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Seraphina Grayson

"Once men have tasted caviar, it baffles me how they settle for catfish."

0 · 914 views · located in The Black Keep

a character in “Blackvale”, as played by Arrow-

Description

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F U L L 0 N A M E
Seraphina Grayson

N I C K N A M E
Sera

A G E
25

G E N D E R
Female

S E X U A L I T Y
Bisexual

R O L E
Middle Child of the Graysons

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H E I G H T
5' 3"

W E I G H T
115 lbs

H A I R
Just like her older and younger sisters, Seraphina has golden hair like wheat fields or the sun. It is glossy and smooth and fortuneately for her hand maidens, it is easy to style.

E Y E S
Just like the rest of her family, Seraphina has beautiful blue eyes that shine like the sky that she inherited from from her mother. When Seraphina is upset they often change and shift into a deeper blue with more flecks of brown, taking on a more honey colour.

A P P E A R A N C E
Seraphina is small in stature; short and thin. Her body is the epitome of a dainty lady. Her golden blonde hair paired with her blue coloured eyes makes her reminiscent of a beautiful jewel. Seraphina is often told she is as bright and as beautiful as the sun and sky and as rich as gold.

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P E R S O N A L I T Y
✦Seductive✧Independent✦Outspoken✧Stubborn✦

Despite leading a privileged and prominent lifestyle, Seraphina is generally characterized as a comical overachiever. At times, her ambition can lead her to embrace a haughty and scheming side. Generally speaking, Blair is ruled by her insecurities, despite a confident exterior, usually caused by her feeling inferior to her sister Rosalyn.

While she's regarded as being extremely knowledgeable, Seraphina seldom leaves success to chance, or to her own talents, and usually works to sabotage her competition. Typically, Seraphina finds rivals in most females, including her own sisters. As a result of this insecurity, she does not trust easily, and when she does is always tremendously hurt when she feels betrayed.

However, despite her manipulative and often ruthless behaviour, she is revealed to have a sensitive and loving nature as well. This side is revealed time and time again especially when she must come to the defence of someone she cares about. Notably, this protective, warm side is evoked by her sisters or parents. Seraphina also seldom gives up on those that she cares about.

Romantically speaking, she generally finds herself conflicted by her own expected desires and what she truly wants. Seraphina almost always pursues relationships with men who offer a status symbols, even if they make her unhappy. Despite her social-climbing agenda within her love-life, Seraphina would be happiest when she has someone to spat with, and is usually at her best with a romantic partner who challenges her.

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S T R E N G T H S
Acting // Seraphina is a good actor, good enough to convince people that she is an innocent, perfect, dainty lady. Or good enough to fein anger, sadness and love.

Seduction // Though she does not look like it, Seraphina can be a little minx at times and can coax anyone into her bed with some effort.

Sex// After much experience, Seraphina has become rather good at doing the deed. Due to this she has captured the hearts of many men.

Music // Anything to do with music; instruments, dance, singing, Seraphina can do. Since she was young she took immense joy in music and excelled in it.

W E A K N E S S E S
Greed // Seraphina desires for a better life with more wealth and power. Sometimes in her pursuit of all this her greed can blind her.

Her Mother // Seraphina wants nothing more than her mothers undivided attention, but has never gotten it. It is a weak spot for her.

Her Father // Where her mothers love was lacking, her fathers love was overflowing. She loves her father so much and would feel terrible if anything happened to him.

L I K E S
Power // Sex // Friends She Can Trust // Luxury // Flowers // The Sun

D I S L I K E S
Feeling Unwanted // Competition // Rejection // Failure // Spiders // Rats

F E A R S
Failure // Nobody wants to fail in life and Sera feels her life depends on success.

Discarded // Seraphina doesn't want to feel useless and unwanted. It would ruin her.

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H I S T O R Y
Seraphina was born as the second daughter of three to Lord Robert and Lady Elizabeth Grayson. Though her mother loved her dearly, it was Lord Robert that had the soul care taking of Seraphina. Maybe it was because of the lacking relationship between Rosalyn and Robert, or maybe it was because her mother payed more attention to her older sister, but as Seraphina grew up her and Robert became like crutches to one another.

Seraphina grew to be a respectable noble lady who followed all her lessons, learned how to read and write and became an expert in womanly skills like sewing and cooking. She was perfect wife material, but no matter how many suitors tried to court her, they were never enough. No one had enough power or enough wealth for her liking. Seraphina had never felt a spark either. Soon enough she had to turn to alternative means to gain the power she desired.

Why did Seraphina become so greedy for power? Not even she knew. Maybe it was because she wanted desperately to overachieve and prove herself to her mother and father, or maybe it was to show Rosalyn she wouldn't stay in her shadow. Either way Seraphina would so anything, or shall I say anyone, to get what she desired. Her father had taught her how to be smart and cunning and she had picked up on how to seduce along the way. Due to her lusty ways she now has many connections across the Riverlands and beyond. Of course her lack of virginity is a well kept secret to her family and friends.

It was all too perfect of an opportunity for Seraphina when the King and Queen announced they would be marrying their son off. Becoming future Queen? There was no prestige higher than that. She wanted it and would do anything to achieve it.

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F A C E C L A I M
Holliday Grainger

H E X C O D E
#C19A6B

C R E A T O R
Scar.-

So begins...

Seraphina Grayson's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne

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#, as written by Arrow-
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ROSALYN GRAYSON
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King's Bastard | The Red Rose
#660033 | Outfit
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SERAPHINA GRAYSON
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Eldest True Grayson | The Sweet Pea
#C19A6B | Outfit
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SYLVA THORNE
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Sylas' Twin | The Cobra
#583668 | Outfit
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AURORA GRAYSON
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Youngest Grayson | The Little Petal
#87758F | Outfit


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If Sylva had it her way, she would be dressed in fine leathers sitting on the back of her brothers horse, arms wrapped around him feeling the wind in her hair. What she was actually doing was sitting in a carriage across from her mother and father. Nothing against her parents, she loved them dearly. It was just that after hours sitting in the carriage she grew tired of the bumps and swerves that left her more sour as the long ride went on. Not to mention the fact that she was dolled up in one of her fancier dresses that was made of layers upon layers of thick navy blue tule. A corset was wrapped around her torso, compressing her spine. Her mass of thick black curls were arranged into a perfectly styled undo with small white pearls scattered within it.

Her mother, seeming to notice her discomfort, smiled and leaned over to cup her cheek. “Beauty is pain, my darling. We must keep up this ruse to fool the royals, you know that.” Sylva smiled and leaned into her mothers hand. “Of course mother. I know. I will enjoy fooling the inferior.” Lord Vladimir smirked. “Thats my daughter.” He commented and rested a hand on Desdemona’s leg.

Suddenly a knock came to the side of the carriage. Her mother pulled back the curtain and looked outside to where Sylas, Sylva’s older twin brother, was there riding alongside the carriage’s window. “What is it my son?” Their mother asked with a smile.

“The Keep is on the horizon. They’ve most likely seen our colors and will receive us upon arrival,” Sylas answered as he rode beside the carriage. Sylva almost groaned in relief. She would feel a lot better when her feet touched the ground.

Their mother smiled while looking between the two twins, “Now for the welcoming evening my dears, the King and Queen no doubt will have a celebratory ball. We shall be escorted in presented to their royal majesties and then everyone will be given the remainder of the even to mingle and dance.” She reached forward and tucked a loose curl of Sylva’s behind her ear and gave her a sly smirk. “Now as amusing as it would be to enter in a fashion, destroy everything and return home for dinner, that unfortunately isn’t the case.”

Desdemona reached out and touched her brothers face through the window. “I want you both to present yourselves as the elegant, charming and vastly superior darlings that you are. To the public’s eyes we’re perfect. We come out unscathed while everything else spirals into chaos.”

“Yes mother.” Sylas smiled towards his mother before raising a brow in Sylva’s direction. Sylva rolled her eyes and raised both of her eyebrows back at him. “I shall ride ahead so they are ready for your arrival.” Sylva nodded. Knowing him, he would be able to get their sleeping arrangements planned accordingly.

Desdemona waved him off and looked at Sylva with a small smirk. She raised a finger to her mouth before turning to Lord Vladimir and smiling. “My Love, would you mind looking out the window for a while? Our darling Daughter and I must have a chat.” She hummed and snapped her fingers in front of his face. Vladimir blinked as she snapped in front of him, but his eyes dulled and he nodded. “Of course my darling wife.” He said, transfixed. He then turned his head and stared out the window mindlessly.

Sylva nodded. She had seen this done many times before. Her mother was a witch, a trait that had been passed down to herself. Though her mother was a lovely woman, she had come from a family of disgraced witches who dwelled in the Dark Woods. With a bit of that magic she had been able to weave her war into the Thorne nobility. Maybe it had been wrong, but Sylva agreed to every bit of it. Besides, her mother was a superior being and nobility suited her well.

“Now, darling, we must talk about the uses of our magic while we are on this excursion.” Her mother smirked. Sylva smirked back. “Of course mother.” Desdemona cupped Sylva’s cheek. “Now, as much as we should just transfix and charm the prince or princess to marry you or your brother, I think it would be much more interesting to wait and see how things play out. You know how inferior nobles are; most times they don’t need our help destroying things.” They laughed together and Sylva nodded. “Of course Mother, it will be quite fun watching them run around like chickens with their heads cut off.” Desdemona rubbed her cheek softly. “We shall be the fire that burns the earth around those decapitated birds when the timing is right. That being said… Make sure you have a lot of fun. The Thorne way.” Sylva’s smirk grew in side. The ‘Thorne’ manner of having fun with others was a bit unorthodox. Lying, cheating, stealing and causing accidents all while feigning innocence and getting away with it was a past time of the Thornes. Sylva alone had fin tormenting the servants at home, think of how much better it would be with a handful of snobby royals and nobles. They were much better targets, as they had much farther to fall.

Desdemona leaned back and snapped her ringers in front of Lord Vladimir’s face again, bringing him back to reality. He blinked in confusion but before he could ask questions, Sylva’s mother gave him a quick peck and the carriage pulled to a halt. Sylva looked out the window just in time to see her brother flirting with a blonde haired slave. Her eyes narrowed but she kept her composure.

The carriage doors opened and Lord Vladimir was the first to slide out, followed by her mother and lastly her. As she slid from the carriage she took her brothers hand, secretly sliding her fingers though his, before stepping down and letting go. Their mother decided to take Sylas’ arm to be ushered in, leaving her with her father. Vladimir wrapped his arm around his daughters waist and smiled. “You look beautiful darling.” Sylva gave him a genuine smile. “Thank you daddy.”

Before they were too far away, Sylva looked behind her at the retreating blonde haired slave that was ushering Sylas’s horse away. Sylva smirked and flicked her wrist in the girls direction and watched as she suddenly shrieked and slipped on something, making her land face first in the mud at her feet. Sylva with held a laugh and continued on her way with her father.

The inside of the palace looked like the home for a crow. So many shiny things gathered into one palace it was an anomaly anyone here still had eyes. She was sure that if they could, they would have plated the castle walls in gold as well. It made her want to retch at the sight of it all. She much preferred darker, drearier, more gothic architecture and furnishings like their home in the Dark Woods. She tried to avert her eyes from the shiny objects on the way to the ballroom.

At the entrance to the ballroom the man servant there addressed the King and Queen to bring their attention. “I present the noble house of Thorne. Lord Vladmir and Lady Desdemona escorting their children Lord Sylas and Lady Sylva.” The King and Queen walked closer and Sylva resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Though the King looked quite suited to his outfit and medals and adornments, the Queen was the opposite. She seemed to be the Queen Crow that resided over all the shiny things and she certainly didn’t pull it off well.

“Welcome my Lord and Ladies. It is such an honor for you all to be staying with us this summer in the Black Keep.” The King smiled calmly. It was surprisingly handsome for such an old man. He shook both her father and brothers hands before placing kisses on her mother and her hands. His lips felt like leather, but she endured. “We want these following months to be enjoyable and comfortable so please, call me Magnus and my wife Guinevere, and do not hesitate to ask for anything.”

The Queen looked uncomfortable with just about everything the man had just said, but like the lady she was, she tried to keep a calm composure. “We greatly appreciate the opportunity of allowing your children to come and mingle amongst the other young nobles. Please make yourselves comfortable. There is food and champagne at the tables along the back wall. Once the other families have joined us we shall introduce our… Lovely children.”

Sylva curtsied and when they left to greet the next family she turned to her father. “I will go survey the area father.” She pecked his cheek before walking to her mother and Sylas. “Excuse me mother, for I must steal by brother. I feel that having some alcohol in my system may make the socializing a tad less painful.”

Desdemona chuckled softly and nodded before straightening out a part of Sylas’ outfit and fixing that loose strand of Sylva’s hair again. “I would say behave, but where is the fun in that.” She chided before looking at Sylas with a bit more of a serious look. “Make sure she doesn't get too drunk. Remember what happened that one New Years eve?”

Sylva winced. “Yes yes, I accidentally burnt down half the stables. Don’t worry mother. He will take care of me, he always does.” She smiled, and with that she looped her arm through Sylas’ and pulled him off to go drown herself in champagne.

***


Aurora had been watching out the window for hours, seeing the day turn to night and then day again. She watched as the lush forests, rivers filled with fish, and fields of flowers turned into more mystical looking woods with taller trees and lakes. They certainly weren’t in the Riverlands any longer.

“How long is she going to be daydreaming like that? Its almost been two days. Ugh. Hello? Aurora!? Wake up Aurora!” It wasn't until someone snapped into her face did she realize she had been zoning out.

Aurora turned her head from the window for once and looked at the two other people in the carriage alongside her. Her two older sisters; Seraphina and Rosalyn. Seraphina looked rather annoyed as she always did and had her arms crossed against her chest as she pouted. Rosalyn, who was sitting beside her just smiled at her in amusment, rather used to her youngest sisters daydreaming.

“Sorry, sorry. How long was I out again?” Aurora laughed and covered her mouth.

“Oh who cares, we are almost there anyways! You wasted most of the trip just staring at nothing while I had to sit here quietly.” Seraphina pouted more and looked at her with a glare. Aurora laughed more. Her pouty look wasn’t menacing at all.

Rosalyn patted Aurora’s leg. “Don’t mind her, she's just getting nervous to see her Prince Charming.” She scoffed and laughed.

Seraphina almost threw her shoe at her older sister. She loved Rosalyn, but they were complete opposites and it sometimes grated on her nerves. “Listen here, I am not nervous. Strong women do not get nervous! I am just… thinking.”

Aurora reached over to fix her sisters hair and straighten out the giant skirt of her dress. This very dress was the reason they had to take two carriages; the three Grayson daughters in one and their parents in the other. “Sera, I didn’t know you liked to think. I thought you preferred plotting instead.” Aurora teased lightly.

Seraphina sighed. Whenever Aurora teased her she couldn’t get mad. The younger girl had no hateful bones in her body and she knew she was only doing it to get her to laugh. “The reason they are having this event is for the noble families to find suitable matches for everyone.”

“Right, and out of everyone there your One True Love will just happen to be the next King of Blackvale Keep? How coincidental and fortunate for you.” Rosalyn shook her head. She would’t be here for that though. She had no plan to find herself a husband here, or for any husband at all. She had a different goal in mind. “Do you even know anything about the Crowned Prince!? He could be hideous, or very rude.”

Aurora looked at her sisters and shook her head. “I heard he’s very kind and handsome. He brings hope to even people in the Riverlands of how good a King he could be.”

“Either way doesn’t matter to me. He could be a toad with six legs and I would still marry him if he had the crown. Love can come after I’ve succeeded as Queen and given him his heir. It doesn’t even have to come at all.” Seraphina huffed. She wanted power and glory, that was her aim. She wouldn’t let her sisters get in the way of that, as much as she loved them so. Aurora, on the other hand, thought that was quite a sad way of looking at things. Unlike Seraphina who wanted to climb the social ladder, Aurora wanted actual love.

“I would marry a peasant if he made me happy.” Aurora shrugged.

“So it should be.”

“That, my dear sister, is why you won’t get anywhere in life. You need ambition!”

“You have enough ambition for all three of us and the nation of the Riverlands combined.” Rosalyn chided and waved her off. “You better be prepared because we are almost here.”

Seraphina shrieked and looked outside the window to see the large palace, otherwise known as her next home. At least thats what she thought. Aurora peered out beside her in amazement. Their keep at home was big, but this was just huge. She wondered if it had any secret passages or big libraries.

Rosalyn smiled at her two sisters and tried to keep the image of them like this in her head. She wasn’t sure if the two had realized yet but this was certainly going to change everything. By the end of the summer she wasn’t even sure if she would be seeing her two sisters again.

The carriage came to a halt outside of the castle and the door was opened by servant. Aurora popped out first to help pull Seraphina out of the carriage. She was wearing a whispy purple gown and had a pretty white flower wreath in her hair. It was easy for her to climb out. Seraphina on the other hand had a large champagne coloured ball gown that was extravagant but bulky, so while Aurora helped pull, Rosalyn helped push her from behind until the girl popped free of the carriage. Rosalyn slid out last in her own simple dress. The design itself was simple and it allowed for a lot of movement, but it was made to look fancier by the amount of glitter and shine on it. Not really her style but she had to keep appearances.

“Darlings, don’t you look lovely.” King Robert grinned as he and his wife walked closer. Servants ran from all over and brought giant umbrella’s over their heads. The women in their family were known for their fair skin. They never needed parasols, but the Kingdom didn’t seem to want to take any chances.

“Thank you daddy.” Seraphina grinned and went up to peck his cheek and give him a hug. Aurora gave him a brief hug as well while Rosalyn went and embraced their mother.

“How are you?” Rosalyn whispered in her mothers ear. Lady Elizabeth hugged her bag tightly in response. “Each old memory that comes back is like another old scar reopening. Yet you shouldn’t worry about your Mother, she can take care of herself. You, on the other hand, look lovely. You should try to dress up more often.”

Rosalyn smiled and shook her head, “You know thats not what I’m here for.”

Robert looked at his wife and oldest child, his arms already adorned by Seraphina and Aurora. “What shall I do? Id doesn’t seem I have enough arms.” he laughed. All the women laughed softly but Rosalyn wrapped her arm around her mother. “I’ll escort Mother, you take care of those pesky girls on your arms.”

With that they were ushered into the castle. It was gorgeous and Seraphina seemed taken by the wealth, growing more and more excited by the moment. Aurora looked at all the art like she just wanted to sit and stare and daydream for a while. Rosalyn, though impressed, was almost disgusted by the show of wealth.

“My Lord. My Ladies. It a pleasure to meet the noble and prestigious house of Grayson. Our servants will take your belongings to your rooms and service your horses and carriages while you stay in the Black Keep. I will be leading you to the ballroom where the Commencement Ball is taking place.” The man inside said, as if he had announced the same thing many times to the different families with only the change in family name.

The Grayson family followed along while gazing and taking in all the sights the palace had to offer. They certainly had pulled out all of the stops. When they arrived at the doors, Rosalyn felt her mother tense, knowing what was coming but Rosalyn clutched her tightly and walked in with her.

“I present the noble house of Grayson. Lord Robert and Lady Elizabeth escorting their children Lady Rosalyn, Lady Seraphina and Lady Aurora.” The servant announced and all heads turned to see who was next.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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JONAH ALLYRION
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Eldest Child | The Winter's Wolf
#E80000 | Outfit
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CLARA ALLYRION
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Only Daughter | The Winter's Child
#388E8E | Outfit


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Days earlier...
Clara sat watching the snow. She sat on a bench, and leaned on a hand, staring out of the single window in her chambers, the glass was closed and the small hearth burned but she could still feel the cold. The night was particularly cold and dark. She sighed. Something was coming. Something as cold and as dark as this night.
Her Dreams told her as much...
A hefty knock came at the oaken door of her chambers. She turned just as her father, Lord Ramsey Allyrion, Lord of the North, a massive man, skin as dark as the night, yet with strangely light eyes, eyes she inherited. "What are you doing up here all along, Little One?" He asked, his voice strong and deep. She looked down at her feet. "Thinking." She said and he twitched a brow. Not angrily, curiously. "Clara." He said and took a seat on her bed, patting a place for her beside him. She sighed. It wasn't a lie, but she wasn't being forthcoming either. She walked over to him and sat beside him. "I have a bad feeling." She admitted and he said nothing, patiently waiting for her to continue. "I don't know what it is, I just..." She looked up and toward the window, watching the flakes fall and collect on the seal. She sighed. "It's...It's like just before a storm, a bad one, I can feel, the...static...the calm." she said and looked back at her father who was watching her. "What are our words." He asked, and she looked down at her hands, which had been twisting her skirts. "Day will rise." She said. "What does it mean?" He asked, and she looked at him. She knew the words, heard them all her life but she never considered what they meant. She thought she knew but the question made her question herself. She looked down, ashamed. "I'm...I'm not sure." She said and he placed a hand on her head. "A long time ago when our family first landed here from the south-lands." Her father began, stroking her dark hair. "They were used to the warmth of the sun, the days were longer in the south-lands and here in the north, the days were short, the night were long, and some days, the sun wouldn't come for months at a time," he said and she looked at him. She knew this story. Her father's people were from where the sun was hot, and it never snowed. She couldn't imagine a place where it didn't snow, even in the winter.
"They were terrified, the seeds they brought, didn't grow, winds howled, storms raged, and many, many did not survive but then...one day, after months of cold, and the death, the snow melt, plants grew, and the sun rose...." He said and she nodded. She knew this. "That's why those are our words...'Day will rise.'" She said and he smiled. "Yes, but it means more than that," he said. "It means, No matter how dark it seems. The Day will rise, they will get better." He said and she looked at him, understanding playing her face. "So, my little Clara, you might feel a storm, and perhaps it's on the rise, but remember our words...." He told her and pulled her into a warm embrace. "Day will rise." She sank into his hug, but she couldn't shake the feeling like something...something horrible was coming. Day would rise, but it had to be dark first.
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Jon twirled his practice sword, one, twice before bringing the wooden blade across the belly of an equally wooden dummy, following through with a sidelong spin as if the dummy had its own sword and would have taken the opportunity to swing in return. Jon rose the blade up and would have taken the head of his foe if he hadn't noticed brilliant red hair out of the corner of his eye. Stark against the white, gray and blues around him. His shoulders slacked, though his arms were still holding the sword high. "Mother..." he murmured but a smile touched his lips, lowering his weapon. He turned to her with an arch brow, still warning his grin. "That's mighty distracting." He told his mother, Lady Charlotte, as she approached him, her hands tucked into the fur-lined sleeves of her overdress. She merely smiled, one that mirrored his. "I enjoy watching you practice." She said, removing her hand from the warmth of her sleeve to reach up, cupping the back of his head to press a kiss to his forehead. He lowered, allowing her the kiss, though he felt a little odd, he was sweating, despite the cold, from the practice and surely the smell was offensive. He stood straight, leaning on his practice sword. "Father still speaking with Clara, I gather." He said and his mother laughed. "Can't I watch my son practice?" She asked feigning innocence. Jon shook his head. "Of course," He said. "Clearly you've nothing better to do." He said and expecting the swat that came to his arm. He wore his grin and so did she, for a moment before his mother's faded. She looked down at her feet and sighed. Her breath appearing in wisps from the exhale.
"Clara is in one of her moods again." She confessed, her native accent touching her words stronger now, she always had one but it was only this strong when she was upset. Jon could only sigh. He knew this of course. She had another episode last night where she ended up wandering around the Keep in her sleep. He was awoken by her running into his door. Thankfully the girl was tougher than she looked. He thought she might be sporting a bruise.

"She was sleep walking again, so..." Jon shrugged before tossing his wooden blade against the dummy and offering an arm to his mother. Her face was paler than usual, Jon noted, clearly, she must have been keeping herself busy.

