The Two Princes' War

Discussion in 'ONE ON ONES IN CHARACTER' started by Adaon ril'Morgerard, Sep 27, 2015.

  1. The Two Princes' War


    The old king of Callaecia is suddenly ill. His physicians say he has not long to live. His two sons, twins, each have the intent of claiming the throne and the kingdom. Meanwhile the princess, the king's youngest child, is pushed to the sidelines. The kingdom fractures apart slowly, bit by bit, but the princess refuses to merely sit and watch. Behind her father's back and her brothers' backs, she takes up the reins of the kingdom. When her father and brothers find out, they are furious. Fed up with her meddling, her brothers are now intent on getting her married and out of their way. If they can get an alliance or secure the allegiance of a powerful nobleman at the same time, it would be an added boon.

    In steps Caelan, Sergeant of the Princess's Royal Guard. The Princess's Royal Guard owe allegiance only to the Princess. They would die on her command. Nobody, not even the Princes, are allowed to mishandle her. If the Princess commanded, they would kill the Prince and damn the consequences.


    Main Protagonists

    Princess Freya Telmere
    Many things this life has changed
    Aged Twenty-Two
    Princess of Callaecia
    Early Life

    Freya grew up in quiet luxury, never wanting for anything. She was expected to be a demure princess, speaking only when spoken to and never out of turn. Her father was a man of principle above all else, and he had wanted three strapping young men as sons--not a weak girl as his wife's third and final child before she died. Because of this, he never quite accepted his daughter as she grew, though he did soften over time. Her two older brothers--twins, in fact--had always been protective over their younger sister, though they never could seem to get along. When she was still young, her father allowed her to play in the fields with her brothers. She learned a bit of sword-fighting during this time and grew to love the outdoors. When she turned sixteen, however, her father took away this freedom, deciding it was time that she learned how to be a lady of the court.

    Lady of the Court
    She resented her now-restricted life, but she knew full well there was no going against her father. She instead learned how to be a proper princess quickly, as she was forced to take lessons daily. Her father refused to have an unintelligent child, so he had her taught basic politics--both in peace and war time. She already knew how to read and write, but she was forced to memorize her kingdom's written history, as well as the names of all the nobles in the land. As her mind filled with information, she began to crave more. In her own time, she would sneak away into the castle's library, reading books she ought not to on military strategy and domestic law and foreign policy, among others. Over several years, she quickly became proficient with such information, able to rival even the most strategic of generals. One day, when her father was dealing with a conflict on their southern border, she dared to advise him like a prince or a general would. He lashed out violently, and she had a red hand mark on her cheek for a week. She said nothing more of the matter, and the conflict at the border took twice as long to resolve as it would have had her father listened.


    Suitors and Illness

    In the months that followed, Freya did not dare step her role as a princess. She became the perfect princess for her father's sake. When she turned eighteen, however, a whole new terror seemed to come. Suitors. Man after man, day after day...all trying to win the hand of the princess. Noblemen all wishing to gain from her status. She rejected them all, much to her father's irritation. He commanded her to choose someone, but she refused, earning herself another red hand mark. This time, however, she did not care. She did not want to marry, especially not the selfish political pigs she had met. She cared not for such a life. She wanted to be an adviser, both militarily and otherwise.

    A year later, she had yet to be married. When her father once again confronted her, he suddenly had a stroke, leaving him bedridden. Unable to properly force his daughter to marry, he implored with his sons to choose a suitor for her. They promised they would, but they blatantly lied. They did not care about their sister's marriage. They only cared about who would rise to the throne now that their father was bedridden.

    Conflict and Anticipation

    Freya was left to her own devices, and suitors no longer came knocking on her door. The kingdom fell into slight disarray. Crime rose, and no one had the power to do anything about it. Her father had lost his authority, and doctors knew that another stroke would kill him. Everyday was left in anticipation for his death. His brothers, while they did not fight openly, barely spoke to each other. They constantly plotted against the other, ready to seize the throne. Loyalties in the kingdom were split in half, and Freya found herself forced into a position of absolute neutrality to keep some stance of order.

    Though no one could have possibly foreseen it, Freya began taking on a position of leadership. She rose early in the morning, reviewing reports on crime activity as well as trade and military. She organized plans and brought them to her father under the pretense of being a messenger for her brothers. At just twenty years old and also being a woman, her father took the ingenious plans as the careful organization of his two sons. He accepted them, using his authority as king to put them into action. Her brothers hardly took notice, too wrapped up in political scandal and false allegiances to worry about their sister's actions.

    At just twenty years old, she was secretly running the kingdom.

    Recent Times

    Freya has been advising her father under her false pretenses for the past two years, managing to keep the kingdom from falling into utter ruin. She hopes to continue her work when one of her brothers rises as king, but this hope has been cut short. Her brother Frederick, the elder of the two twins, has finally taken notice of his sister's actions. Angry at her dishonesty with the king and what he perceived as an attempt at usurpation, he quickly told the king what had been happening. Furious, he forbid Freya from seeing him. She has not seen him in two months and, without the king's seal, she is unable to help the kingdom maintain its order. Frustrated and impatient, Freya continues to read the reports in secret, hoping to find some way around her father's gaze to help her kingdom.

    One solace she has found in her times of strife is in her Royal Guard. They all care for her and each other, and she often confides in them. Though not proper for a princess, she often practices sword fighting with whomever will keep it a secret, usually her Sergeant. She's certainly not even close to the expertise of the guards, but she can at least defend herself. Alas, as she is competitive, she is quite determined to finally beat the Captain one day. It's unlikely.

    A woman of beauty, only those who truly know her see past her pale skin and golden locks of hair. Her grey eyes are almond-shaped and full of her own sense of wisdom and wonder. An intelligent mind can see she is more than just a princess. Her smile is soft, but her laugh is loud. She prefers a tunic and pants over a corset and dress, though she never seems to have a choice in the matter except when she finds time to spar. Her strength is surprising for a woman, and the average man would find it difficult to overcome her in mind and in strength. She struggles to find her place in this world, as she yearns to lead her kingdom.


    Caelan Arasgain
    The Direwolf
    Aged Twenty Three
    Sergeant, Princess's Guard



    Early Life

    Caelan is the oldest son of the Duke of Eire. A young man not yet twenty, he was known to be both intelligent and courageous, if poor with weapons. He was also known to be an avid admirer of long dead heroes, generals especially. He himself was no poor strategist.

