My Last Amen

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  1. [​IMG]

    The story so far:
    Part I
    Part II

    Name: Amadeus Osmont
    Alias: Prince Sharlemange "Shar" de Lovell
    Age: 22

    Brief Overview: In theory, Shar should be the perfect prince set to inherit the kingdom as king in a few short months. He’s charming, relatively good-looking, well spoken, and beautifully versed with a sword; however, Shar is not exactly what he appears to be at first glance. Behind the smart cut of his hair and the luxurious clothes he wears, Shar, also known as Amadeus, was born a poor pauper boy. Son of a horse dealer in the very poor reaches of the kingdom, Amadeus knew only the life of struggle. When war with a distant kingdom rips apart what little he and his family already have, a plot it born.
    A plot so outrageous, no one thinks it'll ever work, and yet it happens all the same.

    Now, living under the false identity of a distance prince and working with moles in the palace, Amadeus takes his role as a prince, and fiance to the kingdom's princess and future ruler in order to convince her that the war is doing terrible things to the kingdom's worst off.

    A bit distracted, but otherwise good natured, Shar would much rather spend his time exploring the castle than discussing politics (he makes most of it up, anyhow, whenever someone asks). As people go, he’s amazingly level-headed, but doesn’t trust his authority as a face of the impoverished people. As such, he’s prone to bouts of immaturity and has been known to explore his wild side by running off every now and again to clear his head (he can often be found in the stables). He can be frustrating, irritating, and insufferable from time to time, but he has the most unwavering sense of morality and kindness. He is tender and soft-spoken, and compassionate to a vice. He probably has more flaws than strengths, but there is something incredibly likeable about him.

    Name: Princess Fira of Rhielith
    Age: 19

    Brief Overview: As the only surviving heir to the throne of Rhielith, expectation has been placed on Fira's shoulders since infancy. While her uncle (and advisor to the King, no less) believes her red hair to be an omen of destruction and fire, Fira is a rather even-tempered woman. She is kind, certainly, but she is genuine which is a strange occurrence in any court. Her father often tell her that one must have thicker skin to rule a kingdom, but hers is soft and unmarred. She knows when to hold her tongue to save face, but is often caught a bit in her own head with her own thoughts.
    More than anything, she has been raised to be a ruler.

    Born the youngest of three, Fira watched at a young age as both her older brothers were taken by illness. As the sole survivor, her father, King Cedric, took it upon himself to prepare Fira. A strong and morally-righteous man, Cedric believed that she would survive in his image and to further the legacy he left behind.

    She is a smart girl, quick and determined. If she sees a problem, she does not wait for others to act and takes initiative. To those she holds dearest, she loves with all her heart and when she sets her mind to something both her passion and loyalty are unwavering. Above all else, she values honesty. She also questions herself, almost to a fault, and often believes more in hearing the voices of others more than her own and is a bit naive when it comes to the truths of the kingdom, though not by choice.

    • Love Love x 1
  2. “Never you.”

    Fira repeated the sentiment, knowing exactly where he was coming from. While she did not regret anything, she knew how much it pained her to know Amadeus was pulled into all of this. But more than that, more than anything, she was so blessed to have him by her side. She would never regret having him at her side and while she was to be Queen, he would always be hers and she would always be his. Maybe no one else believed it, but Fira was a woman of her word but more so than that she was a woman of heart. Amadeus would always be there at the very core of her being. She had come such a long way, but it meant nothing without him there with her. After all, he was the one to open her eyes.

    The night was hard. Fira slept heavily in Amadeus’ arms, but she was plagued with nightmares. It had been quite some time since she dreamt of Peter and the castle, but it was a chilling experience. It was not a battle, nor the death of anyone she loved, but instead it was just Peter and Fira standing in the throne room. She could not find Amadeus, nor anyone else, just Peter. He stood there powerfully, donned in the very clothing her late father had worn and he looked different. Stronger, more sinister, with his features contorted into a crooked smile – his visage made her uneasy. Anxiety welled up inside her as she waited for him to do or say anything but he just took step after slow step until they were face to face.
    And then, only then, did he speak.

    ”Destroy the queen,” he snarled, “and win the game.”

    She woke rather abruptly, not with a start but instead her eyes just seemed to snap open at the realization that her entire body was awake. It was early, certainly, but no one had fetched them for breakfast yet so she assumed it had to be near dawn. She was still curled up into Amadeus, like there was nowhere else in the world she wanted to be in sleep or otherwise. His warmth surrounded her, protected her, and while Peter’s words made her uneasy, she knew that she was safe in that moment. Maybe she wouldn’t always feel safety like that, but for now she was going to take all of it that she could get.

    Something told her that their happy little escape in the walls of Calliope’s estate could not last forever.

    “Amadeus?” she whispered, pressing a kiss to the closest bit of skin she could manage, “You awake?”

    Amadeus' dreams were the same as they usually were. He was back home always, in the familiar four walls of the cabin he had grown up in. It was different than it was now, resembling his childhood home. He'd end up looking down and seeing his hands-- soft and small, like those of a boy's. When he'd look at his reflection in the water basin, he'd see a clean and clear face looking back at him. No facial hair, no scars... Just himself, maybe nine or ten at most. Dirt dusted his nose and the creases of his eyes and his front two teeth were missing with just the crowns of his adult teeth coming in. He remembered this day, always. It had been a wonderful day-- warm, sunny-- and incredibly unremarkable. It was also the last day he had ever seen his father alive. Dream after dream, he would relive that day and it would never change until the last few moments when he'd say goodbye to his father at sunset, telling him 'I can't wait til you get home and we can do this again!' And to hear his father's affection reply:
    "It's 'until,' Amadeus, and neither can I. I'll be back soon."

    Minutes turned into days turned into weeks and in his dreams, they would pass by in a collage of memories. Always waiting. Sometimes, it felt like he was still waiting for the man to come home. One by one, the people around him would begin to die-- his mother, Rosalie, his childhood friends... Fira, too, would eventually die but just as she opened her mouth to speak her last words and Amadeus, still only nine in his dreams would begin to beg her not to go like everyone else, he would stir awake. It was never a jolt or a gasp, just a slow shift in his reality. A sadness would creep over him as he would hug Fira closer to his chest and breathe in the smell of her hair, listen to the sound of her breathing, and murmur something along the effects of 'I will never let that happen to you.'

