The Next Queen of Ranthrok!

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Serazel was going to the wizard's quarters, planning her outburst to the king down to the motions of her hands, when she glanced out a window and saw him heading out into the courtyard. Could nothing go according to plan?

She stifled an unladylike groan as she worked her way down to the courtyard after him, trying to enter the area just behind him. She caught a glance of his face and nearly lost her stride, getting a hint of his emotional state. Noblewoman's scorn would be the wrong tact to take here. But it was too late to leave and regroup, she was here, and he was there. She would have to play it by ear.

As if by magic, the emotions on her face and her body language shifted with one step, from rage to comfort. Her lips turned from a hard line to a soft, friendly grin, her shoulders loosened up, her steps became softly, her hands unclenched. Softened, she stepped out into the courtyard, falling in beside Dmitri.

"Your Highness, I heard what happened with the wizard... shall I expect this to be the normal behavior of the court?" She had originally planned to say this angrily, defiantly, shame him into barring the new girl from the competition, but that would have backfired, she decided. So while her words would have been cutting, she said them with a playful grin that removed their bite. "Of course, if you need anything in this time, do not hesitate to ask."
Alariel regarded the dress carefully. Her doubts about the request and the length of the dress were clear on her face. She wrung her hands once or twice, chewing on her bottom lip as she gave it some thought. Short skirts weren't completely unheard of. Out in the country and even neighboring kingdoms, it could be very convenient and fashionable. Here at the castle, however, it wasn't very common and Alariel would hate for a girl taken out of her element to be the subject to ill gossip or ridicule. Renna's option was only ankle length, but Alariel had the feeling that Miss Ember had something much shorter in mind!

"This will do beautifully... I think. We could perhaps, hem it a little higher too. But any higher than your knees, every old woman in Ranthrok will faint in scandalized reverie!"
Ember looked at the dress and smiled widely, it was perfect! She walked over to Renna and looked over the dress. "It's lovely!...It should be fine I think...A long as there is no fabric that can slip under my feet while I walk I'll be fine." She said as she smiled at both women.

She was really greatful to them for helping her out, even though she was a competitor like them...or at least Renna, she wasn't so sure about Alariel. She was actually rather excited to try it on, it looked to pretty and light like their's but at the same time stood out too. She stepped back a bit, glancing around the room once more before looking at them again.

"Um...I hope you don't mind me asking this...What is really going on? I've grasped the idea that this is a compitition for place of queen but what kind of king gives himself away to a women he doesn't even know well? I mean, if you know him well then that's good, but I don't know him and I was summoned to be his wife...or something...I'm still confused on certain parts." She said as she looked between the two women for more of an answer, Vellious had done a good job explaining but his frantic and worried attitude made it hard for her to catch everything he said.
Renna blushed a little into her hand at Ember's question, but she felt obligated to answer. It wasn't her fault she'd been plucked from her home by the strange little magician and the will of the council. It was a little stringing to Renna's pride, but she couldn't remember the last time she'd gotten to have much pride anyway.

"Well... the country fears for its ruler, that he will never have a good wife or an heir to his throne. He's been such a good king, they're desperate for him to produce the next because they think that with good blood and his hand in instructing, they will have found the font of respectable rulers. The good blood bit has led to everyone wanting to be involved in the selection of the next queen..." she frowned a little and took a small brush from the table holding the small basin of water. Absently, she began to brush Ember's hair for her in a gesture she'd picked up from her mother when the old bat was anxious.

"Mind you, most of these women are only in it for the crown. They really don't care about Dmitri. Not that they don't consider it a side-treat... simply, they want to be the queen, Dmitri's wife not Dmitri's wife, the queen..." she realized she'd been reflecting on her own emotions and the residual sadness there and attempted to perk up.

"You're going to look beautiful, he won't recognize you at dinner. You'll be a vision of loveliness, he'll swoon on the spot."
Alariel remained silent and lost in thought while Renna explained in that friendly way she was so apt to do. There were so many women that wanted to be Dmitri's Queen. Some that only wished for the power to rule over the country, yet some had actual affection for His Majesty Himself. The power, Alariel understood, but a desire to marry the King? His wife would always worry if he were dallying around with courtiers, chamber maids, or running wild with his soldiers. Aside from this huge mishap in finding him a bride, King Dmitri was a good king. But could he be a good husband? Alariel wasn't so sure.

