Barbarians like us (Tomoko and Aigilas)

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  1. Vinuria was the most lovely, most fragrant orchard of a country one could ever imagine. Its people were - King Emric was extremely proud to say so - the most well-mannered, most peaceful, most industrious people of the known world; not at all like those boorish barbarians of Marcodan who likely greeted each other with nothing but a grunt and couldn't sleep well except in the sound of sabres rattling. No sabre-rattling was heard here, not since Emric sat on the throne; war, he reasoned, would only serve to risk what they had and make life worse, and anything they wanted could be peacefully traded for instead.
    Because, like every blossoming orchard, Vinuria was well-frequented by the bees and butterflies that were the trade ships (both from in and out of country), and that kept the orchard fruitful. The country lacked in nothing and had the best of everything from the finest precious stones of the north to the strong, scented woods of the south, all to be shaped, refined and perfected in beauty by the excellent craftsmen of Vinuria. Artists and scientists were socially admired and financially assisted. The king was personally proud of this; as beautiful as the country was before his reign, he had brought about a perfect cultural golden age, and new discoveries and new masterpieces of art were more frequent in Vinuria than anywhere in the world. Life was more comfortable than ever. The lands were fat and brought plentiful harvest. The port cities were shining and teeming with life.
    Well, they had been until the Kashian attack. That stinking, leather-wearing pirate colony of a nation (if one went by King Emric's opinion) decided it was all right to just float in on their warships and take whatever they could find, ransacking the largest, wealthiest, most beautiful trade cities along the shore and then going home like after a job well done.
    Despite all his indignation, however, the king had to admit that it made sense. Orchards would attract magpies to eat the fruit. And, well... he had to admit that he had neglected martial preparations. It was a rude awakening, but in a manner of speaking the Kashians had done him a service; it could have been far worse. It could have been a war of conquest. Nothing that he had would stand in the way of that for very long. As proud as he used to be of being peaceful, looking at his army of insignificant power - the most important occupation of which was parading in red and blue dress uniforms and making the onlooking maidens' hearts throb - now left a nasty taste in his mouth. He hated the thought, yes... but as he looked at the map, he no longer saw countries that weren't as beautiful as his; he saw countries that were stronger. And now, after this plundering campaign, they would all know that he had no martial power to speak of.
    Especially Marcodan. Their strongest neighbour, their most dangerous enemy... or hopefully their best ally who would secure this paradise once again.
  2. The kingdom of Marcodan if it could talk would boast it's safety to you. Nestled in high grounds of sprawling fields that had mild trees due to the king removing them for best vantage point. Towers along the edge of Marcodans territory with guards perched in them further displayed this safety. Sadly the fields did not have the best soil nor mines rich in any ore. No where near a sea. They were strictly a militia town the king was fine keeping it that way though.
    It has solid thick walls encasing all the plots the peasants roam and work in. Guards roamed the city and the walls further proclaiming the level of safety. Keeping them close and safe. Everyone was loyal to their King . Many a battle he had kept them from harm with his excellent tactics in war situations. The farms they had were simple. There was no dedicated craftsmen or metal workers. No reason to have any trained fishermen. The livestock farms were abundant only because of all the pastures for them to graze. The king did not frown upon the arts and sciences but he never supported them. The cultures existed but were not too accomplished. They didn't do much trading they kept a skeptical stance on every kingdom. Behind another set of walls was the castle. The castle was large enough for attackers that did get in to get mildly lost and for those inside to retreat further in and prepare for the battle. They were well prepared for battle the king had hired from other kingdoms the best crafts men to make swords and armor in abundance. The king would never be caught never ready for a battle raid or even war.
    His villagers were voicing dislike of the lack of culture, advancements, agriculture, and any really refined skills. They just had a large and extensive militia with training readily available and good livestock. They wanted learning and advancements. They wanted culture. The king new which kingdom would make a great match for those demands. The overly pompous Vinuria boasted all those things.
  3. Vertun, a lean, muscular man of tan, scar-lined skin, dark brown hair and thoughtful, deep grey eyes, was standing idly in one of the many stone corridors of the castle, staring out the nearest window with his fingers drumming restlessly on the windowsill. This particular corridor led to the quarters of Princess Ragunda, and he should have been hurrying to tell her about the recent negotiations with Vinuria that would concern her most intimately.