    He could live with the decisions she made, even if she decided she couldn't be with him; he could not live with her death. It would kill him.
    He was awake but his eyes were closed and he was breathing steadily. He knew Fira was awake even before she perched up and stole a kiss from his cheek.

    "No," he said with a small smirk curling his lips as he forced his eyes open ever-so slightly, just enough to catch a glimpse of her. "But for you? For you, I can be." Sitting up a little, he collected her up tighter into his arms, sealing their morning with a loving kiss to her lips.

    "How are you feeling this morning, sweetheart?" He brought his hand to her forehead so he could sweep back that wild mess of bright red hair, his smiling widening because he could finally make out a whole image of her face. She was absolutely lovely and an absolute delight to wake up to in the morning. In one quick motion, she had brushed away all the cobwebs and darkness left behind by his dreams, filling his heart and mind instead with love, respect, and admiration.

    "Hopefully, we'll get some news today."
    • Love Love x 1
  3. “Better,” Fira smiled as Amadeus pulled her into his arms and cast the demons from her mind as he always did, “How are you feeling?”

    His lips met hers and it was the softest kiss she had ever felt. Gentle and caring, Fira knew in her heart that her nightmares only drove her to realize the depth of what she already knew. Amadeus was it for her and in a world where nothing was certain and her future was shaky at best, she knew that he was hers and she was his. No matter what they faced, she would fight for him because he was a part of her. She couldn't lose him, she wouldn't lose him. No matter what — come Peter, or army, or hellfire. Being Queen meant nothing if she did not have Amadeus by her side — he made her better. He made her stronger.

    And the people deserved her at her best.

    “You make me blush when you look at me like that, you know,” Fira said with a soft laugh, watching how his eyes grew at the sight of her. It was familiar feeling because she did it too. Every single time she woke up to his strong features, the curl of his hair and the brightness of his eyes, she was taken back. She was so lucky, so unbelievably lucky, and thinking back on all they had endured — he was everything to her. He hoped they heard word today and she did too, but it also terrified her a bit to realize that their future was resting on the words of a messenger. This was where their journey became really uncertain because Fira could not raise an army without first revealing herself to said army and when that happened, everyone would know. Every man woman and child in the kingdom would know that the rightful heir to the throne was alive and rising up against Peter.

    Her support would grow, but more than that Peter would do anything and everything in his power to make sure that she did not survive to see the throne. They had just been little games up until that point — hiding from the guars under the house, seeking shelter at Calliope’s estate — but now it would be real. Her life would be at stake every single moment she drew another breath and it was something they had to accept and something they had to face.

    Even with the agreement from Calliope’s husband, no one could guarantee that someone would not work or plot against her. It was a leap of faith she had to take and a risk her and Amadeus needed to learn how to face. After all, if Peter caught him — Fira could not bear the thought. “I hope so,” Fira agreed with a nod, “At least — I hope it’s good news. I just want to feel like we are moving forward. I am just a bit stir crazy here and I am sure in two weeks time I will be begging to be back here, in this bed, with you.”
    • Love Love x 1
  4. “I’m okay,” he replied in response to the question she turned back on him, “I feel fine, for the most part, but I’m anxious to hear news so we can decide what we’re going to do next, honestly.” He was ready to just know—good, bad, otherwise, it didn’t matter. He just wanted to be able to sit back and hash out a response with her, no matter what sort of challenges they had to face, and whether the Duke agreed to meet with them or not, both would result in grave pros and cons. Unfortunately, all Amadeus could do was be patient and he had never been very good at that, at least not when it came to matters like this. He wished for nothing more than to rush it along, to hurry it up, but he couldn’t control the timeliness of the Duke’s respond or the speed with which the messenger boy rode.

    So, he had to wait.

    Thankfully, he had nice company with whom to wait with. “When I look at you like what?” he asked, smirking a little as he gave a soft tug to her hair, just to be playful. They had to face a lot, they had faced a lot, but it seemed that Amadeus hadn’t quite lost his sense of playfulness. When he was younger, everything was felt so keenly and with such intensity. Love was deep, hate was strong, anxiety could cripple, and sadness overwhelmed. As he aged, those emotions seemed to mellow for the most part, the feelings all still there but the dial must have been turned down and so the gentle sort of happiness that was disregarded in his youth comes to the fore. The small pleasures of his life took a more prominent role. He savored those peaceful moments and learned to cherish the people he cared for most, in the way Fira smiled in the morning, in the softness of the cool breeze shifting through the window left cracked open.

    He was happy, despite everything they faced, and that was a revelation. He was anxious still, waiting to hear word from the Duke, but waking up to that beautiful, silly face currently scrunched with thought. “Even if it’s not the news you’re hoping for, Fira,” he began slowly, “We are making progress. It may not feel like it, but we are.” Though he hoped to hear good news, as well. “Yes, well, like me I think you need to learn a little patience. It’s hard not to think about ‘what’s next,’ ‘what’s next,’ ‘what’s next,’ but maybe we should both think about what’s now for a little while.”

    “And what’s now is you and me, right here, right now.”

    This could very well be the last time they had like this. Even if they both scraped through, there was no promise of a future between them as society dictated a person like her should not affiliate with a person like him. He also had to face their mortalities: neither of them was promised to survive today, tomorrow, two weeks from now. His hand stroked through her hair, falling quiet. A small knock at the door caused him to stir again.

    “Master Osmont?” A woman’s voice came from the otherside of the door, “Your breakfast has been served in the central hall.”

    “Thank you, I will be down shortly,” he remarked.
    • Love Love x 1
  5. Fira smiled, “I think I can do that.”