She finally shook herself out of her thoughts, a warm smile crossing her face. "Go ahead and change your clothes. Renna can escort you to the dining hall. I will go and make sure an extra seat is prepared for you."
Ember smiled lightly, glad that she was finally understanding what was happening around this new and strange place. She looked more to Renna as Alariel said she would be getting her a place to sit.

"Well, I leave myself in your hands, I guess...Hope you don't mind. Now, I suppose the sooner I fingure out how to wear that the better right?" She said as she pointed to the lovely dress that had been choosen for her.

It seemed still a little early in the day to be getting ready for dinner but it wouldn't hurt her to get some practice in walking around in a long dress, she'd have less of a chance of embarrassing herself in the end.
Renna smiled apologetically as she gestured towards the dress laying out before them and then turned her eyes towards the new girl. "If you're really so clumsy as you say, it might be for the best... do you not wear dresses in the place you were summoned from?" Renna watched Ember intently, intentionally skirting around the word home. If the girl was to stay here, it would be best to start conditioning her for it right now.

"I'll try to help you, once you've dressed. I have a matching pair of shoes with the dress, lovely green brocade velvet. The heel isn't very high, either. I only hope your feet are similar in size to mine... is looks like they probably are, so that is fortunate. You'll have a bit of practice with the dress first and then we'll see about the shoes."

Renna glided over to the dress and fanned it across the bed. "I can have a woman come in to help you with the dress, but you seem uncomfortable... is that too much for you? I'd be wiling to help you dress, this once. I'm sure Lady Alariel would be most willing also. You mustn't let it get about though, or we'll be slandered as acting like common servants by the other girls and the last thing we need about here is more tension and fighting..."
Ember joined her near the bed and looked over the dress with her, finding it very lovely. She smiled a bit when she asked about her world, from what she could tell most of what was common in Embers home would probably make Renna gasp with horror, especially how women dressed.

"Well in my world, in my country, women have a much bigger role in society. They have jobs, run their own businesses, and even have voices in politics. Sometimes women are even the main income for a family with the man staying home. Anyway, since women are more active where I come from you won't usually see one in a dress like this, if anything they are shorter, simpler and easier to move in." She explained as she gently started to pick up her mew garment.

"As for dress, I should be able to fingure it out on my own...The dress doesn't seem to complicated anyway." She said as a smile feel on her lips as she looked at Renna.
Vellious turned the corners haphazardly, tripping and sliding the whole way. Every bump into a living creature was met with a "Sorry!" as he bumbled past. His quick hands shooting out to catch or straighten fragile or breakable objects as he ran headlong into them on his way towards the dining hall. Finding a few of the servants within, he grinned wildly. "I... Have a plan!"

It would have been hard to find faster-moving servants, as they finished what they were doing, clearing the room in preparation for tonight's feast. Vellious' ears drooped, and he sighed: "That's... Not the reaction I was searching for."

Taking the lid off the ingrediant jar, he pulled out one of the items - a root. "Alright! Now... How did that spell go again...?" The human-formed fae moves towards the fireplace, observing the crackling beauty within. "Ahhh... That's it." Planting a light kiss on the root, he tosses it into the flames... Which, for a moment, turn green and blue. He winks at the flames. "Our King's going to have dinner. A bunch of women who dislike each other is no good. I'm no enchanter, I can't change their mind... But I can give them incentive!"

Giggling, the far straightened, gesturing about the room. "Alright, magic... Let's see... 'Let the spirit of the words shine through in the speaker's form'." With a nod, and a flicker from the open flames as they understand the spell, he giggles again, spinning on his heel. "There! Anything spoken with nastiness in the mind will show that! Anything spoken with the mind on greater acts will shoe that, as well! This should help the King..." He places his hands on his cheeks, mimicing the King's voice, "Vellious, you've done such a good job in helping me, you deserve a hug!"

Switching back to his own voice, he gives a bow to an imaginary King, "My lord, I don't want to impose!" Sliding towards the spot where the imaginary 'King' spoke, he returned, "Nonsense, Vellious! You are a good friend! Cookies and sleepover in my room!" Spinning on his heel and breaking character, he places a hand over his heart, "Oh, my King~!" With that, he hurredly left the dining room.
Dmitri had a feeling that someone would chase after him. He scored double points actually, because he knew it would be a princess.