"I wish I knew what to do." She told him and he sighed. Clara loved their mother and vice versa but she'd always been closer to Father. Mother couldn't reach her, she was often telling Clara all the things she did wrong, much like Father did to him. But whereas, Jon knew he meant well. Clara, though she didn't bruise easy, she had a soft heart, and for the first few years of her life, she was ill, to the point where they did not think she would survive. Thankfully she did, but she was bedridden for most of her life when she finally got better, Mother had to teach her all she needed to know about being a proper lady all at once, it seemed. Rather than, slowly like she would have if Clara was healthy. This put a strain on both of them. Clara had to grow up, quickly, and Mother couldn't treat her like the child she was inside. Jon got to be a child and learned to be a man. Clara woke up one day and she had to be a woman. Jon allowed her to be a child with him, Father did too, though he treated them both like children most of the time, but Mother could not, even when she wanted to. They turned into the keep and the large hearth that heated the main hall greeted them with warmth. Jon took a breath. "Talk to her." He said and his mother looked at him with a frown as if to say. 'I do.'

"I mean...have you tried to get to know her?" He asked and she looked offended "I know my daughter, Jon." she said and Jon sighed, patting the hand that was hooked around his arm. "No, I mean, truly get to know her, like, have you listened one of her songs?"
She rolled her eyes. "No, but she needs not to focus on that now." She said and he stopped their walk and turned to his mother. She was a tall woman but he still had her by a foot or two. "Perhaps," He stopped to lick his lips, knowing he was getting dangerously close to upsetting her. He did not want that. His mother was kind but wasn't someone one wanted angry. "Perhaps that's the problem." He said. "You haven't bothered to listen to her, you tell her what she needs to do, how she needs to do it, even why she needs to do it but...you haven't let her speak to you..."
His mother was quiet, which wasn't a good sign. "You haven't let her do those things her own way," he said and she frowned, looking off which -though she frowned- was a good sign. She was musing. He wondered if she was recalling the one time where Clara was sewing and she was signing, Jon had happened by and hear Mother tell her to stop and that she needed to focus, Jon knew that that was Clara's way of focusing. The moment she stopped singing the stitching wasn't as good as Mother wanted. Jon left after he hear mother fuss, but Clara told him the rest.

Mother looked up at him and sighed, a few stitching her brow. Jon said nothing else, watching her. She looked much like Clara at that moment, or rather, Clara looked much like her when she frowned. "Maybe you're right." She said finally and Jon realized then he hadn't been breathing. "Am I?" He asked with his wolfish grin, hoping to lighten the mood. Mother's face softened but otherwise made no acknowledge to his teasing. She merely huffed out of her nose, much like Clara does when she's relenting. "She's a woman now... And soon--very soon, she will need to marry, and I just want the best for her." She said but Jon stopped listening after 'she will need to marry'.
He looked at his mother, mouth agape. "Wait, what?"
His mother looked at him and then she heard herself. She looked away. "Mother, what are you talking about?" He asked, a little more urgently than he intended. The thought of Clara marrying...it turned his stomach. She was a beautiful girl but she knew nothing of the world and had a child's heart. She couldn't be married, not yet.

"Mother?" He urged and she turned to look at him, her green eyes wide, twisting her skirts. Jon felt a panic. "We were going to tell you both...together...Your Father and I," She said and Jon frowned. "Tell us what?"

"The King...He has requested our presence at the Black Keep; The other families will attend as well," She said and Jon felt as if he'd been kicked in the stomach. His brain already putting two and two together. The King and his father had always been close, and knowing Clara was of age now, Jon swallowed, bile churning his stomach. She could have more of a chance than most if they played this right.

"The King wants to parade my little sister around other women so that the Prince might choose one for a wife?" He couldn't hide his disgust. "She's a child." He spat and his mother flinched. He didn't mean to shout but it was too late for that now. "Magnus..." His mother started, reaching for him but he recoiled sharply. She called him his first name, not Jonah, his middle name but the namesake he was given after the King. This was bad. "Magnus...She's not." She said and he shook his head.
"But she is, she just doesn't look it." He said and stormed off. How could they do this to her? Clara wasn't ready for court life, and hell, neither was he. This was wrong.

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The next day, Clara and Jonah were called to the Great Hall. It was light with the morning sun casting a soft blue hue onto the stone walls. The Long Night had been over for a few years now and Day had risen, as their father always promised. The hall was normal alight with candles, the great hearth where massive logs would crackle and pop from the flames upon them. It would give the hall a warm orange glow; making it seem more welcoming and safe. Now, it seemed harsh and imposing for the lack of color. They only color in the room was their mother's brilliant red hair, that in this light, looked darker and almost hard to see. That was something neither of the children appreciated. Their parents sat on the dais in front of the large hearth which held no wood or flames this morning, there was no need; the sun was up and warming the keep with its rays. Though, a southern people wouldn't consider the temperature warm, especially for the snow that was still falling outside. They were behind a long oaken table. The wood was sanded smooth, cravings depicted their house sigil, the Crescent Moon. The same crescent moon was stitched finely into the large silver and black banners that hung on either side of the hearth.

The morning sun peeking through the high windows cast what wasn't lit by the beams into dark shadows. Appropriate actually, this was the Shadow House after all.

Clara and Jonah stood together in front of them, Jonah making it a point to hold Clara's hand, which, of course, only made Clara more nervous. She swallowed and Jonah squeezed her hand. "Jonah, Clara." Their father said with a nod, his unusually light eye finding both of them seemingly at the same time. They bowed and curtseyed respectively. "Good Morning, Father, Good Morning Mother." Clara said softly. Father, Mother" Jonah said with an attitude in his tone that it seemed, at least to Clara that they all noticed but otherwise ignored. Their mother merely smiled, though it didn't reach her eyes.

"Clara, How are you feeling?"Lord Ramsey asked, looking at her. She smiled in a similar way that her mother had. "Well, Father." She said and he nodded. "anymore coughing fits, and sleeping episodes?" He asked and she shook her head. "No, Father," she said with a smile. She had the night before last but none last night. That was something.
She watched her father's face, their father rarely allowed his thoughts to be betrayed by his face but Clara had learned to read the small things. It wasn't all she really had to do while laying in bed, only seeing people when they chose to visit. She had time to study their faces, the small things they did when they spoke to her, whether or not they were lying to her. So she knew by the small nod and the upward twitch of her father's eyebrow that he was glad to hear this and that would come into play later.
"Good." Was all he said on the subject before his eyes turned to the both of them.

"We received a raven from Blackvale." He began and Jonah's hand twitched, closing her fingers. Clara didn't hide her frown but she didn't turn it to her brother, but she knew, he knew what was coming next.

"The King has requested our presence for the summer, we will be staying in Blackvale for the entirety of it." He went on and Clara would have smiled had it not been for Jonah's tension. She could feel the heat radiating from him. "A whole Summer in Blackvale?" She asked and her father nodded. Clara looked at her brother finally, offering a smile. "Isn't that exciting, Pup?" She urged and he seemed to not hear her at first, before turning to her. He gave a smirk that was more of a twitch but that was all. He said nothing. That was very uncharacteristic of him. He always had a lot of say, good or bad. He was waiting for something. She turned to her father then. "Is that all, Father?" She urged and he shot a look to Jonah that made her nervous and the nervousness continued when he turned back at her. "We will not be the other family to attend, The Thornes, The Chaimbers, The Cavaliers, The Thatchers, The Davernys and the Greysons, all will be there as well." He said and Clara gapped. "My" She breathed and she looked at her brother who while still tense, seemed to finally hear news he hadn't heard before.

"What for, Father?"

"Yes, Father, tell us, What for." Jonah finally spoke and it caused Clara to whip her head his direction. Jonah never used that tone with anyone, especially not Father. "Magnus." Their mother hissed while their father cocked his head threateningly all while Clara looked at her family as if they'd all changed colors. "What is going on?" She blurted.

"They are sending you there to be paraded in front of the Prince, in hopes that you will be chosen by him, marry him and produce him an heir, that is what this invitation is all about," Jonah said, glaring daggers their father and Clara blinked. "Wh-what?"
"Mangus Jonah Allyrion, that is quite enough," Their mother barked from across the room, her voice echoing in the otherwise empty hall. Jonah looked as if he were about to speak but snapped his mouth shut at her tone. Clara was still reeling from the news.
"Is this true, Father?" she asked and as per usual, he merely nodded.
"Not in so many words." Their mother corrected. "But yes, that is why we were invited, for you to be a potential wife for the Prince."
Clara sighed heavily, she knew this day was coming, her mother had been preparing her for such a thing but now that it was here, her stomach turned to knots.

"So nevermind what Clara wants?" Jonah spoke up again, his tone cooler this time. "That is not something a Lady need worry about." their mother said though they all could hear the disgust in her tone. Jonah jerked his head back as if she'd stuck him. "Frozen Hell, you really believe that don't you?" He said shocked. "Jonah." Their father said warningly. Father rarely disciplined them, unless they upset or somehow disrespected their mother. Jonah was getting dangerously close to the latter.

"Father, you can't allow this to happen? Clara's a child, and we don't even know what he'll be like.." Jonah said gesturing to Clara making her feel small. Jonah was always wildly protective of her. He is a wolf and she is his pack, but he often made the mistake of underestimating her.
"You were kind to mother, you love Mother but you two are the exception, not the rule." Jonah went on and Clara closed her eyes. "I am not a child," she said but he voice was too small and Jonah went on. "What if he hurts her? What then? Dear Ancestors, if he chooses her and then hurts her, there will be nothing we can do to stop him, to protect her. Mother, you made me promise to look out for her, Father you told me to be a man of my words, so I cannot sit by and watch as-"
"I'm not a child, Jonah!" Clara shouted, stopping Jonah dead. He turned to her wild-eyed.
"Do you think me so weak, Brother? "
Jonah shook his head, rolling his eyes. "That's not what I meant." He sighed, and out of the corner of her eye, Clara saw her father waved down her mother as if to tell her to let them handle this.
"What do you mean then, Jonah? You called me a child."
"You're young."
"There is a difference, Jonah.."
"Perhaps, but you're still green, Clara, you aren't ready for court life,"
Clara narrowed her eyes, a hand on her hip. "And how do you suppose that I get ready, Jonah. hm?" She cocked her head and Jonah was silent. "You say you care about what I want but you haven't bothered to ask my opinion, either."She waited for his argument but he had none and she knew it.

Sure, she wasn't ready, not even close but she wasn't a child, and she did not wish to be treated like one. She looked at their parents, there was a light in her father's eyes that registered as pride and there was something in her mother's eyes that registered as fear?

"We do we depart, Father?"
"First thing Tomorrow. Are you sure about this, Clara? You know I would not put you in any danger-" He shot a look to Jonah before continuing "-Rhaegar is a good man but you need not win his favor if you do not wish to, there will be plenty of other women there who want his hand."
Clara hadn't thought about it actually, she knew of Rhaegar but knew nothing of him. Would she want to marry a man she never met? It wasn't as if she'd just be handed off to him. He would be given a choose among many -likely more healthy women- sand if she did like him enough then she would decide.
"I will decide on my own and I will let you know, we have to see the bridge before we cross it, yes?" She said and her father smiled then. "Yes."
"I will prepare then," She said they were dismissed. Jonah said nothing to her that entire morning.
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Later that night as they were preparing for the journey, Jonah felt bad. He knew he was wrong, he shouted at his mother, upset his sister, all in the name of protecting her. He still felt wrong about this whole thing but she was right. She wasn't a child anymore and while he would protect her forever. He couldn't. She had to make her own choices; that was what he wanted after all. He made his way to her chamber, all dressed in riding gear, his sword sheathed at his side, and knocked lightly. "Come" she called and he entered, his head down."Oh, Jon." she said and he knew she was still upset with him but didn't completely hate him. He sighed before he began." Clara...I'm sorry." He said. "I didn't mean to upset you, or disrespect you, I look at you, and I remember how things were and I just-" He looked down at his feet, rubbing the back of his head."It's alright, Pup." She said and he looked up at her. Pup, that was a good sign. "You meant well, but you've got to understand, I'm not that child anymore, you don't have to worry for me."
"you sleep walk and have coughing fits, yes I do."She smiled. "you know what I mean." She said and walked up to him, she placed her hands on his shoulders and sighed. "Mother has been preparing me for this day for a long time, I knew it was coming, and yes, I'm scared but I will be fine, I can handle to besides..." she smiled up at him taking his face in either hand and lowered it to her lips. "I know I have you to look out for me if something does go wrong." She said and smiled up at him, releasing him He nodded. [color=#E80000]"Alright, Songbird, but if something goes wrong, try not to do anything that will get me hanged or beheaded, I will take it very personally if you do." He aid and she chuckled and shoved him playfully. "Go, we must get ready."
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Present Day
"Ready, Songbird?" Jonah whispered down at her. Clara looked up at him, a nod as they were ushered into the Black Keep, the ballroom was lavish and as daunting as she imagined. She took a breath with normal was constricting due to her illness, she was much more constricted by the corset she wore. It was in the south style so most of her is showing much more of her then even she saw on a regular basis. "Careful, that thing you're wrapped up in will pop. It'll make a terrible impression on the royal family or a good one if you're trying to get the Prince's attention " Jonah grinned wolfishly. Clara scrunched up her nose. her corset was mighty tight, and she was wearing a lot less than she had been used to now that they were in the Southlands. She'd never been this far south before. The Sun felt different down here and she already missed the snow but then again, she was Winter's Child, she preferred the cold.

Clara watched as the Graysons and then the Chaimbers were introduced while Jonah had been not so casually staring the line of yellow-haired women. "Do you know them?" Clara whispered. Jonah rose his brows. "Huh?" He asked, finally looking in her direction. ""The Princes and the Princess? Do you know them?"she asked again and Jonah shrugged a shoulder, casting his gaze abut the "I sort of remember Rhaegar, we met when I was really small. I've seen Brom a few times with Father but I don't know him well but the Princess...I have never seen her before, I look forward to meeting her.." he said and Clara closed her eyes to avoid rolling them. Her brother was a flirt, and it was hard to get his eyes off on any woman that was his pray. Luckily for them, he was a good man otherwise, she'd have more nieces and nephews than she knew what to do with."We are supposed to be here for me, Pup."
"We are, we are." He said and patted her shoulder. "Surely the Princess will need something to do while her brother courts you all, no?"
"If it helps you sleep at night, Brother."
"With any luck, I'll be much too busy." He said with a wolfish grin and Clara closed a hand over her face. She asked for that, she really did.

Next, it was their turn to be presented to the royal family and Jonah straightened himself up.

"May I present to you, The noble House Allyrion. Lord Ramsey and Lady Charlotte." The herald began Their mother and father bowed respectfully. "And their children, Lord Magnus ." He said and Jonah seemed to want to wince but didn't. He merely smiled and bowed grandly to the King and Queen. Clara knew he didn't like being called by that name, he hadn't felt like he earned it yet, and being called that name in front of his namesake would daunting. Of course, he didn't tell her this nor would he but she could read him too well. "Lady Clara." Clara stepped up and curtseyed. "You're Graces" before stepping aside for the next family.
Suddenly, she felt it again. That static, sending a shock up her spine. The storm was still on its way and it was hit here.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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LARA CAVALIER
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Eldest Child | The White Frog, Swan Princess
#A8C5EA | Outfit


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The expression is always the hardest part, Lara consoled herself as she unpicked the doll's smile for the third time with raw fingers. The rest of her handiwork was perfect – an ideal girl with golden hair who stood composed in a pretty dress – but when it came to a believable smile Lara's ability always fell short. She was ready to give up. She took no enjoyment in sewing nor in projecting herself onto childish playthings, despite having a knack for both. Now that she'd pulled out of her trance, she ran her tongue over her bottom lip and discovered it to be swollen from being absent-mindedly sucked on while she worked. There was without a doubt lipstick coating her teeth at this point.

The sweltering heat was getting to her, her eyes drooping and head getting heavy with dreams of a cool breeze or spring. She knew that her legs were dripping with sweat beneath her ridiculous skirts. How long had she been in this carriage for? She shut her eyes and rested the back of her head against the seat, almost falling asleep to the lull of the wheels and the fragments of a conversation between her father and the guard being held on horseback outside. She let out a silent sigh and rested the faceless doll on her poofy lap when a sharp ahem caught her attention. She squinted open her eyes to meet the disapproving scowl of her mother, The Beak of the Marsh. Now, Lara was very well aware that 'marsh' was just another fancy name for swamp and she knew that would be no secret to any of the other nobles either. Surely, the Cavaliers of Swampland were going to be brought up and chuckled about at least once in dinner conversation by someone she was obligated to dance with. Actually, if she considered that an embarrassment, perhaps she should have been more worried about the story surrounding her last attempted marriage circling the halls of the Black Keep. Oh, she could already hear the squire announcing their arrival and the whispers of smirking noblemen and women with nothing better to do than sit and preen each other's feathers.


“AHEM.” Lara snapped her attention back to the calculative gaze of her mother. “Sit up straight, you'll flatten your hair.” Lady Beatrice scolded, then narrowed her green eyes and leaned forward to inspect her daughter, “Not that you've done anything to deserve me worrying for it. Here,” her hands attacked her stunning updo and pulled away two golden pins with clusters of creamy white pearls garnishing their tips. Lara watched her hands work as they twisted the platinum curls that framed her face and pinned them back, retrieving new pins from her own hair until Lara's was completely done up and Beatrice's red waves were scraping past her shoulders. Beatrice broke into an earnest smile as she fell back to admire her work, clapping her weathered hands together. No matter how much powder she dusted her skin with, the veins and swollen joints on her fingers denied her ignorance of her age. “There we go. See how much nicer that is? It looks like you put in an effort for them.” Lara touched her hair self-consciously and frowned.

“Smile!” Beatrice demanded jovially and stretched her daughter's powdered cheeks, “You only get an opportunity like this once. All you have to do is dance and laugh and curtsey and you'll blow them all away. Do you understand how lucky you are to meet your to-be husband so long before you are to be wed?”

Lara gave her mother a sympathetic look, knowing that she, like many others, had met her father on the same day as their marriage... for better or for worse. “Mother, are you glad that you married Father?”

“The Gods have my gratitude,” Beatrice half-lied. Even Lara could tell that it was more complicated than that. “Your Father is a good man. With him, I have birthed many beautiful children.” She smiled endearingly at Lara and the young woman smiled back hopefully. “But I will not flatter you for any longer. I know you only mean to distract me.”

“That was not my intention at all!” Lara insisted hurriedly, “I was only wondering whether that nobleman was a good man, like Father is. Perhaps I should apologise in person for what happened. We could visit on our -”

“You're two years too late,” Beatrice warned. “I cannot believe I'm saying this, but your rebellion blossomed into this opportunity and we should all be glad. You will not weasel your way out of this, do you understand me? The only way to avoid this was to marry that man on that day.”

“How was I supposed to know this disaster was going to happen?” Lara grumbled under her breath childishly and leaned back.

“Sit up, think of your hair! This is an opportunity, not a disaster and you should be grateful. Nobody knew, Lara Lee. We all thought you had thrown away your future. It’s a miracle that we even received an invitation. Now, must you argue? Your voice is giving me a headache. Go back to sewing, your doll is missing its smile.” Lara dipped her head down and picked up her needle and thread, not wanting to upset her mother further. Beatrice watched her with pursed lips before deciding to enforce her authority one step more. “You do understand what I am saying, Lara Lee? That to deserve a King -”

“I must act like a Queen, I know.” Lara finished sullenly. Her knees shifted uncomfortably and she tried to find them under her mound of skirts, but all she found was her faceless doll. A satisfied smile crept across Beatrice's face.

“And from what I can see, my little girl isn't holding her head like it balances a crown,” she cooed and tilted her child's chin up. The wavering strength in Lara's brown eyes displeased her and she dug her thumbnail into the skin beneath her swollen lip, “Don't let the crown fall.”

Lara only nodded, her own face betraying her by clearly displaying how terrified she was made by this entire ordeal. The expression, after all, was the hardest part. The conversation continued as Lady Beatrice forced Lara to recite the lines she had to say when meeting with the King and Queen and reminded her of the houses she was allowed to converse with, and the characters that she would be flayed for approaching. When the ride came to an end, the lecturing did not. As Lara hitched up her masses of skirts and stepped out of the carriage she felt that her face was about to melt off from boredom. She slipped before she made it to the ground and was immediately assisted by rough hands.

“Your feet asleep, Frog?” Lara looked up at the serious face of her father. She immediately wrapped him into a hug and hit one foot against the ground in an attempt to wake it.

“I'm afraid I'm not a very good frog today.” There was bitterness in those words and James understood why.

“It's a long journey,” he said apologetically and returned her hug, rocking her like a child. “That's not over yet. You should have come outside to join me for a ride. You would enjoy the landscape."

"Ha! Me, on a ho-" As if on cue, a loud snort interrupted Lara's indignant reply and she yelped and clutched to her father like a lifeline. She felt hot air on the back of her neck and whimpered, scooting around behind him to glare at the creature from a safe distance.

"Your desire for freedom is no rival to your fear," James ridiculed and scratched his stallion behind the ears. Lara glanced up at the horse's soulless, buggy eyes and mimicked it by flaring her nostrils. "It bothers me, how my daring frog can look down at the world from the tallest tree... yet succumb to tears when on top of a horse."

"I am not crying!" she shot, I won't cry, I was a child then! I have the good sense to not get on one, now!" The horse whinnied and Lara almost looked apologetic. "Please just... send it away. Now. Please, before I hurt its feelings further."

"Alright, Froggy." James grunted. "Fiore, there. Tch tch." The horse walked over to the Castillon staff tasked with handling it. James shook his head with a sigh at his daughter's erratic behaviour then whispered, "Chin up. Your Mother's coming."

“No, no.” Beatrice bustled over and pried the father and daughter apart. “Did I hear frog? There will be no frogs here, only swans.”

“Shall I send her back home, then?” James made a gesture telling Lara to slip away and turned to his wife with a frown, “When will you admit that our daughter is a frog?”

Lara stifled laughter and shuffled around the back of the carriage while her parents argued whether she was a frog or a swan. Even a little disagreement like that could be blown out of proportion and she didn't like to stick around when things got heavy. From there she could still hear her parents bickering and cradled her naked arms, sighing. She was already beginning to feel lonely. For someone who appreciated solitude as much as herself, it was odd that the thought of her siblings being so far away from her made her feel stripped and vulnerable.

"Lady Lara," one of the Cavalier guardsmen addressed her and she readjusted her features as quickly as she could - not quick enough, he saw her frown. She turned to him and her eyes immediately lightened with joy at what he held in his hands. A little pink nose squeezed through the bars of a cage, sniffing the air excitedly as it sensed the presence of its mother.

"Delilah!" Lara moved forward in a rush, accidentally treading on her skirt and slipping a little before swooping in and retrieving the fat white rabbit from its prison. She nuzzled her fur without care for the make up stains she was leaving on the creature and scratched behind her long ears, the spell of loneliness and vulnerability inside of her lifted. After calming down from their reunion she peered at the guardsman through one eye and pulled her face away from her rabbit to flash him a huge grin. "Sorry that I asked this of you. Delilah is a Cavalier too, just... not what you expected to be guarding? I hope she wasn't trouble." That was a lie. She was yearning to hear of any sort of mishap.

"There was no trouble, my Lady." The guardsmen said and bowed.

"Are you sure? Not even a fox that gave you the evil eye or a necklace she yanked from a lady's neck?"

"... No, I don't recall anythi -"

"If you say so." Lara twisted on her heels with Delilah cradled in her arms and began to trot back to her parents, ignoring the guard asking to put the rabbit back into the cage. "Don't worry, Lilah. I'm sure he'll notice the hole you chewed through his trousers soon." She reassured the rabbit. When Lara returned she found Lord and Lady Swan to be in the exact same argument she left them in. "Where is it written that I can't be the princess and the frog?" She piped up as she hopped between them. Lady Beatrice groaned and spun away while Lord James scratched Delilah's head and made "chu" noises.

"Lara Lee, please realise that your father is insulting you - are you holding a rabbit?"

"It can't be helped," she claimed, "Magnolia insisted that I take her with me and now, Delilah tires of cages. I won't force her to do anything against her will." Because I'm a good mother. She thought bitterly and watched her mother's lips tighten. James was quick to separate them.

