The Weight of the Crown: A King's Edict

Discussion in 'ONE ON ONES IN CHARACTER' started by Elle Joyner, Sep 16, 2016.



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    Majestic. The land was absolutely majestic. Cain’loren, for all it's wealth of beauty, could have been a barren wasteland for how the splendor of Silvern shadowed her homeland. Sprawling hills and towering mountains, a forest, thick and green, and a lake that seemed to steal radiance from the sun itself. Her father had been wary of the suit between her and Silvern’s crown prince, and she thought now perhaps he was right to worry.

    If her betrothed was anything so fine as his land, she would never measure up. Nerves clutched at her stomach and with every bump in the hardened path, the carriage gave a nauseating jolt. Night had fallen swiftly, the sky overhead a blanket of obsidian, bejeweled by stars at every inch of her expanse. Even the night seemed brighter and more glorious, and it was all the princess could do, not to leap from the carriage in horror.

    “Nearly there, Your Grace.” Anton, her guide offered, his smile disquieting and warm. Tugging at the fur of her cloak collar, Audra swallowed.

    “I'm not feeling all that we, Anton. Perhaps we should turn round.”

    “Turn rou--… Your Grace… it's been two days. Certainly Silvern will have adequate rooms for resting. And I imagine they're anxious to meet you?”

    Looking out the window of the carriage, adjusting the small ornamental brooch at her bust, Audra grimaced, “I'm not so certain.” She whispered, but Anton had gone back to studying the itinerary.

    She'd managed, somehow... possibly by sheer will alone not to vomit on her guide as the carriage continued on the way up into the mountains, but as they neared the gates of the palace she felt her stomach clench again with a furious sensation. She was going to die. She was going to keel over and die before she even had a chance to meet the prince. What a horrible first impression she was making...

    "Princess?"

    Looking up, she realized to some horror that Anton had asked her a question. Feeling her pale cheeks flush, she looked down awkwardly at the lace gloves encapsulating her delicate fingers, "Oh, Anton. I don't think I can do this. I... I'm not ready. What if... what if he hates me? Or what if I hate him? Or what if he's got a terribly large nose and I can't kiss him... or awful breath... or warts? God, what if he's not hideous and he thinks I am? Or what if I... oh God... I'm going to be sick."

    "Princess. Breathe. Please... I..." Frowning, Anton shifted uncomfortably in his seat, "I'm sure he'll find you quite lovely. And while I've not the experience of meeting him myself yet, either, from what I understand, he's a handsome young man. But you must calm yourself, or you won't make any impression but one of showing up unconscious."

    Taking a breath, a long, slow, steady on, Audra nodded, "...You're right. I'm nothing but a silly, stupid girl. Oh dear... We're slowing down."

    "Indeed." Smiling faintly, Anton bowed his head and as the carriage came to a stop he pushed open the door to help her down, "After you, Princess."

    ”Stop pacing about my Prince, she’s just a woman - you have been introduced to hundreds and there’s nothing different about this one.”

    Rannulf paced back and forth, despite what his steward had told him, and waited alone just outside the castle. One by one, thousands of stars blossomed into the night sky. The beauty was almost strong enough to tear his mind from the ever rising apprehension inside him. Almost. Rannulf turned sharply on his heel, agitated and anxiety-ridden. The steward had spoke falsely; this woman - this woman - would be his Queen, of course this one was different. He sighed and sat down upon the roughly-hewn stone unsure of what concerned him the most.

    Was he truly that vain, that he seemed to worry most about her physical appearance? That his heart quickened and his stomach dropped at the thought of marrying some unpleasant wench? Or the thought of sharing his life with a woman whose nature was foul and unsavory made him wish he wasn’t the heir of Silvern?

    “Stand.” A voice said out of the darkness. “Your garments will be ruined.”

    It took him a second to recognize his father’s voice out of the haze his mind was trapped in. “Any word?” Rannulf inquired immediately.

    “Your betrothed will be here momentarily.” King Avenius replied.

    The prince, now standing, watched appreciatively as his father’s appearance changed from kindly to kingly. Subtly was key, Rannulf noticed. Avenius’ shoulders stood straighter, his worried glance turned cordial, and his crown shimmered with faint starlight. He heard the sounds of hooves as he noticed the growing crowd around him. His mother stood to his father’s right and his eldest sister made her way to his right. Behind them stood handmaidens and manservants waiting for instructions. The carriage came into view and with bated breath Rannulf waited for it to come to a halt. When it finally did - after what seemed like a century - and the door swung open, he held his breath as he caught glimpse of a golden tress of hair.

    She'd worn it down. She never wore it down. It was a long, curled mess of hair, which was entirely too long, too wild and was certain to remind her Prince of some mad creature that hunted in the mountains at night and disembowled unsuspecting passerbys. Why hasn't she asked Larissa to braid it? Why had she let Abrigel... Abrigel of all people convince her it looked pretty? Oh, she could've spit.

    One step. And a pray not to fall. Two... and she'd made it halfway. Three and then four and her feet touched solid earth and with an audible breath, she glanced up to see the two men standing with full regality and her stomach and heart collided. He wasn't handsome. He was unearthly.

    Why then shouldn't she step on the edge of her skirt and come crashing down like a ruin...

    Anton reached out, but only just missed and as she toppled forward she could hear the thought running through her mind over and over again. At least she hadn't thrown up. But it felt less like a victory, mid-fall.

    His first thought after seeing the flowing golden tresses and the starlit face they belonged to, was that all his worrying was for naught. The princess wore her golden hair down, so unlike the plaited styles of the Silvosi nobles. The style suited her flawlessly. Briefly, or perhaps his eyes tricked him, his betrothed wore an aureole crown, one surely made of grace as she stepped out of the carriage and into the night. He stared in awe, the southern princess was even lovelier than his father said she’d be.

