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*Winter Air*

Original poster
Alina rides on her brilliant white stallion gazing at the sunset and how beautiful it is. she makes him hault and gets down. shes rarely alone because shes the youngest of her fathers daughters. so hes very protective and always worried. taking her solitary time wisely she stares out into the warm sunset for a while, as it disappears the cold chill of night emerges not bringing a coat with her as she didnt expect the sudden temperature drop, her bare shoulders face the wind head on sending chill bumps up her spine. she gathers her dress off the ground and slips out of her heels. she walks to the shore and lets her feet sink into the cold water. even though she is fully aware this could make her sick, she knows she doesnt get much time like this.. as the moon comes into the clearing with its alluring light, she decides not to leave for a while. even if it means being scolded by her father.the wind picks up knocking her ribbon right out.. letting her hair fall loosley in a wild tangle of dark curls. she closes her eyes and inhales the new cold air wishing times like these werent divided into seconds, but rather eternities.
The night had come at last and now, now was his time. As darkness fell over the hills like a descending veil. His steed was pitch black, bred over centuries to be the perfect mount. The night air whipped around him as his dark cloak flowed back as iron shod hooves pounded on the dirt like thunder. But approaching the lake he slowed to a trot as he saw a soft glimmer of reflected moonlight.

It was strange to see anyone out here alone, especially at this hour and the soft glow of her dress in the moonlight drew him closer, the soft fragrance hanging in the breeze spoke of a pampered life. He halted the horse a small distance from her and spoke, his tone soft and accented. "Alone at night?" he asked "Don't you think thats a little unsafe? You never know who, or what, might be out here." he turned to see the rising moon reflected of the still waters. "Though the risk may be worth it to some?"
she was startled at his presence not thinking anyone would be out at this hour besides watchmen or thieves and he looked like niether. Also she hadnt seen him around here before. she cleared her throat a little and gave a warm smile to the stranger. "its worth it to me.. i dont get many moments like these so ive decided to embrace it while i can.. besides the moon is so pretty and full tonight.." she said begining to walk back to her horse "and what about you? it seems to be getting late even for a man to be out at this hour. There have been repeated kidnappings and crimes being reported lately and i dont suppose you were hypnotized here by the sunset also?" she said trying to keep up conversation, his voice was inviting but she didnt want to be a fool, just in case he wasnt as friendly as he seemed to be.
"Sunset? No. It has need a while since I had the pleasure to see it sink below the horizon." he remained in his saddle as if waiting for her to re-mount. "I came for the moon. A quiet pleasure when one may finally get a moment outside." he looked back at her "But it would be remiss of me to allow you to travel the dark roads alone, they are unsafe. Especially now."

The horse moved impatiently under him and whineyed impatiens to get back on the move, spirited yet compliant just the way he liked them "Would you allow me the pleasure of escorting you wherever it is you have to go?" he offered her a smile to let her know he meant her no harm before his hand went to the clasp of his cloak and he unhooked it, offering it to her once she was seated in her horse revealing the white shirt and raiper that lay beneath.
she smiles and takes it willingly rapping it around her.. his scent surrounding her. "thank you.. and yes you may escort me home.. or at least to the gates.. my father would have a fit not knowing who you are if we just showed up" as they begin the to ride along side each other she plays with the ring on her finger " i cant help but wonder what you meant when you said its been a while since youve seen the sunset.. any particular reason why?" she asks glancing at him now every once and a while catching glimpses of his face in the moon light. "and where are you from? i caught your accent back there but didnt want to seem nosy its just ive never seen you around here and your accent tells me your not from these lands anyways."
"We are close to the border." he pointed out. "My home is not far on the other side." He looked at her as he spoke his dark eyes contrasting with his unnaturally pail skin. "I am forced indoors much of the day due to commitments it is only once the sun sets that I may come out and enjoy the air. Thats not to say I don't miss it but its a small price to pay for the rewards of having one's own castle."

