isn’t for us to know.”

Just as they neared Richard’s room, Constantine said, “Sounds like something best left to priests or philosophers…or someone with more free time on their hands.” Once they came to a stop, and the Praetorian opened the door, Constantine added, “Here we are, I hope it’s to your liking.”

“...I’ve suffered worse accommodations,” Richard teased with a grin before showing himself into his chambers. “A man who’s the master of his own fate makes his own time, your Majesty. Make the best of yours, while you still can,” he stated before inclining his head. “I’ll be seeing you again later,” he added to his daughter as he began fading behind his door.

After departing with Richard, the group continued to walk down the hall towards the Imperial suite until Constantine said, “I think…”

“…Don’t worry, Kostas, I have other things to attend to,” Zoe interrupted her son, and nearly completed his thought. “You two should get some rest while you can,” she stated with a smile before marching off down the hall in the opposite direction.

“So what’s the verdict?” Constantine turned to Anastasia, asking she thought things went.

“The jury is still out,” the Ghantish princess responded without hesitation. “So far so good. Let’s just hope that it stays that way.”

“It will, I promise. Besides Santella assures me that someone will always be near him. So double covered,” Constantine smiled and then added, “What do you say we go unwind a bit while we can?”

“That sounds nice,” she nodded in agreement. “You lead the way. If we hurry we should still be able to catch some of the hockey games on. The Imps are playing tonight, and they’re in first place...again...hopefully they don’t choke again…”

“Is that what they’re best at?” Constantine sniggered while moving towards the suite, and turning down another hallway with the suite’s entrance now in sight. “You’d think I would at least have a bit more understanding the way Peter talks about the sport.”

Anastasia sighed and shook her head jokingly. “They’re the best at getting a high seed in the playoffs and then getting eliminated by the second round. By the way, word is that Tubbi is very disappointed that Peter didn’t join the Reds this season. I’m glad that he didn’t, because that’s less competition for the Imps,” she laughed.

“Oh really now?” Constantine smirked as they passed through the suite’s now open doors and entered the main waiting room. For all intents and purposes, the Imperial suites at Palatium Supranio were far stuffier than those in back in Castellum, due in large part to former Claudii styling to overcompensate for the throne they lost ages before. Their shoes clacked against the fine, styled hardwood floors, passing by cream colored walls with gilded trim and a portrait of Empress Maria Augusta with a frame to match. Continuing on, they reached the main television room, which was a near match for the waiting room though with the addition of a large television mounted above the fireplace’s mantle, and a plush ivory couch seated across, though flanked by a series of chairs.

“I wonder if people would be surprised if they knew he nearly made that decision. You know for awhile I thought the Reds were the end all be all of hockey the way Peter talked about them,” Constantine reached for the television remote on a nearby table and handed it to Anastasia. “I think he’s a bit torn this season; his team is terrible, but he’s doing alright I’m told.”

“While the Reds are in the playoff picture and aiming for a middle seed,” Anastasia pointed out as she sat down beside Constantine. “Tubbi said Peter was the difference maker, and it's looking like he was right. As it stands they're not good enough to beat the Imps or the Mets, and the Trunkos are coming up fast.”

“Maybe. Lucky for those other teams they won’t have to worry about seeing him for at least three more years,” Constantine stretched out his arm and placed it around Anastasia. “Unless there’s a lockout I suppose. I don’t know why this sport is more difficult than the football team. Though maybe that’s because it’s a Ghantish game,” he teased.

“...It's probably difficult because of all the dumb rules that mess up the Latin league,” she laughed. “Like that trapezoid...and shootout. Shit’s dumb!”

“It sounds like you’re volunteering to go to the next owners meeting,” Constantine joked, even though it had been widely reported recently that the Imperial family was in the process of purchasing the local LMH team, Regis Adrianople HC. “I can’t think of a better introduction to new ownership than that.”

Anastasia laughed again. “Something tells me that Uncle Ed wouldn’t approve of the likes of me representing the ownership group at league events. I’m not ‘politik” enough for that sort of thing, if you know what I mean. So I’ll stick to luxury box suites.”

“Oh trust me, by now I know full well what you mean,” Constantine teased, reaching over her for the remote. “Who knows if the luxury box could even contain you.”

“They usually don’t,” she mused, putting her feet up on the coffee table and letting out a great yawn. “Especially when Arietta’s around. We make due though.”

“I’m sure that means she’s been planning some crazy hen night for you,” Constantine loosened his collar.

“...I never doubted that for a second.” The Ghantish princess, tired as she was, leaned her head back after putting her feet up, and before long she fell asleep on the couch.

As Anastasia dozed off, Constantine remained on the couch a little longer, at least until the hockey game reached its next intermission. And when he stood, he found a nearby blanket and placed it over her, afterwhich he disappeared into the next room to read over what Imperial or government documents required his attention.
Last edited by Lacus Magni on Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lacus Magni » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:53 pm

Basilica of the Blessed Virgin
Adrianople, Latium

Constantine the Twentieth’s reign first began, inauspicious as it was, thirteen months ago back in the early days of November 2016. It was Adrianople he called home, it was in Adrianople that his reign began. And finally the day had come: the coronation. He woke up before dawn this morning, hardly able to sleep at all the night of, at the sound of the droning church bell from the palace ground’s basilica. Waking up though, that was the easy part, Constantine reminisced his days as a cadet at Olympia, where waking up before the sun was simply commonplace. It was the preparations which followed that he was not looking forward to, whether it be shaving his budding beard or standing for over an hour or so while he was dressed by attendants.

Before the arduous process of getting dressed, Constantine enjoyed what little peace he was was likely to get for the day as he broke his fast on a traditional Latin breakfast of bread with honey, sausage, assortment of fruits and while not traditional, he also had a cup of coffee. Though what peace and quiet he was able to enjoy quickly came to an end when he was asked to “lift your arms, please” or “lift your chin” or asked “is that too tight?” for the next hour.

That too came to an end, and before anyone knew it Constantine was dressed in a dark, tyrian purple Latin military uniform. His slacks were the Imperial shade of purple with golden trim, and a jacket to match it with his white dress shirt beneath not visible whatsoever. On his jacket breast were a number of Latin honors and decorations, and a golden aiguillette coming from his right shoulder and pinned to the chest of his jacket. Attached to his hip was a ceremonial sword in a scabbard, with only the golden hilt visible as it hung. And last but not least, the traditional paludamentum, scarlet in color and gold trim, was fastened over his right shoulder, falling down to near knee length in the back and covering his jacket’s collar and upper portions of his chest, with a golden laurel crown atop his head.

While traditionally Latin monarchs were coronated in Alexandria, Constantine would be the first to have the ancient ceremony occur in Adrianople. if you consider the 14th century ancient that is, Constantine thought back to his history lessons on the Crown and its traditions while he made his way from the palace to the courtyard and from the courtyard onto to mustering ground at the base of the estate where the procession would begin.

By the time Constantine reached the courtyard, the sun had come out and truly proved what a beautiful December morning all senators, nobles, citizens and foreign guests would be in for once the festivities of the day began. Like all Latin coronations, a triumphal procession would extend from the mustering grounds and a mile or two into the city until the final destination was reached – Basilica of the Blessed Virgin. Though unlike the first Latin emperors, or rather all emperors until the 14th century, the Claudii Latin emperors were the first to co-opt the coronation ceremony from the vanquished Holy Audonian Empire, merging traditional triumphs into a ceremony of prayer and the eventual crowning.

Finally reaching the courtyard, Constantine could see his home draped in purple banners marked with the Claudii coat of arms and his family’s golden eagle, along with Latin flags waving from the top of every watch tower. Praetorians lined the walls of Palatium Supranio, giving the impression that it was every bit the stronghold today that it was hundreds of years before, when the Claudii simply pretended to be rightful emperors that we used to be…yet here we are again. Every person Constantine walked past as he neared the state car stopped to bow and say, “Caesar,” to him. No matter how many times was addressed that way, it never felt truly real to him. When he reached the state car, it exited the Sacred Gate and took a short drive down Via Sacra to the mustering field below the looming palatial estate. It was on the field where the triumph would begin.

“Caesar,” a soldier bowed to him once he exited the state car near the starting point. Looking around he saw soldiers in their military dress uniforms, and while of a similar style to Constantine’s, the other were black and far less ornate. He nodded with a closed-lip smile to each person that halted what they were doing to properly welcome their Caesar to the field, mirroring the ancient kings or emperors at the Field of Mars in ancient Castellum and Alban life.

And let me guess what you’re going to say, Constantine thought before his Praetorian Prefect, John Santella, spoke to him. “Caesar,” the Prefect said with a respectful dip of his head. The two walked together, their destination the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four white horses abreast, “you do my family great honor allowing my grandson to hold the laurels in your chariot.”

“You served my father well, and you’ve been nothing but loyal to my family and I,” Constantine said when he came to a stop next to the chariot, the horses in front waving their tails. “It was the least I could do to show my appreciation.”

“Thank you, Caesar,” Santella let out a rare smile, and bowed his head once more before his grandson appeared with one of the many staff overseeing the preparations.

“Now, you remember how it was rehearsed?” the staffer said to Santella’s grandson.

The boy, appearing to be around thirteen or fourteen, though far taller than an average boy of that age, nodded and said, “yes, ma’am,” to the staffer.

“Caesar,” the staffer then turned to Constantine, with her arms extended towards the chariot’s opening “If you’re ready, the legions ahead are preparing to march.”

“Yes, of course,” Constantine weakly smiled. He took a deep breath, resting a hand on the rim of the chariot before finally planting both feet inside and taking the reigns. Stepping in behind him was Santella’s grandson. Constantine turned to him and said, “Your name is Jason, yes? After my father.”

“It is, Caesar,” the boy said before he was handed a crown of woven laurels by the same staffer before she scurried away.

Constantine, knowing it was soon time to begin, turned to face ahead and felt the boy’s arm lift over his head. He tried not to move his head; it was difficult not to, as he tried to see just what it looked like to have the Prefect’s grandson hold the laurel crown above his head. Not a second later, the four, white horses began to pull Constantine’s chariot, and with that the coronation’s triumphal procession was at a start.

The first few minutes were uneventful, having to slog through the rest of the mustering grounds. But beyond the fields, and across the River Anio, crowds formed on all sides of Via Sacra, as Praetorians lined the entirety of the city’s ancient street to prevent anyone from reaching the Emperor in such a vulnerable state. Ahead of him, members of select legions across all of Latium’s military branches marched at the head of the procession among their own cohorts. Behind them was a military band, playing Latin military tunes, followed by cohort of Praetorians in nearly similar uniforms as Constantine’s but while they wore purple jackets, they instead wore black slacks. And just after those Praetorians crossed the Anio, it was Constantine’s turn.

At least two soldiers on foot guided his chariot from the mustering field, and they would do so over the river and throughout the entire procession. His horses marched along slowly, though not so slowly that the standard bearer behind him didn’t need to work to keep pace. The sound of the crowd became deafening once the procession was across the river and surrounded by the the crowds of cheering men, women and children. Constantine stood proudly in the chariot, holding the reigns of the chariot, and of course with the Prefect’s grandson still holding the laurel crown over the Emperor’s head.

The people of Adrianople cheered for their Caesar, waving their hands as he pass by them, standing triumphantly and as proud as any Claudii ever has, in the chariot. Whatever could be said of Adrianople, it was for certain that the people held the Claudii in high regard. The Claudii, while often times regarded as cruel in the more provincial areas of Latium during the original tenure as Emperors from the 6th to 15th centuries, the people of Adrianople recognized the importance the family played in shaping the city into the strong, vibrant city that had surpassed Alexandria and one day, they hope at least Castellum.

The procession continued along Via Sacra, passing underneath the triumphal arch of Peter, whom was either Emperor Peter VI of the Latins – or King Peter I of Adrianople depending on the era or historical writer. The sides of the great arch were adorned in Imperial banners, stopping just short of the carvings of Latin legions of old marching into battle or returning with spoils of war. Atop the arch stood gilded eagles in the Claudii style perched to both sides of a monument of a triumphal Peter of Adrianople behind a quadriga – just as Constantine. Though as he rode beneath, momentarily gazing up at the elaborate carvings and coffered vault of the arch, flowers of purple, gold, and silver rained down onto him and those marching past. This would be the same along all high points or buildings during the procession. But as he passed beneath the arch, he winced once when he looked out into the crowd, thinking back to the victory parade back in January. He reached up to feel his head; however, when he exited from under, he instead waved his hand and managed to keep his composure.

It wasn’t long before the triumphal procession of marching soldiers continued on and the two men guiding the Imperial chariot stopped at the main entrance of Basilica of the Blessed Virgin. Constantine stepped out of the chariot, with young Jason Santella following after him and still reaching to hold the laurel crown over the Emperor’s head, only to peel off when Constantine took those first steps into the basilica.

The church was constructed in a true Latin design, though the entire structure was shaped in a semi-circle, with what appeared to be triumphal arches at either end of the circle. Tall marble pillars lined the outside, and leading towards the center of the building and the entrance of the church itself. The large double doors were already open and awaiting his entrance, though it was difficult to see just who all was inside from looking on the outside.

When he took the first steps inside, all stood, and music began to play with the choir following in song. He took a deep breath and looked around the church, noticing the rows of pews sitting between two rows of 80 marble columns and a stucco-decorated ceiling. To his left, he noticed senators, marked by their white cloak with two distinct crimson lines along the edge; peers of the Empire donning the traditional peerage attire of Latin senators and coronets of their respective peerage ranking, and of course his family seated at the back near the altar. Most unique of all were the television camera men in various locations of the church, filming Latium’s first televised coronation.

As he took step after step, reaching the first pew, the Propraetors finished their short march ahead of him – starting just before his entrance – in order to have heraldic banners of all the counties of the Empire laid out as he passed back pew after pew. At this point he was joined by his cousin Leo, as Lord President; his step-mother Marsella as Lord High Chancellor; and his half-sister’s grandfather, Michael Pinarius, as Count of the Sacred Wardrobe. Each followed after Constantine as he made his way to the throne which was brought all the way from Alexandria for the occasion.

His eyes were focused on it, though not for lust of the throne, but rather just how pronounced it appeared. A gilded seat, with purple cushioning and an ornate, gold laurel wreath shaped outline around the back cushion with the arms of his house emblazoned on the back rest. It’s armrests were gilded as well, with the ends shaped like an eagle’s head, the entire throne seat above all the floor on the dias in front of the altar.

Each step he took, the chorus of the Imperial anthem, Domine, salvum fac imperatorem – Lord, Save the Emperor – played, with the choir signing its tune in Latin. Domine salvum fac regem et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te. Gloria Patri et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen, they sang as Constantine took step after triumphant step down the aisle of Adrianople’s most magnificent church. And just as had been rehearsed, Constantine stood facing Archbishop Eutychianus Caesennius of Adrianople, who himself stood just in front of the empty Latin throne.

Archbishop Caesennius, dressed in cream colored surplice underneath an ornate gold, and scarlet patterned cope, stepped aside for Constantine then stand before the throne. He gazed upon it briefly, the smell of the liturgical incense tickling his nose before he turned around to hear the those attending say, “Caesar,” in unison.

Constantine remained standing, his back the throne, while Archbishop Caesennius walked to a podium and said, “Senators, Lords and Ladies of the Empire.” The middle-aged Archbishop took a quick cough to ensure his voice remained strong and then began the recognition. “I present unto you, Emperor Constantine, your undoubted Caesar. Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and service. Are you willing to do the same?” At that the guests again said, “Ave Caesar, Ave Caesar, Ave Caesar,” loudly in unison, followed by a blast of trumpets.

“Let us pray,” the Archbishop said, signalling everyone to kneel as he began the first prayer. “Hear our prayers, O Lord, we beseech thee, and so direct and support Emperor Constantine,” the prayer began while auxiliary bishops or altar servers unclasped Constantine’s paludamentum, removing it from his person. Another removed the golden laurel crown from his head while two priests carried a different, imperial purple paludamentum to Constantine. The prayer continued, “That he may not bear the Sword in vain; but may use it as the minister of God for the terror and punishment of evildoers, and for the protection and encouragement of those that do well, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” As the prayer neared an end, the two priests took the purple paludamentum and placed it around Constantine, clasping it above his right shoulder. Another priest carried the Imperial ring, and slide it onto Constantine’s finger. And yet another carried the Claudii ancestral house sword, Lokatz, and replaced the sheathed weapon currently at Constantine’s side with the hand-and-a-half sword, formally investing him in the traditional regalia of Latin emperors.

Archbishop Caesennius stepped away from the podium and in front of Constantine, his hands making the sign of the cross over Constantine before stepping aside for the Lord High Chancellor, The Empress Dowager Marsella to recite the coronation oath. She recited, “Do you, Caesar, swear to preserve the Empire, to rule with justice and fairness and will to the best of your ability, preserve, protect and defend Latium and his people.”

“All of this I promise,” Constantine said as Marsella finished reciting the oath. His cousin Leo, as Lord President approached during the recitation, holding a bible in his hands. Once Constantine finished, Leo held the bible out, Constantine placing his hand atop it before saying, “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.”

Now I can finally sit, Constantine said to himself with relief after having stood throughout the entire ceremony thus far. It was a stiff seat, far less comfortable than the throne back at the Palatine in Castellum, even though the two were nearly identical. Maybe because the coronation throne is rarely used, he continued to think while his eyes shifted towards where his family was seated – his younger brothers dressed in military uniforms and their own princely coronets, and his sisters in beautiful gowns with their own coronets. Constantine even saw his youngest brother, Philip, wave to him, causing the Emperor to fight a smile.

Seconds later though, his view was blocked by the Archbishop who held in his hands the anointing oils. “Bless and sanctify thy chosen Constantine, who is now to be anointed with this Oil – the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Caesennius said. First he anointed Constantine forehead followed by the phrase, “the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This was followed by the placing of the holy oils on eyes, nostrils, mouth, ears, breast and both sides of each hand with the same phrase repeated after each anointing.

Constantine remained still, breathing heavily and swallowing the lump in his throat as the Archbishop handed off the anointing oils. Out of the corner of his eyes, Constantine could see The Count of the Sacred Wardrobe, Michael Pinarius slowly approach with the Imperial Crown resting atop a red velvet pillow. The crown lacked a cap, and mirrored the ancient diadem crowns of long-past Latin monarchs, consisting of consisting of a circlet of gold and twenty-two gemstones which stood out in relief fitted around a central band. The Archbishop accepted the crown from Pinarius and proceeded to take a step back from Constantine and the throne before taking a knee. The crowd, whom had previously been standing also kneeled.

Kneeling in front of Constantine, the Archbishop extended the Imperial Crown out towards Constantine, who stood once it appeared as if everyone in the basilica was kneeled. He took a deep breath and rose from the throne, sheathed Lokatz clanking against the side of the throne as he stood. Just like all Emperors or the two Empresses before him, Constantine accepted the Crown from the Archbishop and placed it atop his own head, signalling that his Imperial power came from only God above in the heavens. It fit snugly on his head, not even wiggling around at all, and once it rest comfortably there, he took up his seat atop the throne once more, prompting a series of trumpet blasts and church bells to ring out, followed by the resounding praise of those gathered chanting, “Ave Caesar.”

As the cheering faded out, a church organ began to play and the procession out of the church followed after. Constantine, with crown atop his head, lead the procession from the altar, and to a side chapel of Adrianople’s great basilica. As Constantine marched down the aisle past the pews, the song went to a fade and one in the further flung areas of crowd let out a loud chant, “Constantine…Constantine Augustus!” Though the procession did not halt, the chanting of “Augustus” continued until Constantine disappeared into the chapel and the church music came to a fading end, along with the coronation.
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Postby Lacus Magni » Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:59 pm

“Eagles at the Altar”
Basilica of the Blessed Virgin
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Ghant, and Leasath)

Once the final hymn of the coronation faded away, ushers began the arduous process of helping the coronation attendees find their nearest exit to prepare the basilica for the wedding guest arrivals. All the while, others were quickly switching out floral decorations, or sweeping the floors for debris. By now, nearly all of the Latin Imperial family had moved from their seats of honor during the coronation to a waiting area before they could take their seats for the wedding, that would not happen until the ushers cleared the basilica.

While the Imperial family was waiting elsewhere, and guests were being transported from their hotels or other accommodations, Constantine and his groomsmen were gathered in a courtyard near the rear of the basilica. The courtyard was centered around a fountain with a statute of the Virgin Mary with rows of flowers, bushes and palm trees throughout. Constantine stood near the central fountain, taking care to see that his imperial purple paludamentum didn’t get splashed by the rushing water. For now, he was speaking with his cousin Leo while they all waited for the all clear that the ceremony was ready to begin.

“Any last minute nerves?”Leo, dressed in a black military dress uniform that was not all that unlike Constantine’s – minus the various Imperial markings or appendages – asked to Constantine quietly while some of the other groomsmen spoke amongst one another. He laughed and then asked, “Regrets?”

“No,” Constantine shook his head. He looked straight ahead to see his brother and heir Peter attempting to keep their youngest brother Philip from being his reckless self and ruining his suit. “Maybe a little.”

“Augustus…Augustus,” Prince William of Sydalon lauded when he joined his cousins Constantine and Leo, giving the former a firm pat on the back.

Though not amused at his cousin’s playful jest, Constantine was less amused at the slap on his back. “Don’t call me that,” he said, noticing his remaining groomsmen, Anastasia’s three brothers, Bryan, Christopher and Cameron; with Justin Ulpius, 20th Duke of Vindobona, speaking with amongst themselves nearby.

“What’s wrong with him?” William asked Leo with a laugh.

“Nothing,” Constantine replied quickly. “Just some jitters.”

“Well you didn’t look nervous for that triumph or procession or whatever you call it. If you weren’t nervous for that, I don’t know what could make you nervous,” William added. “You know, this is like my third time to Adrianople, I always forget how much nicer it is than Castellum”

“It’s usually quieter here, thats for sure,” Leo smiled with a nod of his head.

“I heard something on the television that people were spreading rumors that you want to move court here,” William asked.

“First I’m hearing about it,” Constantine finally broke a smile.

Before Constantine could utter another word, a Praetorian approached, bowed and said, “Her Highness has left the palace, Caesar.”

Constantine nodded solemnly just as William patted him on the back once more and walked ahead of the group along with Justin. Leo sidled up at Constantine’s side and gave him a reassuring nod before they caught up to the remaining groomsmen at the courtyard’s exit where they were all lining up for Constantine to lead them inside and meet his bride.

Elsewhere, Princess Anastasia had just left Palatium Supranio in a state limousine, marked with two House Gentry banners, and a police escort featuring motorcycles at each side. And behind her limousine was a second, transporting the other bridesmaids. The streets themselves were empty now, compared to merely hours ago when soldiers marched the streets and Praetorians lined the streets to hold back the crowds. Though the walkways along the street were full of those waiting for a glimpse of the soon-to-be Empress, they were far less excitable than during the coronation procession, however there were cheers and flags of Latium and even Ghant waved among those standing by.

“Are you nervous?” Tsarevna Tatiana asked her bridal cousin in her slightly Nekulturnyan accent, wearing her lavish white gown. Tatiana was wearing a bridesmaid dress that highlighted her best features. A curvy figure, shapely bosom, twinkling sky blue eyes, wavy light brown hair and a pearly white smile. Like her cousin, she was also twenty-three, and the two were quite close as a result.

“No, why should I be?” the bride-to-be answered rhetorically. “It’s not like I’m in trouble or anything.” she gave a glance towards the bridesmaids gathered in the vehicle, the Ghantish ones giving nods of agreement. Among the bridesmaids were her cousins Arietta, Diana and Theodora, the first of which was maid of honor, her other cousin Marie Izaaksunn from Onneria in the Allamunnic States, Tatiana, Constantine’s sister Polyxena, Anastasia’s good friend Amare Abaza and Dominique of Vannois, whose inclusion was no doubt controversial.

“Seriously?” Diana said with a hint of laughter. “I’m nervous enough all my own. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t be nervous. I’m sure Constantine is.”

“I still can’t believe you two are getting married,” Diana’s younger sister Theodora, often referred to by her nickname Thea, giggled. “You know, I don’t recall ever getting a thank you for introducing the two of you at Ari’s wedding.”

“Pat yourself on the back,” Polyxena, the youngest of the bridesmaids, smiled to her cousin Thea.

Anastasia gave an exasperated sigh and rolled her eyes sarcastically. “That’s because at the time I didn’t think anything of it. I mean sure he was cute, but that was about it. A lot's changed since then and to be honest, if things didn’t work out the way they did, I doubt I’d even be here. I’d still be back in Abaza hanging out with Amare.”

“You mean if Michael wasn’t a fucking luna…” Thea began to say before feeling Diana’s elbow poke at her ribs. Princess Dominique, her dark Niort-Parthenay eyes flitting between the women speaking, smiled.

Lady Amare Abaza nodded in agreement. “Those were good times, but you had to know it wasn’t going to last forever.” The island noblelady was a dirty blonde with dark blue eyes and freckles on her nose, and was possessing of a slim yet feminine figure. “I like to think that everything that happens, happens for a reason. You’re here because that’s what was meant to happen.”

“...Yeah,” Arietta added listlessly as she picked under her nails with a file. “We could talk all day about shoulda coulda wouldas but here we are. Might as well focus on the present...fuck I’m hungover from last night.” Arietta’s eyes crept over to Poly. “Remember girl, no chirping. Last thing I want is for your mother and brother to harass me for including you in all of the bachelorette party festivities. Bitches don’t play nice with snitches, you hear?”

“I won’t. I mean I already promised I wouldn’t,” Poly blushed some, feeling almost all eyes on her for the moment. “Kostas or Peter would probably bother me about it just as much as they would you.”

“Smart girl,” Dominique spoke, flicking back her dark hair as she nodded. “They teach us southern girls well, don’t they?”

Tatiana laughed. “I don’t know if I’d go that far…”

“Look at all of these people,” Diana looked out the window while their limousine moved down Via Sacra towards the church. “I wonder if they feel the same as that rude Archbishop.”

“What Archbishop?” Tatiana asked. “I don’t know anything about that.”

“Me neither,” added Amare.

“It was the newish Archbishop of Castellum,” Poly spoke up. “He made some remarks yesterday and said that the Princess should convert if she wants to marry my brother. I think he said it was ‘an affront’ to the church.”

Anastasia shrugged. “Marsella didn’t convert...Zoe didn’t convert...hell I don’t even think Alexandra converted. So if none of them did, why should I? Besides, it’s not like I’m going to say anything about it in the media to make Constantine look bad...unless you think I should?”

“Yeah, you should totally tell the Archbishop to suck it,” Arietta laughed.

“I wouldn’t pay them any attention,” Poly stated just as they neared the basilica. “I think they’re just baiting you to make Constantine look a fool. Father always said they were starved for attention, always saying things to compensate for dwindling attendance rates.”

“If you want problems with fanatic church goers, you go to my homeland, dears,” Dominique put in with a sardonic smirk. “Latium is faithful, of course, but I don’t know that there’s a state in the world with anything on most holy Vannois.”

“Well, it’s like what Great-aunt Teresa always says,” Anastasia replied. “The more religious someone is, the deeper the stick is up their ass.”

Tatiana observed that “I have a hard time believing that the Church is hurting for support. The Orthodox Church certainly doesn’t have for want in Nekulturnya. Maybe the Archbishop is worried about lagging behind the Eastern Church,” she sniggered.

“Uncle Jason was notorious for over-inflating the church’s declining stature,” Diana added. “But I think I read that their numbers were dropping quicker than the Alban Church’s. I don’t think that’s saying much though.”

“I didn’t even know that the Alban Church was a thing until I got here,” Arietta observed, still picking under nails. “Still don’t know how it’s different from Latin Catholicism either. Not that I care.”

“I’m pretty sure they still worship Apollo or something,” Thea added, though gazed out the window as the caravan began to slow down. “Otherwise they seems pretty normal I think.”

“And I’m positive that it’s a bit more nuanced that than,” Diana stated.

“...Kinda hard to worship a Pagan God and claim to be Christian,” Tatiana countered with a pinched face. “I wonder how they made it past the Dark Ages.”

“My sister’s ex-fiance was Alban. He seemed as Christian as any other,” Poly claimed, “Aren’t there some in Vannois too?”

“There’s a Kingdom for them, there’s that many, surprising as it might be,” Dominique replied. “Don’t mention it to cousin Au- ah, Louis, but it’s his mother’s family. Kingdom of Auxonne. I’m sure they’ll have sent a delegation.” She studied her manicured nails for a moment, resisting the urge to sigh as she noted the slight bloat that remained in them; damn pregnancies. “As good as any people, even if they’re damn near as zealous as the Fabrians back home too.”

Tatiana gasped. “Oh, I do seem to recall that, which is even more surprising. There are no Albans in Nekulturnya, or the rest of the former Velikoslavia to my knowledge.”

“Nekulturnya didn’t need an Inquisition in order to keep people it didn’t want out,” Amare pointed out. “Nekulturnya could do that on it’s own.”

“I’ll maintain that the only reason anyone can tolerate Vannois’s penchant for zealotry is the wine,” said Dominique. “The wine, the beaches, the cheese; you get one of us filled up with enough of it and it can make things bearable, even fun sometimes.”

“That must be why the Sydalene long to be Belisarian,” Diana mused. “All they have is the zealotry and nothing to cancel it out.”

“And sand,” added Arietta with a yawn. “All that sand gets in their vaginas. Like Mel.”

Dominique choked back a laugh at the mention of her Sydalene cousin. “It really just makes all too much sense, when you put it that way,” she said amusedly, a small smile on her face. “Suppose it gives her an excuse, at least.”

“Well instead of being all like, ‘oh look at me I’m so cool because I’m Catholic and shit,’ she should just be like ‘oh sorry I’m just bitchy because I have all this sand in my vagina.’ At least then I’d be cool with it, you know? I’d know because I’m the Princess of Beachlife.”

“I feel you,” nodded Anastasia. “I’ve never been a fan of people that think they’re better than anyone else. That shit’s not cool. Hopefully Mel is cool and doesn’t parrot the Archbishop. That shit would piss me off real quick.”

“I like Mel,” Poly said quietly at first before finding her voice. “She’s really nice, you just need to get to know her is all.”

“I’m sure people said the same thing about Nathan III,” Arietta laughed. “Listen, if you think she’s cool then that’s great, but some of the things she’s said are not at all.”

“In fairness,” Dominique sighed, “I realize we’ve all become a little accustomed to it because of how much it’s happened this year -- but ascending to a throne as young as she is, maybe she gets a bit of a pass.” The Vannoisian shifted uncomfortably. “I’ll be the first one to point out issues I take with cousin Louis, but I can’t envy him coming into his inheritance at nineteen, over his father’s dead body; the same goes for Constantine and Mel, too. I’m sure there’s quite a lot of stress we simply don’t know about.”

Anastasia pointed out that “Nathan became Emperor at the age of nine, and he never got a pass.”

“You’re preaching to the choir, dear, at least with me,” Dominique responded, conceding the point. “Sometimes I feel these monarchies really are just a relic of the past, I suppose, considering what they can do to people. At least I don’t have to feel bad about these old men who get elected to lead.”

“As if anyone would feel bad for a politician,” Thea snorted and followed with attitude. “They’re just so slimy about everything they do.”

“I shiver at the thought of what any of these people would do without a monarchy to prop them up,” laughed Amare. “What would Arietta do?”

“I’d figure something out,” Arietta responded with a frown. “There’s a few people I can think of that would probably be fucked though.”

“I suppose I’m no Teresa,” Dominique said, waving a hand. “It just has to be said, we all benefit quite a bit from what people like Nathan and Mel and Constantine… and Louis, go through.” She had paused before saying the name of the Vannoisian Emperor, and her mouth tasted rather sour after she murmured his regnal name, as it always did.

Arietta scoffed at that. “Why does everyone insist on calling him Louis? He’s spent his entire life as Audric and then all of a sudden he expects us to start calling him Louis? That’s like that one music artist that was famous performing under one name, and then changing his name to something else and then expecting people to call him that instead. Maybe I should start making everyone call me Mary or something.”

“Audric’s a strong name, of course; there’s never been an Emperor of Vannois called that, though. Not that I want to defend any backwards customs,” Dominique smiled at this, “but we already had someone basically break the tradition recently in great-grandfather Thibault.” She paused. “Not that it doesn’t annoy me. Actually, if I thought he would listen to me I’d ask him what was going through his head when he chose bloody Louis of all names. Already had eighteen of them, haven’t we.”

“Maybe Selene suggested it,” Diana laughed.

“I seem to recall Great-aunt Teresa telling a story that if Thibault changed his name upon becoming Emperor, that she would change her name to Jezebel,” sniggered Anastasia. “Empress Jezebel of Vannois...that would have been hilarious.”

“God, I so wish I had been alive to see her on the throne. I mean, from what I can tell she might as well still be -- but that must have been some court,” Dominique laughed.

“We should ask her later at the reception,” added Amare. “I’m sure she is full of stories.”

The limousine came to a stop outside the basilica where it was initially met with Praetorians to open the doors so that Princess Anastasia and the bridesmaids could exit. Anastasia made sure to lower her veil before stepping out onto the pavement. In the car to their rear, others followed suit to allow Prince Richard out, who promptly joined his daughter, and took her arm through his as they approached the entrance to the cathedral. The group was greeted with great fanfare upon their appearance, as the crowd gathered across the street cheered.

Though even that sound was deafened by the church bells sounding off, followed by the playing of music and the bride’s processional hymn. The doors opened before them, Richard stood dutifully with his daughter on his arm in a rare moment of heightened dignity for the otherwise commonly regarded boorish Ghantish Prince. The man was poised, and a look of gravity was sealed upon his face, though he resembled a man who was playing a game of high stakes poker. Arms locked, they waited for the groomsmen and bridesmaids to lead the way before entering the cathedral proper.

Standing in the isles were all of the Latin peers, Senators and coronation guests sat moments before, the pews of the church will now filled with the rich, famous and royal of Ajax. There were representatives from nearly all monarchies or states of Belisaria, including Lyncanestrian Emperor Samuel and his wife and children; the Dewedish Queen Annabelle XIII and the Royal Family, Lord Protector Gareth II of Arthurista, and members of his family; Empress Stella II of Lihnidos and members of her family; representatives from the constituent monarchies of federal nations such as Ghant, Vannois, and Allamunnika; and even Tsar-in-exile Ferdinand of Rietumimark. Though foreign representation expanded far beyond Belisaria with Belfrasian President Nicholaus Dimitrios and other state representatives seated amongst a crowd that also featured Queen Amelia of Afalia, Papal representatives, Mutulan heir Janaab' Pacal, and Scipian leaders from the northern Catholic crusader states.

And finally they passed by the two families, standing on opposite sides of the aisle from one another, with Princess Zoe seated in the front row of the Claudii section with Empress Diana Augusta and Constantine’s maternal grandmother Damiane Vitruvia. On the opposite side were Anastasia’s sister Cassandra, mother Minka, her cousin the Emperor of Ghant, her aunts, uncles and cousins, so on and so forth they went down on her side of the aisle, with the lowest ranking and most distant relations as well as Ghantish lords seated further to the back.

Leading the procession before the bride were Anastasia’s bridesmaids, each paired off with a groomsman. Prince Peter of Latium led the way with his twin sister Princess Poly; the young Prince Philip with his elder cousin Princess Diana of Ghant; the Duke of Vindóbona with Princess Theodora of Ghant; Prince William of Sydalon with the bride's cousin Crown Princess Marie of Onneria; Prince Byran of Ghant with Dominique; Prince Christopher and Tsarevna Tatiana of Nekulturnya; and finally Prince Cameron of Ghant with Lady Amare. After them came the the maid of honor, Arietta, accompanied by her elder half-brother Leo as Constantine’s best man. And waiting at the altar was Constantine himself, still dressed in his Imperial regalia from the coronation beforehand, with the officiant – Archbishop Eutychianus Caesennius of Adrianople – standing nearby.

Once all of the groomsmen and bridesmaids had arrived at their positions at the front of the aisle, Richard and his daughter emerged, cued by the appropriate music. Richard escorted Anastasia down the aisle gradually, until they arrived before the altar, where Constantine and the others waited. Once she was standing where she was supposed to be, Richard lifted her veil before departing to his seat in the front row beside his sobbing wife Minka. Anastasia stood still in her white wedding gown, her face now unveiled and awaiting the initial words of the presiding archbishop.

Constantine faced the Archbishop, though looked to his side and smiled to Anastasia when she reached the altar. As he was about to lean towards her, the Archbishop began the ceremony, prompting the Emperor to pull back. “Friends, we are gathered here today to witness the marriage of His Majesty Constantine and the Princess Anastasia. Let us call upon God to be with us today as we celebrate this union of two into one. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The Archbishop then offered a brief prayer for the Imperial couple, ending with an “Amen,” from the attendants spoke in near unison. Archbishop Caesennius followed with a reading from Matthew 7:21, 24-25, and then the couple if they will love and honor each other for the rest of their lives?

Constantine replied first, “Yes.”

“Yes,” followed Anastasia.

Afterwhich, Constantine was given a ring from his best man, Leo. He looked to Anastasia, and slid the ring on her finger while saying, “I, Constantine take you, Anastasia, for my lawful wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. That I will love you and honor you in all the days of my life.”

“And I, Anastasia, take you, Constantine for my lawful husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. That I will love you and honor you in all the days of my life,” spoke the bride, her voice unflinching.

The Archbishop uttered yet another prayer, asking God to bless each Constantine and Anastasia, before following with the Lord’s prayer, which all attendants joined in or were expected to join in. And then finally the words everyone had been waiting for, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Constantine smiled, and leaned in towards her for a kiss. He felt his crown begin to wobble though, and moved a hand up to secure it in place. All the while, however, deacons behind the Archbishop moved about and walked forward with Anastasia’s crown, placing it and its red velvet pillow down atop the altar.

When the two separated, the Archbishop now faced the Imperial couple with Anastasia’s crown in his hands. Another stood beside him with anointing oils, waiting for Anastasia to kneel and the Archbishop to say, “Bless and sanctify, Anastasia, Empress consort of the Latins, who will be anointed with this Oil – the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The second priest dabbed the oil to her forehead, while the Archbishop handed the crown to Constantine.

Once complete, Constantine placed the crown on Anastasia’s head as was the tradition. He looked down to her afterwards and whispered, “while you’re down there,” with a teasing laugh as he offered his hand to help her stand.

“For the first time,” Archbishop Caesennius announced, “I present to you, The Emperor and Empress.”

The Ghantish half of the aisle rose in a prolonged applause, though Minka couldn’t help but sob and dab her eyes with a fine cloth. Constantine’s family rose as well, with his mother and grandmothers in the front row, as did the remaining Latins and all guests in attendance behind them.

As they clapped, Constantine and Anastasia joined hands and marched back down the aisle together, passing by all the guests until they finally reached the end of the basilica and the church’s heavy doors. When the doors swung open, a roofless Imperial carriage was waiting for them as it was flanked by mounted Praetorians and guards on motorcycles. Constantine helped Anastasia into the carriage before entering himself.

When the horses started moving, there was a jolt felt by Constantine and Anastasia, though they took it in stride and Constantine waved to the crowds still gathered outside the church and all along Via Sacra. The wedding processional followed Via Sacra along an identical route to the one they had arrived in, passing under the triumphal Arch of Peter near the forum, with people stationed a top it still raining down flower petals.

“What are you thinking about?” Constantine looked to Anastasia after throwing a wave to the crowd as if it was second nature by now.

“Dinner,” laughed Anastasia as she waved to the crowd. “Without a doubt.”

“That sounds fantastic,” Constantine laughed as well. “I feel like I haven’t eaten all day.”

And it would not be long before the the carriage arrived at Palatium Supranio where the Emperor and Empress were welcomed by the staff and Praetorians. They were shown inside the palace, and eventually to the grand ballroom, which had often been used for a number of purposes including high level negotiations during the previous year’s succession crisis. Though now, the room had been reorganized to host a reception and ball for the family, friends, and guests of the Imperial couple.

While the sun still shined outside, the sunlight reflected off the white walls and caught the gold decorations all along the wall and window frames. Underneath a vast biblical portrait of angels, clouds, and blue skies were set tables for those guests invited to the post-ceremony events to wine, dine and have a good time.

Before attending to the ballroom, Constantine removed all of his Imperial regalia, including his purple paludamentum and before he and Anastasia were ready to return to the ballroom. The Emperor and Empress waited until all of their guests had gathered at the ballroom before they made their entrance. The band played the Imperial anthem, Domine, salvum fac imperatorem, as they prepared for the entrance.

The herald called out, “Presenting His Imperial Majesty The Emperor, and Her Imperial Majesty The Empress,” when the song reached the first line of the hymn and the doors swung open for the bride and groom. The guests stood at their respective tables, marked by either their designation as immediate family of the bride or groom, bridesmaid or groomsman, other relatives of the new couple, or their respective national delegations. The Imperial couple entered together, and found their seats near the center of the room, though back some against the end of the room as they sat on a dias with the ballroom’s dancefloor laid out in front of them.

All the guests were at their respective tables, as waiters were filling their glasses with Latium's finest wines or other beverages for those that don't partake in that sort of drinking. Waiters and servers also brought out the various courses as the time came. The first course of traditional Latin appetizers including a variety of cured meats with olives, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, cheese and bread. Once guests had enough of the appetizers, servers brough out a soup of sausage, with crushed red peppers, diced white onion, bacon, garlic puree, chicken bouillon, heavy cream and potatoes. Once the main course arrived, guests had the option a head of time of chicken, pork, or duck – and even a vegetarian option if one felt so inclined. That latter option followed for each course as well. Though other foods would be brought out out or made available throughout the coming festivities, servers brought by a light desert of chocolate cannoli if one felt so inclined.

Though of course not all the guests came to dine and drink the Emperor's wine, there was a promise of a ball and plenty more fun for the reception. The first dance of which was led by Emperor Constantine and newly crowned Empress Anastasia, as they danced in dimming lights to The Swan for their first dance. Afterwards the dance floor opened up to any others that wished to join the floor.
Last edited by Lacus Magni on Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Lacus Magni
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Postby Lacus Magni » Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:07 pm

“Family Mingling”
Grand Ballroom
Palatium Supranio

(With Caroline of Winburn written by Lyncanestria)

As a member of the Latin Imperial family and the eldest sister of Constantine, Maria was seated at a table nearest to the center, with only those of the bridesmaids and groomsmen between her and the bride, groom and their parents. Maria sat at a table with her grandmother, Diana Augusta; Aunt Isabella; Leo’s apparent significant other, the Lyncanestrian dynast, Caroline of Winburn; Maria’s maternal grandparents, Michael Pinarius, Count of the Sacred Wardrobe and his wife Christina Tullia-Junia; and finally Maria’s most recent significant other, Thomas Anicius, Count Mediolandum.

Maria watched the dancefloor as her younger brother, the Emperor, took to the floor for his first dance with his new wife. She found it difficult to fight back tears when she saw the smile on Constantine’s face from her seat, though she brushed one or two aside with the back of her hand. “Are you going to be alright?” Thomas spoke in a hushed voice though chuckled to himself. Thomas was five years her senior and also her third cousin; however, the two had quickly become taken with one another since her return from her extended stay at her countryside estate in the southwest of Latium near Utica in the town of Hagia Sophía. On the occasions when she hosted company, he happened to attend with one of her friends. And things just took off from there

“Stop it, I’m fine,” Maria whipped another tear away and jabbed him in the side with her elbow. She pulled the navy shawl, that matched her dress, from down on her forearms to over her bare shoulders as she shivered with a brief chill. “Don’t they look happy?”

“Aye, they certainly do,” Thomas placed his arm around the back of her chair.

“Maria, dear,” her grandmother Christina put a hand on Maria’s wrist. “I feel as if we’ve hardly seen you since your sister’s wedding the spring. What on earth have you been up too?”

“I’m almost positive we speak every week, Avia,” Maria covered with light laughter.

“You know that isn’t the same, sweetheart. Your Avius and I missed that beautiful face of yours,” Christina gave Maria’s cheek a pinch like she was still a child. “You really shouldn’t hide it like you did for all those months you were doing Lord knows what.”

“Leave the girl be, Christina,” Maria’s grandfather chimed in finally and gave her a wink. “If she wanted some time away from the commotion of the capital, I’d say she’s earned it.”

“Why thank you, grandpapa,” Maria smiled right back at him as a waiter poured more wine into her glass. “I just really needed some time away from it all after everything I…the family had been through since papa died.”

“As far as excuses go, that’s a good one. But if you disappear on me again, you best make sure that I can come visit this time,” Christina patted Maria’s hand as she smiled, while the latter nodded in agreement. “But you’ll have to fill me in on everything you’ve been up to since. I can’t believe this is the first time Michael and I have seen you since your return.”

“Well I’ve already told you of Thomas,” Maria placed her hand on his leg as she began to explain. “I’m afraid my life isn’t nearly as interesting as it once was. Perhaps I’ll take up training again for next year’s Ludi.”

“For the love of God, please do,” Michael grumbled as waiters walked behind them rushing drinks back and forth to tables. “Pitiful display at this year’s tournament. Half of highest class racers didn’t even finish in the two-by-race…”

“Yes, of course, we’ve known Thomas for some time,” Christina interrupted her husband’s commentary on the 2017 Ludi Circenses festival and events. “How did you two first come to meet?”