    It was hard to think about what was happening now because so much relied on the future. There were still too many battles to be won, too many people they had to protect and fight for, and not nearly enough time before they would inevitably have to face Peter — if, of course, they ever got that far. Things like what would happen after the war was won? Those things Fira could not afford to think about right now. There were a few things in her mind that drove her to fight, but things like social acceptance and expectations did not even come close to making her list. While Amadeus chose to be realistic and understand that they had no idea what could happen between them, Fira knew. She would be Queen.

    And she refused to live without Amadeus by her side. Neither was guaranteed life after this, but if they made it — if this journey led to the promised land they were searching for — she would never let him go again. She would never watch him leave, never hear the word goodbye fall from his lips again. No, after everything Fira had lost, after all that she had endured in such a short time, she deserved one chance. All she wanted was one thing — to be by Amadeus’ side for as long as the universe kept her tethered here.

    And she would do anything to see that he survived.

    When he playfully tugged at her hair, she laughed and pushed herself up so she was over him, her hands resting on his chest and not a care in the world for propriety. Her fiery locks fell on either side of her face, framing her brilliant green eyes, and even when he called back to the servant, Fira did not move. She was a stubborn woman, but sometimes it was rather endearing.

    “When you look at me like there’s no one in the world you would rather be looking at,” Fira smiled, “I wish I could draw, else I would show you.”

    She pressed a kiss to his lips, lingering for a few moments too long, taking everything in that moment in until it was etched into her bones. Maybe they would not have relaxation like this for quite some time, but Fira knew one thing — with Amadeus, she was happy, even when there was not a single reason in the world to be. Her father was dead, her uncle searching endlessly to kill her, a kingdom that needed saving, people who needed protecting, and the list just went on and on. But Amadeus gave her hope, he was the one thing in the world that reminded her of what her brother used to tell her. There is always light, you just have to be brave enough to look.

    And when she finally opened her eyes after so many years in the dark, she saw it in Amadeus. She saw the light her brother had been talking about and she knew that she had to hold onto him with every single bit of fight in her body.

    “Breakfast can wait a moment,” she teased with a smile, her fingers scrunching his tunic just a bit, “I need a moment to admire you, right here, right now.”
    • Love Love x 1
  6. His hair fell in the style that all women aspired to possess for themselves—perfectly ringlets fell down the sides of his cheeks and neck, with a few softer spirals about his forehead. It would have looked great in any color, on anyone, but the blackness of his hair against the tan of his skin was perfection. The color of his skin was tanned from the sun, lending itself to his life’s position as a poor individual who worked long days outside, but it wasn’t all that dark, not something that someone could comment on. It merely made him softer, like sepia tone in a photograph. The corners of his eyes were hinted with small crinkles as his lips lifted into a broad, happy grin—laughter passing through him.

    Those mornings were always his favourite. They were quiet and light, and any worry he carried on his shoulders were immediately lifted. Usually, they only lasted a few moments before the heaviness of their reality returned, but those few minutes were glorious.

    “Fira,” he said, sitting up on his elbows and clearing his throat, “There is no one else in the world I would rather be looking at. You don’t need to show me,” he perched up, crunching his muscles so he could place a small peck right on the corner of her lip, “As long as you know, that’s all that matters to me.” He was immediately met with a returned kiss that lingered, and he purred in approval. He would have skipped every breakfast for all eternity if he got to spend his mornings instead like this, with her. An entire ocean of ink wouldn’t be enough to describe those little moments. They were starbursts of light amongst a darkening dusk. They were all the stars in the sky condensed into a single point. They were everything and nothing at the same time. Together, they were both a beautiful dream and a catastrophic nightmare.

    They were in love.

    “Breakfast can wait, huh?” He laughed, “Just so you can admire me? Should I pose or something? Do you want me to rest out across the bearskin run with a fire crackling behind me? My, my, I didn’t know you were into such things, my dear.” His voice was edged with a light teasing, a deviant smirk curling the ends of his Cheshire grin. His eyes had softened considerably at her comment though because for whatever reason she tamed him like a lion-tamer, all with such grace and ease. With every neuron in his body, he wanted to be with her.

    “We should practice today—swords. Mm, or perhaps archery. I feel it’s been too long since I’ve last seen you fire a crossbow. I bet your aim is getting rusty. I need to keep you in top form.” Maybe Amadeus was no king, prince—hell, he wasn’t even a noble, but if there was one thing he could truly offer her in this life, it was his knowledge. Perhaps no queen should ever have to lift a finger to a sword or a bow, but Fira’s circumstances were extraordinary and dangerous. There would probably come a time when he wouldn’t be there to keep her safe, and he needed to know he had done everything in his power to ensure she was safe. Not just because she was the queen and needed to get on the throne, but because he loved her. Because she was everything to him, like his life was kerosene and she was his only flame.
    • Love Love x 1
  7. It was just a nice thing to hear. With all their business with Calliope, Fira had felt insecure. It was not because she believed Amadeus cared for another more deeply than he cared for her, but she knew that she was not nearly as exotic and alluring as Calliope was. Fira was a breathtakingly beautiful girl, but the past few months had found her with dyed hair often tied back and worn out clothing, hardly the woman he father used to show off at balls and other gatherings, and more than anything she wondered what she had to offer him. He offered her companionship, support, love and faith. Amadeus believed in her more deeply than she could believe in herself and coming to Calliope’s estate and hearing how she believe that Fira would get Amadeus killed, she wondered what it was that Amadeus saw in her.

    But then moments happened, like that morning, where she could see in his eyes the level of love, respect and admiration that he held for her and while she was not sure what she had done to earn it, she believed it. It filled her with hope, with a desire to do better and be more. She was not the same girl he had met all those months ago inside of the castle walls and she would not be the same woman when this was all said and done, but she hoped he would be proud. She hoped to one day be that person he had dreamed would make the changes he and his people so desperately needed.

    Once upon a time, she had promised in the dark of the night, just before he left, that she would not stop fighting and he told her that words were just words. To this day, she held onto that and she would not let it go.