    Caelan was, however, the black sheep in the family. Firstly, he had little to no interest in politics and diplomacy. Secondly, he was a rebel; a renegade. At any certain time, he was either the source of his father's frustration or the apple of his father'e eye. Unfortunately when his father disowned and kicked him out, it was because right then he was the source of his father's frustration. They had been at odds for three days over something. It all climaxed in a fierce night-time argument. His father, in his wrath, disowned and ordered him to leave. Caelan, in his wrath, did just that.

    They both regretted their wrathful decisions but both were too proud to seek pardon. His younger brother was made heir. Caelan disappeared entirely from the radar of the nobility. Where he went and what he did was a mystery to them.

    Exile and Prisoner

    He had in fact set out for the capital where he had hoped to gain a minor place in the court from where he might make his living. Callaecia was not in the best of states then, unfortunately. In the long journey to the capital he was ambushed by bandits. He used all his intellect to try and escape but he was ultimately outmanoeuvred. There was just too many foes. His horse, his clothes, all things of value he had (pretty much everything) was taken. If he had told the bandits who he was, they would probably have ransomed him but he was too proud to even think of bearing the shame of being taken back to his father, bound and helpless, against his will. So he said nothing.

    A few weeks later a mercenary company attacked the bandits and took them prisoner. They had been hired to hunt bandits. The more bandits captured the more pay they'd get. Caelan was set free. He had no horse, no provisions. His best choice would be to convince the mercenary captain to take him on.

    Mercenary

    The captain proved surprisingly easy to convince once Caelan said he had experience with the spear and the sword. The captain always needed more men and rookies didn't have to be paid much anyway. He got his first true battle experience from being a mercenary. He also improved over time with the spear and the sword.

    The mercenary company eventually returned to the capital for their pay. Caelan actually got a decent share. He and some his newly made friends decided to hire themselves out for work inside the city, instead of out. They didn't like travelling much. Caelan and his friends were taken on as guards by a minor noble. Mercenaries weren't really very trusted but the noble had no other choice. He was lacking a true retinue and nobody would really be able to tell the difference.

    Caelan proved himself twice against enemies who appeared from the alleys and back streets of the city. For that, he demanded, and was given, quite a hefty pay. He stayed in the noble's retinue for a month more but he grew tired of the work and the noble's insufferableness. So he left. He had amassed by then a tidy sum of money which he had prudently stored away in a bank.

    King Yeromer's Academy

    While his mercenary friends used their money up in drinking and whoring, he himself had bigger plans. He was going to enrol in King Yeromer's Academy. The Academy was a prestigious battleschool that produced the many guards of the nobles and of the Royal Family.

    Caelan spent exactly two years under the harsh, brutal academy regime. His skill with the spear and the sword rose from competent to expert. He had never been able to learn properly how to use weapons when he still called Eire his home. But now... he was a dangerous foe. Afer he graduated, he applied to become a part of the King's Men, the king's personal guards. He wasn't, however, considered skilled enough. He almost made it. Almost, but not quite. He was, however, offered a place in one of the two Prince's Guards... or the Princess's Guard. Everyone expected him to take a place in one of the Prince's Guards. He chose the Princess's Guard.

    The Princess's Guard

    He was to report the next day for assessment by the Captain of the Princess's Guard. The Captain looked him over scornfully, seeing only a young, inexperienced rookie but then shrugged and let him in. He was the youngest and most junior member of the guard. Most of the guards were older and experienced. The second youngest was a man of thirty two. Caelan accepted criticisms from his seniors without a sound. He was too preoccupied in wondering what the Princess would be like.

    She stunned him beyond words.

    [I will not say any more because what the Princess is like is up to you.]

    He gave his oath of allegiance to her after the first probationary year. Both the Princess and the Captain had approved of him by then. Here was a young man who was quiet and diligent in his work. He didn't say much but when he did, he should be listened to because he always spoke thoughtfully.

    Recent Past

    Two years passed and he became twenty two years of age. Caelan trained ferociously everyday against his seniors who also came to accept him as one of their own. His proficiency with the spear and sword grew even more, though he still had not come close to mastering the weapons yet. He was also given a horse and his horsemanship therefore also grew, albeit slowly. He had never been really good with animals.

    By the time he was twenty three, he was a proven warrior. Nobody could say he was a rookie. He could beat most men (who weren't Royal Guards) without too much of an effort. Among the Royal Guards he could hold his own. He was also, by then, a sergeant in the Princess's Guard.

    Current Happenings

    Caelan could not be recognized as the young son of the great Duke of Eire anymore. He was taller, more muscular. His dark brown hair was no longer cropped short but allowed to grow somewhat long. One thick lock was grown up to between his shoulder blades and tied back into a warrior's pleat. He had many scars over his body. His nose had been broken thrice and if you looked closely, it showed. His eyes, dark blue, were calmer and cooler. He held himself with a confidence, calmness and coolness of a young man who had achieved much in the world and saw no reason to hide his satisfaction of it.

    He was a tall, moderately muscular but lean and slender, twenty three year old Princess's Guard now. He wasn't a proud scholarly young nobleman who thought too much of himself and bridled at being ordered around anymore.

    Caelan had found his place in the world, and it wasn't as the Heir of the Duchy of Eire.
     
    #1 Adaon ril'Morgerard, Sep 27, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
  2. Chapter One

    [Begin Scene]
     
  3. It was only about four of the clock – the bell tower had rung but a few moments ago – and Caelan had just taken up his place at the door to the Princess's Quarters. Since she had returned from an exhausting day at court, she had informed him that she wished no one to disturb her. Then that maid had shown up with a summoning from the Prince Frederick. Despite having been ordered that no one disturb the Princess, Caelan could not very well send the maid away if the Prince had sent her.

    So, reluctantly, he had knocked at the door and informed the Princess, "Your Highness, the maid has an urgent message for you"

    When he finally got the affirmation from a very tired voice, or so he imagined, he let the maid in. Now he stood inside the Princess's private parlour, scowling at the maid Islena.