    Her feet had just kissed the earth when the princess stumbled and came crashing down right before his very eyes. Rannulf lurched forward and crossed the distance between them in less than four long strides. On one knee he outstretched his hand in aid.

    “Let me help you rise, my lady.”

    Eyes shut tight, bitterly biting her cheek to keep from crying, Audra lifted her head, jaw tight, trembling and nodded, reaching for his hand, one which engulfed her own lace-covered.

    "...May I present..." Anton cleared his throat, recovering far more aggresively than the princess, "The royal princess of Cain'loren, Audra Miranda Cecilia Elsabeth Baelston, daughter to his lordship, King Ordin Augustus Baelston the second and her majesty Queen Aimera Rayella Amelia Baelston." With a stately bow, Anton held a hand out to the blushing princess, who turned her eyes up to Rannulf with a small, sheepish smile.

    "...Well... I hardly expect to remember all of that. Audra will do... Uh..." Swallowing, not entirely certain the heat of her blush couldn't be felt so close to him, inclined her head a little lower, "...That is... if it pleases Your Highness to do so."

    Rannulf paid very little attention to the traditional formalities being swapped and instead focused on the palest of blue eyes he had ever seen and the fairest of lace-covered hands. It was a shame, truly, that they had never met before. It seemed as if Rannulf was only now seeing clearly for the first time. When she glanced up at him with a small, hesitant smile, all of his worries swam away. When she spoke, a swarm of merlin's fluttered about in his stomach.

    He was sure she was exhausted, but the last thing he wanted to do was bid her goodnight.

    “It would please me so.” He replied with a smile of his own. “If I may, allow me to personally introduce you to my mother and father, the King and Queen of Silvern before you retire. I’m sure your journey was long and tiring.” He extended his arm towards them with a lively spark in his eye.

    "Oh..." A moment ago, she could have fallen straight to the ground and slept there until her trip ended, but his mouth twitched into an extraordinary smile and feeling her knees wobble beneath her, she nodded, "Not so tiring."

    She could practically hear Anton's eyes rolling behind her, but ignoring the guide she slid her arm through the prince's, her smile returned in full, warm and confident, even if she was certain she was shaking, "Lead the way, My Lord."

    He felt as though the world fell into place as she slid her arm through his and smiled gracefully up at him.

    Rannulf adjusted his stride to match Princess Audra’s and guided her the short distance to the king and queen. Already, handmaidens and manservants bustled about, no doubt carrying in the princess and her guests belongings. He stood directly in front of his mother and father, trying hard not to beam, and bowed to them out of respect. His father more or less wore the same expression he had on earlier, but his mother smiled at him with damp eyes.

    “My lady Audra, this is my father, King Avenius and my mother, Queen Clariscia.”

    His father extended a hand, although his mother looked as if she were about to strangle her with an embrace. Rannulf was thankful his father put a preemptive hand around her waist to keep her in place.

    Audra's heart hammered against her chest as she held her hand towards the king, fingers daintily directed towards the ground, "It's wonderful to finally meet you. My father sends his regards, and the hope that..." The practiced words had been so easy, so natural in the carriage, but they felt heavy as lead from her lips, "That with the union of your children there might come a union of kingdoms as well."

    Breathing out, she smiled, "My mother, as well sends her regards... though those were remarkably easier to remember."

    With a softer touch than Rannulf could ever imagine his father having, he took Audra's hand and gently squeezed it. When she spoke, he bowed his head out of respect for the King of Cain'loren.

    "Many thanks, my Princess. I hope to hear that your journey north was comfortable and serene and that you find your stay in Silvern enjoyable. My queen and I are thrilled at the thought of unifying our kingdoms through marriage and blood."

    Rannulf couldn't help but silently agree, he was quite thrilled himself.

    Blushing softly, Audra nodded and let her hand fall back to her side, though possibly closer to Rannulf's than she ought to have. And that brought even more heat to her cheeks, "Thank you, Your Majesty. It was a lovely journey... and your kingdom, oh... it's so beautiful. Everything about it."

    "Yes, the land of our forefather's is a beautiful one." King Avenius replied. "We try to honor it as much as we can. But enough of these pleasantries," he said with a smile. "The night is aging and these bones cool quicker then they used to, lets find ourselves in the warmth of the castle."

    "Indeed." Smiling delicately, Audra glanced up to Rannulf, "...If his Grace would be so kind as to show me to my chambers, I would love to hear more about this fair kingdom."

    "Honored guests first, if you please." King Avenius said with a flourish of his arm.

    Almost unconsciously Rannulf pulled himself to full height, inclined his head to his father, and walked into the castle. He knew every stone and rock that comprised Silvernest, which tapestries lined which hall and where all the secret passages led to... but he found himself wishing he could see it with fresh eyes. What will it be like to her? he thought to himself. What will she think of our humble mountain rock?

    Silvernest was it's own kind of beauty, a castle-keep built into the mountain itself. The oldest and deepest of carvings were hundreds of years old and albeit humble, the halls were something to behold. Stone walls were smooth and carved with uncanny precision, sometimes lined with tapestries, or portraits of previous kings and queens and heroic figures of lore. Some halls were wide with low arched ceilings, others thin and vaulted. Together they made a stone labyrinth of Silvosi architecture and design.

    Yet nothing compared to the sweeping views each chamber possessed. All of Silvernest's rooms possessed a view as far and as wide as the eye could see. The rolling hill viewscape took up the majority of the south-eastern side of the mountain, where dawnlight can compel one to wake and sunlight can permeate the damp rock. Though the keep had plenty of stone hearths and whale oil lamps, it still remained cold and damp vast majority of times.