    He was already tired both in retrospect and in advance. As a royal advisor, he was used to diplomacy, being by the side of King Ongar during most of the negotiations and hearing about the rest, but that didn't mean he liked how many words these Vinurians used while saying how little. It took all the attention he could muster to look past all the small talk and understand what they meant, and all his self-command to not tear out his beard in the process. That said, their proposition - once they got to it after what was surely hours of preliminaries - made sense. It would be to the advantage of both countries. It would satisfy the people and grant them more comfortable living conditions, which they were already clamouring for. It would even make King Ongar more popular for having achieved this alliance. Not only did he not have a single counter-argument, he should have wanted this himself, for the sake of his country. And in a way, he did.
    What he didn't like were some of the terms. To secure peace and a lasting alliance, the two elder sons of King Emric of Vinuria were to marry the younger sister and the daughter of King Ongar, one couple living in Marcodan, one in Vinuria. This was a fairly commonplace arrangement, as far as political marriages went. He really couldn't tell his king - not in good conscience, anyway - that he shouldn't go through with it. And so, though the talks were still ongoing about the particulars - would be for at least a few days - this much was already decided.
    It was more for personal reasons that he didn't like this arrangement. Princess Ragunda was his charge, he was by her side since she was able to hold a practice sword, and he did his best to prepare her to be a strong queen and a good war leader one day. So it was understandable that he worried about her. She was a little like a daughter to him, a daughter he never had because he was not married. But... not just like a daughter either. She was a grown woman now, and in his eyes a very beautiful one. At least with himself, Vertun was honest. He wasn't only worried; he was about to lose her, and it made his heart heavy. He had had absolutely no intentions to make advances on the daughter of his king, he knew better than that. But he didn't have to like parting with her.
    Well, he was gaining nothing standing here. He turned sharply, strode towards the chambers of the princess - the guards saluted him and he returned their salute, reminded once again, just like in all the past years, that he was not here as a man, no matter how much he would have liked that, he was here on official business - and knocked.
    #3 Aigilas, Jul 1, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 1, 2013
  4. Princess Ragunda was still in bed lounging about. Her father the king had been upset and she had offered her blade as a sparring partner. Her father thought aged never lost his talent and the sparring match had made many guards gasp in awe. They made a beautiful duo fighting beside and against each other. Her father had hand trained her everyone of his tactics from large scale war fair to simple combat. Bows, blades, hand to hand combat, and everything in between she knew it thanks to her father. The knock on her door made her groan.
    "You cannot come in Vertun. I am not dressed it would not be proper. Return in half an hour." She called to him. She knew he would not be happy but she did not care. Her fathers silent worry confused and upset her. She needed time to recover from the brutal 'battle' they did.
    She hauled her self out of bed. She didn't have servants to tend to her there was no real class system in this kingdom. They did not feel right having more then guards chefs and maids. It did not settle well with them having people tending to them running there baths and dressing them like some of the more pompous kingdoms did it. No matter how well cared for those people would be. It was part independence part kindness for the people of their kingdom. She drew her bath sank in washed off the battle of yesterday and continued to mull over her fathers worry. What wasn't he telling her. They were a duo and a team dammit. She got out and braided her still wet hair her thick rope of jet black hair fell against her back the tail of it ending just at her tail bone. She looked into her emerald eyes in the mirror they were hardened betraying none of her worry. For that she was thankful. She was pale from wearing her full helm all the time. She needed to tone it down on the training.
    She dressed as she always did. Full armor. She strapped her sword to her waist and equipped her two throwing knives. Never be over prepared her father would always say. She had miss placed her helm again but she hardly wore it anyways. Oh wait no father had knocked it off during there fight. She chuckled to her self. They were always so comfortable to no hold back fight each other.
    She threw open her doors saluted her guards and headed off to find Vertun knowing she hadn't spent long. It was not her temperament to waste time. Especially not on something as trivial as getting clean and getting dressed.
  5. "Of course, Princess," Vertun murmured and shook his head half in annoyance and half in relief. Not that the contents of the discussion would change any from having it half an hour later, and he wanted to just have it over and done with already, but he still couldn't help not looking forward to it. But it did most definitely not occur to him what the princess might be like in a not proper state. Well, maybe for a single moment at most.
    He went back to the window - a narrow one, of course, for safety's sake - that he found so useful for brooding. Due to the strategically elevated position of the castle, he could see much of the landscape from here. The simple, safe landscape that no enemy would return home alive from. He could not imagine that the Vinurians had any such precautions. It would be a lot of work to put suitable fortifications in place, but it would have to be done, if they were going to help defend their land. Fighting unprepared was a waste of the blood of their good men. They would have to go over it with them later.
