Alate Epoch (Viverescribere x Peregrine)

Peregrine

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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Rioka gave Astrid’s dress one final check before she stood again, her tail causing the hem of her skirt to sway as it shook back and forth in excitement. “Don’t worry, Your Majesty. I’m sure it will go great!” the sweet-voiced woman said with excitement. “You can…”

Rioka’s mouth snapped shut before she could finish her sentence. She had been about to suggest the fairy empress tell her all about it later, but the little bit of etiquette Rioka had managed to cram into her head in the few hours that had passed told her that would be a terrible faux pas.

“You can… you can…” She had to think of something quickly. “I’m sure you’ll be able to boast all about it later.”

Well, that would have to be good enough. The grey-furred maid was giving her another disappointed look, and Rioka could only do her best to avoid making eye contact.

The maid bowed her head deeply. “Please follow me, Your Majesty,” she said. “I will lead you to the council room.”



In a circular room at the top of the Dragon Tower, eight people sat at a round table. The late afternoon sun streamed in through the clear glass windows that filled all the walls, and the silver city of Myriean glinted far below them. It was clear that the people that surrounded the table were in the middle of an important discussion, as an air of gravitas filled the room.

“She’ll be here soon.”

Despite the fact that the table was round, there was still a clear division of power between the people sitting there. Approximately one half of the table sat seven of the eight people. On the other hand, the golden-haired man who had just spoken sat alone on the other half, accompanied by nothing but an empty chair. Golden horns rose up from his head, sweeping back over his mane of blonde hair, and his emerald green eyes moved from one person to another.

“As this will be her first time meeting you all, I expect first impressions to go off flawlessly. Understood?”

“Don’t worry, Your Majesty,” a thin elf with perfectly white skin and hair replied, a charming smile crossing his face. “We’re all looking forward to meeting our future Empress.”

The other six nodded in agreement to the elf’s words. One short dwarf was continually polishing his glasses, the motion seeming more habitual than intended to have any real effect.

Just then, two quick knocks sounded from the floor, echoing up the short curled stairs that rose from the lower floor into the room.

“She’s here,” a stone-skinned woman with a fierce, protruding brow muttered unconsciously. To her left, a giant, humanoid ant began to nervously clean his antennas with his front legs. One by one, they rose from their seats, until the only person remaining seated was the golden haired man at the head of the table. All of them turned to face the stairs that led into the room.
 
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Viverescribere

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Genres
Fantasy, Historical, Magical, Romance (usually within other genres), Dystopia,.





Astrid


It was with great pleasure to Astrid that the nervousness that she felt towards this first time meeting with her betrothed was not betrayed by her expression. Schooled in the art of façades and false expressions, Astrid liked to believe that she was rather good with her expression when it came to faking her emotions. It was typically her wings that gave her away, often twitching or holding the slightest of tremors whenever she was anxious or displeased. As they did quite often during the dignitaries visit and her journey to Shaden.

Not that she was in any particular mood to fake a smile and be pleasant. While she accepted her duty without fault and would do what was considered best for her people, that did not mean she appreciated the suddenness nor did she appreciate the display of power that had been shown. However, Astrid was not about to allow her people to suffer and continue fighting in a war that didn't need to occur if she just... agreed to Shaden's terms. If her father agreed to Shaden's terms.

The young fairy royal exhaled heavily as she stood before the door, the maid having knocked for her while she inwardly worked on her composure. She would not look flustered, she would not behave unnerved. Especially when, really, they had been good hosts thus far - allowing her to catch up on sleep, creating a custom made gown... she had no reason to ruffled or displeased by all she had experienced so far. Except, perhaps, by Brach's irritating comments and jibes, especially those regarding the trolls.

Eventually the door before her was pushed open and she was climbing the short staircase, counting the steps taken just as another method of keeping herself focused until the room came to few before her.

Immediately the sight of all the different creatures before her caught Astrid by surprise, although she did well to catch her expression before it showed. Each of the eight people in the room were so different, not one baring any similar traits. Just as quickly as she noticed that, seven of them were introducing themselves.

Senet-Tah, Head of the Department of Military... muscular, broad, dark skin and a head of a-- a dog. He looked as though he could snap her like a twig if he so desired.
Catara-Niru, Head of the Department of Justice... black eyes, unnerving to a point where Astrid's stomach twisted as she looked to the woman, skin crawling as though every inch of her was being assessed.
Molir-Nuli, Head of the Department of Treasury... short, with so much hair that Astrid wasn't very sure where his hair ended and his beard began.
Minesh-Rennyn, Head of the Department of People Services... pale, pointed ears with matching white hair and a very charismatic smile on his lips as he bowed his head.
Xai-Zur, Head of the Department of Infrastructure... this creature was literally an ant, the antennas briefly distracting Astrid as they twitched.
Azgae-Carnor, Head of the Department of Agriculture and Industry... this one seemed to have stone for skin, but the brightest blue eyes Astrid had ever seen.
Oren-Apricis, Head of the Department of Research and Development... he too was particularly pale, frighteningly so with odd looking horns that seemed to be... unnervingly made of bone.

Some of them mentioned some sort of magical ability too, but with the onslaught of information, Astrid was having trouble keeping up regardless. She would have to undertake a refresher course later, and be sure to learn the names to a tee. She could not afford to inadvertently insult someone in her new home.

However, it did not escape her notice that the eighth being in the room did not introduce himself, nor did he stand. Her gaze had naturally settled on him next once the other introductions were completed, lingering there for a breath or two until she realised just who he must be.

Emperor Kilroth.

Clearing her throat softly, Astrid bowed her head as she had been told and had practiced, unable to help the natural dip she took as a force of habit with her own customs.

"Astrid Morwena Tirion... future Empress... my only ability being that of flight." She raised her head once her introduction was complete, cursing herself silently for the hesitation on her title. She wasn't entirely certain what her title now was - she was the former future Empress of Arryn, but now she was betrothed to the current Emperor of Shaden. It did not feel right to use the Empress of Shaden title yet, not when a ring still had yet to adorn her finger. However, regardless of whether one did or not, she would still be the future Empress of something.
 
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Peregrine

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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
From his seat at the head of the round table, Kilroth watched his council members introduce themselves to Astrid, his eyes half lidded. Despite his apparent indifference, no trace of their interaction escaped his attention. Each of the directors walked their own line, balanced between professionalism and courtesy. This was, after all, their future Empress, and Her Majesty Astrid would wield influence over them in the future. It would not do for them to ignore or dismiss her.