"I think it's time we go in," he said briskly, "Lara, please put the rabbit away. We don't want to make any unsavoury first impressions." Lara nodded and went to find the cage, which she discovered not with the guard but with a servant of the Black Keep. She asked him to take her to her room for the time being and feed her before coming back to her parents while attempting to rub off the dirty rabbit paw print on her bust. She forced a smile and a nod and her parents reached out to put a hand on each of her shoulders before they began to ascend the stairs to the castle.

~~~

Upon taking one step inside Lara was assaulted by what she felt to be a million reflections of herself, all on shiny metallic surfaces. This was the grandest grand foyer she had ever seen, large and filled to the brim with expense over expense. A part of her was impressed and wanted to run around touching everything, but a bigger part was regretful the children weren't there to see the castle. They would have loved it. A servant came to speak to them and Lara's eyes continued to scan everything in sight during his small rehearsed greeting.

She raised her brow as she passed a particularly polished display she could see herself clearly reflected on in full. At least, the creature that followed her movements - instead of a frog an unfamiliar "Princess" blinked right back at her. The illusion was broken when she grinned and she rubbed furiously at the pink wax speckling her teeth. She dismissed her reflection with a wave like it would go away then smiled at the thought of something humorous. Delilah was going to dig into this goldmine like a drunkard diving into a sea of whiskey. Beatrice shushed her quiet giggle, glancing in her direction. Her eyes widened in alarm when she noticed the faded dirt on Lara's chest. Lara ducked her head down in guilt then distracted herself with the magnificent ballroom. She couldn't help but feel just a little bit excited as she looked around at who else had arrived. The Allyrions had just been introduced before them, their son looking just like the wolf he was spoken to be and their young daughter - just older than Penelope - looking more like a big-eyed doe than a fierce predator. Lara looked to the others, not allowing herself to give the males thought and instead fixating herself on the ladies of the court. Her face paled as she stared at the back of the bewitching woman in the midnight gown, sunk when she spotted the blonde beauty in pale blue then turned grey as she zoned in on the three fair blonde sisters. Each Noblewoman held their own unique and intriguing air, one of them - the woman in the pink dress - seeming to have something particularly dangerous lingering in her smile. Dangerous meaning tempting. Was it an unspoken rule that all nobility must be gorgeous? With which of her lacking charms was she supposed to compete against these women with? Now she was getting annoyed with herself. She didn't need beauty or any pretty, witty, fluttery words! If she could tackle two fighting hounds, why not a romantic rival? No, not romantic. Political opponent. Not even that. Prince bandit. That sounded better. If only to make her day a little brighter, it was all she could ask - all she could pray - that that nobleman had already married and sunk to the bottom of the ocean on his honeymoon voyage. Perhaps she was being too morbid in her wishes.


"I present the noble house of Cavalier. Lord James and Lady Beatrice, escorting their eldest daughter, Lady Lara Lee."

Lara glanced up from her daydreams with a snap. She gave her parents a signal for help with her eyes that was returned by an urging look. She held her breath and made sure to not let the crown fall as she stepped forth to sink into a very low, respectful curtsey. She was not excited to meet the King, she was not excited to meet the King, no, she was not excited... She didn't dare look up at the two intimidating and (secretly) awe-inspiring figures before her.

"Your Majesties," she said softly, but not quietly. "The Gods have my gratitude." Such a simple set of words that took forever to come out right in practise. In truth her mother had planned a page long monologue about how brave the King was and how beautiful the Queen was but while standing in front of everyone like this... she couldn't. She couldn't find it within herself to spill out such pretentious jargon with everyone watching, it felt too much like a performance. She stood out of her curtsey and moved back to her parents who gave her small nods of approval then walked with her to edge of the room to await the next attendants. Lara had a violent vision of the chandelier above her falling down and crushing her head right then and there and spent a moment debating whether it was a nightmare or fantasy. As unusual as it was for her... she was in a bloody bad mood, and as per usual... she was terrible at hiding it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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AVERY THATCHER
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Eldest Son | The Armadillo
#FF4500 | Outfit
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ELLIOT THATCHER
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Youngest Son | The Casanova
#551A8B | Outfit
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ILENE THATCHER
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Only Daughter | The Thorny Rose
#CD1076 | Outfit

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"Oh come on, you can do better than that," Avery grinned at his younger brother, lowering the large shield with the family armadillo crest adorning the front. "Where was the soul in that swing? The fight?"

"Oh shut up or it'll be your soul floating about," Elliot grumbled as he recovered from the bounce his swing had produced when it collided with Avery's shield. Elliot rolled his shoulders and twirled his swords in his hands as he got back into a crouching position as he and Avery circled each other.

"You'll have to practice more for that feat. At this rate you wouldn't be able to slaughter a slug," Avery taunted, his blue eyes alight with a teasing glint. Elliot gave a war cry as he rushed forward, right sword swinging, forcing Avery to bring his shield up and step back as Elliot twirled with the force to bring his left sword down at Avery's shoulder which Avery parried only to get a kick. Avery stumbled back from the kick and barely brought his shield up to block the two sword coming down from above. Avery flicked his own sword out to swat Elliot's ankles with the flat of his blade. "Better! But I still got you. In a real fight I would have slashed your ankles and you would be downed."

"If you didn't have that shield to hide behind I would have gotten you," Elliot growled as he pulled back to get some distance.

"Most will fight with shields. You need to find a way to get beneath them or you'll never win."

"Oh honestly, don't you two ever get bored of playing with your swords?" Ilene grumbled from where she sat beneath a shaded tree. Ilene pulled at one of her threads in her needle work as she fixed one of Avery's shirts. Her blond hair was down today, cascading down around her face and shoulders as she worked.

Elliot couldn't help the grin playing on his lips. "No, it is actually quite fun to play with my sword. Better yet with another slowly rolling over it."

Ilene looked up at her younger sibling aghast. "Elliot! Must you always interject with such lewd imagery?

"You started it," Elliot laughed.

Avery rolled his eyes at his siblings. Realizing he'd lost Elliots attention and would no doubt not get any real sword training from the man, he put his sword away and hoisted the shield on his back. Avery ran a hand through his own blond locks with a sigh. "I guess we are done for the day. I am going to go into the field. Farmer Padrick asked for some assistance in the cornfield. Tell mother and father please."

"I am not your page. You can tell them yourself. I am going out now that we are done here," Elliot answered and put away his own swords.

"Damn it Elliot, I know very well where you are going. You are going to give Mam a heart attack at this rate. Leave that poor boy alone. He's the best stable hand we've got and you'll scare him off."

Elliot gave his brother a mock look of horror and pressed his hands against his chest as if he had been struck. "Brother! You make me out to be a monster! I am wounded! I merely offer him my affections!"

Ilene and Avery both gave each other a look before leveling their gazes at Elliot un-phased by the youngest's theatrics. Elliot gave a pout before he gave up the charade. He rested his hands on his hip. "Approval or not, I am going," Elliot announced as he turned away. Before either brother could leave, however, their mother's voice rang out over the garden, calling all three of them. The three siblings glanced at each other in a bit of worry and confusion. It wasn't often their mother called for all three of them at once. The immediate thought was that something grave had occurred. Elliot and Avery both helped their sister gather her sewing before the three of them hurried back to the manor where their mother was calling for them.

Lady Ophelia was yet beautiful in her old age, a testament to the beauty she had been. She had aged gracefully, the wrinkles barely tugging at her eyes and lips. Her skin was still fair like her daughter's though slightly roughened by her hard work. Her pale golden hair was beginning to grow in silvery and gave her an air of sophistication. Even her movements were yet graceful and enchanting. Ilene truly hoped that she too aged as well as her mother. It was easy to see where the Thatcher children had gotten their charm and beauty from. Ophelia held her head high and proud as she rested her warm eyes on each of her children.

"Oh, Avery, Elliot, you both are covered in dirt again. And look at the holes in your clothing! You make me and Ilene work just to mend your clothing," she chided lovingly. "Your sister is already mending clothes," she mused as she looked at what Ilene was holding.

"Sorry, Mam. We were training in the yard. Has somewhat happened? Is everything all right?" Avery asked her, concern playing on his handsome features.

"It is not trouble so don't worry yourself over it but we received a letter from our liege of the Black Keep your father and I would like to discuss with you."

"The Black Keep?"

It wasn't often their parents brought them into counsel after a letter. What was all of this about? Three three siblings glanced between each other before they followed their mother into the counsel room where their father was waiting for them. Just as their mother, Lord William was a handsome man in his aging. Though far more weather and stress worn, the lines of his face gave him a sort of stoic recognition. His good nature was easily seen in his deep blue eyes, shinning through the gruffness of his love of simplicity. Unlike most lords, he was happy with the simple pleasures, never over adorning his home with trinkets. Even the clothing he preferred was tailored to be far less rich and elaborate for his station. It was easy to see Avery took after that predilection. Lord William smiled as his wife took her place at his right hand and he looked over his children as he sat forward.

"As I am sure your mother has already explained, we just received a message from his Majesty and her Highness. They have invited us to stay for the summer in the Black Keep."

"Stay for the summer the Black Keep?" Ilene repeated in surprise. That was quite the honor but there had to be more to it then that. The king and queen would have no use for all of them to take up residence there for an entire summer.

"Is that wise? Who would watch over our lands? The people?" Avery interjected. "I could stay home and watch over everything. You both know I do not have the desire to play in court intrigue. There are far more important things to worry about here." Ah, the ever practical Avery. If he could, he'd avoid these political games as much as possible.

"We will have the men here protecting the residence. You don't need to worry about that, Son. Unfortunately, the three of you must attend," Lord William explained.

"You see, they are holding a ball and we are not the only nobility that will be attending. All of the families have been called upon," Lady Ophelia finished. The lord and lady let that settle on their children for a moment. Realization of what the ball really meant was quick to sour everyone's mood.

"So it is a marriage convention, with each of us a prize for the royalty?" Elliot mused sourly.

"You mean me and Avery," Ilene remarked to Elliot. "We are eldest and neither of us have married yet. The time is ticking," she finished dryly.

"All of us. They just said all of us. I am not exempt," Elliot sighed and crossed his arms.

"Regardless," Avery said with a wave to quite them both before they began to bicker, "We have to go. Do we have a choice in any of this?" Avery asked his parents. He personally had no desire to marry, princess or nobility, that would be nothing but a pretty face. He had other concerns.

"You do have a choice in a selection of a marriage partner. You and your brother mostly. Should the princes take an interest and pursue Ilene, we will attempt to pursue the arrangement." William answered sadly. "I am sorry my Starlit. I know your feelings about a proper husband but as a queen, you could do much. Other than that, you to will have a choice of your marriage though we do implore you to find someone to settle with. You are right in thinking that time is beginning to run thin. You've forced many suitors away." He hated to speak this way, especially to his daughter, but soon, no nobleman would ask for her hand, beautiful or not. Lord William then looked at Avery pointedly. Avery would know why. He had yet to produce an heir and considering Elliot's odd... fancy, he did not expect to see one from him any time soon.

"I know father. I am sorry for making your life so much harder. I will keep your words and duty in mind, but I will not change myself either; not for any man, may it even be the king himself," she answered. The suitors would have to accept her as she was, not a pretty picture of what they expected.

"Of course my dear. I would not ask for you to change yourself. I want you to be happy to," her father said.

"When will be leaving?" Avery asked sullenly.

"Tomorrow," Ophelia answered. "Finish the tasks you have for the day and prepare to ride."
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Finally, they were nearing the castle. Avery could see it rising up like the looming bars of a cage. He wished this summer was already over and that they were riding on their way home, not towards this dreaded place. The castle itself looked mesmerizing but the entire trip was colored by the fact that he would more than likely have to come out of this with a marriage proposal. He had had no intention of ever being married but he knew that would break his parents hearts. He needed an heir though he did not want to go through with this in the least bit. Avery pulled the rein's of his grey stallion to get it to stop and stood up in the saddle measuring the time. They would be at the gates in about half an hour. He heard a horse neighing behind him and turned to see his brother riding up beside him. Elliot at least was enjoying the horse ride. He kept straying off from the main road to explore at a safe distance.

Elliot looked like quite the lord with his rich clothing fashioned in the green and rusty red of their house. The Blazon stood out on his chest like a beacon. Avery himself had been forced into a fashionable attire least he be confused with a peasant though they were highly uncomfortable clothing. He felt like a peacock to be gawked at, what with the hot layers covering his skin. He even had a cape draped over his shoulders in the rich green his sister had crafted. It was connected to his attire with the golden clasp of the armadillo holding the evergreen leaves. Avery thought he looked absolutely ridiculous.

"Don't look so sour, Avery. You'r face will freeze that way. There isn't much going for you but your face, so don't screw it up," Elliot teased.

"Ease for you to say. I don't want to be here."

"Avery, I know you are looking at this through the duty lens but there is more to it then that. Look at it this way. Sure we are being paraded around like show ponies, but look where we are. We are at the Black Keep. We don't often come here or leave our territory. Don't let one part of it sour the rest of your mood. Take the time to enjoy yourself a little bit. You'll be better off."

Avery looked over at Elliot with an arched brow as he studied his brother. Elliot arched his own brow then. "What? Why are you staring at me?"

"Nothing. Just surprised you can say something intelligent and supporting."

Elliot scoffed and punched him in the arm. "I might as well not say anything at all if my words are so squandered," Elliot said with a proud toss of his head.

"You really are such a drama queen" Avery chuckled.

"Drama king. But look, I've made you laugh," Elliot answered with a mischievous grin. "My work here is done. You scowling and groaning... it doesn't suit you so put a smile on your face. Come on."

Avery was smiling as he shook his head and followed his brother back to the carriage. The two of them lined up with it and Avery knocked on the wall to draw someone's attention from inside. Ilene parted the curtains to look out at her brothers. "We'll be there shortly. he announced.

"All right. Thank you," she answered.

Within moment, their carriage arrived and both boys dismounted and handed their horses off to the stable hand. Elliot came around to the carriage door and stood aside as his father stepped down with a thank you who in turn helped his mother down. Elliot moved forward to offer his arm to Ilene then. Ilene carefully stepped out so she wouldn't trip on her dress. It was the same lush green as Avery's cloak with delicate silver and red laces and designs down the front and upon the little jacket she sported to cover her back. Her golden hair was done up extravagantly with little pink blossoms woven throughout. From it, some of her hair cascaded down her shoulder in rivulets to frame her face. An emerald necklace hugged her throat and she fussed with it to make sure it sat straight.

"You look beautiful, Ilene."

"Thank you, Avery. You should wear clothing like this more often. It suits you. And you to, Elliot."

Avery shook his head amused but Elliot preened like a bird and adjusted his shirt. Then it was time to head inside. Lord William escorted Ophelia first before Avery led Ilene with Elliot at the rear.

"Introducing Lord and Lady of the South, William and Ophelia Thatcher with their children Avery, Ilene, and Elliot Thatcher."

The family gave their bows and sweet words then before moving to stand farther away and waited.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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#, as written by mjolnir
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RHAEGAR CASTILLON
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Heir to Blackvale | The Falcon
#B70909 | Outfit
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BROM CASTILLON
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Prince | The Peacock
#061B62 | Outfit
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SYLAS THORNE
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Heir to Dark Wood | The Viper
#999999 | Outfit
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GWENDOLYNN CASTILLON
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Princess | The Little Dove
#F56E6F | Outfit


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Sylas bowed beside his sister while she curtsied towards the King and Queen. As he did, his gaze never left the Queen Guinevere who seemed to be intently watching him with an animalistic hunger. He quirked a brow as a stood upright, adjusting his attire as he glanced away. Although the gaze was direct and a bit unnerving, he held his composure and if anything stood tall and strong.

After the King and Queen moved on to greet the next family, Sylas stood elegant and tall as his mother held his arm. His gaze was drown towards his sister when he heard her voice, “Excuse me mother, for I must steal by brother. I feel that having some alcohol in my system may make the socializing a tad less painful.”

He smiled towards his mother as she adjusted part of his suit and then a bit of Sylva’s hair. “I would say behave, but where is the fun in that.” She then gave him a more serious look which garnered his full attention. “Make sure she doesn't get too drunk. Remember what happened that one New Years eve?”

Sylas looked between his mother and Sylva, a slight smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Yes, of course mother.”

“Yes yes, I accidentally burnt down half the stables. Don’t worry mother. He will take care of me, he always does.”

Sylva slid her arm through his and began to guide him away. He glanced back over his shoulder towards his mother before they were too far away, “It’s my turn to get drunk anyways.” He winked towards Desdemona who chuckled at him before waving them off.

When they reached the table that was worked by a young servant girl, Sylas smiled towards the girl while giving a sly wink. He grabbed himself and his sister a glass of champagne before leading her over towards the large windows that lead out to the gardens. He watched the King and Queen greet each family as he sipped his champagne. When he noticed the mannerisms in the King shift at the presence of the Graysons, he quirked a brow, leaning in towards his sister slightly. “Now what could have the mighty Magnus so tense, I wonder?”

As more families filed into the ballroom Sylas felt like the viper in the brush patiently watching as all the field mice scurry around him. He was ready to pounce. Every move, every suggestive glance and translative body gesture had him eager to attack. But all the exterior showed was a calm, cool and collected young man. Refined, and elegant, everything a young lord should be and everything young women swooned over. He was going to give the Prince’s a run for their money. Seduce and destroy every woman just to watch the Blackvale crumble.

His train of thought was disrupted when Maxwell moved before him, bowing in greeting. “My Lord.”

“Ah. Maxwell. This is my lovely sister Sylva.” Sylas motioned to his sister.

“A pleasure my Lady.” Maxwell bowed in her direction. Sylas then motioned for the young man to come closure and keep to hushed tones. “I have taken care of your rooms, my Lord. The adjacent chambers have a shared door so that you make travel between the two without notice.”

Sylas reached into his pocket pulling out a couple more gold coins, slipping them into Maxwell’s pocket. “That’s a good man. Now…” He took a step closer to the servant, leaning in to whisper in his ear. “Who is your allegiance to?”

“You my Lord.”

“Good man. I’d like you to keep your ears open. Anything and everything you hear you report to me… The more useful, the more gold for you. As long as you’re loyal to me, you’ll never want for anything ever again in your life.” Sylas’ grasp on Maxwell’s shoulder tightened, not enough to cause pain but enough to send a message. “If you betray me, the King will wake up to your head on his breakfast tray.”

***

Gwendolynn sat at a window seat in the study, resting her chin upon her arms on the windowsill as she watched the families arrive. “The Davernys… That’s all seven.”

Rhaegar stood behind her with his right arm raised, resting against the wall as he too watched the arrivals. “Do you think it was intentional for it to be exactly ten ladies and ten gentleman?” More of a rhetorical question that literal. Of course, it was intentional. Most likely every Lord and Lady was hoping for their child to make a smart match during their stay here. And a majority of them would be pushing their children at them… Him.

Gwen slowly reached behind her to grab Rhaegar’s hand in hers while she looked over her shoulder towards Brom. “This… is our last summer together.”

The comment caused Brom to stop his mindless scanning of the numerous books in the room to look towards his sister. He wouldn’t admit it out loud but a lump formed in his throat. The thought hadn’t crossed his mind. Him and his siblings haven’t been apart for more than a month but now… This summer was going to take at least Gwen to the opposite side of the nation.

Rhaegar gently squeezed Gwen’s hand while Brom walked over to her, and place a kiss on her forehead. He remained silent as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and she wrested her head against his side.

They remained silent. They hoped maybe if they never let go then no one could tear them apart. A trio forced to separate because of ridiculous societal norms and laws. It took everything they had not to cry or run away. It was their duty… A horrible responsibility.

The knock on the door hit them all like a dagger in the back. Their grips on each other tightened, but they did not move. After a moment without an answer, the servant slowly opened the door. “Your Graces… Your mother has asked me to fetch you.”

Gwen took a deep breath before she finally moved to her feet, exchanging a look between her older brothers. They all we scared and they knew it. They didn’t have to say anything to know. The one thing they knew best was each other.

“Come here,” Brom whispered before pulling them in an embrace. He patted his brother’s back while pressing his forehead against Rhaegar’s. His other arm held Gwen close, her forehead resting against the twins’ jaws.

“I’m sorry…” The servant spoke up again. “But your mother implores. If you do not come, I’ll be the one to pay.”

Rhaegar pulled his siblings in tighter for one last embrace before whispering to them, “No matter what, we have each other. Do not settle for anyone short of amazing… If we have to run away and live as paupers to be happy, then so be it.” He leaned in pressing his lips to Gwen’s forehead while using his hand to rustle Brom’s hair. He then nodded his head towards the servant, “Apologies. I do not want you to suffer on our account.”

As they walked down the hall towards the ballroom they recited the names of the different Lords and Ladies that will be present. Their mother made sure they knew who was who. Royalty should know their people. Of course Rhaegar and Gwendolynn had the names straight weeks ago while Brom was lucky if he could guess how many children each family had.

They neared the large doors at the top of the grand staircase and while Rhaegar and Brom continued forward, Gwen froze in her tracks. It wasn’t until the servant had his hands on the door that the twins turned around looking for her. “…I can’t do this.”

The brothers both held out their arms to her while Rhaegar nods his head towards the door, “We’re right here with you.”

“Yeah and if you fall we’ll be the first to laugh.” Rhaegar smacked Brom in the chest, “Ow.”

Just as Brom went to smack the crown right off of Rhaegar’s head, Gwen quickly ran up between the two and took their arms. “How about you both stop fighting and escort me so I don’t fall in these ridiculous shoes.”

”Your Grace, the Queen wanted me to announce you one at a time and—”

“It’s all of us or none of us.”

Brom rose his brows towards Rhaegar as they both chuckled at the ferocity in Gwen’s voice obvious from her nerves. “Remind me not to piss her off,” he whispered towards his brother as the servant pushed open the large doors.

Their escort stepped out of the shadows where two other men waited. With a motion of his hand the two men raised horns to their lips and blew a tune in sync to gain the company’s attention.

“Seriously? A horn?”

Rhaegar brought snorted back a laugh as he raised his hand to cover his mouth.

”My Lords. My Ladies.” As she the servant started, Gwen’s grasp on her brother’s arms tightened. ”It is my honor to present to you the royal children of the family Castillon.” He motioned towards them and with a deep breath they stepped forward. Gwen could have sworn she saw stem flood out of her mother’s ears at the sight of them entering together, arm in arm. ”Eldest son to the King and Queen, heir to the Blackvale Rhaegar, his twin brother, Prince and King’s Guard Brom and their sister Gwendolynn.”

The siblings walked down the stairs elegantly, arm in arm. Gwen tried to best not to trip but even when she thought she was losing her balance her brothers just held her steady. When they reached the ballroom floor Rhaegar and Brom bowed while Gwen curtsied. They walked through the crowd of people towards their parents. Gwen tried not to look at her feet as she walked, her nerves growing with each pair of eyes she saw fixed on her.

When they reached the King and Queen, Magnus stepped forward raising his hand in a way to ask the crowd to grow silent. “I would like to thank you all for making the long journey to the Black Keep. We are pleased to accept you all into our home for the summer. Although our time together is to hopefully make new alliances and marriages between our children it is also a chance for us all to get a chance to know each other and create new friendships where we previously wouldn’t have the opportunity. So I’d like you all to make yourselves at home and please do enjoy yourselves.”

King Magnus bows towards the crowd before motioning towards his wife. Queen Guinevere tried to seem as genuine as possible when addressing the crowd. “In celebration of the beginning to this great summer and new friends, we invite all of our children in the dance of the Blackvale.” The Queen motioned towards the Castillon children beckoning them to take their place in the center of the dance floor. “The dance is simple,” she holds out her hand towards her kids who lined up where Brom and Rhaegar were in one line and Gwen was on the other side. “Our strapping young men will line up across from the beautiful young ladies. They share a dance with the woman across from them and when the song changes you switch partners. The dance is over when you’ve danced with every young man or woman.”

Sylas’ attention shifted towards the main staircase when he heard the horns. He didn’t know if he was disappointed or what about the royal children looking fairly attractive and nice. Of course, nice means nothing, especially when Thornes are around.

