Snippet #2786760

located in Fódlan, a part of Fire Emblem: Apotheosis, one of the many universes on RPG.

Fódlan

A continent divided into three different factions: The Adrestian Empire, The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Leicester Alliance.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal
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I.Y. 1180 - Verdant Rain Moon - Tuesday the 12th
Derdriu (South Gate) - Midmorning - Sunny
Vridel von Hresvelg


Vridel wasn't exactly sure how Cyril had managed to convince the Archbishop that a field trip to the Alliance capital was a good idea, but he certainly couldn't complain. Given the historical tensions between Fódlan's three countries, it was unusual for members of other royal families to visit such places, and he was well aware that he and Sorcha would both be under a great deal of scrutiny from the nobles here during the trip, but he thought perhaps it might be well worth it. He was scrutinized wherever he went and whatever he did, after all; this wasn't so unusual.

Mercer had seemed rather surprised to learn that the Professor's entire Saturday group would be accompanying him home, along with his mother and Lady Lyanna, but not even they as the future sovereigns of countries generally got to say no to the Archbishop, if he'd even have been inclined to in the first place.

As they approached the southern gate of Derdriu, Vridel scanned the landscape from the back of his borrowed horse. Even at march pace on horseback, it was a two-day journey from the Monastery. The temperature was noticeably more moderate here, and less humid, no doubt the ocean's influence. He was looking forward to seeing the so-called Aquatic City, said to be one of the world's most beautiful places, and more in harmony with the bordering ocean than even the Empire's grand ports.

Before they drew too close, the fliers in their group landed, which mostly just meant Sorcha, Mercer, and Lady Lyanna, who sat sidesaddle astride a pristine white pegasus mount. “Something amiss?" he inquired, glancing between them.

Sorcha pursed her lips. “There is a rather large party ahead, waiting at the gates. They appear to be flying the Crest of Gloucester."

“Flashy bastard," Mercer mumbled as he appeared slightly in front of Vridel. “He just wants to be seen; he's like a peacock who has to strut his feathers. Don't mind him, too much, though. Hopefully you all won't have to interact with him, much," he continued, not bothering to hide his disdain. Mercer didn't appear to like the Duke of Gloucester.

“Why is that?" Senka asked, pulling up to Vridel's left on Libi, the black gelding she'd requested. Mercer pursed his lips in her direction.

“Don't be too surprised if he tries to proposition you for... things," he stated, causing Senka's brows to furrow.

“Proposition? Like what?" Amalthea asked, clearly not understanding the reference Mercer had stated. She was on Senka's otherside, mounted on a chestnut mare.

“Don't worry about it, too much, Thea. Just stay close to us, or your sister during the stay," Mercer replied, giving Amalthea a small grin.

Vridel, of course, knew very well what things Mercer was referring to. Honestly someone like that would be lucky to get Thea to understand what he wanted, never mind the rest. He would know—he hadn't yet really succeeded at the first. Perhaps it would have been easier if he knew exactly what he wanted in the first place.

The Professor, riding near the front of the column with Judith, looked rather indifferent as usual, though he did squint a bit at the gate, as if to assess the waiting party.

Sorcha looked slightly upset by something, but nudged Lady forward on foot with nothing more than a sigh.

Vridel figured that was that, and the group resumed its progress towards the gate. He supposed they looked rather less impressive than a company of knights; they were distinctly less unified in bearing, with fliers and pack horses and a small wagon in their midst. If anything, the patchwork of it would resemble merchants traveling with an armed guard, or... mercenaries, perhaps.

He found he didn't hate that so much. Better that marching with Church banners waving obnoxiously over their heads, anyway.

As they drew closer, the figured resolved more distinctly. At the head of the group was who could only have been Gloucester. He rode in polished silver armor, the family standard of a rose crowned with the Gloucester Crest obvious on the bannermen behind him. His horse was an Imperial charger, Vridel was sure of it, a large white one, and he'd foregone the helm of his armor in favor of meeting them barefaced. He was probably quite confident in his looks, as that type so often were. Admittedly, he wasn't unattractive—the dark lavender shade of his hair was unusual enough to be striking, and his features certainly qualified as elegant, in a masculine sort of way.

