Betrothed

Diana

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"Yes, do explain what's going on." Elaina asked, managing to hide her grinning with a serious look of her own, only because the Prince Evan looked completely unamused. ...not that she could blame him!

King Henry was trying to think quick. His entire plan was about to fall apart and he'd never see his daughter again. "...GREAT HEAVENS! THERE'S GHOSTS IN HERE! EVERYWHERE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" He suddenly bellowed, swatting his arms around like mad.

The entire room look startled! With a slight frown, Elaina stepped away, heading back towards the door. From a table she picked up a spray bottle. Just a small little thing the garden had been using to water the indoor plants. When she returned, she spritzed the King in the face. Once. Twice. Several times until he finally stopped flailing about like a mad man.

"ELAINA! *Cough!* Elaina, that's enough! *Sputter!*" he shouted between coughs.

Elaina stopped, crossing her arms with the bottle and tapping her foot on the ground. "Father, please?"

Wiping water from his face, the King heaved a heavy sigh. "Ahem... Allow me to introduce Elaina. The true Elaina." he grumbled.

"He is afraid I'm being stolen and he'll never see me again. But he IS very sorry for causing a scene, aren't you, Father?"

King Henry snorted. "I am NOT sorry! I didn't agree to this, and I won't give my blessing! Leave your poor old dying father! When the man turns in to a dragon and locks you in a tower, I won't be sending my nights to save you! Come along, Jacob." Jerking the stable boy in drag behind him, the King made a very loud exit. Complete with the slamming of a chamber door somewhere in the castle.

Elaina was left with an angry Prince and his bewildered men. She set aside the spray bottle and was wringing her hands trying to think of what to say! Her father just took the man for a loop, and here she was having just climbed out of a window covered in dirt and leaves, with a cut on her arm and probably looking just as crazy as her father. It was a terrible first impression!

"I'm sorry for him. He's just worried and I know he didn't mean to cause any real harm. It's a little crazy and I understand if you want to leave and not deal with us again."
 
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Evan arched his eyebrow and shook his head. "At least... I believe that this ordeal... is over with? Unless you are also wearing a wig, my lady. But you look a sight better than that" Evan gestured to the chamber door, clearly indicating the cross-dressed Jacob. Evan's head hurt and while he could hardly blame the princess - he thought back to how she was shoved into a door, he was feeling rather weary.

"I'm afraid if you're looking to get away from me on the assumption that I'm in a terrible humor, you'll have to learn that I am not angry, just a bit tired. Your father gave me quite a runabout today, I was at one point fairly certain he was trying to poison the wine he was moments from shoving down my gullet" Evan assured her. "I do not wish to strip you away from your home if it is your choice to sever the arrangement, but otherwise I am more than willing to accompany you back to my home and share with you and your kingdom the bounty of my cradle".

Evan held out an arm to the princess, a questioning look on his face. Just beyond the gates of the castle awaited his escape from this madness. He glanced back momentarily and saw Peter supported the still unable to walk Jeffry.
 

Diana

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All at once, Elaina was relieved. Not relieved that her father might have potentially poisoned a neighboring royal, but definitely relieved that his shenanigans hadn't scared the man away!

"Thank you! I intend to keep my promises and I am ready to go." Elaina was reaching out to take the Prince's arm when Jacob suddenly interjected.

"Wait!"

"Jacob, please!" she responded with an exasperated sigh!

"No, no, just a second!" Scurrying over, still in that horrible disguise, the boy placed a bandage over the cut on her arm, shook a few stray leaves from her hair and finally ushered her in to her coat. He dashed away to retrieve her suit case and handed it over to one of the guardsmen. H then bowed, the result making the wig tumble off his head. "Have a safe trip, Princess!"

Elaina hesitated, almost afraid someone else was going to jump out and stop her as she glanced around at the people in the room. Finally, with some reservation, she gently took Evan's arm and nodded her head.

"I think it's safe for us to leave now."
 