    "Your Highness," Islena began hesitantly, "Your brother, Frederick, wishes your presence in the reception parlour as soon as it is convenient"

    As soon as it is convenient, Caelan scowled mentally, the bastard means right this fucking instant and we all know it.

    If he weren't just a guard he might have had the nerve to tell the maid, 'Her Highness is occupied right now. We hope to be with the Prince shortly' just to piss the Prince off, but he was just a guard and his duties comprised only off making sure the Princess came to no harm.

    "I will ready the men, your Highness," Caelan informed the Princess, gravely, before stepping back out of the room.

    "Henri! Mathias, Garrod, Brandon and Brook!" The five guards, four of them men and only one a woman, left their posts and hurried over to Caelan. No questions were asked. They followed the Princess and since Caelan was her sergeant, that they also followed Caelan.
     
  4. Freya had just changed into her tunic and pants when Caelan knocked on the door. She cursed under her breath, knowing that only someone of importance was at the door. Or, in the very least, someone carrying a message of importance. She sighed, calling for them to come in. Although she did not mean to sound so exhausted, her voice came out as hoarse and drifted into its unusual complacency. When she saw her brother's maid, Freya only barely suppressed a groan. She was being summoned, and she had no choice but to follow such orders. Especially after the altercation with her father. If she wanted to regain her father's good graces, she would have to be at least somewhat obedient.

    Still, how dare her brother summon her at such an hour? It was past dinner, and she had been planning to retire early. It was just plain insensitive, but it also caused her sadness. A time ago, her brother would have been the one to wish her goodnight, but he had not wished such things since her father had fallen ill. The state of her family reflected the state of her kingdom. Both were on the brink of complete chaos.

    "I will ready the men, Your Highness," Caelen said, communicating an apology that only Freya could understand. She nodded, dismissing the maid as well and preparing herself for an appearance before Frederick. A simple but elegant gown of emerald would do with perhaps a necklace of diamonds to accent it. Though she much rather preferred her tunic and pants, Freya had become quite skilled at using her feminine features to her advantage. Perhaps if she had known what her brother was planning, maybe she would not have worn the diamond necklace. Perhaps she would not have even dressed in a gown at all.

    Holding herself high and with elegance, she exited to find her men already waiting for her. She nodded to them, showing her respect without so much as a breath. Eyes forward in defiance, she walked quickly yet relaxed, breezing past the corridors as if she wasn't walking at all. It was a gait that only a princess could ever seem to master, and she had certainly mastered it.

    Upon reaching her brother's parlor, a flicker of worry blossomed within her. Why had her brother summoned her so late in the day? With recent events, he had never even uttered a word to her at dinner that very same evening. Yet now he wanted a private audience with her? Taking in a silent breath, she turned the handle and opened the heavy wooden door as if it weighed no more than a piece of parchment. Her brother was inside as she had expected--sitting on his ornate chair. What she did not expect, however, was the man sitting across from him. The man was characterized by brown hair with just a hint of red and obviously pale skin. She could tell no other features, as his back was turned to her. Frederick looked up, giving her a warm smile that did not reach his eyes.

    "Ah, Freya! I apologize for calling on you at such a late hour! I have someone of great importance to introduce to you--your fiancé!"

    Freya's mouth fell agape but only slightly, a testament to the horror that was racing through her. She stood frozen, able to only watch as the man stood and turned towards her with a smile she could only see as being from Hell itself.
     
  5. Dread pooled in his guts as fell into step behind and to the right of the Princess. He wanted to tell the Princess to refuse on the grounds that she was tired, wanted to tell the Princess that he felt this heavy dread only when something catastrophic was about to happen. The words stilled on the tip of his tongue. What would he tell her? That he felt something wasn't right? You had to be more practical than that.

    So he clenched the grip of his sword tightly and pressed on behind the Princess, dread clogging in his chest. Around him Mathias and the rest of his cadre had also grown tense and alert. Caelan felt no surprise. The cadre was one single elite and efficient unit. They were of one mind and body. What one felt the others would probably feel as well.


    [​IMG]

    "Ah, Freya! I apologize for calling on you at such a late hour! I have someone of great importance to introduce to you--your fiancé!"

    Caelan's face drained of blood. Thoughts exploded in his head. This was not possible. What in the... How dare he? What was he thinking? But from all that turmoil, one thought was predominant. What are the Princess's thoughts on this?

    Caelan's jaw was clenched. He knew what her thoughts were on this. He knew that she was not going to be happy. She was not chattel to be sold to the one who gave the best bargain. Caelan's knuckles turned white as he gripped his sword tightly. Beside him Mathias had stiffened, and Caelan was pretty sure that the rest of his cadre, two next to the door inside and two next to the door outside, were alert for any sign that they should go the Princess.​
     
  6. ((I apologize for the long wait!))

    Freya stiffened as she stared at the man. His smile reached his eyes, a kindness she had not experienced from nobility in quite a long time. However, that did nothing to negate the rage boiling within her. Her back stiffened as she stood taller, her chin pointed upwards in silent defiance. "I do not recall agreeing to such an arrangement, my dear brother," she said fluidly, her words dripping like honey as if she was innocence itself. Frederick smiled almost wickedly, and she knew he had more than a few tricks up his sleeves.

    "Our poor, ailing father only wishes to see his beloved daughter married before he passes on, dear Freya! How could you deny him such a wish?" he exclaimed, feigning grief. The man--her "fiancé"--grabbed Freya's hand and laid a stiff, cold kiss on the back of her hand, as was customary. She snatched her hand away, as if she had been burned by his touch. "Don't touch me so openly, sir." The man stepped back, surprised by her sudden outburst. He quickly recovered, however, hardly missing a beat as he bowed elegantly before her.

    "Pardon my sudden intrusion, Your Highness. My name is--"

    "I don't care for your name or your lineage," Freya snapped, her rage finally showing. "I will not pledge my life to you, in marriage or otherwise. Frederick, dear brother, send this nobleman home with compensation for his troubles." She turned on her heel with almost a flourish, ready to leave without another word before her brother's guards stopped her with their spears.

    "Let me pass!" she ordered, fire in her eyes. They refused, and she heard a low chuckle behind her. She turned, shocked by the dangerous smile in her brother's eyes.