“Oh my,” Maria laughed, her hand reaching up to her neck to fiddle with her necklace. “I can’t even remember the first time Thomas and I met. I’m sure we were only children, don’t you think? Probably at some tournament” she gave Thomas a smile.

“No, no, no,” Christina joined in the laughter. “You know what I mean. How did you two start seeing each other?”

“I don’t think there was any rhyme or reason for it,” Maria sipped at a glass of water that had been sitting in front of her plate. “We just…well.”

“Maria here had some friends over to visit,” Thomas stepped in, “And it just so happened that I was accompanying one of these friends. So, a friend of a friend I suppose.”

“Marvelous,” Christina smiled. “Well we’ve always admired you, and your family, Thomas.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” he nodded.

In the meantime, Maria’s eyes wandered throughout the ballroom to see who among the guests she wanted to see or at least recognized. She first looked over he left shoulder towards where some Latin peers were seated, as luck would have it catching the gaze of her ex-fiance, Niketas Akropolites, otherwise known as Viscount Naxos or Maria’s favorite nickname for him, Asshole. She immediately looked towards the families of either the bride and groom.

A few tables over, her eyes first landed on Emperor Nathan of Ghant seated with one of his many other women among a Ghantish Imperial table. Maria sighed, though placed a hand over her stomach and immediately looked elsewhere around the hall. She turned to a table of her second cousins from Burgoy, including the Crown Prince Charles, with whom she was ever so briefly in a relationship with. He was sweet and respectful at the very least, more than could be said of others, she thought of Charles before her thoughts twisted to think of her ex-fiance, whom she previously laid eyes upon.

Behind the Burgoy party was that of more second cousins, which means Justin and the others should be nearby. Though now she spotted her first cousin once removed, Alexandra Tarpeia, and her two daughters: Victoria and Leontia. The two daughters shared some of the same looks, with brown eyes and a dark, brownish-blonde hair, though wore dresses of blue and red respectively. Sitting at that table were more cousins such as the youngest Tarpeii, Silvia, and her two sons, Michel and Félix – along with her husband, Georges and his bastard, Nicolas. Mel will be pleased, she thought of the latter before feeling Thomas's hand on her inner leg, crumbling part of her dress where the navy blue met and worked into a lighter, sky blue and pale blue.

She looked up to find him smiling, having just spoken with her grandparents Michael and Christina. “Did you spot anything interesting?” he asked her with a smirk.

“A few things,” she smiled and took his hand with hers. “Avia Didi.” But Diana was speaking to Isabella, who sat between Diana and Prince Leo’s significant other, Caroline.

“Caroline,” Maria said to grab the girl’s attention. “You attended Ludi this year, didn’t you? What did you make of it? My grandfather was just mentioning that the closing races were downright horrid this season.”

Caroline perked her head towards the Latin princess, up from its pensive, downward angle. She had been largely quiet the whole time thus, not really communicating past waves, nods and smiles; she was speaking to Isabella about something that Maria assumed was interesting at least, but the latter was now in conversation with Diana. After all, her seating assignment among members of the Latin Imperial party was done due to her being in attendance as Leo’s personal invitee, rather than her acquaintance with any of the people by which she was currently surrounded.

“Why yes,” Caroline began, in perfect Latin, “as you know, each year your family extends invitations to my own; it so happened my cousin was indisposed so he asked I attend in his stead. As riding is a hobby of mine, and having grown hearing of the Ludi, I couldn’t turn down the offer.” She took a small pause as if to recall the events, “But of course, this was my first Ludi. I don’t think I’m a reliable source to cite on the quality of the races this year. You could ask me about dressage though!” she added quickly, “That’s something I’m much more versed in.”

“Oh, do you compete too?” Maria raised an eyebrow as her interest was piqued. “I always had the most difficult time with dressage during competitions. Admittedly, it was always my weakest event.”

“No, no, not anymore,” Caroline said shaking her head, “As a child I wanted to. I still remember my uncle presenting me with my dressage uniform that afternoon after school. Though I’m still familiar with its technicalities, I did not pursue the discipline much after that. Now I just ride as a hobby, whenever I need to take my mind off things.”

“It certainly is great for that,” Maria nodded in agreement, ringing her finger around the rim of her wine glass. “That’s how I first started… after Avia Didi taught me how to ride at least. Perhaps we can find time to ride together in the future, if you’d like.”

“Maria, dear,” Christina chimed in briefly, “Don’t be modest, you are excellent at dressage.”

“You’re my grandmother, you have to say that,” Maria laughed before facing Caroline again. “It’s never too late to get into competition shape though.”

“I’ll take you up on that offer, Maria—the offer to go for a ride that is—training for competition would draw me from my youth initiatives, I’m afraid. But alas, these days there are a great many things on my mind; having someone to ride with would be welcome.”

“That’s too bad, she's going to start training with me again. I'm sure she could have really use another to push her through the training,” Thomas briefly added to the conversation with a chuckle, poking at Maria’s side.

“Ha ha,” Maria mocked Thomas as she rolled her eyes. “But of course, Caroline, I understand. Leo has mentioned some of your charitable works before, and how important they are. I am always open to new riding partners though. Oh, and speak of the devil,” Maria finished when it became clear that Leo was approaching the table. God, what a poor choice of words, Maria winced slightly.

And soon enough, Leo joined the table and began by greeting his grandmother, whom he leaned over to greet and then his mother in the same fashion. Finally, he came to Caroline on the opposite side of his mother. “I’m so sorry it took so long for me to come join you,” he leaned over, somewhat awkwardly initially, and kissed Caroline on the cheek. Maria’s grandfather gave Leo a firm nod as he continued to converse with Christina and even others from a neighboring table of Latins. “Are you enjoying yourself so far?”

“She probably would be if Maria wasn’t coercing her into training with her,” Thomas continued to pick and tease at Maria even now.

“Oh, hush, I did no such thing. He’s just teasing,” Maria smiled to her cousin as he stood at Caroline’s side. “We were just talking equestrian events and riding.”

“Hello, Leo,” she said after returning the kiss on the cheek. Caroline seemed elated at the sight of Leo; she began to smile, though Maria doubted the sincerity of that smile.

“I’ve been having a great time, one would be hard pressed to match Latin hospitality. The coronation, the wedding, the reception; it’s been exquisite. Anyways, just now Maria and I were talking about this year’s Ludi, how it was my first time attending one.” Quickly adjusting herself and facing back towards the table she added, “It was actually Leo who showed me around at the games, and where we started to get to know each other.”

“That’s so sweet,” Maria spoke genuinely. “And you began to see each other not long after then?

“Thereabouts,” Leo nodded, and lifted a glass of wine from a waiter passing by. He drank from it, and winced before putting the glass down on the table.

“Have you seen much of the city since you arrived, Caroline?” Maria asked to turn the conversation towards something lighter.

“I have not had the chance, unfortunately,” the Princess began, “to be honest, I haven’t had the chance to see much of Latium at all. As silly as it sounds despite being only a short distance away, I haven’t travelled far beyond my own country’s borders.” Looking beside her she added, “Maybe one day you’ll show me around, Leo?”

“Of course,” Leo nodded, “I’d like to do that soon. I feel like the last few times we’ve seen one another we have been trapped in a palace. It would be nice to get away and see a different part of the country.”

“If you want my advice,” Maria interjected, “stick to the south for this time of year. You could even use my home near Utica if you’d like some time at the beach.” She looked to Caroline and explained, “The beaches near Utica are some of the most beautiful in the country.”

“Hardly,” Thomas said. “I much prefer Imbros. Utica is certainly more of a tourist trap in my experience.”

“Please, Imbros is just as bad,” Maria laughed. “If not worse.”

“I think it’s the time spent together that matters more than the place or time,” Caroline started, “of course, nice scenery does help the ambience of a weekend escape. But at the end of the day, the experience of getting to know a new place would more than suffice.”

“Mhmm,” Maria smiled along. “Very well put.” The Princess sipped at her wine as the group came to a silence.

The conversational lull lasted for a number of seconds, only broken by Leo speaking out to Caroline. “Do you care to dance?”

“I wouldn’t turn him down, Caroline,” Isabella, whom had been speaking with Diana, finally turned towards the group. “I’m not certain if I have ever seen him willingly take to a dance floor.”

“Well then in that case,” Caroline began, addressing the Latin princess, “I won’t refuse the offer. Thank you, Leo,” she finished, thanking him as he helped her from her seat. “Oh!” Maria heard Caroline exclaim as she and Leo began to walk away, “This is one of my favourite waltzes; they always play it at the débutante balls in Lyncanestria.”

Meanwhile, Maria leaned towards Thomas and spoke softly, “You know what? I think I’d like to go dance as well. Come along.”

To that, Thomas nodded, stood and helped Maria from her seat. “If you’ll excuse us,” Thomas politely offered. “The Princess requests a dance.”

Maria took Thomas's hand as they wandered away from their table just as Waltz of the Flowers began to play. This must have been what Caroline was so excited about…she has good taste in music, Maria thought as she actually began to steer Thomas away from the dancefloor and towards some of the tables among the bride’s and groom’s relatives, nearing her uncle Theodosius’s table – the Beroea table. He sat next to his wife, Antionette, a true Vannoisian beauty if there ever was one, and one Maria often attempted to mimic when she was younger, due to thinking that her aunt had a keen eye for style.

Though Antionette sat to the left of Theodosius, with their children – Maria’s cousins Theophylactus and Teresa – to his right. The children had similar looks about them, fairer skin than Maria or her own siblings, with lighter, almost dirty blonde hair – though Teresa’s was more brown than blonde – and dark brown eyes each. Teresa was always the more personable of the two, and Theophylactus, well, any boy with uncle Theo as a father is sure to have it hard. That isn’t to say that Maria didn’t like her uncle, in fact he was one of the few people she ever recalled her father calling a true friend, he’s just…harsh and unyielding.

“Actually, can we go dance now?” Maria begged Thomas. She heard no response from him until she turned to see him nod with closed eyes. It was then that the pair came within earshot of Beroea table.

“What on earth could you be so nervous about…” Maria overheard her uncle Theodosius speaking to one of Teresa or Theophylactus. “Some little girl should not frighten you. You are a Claudii and what more a prince of a great nation.”

Though always one for formalities, Theodosius stopped being harsh to my poor cousin when he noticed Maria. “Niece…and Count Thomas,” her uncle stood and addressed both her and Thomas as plainly as possible, though his eyes noticeably narrowed at the address and sight of Thomas. No doubt because he doesn’t approve. “I hope you are well. You were absent from court for some time, Maria.” He paused and then snapped, “Children, greet your cousin.”

“Mhm, yes I was, dear uncle,” Maria only made brief mention of her time away from the capital. “I pray my absence did not place any undue burden on others.”

As she spoke, each of her cousins stood, Theophylactus bowing his head and Teresa curtsying, as Latin nobility were expected to do when greeting the child of a Caesar. “Hello, Maria,” Theophylactus spoke first. He was dressed in a Latin naval officers uniform, despite merely being a cadet at this stage still. Teresa soon followed with her own hello, as she was dressed in a red dress that exposed her shoulders and came around to her neck.

“Theo, you look more and more handsome every time I see you,” Maria smiled to her young cousin before turning to Teresa. “And Teresa, I just adore your dress. You’ll must tell me who made you that gorgeous dress. I just love it. Have either of you attended with dates?”

“Thank you, cousin,” Theo inclined his head. He had grown so much over the last year and a half, now standing taller much than Maria and likely nearing six feet.

“Guillaume is here, he’s with his family now,” Teresa was speaking of her boyfriend, the Prince Imperial of Lyncanestria. “I wanted to go speak with him, but Father said I must wait until he comes here first.”

“What, has it been a year already?” Maria smiled while making small talk, though Thomas stood idly at her side, and Theodosius took to his seat and whispered something to his wife.

“This past October actually,” Teresa nodded right back, though stood awkwardly holding her left arm. “We promised Theo that we would try and find someone for him before the end of the night…or weekend if needed.”

“Well there should be no problem there,” Maria pulled her shawl over her shoulders as she felt a chill. “Girls adore a handsome man, like yourself, in uniform. I expect no trouble.”

Theo smiled, though looked to his feet out of embarrassment of the focus on him. “He’s just hoping Sophie agrees with you, Maria,” Teresa added with a giggle, causing her brother’s face to turn red.

“Darling,” Thomas came behind Maria and whispered in her ear, “If you want to get to the dance floor soon, we best get moving.”

“I’m absolutely positive, he’ll have nothing to fear,” she spoke to her cousins after acknowledging Thomas with a nod. “Your sister would agree that all you need to do is be yourself. But if you’ll excuse me, cousins, Thomas and I were going to try and catch his daughters before the rush got to them.” Maria gave each a hug, along with a respectful smile and bow to her uncle and aunt before departing.

“Is he always so terrifying?” Thomas laughed about Theodosius once they were on the move again, weaving around tables and throwing waves or smiles out to relatives as they passed on. “Father said he was always as stern even when they were all boys. Except for that time he told me about he and your father getting Theodosius horrible drunk.”

“Father had that effect on people,” Maria smiled though felt sad all the same at the mere mention of her father.

“He certainly did,” Thomas was a few step in front of her now and had let go of her hand due to the other guests or wait staff filling the floors. She followed him still though, that was until she felt a pull on her left arm.

“Maria, you really thought I’d let you walk by without saying hello,” it was her cousin Melisende, or Her Majesty as she probably preferred to be called. The two had gotten along for as long as Maria could remember, despite being four years her senior;

“Oh my God, Mel, I’m so sorry. I was so focused on not running into anyone or anything that did not even see you there,” Maria smiled and placed a hand over her heart before giving her cousin a hug. She waved, “Hello Aunt Eirene…cousins,” to the rest of the table that included her Sydalene royal cousins – Mel’s younger siblings.

“You just had your eyes on whomever was walking in front of you,” Melisende teased, before it dawned on her who that was. “Wait, was that Thomas. Wow, the rumors are true then. I honestly couldn’t believe it when I heard them from Selene. He's been after you for so long hasn't he?”

“We’ve been more than a rumor since sometime in November, Mel,” Maria laughed, though looked for Thomas and found him finally speaking with his two daughters. “In fact I’m certain I told you over the phone last time we spoke.”

“That’s right you did,” Mel looped her arm around Maria’s and stood next to her like they were as inseparable as sisters. “I am so sorry, dear cousin, what with everything that has been going on back home – the succession, moving court back to the Holy City, and that silly pervert that had been masquerading as a pious church leader – things of that nature just tend to slip my mind. Truely.”

“Think nothing of it,” Maria smiled to Mel once more. She likely would have forgotten anyway, self-absorbed as she can be sometimes, the Latin princess debated as she made eye contact with Thomas, who finally noticed they had been separated and made his way to get back to Maria's side. Once Mel is done talking my ear off, then we can hit the dance floor, and probably run into a great many others as well.
Last edited by Lacus Magni on Thu Feb 01, 2018 4:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lihnidos » Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:37 pm

Grand Ballroom
Palatium Supranio

The wedding had been a wonderful event in a beautiful setting. The Basilica of the Blessed Virgin reminded Efthymia much of Saint Anastasios’s Basilica in Andros, which coincidentally was not far from the Latin and Lihnidosi border. If she remembered correctly, it had begun construction around 1000 CE, not long after Xanthi, Lihnidos’s predecessor, had been conquered and integrated into the Latin Empire. The Latin influence on the architecture and the culture of Lihnidos could be easily seen throughout the country thanks to the four hundred sixty years that the Latin Empire ruled over Lihnidos before its independence. For better or for worse, the two nations were bonded by their similarities.

The seats that she and her family were given at the wedding near the middle of the basilica allowed her to easily see, although from a slight distance, everything that took place in the front of the sanctuary. She adored the dress that Anastasia had worn. The flowing white gown looked beautiful from where she had been sitting, and at the time she could only imagine how it must look up close and in detail. While far from her own wedding, she had already begun designing her own wedding dress, but she took no shame in telling herself she would start it all over again to model it off Anastasia’s if she desired.

Now, with the wedding finished, the celebrations could begin. The grand ballroom of the Palatium Supranio, another example of the beauty of Latin architecture, was filled to the brim with nobility and government officials from across the region. The Lihnidosi delegation, minus the representatives from the elected government, were seated at a large round table that was set for ten individuals. Efthymia was seated between her mother, the Empress of Lihnidos, and her grandmother, the Duchess of Ikaria. Each of them had their husbands sitting on their other side. Around the rest of the table sat two of Efthymia’s siblings, Spyridion and Maria, as well as one of her cousins, Athan. There was also another matriarch from Lihnidos present, Tatiana Hallas, the Duchess of Sestini, and her husband. Efthymia’s mother had invited Tatiana to be a part of the Lihnidosi delegation due to her sister, Chryssa, being the wife of John Verruscosi and mother of the current Procurator of the Imperial Estate, Laurentius Verruscosi.

Despite there being ten seats at the table, only four were currently occupied. After the group had been seated people began to rise and drift away into the crowd. Efthymia’s mother had been called away by the representatives of the elected government, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Belisarian Affairs and the Ambassador to Latium, most likely to discuss the events of the day and who the Empress should speak to while in Latium. Tatiana and her husband had undoubtedly headed off to find Chryssa and her family. Maria had disappeared within minutes of sitting down, and Spyridion and Athan had said they were going to find Spyridion’s current love interest.

Those left at the table sat in silence. Two chairs to her left, Efthymia’s father appeared to find his wine glass interesting, as he kept his eyes trained on it between sipping the dark red liquid it held. He was never a very outgoing man. He much preferred to spend his time alone or with his family, but never in large crowds. It was amazing he could survive as the emperor consort being the introvert that he was.

She turned her attention from her father to the tables around her. There were many people in the room that she had never seen before, no doubt government representatives from non-Belisarian countries. Closer to the center of the room were the Latins, the family of the bride, and the rest of the wedding party. Several of the faces in that group were recognizable. Maria, Theophylactus, and Peter some of the few Latins in the room that stood out to her. She also recognized a number at the Vannosian tables, and there were a number of members of the nobility from Ghant that were filtering through the room.

In the seat to her right, her grandmother leaned over and interrupted her thoughts. “You better not be getting any ideas, girly. You know what happened to the last empress who married a foreigner.”

Efthymia let out a silent chuckle as she turned in her grandmother’s direction. “I think things are a bit different than they were five centuries ago.”

“Are they?” her grandmother questioned, raising an eyebrow.

Her question caused Efthymia to pause for a moment and think. Of course things are different today, she thought, dismissing the veiled warning. “She wasn’t assassinated because she married a foreigner, she was assassinated because she was doing a shit job.”

“If you say so.” Her grandmother let out her own chuckle this time. “And anyway, it was your family who had her killed. Not much danger of that now, is there?”

“It was never proven that our fam-,” she began to defend her ancestors before being cut off.

“Don’t give me that hogwash that they teach you in history classes. Everyone knows that your who knows how many time great grandmother orchestrated that coup. She did a good job at it, too. I wouldn’t have wanted to be up against her. Lucky for you, because if she had failed you probably wouldn’t be here, and your family certainly wouldn’t have the throne.”

Silence hung in the air between the two for a minute before her grandmother spoke again. “I’m serious about staying away from these foreign princes, dear. They’re so far inbred that it’s a miracle that they don’t have three feet or twelve fingers yet. You don’t need them ruining your bloodline.”

Efthymia wanted to be shocked at her grandmother’s comment, but she couldn’t be. She was being her classic self. “You know that isn’t true,” Efthymia disagreed. She left out the fact that her grandmother needn’t worry about her looking for a husband amongst the crowd. She already had a boyfriend back home, but she wasn’t ready to let out that secret just yet.

“It is, Efthymia. It truly is. Almost everyone in this room is related in one way or another. They’ve married into each other’s families so many times over the centuries that they may as well all be one house at this point.”

Efthymia opened her mouth to interrupt, but decided to wait. Her grandmother continued her lecture. “We’ve been lucky in Lihnidos, not falling into the same trap. The last prominent marriage between a Lihnidosi and a foreigner was Matriarch Hallas’s sister in 1980. Thankfully it was to a Latin and not some family with genes that have been destroyed from inbreeding. You family in particular has been able to stay out of it for as long as I know, but your brother seems to be determined to end that streak. He just had to go and start fornicating with one of those Gentry girls.”

Grandmother!” she hissed. “Valgeror is a very nice woman. And she’s not a Gentry, not that it would matter. Now would you be quiet before someone hears you and we get thrown out.”

“She may as well be, honey,” her grandmother claimed. “I’m not worried about being thrown out. These people are lucky I don’t get up on this chair and let them know how I really feel.”

Efthymia put her face in her hands, hoping that no one in the immediate vicinity was listening in to their conversation. When she once again raised her head, she made a pointed look at her grandfather, who had been sitting beside his wife through the whole conversation. He gave her an apologetic look, but remained silent.

“Make sure you relay our conversation to your sister if you see her before I do. I have no doubt she’s around here somewhere making puppy dog eyes at some prince far too old for her. They won’t give her a second glance anyway. That is, unless she goes and tells them she’s one of their first, second, or third cousins. They’ll be throwing themselves at her then.”

Her grandmother laughed at her own joke, seeming to find herself hilarious. Meanwhile, Efthymia looked for an escape. She refused to sit around listening to her grandmother bash everyone else in attendance for much longer.

Her mother had disappeared from where she had been standing minutes earlier, but that didn’t stop her from making an excuse. “Mom is waving me over to her, I’m going to have to be going…”

Before she could escape, her grandmother grabbed her by the arm. Despite being a few inches shorter than Efthymia, she somehow managed to be at her eye level in her seat. “I know you think I’m just a bitter old woman. Maybe I am. But you’re going to be empress one day, and you need to know these things.” Efthymia could tell by the look in her eyes that she was deadly serious. “I’m only trying to prepare you for what’s to come. Your mother would never tell you these things, she’s far too kind. That makes it my job. Teresa was the same way, God rest her soul. With her gone I’m the only one who will say what needs to be said.” She released Efthymia’s arm. “Now go find your mother.”

Efthymia rose and scurried away before her grandmother could grab her again or call her back to her seat. Unsurprisingly, her mother was still nowhere to be found. Most people in the room were seated at their tables, which should have made it easy to find her mother in the crowd. A woman as tall as her should have been easily spotted, but Efthymia had no luck. Instead, she spotted her sister standing alone near the far wall. Best get to her before grandmother does.

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Postby Mutul » Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:56 am

Janaab' Pacal
Grand Ballroom
Palatium Supranio 11 Mac / 10 Ben

Janaab’ Pacal had a hard time differentiating the other guests. His eyes just couldn’t catch the small details that would have allowed him to recognize the princes, dukes, kings, and even emperors present. The only faces he was able to put a name on were those of the Rezese and Belfrasians delegations, if only because he had the occasion to see more files about them. And this was despite Ahin Chan Toktan, his father’s minister of Foreign Affairs and compagnon of Janaab’ Pacal for this little journey, long descriptions of the different guests, and of their relations with one another. Ahin had the Mutulese nationality since his father worked at the Mutul embassy in the Latium, but his mother was a Latin and he grew in Castellum. His knowledge of the Belisarian families and politics - and his hunger for more, Janaab’ Pacal mentaly added- were why he jumped through the ranks of the Royal Hierarchy so quickly, and now was here to make sure Janaab’ did not made a fool of himself in front of such a public.

The Mutulese delegation had been allowed to wear their traditional clothes during the event. Janaab’ considered it to be the least they could do, since they already forbid the Baa’h Cho’k Ajaw -the “Prince-Heir”- from bringing his ritual knife that he, as he was technically a priest, always had to have on him. Janaab’ threatened to take it as an insult, but both his father and the Foreign Affairs minister “ordered” him to step down and obey. In the place of the knife, he wore a single ring at his finger, in which a fragment of obsidian had been inserted. Janaab’ even thought of bringing the actual obsidian knife to the event still, hidden inside his coat, but Ahin had been distraught when he learned about it and lectured him on why it was not possible and he should stop trying to make it a diplomatic incident. He only stopped when Janaab’ promised to not actively try to make one. The minister knew it was about as much he could get from the Prince.

And so both men as a consolation wore cotton shirts under tunics of velvet, loose pants made of silk, and mocassin, and their large capes that served as coats were tied in a way considered “correct” when they were under a roof. If Janaab’ Pacal had listened to Ahin they would be wearing simple business suits, but the Prince raised the argument that the Mutul’s citizens weren’t ready yet for their future Divine King to wear foreign clothes. The argument worked.

Ahin Chan Toktan clothes were rich but simple compared to the Prince. As heir of the Mutul, his habits had been made only in the finest materials possible and by the best designers. Gold threads had been sewn and under the light, at the right angle, showed numerous symbols and drawing of various object, people, or just glyphs. Some of these were fairly simple to understand : there was the blasons of the Ilok’tab family, the ruling dynasty of the Mutul, others who indicated the status of Janaab’, his role as Prince Heir and as High Priest, the various gods who were watching over him… but others, Ahin knew, were more cryptic and occult, to the point even a high ranking administrator of the Divine Kingdom like him had only a slim idea of what they represented. These were secrets known only of the royal family and of the High Priests. The dominant colors were green and gold, the colors of the K’uhul Ajaw. It was Janaab’ way to show he was ready and willing to success his father once the time will come. Ahin wasn’t sure if it was very tasteful of the Prince to already were royal colors but it seems his father had been pleased by his son’s choices. What pleased the K’uhul Ajaw pleased Ahin. After all, it was no use to be more royalist than the king.

The waiters filled their glasses with various non-alcoholic liquids. The K’uhul Ajaw and priests in general were forbidden to drink alcohol and it would have been poor manners for Ahin Chan Toktan to drink wine in front of his Prince. They even managed to only eat one appetizer from time to time, as moderation was a virtue cherished among high ranking Mutulese and none of the two men would have allowed people to think they lacked self control.

After a while however, Jacab’ Pacaal stood up. Ahin looked at him, somewhat dubious. “We’re going to find some discussion to join.” Explained the Prince. “You’re coming with me.”

Ahin nodded and left the table too to stand right behind the Prince. The latter actually enjoyed the minister’s company, despite the two of them sometime heated arguments, especially during the previous weeks. However, even the concerned minister didn’t knew about it and Janaab’ Pacal liked it this way. Confusion and secrecy were his weapons and nobody needed to know who had the favors of the future Divine King. The best way to maintain the balance was to not let anyone see where the balance even was.
Last edited by Mutul on Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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First Valerian Empire
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Postby First Valerian Empire » Sun Dec 31, 2017 7:01 am


And suddenly you know, It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. It was something that his father had said to him hundreds if not thousands of times when he was younger and now that he was gone, it was one of the things that gave him comfort in uncomfortable times when all else failed. As the sovereign of what any self respecting Valyrian would tell you was the greatest country on the planet it was his duty to attend formal events like these on behalf of the Royal family and his country but that didn't make him any less nervous. The last wedding he had attended, he'd gotten wildly intoxicated, was drugged and came very close to dueling to the death in the main hall; luckily not in that exact order.

Things had changed immensely since that time; primarily he'd become both a husband and a father with that bringing maturity and grace or that's what he'd been led to believe.

His wife was keen to remind him to be mindful of the image he presented to others on trips abroad like these but that only served to increase his apprehension about the whole affair on top of his other concerns.

The household staff for their part did a marvelous job of making all the arrangements and handling all the necessary correspondence. They took off from the Imperial Palace in Avalon via helicopter to the private airport on the outskirts of the city and then flew a privately chartered jet into Adrianople with a fighter escort all until the Valyrian- Lyncanestrian border before being taken into the city proper. Thinking about it later, it couldn't be helped but to wonder at the expense of importing all the nobles and royalty into the country for a wedding and providing for their lavish tastes and security before exporting them all back to where they came from, safely. If it was anything like his own wedding, they'd avoid any more extravagant affairs for the next year or so the the bare minimum.

Once inside the city proper, a small convoy had been arranged to take them first, to Valyrian consulate for a quick meet and greet with the staff there and then to the venue, the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin, a rather pretentious name in the traditional Catholic fashion for a building that would no doubt host a flock of no doubt some of the most serious of the serial philanders on the continent. A lifetime spent in the lap of luxury did well to acquaint him with the ins and outs of the most privileged persons of society and it was nothing if not a social group prone to indulging in the excess.

The ride to the Basilica was without incident and they arrived promptly and were seated as was requested at a table near the edge of the room, close enough to see the proceedings but simultaneously far enough away to not be the in the center of the mingling of the upper crust of society.

At their table sat, Napoleon himself though he was much preferred being addressed by his given name, Nicolas, dressed to the nines in a full evening dress suit, ironically enough, the same one he wore to his own wedding several years ago. He'd taken the liberty of even getting a haircut and styling his normally long dirty blonde hair with a conservative part down the side, in the typical military fashion. Ever the stoic, he was content to mind his business and his demeanor seemed to be working very well at warding off any overly friendly types. On his left sat his beautiful wife, the Empress Laura, Crown Princess of Valyria and Princess of Verena. She wore a rather elaborate updo in the fashion of a popular sci-fi actress whose recent film had become an instant blockbuster success and it paired well with her floor length golden gown and matching peep toe heels. The dress was a number that had been custom made on the instance of Napoleon's sister, who considered herself the consummate fashionista and it was indeed very beautiful with abundant use of lace and silk to accent her neck and shoulders with it's strapless design.

To the right of Napoleon sat, the Prime Minister who took the lead from his grace and opted for a simple evening suit in the same style though his lack of height didn't do him any favors when standing side by side with his monarch, it was still a very stylish number and acquainted him well with his peers. On the Prime Minister's right was his own wife who wore a simple but chic, midnight blue floor length dress with a her long golden locks styled down in long braid that trailed down her exposed back with a pair of yellow pumps complimenting the color.

The surprise guests at the table were Napoleon's two younger cousins; Charles and Amélie, who had been invited to attend in between semesters at university as something of a favor to their mother who was a close associate of Napoleon's other father. Charles like the rest of the men at the table, wore a elegant evening suit and wore it well while his younger sister chose a striking red knee length dress and matching pumps and styled her hair in the fashion typical of her age group, allowing it fall delicately down her back seamlessly like water flowing down a stream.

While Napoleon stewed in his own awkwardness, conversation had turned towards the other guests with the Prime Minster's wife, Nicolette speaking excited about the general feeling of happiness in the air.

''They're all so happy.'' She began, scanning the entire ballroom apparently attempting to find one discontent face among the sea of jubilant Royals.

''Except that one over there.'' Napoleon chimed in, cutting his eyes quickly across the room towards a rather disapproving face. The entire table turned nonchalantly towards the offending person and while it was difficult at first to locate the man in question, it wasn't an impossible task as Nicolette tisked in disapproval.

''Oh, that's Theodosius. I've heard there are more pleasant people to be around at a wedding or any social event for that matter.'' Laura quipped matter of factly.

'' It would seem so Your Majesty. '' the Prime Minister said, nodding his head in agreement.

''Who is that he's talking to? She doesn't look very comfortable now that we're paying attention to them.''

Laura took another glance and took a quick sip from her flute of wine.

'' I think that's our host's sister, Maria or something. They're all related to each other around these parts. I'm honestly surprised that they even get along. To be around the same families, same sort of people for generations, it seems it would be quite annoying in the least after the first hundred years or so.''

Napoleon nudged his wife gently underneath the table, out of sight before locking eyes with her.

''Now now Mon amour, let's not get into the habit of talking about some of the oldest families on the continent without mentioning our own. I think Madame Buttercup would take great offense if you can stomach her for more than a few moments at a time.''

He was of course referring rather disparagingly to one of his many cousins scattered throughout the noble families in Valyria, this one in particular being the Matriarch of the great and high house of Fluer.

'' Speaking of whom, Louis my friend, how goes your progress with getting her um, great grandson admitted into Saint Christophers'?''

''Actually I have your Grace, I believe it was your beautiful wife here that once said to me that being Prime Minister does have it's privileges. '' Nicolette jabbed her husband in the side at the beautiful comment which sparked a chuckle from everyone at the table.

'' She may be the Empress, but I don't think she can save you when you get home.''

Louis glanced over at the Empress in a silent plea for help but Laura turned her head back towards the table where Maria was looking rather longingly towards a gentleman who was being embraced by a young child.

While the older adults were preoccupied with their own conversation, the younger two had been studiously scanning the crowd with purpose. Charles had taken note of a number of eligible young ladies who appeared to be without escort and while his sister had done the same with the gentlemen.

Sensing that his guests attention was elsewhere, Napoleon nudged Charles from underneath the table with a slight grin on his face.

'' How about you and your sister see about tracking down a few drinks, perhaps a bit stronger than the wine they're serving us?''

''Of course your Grace. I was thinking the same thing. Let's go Amelie. We've got our marching orders.''
He stood up, taking his sister's hand, practically dragging her towards the dance floor, the opposite direction of where the servants would be, turning back only to mouth a quick thank you towards Napoleon.

Laura having turned back from her observation of the other party goings, looked inquisitively at her husband.

''That's not the direction of the bar?'' she questioned.

''No it's not dear. But it's definitely where they need to be going. I'll tell you about it later.'' He took her hand into his and placed a gentle kiss upon her fingers. Laura seemed satisfied by his answer and took another sip of her wine before leaning to whisper in Napoleon's ear.

''Be sure to watch the alcohol tonight okay?

He nodded in understanding and leaned over to whisper something of his own into his Prime Minister's ear.

Last edited by First Valerian Empire on Sun Dec 31, 2017 12:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The Principality of Valyria
''The city of a thousand years, and all that men had learned;
The Doom consumed it all alike, and neither of them turned.''

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Postby Ghant » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:22 pm

“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

Basilica of the Blessed Virgin
Adrianople, Latium

Weddings were never a dull affair where the Ghantish were concerned. The occasion of the marriage of the Latin Emperor Constantine and Princess Anastasia of Ghant was as one of the more well attended weddings in recent memory. Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, lords and ladies from throughout Ghant made the journey to Adrianople to witness the event.

Royal weddings and the subsequent balls usually always played out the same. There were great displays of pomp and pageantry, excessive jubilance and rejoicing, and an occasion for others among the highborn circles to mingle, merry-make and match-make. King Jori of Jehenna was one such Ghantish highborn, with two younger sisters both unspoken for and of marriageable age. They were pretty young women with dark hair and grey eyes, sitting beside their brother in their finest gowns.

On the other side of the young northern king sat his older sister, a twenty-six year ingénue by the name of Josephine. The Princess Royal of Jehenna might have been the only Ghantish woman of rank on the entire side of Anastasia’s aisle that wasn’t enchanted by the opulence of the venue or by the magic of the event at hand. Her mind was wandering, though her purpose was singular.

Josephine’s Amazonian figure sat well on her full-figured body. She had a decanter shaped waist and her complexion had an impeccable, milky hue. Her thick, burglar-black eyebrows eased down gently to her black, beetle’s-leg eyelashes. A sculptor could not have fashioned her seraph’s ears and pixie’s nose any better. When she flashed a smile, her beguiling, oyster-white teeth sparkled in the light. Her hair, black as a raven’s wings, was long and curly. Spools of it plunged around her photogenic face of scattered black freckles and hid a swan’s neck, elegant and smooth. Her eyes were a nebulous combination of plasma-blue and smoky-grey, yet were a-sparkle with the ‘joie de vivre’. They were like two steely sapphires resting atop snow.

The northern princess was not known for her sophistication in manner of dress. Josephine wore a blue faviana gown with a sheer cape overlay. It featured a V neckline with plunging illusion, a crepe bodice, princess seams and cap sleeves. The lower half of the gown consisted of a banded waist, a pleated A-line skirt and a floor sweeping hem. For her that was good enough.

Josephine quietly and carefully poked and prodded at her smartphone in the depths of her seat on the pew, hoping her younger brother and sisters wouldn’t notice. She only looked up again when the music began to play upon the bride’s entrance, escorted by her father. His name was Prince Richard of Ghant, fourth son of the late Emperor Albert and Empress Grace, Lady of Langael. Josephine’s stony-grey eyes transfixed upon the man, who walked along the aisle with a dignified look upon his face. It was not the first time Josephine saw that same face, having seen it twenty years ago…


Jehenna, Eskura, Ghant
November 1997

Her name was Josephine, but she preferred to be referred to as Josie. The Princess Royal of Jehenna was six, with long curly locks of black hair that framed a fair round face peppered with dark freckles, with stony blue eyes in its midst. She had heard said that she was smart for a girl her age, and was sneaky to boot. So it was on this winter night that she snuck away from the palace grounds, her sense of curiosity and mischief getting the better of her.

She knew that her father, King Josu often had “meetings” away from the palace, and his wife and children were never allowed to go. Josie’s older brother, Crown Prince Jakobe was always resentful and bitter about this, and whenever the King left, Jakobe would take out his frustrations on his younger sisters and brother. Josie didn’t like Jakobe, for he was cruel in all the ways a boy can be cruel to his younger sister. Not wanting to suffer another night of his attentions, she escaped by climbing out of her window down the palace courtyard, and then sneaking away to trail her father’s caravan.

Incidentally he didn’t go very far, only a few blocks away from the palace to an old, run down theater. In the olden days it was a lively place where great shows and plays were performed, but now it was just another old abandoned building. Strange thing that father would go to a place like this at night. Oddly enough, the theater was also lightly guarded with men that weren’t her father’s. Watching the king and his party enter the theater, Josie snuck around to the back of the theater.

There were cars and men scattered about, men like the ones Josie saw around the front of the theater. They were lightly armored and armed with guns, she could see. She hid in the shadowy crevices of the building’s rear, hoping that none could see her. None did, as she looked for a way to get inside the building. That was when she heard something not too far away from her. Josie looked and watched. A little girl…like me…

"No! Daddy!" the girl screamed, as her father grabbed her by the collar of her ragged shirt and tugged her backward with a brutish force that sent her skittering behind him. The girl’s toes clutched wildly at the corners of the snowy stone ground, but to no avail. Her father had hastened his pace, and her toes were forcefully pried away from their dirty lodging, as her heels scraped the grimy stone and paid the skin on the soles of her feet in collateral from the temporary stay.

"No, daddy, no! Don't make me leave, daddy! I love you, daddy! Don't make me leave! Don't you love me?" She wailed, attempting to wipe at her tears with her grubby little hands.

His only response was to use one hand to cover her mouth, silencing her desperate cries, and the other to hoist her childish body into the air, before walking into the theater proper. Her face was red from crying and lack of air, and tears had run tracks through the grime coating her face. Blood from her despairingly wounded heels dripped softly onto the rich red carpet that lay against the white tile floors, like red paint on an otherwise blank canvas, or the trail of a murderer that had freshly killed. The opened doors revealed a bare floored hall, which the man and his daughter disappeared into.

Josie watched as the door shut behind them, before finding her own way into the building through a large air duct. She was small and sure-footed enough to crawl through it, emerging into the back of the theater. There she witnessed the girl’s father kick the back door open, entering the rear of the stage. He strode in so carelessly that her head rammed against the side of the doorway.

The stage curtain was lowered, and the man swaggered with his bleeding daughter around the side of the curtain. Josephine ever so carefully snuck around to the other side, where she could hide in the dark and still see the other side of the curtain. Josie saw that the stage was dimly lit, with the man and his daughter now standing front and center before the aisles of seats.

The man released his hand from her mouth and deposited her on the middle of the stage as her echoing cries subsided into silent sobs. Her vision grew fuzzy from physical pain, and her heart ached of rejection. "Five year old girl. Two hundred dollars?!" Her father shouted, with a wild, crazed, note in his voice that she had seldom heard before. "Do I hear two hundred dollars?!"

"Two hundred and fifty!" A voice from the lavish, cushioned, chairs responded quickly.

"Three hundred!" Another countered, greed showing blindly in his tone.

"Three hundred and fifty!"

"Four hundred!"

"Four hundred and fifty!" And so on and so on. Each man sounded worse than the one before, and the air was rank with the smell of alcohol and cigarettes.

"One thousand, three hundred!" a strong, authoritative figure called from the door. A tall man with short, reddish brown hair, dressed richly in a freshly ironed suit strode forward and repeated his bid. He shot a look at his competition, whose bids had wilted in comparison, and they cowered under his gaze, a few even shrank behind other fellow strangers. He tossed a large bundle of bills upon the stage floor.

The girl’s father looked down, gasping at the money on his makeshift platform, before swiping it all greedily into his coat pocket and kicking his daughter across the floor. She let out a cry that could have woken all the streets of Jehenna, and the richly dressed man took her hand carefully and rubbed her head in a caring fashion, before marching up to her father and smiting him across the face.

The richly dressed man walked up to the girl and knelt down solicitously. The man had elicited derision from the drunken audience in the overly fancy seats underneath them.
He took a clean handkerchief from his right pocket and gently wiped the tears from her tear streaked, dirty, face. She sniffled as he took hold of her hand in a welcoming grasp and started with her down the hall. Josephine did her best to sneak down from the corner area of the stage and down through the old, dusky aisles in an attempt to follow them.

The girl began to cry once more as they left her father lying facedown on the polished floor. He had a keen look upon his clean-shaven face. "You love him?" He asked her, and the girl nodded furiously, looking imploringly back to her father's unconscious body.

"Does he love you?" He inquired.

"Daddy never loved me," she mumbled, and the tears stopped. "He never did."

"Then he wasn't your father," The man explained, taking hold of another handkerchief. "A father always loves you, something I promise you I can do for you. We can start now. What's your name?" He smiled at the girl, the pale skin crinkling around his laughing brown eyes.

"Cera," she answered. "That's my name. Cera. What can I call you?"

"You could call me father," He chuckled, "Or you could call me Richard." Smiling, Richard pulled out a green pendant, attached to a silver chain. “Here, Cera, this is a gift for you, from me.” Richard put it around Cera’s head, letting it hang low around her neck. “It matches your eyes.” She smiled brightly as she touched the green stone.

Josie felt a hard hand grasp her by the arm, a man as hard as a boulder. “What do we have here?” the powerful man asked as he yanked on Josie’s arm so hard that she yelped. “A straggler? Or just a little bitch trying to sneak off?”

“You let me go!” Josie snapped at the large man. The sight of him horrified her. He had a split-lip, like someone took an axe to it when he was a baby. His head was bald and his face was scraggly with black hair, and his eyes were a dull gold. On his grimy coat was a green dragon with the head of a chicken.

“And why should I do that, blacktop?” the man asked her menacingly, referring to her by her hair color as he lifted her off the floor by her arm, causing her to scream in pain. Other men seated around the theater began to turn their eyes to the unfolding scene, some of them beginning to call out, “put her up!”

“Stop.” The man named Richard shouted at the split-lipped man. “Bring her here. Now, Dagoru.”

Dagoru growled at Josie as he lowered her back to the floor and dragged her by the arm towards Richard and Cera. “Don’t you know who that is, you fucking idiot?” Richard asked the man. “Tell me who you think that is?”

“…one of the auction girls,” Dagoru answered hesitantly. “Sneaking off…I’ll have to have a word with the boys about this…letting em sneak around like fucking free-range chickens…”

Richard cracked Dagoru across the side of the head so hard that it almost sent him to the ground. Josie noticed that Richard had something metal around his fingers. “No, that’s not a product, you stupid bastard. That’s a princess…the King of Jehenna’s daughter.”

Dagoru came to, clutching at his bleeding head. “I’m sorry your Highness, I didn’t know…”

“Of course you didn’t.” Richard gave Cera a little push forward, sending her towards Dagoru. “Here, take this one to the House.”

Nodding, Dagoru scowled at Josie, saying to her quietly “see you later Blacktop” as he grabbed Cera by the arm and began to take her away. The girl made brief eye contact with Josie as she was taken away, noticing her green eyes and brown hair, only interrupted when Richard put a hand on Josie’s shoulder. “Come with me, your highness.” He asked gently, but his hand was forceful with her.

“Where is my father?” Josie asked. “I want to see my father.”

“Oh, I’m sure you do,” Richard answered her just before pointing up. “He’s up there, in a private balcony. He’s enjoying the show.”

Josie shook her head. “I don’t see a show. I saw a daddy sell his little girl. A little girl like me.”

Richard laughed as he walked the girl along the back of the theater. “You’re a smart little girl, I can tell. But naïve. You see, child, she’s not a little girl like you. You’re a princess…you’re a somebody. That girl is a nobody, she comes from nothing. But I can make her a somebody…I can give her something. So you see, I’m a good guy.”

“Nuh-uh!” Josie shook her head as the two of them entered the stairwell leading up to the second level of the theater seating. “You’re friends are bad men…everyone here are bad men. You say mean things and hit people. You’re a bad guy, and when I see my father I’m going to tell on you.”

Richard stopped, and pushed the little girl against the wall. “I can be a bad guy, if I have to be. I can make you go away to a dark place where you’ll know nothing but pain, where you’ll be hurt and nobody would come to rescue you. You’d never see your mommy and daddy again because they will think you wandered off into the woods and died. Do you want that?”

Josie stared at the man long and hard, and then she shook her head. “…No…”

“Good,” Richard said to her with a smile as he led her up the stairs. “I don’t take kindly to disrespect. That girl’s father was disrespectful, acting like a fool. That’s why I hit him. The big bald man with the cleft lip was disrespectful for putting his hands on a princess. That’s why I hit him. That’s how the world works, child…you show respect and you get treated fairly. You show disrespect, and bad things happen to you.”