And so they watched her with the same level of attentiveness that Kilroth paid to all of them, and he doubted her uneasiness escaped any of their attention. He almost hoped some of them would try to use their appearances against her, just to see how quickly it would backfire against them. Kilroth might not know anything personal about Astrid yet, his reason for binding her to himself through marriage had nothing to do with her personality or their compatibility with each other, but her very bloodline proved that she wouldn't be one to waver or falter at small provocation.

Their eyes met at the same time, green eyes locking onto deep grey. He couldn't help the small smile that tugged at the corner of his lips as she broke eye contact with him an instant later to conduct her own greeting.

Astrid Morwena. It could almost be one of their own names, if she were to not cling to her surname so. Yet, Kilroth doubted she would let go of her own lineage so easily.

It didn't matter. He had no intention of attempting to subdue her or bind her to his will, whatever she might believe. Time alone would prove whether she would be useful to the empire, or a mere decoration at his side.

Kilroth rose from his seat slowly when Astrid finished speaking, the motion causing the large, reptilian wings behind his back to momentarily flex, stirring the air. His head dipped slightly in Astrid's direction, the gesture the equivalent of a half-bow.

"Kilroth du Shaden, Emperor of Shaden," he introduced, deep voice seeming to fill the entire room. "I prepared a seat for you, unless there is some other way you wish to join the table to make yourself comfortable." His hand gestured to the empty seat on his right, the only thing that disrupted the perfect asymmetry between the two sides of the table.
 

Viverescribere

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Astrid


Reflecting back later, Astrid would chastise herself for being so rude. When her future husband, and the Emperor of Shaden, stood from his seat, her eyes returned to him and stayed there. Not that they made much eye contact when they landed on him, too occupied in observing his movements, especially that of his wings.

They were big. Bigger than any wings that had been on display in Arryn. Their composite seemed very different to her own too; they, from a distance, looked almost leathery and tougher than her own, seemingly more capable and durable but...equally sensitive. It made her wonder what it would be like to graze a fingertip over them, any part of them. Astrid had seen other creatures with wings before, however they were usually made of feather or were akin to hers, insect like. None were like what the Emperor bore. Would they be smooth and almost silky? Or would there be slightly bumps, like that of grit, that would make the pad of her fingertip feel rough by the end of it?

The curiosity regarding her betrothed's wings ran deeper than Astrid thought it would. However, she knew it came down to the unusual nature and makeup of the appendages that had momentarily stirred the air. They were unlike any she had ever seen before, and she wished to learn more, be nearer to them to study and observe. It was just unfortunate she didn't expect her and her future husband to ever be close enough for her to do such a thing. Besides, the mere thought of allowing any hands, other than the doctor back in Arryn or her mother, to run over her own wings made Astrid tense considerably, said wings stiffening too.

Then there was the case of the golden horns that curled and arched back over his head, blending almost seamlessly into the blonde locks that were swept neatly and precisely away from his face. Again, Astrid had seen other creatures with horns, but nothing like the ones that grew from Kilroth's skull. They seemed to adorn his head like a crown, proud and strong. Nothing like the small, dull brown faun horns or grotesque versions that goblins sported.

And his eyes... a rich green that would have put even the brightest emerald to shame. They bore into her in ways that Astrid found uncomfortable yet... exciting at the same time. There seemed to be a promise within them, but nothing of a sexual or even affectionate nature. Something of knowledge and strength.

They were rather addictive, in that sense. It felt as though he was dissecting her, much like the first woman who introduced herself - was it... Catara... Cataru-Nuli? Or.. Niru? - to Astrid. Yet she found herself less unnerved by the man than she did the woman, and she had to wonder how much of that was because of the lavish hue of his eyes that she allowed her own grey orbs to meet directly.

It would be a heartbeat or two until Astrid realised that even the last echoes of the Emperor's voice had died on the walls of the room. However, instead of allowing the heat of mortification to rise to her cheeks for her lack of awareness and simply for the fact she had been staring at him, the former future Empress of Arryn merely tilted her chin upwards and swallowed down her shame, keeping her expression neutral. The only betrayal of her anxious energy coming from her wings, which quivered in their usual fashion when she attempted to hide nervous emotions.

"Thank you, that's... very kind." She answered finally, reaching to lift her skirts ever so slightly from her feet to avoid tripping on them while she walked. As she moved to her seat, the young woman made sure to throw another polite yet warm smile to the others in the room, not wanting them to believe she had forgotten them.

She realised as she made her way to the free seat that, despite his wings, he did not inform her of any magical abilities. Thus she began to overthink, concerning herself with if she should have bothered informing them about her ability to fly. He had not, yet had wings. Was it simply a given that flight was possible and she had made herself look like a fool? Or did he have wings but lacked the ability?

However, pushing those thoughts aside, Astrid paused once she reached the offered chair, glancing again to her betrothed. A small quirk to her eyebrow revealed her suppressed eyebrow raise, an expression she quickly dispelled given he was the Emperor and a man that held the armistice between his empire and her kingdom in his large fist.

Astrid was not keen on playing games of any kind. She found it tiresome and, eventually, boring. She understood that they were part of court life and necessary, at times, to negotiations and battle... but that did not mean she enjoyed them.

"...I appreciated the opportunity to rest after my journey to your empire today, Emperor Kilroth," Astrid spoke up once all had settled in their chairs again. She peered across to him, daring to allow her gaze a moment to linger on his features, "And your generosity of a new gown. The seamstress Rioka was most helpful... and kind."
 
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Peregrine

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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
As Astrid studied him, Kilroth did not hesitate to return the courtesy. His eyes traced gently over her flowing red hair, down to the collar of her dress, and finally lingering on the magic stone that faintly gleamed around her neck.

Shaden's luxuries suited her well, Kilroth decided. She wore them with a grace and bearing that would make it impossible to guess she'd never before been exposed to such materials. The dress' fabric could moderate temperature, keeping its wearer comfortably cool even in direct sunlight. The magic gem would naturally restore her own magic power, allowing her to fly twice the distance she would normally be able to cover. These were the kinds of materials that had caused wars to rage between kingdoms.