    “Your chambers are not too far off my lady, is there anything I can do for you before you retire? Our handmaidens and manservants are dutiful. I know the keep is rather chilly, but a blazing hearth and refreshments will be waiting for you.” Rannulf said softly, heart beating faster than normal. He waited a moment before speaking again. "What is it my lady would like to know of the kingdom?"

    Fiddling with her brooch, her mother's voice echoing in the back of her mind to stop fidgeting, Audra took in every scene with a perfect sense of wonder and excitement. It was cold, and as she tightened her fur lined cloak around her narrow form she considered this meager downside, but not for long. Rannulf's voice cascaded from the stone walls with soft warmth and she was oblivious to the chill, "Everything... It's so lovely. I feel transposed... like I'm in an entirely new world."

    A soft, girlish laugh escaped and she shook her head, "And I must sound like a ridiculous child..."

    Rannulf remembered when he and his father traveled south for the first time, how otherworldly it had all seemed.

    "No, not a ridiculous child" He said thoughtfully, smiling again at the sound of her laugh. "I remember my first trip to southern lands, I thought the same my lady, it's an entirely different world down there."

    Pausing for a moment beside one of the windows which overlooked the mountainscape, she bit her lip and leaning against the rampart, glanced down at the darkening valley, almost fully cloaked in shadow, "...It's not what I expected. To be honest, neither are you. I... I'm afraid I worried quite a bit what you might be like... Now I worry I won't be quite enough."

    Shifting, she straightened, "Oh, listen to me... I must be more tired than I thought."

    "I-" The Prince faltered, caught unawares by her admission. Truth be told he had worried of her as well. What had she worried about though, he wondered thoughtfully, the same as he? Or perhaps that he was some pagan fool, or worse, some kind of northern blood hungry heretic? That the lands were sharp, unforgiving, and cruel? Filled to the brim with sacrilegious monsters?

    "I-I worried myself princess..." He hesitated again but recovered quicker this time. "One rarely ever knows the person they marry, especially people of our birth... Being royal is both a blessing and a curse is it not? Who were the last king and queen, of any kingdom, that married for love?"

    It was supposed to sound rhetorical, but Rannulf, genuinely interested in the answer, made it seem like a question.

    "Your chambers are just down this hall... but if you please, only time will tell if you are not quite enough." He chuckled softly and offered his arm once more. "Something tells me I'll be unworthy of you, my lady Audra.

    "Certainly my parents didn't..." Audra confessed to his question with a small, dry smile, "Bit of a mess, they are." Tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear, she turned back to him and nodded, her cheeks oddly flushed, "I can imagine though that some people... some very lucky few manage to find what they haven't." Looking up at him, her eyes brightened, her smile warmed as she took his arm, "...I hope I will..."

    I hope I will.

    For a moment, he felt rooted to the stone floor beneath him as a flash of lightning burnt its way through his veins.

    "I-I'm sorry," the Prince said, still a little flustered by what those four small words did to him. "About your parents I mean, my lady. Love may not have always been in their hearts, but in time my mother and father came to love each other very much... and I suppose I take that for granted."

    The hallway was too short, in fact the castle was too small, and in less than a minute he would have to bid her goodnight.

    "I think it's my parents, quite honestly, who took each other for granted. My father regrets it, now. But there's little repair for damages done to the heart. Still... it taught me the value of how to treat matters of that nature. I want most desperately, to avoid the mistakes they made."

    Looking over at him, she smiled, "Though falling on my face, straight out of the carriage was hardly the intended impression I'd hoped to make."

    Her chamber door stood proud only a few short strides away, and he did not want to bid her farewell. The princess was surprisingly easy to talk to -whether it was due to her melodic voice or candid speech - Rannulf couldn't be sure, all he knew is that he agreed with what she wanted so desperately. He had no intention of making the same mistakes his father did.

    When she brought up the carriage incident, Rannulf gave her a cheeky grin and said, "Well, you know it was rather... endearing, if I do say so myself. I do hope you are alright though, Princess Audra. If something hurts I can summon the healer. I apologize for not asking sooner... I feel as though I've been entranced by your southern magnificence."

    Laughing, probably more than a proper lady ought to, her cheeks a rosy shade that simply wouldn't fade, Audra shook her head, "I don't imagine a healer can do anything about wounded pride. Otherwise, I'm perfectly fine. Looking at her hands, a little scuffed, she smiled faintly, "Nothing that won't heal on it's own..."

    Her melodious peals of laughter reminded Rannulf of something divine, like something he would hear in the Silver Sept. Druens of Music would perch themselves high in the Sept and sing, all day sometimes even all night.

    They worshipped the gods with their voice, among other things, and sang so sweetly one would find themselves with tears in their eyes. He smiled softly at her rose colored cheeks and reached for her hand.

    "Have not a wounded pride, my lady. You simply... lost your footing on the rough northern stone." He gave her another cheeky smile before his tone, and his face, turned solemn. "You must be weary after such a long journey." He turned his body slightly, revealing the silver gilded doorknob. "Your chambers, my lady." He said with a small bow.

    Looking down at his hand, clasped around her own, back up again to the door of her room, unbearably close, and then finally back to Rannulf, to that sterling gaze, her smile softening, "...Right now, I feel as though I could never sleep again. You mustn't make for such fond company, my dear Prince..."

    Her teeth found the edge of her lip and swallowing, she lowered her eyes again, "... It really isn't fair"

    It was Rannulf's turn to flush and have his cheeks painted the color of a rose. Unsure of what to say, he studied her hand and the lace glove that veiled it. He noticed the little nicks and imperfections her fall from the carriage caused and made a note to have another pair delivered to her chambers in the morning.