When the party was close enough, he and his two bannermen detached from the rest of his party, riding forward to meet them. It was all very chivalrous, and entirely unnecessary in Vridel's opinion, though he supposed it was all about knowing one's audience. He knew at least that Faerghus had a great cultural appreciation for this sort of thing. Perhaps he meant to impress Sorcha? He could have done worse if so.

“Hail, visitors!" Gloucester called out, drawing to a stop a polite distance away. “Might I ask if Her Highness Princess Sorcha Blaiddyd is among you?"

There was a beat of silence, during which Vridel threw a look at Mercer, curious as to whether this sort of thing was normal for the Duke.

Mercer mumbled something beneath his breath, but glanced directly at Gloucester. “Couldn't you wait until we were inside? We've been traveling for two days, Matteo, don't you think the Princess would like to rest first? As well as my other guests?" he stated, clearly irritated by something.

“Mercer," the Duke replied, clearly not entirely pleased to be addressed by his first name and returning the insult in kind. “How... pleasant, to see you. As for the occasion, well—that is precisely why I and mine are here. I had thought to give your... party a proper escort through the city, so as to better avoid the crowds and suchlike. I had also intended to invite my intended to board at my estate here in the city. I should hate for House Riegan to find themselves... overtaxed, with such an abundance of guests."

At this point, Sorcha cleared her throat, raising her hand briefly before swinging down from Lady's back. “I'm Sorcha," she said, looking rather like she was bracing herself for something.

Gloucester blinked at her, perhaps slightly taken aback either by her directness or the fact that she had in fact made the journey astride an 'unlucky' beast. He swiftly dismounted himself, and approached her.

“Ah, so the rumors of your exquisiteness are true, Your Highness." Gloucester delivered the line with perfect sincerity. Looked at a certain way, it was almost impressive. Vridel didn't think he could have willingly said that seriously. “No—on second thought, I daresay they have not done you enough credit." Reaching forward, he took up Sorcha's hand, startling her, it seemed, as she'd been about to dip into a bow. Instead, though, he raised her hand to his lips, brushing them lightly over her knuckles. Mercer openly glared at Gloucester when he did.

“Enchanted to meet you, my Princess."

“U—um," Sorcha stammered, flushing a bright pink. “I'm sure it's nothing so—"

“Nonsense!" the Duke cut off her self-effacing reply with a wave of his free hand. “But please—Mercer does have a point. I should hate for our esteemed guests to be kept from the rest they so surely deserve!" Keen eyes swept the group. If Vridel had not been practiced in looking for such things, he probably would have missed the way the Duke subtly lingered on the other women as well, but as it was he definitely noticed.

This, he thought, could get ugly.

Reluctantly parting with Sorcha's hand, Gloucester remounted. “Please: ladies, gentlemen. Allow the Knights of House Gloucester to serve as your honor guard and guides to the fair city of Derdriu. If there is anything you should require during your stay, do not hesitate to ask it of us." Without so much as waiting for a reply, he wheeled his charger and began to lead the way to the gate, his bannermen flanking him.

Mercer didn't say anything, and motioned Sir forward to follow behind Gloucester's company. “This is unnecessary, even if he was being serious about it. This is all for show, is it not?" Senka asked, riding beside Vridel and glancing at him from the corner of her eye. She must have noticed something, otherwise she wouldn't have mentioned it to Vridel. They were close enough that she didn't speak loud so that the others could hear her, though.

“Oh, it's completely unnecessary," Vridel replied, just as quietly. “But he's not doing it because we need an escort. He's doing it to get one over on Mercer. It's plain they don't like each other, even before Sorcha figures into it. And Mercer's all but given himself away with some of his reactions, so I'll wager our 'friend' the Duke just got some information out of this that makes it entirely worth pretending to care about any of us."

This was real politics, not the friendly ribbing they all gave each other at the Academy. And everyone here would be watching them all very closely, looking for weaknesses and exploitable character flaws, anything that might give them any kind of inside knowledge of or leverage over himself, Mercer, Sorcha, or the Church. And like it or not, that meant the others were automatically just as involved.

“This so exciting! We're being escorted by knights, almost. It's... almost romantic!" Thea didn't seem to have any reserves about being led into the city. She was, as usual, very excited about it. She glanced between Vridel and Senka and merely smiled. Mercer had remained in front, though from the way his shoulders were tense, he didn't seem to be happy about any of this. Whether it was because of Gloucester's actions, or the fact that he stated that Sorcha was his intended. It might have been both.