    He stood there, scratching his short, full beard and thinking about this, the problem he could solve, partly just to distract himself from what else was at hand, the problem he couldn't. Even so, in the back of his mind he couldn't help but wonder how she would take it.
    He heard steps hehind him and turned around, sure that the steps were hers. He didn't think the half hour was over by half yet. But then she had always been fast. And indeed, there she was, a beautiful image of contrasts with her fair skin and dark hair, and the eyes that were not only as beautiful but also as sharp as jewels. His own eyes visibly softened as he looked at her; well, they always did. It made him proud that she looked so strong and battle-ready - and a little sad too. He was too used to her, he couldn't quite imagine her gone.
    "Good morning, Princess," he said with a salute and a faint attempt at a smile. "I trust you slept well." Though I might be about to ruin your mood anyway, he thought to himself regretfully. "I have important news, though I'm not sure I can call them good news. We should probably sit down somewhere we can talk confidentially, because none of this is official, but most of this is inevitable."
  6. She saw him at his brooding window as she called it she always knew when he was upset because he choose this spot often. It was a good choice the view was stellar. She saw his eyes relax when he looked at her but they still held sadness upset and turmoil. She missed no detail really was part of her training. Mind you Vertun was always an open book to her. He had been by her side so long that he had obviously grown to trust her. In a way she trusted him too but not enough to forget her training her eyes didn't betray her emotions and she analyzed him in detail as always. He was as handsome as ever. Hi short full beard was all ruffled meaning he was doing some deep thinking, but it was the look in his deep grey eyes that bothered her. His smile that didn't reach his eyes and his words backed it up. Something serious was going down. What had her father done.
    "Lead the way to where you deem a good spot for our conversation then Vertun and how many times have I told you not to salute me. My dearest friend it is just too formal for friends." She said with a soft smile. "I wish you luck on ruining my mood it seems you missed the 'battle' yesterday. Me and father crossed blades. That will always leave me proud and in the best of moods." The next smile beamed her gem eyes glistened with pride.
    Was it bad she hoped the news was war? She had always wanted to put her training to the test but her father kept such an imposing place no one dared and when they did they were under prepared and left fast.
  7. Ragunda's words left Vertun between joy and sorrow again. He couldn't help but smile back at her, this time more sincerely. It warmed his heart to see her happy, even if he feared lest that happiness should prove frailer than she thought.
    He led her along the corridor and down the stairs, out into a small inner garden. Of course the garden was not for decoration; it was for lighting, venting, and - even more importantly than these - for housing a well. In case of a siege, the castle had to have an inside source of water the enemy could neither cut off nor taint. The well had benches around it, and it was there that he intended to talk; now that the Vinurians were here, he preferred having private conversations in open spots where he could be certain that nobody around was hiding and listening. As long as they were quiet enough, the windows would be too far for that.
    He sat down, taking off his gloves just to have something to hold in his hands, and took a deep breath before beginning. He never did that in negotiations, but he didn't have to keep a careful stone face now.
    "The Vinurians finally got to the point."
    He wished he could make a joke on how difficult that was for them, and then they would talk about something else. But he didn't. He told the princess about the offer of alliance, not neglecting to point out the advantages and what they had to be careful about; maybe it was that he still felt like a tutor, even if not for much longer. Normally he would have asked her how she would answer and why. But now he didn't. That would have felt too much like... asking her permission. And as much as it pained him, it didn't seem like anyone was going to do that, except maybe as a formality. He didn't want to give her false hope.
    "To seal this, they also want to bind the two countries together by marriage. Quite usual, I'm afraid. The agreement is that the eldest of the Vinurian princes would marry Princess Marva, your aunt... and the second would marry you. You would move to Vinuria." He didn't even want to look at her now. It just hurt too much. "The intent behind this is that both heirs would live in the other capital, at least for now. That way both countries would have increased interest in working together, and eventually uniting, if all goes well. I'm sorry. I asked to at least go with you... The king agrees to that, but only until after the wedding. It's not that I'm afraid for you as much as I don't want you to suddenly be alone in a foreign place where no one is trustworthy."
    With that, he fell silent and looked up at her once more. He was sure that his despair over what he had just had to say was written over his face. Right now he didn't feel he made a very good advisor... even he didn't agree with himself.
  8. She had chose to stay standing always alert always ready. She did not expect what he said. Her world dropped then. She was going to be married away like cattle in a barter. Her father was standing for this!? She felt rage at first but then calm. She touched a gloved hand to his cheek.