Although he never of thought of anyone other than his sister in a none loathing matter, he was surprised at how agreeable the Castillon daughter was. He had heard rumors about her but words failed to compare. He wondered how many of the men in the room were going to fight at the chance for a chance at her hand. Her beauty no doubt would only make her more desirable partnered with her status as the Princess of the Blackvale. It only made the wheels in his head turn as he contemplated the demise he could cause.

He sighed when he heard the Queen’s announcement about some sort of Blackvale dance. Sylas held out his hand for his sister and guided her towards the forming lines of the young men and women around their age. Trying not to be blatantly obvious he made sure that after he helped his sister to her place that he did not stand across from her. Instead he moved into an empty place in the line that was across from the Daverny girl.

Underneath all of what she wore he imagined a beautiful woman was there. Sylas could respect that she wanted to be her own person and not conform to societal norms. But either way he would like nothing more than this dance to be over with.

Sylas bowed towards the woman before offering her his right hand while his left hand was behind his back, “Ms. Daverny.”

Rhaegar made his place to the line while his hands nimbly worked on his cloak. He removed the cloak before handing it the closest servant. “Thank you William.” He patted the lad’s shoulder before he resumed his place, adjusting his sleeves so he’d be more than capable of dancing.

He waited patiently, cupping his hands together before him as he watched the others line up. Before some of the more eager girls shuffled their way before him, he reached out his hand to grab Clara’s and guided her across from him. “Apologizes, but I think I could handle this evening better having the first dance with a familiar face.”

Rhaegar knew Clara may not have remembered him because it’s been numerous years since they had seen each other. But he hoped she wouldn’t hate him for wanting to dance with the one person he knew.

Still being the gentleman he is, he bowed before her as the dance entails then offered her his hand. “Of course, you can always dance with someone else,” he said in a hushed tone. “Being paraded around always makes me a little nervous.” He smiled towards Clara with his hand still held out palm up towards her for if she decided to accept the dance.

Brom was more hesitant to make his way to his spot in the line, moving to stand beside the dark and sinister looking Thorne son. He thought about talking to the guy maybe even talking about all the attractive women at the ball but the guy looked like he had a royal stick up his uptight ass.

Instead he waited until an intriguing young blonde beauty came to stand before him. Brom began to smirk as he glanced her over. Maybe this wouldn’t be all bad if he got the opportunity to meet numerous beautiful young women just waiting for a dashing young man like himself to sweep them off their feet.

“Lady Vivienne… Right?” He held out his hand towards her as he bowed, but his gaze never left hers. His smirk only seeming to grow as he took in more and more of her beauty.

Gwen moved along with her brothers before she could even take a step she felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder. The Queen stepped up to whisper in her daughter’s ear, “Don’t you dare ask someone to dance.” Gwen looked out of the corner of her eye towards her mother. “You are a lady,” the Queen grasped her shoulders tight, “ladies do not do the asking. The gentlemen ask you to dance.”

After her mother let her go, Gwen slowly took her place in the line between two blonde girls. She gave them both her best attempt at a friendly smile as she waited. Her fingers toyed at the lace embroidery on her sleeves when a young blonde stepped in the line opposite her.

Feeling her mother’s gaze on the back of her head, Gwen took the skirt of her dress in her hands as she curtsied towards him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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JONATHAN CHAIMBERS
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Eldest Son | The Pawn
#9BC4E2 | Outfit
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FREDERICK CHAIMBERS
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Youngest Son | The Trickster
#96CDCD | Outfit
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VIVIENNE CHAIMBERS
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Only Daughter | The Weaver
#92CCA6 | Outfit


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Frederick made for the far wall, his intentions to grab as many flutes filled with champagne as he could and drink as much as he could. He could hear the capricious falsities, Lords and Ladies all huffing and puffing about themselves and their pretend interest in the others, the rumours he could hear circling were enough to make his head spin and not in the fun way alcohol did. The back table was his safe haven, away from the hushed whispers and polite lies, he grabbed his first glass of champagne and downed it without a seconds hesitation, flashing a smile at the serving girl as he handed her the flute back. "You've been here all of one minute." The familiar voice tutted as he spun to meet her gaze, loose strands of brunette shook with her head as she did so.
"Catalina? How did you get in here?" Frederick then grinned and put his hands on his hips. "This is a private party, am I rubbing off on you?"
"Don't be ridiculous, your mother got me in, apparently she thinks I was hired to your court to babysit you." Catalina's tone was far from kind and closer to mocking.
"Isn't it?" Frederick asked as he reached for his second glass.
"No, I am your court advisor. I advise you on important matters, by the gods, why do you think I am always telling you who is who and what to do in the court?" Catalina threw her hands up in exasperation, nearly knocking the champagne from his hand. "Your father hired me to make sure you didn't mess up the Southern Shores and to maintain our political friendships." Catalina then stormed off into the crowd as Frederick shrugged before downing the second glass, just as his brother finally caught up to him.

"Did you get lost in the crowd?" Frederick clapped his hand onto his brother's upper arm. "Here, have a drink." Frederick grabbed one of the flutes and handed it to him, but was politely declined. "Okay, more for me then, brother." He then lifted another and proceeded to knock it back, Jonathan gave him a less than impressed looked.
"Gods, how desperate are you for a drink." Frederick smirked before grabbing another and did the same simply to spite his brother. Jonathan merely rolled his eyes at how petty his brother was being. "Can you be normal for just one night? For Viv's sake?"
"Sure, no doubt she'll ruin it for herself, talk about one of her bizarre nightmares and then we'll all be sent home, no big deal." Jonathan looked as if he'd taken a hit from Frederick's words, but he simply grabbed another flute and went to drink it, not even showing any remorse for his words.

Jonathan snatched the five champagne glass from Frederick's hand, "She's our sister, how dare you?" Jonathan scolded the youngest, taking a sip from the champagne to show him how it was done. "Keep yourself out of trouble and do not come near me or Vivienne tonight." Frederick merely rolled his eyes as he pinched a grape from one of the platters.
"Oh dear Father's pet, you are a good guard dog." Frederick clapped his hand against his brother's back three times with a large grin on his face, the intended joke being far more offensive than he clearly meant it.
"How you're mother's favourite still astounds me to this day." Jonathan set the crystal flute back on the table and was swallowed back up by the crowd, leaving Frederick to his champagne.

Finally being left alone to the table, Frederick turned to have another but then the royal children were announced and he was forced away from the very table he intended to spend most of his night. He leaned up against a pillar, his expression and composure revealing his lack of interest in the well rehearsed speech. The announcement of the speech even garnering an eye roll as he pushed off from the pillar and made for the floor. He positioned himself next to Jonah, the Northern Lord, dark of hair and only slightly lighter of skin tone, he gave him a polite wave, he had no doubt Jonah and Jonathan had dealt with each other at least once but Frederick had never had to pleasure. He looked across and spotted a woman the complete opposite in description, her hair was like spun silver and her skin just as fair, her eyes weren't a dull brown but instead an enticing blend of blue and gold. Her features were so delicate and innocent, Frederick almost felt bad that her first dance would be with him. "Lady Aurora, may I have this dance?" He bowed and stretched his hand out towards her as he did so.

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Whilst navigating the crowd, Jonathan occasionally paused as each of the families were announced and greeted, watching them and making a note of the faces as the names were called. He eventually caught sight of Vivienne as he navigated through the crowd, she was stood with some courtiers, playing her little game, no doubt. As he made for her, there was a loud horn announcing the presentation of the royal children. He found himself bowing with the rest of the ballroom, whilst watching the children descend the steps. Before he could continue towards his sister, the King and Queen took to the floor to announce a dance, before inviting all the intended to step forth and form a line, when Jonathan looked back to find his sister she had already made for the floor. So he opted for simply falling in line with the other young lords.

Jonathan took his position in between Howell and Benjy, both the Daverny sons, the presence of the two making him uncomfortable, as if he were about to be jumped and mugged. He didn't usually harbour such stereotypical feelings, he spent a lot of time in the Southern Shores, he was used to their presence. He then watched as the woman lined up before them, his mind clicked then, he wasn't wary of the Davernys, he was simply nervous about the dance and was projecting it onto whatever presence was most familiar, he would have chuckled to himself if he wasn't surrounded by such watchful eyes so simply smiled at the lady before him.

Her blonde hair held up by golden pins adorned with pearls and her dress matched their colours, a lovely golden trim with a pearl fabric being the most present. He observed her features, his inner artist taking in the subtle details. Her beauty was subtle, the pallor of her skin, which revealed why they called her the Swan Princess, simply accentuating the shadows around her eyes and the beauty mark just slightly above her lip, and the indent to the left of her lip, noticeable only by the faint shadow.

He smiled at her before bowing, "Lady Cavalier, may I have this dance?" As he bowed, he stretched out his hand for her to take, waiting patiently with a smile on his face. "Although, please do not vomit on me." His jest was meant to tease and not offend, indicated simply by his playful smile and soft tone.

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Vivienne blended in with a group of courtiers, they were at the court often enough to get enough information about the other families, they mainly gossiped about the families, including the Chaimbers, making Vivienne chuckle at their ignorance and herself for believing they would be of any use to her. She remained with them, however, saving herself from being a social pariah and being seen at the ball sitting looking out the window at the garden. As luck would have it, she wouldn't be with them for very long as the royal children finally presented themselves. Vivienne curtsied as they descended the stairs, she listened with a smile on her face at the announcement of a dance, before the Queen had even finished she made her way to the floor, paying little attention to where she stood.

Vivienne smoothed out her dress as she awaited her partner to appear, if it was her first time playing the game that is court intrigue she would have fiddled with her hair and even ensured the placement of her jewellery was just right, but then she would have revealed herself from behind her mask. As she ran her hands down the fabric one last time, she heard a strong, somewhat charming voice address her. “Lady Vivienne… Right?” She looked up from her dress to see him, his golden mane cushioning a silver crown, whilst simultaneously curtaining his strong jaw and proud cheekbones. His hazel eyes nestled in the sockets above taking on a more cobalt blue colour, the same eyes that locked with her deep blue ones as he bowed, she took his hand and curtsied, low enough to be at the same level. "Prince Castillon." She smiled at his smirk, his eyes never breaking from hers except to blink. "One might be considered about that grin, particularly if one is to believe the rumours around these very halls." The tone of her voice soft and sweet, with no intended malice, and her smile the same.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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JONAH ALLYRION
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Eldest Child | The Winter's Wolf
#E80000 | Outfit
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CLARA ALLYRION
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Only Daughter | The Winter's Child
#388E8E | Outfit


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Clara rang the fabric of her dress as they waited for the Princes, and the Princess to arrive. She looked around the room and saw that not just a few families were here but ALL of the families were her. Everyone in the Cradle was present, even the Davernys to whom Jonah always called pirates, even if they technically weren't since The King hadn't issued a mandate saying that what they did was illegal. Of course, she couldn't tell Jonah that because he'd still call them pirates. They were privateers if anything. She took a breath, looked at all of the beautiful girls, most of them with brilliant yellow hair, and while hers was a deep midnight black, she seemed to be the only one. She looked around again, besides the Throne daughter....Sylva? If Clara remembered correctly. While, no one had her dark curls, golden amber eyes, and warm skin, she still felt unimpressive and to make matters worse, she wasn't healthy either. "Now, Songbird, try to relax." Jonah said, obviously noting her nervous habit. She dropped the bit of fabric and closed her hands. "What if I cough?" She muttered to him, trying not to move her lips much. On the ride, Mother told her to try to at least appear healthy, she didn't want any of the other girls to know how ill she was, or the Prince for that matter. Though Clara knew she wouldn't make a good wife because of her illness, Mother didn't want anyone to know that. "You only do that in the cold and it's summer here," Jonah said in the same hushed tone. "Besides, Their winters are our summers, you'll be fine."
He assured her just before the herald blew his horn.
”My Lords, My Ladies, It is my honor to present to you the royal children of the family Castillon.”
Just then, arms locked the Princes and the Princess walked out. Clara swallowed, feeling small and out of place, while Jonah gaped like a fool at the Princess. Clara was about to elbow him but she stopped as they were introduced.
”Eldest son to the King and Queen, heir to the Blackvale Rhaegar, his twin brother, Prince and King’s Guard Brom and their sister Gwendolynn.”

Clara's eyes went to the focus of this party, Prince Rhaegar. He was handsome, looked strong and he had a kindness in his eyes. She felt a little at ease for a moment and then thought. Right now, she looked like the picture of health, something she was very not, she knew all too well, looks could be deceiving.

Cursing her pragmatism, she took a breath, she could feel the rawness of an incoming cough in the back of her throat. If she could get some water, or perhaps fresh air...or better yet, out of this freezing corset, she'd felt better.

It was then that that King Magnus stood, and a hush fell over the crowd.
“I would like to thank you all for making the long journey to the Black Keep. We are pleased to accept you all into our home for the summer. Although our time together is to hopefully make new alliances and marriages between our children it is also a chance for us all to get a chance to know each other and create new friendships where we previously wouldn’t have the opportunity. So I’d like you all to make yourselves at home and please do enjoy yourselves.”
He said and Jonah twitched beside her. He turned to their mother, who Clara forgot was behind them this entire time, only to get swatting and shushed. Jonah turned back as the Queen stood. "I suppose I'm not the only one to be wedded this season, Am I, Brother?"
"Don't you start..."Jonah replied only from them both to receive sharp shushes from their mother. Clara merely smiled but it faded when the Queen began to speak.


“In celebration of the beginning of this great summer and new friends, we invite all of our children in the dance of the Blackvale.” 
Clara's eyes went wide as the Castillion children were gestured to the middle of the ballroom floor. She looked at her brother, who was the one smiling now. He had the princess in his sights, and probably was looking forward to dancing with all of the women. Clara did not want to dance with anyone.

"Clara...You'll be fine, you've done this dance a million times." Jonah told her, casting a glance at Mother but since he was consoling her, Mother said nothing. Father was as stoic and watching as always.

Clara merely nodded. She had done this dance, but it had only been with Jonah and the first few times, she'd broken into a horrible coughing fit. It was the middle of winter though so if Jonah was right, that shouldn't be a problem.

Clara merely sighed as the Queen continued.
“The dance is simple. Our strapping young men will line up across from the beautiful young ladies. They share a dance with the woman across from them and when the song changes you switch partners. The dance is over when you’ve danced with every young man or woman.” She instructed and Clara looked around. Every young man? Would she have to truly dance with every man here? Clara felt herself beginning to panic. She took a few deep breaths, and a cough tried to surface but she held it back as best she could. Jonah gave her an appraising look and she nodded. One of their many wordless conversations that usually only happened whenever he was worried about her but didn't want to worry Mother.

"Go on." Their mother told them as the others began to line up, and Jonah gave Clara a smile, and a nod before separating from her and moving to the opposite line.
She moved to the line and didn't make any move to assert herself. She was never a sociable person, quite the opposite so she hung back, hoping to be passed up.

Instead, the Prince, the heir no less, came forward, his eyes on her, and her olive cheeks flushed red. She looked around her and behind because surely he wasn't after tiny little Clara but no, he reached out for her, taking her hand and guiding her in front of him. Her eyes were wide. She knew it, she felt it them staring wild at him.

“Apologizes, but I think I could handle this evening better having the first dance with a familiar face.” He said and she blinked, her face no longer frozen like a deer. "Familiar?" She muttered but he didn't hear her, not over the music and her voice was always soft, raising it would cause her to cough and no one needed that. He bowed to her and she fumbled a curtsy that she knew her mother would keel over and die if she saw. Clara glanced and either her mother didn't see it, or she was holding her reaction until later.

“Of course, you can always dance with someone else,” He told her and she smiled, albeit a bit awkwardly and shook her head, missing that he had offered his hand and since he was not Jonah, he wouldn't know that she merely meant that was fine and not that she was declining the offer.
 “Being paraded around always makes me a little nervous.”
He said and offered a smile that eased her tension. She laughed before placing her hand in his. "It's alright, Your Grace, I understand better than you think." she said and chuckled. "I must admit, I must have been very small, the last we met, I fear I don't remember you, I know of you, but no memories of my own, I'm afraid." She said, knowing that she probably shouldn't be that honest but being bedridden for so many years, cut off from people, she didn't have many of the social graces most people developed, she spoke her mind far too much most of the time.
"When last were you in the North?" She asked, as the music picked up, and she allowed him to lead her as Jonah would have.
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Jonah having left Clara on the other side of the line, watched as the men chose their partners. To his surprise, Rhaegar went straight for Clara, and soon enough she was smiling. That was a good sign...he hoped. Clara could be rather despondent so for someone other than him to get her to smile was something he was glad for. Turning his attention from his little sister, he eyed the women. They were all so lovely but who to choose? His first thought was for the Princess but he didn't want to be so forward, she was the Princess, after all, surely she would not be dancing alone and besides, he would have wanted to make a good impression and he noticed that eagerness was not exactly charming in the eyes of women, at least not in the women he came across.

Then his eye caught sight of the eldest Greyson. She looked formidable. She would be a challenge. He could see it in her eyes. Sweet words would not do for a woman like her, she had a light in her eyes that was all too familiar but whose they belonged to, he did not know. She was tall, carried herself like a fighter, being one himself, he knew it when he saw it. Jonah smirked. He made his choice.

He sauntered up to her. "My Lady Rosalyn."He said, hoping to the Gods that he did not confuse her for one of her sisters. Mother made he and Clara memorize the names of the children from the families, and while he'd heard them being introduced, he wasn't entirely confident in his memory of them to be sure. All of them were blonde, but this one was tall, unlike her sisters. When she didn't correct him on her name, he assumed he guessed right. He gave her his wolfish grin and bowed gracefully. "Magnus Allyrion, but please do call me, Jonah, might I have the honor of your first dance" He asked, using his charm in his expression as oppose to his words as he offered her his hand.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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LARA CAVALIER
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Eldest Child | The White Frog, Swan Princess
#A8C5EA | Outfit


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Lara eventually and painfully her attention away from the Davernys who had just entered the ballroom to watch the Castillon siblings be flaunted to their company. Her gaze fixated on the to-be king in silent resignation, as she saw no reason to shy away from observing the Blackvale's most wanted bachelor. He knew they wanted him and was probably ignoring the stares, including her own. Ah, no, there could be no staring. Only coy glances. Despite this Lara stared still before raising one eyebrow and busying herself by looking inconspicuously around the ballroom, whistling inside of her head. At least he seems easy to fall in love with, she reassured herself despite being a little disappointed at the lack of "love at first sight". Sure, such a thing was unrealistic, but was she forbidden from dreaming? At the same time, she was relieved to not have been poisoned with mushy love-sickness despite how it would've made things easier. Feeling ill, she distracted herself by looking up at the ceiling and entertaining a small, unusual thought.

"What is running through your mind..." James whispered to her as the Queen called for a dance, "... Frog?"

Lara didn't want to divulge that the only thing "running" through her mind since arriving had been her tiny subconscious screaming "I'm doooooooooooomed", and she especially didn't want to explain that she had just been speculating what it meant to relate oneself to a wall, a floor or a ceiling so instead, she lied.

"I'm going to have to fight them," she said suddenly, like the epiphany had just hit her. "I see no other way to win. I must tie soap to the Prince's shoes so when they chase, they fall and break their necks." She swiped up a goblet of red wine from a passing platter and held it up high in a toast. "Here's to the Prince going down with them so they can call this entire mistake off." She shielded her face from the crowds as she chugged the entire thing down, her father watching on disapprovingly.

"Not so loud. Such loose talk can be interpreted as treason," he shushed then frowned when she didn't repent immediately and instead muttered something about the wine being strong stuff. "You cannot be se-"

Lara shot him a dark sideways look. "I'm deadly serious," she uttered. Barely a moment passed before her hardened features relaxed into a little amused smile. "Of course not, anyone could have heard me. I'll have to think of something else now." Her eyes trailed up to the magnificent chandeliers adorning the ceiling, mischief in her eyes as she remembered her daydream from earlier. She gestured up at them suggestively with a nod as she swapped out her empty cup for a full one.

"Battle plans for a ball are thoroughly unnecessary."

"This is a battlefield. All the women secretly try to knock competition off the dance floor. That, is why they make our skirts so ridiculous." She swooshed her excessive skirts around her to prove a point then hurriedly sipped at her wine when it threatened to leap from the cup. James watched her gravely and she walked back to him sheepishly. "I only make jests, Father. I'm going to be fine. My skirt could shroud a bear, I can't possibly lose."

"There's no shame in retreating to the gardens once you've had enough, but you will go no further." Lara smiled gratefully, despite knowing he was basically telling her not to run away. "Be careful."

She curtsied. "I just won't say anything." Interesting.

With that she bustled over to one of the final places in the line. Despite all her attempts at humour, her mood hadn't improved and unease settled like dust on her tongue. It was then that she realised she had claimed her place between two Davernys, the sons of the house she had been watching with as much excitement as a boy seeing his first jousting match. Her eyes darted between the two almost half expecting them to pull out cutlasses and take the entire castle hostage... and the King to reveal that they were all kidnapped and had to take part in some blood sport for his children's favour in which her soap trick proved victorious but alas, such fantasies existed only in her head. The daydreaming young woman almost forgot that she had a dance partner of her own in front of her before he spoke.

"Lady Cavalier, may I have this dance?" Her attention was stolen by the dark-haired man bowing before her. She tilted her head only slightly as she peered at him, her face crinkling with curiosity at who the man could be. She concluded that he had a handsome face - was there anyone in the court who didn't - that while plain in comparison to some of the nobleman, was littered with enough tiny imperfections to be interesting to her, such as the small brown dot beneath his right eye. She felt that if she were to look away for a moment then return her gaze to him, she would discover some new crease or shadow to color him with. If he were a treasure chest, she thought unabashedly, he would be made of pine and leather, and hold old papers inside. Probably of something boring, like a merchant's accounts.

"Although, please do not vomit on me."

What a gentleman. Lara shut the metaphorical chest in front with a snap. Of course, she already knew this was going to happen. A look at the man's face told her this was a lighthearted jest that under usual circumstances Lara would laugh at however this time it felt as though her heart had been shot, merely because she had failed in enacting her plan of being openly self-deprecating before anybody could tease her. Being the only noblewoman present to have been sick on the groom on her wedding day certainly took her down from a six to a two in terms of desirability. Her eyes trailed down guiltily to the goblet she had forgotten was still in her hand. A servant was already hurrying over to assist her and she quickly took a final drink before solemnly passing it over. She looked down at her partner and placed her slim yet surprisingly calloused hand in his.

"It would be my honor," she said with a polite smile, "Lord Chaimbers." She ticked over what she just said and quickly added on, "To dance with you. And to not vomit on you, I suppose. I'm sorry my reputation has you concerned." After all, if the story had made it to as far as the West, it had to pass through, somehow... that blob of land being the Vale, home of the Castillons themselves. After that stumble she stopped talking and let him lead her into the opening bars of the music. After watching the other dancers begin to talk she looked up at the man - who was either Jonathan or Frederick, she could not recall which of these names belonged to the eldest Chaimbers son - and her eyes narrowed, the way they always did when she was about to ask a question. "Forgive me for asking, my Lord, but from whom did you hear of that story?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chambers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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AVERY THATCHER
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Eldest Son | The Armadillo
#FF4500 | Outfit
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ELLIOT THATCHER
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Youngest Son | The Casanova
#551A8B | Outfit
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ILENE THATCHER
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Only Daughter | The Thorny Rose
#CD1076 | Outfit

