Restoring the Crimson Throne

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by 4everDifferent, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. The sun crested over the white capped mountains surrounding the valley. It rested just above the east tower of the castle Chedria. The beautiful sun crested shield resting on the crimson background waved majestically in the sky that was peppered with small puffs of white. Massive banners hosting the same crest draped heavily from the bulwarks as the guards, who looked like tiny ants, patrolled them. It was a beautiful summer scene that any peasant would enjoy.

    Seth wiped his brow with the rag that he then tucked into his back pocket as he leaned on his hoe. It was hard work, to grow food for a castle and a village but the King took good care of them. Besides the natural barriers of the mountains, his soldiers and his defenses ensured that all the war that ravaged the rest of the world would stay far from them though some were beginning to doubt the distance. His white shirt was stained with dirt and sweat as he straightened up and picked up his tool. The Villager's Ball, a ball thrown by the king to thank the villagers for their contribution, was just a day away and there were many preparation that still needed to be made.

    Stepping through doorway to the farmer's house, Seth leaned the tool against the wall and headed for the table where a bucket of water, with a ladle in it, awaited him. Taking a scoop of water, he brought it to his mouth and drank it allowing just enough of the cool liquid to run down his chin, neck and then down his shirt to cool his body. The summers in Aedwiseth were always hot but he tried not to complain. Overall, it was a nice village to live in.

    "I don't know why you keep comin' to help him," the gentle voice of a woman fell on his ears as he turned to find the farmer's wife, "This ain't your life anymore, Seth," she teased as she passed him by gently placing a thankful squeeze on his arm.

    "It's nothing, Selphi. You're family. If I can't take a moment to help my brother and pregnant wife with the farm work when he can, then what kind of brother would I be?" he asked as he watched Selphi instinctly rub her swollen belly at his words. A warm smile graced her face, "Besides, my nephew needs to know that he's got the greatest uncle in the world," Seth grinned as he moved to another bucket and dropped his hands in the water to clean them.

    "Niece," Selphi corrected him with a wiggling finger, "We're having a girl. I'm sure of it."

    Seth shrugged as his hands scrubbed together, "It's a boy. Daren is certain so I am certain," he could see the look on her face and he continued, "BUT, if it's a girl, she needs to know that she has a pretty awesome uncle."

    Selphi chuckled and in walked Daren, "Now that is music to my ears," he said as he moved directly to his wife and wrapped his arms around her loosely for he stunk. Kissing her softly, he dropped one arm and let the other rest on her stomach, "Is she filling your head with thoughts of a girl?"

    Seth chuckled, "She seems quite certain of it."

    "Bah," Daren said, "He'll be big and strong like his father and uncle," Selphi gasped and then playfully pushed her husband away drawing laughter from both men. When it died down, Daren looked toward his younger brother, "I really thank you for taking the time on your day of rest to help me."

    Seth shrugged, "It's nothing. I wasn't doing anything any way," Daren nodded knowing no words could really speak his full gratitude and Seth was glad. It was always weird when his brother thank him.

    Truth was that the threat of war had really made life difficult for Daren and Selphi. Where workers were readily available before the threat, now people were too afraid to do it leaving many to till their farms alone. Selphi helped Daren until she was too big to do so. While Seth was busy at his post in the Castle, Daren would till the land alone. It was too much for any one man. So Seth would help as often as possible.

    Stepping to the window, his gaze turned back up to Chedria, he wondered what events were unfolding there.
     
  2. It might have been childish petulance that made her hide under her covers, the curtains on her bed drawn. Emmeline considered it a reprieve. Emmeline had fled to her chambers the moment her mother’s back was turned, finding relief in the silence and solitude. Getting back into bed seemed like the next logical step. She breathed in the floral scent of the wash soap, her hot breath trapped with her, making her sweat all the more under the blankets. She hadn’t moved but to pull up a corner of the cloth to peer out into the room when she heard her chamber door open with a squeal. There was a light wind blowing through the open windows that ruffled the curtains and made spying on her maid all the easier.

    Agatha had been in the room now for a while, and she was getting worried. It was equally amusing and shaming to watch her wander to and fro in distress, wringing her hands. Emmeline stifled the desire to answer, staying perfectly still as the older woman passed by the bed again with a look of exasperation on her face. Why wouldn’t she just go and look for her elsewhere, and leave her to rest? “Are you here, your Grace?” Agatha asked again, as if the other twelve times of saying the same had somehow gone unheard. Ignored, certainly, but not unheard, especially since the maid’s voice was rising in pitch with every moment that passed. “Please, please come out.” Agatha said at last, her wavering voice dipping with emotion.

    “I’m here, I’m here.” Emmeline sighed, and pulled down the covers from her face. “What is it, Aggie?”

    Agatha flung open the curtain, her worry turning to anger. She clucked her tongue at Emmeline, and offered a hand to help her up from her bed. Emmeline obliged, rising with Agatha’s help, and let the woman lead her to the vanity where she started in at once on righting the mussed curls. “You’re a grown woman, Emmeline. Avoiding your duties and playing your silly tricks is unbecoming.” Agatha said sharply, dropping honorifics for now to show how disgruntled she really was.

    “Forgive me, Aggie. I felt…stifled. Mother wouldn’t let me speak at all.” Emmeline frowned and then winced as Agatha tugged the comb unsympathetically through a snarl in her hair, but didn’t say a word, supposing she deserved at least that. It had been the same thing all morning—stuck in one meeting after the next with seamstresses and musicians and cooks and dignitaries. Emmeline had been required to be present, but wasn’t permitted to voice her opinions, since most of them were in direct conflict with the Queen’s wishes.

    “Shouldn’t beg forgiveness of me, your Grace. Of the Queen certainly. She was beside herself with worry when you vanished. And you gave me a fright as well.” Agatha watched Emmeline in the mirror, but the girl was keeping her dark eyes trained on the vanity top. “Thought you’d been taken away by Kor’dalan mercenaries.” She whispered at last.

    Emmeline’s brows rose. “Really, Aggie, your imagination is greater than mine. They couldn’t possibly hope to breach the walls.”
    “Be that as it may, your Grace, they’re ambitious enough to attempt it, I’m sure.” Emmeline smirked in response, but was silent as she considered it. Perhaps Agatha was right after all. “You should have been with the seamstress hours ago to fit your ball dress properly. And then the Queen wanted to see you regarding the final seating arrangements for the feast, and have your word about some…thing concerning the music.”

    “Mother’s made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t need my input. She’d insisted I wear a new gown. What’s the matter with the twenty I have already? Three of them have only been worn once, and if Mother had it her way, they’d never see the light again. Let her be fit for the dress if it’s so important.” Mother certainly didn’t need Emmeline for the final seating arrangements either. She had already suggested if they were to celebrate the villagers during the Ball, then royals, nobles, and peasants alike should be sitting side-by-side rather than the usual hierarchy. Far too scandalous a notion, apparently, for Mother had laughed, waving a hand as if to dismiss her words outright without a moment’s consideration.

    Agatha wove Emmeline’s nutmeg colored tresses into a braid and then pinned them to the top of her head. “You’ll need to learn these things sooner or later. You’ll be Queen one day.”

    Emmeline studied her reflection for a moment and sighed. “No…no, they made it very clear that Edward was the heir. He’s a man; so naturally, Father would prefer him to be on the throne.” She stood, going to the window. “I’m an afterthought.” Emmeline’s brother was only a year younger than she was, a handsome youth who looked like her twin, even if he acted otherwise. He was akin to the Queen in temperament, arrogant to a fault, the lover of finery and pomp, and too much of a ladies’ man.
    Agatha scoffed. “You know that isn’t true. The King prefers you. Always has, but he’s respecting your desires, by favoring your brother for the throne.”

    Emmeline didn’t speak to that, sucking in a breath of fresh air as the wind brought it into her window. “How much longer can I stay here before Mother comes herself to drag me out?”