    “I mean,” Fira laughed, “I certainly will not stop you if you feel so inclined, but this is enough.” Never before had she seen a man as handsome as Amadeus and often times she found herself getting lost in his eyes — his soul a brilliant light that just caused them to gleam. He had rested up on his elbows to bring himself closer to her and while she was straddled over him, she took the opportunity to cut off his words with another searing kiss. She just could not get enough of him. A lifetime in that bed together would not have been enough of him. “What was that you said?” she managed after they pulled apart, lingering just a centimeter away from one another, “Swords, arrows, mhm.”

    She pressed another kiss to his lips, and felt her entire body relax against him. She was not tense before, but there was something about being with him that just eased her mind, body and spirit. She pulled away again, this time with a knowing smirk that she was, in fact, distracting him from starting their morning. “I think we could manage a bit of both,” she finally answered, “I probably have gotten a bit rusty with my aim, and I can always use help with my form with a sword.”
    • Love Love x 1
  8. “Are you romanticizing the idea of swords and arrows?” he teased lightly, “Or are you not at all listening to what I’m saying? I’m inclined to believe the latter, which is truly unfortunate because I am your teacher.” Teacher, lover—it seemed to be all the same. What role Amadeus didn’t fill, he didn’t know, because he became anyone she needed. He was the friend, the confidant, the lover, the listener, the teacher, the mentor… and on rare occasions he was even the scolder, when she needed a few sharp words. Anything she needed, Amadeus would be.

    In that moment though, Amadeus was nothing because he was lost up in those tender loving kisses. He tried to resist for a moment, to remind her they had work to do, lots of work, but by the second kiss, all protests had ceased and he had perched up even farther against his elbows to meet her more fervently in those shared kisses. One arm snaked around her waist and pulled her in close until only electrons of distance remained between them. Across her back, his fingers spread open and dipped against the small curve of her spine. Even when she had pulled away, his eyes remained closed as he could feel the warm puffs of her breath against his lips that were slightly parted.

    It was only when he could feel her smirk, did Amadeus allow his eyes to roll open, glancing up at her with something of a scolding expression. It was all in jest, because he certainly couldn’t be angry over anything he was enjoying so intently. “A bit of both, hm?” His hand scaled down her side until it was resting on her hip, his thumb trailing the length of the genly curving bone. “I suppose we could do that.” His finger stopped just before it trailed too far into territory it should not.

    “Very well, we best be on our way if we’re going to do both. A quick breakfast followed immediately by a long day of training!” he scooped her up and tossed her on to the opposite side of the bed and going to pull himself up. He hastily pulled of his shirt and slipped into something clean. His boots were quickly slipped on and a coat pulled over top as the weather looked to be quite brisk that particular morning, judging by the grass outside bejeweled with frost and the fingers of frosty veins spreading across the window panes.

    “I’ll be down at the table so you can change,” he stepped over to her and pressed a kiss into her cheek, “See you shortly.”
    • Love Love x 1
  9. Fira let out a squeak of laughter when Amadeus scooped her up and then tossed her back down on the bed, putting a stop to whatever that moment they were having was. Sometimes it was like all propriety and expectation flew right out of her mind and while she knew it was inappropriate for Fira, an unwed woman, to spend so much intimate time with Amadeus, she could not bring herself to care. In her mind, should he ever ask, she would be his entirely for the rest of her days. Kingdom, propriety and expectation be damned. It was never something the spoke openly about, but she knew in it heart it was true. Perhaps many did not believe Fira to be wise enough to know (like Calliope) but Fira knew the depth of her love for Amadeus was more than just a fleeting earthly feeling. He alone made her believe in fate because she knew that even when she was long gone from this world their fates would still be tethered.

    “See you soon,” Fira laughed as he pressed a kiss to her cheek and left her to ready on her own. He was too good for her, she knew that to be a fact, but no matter what she felt, she was grateful each and every day to have someone like him. Never in a million years would she have expected them to end up here after that very first day at the castle. Seeing him again, even with an arrow in her abdomen, had been an answered prayer — everything else was just a perfect addition. She did not know what she did to deserve it, but she would not argue it.

    Not ever.

    Fira changed into a pair of trousers and a tunic, also grabbing a cloak to keep her warm in the cold outside and shield her hair if need be. She did not expect any surprises, but then again she knew they would not be surprises if she expected them. At any moment their calm existence could be interrupted rudely by an army, or Peter himself, and they had to be ready. Days like today had to be taken seriously, though always enjoyable by the side of Amadeus, because there would come a day when Amadeus would not be there (for whatever reason — they were separated, both fighting, anything) and she would have to be able to defend herself and the people around her.

    And as much as she wanted to survive, she also wanted to make him proud.

    Fira reached up and as she walked down the corridor, she braided her hair into one braid that swept over her shoulder, trying to keep her mane in tact. Her hair was shorter now, but it had grown a bit since the two had met back up and she could finally braid it into something that looked presentable. At the end, she tied it off with a ribbon she managed from one of the servants and made her way to the dining table. As promised, Amadeus was there and Fira stepped in to take her seat at his side. The servants moved quickly to serve them.

    “Good morning,” she smiled, greeting him though they had spent the night together. “So, both sword fighting and archery. Which would you like to start with? I am an arguably better archer than I am sword fighter.”
    • Love Love x 1
  10. Trotting down the main marble staircase and stepping into the banquet hall, Amadeus folded his arms relaxedly at his sides. As expected, the table was brimming with breakfast foods: oatmeals peppered with cinnamon, fresh cut fruit, a pile of pastries that could have very well fed his entire village for weeks. Wine goblets, too, adorned the side of each plate with an entire vase of wine sitting at the center of the table waiting to be poured.

    “Master Osmont,” the head maid of the estate stepped in behind him, bowing her head respectfully as Amadeus turned to face her. “A messenger from the Duchess arrived just moments ago. He wishes only to speak to you and Mistress Fira. He is resting currently, as he has been severely dehydrated during his journey.” So, the messenger had finally come. Amadeus’ lips folded a little and he gave a nod of understanding, turning back to the breakfast table. They would eat first, give the man some time to rest and drink, and then they would visit him. The anticipation was a nervous kind of energy. It tingled through him like electrical sparks on the way to the ground, gathering in his toes. His handsome brow quickly sloped in to a serious frown.