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Avery glanced around at the families gathered after their introduction and realized that almost all of the families had arrived. There were the Thornes, Graysons, Allyrions, Chambers, and the Cavaliers. Had his own family been the last to arrive? How long had the other families been waiting? He thought they had made relatively good time. And then he heard the door as another family was announced. Ah, the Daverny. How could he forget the strange and yet intriguing Daverny? He didn't often hear their name or hear about them really. He supposed it was nice that at least he could finally put more faces to the names rolling around in his head. The Davernys' dress was intriguing to say the least. He wondered what they had seen of the world. By far he was sure they were the most world savvy. He was itching to ask them about the different places they must have visited. What were the Misty Isles like anyway?

"Do you see anyone you fancy, brother?" Elliot asked as he too scanned the room for someone of interest, breaking Avery's wanderlust pondering.

"Not really. I mean I would like to speak to Clara of the Allyrion family. I haven't heard much about her. It would be fun to talk to Marriane of the Daverny. I am sure she would offer by far the most intriguing conversations. She doesn't look like so many of the other women, concerned with dress and primping."

"You do realize I am standing right beside you," Ilene asked with an eyebrow raised. "I am a lady, concerned with dress and pimping."

"You don't count,"

"You don't count,"[/color Avery and Elliot answered her in unison. Avery gave her a smile then. [color=#FF4500]"You are our sister and I know you have more on your mind that snatching a prince," he answered. "I doubt most of them want to even associate with us since we don't wear crowns. How about the two of you, any fancy?"

Ilene shrugged idly. "Not sure yet. They are all fetching," she answered but like her brother, she was far more interested in their personality, rather than appearance.

"You two are a bore," Elliot answered. "I would personally love a tumble with Howell or Jonah. And Johnathan is a cutie. There is a subtle look I like about him."

"Please behave yourself," Ilene implored. "If you do anything here, it will go beyond reprimand by our parents hand. I'd rather have you sullen and sulky then beheaded for a misunderstanding," she warned.

"Relax! I am not going to be stupid," he reassured. He'd watch, test the waters. He liked his head where it was to.

The three siblings were brought out of their revere when the royal family finally introduced their children. The family, like all the others, bowed and curtsied as was proper. Avery was about to pull his gaze away when he caught sight of the princess. He couldn't help but give a double take. He had never seen a beauty like hers. He had no love of the power mongering and originally, had no interest in her but to see her in the flesh... she was truly the most beautiful person in the room. Then again, it was just her physical appearance. What was behind those polished jewels and political smile? He didn't want another girl in his life that only cared about events such as these and looking 'pretty'. He was far more interested in learning more about her on a personal level, gauge who she was as a person. He shook his head to himself. This was all politics. She wouldn't tell the truth. Then again... he would try and find a way to ask her for a dance before the night was out. Or maybe... maybe not. He wanted to distance himself from the fight that would no doubt ensue. Maybe he'd find a way to talk to her another way. He didn't want her to think he was like everyone else, even if he did decide to pursue her in any manner.

"You are oogling," Ilene tsked though she was trying not to smirk. She was honestly surprised how instantly taken her older brother was with the princess.

Avery flushed and brought his gaze down. He was already figure out how he wanted to talk to Gwen when the queen announced the dancing. They had to dance with every lord and lady, respectively? That was good and bad, he supposed. He didn't really want to dance with everyone but it would hopefully make the evening go by faster. People were already lining up.

"Careful to keep your gaze on the woman you are dancing with," Ilene teased Avery with a subtle bump on his hip.

"I know, I know," Avery answered. "Let's go get in line."

Elliot led the way to the line with Ilene close behind. While Avery moved down the line, Ilene ended up standing beside the princess and offered her a smile when the princess looked her way. "Hello, your highness," she greeted politely. She looked forward, assuming that Elliot was going to try and dance with her first so he could gossip about the lords he wished he was dancing with. When Elliot instead stood in front of Gwen, her eyebrows reached for her hairline. What was her silly little brother up to?

Elliot himself was indeed up to something. He may not be looking for a love relationship this summer, but having friends in other families was always a bonus. You never knew what could happen in the future. He had looked over the ladies available and quickly took up his place in front of none other than the princess. He figured she would appreciate her first dance being with someone who wasn't after her hand in marriage. And considering the whispering he heard between Ilene and Avery, he'd realize that Avery was smitten with her. Maybe he could see if her personality would match up with his brother. All teasing aside, he loved his siblings dearly and he wanted for them the happiness they deserved. He had far more freedom than they did. And he was blessed with being able to take risks without too much consequence or fear. Well, time to put his neck out there. This could end badly but you didn't get anywhere without risk.

He gave Gwen a flourishing bow as she curtsied for him and took her hand to kiss her knuckles in the most charming way he could and gave her a smile. "Good eve, my princess. I was hoping you'd do me the honor of being your first partner in the long series of dances we are about to undertake," he said. He stepped just a little closer to bring his voice down as he added, "I am not after your hand, or your honor, do not fret about that. Just a friend to dance with," He offered her a smile and a playful wink. "If men were compasses pointing north, my compass lies south, if you take my meaning."


Avery was a bit surprised that his brother had gone to ask the princess for a dance. What was he playing at? He didn't have long to dwell on that however. He turned his attention to the available ladies and his eyes settled on one of the Grayson daughters. He took a moment running through the names before he figured out who she was. The second eldest if he wasn't mistaken.

He moved to stand opposite her and gave her a pleasant bow and kissed her knuckles just as his brother did to Gwen. "Lady Seraphina, would you mind terribly honoring me with your first dance?" he asked and offered her his hand, head still slightly bowed to show his consideration to her choice.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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ROSALYN GRAYSON
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King's Bastard | The Red Rose
#660033 | Outfit
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SERAPHINA GRAYSON
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Eldest True Grayson | The Sweet Pea
#C19A6B | Outfit
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SYLVA THORNE
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Sylas' Twin | The Cobra
#583668 | Outfit
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AURORA GRAYSON
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Youngest Grayson | The Little Petal
#87758F | Outfit


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Sylva was accompanied to the table filled with alcohol by her brother and tried to stop herself from gagging at his flirty antics with the peasant girl. She knew it was all for an act, thus she kept herself calm. She took her flute of champagne from him and sipped it as he lead her to the large windows framing the ballroom. “Now what could have the mighty Magnus so tense, I wonder?” Sylas asked and Sylva looked over to see the shift in the King’s face when the fair skin, fair haired women walked into the room with Lord Robert. “Yes, I wonder. Quite peculiar.”

The contents of Sylva’s champagne glass drained as more and more families entered the ballroom and were introduced to the king and queen. Primped and pompous girls all ripe for the picking and dashing young gentlemen ready to pluck them. All this meeting truly was, was a discussed marriage market for families to auction their children off to the best suitors. It made her scoff.

Of course, her tyranny of hateful thoughts was soon put away by the presence of a man… A servant. “My Lord.” He greeted her brother. Sylva raised her brow in curiosity. “Ah. Maxwell. This is my lovely sister Sylva.” Sylas introduced her. “A pleasure my Lady.” The inferior boy replied. Sylva almost snorted. Her brother had a way to him that he could make anyone beneath them bend to his will by whatever means possible. She wondered what it was that this poor fellow was falling for. “Another play thing brother? I’m surprised its not a woman this time.” She chuckled to Sylas. The boy looked a little squeamish around her presence. Of course she was good at acting as well but she saw no point in being charming to this slave. She almost laughed out loud when he averted his eyes from her gaze.

“I have taken care of your rooms, my Lord. The adjacent chambers have a shared door so that you make travel between the two without notice.” The boy said quietly to her brother. Sylva raised her brow. He was useful after all. As her brother slipped coins into the boys pocket she realized that money was the reason this one was staying around. She was well assured her brother would take care of that, so she didn’t bother with it.

Her attention was taken then, by the grand entrance of the royal brats that would take over all of the kingdom. She did admit they cleaned up well. The sons, Rhaegar and Brom as she remembered, looked similar but yet all too different. The only other twins present other than her and Sylas. Of course, they could never share the bond they did. Sylva could read Sylas like a book and he to her as well. The Princess was also fairly attractive and she was sure that she would have a husband by the end of the summer… Unless the Thornes had something to do with it.

Sylva looked at her brother and rolled her eyes. “If you stare any longer drool may fall from your lips dear brother.” She whispered to him and then looked away to listen to the introductions and speech from the King and Queen. When the dance was announced she sighed in unison with her brother. Stuck up socialites loved things like this. The kids all got their “fun” introductions, and the parents got to watch and gossip from the sidelines. Just lovely.

She followed Sylas’ lead and let him place her between two ditzy blonde looking girls. She would have rather thrown them off a cliff then be doing this dance charade, but she followed suit. Her eyes watched as her brother introduced himself to the pirates daughter and just her luck, she was soon standing across from the youngest. He smelt like alcohol and she wondered if he even knew what a bathtub was.

“Lord Daverny.” She introduced and offered her hand to him like any normal lady would. Its not like she wanted him to touch her, but she didn’t have much of an option.

***


After a tense greeting between Lady Elizabeth and the King and Queen, followed by light banter by Lord Robert and curtsies, Rosalyn ushered her mother away, followed by her father and two sisters. They found solace by the refreshments and Rosalyn was quick to get a glass of wine in her mothers hands. Of course Elizabeth wasn’t much of a drinker, but tonight was one of the few times alcohol was much needed.

Seraphina gushed to her father about the ballroom and lovely it would be when she moved in. “Me and the Prince will dance the night away in here, and when we rule over the Kingdom, we will throw our own parties in this very room. And I will wear the most gorgeous dresses!” She giggled and clung to her fathers arm. “Of course Sweetpea.” He replied and laughed at her antics, brushing a lock of hair behind her ear. “With that much ambition I am sure you will sweep that Prince straight off his feet.” Seraphina smirked. She would do so much more than that. She would beat every girl in this room at the honour of being the Prince’s wife or she would die trying. Seraphina began to look around at all the other girls. Her competition. She needed to come up with a good strategy to obliterate them all. Was obliterate too harsh of a word? Of course not. This was war.

The youngest of the Grayson’s wasn’t paying much attention to the people or the fancy decor, as per usual. Rather, she was staring out the windows mystified by the gorgeous sunset and slowly darkening sky. She heard that there was many more stars in the sky over Blackvale then in the Riverlands. Plus, being more northern there was the chance of seeing the night sky lights. Aurora was just dreaming about them when she was snapped back to reality by Seraphina.

“Would you pay attention! They are about to announce my future husband. Your future brother in law. When you meet him, make sure to say lots of great things about me!” Seraphina hissed and Aurora just laughed. Her sister was always looking out to climb the social ladders, and while that was fine, Aurora much preferred to enjoy her life with the people around her.

”My Lords. My Ladies. It is my honor to present to you the royal children of the family Castillon.” A servant called to the crowd and out stepped the royal children. Seraphina almost squealed in delight. Of course it didn’t matter if the Prince was handsome or not, but damn she was lucky that he was. Golden hair like her own, cut short, tall, muscular. She was what any little girl dreamed of as a prince charming. Seraphina turned to Aurora, “You were right, he is handsome!”

Aurora nodded slowly as she stared at the man. This Prince was the one to become King? A big grin broke out on her face and she clapped slowly along with the others who did. It wasn’t her decision who became the King, and the Royal family did not need her approval, but Aurora certainly looked forward to this Prince. Unlike most nobles and court folk she had met in her past, this man had kind eyes. That was a good enough sign for her.

Rosalyn, on the other hand, had a stoic expression as she looked at the Royal children. They were all quite attractive, yes, but it was more than that. Her hand came up to rest on her face as she looked at them. She shared the same jawbone as the girl, Gwendolynn, and the same strawberry blonde hair as the boys. Of course, this would not be noticeable by most, but knowing what she did… she could tell. These were truly her siblings. She tried to keep her composure and her mothers hand came to rest on her arm, knowing how she felt. Rosalyn’s eyes sharpened when the King and Queen came forward and Rosalyn just dreamed of sticking an arrow in each of their eyes.

“Deep breaths.” Her mother whispered, and Rosalyn closed her eyes and sighed. She just had to keep herself together.

***


Seraphina was thrilled by the prospect of the dance and Aurora, who was surprisingly graceful, was rather excited too. They hadn’t danced at such a large event in a long time. Seraphina was the first to run off, wanting to find the prince as soon as possible to get her best impression in. The sooner the better. She was sorely disappointed when he quickly scooped up a girl with darker features. Now what? She huffed and formed into the circle quickly, beside another blonde girl and a very scary looking girl she believed came from the Dark Woods. Creepy folk.

It wasn’t long before a man with golden hair and pretty eyes walked up to her. Lord Avery Thatcher if she was correct. He bowed in front of her and took her hand, kissing her knuckles softly as he did. "Lady Seraphina, would you mind terribly honoring me with your first dance?” She could tell she was by far his first choice, and like most men here she assumed he was aiming towards the princess. She could understand. At least he had gotten her name correctly. She often got her names mixed with Rosalyn.

“Lord Avery, your first dance should be with none other than someone so beautiful as myself. You should be honoured.” She said, half in jest and half serious. The smirk on her face should tell him of her humour. She waited until he stood and got into position with him. When the music began she let him take lead.

***


Aurora looked at Rosalyn with shining eyes. “Can I…?” Rosalyn’s stress faded away just by the exuberant look on the girls face. “Of course you can, go on now.” She laughed. As if her sister needed her permission at all, she was just being courteous. The girl was always looking out for everyone else when she should have just been having a good time.

Rosalyn watched as Aurora got scooped up by a young Lord and asked to dance. It was good to see Aurora with other people, she could be a social butterfly in the right situations. Sometimes she worried about the girl when they were at home. She didn’t have very many true friends and she spent most of her time daydreaming or socializing with the peasants in the Riverlands.

Lady Elizabeth looked at Rosalyn and raised a brow. “Will you not be joining the dances?”

Rosalyn frowned. “I’m not sure dancing is for me, Mother.”

“What are you talking about, you love dancing… And you always excelled at anything physical.” Elizabeth smiled. “You should try and take small pleasures in things while you can. This summer will be far too tasking otherwise. Besides, I dont think you have a choice in the matter.” She gestured forward to where a dark skinned boy was sauntering forward towards her. Lord Jonah.

He was handsome, yes, but looks never swayed her. Unlike most people here, she was not looking for a romantic venture, but she could tell when someone was attractive. She did have eyes after all. From the looks of it, he found her interesting enough to dance with too. Rosalyn just hoped he wasn’t too boring or pompous, otherwise she would be tempted to knock him on his ass.

"My Lady Rosalyn." He smiled to her. Thankfully he had gotten her name right. Her and Seraphina were so often confused. It was harder to confuse Aurora, as she was the one with blatantly silver hair.
"Magnus Allyrion, but please do call me, Jonah, might I have the honor of your first dance.” His face was a mix of coy charm, but Rosalyn detected something of a smirk under that facade.

“If we must.” She replied and followed him into the circle. She hummed and raised a brow at him. He didn’t seem daft at least. “From the looks of you, you are a soldier. Most soldiers aren’t graceful, so if you are too afraid of stepping on my feet I could always lead you.” She smirked and got herself into position to dance. The least she could do was try and have fun with this. Like her mother said, she would need some distractions from the hell blazing around her.

***


Aurora was rather happy she could dance again. Out of all her sisters she was the best dancer. Of course they were good as well, but Seraphina danced too loosely, Rosalyn too strictly. Aurora liked to make dances her own; she was light on her feet and graceful. Rather than thinking about the social part of it all, Aurora was just excited to move to the music.

Just as she got into formation a boy came up to her and bowed before her, stretching out his hand.
"Lady Aurora, may I have this dance?” He asked. From the blonde hair, blue eyes and clothes he wore she could tell he was a Westerner, meaning he was a Chaimbers.

“Of course you may Lord Frederick James Chaimbers.” She grinned, saying his full name. “There is no need to bow though my Lord, I am not that special.” She laughed and when she stood up, Aurora sniffed the air and laughed more. “You smell of alcohol.”

Aurora had the curse of being brutally honest. She usually said most things that came to her mind if they were interesting enough. Of course this habit seemed to her her in trouble more times then not.

“I have never drank before. Is it fun?” She asked as she prepared herself to dance with him and the music slowly began.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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MARYNN DAVERNY
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Only Daughter | The Quarter Master
#567580 | Outfit
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BENJY DAVERNY
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Youngest Child | The First Mate
#5BA664 | Outfit
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HOWELL DAVERNY
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Eldest Son | The Swordsman
#DEAD83 | Outfit


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”It is my honor to present to you the royal children of the family Castillon.” All the attention in the room seemed to shift to the Castillons in an instant. And for that, the Daverny children were most grateful. Following the steps that were taken by the rest of the families, the three of them turned their attentions to the princes and princess. They looked as noble as their titles proclaimed to be, but if one were to look hard enough they would see the difference. Varying degree's of reluctance, but also, a great amount of strength within each of them. Marynn did not linger her gaze on any one of them, instead, taking in the room as a whole.

Her brothers - well, they were much more interested. Howell never wavered his gaze from the Princess, seemingly contemplative. Of course, Benjy's stare was more lustful than appreciative. He didn't often go for powerful women, they were much harder to bed let alone engage in conversation. But he thought he could make an exception for a princess.

As soon as that spectacle was over the Queen began to speak, drawing Marynns attention back. Howell already listening with rapt attention, but losing Benjy in the process. He instead began to survey, just as Marynn had done earlier but his focus landed mostly on the women of the room, Trying to get a lay of the land before he attempted to speak with any of them. These weren't the ditzy women that walked the shanties, no, these women were sophisticated. More's the pity - he'll have to work for his dues here.

“In celebration of the beginning of this great summer and new friends, we invite all of our children in the dance of the Blackvale.” As the Queen motioned to her children, Marynn realizes that she had been holding her breath. “The dance is simple,” she launches into an explanation, even though the two eldest Davernys think it's probably simple enough to figure out for themselves. Dances aren't usually that intricate. “Our strapping young men will line up across from the beautiful young ladies. They share a dance with the woman across from them and when the song changes you switch partners. The dance is over when you’ve danced with every young man or woman.”

They had known this was coming, but so soon after introductions? Marynn glanced between her brothers with mild desperation. At least at some point, she'll be able to take a rest by dancing with them. That at least should cut out a bit of the anxiety crawling up her gut. But before she could even manage to voice her issues their mother appeared by their side. While she spoke to the boys, her eyes lingered on Marynn with the usual amount of malice.

"None of you will cause a scene, understand?" They did, more so than Lady Elena could ever believe them. Benjy, the most likely to do something wrong nodded despite his devious grin. "Of course mother," He answered, too polite to be anything but deception. Howell scowls and Marynn tries not to let her nervousness show in her small chuckle.

"Good, we want to make a good impression here," Elena took a moment to look at the already forming dance partners. "Now hurry along." Fully dismissed, the boys went along their merry way. But Marynn was stopped momentarily as Hector appeared, a drink in hand - why did he get to drown his suffering in alcohol while she had to be completely sober.

"Marynn dear, do try not to castrate any of them." Hector spoke between a laugh and a wink, "If any of them have anything to Castrate that is." While Elena was not amused, she said nothing as Marynn shared the laugh. "I'll try not to." She's grateful for his attempt to make light of the situation. A bit of the nervousness ebbing away as she regains her strength of mind. She would not let something so small as a dance bring out any weakness in her. She is a Daverny, and Davernys are as strong as they come.

Deciding that she'd best line up now before she is left behind - as much as she would like that - she steps in, just barely straightening herself out before one of the Thornes is stepping in front of her. Sylas, she thinks is his name, only memorable because of who the Thorne's are. She can't exactly deny how handsome he is, but that doesn't mean she is exactly grateful to be dancing with him - in fact, she'd much rather not dance at all. He'd soon find out just how big of a mistake choosing her as his first dance partner would be.

He bows and offers his right hand. "Ms. Daverny," He says, and she tries not to balk. Her dress nearly trips her up as she curtsies once more, glad that she has yet to fall flat on her face. The damned sleeves get in the way as she offers her hand, hoping that her light hold doesn't show too much of her reluctance.

"Lord Thorne," She nods, tone light but not without its usual edge of misguided sourness. "Calling me Marynn is alright, or Mary if you prefer informalities." She tries her best to muster a smile that her mother would be proud of (ugh) without it seeming too fake, "I should warn that I am not very good at dancing."

~*~

Benjy had hoped to swoop in and steal a dance with the Princess, but it looked like someone had already beat him there. However, he was unconcerned with his bad luck and chose instead to just line up nearby his sister. Soon joined by an intense brunette who didn't exactly seem thrilled. Benjy doesn't fancy himself women like her, she reminds him too much of his own mother with the intensity of her gaze and the strength nod doubt hiding behind her formal attire. But, non-the-less she is beautiful and he would be a fool not to want to dance with her.

“Lord Daverny.” Even her tone of voice is strong. He grins, bowing as he is supposed to and takes her hand kindly. "Lady Thorne, I must say that you are very beautiful." Somehow, he knows that his usual lines won't work on a lady such as herself. But, he didn't feel like working for it either. They would dance, and perhaps converse a bit, and then he would be off to the next. Hopefully, causing as much grief as possible in the short time they are given to dance. His mother would not be thrilled to know of his plans - but he didn't care for her thoughts either.

Had she wanted him to behave she would have left him at home. He did not pretend to be the same as Howell, the prim and proper son of the family. Benjy prescribed to a much grimier side of things.


~*~

Howell was fully in his element here, the formality of the event something he enjoys immensely. As well as, he isn't the worst of dance partners out there. He worries only for a moment about his siblings. Benjy's lack of grace and Marynns hopelessness when it comes to anything like this. But, they are not his concern at the moment. He watches as the dancers are quickly lining up, and finally eyes a pretty blonde without a partner, one of the Thatchers - Ilene, he remembers her name at last. His knowledge of the other families surpassing most of his family. They were unconcerned with anyone outside of the Vale and the Misty Isles, but Howell took far more interest in the way that the other families worked.

He moves in across from her, giving her a kind smile. He doesn't want to put off any sort of thuggish air - he isn't like his brother - nor does he wish to be as stand-offish as his sister. Howell put himself far above the standards they set. Bowing, and offering a hand to her.

"Lady Thatcher, would you be so kind as to give me your first dance?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Lara Cavalier Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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#, as written by mjolnir
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RHAEGAR CASTILLON
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Heir to Blackvale | The Falcon
#B70909 | Outfit
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BROM CASTILLON
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Prince | The Peacock
#061B62 | Outfit
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SYLAS THORNE
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Heir to Dark Wood | The Viper
#999999 | Outfit
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GWENDOLYNN CASTILLON
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Princess | The Little Dove
#F56E6F | Outfit


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Brom made no attempt to divert his gaze from the beautiful blonde before him. He found it surprising for the Black Keep to be an overwhelming sea of blonde. It seemed the golden hair blended from one head to the next aside from the pirates, the Thornes and his very fiery sister. Even himself and his brother part of that overwhelming pool. But he never worried for a second that he'd be lost in the crowd. Even if he wasn't wearing his crown, him and his brother seemed to tower over a majority of the guests.

His thoughts were brought back to the present circumstances when the enchanting woman before him took placed her own satin palmed hand in his, curtsying so that she could meet his bow. "Prince Castillon."

"Oh my dear, you may call me Brom... Or call upon me tonight, I wouldn't mind." Brom quirked his left brow as his pressed his lips upon the top of her hand as he stood back upright, taking a step towards her.

"One might be considered about that grin, particularly if one is to believe the rumours around these very halls."

Brom cocked his head as he turned to stand to the left of Vivienne, holding her left hand in his right. He waited for the music to begin and moved instep with the dance along the promenade part of the dance. The young woman looked naive and younger than what her age probably was. Her features were soft and curved. But even behind the sweet innocence she portrayed he felt there was something a bit more devious behind those golden locks.

When the dance called for them to face one another again, he placed his free hand on her waist. Brom then began to twirl her around, finally deciding to reply to her previous comment, "Rumors?" He played innocent even though his smirk was deceiving his tone. "Do enlighten me because I fear I do not know what you speak of." He released her waist to twirl her beneath his palm. He then pulled Vivienne in closer so that they were chest to chest and whispered, "I'm an angel."