"What about you, do you usually tarry into the night? Are you perhaps reluctant to return home for some reason, and the ring you wear does it carry significance?" his tone was casual as if making conversation and the cold air didn't seem to affect him as they rode.

"I am Lankopf by the way Arden Lankopf."
" I guess you could say i have a few reasons not to return home in a rush.." she says smiling at him feeling pulled into his gaze as if his midnight eyes could see right through her. "im locked in so much its hard to find free time. or solitude. being the youngest of all my fathers children as you can imagine is both a blessing and a for the ring it carries significance but not in the way one would assume" she says taking it off and admiring it as if seeing it for the fist time.

"my mother gave me this ring before she died of a sickness that swept over france years ago." theres a long pause then as if snapping out of a trance she puts the ring back on my finger and slows her horse down a little "so you say your castle isnt far? im in no rush to go home.. if you want company a while" she says smiling brightly. trying to think of the excuses she would tell her father as to why she was so late. she couldnt help it, she was beside her self with the pleasure of having new company.. especially someone so mysterious and inviting as him.

"and im Alina Le Noir nice to meet you Arden"
"I'm sorry for your loss and for your treatment." he said "Solitude is a precious gift that should be embraced when possible." he said "Yet." he paused halting his horse and waiting for her to do the same. "If you're sure I would like to share my solitude with you Alina." He turned around and began cantering east towards the moon where it hung low in the sky. "Even if its only for a ride in the country."

he led the way around the lake, there was another place he loved and would show her, away from the road and secluded, a valley where every night hundreds of fireflies came out. "I promise to only delay you for no more than a couple of hours."
Alina smiled at this. following behind him, her white horse seemed confused at first, knowing the route home, understanding they weren't going that way she could tell by the hesitant way the horse was trotting along. she pet the side of the stallion "its okay Beauty.. " surprisingly this seemed to some what help the animal to relax and she more willingly began to trot along side Arden. everything seemed so peaceful at this hour, when your not busy with what the day brings, you can appreciate nature a little better. "its really amazing out here.." even in the country where alina never honestly gave the time of day to really look at it. now she was surrounded by it embracing it with him. She had to admit to herself at this rate he could probably take her away forever and she wouldn't put up a fight. she held his cloak close to her as they kept trotting along.
He looked at her horse wondering it it could tell what he was better than the rider could. "I am happy to have someone equally lovely to share it with." he said watching her amazement. "You have never been away from the roads before?" he asked "You would be amazed what hides away from prying eyes in the corners of the world where magic still finds a home." He didn't care if she though he was serious or not. "Especially at night."

He paused stopping his mount overlooking a dark and twisted forrest that marked the border between the two counties. The forest and it's winding paths were feared and avoided by the superstitious local peasants but tonight near it's heart a cluster of feint lights was visible. Arden's castle.
She looked out to where the lights were shining through the woods.. she could not believe how this night was going. It could have easily passed for the best night of her life already. "it is beautiful... " she said looking once more around her at the peaceful countryside "ive never been out here no. but im happy to share it with you.." she said smiling. she didnt know this stranger before now, but they were so comfortable talking to one another it was as if they had known each other forever. "so you believe in magic and fairys and vampires and werewolves?" she said playfully as there horses trotted upon the path to the border