    “I’ll say you’d taken ill and needed to lie down, but are feeling better now, and will join everyone for supper. Will that be sufficient?”

    She nodded, smiling. “Thank you, Aggie.” She traced the road down from Chedria to Aedwiseth with her eyes, catching the sight of people traveling on it, little more than specks for how far they were. She was envious of those specks. She had, at one time, been allowed to go riding down near the village to spend a few hours out of doors away from the stone walls that now protected her. Like a cage.
     
  3. Seth enjoyed the company of his brother and his wife, but their time together drew to an end. After all, it was his day off and he did want to relax a bit before he had to go on patrol the next day. Even though it was the Villager's Ball, he still had a job to fulfill and that required him taking patrols along the borders. Rumors and confirmed reports spoke that Kor'Dalan forces had marched through Haidengrund and straight to Aggadon. It was brilliant really. Why waste soldiers assaulting Haidengrund when you could take Aggadon unopposed and then turn the full might of our attention on Haidengrund. Though reports from supply companies said that Aggadon was doing everything but going down silently. It would be a blessing in the disguise if Aggadon won though it was highly unlikely.

    So lost in thought was he that he walked right in front of a horse. He crashed to the ground as it pulled back almost tossing its rider to the ground, "Watch it!" the rider called out.

    Seth hurried to his feet and looked up to see none other than William Godfrey. Offering a respectful bow, Seth spoke, "Forgive me, sir. My head was in the clouds. I'll not let it happen again."

    "I should hope not. You could have very well been killed," William replied before he and his entourage moved past Seth and up toward the castle.

    Seth watched him for a few moments. He had never liked William but because he had been born into a noble family, Seth needed to pay him the proper respect. William had grown up under the best education and was a well rounded respectable man. Word had it even that he and the princess had eyes for each other. Many even speculated that William would call for her hand tomorrow at the Villager's Ball. Great. Another dignitary turning something for plain folks into something centered and focused on the wealthy and noble.

    Seth shook his head before he turned back to the task at hand. Enjoying his day off.
    ----------
    William dismounted just outside Chedria's gates. Handing his reigns to the nearest stallboy, he passed under the impressive walls and into the courtyard. Tomorrow all of Aedwiseth would be enjoying the gratitude of the King and Queen even with the threat of war itching to burst from under the bandage this would only serve to be. He had heard the rumors. Too many people were afraid of what war would do. Just like them, he was more open to the idea of negotiating surrender and peace. It was better than people dying in a war that Haidengrund had no chance of winning. The king wouldn't have it though. He would sacrifice the good men of Haidengrund for the false hope of freedom.

    A sigh slipped from William's lips as he entered the castle. He knew better than to approach the king on such a sensitive subject. No matter. Sooner or later they would all see the futility in hoping. He just hoped he would live through it all.

    His feet carried him swiftly to banquet hall. Throwing open the doors, he smiled as his eyes scanned it in its entirety, "Magnificent, Your Majesty," he flattered with a bow, "I've not seen something as beautiful in my entire life. And look at this banquet hall," he grinned widely hoping his flattery would not go unnoticed, "I love what you've done. The villagers will be beyond surprised. It will truly be the best of all Villager's Balls past or future."
     
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  4. Agatha's diversion succeeded in buying Emmeline only an hour of silence--silence that she spent in a pool of light by the window. She pulled the vanity bench to the window, propping her feet up on one side of the frame while her back was flush against the other side. Even in the heat of summer, the stone was cool and a chill seeped through the fabric of her dress keeping her comfortable even in the heat. Her eyes were shut against the sun while the variable winds tickled her face and carried birdsong and the distant sounds of people and horses wafting to her ears.

    "Well, dear sister. You've seemed to have recovered wonderfully from your illness." Edward said, his voice a laugh. "Have you enough of defiance for today?"

    She opened the eye closest to the door, keeping the other shut as if she were going to immediately resume her relaxation. Edward was inclined against the door frame, his arms crossed over his chest. He was tall and thin, possessed of speed rather than great strength. Not that he was inclined toward physical pursuits. Perhaps that was the one other thing he had in common with his sister.

    "Never." Emmeline closed her eyes again, tipping her head back against the wall. "I shall rail against the stone walls until they topple and fall."

    "Perhaps Father should put a sword in your hand and let you lead the armies for your tenacity, Emmeline."

    "Perhaps he should." She replied in such a serious tone of voice that Edward left the doorway to look her directly in the eyes to determine whether she was jesting. She opened them again and leveled her gaze at him, her eyes shining with amusement. "Granted, I doubt I can even lift a sword, but I've not been allowed to even try." She lowered her legs to accommodate her brother on the bench. "All I have are my fists and words."

    "Formidable in their own way, I'm sure." Edward lifted a hand to Emmeline's cheek and frowned. "You've taken too much sun, sister. William will think we've put you to work in the fields."

    Emmeline suddenly sat up. Whether the heat that she felt reaching the tips of her ears was a sun flush or otherwise, she didn't know, and didn't want to speculate. "He's here already?" She asked breathlessly. Emmeline scurried to her feet, crossing the room to assess herself in the mirror. She wasn't particularly inclined to vanity, but William Godfrey made any extra effort seem worth it, since he was sure to comment on it. She grimaced and then smiled at nothing, turning this way and that. The dusky pink gown she had on complemented her now reddened cheeks and décolletage, making her seem almost doll-like. She leaned toward the mirror brushing away some invisible speck from her cheek.

    Edward chuckled behind her. "He's just rode in. I was coming to inform you when Mother sent me to determine your health."

    "You, not Agatha?"

    "Aggie was unsuccessful at ousting you from your chambers before. Mother left no room for further error. I was to take you to the seamstress first, that you would have plenty of time to entertain William after your fitting."

    Emmeline threw a narrowed eyed glare in his direction. "Will she send Father next if I refuse to go?" She straightened, apparently satisfied with herself. "The dress fit two weeks ago when the seamstress took my measurement. Have I changed so much in that little bit of time?"

    Edward reached out and pinched her side. "You did sample your fair share of the dishes the cooks presented to Mother for the feast."

    Emmeline smirked and slapped his hand away playfully. "If I go and see William now and ignore the fitting again..." She slipped past Edward, stepping into the dim corridor.

    Edward followed a few steps behind, finally catching up with Emmeline and taking her elbow. He laid his other hand on top of her forearm, escorting her properly down the hall. "Then Mother will fume at you until tomorrow."

    "Just until tomorrow? Oh, whatever have I done to earn back her good graces so soon?"

    "Perhaps William is here for more than just a Ball." He replied, wiggling his brows. "And after you agree then Mother will have nothing but good things to say about you."

    "So she resorts to bribery." She replied, trying to still her heart at her brother's implications. "Seems so beneath her."

    Edward scoffed. "You don't know our mother at all, do you sister?"

    ---

    Queen Luciana had her hands on her hips, her ruby colored lips parted as she stared upwards. "Higher." She commanded and the two servants perched precariously on the ladders tugged their ropes a little more. The hall was already festooned with heavy swags of crimson and golden summer blooms and deep green ivies and the last was being put into place now, adding to the heady floral fragrance. "There. Stop there." Luciana put one hand to her chin turning from one side to the other to survey the other swags, and let out a held breath. This would have been so much easier if they had the done it according to her instructions in the first place. Good help was so hard to find nowadays.

    The door to the banquet hall flew open, startling Luciana from her silent contemplation of the room. She whirled, her pale blue eyes thinned to slits until she saw who was responsible for disturbing her. Her face softened, a brilliant smile replacing the cold glare she had before.

    "Magnificent, Your Majesty, I've not seen something as beautiful in my entire life. And look at this banquet hall. I love what you've done. The villagers will be beyond surprised. It will truly be the best of all Villager's Balls past or future."