    "Hush now.She smiled at him a smile offering him calm and peace. She didn't want Vertun upset. She ...loved him to much to see him in pain. She started to sing a rare gift she hardly ever used. Her voice as clear and beautiful as a song bird. She looked him in the eyes and sang for him a calming melody.
    Inside her brain was wildly whirling but outside she was calm composed and almost happy looking. It is true this is her duty it is true only she can help in this manner her father needed her as a sign of trust and she would have too go along with it. Some times things don't work out as one wants and she was not getting what she wanted but she knew her kingdom would prosper. Her kingdom the thing her father toiled for and the thing she had toiled for was the ultimate goal. For her kingdoms happiness and prosperity she would trade her freedom easily. Hopefully she'd be chosen to sit in the throne here she would sooner die then see a foreign king take her throne promised to her. She worried greatly for that. What would the traditions of those pompous force her to play second fiddle to some haughty prince? The rage came back a fire burning in her belly but she calmed it. No use in feeling angry it was done if her father could make this choice it was serious.
    She stopped singing and smiled to him one that didn't reach her eyes she let him see that.
    "You've always cherished me like a daughter and I am so grateful for your presences friendship and guidance. Thank you Vertun. Do not worry though I can do this. My father and kingdom need me to do this. I am royal blood it could have happened any time. I'm going to ask a favor and you must not think less of me. I will confess I am a tiny bit scared and could use a hug as childish as it is." She blushed lightly and looked away opening her arms.
    She wasn't allowed much contact, more of didn't allowed her self much contact besides with sparing partners when they were sparring. The few hugs she had got had brought her peace and she could use that now. She felt like such a child but she did not care. Vertun hopefully wouldn't think less of her. She trusted him.
  9. She took it so well... and, well, that was what Vertun had expected, at least on the outside. That she would take it with dignity, if nothing else. That she would be admirably strong, as always. How she would take it on the inside worried him more.
    And then she started singing.
    He had only heard that a handful of times before, maybe. And every time it struck him directly in the heart. She had a voice like a silver flute. The sweet, shining voice of the soul under the armour. It was... marvelous. And then he realized that she was consoling him. It should have been the other way around. It was her who just had her life turned upside down, and she was consoling him. He smiled at her, a grateful smile, to return her sad one.
    "I'm proud of you, Princess." And he was. She had just proved the steel she was made of; strong, dutiful, selfless, ready to put her country before her. "You will make a wonderful queen." Was it so much of a fault that she had a heart? He didn't think so. That would only make her an even better ruler. And anyone would be a little frightened before everything changes. He didn't think she was childish at all, and even if she was - she was young, and she had had so little childishness allowed her. How would he ever think the less of her for that? He stood up and pulled her against his chest, into a gentle embrace. And if his chest tightened a little, and if he felt like his heart was about to break, she couldn't see his face now.
    "Thank you," he whispered, though he was afraid that his voice would betray him. And he wasn't sure what he was thanking her for. For being strong, maybe? For having a command of herself? For being compassionate? "Thank you for being you."
  10. She clung to him trying to not let her composure break. His heartfelt words hitting her right in that love she felt for him oh how it ached. She knew that he could tell she was being strong. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him close standing on tip toes to do so. She wanted to cry like a damsel in distress to beg him to save her from this dragon of a marriage. But what good would that do?
    "I'll be fine with you beside me." She whispered not fully meaning it to be aloud. Her guard was slipping but she did not care. Her world just fell to bits it was better she lost her guard here in a safe place.
    She clung to him as long as she dared. She guard slipped back into place she let go and turned away. Quickly removing the few tears from her eyes. This was almost a good bye to feelings she had dared to have. She always commanded and told her self she loved him like a brother but deep down it was more then that. She turned to him completely in control not a hint of sadness tears or heart break in her eyes. She smiled wide and made it reach her eyes.
    "Thank you. I needed that. I must go get my helm before I forget care to come along?" She chuckled. "It'll have a good dent it a nice challenge to get out I bet."
    Light talk to raise her mood and maybe his she couldn't look him in the eyes she was too scared her guard would slip.
  11. This once, Vertun found himself at a complete loss. What Princess Ragunda said... Did that mean what he hoped - what he feared it meant? But why should it? She trusted him, and soon there would be few to trust; that was enough to warrant her saying this. So, surely, that was it. Was there more warmth in her embrace than that? If her heart was beating any faster behind her armour, he had no way of knowing that. And this was a fruitless thought, why was he thinking about it? What, after all, would either of them gain if it was true?... The knowledge that they were both going to suffer? He wasn't helping her any with that.