    "I do apologize, dear sister, but you no longer have a choice in the matter. It has been decided. The marriage is already being formally announced as we speak, and the whole kingdom will celebrate with loud cheers. You will marry this nobleman. Do you understand?"

    Freya clenched her jaw, knowing she would not be able to win this battle...at least not right now. She cast her eyes downward, smoothing the fabric of her dress before looking back up. "I understand completely," she said passively, though it was not an admission of defeat. The guards moved to the side, allowing Freya to pass as she left her brother's parlor. This was not over. Not in the slightest.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. (It was worth the wait, don't worry!)

    In a split-second his sword was half out. The Code he was sworn to, forbade him to fight without giving warning first. The Code he was sworn to, forbade him to draw his sword unless he was going to actually fight. It was only this Code that stopped him calling his comrades to him and then subsequently engaging the Prince's Guard. They were his brethren-in-arms, but he would fight anything that threatened the safety of the Princess.

    Then the moment was past. "I understand completely," Freya replied, her emotions under complete control once again, then swept past the Prince's Guard without a glance back.

    Caelan shoved his sword back into it's scabbard again viciously, then followed her out the door. His unit fell into step behind him. He could sense the shock and agitation in each of them, yet Caelan's anger and foreboding dwarfed all their emotions. He should have brought more men. What a fool was he to have only one unit at hand. In these perilous times he should have brought at least twelve men.

    The 'Little People' had told the officers earlier today that Prince Frederick was up to something. He should have listened. He should have had thought of something.

    He sighed almost inaudibly. But he hadn't thought of anything. There was nothing to do about it now. He would not make this mistake again.

    "I apologize, Your Highness. I should have brought more men," Caelan murmured to her from where he was at her behind, to the right, "I will not fail you again"

    (If I seem to put too many commas, I have a habit of inserting commas where one reading this should or would pause. The pause may or may not be purely for effect.)
     
  8. "You have not failed me, Sergeant. Some circumstances are out of our control, and the last thing this kingdom needs is more open conflict between their leaders." The walk she now took was one of furious grace, like fire itself. None would dare stand against her, no matter their strength or wit--just because of that blazing inferno in her eyes. She would not stand for this. Her kingdom could not stand for this.

    But how could she stop a marriage that had already begun?

    As she reached her chambers, she made a decision that could either change or seal her fate. She waited. Not often did the princess allow herself to be used in such ways, even moreso allow it to continue for any period of time. But this situation was complicated, and she could not formally refuse her "father's" wishes without committing treason. Now that Frederick's plan was set in motion, she would have to find a way out of this quietly--or else doom her entire kingdom to a fate worse than death.

    She turned towards her guards, looking at all of them as equals. They had all earned her respect through their service, and she trusted them with not only her life but each other's lives as well. "I know you all sense and feel the anger that flows within me now. I ask something almost cruel of you all--patience. I can promise you that I will not marry some nobleman that dares to think he will find any wealth within these halls. I will escape this fate, for my own sake and moreso for the sake of this kingdom, but I will need your help when the time comes. I trust all of you, and I beg that you each find some way to rest this night--for it shall be a long night indeed. Farewell."

    With those words said, she disappeared inside her chambers, closing the door and almost falling against it in her despair. She did not know how she would get out of this one. She had always found a way before, but this was different. Her brothers, and probably her father as well, were united in this effort against her--a temporary union she could never have expected. Were they all so consumed by greed that they could not see the suffering of their people? It seemed so.

    With a heavy heart, she practically threw that horrible emerald gown and diamond necklace off as if they were dipped in blood. She waited not for her handmaidens to help her to bed, for she desired no such assistance that night. Instead, she buried herself beneath her sheets, as if trying to escape what was to come. The tears that slipped down her cheeks were utterly silent; she had not cried in years. Sometimes the pain and the fear was just too much without such a display of emotion, however.

    After what felt like hours, her mind finally drifted into the sweet darkness of sleep.
     
  9. [Begin Scene]

    Blood and bloody hells! Caelan bared his teeth as he side-stepped Vedris' overhead swing smoothly and countered with a thrust of his own. Vedris deflected it easily, then seemed surprised that he had been able to do it so easily. Caelan didn't know what to feel. His chest was heavy with dread whenever he thought of what had happened with the Prince. His mind became clouded with anger and his fists would clench painfully around his sword's hilt. What was worse was that he could not stop thinking about it.

    He loved sparring, loved how he could lose himself into the single-minded drive to win that he acquired every time he fought. Yet try as he might, he could not grasp that single-mindedness now. It was like trying to grasp water; an effort made in vain.

    The thing really was that every time he tried to lose himself, he would feel the Princess's shock all over again, or her anger, or her disbelief or one of the countless turmoil of emotions swirling in her mind. What was unknown to all but a few members of the Royal Guards was that it had an unrevealed rank. The Thanes. The Inner Circle of each battalion. These men were Bound to whoever they protected by blood. The most trusted men, the most faithful and skilled of the Guards were chosen to be Thanes. Caelan had been made one less than two weeks ago.

    Now he would always know the general location of the Princess and he would, to a much lesser sense, always feel what she was feeling. It could be blocked of course, by either party. The Thanes always blocked themselves from their charges. No need for them to know what their Thanes were feeling. No need for them to find out about the Thanes at all. What they didn't know wouldn't harm them. However there was a reason most Thanes made sure to keep a clear head at all times and avoid all liquor – except sometimes when their charges were in the bedchamber with a spouse or lover. Unless one kept a clear head, one would not be aware and notice things, including if their charges were in trouble.

    "What is the matter with you, Caelan?" Vedris asked mildly as he easily swayed out of the way of Caelan's unusually clumsy slash, "You seem slightly preoccupied" An understatement. Vedris loved making understatements. Almost as much as he loved taunting Caelan in that infuriatingly mild tone of his. "Feeble poke, woeful swing..." Vedris shook his head and tut-tutted in mock disapproval. "If I didn't know better, I would have thought I was sparring with Old Joseph."

    Sudden fury flared in Caelan's eyes. Feeble? Woeful?! Caelan threw himself at Vedris, his teeth bared in a frighteningly vicious snarl. Three hammering strokes which Vedris barely deflected forced the older man back two steps. That was enough of a chance for Caelan. He closed in and, locking blades with Vedris, he grabbed the hilt of the other man's sparring sword and, muscles bulging, heaved and wrenched it away. There was silence for a moment, before Vedris stepped back, away from Caelan.