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With a rare smile, Evan attempted to soothe the princess, though soothing was not often in his character. Empathy won out, and he felt it would likely be a little frightening to be this woman. Leaving her home and friends, notably her father as well, to go and become the bride to a man she met only once as a child and probably did not remember. She would soon be queen of two kingdoms. As worried as he was to be king, he could at least remain in the comfort and solace of the home he'd lived in since his birth; he was getting to keep mother, father, and even nursemaid while the princess could only cling to him in a sea of newness. He was feeling tender today, and sorry for her situation from her point of view. For all she knew, he'd beat her for speaking a simple goodnight.

"All will be well, then my princess. I'll take you to your new home and you can meet my mother and father again. You've met them once, but I'm not sure you remember. Mother will be thrilled to see you, I think she always secretly wished for a daughter instead of a boy always trying to convince her that he'd rather be a knight. My guards I will introduce to you later, since a few are a bit worried you'll clobber them as well. We also included in the party a timid little thing, since we didn't know your preferences and personality. Her name is Pipa, she's in the train".

A relatively new invention, the sleek black steam engine seemed menacing, but was the most efficient way to travel now. The engine gave a small bellow as they approached and a tiny face peered from a window before shooting in when she saw the prince.
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Diana

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Elaina chewed on her bottom lip, loosening her grip on the Prince's arm. He must have senses her worry or saw it on her face to be so quick to try and ease her mind. She cast him a grateful smile, even after she was giving an apologetic expression to those poor guardsmen. Her first impression was probably one of the worst. Who knew what they would all think of her now!

"I do remember your mother. Just a little bit. I remember them having tea and always laughing about things." When the large steam engine came in to view, her eyes were wide with curiosity! It was a testament to Ellips' fortune to have something so well constructed and large for their personal use! Her father had one small car he liked to ride in for parades and special events, but otherwise they had remained with the tradition of horses.

As they entered the train, she was still just as curious! Elaina had the urge to explore, but wasn't entirely sure if she could. ..or should! Her eyes moved back to examining the man that was soon going to be her husband. He did look serious, but not cruel. Elaina didn't even realize she was staring while the moved down a small hall to find their seats.
 
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Evan showed Elaina the three cars to the small excuse for a train. One car, where he and his small host of guards would sleep, one common car, and a car for Pipa and Elaina. Pipa appeared to be hiding in her room and with a sigh, Evan knocked on the door separating it from the common car. "Pipa, come here. You haven't properly been introduced to Princess Elaina".

From the next car stepped a woman slightly shorter than Elaina with mousy features and lusterless blond hair that was tucked in a sensible braid behind her head. She was only about seventeen and slightly gawky, uncomfortable in her new frame. She was in heavy muslin, dull colors that seemed to be of her own choosing judging by the playful shades of the men's uniforms.

"Elaina, this is Pipa. Pipa, this is Princess Elaina. I trust you to show her the washroom and tend to anything she asks of you Pipa". He seemed stern, but there was a gentle hand on her shoulder. Evan had no idea how unreasonable, vapid, and outright demanding Elaina would be. Thus far, she seemed even-tempered and sweet but he was quietly warning Pipa that her pampering with his mother, whose indulgence was passed to her son with his servants as friends, might not be displayed with the new woman. Evan gave a small bow and kissed Elaina's hand, detaching it from his arm in an almost unnoticeable movement.

"I trust that they've moved Jeffry to his bed but I must check on him, I hope you'll understand my brief absence, Princess. Please do not feel too bad, I'm quite sorry he startled you, though I doubt he meant to". With that, he ducked into the final room where his voice could only be heard in low, intent tones addressing someone. Pipa jumped into the air as he laughed, a muted chuckle. His laughter was joined by a brighter, more lively chortle.
 

Diana

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Elaina had given a small wave as Prince Evan left her alone with the small and meek looking Pipa. The princess' expression no doubt mimicking the girls as she could hear Evan's laughter along with his guardsmen in the other car. She had all kinds of bad thoughts. Maybe they were laughing about her. ...or Jacob! Or with relief, or something worse?