Still, he put on a polite smile, masking the tremendous amount of stress he was undergoing. Telling these women that this wasn't even his decision didn't help, since they claimed this to be his fault still! This was how politics were. Even though he was the King, there was still someone of a higher rank. The Court could make decisions behind his back, even without his approval.

"Thank you, mi'lady," he said appreciatively, making a respectful nod of his head. He could not wait for this day to end... There were feisty women after him for one reason or another, a girl from a different era was here, he was deprived of good rest. What else was going to go wrong?

Dmitri felt sad that people were so harsh on Vellious. While his magic wasn't the most skillful, he meant well. Worse really could have happened! At least he didn't summon up anything evil.

Having just one of the princesses here, he realized, wasn't too bad. Plus, she wasn't Alariel, who did nothing but scold him. Therefore, he might as well enjoy Sera's company. "Did you wish to join me?" he asked, offering an arm to her.
Renna had bowed politely to Ember and nodded, her hands folding as if by force of habit because she hardly realized that she'd done anything with them at all. Her attention was, in fact, completely diverted. She closed the chamber door behind her with hardly an afterthought and made her way to the window of the hallway that overlooked the courtyard.

From this vantage point, it was not difficult to see the king offering his arm to that caustic creature they had met in the hall not half an hour prior. Renna frowned, thinking on the duplicity of the woman and how she wished that Dmitri could see that venomous side to her... but then she realized that it was because she wanted to win him over herself. It was a stupid thought, especially considering that it undermined her entire plan to circumvent all thoughts of him that were not purely identical to one a knight might have. It wasn't easy, she thought.

Renna sighed wistfully as she watched the pair in the courtyard and wished that she could allow herself to indulge, but she would not. She was a por candidate, she knew. The queen needed to be forceful, didn't she? And brave. And a thousand other things that Renna simply wasn't strong enough to represent. She was a bad choice and in her mind, she could outline each one of these reasons. It didn't help, however, to calm the sadness and envy that washed over her when she could make out a small smile on Dmitri's face.

Renna crossed her arms to rest on the windowsill and laid her head upon them to watch. It felt wrong, like spying, but she reasoned that it was not her fault that they were gamboling around in so public a location of they did not wish to be seen. Unbidden, a single tear wound its way down Renna's cheek while she observed. It was hard to deny herself implicitly the one thing that she wanted, which was to attempt to vie for Dmitri's affection. In doing so, however, she would ruin her chance to be his friend without any awkwardness from him. That was more valuable to her than confessing her feelings because she had already reasoned out that she would be a poor queen. And Dmitri would never pick a woman who would be a poor queen! Therefore, she would lose. The risks were much too great.
Ember looked back to her new outfit for a moment, just admiring it quietly as she stood there in her new room. She eventually started to undress and shuffled around with the fabric, trying to figure out how to put it on. It took a while, and a few angry curse words, but she eventually got it on. Ember looked rather nice in it in her opinion, probably the best she had ever looked in anything. Smiling with confidence she folded her old clothing and tucked them away in an empty drawer, it would be good to save those just in case she could ever return home, though it seemed very unlikely.

She then shuffled to the door and opened it slightly, looking around for Renna. She didn't have the shoes to the dress yet and her feet were getting cold. She noticed her looking out the window, looking rather sad for some reason. Ember quietly slipped out of her room and over to the window, taking notice that the king was now linking arms with the woman they met in the hall. She really didn't have any negative comments about her but she certainly didn't like how she was quick to judge, she'd definately be a tough rivial in this compitition. She then looked at Renna more closely and noticed that she seemed rather sad, she was certainly giving of depression vibes. It didn't take long for Ember to put two and two together.

"So, You like the king right?" She asked plainly as she watched the two wander through the courtyard slowly.
"Miss Eeeeeeembeeeeer~!" The yell could be heard, along with the quick footsteps of the running fae, from several halls away... Also easily heard was the footsteps suddenly stopping... then several very loud sounds, crashes, and very mild faerie swears ("Pixie dust! Pixie dust! Pixie dust!"). A few moments later, the sound of someone running again, and a floating helmet, like one from one of the suits of armor, moves around the corner, as if mounted on an invisible knight.