At the top of the stairs was another hallway, this one curved around like a circle in either direction. Richard led her to a door, flanked by men of Jehenna, who stared in horror at their young Princess. They swiftly opened the door to reveal the King sitting with a young man and two women that Josie didn’t recognize. King Josu rose from his chair quickly and waved off the two pretty women and the young man, saying to him “Unni, this will have to wait.” The young man got up and left, his golden eyes staring at Josie as he departed the balcony with the two young women.

“I found something that belongs to you,” Richard said with a scowl as he shoved Josie towards her father. “You should keep a closer eye on your children. You know the rules, Josu…”

The King embraced his daughter who hugged her father tightly. “Yes I know, your Highness…my apologies…”

Richard pointed at him with a scowl. “Apologies don’t mean shit, Josu. We had an arrangement…”

“Yes, I know…but she’s just a child!” Josu countered with grave concern in his voice. “We’ve done some good business together, you and I. Surely you can look the other way, just this once. Haven’t I earned that, at least once?”

“…Okay, Josu,” Richard said after thinking about it for a few moments. “One time, Josu. I’ve been generous with you…I offer you all these nice things, and all I ask for in exchange is your cooperation and understanding. You know my brother Bert rules this country now. All I’d have to do is make one phone call and your world would get fucked up so badly they’d sing songs about it. You understand?”

Josu nodded, and said “yes, your Highness…I understand.”

Smiling, Richard patted Josu on the shoulder, and then Josie on the top of her head. “Good, very good.” Turning to walk away, he looked back and told them “it’s nothing personal. It’s all just business.” Then he was gone.

The king picked up his daughter and held her in his arms as he began to leave, calling some of his men about him to join them in their departure from the theater. Josie never looked back towards the stage, but as they were leaving, she could hear them call out. “Two hundred and fifty! Three hundred! Three hundred and fifty…”


A lot had happened in the twenty years following that night. There was trouble in Jehenna, when Jakobe lashed out at a good knight that Josephine admired, and had affections for in secret. Then Jakobe was banished from Jehenna by their father, but he returned and murdered him, only to be killed in a Trial by Combat by the Emperor of Ghant for offenses given to his wife’s step-sister. Josephine eventually joined the Imperial court, appearing as a mere courtier, but all of that was simply a means to an end. Over the years she trained in the ways of the northern fighter, refusing to ever be a victim again…and a victim again she was not.

Josephine’s mind came back to the occasion at hand, as Constantine and Anastasia exchanged their vows, were pronounced husband and wife, and then departed amidst rounds of applause from the Ghantish guests. Josephine watched them leave. From there, the Ghantish guests rose from their seats and departed the aisles front to back, in accordance to rank. The Emperor of Ghant led the way, tall and thin now, having lost much weight and muscle, and dressed in fine Imperial garb. The Princes and Princesses of Ghant followed suit, and then the Kings and Queens, and then the Lords and Ladies. They filtered out towards vehicles that took them to the Palatium Supranio, where the reception was to take place.

Praetorians swarmed the palace, and made sure that the guests found their way to the grand ballroom. It was a pretty room of white walls and gold décor. The ceiling contained a portrait of angels flying amongst the clouds, and beneath, enough tables to accommodate all the assembled gusts. Constantine and Anastasia entered the ballroom once most everyone had arrived, entering to a musical performance.

The herald cried “Presenting His Imperial Majesty The Emperor, and Her Imperial Majesty The Empress” as the music began to play and the doors opened for them. The guests all stood at their tables as the bride and groom went to their seats near the middle of the back of the room, where the table sat upon an elevated dais behind the ballroom’s dance floor.

Josephine sat with her younger brother King Jori, and with their younger sisters Jessica and Jana. Other esteemed guests from the Confederation of Eskura joined them, but Josephine paid them no mind as she looked around the room. Waiters brought food to all the tables, the first course consisting of cured meats, olives, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, cheese and bread. Then came rounds of sausage soup with crushed red peppers, diced white onions, bacon bits, garlic puree, chicken bouillon, cream and potatoes. Of the main course options, Josephine chose duck.

The first dance of the evening was of course between Constantine and Anastasia, dancing under dimming lights to a lovely song. Also as was customary, the second dance was for Richard and Anastasia. The band played a waltz number, to which Richard gracefully danced with his daughter. Josephine watched them dance, going round and round, with a blank expression on her face, her eyes wide and her mouth tight-lipped. I wonder if he knows, she thought. That I found his House…the House of Blue Light…


Outskirts of Jehenna
November 2017

The girl stood. Shaking. More with frustration and anger than with terror. She held the baby boy close. His warm body tingling on her skin. He was asleep, thank the Gods. What would she have done if he had seen? She wrapped the shawl around them both as she glanced around for a fallen tree to sit on. She found one and sat down. All the while se was trying to keep her half naked body covered.

What a night, she thought. She was in tears. She had ran away. Ran away from the hostel. Her parents sold her to a sex hostel at the age of six. She was now nine, an orphan, with a baby brother to look after. She had been beaten at the hostel. She always got the blame for anything that went wrong. Just because she was the youngest. They told her, “if you contact anyone or run away we will hurt your family.” She ran anyway. She ran just before it was her turn to be stared at by sick and twisted men.

She ran home. Bad move. Cockatrice men were there already. She climbed in her parents’ window and crept into her brother’s room. He was untouched. He was asleep. So she quickly picked him up and wrapped him in a blanket, and then headed back down the hallway. She didn't hear anyone, so she thought they had gone. She went into the kitchen just as her parents were shot. She turned and went out the living room window. She held the baby close as she ran. She ran. And ran. And ran. She heard men shouting but didn't look back. When she felt safe she slowed down to a walk. She walked to the fallen tree.

There the girl sat with her infant brother, trying to catch her breath, trying to get warm. She now realized the danger she had put her brother in... SNAP!

There was someone behind her. She turned around and saw him. It was Jed. A red-headed man who used to beat her and look after her when she wasn't, as he said, “being used.” Hs grin... it scared her. He was grinning then, when he found her on the fallen tree. He had rope in his hands. The girl began to back away from him, holding the baby close to her.

She screamed...someone clamped a filthy hand around her mouth from behind while a boulder-like arm reached across her chest. She tried to move but it was hopeless. She hadn’t eaten in days and she needed her inhaler. A man she didn't recognize took the baby out of her grasp. The man stood over the baby menacingly.

“We told you we'd get you.” Then they began to drag her away.

“NOOOO!” She couldn't believe her eyes. Tears streamed down her face. Her body went limp. If it wasn’t for the “boulderman” she would have sprawled on the snowy ground. They left the baby wrapped in a blanket in the snow as they took the girl away. Surely her baby brother would die of exposure in the cold northern Ghantish winter night. They killed him…they killed him…

Jed bound her hands but she didn't feel a thing. She just couldn’t believe it. On the drive she was beaten…badly beaten. She thought they were taking her back to the hostel. But they didn’t. She was dragged out and carried into a grand house. It was a Cockatrice house illuminated by blue lights within. They threw her on a chair and walked away. What are they going to do to me? She tried not to think about it…

The dark strands of her hair sway in the wind
The beauty of her pale skin teases the mind
She wears but the color of the lonely night
In the darkness, the brooch she wears shines bright.

Her as the depths of the sea
She of the moon can bear no console
In her sorrow she decides to compose
In her suffering...she bears no repose.

Beautiful is she, as the moon and stars
None are capable of waging her wars
And of love she does not understand
Yet she knows there’s nothing more grand.

She of the Crown and Axes overcomes
Dispirited by the world she becomes
And as the sun shines forth from the mountains
Her destiny, fate can easily foresee...

Josephine had arrived too late. Josephine followed the girl back to her home from the hostel, in the hopes of catching some of the Cockatrice men away from their base. The Cockatrices had arrived first, shooting the man and his wife in the head. There used to be a girl, and a baby by the looks of it, in the house. Now there was nothing but a broken in front door and an open window in the baby’s room. Damn. The snow was falling steadily, entering the house where it was open.

The twenty-six year old Princess of Jehenna wore a long black cloak and hood with a black leather battleskirt beneath it, with boots and long black leggings. She kept a variety of weapons on her belt, on the inside of her cloak and in her boots. Of those, only her double-bladed hand axe was drawn. There was nothing that she could see anywhere in the house, much to her dismay…

…Until she got to the living room. There was a man laying there, slouched against the wall breathing his dying breaths, while an axe was lodged in his chest. His breaths were long, labored and gurgling, and his eyes stared off into the distance even as Josephine approached him. When she got to him, she knelt down next to him, and rested a hand on his head. “Where’d they go?”

The man looked at her with a distant expression. “…they left me to die…in the cold…alone.” From the looks of it, he was a young man, perhaps in his late teens. Just a boy…just a goon…

“Where’d they go?” She asked him again. “Tell me. Now.”

“…To the House of Blue Light,” the dying boy told her. “On the west side of town…by the smokestacks…”

Josephine smiled. “Thank you.” She put the dying boy out of his misery by cutting his throat with her axe. She said a northern prayer for him as she wiped her axe off on his clothes, and then she stood up again and walked out the front door. On her way back to her unmarked black sedan with tinted windows, she heard something in the distance. A baby…a crying baby…

Walking in that direction, Josephine came upon a fallen tree, and near it in the snow was a large blanket, bundled up with something squirming within it. Josephine bent down and uncovered the blanket to see the face of a baby, wailing in the cold. She watched it for a moment before gently picking the baby up and clutching it against her bosom. Baby in arms, Josephine walked back to her car.

Taking the dying boy at his word, Josephine drove towards the area of Jehenna that he said the girl was being taken to. It was an old, rundown part of the country, a vast swath of dilapidated industrial parks and blighted buildings dating back to the Mad Emperor’s War. Josephine drove to where the smokestacks were, rising like castle towers above the rugged, snowy landscape. There in the distance near them was a lone house in the woods, with an eerie blue light shining through the windows.

Josephine left the car running in the seclusion of the factory yard, the heat running so the baby wouldn’t freeze. She figured the car was well hidden enough to where it wouldn’t draw any attention. From there, Josephine walked stealthily across the factor yard into the woods that led to the House of Blue Light, with her throwing axes ready in her hands. The wooden shafts were cold against her pale hands, her breath forming puffs of smoke in the winter night.

There was a man peeing into the snow in the woods, laughing with a bottle of liquor in one hand while he aimed his cock with the other, drawing a Cockatrice into the snow. Josephine sneaked up on him, and felt a sense of disgust. The Cockatrice was the Ghantish Syndicates symbol, a green dragon with a chicken’s head. Without hesitation, she reached out from behind him and covered his mouth with one hand, while cutting his throat with an axe in her other hand.

There were other men standing around the house with rifles and machine guns in their hands, with one of them shouting, “that’s a long piss you’re taking, Urdi. Hurry the fuck up already!” The house was clearly large, most likely some industrialist’s estate once upon a time. It was a three-story house by the looks of it, with smoke rising from the tower chimney. All of the large house’s windows emanated the same blue light.

It was dark enough to where they couldn’t see Josephine sneak through the woods and creep up to the side of the house. There was another man standing sentinel on the back deck of the house, and like the previous man, Josephine snuck up behind him and cut his throat, dragging him back into the shadows where he wouldn’t be noticed. This is too easy, she thought as she laid the dead man down in the snow. They’re clearly not prepared…

One by one, she killed the men standing outside, cutting their throats in the dark winter night, as the snow fell harder and harder. As she finished off the last one in the front of the house, she turned her head to notice that one of them saw her, just standing there in the snow and staring. Too far away for her to kill with her axe, she instead lashed out with her spiked whip, the end of it wrapping around his neck while the spikes dug into the tender flesh. She pulled him close as he gripped at the whip around his neck, while hot steaming blood streamed down the front of his clothes. He tried to scream, but could only gargle blood. Josephine put him out of his misery with her axe, and then coiled her whip back on her belt before approaching the house.

Josephine climbed up the multi-level back deck, and then crept along the edge of the siding towards a window, which happened to be unlocked. She looked inside and seeing it was empty, opened it carefully before quietly sneaking into the room. It was a small room, illuminated by a lamp that shined blue light. There was only a small, stained mattress in the corner of the room. Josephine could hear music from the other side of the door.

It was an old song that started playing, Josephine hearing it more clearly as she opened the door very quietly. The second story hallway was a wrap-around balcony around a large, open room on the main level. Once she was sure that there were no people on the second level, she looked over the rail and saw twelve men sitting around a long, rectangular table playing cards, drinking and smoking. The room was light up by bright blue lamps on little tables all around, while the song was playing rather loudly from a stereo at the center of the table. They all appeared drunk, and none of them were within quick reach of their weapons. Perfect.

Quickly, Josephine removed and cast aside her cloak, and with a hand-axe in each hand, jumped over the rail. She landed on the table between two men, with an axe buried in each of their heads. The table shook violently, causing the cards to go flying and the flagons of alcohol to fall over, spilling their contents on the table and floor. The remaining ten men were taken by surprise, and before they could scramble to their feet, two more of them were headless, as Josephine cut through their necks with her shortsword.

The Princess of Jehenna jumped on another man, burying her sword into the back of his neck, and then slashed the face of another man who tried to grab her from behind. She lunged at the next man who was just reaching for a pistol, stabbing him through the eye, just as another aimed his pistol and shot. With little time to react, she used the man she just killed as a shield, and kicked him towards the man shooting at her as she pulled her sword out of the dead man’s eye. She then threw it at the man, catching him in the chest.

The remaining four men now had guns, and began shooting at Josephine. She ducked under the table and kicked it up, causing a portion of to go up and slam against two of them. She slid across the floor to one of the two that the table didn’t hit, and slashed across his thigh with her other shortsword, and then drove it into his back. She then pulled it out and threw it at the man charging at her, catching him in the chest.

Only two of the original twelve men remained, having been staggered by the impact of the overturned table. The song stopped playing from the stereo now laying broken on the floor, and nothing played afterward. Josephine lashed out with her whip around the neck of one man, while the second man began to scramble away. A man she recognized. I’ll be damned… he thoughts trailed off as she walked over towards the man, who seemed to be scrambling for the shortsword still buried in one man’s chest.

The man’s name as Boru Axeritogarai, and he was one of her dead brother’s goons, who along with the rest of Jakobe’s thugs were collectively referred to as “the Twelve Apostles.” After the Incident at Jehenna, they were either found dead or disappeared. Boru got away, but his face was a hard one to forget. He had gentle face which hid his cruelty and malice, which he took out on women, whom he hated for some reason that she was never aware of.

“Boru,” Josephine said with a grin as she walked over the dead men towards him. “It’s been a long time.”

“Fuck you, you little bitch,” Boru spat at her as he clutched the sword and rose to his feet with it. “I’m going to cut you from your cunt to your curly hair.”

“…I don’t think so, Boru.” The Apostle swiped clumsily at Josephine, who side-stepped and cut him under his arm, causing him to drop the sword as his arm went limp and began to bleed. “Where are the rest of the Twelve Apostles?”

Boru grimaced in pain, but reached for the shortsword with his other hand. “I’ll never tell!” He swung it at her, though she easily parried it and then slashed it across his arm, causing him to drop it once more.

With both of his arms dangling and bleeding profusely, Boru slumped up against the wall and looked at Josephine with disgust. “I hope your brother enjoyed making you his bitch,” he spat at her. “He should have killed you when he had the chance.”

Josephine stared at him with narrow eyes, trying not to let his words affect her. “Not as much as I’m going to enjoy making you mine.” Then she drove her sword down through Boru’s head, sending the blade through his mouth and out beneath his chin. She pulled it back out, and went and retrieved her other weapons. The floor was covered in blood, and had fallen silent.

Exploring the first, second and third levels of the House, Josephine found nothing but old rooms with stained mattresses laying on dirty floors. Not finding anything, she returned back to the main floor and looked around to see if she could find anything. Then in what seemed like a living room, she found a door leading down into the basement, where once again blue light flickered. Axes in hand, Josephine began to make her descent, ever so quietly.

The basement was sprawling and filthy, only dimly lit by blue light. The walls and ceiling appeared to be falling apart, and the floor was cracked in several places. There were many doors leading into small rooms, but many of them were badly damaged and falling apart. It was in one such room that she observed a man with red-hair, yelling and using a belt to hit a girl tied up in a chair.

“Brother Jed warned you about trying to escape,” the red-haired man berated the child as he smacked her face with his belt. “Brother Jed told you what would happen. You’ve been disrespectful, and Father doesn’t appreciate disrespect.” Jed drew back his arm to strike out at the sobbing, bruised girl, but was unable to follow through, as Josephine’s axe bit into his skull. Jed fell over dead, while the sobbing girl sat there and watched.

“Are you okay?” Josephine asked the badly beaten little girl. Stupid question…of course she isn’t okay… However, the girl didn’t answer, merely staring behind Josephine, as though someone were standing there…

Josephine felt a large hand grab her hard by the arm, and then another hand wrap around the back of her neck. The next thing she knew, she was slammed against the wall of the room, her right cheek pressed against the rough stone wall. “What have we got here?” the voice behind her said.

I know that voice. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the man that grappled her. I know that face. His head was older and wrinkly, with crow’s feet beneath his languid yellow eyes. He was bald, but had stubbly black facial hair. Most prominently though was his cleft-lip, giving him an unmistakable appearance. Dagoru…oh how I’ve waited a long time for this moment…

“You let me go!” Josephine cried out, causing Dagoru to pause. One hand still grabbing her arm at the wrist, the other one grabbed her by the hair, and he gave that hand a pull in order to yank her head back so he could get a better look at her.

“…Well, I’ll be damned,” he said with quivering lips. “Blacktop…it’s been a long time…twenty years. I did tell you we’d see each other again,” he laughed. “I’m not letting go of you this time. Just wait until the boss-man finds out about this.”

…Too bad the boss-man won’t be finding out… with her free arm, Josephine elbowed Dagoru in the nose, causing him to reel back with a bloodied nose. His time to react was minimal, and noticing Josephine reach for one of her blades, decided to move away from her, and towards the girl that was still bound to a chair.

Dagoru extracted a serrated blade from his coat and pressed it against the girl’s throat, before staring at Josephine from behind the girl’s chair. “I know why you’re here, Blacktop,” Dagoru informed the now still princess. “You’re here for the girl…you’re here to save her. Fancy yourself a hero,” he spat. “I knew letting you go was a mistake. The boss man made a mistake. I ain’t making it twice. Put your weapon down. Do it now or I swear by the Gods I’m gonna cut this girl’s throat.”

Josephine dropped her axe, sending it clattering against the stained stone floor. “Now the rest of em,” Dagoru snarled as he pressed the tip of his knife against the girl’s throat. She didn’t move, nor did she cry. She’s numb to it all now. Josephine nodded, and removed the rest of her weapons from her belt…except for the one she kept behind her, tucked in the back of belt, concealed mostly within the waistline of her pants.

Grinning an ugly row of crooked, discolored teeth, Dagoru nodded in the direction of the wall. “Now, against the wall…do it quickly now,” he barked, before taunting her. “Stupid northern girls…you only bring knives to gunfights. If only you had, Blacktop…”

“…If only.” Josephine began to walk towards the wall, and on the side facing away from Dagoru, she reached for the weapon behind her. Pulling out of her waistline swiftly, she aimed it at Dagoru’s forehead and squeezed the trigger. Bang. Dagoru fell backwards, hitting the wall behind him and sliding down it like a rag doll, a hole between his eyes.

Picking up her weapons, Josephine checked the rest of the basement, finding nothing other than stained floors and walls and small rooms with chairs and torture devices on rusted tables. Fuck this place, she thought as she went back to the girl and cut her loose from her bindings. Noticing how badly beaten and feeble the child was, Josephine picked her up and carried her in her arms out of the room and back up the stairs.

Returning to the large open room at the center of the house, Josephine stopped. On the other side of the room, past the bloodied corpses, the shattered flagons and glass bottles, the wet floors and the broken tables and chairs, stood a young woman wearing a white women’s coat. She was tall and strapping with short brown hair and striking green eyes, like the pendant she clutched at hanging around her neck by a sparking silver chain. It matches your eyes… It didn’t take long for Josephine to recognize who she was either. Cera.

“Who are you?” the other woman asked, with an angry look on her face. “Did you do this? Where are Brother Jed and Master Dagoru? Why are you taking little Buttons away from us?”

Josephine gave the woman a cold stare. “I am Vengeance, writ in blood. These men died by my hands. So did Dagoru and Jed. I’ve come to take away this child from this horrible place. You should come too…there’s nothing here for you now.”

“No,” the other woman replied, a combination of rage and sorrow in her voice. “I’m going to tell father!”

“…No, you won’t,” Josephine told her as she laid the girl referred to as Buttons down on an unbroken table on the edge of the room. “Did Father and Master Dagoru do to you what they did to Buttons? Is that the life you want for this child…Cera?”

“…It was for the best,” the woman began to sob. “…You know my name…” her mouth dropped agape, and then after a moment’s pause, she added “it’s you…Blacktop. The Princess of Jehenna from the theater, when Father bought me.”

Nodding, Josephine extended her hand to her. “Yes, Cera, I remember. It’s me. You don’t have to live this life anymore. You can be free. No one will ever hurt you again…I promise. Come, take my hand, and we will be gone from this place forever…”

Cera wiped the tears from her eyes as she walked towards Josephine, a faint smile creeping across her face. She reached out for Josephine’s hand, and the Princess of Jehenna’s face lit up with a bright smile.

She didn’t see the other hand. Cera reached for a gun that was holstered on her belt, and drew it quickly. She aimed it at Josephine’s abdomen, and if the princess had not seen it at the last minute, would have been shot in the stomach. Instead, the discharged bullet merely grazed her side, taking some of the fabric of her shirt with it, and causing her to grunt in pain. As she fell to the side, she reached out and grabbed Cera, pulling her down to the ground with her.

“You killed my family,” Cera groaned as she grappled with Josephine on the floor, soaking their clothes, skin and hair in the concoction of blood and alcohol. “I’m going to kill you and tell father. Your family is going to pay.” Cera tried to aim her gun at Josephine, but the princess grabbed Cera by the arm and began slamming it against the floor in an attempt to jar the gun loose from her hand’s tight grip. Screaming in pain, Cera’s gun shot at the ceiling before being knocked loose from her hand, sliding across the room.

Cera tried to kick, scratch and bite Josephine in an attempt to maim Josephine as the princess wrapped her hands around Cera’s neck. I’m so sorry, Cera, Josephine thought as her hands squeezed tightly around the other woman’s throat. The people that did this to you…turned you into this…they’re going to pay. The princess knew that she couldn’t let Cera tell Richard what happened. Tears filled her eyes and began streaming down her blood-soaked cheeks as she choked the life out of Cera, until the younger woman stopped moving after nearly half a minute of struggling. Then she was dead.

Wiping the blood, sweat and tears from her eyes, Josephine said a northern prayer and closed Cera’s eyes before looking at the pendant around her neck, stained in blood. It was the same one that Richard gave her twenty years ago, a green emerald upon a silver chain. Josephine removed it and put it in her pocket before struggling back her feet. She walked back over towards Buttons and delicately picked her up again. “It’s over now,” Josephine told the child as she carried out of the back door of the house, and into the winter night. “I have your baby brother…he’s safe. He’s waiting for us back at the car.” The girl smiled ever so faintly as they disappeared into the woods between the House of Blue Light and the factory yard beyond…


The Grand Ballroom
Palatium Supranio

Josephine looked on with a scornful gaze as Richard danced with Anastasia. Under the table, she pulled out the emerald pendant from her pocket, briefly looking at it before putting it back. She looked around the room, in order to see what all was happening. The Latins were speaking amongst themselves, Princess Maria and the Emperor of Ghant’s half-brother Leo with the pretty blonde Lycanestrian ingénue he came in with.

The Emperor of Ghant sat prominently at a table with a pretty blonde Lyncanestrian ingénue of his own, along with his maternal half-brother and sisters, though the sullen, thin and pale Emperor paid them little mind. Instead he stared off into the distance, towards the fall wall, seemingly disinterested in his surroundings as though he were lost in his own little world.

Elsewhere, great lords and ladies of Ghant were eating, drinking and conversing amongst themselves, some taking to the first dance. Prince Leo and the Lyncanestrian went to do that, with other Ghantish noblemen taking women of little interest with them to dance. It was Ghantish custom to save the best, most desired dances for last, and she knew that when it came to Prince Leo, he would have no shortage of young Ghantish nobleladies chomping at the bit for a dance, since the Lyncanestrian was dancing with him first.

“You should get out there,” Josephine’s younger brother King Jori told her as he was eating and drinking. “You dressed for a ball but you look like you’re at a funeral.”

“And you’re the King of Jehenna, sitting there stuffing your face with Latin food and wine,” Josephine pointed out. “What’s you’re excuse?”

“I’m married with a son,” he told his sister with a groan. “You’re not. Look, I’m not asking you to play the demure princess or anything like that,” the king rubbed his forehead after draining his glass of wine. “Just put yourself out there…” then he pointed at Prince Leo. “Our family are good friends with the Imperial family. We’ve fought together, bled together, and we’re not closely related in the slightest. That man right there is very accomplished, and most women think he’s attractive besides. That’s the best match in the room.”

Josephine laughed. “I can’t compete with that blonde Lyncanestrian broad. I’m not even the best match in Ghant for that matter. The Princesses of Gaemar, Arrautsa and Izotza are all greater. Hell, there’s a Voor girl out tonight as well. I’d be wasting my time and making myself look like a fool.”

The Princess Royal looked around the room again. She saw Prince Paul looking around the ballroom, no doubt for some lady, as did the Tsarevich of Nekulturnya, though she did not know the maidens that commanded their efforts. At their own table, Josephine’s younger sister played on their phones and gossiped about boys that caught their eyes. “I’m not like them, Jori…never have been. Never will be.”

Jori rubbed his hands together, and leaned forward over the table. “Ever think that maybe he’s not looking for that? Maybe he’s looking for something different too. He’s looked…bored. Just like you.”

Sighing, Josephine pushed herself up from the table. “If you say so, brother. I’ll take the next dance, if that’s what it will take to get you to shut up.” With that said, Josephine pushed herself up from the table and wheeled around, facing the ballroom floor. She waited for the dance to conclude, and then on long, striding legs, made her final approach towards Prince Leo of Ghant and Latium and his Lyncanestrian plus one.

During the break between numbers, Josephine came before them, and took a deep breath. “Your Imperial Highness,” she said with a curtsey to Leo. “My lady,” she said to his previous dance partner. “It has been some time…I am Josephine, Princess Royal of Jehenna. I was hoping for the next dance,” she said with a faint smile as she extended her arm towards him.

Just as she extended her arm, she couldn’t help but recall when she did to Cera…all those moments rushing back. Though she was no longer there, it felt like a part of her would always be stuck in that wretched place, where innocence went to die. In the House of Blue Light…
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Postby Lyncanestria » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:52 pm

“Struggles of the Heart”
Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Lacus Magni and Ghant)


Fiddling slowly with his thumbs, Guillaume sat silently at the table, waiting for the recently wed and crowned Latin couple to walk in and signal the beginning of the festivities. Indistinguishable conversation filled the room, it was impossible to pick up anything from the buzz. Looking around the vast chamber he saw the Latin Imperial party, seated just a few tables away with the bride’s family and the other guests of honour. He could make out Teresa from here, though she was not looking back. From what he could see, she was engaged in conversation with her brother, Prince Theophylactus. Marie-Sophie’s probably giving him looks right now, too.

He looked over to his sister who was seated to his right. Nope. As it turned out, she was busy describing exactly how she wanted her drink to the Latin waitstaff in her near-perfect Latin. She was dressed in an elegant nude-coloured velvet dress, sleeved to her elbow where they ended in frills, and with the hem right below the knees—though you couldn’t see it below the table. Typical Sophie fashion. His brothers Philippe and Louis-Gabriel sat beside her, both in their white tie attire as he was, though he had the distinction of wearing the medal of the Order of the Imperial Lion. Out of the corner of his eye, he could make out Philippe grabbing the wine glass out of Gabriel’s hand. Out of spite or from genuine concern the six-year-old would cut himself, one will never know. To his left were his parents and grandmother, the Emperor and Empress, Samuel and Alys, as well as Empress Mother Elizabeth. His father was making conversation to Jean-Marie, the Marquis of Genlis, the Emperor’s ambassador to Latium, close friend and Guy’s uncle by marriage to his mother’s sister Adèle, who was seated beside him. Two of their cousins were also in attendance, though only one sat with them at the table, Eugène, the Count of Grisons, as Cécile sat at the table of the Ghantish Imperial party. Guillaume could see her in her sapphire dress, seated beside the Ghantish Emperor Nathan. He remembered they had recently had a child, Emma, he recalled her name. I’m sure she’s a gem. The Prince Imperial had a hard time identifying many other faces at the table, despite his focus.

Before he managed to be caught staring, Guillaume turned at the sound of the Latin Imperial Anthem broke the crowd’s murmur, heralding the arrival of the newlyweds. “Presenting His Imperial Majesty The Emperor, and Her Imperial Majesty The Empress,” called out the court herald. Everyone rose from their seats, most with cup in hand, himself included. He raised his glass, as his father and uncle did, and took a draught of the wine. Though Guillaume had a big distaste for alcohol—even the smell of the substance was enough to make him grimace—it was only proper he follow what protocol dictated. Cheers, he said mentally toasting the couple, ... time to put on a show. Constantine and Anastasia made their way from the doorway slowly, with the nobles and other dignitaries in attendance acknowledging them as they made their way to the centre of the ballroom, be it with a curtsy, bow or nod. Reaching the centre of the grand chamber, the orchestra began to play The Swan, the beautiful and melodic piece with which Guillaume was familiar, a staple of an Audonian composer whom he could not recall. Swaying back and forth, the Imperial couple drew the eyes of all in the room, drawing tears, applause and cheers. If that is love and marriage, could it really be as hard as they all make it out to be?

“Guillaume,” his uncle called out. The Prince finished the spoonful of soup in his mouth before wiping his lips and giving his uncle his attention. “Your father tells me you want to take your last semester of school abroad in Latium?”

“Yes uncle, that is right,” the Prince replied, albeit rather sheepishly.

“If I took a wild guess and said it was just to be closer to your girlfriend, would I be wrong?”

“Um…” before he could respond he was posed another question.

“Was it her idea or yours? I’m just asking cos you’ve been dating for what, a year now? You could’ve studied abroad any one of these last two semesters.”

“It was kind of her idea,” Guillaume began, “but studying abroad is something I’ve wanted to do anyways.”

“You seem tentative, nephew. You know, an emperor should never allow himself to be led from what his own judgement tells him is the better choice; not by his friends, not by his woman.” Turning to Alys he cleared his throat, and clarified, “I mean this with all the respect in the world, sister, but Guy here’s going to be the next Sovereign. He should establish that fact in the relationship before she gets used to toying with his mind.”

“I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, Jean,” the Emperor finally responded with a chuckle, “Besides, Guillaume doesn’t need that sort of pressure just yet. Let him be with his girlfriend if he wants.”

“I’m just saying, Samuel,” the Marquis was among the few people who actually called the Emperor by his name rather than by his style or title, “I know this girl’s father. If she has even the smallest shred of assertiveness that he has, she’ll have poor Guy dancing in a tutu before you even know what’s happened.”

Ahem, the Empress Mother of Lyncanestria cleared her throat. She was seventy-two, and she looked it. Her once flowing brown-blonde hair had diminished to a short grey color, though her blue eyes did still sparkle. Elizabeth’s gown was blue and cream with a golden sash, though it wasn’t floor-length. Dignified even still in advanced age, she shifted her eyes amongst the guests, hoping to catch a glance of one of her sisters or perhaps even a brother. What caught her attention, however, was her progeny.

“Jean-Marie is exaggerating,” she pointed out dryly with a sweeping gaze. “Sometimes assertive consorts are necessary, depending on the monarch in question. Guillaume doesn’t need to worry about any of that just yet...he’s no monarch, but a young man with many years separating him from the crown.” Grimacing, Elizabeth added that “I don’t think we should worry about Guillaume falling under some girl’s spell…”

That grimace, Guillaume thought to himself, could it be she knows? She is a Gentry after all… they tend to know everything. Before being able to respond, however, his mother interjected, “Very well said, mother,” she began, referring to her mother-in-law, “I would also say your assessment of the girl seems exaggerated.” The Empress was known in court as being her husband’s closest confidante and whenever in doubt he’d turn to her; taking advice from women seemed to run in the family. If anyone was to comment on the benefits of a woman’s council it was her. “Besides, who best to judge her character than Guillaume himself? If he and she both love each other,” Alys paused, turning to her husband and smiling, “there is nothing wrong with assertiveness, as it is almost always for the better.”

“Mother,” Guillaume finally brought himself back into the conversation, “I’m not quite sure why I need a lecture on love at this time. I don’t plan on marrying anytime soon so perhaps it can wait for a more… fitting moment?”

“I was just making my case, Guy,” his mother said, “if you go around being a cynic all the time, not even capable of trusting your own girlfriend—suspicious of everyone and everything—you’ll never be truly happy. The heart is a stalwart companion; follow it, for it won’t deceive you.”

Guillaume sighed before looking back down at his food, to his chicken which lay largely untouched. The appetiser and the sausage soup had filled the Prince Imperial to the point where he couldn’t continue his meal further. As he took a peek at his sister’s plate beside him, he saw he wasn’t alone. “You full too?”

Marie-Sophie glanced back at him, nodding affirmatively. “Latin hors d'oeuvres should rather be called the main course instead of ‘appetizers’.”

“I couldn’t agree more; the nomenclature around here is entirely misleading.”

The two siblings had a chuckle, it had been awhile since they had joked so familiarly. With Guillaume in school, and Marie-Sophie partaking in many official events of late. He recalled how his sister had just earlier that week attended the official opening of the new paediatric ward at their birth hospital on behalf of the Imperial Family. Guillaume tried remembering the last time he had been on an official duty… it had been some time now. But at least graduation came after the semester ahead, and after that would come the time to represent his family: to be an Imperial Prince, to make his father proud, to be a paragon of the dynasty. This was his life’s purpose.

But having come to “know himself” through the last few years, he’s realised that to achieve that purpose it would require setting aside certain aspects of his nature.

What kind of a Prince disgraces his family? What kind of an Emperor fails to uphold the traditions of his House? What kind of a Sovereign puts his own feelings before the realm? He asked himself these questions, convincing himself that ending that two month relationship was for the greater good, but as he looked not too far off to a nearby table and saw him again, they locked eyes for a split second and the Prince’s doubts began to surface once more.

Sure, Mikael was not the highest born. Sure, he had a great many personal problems. Sure, he always addressed them in the worst ways—with booze and debauchery. Sure, he was most probably the antithesis of most everything Guillaume had grown up learning was good and proper. But despite it all, the two months with him are the brightest in his recent memory; he could put down that tedious façade when they were together and follow his feelings.

Oh mother, if you only knew my heart as I do, you would know that sometimes following it does not always lead to happiness.

He tried to banish the memories that came rushing back with that subtlest of gazes. And yet despite the thoughts being of the happy sort, they served only discomfort him. How could he possibly make his father proud if he knew what he’d done, who he was?

That is not the legacy I wish to leave the Villeneuve name.

Back when he first felt these feelings, he had tried praying them away every night; trying to bargain with God himself that he may cure him of those impure inclinations. Day after day, night after night he prayed to no avail until he cursed God’s name. Why not make me so perfect like my sister? Or despite his flaws, at least “normal” like my brother?

Guillaume opened his eyes, realising he had closed them in the flashbacks, only to find his eyes looking onto another pair, looking right back at him. They were his girlfriend’s, Princess Teresa of Beroea. Had she seen me look unto Mike? Before going into the relationship, he had told her of his ordeal, and still she went into this fraud of a relationship; perhaps now he’d given away who that undisclosed guy had been? Or was it that I gave away an indication of regret? She had accepted his courtship on the premise he would not chicken out or leave her out to dry out of regret; could it be she saw hints of that on his face?

“Guillaume?” a slight nudge and his sister’s words brought him back. “Were you looking at Teresa?”

“Well, if we’re being technical, she was looking at me first,” he retorted.

Marie-Sophie frowned, her brow furrowed. “Are you two okay?”

Standing up from his chair Guillaume responded, “Well, we’re about to see.”

“I told you from the start this would be a bad idea…” she sighed, and patted the corners of her lips with the serviette before excusing herself, following Guillaume across the sea of nobility and bureaucracy and towards the Latin table.

Step after step, dodging the scrambling waiters and the other handful of guests who had begun to walk around, they made their way. Passing the tables of different lords, ladies and foreign dignitaries they made a stop upon reaching the table of their second cousin, Michel. The twenty-year-old was the relative with which Guillaume was closest, as all his other cousins were much younger and Michel’s were much older. They did nearly everything together from a young age; hunting, riding, fencing. The bond between the two was almost brotherly. Formally titled the Viscount of Chagny, Michel had been seated much closer to the newlywed imperial couple by virtue of his closer kinship. His mother Silvia Tarpeia, who was seated at the table as well, was the late Emperor Jason’s youngest first cousin; Guillaume could see her reprimanding her youngest, Félix, for apparently “forgetting etiquette” after using the pastry fork for his main course.

“Guillaume!” Michel greeted enthusiastically, rising from his seat to embrace his cousin.

Bon soir, cousin,” Guillaume responded, embracing his cousin in return. “Uncle,” he then said with a nod, acknowledging Michel’s father, Georges, Count of Prévert. In reality, as his father’s first cousin, Georges was Guillaume’s first cousin once removed, but he’d been raised calling him uncle his whole life. Georges nodded back, as did the rest on the table as he acknowledged them: the Lady Silvia, his cousin Félix, and his cousin Nicolas, Georges’s bastard.

“So have you talked to your girlfriend yet?” Michel asked suddenly. It’s as if my relationship is everyone’s business but my own.

“No, not yet, I was actually on my way there,” Guillaume responded, “why is everyone so overly concerned with my love life of late? Have you visited your girlfriend, Michel?”

“Yes, actually,” Michel responded matter-of-factly, taking out his phone and waving it around, “Bea and I are always in touch.”

“I don’t think that’s what he meant, Michel,” Marie-Sophie finally interrupted.

“I know what he meant Sophie,” their cousin said, shaking his head, “I was just trying to make a joke here, can’t you give me that?”

“Bad joke, Michelot,” his older half-brother Nicolas had stood up and was making his way past the three royals when he made his remark, “as most of your jokes tend to be. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I asked for a Bloody Mary and my order seems to have gotten lost.”

“Nic is no fun sometimes,” Michel said, once his brother had left earshot, “Ghant’s done something really bad to him and I fear it may be irreversible.”

“There is something peculiar about Ghant, isn’t there?” Sophie remarked, “I haven’t made up my mind whether what’s off about the place is the weather or the people.”

“Sophie? Sophie, I thought that was you,” Helena Ulpia, a close friend of Sophie’s and cousin to her cousin Michel, appeared from right behind her. “I hope I’m not intruding, I just thought I heard your voice and had to say hello.” Helena, dressed in an elegant, black off-the shoulder dress with pink blossoms featured around her waist, stood between her own family’s table and Sophie. To be polite, Helena curtsied to Guy, adding “Your Highness,” and then said, “Hello cousins,” to Michel and Félix nearby, before she patted her long, almost black hair to make sure it remained kempt.

Pleasantries were exchanged, as Guy and the two brothers politely bowed their heads at the newcomer. “I can't believe I didn’t see you there, Helena,” Sophie began, “it’s been so long! How’ve you been?”

“Oh no, it’s fine, I don’t think I would have noticed you if Adi had not just come back to our table. And I’ve been doing well, just wrapped up my first term at Haenna in fact,” Helena smiled before she gasped and directed Sophie to the Ulipii table, adding, “Oh forgive me, where are my manners, you remember my older brother Adrian?”

Guillaume had heard about this Adrian. He was a new Adrian, not the one he had met at the 2015 Ajax Cup or even the one from Imbros. The Kinslayer is what they called him now for his actions in the Brothers’ War. Whether or not the epithet was merited was still an open question, but despite that, even his own family would use the insult at him. This was a new Adrian, one that he was slightly hesitant to talk to. Guy saw his sister curtsy, his cousins also greeting their cousin friendly enough. Guillaume decided on a nod and a smile. This really has been quite the delay, hasn’t it?

He looked over a few tables, to Teresa who he had meant to visit all this time. He thought about leaving as Helena hadn’t brought Justin into the conversation yet, that guy is Narcissus incarnate. Perhaps he could before she did. “Sophie, I think I’m going to carry on here,” he started, “I think I owe my girlfriend the courtesy of a visit. Take care, you lot, cheers.”

“Of course Guy,” Sophie responded, taking a break from her conversation with Helena and Adrian about something he couldn’t make out, “tell Teresa I’ll be right there!”

The table he was going to was not that far away, though in the enormous dining hall, the distances sometimes felt more than they were. “Your sister would agree that all you need to do is be yourself. But if you’ll excuse me, cousins, Florian and I were going to try and catch his daughters before the rush got to them.” Guillaume could make out Princess Maria’s words as he approached the table of the Duke of Beroea and his family, flashing a quick smile at her and her companion as they quickly rushed off.

“Your Imperial Highness,” the Prince said approaching his girlfriend’s father, extending out his arm to shake his hand. With him, observe every last courtesy, he told himself, no such thing as overly formal with him.

Prince Theodosius gave Guillaume a cold stare before he brought his napkin up from his lap, and placing it on the table as stood from his seat. He looked to Guy’s extended arm, then extended his own to give him a firm, and strong handshake, “Your Imperial Highness,” he said plainly. “To what do we owe the honour?”

“Father,” Teresa shook her head from her seat at the table next to her younger brother Theophylactus. Then she looked to Guy and smiled, “Please, you know why he’s here.”

“I think it only proper that a gentleman be able to keep his lady company,” Guillaume replied, to Teresa or Theodosius? His response could be construed as answering them both. He looked over to Teresa, moving past her brother to plant a gentle kiss upon her cheek. Quickly moving back to greet Theophylactus, he started, “Theo, I trust I find you well?” Ever since the beginning of his relationship with Teresa he had tried to forge a friendship with her brother; the fact that his grandmother was pushing for a match between Sophie and Theo made it that much more probable they’d see each other often.

Theophylactus stood once Guy approached him, and followed with a bow of his head. “Your Highness,” Theo kept his introduction formal. “I am thank you for asking. I pray the same is true for you.”

Teresa remained seated throughout the introductions, though rose to stand next to Guillaume once he began speaking with her brother. She wrapped her arm around his and said, “I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages, Guillaume. Are you sure you’ll be able to handle seeing me nearly everyday next term?” Teresa teased him with a smile before adding, “By the way, where is Sophie? She was invited, yes?”

“I can hardly wait,” Guy chuckled, quickly thinking to the awkward conversation with his uncle earlier. Uncle is one for drama. “And Sophie?” Guy realised he’d forgotten to mention his sister to the two young royals, “she’s over there…” the words froze before coming out of his mouth. He stood aghast at what he saw; the Kinslayer taking his sister by the hand onto the dance floor of the grand ballroom. He tugged at his collar and adjusted his bow as he looked over to his family’s table. Grandmother’s sure to have a heart attack, God bless her soul. As surely as he had expected, all the eyes from the table were on the couple who had now made their way to the centre of the floor and begun swaying to the eerily fitting waltz.
Last edited by Lyncanestria on Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ahkad » Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:37 am

The Taming of the Shrewd
Co-written with Sante Reze and Mutul

If anything can be said for the backwater bends of a creek, it is that they are often slimy and not very nice to look at. So it is also for the backwater tables of international affairs and imperial weddings, where the detritus of a thousand petty states are gently pushed by the currents of diplomacy. An unfortunate side effect of being in the backwater of anything is that one is always surrounded by other things caught in the torrid drifts of murky water. Such a table was table 57, which had recently been drenched with a slurry of Ahkadians, Mutulese, and Rezese.

Seniormost among the hodgepodge was Cyrus Somandy, an erstwhile Prime Minister now accustomed to the dignity of a life peerage in the Seophon Hills. He had served in many roles of state for many years and looked as though he was overdue for the long dignified sleep owed all men who have been tired by the burdens of lofty responsibility. His hands shook incessantly and his drooping eyes and jowls quivered with every slurping sip of pureed food. While watching the old man eat was a painful experience, he managed to keep oddly pale blue tuxedo perfectly clean along with his wide black satin sash. Periodically, he pulled his watery brown eyes from the creamy concoction that served as his every course and dabbed delicately at his mouth with fragile hands that showed more vein and bone than any hand should.

“Bien,” he proclaimed after completely his methodical consumption long after the rest of the dishes had been cleared. He smoothed what few hairs he still possessed back and leaned against his chair with a satisfied sigh. “Nothing satisfies the palate more than a creamy soup.”

His neighbor, Jahan II’s favorite daughter Alsarina Nazila, posed with arms crossed and look of derision on her face. This was not the first time she had endured a dinner of Cyrus’s noisome soups, but her pained expression begged for it to be her last. She had a glass of wine which she had reserved with dainty sips until after her plate had been cleared when she began to enjoy it more liberally as a dessert. Taking a drink that was almost a gulp, she rolled her eyes ungraciously. She had a wide mouth on a wide face made to look even wider with a feathered hairstyle suited for leaner visages. Using this trait to her advantage, she employed a generous grimace of wrinkled nose and pursed pinkish lips which she swing round with abandon towards anyone who might perceive her disdain.