But the luxury only served to enhance Astrid's natural beauty. Give her a few more months to a year, and Kilroth was certain that all of Shaden's greatest delights would settle deep into her bones, causing her natural bearing and dignity to only rise further.

But such considerations were merely a benefit, as his determination to bind her to his Empire had never had anything to do with her beauty. The first time he had seen her, she had been crouched in a bush, hair covered in a dark cap, face smeared with mud. No, it was never her beauty that had caught his attention.

As he stared deep into her grey eyes, he could sense the dormant power that slept within her, just waiting for the right touch to lure it out of its depths. And that.... that was what truly mattered.

It was only when Astrid seated herself next to him that Kilroth caught sight of her hands. Her fingers were pale and delicate, but holding an implicit power. They were also completely bare. For the first time since he'd entered the room, a faint frown marred Kilroth's brow.

He had sent Brach-Ajdima to Arryn with a ring. A ring that was now notably absent from her person.

Her implicit distaste for their future marriage did not bother him. After all, he was more than aware of how the kingdoms outside of Shaden viewed his empire. It would be surprising if she was enthusiastic about being forced to leave her homeland to live with her oppressors. No, what bothered him was her lack of awareness about the ring's symbolism.

Of course, he could not expect her to know the nuances of Shaden's culture. But the dragon ring was not only a symbol of their engagement, but also of the future power she would hold in the kingdom. Although his order would help integrate her into the kingdom, it was that ring which would serve as her most staunch backing as a stranger in this land.

He would not embarrass her over this matter in front of the directors, but it would not do for her to leave it behind in the future. He would have to make sure this matter was fully impressed upon her later.

Either way, it was a concern for the future. His flicker of emotion vanished as quickly as it had arrived, and he turned away from his future wife and back towards the Directors.

"Naturally," he replied. "The Empire is built upon a complex system, and I wished to get you involved with it earlier rather than later. Otherwise I would have given you more time to adjust."

He gestured towards the other side of the table, at the gathered directors who had remained constantly focused on the two rulers. In particular, the red-haired, black-eyed had her gaze locked onto Astrid as though she was hoping to see a layer deeper inside her. Only when the Emperor turned his own eyes in her direction did she politely avert her gaze.

"As they introduced, each of the Directors heads up a branch of Shaden's governmental system, helping to manage important matters." His gaze once more returned to Astrid, and his rather formal speech softened slightly. "It is the Emperor's job to guide the future direction of all the departments, to ensure they stay aligned and act in Shaden's best interests. As the future Empress Consort, your influence has the potential to stand second only to mine, but having you hold authority in the Empire is not a requirement. After all, it will take time and effort for you to understand both the departments themselves, and how they relate to each other."

Of course, it would be a great disappointment to him if she wished to distance herself from Shaden's complex political chain. But he could not force her to wade into the Empire's depths, only invite her in. If she refused, it would only require him to greatly adjust his future plans.

"What do you wish to do?"
 
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Viverescribere

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Astrid


Out of sight and therefore out of mind, the ring that had been gifted to her by her betrothed through his emissary remained still in her riding jacket, tucked away into the inside pocket. It would be another thing for her to curse herself for when she would come to find it later.

So used, she was, to having nothing adorn her fingers that the ring didn't even cross her mind, and still it didn't, since she missed her future husband's subtle reaction. Instead Astrid remained oblivious, focusing solely on the meeting and keeping her poise lest she embarrassed herself in front of all the unfamiliar faces that were focused tentatively on her.

Astrid sat straight, with a space between her wings and the back of her chair, which even when folded - which they did much like an insects wing against their back - she preferred to avoid pressing them too heavily against something firm and unyielding. Her hands remained neatly folded in her lap, the tips of her one index and one middle finger subtly stroking the soft, silky material of the dress as a way of keeping herself calm within the situation she found herself.

Her head, and eyes, turned back onto the Directors as Kilroth explained the meaning behind introducing her so early. She had just missed the gaze of the one who had been staring at her so intensely, dissuaded by Kilroth's own glance. The fairy smiled politely to them again as the Emperor continued in a softened tone, hiding her brief surprise at the loosening of the previously formal tone. However, she stayed focused, listening to each word he had to offer.

Astrid hadn't expected such power to be granted to her, nor the opportunity offered to learn more about Shaden. She still had no understanding of why her, and that was the most frustrating thing of all. She was a future Empress of Arryn, yes, but there were others more suitable in line to their own Kingdoms. She simply couldn't figure out why he wished to shackle himself to her.

The red-head glanced back to the Emperor at his question, remaining silent for a moment as a war raged within herself on what to do. Eventually, however, she inclined her head and lifted her arms to rest them on the arms of the chair, her body shifting slightly with the motion.

"I... believe that it would be cruel of me not to become involved in... Shaden's governmental system. The fates have decided matters, and I shall do my best to... be the Empress Consort that your people-- our people need and deserve for me to be." She replied slowly, picking her words carefully as she gave her decision. "It will be a great help to know how the Directors go about their duties, and how what they do influences our lives."
 

Peregrine

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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Kilroth nodded slowly in response to Astrid's words. Her reply was well within his expectations, and he didn't ponder long over her carefully chosen words or corrected phrases. "Excellent," he replied, his attention already turned away from her, facing his directors once more. Almost subconsciously, he took note of the carefully suppressed emotions that ran under their blank expressions, filing it away for later consideration.

After all, there was no way they would simply casually accept having someone casually handed a position as their superior. They trusted and respected Kilroth because he had the history and reputation to support his position. Astrid, on the other hand, had no such thing. She would have to earn their respect the slow and hard way, lest they try and turn her into their political puppet.

"Empress Consort Astrid will be temporarily placed in each department, to learn its responsibilities. Which of the directors would like to go first?" As casually spoken as Kilroth's question might have seemed, the tension that appeared on his directors' faces showed that it was not as simple as it might seem. In fact, it was a test of the directors' astuteness, to see if they could balance the benefits of gaining closeness with the Empress with the need to introduce her to the country in an appropriate manner.

Towards the right of the table, Catara sighed slightly, her pitch black eyes dropping in disappointment. Internally, Kilroth nodded in approval. It was obviously inappropriate for Astrid's introduction to the nation to come from the Department of Justice, which dealt with any internal dissent within the country. However, he noted down her almost intense curiosity towards Astrid as a fact worth considering. It was clear that the witch was already making plans regarding her future Empress.