    "Oh I hardly think that is a fair thing for my lady to say." He said softly, trying hard not to stare at her pink cheeks or her pink lips. "Judge my company when we've spent an entire day together, my lady." He bowed slightly, keeping his eyes locked onto hers and kissed her laced palm.

    From rose to scarlet, her skin brightened, her eyes as deeply rooted to his as his to hers, her voice breathless, those lips lifted in a coy lilt, "I can scarcely stand upon my knees, even now. I fear how an entire day will leave me, m'lord."

    For the life of him, Rannulf could not tear his gaze from her dawn blue eyes. They roused something deep within him and with it, a strange feeling un-kin to anything he had felt before. Rannulf became intensely aware of the rhythmic thump in his chest and the flutter of wings behind his navel. His head cocked to side and he leaned down towards her, ever so slightly. It was then he noticed her rose colored cheeks were richer then before and his eyes, almost greedily, flicked to her upturned lips. Rannulf leaned forward again, his body almost flush with hers.

    "If you are ever unsteady in the knees my lady, tell me and I shall carry you."

    He smiled softly and gently ran a finger down her cheek. Unsure, for the first time in his life in front of a woman, of what to do next.

    At the caress, Audra felt a shiver trail along her spine, and lifting a hand she rested it gingerly against his chest, the thread of his pulse quick beneath her fingers. She followed the train of his vision, and pinched her lower lip between her teeth, swallowed, her voice barely a whisper, airy and soft, "I imagine your arms may grow tired then, m'lord..."

    Slowly, for this highborn maiden deserved the up most of respect, Rannulf put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer.

    "My arms will never grow tired if they're holding you, Princess Audra..."

    Chest thumping out a war chant, Rannulf dipped his head down and gave her a kiss on the cheek, then again closer to her lips. He whispered into her ear softly, "Forgive me m'lady, but I've wanted to do that since our eyes first met outside the castle."

    Her breath catching on a soft, bearly perceptible gasp, she melted into that hold, her eyes fluttering closed, "...There's nothing to forgive. Except perhaps that you've missed..."

    Rannulf smiled and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear before cupping her chin. His lips met hers and the world fell still. It was brief, the kiss, but he could feel the rush of a lifetime's worth.

    "I do not think I missed that time, m'lady." He breathed against her lips.

    "I would say you most definitely did not..." She whispered, fingertips brushing his jaw, "...Oh, Heaven help me. You are not what I expected." Opening her eyes, she smiled, almost slyly, her gaze bright, glistening, "I should go... before I can't bear to..."

    Rannulf leaned into her touch, closing his eyes briefly in blessedness. Reluctantly, for it was the last thing he wanted to do, he released his grip on her waist and instead held on to her hand.

    He sighed deeply, bent from the waist, and kissed her lace covered hand.

    "Until dawn m'lady."

    "Sleep well, My Prince..." As he straightened, Audra pressed up onto her toes, a hasty kiss pressed to his cheeks before she reached for the door and pushing it open, forced herself inside.

    [​IMG]

    Anton had gone home. That morning, the young steward left in the carriage, to return the happy news, penned in a letter to her family. Never... never in a hundred years could she have anticipated the union going so well, so perfectly. But that first moment, stepping out of the carriage, she had known it in her heart, he was a man that she could greatly love. He had left her that night, taking with him her first kiss... and Audra had barely slept, her heart racing with thoughts of the man who was to be her husband.

    Over the next few weeks, their meetings had been painfully brief - little moments here and there, stolen between planning and propriety. But every moment was better than the last, and every day closer to the day they would be married. All her life she had watched her parents, their abject disdain for one another painfully apparent, and she had dreaded nothing more than her future with another. Now all she feared was that time would move too slowly... and that future would never come.

    Through the chilly halls of Silvernest, Audra's feet propelled her towards their little hovel, a spur jutting from the side of the palace, a window overlooking the valley. It was their own world... her whole world, and those few minutes all that mattered.

    @fyrelily (I did a thing >_> in the right place this time!)
     
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
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    From his vantage point in the council chambers Rannulf watched the sun drift lazily across the sky, painting the rolling hills and mountainous landscape in vibrant colors. He scratched at his beard mindlessly, acutely aware of his rushed promise earlier this morning. His betrothed waited for him, as he did her, but this day had been the longest in all his years. He could only imagine how his princess must feel, alone and in a strange new world, without a familiar face to cling to... Even the gods were different here. Rannulf shook his head, almost sadly, and reflected on how swiftly the weeks have past since her arrival. Too quickly for sure, yet too slow all the same. Since their first night they had only shared brief moments together and not once had he been able to steal another kiss. Summoning her rosy cheeks, pink lips, and blue eyes the color of dawn into his mind's eye, Rannulf vowed to find a way to fix their dilemma. He would kiss her all night, even if it meant letting his father treat with the Rue`Druen’s conclave alone in the morn.

    “— my prince?”

    Rannulf tore his eyes away from the afternoon sun and surveyed the room. Half the chamber seemed to have emptied while he allowed himself to get lost in thoughts. Five remained of what was more than twenty and Rannulf knew each face as well as his own. His father sat in the silver gilded chair at the end of the oaken table with his chin propped against his hand, eyes glazed in thought. Melissent, dutifully as always, was sitting to his immediate right. She was shuffling through a stack of parchment and half-curled scrolls, her silver grey hair loose and untameable. It blended into her grey robes and whenever a lock would fall in her line of vision she’d tuck it behind an ear fiercely. Rolland, Lord Commander of Silvern’s Kingsguard stood straight-backed and proud in grey, blue and silver, a few paces behind the king. His armor sent light dancing across the chamber whenever the sun hit it just so. Hylt, from the northernmost village of Silvern slouched in a plush chair, his face withdrawn and solemn. Even he looked as though he were a thousand leagues away. Varec, one of the few Silvosi nobles he could truly say he liked, leaned against the oaken table towards him with an expectant face.