    "Yes, let's go."
    He picked up his gloves and turned to follow her, noticing that she was avoiding his eyes. Was it true, then?... Did it matter anymore? And yet, in a way, it did. If it was so, he felt she at least deserved to know. Still, was that a good idea? It wasn't that he feared she wouln't feel the same way and he would make her angry; he feared that she would and he would make her sad. This was a vulnerable moment for her. Was there any reason to hurt her right now?
    His indecision was almost palpable. When would they next get a chance to talk privately again? He could feel the moment slipping away. Maybe it was that that brought him over the edge.
    "Wait. I have something else to say." He kept himself as straight as he could, allowing no outside observer to guess what he was saying, and lowered his voice even further. "I'm sure you know I'm not saying it to change anything. But if this is the last chance I can safely tell you, then you have a right to know. This time I'm asking you to not think the less of me for it. And please remember that even though we can't be heard now, we may be seen." Now that he started, he could not back out. In a sense, that felt better. "I'm in love with you, Princess."
  12. She half turned to him when the words struck her. Her heart sped up and her cheeks flared with a blush. Surely this was a dream or her father had hit her a little to hard in the fight and instead of her helm taking the damage her brain had. She turned to him not even trying to hide the shock giving a beautiful light to her gem eyes.
    His eyes told her he was bearing his full truth. Those deep grey eyes of his swallowed her. She couldn't break eye contact her guard completely shattered. She grabbed his hand not caring and dragged him to her room.
    "Anything you hear you will disregard let no one even near this room." She said to her guards as she passed with such authority.
    Once hidden she gave in she stumbled to the bed or chair she couldn't remember but fell to the floor. The tears finally flowed the pain tearing her in half it felt.
    "It is a sad fate then my dearest Vertun" She paused to hiccup. "Because I love you very much and wish it didn't have to be like this." She was in a dream land a horrid dream land she had the thing she'd always wanted offered up to her and stolen away at the same time. She didn't care she looked a fool this was something she couldn't bear. Years of sitting there dreaming and wishing. If this event had been three days later she'd have had the time to ask her father of her feelings and if he was okay with her picking her betrothed. She was of marring age and she had wanted what her father had. The choice of his betrothed. Her mother was his choice. She wanted that. She wanted to try to see if Vertun even felt anything. But her father started to get worried and she gave up so much time helping him with the people of the kingdoms upset and lowering his worry. Her plans put under the rug and now here she was. Given what she had wanted planned for and at the same time had it stolen from her.
    She threw off her gloves and wiped at her eyes like a child she would never live this down but her heart didn't care. She had given literally everything for this kingdom at this point. Her childhood her mother the love of her dreams. She couldn't take it. The long awaited break down was happening wither she liked it or not. She wasn't the 25 year old she presented she was her actually age here and now. She was a weak emotional 17 year old. Something she had never been allowed to be but all this responsibility all these restrictions all her repressed emotions it was the final straw. She no longer cared if this was a dream or reality. She let out her feelings for once in her life. Even then she was torn to her duty and her training trying to tone down her sobs and hold back.
    She looked at him her emerald eyes broken with sadness. "I'm so sorry you have to see this. Your the only one I trust." She whimpered.
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  13. That would have moved a heart of stone. And where his princess was concerned, Vertun had everything but a heart of stone. That Ragunda's reaction took him by surprise was simultaneously more and less than the truth. Her gaze, of course, struck him like an arrow in the heart, and the sudden decisiveness with which she spirited him away left him unable to even think of resisting. It only occurred to him as a blurred thought that somebody could have seen this and guessing might start; now it was too late to think about that regardless. Still, he wasn't quite surprised - this was all he feared, all he hadn't wanted to do to her. He felt guilty while not knowing what he was guilty of; even though he had hesitated, now looking back he thought it had been the right thing to do. She did have a right to know. And yet, somehow, he'd hurt her anyway. He was ashamed of not knowing a better way, a solution for everything. He was supposed to be the one with solutions, where were they now? He just wanted to make it better, but any way he looked at it, she was a sacrifice, their love was a sacrifice, and there was no way to make that better. That was the way the world worked.
    And she was so heartbreakingly beautiful in this moment of weakness. Her wonderful green eyes sparkled so bright with tears. So different from her usual regal, warlike beauty... it was a touching charm that he had never seen in her before.