    Stepping forward, he took his seat at the table and turned his eyes towards the enterance, just in time to see Fira, as bright faced as ever, bouncing through the door with a bit of pep in her step. He waved for her to join him at the table. “Good morning,” he answered in a serious tone. The playfulness from that morning was now gone. “We are going to start with neither. Our plans have changed. The messenger just arrived to bring word of the Duke’s decision, but he is currently resting and hydrating. We should give him time to recoup so he can convey his message with some clarity. In the meantime, we might as well eat.”

    Despite how anxious he was to know the words stored in the messenger’s brain, there would be no point in skipping a meal and trying to drag a message from a tired and worn down messenger. The moment his wine was filled, Amadeus quickly reached for it and took a few healthy sips down, forcibly sighing to relax. Next, he reached for a pastry and a few hunks of fresh fruit, willing himself to eat though no part of him felt hungry anymore. Luckily, he knew the price of missing a meal and Amadeus didn’t skip a meal if he didn’t have to.

    All his life he had gone with few too many meals.

    “Once we talk to him, I suppose it’s really up to you what we’re going to do.” He split his pastry in half and looked down at it, peeling it down into smaller and smaller bites he was popping into his mouth as he went. “I guess this is really it, isn’t it?”
    • Love Love x 1
  11. “Oh,” Fira managed as she sat, her mind trying to wrap around the serious tone that punctuated their conversation. She was not upset in the least, but the certainly pulled all traces of the playful banter they had and replaced it with a conversation they needed to have. If the messenger was already here, it was time to move forward. That long, luxurious morning would too soon be a distant memory and they would have to figure out how to keep on surviving in the thick of it. Sometimes, she wondered if they could just run away and adopt new identities — live as nothing more than simple folk. But she knew better. The people of this kingdom needed something and it was not Peter. They needed help and hope. No one was safe under him and running would only delay the inevitable.

    Fira reached for her wine glass and finished it before starting on her breakfast, not once reaching for another but letting the alcohol ease the anxiety pooling in her stomach. Fira forced down some fruit, her mind racing around everything that could happen in the next short while. Whether the Duke said yes or no, they would have to start moving, and she needed to dye her hair. She had gotten good at it, quick, and it would only take a moment or two to be completely ready to go. But go where?

    Even if the Duke said that he would entertain their request, it did not change that Peter’s men were lurking far too close for comfort. There was no guarantee they would or could get there safe no matter how much they trained. God, she wished they had trained yesterday. She felt so ill-prepared, but she knew it was just her insecurities bubbling up under the stress.

    “This is it,” she finally nodded, trying to find the security in her own tone but it was hard to be ready for such a decision. If they managed this entire journey, her whole life would be full of difficult decisions, but it seemed so much harder when there were men out there lying in wait to kill her and people who she did not know whether they supported her or not. Hell, to most of the kingdom, Fira was still dead.

    “God,” Fira breathed out, “I have this terrible feeling about all of this.”

    She could not pinpoint why, but she felt like the next few days were either going to make or break her. She just hoped with everything in her that it was not the latter. She could not and would not break. No under Peter, not under the Duke, not under the pressure of the people. “Okay,” she finally reaffirmed, her voice finding strength, “We have no idea what he is going to say until he says it. No decisions until we know exactly what it is the Duke said.”

    “And then we will talk about it,” Fira looked up at him, the gleam never gone from her eyes despite her uncertainty about the next few days, “Maybe I am the one who has to make the decision, but I trust and cherish your council and trust your judgment.”
    • Love Love x 1
  12. Amadeus managed to work his way through his breakfast, but not with his usual childlike delight when it came to food and eating. He was normally so bright-eyed whenever he sat down at a full table, gushing over how delicious everything was and enjoying every last bite with enough pleasure that it was like he had never seen or experienced any sort of food in his life before. That morning though, he ate solemnly and like a soldier: with purpose and haste, swallowing down bites without even seeming to taste any of it. Or if he did, it seemed as though it tasted like ash but he was too polite to announce his disgust with it. Instead, he merely swallowed down every bite with a sip of wine until his food was gone and his goblet was empty.

    “We both knew this moment would come,” he reminded her. Terrible feeling or not, it was something they would have to do—and Amadeus was quite prepared to die for if he had to, and he felt as though that moment might be coming quicker than either of them were anticipating. Still, he didn’t bring it up and instead poured himself another half-glass of wine and sipped it while Fira managed to finish whatever it was she needed to finish.

    He had raised his eyes to her and smiled gently, setting his goblet back down once it had been drained. “I think it’s time you begin making decisions on your own, Fira,” he explained, “What better time to start trusting your judgement and your judgement alone, no?” he steadily rose to his feet once their breakfast had concluded and gave a smile. He reached over the table and placed a hand on her cheek, his thumb brushing across her cheekbone. “You are more than capable, I’m sure.”

    “Now, are you done? No point in sitting and waiting at the table if neither of us are going to be able to eat any more.” He had barely managed down what he had and even with so little, his stomach felt stuffed and uncomfortable, like it was swollen and twisting all at the same time. It wasn’t a nauseating feeling so much as a dizzying one and he immediately regretted eating and drinking anything at all, but it was much too late to change his mind now.
  13. You are more than capable, I’m sure.

    Fira hated hearing him talk like that. She knew that she had to make the decisions if she was going to be Queen but every time he spoke like that, he spoke like he was running out of time and she could not stand it. It kickstarted her brain without her even realizing it, spiraling off into thoughts she knew better than to think with such an important moment coming up. She shook her head after he pulled is hand from her cheek and stood, hoping that her brain could quiet down for a few moments to entertain the messenger properly.

    “Yeah,” she nodded, “I’m done.”

    The messenger was waiting in one of Calliope’s sitting rooms. The man was about their age, but clearly exhausted down to the bone. He had to have ridden quite hard to make it here in such a short amount of time. “Your Highness,” he stood immediately at the sight of Fira and reached for her hand, placing a customary kiss upon the skin he found there, “It is an honor to meet you. You as well, Master Osmont.” He bowed to Amadeus and Fira gestured for him to take a seat.