    "Maybe you should spar with Old Joseph," Caelan replied finally, throwing Vedris' sword to the ground, "At least you would stand a mite more of a chance with him"

    Vedris chuckled, completely unperturbed. "Maybe, but 'twouldn't be almost as interesting as sparring with you. Again! And this time I'm not holding back."

    Caelan grunted. "Neither am I."

    And when the clacks of the wooden sparring swords began again, and the grunts of the two sweating, bare-torsoed men, Caelan had lost himself completely in the fighting.
     
    #10 Adaon ril'Morgerard, Nov 28, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2015
  10. Freya had risen restlessly that morning, dark circles under her eyes despite the many hours of sleep. Her entire body felt heavy with the weight of what was to come, and a small part of her just wanted to go back to sleep. But that was simply impossible; she had a duty to her people. She had to mend their fragility soon, or it would be too late. Her brothers and father, selfish as they were, could not see that. Though she still loved them dearly, she could not help but resent them as well. They had allowed innocent men, women, and children fall into impoverished ruin. The very thought sickened her on a good day. But now? Now it absolutely terrified her.

    She rose without calling her handmaidens, an unusual occurrence. While she wasn't one to rely on them to simply help her get dressed in the morning, she greatly enjoyed their company. And, admittedly, dresses and corsets (especially the corsets) were damn near impossible to put on without assistance. However, she did not particularly feel like wearing a dress that morning. Instead, she changed into a blood red tunic, black pants, and soft leather boots. Some days she wished she were a man. Then, she would not have to deal with this horrible marriage or anything else. She could freely keep her people alive. At the same time, she figured it was somehow her responsibility to show that women were just as capable as men--a thought that was so very foreign to her father and two brothers.

    With a near hopeless sigh, she left her room and nodded to the guard posted outside of it. The guard was not surprised to the see the princess wearing men's clothing, as it wasn't unusual especially when she was clearly upset about something. She made her way to the sparring grounds quickly, needing a breath of fresh air as soon as possible.

    Stepping out onto a balcony that had stairs leading to the grounds, she sighed in relief as both the cool air of autumn and the warm light of the rising sun hit her face. Her golden hair shone brightly, appearing almost white. Her troubled expression softened almost immediately as she closed her eyes for a precious few seconds before opening them once more. She could hear everything clearly--the birds chirping, the breeze rustling the trees, and the swords clanging below her. Everything, even the harsh sound of wood on wood (as they were using sparring swords), made her feel at ease for those few moments where she could forget about her troubles.

    But reality came back quickly, and her eyes opened. The worry came back though not as intense. She could still relax at least a little bit while here, and she intended to do so. Looking down, she watched in fascination as Caelan and Vedris sparred with a ferocity she could almost feel inside her own mind. Oh how she wished to feel the familiar weight of a sword in her hand. But, she decided to let them spar, content to watch them for now. You didn't need magic or anything of that sort to know that her guards were as troubled as she was by the situation. What better way to temporarily escape the weight of it all by sparring? She knew there was hardly another way, so she said nothing to announce her presence. Hopefully they wouldn't notice her as she almost seemed to admire them.
     
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
  11. For Caelan swordplay was an art. He moved gracefully from attack to defence, meeting blades or letting them pass in such a way that it would not harm him. Vedris on the other hand, though equally skilled, was different. Every move was calculated, every stab and slash efficiently ruthless, engineered to end the fight as soon as possible.

    Vedris was a veteran in the Royal Guards, having almost two decades under his belt. Experienced and cunning, he was slowly pushing Caelan back. So when Caelan suddenly stumbled, he seized the chance and hooked the younger man's blade into the air. Yet Caelan wasn't paying any attention to his defeat. He stared beyond Vedris at a man who had just walked into the barracks grounds, licking his lips and looking around uncertainly.

    What in the ten hells was he doing here? He wasn't supposed to make himself known like that! Without a word on Vedris' victory, Caelan pushed past the older man and headed straight towards the stranger.

    "What are you doing here?!" Caelan demanded in a low voice, "No matter, come into the guardhouse before someone wonders who you are" Without waiting for him to respond, Caelan turned and strode towards the guardhouse. The senior guards would definitely want to know why one of their informants had revealed himself like that. And they would not be pleased in the slightest. No one knew that the Princess' Guards had a network of eyes-and-ears and they would prefer it to stay that way.

    Vedris had already vanished inside with the training swords. Caelan was pretty sure the senior guards off-duty were assembling already. As for himself, he was ready to slap the sense out of the man if he didn't give a good reason for exposing himself as an associate of the guards like that.

    (Middling quality and after so long, I know. I do apologize but I have certain times when I write really good and I figured since so much time had passed, I should just post already.)
     
    • Love Love x 1
  12. (Haha, I'm just glad to get back into this! It wasn't too bad, I promise. Now I want to know why he's exposed himself. Mind if Freya follows them? I'm assuming that's what you were thinking would happen 'cause why wouldn't she?)

    Freya smiled slightly as Caelan was defeated, but the smile quickly disappeared when she saw the stranger standing out in the open. She'd never seen him before, though it was quite possible she had merely forgotten. For one reason or another, she highly doubted that as her sergeant moved swiftly, ignoring his own defeat as he made his way towards the stranger. That was quite unlike him, and he seemed worried. Or perhaps angry? She couldn't really tell from that distance, but he certainly wasn't glad to see the man. All logic told her to leave the matter alone; likely it was some internal affair with the guards.

    All curiosity told her to follow them and damn the consequences. Which was the angel, and which was the devil on her shoulder? No one could really know for sure, but it didn't take her long to decide to move quickly down the cobblestone stairs to follow Caelan and the mysterious stranger. They were heading for the guardhouse, and she knew of a small hole in the wall that would allow her to see and hear what was going on, should they decide to close the windows. There were advantages to being locked up within the castle walls most of the time, and that included knowing almost every nook and cranny.

    Being light on her feet, she easily found herself by the small hole that was on the opposite end of the door. Even if others came to the guardhouse, they wouldn't see her. She intended to keep it that way, as she listened intently for what was going on. It was probably nothing, now that she thought about it. Either it was something she shouldn't concern herself with, or it was just a friend of Caelan's who wasn't supposed to technically be here. Even if it was nothing interesting, she just had to know. Perhaps curiosity wouldn't kill the cat this time.