She was twisting her fingers in her hands when she blinked back at Pipa again. These would be her people now, she might as well get started on getting to know them. Starting with this girl.

"Um, hello! I am Elaina. Oh, but I suppose he already said so... um!" A little flustered, she wasn't handling this well at all! "Bother..! I'm sorry. I'm a little nervous. Today has been so strange, I'm not even sure what to do with myself anymore." Elaina glanced around at the train car that was her quarters with Pipa. Lovely and comfortable, it really should have eased her just a little bit.

"What is Prince Evan like? Do you mind if I ask?"
 
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In the car with his guards, Evan basked in the comfort of the presence of his loyal men. Peter had announced that Jeffry would be well, as soon as Evan had entered, and Evan had joked that perhaps it would have done him a bit better if he were hit harder over the head. Peter, whose laugh brightened everyone's countenances, clapped Evan on the back.

"I'm happy for you, Ev, she's not nearly as hideous as that boychild in a wig. She seems all right, I wish you marital bliss! Have a drink with us, one last time with just your doting dogs, for bachelor's sake". Peter poured a glass of wine that seemed to appear by magic and the others were joining in, wishing him well.

Pipa looked cautiously at Elaina, straightening her skirts before speaking. "He's been good to me, I don't know him very well. He doesn't smile often, but with his friends. He's kept the same group since he was a boy, they're all friends from childhood or so I've heard... they'd all die for the prince, highness. His mother's the gentlest thing I ever saw and he treats her better than anythin'" Pipa looked up questioningly to Elaina. "Does your highness find him favorable, so far?" she was probing, lightly, at confidence from the princess.
 

Diana

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"I haven't been able to speak with him for very long." Elaina admitted. As she moved to pull off her coat and rest it over the back of a chair, she chewed on her bottom lip. She lowered herself to the seat, pulling bits of her hair over her shoulder to thread between her fingers. Nervous fidgeting her mother would always try to swat her out of doing.

"He's handsome. My father showed me all sorts of pictures and I suspected they weren't real, but they were so far from reality, I think I was stunned when I saw him! Oh dear, I don't know what he thinks of me now, though. One of his guardsmen came upstairs to check on me and the stableman managed to knock him out cold with a shield from the wall. And my father made such a huge fuss about not wanting me to leave. Oh...then my climbing out the window!"

Just the thought of how crazy all of that must have looked. Prince Evan probably thought he was marrying in to a family of lunatics. And he was being so kind and gracious about it. Elaina rest her elbows on her knees then plopped her face in to her hands.

"I must look like a mad person." her voice came muffled! "He was so kind and now he must think he's marrying a lunatic."
 
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Pipa looked surprised, unsure of how to act. "Well, I don't know. The prince is a very kind man. He was already into his adolescent years when I was but a child but... well, I used to cry at night and the dark scared me, so he used to tell me stories about how fairies would come in the night if I was a good girl and sprinkle dust o'er me to give me sweet dreams. I don't think he'd like other people knowing that story, though!" Pipa exclaimed, looking fretful. She was letting her thoughts out too openly. Perhaps this girl would tell him that Pipa was telling tales about him! She nervously ran her forefinger and thumb over a patch of fabric.

From the door, however, Evan emerged, his spirits appearing to have been considerably lifted. "I trust you two are getting on well? We're setting off now and you're more than welcome to make yourselves comfortable in one of the seats here. I think we'll be spending a good deal of time together, so I figured that I might spend the ride to my home getting to know you a bit better, if that's all right with you?" his perviously kind expression was gone and it seemed a contrast to his words, his intent gaze. He had not grown up to be a soft king, he would remind his mother when she urged him to smile more. People would feel his love through his benevolent actions, and fear him through their respect for him. Respect, gained from an upright and commanding presence.
 