To her side, the dog-headed Senet-Tah glanced at Kilroth, panting slightly. Seeing not so much as a glance from his Emperor, he licked his snout, but wisely held silent.

The first to take action was the stone-skinned Azgae. Her deep voice rumbled through the room, cutting over the beginning of a word that had begun to come from the bearded dwarf's mouth, a few seats away. "The Department of Agriculture would be pleased to invite the Empress Consort to our ranks."

Barely giving time for her words to finish, the dwarf she had cut off hopped enthusiastically up on his seat, dipping his head in Astrid's direction. "I would be honored to invite the Empress Consort to the Department of the Treasury," Molir said, lifting his head only after he had finished speaking, and therefore missing the faint expression that passed across Kilroth's face.

While Asgae's invitation had earned nothing but silent approval from the Emperor, Molir's actions earned a faint, disapproving squint from his eyes. The invitation was inappropriate, considering how much knowledge of the other departments would be required to make suitable choices in the treasury. Molir had been blinded by the possibility of getting to make a connection with the future Empress. However, Kilroth did not speak out against him, instead simply filing it away as a note on the director's record.

"Xai-Zur welcomess the Empress Consort to the Department of Infrasstructure." The ant's mandibles clicked slightly as he spoke, creating a faint hissing that mixed in among his words.

A moment's silence followed Xai's invitation, before, from the far left of the table, a melodious voice came from the green-haired man. "...The Empress Consort would be welcomed to come see the future of Shaden in the Department of Research and Development."

Resting on his chair, Kilroth's fingers twitched in satisfaction at Oren's invitation. Oren-Apricis was the youngest of the directors at this table, albeit only slightly younger than Catara, but this wasn't the first occasion where he had proved himself a talented and astute leader. The Department of Research and Development was by far the most awe inspiring of Shaden's governmental departments, especially for an outsider. What was more, his decision to invite her there when she had yet to be in the city for a day was the most definitive evidence that Shaden was not intending to hide its secrets from her.

The final member of the table, the silver haired elf that sat perfectly in the middle of the directors, smiled politely but remained completely silent.

Satisfied, Kilroth turned back to Astrid. "Which department would you like to visit first?"
 

Viverescribere

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Astrid


The hesitance that swept the room did not go unnoticed by Astrid, the fairy also picking up on the stillness and faintest but of tension that had also settled among the directors. It reminded her of her schooling, when a question would be directed out to the class and all the little ones would become motionless, in fear of being called upon. The thought caused the left corner of her mouth to twitch, a smirk being smothered at the memory.

It was a bit of a relief when one of the directors before her finally spoke up, soon followed by another and then soon she had a few offers to introduce her to their designated departments. Her gaze flickered over each in turn, observing their reactions and responses. But they were all careful to not give much, if anything, away.

It made Astrid wonder how much of a political game was going to be played during her first few months, if not years, as the future Empress and eventually Empress Consort. How long would it be until she felt like she could trust anyone in this new Empire? She hardly believed that she would ever come to be good friends with any of the people before her, who she was certain were waiting for her to prove herself in every manner possible.

Especially besides a man who they all seemed to worship and adore. A being who had undoubtedly proven himself worthy of their loyalty, dedication and trust over however many years he had been in power. They would all be looking to her, wondering why her.

For now, however, she allowed herself to become distracted from those unnerving thoughts by the offer that had been put forward by the Director of Research and Development. Her gaze immediately cut to the green-haired being with the off-putting bone antlers. She took a moment to consider him, and the offer that had just been put forward to her. At the question from her future husband, Astrid's right index finger lightly tapped against the surface of the chair arm and she moved her gaze back up the line of directors before her, namely those who had offered to take her on.

Eventually she looked back to the director who spoke last, clearly mulling some things over in her mind, including the same thoughts that Kilroth also entertained. Why would they be willing to show her their research and their development when she had barely been with them for a day?

"I appreciate all the offers that have been put forward, and I do look forward to visiting them each in turn over time,"
Astrid began diplomatically, finally straightening with her decision made, "However, for the time being, I would like to visit the Department of Research and Development first. Oren-Apricis, thank you for providing me with that opportunity."
 
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Peregrine

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A silent tension seemed to fill the room as everyone waited for Astrid's answer. Normally, Kilroth would have taken this time to study the faces of his Directors. He was sure that all of them would be revealing various emotions, which would likewise show so much about their perception of their new Empress and the role she would play in the future. Knowing the mindset of his Directors was essential to keeping the country operating smoothly, as he relied on them to keep the affairs of a large, powerful Empire running smoothly.

However, they were no longer the most important factor in the room, and Kilroth could not help but ignore them in favor of quietly watching Astrid. The faint wrinkle that formed between her brows. The slight tilt of the corners of her lips. The way her eyes rapidly flickered back and forth between the different directors, before—for no more than an instant—pausing on him.

Kilroth’s magic had never had anything to do with the mind. There was no way for him to judge what she was thinking other than analyzing the faint expressions that couldn’t help but flick their way across her face to mirror her thoughts. It was a technique he’d honed for years, using the skill to manage and control his Directors. Yet, for the first time, he found it somewhat inadequate.

He wanted to know exactly what she was thinking, what plans she was making, what questions she wanted answered. Not these vague, unreliable impressions.

Pushing these useless desires out of his mind, Kilroth focused on the room once more as Astrid began to speak. Her reply finally caused the room to relax, and faint looks of disappointment to cross a few faces. Oren offered Astrid a polite smile, his head inclining with gratitude.

“It’s a good choice,” Kilroth agreed. “There’s no department that will be able to show you more of Shaden’s specialties. What’s more, it is the only Department that is headquartered in Myrean, so it will give you time to adapt to living here before you head to other parts of the Empire.”

And, on that rather simple note, the conversation about which department Astrid would join came to an end. The directors, who had continued to look at her after she announced her choice, turned their attention back to Kilroth. The Emperor nodded his head in Senet’s direction, who stood up.

“Yes, Sir. Beginning the report for the Department of the Military...”

Astrid might have been brought into this meeting to introduce herself to the directors and settle how she would be spending the next several months, but it was clear that it held another purpose. One by one, the directors gave clear-cut summaries of the progression of various projects that had either begun or continued over the past week.