***

It was obvious to Rhaegar that Clara took note of all the eyes that were upon them. After all he was the heir so no matter what he did, the entire party was going to be focused on him and all of his decisions. "Familiar?" she asked in response to his comment but she said it so softly he didn't catch it.

When she went to curtsey but fumbled, Rhaegar was quick to step towards her, gently taking hold of her shoulders to keep her from falling. "Are you alright my lady?"

Clara seemed to smile and chuckle at his honesty about not enjoying the pomp and circumstance behind this arrangement and placed her hand in his. "It's alright, Your Grace, I understand better than you think." Rhaegar smiled glad that someone understood how odd this whole situation felt. Generation after generation parents were doing this to their children, probably hating it as much as they did... but then they went on to doing it to their kids. He made a mental note that when he had kids of his own, they could marry whom they wanted.

"I must admit, I must have been very small, the last we met, I fear I don't remember you, I know of you, but no memories of my own, I'm afraid. When last were you in the North?"

Rhaegar turned with the line of other young Lords and Ladies, walking the intro of the dance as he held Clara's hand. Out of sync with the dance he playfully twirled her before bringing her in towards him, and placing his hand on her waist. "I do believe it's been the better part of a decade. My brother," he started as he moved with elegance as he guided her around the ballroom in accordance with the dance his mother drilled into his head. "It must have been when he decided to become King's guard. I believe we took him to the North to train under your father. Understandable that I would remember you and not vice versa. I was 17 or 18 which would have made you... 8, I believe?"

He released Clara's waist and gently guided her through a twirl, before bringing her close yet again. Rhaegar smiled towards his siblings when he caught their gaze before looking back towards his partner. "So are you hoping to find love this summer? Or did you come because your parents wanted you to?"

***

Gwen raised a brow at the very extravagant bow her dancing partner made towards her. He then took her hand and place a tender kiss upon her knuckles. "Good eve, my princess. I was hoping you'd do me the honor of being your first partner in the long series of dances we are about to undertake," Elliot said. When the young blonde smiled towards her, Gwen returned it with her own smile. She hoped she looked sincere even though deep down she wanted nothing more than to run out into the gardens and disappear up in a tree. He took a step closer to her with took her by surprise but she didn't pull away. "I am not after your hand, or your honor, do not fret about that. Just a friend to dance with," he winked towards her.

Gwendolynn inhaled sharply as she turned to stand beside him, walking to the beat of the music. She didn't quite believe his words because what better way to get close to a princess other than claiming not to want anything to do with her. His next words though caught her off guard, "If men were compasses pointing north, my compass lies south, if you take my meaning."

She turned to face Elliot, freezing in place until a couple behind them cleared their throats loudly in an attempt to get them to move. Gwen quickly picked up her pace, turning to face him scooping up the train of her dress in her free hand. It was a few moments into the dance before she finally connected the dots. "Oooohhh..." She laughs at how stupid she felt when she connected the dots. "I'm afraid my lord, that there may not be much in that realm here at the Black Keep. I don't know if there will be anyone to satiate that appetite."

Gwendolynn was able to finally exhale a deep breath almost worried she might pop her corset. But it was nice knowing she didn't have to put on airs for the first dance of the night. She was nervous enough as it is, having to dance with someone who would try to seduce their way into her bed or status wasn't something she wanted to deal with just yet.

***

Sylas tried not to scoff or simply walk away when the Daverny woman seemed to be having more trouble with her dress that it was worth. None of the other women seemed to have issues but then again it looked like this one wasn't used to walking on land for more than a moment or two, or in anything that wasn't trousers. He grasp on his hand was light, no doubt she was looking forward to this dance about as much as he was.

"Lord Thorne," she started. At least she knew who he was, that's a start. "Calling me Marynn is alright, or Mary if you prefer informalities." She smiled towards him as he began to lead her side by side following the line of partners.

"Ah well, my Lady Mayrnn, you may call me Sylas." He gently turned her, placing his other hand on the back side of her ribcage.

"I should warn that I am not very good at dancing."

Sylas could see right past the fake smile. She seemed as uncomfortable with dancing as she was in that dress but no matter he wasn't going to let on. It was too soon to show his true colors so he simply smiled his charming effortless smile that made his eyes seem to sparkle even if they masked his true disgust with this whole evening. "You are in lucky my lady, for I've been told I'm an excellent dancer." With a soft press on her back he guided her into a twirl. "But it is fortunate that this dance is simple. A bow and a curtsey, promenade, break off into pairs, a few twirls... And then switch." When he said switch, he spun her again. "The most difficult part is pretending like we actually enjoy this boring dance."

Sylas gave a slight chuckle. The Dance of Blackvale was horrid and boring. Nothing short of doing the same exact same thing over and over again. Simple enough for this dull crowd.

***

The King watched as the younger generation moved together to begin dancing. He could see their hesitance and disdain as plain as day on their face. He couldn't help but feel a sinking sensation in his gut. He wished it was easy enough to allow them to marry whom they wanted when they wanted. This was there glimmer of a chance but their pool of options was small. Arranged marriages never turned out remotely as well as they should.

His gaze drifted towards his wife with the thought. Magnus leaned towards her, pressing his lips against her cheek in a loveless kiss. "I am going to converse with our guests my love." With that he stepped down form the royal podium and worked his way through the crowd. When he caught only a momentary glimpse of his daughters gaze he gave her a smile and a playful wink.

Magnus wasn't sure where he was going, his feet carried him and before he knew it, he found himself before her. She hadn't aged a day, looking radiant as ever. She didn't try to look younger or hide her age like the Queen did. Her age was shown like a badge of honor to show her accomplishments and she wore it well. He couldn't help but smile as he bowed before her, taking her hand in his and placing a long lingering kiss upon it. "Elizabeth, lovely as ever."

He then looked towards Robert, smiling in greeting and shaking his hand. "You take very good care of all your girls. They've grown up to be such beauties, you must be proud." His gaze drifted to Elizabeth for a moment before back towards her husband, "Might I have your permission to walk about the room with your wife?" He asked Robert out of kindness as he held out an offered arm towards Elizabeth. If her husband denied him the offer, Magnus would find another way to get an audience with her, after all he was the king. But he was never one to cause futile disputes in the middle of a celebration.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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AVERY THATCHER
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Eldest Son | The Armadillo
#F0A804 | Outfit
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ELLIOT THATCHER
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Youngest Son | The Casanova
#551A8B | Outfit
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ILENE THATCHER
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Only Daughter | The Thorny Rose
#CD1076 | Outfit


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Elliot was beginning to wonder if perhaps he had made a made a blunder he would not be able to escape from. The princess was oddly quiet after his admission. True what he said was a huge gamble. It wasn't exactly accepted to be homosexual after all and he had blatantly told the princess that he was gay. She could very easily sneer in disgust and call the guards to arrest him and throw him in the dungeons. Elliot let his hand lightly resting on the princess's back while the other held her hand as they began dancing. His heart was hammering in his ears however and he felt as stiff as a board, his muscle taunt in his trepidation with the princess's response.

Then at last the princess gave an exclamation as the information clicked. "I'm afraid my lord, that there may not be much in that realm here at the Black Keep. I don't know if there will be anyone to satiate that appetite," the princess laughed.

Elliot gave a sigh of relief that her pause wasn't her debating whether or not to raise some sort of alarm. His gamble paid off. Elliot relaxed then, his movements become fluid for the dance once more. The playful smile reached his lips again and his eyes lit up with ease.

"Ugh! I know!" he scoffed then with a pout. "It will be a lonely summer I am sure. Such a dreadful thing. But if you do happen to see that one of these handsome lords might take a fancy to it, please do send them my way," he mused with a smile. "Especially if it is Jonah Allyrion. He is quite the looker. Jonathan Chaimbers would do quiet nicely as well. Howell has a nice roguish looking quality now that I have a chance to look him over," he added before he returned his gaze to the princess. "Sorry. I hope you don't mind me scouting eye candy," he chuckled. Elliot twirled the princess in his arms and watched as her dress flowed around her before he brought her closer as it turned into a bit of a waltz.

"It is of no offense to you though, my lady. You are quite beautiful and the dress does suit your complexion. But I digress. When not being forced into an overly tight corset, what do you enjoy doing with your time?" he asked her then.
______________

"Lord Avery, your first dance should be with none other than someone so beautiful as myself. You should be honoured.”

Avery took note of the smirk Lady Seraphina sported as she offered her hand to begin the dance. Though he understood it was supposed to be a joke, her comment was a little off putting for him and it made him self conscious. He knew his hands weren't really that smooth, what with his work in the fields and his sword practice. It must be quite aversive to Seraphina's delicate hands. Avery led her into the dance as the music began, unsure of what he wanted to reply to her.

"I am honored, Lady Seraphina. You are quite beautiful and your name is to. I am sorry your first dance is with one so rough," he answered. It was both an honest comment but he also wanted to see what her response was to that admission. He knew many noble women did not fancy lords as humble and work centered as he was.

And Avery couldn't sport that he was an excellent dance. He was sure his brother and sister were much better at this but he wasn't a poor dancer either. He was a warrior and a lot of that was anticipating your opponents move. So at first though the dance was a little awkward, he slipped into the rhythm quick enough. He wasn't sure what to say to her. He was generally a quite person after all. "Are you looking forward to the summer here?"

_________

Ilene was pulled out of her wonderings about Elliot's plans when she noticed someone had taken up the empty space in front of her. It was one of the Daverny boys. She could easily tell them apart from the other families thanks to their clothing. She had to say it was refreshing to see something different. She offered the lord a nod of her head and offered her hand. "Lord Howell, I would be happy to dance with you," she answered him. The two began to dance as the music picked up and Ilene studied the lord's face. He wasn't bad looking and he seemed polite at least. And she couldn't hide the interest she had about him and his family. She had never been on a boat and had never ventured anywhere near the Misty Isles. This was a perfect opportunity to ask Howell about it.

"So, Lord Howell, I hope you don't mind but I am very curious about the Misty Isles, about life on a ship. Would you enlighten me about the Misty Isles?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny Character Portrait: Frederick Chaimbers

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#, as written by Arrow-
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ROSALYN GRAYSON
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King's Bastard | The Red Rose
#660033 | [url]Outfit[/url]
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SERAPHINA GRAYSON
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Eldest True Grayson | The Sweet Pea
#C19A6B | [url]Outfit[/url]
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SYLVA THORNE
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Sylas' Twin | The Cobra
#583668 | [url]Outfit[/url]
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AURORA GRAYSON
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Youngest Grayson | The Little Petal
#87758F | [url]Outfit[/url]


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Sylva watched as the pirate boy bowed before her and she almost scoffed. She hadn’t known they knew any manners. Sylva took a moment to look over at her brother briefly, who was also paired with a Daverny sea creature. The girl looked like she was tripping all over herself, as if she had no land legs at all. Her sharp gaze turned back to the boy, Benjy as he liked to be called.

"Lady Thorne, I must say that you are very beautiful.” He chided as he took her hand and began to attempt at leading her to the dance. It was pitiful. She had to make sure her delicate feet weren’t crushed by his massive ones. Sylva hummed in response, face unchanging. She wasn’t one for fake pleasantries where they weren’t needed. “So I have been told by many.” She mused as they twirled and he almost caught one of her toes.

“I must say I am surprised to see the Daverny clan out of the water.” She said and just when he was about to make a mistake in the dance she corrected it, almost leading the dance herself. He truly did not know what was going on, did he? “I am beginning to think the land itself may become wet with tears, what with your clumsy feet walking all over it.” She kept the hiss and bite from her voice, making it seem more sarcastic.

Luckily for her, she knew this would only last a few more minutes. Get the worst over with first. From the looks of all the men, it could only get better from there. Sylva was aching to get dance with her brother already. He knew what he was doing. She glanced over again to see him all smiles and charm. A snort almost raised from her throat at the looks of it. Her brother had a much better game face than her. If only they knew how terrible he truly was.

***


Seraphina began the dance with Lord Avery Thatcher, glad that he could at least dance somewhat well. From the looks of it, she could have been much worse off for a first dance, as the Daverny boy nearby looked like he was stumbling about sloppily. At least the Lord Thatcher was careful enough to not crush her toes.

"I am honored, Lady Seraphina. You are quite beautiful and your name is to. I am sorry your first dance is with one so rough,” Avery began, an attempt at conversing with her. Seraphina snorted and rolled her eyes. She supposed even a man could be self conscious at times. "Are you looking forward to the summer here?” He continued. Small talk.

“Lord Avery, as rough as you may be, it is not the outside that matters at all. It is the inside of the soul, the talents one possesses and how they use them to their advantage is what matters most to me. If the shell for that soul happens to be appealing, it is just a bonus.” She explained, matter of fact. Though that may seem caring, wise and un-judgmental, the true meaning behind it was that she didn’t care about a persons looks, so long as they were strong willed and could obtain power. Like her.

“As for my summer… Well, being in the castle setting truly brings out the best in me.” She smirked. “A change of pace was never bad for anyone. Besides, are we not supposed to find our true loves here?” She chuckled. It was another way of rephrasing the fact that they had this small group of people present that they were to choose a suitable partner with.

***


Aurora continued to watch the youngest son to the Western Bluffs bow for quite sometime before rising again. "Oh, dear Lady Aurora, how wrong you are.” He said in response to her. He reached up and twirled some loose strands of her hair, a gesture Aurora only saw as innocent. "Have you ever been to the Western Bluffs?” He asked her before continuing, "Because we have a legend about woman with your hair. We call them the Fae, they once inhabited the land now known as the Green Valley, which is why it is the most fertile land in all of the Bluffs. The women were said to have silver hair and such delicate features, much like yours, and whilst we have no evidence of them ever existing, if you ever visited you would be referred as a goddess.”

Aurora laughed in awe at the story. “I have never been outside of the Riverlands. Being the youngest does not get you far from home… But I love adventure, and I have read books on the Western Bluffs, none of the Fae though. They sound marvellous. The only other person with this white hair is my mother and she isn’t a goddess as much as she may seem like it at times.” She laughed. “I would love to travel there one day. I would love to see everything.”

After her quick change of topic, the boy seemed quite stunned by her question. She supposed it was quite shocking that a woman her age had yet to taste any kind of liquor. "It's fun to forget certain things and let your inhibitions run loose for a night, so yes. It can be quite 'fun', I suppose.” He said, quite in thought before finishing, "But then again, sometimes the morning afterwards is like that spin, only for an hour after waking and then all that fun didn't seem worth it because you can't quite recall everything that occurred that night.”

Aurora hummed, “I suppose that may be true, from one who has drank. Especially tonight.” She laughed harder as she caught another whiff of alcohol coming from him. Her brutal honesty and missing filter were ever present. “From what I have seen though… alcohol can be quite beautiful too.” She pondered softly and looked off into the distance as he had, in thought, as they twirled in the dance. “From what I have seen, a mans true heart comes out when he is drunk. In that sense, alcohol is like the key that unlocks the window of a persons true inhibitions.” Aurora looked into his eyes again and smiled honestly, “I suppose it has its good and its bad. Is that an odd way to think of it?”

Then again, nothing about Aurora was very normal.

***


Rosalyn was still smirking as Lord Jonah raised her hand and pressed his lips to her hand. He raised again with a sly smile of his own and wrapped an arm around her waist. The music slowly picked up until they were cued to begin dancing. "Oh, My Lady, while it goes against my principles to tell a woman she is wrong, I must inform you, I am a not a soldier, I am a Ranger.” He said to her as they moved to the beat. "Soldiers aren't meant to be graceful, they are meant to be loud, they are meant to seen and heard coming. Rangers, however, are trained to be quiet, to not be seen or heard until it is too late, that means, we are to be light on our feet." She supposed he was right. The more they danced the more she realized he wasn’t heavy enough to be a warrior; he was much more lethe. Also, she realized his footsteps were just as silent as hers. If there had been nothing but them in the room, their dance and the room would have been completely quiet. The man went ahead to provide proof by twirling her around. She smirked and quickly, yet easily, kept balance.

Rosalyn decided to stay quiet, picking up from his facial cues that he had more to say to her. "Though, I will admit, I am much more interested in hunting with you than dancing.” He continued, though this caught her by slight surprise. He could tell she was a fighter already? It was not something most anyone could pick up on. She supposed it took one to know one.

"You noticed I was a fighter, and I noticed the same of you. Which means that you know a thing or two, Your weapon of choice....Bow and Arrow, or Throwing knives, something light but takes focus, patience…" Jonah said and Rosalyn realized that during his kiss to her hands he would have felt the callouses on her fingertips. "Archery, is my guess, Am I wrong?” He asked.

Rosalyn could have easily freaked out, having him unhinge her lesser known talent just like that, but that wasn’t the kind of person Rosalyn was. She had much more important things to hide then her bow skills. Instead, she just smirked and raised a brow at him herself. “My, my, Lord Jonah. Despite the way you look, you are quite clever.” She jabbed at him in sarcastic jest. “As much as I love to prove someone wrong, I must adhere to your assumption. What can I say? The gigantic tension before the shooting of an arrow and the total release and relaxation seconds later is my way of keeping me connected to reality.” Rosalyn said honestly and then shrugged. “I am quite good at it also.”

As they twirled more, she couldn’t help but chuckle at his curiosity. “A piece of advice though, I wouldn’t go digging around within the backstories of many people here, lest you come across something too shocking that ends you with an arrow right here…” She reached up and teasingly tapped his forehead. “Whether you take this advice from a woman, or not, is completely up to you, Lord.”

***


Elizabeth allowed herself to relax a little as her eldest daughter was whisked away by a more exotic boy. Rosalyn was a beautiful girl, who wouldn’t be interested in dancing with her? Then again, all of her daughters were beautiful. She gazed over to Seraphina who was gazing at her partner with sharp, intelligent eyes, as always. Aurora was dancing excitedly with a big gin on her face right nearby. She may not have been completely in love with Robert, but Elizabeth would always be thankful to him for giving her two more beautiful girls.

The silver haired woman could only hope by the end of this summer all three girls would come out unscathed. Aurora was innocent and gullible, something Elizabeth knew all too well that could be extorted. Her cheery demeanour reminded Elizabeth of herself when she was young and hopeful and in love. Seraphina, on the other hand, was an aggressive girl who always strived for what she wanted. Elizabeth wished she had had that kind of perseverance when she was her age. If so, things would have been much different. Lastly, Rosalyn… She was a whole other story. Elizabeth deeply worried her headstrong daughter would only wind up dead by the end of it all.

In the midst of her revelry, Elizabeth had not noticed the man walking towards her and Robert until he was right in front of them. "Elizabeth, lovely as ever.” He said as he bowed, kissed her hand and stood up. Elizabeth swallowed quickly and kept her composure as her heart suddenly dropped into her stomach. The King. The very one she had much history with. He was still handsome as he always had been, except now it was in a much more refined and perfectly aged way. So not to be rude, Elizabeth gave a small smile and curtsied, though her legs felt like falling apart.

"You take very good care of all your girls. They've grown up to be such beauties, you must be proud.” King Magnus said as he shook her husbands hand. Robert grinned and nodded, “Very proud. Though I must say the beautiful piece is mostly due to my wife.” He chuckled and looked at Elizabeth who gave him a half-hearted smile back. Magnus, smooth as always, smiled and continued, "Might I have your permission to walk about the room with your wife?” Robert was no idiot. If the king asked for something, you would be a fool not to grant it, lest the wrath of all the loyal kingdoms fall upon you instead. “Of course, it would be an honour.” He said, though Elizabeth knew him well enough to know he was not completely pleased with the idea.

Elizabeth wished she could run at that moment, but being the refined lady she was, she took the Kings arm and let him lead her away as her stomach tore itself to shreds. She didn’t dare look over to Rosalyn, otherwise she might lose herself.

“Your Majesty,” She stressed, “To what do I owe the honour of this stroll?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Clara Allyrion Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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#, as written by mjolnir
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RHAEGAR CASTILLON
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Heir to Blackvale | The Falcon
#B70909 | Outfit
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BROM CASTILLON
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Prince | The Peacock
#061B62 | Outfit
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SYLAS THORNE
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Heir to Dark Wood | The Viper
#999999 | Outfit
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GWENDOLYNN CASTILLON
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Princess | The Little Dove
#F56E6F | Outfit


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"A Marquise calling upon a Prince, oh how scandalous. Here I thought the Royals gave the orders." Brom caught a glimpse of her a hint of playfulness behind her dazzling blue eyes. ”Prince Castillon,” Vivienne said as she stepped closer to him as the dance called for.

Brom leaned his head towards hers while keeping his head and face turned forward. “You’d find… That I am very good at following orders.” he whispered towards her. His face had a seductive and potentially sinister grin that matched the velvet like caress of his words.

As they began dancing Brom was light on his feet and elegant. No doubt surprising for someone as large and bulky as he is move with such fluidity. He carried the dance in such a way that they moved in sync like a unit. He guided her and lead her with ease but Vivienne had his full attention.

Of course, Vivienne was ready to play when it came to his humble declaration of his angelic-ness. "Come now, Prince Castillon. I am not a lady so easily fooled.”

Brom chuckled, using his hand on her back to gently move her through a spin before returning her before him. “Oh I would never think such a thing of a beautiful woman.” He quirked his brow weaving them through the other pairs of young men and women. Brom would have loved to have heard the conversations being exchanged between all the partners. The information he could find and to know everyone’s interest would be enticing. But being the gentleman he was, no one had his attention aside from Vivienne.

"However, I shall indulge you…The woman of the Vale have very loose lips, and the men are all to eager to hear. Although, I have it on good authority that the Western woman know how to hold their tongue."

The comment made Brom let out a hearty laugh, enough to where he had to raise a hand to try to stifle it when he caught glaring glimpses from the Queen. He cleared his throat as he calmed his laughter. When he looked back to Vivienne, he smirked yet again as he spoke. “Well, I have never had the pleasure of holding the tongue of a Western woman. But it is a delicacy I’d greatly enjoy experiencing.”

But as soon as the friendly and flirtatious banter started, it subsided taking Brom by surprise. "The Princess, she's very beautiful tonight. One could see why she wouldn't be short of suitors..." The comment made Brom stiffen and his smile fade. He quickly tried to make it return but not it was strained and his discomfort noticeable. "Does that worry you?” His gaze was met by hers causing his tried smile to fade showing the true concern he felt across his face. "I don't mean to offend or upset you, it's just we understand what it's like to be seperated."

Brom took in a deep breath. He was trying not to think about it but now that it was brought to the table there was no way of avoiding it. “I love my sister very much. She has grown to be quite beautiful… She deserves all the happiness in the world.” He could tell by the music that the pairs would begin to pull together for a switch soon. “It’d be a lie to say that it doesn't hurt to know that this summer could be the last time my siblings and I are together. But,” He gave Vivienne a final spin bringing her close to the line. “If someone were to hinder Rhaegar’s or Gwendolynn’s chance at happiness they would have to deal with me. I would rather them happy and separated then heartbroken and all of us together.”

With everyone gathered back together in their lines, Brom’s smile slowly reformed. He gave Vivienne a final bow with a tender kiss upon her knuckles. “Enjoy the evening my lady for it is the first night of an amazing summer.”

As shifted along the line with the other gentlemen, Brom cleared his throat and adjusted his shirt trying to get back into a more enthusiastic mood. He adorned his face with a suave smile as he stopped before one of the beautiful blonde Grayson’s. Seraphina no doubt was the most attractive of the Graysons. He gave a flawless bow while taking the beauties hand and placed a gentle kiss upon it. “My lady Seraphina, you are without a doubt stunning this evening.”

***

Sylas smirked ever so slightly when Marynn laughed at his comment about the horrible dance choice of the Queen. "I'm a Daverny, all we do is pretend to enjoy that which is beneath us." Although Sylas smiled at the comment he thought there couldn’t be much that is beneath Daverny’s… Not much more than pirates but given the title of “Lords.” There was nothing beneath them besides dirt. "I suppose it isn't so bad."