    Even from her more limited view and hearing, she could tell this was more important than a friendly visit. Some of her senior guards--guards who had protected her mother when she was still alive--were present, and it didn't seem to be coincidence. What was going on?
     
  13. The man seemed to relax slightly as he entered the guardhouse's officers' lounge. Had he feared for his life? What reason would he have to fear for his life. He was merely a keen observer. Bloody hell, he was only supposed to blend in and watch. How hard was that?! Ruthlessly reining in his temper, Caelan planted himself in front of the lounge's only door, his legs spread slightly, giving him an aggressive posture, while his hand rested on with ease on the hilt of his sword. By now it had become an old friend.

    "You will explain to us why you revealed yourself so abruptly," a gravelly voice demanded. It belonged to Lord Captain Gerard, commander of the Princess' Guards. His hair and his beard were more white than black now, yet age had not bowed his broad shoulders. Instead it had given him a dignity and honour. He was no less able than he had been when he was forty. The strength of his prime had gone, yes, but if had left in it's stead a craftiness and experience that was far more valuable.

    "M'Lord, I was a'feard for my life. I came to the only place I thought I might be safe," the man replied, earnestness in his voice, "I stumbled upon something while I was lookin' for Beveril to bring some urgent information for you!"

    "You had urgent information that you were going to send to us through Beveril? And then you stumbled over something that made you fear for your life?" one of the other officers asked, frowning. The Lord Captain, however, furrowed his brows slightly and gestured for the man to go on while shooting a look at the officer that promised a word later.

    "I had to have this information reach you as soon as possible m'Lord. There's a small riot startin' up in the flamin'- uhh I mean, the Soot District!" the man informed, flushed slightly at having sworn in front of the Lord Captain, "Charcoal burners, iron carters and some apprentices finally had enough. I think the miners in the North-East mine's had enough as well 'cause I saw a lot of miners as well. Big, muscly folk and the dirtiest mouths you ever hear outside the Ports"

    "But that's not the important news," the man was getting excited now, gesticulating widly, "The important news is that I asked for Beveril at Count Ayendrak's manor as usual. I told him about the strike and possible riot and he promised to send a red bird immediately. I was going to leave the manor when I suddenly thought to visit my sister who's a maid for the Countess. As I was headin' towards her room, I passed by a lord's room," his voice went into a dramatic low, "I don't right know who the lord was but I did hear a few snippets sounding like "Old King" and "tonight's the night". So I stopped to listen. I heard somethings about how the heart just stops beating if given in enough doses. Then someone exclaimed suddenly that no one had placed a ward. I got so terrified, I just ran for it. I didn't realize that it'd make a lot o' sound. I'd just disappeared 'round the corner when someone called out behind for me to stop. I knew there was a mage with them so I did the only thing I could," the man flushed again suddenly, this time a full red, "I hid in somebody's room..."

    This seemed to embarrass him greatly, even more so when a few of the officers chuckled, though they quieted themselves fast enough at a glance from the Lord Captain. Caelan himself seemed carved from ice as he listened, dread slowly pooling in his guts. His grip on the hilt of his sword was no longer so casual. He held onto it, trying to gather calmness. What was this man implying?!

    "Nobody was inside, thank the gods. After some time passed, I got out of the manor quickly and came here right to you," the man finished. There was a moment of silence. Then the man seemed to wilt suddenly, "I... you won't turn me out will you. They had a sorcerer with them with their talk o' 'wards'. You know what sorcerers can do. He'll find me, I know he will!"

    (I'm not used to writing how commoners speak with their slang and everything since I myself am relatively formal. So forgive me if it seems a bit off. I'm more used to writing how learned people and/or nobles speak. Also, I didn't really have the time to proofread this so pardon the grammatical mistakes and poor choice of words in certain places. I don't think they will ruin the writing noticeably though.)
     
  14. (*applauds* I thought it was perfect! I'm right to assume they're poisoning the king, yes?)

    Freya had to stifle a gasp. First, there was a riot down in the "Soot" District. No doubt her brothers planned to solve the problem by making an example of a few of their citizens. Already, the gears in her head turned as she tried to figure out how she was going to solve this particular problem. She knew how horrible the working conditions, not to mention the pay, for the miners and charcoal burners (among others) really were. She had been trying to do something about it for several years, but her brothers had quickly stifled her ability to do anything. She could talk to the rioters, but she doubted they would listen to the words of a "spoiled" princess. While there were many she knew that supported her, eventually promises begin to look empty when it has been a few years.

    The next piece of news formed a pit in her stomach even worse than before. The man's words played in her head over and over for several moments. Her father was being poisoned? By a lord? This was far worse than any riot. If there was even one lord planning to stage a coup, the entire palace was in danger. What was worse--they didn't know which lord it was. Freya had a horrible feeling that it wouldn't be long before she found out. She fell silently against the outer wall, her heart racing as her mind tried to process the terrifying information. Despite her father's misgivings, she loved him dearly. The thought that someone was poisoning him was too terrible to fathom. If her father died soon, there would be an all-out civil war between her brothers. Though they tried to keep the information secret, she knew they both had legions at their command, hidden throughout the kingdom waiting to be called upon.

    It would be the perfect timing for a coup of any substance to strike; after all, it wouldn't be long before her brothers destroyed each other. Freya swallowed, drawing a ragged breath as her mind went through idea after idea; they were all useless. Never had she expected so many dangers. Her father was a strict and perhaps less-than-fair king, but he was never a tyrant. Truly only someone hungry for power could be plotting against him. Freya's throat constricted as she realized that, all this time, he had been slowly dying at the hand of one of his trusted lords. Perhaps several of them.

    Oh, Mother. I don't know if I can do this. Failure hadn't been an option before; now it was somehow even less of one. She gritted her teeth, clenching her fists as anger boiled within her. Her brothers--her father, too--were so horribly blind they couldn't see that peace was hanging by a thread. Or perhaps they did see it, and they just didn't care. It was certainly plausible. Right now, though, she didn't care for their reasons or their selfishness. She had a kingdom to protect from her own family, as well as a coup that might come sooner rather than later. The anger that was hot beneath her skin made it impossible to think; she needed to grip her sword. She'd managed to procure one for herself several years ago, and it was balanced more for speed than strength.