    “I imagine it has been quite a ride back, please, take a seat,” Fira mentioned as she took a seat of her own on one of the chairs across from him, “Are you well?”

    “Oh, y-yes, yes of course Your Highness,” he nodded, “It is a long journey but I was ordered by the Duke himself to make it with haste. I am afraid is message is urgent.”

    “Please,” Fira implored him.

    “He is willing to lend his army in support of your cause. He said that he remembers you fondly from his days at court, says to tell you that you are quite brilliant for making it this far,” the messenger breathed out, “but the path is dangerous. The King’s men have been searching high and low out here for you. Word has it that the King is willing to admit you are alive, only to put a bounty on your head that no man can refuse and has burned houses of those who do not give up information. This is why he has sent me with haste — you must get to the Duke before Peter’s men take control of the surrounding town and before the bounty is placed.”

    “So we would need to leave immediately,” Fira finished for him, watching as he nodded in agreement. All at once she felt so overwhelmed that she could have just crawled back into bed and never come out. Innocent people were dying in her name, because Peter could not stand to lose, and now Calliope’s husband and livelihood was at risk because of her very presence. It was difficult not to feel burdensome, as she did feel it entirely, but Amadeus’ words echoed in her mind. She still felt the warmth of his hand on her cheek.

    What better time to start trusting your judgment?

    “Will you accept the Duke’s offer, Your Highness?” he asked, eyes wide.

    “Yes,” Fira said after a moment of solidifying her own thoughts, “We will leave as soon as possible. Will you be joining us?”

    “The Duke requested that I show you both the Western route, farthest from where Peter’s men are located, it is a difficult journey but it will only take a day’s time if we ride hard.”

    “Then you should rest, eat well, and when you are ready, we will leave for the Duke,” Fira nodded, “If you will excuse me, I must take care of my hair.”
  14. Amadeus followed her in a brisk pace as she made her way towards the sitting rooms. As expected, the man looked gaunt, pale, and exhausted. His eyes were beady and tired, worn for many long rides, but there was something of excitement there when his gaze met Fira. He couldn’t blame the man. Not only was she startlingly beautiful, but she was a Queen… the type of person someone like him probably didn’t often get to interact with. Naturally, Amadeus understood how he felt. When he had first encountered Fira in the palace, he struggled to maintain his composure. He had had to do so in order to stay alive, but he remembered feeling how the messenger looked.

    In greeting, he bowed his head politely and remained standing a few paces back from Fira, listening to the tales the more had to tell. There wasn’t a word he had to speak as he was neither the decision-maker nor the messenger. Currently, he was Fira’s lover, but he would always be her servant—a noble, long-serving, fearless one, at that.

    A decision had been made in no time at all and the two decided their duties, leaving Amadeus with a hint of smile. He didn’t feel compelled to shre with the group what he was going to do, but instead just politely bowed his head a second time—this time to both Fira and the messenger. “Very well, it is good to see you made it well.” He turned and politely saw himself out, leaving Fira to her hair and the messenger to his rest as he ventured outside instead. He moved beyond the garden without giving it second glance, trotting down the cobblestone path towards the stables—a place he felt most at home. While stable boys would have been more than adequate at preparing their horses for the journey, Amadeus felt compelled to do it himself, if only to keep his hands busy and mind occupied.

    “Boy,” Amadeus grabbed one of the stable hand’s attentions. He was bright-eyed, his eyes too wide for his face and his hair slicked back and blonde, “I need three horses. Well-rested, hot bred preferably.” With the boy’s help, Amadeus picked out three horses he found to be best suited for the journey and quietly dismissed him with a shy smile and a ‘thank you’ before getting to work on brushing and rinsing the horses down.

    He inspected their legs for lameness and heat, fitted tack, and ensured they’d all be ready for a long, hard ride over dangerous terrain. The horses were sweet animals, nickering softly and inspecting his pockets for treats with their upper lips, flipping them lovingly back and forth over the cloth. It was a small reprieve Amadeus needed. His smile had returned and life blossomed in his face as he spent just a few hours doing exactly what he loved most—being around the horses.

    It seemed Amadeus couldn’t go on for very long without being around them. It was his meditation time. His moments he put everything else aside, all his worries and fears and nightmares, and focused on the present.
    • Love Love x 1
  15. Fira hated being alone.

    She had spent so long in the palace on her own that she was spoiled by the constant company she found herself in now. Amadeus was always there, but they even found themselves in the company of others like Liam, or Amadeus’ mother, Calliope or messengers. The servants had offered to help her with her hair, but Fira brushed them off politely and maneuvered er own wild locks by herself. Being alone now felt foreign, unnerving, but she needed it in so many ways. Amadeus had been right — she was the rightful Queen and she had to make the call, no matter how unnatural it felt. She would meet so many situations where she was not the expert on the happenings, and she had to trust her ability to listen and create a course of action. After all, that’s what a Queen was.

    At the end of all this, there was one fight for Fira. Peter was her family. Her responsibility. Nothing would ever change that and they had come too far for her to be scared now. No, that was not what the people needed. Fira needed to be strong, steady, even when it felt like the world was pulling itself like a rug out from under her feet.

    She wished, more than anything, her father was alive. A silly desire because he was gone, but she just wanted to know what he had overcome to become King —she just wanted to figure it out — but the world had different ideas.

    When Fira finished with her hair, she dried the raven colored hair that now fell just under her shoulders. It was getting much longer than it had been, but that was to be expected. Time passed, a lot of time. Fira braided it back to keep it out of her face and changed into the riding clothes that Calliope had prepared for them. The new boots were a welcome change as the older ones had worn in the soles and made her feet ache. Once she was prepared, she tugged the heavy cloak over her shoulders and looked back in the mirror for one last glance. Those brilliant green eyes. They popped against her dark hair and Fira hoped that the next time she got a moment like this to reflect that she would see the red hair glaring back at her like fire because they had made it.

    With a deep breath, Fira pushed her thoughts back and convinced herself that the only thing she needed to focus on right now was getting to the Duke — and finding Amadeus.