    "It is quite satisfactory, isn't it?" Luciana laughed delightedly, crossing the room to offer William her hand. "A pleasure as always, Lord Godfrey." She said, clasping her hands in front of her. "I didn't expect you so soon. My daughter would be here, but it seems she's fallen too ill to accompany me on my tasks today."

    "Look who is feeling much better, Mother." Edward's cheerful voice rang out, echoing through the empty banquet hall. He had taken Emmeline on the labyrinthine path through the halls, talking excitedly the whole way about the Villagers' Ball and the arrival of some other dignitaries, including Adeline, daughter of Lord and Lady Rutherford who Edward had an expressed interest in. And the young widowed Lady Desalis, and her equally lovely handmaiden Gretchen. And Julia, daughter of Lord So-and-So, and Christine of Aedwiseth who wasn't noble but was a certain beauty any way. She had become quite turned around with Edward's dizzying words, and hadn't noticed where he brought her. He nudged Emmeline's side, grinning when her eyes found William, and then their mother, who looked quite perturbed. Emmeline drew up short, ducking her head down to avoid the Queen's judgmental glare until she felt her brother's fingers on her chin, lifting it up again. "Let me take care of mother. Go and talk wit William awhile," he whispered, kissing her cheek as he went to quickly greet William, clasping his hand and murmuring some words. Edward turned to his mother next, taking her arm as he commented on the lavish decorations, and poured out the flattery and empty praises like a waterfall. Luciana beamed at her son, eating up his words, but still spared Emmeline a frown even as Edward linked his arms with her to lead her away.

    Emmeline swallowed down the lump that rose in her throat, stepping forward at last, now that her mother's disapproval did not hold her at bay. Her smile was small and demure, and she tried to rein in the excitement as not to appear over enthusiastic about her present company, even if her heart was now racing like a rabbit's. "It's good you've come so soon. You've saved me from a tiresome afternoon with the seamstress."
     
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  5. The Queen. She was ever a proud woman but it was expected of any woman who wore that crown. A queen who was not proud of what she did, who she married, or who she ruled was not a proper queen at all but just a shell - an emblem for all to behold and then discard. Queen Luciana was everything but that. A strong woman, she governed beside her husband and William could only hope that part of her had found its way into Emmeline's core. He wanted a woman like the Queen. The King did not know how fortunate he was to have her.

    Lowering his head respectfully, he waited until he saw her hand before taking it gently and pressing his lips against her ring. It was just for the briefest of moments to offer her no disrespect. Her news about Emmeline was bothersome as she was the best part of these engagements. An opportunity to let his eyes fall upon the most fairest of all the women of the kingdom was simply the one thing he could not allow to go undone. Perhaps he could visit her for just a moment to steal a glance of her. Perhaps-

    "Look who is feeling much better, Mother."

    William knew that voice. It was none other than Edward but what mattered most was the woman attached to him. He should have known that only Edward would have coaxed his sister out of whatever hiding she was in. For all the things he did not appreciate about Edward, this was one thing he did. The siblings did seem to have a special bond that William never had the fortune of sharing with anyone. Being the only child of two nobles made any sibling ties impossible. No matter. All that mattered was that Emmeline would be joining him.

    After brief, respectful greetings, William was left alone - well as alone as one could be around servants - with Emmeline. She was as beautiful as ever. Her brown locks rested upon her shoulders. Getting lost in those brown eyes would have been an easy feat for him but the events of tomorrow and her words made that very unlikely....for now.

    "It's good you've come so soon. You've saved me from a tiresome afternoon with the seamstress."

    The corner of his lips curled up as he spoke, "Perhaps I should have come later. Whatever she had planned for you would have been all the more magnificent should the seamstress had you for even a few moments," he took one step toward her and clasped his hands behind him. His smile faded, "You shouldn't be so harsh on your mother," he spoke kindly, "She wishes only the best for you."

    Getting a sense that such a conversation would not go over well and wanting nothing more than to be in Emmeline's good graces, he thought it best to change the subject. Turning to her side, he offered her his arm as spoke, "Do you know who is planning on attending the Villager's Ball? Tomorrow will be a special day for all of land," he patted her hand gently insinuating that the matter concerned the two of them. Their relationship had not been a secret and neither had the discussions William had been having with her father. Sure, the subject matter was hidden but anyone with a mind could connect the two, "As many of the nobility that can make it, all the better."

    William sighed contently as he looked down at his heart's desire. He found himself staring and cleared his throat before turning his gaze from her, "Perhaps some fresh air?" he suggested.
     
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  6. "I know that Mother does mean the best, but sometimes I wonder if her best and my best are in any way compatible." Emmeline glanced after the Queen and prince as they went to the far end of the Banquet Hall. There was still time before the Ball tomorrow to see the dressmaker to put the final touches on the gown her mother had desired her to wear; one that would leave no doubts to which kingdom Emmeline belonged. The dress was a mirror of the banners that hung in Chedria's halls themselves, a deep crimson red emblazoned with gold stitched sun emblems around the hem and one large one across the bodice. Her mother had selected a pendant for Emmeline of yellow topazes set around a fat ruby to match the dress.

    “I will see the seamstress in a bit. First, there is company I wish to entertain.” Emmeline took William's arm as he offered it, saying nothing more about the seamstress or her mother for the moment. Her flushed face said more than enough, she thought, and her heart was pounding so steadily it felt like it was attempting to escape. She wasn’t sure he had any idea how flustered he made her. She kept one fingernail digging into her palm to make sure she wasn’t lost in a haze of adolescent giddiness.

    "Mother’s received word from nearly all of the nobility, and the majority of the village leaders. Some of the nobility have already come. We are just waiting for the rest to arrive, and for tomorrow to come. Edward mentioned a deal of specifics, but it was mostly women he was interested in so I am quite afraid I tuned him out after a few of them. Oh, yes, I did remember one.” Honestly, she had not been listening intently when Edward was talking about the guests that were to arrive, and only registered the one, so consumed with her own thoughts. Emmeline smiled broadly. “Lady Adeline Rutherford and her parents will be there. We’re both quite excited. Edward, Adeline and I were all friends once long ago, back before the wars and the desire to sequester us within our walls kept us apart.” She let out a sharp breath. “I know it is for our safety, but It's stifling, William. It feels more like a coffin or a cage than a castle at times.” Emmeline leaned her head against William’s upper arm for a moment, sighing softly. “Perhaps I am being a bit over-dramatic. Tomorrow will make all of this anxiety worth it, won’t it?” She mused, smiling to dismiss her earlier exaggerations. It was amazing how much could be said without being said.

    “Have you seen my father yet, William? He’s been locked in with his advisors all today, since early this morning. He may be aching for a break soon. Perhaps when I’ve been called away to the dressmaker?” She nodded as William suggested going out to take the air. “The garden.” She suggested, turning to lead the way. She was glad that at least someone unaffiliated with the numerous preparations for the Ball had suggested it. She had been within for days now, and even stepping into the walled and well protected garden seemed too momentous an occasion to consider while everyone was bustling about. She could not be escorted because everyone else was busy, and escorted she must be, or else she may have a dangerous thought strike her and simply amble right out the castle gates.

    The moment they stepped from the halls which were dark as night in comparison to the blinding sunlight out in the fountain garden, Emmeline stopped short, lifting her head from William’s shoulder. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of roses, camellias and the wild honeysuckle that draped over one of the walls. Even here there was stone all around them, but Emmeline could forget it with her eyes closed. She would spend hours here if she could, laying in the sunlight deep emerald grass, watching the clouds scuttle through the sapphire sky overheard, listening to the gurgling lion’s head fountains set into the walls and the spray of the ornate marble one in the center of the garden. “This is a perfect place, don't you think so?”
     
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  7. Emmeline mentioned the King and William almost missed a step. He was unsure he could stand before the King without showing signs of nervousness for the events of the next day. He had planned something so grand and life changing that none would expect it. He had spoken at lengths with the King about the War that threatened their doorsteps and how that might affect the growing relationship between he and Emmeline. He had grown concerned at times for her safety and what war could mean for both bloodlines as hopes and goals of their union began to surface all the more. Even though he knew he had the King's blessing, tomorrow would be something entirely different than the conversations the two men had shared. He hoped that nothing would change between anyone.