“The milk is better here in Belisaria because they don’t cut it with goats milk,” Cyrus observed, nodding sagely to the rest of the table. “Word to the wise, anything that doesn’t say ‘arhu’ on it in the Ahkadees is at least half goat.”

“Interesting!” Noted Janaab’pakal with a smile. The prince and the rest -the minister of foreign affairs, Ahin Chan Toktan--of the delegation, hadn’t missed any of Cyrus strange spectacle. While Ahin averted his eyes as a way to decently ignore the pitiful display, the Baa’h Cho’k Ajaw did nothing of the sort. He even actually enjoyed the display of skill, and smiled when the Prime Minister finished his plate without even the shadow of a stain on his suit. Under the table, he made a hand gesture to his compagnon of travel: the prince won, he owed him ten Baat. Betting was the original sin of every Mutulese and despite his mixed blood and love of decency, Ahin Chan Toktan was still too “Oxidentalese” to not indulge in such practices from time to time when only small amounts were involved.

Cyrus’s head swung round slowly to fix Janaab with a mournful gaze. It was difficult to say if he attempted a smile in return, his cheeks lacking all definition of muscle.

“There’s no need to encourage him, he will prattle on enough without it” Nazila cautioned.

“It was a problem of productivity, you see” Cyrus continued. “Everyone wanted cow milk, but all the local farmers had goats. Economy of scale and so forth.”

“Did you know his biographer named his book ‘Milk and Honey’?” Nazila asked, pointedly interrupting.

“Honey was a different problem entirely, of course. Honey need specialists, your average Yakatiman doesn’t have an apiary, but-!” Cyrus announced, stabbing a finger upwards. “He does have a goat.”

Muttering to herself, the youngest of the Rezese - as evidenced by the fact that she was at the table with little else to do, having no business to attend to with other Rezese at other tables or any of the myriad business and diplomatic contacts who may have been present - Mirelle, shook her head and said, “I don’t see how the animal matters….”

With a mournful look, and perhaps an ounce of disdain, she pushed her own bowl away, taking great care to remove the spoon lest she not receive another.

“Well you see” Cyrus began again. “It’s all a matter of perceived wealth, cow’s milk is both more expensive and conceptually richer--”

“I don’t think anyone sees” Nazila cut him, laying white gloved hand firmly on his shoulder.

Nazila’s dress, a fish-gown as they were being called in the East, had two primary components. The first was a salmon-colored satin skirt with little adornment that fell almost straight from her hips to the floor. Above that was a series of overlapping layers that built up from her waist to her shoulders, each glistering layer of silken peach was hemmed with a pearl embroidery. It was intensely fishy and the layered torso was distinctly gill-like; a fresh satiny salmon caught and worn raw.

“In fact,” she said with a biting grasp “I doubt anyone wants to hear anymore about it.”

Cyrus’s face was perhaps slightly droopier than before, as he reached for his water glass and peered down into it suspiciously before gulping it down. A chunk of ice caught his attention and his chomped down on it contentedly.

“So, ensarina, what year of school are you?” Nazila asked with an almost pleasant smile that said ‘cheek-pinching insufferability.’

Mirelle smiled back an exceedingly practiced expression of graciousness, such that the sincerity behind it was difficult to quantify, though perhaps colored by her choice of charcoal lipstick, and responded with, “Upper five, seinore. Soon to be in university.”

“Seated with the children!” Nazila scoffed, her smile retracting back into a grimace. “This is your doing, Cyrus, your prattle has relegated me to the children’s table.”

Cyrus blinked slowly as if he did not quite grasp the concept of being child. Nazila’s shrill remonstration subsided and he began to open his mouth, but she jumped ahead of him.

“What of you?” she asked generally of the Mutulese. “What did you do to deserve this, or are you her nursemaids?”

“I apologize if my presence offends you, seinore, but if it helps, you could perhaps consider that I am the likely heir of a family fortune equal to some countries?” Mirelle’s voice was not firm, and sounded as though she legitimately believed this could be a helpful perspective. “But still, I don’t think we’d afford his majesty’s presence as a nursemaid for me.”

The situation seemed to greatly amuse Janaab’pakal who was enjoying the back and forth between the two princesses. His minister, however, while keeping a straight face, was less than pleased. And he made it known, through discret hand gestures, to the Prince. The latter quickly looked at Ahin’s fingers and almost sighted. If he must…

“You couldn’t but it’s apparent you don’t need any maid, Ix Mirelle.” He said not losing his amused but charming smile. He then returned his dark eyes to the Ahkadian delegation. “And you should, Ix Nazila, beware. The Recheb might not look so, but they grow faster than we do. Did you knew they are considered adults at 15 years old ? We wouldn’t trust people of that age to do anything but follow their hormones and yet, in Sante Reze and only there, it seems to works.”

“Undoubtedly any gains in maturity for the Rezese are only a product of proximity to the Mutul,” Nazila said, offering up a buttery grin.

Mirelle maintained her smile and nodded to Janaab’pakal, adding “We do owe a lot to Mutul.”

“And what year are you in, young man?” Cyrus asked, squinting towards Ahin, or perhaps the table centerpiece.

“24 years old, if I must say so,” answered Janaab’pakal while Ahin, the foreign minister of the Mutul, stood silent. He was just here to make sure the prince would behave himself, not to answer to questions obviously not meant for him.

“Good, good, keep up with your studies,” Cyrus said. He caught a waiter by the arm, surprisingly swift for his age, and whispered loudly with a wink towards the prince, “Get that young fellow a glass of milk, he’s nearly fifteen!”

Janaab’pakal broadly smiled at Cyrus before speaking to the waiter himself. “Warm with honey please. Also give mister... Somandy ? One too. Make sure it is one hundred percent cow milk. He’s in need of a bit of exotism.”

“We are blessed with the rich fruit of the earth!” Cyrus proclaimed.

Nazila was no longer a young woman, having outlived her most fruitful years in the quiet ministrations of statecraft under the suffocating tutelage of her father and moldering ministers. The intense monotony of land office had seeped into her veins like an embalming fluid, thus was preserved eternally as a prematurely aged young woman. Even now as a mature civil servant, she remained in a twilight of unspent youth about to be lost. Thus, she might be forgiven for the odd out of place statement.

“His majesty isn’t a growing boy, Cyrus, if anything he’s a shower.”

Mirelle had to stifle a snorting giggle, covering it up by reaching for her glass of water and shakily drinking from it.

It was hard to say if the Ba’ah Ch’ok Ajaw truly catched the meaning of Nazila’s statement. After all, there was only so much private lessons could teach you about a language. But it was with his most innocent voice that he answered. “Do you think so ? I like to believe there’s a lot of me that I’ve yet to reveal.”

“Oh, Sar! You do go on” Nazila gasped, coloring.

Jacaab’pakal had a little laugh. “We’ll leave it at that then.”
Mokranshi was an isolationist, you are a degenerate

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Lacus Magni
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Postby Lacus Magni » Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:00 pm

“Life is a Dance”
Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Lyncanestria & Ghant)

After departing from the table of relatives, Leo escorted Caroline arm-in-arm as they stepped nearer to the dance floor. “Oh! This is one of my favourite waltzes; they always play it at the débutante balls in Lyncanestria.”

The grand ballroom was rather loud due to all the commotion – music, potentially hundreds of conversations, moving guests and attendants rushing every which way – and Leo was only able to hear Caroline’s remarks because they walked so close to one another, even if it was only faint. He smiled, and nodded his head before leaning in close enough to be heard, saying, “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to reach the table sooner. I hope everyone was pleasant enough.”

“Why yes,” Caroline said, turning to him, “the service was beautiful, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two. And at the table, your family was so warm, Maria especially. I never knew she was such an avid equestrian.”

“Aye, she usually participates. It was actually a surprise she didn’t this season,” Leo nodded as they finally came to the dance floor, prompting Leo to let go of her arm and take her hand to begin the dance. “I know mother and grandmother had been waiting to meet you for some time though. I’m glad you got on well with them. Maria too.”

“Warm through and through, I can’t say I could’ve felt any more welcome, even by Maria’s grandparents.” Caroline moved to the beat. “I didn’t mean to prod as it may be a sensitive topic, but I meant to ask about her mother; did you know her?”

“Who, Maria’s mother?” Leo tensed up at the topic of Maria’s mother, though responded all the same. “She died a month or so before I was born, I believe. Uncle never spoke much of her, but she was very lovely from all I’ve heard elsewhere.”

“I see,” she responded as if sensing his momentary tension, “If Maria is any indication, I bet she was very lovely. I only ask because I’m thinking of taking up her offer and was curious if that was a sensitive topic to her.”

“You should, though I’m sure she was entirely serious on the offer to train,” Leo smiled momentarily as they danced to the waltz. “She’s a very good rider. In fact, I think the first time I met her she was on horseback with grandmother.”

“Oh was she?” Caroline smiled back, “Is your grandmother the Empress also a horse enthusiast?”

“To a degree, but hardly crazed like you or my cousin,” Leo gave her a teasing look, trying to take care with his feet not to accidentally step on Caroline’s toes.

Caroline flashed a grin, shaking her head all the while laughing into Leo’s shoulder. “It’s not typically considered nice to call someone crazy, you know… but I promise I won’t tell Maria.”

“That’s far too kind of you, as usual,” Leo looked down at his feet, moving them carefully, though not slow enough to ruin their dance. When he looked up he said, “Have you decided how long you’re going to stay in Latium after the wedding?”

“I have been thinking about it actually,” she said as her face gave way to an expression of pensiveness, “maybe we could visit those places Maria and Thomas were talking about, Utica and Imbros was it?” she finally suggested.

“Oh, umm,” Leo smiled, somewhat half-heartedly, “If you’d like we could. I think we could certainly do so. I, umm, I might have to make some other arrangements if we were to head south, what with council business and…” He looked as if he had a lump in his throat now, “But nothing that cannot be easily reshuffled. We could probably use Maria’s villa if we went to Utica.”

Caroline’s face seemed hesitant at first, but she spoke as though going along with the suggestion. “Well in that case I’ll have my staff make plans for an extended stay,” she continued dancing as the piece approached its end.

“Good,” Leo nodded.

As the current number came to an end, Leo and Caroline were approached by a tall, very light-skinned woman with hair as black as night. “Your Imperial Highness,” she said with a curtsey to Leo. “My lady,” she said to his previous dance partner. “It has been some time…I am Josephine, Princess Royal of Jehenna. I was hoping for the next dance,” she said with a faint smile as she extended her arm towards him.

“Of course, Princess Josephine. It is good to see you again,” Leo smiled to Josephine, then turned towards Caroline with his reached out to her. “Allow me to introduce you to my girlfriend, Lady Caroline. Caroline, this is Josephine, Princess Royal of Jehenna.”

Leo could see that Caroline was made ever so slightly apprehensive at the Princess Royal’s request, though then made room enough between her and Leo so that she could curtsy properly at the royal. “Your Highness,” Caroline introduced herself, “it’s an honor.”

Josephine smiled faintly. “Oh, now is this a friend who just so happens to be a girl, or a ‘girlfriend?’” Chuckling swiftly, Josephine added “a pleasure, your Highness.”

“The latter,” Leo smiled, though appeared relaxed. The Prince took a deep breath as Caroline departed, and once she had he said to Josephine, “Shall we then?” Taking her arm, Leo led Josephine to the dance floor, placing a hand on her back and and his other locked with hers as one would when dancing.

“We shall.” Josephine went with Leo to the floor, and once in the appropriate posture began to dance. “You know, I think you’re the first Prince of Ghant that’s ever referred to his lady as his girlfriend...I actually didn’t know that you had spoken for anyone. That will come as grave news to all the Voor girls and their ilk who hoped to ensnare you while they had the chance.”

“Too much time on the continent and away from Ghant I suppose,” he said in reply to her first remark, then inhaled quickly before continuing. “I doubt a great many people knew, it's not something I normally broadcast. Though I don’t suppose that will slow down the Voors or others will it?” Leo smiled politely. “My late uncle told me once, that even after one marries it will likely continue.”

“And my uncle once told me that the main difference between Voors and ticks is that ticks will eventually fall off,” laughed Josephine briskly. “Well, good for you, then. I’m happy for seems like an ideal arrangement, though for someone who comes from William the Hockey Prince, I was half expecting her to be more funny.”

“Thank you. Though she can be funny when she wishes, I think Boss Bill would pleased.” Leo said after first laughing at her joke. “Have you been enjoying your time in Latium thus far?” he added, unsure of what to say next.

Josephine grinned sheepishly. “No...not really...I’m not used to the weather down here. It’s very warm by comparison, and the air is wet. Where I come from...well, you’ve been to Jehenna before, you know how far it is from the ocean, or as the locals call it, “the poison water.”

“Very far indeed,” Leo nodded. “That must have been years ago when I visited Jehenna. Truth be told, I feel like it has been a long while since I have even been to Ghish.” He paused to think for a moment, then said, “A year, maybe longer. I think it might have been when my sister finished university actually.”

“Well these days you’re not missing much.” Ever the careful dancer, Josephine tried to stay just one step ahead of Prince Leo. “Sophia keeps a low profile with her children, while Cassandra plays Empress. Occasionally, Alexia will say something that annoys her, while Arietta just gets high...if you don’t mind me saying. As for the other two, well they’re quite discreet. It’s a trait that serves them well.”

“They take after mother in that regard at least. It certainly helps her sleep at night, I’m sure,” Leo nodded, though glanced past Josephine in the hopes of quickly spotting Caroline to see if he could read her face from afar, see if she was upset with him or not. Though his brother, Nathan, was one of the first people he spotted. “Good that everyone is well, and…doing as they do. Has my brother made his way through Jehenna yet? I hear he is often away from court since…since the Castellum parade.”

Something of a sour subject, Josephine bit her lip before answering. “Not since he came last time...too many memories. Alot happened then, and not the good kind. He’s given us our space, and my brother the king is thankful for that, though naturally he’d like for him to come back soon. Your brother did alot for us, and for that we shall be eternally grateful. Despite what they might say about him in Belisaria, he’s a good man and true. A flawed man yes, but a good man all the same.”

“Aye, he always had the best of intentions,” Leo smiled weakly, adjusting his hands momentarily. “Sometimes Belisarian piety has different measures of what makes a good man.”

“In the north, we believe that what makes a good man is knowing what the right thing is and doing it always, no matter the cost or consequence,” Josephine explained politely. “My brother Josu was not a good man, so I know what a bad man looks like. There are bad men here, in this very room. Piety, power and privilege are their shields.” Pausing for a moment, she hesitated, and instead said “oh, listen to me speaking all sanctimoniously. My apologies.”

“There is nothing to apologize for, Your Highness. Many of the people in this room are among the most powerful in the world,” Leo said, and then shrugged his shoulders. “That sort of power attracts certain personalities, there are bound to be bad men or women among us tonight.”

Josephine lightened the mood with a hearty laugh. “Oh my prince, if only you knew the extent of it. Besides, powerful men are only as powerful as you let them be. At the end of the day they’re all just men.” Looking around the room briefly, she turned back to Leo and said “I don’t go to many weddings, at least not like this, so I’m not entirely sure of what appropriate conversation consists of. I can’t really speak to charities and galas and the dealings of flowery princesses. I can hit a bullseye with a bow from far away though,” she laughed again.

“No one goes to many weddings like this. Though as my luck would have it, this is the second state wedding I have attended this year,” Leo remarked and followed with a short laugh. “The conversation though, that probably depends on the company you are with. My cousin and her plus one were speaking of horses and this year’s Ludi Circenses, so your marksmanship seems as fine a topic as that.” After a pause he asked, “Just how far is ‘far away?’”

“Two-hundred yards,” she responded with a smile. “Dead center too, no joke. Not to toot my horn, but I think I’m pretty accurate with javelins and throwing axes too,” the princess sniggered. “You’re skilled in the use of a blade, no?”

Leo nodded his head, “I can handle a sword well enough. I am in the military.”

“Well I know plenty of military men that can’t handle a sword like a true warrior,” Josephine countered. “They can aim and shoot a gun well enough, but anyone can do that. Cold steel is a lost art in the world today.” Feigning coyness, Josephine narrowed her eyes and cocked her head to the side. “I’ve seen your brother with a’s brilliant. Perhaps later under the light of the moon, you can show me with your Arragaran sword. I’ve heard you got one...the one they call Lokatz.

“That would be the Latin Emperor’s sword. I am not a Claudii, it isn’t for me to wield,” the Prince said, looking past Josephine. “And even if it were, I don’t spar or fight for fun.”

Josephine grinned. “Let me guess, it’s because when you have to fight a man for real, you don’t want him to know what you can do. I respect that...I feel the same way,” she teased with a wink. “My brother King Jori on the other hand, he’s boastful. Good thing he has me to back him up, otherwise he’d find himself in all kinds of trouble.”

“Something like that,” Leo looked down to his feet, almost sheepishly, as melody and dance continued. “I’ve been in war, of sorts, it is far from enjoyable.”

Likewise, Josephine checked her feet for the sake of not wanting to show up her dance partner. Skilled enough in it, the northern princess kept pace on the floor so well that during the course of their conversation, she at times forgot that she had ever been dancing in the first place. “No, it isn’t, nor should it be. A true warrior fights not because he hates what lies before him, but because he loves what’s behind him.”

“The true warrior again,” Leo looked up and nodded. “What else do these true warriors do that others cannot?”

“...True warriors live by choice, not by chance. They choose to be motivated, not manipulated, to be useful and not used, to make changes and not excuses, and to excel, not compete,” Josephine began to explain. “True warriors choose self-esteem, not self-pity. They choose to listen to their inner voice, and not to the random opinions of others. A true warrior choses to do the things that most men won’t, so that the true warrior can continue to do the things most men can’t.”

“That sounds almost like something Ser Adrasto would have said to me when I was a boy,” Leo flared a small smile.

Josephine suppressed a laugh. “I can believe it. Ser Adrasto Minazar is from the north as well, south of Jehenna. Can’t say I know him though.”

“Probably because he’s been around my family since before my father passed away,” Leo noticed Josephine’s initial reaction, yet continued anyway. “But he’s a good man, and taught me a great deal.”

“Like what?” she asked curiously. “Not that I doubt it, but consider me interested.”

“Well for starters, my Ghantish might not have been much better than a six year old’s if not for him,” Leo joked, attempting to skirt around specifics of the topic.

“He’s actually here...well you knew that,” replied the northern princess thoughtfully. “He’s been speaking to Ser Benoth,” Josephine referred to the northern knight-champion of Emperor Albert of Vorindeum. “They fought together in the Northern Rebellion alongside my father. It’s probably been twenty years since I’ve spoken to Ser Benoth.”

“I know,” Leo responded curtly. “He’s been watching over my sisters while they stay in Ghish, and now they’re here.” He tensed up briefly at the mention of Ser Benoth, a man who had helped Leo’s Uncle Albert finesse his way into an audience with the Prince just over a year ago. “Hard to believe it’s been twenty years already,” Leo added in a fading voice, though not so much in reference to Josephine’s comment and instead to the reason for the gap in time.

“Tell me about it...where does the time go?” the question was rhetorical in nature, but Josephine asked it with sincerity. “It’s like, everything changes so much, nothing is like the way it was, and the more time that passes, the more that’s the case. Sometimes I reminisce and wish that things could go back to when they were their best, and then I realize that nothing is meant to stay the same. So we adapt and evolve with the times, until come what may.”

Leo sighed with a nod, “Aye. And each day more difficult than the last.”

“Here’s the good news,” smiled Josephine with eyes briefly cast down at her feet. “Life’s a dance you learn as you go, and the longer you do it, the better at it you get...and you’re no slouch.”

He snorted. “So people keep telling me at least,” the Prince shied away with his smile.

Josephine was cognizant of how long the dance had been going on, and mindful of how soon it might end, and therefore didn’t want to mince words. “This might seem like a personal question, but color me curious enough to want to get some insider information. Do you think you will marry Princess Caroline?”

Leo was somewhat taken aback by the question, and took a moment to himself before answering her. When he was ready, he said, “I’m not sure.” He took a deep breath and said, “I don’t even know if she would say yes if I asked at this point.”

Perhaps intuitively, Josephine responded by saying “I respect your honesty... I doubt many would admit that. Why wouldn’t she though? You’re most the eligible bachelor in Ghant these days, if not the entire world. Not that it matters to me that much...I just like that we have the same hair,” she laughed.

“I’m not sure that matters much to her either,” he replied as the song was nearing its close. Leo continued, “But aye, I don’t come across many people with hair like mine this far south.”

It was not lost on Josephine that the song was coming to an end. “Well I suppose you’re quite eager to get back to her then. After the dance is over I should check on my brother and sisters and make sure they’re not getting into too much trouble.” While she still had the chance, Josephine leaned into his ear and whispered, “beware of false friends and bad familial relations, my prince.” Leaning away, she smiled and finished by saying, “I’ll be around if you wish to speak again. If not, I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”

“Actually I should probably do the same with my own brother,” Leo replied just before Josephine leaned in to whisper in his ear. Afterwards he said, “Thank you, Princess. You as well.” Moments later, the melody came to an end, thus ending the dance, resulting in others shuffling around or leaving the dance floor. In the break between songs Leo added, “Hopefully we will run into each other again. And thank you for sharing the floor with me.” Afterwards, Leo smiled and turned towards the nearest family tables, where he was hoping to find Caroline and spend some time with her once more.
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Allamunnic States
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Scandinavian Liberal Paradise

Postby Allamunnic States » Sun Mar 04, 2018 2:38 pm

Palatium Supranio,
Adrianople, Latium

As the wedding’s reception ball commenced, the Allamunnic delegations found themselves split up over two tables. At one, the two major Royal delegations had been paired: the Izaaksunns of Onneria, and the Sproeks of Staalmark, sat facing each other. At the other, the Innians had joined the delegation from the Federal government, as well as the lone Ufdraakurr.

Between the tables, the former held the most people with actual investment in the wedding and coronation: Vitus, the Crown Prince of Staalmark, was in large part in attendance due to the prominence of his wife, the oft-maligned Red Menace of Ghant herself, in the wedding festivities. Of course, he was not the only member of the House of Sproek present; he had been accompanied by two of his sisters, as well as three cousins. The eldest of Vitus’ sisters, Gretchen, had come largely at their parents’ insistence; Vitus suspected that they were trying to steer her towards marriage in the next few years, or perhaps they simply wanted their more goal-oriented daughter to live a little more.

What was much more certain was that Vitus’ second sister, Kaarla, had required no such coaxing to attend the festivities. Kaarla, along with their youngest sister, Kristina (who had other places to be) hardly ever needed prompting to attend social functions. Kaarla shared Gretchen’s brown hair and green eyes, but where Gretchen was tall and somewhat lanky, Kaarla was of a more average height, still a little tall for an Allamunnic woman, but well within the norm, and her proportions were more generous than those of her older sister, sufficient, Vitus suspected, to get at least some attention from other male attendees of the festivities, something which Kaarla herself would likely only encourage.

Where Gretchen was wearing a relatively modest dress in a muted shade of coffee, covering her shoulders and chest entirely (even if not necessarily obscuring her slender build), Kaarla had opted to wear a purple dress. Notably, she was taking advantage of the time away from home; the dress showed enough of her cleavage that there would have been clucks of disapproval had she donned the thing in Allamunnika (although still well short of outright scandal), but in Latium, at least, it was within the normal spectrum of formal wear. Vitus suspected that she was deliberately mugging for a little attention.

Seated with them were three of Vitus’ aunt’s children. Princess Vikturya of Staalmark was the younger sister of King Rodrik, but where Rodrik was a scrupulous, if somewhat dour man, Vikturya accentuated those traits, and added sanctimony and a devotion to Honorian traditions to those charges, and had for the most part managed to pass those onto her children. Not that they were necessarily bad people – Kyl, at least, had been Vitus’ best man at his own wedding, and had been the closest thing the Staalmarker heir had had to a brother, growing up. Not that Kyl never had moments that made Vitus shake his head, but on the whole, he cared deeply about his cousin, and he would not trade him for anything.

Rodrik, however, was a little shit.

Perhaps Vikturya had named her third-born after her elder brother, the King, perhaps in an attempt to carry favor, or perhaps to impart some of her brother’s integrity on the boy. If it had been the latter, the attempt had failed miserably. Rod Rynnur-Sproek looked like a sculptor had chiseled him out of marble and had a certain swagger in the way he walked that begged for him to be looked at. He completely showed Kyl up, and Kyl was not exactly hard to look at. He had charmed and smiled his way into more than a dozen Allamunnic beds over the years, and had been featured on a few magazine covers. Which made it all the more a pity that Rodrik was perhaps the most rotten person that Vitus had ever met, and he had spent his childhood having to pretend that this other cousin was not the most profoundly-unpleasant person he had ever had the displeasure of dealing with.

Adelade Rynnur-Sproek, the fourth of Princess Vikturya’s sizable brood, had the misfortune of sitting directly next to Rodrik. Where Rodrik paid his mother’s faith a smarmy lip-service that he used to place himself above others while thoroughly ignoring most of the actual teaching and generally being a hedonist and generally-awful person, Adelade was wholesome, friendly, and kind-hearted. She had picked up her mother’s faith but had managed to discard almost all of the self-righteousness that tainted it, and while Vitus knew of no instances where she had literally given the shirt off her back to someone, if he had heard any such story, he would have readily believed it. How she could have come from the same parents and upbringing as Rodrik was a mystery, but their looks, all brown-haired and blue-eyed and trending toward the tall end of average, confirmed that they were indeed siblings.

They had even sort of coordinated their attire. Adelade was in a pastel pink dress that kept her covered in Allamunnic norms, keeping exposed skin to a relative minimum (even her sleeves fell to her elbows), even while doing only a little bit to obscure her curvy figure. Kyl and Rodrik had worn proper suits, but with their vests and ties being in a similar shade of pink.

The various Sproeks had been joined at that table by almost the entirety of the House of Heligsburg (who, confusingly, utilized the surname “Izaaksunn”). Most prominent at the table were Theodurik IX, the King of Onneria, and his wife, Caroline, herself a member of House Gentry and yet another connection to the wedding festivities. They had come with most of their children, including their eldest, Marie, her brother Aetius, and their youngest sister Ophelia. Two of their siblings were absent: Grace, who was Aetius’ twin (at least technically) had declined to attend to focus on her studies, as well as to watch their baby brother, Tomus, who had been born the previous year and had been left in Onneria in his sister’s care.

The children all bore a fairly close resemblance; all three had dark hair and similar faces, and Marie and Aetius shared their father’s blue eyes, while Ophelia, the youngest of the grown children, shared her mother’s even brown ones. Marie and Aetius both had athletic figures, lean and muscular. Marie in particular had the look of a true athlete, a result of her constant training as an Allamunnic soccer player, and as a result she wore her bridesmaid’s dress quite well. Aetius had turned into something of a weight room warrior over the last few years, going from an athletic, if somewhat lanky and awkward teenager to an impressive physical specimen, enhanced in this case by the well-fitted traditional Onnerian military uniform he had worn for the occasion. Were he not the third-eldest child of Theodurik and Caroline, it would not be hard to imagine him as a king in the future.

Between Marie and Caroline was Ophelia. Ophelia was not a natural athlete as her two present elder siblings were. She was hardly in bad shape, as someone who walked a lot and enjoyed her share of outdoor time, but she was not about to be pushing her physical limits any time soon. She was noticeably shorter than even Marie, and while she shared a more-or-less slender build with her siblings, Ophelia had a gentler face and softer curves, and where Marie’s smile had a kind of cockiness to it, Ophelia’s was warm, almost motherly.

The three children sat between their parents, pointedly separated from their uncle, who had also joined them. Every family tree produced its rotten apples, and Junn Izaaksunn, younger brother of King Theodurik, was about as comprehensively rotten as it got. Vitus had never actually met the man prior this night, but he had heard enough stories from Marie that that had been no accident; even when they were at the same event, Vitus had made a point of steering clear of the man. As much disdain as he held for his cousin Rodrik, at least Rodrik had some scruples, some lines he would not cross. If stories about Prince Junn, told by his own family no less, were to be believed, the only reason he was not serving time in a cold cell was that he had not actually been caught at anything. At least not with sufficient evidence of guilt.

He glanced over at the other table of Allamunnic guests, the odds and ends, as it were. One Allamunnic guest, Prince Aldryk of Draakurr, was seated elsewhere with his fiancée, Theodora Ulpia; Vitus had lost track of him during the move from the wedding festivities to the reception area. Meanwhile, the other table had eight Allamunnae, two representing the Federal government in some capacity or other, and with others representing the Archduchy of Innia.

Vitus recognized the first of the Federal representatives by sight – Andrik Filius, the Director of the Department of Foreign Affairs, was fairly well-known within the Federation, and had been a part of several successive governments. The Filius family were powerful, well-connected, and had a well-documented track record of public service; Andrik was far from the first of his family to occupy a high office in the federal government. The light-brown haired, blue-eyed administrator had a photogenic quality without being particularly remarkable-looking; combined with a moderate amount of charisma, he was the sort of person Vitus found to be pleasant but more-or-less forgettable on a personal level.

Seated next to him was the Federation’s ambassador to Latium, Mikel Heligsburg. Heligsburg was distantly related to the Onnerian royal family, and had clearly benefitted at least somewhat from those family ties. Still, as far as Vitus knew, he was a capable enough ambassador that he had not given any reason to be recalled or replaced. Heligsburg bore a certain facial resemblance to his family, had brown hair and brown eyes, and had a moderate build that made him look the part of an average Allamunna, although his attire, grooming, and even dental work bore the hallmarks of a wealthy background.

Also at that table were the representatives of the Archduchy of Innia; three of the children of the Archduke, the eldest of those borne by his second wife, had attended the festivities. All three were noticeable due to their fiery red hair. The two eldest were the twins Viktur and Harald, identical in their tall, muscular frames, red shocks of hair, and smooth brown eyes. They were a handsome pair of young men, and their sister, Rosanna, confirmed that genetics had generally been quite kind to the House Riktun of Innia. Rosanna was considerably shorter than her elder brothers, blessed with a slender, yet lush figure, long, cascading red hair, and a resting look of disinterest, betrayed by the calm attentiveness in her dark brown eyes.

Finally, for reasons that Vitus was still not entirely clear on, Rosanna had been accompanied by her friend and, awkwardly, Vitus’ ex-girlfriend Lyna Jormunt. Lyna was a very curvy brunette who had notably not handled their break-up well. Her presence at his and Arietta’s wedding the previous year had been bizarre and awkward enough that he would have been happy not seeing her at all for at least a year. Still, there was nothing for it, and he would likely have to simply spend the coming festivities avoiding her.

When the dance floor opened, Vitus took that as his first opportunity to escape potentially awkward situations by standing up and wandering off to find his wife, who was undoubtedly with either her Ghantish family (the House of Gentry was present in force, as they seemed to be at every royal going-on in Belisaria) or with the other bridesmaids.

Other members of the Allamunnic delegation took similar courses of action, mingling around the room or wandering towards the dance floor, looking for prospective partners or the opportunity to make small talk.
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Postby Ghant » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:16 pm

“Brotherly Love”
Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Lacus Magni)

Leo looked on towards the tables as his stepped away from the dancefloor, having just concluded his dance with Princess Josephine. As far as dances as balls or royal gatherings went, it was certainly an interesting one, thought Josephine was right on one count, and that was Leo was eager, if not anxious, to return to Caroline, lest he give her more reason to be cross with him. Though as the Prince of Ghant and Latium smiled weakly at passerbyers along the meandering route through the tables, guests and attendants, he looked towards his half-brother, Nathan.

And just like that Leo changed his plans, hoping to speak with his brother for the first time in quite awhile. Leo heard rumors or simply remarks that Nathan was away from court in Ghish, but most of what he heard, even from any of their sisters really went beyond that. Leo wondered, as he approached the table, just how much the near death experience Nathan faced in Castellum this past January really was the root of that.

“Nathan,” Leo smiled just as he reached the table. “I thought I’d come say hello before things become ever more hectic. I hope you and everyone are well.”

The Emperor of Ghant was not alone at his table. Cici was there, as were his half-sisters and half-brother. The Emperor’s mother Caroline perhaps was the most prominent there, and while she was in her early fifties now, still cut a curvy feminine figure with long red hair and piercing brown eyes. When Leo approached the table and spoke, Caroline’s eyes darted to him like a chameleon, though her tongue was venomous like a snake. “How kind of you to say, Leo,” responded the Dowager Princess dryly. “I wonder if your mother hopes the same…”

Nathan, having been quiet and having not moved the entire time he arrived and sat down, smacked the table with a broad flat hand. “None of that.”

Puckering her lips, Caroline stood up from the table. “If you would excuse me, I find myself for want of drink.” she gazed sharply at her younger children, and like ducklings, Alexia, Amelia and Charles all got up too, and followed their mother as departed the table after a polite curtsy.

After his mother and half-siblings had gone, Nathan slowly shifted his eyes to Leo. “I see Caroline of Lyncanestria’s penchant for drab conversation starters has rubbed off on you, brother,” he said plainly.

“Apologies, next time I’ll lead by asking how your bullet wounds are doing,” Leo bit his tongue at the mention of Caroline.

Laughing briefly at Leo’s words, the Emperor tapped the chair next to him. “Why don’t you have a seat, unless you want to stay standing while making bad jokes. Not that I mind, I’ve always had a fond appreciation for your sense of humor. I find it refreshing.”

Leo took a seat, unbuttoning his jacked before reclining back. “It’s been awhile hasn’t it? January maybe, I’ve heard you have been wandering the countryside as of late.”

“It has been awhile.” Nathan leaned back in his chair and poured them each a glass of wine from a bottle on the table. “I wasn’t wandering, because I knew where I was going.”

“Fair enough,” Leo nodded with a smile. “Where have you been going then?”

“...Wherever I needed to go,” answered Nathan coyly. “Places far and places deep, where the Gods hold sway.”

“To the north then. Well whatever it is you’re looking for, I hope you find it,” Leo reached for his glass of wine, though only held on to it. “I am glad you could be here, though. I hear Thea was convinced for awhile that you wouldn’t return in time.”

Another short laugh, and Nathan replied with “and here I was hoping that I didn’t find it.” Speaking of their sister, he added that “Thea lacks faith. Given her experiences I can’t say I blame her. I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to come, but if I didn’t I would never have heard the end of it. So here I am.”

“Isn’t that the truth. You would be nagged until the end of days,” Leo laughed. “Though I hope Thea doesn’t become too cynical. And with you away from Ghish, I almost wish she would come stay closer to me.”

“...You know just as well as I that she will never be comfortable for prolonged periods of time in Latium again,” Nathan lamented of his sister’s experiences in Castellum during the Brothers War. “If anything your mother should come visit more often. She’s always welcome.”

“I know…I just worry about her,” Leo agreed about Thea’s new found Latium hesitation. And regarding his mother, “I think she would, it’s just that Ghant reminds her of…reminds her of father, among other things.”

Looking around then for his sister Theodora, the Emperor looked back to Leo. “Try not to worry so much. From what I’ve gathered she is quite happy. Diana, Arietta and all their friends are around and they all have a lot of fun together.”

Leo leaned forward and nodded. “I’ll try.” He finally drank from his glass of wine, searching around the hall, though for no one in particular. “Nathan, I actually came to speak with you because I need your advice on something, something confidential.”

“My advice, eh?” Nathan also leaned forward, in the hopes of having a discreet conversation. “On what?”

Leo was hesitant initially, beginning with, “During the war I,” before pausing and starting over again. “A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman I know. At her request, I met with her and she showed me a baby boy. Born in August,” Leo spoke carefully, and with enough volume to make sure Nathan could hear him, but hopefully no one else. “I offered to take the boy, but I don’t know what to do next. I mean I will probably need to resign, but I’m in over my head. And Caroline, Jesus.”

“...Is this child yours?” Nathan asked. “And what about Caroline? She’s of no concern...yet anyway.”

“Yes,” Leo nodded. “He is my blood. I’m certain.” He took a second to think before continuing. “And I don’t know, I just have a great deal on my mind.”

“So you offered to take the boy. Did his mother agree to this?” Nathan asked firmly.

“We wouldn’t be speaking of this if she didn’t,” Leo replied, after which he looked down to his feet with a sigh.

Nathan, having already finished his wine, poured himself a new glass. “Alright...well, you have enough money, an estate and staff to provide for and look after the child. Not sure what you’re really worried about...unless this is about Caroline.”

“That,” he sighed. “And my role at court, I don’t want this to reflect poorly on those close to me. Mother though will probably be concerned about the church too.”

“Just ensure that the child has a low profile, and I doubt anyone would be concerned.” Nathan sighed and rubbed his head. “Damnit Leo we were at war. None of us knew what would happen. You could have died...people know that. Caroline should know that…” pausing to drain his wine glass, Nathan exhaled deeply. “We haven’t talked about Caroline enough, either. At first I urged you to consider Annabelle of Deweden, but that whole situation is a mess, and if you don’t want anything to do with that, I can’t hold that against you.”

Pushing his wine glass across the table, Nathan gazed into the dark liquid. “You are a brother and two nephews away from being Emperor of Ghant. Ghant has never had an Emperor who was foreign-reared or Catholic, and yet if something were to happen to me and my sons, you would be the first of both. I don’t know how that would be received...not well by many I’d imagine. Who the Empress would be under those circumstances could mean the difference between peace and war.”

Nathan looked up from the wine and gave his half-brother a piercing stare. “You should consider marry a Ghantish princess or lady, not because of what can be gained but because of what could be lost, if fate would have you become Emperor of Ghant.”

“I was asking you for advice, not a damn lecture. I can’t very well help where I grew up, can I? My mother, Didi, Thea and I were thrown away like we were nothing…we were lucky my uncle was a decent man and took us in. Who knows what ill things could have happened” Leo clenched his jaw in frustration as he leaned back in his seat and looked towards Nathan. “Where is this coming from?”

“A lecture,” Nathan laughed, before looking around to see who might have been watching. Then he rolled up his sleeves, revealing the scars on his arms from the rigorous training of his youth. “You and your sisters have had a good life compared to me. I know what ill things could happen, because that’s what happened to me. I’m the one that has to always be looking over my shoulder, because I’m the one that’s been hurt. You sit over there acting all sanctimonious, talking about getting a lecture. I’ve given you and our sisters everything, and I’ve never asked any of you for a fucking thing. So the least you can do is listen to what I have to tell you, if that isn’t too much to ask for.”

The Emperor rolled his sleeves back down, covering his arms once again. “I’ve seen death, Leo...I’ve seen what’s on the other side. Fragments...bits and pieces of it. Things are happening all around us that we can’t even begin to comprehend. Everything can change at any moment, and when it does, none of this will matter. The balls, the courtships, the will all be just a bunch of bullshit. So that means we must do whatever we can now, to prepare for the worst that could come. That’s what father wanted.”

Leo glared at his brother with mounting frustration, almost appearing if he was ready to lash out at him. But instead Leo said, “And how do you know what father wanted?”

“Because I was old enough to remember talking to him about it,” Nathan answered pointedly. “He always said the same three things. It’s hard for good men to be good kings, that duty to family always comes first, and that the main goal of any man who would presume to rule should be to leave things better than the way he found them. Men are judged on what they leave behind, Leo, and what do I have to leave behind? many children...but what world will they inherit? This is the question.”

“What can I do to help prepare then?” Leo said after a deep, nervous breath.

“Think about what I just told you.” Slumping back in his chair, Nathan shook his head. “That’s all I want you to do, Leo. Think!”

“Fine. I will,” Leo cupped his glass of wine with both hands, still leaning forward. “You might be pleased to know that Josephine of Jehenna already asked me to dance by the way. That wouldn’t be your doing would it?”

The inquiry made Nathan laugh. “Nobody makes Josephine of Jehenna do anything besides Josephine of Jehenna. Truth be told, I haven’t spoken to her in some time, and I haven’t even prodded anyone in your direction. Frankly I don’t need to, they’ll do that all on their own.”

“She said just about the same thing,” Leo smiled slightly. “That’s what has me worried. It just sounds like another unnecessary headache.”

“You should just sit down and drink some water then.” The Emperor offered his half-brother a glass of water. “Father always got headaches too, and water always helped him when it happened.”

“I had no idea,” Leo set his glass down, running a hand through the back of his hair as he smiled slightly. “I’ve heard more about him from you in the last five minutes than I have from anyone else in the better part of a year.”

With a smile, Nathan explained that “well if we spent more time together, then I’m sure you’d learn more, now wouldn’t you?”

“Well, I’m probably going to resign in the next week or two, so I might have more time to spare. Though, I imagine you will be off to searching the countryside when you fly back to Ghant,” Leo shrugged.

“...If I knew you wanted to visit, I’d be at the palace, numbnuts,” teased the Emperor jovially. “Besides, I can only travel for so long before it begins to bore me.”

“Good point,” Leo stifled a laugh. “I’ll try and come visit soon. Once this whole business with Felix is settled at least. I don’t want it to look like I’m running away.” He paused for a brief second, clicking his teeth in the meantime, “Maybe I’ll ask Caroline to come, let others get to know her as I have.”

The Emperor shook his head. “I’d actually advise against that, because if you come to Ghant, you should take the opportunity to...consider your alternatives. Such an endeavor would like give offense to Caroline were she to be present.”

“If that is the case, it brings offense to her whether she comes or not then; whether she knows or not,” Leo reared his head back and furrowed a brow. “I have already shamed her because of this boy, she’s likely already taken offense because I danced with another out of politeness, I’ll be damned if I dishonor her again.”

“...You do realize you’re a Prince of Ghant and not some suburban dandy right?” Asked the Emperor firmly. “I don’t know how things go in Lyncanestria, but in Ghant, until there’s an official betrothal agreed to by the involved houses, anything goes. You can dance with anyone you like, you can meet with anyone you like, you can explore your options, I can explore your options, so on and so forth. There’s no dishonor in any of that,” he insisted. “By all means, Leo, if you were betrothed and then you started seeing what else was out there, that would be dishonorable, and as your brother and your Emperor I would not condone that.”

“Don’t condescend, I know full well how things work in Ghant,” Leo shook his head. “You are my older brother, and head of our House, you are within your rights to explore options for me, our sisters, or any relative that shares our name. But she and I have made it known that we’re together, and right now, I choose not to explore other options.”

“Fine, make me do all the work for you,” laughed the Emperor teasingly. “I always thought Arietta was the stubborn one. Don’t worry, I won’t press the issue...I’ve already said that I just want you to think about it, and that’s good enough for me for now. I should be more interested in Diana and Theodora’s prospects...I won’t compel them in any direction but I also want what’s best for them, like I want for you.”

“And I said that I will,” Leo nodded after taking a breath of relief. “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be difficult purposely. I will make more of an effort in the future.”

The Emperor of Ghant leaned back in his chair. “I’s in your nature,” he teased. “I can’t fault you for that, now can I?”

“...Excuse me,” a female voice said from behind. “I hope I’m not interrupting anyone.” Nathan looked over his shoulder to see his half-sister Alexia, who was wearing a long silver gown that dragged behind her feet. “Prince Leo,” she added, shyly.

“No, not at all,” her brother answered. “We were just catching up.”

“Your Highness,” Leo smiled politely, repositioning himself to an upright, yet comfortable position. “Yes we were,” he echoed Nathan’s comment, though added, “Though if you two need to speak, I can always come back.”

Alexia looked away bashfully. “It is of little concern, your Highness…”

Nathan looked at his sister with a stoic expression. “What’s the matter?”

“...Mother can be most insufferable, as you know,” she answered somberly. “I find myself listless now, on account of such company, and on account that I, for whatever reason unbeknownst to me, can never seem to find anyone to dance with. I oft wonder if it’s because of who I am, in relation to you, that others find intimidating.”

“Yes, isn’t that a shame,” the Emperor asked rhetorically, an eye drifting towards Leo. “Such a shame indeed that you of all people cannot find gentlemen of substance that want to dance with you. If only such a man were to exist, how grateful I would truly be…”

Leo smiled in spite of himself just as he nodded in affirmation. He rose before extending an arm to say, “Princess, would you do me the honor of sharing this dance?”

Alexia blushed, and accepted bashfully. “Why yes of course your Highness, you do me such a great honor...truly more than I deserve.” the Emperor was sure to raise his glass to Leo when he was sure Alexia wouldn’t notice.

“Enjoy the rest of your night, Nathan,” Leo told his brother before he led Alexia to the dance floor.
Last edited by Ghant on Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Lacus Magni
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Founded: Apr 02, 2011
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Postby Lacus Magni » Sat Mar 24, 2018 6:38 pm

“Mel is Always Right”

As other couples took to the dance floor and various guests began to mingle and chat amongst each other, Prince William of Sydalon remained near the groomsman table, where he and his second cousin Justin and the bride’s brothers remained. Previously seated with them were Princes Peter and Philip of Latium, though Peter had quickly wandered off with his younger brother likely to pawn him off on their mother or a sister and disappeared into the mix of people. The remaining groomsmen talked amongst one another, with William’s eyes occasionally wandering elsewhere – usually the bridesmaids table. However, when he spotted his family’s table, he noticed his sister, Melisende – our great and glorious Queen, he thought sarcastically to himself – grab a hold of their cousin Maria’s arm.