It was clearly a conversation that would go far above Astrid’s head, as it relied on a familiarity with each department, but Kilroth didn’t give any indication of what he expected from Astrid. He certainly didn’t indicate she could leave, and hardly even glanced at her as the conversation continued. Like this meeting in general, it was simply an introduction and inclusion. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, she’d be running one of these meetings herself.

As soon as the green-haired Oren finished his report, he bowed his head respectfully to both rulers, and sat back down. When none of the other directors spoke up again, Kilroth rose from his seat. “Thank you. I’ll see you all again next week.”

The directors all rose as well, passing simple words back and forth as they made their way towards the stairs out of the room. However, Kilroth had already cast them out of his mind, instead turning towards Astrid.

“Stay for a moment,” he said, voice firm enough that it was clear it wasn’t exactly a request. His emerald eyes roamed across her face for a moment, trying to judge how she was doing after the meeting. “How are you feeling?”
 
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Viverescribere

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Astrid


For her to stay and listen to the reports was something that Astrid didn't expect. She had thought perhaps it would have been an introduction and a dinner filled with awkward and stiff small talk. Instead, they discussed matters of state and updated their Emperor on items related to their Department. Perhaps conversations that she didn't deserve to be involved with given not even being a day in to her engagement. It felt wrong, even to her.

However, no one seemed disgruntled or put out by her presence, or seemed hesitant to divulge anything. They all continued as if things were normal, as if she was meant to be there.

Astrid remained silent for the whole proceeding, just listening and watching how the leaders of the Empire all interacted with one another. It wasn't until Kilroth stood that Astrid finally moved, standing with him out of politeness. Despite the mental and physical exhaustion she felt earlier that day, she now felt herself buzzing with anxious energy. In this new and foreign place, she didn't enjoy simply sitting and listening. She wished to be up, walking, visibly seeing the place she was supposed to call home now. She didn't like being sat still, not daring to move in case it showed a sign of weakness she didn't mean to offer. Not knowing what was happening, and simply feeling as though she was a pretty little thing on display.

As the directors began to file out, Astrid lowered her gaze to her feet as she started to move her chair back further, softly clearing her throat as she pushed it away from the table so she could step out from it. However, in her peripheral vision, Astrid noticed his body turning to face her. She didn't stop with her movement though, not daring to change anything she was doing in case it suggested any nerves or uncertainty.

It was the firmness of his tone that halted her, the lack of room for argument causing Astrid to finally look at up him, only to find his eyes already on her. She released her chair slowly, allowing her hand to fall back to her side and her fingers soon started playing with the materials of her skirt.

His question, asking her how she was, caught her off-guard but instead of feeling appreciative of the query, Astrid felt irritated. She stared up at him, remaining silent for a moment as she tried to both figure out how to answer such a loaded question, but also keep herself composed.

"Tired. Your... methods of transportation are... unusual." She answered finally, her other hand reaching out to tap her fingertips against the surface of the table, "And... hungry." It was better than how she really wished to respond - with her own question in kind asking him how he thought she was feeling. Asking him how he did he expect her to feel, having been taken away from her family and her home and forced into an Empire she saw as dominating and overzealous.
 
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Peregrine

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Kilroth studied her reaction mildly, the action more a reflex than the serious attempts at prying he'd used to observe both her and the directors during their earlier conversation. She didn't appreciate his question, and Kilroth—quite frankly—didn't care about her answer either. It wasn't as though she had any particular reason to speak transparently with him, especially not since she'd been here for such a short length of time. Only a few days ago, they had been on the other side of a battle from each other.

"Unsurprising, since you slept through lunch," Kilroth answered casually. "There's still about five hours until dinner will be served, but you can ask any of the servants to bring you a meal. I believe the kitchen prepared some rhubarb bites today, which I highly recommend."

It was silly to assume that good meals would be enough to charm Astrid, but Kilroth had as much confidence in Shaden's food culture as he did in its fabrics and luxury items. In the same way she'd taken to the dress, the emperor was certain she'd quickly become enthralled with their food.

But he hadn't stopped her to talk about food, and there's no way Astrid wouldn't know that. It was best for him to get to the point.

"I know you aren't happy about being here, Astrid."

Kilroth could play the game of politics as well as anyone else, but it didn't mean he was not willing to be brutally straightforward if it would benefit the situation. Astrid was clearly being cautious about the entire situation, and he did not think having a dance of words with her would get them anywhere.

"For the most part, I wish to provide you as much freedom as I can. That's why I introduced you to the directors, and intend to teach you as much about Shaden as you wish to learn. However, other than the requirement of you staying within Shaden, which was expressed in the ceasefire agreement, I'm afraid there's one other condition I must now add.

"Brach should have delivered a ring to you earlier today. You may protest our relationship in other ways, but so long as you are not within your personal quarters, I expect you to wear it."

There was little point in him expressing how the ring was a symbol of her status, or how it would help keep her safe, if she didn't wish to wear it. An order would end up being an order, regardless of the thoughts behind it.
 
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Viverescribere

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Astrid


"I'll be sure to request some once I return to my chambers." Astrid responded coolly, fingers stilling against the table surface.

It was difficult to keep herself still as they both stood there, watching each other. It was odd, but Astrid would have much preferred to be back in battle against him again. At least they wouldn't have been so close, and he wouldn't be staring down at her with her feeling as though he was dissecting every twitch and flinch she provided. She wouldn't be in the richly coloured gown that Rioka had worked so fabulously on but identified her so clearly in the castle.

Eventually he spoke again, and his words earned an irritated shiver from her wings which were folded against her back. Her eyebrow also twitched, a suppressed raise to the one a hint to her dry amusement at his observation which she didn't confirm or deny.

Astrid remained silent as he continued to speak, forcing herself to clasp her hands in front of her rather than fold her arms across her chest. She knew all about body language, and couldn't afford to have her betrothed (and new ally) feel as though she was shutting him out.

Despite how much she wanted to in order to make the conversation end.

It felt patronising, him explaining all that he was doing for her and what he would try to do for her. However it also felt like an insult that he felt as though he had to explain such things - things that wouldn't have even been necessary if he hadn't taken her away from her home. Then she marvelled - because if she didn't, she would laugh - at the pure gall he had to add on an additional condition to an armistice that had already been signed. One that had already cost her her home, her family, her people, her own empire and, in her eyes, her unlimited freedom.