Diana

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Elaina did not have the opportunity to respond to Pipa as Evan entered through the door. There was his serious expression again, one that made it very hard for her to imagine him telling stories about fairies.

"Um, yes, of course!" she responded quickly, moving over to a window so that he could sit down next to her. Getting to know him better was exactly what she wanted. So why was she suddenly so much more nervous now!

She was watching him curiously, her hands once again nervously fussing with a long strand of hair. "Pipa has been very kind. We were just talking a little bit. Have I told you how sorry I am about my father? And your guardsmen? He is all right, isn't he? I don't know what Jacob was thinking, but I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt him."
 
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"It is all right, you do not have to feel compelled to apologize more, I completely understand. It is reasonable, you are your father's only child, his only family. He overreacted, we will of course visit him if you wish, but that is beside the point. As for Jeffry, it is the fault of no one, although I would think it best for your stable boy not to be given access to any more shields, he seems a tad jumpy for there to be guests in the house. Now, please, I do not wish for you to feel I am extracting every drop of contrition from you I can. I would like to know more about you in the time we were apart". Jeffry eased himself into a seat next to Elaina and rested his hands beneath his chin. She interested him, she was so far not nearly as brainless as the rest. The apologizing, he hoped, would cease. A strong queen knew when to admit fault, but he could not have her wringing her skirts and saying sorry over and over to the citizens when a drought killed a crop.

"My mother informed me of your family's situation. Your mother was a girlhood friend of hers, from my understanding, and she was beside herself when she passed. How old were you?" behind him, at the door, Peter winced, peering through a crack. Subtlety, blunt Ev, do not begin your first conversation with your bride to be about her dead mother. I know you're curious, but you're such a failure at socializing!

Peter slipped into the room, sidling up to Evan before Elaina could respond. "Could I get you both some tea?" Evan winced this time, as Peter stepped hard on his foot and hissed into his ear as he bowed "Have some tact, Evan!"
 

Diana

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Feeling very chided, Elaina chewed on her bottom lip. Nearly killing one of his men really didn't make a good impression! He was well aware of the financial state of Rosenthal, which wasn't helping her concerns at all. When her mother talked with his about a betrothal, things weren't so bad off. There were smitten with thoughts of romance. ...and apparently passed that down to her daughter too! If he thought it would only be a business arrangement, how would their marriage be?

Once again, Elaina's chance at reply was cut short as someone else entered the room.

"I would appreciate some tea very much. I was in such a rush to pack my things this morning, I don't think I even touched breakfast." she admitted, then curiously blinking as Evan winced. Glancing downward where Peter's foot was quickly moving away from the Prince's as if it weren't just stepping on it a moment ago. Her hand rose to her mouth where she tried to suppress a giggle with a clearing of her throat.

"When she passed, I was eight years old, I think. I do miss her, but I'm grateful for the time we had."
 
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Evan glared but the other man, a sunshine blond, merely smiled. "Tea would be fine, I think, Lord Peter" Evan responded to him, in his most obnoxious tone of voice. Upon realizing that Elaina was still there, he cleared his throat in embarrassment. "My apologies for the interruption. I only vaguely recall your mother, but according to my own, she was a marvelous woman. Are you very close with your father?" Evan reverted back to his intent gaze, but from his peripheral he saw Peter nod. An approved topic of conversation, then.

Evan realized that his social capabilities were lacking, something Peter had always excelled at. Blond and vivacious, he was the notable charmer of court although many said it was merely to wed an heir apparent and gain an actual title. Evan felt out of depth with trying to be politely social, and thus avoided socialization as often as humanly possible. Unfortunately, it was uncommon for a man beyond the age of twenty to be heir apparent to the throne and not have any prospects of marriage. It was unbeknownst to most that Ellipis was pulling the struggling little Rosenthal beneath its powerful wing with marriage.

Evan took in a few details of her appearance while he sat watching her. She was truly beautiful, and his interest was captivated momentarily by an internal discussion of her eye color. He made a note to ask her about it, but quickly realized that he had asked her a question, and snapped back to attention, hoping his lapse had not put her off answering.
 