William noticed Justin looking in that direction once he turned back towards the table. He gave Justin a shot with his elbow. “Who are you checking out?” William laughed between words. “My sister or my cousin?”

“What?” he replied, a look of shock on his face from the outwardness of the question. “No, I…”

“Do you still have your eye on Maria?” William followed.

“Never did,” he reached for his glass of wine and before drinking said, “We were just friends.”

“Right, that old line,” William stood and patted Justin on the back just as he held the glass to his lips, giving Justin pause. “Well I’m going to go say hello and hopefully not be insulted by Mel. You’re welcome to come and join if you like.”

“I’ll pass, thanks,” Justin said in a defeated tone while William finally rose from his chair. “Tell Maria I said hello though, will you.”

“Is that is? No kiss hello or anything?” William teased with a laugh. Justin only gave a stern look, prompting William to take his first steps back from the table and reply, “A hello, got it. Try not to drink yourself into oblivion, eh?”

“Bottoms up,” Justin held his glass up and laughed.

Afterwards, William sauntered off towards his family, which thankfully wasn’t all that far away given his close familial relation to the groom. Though from afar he could see his sister chatting with their cousin Maria and what looked like Maria’s significant other, I think at least…is that Thomas, he now could see his other siblings.

Roletus was the closest in age to him, at twenty years old; he was dressed in an oxblood-colored suit with gray tie. They had similar appearances, though Roletus had a more natural tan than his elder brother. Seated next to Roletus was their youngest sibling, Bohemond. And beside their mother, Princess Eirene of Latium, was William’s younger sister, Dido – named for their great-grandmother Queen Dido IV. William often thought that she shared much of their great-grandmother’s beauty and little of her venom or inherent prejudices.

He approached his mother first, leaning in so she could kiss him on the cheek as she always did, then he winked to his siblings, and his uncle Adeodatus. Adeodatus was the bastard-born, turned legitimized son of William’s grandfather, the late King Jordan IX of Sydalon. Adeodatus was shy compared to william’s brother Roletus, though the two were close friends and normally seen in close proximity with one another.

Next, William rounded the table to his elder sister and his cousin Maria. As usual, Mel was engrossed in conversation about herself, talking about how busy she was with Maria. “Oh, William,” Maria smiled, with Mel latched onto her arm. “It’s good to see you. Do you remember Thomas? Thomas, this is my cousin, William.”

“The equestrian?” William nodded affirmatively, extending his arms to shake Thomas’s hand. “We’ve met a few times I believe.”

“I think so, perhaps in Villeneuve. That might have been it,” Thomas replied.

“Enough of that,” Mel said with a surprisingly pleasant smile despite interrupting. William rolled his eyes. “Maria, you’ll have to tell me what you have been doing? Apparently you were away in Utica for however long it was. What on earth were you doing?”

“Please, please ask me anything but that,” Maria sighed though followed with a playful laugh, “I’ve had to answer that question so, so many times already today and the night is still so young.”

“Fine, fine,” Mel sounded less than enthused with the deflection. “Tell us a funny story, William. He’s always telling jokes, Thomas. William hardly takes anything seriously. In fact, I’m surprised you never did one of those umm...what is it where they stand up and tell jokes, you know one of those routines the plebs go crazy for?”

“Stand-up comedy?” William furrowed a brow.

“Yes, isn’t that what I said?” Mel said, can't forget that Mel is always right.

William let out a sigh, and glance over towards Maria who rolled her eyes with a laugh. Not one to let a silence last, Mel continued, “So will you be back to court for good? You had better be when I make my visit in late January. It will be just like college.”

Maria giggled, “Oh, so you’ll get black out drunk and go find…”

“…go find Godfrey? ” Mel interrupted with a surprisingly strained voice. “I’m not sure I follow, Maria.”

“Wew,” William laughed. “I think that’s my cue to go see who else is around. Maria, and Thomas, it was great to see you two. Hopefully we’ll have some time to catch up later tonight.”

“I’d love to, William,” Maria smiled and stepped in to give him a hug, followed by Thomas shaking William’s hand.

As William walked away, he could faintly hear Mel say his name and laugh afterwards, though he couldn’t be sure just what it was about. If I had to wager, just another one of her snide barbs. Though he ignored it, let her have her fun now, and rounded back to the table.

“William,” his uncle Adeodatus addressed him. Though his uncle, Adeodatus was more like a younger brother, seeing as he was three years William’s junior. Adeodatus was the bastard-born, turned legitimized son of William’s grandfather, the late King Jordan IX of Sydalon. Adeodatus was shy compared to william’s brother Roletus, though the two were close friends and normally seen in close proximity with one another.

“Let’s go get a drink, eh?” William gave his uncle a playful slap on the back, followed by doing the same to his own younger brother, Roletus. “Rolly, come on let’s go.”

“Thank god,” the two young princes replied in unison, then in shared laughter.

“How were the bridesmaids?” Roletus asked William once the three started to walk around the hall. “Some of those ladies…damn. Did you…?”

“Did I what?” William snorted, followed by a chuckle. “Talk to them? Sure, of course I have.”

“You should introduce us to them,” Roletus added while Adeodatus stole a glass of champagne off of a passing waiters tray.

“They’d eat both of you alive, trust me,” William laughed as the group passed by a table where he overheard some discussion on milk, at least I think, because they weren’t speaking Latin, but it sounded like Fabrian, but it almost certainly wasn’t. Was there a Mutulian at that table? Maybe Kostas threw all the Oxidentale peoples together or something.

“Were they just talking about milk?” Adeodatus said with a puzzled look, dowing the champagne in his glass.

“Where?” Roletus said with his own puzzled look.

“At that table we just walked past, the one where someone was speaking Rezese,” Adeodatus attempted to point out the table without explicitly pointing a figure at it. At least he’s grown more subtle about things like that since years past.

“Who cares about that, get a look at that blonde over there,” Roletus gave William a shove with his shoulder and then nudged Adeodatus. “The one over by Avia Didi. God, who is that? She’s incredible.”

“I think that’s Caroline de Villeneuve,” William said after giving it some thought. “She’s with cousin Leo, no?”

“No idea, but Aeo should go talk to her,” Roletus began to push Adeodatus towards the table with Caroline and their grandmother, but he pushed back in equal force.

“Nope. No way am I stepping in on your cousin Leo,” Adeodatus laughed, though did so with some apprehension in his voice. He then started to tug at the ends of his shirt and cuffs of his jacket.

“What about her?” Roletus nodded his head towards some girls standing at the far war and conversing amongst themselves.

“Which?” Adeodatus turned his gaze to the girls, but William looked elsewhere – the bridesmaids specifically. Mother wanted me to try and say more than hello to Marie of Onneria, I could probably take care of that while these clowns go make fools of themselves.

Roletus must have whispered it to Adeodatus while William was off in his own mind, but it must have been a find description because Adeodatus replied, “Oh yeah, lets go talk to them.”

“Willy, are you coming?” Roletus asked, snapping William out of the trance he was caught in.

“What…no, you two go ahead,” he nodded. “I’m going to go try and get a good word or two in with some bridesmaids.”

“Just promise to save some for us, okay?” Roletus joked.

“Okay, Rolly,” William told his brother before they parted ways.
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Postby Lihnidos » Thu Mar 29, 2018 7:40 pm

Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Lacus Magni)

Happy to get away from her family’s table and the nagging of her grandmother, Efthymia moved from one side of the room to the other, careful not to accidentally bump into any of the carefree partygoers as she made her way over to her sister. Her sister was only a slight improvement, but she was all there was at this point. Maria offered a small wave as Efthymia approached.

“You got away from there pretty fast,” Efthymia prodded, knowing that something had driven her from the table.

“It didn’t take you long to get away yourself,” Maria responded.

The two stood in silence for a moment, both looking over the attendees as they went back and forth across the room. “You know how it is,” she finally continued. “The longer you stay there the more likely it is that you get pulled into one of our grandmother’s rants. Especially at a place like this.” She sighed. “I love her, but she can be very overbearing at times.”

“Why do you think I came over here?” Efthymia asked rhetorically. “I just sat through one. Thankfully I was able to get away. But, in case she asks you later, let her know that I told you to stay away from any of the foreign princes here.”

Maria chuckled, but otherwise remained silent and raised a wine glass to her lips.

“Where did you get that?” Efthymia questioned, nodding to the glass in her sister’s hand.

“Look around, there’s no shortage of them. I just plucked one off of a table over there somewhere,” she gestured to her right.

“I don’t think you’re old enough to drink in Latium.” Efthymia knew she wouldn’t care, but asked anyway, “Do you know what the drinking age is here?”

Maria laughed. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to let a stupid law stop me from having a good time.”

Probably not the best view to have, Efthymia thought to herself. Best deal with it another time, though.

“I don’t think anyone will say anything to me. These aren’t the type of people who care if someone underage is drinking a glass or two of wine,” Maria pointed out.

“No, probably not,” Efthymia conceded. “But try not to do anything too unwise while you’re here. We don’t need you making a scene.”

“When have I ever done something unwise?” Maria asked. Efthymia couldn’t decide whether she was joking or being serious. “So, are you going to listen to our grandmother’s advice?”

“We both know that I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I didn’t,” Efthymia grumbled. ”Stay away from foreign princes. No fun allowed,” she mocked, performing a less than impressive impression of their grandmother.

“It’s almost uncanny how good you are at that,” Maria joked before they both laughed. “I suppose it’s a bit different for you. The great Crown Princess of Lihnidos, the future Empress,” a hint of envy could be heard in her words, but her face didn’t show it. “God forbid we have an emperor consort who isn’t Lihnidosi. The only monarchy on Belisaria that hasn’t had a foreigner as a consort.”

“Well, there was one…”

“That doesn’t count,” Maria interjected. “I don’t care about what happened before our family took the throne. It’s irrelevant.”

“I don’t know if I’d say that... In any event, that’s just how things have been done. I’m not sure our mother would approve of me marrying a foreigner anyway. There’s no telling how it would be received.” Efthymia shook her head and took the glass of wine from her sister to take a drink.

“Well, I’m going to marry whoever I want. It doesn’t matter what our mother or the matriarch council wants. You may not think that I could survive without all of our fancy things, but I could,” she said resentfully.

Efthymia raised her empty hand in surrender. “I’ve never said you wouldn’t be able to survive without what we have.” But you wouldn’t.

Efthymia knew full well that Maria could never survive in the real world, away from the palaces, separated from her expensive clothes, having to actually get a job and work for what she wanted. She was sure Maria knew that as well, no matter how much she denied it and tried to convince herself otherwise. Maria was right about one thing though, it was different for her. It wouldn’t matter if she found an amazing man who would make a wonderful husband. If he was a foreigner there would be those who would oppose him until their last breath.

Maria nudged her side and whispered barely loud enough for her to hear, “Don’t look now but I think you have incoming.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked, trying her best not to make her glances at the crowd around them noticeable.

Maria turned towards her so that she was no longer facing the crowd. “Slightly to your left. It’s hard to miss them, they’re headed right for us.” She waited a moment for Efthymia to look in the direction she had specified. “One of them looks familiar, but I can’t figure out from where.”

“You’re right,” Efthymia lowered her gaze to her sister. “Maybe they aren’t coming over to us.”

“They are. I made eye contact with one when I first noticed them. Hopefully our grandmother doesn’t see us talking to them and come crash the party.” Maria playfully poked her sister in the side. “And give me this back,” she said, snatching the wine glass back from her sister.

“Good evening, ladies,” one of the two approaching said to the princesses upon arrival. At his side was another man of similar age, height and tanned complexion. “Prince Roletus of Sydalon,” he introduced himself to both Efthymia and Maria, “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure before.”

“And I am Prince Adeodatus….of Sydalon as well,” the other added with a smile.

“I don’t believe you have,” Maria smiled at Roletus. “Princess Maria of Lihnidos.”

So that’s where I’ve seen him. “Princess Efthymia of Lihnidos,” she introduced herself. “I believe my sister is correct. We’ve been to Sydalon on numerous occasions but I’m fairly certain that we’ve never met.” She exchanged glances with both Roletus and Adeodatus, giving both a bright smile. “Are you enjoying yourselves?”

“Of course we haven’t, it would be impossible to forget meeting either of you,” Roletus smirked. “Why yes, my uncle and I have been having a great time so far.”

“Even better now,” Adeodatus added, “these sorts of events can get old so fast unless you can happen into finding the right company.”

Ignoring the fact that she was too young for either of the princes standing before her, Maria grinned at Adeodatus and agreed. “Very true, I’ve been looking for good company since I arrived.”

Efthymia gave her sister a disapproving glance before directing her attention back to the two princes. “Unfortunately she doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to attracting good company.”

It was Maria’s turn to give her sister a pointed look. “Don’t listen to her, she just doesn’t know how to have a good time.” She looked between the two and continued. “Someone really should teach her how to. We don’t need a boring woman as Empress. We’ve had enough of those already.”

“It looks like we just turned Maria’s track record around then,” Adeodatus chuckled, as did Roletus.

“Well, I’d be happy to offer my services to you, Princess,” Roletus then added, looking to Efthymia with a playful grin. “It has often been said I am far from boring, and can really show anyone a good time.”

Efthymia looked at Roletus with an uneasy look and was silent for a few seconds before Maria broke the silence. “If you two would just give us a minute. I really must have a word with my sister in private.”

Maria grabbed Efthymia’s arm and drug her a few feet from the two princes. “What are you doing?”

“What do you mean what am I doing?” Efthymia asked after wrenching her arm out of Maria’s grip.

“He’s obviously into you. Don’t just stand around acting like an idiot. Look at him, he looks great. Both of them do. You need to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves to you.”

“Thanks for the pep talk, sis, but I’m not sure I need to be taking advice about guys from you.” Efthymia looked over her shoulder at Roletus. She’s not wrong.

“How many people have you seriously dated? One? And that didn’t exactly end well if I remember. I think my advice is exactly what you need.”

“You’re getting pretty worked up over something that doesn’t affect you very much. Are you sure this isn’t your attempt at angering our parents?”

“Oh my God Effy.” Maria sighed. “This would be good for you. You hardly ever do anything fun or interesting. You spend your days either at university or sitting in your office in the palace doing I don’t know what. Do something for yourself for once.”

Efthymia looked at Maria without speaking with a thoughtful look on her face. “Fine,” she reluctantly agreed.

“Perfect. Now I think you’ve kept him waiting long enough.” Maria put her hand on Efthymia’s back and subtly pushed her back to where they had been standing before. “My sister would love to spend some time with you. She’s very eager to learn how to enjoy herself. In fact, she’d be happy to spend time with both of you if you’re interested. It would probably take more than one person to break her from her ways.”

“That’s good, I was getting a bit worried for a second,” Roletus laughed. He looked off towards the dance floor, then said, “Both of us though? I don’t know if you’re into that kind of thing, but the dancefloor would get crowded with the three of us dancing together, no? That is, if you dance. I’m not overly into such things, though my sister would curse me until the end of times if I did not ask a Crown Princess as lovely as you to dance.”

Adeodatus gave the slightest hint of rolling his eyes at Roletus. “In that case, I would be honored to spend some time with you Princess Maria.”

“I would be more than happy to spend time with you, Prince Adeodatus.” She offered him her arm, which he took in his. “I believe the dance floor is that way,” Maria said as looked at Efthymia. “Enjoy yourselves you two.”

As Adeodatus and Maria disappeared into the crowd on their way to the dance floor, Efthymia and Roletus were left alone. “I’m not much into dancing either. If it’s ok with you perhaps we could do something else.” Efthymia was not interested in going anywhere where her grandmother might have the chance of seeing her. Maria had made it obvious that she cared little for their grandmother’s suggestions, but she could not be so flippant. “Perhaps just get a drink and talk?”

“I’d like that. After you,” Roletus smiled and opened himself towards where the nearest bar was set up. “Are you not into dancing because you have two left feet? Because that is my reason.”

No, I just don’t want my family to see me with you. “Something like that,” she lied. She could never tell him that she didn’t want her family to see her with him. It wouldn’t leave the best first impression. Truth be told, she would have very much liked to dance with him.

“So, your sister is the Queen of Sydalon, then?” she asked as the two made their way to the bar.

“She is,” Roletus nodded casually. “Mel has done a good job of things so far, as much as I can tell at least. Especially with that whole Caeseti business. If I recall, you and my sister have met on your prior visits to Sydalon.”

“We did. I traveled with my mother to Sydalon a few months ago on an unofficial trip. Your sister was gracious enough to invite us to the palace to meet her in person.” Efthymia snuck a sideways glance at Roletus as they walked. He truly was a handsome man, more so than her previous boyfriend or anyone she had considered at home. “It’s unfortunate you were not there. We could have met sooner.”

“Incredibly unfortunate, actually. I would have much rather we met then,” Roletus smiled at Efthymia. “But as they say, the next best time is now,” he then snuck a quick look at her and then towards his uncle Adeodatus to see if he could tell how things were going with Maria. “I’m trying to think of where I was then. It must have been for my military obligations, because if I knew someone as beautiful as you were gracing our presence, I would have made certain to be in Ostracine.”

“Ah, yes, I remember reading about Sydalon’s mandatory service requirement somewhere. I’m sure what you were doing was far more important than meeting me. And, here we are,” Efthymia said as the two were now standing in front of the bar. “You can get something for the both of us. I don’t usually drink alcohol that isn’t wine.”

“Gladly,” Roletus smiled and turned to the bartender, “May I have two glasses of Ulcisia red. Thank you.” The bartender returned with two glasses of red wine, one of which Roletus handed to Efthymia, “I honestly don’t know much about wine, but I recall my sister saying Ulcisia was excellent on more than one occasion.”

“Well,” Efthymia took a small sip from her glass. “ I can say, as someone who drinks a lot of wine, that she was correct. Good choice.” She clinked her glass against his. “Now, I’ve been to Sydalon, but have you ever been to Lihnidos?”

“Ah yes! Mel is good for something then,” Roletus laughed after taking a sip himself. “Yes, yes. I’ve been a few times, never anything official, or really unofficial. I don’t remember the first time, I was very young, but some of the other times my brother, William, Adeodatus and I just hopped across the border from Fakolana for the night. I haven’t been to the capital though.”

“We’ll have to get you there soon, then. The capital is lovely in the spring, but I could make up an endless list of places worth visiting. Especially if you have someone to visit them with,” Efthymia winked at him. “Maybe a state visit to Lihnidos is in your sister’s future. I’m sure you’d be able to get a place in the delegation.”

“We should. I know that would be a great time,” he grinned. “I’d love to see the very best Arcadia has to offer from a local with intimate knowledge. Do you know where I could find one?” he smiled at her.

“I’m sure I could find one somewhere. Maybe one of my sisters would be willing to give you a tour,” Efthymia laughed. “I bet one of them would be more than happy to do so. But… I guess I could do it instead. Do you have a preference?”

“Oh, I get my pick of tour guides then, eh? You included, I feel so honored,” he teased as he tapped at his chin to mimic deep thought. “I think I’ll have to take you up on that. If of course it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle. I promise to be on my best behavior.”

“I don’t know, I have a pretty full schedule most of the time. A lot of important work that my mother assigned to me. But, I suppose I could carve out some time for you if you insist.” Efthymia took another sip of her wine, her previous unease and nervousness gone along with her intent to heed her grandmother’s advice. “I’ll have to make sure we roll out the red carpet for you. The VIP treatment. Wouldn’t want to make a bad impression.”

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Posts: 846
Founded: Jun 05, 2012
Democratic Socialists

Postby Lyncanestria » Sat Apr 07, 2018 9:53 pm

Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Lacus Magni)



The princess quickly turned her head around to the table behind her. Helena! The daughter of the late duke and duchess of Vindóbona, the two had come to be quite close over the last year or two. The young noblewoman was dressed in an elegant black dress, pink blossoms rounding at her waist. “Sophie, I thought that was you!” Helena stood from her table and moved up to greet the three Villeneuves. She curtsied at Guy, then greeted her cousins Michel and Félix before continuing, “I hope I’m not intruding, I just thought I heard your voice and had to say hello.”

How Sophie had completely missed Helena sitting at the table right beside her was lost on Marie-Sophie, “I can't believe I didn’t see you there, Helena,” she began, “it’s been so long!” And long it had been. Sophie tried recalling the last time they had seen each other, Had it been since the summer? Had it been since last year? In any case, they both had a lot of catching up to do. “How’ve you been?”

“Oh no, it’s fine, I don’t think I would have noticed you if Adi had not just come back to our table. And I’ve been doing well, just wrapped up my first term at Haenna in fact,” Helena smiled before she gasped and directed Sophie to the adjacent Ulipii table, adding, “Oh forgive me, where are my manners, you remember my older brother Adrian?”

Helena gestured to her seated, elder brother, who then rose from the nearby table with a smile. He wore a dark military officers uniform featuring at least two medals pinned to the right breast of his overcoat “Your Highnesses,” Adrian smirked. “It’s good to see you again.”

As Sophie curtsied at the duke, she could see her brother skitter slightly, as if his discomfort at Adrian could not be made any more obvious. But then again, the stories about him were many, and they were of the most unsavory kind. The Kinslayer they called him now, who killed his own cousin in cold blood. Not something I would’ve expected from him when we first met. But alas, people can change from a year to the next… as I know all too well. She looked over at the Ghantish table as her thoughts drifted to Cécile for a small moment. Oh boy do people change.

“Sophie,” Guillaume drew her attention, “I think I’m going to carry on here. I think I owe my girlfriend the courtesy of a visit. Take care, you lot, cheers.”

“Of course Guy,” she said, “tell Teresa I won’t be that long.”

“His girlfriend? Guy is dating Teresa, no?” Helena smiled while Adrian stood idly at her side. “I run into her every so often at university, she’s always so kind.”

“Yes, they’re together,” Sophie responded, trying not entirely to sound entirely disapproving. “I’m also surprised she hadn’t told you… I guess that means you two could be better acquainted, huh?” Sophie pondered as to exactly how her two friends weren’t much closer with each other than they already were.

“Oh, well, she doesn’t talk about it much,” Helena shrugged, “and she’s always so busy I feel guilty if I stop to chat for too long—”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard her talk about him,” Adrian said with a hint of laughter.

“Well I guess I can’t blame them—honestly, I would probably be the same way. Relationships aren’t the most interesting thing to talk about anyways… I’d much sooner talk about the dreary weather than gossip about frivolous things.”

“That’s just how she is—” Helena added, though she was then cut off by her brother before she had a chance to continue.

“If you don’t want to gossip about frivolous things, you’ve come to the wrong place, princess,” Adrian interrupted before being promptly elbowed by Helena.

“I think I’ll survive the night,” the princess replied curtly.

“Adrian forgets his manners sometimes, Sophie. I hope you forgive him.”

“It’s true, I do,” Adrian shrugged playfully. “What I meant to say was, would you like to dance?”

“Oh, I…” Sophie was taken aback by the offer, and much more than she let on. She looked over to Helena, who seemed almost as surprised as her. A kinslayer who forgets his manners, his station, and who doesn’t apologise… The answer should have been as simple as “no,” but instead, as she heard the orchestra near the end of the sarabande, Sophie hesitated. The choice was now. Could it be he was just playing the part of the uninterested douche?

“Sure,” came her answer at last, albeit in an unassertive tone uncharacteristic of the princess.

Adrian offered Sophie his arm, as one would, and flashed a satisfied smile to Helena, “Try to enjoy yourself, sister.” Once they took a few steps away, Adrian said to Sophie, “Helena was very excited to see you, if that wasn’t clear.”

“Was she really?” the princess asked with her trademark sarcastic tone, “thanks for the clarification, as I was completely unsure.” As the princess moved along with Adrian, she couldn’t help but scan the hall to see just how many were already staring. Only one she counted as she looked around, the son of that one marchis… but the dance hasn’t even begun yet; I can’t imagine what grandmum will think.

Adrian remained silent from then until they reached the dance floor, though continued to at least appear in high spirits. Once they reached the floor, he took her left hand, placing his other gently on the small of her back. “You know, I forgot what a sharp, quick tongue you had. I’m glad for the reminder, princess, it’s been too long.”

“Thank you for the compliment, Your Grace,” Sophie said, posturing herself for the coming waltz, “it really has been too long, hasn’t it? But yes, the tongue must be kept sharp lest it dull… you haven’t dulled have you?”

He pretended to think about it for a second. “I’ll have to stay no, still quite sharp, otherwise I may end up stabbed in the back,” he teased as his feet began to move to the music. “Hmm, Imbros…was it? I think that was it. Helena still talks about that summer on occasion. She has a tendency to long for those days when things were easier.”

“Well, last summer is a long time ago now, “ she began, “things have changed… for some more than others. I, for one, happen to think that times are better now—but don’t tell Helena.”

“Oh? I wouldn’t dream of it,” he sniggered though with a hint of disdain in his tone. “Despite my duty as her brother.”

“So are you saying you’re of the opinion siblings ought to tell each other everything?” she politely enquired, swaying to the triple beats. “If you ask me, there are certain things a sibling is better off not knowing… they’re not like friends or lovers; we don’t get to choose them—they are family from first breath to last. I’d much sooner lie to my brother than see him hurt.”

“And I have lied countless times to my sisters, and my brother for the very same reason.”

“I reckon we all have; there is no greater duty than to family.”

Adrian snorted, “Duty has nothing to do with it.”

The princess angled her head, furrowing her brow, “Why do you say that? Does our highest duty and greatest loyalty not lie with our family?”

“I don’t do it because of duty, I do it because I love them and they need someone to watch out for them. Helena especially, she’s far too naive. Even still,” Adrian said quickly, then slowed with a labored breath, “duty is overrated.”

“Well how noble of you,” she spoke jokingly, “but yes, I’ll concede your point—love does move us to do things we would otherwise not.” She took a pause, contemplating as they danced across the ballroom floor. “Nonetheless, Your Grace, I am still of the mind duty should be held above all else; duty is a constant principle, whereas love—love is numbing, and inhibits sound judgment.”

“Please…don’t call me that.”

“Pardon?” she responded, puzzled.

Your Grace. You don’t have to call me that,” Adrian said, turning his head outward to the crowd for a moment.

“Oh…” she responded, “well, what would you have me call you then?”

“You can call me by my name, if you like.”

Ha-dri-an-us,” she said, accentuating each syllable as she spoke, “that’s a lot more complicated than just saying ‘Your Grace’, isn’t it? But if you insist, I shall drop the formalities… you can call me Sophie if you’d like, as Helena does.”

“Complexity aside, I’d prefer it,” he chuckled. “Helena likes to call me Adi sometimes, but I can’t stand that name.”

“Well, I’ll bet there’s one certain appellation that irks every of us; for me, it’s Marie,” the princess chortled. “If one’s going to shorten my name, it should be Sophie, not Marie—as if there weren’t enough Marie’s in the world already!”

“What’s wrong with that?” Adrian smiled for first time during the dance. “Marie is a very nice name.”

The princess returned a smile in kind. “Perhaps it is; but it’s also the name of most all Audonic girls I daresay; the Vannoisians, Valyrians, Lyncanestrians… it gets quite boring after awhile.” Waltzing still, the pair picked up the tempo which quickened, and loundened with each step. One, two three. The piece is surely almost over. “So tell me, Adrian,” she suddenly asked, “do you dance often? You’re certainly not bad on your feet—for a military man, that is.”

“Only when I come to events such as this, which thankfully isn’t often,” he smirked. “Sparring as often as I do probably helps out though.”

“Sparring helps?” the princess pondered the idea. “Hmm, that certainly may be, though it wouldn’t have occurred to me at first thought, as opposed to something like fencing. I know it definitely helps me with my footing and posture, at least. You fence too, surely?”

“Occasionally, though I prefer something a bit more useful if I can,” Adrian replied plainly. “Do you enjoy it?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” she said grinningly. “it’s one of the only activities I actually find fun outside of being locked in my room with my books; I’m not an expert, but Guy helps me. But why do you not find it useful though?” she asked, “I’ve heard you’re quite the blademaster.”

“Oh,” Adrian took a deep breath with a fading smile, “I’m sure that’s not all you’ve heard either.”

Just as fast as Adrian’s had, Marie-Sophie’s smile ran from her face. “I’m sorry,” she said hesitantly, knowing exactly what the young duke was getting at, “that’s not what I meant at all—”

“What’s done is done, eh?” he shrugged. “I don’t regret it, some things… maybe, but not that. Nor should you regret asking, everyone else asks or sniggers, mostly sniggers. Do you want to know how I did it?”

And to think I could actually get through a dance with the “Kinslayer” without this coming up, she thought to herself. How naive of me. She composed herself, “Well I’ve heard rumours; my cousin Cécile is close to the man whose brother apprehended you… but I don’t concern myself with such gossip.”

“No, of course not,” he looked her in the eye before throwing a nod of his head towards the tables. “But many people do, and far fewer are as apologetic as you were.”

“Well, thus far you’ve given me no reason to doubt your character, so it was only fitting that I apologise if I gave that impression.”

“There’s nothing to forgive, Sophie,” Adrian shook his head, and then smiled faintly.

“Well there’s not much worse than having to relive a moment that you so desperately wish to leave behind; we don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to.” Sophie’s considerate remarks, courteous as they were, were not entirely honest. She remained curious for the real truth—as opposed to the idle whispers of the court—but she certainly wouldn’t push for it.

“I don’t want to leave it behind. Besides, there’s little point in running from something that is a part of oneself,” Adrian said as he looked her in the eyes. “What I can’t figure out is if they despise me, or if its jealousy. Though, you think they’d at least credit me for looking him in the eye when I ran that sword through his heart.”

So Cécy was right, it was a sword through the heart. “You know,” she said, trying to liven the mood, “I still remember that summer at Imbros, when you told Michael to stop insulting me. You remember don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“My ungrateful self told you your intervention was unneeded,” she said, smiling as she reminisced, “But still, you did what I reckon few others would; you gave him his due punishment, and that is commendable. A tyrant a traitor deserve no less. They talk and gossip out of envy, to discredit—don’t let it get to you.”

“Thank you,” Adrian nodded affirmatively, “I’ll try.”

As though on cue, the waltz reached its final cadence and the duo gently separated to take their bow. Sophie knew that attention would be on them by now, she could feel her family’s eyes fixated upon her… or perhaps they were instead fixed on the Kinslayer? She felt that it should be wrong to say she had enjoyed the dance, but she couldn’t keep herself from thinking it. “Why, Adrian?”

He raised a brow, “Pardon?”

“Why the dance?” she clarified.

“Imbros,” he smiled to her. “And I was certain you’d agree.”

“Perhaps then I should become less predictable.” The two moved from the centre of the hall and off to the side. From the corner of her eye she could see that Guy, Teresa and Theoph were watching her. How will I explain this?

“Trust me, Sophie, you’re far from predictable,” he chuckled before taking a quick glance around the hall, and with a deep breath said, “I’ll get out of your hair now, I’m sure your brother was expecting you awhile ago. But I’d like to keep in touch—may I write you, is that the proper way of putting it?”

The princess let out a laugh, albeit discreetly given the attention on her, “That’s not the wording I’d use, but of course we can keep in touch. It would be a pleasure.”

“I’m glad,” Adrian smiled with a nod. “Hopefully we’ll cross paths again before the night’s over, if not, I hope you enjoy yourself.”

Sophie nodded back with a smile, curtsying as she did. Adrian responded in kind, making a slight bow before making his way back to his sister Helena. It took her awhile to gather her thoughts and her composure. To her, dances had become a dread; some guys wouldn’t know how, some guys didn’t know what to talk about, and some were an outright bore. Yet Adrian had been none of those. In fact, it had probably been one of the best dances of the year. Good on his feet, engaging in conversation, and not one for that frivolous chat. Indeed, she found herself at a bit of a loss at the end. This is not what I expected from that boy from Imbros… but then, the boy is no more.

The princess made her way to the Beroea’s table, where she could see Teresa, Theoph and Guy were now engaged in some conversation. Probably about me, isn’t it?

“Good evening, Your Highness” she finally said upon reaching the table, curtsying to Prince Theodosius as she did. Much like Guy, she also knew that around the Prince, all formalities should be observed.

After being acknowledged by Theodosius, Teresa welcomed Sophie with a friendly embrace, “What took you so long?”

Theophylactus for his part quickly ran his hand through his slick blond hair and then gave a quick bow. “Princess… it’s, it’s very good to see you again,” the young prince said through some initial nervousness.

“Well as I am sure none of you lack eyesight, I don’t know why that question even needs asking, Teresa,” Sophie said with a forced smile. Truthfully, she somewhat annoyed. Does she really want to bring up the dance with Adrian right here in front of her father and brother? “But it is good to see you both again,” she quickly added before anyone took too much offence at her accusative tone.

Teresa only smiled, and looked to Guy. “She probably doesn’t want to talk about it,” Sophie heard Guy whisper to her. He’s quite right. Siblings always know.

“I like your dress, Your Highness,” Theoph spoke up again, smiling as he did, “You look very lovely in it.”

Sophie returned the smile, beaming as she responded, “Why thank you Theoph, that’s very kind of you. I happen to think you look very dashing in your uniform as well. The navy suits you.”

“Thank you,” Theoph said, his cheeks blushing slightly pink at the words.

“The dance floor looks terribly crowded, don’t you think, Guy?” Teresa finally said. Looking out unto the great hall, there’s not much that Guillaume could argue with.

“Sadly, it appears so,” he agreed, turning back around to the three, “I don’t know how you managed, Sophie—” His blank expression revealing that he had realised the implications of his playful remark a tad too late.

“Neither do I. So many people out there you’d think someone would be stepping on another’s toes,” Teresa added, clearly picking up on Guillaume’s misstep. “You’ve been practicing a bit, haven’t you, Theoph?”

“Oh… yes, some,” he nodded, cheeks still blushing as they were moments ago. Theophylactus took a quick glance at Teresa, then looked back to Sophie and said, “Actually, I was hoping you’d like to dance at some point tonight, Your Highness. But, um, I know you just finished dancing with the Kinslayer, so if you’d like some time between I understand.”

The princess let out a sigh, Why do they keep calling him that? she thought to herself, indignant on Adrian’s behalf. “You know, if you ask me,” she said after taking a breath, “the moment someone turns on his brother and murders his own flesh and blood, he’s stop being kin to me. I would be grateful to the one who ended that traitor’s miserable life.” When she had reached the Beroea table, she had expected she might have had to excuse or defend her actions in accepting the dance, but never had she thought she might have to defend Adrian himself.

“Hold on a second—” Teresa tried to interject.

Adrian is your own cousin, why call him by such a degrading name?”

Teresa reared her head back in surprise of Sophie’s reaction, while Theoph’s face only grew redder as his mouth hung open, seemingly trying to search for a response.

“Are you okay, Sophie?” Guillaume finally asked, his face as in awe as the two Latins.

“I’m sorry…” she sighed defeatedly. “But what I mean to say is that perhaps you’re being unfair to him?”

“I didn’t know you felt so strongly for Adrian, Sophie,” Teresa quipped.

“I don’t” she responded indignantly, “it’s just—”

“…I … I don’t mean to be unfair, I only meant that he is a kinslayer,” Theoph attempted to explain, though it seemed his nerves were causing him to freeze up every so often. “I only called him what he—”

“I think what my brother means,” Teresa interjected again, though took a glance over her shoulder before continuing, “is that he’s been listening in on conversations not meant for us lately.”

“I… I don’t know,” Theoph sighed, looking to the floor in embarrassment.

The scene had taken an awkward turn, a turn from which there seemed to be little chance for recourse. And to think this could’ve all been averted with a simple agreement to dance; perhaps it would’ve been better had I kept my mouth shut. But she knew that would’ve been impossible. A woman as headstrong and principled as her? There was little doubt she’d let something like that slip by.

“I think the current dance will soon come to an end,” Guy finally said, finally breaking the silence. “Perhaps we'll find space to dance after this piece, Teresa?”

“Yes, please,” Teresa said in relief, she stepped close to her brother, leaning in to whisper something. And just as quickly as she spoke to Theophylactus, she took Guillaume by the hand and said to Sophie, “Hopefully we’ll see you out there?”

Once Teresa and Guy began to saunter off towards the dance floor, Theoph picked his head up and said, “If you’d like to dance with me, I’d be very grateful… but if not, I understand.”

“Oh, of course,” she said, albeit sheepishly, in a manner uncharacteristic of the princess, “apologies if my comments had made it seem otherwise, but it would be a pleasure.”

“Likewise,” Theophylactus grinned and offered her his hand, which she took graciously, returning the smile. She allowed herself to be led to the ballroom dance floor, where, as Guillaume had expected, the crowd began to clear after the last piece had finished. The two of them took up a place beside Guy and Teresa, where they prepared to be cued by the music.

“Looks like there was more than enough room,” Teresa smiled to Theoph and Sophie as the next piece began.

“Yes, thankfully there was,” Sophie began, starting to move with Theophylactus to the quadrille. I don’t think I could’ve done with standing idly by in awkward silence.
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Postby Lacus Magni » Sun Apr 08, 2018 2:20 pm

“Half and Half”
Palatium Supranio

(Co-written with Ghant)

Now with his brother’s half-sister, Princess Alexia, at his side, Prince Leo made yet another trip to the dance floor. He said little to her during the short walk from Nathan’s table and the dance floor, his sense of awkwardness or caution usually heightened around his half-brother’s maternal siblings. Moments later they reached the floor as a new waltz was just beginning, and Leo placed one hand on her back and the other her hand.

“This is your first dance of the night then?” Leo asked her just as the dance began.

“It is, your Highness,” the honorary princess replied bashfully. “I’m afraid dancing has never been one of my strongest skills, and as such I am shy to demonstrate initiative, generally speaking. Though I am loathe to reject such an invitation,” she smiled. Though Alexia seldom smiled, she had a brilliant row of sparkling white teeth.

“Oh that’s alright, I don’t really consider myself much of a strong dancer either,” he smiled back. “Yet I find myself dancing more often with all of weddings this year.”

Alexia pursed her lips, considering what he had said about weddings. “If I’m not mistaken, the wedding of...Audric and Selene was a rather limited affair. I was not in attendance, though I’ve heard that Selene was a brilliant bride, one fitting for an empire as noble and illustrious as Vannois.”

“Relatively at least. I’m sure if Selene were standing here, she’d prefer we call it exclusive,” he chuckled briefly. “But yes, she was very beautiful that day, as I recall.”

“Nathan was offended that he was not invited, but then again, he is close to neither groom nor bride, and sadly, both seem to think little of him,” Alexia pointed out as she tried to compose her dancing posture. “For both personal and political reasons, I gather.”

“Likely more political than anything…I mean if I had to guess at least” Leo added hastily. “Given the whole Dom situation at least.”

Sighing, Alexia shook her head. “Ah, Dominique, I do pity her. To have to choose between being miserable in Vannois or being ostracized in Ghish. Such is the burden of the highborn, no? To have to live not according to our own devices but by those of the crown, and of the state. In that way, perhaps Dominique is braver than most, for she made that difficult choice, and has accepted its cost.”

“Similar to the choice my mother had to make,” Leo smiled, though his face seemed tense.

“That was before my time.” the Princess watched her feet, for she was often fearful of tripping, as she had a reputation of being clumsy. “And I’m thankful for it, as I have no stomach for courtly intrigues. Though I love my mother dearly, I fear that her perception of the world is...very skewed. Rest assured, I take what she says with a grain of salt, as should everyone really. I do not know your mother nor she me, though I am happy to call your sisters my friends.”

“And I am grateful for that. Good friends are hard to come by, especially in life at court,” Leo nodded, catching Alexia glancing at her feet. “You’re doing well…at dancing, so far.”

“...I say you should knock on wood, but there’s no wood but that upon the floor.” Not wanting to let the compliment go to her head, she slowed down a bit to avoid entangling her feet. “Friendship is constant in all things, save in the office and affairs of love,” Alexia recited the poetry with a stoic expression on her face.

“Is that one of your poems?” Leo quickly looked down to his own feet. “I’ve overheard Didi and Thea mention your knack for poetry.”

Alexia shook her head. “Tis’s classical. Would you like to hear some more?” she asked. “Your sisters at least have an appreciation for poetry...Arietta does not, unfortunately, and has often mocked me for it. Nathan likes it too.”

“I’m not sure if my appreciation will match theirs, but I would like to hear some,” Leo nodded affirmatively.

Closing her eyes as she searched for something to say, Alexia finally recited one for Leo. “Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones;
Who, though they cannot answer my distress,
Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,
For that they will not intercept my tale:
When I do weep, they humbly at my feet
Receive my tears and seem to weep with me;
And, were they but attired in grave weeds,
The Latins could afford no tribune like to these.” When she was done, she looked at Leo thoughtfully, and asked “what do you think about that one?”

“I think that they would be lucky to have such a tribune,” Leo smiled faintly. “Though poetry isn’t quite my forte.”

“What is your forte, then?” Curiosity had gotten the best of her, it seemed.

“Oh…uh, I don’t know,” Leo shrugged his shoulders, and shied away from the question. “…not poetry, I do know that.”

Despite Leo’s hesitation, Alexia giggled slightly. “Well there has to be something...what about fighting, be it with blade or by fisticuffs?”

“Maybe that,” Leo chuckled, “Not that I enjoy it much.”

“Mayhaps you are merely playing coy,” observed the princess. “Not that I can fault you for that, as I’ve been known to do the same. Worry not, you have no reason to be coy with me, because I lack both courtly ambitions and courtly affections. Besides, the dance is long and I fear the conversation being too short to match it.”

“My mother often told me that ‘the Lord detests those who commend themselves’ when I was younger,” Leo stated plainly. “I don’t mean to seem coy, though the words seem to have stuck some.”

Alexia gave him a sheepish look, before telling him that, “there is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? That’s from the Book of Ecclesiastes.”

“I am not familiar with that one,” Leo said, taking a quick look at those dancing around him and Alexia. “My uncle was not overly fond of bible readings or even talk of religion.”

Pursing her lips briefly, Alexia asked Leo, “how much of that was due to his second wife? By most accounts, Empress Zoe has always been an...especially fervent Christian adherent.”

“I’m not sure, I never asked him. It very well could have been though,” Leo shrugged, and then tilted his head slightly. “Have you ever met her?”

“Empress Zoe? I’m afraid not,” she answered politely. “I haven’t met a lot of people...most don’t care to meet me, though I don’t mind. I’ve found that most people can be cruel, and all anyone needs is a few good people around them to help them get by.”

“If that is the case, you’re better off with a few good people you can actually trust,” Leo nodded. “They’re hard to come by, and it’s why I’m grateful for the few good people that remain close. And that my sisters have friends that they may as well consider family. I think I worry about them in Ghish too much, at least Nathan tells me I do.”

Looking around to see if her sister was near, Alexia turned back to Leo and said “if anything, you should worry about Arietta. She drives that hot pink sports car above the speed limit, and generally makes poor choices even still as a married woman. Marriage has tempered her some, but she’s still Arietta, that much is beyond dispute,” she sighed.

“I meant her as well,” Leo said plainly, though began to chuckle. “Honestly, I find it odd she even drives at all actually. Though maybe that is just me living in Latium for too long.”

“Do the highborn in Latium not drive their own cars?” she asked, curiously. “Arietta values her freedom far too much do let other people drive her cars. She says it defeats the entire purpose of having a sports car.”

“I would wager most actually do, unless they hold some role at court or in government,” Leo said after some thought. “The wealthier nobility or royalty might be less inclined. Though if you can believe it, Constantine has never driven before.”

“...Have you?” she wondered aloud.

“Yes, I have,” Leo laughed. “Ser Adrasto let me drive around my mother’s estate when I was probably thirteen. And then some when I was in active service.”

Alexia looked over Leo’s shoulder to see Ser Adrasto off speaking with some other Ghantar. “I see him over there...speaking with Albert and Benoth,” she pointed out. “As I understand, they go way back to Obara’s Great Northern Rebellion. Again, that was before my time...and yours too I imagine.”

“Ah, so I’ve heard,” he nodded, though quickly changed the subject by asking, “How has everything in Ghish been with Nathan away?”

“...It’s been alright, I suppose.” Not really sure how to explain it, Alexia simply said that “Cassandra runs a tight ship...she gives most of us the freedom we’re accustomed to, but she’s mean and snarky, and she keeps tabs on everyone. She’s very concerned about Imperial reputation, you know, and so she doesn’t like it when anyone does stuff she doesn’t like or that she thinks are irresponsible. She’s gotten into it a few times with Arietta, but that’s an example of an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force.”

“I’m sure she means well,” Leo suggested, though didn’t sound entirely convinced himself. “Both of them at least.”

“Well, at least Arietta does, anyway.” Alexia elected to be mum about her thoughts regarding Cassandra’s intentions, not wanting to offend the the wedding by speaking ill of the bride’s sister. “They say that the road to hell is paved with good good habits, those are something to take pride in!”

“And Cassandra?”

Alexia looked at him warily. “You’re really going to make me answer that, aren’t you?”

“You don’t have to, I don’t mean to put you in an awkward spot,” Leo tried to smile politely. “I’ve just been away for awhile now and thinking of visiting soon.”