    The heat of the sun's rays woke him from his thoughts as Emmeline stopped beside him. His eyes turned to her and all his anxieties were washed away. Bathing in the rays was the most beautiful woman who's very face filled every thought and dream. Coupled with the peaceful atmosphere of the garden, the precious smells of the flowers that countered the sometimes musty smell of the castle walls, and the warmth of her presence William was reminded as to why he was doing all of this. It was for them. It was for Emmeline.

    "My dear Emmeline, anywhere is perfect so long as I am there with you," the words escaped his lips without thought. It was the truth of his heart and yet he couldn't help but feel as though they should have been kept to himself just a bit longer. His cheeks grew heated and his lips parted in an embarrassed grin as he rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. There was nothing he could do about it now. He had said it and now he needed to follow through with it or leave them both feeling awkward and embarrassed.

    William nodded slightly as he steeled himself before he stepped before Emmeline letting her hand slide down his arm until it emptied into his larger one. He glanced down at it and smiled before reaching over and grasping her other hand softly, "Come," he beckoned as he began to step backwards and toward the fountain. Urging her to take a seat on its wall, he joined her as their hands were clasped together, "I need you to understand something," his somber countenance reflected his inner anxiety, "Everything I do is for you. Everything that I will do will only ever be done for you. I want nothing more than to keep you safe, to give you my all," he thought he would be uneasy by his confession but the thought that she knew, that everyone knew already, how the two of them felt for each other made this so much easier, "No matter what tomorrow brings, I will always love you."

    William's eyes sought hers for understanding. Tomorrow would be a big day despite the Villager's Ball. Tomorrow, Emmeline would know just how much she meant to him and just as he promised, he would do everything he could to keep her safe and to ensure their future together. Everything else, everyone else, fell below her in priority.
     
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  8. Emmeline knew William had been speaking to her father and she knew him to be a good man, one that the King approved of wholeheartedly. She was beyond ready to be a wife--his wife. Perhaps when the time came, they could convince their parents to do away with spectacle and publicity, and have a quiet ceremony here, with family and the priest as witness. She would prefer it to the throne room lavished in sprays of cut flowers and heavy banners, surrounded by scores of pompous nobles that Emmeline didn’t want there anyway. Her mother would never allow it. Since the King was ever a peacemaker, he would ensure that the Queen got what she wanted, even if it had to do with Emmeline’s own wedding, reasoning that Emmeline would understand because she was just like him. She would understand, of course, and she would capitulate to keep her mother happy.

    She looked down at their entwined hands, flexing her fingers to tighten hers around his.

    Was it the sun again, or was it him? If the very thought of him made her flush before when Edward had come to announce his presence, she was surprised she wasn't a stammering mess now and that somehow she was keeping her wits about her. Until that. Until he said what she somehow knew already even without his audible confession and was perfectly comfortable in the unspoken knowledge. "I know you will," she said, a little too quickly. She cleared her throat and tried again, feeling warmth bloom through her.

    "I mean, I..." Emmeline squirmed on the fountain wall, her tongue passing over her lips, as she tore her eyes from their hands and looked at him, really looked at him. He seemed far too serious and a bit flustered as well. "You've left me quite at a loss for words, William." She admonished in a teasing tone of voice, but never taking her eyes from him.

    What she wanted to say, what she should have said, she couldn't, not just yet. Besides to speak it now would feel forced. Emmeline pulled her hand away and laid it against his cheek, leaning forward, her face upturned. Just before her lips brushed against his, she heard the skittering sound of gravel scattering under footsteps and stopped short. When she heard her mother clearing her throat, she recoiled quickly. She glanced away to the water pouring from the mouth of the leaping marble fish, steadily spilling into the pool just behind where she and William both sat. She dropped her hand, and pulled the other back onto her lap, hearing Edward’s cough behind the Queen as he fought to stifle laughter.

    "Are we interrupting an illicit dalliance in the garden, daughter?" Luciana asked, striding out into the middle of the garden.

    Emmeline let out a quick breath, readying to answer, but got nothing out before Edward spoke, hurrying forward. "Come now, mother. Emmeline's a practically a married woman already; there’s nothing illicit about it.”

    Luciana ignored Edward’s words and Emmeline’s narrowed eyes and disconcerted countenance. “Edward, kindly escort your sister to the seamstress, and make sure she is properly fitted before she’s given leave. The woman has waited long enough,” she said, awaiting Emmeline’s compliance before turning icy eyes on William. Emmeline sighed, and rose to join Edward, quickly pressing a kiss to William’s cheek. “I’ll be back soon. Once I’ve done as she asks, nothing will be able to keep me away from you.” She whispered quickly.

    “You must be exhausted from your travel, dear William.” Luciana said, once Emmeline had passed her and had taken Edward’s arm to go inside. Her tone insinuated that was indeed the case, regardless of how he actually felt. “Your room awaits you. I’ve put you up in east wing with the rest of the family. I’m sure you’ll find it more accommodating than your usual rooms.” She turned, walking away from him as she spoke indicative of her desire to have him join her. “If you do announce it tomorrow, I do hope you will wait until the spring to follow up. After her nameday…I know she’s a woman of her own mind, but I’m quite afraid I’m not ready to give her up yet.” For a moment, Luciana’s voice strangely pensive, but it passed, quick as a flash, and the same self-assured smile came back over her face.
     
  9. A kiss. It was such a simple gesture that spoke magnitudes and one he had long desired from Emmeline. They were moments away as she leaned toward him but, just like everything else that was good in life, it was cut short by interruption leaving him all the more wanting. It was quickly replaced by embarrassment as Queen Luciana stood before them. With Emmeline's absent hands and turned gaze, William was left unsupported from the icy gaze of her Majesty. It hurt, just a bit, that Emmeline would be so quick to withdraw, but he understood. Especially when he registered the tone that the Queen used. Even then, Emmeline did not part from him without pressing her lips against his cheek. It took all his might not to cover it protectively with his hand as she hurried off with her brother.

    Something in the queen's tone made it clear to William that she would not be agrued against as he rose from the fountain wall. He listened carefully to his future mother-in-law and swallowed hard at the mention of tomorrow's announcement and her suppressed plea for him to wait. His heart raced anxiously within him as he forced a faint smile, "As you wish, your Majesty. I will not have it rushed and create tension between our families. Though having Emmeline to wife is something I have long awaited, I would have her in such a way that brings you and the King honor. After all, she would not be the woman she is today if it were not for your combined efforts."

    William walked beside the Queen as she escorted him through the halls. All of this could one day be theirs after their marriage. That day would start tomorrow when everything was unveiled. All his planning and late night meetings would result in a new era for both families and for all of Haidengrund. Some have been known to say that change was good, this change would be magnificent and even more important, it would ensure Emmeline's future. He meant every word when he told her. She meant more to him than anything or anyone else.

    As they stopped short of his room, William turned to the queen and took in a deep breath. Nervousness overcome him as he sought one more subject of discussion with the queen before he was 'forced' to retire for the night, "Your Majesty," he started, "about what happened in the garden, I do apologize if I offended you. It was not my intention. We were caught in the moment."

    William hoped that his apology would sit well with the Queen. After all, he would not dare risk her wrath and would settle into his room for the night. Tomorrow he would have Emmeline for the rest of their lives. So one more night apart from her would be manageable.
    ------
    Seth arose early with his fellow soldiers. They had quite the ride before they met and relieved the others. Gathering rations and plenty of water, they rode through the dawn streets of Aedwiseth and out of their protected valley. He would do everything he could to be sure that everyone in Aedwiseth would be able to enjoy the Villager's Ball this year and every year after it safety.
    ------
    William slept soundly despite the nervousness that so easily beset him once his eyes peeled open. He tried everything within his power to subdue his anxiety but never had he done anything like this before. It was new and nerve racking. What if it went horribly wrong? What if she rejected him and didn't see the grand scheme of things? What if, despite every bit of planning, it all fell apart? These thoughts plagued him all day as he prepared for the night. Everything was in order, his help was brought into the castle secretively as to not be caught by Emmeline. The special drinks were prepared and awaited pouring. Everything was going well as he stood in an alley in the streets of Aedwiseth awaiting his final meeting.