    Getting to her feet, she walked with purpose as she went to retrieve her sword that was hidden in the stables. The sparring grounds had thick wooden dummies to practice forms on; it was perfect to blow off steam when her guards were otherwise occupied. Gripping the hilt of her sword, she unsheathed it with the telltale shring! and twisted the hilt in her hand, relaxing only slightly due to the familiar grip. She moved fluidly, being quite familiar with basic sword forms. Over and over, she twisted her body, sweat forming on her brow as she slammed the sword into the sides of the dummy. The nicks in the wood were not all her own, but most of them were. People would be surprised by the strength of a woman who is angry. And, right now, Freya was furious.
     
  15. After the man was promised protection, he was handed over to the most senior of the spellcasters among the Guards. There were quite a few people among the guards who had some ability and the Lord Captain made sure they were trained in magic. They wouldn't be great mages any time soon, however they knew quite a few tricks. Ironically, their type of magic was considered 'common' by spellcasters who had studied in the University. They greatly underestimated the power of hedge mages. Low magic was just as potent as high wizardry, just much less noticeable. Quite a few times in history a spellguard had been able to sneak under the radar of an enemy wizard and assassinate them from behind. No one deigned to record it though. Typical!

    All these thoughts ran through Caelan's head in the space of a heartbeat, fluttering and going here and there. His mind could not for the life of him, wrap around the fact that someone was poisoning the bloody king! He slumped down on one of the chairs and listened quietly as the Lieutenants debated on what to do. They didn't argue. They were much more disciplined than that. But each did have conflicting plans of action. The Lord Captain stayed quiet, his eyes thoughtful. A small while later one of the guards had brought him a cup of tea and he sipped and watched his lieutenants as they fumbled and tried to think of what to do. To Caelan there seemed a decisiveness in his eyes. And something else. He knew more than he let on and he already knew what to do about the situation.

    Anger started kindling slowly in his chest. Caelan watched the lieutenants and watched the Captain, waiting, hopeing that they would finally come to a decision. When they did not, the young sergeant's lips thinned. Then suddenly he stood up stiffly. He couldn't stand the indecision. Couldn't they see that the king's very life was in danger?! Why didn't they do something already? He stalked over to the door and made his way out. Caelan did not notice the slight smile on the Lord Captain's weathered face as he watched his young sergeant leave. That boy reminded him so much of himself when he was younger. He had been strong, dashing and so very short-tempered back then as well. The boy would make a name for himself one day. The captain was sure of it.

    [​IMG]

    Caelan prowled through the grounds of the palace, hackles half-raised like a restless young tiger, all smooth grace and deadly demeanour. He was in his off duty attire, simple compared to the noblemen but definitely lavish in comparison to the clothes of the humblefolk (or 'ravel' as some noblemen call them). The clothing itself was expensive and quite comfortable. Caelan's taste had a subtlety to it. A light touch of embroidery there, a bit of lace here, he really did look like nobility when he was off duty, walking about in his expensive clothes with casual confidence and pride. One would think he was some noble's son. The truth was, despite himself, Caelan had not been able to quite truly abandon everything from his past life. He still had expensive tastes and he still had his accent and demeanour.

    Walking in the gardens of the palace soothed him. He began to think more clearly after while and though there was still icy dread in his gut, he managed to ignore it for the most part. He began to head back towards the more militant and utilitarian part of the palace. The Gray Quarters as some called it. As he neared the training grounds (there were many different ones, some specializing in a specific type of combat), he heard the steady crack of wood hitting wood. Someone was practicing. And at that hour too! There was only one person that would probably practice then when nobody else was present.

    The Princess. He could feel her there. Later on, he admitted that it would have been far wiser to continue on his way. But now, now with his emotions in turmoil, he was not being wise in anyway. He told himself that since he couldn't see the king, was consoling himself by seeing his daughter. He might've even believed that excuse. But the young sergeant just really wanted to see the lass he protected and had admired from afar again. On duty, he never let his gaze linger on her, never let himself be anything less than stiff and formal. Yet it exhausted him so terribly. He couldn't keep it up off duty. So Caelan ghosted to the training ground and slipped into the shadow of a tall fence on the far side of the field. Standing tense and still, in his dark blue attire, she would never have noticed him.

    If just mere moments later, another dark figure had not sneaked up next to him. Caelan blinked in surprise at the young man. The Princess had another watcher? Caelan recognized him vaguely as one of the young nobles currently at court. He couldn't recollect his name. Some Count's son. The young man nodded towards the princess. "I have never seen a more beautiful woman," he admitted, "She is truly the most beautiful flower at court. Even her Grace, the Marchioness Liselle cannot surpass the Princess' grace. But... do you not find it abnormal that she has such strange tastes? She spars! Like a man! I cannot help but be averted"

    "I..." Caelan was temporarily at a loss for words. This young dandy had just insulted the Princess. In two ways! First, he all but outright stated it that she was wrong and foolish to learn the art of combat. And secondly, he compared to a flower. A flower! Boring, old, sappy romance. The same thing over and over again. These noblemen never seemed to learn that the old book that they learnt their courting from was outdated and had been for centuries. Comparing a woman to a flower. Really! But what would he say? He was only a guardsman, nobody important. This young noble just hadn't seemed to recognize him with his expensive attire. One thing was for sure, Caelan could not stand the Princess being insulted.

    Yet he still couldn't help the slight, amused smile on his face as he told the young noble, "Our Princess is no flower, my lord. I do not think she would take it well if you said so to her"

    Then the young noble took a step back and frowned at Caelan. "Wait, I... I recognize you. I recognize your voice. You're one of her Guards aren't you!" Caelan's smile vanished immediately. "You don't look like one. Your face seems familiar, as if I'd seen you a long time before. No, you definitely aren't a Guard. Who are you?"

    Cliché he might've been but he wasn't slow of wit or memory. Caelan's lips thinned and he made to give a terse reply. Then he stiffened abruptly.

    The training ground was silent. And the Princess had heard most of what the young noble had said about him.

    (I apologize for the lost post but all this just spilled out.)
     