    It was not difficult, he was rather predictable in that way, but Fira just quietly stood and watched as he readied their horses. Sometimes (more often than she would care to admit) she wondered what she had done in her short life before him to deserve him, and then she realized every single time that she did not. She did not deserve him, just like Calliope said, but here he was — strong and steady beside her. No matter what happened, he was still the most important person in her little world and maybe her word meant nothing to so many.

    But she would never let anything happen to him.

    Watching him brought the smile back to her features, lighting up her expression, and she felt her heart lift to a place where it didn't fell like it was weighing down her chest. “So this is it,” she breathed out, taking another couple steps towards him though she was certain he had already heard her arrive, “You ready for this?”
    • Love Love x 1
  16. Amadeus, his father used to say, There are very few men in the world who are inherently evil. It’s men with idle hands you really have to watch out for because boredom brings out the worst in all men.

    Amadeus’ hands worked vigorously, dragging the brushes down the horse’s coats until they were free of dirt and gleamed. The horses continued to munch on their hay like he wasn’t even there at all, though they’d sometimes flick an ear back to listen to what it was he was doing. Unlike the natural herds of the forests, the horses in the stable were of every colour, shape, and size. The only thing each had in common was the halter it wore on its head for easy catching. A dumb mistake, Amadeus mused to himself with a lame smirk, it made them easier to steal. Once he had finished brushing them down, he walked casually through the stable aisle to fetch tack. Horse by horse, he saddled them up, but left their girths loose and their bridles hanging from the metal hook on the wooden stall doors to allow them to continue eating.

    They seemed overwhelmingly at peace with Amadeus worked around them—as if he was just another horse in their herd. It was actually the horses who gave away Fira’s presence long before anything else. At once, their heads rose lazily from the ground and their ears pricked in a similar direction, listening for a moment, before going back to their feed. Amadeus didn’t even bother to glace away and just continued with what he was doing, Fira would make herself known in her own time and until then, he was just going to enjoy the stillness.

    It was the kind of day even a feather would fall without drifting one way or the other. The grass was straight and silent, the leaves dangled more as if they had been painted there. Should a person be able to feel the small snorts coming from the horses’ nostrils—that would have been the only breeze. It was still, utterly still, and it was exactly what Amadeus had needed for a few hours. He missed it, desperately, but Bo seemed unfazed. The retired plow horse snorted and bobbled his oversized, grey head over the side of the stall half wall and pushed his muzzle into Amadeus’ chest looking for affection. At once, his hands worked up at the fleshy base of the animal’s ears, smiling at the way Bo’s round, soft eyes blinked long and slow.

    He worked his fingers up from the horse’s cheek to the knot of scar tissue on his neck from where the arrow had struck, humming softly as he inspected the old wound. It had healed and touching it no longer seemed tender. In fact, it was like Bo didn’t even notice it anymore.

    It had taken Fira a while, but she finally spoke up and Amadeus let his dark eyes wander to her. “This is only the start,” he replied, dragging his hand down Bo’s neck, ruffling the wiry, pound grey mane. “I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m not sure there is any way truly to be, but I am oddly at peace right now. I’m not sure if that means I’m ready for the next part of your journey, or if I’m just blindly ignorant to it.”
    • Love Love x 1
  17. His words struck a chord in her. It was only the beginning, but it was the real beginning. Every moment prior to this was leading up to this particular one, the moment Fira found a fighting chance against Peter. The Duke had agreed, but it would not be easy, none of this would be easy. Fira wondered if she was ever going to be able to sleep again with the way her mind raced through thought after thought. She was smart, smarter than most gave her credit for, but it was exhausting to be in her mind during times like this. She was already plotting, already planning, thinking of worst case scenarios so she could work herself through them to give her heart some form of reprieve.

    “I suppose one of us should be,” she admitted, glancing up to him working his fingers up Bo, “I certainly do not feel ready in any capacity — but I have to be, so I will be.”

    There were moments where she noticed what she assumed everyone else saw. She was not that same girl from the castle any longer, nor was she that same crying girl hiding from Peter’s men under the floorboards of the Osmont home. So much had happened, but the woman standing beside Amadeus was certainly more a woman now than she had ever been. It was a slow process and often times she felt like she was stagnant like a puddle of unmoving water, but there were moments she realized that her mind and body were adapting to the world around her. She was stronger — mentally and physically — and the fear she felt was transformed into fuel to keep going.

    She was scared of Peter, but she also knew that in so many ways, Peter was scared of her.

    “I was just coming to see if you were ready to head out. The messenger said we need to leave in the next hour if we are to make the best time, but I can give you another moment if you want to spend it here,” Fira said warmly, her eyes kind as she watched Amadeus in his natural habitat. She wondered what it would be like to have somewhere like that — some place to go that made you feel at peace, useful. “I know I have said it before, but you really have a talent with them, you know. They trust you — like you are one of them.”

    It must have been a nice feeling — but she understood. Amadeus just had that way about him.

    Everything was packed and ready to go, a bit of food sent with them so they did not have to try to stomach another meal under the stress of starting this leg of the journey. Fira wrapped her arms around herself as they stood outside, the cold cutting and piercing through her skin which had yet to adjust to a real winter. There was nothing of a breeze blowing, but there was a nip in the air that she was sure would turn to snow sooner rather than later. Her cloak was a shield to it, but it still managed to soak into the exposed parts of her skin and send a bit of a chill through her body.
    • Love Love x 1
  18. “They trust me?” he sat back on his heels, looking down to Bo who extended his neck out further, searching for the warmth of Amadeus’ chest against his nose once more. “Yes, I suppose they do, don’t they? It’s not hard, really. It just takes time, patience, understanding… I treat them the same way I would treat any person: with respect, dignity, and trust. They trust me because I trust them. I listen, I respect… I demand respect in return,” his fingers continued to work at Bo’s ears with a soft smile, “Spurs, saddles, bridles—they’re great for communication, but people often use them incorrectly and as punishment. Treat them like people and they will do the same for you.”