    A man dressed in simple brown leather and a farmer's shirt rounded the corner. His eyes fell on William and a smirk spread across his lips as he approached the nobleman, "Is everything prepared for the Ball?" His accent was thick and obviously didn't fit in with those known in Haidengrund.

    William nodded, "Everything is ready," he said. His eyes grewed concerned, "Just remember-"

    "Don't worry," the man said, "We made an agreement and we always follow through. Princess Emmeline will be quite the lucky woman."

    William let out a breath he did not know he had been holding. It was quite the relief to know that everything would still go as planned. Emmeline was lucky that he loved her. He only hoped that she would love him for the remainder of their days after today.
     
  10. Emmeline woke to the sun in her eyes and the scent of freshly baked bread from the waiting breakfast tray. Agatha apparently visited her room before dawn, since her curtains were already flung to the side and the windows were opened, letting in the cool moist breeze. Emmeline had a full schedule today, greeting guests and making sure that the visiting nobleman’s daughters were well cared for. Not to mention that the entire afternoon would be dedicated to bathing and dressing for tonight’s ball. The full schedule left little time for anything—anyone else. But it would be remedied tonight, when she had no other pressing issues to deal with.

    She had visited the seamstress yesterday, who actively tried to hide her irritation at being ignored for the better part of the day. The fitting took only a few moments, most of which were the seamstress’ assistants trying to tighten the corset before slipping the dress over her head. The dress hugged Emmeline’s body and brought out reddish highlights in her hair that she was unaware she had. Edward whistled low and spun his sister once, looking her over. “If he wasn’t already completely smitten with you, sister, this would certainly do the trick.” No alterations had to be made, of course, and now the dress hung over the door of her wardrobe to air until the ball.

    Emmeline tried to find William afterwards as she promised, but her mother intercepted her and took her to her room, effectively jailing her for the remainder of the evening. “To rest for tomorrow,” as she put it. Lord Godfrey was to recover from his journey in his rooms unmolested by Emmeline, and she needed her beauty sleep. “Besides daughter,” the Queen said, just before leaving her room for the evening, “not having something that you crave makes it all the more appealing when you finally get it. You’ll be quite busy most of the day tomorrow, and with that dress framing you, you’ll be the envy of every woman and the desire of every man.”
    “I don’t want to be the desire of every man. Just one.” Emmeline replied with rosy cheeks, and the Queen simply laughed it off as she kissed her brow and left her daughter in Agatha’s charge.

    Emmeline dressed herself as best as she could before Agatha came in with fresh linens, tutting at her attempt at independent dressing. The old maid fixed the fasteners in the back of the sapphire gown, pulled the sash taut and sat her down with a warm roll and a mug of fresh milk as she started combing Emmeline’s hair. “Do you think I will have time to see my father today, Aggie?”
    “I doubt it. He’ll be just a busy as you, if not more. But perhaps if you hurry, you can catch him before he starts.”

    Emmeline nearly fled her chambers the moment Agatha had finished with her hair to seek out her father.

    King Aden was in the library; the only room in Chedria apart from Emmeline’s that she found peace in. The walls were lined with bookshelves that reached the ceiling, and the whole room smelled of firewood, vellum and leather. He sat at his desk, arms spread to balance above the piles of papers that were stacked on his desk. He didn’t bother looking up as Emmeline pushed open the wood door that sighed and groaned on its hinges. “I thought I said I was not to be disturbed.” He said in a gruff voice, not bothering to look up.

    “I’m sorry, father. I didn’t get the message.”

    Aden's face softened and his smile widened behind a thick grey streaked beard, and his eyes were dark and kind. It seemed his children had inherited his looks rather than their mother’s. “Emmeline. I thought you were to attend to the ladies today.”

    “I thought you were to see to the additional soldiers come from Aedwiseth?” At his slightly taken aback face, Emmeline went on. “It seems we are both shirking our responsibilities.”

    “I’d stay here all day alone if it were up to me. But it’s still early and the soldiers will be here soon enough.” The King said, “We operate on our own schedules, don’t we?”

    Emmeline shook her head, coming to stand behind him as he beckoned to her. “We operate on Mother’s schedule, not our own and Heaven help those who do not.”

    The King laughed, reaching out an arm to pull her closer. “That is--sadly the truth of it.” He released Emmeline, and glanced back to is papers. “Your mother tells me that William is here and that you’ve seen him already. But I have not yet had the pleasure of his company.”

    “Unfortunately, it was just for a moment, and then Mother whisked him away to bed.” Emmeline sighed, glancing over the papers.

    “It is a long journey.”

    “It is.” She trailed off, picking up a paper from one the stacks that caught her eye. “There is call for more aid?” She asked, skimming it. The King took it gently from her, and placed it back on the stack.

    “There is never a day that goes by that they don’t ask for aid. Aggadon flounders despite our best efforts.” The King swallowed hard and then shook his head. “But this isn’t a topic for now. And I won’t have you concerning yourself with men’s affairs when you should be off doing…whatever it is that you girls do.”

    “Gossip, sew, and giggle over the men in the training yard.” Emmeline supplied, rolling her eyes.

    The King snorted, shaking his head. “So long as their ogling doesn’t interfere.”

    “It won’t. It’s incentive for them to work twice as hard when they know we are watching.” She leaned to kiss her father on the temple.

    “Wonderful. We shall have exhausted men guarding us tonight.” The King looked to the door in a silent dismissal, and Emmeline took the opportunity to go before his patience with her could be tested. Before she slipped out, she heard him call after her. “I am reserving the right as your father to dance with you this evening, before William snatches you from my grasp and commands all of your attention.”

    Emmeline paused and looked back with a soft smile. “No one will snatch me away from you, father. Least of all William.”

    ---

    Entertaining the nobleman’s daughters was insufferable. Only the presence of the dear Adeline Rutherford kept Emmeline from storming off in a fit. They were all so...vapid, concerned mainly with themselves and their vanities and their gossip. Of course, she expected it, and for a while played along to their high-pitched squealing and the hushed “I heards” about everyone and everything they could possibly think to mention. But it was about all she could take. She didn’t have many friends since the war kept them all apart, but now she was beginning to believe that the wars had been good for something—keeping her ultimately safe from the tiresome daughters of other nobility.

    Emmeline finally gave up trying to appeal to their deeper selves, and she and Adeline took the girls to one of the colonnades that lined the training yard, where a few of the guards were going through the motions, her brother included. Delightful. Now Edward could entertain them, and Emmeline could slip off somewhere until midafternoon when they would all disperse for Ball preparations anyway. But he was transfixed with Adeline, and she with him, and now Emmeline had lost even this ally. The others flocked around her to express their thoughts about Edward, and their dissatisfaction that Adeline had so quickly stolen his interest away. She mentioned another handsome guardsman, and they flew back to see who she was talking about, chirping like a flock of sparrows.

    The sun was already getting low in the sky when the Queen came with the other mothers to collect the girls to their respective rooms. Agatha rescued Emmeline from another onslaught of giggles and rumors and ushered her back to her room where her hot bath was waiting. She rested in the silence, trying to compose herself. But she couldn’t. Her heart was pounding like a hammer against her ribs. She wasn’t sure if the bath water or the warm evening made her so incredibly hot, but sweat was gathering on her brow.

    She clambered from the tub at last, ignoring Agatha’s offer of a dressing robe and chose to let the water from her hair run down her bare skin. “I can’t do this, Aggie. I’m far to nervous.”