    “I-I’m sorry, what did you say m’lord Varec?” Rannulf asked, uncomfortable with himself over missing half the council meeting.

    He shook his head and waved a hand, “Don’t apologize my prince, never has a council been as boring as this.”

    “Never?”

    His father chuckled and shook his head. “Then you don’t remember how tedious my father’s council was.”

    Rannulf smiled despite the impatience eating away inside him and drifted off as the pair bantered back and forth on days of old. He was back where he left off… her pink lips and dawn colored eyes. Absentmindedly, he reached up and brushed a finger across his lips, remembering how soft and sweet Audra’s were...

    “Rannulf?”

    “Hm?”

    “I said you were free to go. Varec, Melissent, and I have private matters to discuss. Hylt has already been excused.”

    Any other time he would have argued until they admitted him into their talks, but not today. Not anytime soon. He had places to be and a woman to see. He bowed to the trio out of respect, saluted the Lord Commander, and made his way to his betrothed at a brisk pace. Silvernest was large and chilly, but his feet took him to the one place he knew he’d find his betrothed. Rannulf swung a left instead of a right at the statue of Prudessia and bypassed busier halls. The closer he got to his southern lady, the faster his heart raced and when her slim figure blossomed into his vision, merlin’s took flight in his belly.

    Softly, for she seemed deep in thought, Rannulf spoke. “Audra Miranda Cecilia Elsabeth Baelston… You won’t ever know how wonderful a sight you are to behold.”


     


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    Words spun like golden thread, everything about Rannulf Gringoire was pure poetry. There was a part of her that new, of course, that such a thought was absurd, the silly, romantic notions of a girl driven by the propensity of infatuation, but another part of her, a much larger, dominant part simply couldn't care. Every time she saw him, the space between their visits seemed tortuously long, and it was all she could do to keep from going mad, filling her thought with girlish fantasies and dreams.

    Raenna, the eldest of her sisters, would warn her of falling too swiftly, reminding her that rarely did reality measure up to the vision, but Raenna had been hurt, desperately, and Audra couldn't imagine Rannulf ever doing anything to harm her, not even emotionally. And so as it was want to do whenever they were together, she felt her heart knit in her chest, her stomach twist, and turning to face him she held out her lace-gloved hands to him, her face lit in a brilliant, warming smile.

    "Oh, that name." Her voice was delicate, a purr of affection, as slowly, she shook her head, "How many times more must I remind you? Our time together is so miserably short , and it takes far too long to say. You mustn't worry about such unnecessary proprietary measures. Call me Mud, or Sand, or Dirt if you must, but waste no time, my Dear Heart on that foolish thing of a name... for I cannot stand to be away from you for another second. Tell me we have longer this time?"

     
    • Love Love x 1
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    The crown prince of Silvern bowed as he kissed the delicate lace-covered hand of his lady Audra. A smile blossomed across his face at her statement and his heart warmed at her inquiry. He felt half a child whenever he was around her; heart thundering, speech shuddering, and his stomach a flight with fluttering wings. Yet he wouldn’t want to feel any other way… in fact, he was unsure if he had ever felt this way before. The thought was unsettling, in quite a good fashion.

    “We have the rest of the afternoon my Lady of Mud, my Princess of Sand, my Queen of Dirt.” Rannulf smiled at his heart’s desire and laid a gentle hand upon her cheek. Like everything else, her cheek was soft and warm. Slowly, he bent his head down and placed a soft kiss upon her lips.

    “There’s to be a feast this evening, in your honor.” Rannulf said softly, “But until then, why not enjoy this weather and take a stroll with me? I would love to show you our sept at the top of the mountain, or show you the view of the valley atop Silvernest.”

     


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    She was a princess and a tenderhearted woman, and because of this, she was naturally inclined to believe that no greater emotion existed on the earth but love... That romance spawned from a place of near perfection, an all encompassing emotion that drove a person to be better, to live better... It was built upon dreams and beauty and nothing, not man or monster, not hell or high water could hope to destroy it. And though she had known him but a few days, she knew with all her heart that she loved him.

    "An entire afternoon..." She breathed, and leaning into that hand, she let her eyes fall closed. His lips, soft and inviting pressed against her own, painfully brief and her eyelashes fluttered back as she met his gaze, smiling brilliantly. She could count on one hand the number of times he had kissed her, but each time was better than the last, a flurry of emotion that rolled through her with such intensity. He was... incredible...

    The news of the feast came as a slight surprise, but not an unpleasant one. While she would have preferred Rannulf's sole attention, his family was endearing and charming, and she'd grown quite accustomed to the wonderful and unique foods their kingdom had to offer. Still... the idea of an entire afternoon alone with him? No Anton to supervise, to nag, to choke out reminds of propriety... She felt unbound...

    "A walk would be lovely, Your Grace." Holding out a hand, her smile softened into something more delicate, "...No chaperone...?" She asked as an afterthought, almost a little too anxiously.

     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. [​IMG]

    Despite the blossoming feeling within him, Rannulf glanced down at his heart’s desire quizzically, hesitation lacing his insides. Was there an accusation hidden in her words? Anxiety? He glanced down at her again, mouth poised to speak and promptly changed his mind. Things were moving fast, though not fast enough in his mind, and despite knowing that his Audra was everything he’d ever wanted in a bride; he could not help but wonder if she was having doubts. Though he wouldn’t blame her if she did, he had no illusions on what the southerners thought of Silvern and the mountain folk that inhabited her lands. Still, when he gazed into those dawn-blue eyes and captured her hand within his own and felt his heart aflutter, he couldn’t help but hope she felt a smidgen of what he did.