    He knelt down beside her and pulled her into his arms again, cradling her close to him, and kissed her forehead, the way he would do if he were calming a fevered child... a child he loved dearly.
    "No," he whispered. "You shouldn't have to be sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that there has to be a victim of the good of the people, and I'm sorry that it's you. That it's us... I'm sorry that you had to grow up faster than anyone. I'm sorry that I can't think of anything more helpful to do than just be here. But I promise to be by your side for as long as I can." He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to think of a way to say this that wouldn't sound like he even thought of betraying his country... because he didn't, and he wasn't going to. "And I promise that I will try to think of some way to get you out of this with the country's benefit still in mind... I can't promise that I will be able to, or that it's even possible, but I will try to."
  14. She clung to him and let it out. She sobbed in his chest just letting all the pain leave her body. He was always so solid smart and together. Her beacon of hope in dark times. Even now he was here helping her. She couldn't love him more in this moment and it pained her so.
    She eventually stopped crying everything hurt but she was here in his arms. Warm and safe she knew she would be fine. She rest her head on his chest.
    "It's part of being royalty. I should have been prepared but by the gods Vertun I am so in love with you and I was going to try to have you by my side. I am paying for my selfish behavior." Her guard and training was back. She was royalty before she was human. Or so her training told her.
    But one last selfish human thing before she became the princess again. She looked him dead in the eyes and let him see her eyes glisten with the tears she had shed let him see the love trust and vulnerability that glistened there she blushed heatedly and kissed him.
  15. Slowly, gradually he felt Ragunda's tears subside. He was inwardly grateful that she could find release in crying, that her mask was not yet so grown to her face that she would have to keep it all inside, letting her sorrow ferment into bitterness. It gave him hope - hope for he didn't quite know what; would it be better for her, would she be less unhappy this way? He didn't know.
    It was a visible transformation - in the change in her posture, in her face, in her voice - as she turned back from a sad and hurt young girl into a princess again. He sighed a little and prepared to let go of her. She was right, of course, they couldn't stay this way forever, even if the prospect was tempting in its quiet melancholy; it was time to return to their important, politically useful lives. It took him by surprise as that vulnerability, that softness she had let him witness returned once again for a moment as she leaned in for a kiss - so much so that at first he almost forgot to respond.
    Oh, Ragunda... He had longed for this moment for so long, and didn't think that it would ever happen; but in his mind's eye - when, rarely, he let himself imagine it - he had hoped that it would be a happy occasion, and that if those enchanting emerald eyes would have the glimmer of tears in them, those would be tears of joy. He was almost ashamed that he welcomed the warmth of her lips regardless. He kissed her back softly and gently, lifting one hand to stroke her face as he did, wiping away her tears. Her kiss tasted like sorrow on his mouth, and yet it was sweet in his heart.
    He felt an impossible promise rise to his tongue as their lips parted, one to stay forever, one to make her happy; but he resisted that urge, he respected her more than that. He would never promise her anything he couldn't keep, that was how it had always been, that was how it had to stay. He rose to his feet and helped her up also, even though he knew she didn't need it. Maybe he just wanted an excuse to hold her a moment longer.
    "We should go, Princess. We are giving rise to conjectures. I don't know if it's not too late already. And I'm sure your father would like to hear that you have been informed."
    Informed?... For some reason that sounded like tasteless mockery. But what else could he say?
  16. Her whole body tingled like magic when he kissed back. It was the most wonderful moment of her life her heart fluttered fast like a humming bird and sung like a song bird. It ended to soon she felt but she knew that the kiss alone was daring. Anything more would just be fool hardy. She was in love with him but she had her kingdom to think of. Fairy tales could wait for her children to hear she did not have time for them.
    He helped her up keeping her close still, she took a step away and went to retrieve her gloves. She pulled them on her face composed yet warm.
    "Thank you Vertun and yes let us go and find my father." Her tone trained not a hint of what had happened left in her outward appearance.
    She stopped quickly at the mirror to check her eyes not a glisten of tears in them nor on her cheeks perfect. Her eyes gave the same trained warmth welcome and authority.
    She left her room letting Vertun keep pace if he wanted. Her father was last reported taking stock of all the armor and weapons. So she went there.
    King Ongar had such a presence power control yet warmth and knowledge. She smiled when he looked up at her. "Hello father. So Vertun told me the news. I am so glad for the kingdom."
    He met her emerald eyes with his jade green ones. "I am sorry it had to be like this."
    She laughed then. "Tis royal duty. Not everyone can be as blessed as you. Mother was truly a gift."