Diana

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It was those soft brown eyes with small flecks of amber that were watching him now. Curiously shifting between the Prince and his man, watching the exchange between them. Elaina might have botched her first impression, but she was observant and learned quickly. This man Peter was the Prince's friend, and he was here now trying to help. It was so sweet, she couldn't help but smile warmly.

"Yes, though I'm afraid he's been a bit angry with me for a few months now. He raised a daughter to make her own choices, and now he's regretting it." the light laughter in her voice gave away her humor in it. "He'll come around later, I'm sure. He'll huff and puff for a few weeks, but he'll come to the wedding." The wedding! Thinking of it now, she was nibbling on her bottom lip again.

A small frown and a sudden serious expression crossed her face. She reached a hand out and gently tugged the sleeve of his shirt just above his wrist. "Our marriage... is it something that you want? I know our mothers arranged it for us and it would be good for the kingdoms, but um. Do you want to marry me? You aren't in love with anyone?" Maybe it was sudden for her to ask, but she thought it might be better to see now than to find out on her wedding night that he might be pining for a lost love!
 
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Evander was about to reply, with humor, the the princess and her assumptions of her father but she instantly tugged at his sleeve, taking him by surprise. For a grown man, he was certainly not feeling his age today but rather an awkward teenager. "You do not bother me" he blurted out, and then there was hot tea in his lap. With an exclamation of pain, he realized he had again said the wrong thing. Peter was glaring daggers at him and between the pain and his attempt to right his comment he started trying to explain.

"Don't take that the wrong way! It sounded course, and I apologize profoundly. I only meant that most women I have met have been vexing and vapid, shallow and stupid. You're different, and I'm enjoying talking to you very much. I... need to go change, I'll be right back". Evan resisted the urge to kick Peter in the shins. He realized that he had messed up, but the tea Peter?

Peter's eyes were, if possible, widen than Evan's. "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry I only meant to... it was an accident Ev-your highness!" Peter did look extremely contrite and thought of chasing Evan but considered the other man's considerably stronger physique and instead remained in the car with Elaina. "Forgive my clumsiness, princess, I am terribly sorry. I hope I did not injure you. If I might say, please give the prince a bit of time so that you might warm to his manner of speaking? He is, most tragically, blunt and will likely offend you by accident if you don't understand that Ev-his highness has never had a fondness for women. You're the first one he's softened around, I have hope for you two!"

He would have said more, but at that moment, Evan came back into the car in a lighter mood though looking occasionally to Peter and once or twice mimicking tying a noose about his neck when he thought Elaina to not be listening. "The interruption is worthy of my deepest apologies, I am so sorry. I, princess, well, what I mean is... I will be most happy to have you as a queen, I think". The most awkward statement he had ever spoken. It took effort to keep the color from rising to his face like an embarrassed adolescent.
 

Diana

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Oh dear! It was true that she was a little perplexed by Prince Evan's statements, but the way Peter attempted to explain and the Prince's second apology... it was like two young boys tripping over each other! Both of her hands were up to her mouth and she was trying so hard not to laugh. Before she had been so nervous and so worried, but this was proof enough she had nothing to fear.

Finally able to still her soft giggling, she had placed her hands back to her lap and smile bright. "I'm glad you will have me. I think I will like you as a King too." She tilted her head, catching another glaring exchange the Prince was shooting Peter. Her smile grew wider!

"Do you really find most women vexing, vapid, shallow and stupid?" she repeated his phrase word for word, but without any hint of offense. Just curiosity! "I admit I haven't met a lot of people. There haven't been many people on my Father's staff for a long time now, and I rarely left home."

Another thought occurred to her, something Jacob had said!

"...and what does it mean when a woman is 'easy'? Jacob told me I shouldn't look easy, but it's not a term I ever heard before. Is that also something you wouldn't like?"
 