    Horses weren’t hard to understand, at least they never had been for Amadeus. He supposed that was because he was like them in a lot of ways—he felt silent for so long, taken advantage of. “There is a lot people could stand to learn from horses: They’re magnificent and strong enough to carry man on their back and are humble enough to do so.” He smiled again, giving Bo one final pat before stepping away and dusting the excess horse hair from his tunic. Bo’s head bobbled in surprise, as if to shake himself awake and convince everyone around him that he hadn’t actually been dozing off.

    “Within the hour you said? Very well, I’m ready then.” No better time than the present, he supposed. With a sigh, he worked on attaching the saddle bags, tightening the girths, and slipping the bridles over the horses’ heads. Once they were readied, he pulled them from the stalls and tied them to the stable’s outside walls to wait for their riders. “The horses are in good shape,” he explained, getting straight down to business, “I packed some supplemental herbs for them we can add to their feed to help them along the way,” he explained with a lame shrug, deciding the messenger probably wouldn’t care so long as his horse stayed in top shape.

    Winter breathed down on him and Amadeus visibly prickled. The hair along the back of his neck was standing on end and his dark, glossy curls bounced in the cool breeze that cut straight through his tunic and spread across his skin. The sun was generous with its warmth still, but the wind… the wind felt like late Autumn—biting, and biting away. Paying no mind to the shiver in his fingers, Amadeus checked the horses once more to ensure everything was set to go. Once he was confident he had done everything he could to prepare them, he slid down his stirrup, grabbed a his reins and a chunk of Bo’s mane, and pulled himself into the saddle.

    He settled lightly on Bo’s back—so much so that the horse didn’t even bob its head at the introduction of the weight. Instead, he stood and remained patient and deathly still until Amadeus clucked him forward.

    “If you’re cold, you should bring something more with you,” He said, glancing to Fira as he noticed her shivering, “It’s going to only get colder as we go, unfortunately.”
    • Love Love x 1
  19. Fira loved listening to Amadeus speak about horses, but his last words caught her by surprise and she noticed the bit of shivering coursing through her. It was partially due to the cold, but also just from the uncertainly that shivered down her spine. “You are right,” Fira breathed out, excusing herself a moment to grab an extra jacket to wear beneath her cloak and pulled on warm riding gloves to protect her delete skin. She was toughening up, but there were just aspects of herself that could not be changed — the pale delicate nature of her skin, for one. When Fira came back out, she mounted her house beside Amadeus and the messenger and readied herself. It would be a hard ride, of that she was sure, but she was ready.

    As ready as she was going to be, anyway.

    The three set off quickly, riding harder than Fira was used to, but she made no mention of it. They were attempting to take a short cut that would bring them to the Duke in a single day, and for that they needed to ride fast and hard, though she was sure some of the trail would be rocky and difficult. “It is not an easy ride,” the messenger called back, “but we need to keep up the pace. If we take too long to get there, there is no telling how much closer the King’s troops are. Stay close, but be careful.”

    His last words were shot directly at Fira and she nodded, not even batting an eyelash to argue. The girl she had been at the castle would have thrown a fuss and argued that she did not need to be told to be careful. This Fira had grown quite a bit and she was beginning to understand how important she was in the grand scheme of things. If she was killed, the rebellion would completely crumble, and it left Amadeus on his own. She could never and would never do that, so if that meant stomaching comments about how careful she needed to be, she would.

    The cold nipped at her nose, causing her cheeks to blush a soft red, and she could see her breath in the air as they rode. Calliope’s estate disappeared in the distance and something told Fira that they would not see such uninterrupted luxury for quite some time — if ever again. The Duke would certainly have quite the estate himself, but with the pressure of the armies surrounding him — everyone had to be on edge.

    “How long can we feasibly ride like this?” Fira asked as her and Amadeus were riding parallel to one another with the messenger just a bit ahead. She trusted his opinion on horses more than anyone. She did not doubt that they could ride that hard for that long, but the horses were another matter entirely and the last thing Fira wanted to do was fatigue her horse so entirely that they could not finish the journey.
    • Love Love x 1
  20. The terrain was rugged and hard, rocky and cold, and with every step Bo took below him, Amadeus winced. He did what he could to help the horse balance as he fumbled against the uneven, rock-strewn terrain. Even just a few miles into their journey, he was surprised one or more of the horses hadn’t come up lame. Carefully, he watched each horse’s steps as they moved, searching for any sign of injury, weakness, or lameness. The horses seemed to be faring decently against the path though as they forged on without a single one developing a limp.

    “Feasibly? Define ‘feasibly,’” Amadeus replied as Fira slowed her horse to come up alongside of him. Bo towered over her mount, as he did most other horses, causing Amadeus to have to tip his head down to look at her. “If we wish to save our horses? Not long. A few hours at most. Even at this slow of a pace, this ground will eventually cause them to bruise the soft tissue inside their hoof and go lame. Pushing them through injury though? They could go for eight, nine hours.” Amadeus glanced ahead again, cursing in his own head the terrible terrain. They were clamoring over soft, small rocks—the horses slipping and grappling for their traction as they were met with unsteady earth and mud from the rain.

    Riding them hard wasn’t so much an option either, seeing as they would never be able to keep their footing at any faster gait than a brisk walk.

    “I might suggest we trade horses at some point, though. Bo will last much longer in these conditions that your horse. You and the messenger can go on ahead and I can coax your horse along.” Amadeus shrugged. Judging by the messenger’s tone earlier, he had no inclination to concern himself with the health or wellbeing of their horses. Perhaps Amadeus couldn’t stop him, but he could at least help save one of the horses from several weeks of painful legs and feet. Bo’s big, long stride and thick, heavy hooves were proving to be most useful on the path and of all three horses, he seemed to be fairing the best with his ears pricked merrily forward and small snorts exiting his nose with every step he took.

    Amadeus kept slack in his reins, resting his hands in the pommel of the saddle. “Getting you to the Duke’s Estate is the most important though,” he clarified, “Even if it has to come at the expense of a horse.” While Amadeus didn’t like that those words had just passed through his mouth, Amadeus had to rationalize his priorities.
    • Love Love x 1
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