    “I can ask one of my sisters to come with us if my Lady would like.” Rannulf said softly, leading them back the way he came. When they arrived at the statue of Prudessia, Rannulf slowed and waited for Audra’s answer. Chaperone or not, he was thrilled to have an entire afternoon with his betrothed. After the past few weeks of infuriatingly short visits, just having her arm in his was enough to soothe the itch that had formed from her absence.

    A walk across the uppermost ramparts, with his lady in toll, seemed to have his heart racing. Together they could look across the vast rolling hills, the mountains to their back, and gaze at what would soon be theirs. It time he could show her the wonders of Silvern. Prove that they weren’t godless mountain men who howled at the turn of every moon. He would show her the beauty of the mountains, the piousness of his people, and that the north was just as civilized as her southern homeland.


    Beyla Gringoire

    Down in the kitchen, Beyla made her rounds snatching sweet rolls and lemon cakes from the bakers. She had dirt under her nails and her long dark hair was knotted from neck to ends. If she was lucky, her sister Luce would help her wash it out with sweet smelling oils before tonight’s feast, if not, she would have to endure her chambermaid’s rough scrubbing and scalp tearing combing. But that was hours away, and Beyla was on the hunt. She dodged a wooden spoon as she stole three more lemon cakes and ran up the stairs to the upper kitchens. It was busier in here and despite having already ate almost a plateful of sweets, the scent alone made her belly roar. An entire boar was being roasted on the open pit nearest her, the cooks taking turns basting it with seasoned butter and grease. Spitted lemon and garlic pheasants were being turned, the cook taking extra care, knowing that it was both Rannulf and Princess Audra’s favorite. Beyla had been in the kitchens the night prior when the Head Cook had asked Anton what his Lady’s favorite entrees were.

    Walking through the large kitchen, almost unnoticed, Beyla kept her ears open in wait of something interesting. It didn’t take long for the lady cooks, who wore peeling potatoes and vegetables down by the entrance, to start gossiping. Beyla tiptoed closer, partially hidden as she crouched against the cutting table.

    “I hear the northernmost nobles are attending the feast.”

    “Ya’ always hear that Sybolline,” the elder cook said sharply, “Half the court has already arrived.”

    “Come now Ysie,” the portly cook said, plunking another peeled potato in the bowl beside her. “I’m tellin ya, I heard Her Highness telling the Princess to wear somethin’ nice because the northernmost nobles are coming.”

    “Sybolline, what in gods name does that have to do with anything?”

    “I think Her Highness is wanting to marry Princess Luce to one of Lord Greylock’s sons.”

    “That fat ole Lord with the crooked nose? Marry our Princess to one of his lot? I don’t think so Sybol, the King wouldn’t do such a thing. Not to Luce.”

    “She’s well past marrying age Ysie,” Sybolline said thoughtfully. “Though I think yer right, he sure does have a soft spot for her. Beyla as well. You know he—”

    Beyla turned around slowly, still crouched down, and made her way out of the kitchens through the back door. The scent of the feast dying away as she climbed higher and higher. Only Rannulf, she suspected, knew as many hidden passageways as she. One floor above the kitchens, Beyla made her way to an alcove that hid a small tunnel that led straight to the ramparts above the castle. As she climbed up, knees scraping against the rough stone, she wondered if her sister would truly marry one of Lord Greylock’s sons. They were portly like their father and had warts and indeed, had crooked noses like Cook Ysei said.

    Maybe she’ll take her oaths like me, Beyla thought happily, then neither of us would have to marry warty old Lords.
     
    • Love Love x 1


  7. [​IMG]
    His words drove her to pause as she considered the possible underlying meaning behind them. Did she want a chaperone? Why had she asked? It had seemed like a simple enough question, but as she considered it, it occurred to her the possibility that even subconsciously, it was because she held some reservations about being on her own with him. It had seemed like such an exciting prospects moments ago, but there was no ignoring the anxiety building in her chest, the cloying discomfort in her throat.

    Looking up at him, however, catching the reflection in his gaze, the warmth, the energy there realization struck that it wasn't him at all that gave her pause. It was her own nature. There was such deep reverence there, and somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that she could never really measure up to the regard he held for her, that she would never be deserving of his affections.

    Lowering her gaze, her thumb tracing absently across the bridge of his palm, she shook her head, "Anton would have my head for saying so, but I'm afraid you've misunderstood. I... I'm glad to be rid of them. Chaperones. We've had so little time to ourselves, and I'm rather looking forward to an afternoon without someone peeking over our shoulders."

    Her cheeks colored crimson, she bit the corner of her lip briefly, before recalling her mother's voice barking about the unladylike behavior, "Unless of course you think it's best we're accompanied. I... I would hate to seem forward. Though if I'm honest, I have grown rather fond of you." Her eyes trailing to his again, her expression softened, her lips curling into a smile, "Too fond, my dear Rannulf."

     
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
  8. [​IMG]

    Though the prince understood what Audra had meant, hesitation still licked its way into his gut. He thought he knew what hid behind her reddened cheeks and softened eyes, yet he didn’t seem to mind. He too, had grown fond - too fond - in such a short amount of time, and as nervous as it made him, it also made Rannulf’s heart beat stronger and faster, knowing that she was to be his.

    He leaned down and placed a kiss in the soft, golden mop of hair atop her head. “Come,” he said softly, and led her down another passageway, straight ahead of Prudessia. This way was longer, yet more comfortable. Rannulf kept his pace slow, reminding himself that his stride was twice his princess’. It was slow progress, though not painfully slow, and he enjoyed every minute of it. The world had stopped when he caught his first glimpse of Audra Baelstrom and it had yet to catch up to him. All along the walls were portraits and paintings of long-dead ancestors and heroic men and women who had protected the kingdom of Silvern. Rannulf couldn’t help but wonder what she thought of them. Of the long and chilly stone halls of the castle that would soon be hers. Did she like them? Would she come to love them as he did? Would the southern lady run her hands across the centuries old stone and feel the energy they held?