    “Do what? It’s a Ball, your Grace. It is not your wedding day. Not yet. When that happens, all of your nervousness will be warranted. Now put this on and sit so I can help you dress.”

    She did as she was asked; quiet for a while she studied herself in the mirror. Agatha had scrubbed her skin until it was pink, and she appeared to be glowing. There was a faint scent of lavender and rose around her, as if she had run through the garden just prior to sitting down and the heat emanating from her skin only made the scent heavier. “You should have seen him and I in the garden, Aggie. I nearly kissed him until mother showed. I’m afraid I might be quite beside myself with him there.”

    “You’re in love, Emmeline.” Agatha said tenderly, neglecting titles for a moment as she swept the tortoise shell comb through her hair. “I would be worried if you did not melt like snow on a spring day whenever he was near.” Emmeline’s eyes fell to the vanity, and Agatha leaned in. “Next time, just kiss him, whether your mother is there or not. I would, had I someone like him, and I’d wager not even the queen could stop me.”

    “Aggie!”

    The elder shrugged her shoulders with a knowing smile. “Time you were dressed, your Grace.”

    ---

    Emmeline tried to breathe.

    She heard the sounds of the people within the hall already the laughter and the music, smelled the scent of roast and bread and sweets coupled with the fire and the pitch from the torches. The others had already gone within, and she had already sent Agatha ahead with her apologies for taking so long. The last rays of the sun were dying in the west, streaking the sky with violet and red, and already the first stars of the evening were appearing from the deep azure.

    She paced the breezeway in front of one of the banquet hall’s side door, her eyes shut, her hand pressed to her stomach to quiet its unease. She had nothing, at all, to be nervous about. It was just a Ball. Just food and drink and dancing. And William. She was dressed in the sun emblem gown, and had convinced Agatha to keep her hair down, flowing in loose curls down her back, adorned with a simple circlet of gold. The ruby pendant was heavy nestled against the tops of her breasts.

    She bit her lip, turning to the guard at the door. “I should go in, shouldn’t I?” She asked, breathlessly, apparently stunning him into silence since she deigned to speak with him. Or perhaps because until that moment, he had been staring at her as she fretted. He didn’t reply only nodded his head, hand poised on the door to let her in when she told him to. “Very well. Thank you.” She said, smiling slightly.

    The banquet hall seemed smaller with people crowded into it. So many people, dressed in a veritable rainbow of colors. She didn’t see them because her eyes quickly moved over them all. She saw the King and Queen first, and Edward and Adeline seated beside them. And then she saw William and no one else mattered. Everything else became muted, blurred, but he was standing out crisply amongst the rest. She did not stop the smile that crossed her lips, and started across the room towards him.

    Finally.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  11. For William, the day was spent in schemes to ensure everything went as promised. Despite his conversation with the man in the alley, everything needed to go perfectly if it was to turn out as it should have. He returned to the kitchen to check on the food and drinks, he met with key servants to ensure that his special guests would arrive and he ensure that every other little detail was properly taken care of before he dressed himself for the Villager's Ball.

    Wearing his very best, William arrived at the ball. His white shirt was barely visible under a burgundy jacket that bore Chedria's crest in honor of his homeland and love. Though he was nervous, William was surprisingly calm as he walked from guest to guest stirring clear of the royal family. Perhaps that was his only sign of nervousness. Never had he thought that such a night would be this uncomfortable. He knew it to be difficult.

    Standing in the center of the room, he was quite surprised by how many villagers had arrived. Of course, some of them had to be his special guests to this monumental occasion. Even then, the turn out was beyond even the Queen's desires he surmised. Every nobleman of stature was in attendance with their wives and families. Every town leader of Aedwiseth either danced with their woman or sat in small circle chatting away. Everyone he could have ever asked to be here on this day was here. Everyone but Emmeline.

    His eyes darted from face to face as he searched for the one woman who mattered on a day like this. Everything he had planned for today was for her and she was not in attendance. After some time of searching, he began to contemplate going to the queen when he finally caught sight of her. William felt his knees buckle beneath him as he caught himself as subtly as possible on the servant that passed by. Wearing her kingdom's colors snuggly against her body, she glided toward him. Her hair bounced just enough to add to her beauty with each step she took. Such a picture of perfection she was as she made her way to him.

    Clearing his throat as she stopped before him in attempt to both cease his gawking and to loosen his tongue, he bowed himself to honor her title and her value to him. Sweeping up a hand lightly, he pressed his lips against the top of her hand as he rose. His eyes locked on hers and after lingering longer than he should have, he addressed her, "My dear, Emmeline, you are absolutely stunning," the honesty of his words was evident in the fact that, for once, William was at a loss for more words. His eyes darted about her features as they imprinted this sight in his mind. Deducing that the only day he would see her equally or even more beautiful than he did now would be the day they married, William blinked and cleared his throat once more.

    "I was beginning to worry that you would not be attending and that you were going to leave me to suffer this ball alone," he jested as he turned beside her and tucked her hand into his arm. His eyes darted toward the entryway the servants used to walk in and out. His eyes met with the man from the alley and a nod was all William received. Everything was ready and they were only waiting on his signal.

    William's heart raced within his chest so violently that he thought, above the music, Emmeline would hear it. A slight tremor set into his hands that he noticed and quickly suppressed with a tightened grip. Small beads of sweat began to form along his hair line despite the cool temperature of the night. As they grew closer and closer to the historic moment the signs of his anxiety began to show. It didn't help that he was beside the woman everything was for. He needed a moment to collect himself, a task he knew would be impossible in the proximity of Emmeline.

    "As much as I would like to monopolize your time, you should greet your parents," he smiled warmly a bit of his nerves showing, "I'll not be leaving. As soon as your father gives you leave, I would very much like a dance."
     
    • Love Love x 1
  12. There must have been some magic in the kiss across her knuckles that struck her mute. It was the only explanation for the lump in her throat that refused to emit any sounds at all, let alone words. Oh, she was horribly overwrought. She should have paced awhile longer to steel her nerves before stepping inside the Hall. More time could not have amended this sudden timidity, though had she been allowed to spend more time with him before, it would not be so…awkward now. William was speaking to her, and she could do nothing but smile shyly and feel the heat wash over her in unrelenting waves. “I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” She said, finally gaining enough control of her faculties to speak. “I wanted to make sure everything was perfect.” Rather, she wanted to make sure that she was perfect. Gaging his reaction, she delivered.

    The frown that spread over her face when he mentioned her parents was unintentional, but honest. After all day waiting, she couldn’t possibly anymore, and did not feel particularly inclined to do so. He was right, however, and she had promised her father a dance. Emmeline squeezed William’s hand gently before letting it go. “As much I wish you could monopolize my time, I did promise my father a dance. Afterwards, I shall not leave your side.” She smiled up at him, laying her hand against his cheek before drawing away and to her family.

    Edward stood up as Emmeline approached, and was the one to pull back her seat next to her mother. “Adeline is most jealous of you, sister. Until you graced us with your presence, she was the most beautiful woman in the room.” He whispered as he helped her into her seat at the table. Emmeline smiled softly, leaning forward to wave at Adeline, who looked a mite perturbed before she waved back and looked away elsewhere.

    Her mother laid her hand over Emmeline’s. “I am glad to see that the dress fits properly.”

    “Thank you, mother. You look lovely as well.”

    “You should have something to eat. You’re looking a bit peaked.” Emmeline gazed at the spread of food in front of her and her stomach lurched, and then grumbled. There was nearly every color imaginable from the ruddy browns of the bread and roasts to the deep jeweled red of the wine. Contrasting smells wafted from the tables, sweet and savory. She took a roll, which was the only food that appealed right now, and bit into it to appease her mother as Edward leaned over the back of her chair.

    “It’s not hunger for food that has her that way, mother.” Edward said, snatching a roll from the same tray as Luciana batted his hand away.