After that they both took part in some silence between them which Sylas did not mind. It was tiring sometimes to pretend to be the charming and friendly Lord that he is far from. His eyes caught a glimpse of Sylva during a rotation in the ballroom. A smirk tugged at the corner of her lips as she seemed to be greatly unsatisfied with her dance partner of yet another Daverny. Poor boy will be destroyed by the time she will be done with him.

"I can't say I'm much for chatter either... merrymaking is much easier with a drink in hand.”

Sylas raised his brows slightly, nodding his head in agreement. ”Now that I can agree with. But too much drink can also make the chatter worse.”

"I don't know much about your family, and nor do I believe you'd care much about mine so what then is there to talk about?"

Sylas actually chuckled at the comment, nodding his head before guiding her through a spin. She then wasted no time to continue talking, mostly nonsense, but that wasted the last portion of the dancing while they shifted towards the lines. "We’ve covered names, of course, that’s a given. As well as the inability to dance, a phrase I’m sure to repeat more than once tonight.” He would not deny that. "I’m sure you’ll also be able to reassure more of the ladies here about your ability to dance. How delightful.”

He allowed his charming smile to shift to barely a smirk of understanding and content. ”Well… whomever told me that all Daverny’s lost their intelligence from drinking that salt water was wrong.” He bowed before her, and gave her the customary kiss upon the hand. "Let’s hope more rumors are disproved this night… What fun would a summer in the Keep be if we all already knew everything about each other.” He nodded his head towards her one final time. "Have a pleasant evening my lady.”

Sylas let his façade fall momentarily when no one was watching him before taking a deep breath and putting on the charming smile once again. He gave a bow and kissed lady Vivienne’s hand. "You are looking lovely this evening Lady Chaimbers.” He then offered her arm to begin the promenade and start yet another dance. Sylas was curious to find out if more of these women here had something more to them than looks or if their skulls only contained marbles.

***

”Um, well,” Clara mumbled apparently taken by surprise by the question. Rhaegar’s smile faded slightly. He didn’t mean to ask a question out of line he was simply curious as to the intentions of others here at the court. Him and his siblings were just hoping to survive, they didn’t like being paraded around for the world. But he hoped that maybe at least someone hoped for love and happiness here this summer.

"To be honest, a little of both. My parents--my mother mostly, insisted, but I agreed.” Rhaegar’s gaze did not waver from Clara as she answered his question. "You've known me since I was small, you remember how sick I was? I'm not good with other people, I tend to shy away from them, but I figured, since I was going anyway, I should give it a try since I probably wouldn't find love otherwise."

Did Rhaegar believe that? Not entirely. Everyone has a love out there somewhere. That included her. Even if she did not find love here this summer he knew someday she would. ”You’ll find love someday be it here in the Vale or in the North. Everyone has someone out there, we just have to find them.”

He gave Clara a slow and elegant twirl before she returned to his arms and asked a question of him. "Do you hope to find love?"

Rhaegar’s face saddened slightly as he contemplated the question. He let out a soft sigh before he continued. ”Yes but not for the reasons I should.” His gaze fell slightly and his smile slipped away. ”If I do not find love this summer and choose someone, then I unfortunately will be assigned someone.” He began to guide her back to the line as the song was coming to an end but still held her gaze. ”It’s not that I would not care for the woman and treat with the utmost respect… But I could never be truly happy with someone I did not choose.”

When they reached the line and the end of the song, even though the dance did not call for it, Rhaegar gave Clara one final twirl. He then smiled towards her while bowing and kissing her hand. ”I do hope that you find the love you deserve this summer my lady. Someone deserves to wake up to your beauty every sunrise.”

Rhaegar then parted from Clara and shifted down to find himself standing before the Daverny daughter. He couldn’t help but grin at how she made the formal attire her own. It was a nice sight to see someone still be themselves throughout all the pomp and circumstance. ”A pleasure my lady Daverny.” He pushed back his cloak as he bowed and gently took her hand in his. His lips graced her knuckles with a soft kiss before he stood and offered her his arm. ”How are your land legs faring you? I can imagine it’s quite different being in the Vale.”

***

"Ugh! I know!" Gwendolynn giggled at the comment. "It will be a lonely summer I am sure. Such a dreadful thing. But if you do happen to see that one of these handsome lords might take a fancy to it, please do send them my way. Especially if it is Jonah Allyrion. He is quite the looker. Jonathan Chaimbers would do quiet nicely as well. Howell has a nice roguish looking quality now that I have a chance to look him over.”

Gwen smiled towards Elliot. No doubt it was a relief to relax and not have to worry about impressing him. “Well my lord, I shall keep my eyes peeled while I dance with the other Lords and report back to you with my findings.” She smirked playfully towards him. “But in return you should listen out for which gentlemen have true and honest intentions so that I might survive this summer unscathed.”

"Sorry. I hope you don't mind me scouting eye candy."

“Oh no, it’s quite alright.” She smiled reassuringly. “I find Sylas Thorne quite agreeable, but I stop that right there, she leans in to whisper, “We all know the rumors there.” She allowed Elliot to spin her before returning to his arms. “I do agree Jonah is quite handsome. Howell looks charming as does your brother,” she chuckles making a silly face. “As for Jonathan Chaimbers, I’ll leave him to you. He isn’t quite my type… At least, so far as I know.” She playfully winks towards Elliot.

"It is of no offense to you though, my lady. You are quite beautiful and the dress does suit your complexion. But I digress. When not being forced into an overly tight corset, what do you enjoy doing with your time?"

Gwendolynn smiled at the compliment. “Well thank you my lord.” She then momentarily placed her hand on her abdomen. “It is so tight.” She agreed quietly.

She noticed that the song was coming to an end, unfortunate. Gwen was enjoying her time with Elliot. Of course she’d enjoy time with someone completely uninterested in her. She supposed as a last resort they could potentially marry under the agreement to allow each other to take lovers. But she pushed though aside hoping she might be able to find someone. “Well… I do enjoy horseback riding. I’m quite good at it, even beat my Father in races. Honestly, I enjoy most things that gentlemen prefer that is unacceptable for a female to enjoy. My mother detests it. But what does she expect when I grew up with two older brothers.”

Gwendolynn let out a soft sigh as she curtsied before Elliot, flashing him a sweet smile. “Well I did quite enjoy our time together. I do hope we can spend time together again… When I’m not wearing an obscenely tight corset.”

She ran her hands along any ripples or wrinkles in her dress as she waited for another partner to step before her. When Gwen saw Howell step before her she nearly choked on her own forgotten breath. She wonder if it was a cruel joke by the Gods. Over hear her mention that he looked charming so of course he’d be her next partner. Gwendolynn curtsied, holding out the fabric of her dress. “Lord Daverny.”

***

“Of course, it would be an honour,” Robert replied to Magnus’ question to walk about the room with his wife.

”Thank you. I’ll take good care of her.” Magnus smiled towards Robert.

When Elizabeth took Magnus’ arm his heart skipped a beat. How long had it been since he hand touched this goddess of a woman? She was effortless, perfect and utterly gorgeous in everyway. He couldn’t restrain himself from reaching his free hand to rest upon hers that held his arm. But just before they touched she spoke. “Your Majesty, to what do I owe the honour of this stroll?”

The subtle harshness in the words dug deep. But he keep the smile upon his face and let his hand finally rest upon hers. His gaze fell as he hesitated before speaking in a hushed tone. ”Would it be too forward of me to say because I missed you terribly?”

He finally looked back up and met that gaze of hers that made him fall in love those many years ago. Magnus made sure to do nothing to draw attention their way, he didn’t want scandal or to disgrace Elizabeth. ”I know I shouldn’t speak of such things,” he concluded as he continued to lead her about the ballroom.

Magnus remained silent for a long while until they stood on the far end of the room where no one lingered and their voices could not travel. He kept his gaze forward, fixated on his children’s merriment but he spoke towards her, his hand lightly grasping hers tighter. ”I’d be lying if I said my heart did not yearn for you every waking moment since the day you left.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Ilene Thatcher Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Jonathan Chaimbers Character Portrait: Howell Daverny Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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AVERY THATCHER
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Eldest Son | The Armadillo
#F0A804 | Outfit
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ELLIOT THATCHER
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Youngest Son | The Casanova
#551A8B | Outfit
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ILENE THATCHER
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Only Daughter | The Thorny Rose
#CD1076 | Outfit


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“Well my lord, I shall keep my eyes peeled while I dance with the other Lords and report back to you with my findings. But in return you should listen out for which gentlemen have true and honest intentions so that I might survive this summer unscathed.”

“Thank you m’lady. I great appreciate you looking out for me. And I promise I’ll return the favor. I promise I won’t push my brother on you, beyond saying he is one that has true and honest intentions. I hope you do find a lucky stag that pleases you and if that happens to be my brother, I wish the best to you both. If not, I won’t begrudge you. That leaves 6 men I need to report to you about,” Elliot answered her with a smile.

“I find Sylas Thorne quite agreeable, but I stop that right there,” she said then before leaning in and Elliot obliged and moved closer to hear her. “We all know the rumors there.”

“Very true. I would be careful,” he nodded and spun the princess. He was honestly happy that she was returning his earlier banter. She seemed a pretty down to earth woman. That was a good thing at least.

“I do agree Jonah is quite handsome. Howell looks charming as does your brother,” she chuckled and made a silly face. Elliot couldn’t help but grin. He almost wanted to say ‘Charming? Are you sure you are looking at my brother?’ but he figured those jokes would have to come later when there was an easy friendship. He liked to tease and play but he didn’t want to sabotage his brother either. “As for Jonathan Chaimbers, I’ll leave him to you. He isn’t quite my type… At least, so far as I know.”

“Ooh. I would be glad to take him off your hands,” he grinned. “Without him, you’d have 5 to pick from and if you are staying away from a certain Thorne, then 4. See? Well on our way to narrowing down the playing field,” he winked. When the conversation turned to hobbies, he smiled as he listened.

“Well… I do enjoy horseback riding. I’m quite good at it, even beat my Father in races. Honestly, I enjoy most things that gentlemen prefer that is unacceptable for a female to enjoy. My mother detests it. But what does she expect when I grew up with two older brothers.”

He chuckled and an excited glint entered his eyes. “I love horseback riding. We must make it a point to go riding this summer. And I find nothing wrong with a woman wanting to enjoy the 'realms' of men. I think it gives you an advantage. You wouldn't be a damsel in distress,” he answered her. Then the dance sadly came to an end. He knew he couldn’t be as free with the other woman as he had been with Gwen. He had taken a risk as it was. He would have to posture and pretend to be interested in the others.

“Well I did quite enjoy our time together. I do hope we can spend time together again… When I’m not wearing an obscenely tight corset.”

"It was honestly a pleasure, your Highness,” he answered and gave her knuckles a farewell brush. “I look forward to our time together.” He watched her leave a moment and sighed. And to think the dancing had only just begun. He loved dancing but dancing with all of these pretty ladies was going to be a drag. He shook his head and turned to settle his gaze on his new dance partner.

“Ah, Lady Rosalyn, it is an honor,” Elliot began and gave her a low bow as he took her hand in his own. Just like Jonah before him, he immediately felt the callouses on her finger tips. It intrigued Elliot and he arched an eyebrow in his curiosity. It wasn’t often that women played with weapons. He offered her a bright smile as he kissed her knuckles. He righted himself as the two of them began to dance. “My lady, forgive me if I am being rude but it is not often to see a woman so well-trained with a weapon,” he mused, a smile never leaving his face. “I do hope the reason behind your training was a simple desire and eagerness to learn it, and not one of dire necessity. I hope to see you in your element one of these days.”
________

“Lord Avery, as rough as you may be, it is not the outside that matters at all. It is the inside of the soul, the talents one possesses and how they use them to their advantage is what matters most to me. If the shell for that soul happens to be appealing, it is just a bonus. As for my summer… Well, being in the castle setting truly brings out the best in me. A change of pace was never bad for anyone. Besides, are we not supposed to find our true loves here?”

Avery offered her a genuine smile. He had been wrong about her first impression. It was refreshing to hear that not everyone valued appearance above all else. He too cared far more about what was on the inside, the personality of someone, rather than attractiveness. He could appreciate beauty but he’d rather have someone good hearted than ‘pretty’ by his side. So much of his work dealt with helping the people that pledged fealty to him and his family after all. He wouldn’t be able to tolerate someone far more concerned with their own comfort. Seraphina seemed interesting at least.

“I agree,” he answered her. [color=#F0A804]“Appearance shouldn’t count so much. Our deeds speak far louder and longer than our outer shells. As for changes and true loves, I don’t think we’ll find true love by pursuing it by force. With everyone here pursuing each other in the hopes of ‘winning’, it will amount to more ‘losing’ and pushing away what is real. Love should flow naturally, if it is there. A friendship can be far more valuable than a romance in strange situations like these,” he mused. He probably wasn’t hitting any winning notes but he didn’t want to lie either. A love built on lies was nothing but empty.

Before he could change topic, it was time to switch partners. He gave the lady another bow. “Have a good evening, Lady Seraphina. If there is love here, I do hope you find it in one of these suitors.” Avery turned to his next partner then, Sylva Thorne. He honestly didn’t know what to think about Sylva. She was beautiful and he loved her eyes, though they were cold and maybe there was a certain annoyance in her gaze. Her dark hair did make her very different from the fair haired girls around the room. There was something about her he couldn’t place and even more than with Seraphina, he wasn’t sure what to say to her.

He took her hand and offered her smile. “Good evening, Lady Sylva. You look very beautiful tonight. I do hope you are enjoying the dancing thus far?” he asked as they began their second round of dancing.
________

"A rather odd topic of conversation I must say, the Misty Isles is usually avoided in conversation altogether."

“That may be true, but that is where you are from and we are dancing so we could get to know each other, right? It is only right that I ask you about your life.” Ilene answered with a smile. She had heard fairytales but that wouldn’t do Howell justice to just go by what she had heard in crazy tales. She’d give him the chance to tell her himself.

"It's only half as thrilling as people expect, mostly its hard work and avoiding angering the wrong sorts. Even the kindest men in the Isles are willing to steal or kill for coin, though they rarely get far in our case. But it's not all bad. It's never boring, and there's always an adventure to be had. The view is breathtaking, even on a stormy night when the waves toss the ship hard enough to strike fear into the hardiest of men."


Ilene listened with rapt attention. It did sound threatening and dangerous but what life wasn’t filled with danger? It really didn’t sound all that different from their world here. “That doesn’t sound all that different from here. The angering the wrong sorts and people killing for coin bit. The same can be said about the political arena,” she answered him. “And it does sound like a beautiful sight. I’d like to see what the view is like on board a ship. Maybe not in a storm, mind, but I would like to see the sea. I’ve heard that it looks like gold glittering on the horizon when the sun hits it and at night the dark waves glitter silver. Is that true? I’ve never been anywhere near the sea to be honest.”

"Oh, but it's not quite fair if I do all the talking. I'm sorry to say I don't know much about The South, I'm restricted by what little knowledge reaches the Isles. So, if you would be so kind as to tell me, Lady Ilene, what kind of exciting life do you lead?"

Ilene chuckled at the lord. “Then we have much to learn from each other, Lord Howell. I’ll teach you about the South and you can teach me about the Misty Isles. But really, my life isn’t all that exciting. Farming is our staple and that is what we mostly deal with. We do a lot of trades and such so it is interesting to see the strangers that come by. The most exciting thing about the South is the forest if you want to explore it. The South is quiet and peaceful. Elliot often refers to it as ‘boring’,” she chuckled. Maybe getting close to Howell would be a good thing. Since he did live in the Misty Isles, maybe they could open some sort of trade route. A partnership could be a good thing. If ever there was a war they’d have an ally to turn to if nothing else.

And that is when the dance ended, signaling the switch. Ilene gave a courtesy to Howell then. “I look forward to the chance to learn more about you and your Misty Isles,” she smiled. She extended her hand out to her new dance partner then.

“Lord Jonathan,” she greeted with a nod of her head.

"You are a sight fit for the Gods, Lady Ilene," Jonathan began

"Thank you. You are not too bad yourself," she said with a little smile. "Though I suppose saying that we are beautiful is going to be the headline for all of these dances. Good for the ego if nothing else. Why don't you tell me something interesting about yourself?" she asked then.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Aurora Grayson Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Rosalyn Grayson Character Portrait: Jonah Allyrion Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Benjy Daverny

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#, as written by Arrow-
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ROSALYN GRAYSON
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King's Bastard | The Red Rose
#660033 | [url]Outfit[/url]
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SERAPHINA GRAYSON
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eldest True Grayson | The Sweet Pea
#C19A6B | [url]Outfit[/url]
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SYLVA THORNE
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Sylas' Twin | The Cobra
#583668 | [url]Outfit[/url]
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AURORA GRAYSON
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Youngest Grayson | The Little Petal
#87758F | [url]Outfit[/url]


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Seraphina almost snorted when Avery said, “I agree.” Of course he would. He seemed too kind to turn any ladies words down. She pondered this as he continued. “Appearance shouldn’t count so much. Our deeds speak far louder and longer than our outer shells. As for changes and true loves, I don’t think we’ll find true love by pursuing it by force. With everyone here pursuing each other in the hopes of ‘winning’, it will amount to more ‘losing’ and pushing away what is real. Love should flow naturally, if it is there. A friendship can be far more valuable than a romance in strange situations like these.”

Seraphina almost sighed. While what he was saying could be seen as quite noble, she couldn’t follow his words. Seraphina wasn't here seeking love, she was seeking power and would do anything to get it. The soon-to-be-King was going to be hers, he had to be. Seraphina had spent too much of her life wedged between Rosalyn’s shadow and Aurora’s childishness. Rhaegar would be her husband, and she would crush any girl in her way.

Before she could say anything else to the man, the music queued them to change partners. Avery dropped into a bow. “Have a good evening, Lady Seraphina. If there is love here, I do hope you find it in one of these suitors.” She sighed and mentally rolled her eyes. Would there be anyone here that understood love wasn't worth it?

Next to be her partner was none other than the future King’s brother. He was rather handsome too, especially that she saw him up close. She wondered briefly if sharing a bed with him would ruin her plans to wed his brother and decided to think about it at a more opportune time. “My lady Seraphina, you are without a doubt stunning this evening.” He said as he bowed to her and kissed her hand.

Seraphina smiled softly and curtsied as any lady should. “Prince Castillon, what a pleasure… Though from the looks of that fake smile, you are having just as much fun as I am.” She chuckled. “Appearances are quite a hinderance. Especially in front of family.” She teased lightly and got into the position to dance with him.





Sylva avoided being stepped on by the pirate-boy’s clumsiness while listening to him talk. “It’s a myth that we never walk on land, and not a very intelligent one at that. After all, one cannot always look after an entire island from afar.”

Sylva sighed and looked at him with her cold face. “I pity the land you walk upon. Maybe one day you will do the earth a favour and stop walking entirely.”

Whether he heard her or not didnt matter because what he said next made her livid. ”But your lot would know plenty about myths, right?” He grinned at her, knowing well that he was touching upon a forbidden topic. She made sure to keep her appearance in check, making it known that what he said didnt affect her, but when she spoke her voice was as sharp as the most fearsome sword.

“I would hold your tongue, pirate, else wise you may wake up one morning to find that it has gone missing.” She hissed. The music changed and it was time to change partners. Sylva laughed softly and gave him a big, pleasant smile before changing to the next partner. She looked over at Sylas, hopping to catch his eyes. She knew that if he could just see her, he would know something was wrong. They had that kind of connection. She would have to tell him about the threat later on. For now, she was concerned with the new oaf in front of her.

“Good evening, Lady Sylva. You look very beautiful tonight. I do hope you are enjoying the dancing thus far?” he asked her innocently. His hands were rough from farming and the texture was much different from her brothers. Until the ball, she hadn’t truly been around, or touched, this many men. It was odd finding differences in the men. Lord Avery, the man before her, was the complete opposite of her brother. Light haired, kind face, pleasant demeanour.

It disgusted her, yet she tried to keep her appearances as best as she could. Causing problems for her brother and making more enemies would get them nowhere.

“Thank you, Lord Avery. You also look… quite fetching.” She said and curtsied before beginning to dance with him. She had nothing in common with this boy, so it would be quite interesting to see what small talk he would come up with.




When Rosalyn had been brought to the castle, she really hadn’t expected herself to be having any fun or making any friends. Of course, she couldn’t say if she truly considered Jonah a friend, but he certainly was fun at the very least.

”The best advice I've ever receive tumbled from the lips of a woman, I trust her words more than my own." He said. Rosalyn hummed in curiosity, wondering what kind of woman would give him advice. He seemed like quite the flirt, and thus she knew that the woman he talked about could be anywhere in the world.

"I will say, though, My Lady, A mysterious woman such as yourself, tend to arouse curiosity. Though your advice is sound, I'm sure, you should know it will be very difficult to heed. Especially when the mystery dances just out of my reach.” He said, and Rosalyn found herself laughing again at how ridiculous he was. She could only hope that other people were half as interesting as he was. If so, things might become more interesting. She was about to say something when he pulled her closer to him, gently resting against his chest. Most girls would gasp and blush, but Rosalyn just found herself laughing. What an interesting man. "It would make any man risk an arrow to solve it.”

With that, the song ended and Jonah swept back from his hold on her, bowing and kissing her hand. ”We should hunt together, I imagine it would be great fun, I will be sure to wear my armor, should there be any stray arrows flying my way." He said and spun her out of his arms and into the next man in line. Rosalyn laughed and watched him strutting away. Well, if anything, she had found herself a hunting partner. She wondered how long that would last though, when her plans unravelled.

Next in line to dance with her was a boy with some of the longest hair in the room. He looked as though he was a tad younger than her and she recognized him as Elliot Thatcher. “Ah, Lady Rosalyn, it is an honor,” He started and gave her a low bow as he took her hand in his own. He kissed her skin and smiled brightly at her.

“My lady, forgive me if I am being rude but it is not often to see a woman so well-trained with a weapon. I do hope the reason behind your training was a simple desire and eagerness to learn it, and not one of dire necessity. I hope to see you in your element one of these days.” He said, and Rosalyn realized he must have also felt her rough fingers. She dwelled on his words for a moment; why had she learned to shoot a bow? Desire or necessity? At first, it had been necessity. She needed to learn how to defend herself. The desire came soon after she realized she had an aptitude for the bow and rather enjoyed it. Of course, these were things she could not tell him.

“A weapon? And what, may I ask, makes you believe that it is a weapon I wield instead of a trade? I know many a women with rough fingers due to cooking and needle work.” She said as she curtsied and began to dance with him. “What about me says that I would know how to wield a weapon? I am just an innocent lady of course.”




Aurora was pondering whether what she had said was too odd for Frederick to handle, as it wouldn't be the first time her words had confused and turned those away from her. Most men, or really people in general, find her a bit weird. She could understand why; even she knew that she had a unique way of being. Nevertheless, she was pleasantly surprised when the man almost agreed with her.

"Not at all, in a sense it is true.” He said, ”I suppose it depends on the person, and why they're drinking." Aurora nodded. She supposed she would try drinking sometime, maybe even that summer. It would be an interesting experience to say the least.

The music slowly faded, thus marking the end of their dance. "It would appear our time has come to an end, ’tis a shame, I was rather enjoying the discussion." He said and bowed, letting go of her. She had found it rather enjoyable too. "It was a pleasure to have danced with you, lady Aurora, hopefully we shall see more of each other over the Summer.” Aurora smiled and curtsied. He was very kind, it seemed. She wouldn’t mind speaking to him more. He seemed to have experienced things she would find interesting to learn about.

Her next partner was her sisters previous one; Jonathan Allyrion. Tall, dark, handsome. He was sure to sweep someone off their feet, and with one look to her sister’s unusually cheery eyes, Aurora knew this man was one of the good ones. It took a miracle to actually make her older sister cheer up. She watched his face as he peered past her at first, looking over at the Princess, and Aurora giggled softly. She could see right through him, to the butterflies flying around in his stomach. A few moments later he seemed to snap out of his dreamy state and focus on her.

"My lady, Aurora.” The man said as he came up to her, clearing his head from his prior thoughts. He bowed and kissed her hand softly. “Such a fitting name, It reminds me of the lights that dance in the sky in the North. Might I have this dance?”

Aurora nodded to him and rested her hands in the right places. “Of course you may, Lord Jonah.” He was much taller than her, and lankier than most men, so it felt rather funny to her that she would dance with him. It was like a small fairy was dancing with a giant. Instead of telling this to him, she focused on his prior comment.

“My Father once told me that I was named after the night skies lights. He said that my Mother wanted me to be just as bright and beautiful as them one day… So they named me after it.” She grinned. “I have never seen the lights myself though, as I rarely left the Riverlands.”