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Evan was about to attempt to explain his previous statement, deplore the mindless women who thought that sweet faces, ample cleavage, and empty heads would please him best, however she continued on to a statement that had Evan raising his hand slowly to his mouth. He didn't know whether to laugh or be mortified. He stumbled over sentence beginnings for a moment, alternating between "I", "Well", and "It's when.." before he managed to regain his composure. He coughed, shook his head slightly and though he had come to a decent explanation...

"Being easy is when a women offers her body up to as many men as will have her" he gave a small nod after this, but by the horrified look Peter was giving him, he thought perhaps he had been a bit too blunt or descriptive, but he wasn't sure which. Bother. Evan coughed loudly this time into his kerchief and attemtped to change the subject back to himself - a rare occurrence.

"Many women feel that being very pretty and very dumb is the easiest way to win a man since it promises that she won't interfere with his decisions and that there will be... it will be... a pleasurable marriage. But it annoys me when a woman attempts to make herself seem very stupid just to try and fill what she thinks to be my desire. Not only is slow-wittedness not attractive, so is being something she isn't" Evan said, sounding more stern than he meant.

"Besides, a truly dumb woman isn't fit to rule. Attractiveness has always worried me, as well. With my wife so fair and prominent in everyone's mind... I..." Peter's warning look signaled that he was about to ramble and blurt and he quieted as quickly as possible. He was trying to correct himself, in calling her his fair wife. It was essentially true, but seemed presumptuous and.... was he just over thinking? Bother a million times over, peace negotiations were easier than this! How did anyone end up married, and making it seem so easy too!
 

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"I see." His explanation on what 'easy' meant only left her with more questions. But his opinions on women were crystal clear! Elaina was silent for a moment trying to process it. Why on earth would a woman pretend to be stupid? Though, she could understand wanting to do something to please her husband! She very much wanted to be a good wife, and she still wasn't sure what was expected of her.

"...actually, I don't see. Wouldn't it be counter productive to pretend to be stupid when looking for a husband? You wouldn't be able to talk to him at all, and then how would you know that he wasn't stupid? Um. Not that I think that they shouldn't find love too, but you can't build love on lies and misconceptions..?"

Elaina tilted her head, fussing with the strands of her hair again. It did answer her original question, though. He did not have a another love waiting for him - he hadn't found anyone that he could tolerate! That was a little intimidating!

Before she could pose another question, there was a weird rumbling from outside the train. So loud, that even inside the cars it could be heard over the steam engine! There was a loud POP and a CLUNK and a sudden lurching of the train as something on the outside was crashing against it. It seemed as they were going between a pair of smaller mountains, something must have set off an avalanche! Rocks and snow were coming down from both sides to fill the small canyon and trying to pitch the train over!
 
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Evan leapt to his feet, running toward the engine where the conductor of the train sat looking mildly terrified. "Come on, Bobbin. Follow me". Evan rushed back to the train where everyone else was still standing dumbstruck. The sound was not a good one and Evan couldn't find any way to prevent the train was pitching it it was merely up to himself and the others.

"Peter, have Darren and Warren carry Jeffry, you and Will need to follow me and keep an eye on Pipa and Bobbin. Elaina, come with me" he took her arm, leading everyone off the train and to a safe cave on the side of the mountain. The avalanche had not at all disrupted the interior. "Stay here" he said, looking worriedly over the small group of people assembled. If they were stranded, it would require two of his men, not one in case something might happen, scouting ahead to send word to his parents of the happenings so that no one would panic when they did not arrive as scheduled. It was times like this he wished he carried money on him, because he could not expect his lady to keep up physically with battle ready guards and a prince honed in close combat should anyone attempt to do him harm. Bobbin was on the side of being rail thin, and Pipa was more than likely less fit than Elaina.

"We'll check the train as soon as this has passed, but I'm afraid we will most likely be unable to continue in that fashion" Evan said grimly "I am so sorry, princess".