    He smiled. "Your so grown up for just a girl of 17. Your every bit of your mother that was great and every bit of me that the kingdom needs. Truly a blessing to the kingdom. I made sure that when you were wed you'd have our kingdom. It was really my only demand."
    A weight lifted off her shoulders. She bowed low. "Thank you very much."
  17. Vertun followed, but fell back a few steps after she entered the arsenal. He was not in this conversation with King Ongar, she was. He kept himself to saluting him.
    It was... almost frightening how convincing Ragunda sounded. And he knew that at least in part she was sincere. Because for the country, yes, this alliance was a very advantageous development, and he felt that way too. But he also knew that that was only in part. He also knew that her laugh had to feel like shattered glass in her throat; he thought that because it felt that way to himself to hear it, knowing what he did. And yet he was proud of her for laughing nonetheless.

    It took two more days to work out the minutiae of their agreement; he had thought two more hours should have been enough, at most. Nevertheless he kept his patience all along. He would have to do much dealing with the Vinurians in the near future, it was time to get used to it.
    Finally, there was nothing left to do but for him to visit Vinuria; it was officially a diplomatic mission, but everyone knew he would be something of a spy. He was more interested in anything the delegates would try to avoid mentioning than what they were open about. (He was completely certain that the Vinurian delegates did the same.) This time his personal feelings coincided with those for his country: he wanted to know what sort of lions' den Ragunda would go to live in.
    His goodbyes to her felt like a sort of preparation for the real goodbyes that loomed. He tried not to think about it, since he couldn't help it, and focused his attention on the road instead. He didn't go alone, of course, that would be dangerous in case he should run into ambushing brigands, even though he could hold his own in a fight; a few good soldiers accompanied him, one of them Vinurian, to act as their guide.
    At first glance Vinuria pomised to be exactly as he had expected. Almost immediately, after crossing the border, the landscape changed. As they travelled, the scenery that unfolded before his eyes was a patchwork of shades of green, brown and yellow, unbroken by walls - what manner of a lack of foresight was that? They would have to work on it -, promising more kinds of crops than were even known in Marcodan. Later on they passed some that were blue, pink and red; to his question, their guide informed him that those were different kinds of flowers, for perfume-making. He showed less surprise than he felt. It seemed like something of a waste to use huge, fertile fields just to make scented water.
    He very soon found out, however, that perfume was almost as necessary in Vinuria as bread. Everything smelled like something it wasn't. Shortly after arriving to the capital, Sintira, he started to just disregard his sense of smell entirely; he was fairly sure he saw a horse that smelled like fruit, so it just wasn't any help anymore.
    He met King Emric after three days of unnecessary preliminaries wherein he had to request from one person to see another who would then permit him to see yet another. What happened to talking to the man he wanted to talk to? Still, at least this let him see as much of the capital as time allowed, during and in between looking for people.
    He also, it seemed, insulted everyone he met. Not on purpose, of course. He did his best to be polite, and nobody ever seemed to tell him what he was doing wrong - other than not smelling like lilacs, probably, or maybe a man of his station had to smell like mint, or peaches, who knew? -, so after a while he stopped trying to infer what was polite and what was not, disregarded the glares and just spoke his mind. As far as he was concerned, the most courtesy he could show was not waste the time of others; apparently nobody agreed with that here, but since he didn't know what they wanted, he couldn't even try. If he was completely frank, he didn't even really want to. And he had had enough of everyone calling him "friend", which he clearly wasn't. What did they call their real friends, then? Or didn't they have any? He had expected strangeness, time-wasting and unnecessary mannerisms, but he still wasn't prepared for it to be this exasperating. By the time he got to see the king, he was tempted to go home with the evaluation that everyone in Vinuria and especially everyone in Sintira was stir-crazy and shouldn't be negotiated with. The calmness he still pretended was starting to strain at his face.
    The king, a youthful-looking man with long, light brown hair combed into unnaturally rigid waves, proved surprisingly intelligent; no worse, at least, than the diplomats he had sent. Which still wasn't good, but refreshingly tolerable. It had to be because his horizon was wider and he actually knew Vertun would have no way of knowing how to be "polite". Vertun was left with the feeling that they mutually disliked each other in a respectful way, which was almost as good as not disliking each other. And, if he thought about it a little, he was hopeful that the people weren't all as impossible to work with either as it seemed in Sintira; at least not in the inns where they had stopped to rest and feed and water the horses during his journey, and not in the villages where he bought a jug of milk or a basket of apples for the road. He would just have to tolerate the aristocracy for the sake of the kingdom.