It was then she cursed her forgetfulness, remembering that she had left the ring in it's little box in the inside pocket of her riding jacket. However that didn't stop her wings from fluttering further in her frustration, rather annoyed that he would think her so petulant that she would protest their arrangement by refusing to wear something as simple as a ring. It was distasteful to her, yes, that she would have to wear something that would so openly claim her as his - and also as something belonging to the Empire now. However, she was not a child.

"...And I expect you to understand that I am not a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum, Your Majesty." Astrid answered, finally allowing her eyebrow to raise in indignation, "That ring is sat safely in the pocket of my riding jacket, something I took off immediately after arriving in the quarters you kindly assigned to me. Between sleep, getting used to the... different natures of your people, being made a brand new dress with the help of... magic - a concept which is completely foreign to me - and then being introduced to some of your top people... making sure I had a ring on my finger wasn't exactly at the forefront of my mind."

Astrid caught herself, not in a way that she knew she needed to stop and apologise, but rather that she needed to stop and compose herself once again. Her words had started to speed up with her annoyance and she needed to make sure she didn't become too carried away.

So, the young woman took in a deep breath and stilled her quivering wings, forcing a faint smile to her lips as she looked up at her betrothed, "However, since it is that big of a concern to you, I shall return to my room and immediately fetch it."



 
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Peregrine

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"I see," Kilroth replied blandly. There was no way Astrid's response could have been a surprise to him, but it didn't mean he had to accept her sarcasm with a smile. "So the reason you put away a gift with such obvious intentions wasn't because you disapproved of what it represents. How foolish of me to consider such a possibility."

No, he didn't think Astrid a child. He thought her unhappy. But that could only change with time.

Time. There were no way anyone could adjust their viewpoint of the world in a day, let alone the few hours that had been given to Astrid at this point. The best thing to do at the moment was give her the time and space she needed to settle in. Only then would she begin to adjust.

He simply hoped that it would happen eventually. If it didn't, then all his plans would be for naught, and he would truly have done nothing but claim himself a trophy wife.

He waved a hand at her lightly, letting out an almost imperceptible sigh. "Go. Rest. I will see you at dinner."
 

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Astrid


Folded wings quivered at his own use of sarcasm, her eyes twitching with a suppressed glare as she bit her tongue. She knew to expect a derisive retort, but that didn't necessarily make it easy to hear. Especially when his words did ring true. If she had really been concerned with wearing the ring, she would have put it on the moment that Brach had handed her the box. She had had the excuse of the ride to not want to risk losing such an... intricate piece of jewellery. However now, in the safety of the castle, she had no reason to not wear it.

The redhead stood there, matching his gaze and holding it as they stood there, alone, in the meeting room together. While she knew she needed his good will to continue with the armistice, Astrid could care less about what the man before her thought of her. Or what he expected of her.

His casual dismissal did not help with the situation, the almost careless wave of his hand in her face causing a stronger tremor to overtake her wings, the appendages fluttering before she forced them to still once more. Yet again, however, Astrid swallowed back any stinging comments she wished to make and indulged herself in the imaginings of slapping his hand back down to his side.

"You wish to have dinner together." Astrid's words were strained as the fairy kept herself from saying anything derogatory or insulting, hands clasping in front of her, "Are you sure you will have the time? I understand you are a very busy man. Haven't you more... sieges to plan? Villages to ransack? People to... submerge within your regime?"

Okay... perhaps she hadn't been successful with keeping her words to herself.
 

Peregrine

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“Yes, I have many things to do.”

Rather than offending Kilroth, Astrid’s words mostly served to amuse him. He did absolutely nothing to conceal it, allowing the corners of his lips to rise with humor.

He’d faced far worse criticism than the few words Astrid had just flung at him. Aside from those that were cursed upon him by the very people he ‘submerged’—fierce enough to cause his dear departed father to roll over in his grave—he’d also once faced fierce criticism from those he’d considered his allies.

Kilroth knew the path he was walking. He knew its benefits, but he was well aware of its costs. He’d long ago accepted the fact that he would be branded a tyrant and a warlord outside of Shaden. The labels meant less than nothing to him.

“One of which being the return of the brownies to Arryn as per the terms of the treaty.”

He had already discussed that particular project with Minesh, when he had still been drafting his ‘marriage proposal’. However, now that Astrid was safely brought to Myriean, he would likewise ensure that the prisoners would be returned to their villages, lest anyone accuse him of not holding up his end of the deal.

“However, regardless of how much work I have, I do still need to eat.”

Of course, with his bloodline, there was no telling how long Kilroth would be able to fast before it would start to take a toll on him. But from the moment he’d set up Shaden, he’d never intended to deprive himself of the culture he’d worked so hard to create.

“Good food is a great joy, and I have no intention of doing the meal an injustice by dividing my attention because I’m working while I eat.”

He paused for a moment, lips quirking again as he thought of Astrid boldly proclaiming he shouldn’t treat her like a child, and imagining her wings once more buzzing in indignation in direct response to his words. “Of course, if you refuse to share a meal with me, you can always order the maids to bring a meal to your room instead. It’s not like I’m going to have them drag you to the dining hall like a disobedient toddler.”

Despite the fact that Kilroth genuinely planned to get along with Astrid, and still hoped to do so in the future, he didn’t hesitate in his aggressive words. He knew almost nothing about Astrid. After all, he hadn’t proposed their marriage because of her personality. What she liked and disliked, what she cared about, how she reacted to certain situations, they were all things he’d have to learn over time by watching her reactions to various situations.

However, even in his worst hypotheticals, he never intended to disregard her behavior. It had nothing to do with the so-called ‘dignity of an emperor’. Dignity was useless outside of what it could do to achieve his goals. If Astrid would go along with his plans, he’d gladly act as her pet, let alone allowing her to insult him as she willed.

No, instead, it had to do with passion. Shaden thrived off of the passions and desires of its population. His, the Directors, and every single citizen. He’d rather Astrid rampage or fight him to the bitter end, even if it would disrupt his plans, than act as silent and doll-like as she had in the previous meeting.

Reactions bred reactions. Ignoring her or dismissing her, in any context, would only cause her to withdraw within herself, an eternal outsider hiding and suffering within his palace. And that would sabotage his plans even worse.
 