“...She craves three things. Power, position and prestige. There’s not many things that she wouldn’t do to advance any of those things, but unlike...your cousin Michael, forgive me for saying, she’s very calculating about it, and doesn’t commit herself to too much at once. She takes her time...plays the long game. That’s what makes her so dangerous...she has the patience to wait for the right opportunities, and when they present themselves, she seizes them.”

“Sounds like she already has that, if you ask me,” Leo carefully scanned the ballroom, his eyes landing on the his cousin’s Imperial table.

“Except that the quest for power never ends, my prince,” she pointed out cautiously. “There’s only the accumulation of more and more power, until at last, it consumes you. That’s how it always ends.”

“It sounds like you have a keen eye despite not having the ‘stomach for court’ activities,” Leo said, though nearly stumbled over his own feet before rebalancing himself.

Alexia sighed in resignation. “It’s a dangerous game, my prince, and those aren’t the games that I like to play. I’ll take kerbasi, or chess...but games of intrigue? No, I don’t think so,” she shook her head affirmatively.

“That’s wise,” Leo nodded with a light sigh. “I’d tend to agree with you.”

“...You know, I’ve noticed something about you that’s quite characteristic.” Looking around, Alexia told Leo that “you don’t talk much...which could be because of a few reasons. One is that you’re naturally not much of a conversationalist, which I can sympathize with, as I am not either. The other that is you just don’t have much to say to me. I don’t mind though...most people don’t,” she smiled faintly.

Leo was taken aback by the observation, turning his head slightly as he gave a breath. “I don’t really talk much in general. It certainly isn’t because of you though,” he finished with a smile in return. “But I’ve noticed something about you too. Sometimes you talk like people have a reason to be dismissive of you.”

Alexia chuckled, and replied, “well, that’s because they do! My father is a common-born man, and Nathan refused to elevate him out of spite...they never got along. Part of the reason why I’m still unspoken for, I believe, is because of that stigma. Nothing I can do about it though,” she lamented.

“I can’t speak of your father, I don’t know him well or really at all. But I disagree, I don’t think they do,” Leo nodded with a faint smile. “Notwithstanding your father’s station or reputation, you are observant and intelligent…and the Emperor’s sister. I’m certain there are far more women with fathers of high birth with less.”

“Yes, but how much of that actually matters?” Alexia probed the prince. “You know it’s true just as much as I do...that the highborns are a very dismissive lot, whether it’s Ghant, Lyncanestria, Vannois, Latium, wherever. If that weren’t the case, people would be far more accepting of Dominique’s life choices. She’s happy and is doing well, but who cares? None of that matters...they just see what they want to see.”

“Do you know Anna Kinnamos, the senator? Her father was a commoner, not unlike yours, and her mother is the daughter of a duke. The first time I met her was at a ball, near Alexandria I think, we might have been eleven or twelve. And she was standing all by herself, it didn’t make sense at the time, why this beautiful girl was all alone. So, I approached her and we started talking. Then I found out why. I asked her to dance, and she has been one of my oldest and closest friends ever since. Not all highborns are as dismissive as they seem,” Leo turned his gaze to the floor below and took a deep breath before looking back to Alexia. “As for Dom, I’m afraid that is something else entirely…and too close to home.”

“...I’ve heard the name,” she answered in reference to Anna Kinnamos. “No, not all, but most. As for Dominique, I won’t press for details...poor woman already has enough to deal with this evening.”

“I don’t like saying this, because no one deserves to be treated that way,” Leo began to say after taking a deep breath. “But she knew what would happen when she made her choice, she knew it would be a distraction before she came here.” He pursed his lips briefly, “The same thing happened to my mother, and she did not deserve it either. As far as I can see, Dominique gets on well enough with those in Ghish, and for the time being that might have to do. But it passes, at least for my mother it did.”

Alexia observed that “our mothers have never gotten along...for reasons that you can probably understand. I think that’s likely the reason why I’ve never seen Princess Isabella at court, because she’s fearful of my mother’s barbs. Between you and I, she has a tendency to drive those close to her away due to her prickly nature. Alas, it is as you say...the whims of court are most fleeting. Where one day you are in favor, the next you are not. Such is the nature of the beast, I’m afraid.”

“Mother tries to stay away from Ghish, has for as long as I can remember. Though I can’t say if that is because of your mother or whatever other reasons my mother might have,” Leo smiled politely. “Mother also doesn’t attend court in Latium often either, for what it’s worth.”

“Probably just isn’t her thing, then. Can’t say I blame her.” Alexia was acutely aware of the duration of the dance, and began to think about what she was going to be doing after it ended. “I have not seen her tonight.”

“She’s been with my grandmother most of the night, at least that is where I saw her last.”

Looking around again, Alexia thought she saw them, and said “after this dance you might want to go save them...Teresa is heading that way,” she observed.

“I might have to,” Leo chucked, “Though I don’t think either are easily scared off by Teresa anymore.”

“You see, that’s the thing about Teresa,” observed the princess thoughtfully. “With her you can never know what to expect...except the unexpected.”

“I’m sure grandmother has probably seen enough of Teresa’s tricks to know it’s mostly exaggeration.”

Alexia, grinning sheepishly, replied that “given how soon the dance will be concluded, I’m sure you’re about to find out.”

“I suppose I will,” Leo smiled politely, stepping back from the dancing position once the song came to a close. “It was a pleasure dancing with you, Alexia. Enjoy the rest of your night.” After taking a courteous bow, Leo began to step away from the dance floor and see how his mother, and grandmother were enjoying their time with Caroline.
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Postby Leasath » Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:41 pm

Louis XIX

(Co-written with Latin and Ghant)

Louis -- Audric? Louis? Louis. -- rubbed at his soft, cleanly shaven chin. Sighing, he blinked at the mirror-like window before him and turned on smartly on his heel, taking advantage of the rather slippy dress shoes he had donned to make it all one move. He hadn't wanted to shave his well-trimmed, in his opinion, beard; he always felt like the child he very nearly was when cleanly shaven, but it wouldn't do to look scruffy at the wedding of his still-new brother in law. No, not even his tailored dark blue suit could compensate for any hair out of line, and he had ensured that his usual style was reinforced for this particular occasion.

"That was almost smooth, Your Majesty," Louis's cousin, Charles, Prince of Vierville, muttered at him. "Princess Juliette was staring at you like a piece of meat, you know."

"I could see in the window," Louis replied quietly, adjusting his watch. "Two years older than I, and I'm already married. Aren't we cousins to her anyway? I could have sworn..."

"Oh, aye. One of Charles XI's daughters is her... however many great grandmothers. Not all that close, though I'm actually an even closer cousin than you, I think. Some inter-marriage indeed," Charles scoffed, and out of the corner of his eye, Louis spotted Juliette flinching slightly and moving off to engage with her brother. He took note to speak with her before the end of the festivities; Henry VIII was a difficult man, especially when irritated by his children.

"Have you been eyeing anyone we're not related to, Charles? You and Juliette are of an age, after all..." Louis smiled, eyes flicking to his cousin before looking out into the crowd of people to find his wife speaking with someone or other. His gaze didn't leave her.

"Don't start with that, for the love of -" Charles caught the grin on the Vannoisian sovereign's face, and rolled his eyes. "Good Lord, man. I thought you were going to do a striking impression of my father for a moment, you know." The Prince shook his head, sighing and looking around the room. "This would be the place, wouldn't it? Perhaps someone not from Belisaria? Though I'd rather be able to speak in Latin or Audonais, really..."

"Could be a Sydalene about, you know. Otherwise I might just concede to our friends from Moieux... or Vendanne... Mayhaps Meritaine?" Louis cocked his head, raising an eyebrow.

"Isn't the only unmarried Princess of Vendanne younger than Marie-Madeleine?"

"For me to know, and you to find out, if God looks upon me favorably," Louis said, and both men dissolved into laughter. After a moment, Louis clapped a hand onto his cousin's shoulder. "Really, though, Charles. Look around. You're young, aye, but Henry VIII and his daughter won't wait forever."

"Alright, alright. I think your wife is headed this way anyway, so I'll leave you to it," Charles nodded his head and walked off, spotting Louis's younger sister Madeleine and waving her and a few of their mutual cousins over.

Selene was indeed walking towards Louis, smiling and delicately waving to a few of those she passed by, even the off hug to one other person she crossed paths with just before reaching her husband. “Oh my, I thought Violant would never stop talking,” she said to Louis once she stood near him, speaking of her elder and bastard, half-sister Margot-Violant de Aultavilla. “I swear you get her talking on the right topic and she would keep going well past the end of time.”

“I feel we know far too many people who match that description,” Louis murmured in response, brushing shoulders with his wife as he grinned slightly. “I know I told you earlier, my love, but you look beautiful.”

As she was known for at Latin court, and now Vannoisian court, Selene was rarely outdone when it came to fashion – or at rarely least admitted to such. For the occasion, she wore her trademark dirty blonde hair up in a low bun, with a fiery red, lace gown featuring stylized cut outs of swans along the bodice and ruffled tiers down the floor-length skirt. Selene sidled up to Louis, offering a warm smile, “Where is Charles off too? I feel like I’ve hardly seen him since we arrived.”

“Dear cousin Charles is off to find his future wife, or some such nonsense. I should hope that he’s only using my sisters in order to find the best candidate, rather than choose one of our other cousins. Awkward business,” Louis joked, moving to Selene’s side to place a hand low on her back. “Though better some distant relation than, say, a Nekulturnyan. I’m sure we could weather that scandal with a little more grace.”

“Better some Meritainan fool than a Nekulturnyan. You know Anastasia is part Nekulturnyan, I guess that explains a few things doesn’t it,” Selene giggled, softly placing a hand on Louis’s chest. “But Charles should have his pick of the crowd, no? He is a very handsome man, just like you,” she leaned forward to give Louis a quick peck on the cheek, “Do you have anyone in mind for him?”

“You’ve certainly got a point there,” Louis laughed quietly. “I can’t say I understand your brother, but he seems quite happy. As for Charles, you are also right,” the Vannoisian waved a hand at the assembled party. “Surely he could charm any woman he found himself interested in, though certainly none as beautiful and charming as you.” Louis smiled down at his wife before turning his head back to the party, thinking.

“I don’t think I’d foist him off onto any of the vassals, Moieux or Sarrove. And considering the Ghantish situation… no, definitely nothing there, either--” Louis resisted the urge to scan the party-goers for his cousin, Dominique, “-- I’ve heard good things about Princess Rhea; and of course Melisende, as godly as any man or woman,” and Louis trailed off for a moment. “I’m half-sure he’ll make any choice long before I make a suggestion, anyway, and even more sure that I’ll approve of whomever that choice is. Charles never does disappoint.”

“Oh, cousin Mel! Lord above knows she is desperate for a good match after the embarrassment she suffered because of that homosexual Godfrey. Charles would be good for her, I think. And I guess she’s pretty. Rhea on the other hand I don’t know all that well, but by all accounts she is lovely to be around,” Selene said with glee and a grin. But then she tapped her chin, “Though I would miss Charles if he were to marry Mel and move to Sydalon. He is one of your closest friends, and I am quite fond of him and his presence at court.”

“Bad, bad business, all of that. Godfrey was a real fool… And, of course, Charles would be a fine husband and consort to Mel,” Louis nodded his head once, acceding to Selene’s last sentence. “It would be tough, to have him away. I feel I can truly rely on rather few people nowadays, Emperor or not, and he is one of the ones I trust implicitly. Perhaps it would be worth finding more out about Rhea. I’m sure we’ve met at least once, all things considered, but I can’t really recall anything especially.”

Louis looked over the mingling party again, now looking for what he recalled Rhea to look like, but it was useless; if they had met, it was some time ago, and since then he had only seen photos. He did spot the Vannoisian political contingent -- a mess of government members and first ministers from the constituent kingdoms -- looking rather out-of-place, and smiled slightly. Other than that, however, it was essentially business as usual.

“Say, darling, I think we might make it a goal to find Rhea and bring her near Charles somewhere. I wouldn’t take his choice from him entirely, but a little strategic placement never hurt anybody,” Louis smiled down at Selene again. “Somehow I feel it will bring us back to certain people who don’t know when to stop talking of themselves, but it may be worth the trouble.”

“You know I can’t say no to you, love,” Selene smiled up to him in agreement. She took a cursory glance around the hall before saying, “We might start by talking to Violant, of all people. I believe she knows Rhea far better than most. Perhaps we could use my sister as an in.”

“That would be fine; I’m sure she can’t be far off, considering we’re all…” Louis waved a hand, “... here. Where did you last see Violant? I’ve only just spotted some Ghantish prince sauntering up to a gaggle of my cousins; I’m sure that will go swimmingly.”

“Have mercy, there are just so many of them…mother told me that Kostas had to invite them or else it would be seen as insulting,” Selene shook her head before recalling Louis’s question. “Oh, and um, she and I were chatting over by the family table. I’d be shocked if she weren’t there still. Shall we?”

“They give my own family a run for its money… Well, I say that. The Imperial accounts tell otherwise,” Louis said with a grin that had hints of a grimace. There seemed to be an infinite number of cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts and uncles, and more that came out of the woodwork and into the Imperial Palace each time they left. He shook his head, saying, “Thank God, anyway, that our wedding had no such requirements.” Taking a breath as if to prepare himself, the Vannoisian nodded to his wife, taking her hand. “Lead the way, if you would. I’m sure we’re in for an utterly riveting conversation.”

Selene led her husband through the throngs of people, doing her best to avoid those she knew well so not to get drawn into pointless conversation with some fifth cousin, but as she did she took to his side and said, “Have you given any thought to my suggestion? On perhaps being a bit less...loose with the accounts.”

“Of course I have, love,” Louis replied, giving requisite head nods and smiles of acknowledgement to passing nobles and certain royals. “I put it by the treasurer, and my chief of staff… some slight changes to the distribution of allowances might not go awry. Not to mention, of course, finding some new homes for our itinerant cousins who seem to think they have a right to the Imperial Palace because Charles X was their ten times great-uncle,” he said rather sarcastically. “How my own grandfather dealt with it, I shall never know. Nor do I think I want to.”

“Father always said you take care of your own first, after that, loyalty — just as he did with Uncle Theodosius. But no matter what, I know you’ll do what’s best. You always do,” she flashed a dovey smile. Soon after, they came upon Selene’s half-sister, who was speaking with yet another one of their many distant cousins, Marcia Anicia — the youngest daughter of Nicephorus Anicius, 3rd Duke of Ossonoba.

“I hope we’re not intruding, Vio,” Selene said to her sister before turning to Marcia with a gleeful smile. “Marica, is that you? My it has been so, so long hasn’t it? And where are my manners, this is my husband Louis,” she stood close with her hand locked with his. “Audric, you remember my sister, and this is Marcia, my….what are we third cousins? It’s no matter, our father’s were close friends.”

“Your Majesty,” Margot-Violant curtsied with a smile. As did Marcia, who brushed her brownish-blonde hair back behind her ear following her curtsey. She was an inch or so taller than Selene, with slender, more athletic frame.

“Of course, Violant. A pleasure, as always,” Louis replied with a polite nod. “Lady Marica, I am always glad to meet the daughter of a good man. I am sure your father is that and more, if he was a friend of my late father-in-law,” and the Vannoisian seemed to speak with some conviction in his tone, rubbing the back of Selene’s hand clasped in his own with a thumb. “How are you both? Well, I hope?”

“Quite well, Your Majesty,” Marcia nodded with a smile.

“Indeed. We were just discussing Maria and Thomas,” Margot-Violant said, referring to her and Selene’s speaking sister and Marcia’s elder brother. “That and equestrian.”

“Oh, sounds interesting,” Selene feigned interest.

“Not terribly actually, Maria and Thomas keep things a bit tight-lipped. It doesn’t leave much room for gossip, just pointless speculation” Marcia chuckled. “What about you two, what brings you our way?”

“Ah, yes,” Louis interjected with a smile, “we were wondering if you might point us in the direction of the Princess Rhea? I think I should like to introduce her to my dear cousin, Charles of Vierville. Selene has told me that she is a most genuine and kind woman,” he finished, and out of the corner of his eye noticed Charles speaking again with his sister Madeleine and what looked to be their cousin, Stephanié. At least give it an attempt, cousin, or I really will approach Juliette of Moieux for you, he thought, and nearly murmured something alluding to that fact to his wife before batting away the thought in favor of listening to the two Latin women before him.

“Oh, they would be so cute together,” Margot-Violant smiled, looking around the ballroom quickly. “I saw her not long after you left, Selene, but we didn’t talk. I think she went…”

“I see her, she’s over with her father and your mother, Vio,” Marcia was the first to spot Rhea near a group of Sydalene tables. “In the rose gold, floor-length dress.”

“Who’s that boy she’s talking to,” Selene said with a slightly annoyed voice.

“That would be her brother,” Margot-Violant laughed.

Louis smothered a grin, managing to nod with some composure before saying, “Thank you both, my ladies. I think it would do us both good to go and meet the Princess and her brother before we drag Charles over, don’t you think, love?” He had turned to Selene, eyes still sparkling slightly from the moment before. “I’m sure she’s lovely, but just in case…”

“I think that sounds marvelous, love,” Selene smiled to her husband, seemingly forgetting about her sister and Marcia around them as she reached up a hand to his cheek while pulling him in for a kiss.

“You two are adorable,” Margot-Violant stifled a giggle, along with Marcia.

Selene looked to the girls afterwards as her cheeks grew red from excitement. She ran her hand over her lips to recompose herself. “I think we’ll be off to see Princess Rhea. Thank you so much for pointing her out, I think we’ll be off to see her,” Selene smiled with sincerity. “We’ll have to bump into each other again, Marcia, it’s been too long.”

“I’d like that,” Marcia raised her glass slightly. “And if things don’t work out with her and your cousin Charles, Your Majesty, perhaps you’d approve if I asked him to dance,” she finished with a playful wink.

“You would be more than welcome, my lady. I am sure he would enjoy your company immensely,” Louis responded, nodding his head respectfully as he moved to leave with Selene. “Until later, then?”

“Your Majesty,” both girls said with a curtsey in unison.

“I can’t believe Marica was that forward about Charles. You’d think she was looking forward to ride him like a horse,” Selene giggled once they were a short distance away from the two girls. “I mean, do she and Charles even know one another? That was just so strange.”

Louis laughed at the thought, though he wiped it from his mind before he could imagine the actual situation. “She did seem quite eager, but Charles is a good-looking man; I’m sure there’s more than a few Vannoisian ladies, at least, that would jump at the chance to be courted by him whether for himself or his name,” he said, half-smile still on his face. “As for whether they know each other -- I doubt it. I know Charles has gone to those equestrian events she does so well at, but I don’t think he’s actually met with any of the riders, especially those that aren’t Vannoisian.”

“Hmm, perhaps she would be a good reserve then. She does come from a good family,” Selene shrugged her shoulders at the thought, though took it no further. She held onto Louis’s hand rather tightly as they weaved through the crowd and make their way to the Sydalene Princess Rhea. Nearing on the girl’s table, Selene said, “Rhea does have a certain beauty to her, doesn’t she? Not overly Aradian like you might expect someone with so little Belisarian heritage.” After a momentary pause she added, “I believe her father is a Captain-General of Ascalzar. If you’d like to talk business with him, that is.”

“She is fair, of course. Certainly takes after the royal family rather than that of her mother,” Louis mused. “She does have the look to be wife of my right hand… And I trust you to be the judge of her person otherwise, sweetheart. I know nobody better to figure out the truth of such matters,” he smiled at Selene. “I might take a second to speak with the Captain-General -- Prince Renartus, yes? -- if only to see how he and Ascalzar fare, and give you a moment to talk to Rhea without the Emperor of Vannois looming over your shoulder.”

Selene smiled gleefully at Louis’s words, replying, “Mhmm, yes it’s Renatrus, dear.” She composed herself over the final steps, adjusting her posture before coming upon Princess Rhea and her father Prince Renartus. Apparently the Sydalenes grew aware of the Vannoisian Imperial couple’s approach, as Renartus quickly motioned to his daughter and seemingly shooed his son away. Selene leaned towards Louis and whispered, “Someone was prepared.”

“It seems so,” Louis replied at a similar level. “Smart enough, then,” he smiled. In another moment, they were standing before the Sydalenes, and Louis broadened his smile for the two left standing before him.

“Captain-General, it is a pleasure; this is your daughter, Princess Rhea?” Louis greeted. “Allow me to introduce myself; I am Louis de Niort-Parthenay, Emperor of Vannois, and this is my darling Empress-consort, Selene. I am glad to make your acquaintance, sir.”

“A pleasure,” Selene smiled politely, extending her hand towards Prince Renartus.

“Your Imperial Majesties,” Renatrus gave a slight bow of his head before lightly kissing the back of Selene’s hand. “Yes, this is my eldest daughter Princess Rhea of Rema,” she gave a customary, yet elegant curtsey, returning with a smile upon her face. “I hope you will pass my congratulations along to your brother and sister-in-law, Empress Selene. I don’t expect he’ll have time to be congratulated by everyone in attendance. Nor will he want to, I know I didn’t at my own wedding.”

“I’d be honored to do so, Your Highness,” Selene flashed a smile. “And Princess Rhea, I just adore just adore your dress,” she began, finally letting go of Louis’s hand and taking a small step towards the Sydalene. “The color looks remarkable on you.”

“Thank you, yours as well,” Princess Rhea said, though somewhat shyly.

“Truly, quite lovely,” Louis said, slightly absently as he smiled toward his wife and the Sydalene. “Ah, Captain-General, I had hoped to steal a moment of your time for business if you will permit? I would ask how beautiful Ascalzar fares,” the Vannoisian said, locking in on Rhea’s father and turning his tone half-serious in the atmosphere of the party. “I hear snippets from my advisers all the time, of course, and all seems quite well; but who knows when I shall get to ask the full account of things from the man himself?”

“Of course, I’d be happy to–” Prince Renartus began, turning himself in Louis’s direction, allowing Selene to slink in near Rhea.

“Have you been to Adrianople before, Rhea? Oh! I’m so sorry, may I call you Rhea or do you prefer Princess Rhea?” Selene nearly gasped at catching her slight mistake.

“No…I mean no I have not been to Adrianople,” Rhea smiled meekly, adding, “And yes, please, Your Majesty, Rhea is fine.”

“Well you must call me Selene then. I insist,” said softly, finding Rhea to nod in reply. “Though Adrianople is a lovely city, no? My family spend so much time here growing up, so it is so refreshing to home again. You reside in Ostracine, is it?”

“I do, well sometimes, I do,” Rhea appeared to be trying her best to converse with Selene despite her shyness. “Right now I mostly reside in Ascalzar with my father…since I finished school that is.”

“Oh, where do you attend?”

“Rhodes College at Alexandria,” Rhea replied quickly.

“I loveAlexandria,” Selene said, playfully gripping onto Rhea’s arm, causing both girls to laugh. “I nearly went to University of Alexandria myself, but...can you keep this between us girls?” she leaned in towards Rhea, “I didn’t get in, so I went to Haenna instead.”

“Haenna is a great school though –”

“Oh it certainly is, I miss it dearly, though Saint-Nazaire is heavenly as well,” Selene smiled.

“Has it been difficult to adjust to life there?” Rhea seemed to say with a bit more confidence in er voice.

“You’d think not because I did nearly all of my secondary schooling there, but moving anywhere permanently is bound to be frightening,” Selene said with a light sigh. “Luckily I’ve managed to make quick friendships with many of my dear husband’s close friends. That has made things far more manageable – cousin Charles, for example. Well he’s not my cousin, but my husband’s. How about Ascalzar? I’ve only been a few times, though I was very young. But I hear Ascalene men are very handsome, though I’m sure you’re not hurting in that area.”

“Oh, I…” Selene caused Rhea to stumble over her words some. But the girl nodded anyway, “It was difficult at first, but everyone was very welcoming and yes, the men are very handsome indeed. Your husband’s –”

“Call him Louis,” Selene interrupted with a smile.

“Louis’s cousin Charles, is that Charles of Vierville?” Rhea spoke while Selene nodded in approval. “I believe my father met with him and some others briefly on his most recent Belisarian visit.”

“I’m sure he did, Louis and Charles may as well be brothers. Thick as thieves those too, though each far kinder than thieves,” Selene laughed rather loudly, even to her own surprise, with Rhea joining in. “And can you believe that he is unattached. I’ve oft told him, ‘Charles, if you keep waiting all the quality women will be snatched up by lesser men.’ But it may as well be coming from a sister when I say such things. Are you courting anyone, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not currently, no,” Rhea gave a nod. “I was seeing someone at Alexandria, but we ended things.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Selene said affectionately before sprouting another smile. “I’ll tell you what, the next time Mel comes to Vannois, or if you’d like to come visit Saint-Nazaire, you’re more than welcome. Have your people contact my private secretary anytime you’d like to visit.”

“I’d like that very much, I certainly will soon,” Rhea smiled back to Selene.

“- and I am really quite glad to hear that, Renartus. I must schedule a state visit soon to your beautiful country; it has been too long,” Louis finished, shaking hands with Rhea’s father and returning to his wife’s side. “I hope your conversation was as pleasant as our own, my ladies? I fear I did promise Selene a dance or ten, begging your pardons,” he smiled at Rhea and Renartus in turn. “We shall take our leave, and speak again very soon, I’m sure?”

“Of course, Your Majesty. I looked forward to our next encounter,” Prince Renatrus said, returning the handshake.

“It certainly was, darling,” Selene sidled up to her husband, wrapping an arm around his waist. “And I mean it, Rhea, any time you like, you’re more than welcome to visit.”

“Thank you, Selene,” Rhea smiled before curtsied one last time.

Selene smiled once more, “Enjoy the rest of your night.”

After the Imperial couple walked away from the Sydalenes, Selene looked to Louis and said, “How was your chat with Renartus, exhilarating?”

“Well, as exhilarating as a conversation about Ascalzar’s geopolitical situation can be. He seems a good man, all the same.” Louis paused, letting out a breath and smiling at his wife. “Your conversation with Rhea?”

“It took her a moment to come out of her shell, but she’s sweet. I like her, I think I could see us becoming friends even,” Selene looked up to Louis, then took his hand and gave it a pull. “Now come on, you promised me, what was it, a dance or ten?”

Louis laughed, allowing Selene to pull him forward. “I am happy to hear that, darling, and even happier to know you remember me word-for-word. I believe I should say that I promised as many as you would like,” he said gladly, and joined her alongside the other couples dancing.
Last edited by Leasath on Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Seredinia | Vannois
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Founded: Aug 06, 2006

Postby Leasath » Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:41 pm

(Co-written with Latin and Ghant)

Princess Catherine of Vannois glanced around the room slowly. She was sure to take in the exits and entrances; which ones were most often used, and which weren't; which ones she would have to pass her brother to get to, and which were free of that particular shadow. Once she had satisfied herself with that chore, she moved on to taking a look at the guards and servants moving through the room.

If her younger sister and cousins and the assorted Princesses that had come along on the trip noticed her lack of attention to them, they didn’t seem to care. Her younger sister, Marie-Madeleine, had taken over the duties of being the face of Louis XIX’s 4 maiden sisters quite well; wearing a flashy red gown that criss-crossed like lattice over her torso, she was rather stunning, even next to Catherine’s admittedly more muted light blue gown. She was, at the moment, entertaining a rather dour looking Juliette of Moieux. That can’t spell good news for Audric, Catherine mused. Henry VIII was insulted enough when the girl couldn’t snag the Crown Prince at St. Vincent’s… Disappointing her again will get back to him.

In another world, or time, Catherine might have taken to Juliette at this moment. She might have consoled her, granted her some of her time alone, allowed her to share some concerns and done the same in kind. In another world, Catherine would have helped her Imperial brother in his task to rule and to babysit his vassal Kings.

This was not that world.

“Cath?” One of the girls, not a cousi- wait, no this was a cousin, just not a Niort-Parthenay. Valérie of Auxonne was a rather plump young thing, but exceedingly sweet. Her smile towards Catherine was almost blindingly white, and the elder Princess couldn’t help but half-smile back.

“Yes, I’m sorry my darling. What is it?”

“Audrey was just asking whether you saw any Princes or Dukes or anyone, really, that you quite liked the look of? Maybe someone from when you were visiting Castellum? We thought you were looking for someone in particular, really…” Valérie trailed off with a shy smile, and though Catherine internally sighed at the question -- reliving her last visit to Latium was not something she especially wanted to do -- she smiled mysteriously outwardly.

“Perhaps there is some dark prince out there I am looking for, my dear. Shall I give you a hint?” Catherine raised a delicate eyebrow -- a slightly maddening trait of her and her siblings, she had been told -- at both the younger girls, and caught the attention of the others around her; they hadn’t heard Catherine of Vannois talking about a boy since before the War.

“Oh, please do, sister! I’ve been trying to guess for ages, but all your tells are gone!” Marie-Madeleine pleaded playfully, clasping her elder sister’s pale upper arm. “All I know is, it’s not a Vannoisian; right?”

“No, it’s no Vannoisian. Not that your brother’s aren’t lovely,” Catherine reassured the unrelated girls at the table, sending them into fits of giggles, “but it was, in fact, someone I’ve met before. Not a Vannoisian, nor a Latin, nor… hmm, nor a Lyncanestrian, though I don’t want to give too much away.” Catherine scanned the room again for a moment, spotting the target of her monologue. She noted that the girls were rather busily whispering amongst themselves, ignoring what would be the greatest hint she could offer, and it brought a small smile to her eyes.

After a few moments of discussion, the girls -- who had appointed young Valérie as their spokeswoman, apparently -- had come to some decision.

“If he’s not Vannoisian, Latin, or Lind- oh, no, I mean Lyncanestrian. Uh, if he’s none of those,” Valérie stopped again, shaking her head. “He’s either not Belisarian, or Lihnidosi, and we think he’s not Lihnidosi. You said he was a Prince, right?”

“I did say that, I think. If not, well, yes. He is a Prince,” Catherine responded, nodding along. “I’ll say no more until you have names, dears.” That sent the girls back into their frenzied whispers, and Catherine caught the names of the Lyncanestrian Crown Prince -- Do they take me for a liar? she smiled to herself -- as well as assorted Lihnidosi, Sydalenes, and the Ghantish. The girls seemed focused on Belisarians solely, which served to make Catherine roll her eyes in amusement.

“Is he Gha-” Valérie was cut off by a laugh from another cousin, Charles of Vierville’s sister, Audrey.

“Of course he isn’t Ghantish, Val. Don’t forget Dominique is here, for God’s sake,” Audrey scoffed lightly. There was some tittering from the rest of the girls, and Catherine almost wished her great-grandmother would make a sudden appearance.

Soon enough, there seemed to be some other consensus choice cobbled together by the girls, and Catherine had noticed that their rather heated talk had turned away more than a few young men who might have asked the girls for a dance, or at least conversation. She decided to put an end to things after this last.

“He’s obviously not Belisarian, we think, and probably not from Oxidentale, and definitely going to be Fabrian or Alban, so…” Valérie listened closely to her cousin Marie-Paule for a moment, nodding seriously in the way children do. “Is it Prince-”

“It’s always a prince.” The man who approached the Vannoisians was tall, strapping and well dressed in an Imperial Ghantish court uniform complete with white gloves and a gold-trimmed black cape. That was where his admirable characteristics ended. Appearing roughly the age of forty, his hair was thick and brown, curling in wavy tips at the ends. His head was round like a melon, with beady blue eyes and a wide nose. He had a potbelly and a duck-waddle to his step. He clumsily tried to conceal a wine stain on his jacket.

The man bowed to the young women, and introduced himself as “Prince Peter of Ghant, if you’d excuse me. Tales of the magnificent Princess Catherine of Vannois are spread far and wide, and I just had to see this princess for myself. Truly, the tall tales are, in fact, very short, and in any event, they do not do the real princess any justice at all!” he laughed gingerly, and like a mule.

“Prince Peter. A pleasure, of course,” Catherine responded gamely, caught slightly off guard by the sudden appearance of the Ghantish man. How did I let my guard down so quickly, she wondered internally, placing the blame for a guilty moment on her cousins and sister before shaking the thought from her mind. “You are far too kind, my Prince,” she said steadily, a small smile gracing her features. Her brown eyes glittered, though any who knew her well would notice that it was not with any special warmth that she looked upon Peter.

“Which fool Gentry is this, then,” Princess Stephanié, sister to Dominique, muttered under her breath rebelliously, though likely only loud enough for Catherine and one or two other cousins to hear her directly. Before she could turn back to give a glare to her cousin, however, the eldest Vannoisian Princess heard a shuffle behind her.

“If you will excuse us, my prince, my cousin and I are rather parched. Come along, Steph,” Marie-Madeleine murmured respectfully, her elfin features graced with a smile though her face was slightly flushed -- whether from irritation or embarrassment, it was hard to tell. Her hand was like a vice on Stephanié’s arm, Catherine noticed, but she disregarded it.

“Of course, Madeleine. Ah, Prince Peter -- it is a surprise to me that we have not met before, at all. I wonder if you might have ever visited Vannois?” Catherine spoke, doing what she could to swiftly move on from the situation.

Peter gave a tip of his hands with a toothy grin. “My princess, there isn’t a Prince of Ghant that hasn’t been to Vannois,” the prince laughed merrily. “Any prince that hasn’t would surely never heard the end of it.” Anxiously, Peter rubbed the ring on his ringfinger. “My wife is a great fan of Vannois, as is my oldest son...I understand you know him?”

“I wish that I could say the same of your country, my prince; I have wanted to visit Ghant for many years,” Catherine replied with a polite laugh, implicitly acknowledging the charm her home nation seemed to hold for so many foreigners. For me, once, too, she thought.

At the mention of Paul, her back straightened imperceptibly, and a sparkle of authenticity may have appeared upon her face. “Prince Paul, of course. He is a gentleman, most certainly; it was a pleasure to travel with him -- though of course, under the circumstances all things were strained. I hope you know that he acted with great care for myself and the other ladies of the expedition,” Catherine spoke honestly. Though she could not recall much about Latium or of the War with any fondness, Paul had been kind to her as well as Constantia and the others. Since her return to Vannois, the Ghantish prince had intruded on her thoughts with increasing frequency.

As the Princess and Peter said their hello’s, a number of the Vannoisian women dispersed; Marie-Paule dragged the Moieuxian Juliette off to speak with some young Latin men -- though the latter woman’s eye strayed to the Vannoisian Emperor and his wife more than once -- while Marie-Noëlle of Vendanne had also wandered off after Marie-Madeleine and the likely cowed Stephanié. Only young Valérie of Auxonne remained, clutching Catherine’s hand and smiling up at her elder cousin every so often.

Peter smiled at the mention of his son’s noble deeds. “Of course, your Highness, I would have expected nothing less of my good son Paul. Dutiful he’s always been, and very much his mother’s son,” he explained, carefully scratching the side of his nose, dangerously close to the nostril. “He has spoken of you very highly, as though you were the golden maiden herself. Though if you don’t mind me saying, my own lady wife is the golden maiden,”[/i] he laughed again.

Catherine laughed lightly, smiling at the Ghantish prince. “He is far too kind, just as you are. I would very much like to seek him out later on and test the truth of this praise,” she said, and changed the subject before she could blush. “You must love your lady wife very much to praise her so. It is a nice thing to hear; so many marriages amongst people like us, in our station, do not share that kind of warmth.”

“If I must admit,” Peter coughed into his hand, “she sought me out, though I have never considered myself worthy of such a bride. I am a fortunate man, good luck favored me, and that my mother found it an acceptable arrangement. Perhaps if I were a bit greater in the Imperial structure, I wouldn’t have had such freedom, but alas, I am but the first son of a fourth son of an Emperor of Ghant.” Suddenly and violently, Peter sneezed, only barely having enough time to bring his handkerchief to his nose. “Oh, these allergies...damn spores.”

“What an intriguing story! That’s really rather rare in Vannois, but all things considered…” Catherine thought for a moment on Paul’s station, and her own as the Emperor’s sister, before dismissing both. She could do all she wanted so long as it wasn’t with a bastard, or Nathan; Paul was probably a more agreeable candidate for her hand than most to those that cared about such things. Like it matters what Audric wants, anyway, she thought. “It makes your relationship all the more special. I must hope that I shall have such choice as well,” she continued, readying herself to ask after Paul’s whereabouts before the Prince sneezed.

“Oh, dear, going outside wouldn’t help would it? Perhaps some water? I can call over a servant,” Catherine said, having jumped slightly as the Ghantish man sneezed, and the little cousin next to her did the same.

“...It wouldn’t help, your’s without remedy.” A singing feminine voice called out, and from behind the Ghantish prince emerged a tall, willowy woman wearing a brilliant white and green gown. Her skin was fair and peppered with dark freckles, while her wavy chestnut brown hair was bobbed and bunned. Though an older woman, her face still shined with the radiance of youthful beauty, punctuated by flickering blue-grey eyes. “Excuse my husband, your Highness...he’s always been sensitive to such weather as this.”

Peter gleamed at the sight of his wife, and introduced her to Catherine. “Your Highness, may I have the pleasure of introducing my wife, Lady Amie Voor.”

“A pleasure, likewise,” she curtsied properly and deeply. “Such a beautiful young woman! I am beside myself as we speak, that you are not under constant harassment from eligible young bachelors! What trickery is this!” she exclaimed, with a sense of incredulity. “Such nonsense...these young fools must be blind!”

Catherine had been enticed to smile quite quickly upon seeing the wife of her conversational companion, and was taken aback by the look of her as compared to Prince Peter. Sparing a quick thought for the veracity of true love, she spoke lightly though respectfully. “I am glad to meet you, madam. You share a trait of great kindness with your husband and son, I can tell,” Catherine said, face alight with a grin. “I cannot speak to the whims of young men, though I must admit that being the Vannoisian Emperor’s eldest sister has put off one or another suitor in the past.” She finished with a cheery laugh, as she had been wont to do rather more nervously when talking about men and suitors before the Latin campaign.

Despite all of that, though, her reaction was almost genuine. Something in the blood with Paul’s family, it’s all rather sweet, she thought, shelving the idea before she could become consumed by it.

In any event, though she had been surrounded by only women through the current festivities, Catherine had been approached by a number of Vannoisian suitors when at court in Saint-Nazaire. Once she confided this in an exhausted fashion to Charles of Vierville, though, they had suddenly become far more withdrawn. While she didn’t know what her cousin had relayed to Audric, she felt guilty to be grateful to him. She used to delight in the boys that chased her hand, and yet just now that she was coming in to her womanhood almost all of them felt wrong.

Paul discreetly tried to pick his nose, but a dignified gaze from his wife dissuaded him from pressing the endeavor. “...So...uh...have you seen Paul recently?”

“Yes, I just came from over there,” Lady Voor answered resplendently. “He’s finishing a dance with his sister. Such a dutiful prince, my Paul. How many men do you know would eschew mingling with pretty eligible princesses like you to entertain their sister for a dance?” she asked Catherine with a raised eyebrow, before shaking her head once. “Few, I’d imagine.”

“Few indeed,” Catherine replied. Perhaps her brother, once, before, but those days were over for her. “I should catch him for the next song; it has been too long since I last saw him, and I must thank him in person for his conduct during the Latin campaign. I am sure you know, madame, that he was a perfect gentleman to all of the ladies in that endeavor. The more I learn of him, the more that seems to be his usual behavior,” the Vannoisian princess finished. She turned slightly to her cousin, who had detached herself from Catherine some time ago. “Valérie, darling, go and find Madeleine, would you? Tell her that Stephanié is fine so long as she takes a breath. She’ll know what I mean,” Catherine murmured. “Thank you.”

“Of course, cous,” the younger girl responded with a broad, unchecked smile -- far removed from even the most genuine of Catherine’s pearly white smiles -- before walking off at a quick pace towards Madeleine’s last known whereabouts. The young girl’s obvious struggle not to break out in to a run -- ingrained by common courtesy and lessons in deportment, of course -- brought a renewed smile to the elder Princess’s face.

“Perhaps if I can engage Paul, monsieur et madame, you might join us to dance? It is one of my most favorite things, even if the dances at these functions can be quite… proper.” Catherine cocked her head ever so slightly, something she had been told enhanced her ‘innocent charm’ in the past. “I must see if Paul has learned his own technique from his mother or his father, after all,” she finished with a laugh.

“Paul’s always been a good man, even when he was a boy,” Amie laughed, while Peter began to stray listlessly. “Of course, like I said I’m sure he’s on his way over here as we speak...if you ask me he should hurry up and not drag his feet...I taught him not to do that on the floor,” she added teasingly. “Enough about that for now though...please, your Highness, tell me more about you?”

“Oh, of course,” Catherine responded. “I am sure that your teachings are heeded by him.” The Princess smiled, and cleared her throat lightly before continuing. “I can assure you that I am not so interesting as certain Vannoisian papers might have you think; I like some things, dislike others, and try to keep those dislikes out of the spotlight so as not to offend,” she began, tone lilting. “There are a few non-profit agencies that I am rather devoted to, mostly welfare and poverty organizations based in Saint-Nazaire and Royaumeix. Other than that,” Catherine trailed for a moment, and her shoulders twitched slightly in a shrug. “Other than that, I suppose I am quite fond of reading and writing, of history and of fiction; our continent has a wealth of muses from which to jump off.” She laced her fingers together in front of her at waist-height, smiling. “Do you have any interest in such things, Prince Peter? Princess?”

“I share those interests, actually,” smiled Lady Voor, flashing pearly white teeth. “As for Peter...well, he likes hunting. Doesn’t matter what the game is. Grouse, pheasant, buck, you name it,” she laughed. “In fact, that’s most of what he does. I find such sport to be rather can get cold and dirty quickly. I cannot in good conscious recommend such pursuits to ladies of refinement.” While she said this, Peter was still listlessly meandering off, oblivious to the conversation.

“I am glad to hear that you do, madam. I find so few other ladies interested in such things as opposed to dance and the like,” Catherine spoke sincerely. “I have heard that hunting can be quite the experience, but I have avoided such things. My father was really very fond of it all but… ah, my brother did not inherit that particular trait, of course. I thank you for your warning,” the Princess smiled, though it seemed rather more strained than previously. Pray that Audric had inherited that trait, over those parts of Father that he actually did, she thought sadly, I could have borne such a burden better.

“What the Lady didn’t tell you,” a slithering voice called out from the crowd, “is that beasts don’t make the best game.” Like a prairie dog, Peter perked up, and then tried to fade away. The man that approached them cast a long shadow. Despite being of average height, he cut an imposing figure, of note were his brown-grey eyes, like rusted metal, rough and sharp. His hair was brown like mud, thick and bushy. His skin was fair, marked with the occasional freckle, especially on his broad nose.

Lady Voor curtsied stiffly. “Prince Richard. A pleasure.”

Richard smirked devilishly, and extended his arms. He was lavishly dressed, nearly as well as the Emperor of Ghant would have been, marking him for a man of very high rank within the Ghantish Imperial Family. “Isn’t it always, Amie? Everywhere I go, people say it’s a pleasure,” he responded with a sarcastic tone. Then, like a chameleon, his eyes turned to Catherine. “And this is Princess Catherine of Vannois, is it not? Now, I’ve heard a lot about you, your Highness.”

Catherine had been rather taken aback at the manner of the man before her at first; she recognized him as Prince Richard of Ghant, father of the bride and one of the more prominent Gentry family members. Also well-renowned for a number of interesting habits and the like, she knew.

All the same, she was sure to smile invitingly, white teeth flashing. “Congratulations upon this day, Prince Richard. I’m sure you are very proud. I am Catherine of Vannois, as you have guessed,” the Princess replied. She had not been especially fond of his tone almost immediately, already having grown a tad fond of Paul’s mother, but decided that when conversing with Gentries it was best to remain as cordial as possible; Vannois and Ghant had enough strife caused by their families. “Empress Anastasia was radiant; I am sure that her and Constantine shall be very happy together.”

“You’re sure, are you?” Richard asked peeringly, while Lady Voor seemed to have frozen in place, her face stoic like a statue. “I tend to not take pride in things, your they say, pride comes before the fall...and I am not so fond of falling.” Extending his hand to Catherine, he said, “come, let’s dance, shall we?”

With a cough into her hand, Amie Voor interjected, “with all due respect, Prince Richard, my son…”

“ a lesser prince of the blood and can surely wait his turn, no?” Richard looked at Amie mockingly. “Or do the sons of sons of fourth sons of Emperors command precedence? That’s what House Voor has come to, eh? Picking the low hanging fruit.” Richard glanced over towards Peter, who was trying to make himself scarce while at the same time trying to remain someone close to his wife, out of a sense of what was proper.

It seemed as though Amie Voor had to muster all of her reserves when dealing with Richard, so she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Aye, he can, your Highness.”

Grinning again, Richard said “that’s what I thought. Now, shall we?”

Catherine had remained silent during the short spat between the Ghantish. She grew less and less fond of Prince Richard the more that he spoke, and ever more conscious of the reputation he had across the royal courts of Belisaria. Uncomfortable as it was, she knew that it would be better to have a quick turn with the older man rather than deny him anything; damning her sensibility and subordination to her family, she forced a smile.

“Of course I would take a dance with you, Prince Richard,” Catherine said lightly, “and you’ve naught to fear, madame Voor, for I shall certainly seek out my dear friend Paul at some point or another.” She maintained eye-contact with the other woman, hoping to give and at the same time seeking reassurance from this near-stranger.