    As the floor beneath their feet began to steepen, Rannulf held on to Audra just a tad tighter, shoving his meandering thoughts to the side, not willing to waste even one precious moment with Audra. Soon they could see daylight and smell the sweet, fresh air. When they stepped out onto the top of the castle, the light blinded his eyes; but not even the sun blinded him as much as the growing love for his princess. The view atop Silvernest always managed to take his breath away however, and Rannulf stood there, momentarily transfixed by the viewscape. Rolling green hills waved in every direction with rivers, both large and small, cutting through them. From so high up, what he knew were boats and river rafts, looked like small smudges of color dotted upon thin canvases of blue. He sighed happily, heart swelling to twice its usual size, and looked down into the beautiful face of the one he… loved.

    “You will never know how beautiful you are my lady, how easy it is to get lost in your love.” Rannulf said softly. He smiled, almost shyly, before going on. “I- erm.” He breathed in deep, trying to find an ounce of his courage. In battle, there was almost nothing that made him afraid. Battle was a dance that had to be danced. And his courage had yet to fail him… but this was an entirely different matter, an entire different dance. “I think I might have lost myself in my love for you.”
     


  9. [​IMG]
    Her chest swelled out as he pressed warm lips to her scalp, a tingle driving downward to the tips of her toes. She found herself reflecting, sometimes, how silly she felt, having grown so attached so quickly, yet he had never once made her feel ashamed of that - and in fact seemed almost to reciprocate her feelings. It gave her hope, but it frightened her. Oh, did it frighten her. All her life, all she'd ever known or seen of love was tragic and empty - forced marriages and broken affairs... all surrounded in sticky webs of lies and games. She had watched her parents, the dissolution of their bond as her father's infidelity came to light. She had watched Raenna, destroyed by the loss of her forbidden love, destroyed a second time by the abandonment of her husband. Even Dansin, with the multitude of women he bedded had set the worst breed of examples for the young princess.

    Yet here she was, face to face with a man she barely knew and her heart wouldn't stand still, her mind rushing along beside it. Her fingers quaked and her insides twisted and ached and every shred of her being felt owed to him. But was it right? Was it natural? Would she ever known or would she question it for the whole of her life?

    And did he care for her? Or was she simply a foolish child, bent on inventing emotion where it didn't exist? Their union was arranged - a diplomatic solution between kingdoms. Could there be anything real or genuine that stemmed from that? Or would she be forever haunted by the notion that she was little more than a bargaining chip... the easy answer to a difficult problem?

    She followed Rannulf with a sense of fogginess - dizzy over the questions roiling about in her mind. It wasn't until she was struck by the chilly air, by the clear, crispy scent of snow capped peaks and damp stone that she recognized they had arrived at their destination and for a moment, only a moment, she couldn't concentrate her thoughts and anything but the magnificent, majestic beauty that was Silvern.

    Then he spoke and she felt her chest tighten, her stomach quiver as she spun, perhaps a little too quickly to meet his gaze. Love. She had not imagined it, for again, there it was, repeated through those beautiful lips, so warm and kind and generous and all Audra could do to keep from collapsing was hold herself upright with whatever dignity remained within her. He loved her. And somewhere in the recesses of her mind, that scared her more than if he'd said he never could...

    A breath escaped, a vapor in the cool air and her eyes swept from his to the ground as unbidden, tears struck out, stinging, burning and cloying in her throat and for the first time in her life, she had no words... no thoughts. No thoughts but one, persistent and mean. She would never deserve him.

    Reaching upwards to swipe at her cheeks, burnished bright red, she shook her head and with a small, desperate, shuddering sound - something in between a laugh and a sob - she threw her arms around his waist, burrowing into the warmth and strength of his chest, "...It was never my intention..." She whispered, words trembling on emotion, "To make you love me. But I'm not sorry. I can't be. My whole life, I have been so scared that I would never have anything but what my parents did... an empty, cruel deception Wasting away in bitterness until it consumes us. And I am terrified now... that whatever this is, I'm doomed to ruin it, if by principle. Like it's a rule and I've got to obey it. But if it's love... then I say damn the rules and damn the map. Let us stay lost forever..."

     
    • You Need a Hug You Need a Hug x 1
  10. [​IMG]

    Tears were unexpected though not unwelcome. Rannulf wrapped strong arms around his lady and shuddered in the embrace. It felt right, her arms around his waist… though he had not expected the tears. It was frightening for a moment, until words flowed from her mouth and he understood why they had made a presence.With a soft touch, Rannulf cupped Audra’s nape and stared down into her azuline eyes after she finished speaking. She was beautiful, even flushed red in the cheeks and eyes swimming in tears.

    He took his time mulling over the words he was about to speak. He needed them to be perfect, to ease the wounds from a lifetime of misery and pain. He understood, to a point, where her worries came from… but his mother was a woman of Silvern and she had forgiven his father. She had even come to love his baseborn child Josselin. Rannulf stooped and kissed her tears away gently. They tasted like seawater and a lifetime of new beginnings. He smiled before kissing her once again on the top of her golden hair.

    “Audra, my lady, that is our duty as heirs to overcome their faults and misgivings, to provide a better place for ourselves and the generation that come after us. We must break the cycle and love with abandon. Who are we if not better than our predecessors? What are we if not wiser by learning from their mistakes?” He bent and kissed her nose, a smile dancing across his lips. “I say we lose ourselves in forever and love until our dying breath. Damn our sire’s mistakes and vow to make only our own.”