Sorcha hastened to remount, riding a little behind most everyone else. She seemed to be looking down at her hand, as though something about it was suddenly fascinating. Vridel tried not to grimace; he recognized the effect, having intentionally induced it more than once himself. Fortunately, Cyril rode up beside her a moment later and said something he couldn't hear, drawing her into some kind of conversation. That wasn't as bad, perhaps.

“Emphasis on almost," Vridel murmured, a response to Thea that he didn't really intend for her to hear. Of all the people in this group, he figured she was the most likely to fall for even the thinnest pretenses, and made a mental note to keep an eye on her.

They passed through the gate and into the city proper thereafter. It was a lively place; Gloucester had at the very least not been false when he'd implied that the crowds were large. They parted for the knights, though, who formed a protective ring around the group, keeping them apart from those milling on foot. It wasn't too hard to pick out the main threads of conversation, though.

“Duke Gloucester's Knights—"

“Is that young Lord Riegan?"

“That hair—the Imperial Lily?" Vridel frowned at that one, head snapping to the side to glare in the direction it had come from. A cluster of young women startled, then giggled, one or two of the bolder ones waving at him. One of them actually winked. He suppressed a sigh. At least it wasn't meant in insult, he supposed.

“What are they doing here? The Church?"

To his credit, Mercer was back to his normal self, smiling at the crowd and waving. Some of the people seemed to be intimidated by Sir, but the wyvern merely kept his head held high, as if he were strutting. Amalthea had moved a little further up on her horse, and Senka moved with her. They seemed to be spared from any of the chatter. Senka wasn't wearing anything that linked her to the church, save for the fact that she was riding with them. Amalthea was wearing the church's sigil embroidered on her cloak, so that was a giveaway.

Cyril wore only his father's sigils, and otherwise looked exactly like the mercenary he was, so even riding next to Sorcha, he drew no particular attention beyond what an attractive human being in such company would. Sorcha, too, was conspicuously without any of the trappings of anyone who might seem to be the Princess of anywhere, and looked, no doubt, more like she was with the Professor than any of the rest of them.

For his part, Vridel preferred to do what he'd always done; ignore the crowd. He didn't hate commoners by any means; he wasn't the kind of noble who disrespected the contributions of his people to his country. But he wasn't really the kind of bright, open personality Mercer was, and the idea of trying to fake it was... unpleasant.

Mercer had actually fallen back a bit, so that he was now riding next to Vridel. “Man, I hope this goes by fast. I really don't want to be here," he muttered, smile still in place as if nothing was wrong. It was easy to tell, at least for Vridel, that Mercer was upset, and that Gloucester was the one responsible for it. “Sorry you have to be here to witness this little game, though. Maybe you can help a friend out, yeah?" he stated grimly, though not at all serious about the last part.

“It's fine," Vridel replied easily. “I promise you I'm used to them. You want me to stab him or something? I can make it look like an accident. Or Reynard can, whichever."

“I'd say please, but it wouldn't really work that well," he replied, pushing a sigh through his nose. “I honestly don't know what Gloucester has planned. He is laying it on thick, and that's saying something for someone like him. No offense, Vi, but at least you have more class," Mercer stated, his smile turning into a small grin.

“I really don't have to tell you this since you already know, but," Mercer began, but paused as his face took on a more serious note, “watch your back. Closely. People here, you know exactly the kind they are, but they," he nodded towards the others, “they don't know. We should make sure they're at least going to be okay, and... if you could do me a solid. Watch Sorcha. I don't trust Gloucester alone with her. I trust her, but not him."

Ordinarily Vridel would remind Mercer that Sorcha was quite a capable person, and rather able to look out for herself, but... he was fairly sure Gloucester has also attended the Academy, and the years of experience since didn't seem to have been useless. The knightly act was in part an act, to be certain, but the discipline of the Duke's men, the surety of his posture on his horse... he was quite convinced there was real skill underlying that. All the more unfortunate.

So instead he expelled a breath, and gave Mercer a short nod. “Your esteem flatters me," he drawled sarcastically. “But... yes. I will keep an eye on them as well."

Mercer seemed to relax at the statement, almost as if he was not as burdened as he'd been when they arrived. “Thanks, Vi. You're a solid friend," he stated, rolling out his shoulders as he nudged Sir back to the front.

He did wonder about that, but... well, perhaps it would do for now.

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