She turned then, towards the dance floor. As she did a number of Latin Praetorians caught her eye, lurking around the outskirts of the royal party, took a breath as she resisted the urge to begin a count of them. They are not Vannoisian, they are Constantine’s men. Trustworthy, she thought to herself.

“Please, Prince Richard, lead on. Before someone such as my,” Catherine cleared her throat quietly, “brother, arrives and attempts to steal me from you.” She spoke with a smile and, as had become a habit, tried to feel little and less.

Richard chuckled, and while offering her one arm, he reached out and tapped his cousin Peter on the behind. “I wouldn’t worry about that...something tells me he doesn’t really care. As for Prince Paul, I wouldn’t worry about him either. He’s probably off dancing with some strumpet.” Once on the edge of the floor, Richard assumed his dancing posture, and what a posture it was. Richard was said to be an exquisite dancer. “You should be thankful I spared you from that lot. Voors are scheemers and intriguers, you know...or perhaps you don’t, but now you do.”

Catherine kept quiet again as Richard spoke of Paul, and for most of the rest of the time until she, too, positioned herself to dance with the Gentry. She had been well-trained by the best of court in Saint-Nazaire under the watchful eyes of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother; as such, though she was not necessarily known for it, she was able to keep up gracefully with the surprisingly excellent abilities of Prince Richard.

“I had not known the reputation of the Voors, Prince,” she finally responded as they began, “though I admit I had not gotten such an impression. Lady Voor seemed quite strong, certainly, and perhaps she has her own motivations for ensuring that Paul seeks me out... but these ambitions do seem hardly a danger to my person. I have seen what look to be rather more brazen, and were far more ill intentioned, attempts at winning my favor in Saint-Nazaire since I became more woman than girl.”

“...And how many of these attempts were met with success?” Richard asked, curiously as they began to dance.

Catherine smiled brilliantly, though falsely, at the Gentry Prince’s rather rude question. “Not a one, Prince Richard,” she said, voice bright. “It would take far more than amateurish scheming and... loose morals, to persuade me into sullying myself and my family. The consequences in Vannois are, anyway, really quite severe for such foolish things.”

A tight-lipped smirk crept across Richard’s face. “Unless it’s your family that’s behind the amateurish scheming, right? I wonder the consequences are for that.”

Catherine’s smile became rather fixed, and her eyes turned suddenly frozen where before they were genuine, if irritated. She could feel her heart fluttering in her chest, and clamped down on her breathing. He knows nothing, she told herself, adamant. He could know nothing. She took a moment to herself before gathering a response, flowing with the dance.

“What my family does, is… is subject to God, I am sure,” Catherine responded with some slight difficulty. Quickly, she detached herself from Richard’s grasp, bowing her head. “Besides. Who is a Gentry to judge a Niort-Parthenay, especially when there is naught to judge? Nobody, I think,” and she looked back up into the Ghantish man’s face. Her heart was pounding, and she fought a flush she was sure had been climbing her neck. “Thank you for the dance, Prince Richard. You certainly live up to your… reputation.” Catherine paused again, having spoken rather vehemently, still willing herself to calm down. “Congratulations, once again, on your daughter’s wedding.”

With that, the Vannoisian Princess had turned as quickly as one could in heels, intending storm off the middle of the dance floor.

Richard reached out, in an attempt to grab Catherine by the arm. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, Princess. I’ve known people for years...but never really knew them. That’s how it goes...all we see are the facades, the puppets being dangled on strings. You act so nice, so sweet, so charming, but how much of it is real? Here we are, at my daughter’s wedding, and everyone is playing pretend. It’s a game...a game that I find boring, I really do. You’re the only person in this entire room that can see what lies beneath, like I do.”

Catherine was graceful and quick, but not quick enough. Richard had grabbed her arm, though not painfully tight, and she was ready to wave over a guardsman before he spoke. Once he finished, she shook his hand off again, staring him directly in the face.

“A game?” she asked, tone flat. The anger and fear had, on some level, left her. She felt rather wrung out at the Gentry Prince’s words. “If you still believe this to be a game, Prince Richard, then you do not know the stakes. You say that you see what lies beneath. I believe you. But, at what cost did that knowledge come to you, I ask?” Catherine shook her head, eyes distant, biting her lower lip. After a moment, she suddenly flitted her eyes back to his. “If I still prayed, I would pray that you found this knowledge of your own accord.” She remained still for another moment, keeping her eyes on her Richard’s, before letting them fall and turning once again to leave.

Harder this time, Richard reached out and grabbed Catherine’s arm again. “Here’s the truth of it, Princess. In their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, you knew him better than anyone else ever did. Tell me, when he died, what did you see? Did he look up, to God, to you, that sanguine rose of his end of his days, or down the barrel of the gun? In a way, Princess, I pity you, because you will never truly know another man like you knew poor Georgie…”

Suddenly, Richard grunted, as he felt a hand wrap around his arm, squeezing it tightly. “That’s enough,” the voice of a young man with well groomed brown hair and blue eyes said firmly. The grip was such that Richard was forced to let go as his wrist was turned away.

The elder prince cast his gaze at the interloper, a look of sheer disappointment on his face. “It’s rude to interrupt your superiors, Paul. Didn’t your mother teach you that?”

“...My mother taught me to always come to the aid of women in distress. Clearly the princess is in distress,” Paul countered as he held Richard’s wrist in his grip, twisting his arm further and further back. “She also taught me this neat little trick about the there are two little bones that don’t like to be turned to far in one direction…”

Richard snorted, and gave him an intimidating stare. “You let me go this instant, boy! Or…”

“Or what?” Paul suppressed laughter, though let one slip momentarily. “You don’t intimidate me, Richard. I’ve seen things that lurk in the shadows that would eat men like you alive.”

Another smirk, and Richard replied, “oh, so you’ve seen them too have you? The things that dwell in the dark.” Paul hesitated for a moment, and in that instant, Richard pulled himself free. “Your Highness,” he said to Catherine with a bow. “Enjoy the rest of your evening.” Another inclination of his head to Paul, and Richard slithered away back into the crowd, to parts unknown.

Just then, two men in matching dark suits with Claudii-purple ties and a pin of the Praetorian Guard on their lapel approached the group of three. “What’s all the commotion?” one of the men asked, the other looking at them, though listening to others through his ear piece.

Paul stiffened his back, and bowed to the Praetorian Guard. “My cousin, the bride’s father Richard was insisting on a dance that Princess Catherine of Vannois did not wish to oblige. He has since relinquished his insistence upon my intervention, ser. I merely did what any decent gentleman would do.”

The same Praetorian looked to Catherine as the second left the group and faded into the crowd, “Is this true, Princess?”

“I-” Catherine choked on her words, eyes sweeping from one guardsman to the next. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe, and brought a hand to her chest.

The Vannoisian Princess, for her part, had done her best to stay wholly still; she had, of course, failed. No amount of training at court could stop the shaking that seemed to be coming from deep within her. Her eyes, wide and searching, were blurry and dark around the edges, though she was not crying; she knew that she should feel a slight panic at her impaired vision, but she couldn’t think. Her breath came in quick gasps, and it was only after Richard had wandered off that she realized the identity of her savior.

She stepped back quickly, eyes having focused on the younger Gentry for a moment, almost tripping over herself. She muttered something almost inaudible, sounding like a strangled “Paul,” before taking another clumsy step backwards and turning quickly. She brought a hand to her mouth as soon as her back was turned, and rushed away.

The Praetorian sighed at Catherine’s flight, “You’re Prince Paul of Ghant? I’d like for you to come with me, Your Highness. This will all be sorted out very quickly.”

Noticing Catherine begin to run off, Paul turned to the Praetorian and said “if you’d excuse me, ser, I must go and see to the Princess. Once I have done that, the two of us will be happy to come with you and provide a report.” Having said that, Paul went off in the direction that Catherine was going.

“Your Highness, I must insist,” the Praetorian began to say as the prince started walking away. He quickly caught up to Paul and said, “I am under orders from Caesar himself,” he looked to the Prince and straightened himself out, “I will escort you to the Princess then, but after you two come with me.”

“...If you insist,” Paul said to the Praetorian as they made their way to the Vannosian Princess.
Last edited by Leasath on Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Seredinia | Vannois
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Founded: Aug 06, 2006

Postby Leasath » Wed Apr 18, 2018 7:51 pm

(Co-written with Latin and Ghant)

Catherine rushed through the crowd of people, noble and royal alike, towards the exits of the grand ballroom. Still struggling to think clearly, she stumbled towards one in particular which led to the palace gardens. As she neared it, the Princess brushed by her younger sister Marie-Madeleine; the younger girl’s surprised cry of her name went ignored, as did the sudden glint of flinty anger that came to Madeleine’s face. As Catherine exited the room, the younger Niort-Parthenay began marching towards the Vannoisian Emperor.

Standing outside the exit of the grand ballroom were traditionally uniformed Praetorians all at attention, and at other entrances and exits to other rooms ununiformed Praetorians and guards stood to keep guests from accessing a greater part of the grounds. Upon exiting the ballroom, a sign was posted that pointed to the gardens, leading to a stone ramp that led guests down, then to a turn, and finally down once more until they were greeted by the fantastic palace gardens.

Catherine’s hurried path took her down through the gardens, past the arch carved into tall hedges and down another set of steps, before she came to a halt finally past another low wall which opened into a larger square. Still not really seeing what was around her, she barely registered another woman present nearby, and instead stood with her back flat against the wall near where she had just entered. Both of her well-manicured hands now were at her face, disregarding her carefully applied makeup, trying to hold back a flood of tears.

The other woman present, who had been sitting on the ledge near to the castle wall taking in some measure of sunlight, had stood slowly and approached Catherine as if she were a wounded animal. Dressed in the attire of a bridesmaid and with long, black hair, the other woman was obviously older than the teenaged Catherine; she also was as beautiful as the younger woman. Moving with grace, she took a few careful steps towards the Vannoisian Princess.

“C-... Catherine, my dear,” the woman murmured in what sounded to be native Audonais, now standing less than a foot from the Princess’s violently shaking form. She bent forward slightly to look at eye-level with the hunched Catherine. “Catherine, my sweet cousin, what’s happened?”

The blood visibly drained from Catherine’s already pale face, and she took another panicked breath; the hints of a sob were audible. Slowly, carefully, she lowered her hands from her face to take in the close visage of the other woman.

A bystanding Praetorian might note the still unfocused eyes of Catherine seeming to latch, for a moment, upon the slightly lighter shade of her cousin before she recoiled even further, were that possible, into the wall. The other, elder woman had raised a hand at this, and it hovered for a moment over Catherine’s shoulder in indecision.

“Catherine…” It had been some time, and yet even in her addled state Catherine could not forget the voice of her elder cousin, Dominique. The Black Princess.

“N-no,” Catherine stuttered out. Her voice felt raw, though she had not been crying, and she took another deep breath. “No, no, D-Dominique, I’m not supposed to -- we’re not supposed to, that is, -- you can’t… you can’t be here, right now,” she finally tripped out.

“Oh, for the love of God, Catherine,” Dominique huffed before grabbing the younger girl by the shoulder and pulling her into a hug. Catherine struggled for a short moment, trying weakly to back out of the embrace, before quickly submitting and placing her forehead onto Dom’s shoulder. The two stood like this for a long minute, Catherine still breathing heavily in an attempt to stave off her ever-present tears as Dominique’s arms held her up.

“I-” the younger girl began, before being hushed by woman who had caused her family such scandal just a few years before.

“You shall tell me the truth, in a moment, of which fool princeling or lordling did this to you, darling,” Dominique murmured comfortingly. “I shall inform great-grandmother, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. You needn’t even tell anyone that I was here.”

“It wasn’t…” Catherine trailed off, feeling Dominique straighten against her, and decided to wait as she had asked instead of try and give excuses immediately. It seemed to work as the elder woman relaxed again.

“Come, now,” Dom said quietly, moving to the ledge she had been sitting on before setting the both of them down with a sigh. Though she was no longer pregnant, she had still been feeling the effects of pregnancy in recent weeks, and her figure -- normally attractively curvy -- was currently rather more weighty than she would like. Dominique was also easier to tire, and holding up the admittedly small form of Catherine had been a touch exhausting for her.

As they sat, Catherine had raised her head and scooted a few centimeters away from her cousin, brushing a finger by her reddened eyes to see if she had actually cried without noticing. Her breath was still coming irregularly, but she could feel her heart beating more normally, and her vision was no longer impaired by darkness around the edges.

While calming down, the younger Princess had taken a moment to look at her surroundings. The Palace gardens were lovely, though smaller than those at the Imperial Palace in Saint-Nazaire; they held a certain charm, and the view given off of the castle walls behind her was fantastic. She spotted a guarding Praetorian or two at intervals around the area, and more upon the walls; despite her usual reaction to guardsmen, she could not help but feel slightly calmed once again.

“I think you’re ready now, dear,” Dominique spoke softly. Catherine’s neck might have cracked, she turned her head so quickly to the sound of her cousin’s voice. Though she did not stand, the younger girl’s back straightened. “My, you are a beauty. Even if I still lived there, I think I should have lost my title as la Fleur de Saint-Nazaire.” It was the elder woman’s soft smile that allowed Catherine to release yet another deep breath, this time almost entirely evenly.

“I… would not be so sure, Dominique,” Catherine finally responded after a few moments, uneasy though with a hint of playfulness in her quiet voice. “You should see the number of suitors my little sister Madeleine has received since my return from Latium.” A genuine, though pained smile came to Catherine’s face. “I cannot blame them anyway.”

“What nonsense, sweetheart,” Dom laughed brightly, resting a hand on Catherine’s upper arm. “Why, look at you. Even now, after being insulted by some idiot Latin or Ghantish or -- no, the Vannoisians wouldn’t have the balls. Even now, anyway, you are stunning.” The elder Vannoisian spoke sincerely, keeping eye contact with the still obviously strained Catherine before the younger girl looked down at her own hands, intertwined in her lap.

“Perhaps… Perhaps it is about more than beauty, to some,” Catherine responded, her voice sounding strangled again; Dominique cocked an eyebrow; it seemed as though the blonde girl was near tears yet again.

“Surely not, darling, even in Ghish we know of your grace and kindness,” Dom spoke slightly quicker than before, knowing that Cath would want to avoid actually crying. “Come now, you are the most desirable maiden Vannoisian Princess since… well, since ever, I should think!”

If Dominique had intended to bring a smile from Catherine’s face, she failed miserably. A tear finally broke the barrier that Catherine had been struggling valiantly to keep present, and Dominique’s face hardened, though not against the girl before her.

“What the hell has happened, Catherine? Who did this? If Aud- if Louis is not already dealing with him, I will do it myself,” said Dominique, angering. “What’s going on?”

“Why, it is just that,” Catherine sobbed. Only a few tears had escaped her, and she wiped at them harshly, reddening her cheeks further. “I am not desirable; I am no maid, and it seems by no choice of my own, that secret is common knowledge,” she said brokenly, just loud enough for Dominique -- eyes wide and mouth open -- to hear her. “I am ruined, Dominique, sold off by my --”

“Wassup bitches?” Strolling casually through the palace gardens was a young woman in a green and red gown with a black sash, carrying a cigar in one hand a tall glass of wine in the other hand. With a curvaceous figure and a sultry gait, she approached Dominique and Catherine, her long wavy red hair falling loosely around her shoulders and down her back, her shoulders fair shoulders peppered with freckles. Her blue eyes had a twinkle to them as she drew near. “Looks like yall could use a smoke. It ain’t tobacco I have rolled up in this rillo,” she said with a wink as she extended it to the other two women.

Dominique, hands on Catherine’s shaking shoulders, tried to catch her eye for a moment as she ignored the newcomer. Eventually realizing the lost cause, she sighed, and noticed the slight shake in her own hands as she stood to greet the woman. She smiled.

“Actually… That’s very kind of you to offer,” Dominique said, extending a hand. She stood just in front of Catherine, obscuring the distraught girl from view as she tried to recover from her tears. The elder Vannoisian woman turned her head slightly. “Darling, have you ever…”

“I’d like to,” Catherine responded, surprising herself with the strength in her roughened voice. She let out a heavy sigh, standing up behind Dom and stepping around to her side as she smoothed out the front and rear of her dress. Eyes ringed red, she took in the visage of the woman before her, nodding her head slowly as she wiped a last stray tear away. “Catherine of Vannois. A pleasure to meet you, madame.”

Arietta let the blunt pass from her hands, and leaned up against the ledge. “it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Not gonna lie, we don’t run in the same circles. I get yall mixed up sometimes too, since most of yall are named Marie something or another. What’s the point of that anyway? Like, why not just leave out the Marie part and just go with whatever comes after that? That’d be alot easier, dontcha think?”

Catherine laughed wetly as Dom took the joint, looking to the sky for a moment. “That’s a good question,” she replied, crossing her arms over her chest. “It’s tradition, I suppose. My father named almost all his daughters -- bar me -- Marie something or other; his father did the same, as did his father, as have all of my aunts and uncles and so on. I was glad to escape the scourge as it were. Not as if we ever call any of them Marie anyway.”

“Same here,” Dominique said softly, sounding calmer as she passed the blunt over to Catherine. “Then again, my parents were less than likely to follow protocol anyway, bless ‘em,” she grinned as Catherine took her first hit. “Oh, nicely done, Cath. You’ve never smoked?”

“Well -- tobacco, when we were younger. Me and your younger sister stole a pack from your father and stretched that out for… weeks, really. Never got a taste for it, but I have an idea as to what to do,” the younger Princess replied, voice steadier still, smiling slightly. “So many Vannoisians are chain smokers, it’s hard not to get an idea of what to do.”

Arietta was taken aback. “Woah, you’ve never smoked? Okay...just take a little hit then. You have to ease into it, not take in too much at once, or you’ll cough,” she explained, chasing her words with wine.

Catherine cleared her throat, nodding her thanks to the Ghantish woman and moving slowly. In a moment, the deed was done, and she passed the blunt back to Dominique. “It’s not something that’s really huge in Vannois. I mean, it’s legal, I think. But cigarettes, wine, all of that… More than enough for our uptight society to mess itself with,” she shrugged.

“Not wrong there,” Dominique replied, humming her agreement. “No offense, dear, but for your father it was the booze; for mine, the girls; and for uncle Gérôme… Fuck, I’ve no idea. That guy’s always been odd, right?” She took a hit as well, before passing the joint back to Arietta.

“Thank God, I thought me and Madeleine were the only ones. I’ve no idea what’s going on there,” Catherine shook her head. “And all the rest of them are pretty normal, too. Got it -- whatever it is -- concentrated into our dads, and him.”

“...You guys just failed the Bechdel test,” Arietta laughed as she waited for Dominique to finish her hit off the blunt.

Dominique waved a hand, blowing out smoke and passing the blunt off to Arietta. “Like there’s anything else to talk about,” she said, eyes rolling. “Our lives are dominated by these guys, or at least, Catherine’s is. Speaking of, dear, if you ever need spiriting away…”

“Uh,” Catherine responded, an eyebrow raised at Dominique’s mischievous grin. “I think I ought to find my own way, but thanks.”

“Well, anyhow,” Dom brushed by her cousin, going to sit on the ledge again, speaking breezily. “Was there anything in particular you wanted to talk about, Arietta? Something tells me our time is short.”

Arietta shook her head. “Time is always short, that’s why you should spend it the way you want. You gotta take charge of your shit, you know what I’m saying? Not let everyone else dictate it. If you do, you’ll find that the life you’ve lived was never your own, and what kinda life is that?’ Arietta took the blunt back from Dominique and took a long drag, chasing the exhale with the rest of her wine. “I ain’t about that shit for real...”

“Catherine!” a voice called out from within the palace, and when Arietta looked to see who it was, it was her second cousin Prince Paul, who approached them with Praetorian guards.

“Oh shit,” Arietta sighed, moving the hand holding the blunt behind her back. “Uh...hey what’s up?”

The lead Praetorian shot a glare at Arietta once they approached with Prince Paul, though spoke to Catherine first, “Princess Catherine, this young man has requested to speak with you...afterwards I would hope that you both would be willing to speak with the Prefect for a report of the incident.” He then looked towards Arietta with an extended hand, “May I, your Highness?”

Arietta promptly flicked the blunt away into the bushes from behind her back. “May you what? Interrupt a polite conversation between esteemed and high-ranking young women from multiple nations in good standing with Latium? No, you may not.” Turning to Paul, she then asked, “what incident is he talking about?”

“...Something that Catherine can tell you about if she’s comfortable doing so,” Paul answered, not without hesitation.

“May I see what you are hiding behind your back, Your Highness?” the Praetorian clarified to Arietta quickly. “An incident that concerns only Their Highnesses.”

Arietta brought her hands back around from behind her back, and showed the Praetorian her empty hands. “Nothing, dude. You done with this interrogation?”

“Excuse me,” Catherine said clearly, hands together at her front, chin up. “I’ll speak with your Prefect, sir. Give me a moment to speak with Prince Paul, and we shall be with you presently,” and she moved forward to take Paul -- gently -- by the shoulder, turning him with her.

Dominique watched her younger cousin and the Ghantish Prince, with a careful eye, wondering. Then, she shrugged, looking to the Praetorians. “I’m sure my cousin will be perfectly forthcoming, gentlemen,” she said, looking to Arietta and then the rest of them. “I am rather parched, anyway. Would you like to come and fetch more wine with me, Arietta?”

“Yeah, that is I have permission from these Praetorian goons, that is,” Arietta answered, her eyes halfway between Dominique and the Praetorian.

“Enjoy the rest of your evening,” the Praetorian gave a bow before speaking something unintelligible into his comms earpiece. He gave a quick glance over to another guard, who stood near the exits, likely ready to follow certain partygoers. The guard then turned back to Catherine, “I will be just over here when you are ready, Your Highness.”

“Thank you, sir. We’ll only be a moment,” Catherine replied with a nod, walking Paul to the other side of the small courtyard, near a large bush of roses. They were out of earshot of the rest of the group, so long as they spoke quietly.

“Come then, Arietta,” Dominique said. “I’m sure Catherine and Paul have things well in hand.”

“For sure,” Arietta answered, before turning to walk away with Dominique. Once they were out of earshot of the Praetorian, she muttered, “fucking fascist pigdogs…”

As they reached the flowers, Catherine turned towards Paul, standing just before him. She suddenly flushed, and looked down at her hands, feeling the tears rushing back to her eyes before shaking her head. “Paul,” she muttered, looking back up into the face of the Gentry Prince. She smiled, though only for a moment before it was brought back down again. She looked at his chest. “I’m sorry we had to meet again like… Ah, like that,” Catherine said, barking out a harsh laugh. “T’was not how I had anticipated seeing you again.”

With little hesitation, Paul embraced Catherine, holding her close to him. “Don’t be did nothing wrong. If anything, I am the one that should be sorry, for not going to you sooner. I’m here now, though, and everything will be alright,” he told her reassuringly as he held her, his hands on the broadside of her back.

Catherine fell forward, allowing Paul to wrap his arms around her, and she raised her own to his shoulders in return. She ducked her head to his shoulder, shutting her eyes for a long minute, breathing steadily as she fought off the last vestiges of tears.

“It’s alright,” she finally murmured, raising her head and separating herself slightly from him. “I didn't even expect that to happen -- I ought to be more careful, if it even matters anymore,” and at that she hesitated. Biting the inside of her cheek, she looked at Paul’s face once again, and the color that had risen to her cheeks for a short while was gone. “What… How much did you hear of what that man was telling me, Paul?”

Paul let one of his hands find the back of her hair, and he shook his head at her inquiry. “I heard nothing, because there’s nothing he could have said that would have mattered to me. Richard is a bad man, and a dangerous one at that. I refuse to let his words poison my ears. I just saw him...and I wanted to protect you, so I did. He doesn’t scare me...I can’t let him, or anyone, intimidate me from doing the right thing. So I didn’t...and I won’t,” he explained with a smile before letting his hands come to rest at his sides.

“Ah, Paul,” Catherine replied, half-relieved. She half-smiled, head cocked. “You’re a better man than most, you know. Most would at least suspect, but…” she blinked, shaking her head, and reached to take the Prince’s hand. “I am glad it was you, in any case. We must talk, after we deal with these praetorians. We… well, we may have rather limited time. Not everybody is so kind, nor do they know Richard as well as you.”

With that, she turned her head towards the guardsmen still lurking in the area. “I believe I am ready to meet with your superior, gentlemen,” she called politely. “If you would lead on…” Paul nodded, and accepted Catherine’s hand, discreetly, before beginning to follow the Praetorian.

The guard nodded, “Right this way, Your Highnesses,” and began to lead Catherine and Paul back up towards the ballroom. However, once they reached the main guest entrance the guard turned and entered a room watched by guard who stepped away. Winding through no fewer than two hallways, the guard led the prince and princess to a nondescript office. He extended his arm to the two, offering them a seat in front of a large desk that featured a computer, a number of picture frames, and even a few medals.

Moments later, a man of his mid-sixties, dressed in a greatly decorated military officers uniform entered the room and rounded to the other side of the desk. “Your Highnesses, I apologize greatly for the inconvenience and pulling you away from the festivities. I am Prefect John Santella. I understand there was an incident?”

“I suppose so, yes,” Catherine responded haltingly, taking a seat before the desk. “I was… accosted, by Richard of Ghant. He had asked me for a dance and, when I tried to end it, grabbed at me. He seemed to be getting quite heated as well,” the Princess said. “He was talking some nonsense, trying to provoke me I suppose. It was all really very, ah, unpleasant.” It worked, too, didn’t it? she thought to herself.

“Hmm, I see,” Prefect Santella nodded. “And Prince Paul, how did you become involved?”

Paul began to explain that “I was going to seek out her Highness for a dance, when I came upon her and Prince Richard. I saw him grab her arm aggressively, and I intervened by grabbing his arm. I was able to dissuade him from insisting on his course of action, and he departed. Then a Praetorian came upon me, and I explained the situation, telling him that I had to see to her Highness’s safety, and then the Praetorian accompanied me.” Paul looked to Catherine reassuringly with a smile afterward.

“That is precisely what happened,” Catherine said. “I owe Prince Paul and your Praetorians a debt of gratitude for helping me out of that situation, truly, though I do loathe the idea of returning to the party and happening across Prince Richard.” As if to emphasize this point, the Princess shuddered slightly, shaking her head.

“If it would make the Princess feel better, I can see her to her chambers, and inform her brother that her Highness wasn’t feeling well and retired to her room to rest,” Paul offered to both the Praetorian and to Catherine.

“That won’t be necessary, nor is she staying on the grounds to my knowledge,” Prefect Santella responded to Paul, just then flipping open a notebook and lifting a pen off his desk. “You said he accosted you, Princess Catherine –”

“John,” a new voice said after abruptly opening the door.

It prompted the Prefect to stand at attention behind his desk. “Caesar,” he said with a bowed head.

Stepping further into the room was Latin Emperor Constantine, first offering a smile to each Catherine and Paul. Walking towards the desk, he first approached its side, standing near Catherine. “I wish this was under better circumstances, though I understand there was a run in with my wife’s father. I would like to hear the details of this first hand, if that is amenable to you, Princess Catherine?”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Catherine responded, nodding her head. She had stood with the rest of the room as Constantine had entered, and faced him presently. “Prince Richard had asked me for a dance, after I had spoken for a while with Prince Peter of Ghant and his lady wife; I agreed, for I feel that being polite to all manner of men -- even those with such a, ah, reputation as Prince Richard’s -- well, I feel that it is my duty.” She took a breath, thinking and biting the inside of her cheek again. “Part-way through our dance, Prince Richard began harassing me about certain… private matters. They need not go repeated, but suffice to say he slandered not only myself but also the office of the Emperor of Vannois.”

Catherine looked then to Paul, half-smiling at him, and then returned her gaze to Constantine. “Paul was able to reach us after Richard grabbed my arm to prevent my leaving. He stopped Richard, and your Praetorians were able to arrive moments later. I owe them all a debt of thanks,” she finished, nodding her head towards Prefect Santella.

“I’m glad they were able to assist,” Constantine smiled, then without looking at his Prefect said, “John, could you take down the rest of Prince Paul’s remarks of the events. Then feel free to have someone escort him back to the ballroom. I’d like a word alone with Princess Catherine, if she consents.” At that, Catherine nodded.

“Yes, Caesar,” Santella nodded, approaching Paul.

“And Prince Paul, if something should happen again, please leave physical confrontations to the guards,” Constantine added.

“...With all due respect, your Majesty,” Paul began to explain calmly. “If your Praetorians were faster, I wouldn’t have had to. The Princess was being harmed, and were it your wife, or your sisters, I would have done the same, as any true man of Ghant ought to do.”

“Prince Richard has had two Praetorians following him since he arrived in the city. I understand you have nearly five trailing him rather closely at all times now, John?” Constantine turned to his Prefect, who nodded affirmatively. “Let’s put Fonteius on him as well then.”

“The Urban Prefect?”

“He’s quick, that will make six,” Constantine replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “Are we agreed, Prince Paul, leave things to the men that are here to take care of these things and try to enjoy yourself. Someone should.”

Paul glanced at Catherine again, before answering, “I’ll see what I can do, your Majesty.”

“I shall be the one finding you this time, Prince Paul, though I will meet with His Majesty and then my brother first,” Catherine smiled weakly, hands folded at her front. “Do save a dance for me?”

“I’d wait all night,” Paul smiled, giving her hand a gentle squeeze and a reassuring smile. “Until that time.”

Prefect Santella guided Paul out of the office, closing the door behind him as Constantine requested. “Your Highness, I don’t mean to cause you more agony than you’ve already suffered, but I would like to personally apologize for what happened to you tonight. Paul was right, my men should have been quicker,” Constantine seated himself behind the desk. “One of my men overheard Espo, I’m sorry you had to see what you did that day.”

“Please, Your Majesty, call me Catherine; we have known eachother since we were children,” Catherine sighed, sitting once Constantine had settled behind the desk. “You needn’t apologize regarding your men’s speed. I could not have guessed that Richard would harass me so about such a... horrific event,” and the Princess grimaced, looking at her hands resting in her lap. “I do suppose it does me some right, to get a hint of what people think about what happened there. I’m sure the court at Saint-Nazaire is much more careful around the subject than any other.”

“I don’t condone what happened that day,” Constantine took a labored breath. “What your brother did –”

“What my brother did was horrific, your Majesty,” Catherine sat forward, back straight. Her eyes were fiery, though still wet with tears. “His men killed boys and old men, and what for? Would it have made any difference to take them prisoner, to let them live? To let Espo remain untouched? He sacrificed -” She was breathing quickly again, as after she had her encounter with Richard. Paling suddenly, she sat back, eyes wide. “I- I apologize, your Majesty. That- that was out of line…”

“Sacrificed what?” Constantine leaned forward cautiously.

Catherine’s mouth was gaping, and she was shocked at herself. One madman takes the time to harass you, and now this? she thought, terrified.

“Sacrificed…” Catherine trailed for a long moment, almost frozen. Finally, shutting her eyes, she let out a slow breath. “He sacrificed Vannoisian honor, your Majesty… M-my honor, his own, our families and that of our country. You know the story of that night, of course,” God willing bar one crucial part, she finished internally.

Constantine kept silent initially, as if mulling over his words carefully before speaking again. At one point he opened his mouth, but instead of speaking looked away from Catherine. It was only after rubbing his hands over his face, with one eventually trailing back through his hair that he spoke. “I’m sure it’s no secret, to our families at least, that your brother and I haven’t seen eye-to-eye since the crisis…” he paused with a sigh. “I apologize, I just wanted you to know that I hold myself responsible for my father-in-law’s actions, and it won’t happen again. If you like, I can have someone drive you to where you’re staying, or even a guard with you should you stay at the reception.”

Catherine swallowed hard, relaxing though she hadn’t even realized she was so tense. Nodding slowly, she said, “It is through no fault of your own that the relationship between yourself and my brother is… difficult.” She was still sitting up straight, slightly calmed in the knowledge that, for all Constantine did know of Espo, he didn’t know that. And if the Emperor of Latium did not know, then it was a sure bet that most of the rest of those who mattered didn’t either.

“In any case, I thank you for your concern, your Majesty. You are very kind -- you always have been. I do realize I haven’t offered my congratulations yet,” Catherine said, somehow dredging up a smile for the man across from her. “Empress Anastasia seems to be a lovely woman; you are both blessed to have found one another.” She sighed, the slightly melancholy smile turning slightly brighter. “Your offer of a guardsman is also kind, but I think I’ll be quite alright. I recall seeing my little sister rushing off to the rest of my family; if I’m not surrounded by Niort-Parthenay girls at all times from this moment on, I’ll be rather shocked.”

“Thank you,” Constantine broke a brief smile, standing from the desk soon after. Looking at his watch he said, “Take the room as long as you like, when you’re ready John will show you back to the ballroom,” the Latin Emperor added just before exiting the room.

Catherine sighed heavily as soon as Constantine had left, drawing a hand down her face. She sat still for a few long moments, feeling her heart rate return to more normal levels as the shake left her hands. After around a minute, she slowly stood, looking around the room absently.

Audric, then, she thought, before he kills a Gentry.
Last edited by Leasath on Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Seredinia | Vannois
Known as Malaby
Member of Ajax

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Founded: Aug 26, 2014

Postby Rietumimark » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:27 pm

Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium
(Co-written with Ghant)

The music; the sights and sounds; the unfettered display of wealth, power, and majesty; the handsome Emperor dressed to perfection with his absolutely breathtaking bride - herself, clad in an ethereal wedding gown - moving rhythmically to the music being played. Efva was in heaven or the closest she could get to the real thing. This is where I truly belong she thought to herself with a smile. A wedding like this is what I deserve!

She watched the newlywed couple - Anastasia especially - with derision and envy. She had never met Anastasia in the flesh and instead, knew of her through rumour and word of mouth. And if any such hearsay holds event a small among of water, she’s a complete embarrassment to the greatness and thousand year history of House Gentry and without her title as a Princess of Ghant, she would be nothing more than a dope smoking, lazy layabout parasitising off her parents - for whom basement’s she would live in. That thought gave her some solace, but the nagging feeling of loss continued to plague; every eligible suitor of satisfactory rank - as in, being in line to succeed the throne - seemed to be disappearing from the market at a disturbingly high rate. Soon there will be none left. The rolling thought sent shivers down her spine.

Since she was a little girl, she had always imagined getting married in a place like this, to a suitor of a similar station of that of Constantine - An emperor or king, nothing less. It what was her mother had always told her that one day she would be a consort of a powerful suitor and no lesser royal or noble was worth her time. They’re all beneath me. Yet with her haughty self-righteous, hints of doubt and vexatious were seeping through. It gave her a pit in her stomach to think that in only a decade - her family’s fortunate had taken such a 360-degree turn for the worst and the prestige of the Baltkalns family had been greatly diminished. From 2005, when the Baltkalns and South Rietumimark reached power and economic clout not seen since the hay-days of the older Tsardom in the 20s/30s, to 2014 when Ozoliņš thugs smugly marching through the streets of the old South Rietumish capital; grinning as they roamed through the imperial palace in Giga where Efva and her siblings where born.

Efva redirected and funnelled her rage at Anastasia; hoping, willing, forcing with all her might for something humiliating to happen. Her slipping on her two left feet and falling flat on her face would suffice. Efva had no such luck and watched them dance, a contemptuous glare in her brown eyes, feeling sick at the prospect of all the damage Anastasia would inflict on the reputation of Latium, far more than that usurper Michael could ever. I wonder what drugs Constantine took to make him see someone so unfit as her to be his Empress Consort? A protestant heathen unfit for the title. The history books will look unfavourably upon this moment; when a great nation which restored the Church’s control over the holy, spread civilisation to the barbarians masses in Norumbia, Oxidentale, and Scipia, and held back the devil worshipping Mutu hordes from Christendom - only to outdone by a Protestant dope smoker.

The dance was over just like that, the music dying down and the previous quiet rumbles chatter among the guests present gradually succeeded the music. Constantine gave way for Anastasia’s father, Richard, in having the second dance. Efva couldn’t bear to watch any longer out of pure abhorrence and turned her attention to the Rietumish table. She sighed at its positioning, just outside a combination of more influential guests from the Belfrasians, BC countries, Latins not directly related to the marrying couple, and Ghantish. Our family should have been much closer to the royal family, not outcasts with the unwanted...that is how far our fortunes have fallen.

To her left, her older - by three minutes, as he loved so much to boast - fraternal twin brother sat. She briefly glanced at him, to what at first seemed like he too was watching the newlyweds’ couple first dance, only to realise he kept gawking at some soulless, nobody redhead at a different part of the room. He was always so clumsy, unfit for the awesome responsibility of restoring our house’s rule over Rietumimark and sending Ozoliņš family to hell where they belong. No matter how much she loved her twin brother, she couldn’t help harbour animosity against him. He was guaranteed to the inherit the title she so desired...the type of titles she deserved. Such thoughts ate away at a small part of her. Why is life so unfair?!

Efva quickly looked around, making sure no one was looking and elbowed Ingvar in the rib; not hard enough to inflict any lasting damage, but rather to get his attention. “Stop it, now.” she snapped at him, gazing over to see whether the redhead had seen the commotion; she was fortunately hidden by a wandering crowd of people. “You are going to completely embarrass our family goggling that redhead over there like a damn fool. Could you be blunter with your intentions.?” she said firmly, just above a whisper to ensure no else at the table could overhear.

“I don’t know what you mean, seriously,” Ingvar said, feigning ignorance, but Efva could tell he was lying - he had always been terrible at it as far as she could remember. “I was watching Anastasia and Constantine’s first dance, like everyone else in the room.” he finished with a shrug, making his statement even more obviously a lie by tinkering with his appearance using his reflection in his glass of water as a mirror.

“Please, Ingvar; don’t insult my intelligence again. You have always been horrific at lying. Give it up, I know you were staring.” Efva pressed demandingly, unwilling to concede just yet. “And if you are just going to continue ignoring the fact I know; at least try not to broadcast to every fucking important royal, noble, and pleb in attendance that you fancy some redhead.” Quickly adding: “And please not try to tarnish the family name.”

Ingvar sheepishly grinned at Efva; going flush. “I am not lying, I really don’t know what you are going on about!” Ingvar quietly professed, careful not to alert anyone else at their table of the twin’s conversation; eyes briefly rolling over again to catch glimpse of the mystery woman. “You are only just making a mountain out of a molehill out of nothing, sis.”

Efva sighed, which caught the attention of her youngest sister Rasa - who was seated in between Ingvar and their half-deaf grandfather Ferdinand, the Tsesarevich of Rietumimark - otherwise known as the ‘middle Ferdie.’ Efva’s eyes met that of her sister’s and glared at her - telling Rasa with her gaze to to keep quiet her and stay shut up. Efva couldn't explain it or didn’t care to, but she had always found her youngest sister to bring the worst out in her, to annoy or frustrate Efva with just a look. Efva was unable to control her intense loathing for her own blood, without knowing why. Efva found Rasa to be nebbish, biddable, and excessively mansuetude to a fault. She was absolutely obsessed with Audonian culture and language - attending some fancy university in Vannois and interning at a nearby museum of art to satisfy her Audonian fetish. As though our culture, the culture of our blood is so inferior to those baguette eating, wine drinking lazy Audonians who don’t have anything better to do all day other than lay about drinking and screwing like rabbits.

She had always known something was terribly wrong with Rasa and only in recent years did she work out why. For so long, her sister rejected any idea of courtship with any suitor until she reached a certain, unspecified age - ‘to protect my reputation and maidenhood’ - she would say when asked. Rasa blinded everyone to the unnatural disposition of before their very eyes. She was a waste to the Baltkalns dynasty - long brown hair, blue eyes...pretty; she could easily have secured a suitor of proper rank and assist gathering support for their crusade against the plague of the reds. Rather, Rasa shunned attention from potential suitors, quivering at a mere touch of a man with romantic intent, yet her subtle romantic proclivity towards ladies of similar age was disgusting. She just as unnatural as Melisende III ex-husband Godfrey Galan… With a cut of her eye at Rasa, Efva’s younger sister quickly returned to skimming through her phone.

“To take a man’s sword...a weapon of defence and he may have grown up training with a disgrace!” proudly proclaimed Efva’s father Zigmar, his slightly drunk and booming voice - with a strong hint of a little too much red wine to breath - bringing the table’s attention to himself. “Back in Thule, I would have never allowed such a dishonour to occur. You try and take a man’s ability to defend himself and you’re just asking to be cut down,” he said with a suggestion that he was getting pleasure at the thought.

Like you have killed anyone. You go on your hunting expeditions to Thule during the summer, under the heavily armed guard of your uncle’s and great-uncle’s bannermen and always head south at the first sight of winter, Efva rolled her eyes. “I certainly concur, son.” Ferdinand II began in agreement, breath heavy with alcohol, pausing to slip at his glass of white wine. “They couldn’t even keep their own Emperor safa...s-a-f-e during the Brother’s War and I better not mention what happened to Nathan IV.,” he sputtered drunkenly - all the wine hitting his system. “How do they expect to keep us safe?”

“That seems to be a bit of an exaggeration, father…” Ingvar quickly countered. “I’m sure that the security responsibility for the debacle of the coup and subsequent assassination attempt are long gone. It isn’t like a coup d'etat couldn’t happen somewhere else...Vannois is run by a Catholic nut, who, if the rumours are true, might have done all sorts in Latium during its succession crisis nor can we talk after what occurred in our own backyar... ” said Ingvar, his voice trailing off as he realised he struck on sore wound which, like a landmine, if detonated, would cause all sorts of havoc. “I mean...I mean it isn’t like there hidden Ozoliņš agents poised to slaughter everyone.” Ingvard laughed...nervously.

“They try anything and it would be their funeral,” Zigmars said, the tone of his voice was that of intoxication and glee at the prospect of killing reds. “These southerners know nothing about being able to defend themselves, but those with the power of Thulish blood certainly do. A single Thulish warrior easily counts for two dozen men from whatever they call the Emperor’s guard here.”

Efva sighed and rolled her eyes. As though being from Thule is a good thing. She often wondered why so many in her family seemed so infatuated with their Thulish roots, her father especially. All I want do is hide as it best as I can. Her father Zigmars was a tall man, greatly exaggerated by his portly physique, which gave the appearance that he was several more inches taller than he actually was - with a long brown beard, blue eyes and clad in his best court dress which looked awkward on him; as if someone had stuffed a gorilla into a tight-fitting suit. Roué, as he was vim about his Thulish roots and wine, Efva’s father, was very much the antithesis of everything that she wanted to get away from.

“Here, here to that, my son!” Ferdinand II said smirking, raising his glass unsteadily in his hand - wine swaying back and forth - to cheers him. “Cheers to that, Thule, and restoring our crown back to its glory.”

Efva rolled her eyes yet again and lent her head back against her seat; internally bemoaning for forcing to listen to the semi-drunken maundering of her father and grandfather. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before opening her eyes again. The dance floor was slowly started to be filled by wedding guests joining the bride and her father on the dancefloor. Aleksandra and her husband Benedikt, her godparents and cousin by some distant relation - although they insisted on being called aunt and uncle - decided to take a dance. Towards the tables near where the family of couples’ sat, she briefly watched Lyncanestrian delegation intermingling with some Latins, elsewhere, she saw a couple of people from brown countries who looked to be in deep conversation about brown people stuff. Feeling sorry for herself, she sat back up and left the table - containing her parents and grandparents - walked over and took a seat next to her great-grandmother - Ulla of Thule - husband and Efva’s great-grandfather, Ferdinand I; who were
situated at a table parallel to her own.

The eighty-seven-year-old Princess of Thule couldn’t help but sit down in one chair, and not move if she didn’t have to. Advanced age had been catching up with her, and now her old bones ached, wrinkling skin clinging to them while her wispy snow-white hair continued to shrivel up. She wore a simple, easy to put on a grey dress that fit her snugly and kept her warm, because she always felt cold. When her great-granddaughter came and sat next to her, she cast her bright amber eyes upon the girl and spoke. “...What’s a matter, child? Something troubles you, yes? Tell me.”

Efva glumly looked at her great-grandmother and sighed. “It isn’t fair,” she mumbled to no one particularly, eyes rolling over to watch Anastasia and her father, looking as flawless and impeccable as always. “Life can be so unfair that someone like Anastasia, who probably never planned to ever become a consort. Yet someone like me, who wants nothing more than to fill such a position and have such titles…” she said, losing her train of thought. “Sometimes it feels like I may never become a wife married to a man of proper feels like I will never become a consort.”

This caused Ulla to laugh hysterically, slapping her knees as she keeled over at the table. “ child,” she tried to say through the laughter, “you are as naive as your father and grandfather. Of course life isn’t fair! That’s the whole is a series of opportunities. We choose to accept them, or not. You’re not going to receive every opportunity that someone else receives...but so too, shall you receive opportunities that others won’t. Instead of focusing on the opportunities you don’t have, focus on the ones you do have.”

Efva didn’t know how to react, she was taken aback. She was half expecting to be placated like how her mother always did whenever she came running with teary eyes about whatever had upset that day. But that is why grandma Ulla is always the best, she always knows how to bring you back to reality. "I suppose you are right, grandmother,” Efva said with a fictitious tone of embarrassment and remorse in her voice. “I guess I got stuck inside my own head for a bit too long, ”forcing a laugh. Änyway, what do you mean by focus on the opportunities you do have?