    He walked around the top of Silvernest with his Lady Audra, wondering what his words had meant to her. He was glad to see that though they were not completely alone, (servants and maids bustled to and from the small sept entrance located in the heart of the large slab of mountain rock that roofed the castle and guards and sentries walked their stations with barely a nod in their direction) they still had time to themselves. Taking Audra’s hand within his own, he glanced down at her will wondering eyes. Had he done alright? Squashed her fears for at least the moment?

    “It may not have been your intention my lady, but my love for you... “ He lowered his voice to a whisper and his eyes to his own two feet, a flush of red creeping into his cheeks. “It scares me as well Audra. Never have I felt this way before…”

     


  11. [​IMG]
    Her nose crinkled as he pressed a kiss to it, and she laughed, a soft, silvery sound, shaking her head, sending blonde waves bouncing. The tears subsided as quickly as they had come, her face brightening, eyes glistening, as she stared up at him with an enamored awe. How he managed to appease her, and so quickly, so perfectly. His words, his gentle touch, those feather soft ministrations to her cheeks and hair and nose. The hand on her waist felt strong and sturdy, and her heart fluttered intensely in her chest each time he leaned close.

    "I think it might be nice, my love, to make our own mistakes. But only if those mistakes are for our benefit... Forgetting important meetings, getting lost in your eyes. Staying up too late... lost in your arms. If those are the kind of mistakes we make, well... I can imagine nothing greater."

    His hand slid around hers and he led her around the walkway, but as others bustled around them, Audra paid them little mind. She was in a world of her own, the only person in it the man beside her. Even the view, that spectacle that had captivated her moments before was lost on her, her attention overwhelmed by Ranulf's majesty. As he leaned in, his voice lowering, his countenance suddenly modest, she turned her eyes up to him and smile, brightly.

    "Then we are novices together, it would seem. Though I never intend to feel this way more than once, so I suppose there is some comfort in that." It seemed foolish and rushed, but never so much that she regretted it or doubted it. She loved him, and in the moment it felt like something that could only ever grow...

    Pausing, she turned to face him and taking his other hand, she pulled his knuckles to her lips, "All I fear now, is waking one day to find this has all been a wonderful dream. But even then, I have no regrets. These past few days... I have never been happier. And if I never feel this way again, I will still be the better for having felt it at all."



    Navigating through the maze of the palace was work, and it had taken him most of the afternoon to plot the escape route. It was a simple enough plan, but the execution was dangerous, and one element out of place, one minute detail overlooked would spell disaster. Disaster that he could not afford. He knew the consequences if he were caught, but the reward... the reward was too great to deny. He couldn't fail... not when they were so close.

    Looking up from the map in his hands, he very nearly missed the small brunette bounding down the hallway and skidding to a stop he frowned, his cheeks reddening as he clutched the parchment in his fist, "What are you doing out here!?" He barked, a little too briskly, dark eyes narrowing as he met the princess with perhaps a little too much venom in his stare.

    Clearing his throat, he stepped back, carefully jamming the parchment into the folds of his cloak, "Apologies, Your Grace. It's just... the feast will begin soon, and you mustn't be late."
     
    • You Get a Cookie You Get a Cookie x 1
  12. [​IMG]

    "And if I never feel this way again, I will still be the better for having felt it at all."

    Rannulf shook his head ruefully, his blue eyes piercing with emotion as he stared down at his beloved. His heart had swelled to twice it's size and he held her ever tighter as they walked across Silvern's uppermost landing. The stunning vista, the beautiful woman at his side, and their future together mingled and coalesced until his mind was dizzy with euphoria.

    “It is my wish,” Rannulf said slowly, conviction lacing his every word. “That you feel this way every day which I might live.”

    Glancing out among the horizon, a small smile gracing his face, Rannulf watched the sun drift lazily beneath the mountains. The sky painted them a mural of blues and corals, of lavenders and reds. Though it was the last thing he wanted to truly do, Rannulf guided his lady back down through the tunnels and back to her room. Before he knew it, the pair had reached the silver gilded door that belonged to Audra, and it was time to say goodbye.

    “We must do this again, my lady,” Rannulf said softly. “Mayhaps I can take you into the country next time…” He bent down and kissed Audra’s cheek, both of them, before bowing.

    “I will see you in a few short hours my Princess. You will dine in the seat of honor, and I will be by your side all night.” He closed his eyes briefly, savoring the thought of them, together, as King and Queen of Silvern. “My mother and sisters will arrive to escort you personally.”

    BEYLA GRINGOIRE

    Resting her hands on her hips, Beyla looked up at the guard with hawk-like eyes. Though not surprised it took him a moment to realize who she was -she wore a dark silver shift of a gown and no shoes- she didn’t like his tone, nor his shifty glare. With a careful hand she rearranged the small circlet upon her head and glared back up at the man, her stomach in knots, though not because she was afraid. Something nagged at her, and she eyed the parchment he’d just stuffed in his cloak. She could, perhaps, order him to show her what was written on the parchment, but her mother’s voice echoed through her mind and instead, she nodded and made her way towards the sept.

    The royal sept went through every floor of Silvernest, branching here and there throughout the castle itself. Beyla had yet to explore it all, preferring the dark and damp passageways that wormed their way through the underbelly of the castle. She had once found a room, untouched for centuries, that had hid priceless jewels and artifacts from one of Silvern’s most beloved queens, Prudessia. She was the last Druen Queen, before Silvern laws stated that clergymen weren’t allowed to rule outside of the Pru`Druen.

    With that something still nagging at her, Beyla took the sept stairs two at a time, racing down the curling staircase at a blinding speed. She needed to find her father; he always listened to her suspicions.