"i used to when i was little.. i always wanted some magical being to come take me away.. until reality set in.. and you come to that age where believing in things like that seem hard to do.. especially when you haven't seen it for your own eyes.." she said thinking back to a time when she was little and she would purposely leave her window open so that something could come take her away, her chambers where at the top of the castle so she knew only something with powers out of this world could climb in and take her and at that age you dont think of the dangers that come along with doing such dangerous things like leaving your window open. She was more cautious now, but she threw her worries out the window just to be with Arden tonight.
"Does that age have to come?" he asked. "These days mankind rule the countryside with roads and progress. Science is the new superstition, but those that avoid progress, those old enough to remember civilizations before ours, isn't it reasonable to think they would leave mankind to it's toys and remain always just out of sight?" he leaned low to get under a branch over handing the trail. "To answer your question, a world where man knows everything and it always right is no place for a romantic soul, so I prefer mine a bit more interesting. And if they find me to be wrong when the final tree is felled and still none are found then I will have lived my life knowing my world was even more interesting than the one that I was born into. Yes I believe."
She had to admit he had a point.. but after not believing for so long it was nearly impossible for her to get back to that place where she did believe.. that would mean finding her inner child which she had left so long ago.. when she became a woman. as the castle came into the clearing alina was speechless "this.. is beautiful" she thought out loud. Dark, but beautiful none the less. her horse stopped abruptly in its tracks "whats wrong beauty? i know its not home but its fine i promise.. "she said caressing its side relaxing the horse it began to move forward again "sorry.. she can be so scared when she wants to be.. especially here in the dark.. i used to be afraid of it too.. " she said half smiling. His skin looked to perfect in the dark as well she had noticed.. it looked smoothe .. pale but gorgeous. contrasting with his dark eyes he reminded her of something magical.
"This is my home." he explained needlessly at the obviously old castle once more paying more attention to her reaction to the surroundings that the surroundings themselves. Dim oil lamps lit the heavy wooden doors and to the left of the clearing there was a wooden structure that could only be stables. Here even the moonlight seemed different and it was hard to tell because of the thick leaves but it bay have been different in the forest as well as it they were another world subtly different to the normal one and the stars shined abnormally bright. He dismounted and left his horse to run free it's cantering path taking it towards the stables before he waited her her offering to tie hers up for her.
Alina dismounted as well and accepted his offer handing over her horse to him. The horse was uneasy about this, as if he could see right through to what Arden really was but he cooperated. Alina was too busy looking around in amazement at the complexity of his castle to notice. She was glad he had offered his coat to her. she needed it now more then ever, there was a very cold eerie atmosphere around this castle, but she shook away the eerie feeling understanding that anything in the dark probably tended give off that effect. Especially something unfamiliar like this. "well no wonder you dont care too much at the fact that you dont get out much...." she said still looking around curiously, now up at the sky "you've got all these beautiful shining stars to substitute for the sun" she continued. They were brighter then she had ever seen before. Probably because they were out in the country were everything felt more alive she concluded with herself before turning around to face him. "Shall we?"
He handles her nervous mount without trouble suggesting strength unhinted at by his relatively slender frame. "Its more complex than a having an absorbing home I assure you, but perhaps you'll see that in time." he hinted darkly as his hand grasped the handle and he pushed the creaking door inwards. "I live alone, no servants, I find I can keep the place in order well enough on my own though."

It was a huge stone building that had to attract a lot of dust yet inside there wasn't a speck and the silver vases and gold chandelier shone brightly as if recently polished, yet how could he have been expecting company. It was simply impossible for the rest of the castle to be this clean and bright and yet in the rooms whose doors were open everything was clean and their colours bright even if the style was horrendously out of date everything looked brand new. Though invisible beneath them was one part of the castle that HAD fallen into disrepair, chokes with webs, dust, and fallen timbers. And it was down there that his secret lay.

Alina slowly walked inside the castle, she felt as though she had stepped into another time zone, everything seemed ancient however well kept and organized.. It was so quiet all she could hear was the small clinks of her heels against the floors. When the door was shut behind them she did a 360 looking at everything.. the paintings.. the different instruments that looked as though they were being carefully preserved. Everything was so.. beautiful.