Casting her gaze across the room, Ulla pointed at a table some distance away, with people seated around it talking amongst themselves. “There sits the table of the Tsar of Nekulturnya, his wife and children,” Ulla began explain to her great-granddaughter. “The Tsar is the bride’s uncle, her mother’s brother. The Tsar’s son and heir is one Tsarevich Mikhail. I have often seen him in Ghant. Besides being the heir to the throne of Nekulturnya, he is intelligent, kind and courteous, and cute in a boyish way. Perhaps you did not know, but he has an eye for you...has for some time. He’s asked Alexander about you, but unfortunately he’s rather shy. Perhaps what he needs is a strong, assertive woman to make her interest known,” she finished speaking with a crooked grin on her face.

Efva listened intently at what her great-grandmother had to say; she had always, since a girl, held Ulla’s opinion in the highest regard. She is one of the better and sharper Thular. Her eyes peeled over toward the table of Nekulturnya representatives with a cold focus. She could put a name to the most of the faces and vaguely recalled Tsarevich Mikhail from the group. Her great-grandmother was certainly right about his boyish cuteness, but what’s more important is his position as heir. “You’re right, I should.” With that, she rose to her feet and confidently strode toward the Nekulturnyan table.

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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Ghant » Thu May 17, 2018 4:54 pm


(Co-written with Lacus Magni and Lyncanestria)

The ninety-seven year old woman seemed to float across the floor of the ballroom, in the direction of her targets. An old friend, and a national tragedy. Isabella of Latium in many ways reminded Teresa of her own mother, who at a young age lost her husband and was then stuck with three fatherless children. However great her grief may have been, at least Isabella didn’t outlive her children. For no parent should have to bury their children. That was Teresa’s burden...when her son Charles died, she wept, and wondered how many more of her children she would outlive…

Teresa perpetually had an expression on her face like she was playing a game of high-stakes poker, her eyes narrow and listless, her mouth long and straight, though perhaps curved downward at the corners, and great wrinkles that made it all sag. She tended to wear puffy gowns that concealed her shriveled figure. The one in particular she was wearing this evening was a navy blue. Her white hair fell loosely behind her shoulders. Ever so surely, she approached the Latins, with the help of a sturdy oak cane.

“...I know you don’t need that cane,” another old voice called out, gently. Teresa turned her head and noticed another old, familiar face. The woman was also old, though twenty-five years younger than Teresa was. She was also more impressively dressed than Teresa, who never cared for overdressing. The other woman wore a lavish cream-colored gown with a powder-blue sash with a few decorations adorned to it, and a diamond-studded tiara on her head.

Turning to stare at the younger woman, Teresa said dryly, “who are you trying to impress, Lilibet? Your father’s dead...your husband too.” Teresa was, of course, referring to her own late brother, Emperor Michael of Ghant, and the other woman’s late husband, the late Emperor of Lyncanestria. The woman was Elizabeth of Ghant, Dowager Empress and Empress Mother of Lycanestria, for now her son reigned in that country. Elizabeth was now seventy-five and in the twilight of her years, appearing old and weak, her once curly blonde hair now grey, though her blue eyes still sparkled.

“Father said you should always dress to impress,” Elizabeth countered cooly. “Because the family is constantly being judged, and the reputation of the family is everything. Though, you never cared for his lessons, did you?”

“With all due respect, Lilibet,” Teresa suppressed a yawn, “your father was also a chain smoker and a chronic drinker. He just did those things in private, and pretended that he didn’t in public. Who I am in private is who I am in public...I have nothing to hide, so let them judge. It matters not.”

Elizabeth cocked her head. “Nothing to hide, eh? You know Aunt Teresa, I’ve always wondered...I’ve never seen you sick, never seen you get hurt. You have no scars, no ailments or diseases, even so close to a hundred years old.” Elizabeth held up her arm, and pulled her sleeve back, to reveal a trembling hand. “Arthritis of the hurts. I can feel my body breaking down, I can feel death creeping ever closer to me. Then I see you walking around at the edge of the room, pretending that you need a cane…”

With a swift motion, Teresa lashed out with her cane and smacked her niece on the side of her abdomen. “I need it to teach children manners,” she snorted mischievously as Elizabeth recoiled with a look of righteous indignation on her face. “Telling me, your aunt, what I need and don’t need. I’m the one that tells you what you need and don’t need. Just because you wear that fancy gown, that gaudy tiara and ridiculous sash, doesn’t make you someone high and mighty to me. When I look at you, I see that little girl with blonde ringlets that would cling to her father’s leg like a spider monkey. That’s what I see. So let’s cut the shit and get down to business. What do you want?”

“...It’s about My grandson, Prince Imperial William and…” Elizabeth was cutoff by Teresa, who didn’t need to hear any more before she knew.

“And my great-granddaughter Teresa,” groaned Teresa with a shriveled hand to her forehead. “Please for the love of God tell me you figured something out.” Of all the matches Teresa preceded over in her family, realized or unrealized, there was never one that she was as opposed to as this one. She had plots within plots in order to counter it, involving letters, phone calls, “vacations” that were in fact house calls to various royal and noble families with which she had ties and friends. If I’m going to die, it will be if they ever announce that they’re getting married...

Elizabeth stiffened her back, and ahemed. “Prince Theodosius is an implacable man. He wants the best possible match for his daughter, and right now, that’s my grandson.”

“...Would Theodosius feel the same way about that if he knew that William was queer?” Teresa asked, pointedly.

Looking around suddenly, Elizabeth answered “...I don’t know, but for now he mustn't know. It would cause a great controversy and hurt my family’s reputation...especially my son and grandson.” Giving Teresa a sharp look, she added that “maybe your great-granddaughter is just blind, if she hasn’t figured out yet that William is gay.”

Her niece’s snark caused Teresa to hit her on the thigh with her cane. “Her father is overbearing, that’s why. There’s constant pressure on the poor girl to marry well. I doubt he’d even care if he was gay, if it meant Teresa would become Empress of Lyncanestria. I can already see it now…‘just close your eyes and think of Latium.’ To hell with that. You’re the Prince Imperial’s grandmother, it’s your job to find a better match, or just reveal him for what he is and let him go off and be happy with whatever boytoy makes him happy. Let him remain unmarried all his days and then let his younger brother Phillip succeed him. Enough with this dog and pony show.”

“...I am familiar with a certain Tsaritsa of Nekulturnya that is inclined towards women,” Elizabeth tried to recoup and steer the conversation in a more productive direction. “If William is matched with Alina of Nekulturnya, then they can put on appearances together, while each of them...does their own thing on the side, privately of course. That, and the daughter of a Tsar outranks the daughter of a second son of a Latin Emperor.”

Teresa stroked her chin, thinking deeply on that idea. “...That’s worth considering. I hope you will speak to your son or daughter-in-law about said idea? You’re creative, I’m sure you can come up with something that will suffice. Although, Theodosius may be displeased, and will demand some sort of satisfaction at the lost opportunity. That is why we must conduct matches involving both the younger Teresa and her brother Theoplatypus.”

“...Isn’t his name Theophylactus?” Elizabeth asked pointedly.

“Yes, but that’s far too hard to say. Theoplatypus rolls off the tongue, and I can assure you, he doesn’t mind me referring to him as that,” the elder woman explained. “Anyway, Theoplatypus and your granddaughter Marie-Sophie could work, plus that would discourage a match between the younger Teresa and William, since that would be a double-dip, and of course we don’t want that now do we?”

Elizabeth coughed into her hand, asking “..and what about the younger Teresa, then?”

“...With all due respect, Lilibet,” Teresa exhaled deeply, “I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I’m just trying to avoid this nonsense with William. Once that’s been taken care of, then I will figure out what to do about the younger Teresa. In the meantime, talk to whoever you need to talk to about Alina, and I will do the same in regards to Theoplatypus.” One last, although more friendly, tap of her cane against Elizabeth’s side, and Teresa said “now if you’d excuse me, Lilibet, I have business to tend to, eh?”

Curtsying, Elizabeth replied, “Aunt Teresa,” before turning and walking away, leaving Teresa to continue her approach towards the Latin women originally in her crosshairs.

The most prominent table featuring Latins, aside from the Emperor’s himself, was that of Diana Augusta, the former Latin Empress regnant. She sat as the focal point of the table, with her eldest child, Isabella, seated at one side and Caroline de Villeneuve on the other.

The last of the three was officially titled a Princess of the Blood and Countess of Winburn by courtesy, but she hardly assumed those titles herself, much preferring the simplicity of Lady, by which she was most known. Caroline donned a floor-length pale blue silk dress, tailored simply as was her penchant. She was distinctly different from the other women—a Lyncanestrian as opposed to Latin—and with an air of youthful gaiety that distinguished her even more in her present company.

Around the table the rest of the seats remained empty, with those held by other close relatives of Diana off dancing or mingling with the other guests. The three women were engaged in conversation, with Isabella laughing at something her mother just said, and even patting her mother’s hand.

“Caroline,” Diana said once the light laughing subsided, “I overheard you speaking with my granddaughter about equestrianism. Are you a rider yourself?”

Caroline’s gaze turned over to her suitor’s grandmother, smiling all the while—it seemed that losing her grin was something she hardly did. “Oh yes, Your Majesty,” she said, “it was quite the unexpected surprise when I first heard back in… August was it? It was soon after the Circenses that Leo told me Maria did equestrianism too. I was glad to finally be able to talk with her about our shared interest.”

“A true shame she didn’t ride this year,” Diana reached for her wine with a shaking hand, nearly knocking the glass over as she neared it. “And that she was so hard to keep track of, though I suppose she is her father’s daughter.”

“You have a sister don’t you, Caroline?” Isabella added while her mother sipped carefully at her wine.

“Madeleine,” Caroline affirmed with a nod, “she’s the countess now—well, she has been since papa died when we were little. She actually just married last year; it was a very private affair though, certainly nothing as grand as this.”

“To whom?” Diana set her wine back down.

“To Gregoire Estève? I don’t know how popular he is in Latium, but back home he’s quite a popular singer.” Caroline reached over to her glass for a sip of the chardonnay, as the two women seemed to try to recollect the name. “Despite their difference in rank, they were meant for each other,” she interjected, “true love always finds a way…”

“The name sounds familiar, I think Theodora may have some of his albums,” Isabella smiled while Diana thought over the name some, later adding, “And that’s sweet of you to say, I feel the same way.”

The Lyncanestrian smiled back at the Latin princess, “Some would say we’re naive romantics, Your Highness,” she began, “but I would say that it is stronger yet to remain steadfast in the belief that Providence has someone in store, than to live in cynical abandon.”

“That is a lovely way to look at it,” Isabella smiled back to Caroline, adding, “And please, call me Isabella.”

“...There are many scapegoats for our sins,” Empress Dowager Teresa said crisply as she closed in on the group, “but the most popular one is Providence.” Coming to stand before them, she leaned forward upon her cane. “In my experience, there’s no such thing as Providence. Only luck, and some of us are luckier than others,” the old woman said before giving a curtsey. “Your Majesty, Your Highnesses.”

The Audonic noblewoman turned to her side at Teresa’s entrance, an expression of surprise tried its best to conceal itself—whether it had been the Dowager Empress’s sudden appearance or her actual words that had triggered her reaction was up to debate. But never one to forget etiquette, Caroline stood from her seat and curtsied at the older woman, “Majesty.”

Diana smiled at Teresa, almost unknowingly, prompting Isabella to quickly whisper something to the abdicated Latin Empress, afterwhich Diana said, “Teresa, what a surprise. Yet some might say that luck is guided by Providence.”

“Your Majesty,” Isabella stood to offer a quick curtsey.

Diana then motioned to the empty seats just across, “Please join us, I don’t expect my granddaughter and her date will be back anytime soon to reclaim that seat.”

“No, I suspect not,” Teresa said as she rubbed the conspicuous black band on her ringfinger. “Who you trying to fool, Diana? Nothing surprises you anymore, no more than nothing surprises me.” Finding a nearby vacant seat, Teresa lowered herself upon it and made herself comfortable, with her cane laying across her lap. “If there were such a thing as Providence, then the best of us would reap the greatest rewards of life. Alas, the opposite is often the case. Call me a cynic,” she shrugged casually.

Diana smiled, followed with a chuckle. “Yet here we are, the two of us in old age; all of us at this table reaping many of life’s greatest rewards and splendors.”

With a faint smile, Teresa responded, “or perhaps, carrying on in spite of them…”

Isabella interjected, “Empress Teresa, have you met Lady Caroline? She is my son’s date to the wedding.”

“...I wasn’t aware that Princes of Ghant dated,” answered Teresa with eyes shifting between Isabella and Caroline. “Lady Caroline, how modest. You are a Princess after all, and one of the blood at that...on both sides as I recall. Why, your great-grandfather was my own uncle, a good man and true. He used to come visit my mother’s estate when I was young and leave me flowers.”

“Don’t be daft, Teresa,” Diana quickly interjected, “They’re just courting.”

“Dating and courting are two different things,” countered Teresa facetiously. “Blurring the distinction would be daft.”

“Your Majesty, my grandmother Allora would speak highly of my great-grandfather. I’ve heard so much good about him, so it wouldn’t surprise me that he did that,” Caroline paused for a second, no doubt trying to recollect her memories of Prince William, which in the end was to no avail. “Sadly, I can’t say I remember all that much personally; I wasn’t even ten when he passed.”

Recalling her memories, Teresa explained that “Allora and I were very close. She was in my wedding, and I in hers. It was a sad day indeed when she passed, and I suddenly found myself one tea party guest short. Diana over here was never much of the tea party type, if you can believe that. I think it comes from the Nekulturnyan side...they don’t like tea,” she laughed. “Their tea is vodka, but to my knowledge I’ve never seen Diana drink it.”

“I do believe I’ve been to one or two of your tea parties since abdicating. Though Isabella, I’m certain, has been at far more,” Diana “smiled, then reaching for a glass, “And while I don’t care all that much for vodka, I do enjoy tea. I just don’t care to travel as much as some do in my advancing age.”

“That’s right,” Isabella nodded with a smile, “Whenever Empress Teresa came to Ghish I made a point to attend tea.”

“...That’s because it was a convenient excuse to get away from Grace,” laughed Teresa jovially. “Hell, even Ulla of Thule would rather join me for tea than have to deal with Grace Galan, and that’s saying a lot, because however much they dislike tea in Nekulturnya, they dislike it even more in Thule. They drink blood up there, fresh from the bull’s throat,” she sniggered with a glace cast towards Caroline. “That’s not really my thing.”

“It doesn’t sound like it would be my thing either,” the Countess responded hesitantly, “surely you mean this in a figurative sense, Your Majesty? I’ve heard things about these Ghantish northmen but nothing so… barbarous.”

“Well, the northmen do have their own… peculiarities,” Isabella reached for her wine and took a quick sip.

Teresa laughed and nodded her head. “Oh yes Princess, ‘tis true. They drink the blood of beasts hot in those parts, and they like it in their meat too. I’ve been up there once...or twice. In some parts, the women are great warriors, and say that any man that can best them in single combat can mate with them. So you would have a dozen warriors all fight the same woman, and she’d leave them all bloody on the ground. Mind you some of these women are seven feet tall with hands the size of your head.”

Caroline’s brow had furrowed, and her smile contorted into a half-gaping shape; the awe she was experiencing was definitely that of the awful, and not the awesome kind. “That sounds dreadful,” Caroline whispered. She had most likely said it in self-reflection albeit a bit too loud, as she then found herself continuing apologetically, “What I meant to say is that I would never have thought such things would carry on to today; pagan rituals and practices and unladylike behaviors…” she trailed off, sighing as she finished, “But such are the ways of some people, I guess.”

“No, it is rather grim, isn’t it?” Isabella nodded, sharing a glance with her mother. “Thankfully my girls have shown no interest in venturing that far north.”

With a laugh, Teresa pointed out, “you may be pleased to know that the Emperor chases them all away. All those northern lordlings venturing south looking for the hand of a young imperial bride, and not a one has been successful.” To Caroline she said, “speaking of don’t have very long before he comes and fetches you. He’s smarter and more cunning than people give him credit for, so if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s this. Don’t act like you’re better than him to him.”

“Oh, your Majesty,” Caroline quickly responded, “I live by the maxim inscribed in Scripture: judge not lest ye be judged. That is to say, I would never presume to be better than anyone—it is not my place to pass judgement.”

“Scripture also teaches that you should dash your children against stone,” Teresa laughed gingerly as a figure loomed behind her. “You should keep that in mind for when you have children someday…”

“... I hope I’m not interrupting too serious of a conversation?” the Emperor of Ghant asked curiously as he entered into the group. “Great-Aunt,” he said to Teresa as he embraced her, and then on to Diana. “Your Majesty,” he said to her, and then to Isabella, offering her an embrace, “your’s been some time. It’s good to see you.”

“It has, Your Majesty,” Isabella smiled politely, rising briefly to accept Nathan’s embrace when she noticed it. “I pray you’ve been well.” While the elder Diana remained in her seat, she kindly smiled to Nathan and offered formal hello featuring his style.

Following the Emperor exchanging pleasantries, he turned to the Countess and extended his hand. “I’d like the next dance, Your Highness, if you’d have it,” he said with a smile. “That is, if none of you mind.”

Teresa waved her hand. “Go right on ahead.”

Seemingly apprehensive, Caroline nevertheless rose from her seat and observed the formality of royal greetings with a quick curtsy at the Ghantish monarch. “Of course, Your Majesty,” the Countess finally said in her soft, gentle voice. “It has been an awfully long time since we last spoke, after all…perhaps it is time that we caught up.”

“Aye, I think so.” With deft hands and sure feet, the Emperor of Ghant led the Lyncanestrian Countess to the floor for the next dance in his proper, yet dreary sort of way.
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Lacus Magni
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Founded: Apr 02, 2011
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Lacus Magni » Sat Aug 25, 2018 3:07 pm

Palatium Supranio

Princess Theodora of Ghant looked around the great hall, watching happy couples dancing away to the beautiful music being performed, watching others drink the night away to their hearts content. And yet, she remained seated at her table – the bridesmaids table that is. A cousin to each the bride and the groom, Theodora was in a rare position to be close to each, but unlike most others, she felt no desire to get up and mingle or dance, or even drink much for that matter. Most of the other bridesmaids, including her sister Diana, and half-sister Arietta disappeared into the crowd where they were likely surrounded by family – because you can’t walk a foot in here without bumping into a relative.

Theodora looked towards the dance floor now, finding her brother, Leo, dancing with their half-brother’s own half-sister, Alexia Kindaro. She rolled her eyes at the scene, not because of any dislike of Alexia, on the contrary she’s a very kind and considerate, not to mention one of the few you can trust in Ghish, but it just struck Theodora as, well, odd.

As she reached for her glass of wine resting in front of her, she heard a loud smack behind her, prompting Theodora to jump in her seat and knock her glass over, spilling wine onto her half-empty plate. The sudden sound caused her to breathe more rapidly, and her heart to nearly jump from her chest. Almost instinctively she looked for a familiar face before turning to face the sound, Nathan, Leo, even Ser Adrasto…one of you please.

Unable to find any of the three, she slowly turned to see the cause, only to find two waiters cleaning up a spilled tray and broken glasses. “Shit,” she said aloud in Ghantish, still appearing somewhat rattled at the loud sound. Clumsy fool, she thought, now rubbing her arms nervously at the discomfort caused by the sudden, and somewhere frightening sound.

“Oh no, you spilled your wine, Thea,” Theodora’s younger cousin, and a bridesmaid as well, Princess Poly of Latium, said as she approached the table.

“It happens,” Thea flashed a smile to cover up her discomfort. “Are you enjoying yourself so far, Poly?”

“I am,” Poly pulled out a chair and said next to Thea. “Actually, I wanted to go see Avia Didi, but I caught Empress Teresa walking over there first, and I really didn’t want to have to deal with that right now,” the Latin princess added with a laugh.

“Mother always says she’s best in small doses,” Thea winced a smile.

“What about you, are you having a good time so far?” Poly looked to her cousin inquisitively.

“Oh, um yes, I’m having a great time. Anastasia looked so beautiful, and Kostas, of course, was as handsome as ever. I’m so happy for them. I think uncle would be very proud,” Thea smiled. “Not to mention the great food, plenty of drink, and so much eye candy,” Thea forced a laugh, prompting Poly to join along in the laughter, if not go slightly red in the face. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you blush like that before.”

“Please, nothing like that,” Poly chuckled still. “There are just…well, no one here really seems all that interesting.”

“Not even little Chuck Kindaro?” Thea teased, drawing a stern look from Poly. Instead, Thea threw up her hands and said, “Alright, forget I said anything!”

“It’s fine, I doubt he’d manage a full sentence if we even ran into each other,” Poly joked. “So have you been around to mingle at all? Maria is actually here believe it or not.”

“She’s your sister, why wouldn’t she be here?” Thea laughed, abit uneasy though.

“Oh, I mean, just because she’s been holed up in Utica since before March. I’ve barely spoken to her since, and she never really said why except for a getaway,” Poly shrugged before turning to find an attendant and pointing to the wine Thea spilled moments before on the plate, prompting the man to carefully gather it and carry it off.

I can’t say I blame her, Thea mused. For her part, this was the first time Thea had been back in Latium since November of the previous year. In fact, she hadn’t even left Ghish for about the same amount of time, except for Selene and Audric’s wedding of course. “Probably because she and Thomas have been too busy fucking like rabbits ever since,” she said instead, causing Poly to laugh.

“That’s fine I guess. Father liked Thomas…much more than he liked Nicetas,” Poly said of her sister’s current partner compared to the ex-fiance.

“Nobody likes Nicetas,” Thea chuckled.

“True,” Poly smiled. “I like Thomas though, he’s very sweet, and actually good to her from all I’ve heard I’m happy for her.”

“That’s all that matters, isn’t it?” Thea asked rhetorically with a smile. A server walked past the girls, offering wine to each. Poly accepted, but Thea waved her hand in a refusal, and said, “You’re on your gap year, aren’t you?”

“I am,” Poly nodded, after taking a sip from her glass. “Mother is very busy since Kostas keeps her on as an advisor, but we’ve managed to visit a handful of schools so far. I visited Haenna on my own recently when I last saw Peter. That was very fun.”

“Where are you liking so far? Haenna, I’m guessing at least, because Peter lives there now and everyone knows a twin can’t stay apart from a twin for long,” Thea joked with Poly.

“That’s so true. I hear that if twins are apart for too long, they wither away,” Poly played into the joke, adding, “I’m too afraid to test it myself, but Peter seems not to mind, so I’m forced to visit Haenna every so often.”

“So you’ll be attending Haenna then?” Thea raised an eyebrow.

“Too soon to say, I think,” Poly smiled. “I might take a little longer than the average gap to decide. Who knows.”

“You have your head on straighter than most, you’ll figure it out,” Thea nodded, her eyes scanning the dense gathering of people dancing or moving around the hall. Throughout her scan, she saw a commotion erupt on the dance floor, and a number of Praetorians move towards it. “What’s going on over there?” Thea said, beginning to feel somewhat flustered at the surprising commotion

“I’m not sure,” Poly leaned forward, her eyes focused on the dance floor where a figure rushed away, followed by a handful of her brother’s guards as others moved towards the commotion. The guards, for their part, did their best to minimize the disruption as far as Theodora could tell. “Let’s go see.”

Poly rose and started walking towards the dance floor, but turned to see Theodora still seated, almost as if she were glued to her seat. “Are you coming, Thea?” Poly took a few steps back towards the table.

“I um, yes,” the Princess nodded, slowly standing. “Maybe we should find Ser Adrasto.”

“Is he here?”

“Yes,” Thea laughed, He’s never far thankfully. A Ghantish knight, Ser Adrasto Minazar was a companion of Thea’s father, and continued to serve in her mother’s household after her father’s death, playing a key part in their flight to Latium after the death of Ghantish Emperor Albert I over twenty years ago. “Leo asked him to come to Ghish with Dee and I, and I asked for him to be invited tonight. He’s practically family at this point…it would have been rude if he wasn’t here.”

“I’m glad he was invited then,” Poly said as the girls began walking towards the dance floor.

As they were walking, a young man, perhaps in his mid-twenties, dressed in a sparsely decorated officers uniform approached the princesses. His hair was dark brown, as were his eyes, while his face was clean shaven and appeared friendly. “Excuse me, Princesses” the man said with a quick bow of his head and warm smile. Oh yes, another to ask for a dance, Theodora thought sarcastically, while she tried to mirror a smile back to the man. “It’s nice to see you again, Your Highness,” he said to Poly first before turning to Theodora, “And of course, you as well, Princess Theodora.”

“Forgive me, but do we know you,” Theodora said before Poly had an opportunity to respond.

“Valentinian Arelatus,” he smiled, putting a hand to his chest as he said his name. “Friends with your brother, and Poly’s.”

“Which brother?” Theodora chuckled. Even though she didn’t recognize the name, it was clear to her that he knew Leo, since there’s no way he could possibly be friends with Nate.

“Oh, uh, your brother Leo. I mean Prince Leo, if you beg my pardon,” Valentinian still smiled. “We attended Olympia together.” He paused for a moment, laughing lightly as his eyes shifted to Poly, who turned out to be laughing as well. “We’ve actually met before, more than once actually.”

“Didn’t I tell you to call me Poly from now on?” Poly teased, stepping forward to embrace Valentinian as one would a close friend. “We’ve known each other for how long and you still do the Highness.”

“A difficult habit to break,” he stepped forward to hug Poly, before stepping back to his position across from Theodora.

“Oh that’s right, Valentinian. I remember now, you’ve been to my mother’s estate before. A birthday party, if I recall” Theodora, to her own surprise, grew red faced at the error. “You’ll have to forgive me.”

“Please, there’s nothing to forgive,” he smiled politely. “An event like this wedding is a bit overwhelming. I’ve never been to anything like this before.”

“I could have sworn you were at Selene’s wedding,” Poly reminisced.

“Invited, yes. But I couldn’t get time away from base to attend something overseas. Perhaps if I was stationed in Vannois,” he laughed. “But luckily, I’m stationed near Adrianople for now, so this time I had no excuse to miss,” Valentinian explained the situation, as Thea smiled at him.

“You missed a good one. It would have even been a warm up,” Thea said, looking to her side as a guest she didn’t recognize walked past the three. “You’d be more prepared for all of this madness.”

“Aye. Agreed, it would have been nice,” he laughed.

Appearing eager once again, Poly added, “It was disappointing that you weren’t in the wedding party today. I was sure Kostas would have included you as a groomsman.” She maneuvered closer to Valentinian, seemingly to avoid standing in the way of other guests trying to move around them. Theodora closed the gap as well.

“I think I just missed the cut,” Valentinian smiled to the girls, holding his index finger and thumb close together. His his eyes lingered on Theodora a moment longer than she expected. “He picked a fine group of men to join him…as did Anastasia, of course.”

“Yes, of course,” Thea laughed, starting to twirl a loose strand of her hair. “Well she obviously has great taste, just as Kostas and my brother do in friends. But that goes without saying.”

Just as she was about to speak, Poly’s younger sister Olivia tapped her on the shoulder and whispered something in her ear. Poly nodded, then turned to the group and said, “It was great to see you again Valentinian, but I hope you’ll excuse me for a moment.” He nodded to her while she took Olivia’s hand, but before stepping too far away added, “Save a dance for me.”

Valentinian nodded again with a smile. And as he and Thea were left standing together in the great hall, Thea noticed a growing number of Praetorians mingling among the guests. “Poly certainly likes you, doesn’t she?” Thea teased with a playful grin.

He snorted a laugh, “Doubtful.”

“Perhaps, who knows though,” Thea laughed along, throwing a playful elbow into his side. “Did you happen to catch commotion on the dance floor a few moments ago?”

“You know, I thought I heard something,” he looked up and squinted some. “When I looked I saw some man grab a woman’s arm and then a few Praetorians moved towards them. I didn’t see what caused it though.”

“Certainly someone who can’t hold their alcohol well enough,” she laughed, “I’m almost hoping its my cousin’s ex-fiance just so I can see him make an ass of himself again.”

“Actually, I think that’s him…right over there,” Valentinian tried to discreetly point out the man he claims to have seen cause the event on the dance floor.

“Jesus, that’s my uncle Richard. Please tell me it wasn’t him. You’d think being at the wedding of his daughter would make him act like a normal human being,” Thea began to feel tense. “Not surprising, he’s a fucking asshole. I mean…God, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. Please don’t repeat that.”

“Your secret is safe with me, Princess.”

“Thea,” she laughed, placing a hand on his arm. “Call me Thea.”

“Alright, Thea,” he smiled.

“So you’re based near Adrianople?” she smiled, receiving an approving nod from him. “Are you in the same legion Leo was in?”

“Ah, well not really. Leo was in the…fourth, I believe,” he looked up for a moment, trying to remember Leo’s legion from Olympia then added, “I’m Sixteenth legion.”

“And what fancy name is attached to the Sixteenth? I know the Leo’s was the Triumphant Fourth,” she inquired with a playful laugh. “You soldiers have a tendency to shout that sort of thing when you’re all together.”

“Fortune’s Sixteenth,” he chuckled, “It’s tattooed on my arm actually, just don’t tell my mother.”

“No it isn’t, you guys don’t really do that sort of thing do you?” Thea playfully slapped his arm with a laugh.

“Some do, just promise you won’t tattle on me, ok?” he begged light-heartedly.

Thea tapped a finger against her chin, thinking things over. “Hmm, well you did promise to keep my secret, so I suppose it’s the least I could do.”

At that, Valentinian looked over his shoulder, and then to the dance floor behind Thea. “I really really hope this doesn’t come off as snooty, because sometimes my sister thinks the things I say do, but now I’m just rambling,” Thea paused with a giggle. “But for a commoner you handle being alone in a room with princes and princesses better than most. I mean not that there’s anything wrong with being a commoner, or, uhh, I mean you don’t seem like most men.”

“You’re right, that did sound snooty,” Valentinian snorted a laugh. “It used to be very difficult, but like all things you adapt, you grow, and you adjust. In the end they’re just people, more prominent of course,” he chuckled, but spoke to her sincerely, “but just people. That was the biggest thing for me to realize I think, but once I did it’s like talking to anyone else.”

“That’s an interesting way to deal with it,” Thea nodded. Valentinian looked to her, causing Thea to look away out of embarrassment as she laughed. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You say I’m not like most men, it seems to me you’re not like most women.”

“What makes you say that?” Thea rubbed her arm, curious for an answer.

“You’ve been through a lot, through things that few would come out of and still wear a smile or…or talk to friends of their brother that they don’t quite remember,” he spoke with a sense of genuineness in his voice before adding a playful quip. “You’re very brave, is what I mean.”

Thea felt a lump in her throat, but took a deep breath as she listened to Valentinian. When he finished, she glanced at her feet before looking up at him. When she didn’t say anything, Valentinian added, “Anyway, I really didn’t mean for that to get so serious,” he rubbed the back of his neck with a nervous chuckle.

“No, it’s…it’s fine,” she smiled weakly, quickly taking a breath before smiling. “Very sweet of you actually.”

“Actually,” he paused with a glance around the hall, though Thea’s eyes never left his, “I hope your brothers don’t kill me for this, but I’d kick myself if I didn’t ask…” he extended his hand, “would you like to dance?” She nodded a smile, and together they walked towards the dance floor.
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Founded: Jun 05, 2012
Democratic Socialists

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur

Postby Lyncanestria » Thu Sep 20, 2018 8:45 pm

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur
Palatium Supranio
Adrianople, Latium

(Co-written with Lacus Magni)


Sophie struggled to think of any way that the situation could have been made even more uncomfortable after that altercation. Perhaps if they were all in their birthday suits, only then could the situation could be said to be more awkward than it already was. In retrospect she felt that it would have been better to have not spoken up at all, but this is Sophie we’re talking about—a woman too principled for her own good.

As she let herself be walked to the center of the ballroom, she looked over to her dance partner, whose rosied cheeks seemed now to have mostly returned to their original fair complexion. She had had a bit of a crush on Theoph since she saw him at Imbros that summer a year ago, though she had never told anyone but Teresa—her good friend and, coincidentally, his sister. A tall, dashing prince in uniform—what more could a girl ask for?

They reached the dance floor, just a few feet away from where Teresa and Guillaume had situated themselves. The two were preoccupied talking to even notice the younger couple preparing themselves to dance for the next number.

Theophylactus moved to assume a dancing position, at first placing a hand just below small of Sophie’s back first until his cheeks grew slightly red. “Apologies,” he said to her in her native Audonic as he looked to her with a smile only to lift his hand off her back and place it somewhat above where it was before, now in the correct position. Continuing in her native tongue, Theoph said, “You…are you enjoying your gap year so far, Princess? Teresa’s mentioned that you were looking to vacation some.”

“Oh? So we’re going to ‘Prince’ and ‘Princess’ each other?” she said jokingly, no doubt trying to ease the tension. “Well if you must know, Prince, Teresa is quite right. I did tell her that I was hoping to take a small break from official events, especially with the holidays coming up and all. Seems like a good time to leave the pomp and ceremony of royal duties for a few days, at least.”

“…Oh, well, I mean we don’t have to. I’d much rather call you Sophie, seeing as it is your name. And then you could start your vacation now, when I stop being so ceremonial…” Theoph smiled at her, the redness in his cheeks starting to fade away again. “That’s right, I recall hearing about your official duties…but, um, have you thought about where you’d like to visit?”

“Well by vacation I didn’t particularly mean travelling anywhere. Actually I had thought of it more as simply some ‘me time’—a break from the public eye. Though you and Teresa are making me think more about getting away…”

“Well you could always come visit Castellum…I mean because Teresa will be on semester break, and I will be on leave soon as well, but umm,” Theophylactus grinned at first, but began to run his words together before pausing. “I think it would be fun.”

“I’ll consider it,” she responded smilingly, “it’s been a long while since I’ve been to Latium after all—save this visit. Though this trip is hardly long enough to count as a proper holiday. I’ll talk to Teresa about it…” she trailed off for a bit as she found her next words, “it would be good fun to catch up—more so than is possible at this crowded place, at least.”

“Imbros, right? That was the last time you were in Latium, I mean. It’s been a while…It would be great to catch up,” he continued smiling. “I’m sure you’ve been very busy lately and well…we don’t really see each other all that often, unfortunately,” Theoph said quickly as he tried to clarify.

“Sadly, that is the case,” the Princess agreed. By now the musical number had begun and the duo started moving to the tune in tandem with the other couples around them. “But we will remedy that sometime, if not soon,” she added. “Latium is far too beautiful to stay away from too long anyways.”

“As are you—beautiful, I mean,” Theoph said, “If you don’t mind me saying.”

The comment had caught Sophie by surprise, as her eyes visibly widened, if ever so slightly. “Oh,” she began, “that’s very kind of you to say, Theoph—er, Your Highness… wait, are we still doing that?”

“You’re very welcome, and you can call me Theoph, or anything really,” he smiled to Sophie, but then added with a hint of laughter, “As long as it isn’t Theoplatypus anyway, like my great-grandmother does.”

“Well certainly I would never call you that,” Sophie assured him, “As it turns out I quite enjoy your company to chase you away with nasty nicknames. Besides” she quickly remarked, “who would compliment me then?”

“Oh, is that all I’m good for then?” he teased. “Though I guess it’s something at least.”

“Well I’m sure that’s not the case,” Sophie replied, “unless you’re telling me the navy has failed to make a better man of you. How has it been anyways?—the military I mean.”

“It’s been going well. I only have a few more months until I graduate from the Academy,” Theoph began. “After that, I’ll likely be stationed on a ship…or get a ship of my own. My father says that is a possibility.”

“A captain of your own ship, huh? That would be quite the achievement!” she remarked. “I’m sure that would make your parents proud.”

“Thank you, it would,” he blushed slightly as he smiled. “But I don’t want to get ahead of myself just yet. There are plenty of equally qualified sailors, and my father, thankfully, said he would recuse himself if or when any decision is made. But I don’t think that will be until July or August.”

“That must be a lot of pressure on your shoulders, then. Especially since your father does not seem to be the sort of man to take disappointment well…”

“I, uh…father just wants to see Teresa and I succeed,” Theoph said, stumbling over his words initially. “He means well, I think. Is your father…not the same?”

Sophie’s head tilted slightly, her eyes squinted as she contemplated the question for a second. “Well,” she began, “I can’t speak in any definitive way for your father, as I obviously don’t know him as well as you… but as for mine, I wouldn’t say he doesn’t want us to succeed, but I would wager he’s not as… demanding?”

She paused as she thought over her words, “Well perhaps demanding isn’t the correct word, as my dad still wants us to do well, keep up a good image; but you know he’s not the kind to force anything on us… I guess what I’m asking is if you feel the navy is something you want to do or if it’s just your father’s will.”

“Ah,” the Prince sighed. “Well umm he, he’s always talked about wanting me to join the military. It’s the perfect way to do your duty for your country and family, he would tell me. I guess I just thought, if I…I can’t, well if I can’t do the same for my family, what sort of man would I be,” he paused and quickly looked to his feet, before looking back at Sophie with a smile. “And I much prefer the open sea to flying, I never did fair well during flights,” he laughed.

Like father, like son. “Well I’m glad that at least you like it. Some who follow in the footsteps their parents cannot day the same. And at least you’re man of duty; though not blind duty I hope…”

“How do you mean?” Theoph raised an eyebrow. “I, I didn’t join because I felt like I had to if that’s what you mean.”

“It’s just that I’ve met my fair share of those people… I obviously can’t speak for them but from what I could tell they seemed so miserable inside. Sometimes duty doesn’t call us to take up arms for the fatherland; sometimes it calls us to stand for our country and family in other ways.”

“I suppose we all have our own sort of duty. Some great, some small, not that it…it means any less, because even the smallest is the greatest to someone,” Theoph spoke carefully, as if there was a lump in his throat, while he shrugged. “The hard part is choosing to accept one’s duty, even when we don’t want it. That would be the truest test.”

The Princess nodded, seemingly in agreement. Though Sophie was not one to let any stone go unturned or question go unanswered. “You say it is the truest test, Theoph—but test of what, would you say?” She had posed the question at the same time she had begun to ponder it herself it seemed, as that trademark expression of pensiveness grew on her face. “Of strength? Of character? Let us not forget that most people carry the burden of many duties… does failing one for the other make them any less dutiful?”

“Character, but certainly fortitude as well. And justice even,” Theoph answered quickly. “I’d wager you could be the most dutiful person to walk the earth and still fail, but umm,” his cheeks grew slightly red as he looked at Sophie, “umm, failure doesn’t make someone less dutiful, I don’t think.”

“I do not know whether or not to take that as a compliment to my dutifulness or an offense…” Sophie remarked, though the smile on her face revealing the comment was clearly not meant to be taken seriously. For a moment she thought through his words once more, then, looking in the distance to a familiar face she realized there was someone else they may apply to, quite ironically. By that logic, is Adrian not any less dutiful than me? She contemplated that for a split moment; was it hypocrisy, or just the product of being blinded by something else?

A few seconds of silent, wordless swaying to the waltz went by, and it seemed that their insightful conversation had finally—and quite suddenly—come to an end. But much unlike their conversation, the music was just barely reaching its climax; even if Sophie hadn’t already known the piece, the sweeping melody and the energetic couples around them would have made her realise there was still much more to the piece to go. And that was perfectly fine; conversation or not, the Latin Prince made up for it with the fact he was not half bad on his feet.

As the two danced in silence, Theoph opened slightly opened his mouth, as if to speak, though didn’t. He swallowed the ever growing lump in his throat. “Uh, you’ll be starting university not before long. Have you decided where you’ll attend?”

“I haven’t actually… that is to say I haven’t made a final choice despite all the thought I’ve been putting into this decision. I will let you know though, that I’ve narrowed it down to just two choices.”

“Oh, well, that’s good,” he smiled to her. “Both in Lyncanestria? I mean not that you wouldn’t…only because I’m sure Teresa has probably tried to have you visit Haenna with her, I mean.”

“Well one of them is at least—the Imperial University, actually,” she clarified. “Yeah I know, I know… predictable, huh? But anyways I just can’t seem to decide between their political science program and Castellum’s.”

“Oh, Castellum, that would be something,” Theoph attempted to stifle his smile, though by all accounts could have tried harder. “But I had cousins attend each. My cousin, William, had nothing but good things to say of Imperial. And of course, the same for Castellum…I think that’s where I would have attended if not for the Navy.”

“Oh really? I’m actually a little surprised, given your sister is attending Haenna. But I don’t blame you; Castellum is probably the most prestigious Latin school, isn’t it? At least that’s my perception as a foreigner looking in… or it may just be the beautiful campus that drew you to it.” She tried spinning the conversation back to what is rather than what could’ve been. “But at least you love it in the navy, no?” Or at least you’ve said as much.

“Teresa likes to be close to Adrianople because that’s where most of her other friends are from. But um, I do like the campus more, I suppose. And I just prefer the city,” Theoph said before adjusting his hand along Sophie’s back, and placing it in position again. “I do enjoy the navy, but um, sometimes I think about where’d I’d be if I didn’t. I like where I am, and like I said, I am almost finished with officer training.”

“Well you know what they say about hindsight; it’s human nature to look back and think about those what ifs—we just have to be confident in ourselves that we’ve made the right choice.”

“And I am,” he smiled to her. “I’m sure whichever university you choose will be the right one too.”

She smiled, “That is to be seen, of course, but thanks for the reassurance Theoph. I can’t say there are many—if any—choices I’ve regretted. Then again I’m only 19; not many choices I’ve taken up to now have been as impactful as those I’ll be taking from here onwards.”

“That’s true,” Theoph continued to smile, then adding lightheartedly, “You could be someone like your brother, or any heir, where someone wants to choreograph their whole life and every decision they make is scrutinized.”

“Is there something you want to say, Theoph? I mean… you are an heir too, are you not?”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” he countered at first before admitting, “I am an heir to a noble title, but I don’t face the sort of pressures people like your brother face.”

She pondered his statement for a moment. “Alas,” she finally began, “in both cases—yours and my brother’s—such pressures must then be met with duty and resolve. And I also think you may be shrugging the magnitude of your own duties. You’re still an Imperial Prince and I’ve met your father, I think there is a lot more choreography going on than you let on.”

Speaking of choreography, she thought to herself as the music finally reached its final cadence. Sophie spun underneath his arm, moving opposite the Prince where she poised herself to curtsy and he to bow.

As Sophie curtsied, Theoph bowed. The Prince hesitated, but gathered his words together, “Could I walk you back to your table?”

“Of course,” she happily acquiesced.

Extending his arm for her, Theoph began to walk with Sophie off the dance floor. “You know, you’re right,” he said a few moments later. “My father always wanted to make sure I joined the military,” he began sternly, “in fact, he pushed very hard for it, but he also told me that in the end it was my decision to make. He often reminds me that very few people live like you or me, and there are certainly many abroad that would find great joy in tearing our countries, or even just our families, down. If we these expect ordinary people to defend our families, our countries, why should it stop with them? So I’m glad I made the choice I did,” he came to a stop before nearing Sophie’s table.

“I don’t think I’ve ever said that to anyone before,” he smiled faintly.

”Well in that case I’m flattered it was first me with whom you’ve shared such candor. Makes me feel as though you think of me as more than just your sister’s friend,” she added, softly laughing at the end.

Theoph smiled to her as they stopped. “Of course I do…” he said before hesitating on his next words, soon after adding, “And I hope you see me as more than your friend’s brother…because I like you.”

Looking into Sophie’s eyes one would wonder whether those were the eyes of surprise or confusion—perhaps both. “Theoph, I…” she began, trying to collect her thoughts, “What would your sister think?”

“I uh...uh, well,” Theoph thought nervously, his face growing red. “She doesn’t mind, I talked to her about it.”

The Princess’s smile could not have given any more away about the way she felt in return. “Oh,” she said with a giggle, “so you’ve asked her already? I can’t believe Teresa never told me. That’s one loyal sister you have Theoph.”

As the pair moved away from the ballroom, arms locked and approaching her father’s table, she continued, “I must admit I’m grateful you told me how you felt, because… I feel the same. Getting to know you this past year made me realize that; I’m glad we’ve finally been honest with each other.”

“So am I,” Theoph gave a proud grin. Just steps away from Sophie’s table, he added, “I suppose this is where we part for now. Thank you for the dance, Sophie. I um, I’ll be in touch if I don’t see you again tonight.”

“Certainly,” she agreed, curtsying one last time to the Prince as he bowed in return. “I hope we do see each other later, though. For goodbyes, and all.” She gave a last smile as she turned back around, a few steps from her table, where her family awaited, most with a raised eyebrow. Looks like I have explaining to do… at least grandmother seems to have gone off somewhere else for now, or I wouldn’t hear the end of it.
Pop: 64,854,527 | At arms: 227,895 (314,712 reserve)
GDP: NSD $3.099 trillion (2.869 ƒ) trillion | GDP/c: $44,371
Emperor: Philippe VIII | PM: Luc Mariard
: Vehicular accident kills 3, including Fleury CF striker :: Burgoyard seperatist demonstrations turn violent in Jugny :: After a term out of office, Mariard regains Premiership :: Emperor undertakes official visit to Vannois :: Baudelaire Systems unveil newest phone, the Astro 4 :: Moulins declares Caeseti regime "illegitimate" :



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