Viverescribere

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Astrid


He was laughing at her. That amused smirk on his lips only serving to rile Astrid up further. She couldn't care what he had to say about his work or his preference to enjoy his food uninterrupted with affairs of state and the like. In that moment, all she could see was the curled up corners of his mouth.

Her arms moved stiffly until they were clasped behind her back, lightly resting over her wings which she had to focus so intently on in order to keep them still. The nails of her one hand bit into the back of the other, another reminder to keep her cool in front of a man she was beginning to dislike more and more. However, Astrid couldn't figure out what she wanted more - for him to be insulted, or for the armistice to stay in place. At the moment, it was a very difficult choice. She didn't like him laughing at her and her words, batting them away as if they were nothing. Her accusations a mere annoying, buzzing fly that with one flick of the wrist, they were gone.

Just as he expected, her wings did begin to vibrate once more at his comparisons to her being a toddler. Her hands tightened behind her back, nails digging deeper, and she forced herself to raise her chin.

"Then isn't it a good thing I'm not a disobedient toddler." Astrid responded, tone on the icier side of things now that her patience was beginning to wane at, what she found to be, the pure arrogance from him.

Surely he had to know that she would go along with whatever was expected of her now that he had her in his clutches. As far as Astrid was concerned, the treaty was in the balance until a ring was on her finger. They weren't yet married, and until they were man and wife by law, she had to be weary of the possibility that he could change his mind at any time. Meaning that the armistice could be cancelled, her people attacked once more, and her kingdom 'submerged' within his, as she put it earlier.

She would never wish to do anything to compromise her kingdom's safety, and their future, however if every conversation with the Emperor of Shaden was going to be like the one they were currently having... Astrid was wondering if she ought to fight to have the wedding brought forward. Especially considering she didn't even know when it was going to be.

"...I shan't keep you. I'm sure the Brownies will be incredibly keen to return to the homes that you took them from. Hopefully they'll be back within their comforts sooner rather than later." The fairy glanced away, peering towards a window of the room before looking again to him, "I trust you'll keep your word, as you said, but hopefully look into this matter sooner rather than later."

Astrid brushed her hands over the end of her dress bodice, body still tense underneath it regardless of her casual actions, "I will see you for dinner. I'll ensure one of the maids fetches me when it's time."

With her words came another low curtsey, head bowing with it until she rose, "Good day, Emperor." She added, matching his gaze one final time before moving to slip past him.
 

Peregrine

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Kilroth did nothing to stop Astrid's departure this time, allowing her to brush past him. His eyes traced her departing figure as she descended the stairs until the very moment the top of her hair was swallowed up by the floor. Now completely alone in the room, Kilroth turned to face out the window, his eyes lingering over Myriean's curved streets and rich architecture. Yet the magnificent sight barely entered his eyes, his thoughts instead focused on other matters.

He could not say this introduction went well, but it did not go poorly either. Now, there was nothing to do but wait and watch how the situation developed.

------

Time passed.

Astrid did join Kilroth for dinner, just as she promised. It seemed that the break from his presence had allowed her to compose herself once more, and the Emperor did not try to antagonize her further. Their conversations were superficial at best.

And, other than these brief interactions, Kilroth did not try and force his presence upon her, either. Instead, he kept track of her merely through the servants and circulating rumors. It was no surprise that everyone in the palace enjoyed speaking of their new future Empress. Her status as an outsider to Shaden quickly the largest point of interest, as more and more people grew curious about what had brought her here. Yet, those who should remain silent remained silent, and the rumors stayed softly spoken.

Far more rumors spread of her beauty, her kindness, her grace, her determination. A few intentionally fostered, a sufficient number naturally forming that the report caused Kilroth to let out a small smile.

As for the matter of their wedding, Kilroth did not rush the arrangements. Astrid would need time to acclimate herself and learn more about Shaden before she would be prepared to handle the matters of a royal wedding.

As for the matters of state, Kilroth did not allow the arrival of his future wife to impact his handling of them. True to his promise, he and Minesh began to arrange the covert return of the brownies captured in their last series of battles the evening after Astrid's introduction to the Directors. He moderated the meetings between Molir and Oren, which once more came to a head in the infinite back and forth tugging of Molir managing the nation's money, and Oren spending it freely in the pursuit of new innovation.

Most importantly, he had several meetings arranged with Senet and his generals. Now that the brownies had been so suddenly removed from their list of available targets, they would need to pick a new target for their next bout of conquest.

And it was that very dilemma that saw Kilroth headed for the royal library after the completion of the morning's meetings. They had not settled on the brownies randomly. Instead, they had been chosen after considering all of Shaden's current industries, the places that needed bolstering, and the time frame in which that could be applied.

Now, all of that work would need to be redone, and Kilroth had decided the first stop was to review last year's records, to refresh himself on the data they'd used to first select the brownies.

The Royal Library was as grand of a structure as the rest of the royal palace. Due to its size, it had been set up in a detached building, on the southeast side of the palace grounds. The gardens around it were carefully maintained, manicured lawns surrounding tall trees that sheltered little pagodas, all of it carefully arranged to allow for outdoor reading when the weather permitted. Although the library grounds were currently quiet, all who worked in the palace were allowed to enter its wide, carved doors and temporarily check out books for a few hours' reading.

The interior of the library was equally grand, a warm, tiled floor leading up to reddish bookshelves, which in turn rose up, layer after layer, to a vaulted ceiling covered in abstract murals. To the side of the door, a clockwork sculpture suddenly began to tick, bowing a moment later.

"Greetings, Your Majesty," the figure greeted. "Can I assist you in finding anything today?"

Kilroth nodded back. "Bring a selection of last year's records to the southern reading room."

The metallic figure bowed again, before falling still. Kilroth set off to the south without looking back.
 

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Astrid


It been a week and two days since Astrid had seen her home. Nine days since she had been escorted to Shaden under the title of it's future Empress. Yet, in those handful of days, her betrothed had made no move to force more time together other than their dinners nor had he made any mention of their wedding and when it would be.

In fact, the only people that Astrid really interacted with were Rioka, the seamstress and the cat-faced maid. She had become accustomed to the kojin's peculiar appearance, no longer fearful if she was woken to the sight of scales and sharp teeth. Her room now held the items she had brought from home - her old clothes that seemed so dull and coarse compared to those seen in Shaden, her books which also looked so lifeless compared to the bindings that covered novels in the palace library, but most importantly her watercolours.