    “Indeed not.” The King had turned from whomever he was speaking to at last to Emmeline. “You should be dancing with William, shouldn’t you?”

    “I promised you a dance first, father.”

    “Then I shall not keep you waiting.”

    Luciana raised her brows when her husband stood to take Emmeline’s hand, but didn’t say anything, merely screwed up her face in discontent. Emmeline didn’t notice until they were on the dance floor, and the others had stepped to the edges. “Have we upset mother?” She whispered, barely hearing the music as her father led her in the dance.

    “You’ve upset no one. Your mother refused to dance earlier when I offered,” King Aden chuckled.

    She had done the same dance so many times it seemed second nature, and indeed it was. Her mind wasn’t quite consumed with the movements, and her eyes left her father several times as she sought out William in the crowd. She found herself staring, trying to capture his gaze was she whirled about on the dance floor.

    “I haven’t the chance to speak with William yet. I very much wanted to this evening.” Her father was saying, and she realized that she had not been paying her father any attention. She looked up at him with an apology written on her face. “But it seems I’ve kept you from him too long already.”

    “I’m sorry, father. I’ve been…in a haze all day. Anticipating tonight, and--”

    “So we’ve seen.” His eyes twinkled and he glanced to the main table where the Queen and Prince sat. “When your mother and I were young, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone but her whenever she entered a room. It made council meetings quite unbearable.” He laughed, looking back down at her. “Even now, whenever I see you, your mother shines through, her effortless beauty. Her bearing, the nobility she has that’s nothing to do with her bloodline. You may look like me, but you possess more of her than you know.” Aden tightened his hand around hers as the music ended and he bowed to her before escorting her from the dance floor.

    Emmeline turned, giving her father a quick hug. “Thank you father.”

    He pulled her to his side, just short of crushing her and kissed her brow, letting all but her hand go as he led her to where William was. “She’s all yours, Godfrey.” He said, clapping the other man on the shoulder. “Take good care of her this evening, will you?”
     
  13. William nervously watched as events unfolded. His people moved into their proper places, villagers mingled with reluctant nobles, and Emmeline danced with her father. She moved with such grace that once she began, William found it unbelievably difficult to tear his gaze from her. The way that her hair bounced with each step, how her eyes landed on him despite the dance being with her father, this all was destiny. She would be his and he hers and they would be happy for the rest of their lives. There was nothing more he could ask for. He prayed that she would understand why everything he had done was for that future.

    The dance ended and as King Aden escorted his lovely daughter to him, William could help but notice his increased heart rate. He subdued his nervousness before it poured from his body and made this night even more awkward. Instead, he swallowed hard just before the they arrived and smiled warmly at his gesture. With a respectful bow, he took Emmeline's hand from His Majesty and locked eyes with her, "I would think nothing to be more important, Your Grace," he was speaking to the king and even though it was disrespectful to not be looking at him, he had a feeling the King would understand. Oh how William loved his daughter!

    This was his last blessing, at least William took it as such, and after the King departed from them, he escorted his future wife to the middle of the room. A circle was carved out for them as on lookers looked upon William Godfrey and the Princess of Chadria in their first official dance. It was more personal to him than any dance he had ever shared with anyone. His gaze never parting long from Emmeline's, he saw nothing but contentment and joy. Gone were the fears of being caught or receiving some news of a rumor spread about a rendezvous. No longer would he have to hide any of his love for her from anyone. As far as he was concerned, it was just the two of them and that was all it needed to ever be.

    Toward the end of their dance, William witnessed the pouring of fresh drink into the cups of the Royal table and the night came crashing down upon him. He had forgotten what had been done in the heat of the dance and knew, as he watched each royal and noble drink from their cup, that the time was now. With a weak, nervous smile, William slowed their dance to a stop and then took one of Emmeline's hands in his. Turning to the musicians, he nodded and as the music ceased, the first of many coughs began to spring from throats originating from those who drank the most.

    "Good people of Chedria," he started as eyes turned to him, "for years we have been threatened with war. Kor'Dala's drums beat through the woods to the west of our great walls and now rage through the plains of the east in Aggadon. Hearts have been filled with fear of what was to come, my own included, as Kor'Dala's eyes begin to turn toward the mountains of our great home. I have seen this fear in the eyes of our people and," he squeezed Emmeline's hand as he smiled at her ever so briefly, "I have chosen to take care of it."

    The coughs grew more frequent but William would not let question take hold of the moment, "My dearest, Emmeline," titles were for position. If she was to be his wife, he would ask her as equals, "In all of this turmoil and suffering, I could think of only one thing and that was your safety. I could think of only one thing that if lost, would turn me into an empty husk: you. Our love is true and with this love," William pulled from his pocket a burgundy cloth with their family crests embroidered upon them and draped it over their joined hands, "we can bring hope to a fearful nation."

    Applause erupted in the room as the villagers looked upon the announcement of William Godfrey and Princess Emmeline. Their betrothal would indeed bring hope and as William removed the cloth, folded it, pushed it back into his pocket, the first cry erupted from the ballroom. Sweeping up her other hand in his, he held her tightly as villagers scurried like ants from around the nobles. Turning upon the spectacle, Emmeline and William witnessed as the man and his wife coughed blood upon the table before he crashed dead upon the table and she fell to the floor in the same condition. All around the ballroom nobility fell until William's eyes fell upon the King's Table where the royal family began to die one by one.

    The ballroom doors crashed open as men, all dressed as servants, rushed into the villager's ball. From among the villagers in attendance, men drew swords and charged the nearest guard. William wrapped his arms protectively around Emmeline fearing that the men would attack him and Emmeline. It was truly terrifying as even villagers were cut down who dared to resist or attempt escape. As the King let out his dying breath, a single man approached him, lifted his head by his hair and once the life fled from his eyes, dropped it without respect upon the table. King Aden's crown fell from his head, rolled down the steps and rested at William's feet. Swallowing hard, William looked from the crown to the man and took a step back pulling Emmeline with him.

    "Pick it up," the man ordered. William looked down at the symbol and took longer than the man wanted, "Pick. It. Up."

    William swallowed hard once again before he bent down and scooped it up with surprisingly calm hands. Looking at Emmeline, he could see the grief on her face but when he turned his gaze upon the man that now approached him, he extend the crown and pulled Emmeline close to him once again.

    "I told you," he began as he took the crown from William and admired it's craftsmanship for a moment before he took it in both hands and placed it upon William's head, "No harm would come to the princess, William Godfrey, Regent of Haidengrund, a Province of the Kor'Dalan Empire."
     
    #13 4everDifferent, Jul 17, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
  14. It was no longer just a dance. It might have started out that way, but then it shifted, and the two of them became impossibly lost in the other. Enraptured, consumed, though words alone could not possibly hope to adequately capture the feeling that spread through her. She felt the heat radiating off his skin where he held her close, practically searing her skin through her dress. She shut her eyes, letting the music and his steps lead her through the steps. “I’ve been waiting for this, for you, for such a long time.” She whispered at one point, keeping her lips right beside his ear even after she spoke. She sighed in contentment before she pulled away, and when she next caught his eye grinned. Everything was perfect tonight. Everything. Nothing could possibly take that feeling away from her.

    Or so she thought.

    The coughing didn’t capture her attention at first. Why would it? She heard and saw only William. Everyone else was a blur of colors and faces, every sound was muted beyond his voice. She saw only William as he announced their engagement to the entire ballroom, clasping her hand in his with their families’ crests upon it. She felt as if she could burst into flame. Suddenly her warmth was wracked by chills that crawled up her spine. She heard more coughing as he was speaking, and for a brief moment as applause overtook those gathered, her eyes left William for the first time since her father had handed her off and she scanned the perimeter of the room.

    The cry drew her eye to the corner of the room and she saw the crimson blood spewing from the nobleman’s mouth an instant before he fell onto the table scattering plates and food and sending the wine splashing onto the floor. His wife stood to help, knocking over her chair. The color drained from Emmeline’s face and she took an instinctive step closer to William as his wife also fell in the same condition.