  16. (It was quite wonderful, no worries!)

    The sharp sounds of her fluid movements against the training dummy stopped abruptly as she realized she wasn't alone. She breathed heavily, small beads of sweat on her brow. She had not heard all of the conversation, and that was probably for the best. In her current state of mind, being called a flower would have spelled certain doom for the poor nobleman. What he said now proved to be far more interesting, but Freya's natural curiosity was quelled by her fierce protectiveness over anyone she even remotely cared about it. It was perhaps her greatest strength and her greatest weakness.

    Her eyes narrowed only just as she moved gracefully, even dressed like a man, towards the pair. She trusted her life to Caelan, and she would not stand for even the most subtle of accusations against him. "I believe it is far more appropriate to inquire who you are," she said tersely, though she tried to sound cordial. "After all, this man is just a guard. Surely he does not pose any importance to you, my lord?" As she said the words, she returned her sword to its scabbard, making her seem even more threatening.

    The nobleman, surprised to be under Her Highness's scrutiny, fumbled with his words. To his credit, he recovered quickly. "I apologize, Your Highness, for my rudeness. I just...I seem to have mistaken your loyal guard here for someone else. My deepest apologies." He said nothing of his name, afraid that such knowledge would only be used to the princess's advantage. Instead, he bowed deeply before turning on his heel and walking away with more confidence than he really felt. He was positive he had seen that man before. But where? He could feel it at the back of his mind--the answer he was desperately searching for, but it eluded him.

    The nobleman quickly came to a decision. He would discover this man's true identity, or he would surely go mad. Perhaps if the man was shrouded in scandal, the princess would reward him! The thought made him smile with almost glee as his confidence rose to match his gait. Meanwhile, the princess clenched her jaw in frustration as she watched the pretentious man walk away.

    "That was certainly...interesting," Freya said after the man was out of earshot. She did not inquire about why the nobleman had seemed to recognize him. If it was true, then that was Caelan's secret. She had no right to ask him to reveal it. "Would you care to spar? I fear my frustration has yet to abate well enough." Today, attacking a defenseless opponent would simply not be enough. If Caelan refused, however, she supposed she would have no choice but to stifle her selfish anger and face her brothers. She grimaced as she thought of the smug smile that would undoubtedly be on Frederick's face. Her brother, whom she had loved many years ago, felt like nothing more than an enemy now. Did he care for her at all? It would seem not. After all, he was more than willing to marry her off when only a few years before he had supported her endeavors to remain unmarried. The memory was a sad one, and she chose not to dwell on it any longer.
     
    #17 kimsim12, Mar 7, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
  17. At first Caelan waited with bated breath for the questions to come, the inquiries, the demands. Undoubtedly she'd want to know more of him, especially since he was charged with protecting her and therefore she needed to trust him. When she instead asked if he would like to spar, Caelan was left wrong-footed.

    "I... Oh," he stuttered, "Of course, your Highness" That, at least, he was used to. Sparring and training with the princess was no longer uncommon, ever since she had come all those years ago and demanded that they train her to fight as well. She had stated that she would not rely only on others to protect her and would instead be her own last line of defence if the need arose.

    "It would be a delight," Caelan stated with a rare smile, slight though it was. He had finally regained his composure. He grabbed a padded wooden longsword from nearby then nodded at the princess and began to back away into the field, his knees bent slightly and his eyes on her. The intensity and grave seriousness which he normally displayed around her was back. At first, they only traded a few blows and stayed rather far apart. The usual way sparring partners normally warmed up, sinking into the comfortable feeling of using a sword. They were just warming up. Caelan knew her talent, her skill. He knew that the climax of the fight was yet to come.
     
  18. Freya grinned when he agreed. It had been at least two weeks since she had last sparred, if she was remembering her dates correctly. No matter, as she was quite determined to beat Caelan this time. "I do hope you've been practicing," she quipped as she twisted the sparring sword through the air. Her smile fell quickly as she got into a stance, concentration bringing her brows together. She was the first to lunge, a feint that quickly dissolved into defense as he counteracted easily. Her lips curved up only slightly as she bounced back lightly, wiping the few beads of sweat already forming on her brow.

    The next few moments would seem rather boring to any onlooker, but it was much more than it seemed to the two. At least, it did for Freya. It was like a dance between them--back and forth, back and forth. Blow after blow, block after block. But the true test was yet to begin. The music had yet to swell, and neither opponent was willing to give in. It wasn't until she saw just the slightest opening that she attacked with all her strength, using her natural speed and agility to cut into his defenses as best she could. Now, it was up to him as she moved with graceful ferocity. Would he catch himself just in time? He best not, she thought. After all, she so terribly wanted to finally taste victory against someone other than the dummy watching them passively.
     
  19. If it had been another spar with another person in another situation, Caelan wouldn't have defended so relentlessly. He would have gone on the offensive, sacrificing defence for the chance to end the fight quickly. He would've, ruthlessly and without qualm, used every trick in the book to win. But this was not just another spar. Caelan held off Freya unflinchingly as she fell into the rhythm and the dance of battle, growing in strength and speed, even in aggression. It did not help that as she her confidence and speed rose, her increasing smooth grace become inconveniently distracting.

    It was at that moment, that he was too slow in blocking one thrust to the flank. The sparring sword slammed into him, knocking the breath out of his lungs. He stumbled backwards slightly but long training and instincts kept his sword up. He deflected the next hit and the next. But from then on, it was an increasingly difficult battle. Sweat beaded Caelan's forehead as the swordplay became harder to keep up. His clothes, unsuited for strenuous work, clung to his body. A bruise had formed where the sparring sword had hit him and the sweat merely made it sting even more. But Caelan was used to ignoring pain. No, what truly disadvantaged him was not pain. It was her.

    Freya's hair had grown wilder and she had perspired even more than he, yet Caelan found it damnably difficult to focus on the sword and not focus on her movements. This would not do. He wouldn't lose so easily. Caelan went on the offensive. His brows furrowed together as his concentration snapped back. Abruptly, he took a step forward and closed the distance between them even further. And found Freya's sword inches from his throat. A chuckle escaped past his lips. Then a laugh. A deep, genuine, shoulder-shaking laugh.

    For at that same moment, his sword had come to rest at her navel.