She had even been gifted with more watercolours, and the fairy could only assume that it was Rioka's doing after the seamstress came across some of her paintings four days ago.

Astrid occupied her time with walks through the gardens, a few flights up to the tower painted and engraved with the dragon on it's side, and even a few painting sessions in a handful of different (but private) locations. But even that became boring for the future Empress, who also found herself becoming impatient with any news of when she would begin her time with the Department of Research and Development. However she kept her tongue held as she could only assume that things were being put into place before she started.

Not that she would ever admit it, but she found herself rather nervous for the time she would receive news of when she would begin. It would feel, she assumed, like the first day at school all over again. Everything would be new to her, unknown and confusing. Undoubtedly she would make some comments or ask some questions that would be laughed at behind her back once she was gone. That was what sickened her the most. Being laughed at.

So the fairy took things into her own hands. A day or two ago, she found her way to the royal library to do some research and reading of her own. Desperate to learn as much history as was possible, and any knowledge that would help her with the Department of Research and Development, Astrid now spent the majority of her time there, reading whatever the odd little clockwork sculpture suggested.

On this occasion, the little creature wasn't available when she entered, leaving the fairy to hesitate with a small frown. A large book, thick and rather heavy, bound in deep purple, was gathered within her arms. It had been taken from the library and to her room, and back again, over the course of the last two days. But now she had finished it, and was thirsty for more knowledge.

Having had followed the clockwork sculpture when she first got the book, the fairy was certain she knew where to put it back, and thus began her walk (a purposeful stride) to the shelves nearest to the southern reading room - an area she had actually become particularly fond of as it was cosier than she had anticipated.

Upon arriving, Astrid paused again as her eyes scoured the shelves, soon realising that she had no clue as to the organisational structure and where such a gap was for the book she had borrowed.

With a soft huff and narrowed gaze, she crouched down to begin searching, a gentle hum escaping her. Any from Arryn would recognise it as a folksong from the kingdom, but as the future empress assumed she was alone, she didn't think the disturbed silence would matter.
 

Peregrine

Waiting for Wit
Original poster
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High fantasy is my personal favorite, followed closely by modern fantasy and post-apocalyptic, but I can happily play in any genre if the plot is good enough.
Despite being called a reading 'room', the southern room was more like a bay. The straight line of the library's southern wall was broken right in the middle, denting outwards into the surrounding garden. Countless large windows allowed light to stream into the space, several large armchairs positioned in between them. A large octagonal table rested in the center of the nook, with room for several people to sit.

This was the table where the library master's automaton had delivered Kilroth's requested materials. As expected for an empire, even a selection of records was enough to create several large piles on the table, which was already dividing into seven piles to match Shaden's departments. Even as he watched, a rolling automaton brought another couple books to the table and sat them down. It turned as Kilroth approached, bowing again.

"Bring me pen and paper as well," the emperor commented, before taking a seat near one of the stacks of books, grabbing it and quickly beginning to turn through its pages.

Several hours later, the formerly neat table had become quite messy. Pieces of paper were stacked on the floor, or crumpled off to the side, and the stacks of books had become completely scattered. Three different books lay open in front of Kilroth, his emerald green eyes flicking up occasionally to peruse the pages he'd left for reference.

However, his train of thought was abruptly interrupted by the soft sound of approaching footsteps. Kilroth frowned on reflex, before straightening up from bending over his paper. There was no way the automatons would have let someone of no import approach the reading room, so he could only assume his visitor was someone with either status, or good reason to be disturbing his research.

What greeted him instead was a red-haired fairy, her gossamer wings sparkling with iridescence under the sun's rays, which streamed in through the window. Kilroth watched her crouch in front of a bookshelf absentmindedly, and a small smile tugged at the corners of his lips as her faint humming began to echo through the quiet air.

Whatever her search was, it didn't seem to be going smoothly, as she continued to survey the books. After a few more moments, Kilroth could not resist speaking out to her.

"Looking for something specific?"
 

Viverescribere

Always looking to write
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Fantasy, Historical, Magical, Romance (usually within other genres), Dystopia,.




Astrid


On the cusp of giving up trying to find a home for the book, which she had now settled on the floor due to the weight of it, and fetching the little mechanical creature, to say she was caught off-guard by a voice behind her was an understatement. Astrid's head snapped to the side to look over her shoulder and her wings flared up defensively from where they had once laid flat against her back. It wasn't until her grey irises met that of pure emerald that she realised who it was that had set up station - a rather messy one at that - behind her.

"...I didn't realise anyone else was in here." She answered in response, pushing herself to her feet and out of her crouching position, but also releasing the shelf she had latched onto with one hand for balance as she had almost lost it in her bid to turn quickly to see who spoke.

Clearing her throat, she reached down for the book, bringing it back into her arms and pressing it against her chest as she faced the Emperor. She bowed her head to him, still not feeling comfortable to not do so, despite their betrothal. He was not a lover. Not a familiar. Not even an acquaintance. The fairy doubted she would ever feel comfortable to be around him and not provide a formal greeting or recognition of his title.

If she was being truthful to herself, throwing herself into the additional learning of her new empire through the means of the library was also a way of distracting herself from the impending wedding - whenever it may be. Not to mention, all that came with it.

However, for now, she shoved that thought once more out of her mind. She didn't need to be focusing on nuptials and the like when he was stood before her.

Her finger tapped against the flat of the book, eyes dipping from his face to the chaos on the table before him. Her interest, and curiosity, piqued as she wondered what he was doing. She had learned, over the few days so far, that everyone in the castle had been helpful and more than eager to explain things to her as necessary. Yet she wondered if her future husband shared their openness.

"I'm... looking for the space in which your little... creature fetched this book for me. I've finished it and now looking for something to progress onto. But he-- it wasn't at the door when I arrived. Now I know that it must have been with you." Astrid finally provided him with an answer, eyes raising back to his.

Of course she couldn't be sure where the mechanical creature had been, but since he was there, she settled on that possibility.

The fairy hesitated once more, eyes dropping again to the paper before him before quickly snapping back up to his face, inwardly telling herself to get a grip on her curiosity. "I didn't mean to disturb you. The last two days this room has been empty. But you were here first... I'll find another place to read."