Stumbling again, it was very clear that the invisible person was, in fact, the wizard Vellious. "Hi, Miss Renna!" He exclaims, before witnessing her expression... and immediately quiets. He turns, putting forth the effort to take the helmet off his head... to no avail. He strained, falling down with a clattering noise. He just stayed down this time. "...I should leave the jester-ing to Gawain. He's better at it when he's not hungover." He points up at Ember, though a few moments later, he realizes she can't she him, and just states "You look very pretty in that, Lady Ember!"

"...Oh!" He sits up, "I set something up to help yoooouuu~." His head tilts from side to side in a singsongy fashion, making the stuck-on helmet bob.
Everything in Serazel's training said that emotions were to be tightly controlled, reactions were to be measured, that one could not wear their heart on their sleeve and control any significant amount of power.

So it came as a surprise that when Dmitri offered her his arm, and she took it, that the smile she gave him was genuine, that her heart was starting to pound in excitement. "I would love to," She said, and meant it, honestly. Everything she knew said to stop herself, to get back under control. But this was too refreshing.

She walked with him in silence, too taken aback by the offer to know what to say, wondering if she should say anything. Being this close to him was good enough.

Marcus was walking through the castle, the feeling of a constant need to sigh on his mind. The competition to determine the next queen had just become even more awkward and painful to deal with.

At least he was somewhat alone now, Dmitri had gone off in his own direction and the ladies to the Wing of Roses, where he would never dream of setting foot. Too dangerous, with these women. He was likely to get killed, or at least lose that foot.

He caught up somehow with Vellious as he turned a corner, seeing him, Renna and Ember all in one place. Well, he saw the ladies and a floating, talking helmet, which had to be Vellious's work. He stepped back around the corner, hopefully before being seen, wondering for what must have been the hundredth time recently whether it would be worth it to get involved.
As soon as Ember heard her name she looked up to see...a flosting helment? For a moment she just stood there watching as the helmet flew toward her and Miss Renna, until she realized that it was in fact the wizard who was the floating helmet. Honestly she wonder why she thought it could be anyone else, then again this world was still very new to her and she had yet to get a proper understanding about how everything worked. When he complimented her looks she smiled a little more and shrugged her shoulders a bit.

"Thanks Vellious, though I'm not so sure I'll be able to avoid stumbling a bit in it, I'm not used to long dresses like this..." She said, looking at him a little more curiously as the helmet bobbed side to side. "Um, Vellious, I have a few questions if you don't mind me asking...Well, Why are you invisible, why is there a helment on you head and what exactly did you do to help me?"

It wasn't that she wasn't greatful for all of his help but so far it seemed that Vellious wasn't person with magic. He could certainly do illusions well, and by some miracle he summone her to this realm, but otherwise it didn't seem like he had much luck with anything else. She was certain that what he was doing was with the best intentions, but she couldn't help but feel a little scared, who knew what might happen to her this time around!
Renna attached a smile firmly to his visage once more, taking care to temper it so that it looked soft and natural instead of how it felt to her, garish and forced. The appearance of Vellious was a rather welcome reprieve from the vast weight that was her ponderous thoughts and she wanted to thank him but couldn't find any way of doing so without seeming peculiar.

"Good day, Master Vellious..." Renna padded over to where he'd fallen and attempted to extract his head from the helmet as well, tugging at it for him. The man was odd but one of the few people she could trust to at least be honest with her and not nasty behind Dmitri's back and for that, she was more than willing to put up with his odd schemes and magicks.

Renna turned to Ember for only a moment as he commented on how lovely she looked - it was true that she was beautiful - and she smiled. There was nothing forced about the smile she gave, it was one of pride in her work because she knew that Ember would catch Dmitri's eyes and a geniality towards Ember. As a result, this genuine smile was both happier and infinitely more sad than her previous one. She listened to Ember's questions for Vellious without any answer, devoting her energies instead to helping Vellious take off the helmet.

"I am curious to know what it is..." she murmured while trying to find purchase for her fingers to grab and pull without harming Vellious's head. Renna fought against her eyes, fought against their desire to turn once more and look out the window. Eventually she lost and she glanced down to the courtyard once more.

They were smiling. Renna lowered her eyes to the ground before her and bit back the sob building in her throat. No one else could know. As it was, she'd been foolish enough to let this girl guess. Now, more than ever, she needed to be strong. She could not have the future queen feeling guilty on her behalf!