"How do you keep such a beautiful place.. on your own?" she said quietly half expecting to hear her own echo.. She looked up at the chandelier which seemed bright and beautiful something like a replacement sun. The light from the moon reflected off the chandelier and onto her skin giving it an angel kissed look and her red lips a sparkling radiance. She turned to Arden still looking around at everything until her green eyes made contact with his. "This castle is gorgeous" she said taking a few more steps.. glancing at the rooms on either side. "How can you live in a place like this with no one to keep you company?" she asked, looking at him once more.

She thought it might have just been the moonlight, but no, Arden's skin was the same shade of pale it was before, even now, inside the castle.. still perfect and smooth looking.. his features cold but inviting as they were before.. she felt drawn to him for some reason. Not nervous at all to be with a stranger but rather relaxed and comfortable.

Maybe it was because he was handsome.

she smiled at her thought a little.. then looked away from him once more at the paintings and instruments. "Do you play?" she said going towards the piano but then stopping she didn't want to be rude. This wasnt her home after all.. her eyes wandered towards the walls, on them magnificent paintings "or do you paint?"

she noticed his eyes hadn't really left her since she walked in.. but she wasn't alarmed rather flattered.. she gave him a faint smile waiting for his answer.

"There used to be more, family, servants, guests coming and going, balls, dances, politics. Once had the king himself grace these halls..." he said looking around lost in memory for a moment. "Of family, I am the last, guests seldom come here and we are all but forgotten and it seemed, frivolous to retain servants when one has only himself to entertain."

A half truth, true this place had once held kings and courtiers, yet the castle, according to history's word had been destroyed and all within it killed. But he had more questions to respond to and in reply he sat at the piano and fingers hovering over the keys decided on a song and he began to play, a melody by a long forgotten composer. "I once painted." he said as his hands moving about the keys. "The one above the door is mine."

The painting was huge and must have taken over a year to complete, it shower the room they were standing in during a masquerade ball, the bright costumes faithfully rendered in the brush stroked. The fashions were as outdated at the style of the room but it was no less impressive as he echoes the faded glory of the castle.
Alina came closer as he played, It was as if he was in a trance, or one with the music if you will. She smiled as she let it sink into her too, after all it was beautiful...

She looked up at the painting as he played his beautiful piece. "These people.. in this painting... why, these costumes and the layout of things suggests it is well over a few centuries old, yet you have captured great detail, and significance.. if i didn't know any better I would say you were there" She joked gazing at the painting in complete Awe. It was beautiful though, Well kept like everything else as far as she could tell. She slowly made her way to sit next to him on the bench, she positioned her fingers identical to his "I've always wanted to learn.. how to play so beautifully..." She said blushing,

She had never really expressed herself, especially not about her weakness for music, accept for with her family. She had always wanted to move her fingers so graciously as he did across the piano with much nonchalance as if it didn't take any real effort.. Something she understood probably took years to master. She believed she had found the perfect teacher now.

"Maybe sometime.. in the future, You can teach me to play as you do" she said smiling, she stood and walked around the piano, slowly gliding her hand across its surface.

"I bet many women have lain on top of this piano listening to you play, am i wrong?" She said trying to meet his gaze.

She felt so comfortable with him, she didn't want to leave... Still she felt no danger or as if she had over stayed her welcome

he must tend to have that effect on women..

she thought to herself, still smiling brightly.
He moved over just enough to allow her to sit next to him, there was no sheet in front of him and he was obviously playing from memory. "There is no time like the present to begin." said smiling at her "ANd there was perhaps one who watched me play, but it was not to be..."

There was no change in his expression as he kept his eyes on the keys before the refrain reached it's conclusion and his eyes want to the painting she admired, particularly where he had painted himself into the canvas, one of the many dancers in the center of the room. "IF you wish I could show you how to play a song you know by ear, for those are the easiest to learn."

His attention was back at her and he couldn't help but see the lingering colour in her cheeks a sight he hadn't seen in... too long and it made him smile wider.

"Have you played before?" he asked taking her hand and running his fingertips along her fingers. "You have the fingers for it." he said softly before realizing he had just broken the touch barrier.