    Emmeline buried her head in his shoulder, horrified, but then picked it up again as she heard more of the same coming from all corners of the room. She watched, turning her head this way and that, stricken as people she had known all her life began dropping like mayflies. “William…” She whispered, “What is—“ and then she saw where his gaze had gone. To the table that held her family. “No.” She tried to pull herself from William’s grasp, but found she could not. He would not let her go, and her struggles against him seemed like a mouse fighting off a cat. Edward. Mother. Father. “Let me go, William I have to –“ The sounds of fighting drowned out her words. The guards rushed to where the King and Queen were bent over the table, their bodies jolting with the coughs, but nothing would prevent their deaths. They seemed to know it. Emmeline watched as one by one they fell, first her mother and Adeline. Then Edward and her father, who had a hand outstretched to Emmeline and kept his eyes on her until he too fell across the table. She heard a scream, and it wasn’t until she felt her throat burning with exertion did she know it was her. She sagged against William, a keening cry sounding from already overtaxed throat. She buried her head in William’s chest to stifle the sound.
    It was over in matter of moments. The sounds of coughing died. The sounds of fighting died and all Emmeline could hear were her sobs and the relentless thudding of her heartbeat. She took the moment to look down at the crown at William’s feet, seeing the bright gold glinting off the firelight. She deliberately narrowed her vision on just that, though her peripheral senses picked up what she refused to see: the dead strewn all around them in the hall, as in the aftermath of a great battle, the metallic stench of blood mixing with the formerly pleasant scents of the flowery swags and savory food. She heaved; suddenly relieved she had refused food for she would have surely lost it all in that instant.

    Emmeline finally saw the man as he spoke. She didn’t know him, but knew his accent well enough. She tore her eyes from the man as he approached with the crown to look back at William, and froze, her knees going weak. Had he not been holding her, she would have fallen to his feet. The cold started in her feet, racing up her body and locked it in place. Her mouth worked, but no sound came from her throat. Her head wagged from side to side, slowly. “Regent?” She said, in a hush. Her thoughts were tumbling like rocks in a landslide, one over the other as they all came crashing down on her.

    Suddenly, as if remembering that she did indeed have a spine that could hold her upright, she wrenched from his arms. Things clicked into place, like a key into a lock, and the dust in her mind cleared itself away. She refused to meet William’s gaze, afraid that she would go falling into his arms again. Instead, she looked around the room, seeing the carnage for the first time in perfect detail.

    Her jaw tensed, and she took another step back. Her breathing quickened and her heart fluttered as it raced in her chest. She barely rasped out her words. “Regent.” Then the tears started flowing down her cheeks, hot, wild and unrestrained. “You.” She dared look at William, her eyes narrowed, lips drawn into a thin line, but her voice wavered ever so slightly. “You did this? You allowed this? My whole fam-” She stopped when she felt herself getting too choked up to speak, and whirled to the other man, not sparing him her glare. “Which of you do I ask leave to go to my room? You?” She lifted her hand and pointed. “Or my husband to be?” She turned back to William, nearly spitting the words, and kept her eyes focused on his neck so she would not have to see her father’s crown sitting on his head. “Or shall I be kept safe in Chedria’s dungeons? Or will he,” she jabbed the air back at the man, “change his mind and have me killed after all?” At that moment, she almost felt as if she would prefer death.
     
  15. William was shocked. Emmeline's reaction was nothing like what he thought it would have been. She was everything to him and the only reason he betrayed the King was to keep her safe. Why didn't she see that? Grief. That was the only explanation in his mind. She was grieved at the sudden loss of her family. He understood that for he would have felt the same way. She knew nothing what was going to happen and it had to be that way. So when everything unfolded, her grief blinded her from the truths and motives of why he did everything he did.

    Swallowing hard, the newly named Regent turned to the commander as spoke timidly, "Allow me to take the princess to her room. It seems as though this was all too much for her," he reasoned with the man before he turned his eyes on an angry, hurt Emmeline. He wanted to hold her and tell her everything would be okay and everything would get better but with each glance toward her, he could see only the fury that burned inside the eyes that had looked upon him with such admiration and love. No matter, once she saw reason, she would understand and things could once again be as they were.

    After the man nodded, William took Emmeline gently by the arm. He was hurt when she tore it from his grasp, "Come, Emmeline," he said lovingly.

    "Regent, remove her or I will do so forcibly," the man called out and William glanced over his shoulder toward him and nodded.

    "Let's get you to your room. You can rest there and when that has been accomplished, we can talk about what has happened," he still spoke softly as he urged her toward the doors.

    Walking down the hallway toward her room was more awkward than it had ever been between the two of them. He could feel the heat of her anger and hurt radiating from her body and could not bring himself to look upon her knowing that he was the source of those emotions. The Kor'Dalan soldiers occupied every wing of the castle now and the halls were littered with the dead, servant and soldier alike. The takeover had been swift and deadly. Chedria would never return to its independent glory again. As they rounded the corner and started down the hallway containing her room, he spoke once again, "Everything I did, I did for you, for us and for the future of Chedria," finishing his sentence just as they reached her door.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  16. Emmeline didn't speak as she was escorted to her room. She didn't look anywhere but straight ahead, and kept her head high and her spine straight. Her eyes focused on the floor a few paces ahead of her, so it seemed as though she was staring straight ahead.she wasn't. Her eye didn't stray from the floor, and she took cues from William to know when to turn. She could have found her way through Chedria blinded, but with the knot of emotions sitting in her belly and the back of her mind, she would have never made it to her room. Even though she tried not to look, she saw everything. She saw the foreign soldiers at every turn with their unfamiliar tabards, saw the dead littering the halls. No one was spared, not even one of the young kitchen girls that Emmeline saw as they rounded the corner of a hall. That almost made her stop and sink to the ground in despair. If a child of twelve hadn't made it, there was no hope that Emmeline would see Agatha again. She could not imagine the woman would have let her home be overrun without fighting back, damn the odds against her. No one was spared. So why was she?

    With every step, she could feel her composure slowly ebbing away, composure she only possessed because of anger's grip on her spine. It caressed her skin like a lover making it flushed and red, and held her upright even though she felt weak enough to fall into William's arms for support. She wanted to beg his forgiveness for her display in the banquet hall and to have him hold her and tell her everything would be alright, because even though she had lost everything she still had him. Then she remembered that he was the cause, and redoubled her fight against the part of her that was too irresolute to endure. Her mother never would have given in, and since she was the only one alive who had Luciana's blood running through her veins, neither would she.

    Seeing the hall outside her room came as a relief. She could lock herself away inside where she felt safe, away from the Kor'dalans and their agents. She barely heard William's words, and when they finally pressed themselves on her mind, it took another moment to respond. Emmeline whirled to him, the fury that kept her upright smoldering under her skin and behind her eyes. She glared directly at him, not even recognizing him as the man who had once stirred her heart in an altogether different way. Seeing the crown on his head drives her eye elsewhere. "You took everything and everyone I have ever loved from me." Emmeline seethed. Her voice started faltering with every word she spoke afterward as she devolved into grief. "And you say you did this for me for us? If you ever loved me, William, you wouldn't try to justify your actions with such a feeble excuse! You did this for you, and you alone. If you thought of me at all..." She had difficulty getting air into her lungs and braced herself with one hand on the door to keep from swooning there in front of him. "You didn't think of me at all, did you? You hoped I'd love you enough to see past all of this. I can't. I won't." She hesitated. "I mean, I need time. And then we can talk." She whispered, tacking on the false hope as an excuse to leave him and go into her room. Time or talking wouldn't solve this. She could have a hundred years to consider it, and a thousand well crafted arguments in explanation but nothing short of a complete reversal of the events from this evening endear him to her again. Nothing.
     
    • Love Love x 1