Meanwhile, Lady Alariel was well on her way to the dining hall. As she entered, she was welcome with a group of smiles and hellos. A very different sort of reaction compared to the one most of the Royal Court and even his Majesty himself tended to give her. Servants of the castle had no need to fear or hate her... They were not the ones under her critique nor did they felt threatened by her presence. It was so much easier to relax amongst them.

...if only today hadn't brought in a new problem and she could relax!

"His Majesty will have an extra guest tonight, so we will need an extra setting. She'll need a setting near the King." Alariel stood near the tables, tapping her chin as she debating the seating arrangements.

"Oh Miss, we know! Velloius was in here before all a twitter about her and his plans!" exclaimed one of the maids who was busily spreading out elaborate silken table clothes.

Alariel could have groaned. Velloius meddling in the dining room couldn't be good for anyone. "Heaven's Be... he didn't cast any spells, did he?" She even crossed her fingers in hope.

The maid laughed! "No, M'lady, but he was very interested in the soup."

One of the male servers passed by, a ladder in one hand and a basket of flowers in other. "Why not relax a 'lil and let it be as it be! What's the worst tha' could happen?"

"I imagine his royal Majesty could fall head over heels in love with Serazel and she would be your new Queen. Heralding an era of great opulence and wickedry." Alariel answered dryly. At the room full of horrified looks, Alariel herself let out a laugh. "Don't fear, sweetlings. I risk my health and sanity so you may all rest in peace. I suppose it's too late to make something else for dinner. I'll pray Vellious' hasn't dropped a Peacock Potion and we won't all be foul by midnight..."

Alariel clapped her hands. "All right! Quick, quick! Move those chairs and finish the buffet table! The Court will be here in any moment!"
Marcus looked around the corner again, and stopped. It was something he didn't see on his first glance, or didn't realize. Ember, wearing a proper dress, framed against the window, the scenery behind it. It brought out a beauty that hadn't been so clearly evident before.

He blinked and looked away, but not before his stare became impolite, or obvious. His cheeks flushed, as he knew it was improper to stare. He should know better than this.

Turning and leaving would make him look like pervert, and that was Gawain's job. Snooping around the Wing of Roses, at least.

So as casually as he could he walked towards the small crowd. He heard Ember ask Vellious what he did, and his stomach sunk. He bit his tongue though, not wanting to put so much pressure on the poor wizard. Renna... he had learned a thing or two about reading people from dealing with the Court, and he could tell that she was downcast. Just barely from where he was, he could see Dmitri and Serazel together. Didn't take much to put two and two together. But she was trying to hide it, and he didn't want to embarrass her.

"What have you done, Vellious?" He asked, delicately as he could, standing behind the wizard and resisting the temptation to pull the helmet off. But he needed something to look at as he talked, and didn't need Gawain to get ideas if he saw them.
"It's a very complex spell!" The wizard said proudly, undaunted by the appearance of the knight. "Also, it's Illusion... My specialty! A spell of my own scribing!" The helmet span in place - it's invisible wearer taking a spin on his heel. "I call it..." He paused for effect, "Masquerade of Flames!" Going into detail, he continued, "See, lighting and such is very effective at making people more or less attractive. I have improved upon this a great deal... Anyone in the ball room having nasty thoughts will slowly turn themselves into the darkest of monstrosities in a matter of minutes!"

He waved his arms around, invisibly posing in scary movement, making rather realistic growling sounds. He stops abruptly with a "HOWEVER... Those who have pure thoughts will rise into a great angelic being in the same time!" The helmet looks to Ember. "A pretty young maiden like you has no dark thoughts! We'll all see how beautiful your mind really is!" He winks within the helmet. "It's good, right?
Ember looked at him quietly for a moment before she scratched the back of her head.

"Well, at the moment most of my thoughts are just about what this place is like, so I guess I don't have any dark throughts...though I could get some if someone said something rude to me...I'll try to supress them though, for the sake of your spell." She said to Vellious before she looked to Marcus and Renna.

"Anyway, since this spell is in place I guess we have to roll with it. However, before I go to dinner...I'd like to have some shoes please." She said, looking at Renna more for the last part, her bare feet prrking out at the bottom of her dress.

She decided to drop the king subject and leave that to a time when they were alone and out of ears reach, especially any ears that could be trying to hurt their chances at the king. Ember glanced at Marcus again, if only for a second. His face seemed a bit flushed and she wondered if it was from all the stress of the situation.

"Are you alright?...Your cheeks are red..."