    And not only him, unfortunately, but Ragunda too. That was the worst part. Every time he restrained himself from shouting at someone and demanding a straight answer, her image was before his eyes. She would have to do this every day. She would have to struggle through the greetings that seemed to take forever. She would live here, in what looked more like an exhibition hall than a castle, and have staff wait on her hand and foot, not even letting her cut her food on her own. He was sure she would like this as little as he did. He found himself nearer and nearer to hoping he would come upon something unacceptable. So far, that didn't seem to be the case. Coming upon anything at all was a hard task here.
    And he was not much further ahead when he finally took his way homeward.
  18. She and Princess Marva her aunt had to make an appearance before the adviser that Vinuria had sent. For hours she toiled at just talking to this man. She kept a level head and whenever she insulted him she asked him what she did wrong. Hours and hours lost to just learning pointless stupid minor details. This was why that kingdom was doomed. They spent to much time thinking of which way your pinkie pointed when you gestured and not enough on who is going to raid your kingdom. Princess Marva tried so hard to keep up but she just wasn't as trained and had to leave half way into this. Princess Ragunda on the other hand though exhausted and frustrated felt she made a decent impression and that was what mattered.
    She could not fathom what it will be like when she goes there for a month if this all pans out. But everyone counted on her and she could do this. She had too. She broke Vertuns heart and she would pay for it. She knew she'd pay for it this marriage was paying for it. She toured the adviser around the castle he didn't approve at all but she was not concerned and kept her composer and the manners he had taught her. And that was her day.
    How did Vertun do it. One day and she felt like she had fought 8 full scale wars. Yet Verutn did this and was doing this. She worried greatly for him.
  19. It was late in the morning when Vertun arrived home. He had almost been impatient enough to consider not resting the night before and arriving at dawn, but his personal restlessness wasn't a good enough reason to deprive the horses and the rest of the men of their sleep. At least this last night he already spent in Marcodan, which was more of a relief than he could say. The walled-in towns, the strategically placed watchtowers, the familiar simplicity eased his mind; finally, at least for a while, no one would expect him to say anything but what he thinks, and no one would grimace at the fact that he smelled like the man he was and not some form of vegetation.
    According to the first man he asked, the king was overseeing the new fortifications to the northern borders. That meant that giving him his report would have to wait, and this permitted him - as soon as he dressed down and watered his horse; the grey stallion was not just a means of transport, he was a friend and a companion, and, as was the case with any good horseman, it would have had to be a dire emergency before he left him without proper care after such a long journey - to make finding Princess Ragunda his first stop.
    He preferred it that way. After all, he also owed that same report to her, and a reassurance to his own mind. He worried not only because of what he saw of where she was going to go; he worried for what might have happened while he was away. Even a few days could have changed many things... and if he was honest with himself, a good part of his worry was in fact born from the possibility that nothing had changed.
  20. She was training as always her against four guards. She had her full helm on the only thing saying it was her or even female was the long thick braided rope of jet black hair down her back. "Your movements are too obvious." She said. The guards all tried to attack at once she blocked two over the over head ones with her sword and kicked back one with her foot then spun around dislodging her blocking blade dropping the two that were blocked and knocking back the fourth with her elbow. She giggled. "Try again?" They smiled at her behind their helms and got up. "Of course Princess Ragunda." She sheathed her sword and took out her daggers. One tried a fake out move on her she brushed off his blade with her dagger as another sword came in a broad arch she rolled away from it the third swung at her while she was trying to get up she grabbed his blade with her daggers and disarmed him as she got up. the second tried another broad swing this time from the hip she dashed in close making his swing useless and hit his hand lightly cause it was training and he dropped his blade the first one while she was distracted looked to the fourth and they both attacked her at once swinging in very different patterns she smirked under her helm. They were learning it was amazing her daggers blocked each blade she kicked the sword out of one hand and then dashed in and hit the others hand. She took off her helm. "You guys are getting good. Thank you for the spar." They saluted her. "Thank you Princess it's an honor." She sat on a bench and began sharpening her daggers and sword. The dent in her helm that her father had made she wasn't sure how to get it out. It wasn't a huge one so she wasn't too concerned. After all that stupidity yesterday it felt nice to train she had left an announcement that any of the guards wanting a bit of training could come spar with her she'd be here all day. She did this often it kept her from getting rusty and kept them from getting rusty. Also taught the new ones what combat as like. She always fought with all her talent she was never rough but she took it seriously.
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