They spun around to the music and Aurora looked at him curiously, “I must ask, Lord Jonah. Why did you not go to her? I am not the one you want to be dancing with right now. I can tell, I’m very perceptive.” She said bluntly. “The Princess is very beautiful, but that should not deter you or make you nervous. If you are smart enough to make even my older sister laugh, you can make the Princess smile as well.”




The subtle harshness in the words dug deep. But he keep the smile upon his face and let his hand finally rest upon hers. His gaze fell as he hesitated before speaking in a hushed tone. ”Would it be too forward of me to say because I missed you terribly?”

He finally looked back up and met that gaze of hers that made him fall in love those many years ago. Magnus made sure to do nothing to draw attention their way, he didn’t want scandal or to disgrace Elizabeth. ”I know I shouldn’t speak of such things,” he concluded as he continued to lead her about the ballroom.

Magnus remained silent for a long while until they stood on the far end of the room where no one lingered and their voices could not travel. He kept his gaze forward, fixated on his children’s merriment but he spoke towards her, his hand lightly grasping hers tighter. ”I’d be lying if I said my heart did not yearn for you every waking moment since the day you left.”

Elizabeth felt like she was on the verge of fainting due to the anxiety. Why had this man decided to do this to her? She had just hoped to quietly co-exist with him during the summer, never getting close enough to even talk. With their past, it was dangerous for them to even be speaking to one another, much less walking together arm-in-arm. What could he want from her?

”Would it be too forward of me to say because I missed you terribly?” Magnus said. Elizabeth’s legs felt terribly weak in that moment and she had to stop herself from tumbling down as they walked. Those words hit her heart deep. It felt like old scars on her heart were being reopened. Their eyes met, and for a moment she saw him as he was when they were young and in love. He still had those same eyes.

”I know I shouldn’t speak of such things,” He said to her after her long silence, and he slowly lead her to a more quiet corner of the room where they could speak and not draw any attention to themselves. They watched their children spinning around the room with their partners. It all reminded her of when she had spent her own time in the castle. She had been so young and gullible.

”I’d be lying if I said my heart did not yearn for you every waking moment since the day you left.” His warm hand was on hers, gripping her tighter, and Elizabeth felt her knees shake beneath her dress. She was a strong woman when it came to most foes or enemies, but this man had a way of unhinging her with just a single glance.

Tears threatened to spring forth, just as her emotions that had been so well kept all of the years were unlocked and came pouring out. Elizabeth spoke so quietly, it was barely a whisper and she wasn’t sure if he would hear her. “You know it was not I that left you…”

They had been in love. So deeply in love. Elizabeth had thought her and Magnus would be together for ever and have the type of life that you only heard in stories. He would be a great ruler, and she would be beside him helping him through all the hardships. It would have been perfect, if it had not been ruined.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Sylas Thorne Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Sylva Thorne Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny

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#, as written by mjolnir
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RHAEGAR CASTILLON
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Heir to Blackvale | The Falcon
#B70909 | Outfit
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BROM CASTILLON
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Prince | The Peacock
#061B62 | Outfit
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SYLAS THORNE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Heir to Dark Wood | The Viper
#999999 | Outfit
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GWENDOLYNN CASTILLON
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Princess | The Little Dove
#F56E6F | Outfit


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"Lord Thorne," Vivienne said in response to Sylas' greeting. Her smile was quite convincing. To the unknowning or daft minded, she might have actually be convincing. But no matter, he did not care if she was happy to dance with him or looked at him like the scum on the bottom of her shoe. These trivial matters of matrimony and seducing dull women didn't thrill him. He played the game like a well bread noble. The one art he perfected was the art of deception. He looked, acted and talked like the charming young Lord he was raised to be. That was good enough. "The same could much be said of you."

Sylas tucked his left arm behind his back while his right held Vivienne's left hand. He glanced down momentarily at his attire. He raised his head with a slight smirk, glancing over at the blonde beside him from the corner of his eyes. "Ah, well thank you my lady. I hadn't noticed." A lie. Of course he noticed. Sylas was no idiot when it came to his own appearance. He was as vain as he was handsome but he also didn't not flaunt it around like a chauvinistic peacock either.

"Sometimes the most venomous snakes, have the most beautiful scales." The words nearly took Sylas by surprise almost stopping him mid-promenade. But it only made his smirk grow, taking on a more devious tone as he twirled the girl around and brought her close for the dance. "The Snake House, that's what your family is known as?"

Sylas chuckled as he let his gaze drift around the ballroom. When it landed upon Sylva he could see the tension that laid behind that strong visage of hers. He read her like a book, so he knew enough to sense her discomfort. He hated that he couldn't go to her but with so many prying eyes and appearances to uphold he had to remain well behaved. He looked back down at the disinteresting woman before him. "Clever girl.

He danced with her in silence for a long moment, twirling Vivienne a couple times. Sylas then decided to continue the conversation, "True in most cases. But, the Inland taipan is the deadliest snake in the world," He leader her around the ballroom effortlessly. His feet glided across the ground with purpose. "And it is no prettier that any other common snake. Being deadly isn't about being beautiful and bewitching, it's about being ordinary and invisible in plain sight."

Sylas looked about the ballroom yet again, this time taking in all the young lords and ladies. "It is better to be a predator than prey. A snake may be small, but it could overtake a stag, a swan, an armadillo and even with enough cunning and planning... A phoenix." His face remained cold and stoic, but his gaze fell to meet hers. He couldn't help but wonder if the gears were turning behind that tussle of blonde hair or if it sounded like the ocean between those ears. "United by blood, bound by stone." The smirk slowly returned to his lips, "A rock does not even enter the same arena."

***

The lady Seraphina curtsied before Brom then said, “Prince Castillon, what a pleasure… Though from the looks of that fake smile, you are having just as much fun as I am.” She chuckled and in returned caused himself to laugh as he began to lead her through the promenade and into the dance.

"Well, what is not to enjoy about spending an evening dancing with the most beautiful women in the kingdom?" He asked, giving her a twirl. As she returned to his arms, Brom pulled her in closer so that his voice was softer but still rough and enticing. "And for the record, my lady, this smile is all but fake. Unlike the majority of lords and ladies in this hall, I find no reason to be anything than what I am. Everyone knows the rumors about me and how I am. Why deny it or pretend to be anything I'm not?"

“Appearances are quite a hinderance. Especially in front of family.” The blonde was feisty, Brom liked that.

His smirk only seemed to grow with the comment. His attention was fully on her while his body mindlessly went through the moves and guided her effortlessly. "True, it does take far too long to get all primped and powdered for these sort of things. But... It is much more fun taking it off in the eve." Brom then winked down at her with a chuckle, "Especially when someone else is doing the removing."

Was Brom being too forward? Without a doubt. Did he care? Not the slightest. She seemed to come prepared for quips. Seraphina seemed the type to have a sharp tongue and sharper whit. Plus, everyone knew his reputation. And as he said, why deny it? A summer with all the finest women in the kingdom under his roof. It'd be foolish for him not to enjoy every moment of it before he became shackled in the bonds of marriage to potentially someone not of his choosing.

***

Howell bowed before Gwendolynn, then took her hand and lead her through the dance. "Lady Castillon," he finally said towards her, causing Gwen to smile slightly. “Just Howell is fine, we are here to get to know one another after all.”

"Well, just Howell," Gwen teased with a lighthearted smile. "You may call me Gwendolynn if you'd like, or Gwen... As long as my mother isn't around to scold me for being so informal." The thought of her mother's blood boiling at hearing another lord call her Gwen almost made her giggle. She hated all the formalities and pretenses her mother made her live up to. She constantly felt like she was suffocating under a mountain of things that she wasn't... And the corset didn't help.

“I hope you’ve been enjoying yourself, so to speak,” Howell commented. He was, no doubt, one of the more attractive lords in the vale for the summer. Some were too young for her liking or too... Proper. She couldn't imagine being forced to marry someone who was more vain than herself. Gwen was a handful and no doubt needing someone capable of taming her while also setting her free. Howell played the proper part well, but the roughness of his palms and his ease at removing titles from their conversation made her wonder how different he was from what he appeared. “I know these events probably aren’t all that fun. Though I find it rather interesting that all of us have managed to be this mannered for so long – especially with so many clashing personalities in one space.”

Gwen gave a soft sigh, "I suppose I'm enjoying it as much as I can when I'm being forced to choose my future husband from a pool of pre-chosen suitors." Her eyes widened when she realized how openly blunt and off putting she sounded. "No offense... It's not personal. I just don't do well with the idea of arranged marriages, or rules... or really anything related to being a Princess."

She remained quiet through the dance for a moment. Her eyes settled upon the different faces really soaking in all the different personalities Howell mentioned. "That is a surprise. I wouldn't mind something exciting happening... Anything that gets me out of this corset sooner," Gwen laughed softly as she glanced up at him. "But, how are you enjoying the Vale? I'm sure it's quite different compared to what you're used to on the water. I've never been on a ship or seen the ocean... The closest I've been is when my brothers and I would sneak out of the Keep at night to play in the fountains in the garden."

***

“This dance is tiring,” Marynn answered Rhaegar with enough honesty that it made him smile and chuckle. She seemed different, in a nice way. She looked authentically herself which was a breath of fresh air in a ballroom filled with pretenders trying to present themselves in the best way to win his, or his siblings hand in marriage.

"It is," Rhaegar let out a soft sigh as he spoke. He caught some glimpses of Marynn dancing earlier and noticed it wasn't her strong suit. Not that he blamed her. If he was on a ship day in and day out, the last thing on his mind would have been learning a waltz. So, as he spun her, his left hand remained in the mid of her back to help guide in elegance. Not in a rude way but in a helpful manner, like a polite gentleman should do. "My mother made Brom, Gwen and I practice this dance before every meal since winter. 'You must be perfect' she'd tell us." Rhaegar smiled towards her, "I've done it so much that I could do it with my eyes closed. I was tired of it before the music started." He chuckled.

“Otherwise, I do quite fine on land. Would be better if I were not forced into wearing such dreadfully unwieldy clothing.”

Marynn's comment made Rhaegar laugh much in the way his sister did whenever she complained about being forced to be a lady. "You remind me of my sister. I do believe you both would get along quite well. She tried to convince me to wear the corset and dress on multiple occasions." Rhaegar lead her in steady circles around the ballroom, his gaze every so often checking upon his sister. He always worried about her. Brom, not so much. He worried more for the unfortunate women who had to dance with him. He looked back over Marynn with a smile. "At least you still are you, even if you have to wear a ridiculous dress." He motioned his hand to her adornments that she accented her outfit with.

“And you?" Marynn smiled towards him, and even though she seemed uncomfortable something said she was still sincere. “How are you faring, knowing that the ladies here are the only choices you have?”

Rhaegar was silent for a long while. Not because her comment was rude, but the harsh reality that was constantly nagging at the back of his mind. "I'd be lying if I said I enjoy it." His smile faded slightly as he gave a shrug of his shoulders. "I do feel bad though. It is my fault... I kept disappearing whenever my parents tried to marry me off. I just wished they would have kept Brom and Gwen out of this. They deserve happiness, not to be forced to choose from a pool of suitors." He gave a halfhearted chuckle with a slight smile. "But not everyone hear seems blood thirsty for my hand. I much like your bluntness and honesty. It's hard to find authentic people in court."

***

Magnus could sense everything that Elizabeth felt when he spoke. He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms, comfort her and be her rock. But he could not. In that moment he felt his heart sink as he watched his children. His wife was forcing their children to do the same thing he was forced to do... Spend their lives with someone they do not love. It sickened him but it was too late.

“You know it was not I that left you…” Elizabeth's words were expected but cut deeply.

It took everything in Magnus not to turn and face her, to take her beautiful face in his hands and make her listen to his words. It's so much more complicated than that. She only knew a portion... The portion he let her know. He blamed himself every day for hurting her, and he still will until the end of his days. "Lizzie... You know it's not that simple."

He glanced down at the ground while his thumb stroked the top of her hand. Magnus knew she only agreed to walk with him because 'The King' asked. He hoped she actually wanted to see him and speak with him, but it was daft and stupid. He didn't deserve her forgiveness or even a glance. "Give me a chance to explain things to you this summer... I'll explain everything, please?"

Magnus did not wait for a response, he knew she'd want to think on it. His hand gently patter hers before he let her hand slip from his grasp. "You do not have to be tormented by my presence any further this evening. Return to your husband if that is what you wish. I do not desire to hurt you more than I already have. His gaze drifted to hers. It was a dream to see her and it made his heart swell and ache at the same time. She was more beautiful than ever and it killed him not to be able to hold her.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gwendolynn Castillon Character Portrait: Rhaegar Castillon Character Portrait: Brom Castillon Character Portrait: Vivienne Chaimbers Character Portrait: Seraphina Grayson Character Portrait: Marynn Daverny Character Portrait: Howell Daverny

0.00 INK

#, as written by mjolnir
Image

RHAEGAR CASTILLON
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Heir to Blackvale | The Falcon
#B70909 | Outfit
Image

BROM CASTILLON
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Prince | The Peacock
#061B62 | Outfit
Image

SYLAS THORNE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Heir to Dark Wood | The Viper
#999999 | Outfit
Image

GWENDOLYNN CASTILLON
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Princess | The Little Dove
#F56E6F | Outfit


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Howell’s laugh as her comment about her mother’s strictness made Gwen smile. “Gwen it is then.” The pirate was nothing like what she imagined a pirate would be. Unlike his siblings, Howell seemed well mannered and polite like most young lords should be. In most cases, that would be slightly off putting to Gwen. But he seemed to be lighthearted in a way she didn’t expect. It was nice not having to put on a facade with some of these men. Although she is not the kind to pretend to be anything she is not, it is still a relief having to hold back her not so Princess like behavior.

“No offense taken, it does seem rather aweful - well, in some ways of course. I can’t be a pirate and pretend I don’t envy the crown.” Gwen was surprised at his honesty. She knew many people lusted after the crown, but it was an entirely different thing for them to come out and say it. In many cases, she should be wary of someone who admittedly wanted what she already had, but she wasn’t as superstitious as her mother when it came to others. “But the rules that come along with it, the formalities, the grand gestures. Just… awful.”

Gwen’s gaze fell slightly at the comment. She allowed her body to be guided effortlessly through the dance. It was evident that Howell knew how to dance fairly well because it didn’t take much thought on her end to be led around the ballroom. She didn’t know if she appreciated that he knew how awful this particular situation was for her or if it just made everything seem worse because he could tell that easily. Either way, there was nothing she could do to change what was happening. She had no choice, at the end of the summer she’d be married off, one way or another.

“The Vale is grand,” Howell replied to her comment with a smile. “It’s certainly different from what I’ve become accustomed to. Life on the Ocean is rough, and here it seems the most I’ve had to deal with so far is the scornful stares of those around us.”

“Do not let the gazes of others weigh heavily on you. Their opinions cannot harm you if you do not let them. They can believe what they like. In the end, your own happiness is what is most important, not the approval of those around you… You have more freedom than a royal. I’d do anything to have that luxury.”

***

Marynn’s brow quirked at Rhaegar’s comment about her being similar to his own sister. “I’d love to see that,” she said in a mumbled breath.

Rhaegar though about ignoring the comment, but instead he smirked. “Jest all you like. Just before this ball my brother and I had to fetch my sister from a tree in the gardens. I would put money on the fact that she’d prefer to be a pirate like yourself instead of a Princess.” He guided Marynn through a slow turn before meeting her gaze once again. “There are plenty of women here, I’d wager, that behave more like a Princess than my sister.”

The conversation took a darker and more melancholy turn for a moment but before long Rhaegar decided to turn it back to a more lighthearted tone. Marynn laughed at his comment about her blunt honesty. “That’s odd. Finding authentic people anywhere these days is near impossible.” He nodded his head in agreement. A sad truth, he never understood why people felt the need to pretend to be something they’re not. How could that bring fulfillment out of life. “But, I’m happy to be one of them, I’d hate to act the way some of the ladies here do - that just simply isn’t who I aim to be.”

“Well,” Rhaegar started, looking down at the fiery woman. “I do hope that you get to remain being the true authentic you. I’ve never liked seeing anyone forced to be something they’re not. The only people worth having in your life are those that accept you as you are.”

“It must be dreadful. I don’t pity the women who think having the crown is all they need in their life. You seem like a good man, genuine. You shouldn’t have to deal with snakes. But, it is the unfortunate truth that everyone here must face. None of us are going to leave here at the end of it unscathed… And that’s a horribly sad fact.” Rhaegar wouldn’t argue that either. It was the raw truth of it all, and he knew it. He just hoped that maybe something good would come from this summer.

“I fear we’ve gotten onto quite a heavy topic.”

Rhaegar chuckled at her comment. He hardly had noticed. Heavy or not, he was simply enjoying the conversation. He gave Marynn another gentle twirl. When she returned to face him, he parted his lips to speak, but never got the chance…

***

Sylas had barely finished his well worded, idle threats when the entire ballroom went dark with a single gust of wind, in through the garden doors. He inhaled deeply through his nose. He didn’t have to look around the room to know who was the cause, he could feel it, running beneath the surface of his skin. Magic. Not his sister, she wasn’t strong enough. He had felt her magic before and it was nothing like this. The only explanation he could think of was his mother…

He tensed at the thought. Although, he was more than happy to support an attack on these inferior nobles but it was soon, too soon. They needed to set their roots and set up false niceties, not attack the first not. He hoped it was just a warning, and not the final blow so soon.

The ballroom was silent, Lords and Ladies stood frozen in the darkness waiting for the lights to return. Sylas didn’t move from his stance, one hand on Vivienne’s waist while the other held her hand. He heard new footsteps shuffle into the hall, spreading in multiple directions. He knew that one was approaching behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, locking his eyes with the hooded assassin.

The man froze, lowering his blade slightly at the sight of Sylas. Being as subtle as possible, Sylas nodded his head towards Vivienne. She was a liability. A woman he mindless carried on veiled threats with when right after there was an attack. She’d speak, his name would leave her lips and he would be compromised. That wasn’t in the plan. He parted his lips, speaking towards the man, “What do you think you are doing? I am the heir to the Dark Wood.”

The assassin stood frozen for a moment, before Sylas rose his right arm slightly. As if on cue, the assassin thrusted his blade forward beneath Sylas’ arm, plunging it into Vivienne’s abdomen. Sylas took the blonde into his arms, then looked back at the man behind him. “I cannot get away unscathed. You know what to do,” he whispered. The assassin pulled back the sword in a swift motion, slicing deep into Sylas’ right side and under his tricep.

Sylas stumbled to his knees, holding the quickly fading Vivienne who looked up at him with wild eyes of disbelief. “My apologies my Lady… But loose lips are dangerous for us Thornes. It is nothing personal,” he whispered towards the dying blonde.

Once she drifted away in his arms, Sylas reached his hand up, grabbing the assassin by the scruff of his shirt. He jerked the man down to his level. “Target the Chaimbers. Make it look personal to remove our names from suspicious lips.”

“My Lord, what about about your—”

“You will obey, or I’ll flay you live in this ballroom and make a spectacle of your death to prove my innocence otherwise.”

With that, the assassin scurried off into the darkness of the ballroom to pass on the message. Sylas’ left hand clutched his side as warm liquid seeped through his fingers. He knelt there with the lifeless blonde strewn across his lap. He prepared himself for when the lights came on and he’d have to return the burdensome facade to cover his true intentions.

***

The minute the lights went out in the large ballroom, Brom instinctively moved before Seraphina. His hands gently guiding her so that she stood behind his large form. He kept one hand instinctively on her arm to make sure she remained behind him where he knew she was. He took her hand in his and lead her slowly towards the edge of the ballroom, until he found one of the guards standing at the ready.

“Get the King and Queen out of here immediately. Take them to the panic room and lock yourself and five other guards inside with them. Do no come out until me or one of my siblings comes for you,” Brom ordered with hushed tones.

“Yes, sir.”

The man bowed and went to depart but Brom stopped him. “Do you have a spare weapon?” The man unsheathed a second sword from its holster around his waist. He grabbed the weapon but he blade, aiming the handle at Brom. “Thank you, Sebastian.” He took the sword in his right hand, his left still keeping Seraphina protected behind him.

Brom couldn’t help his protective nature. It came from being a brother and head of the King’s guard. He hoped that Seraphina wouldn’t fight him on this and take his lead as being what’s best. Whatever was going on wasn’t normal or planned and it put him on edge. He half turned to look at the blonde beside him. “I know you have no right to, but for your best interest, I need you to trust me and stay close.”

He didn’t like having only a few feet of visibility in the darkness. Brom wanted to check on Rhaegar and Gwen but also did not want to risk having all of the royals too close together. It was too quiet in the room. It was like everyone was holding their breath waiting for the other shoe to drop. He could hear distant whispers and shuffling feet but beyond that he had no idea what was happening in the veil of darkness.

Brom quirked his head to the side when he heard footsteps approaching. He raised the sword to be at the ready while his left hand pressed back against Seraphina’s abdomen softly, guiding her backwards until her back was to a column and he was in front of her. Before him was darkness and then out of no where a cloaked man came at him. The man slashed a blade down towards him. Brom quickly raised his sword to block the attack.

“Who sent you?” Brom demanded of the man. But he did not answer. As the man withdrew his weapon to attack again, Brom slammed his foot into the assassin’s knee. The blow snapped his leg backward. The crunch reverberated off the walls as the man fell to the ground. Before he could cry out in pain, Brom was knelt over him, with his left hand pressed against the man’s mouth. “Tell me who sent you and I’ll let you live.”

The man laughed through winces, not divulging any information. “So be it.” Brom slit the man’s throat, then moved back to his feet. He hurried over to Seraphina. “Were you hurt?” He didn’t think he heard anyone approach but he had to be sure.

***

Before Gwen and Howell could continue on in conversation, a large gust of wind through open the tall glass french doors that led to the gardens. The air flooded into the ballroom, extinguishing the lights in its wake. As quickly as the wind current came, the band silenced and the dancing halted. The large room was barely light by the moonlight that trickled in through the windows, most of the crowd veiled in shadows.

Unlike her brother Brom, Gwen couldn’t stand still and wait for whatever was going to happen. But she wasn’t dumb either. She stepped out of her obnoxious heels, leaving them where she was standing. Her bare feet quietly padded along the cool stone floor as she skirted the edges of the ballrooms. She knew this room like every other corridor in the castle like the back of her hand.

She walked with her right hand extended so that her fingertips brushed the marble columns with each passing. Gwen frozen when between two columns, her fingers touched the fabric of someone’s torso. Before she was able to ask who it was, the person moved behind her, holding a dagger to her throat. “Make a single noise, Princess, and I’ll slit your throat before you can finish calling for help.”

Gwen remained quiet but jerked against his hold as he dragged her backwards towards the doors that lead to the gardens. When they were out in the moonlight it was like everything was illuminated unlike the pitch black ballroom. Gwen rose her hands, grabbing the dagger by the blade and tried to pull it away from her throat as she threw her head back into the attackers nose. She ripped the blade from his hand as he stumbled backwards.

Blood ran down her hands dripping onto the ground and trailing along her forearms. Her grip fumbled as she tried to hold the weapon in her right hand. The wounds stung with every movement, but she tried to ignore them. The man approached her. Gwen still unable to get a good grasp on the weapon, in a last minute decision threw it out into the gardens just before the man reached her. He took her throat in his hand and slammed her back into the wall of the castle.

Gwen gasped for air, her hands punching and hitting his arms as hard as she could without any luck. As a last minute attempt, she thrusted her knee up into the man’s groin. Free of his grasp, she ran past him. She knew she would simply run into another assassin in the ballroom. So, instead, she sprinted for the gardens, the one place she spent most of her time.

She placed bloody palms on the concrete barrier, hurdling it in a swift jump. Gwen lands a few feet lower on the soft, dew covered grass. She was fast but not as quick as she could be if she wasn’t weighed down by her heavy gown and her breathing constrained by corset. It wasn’t long before the man was behind her. He stepped down on the train of her dress, causing her to stumble to the ground. She rolled over onto her back just in time to dodge most of the blow of his sword, the blade slicing along the top of her right shoulder and collar bone.

She raised her already bloody hands to stop his sword as he brought it down again. Unlike the knives, the blade was thick and harder for her to get a grip on with already wounded hands. She wiggled and groaned but her grasp was slipping. Gwen wouldn’t be able to hold him off much longer.

***

Rhaegar tensed when the lights went out. His right hand instinctively went to his left hip, only to find it bare of his usual sword. “Damn,” he cursed under his breath. He took a step closer to Marynn, his eyes fixated on the darkness around them. He stopped when his head was beside hers. “Do you have any weapons hidden in that dress of yours?” he asked under hushed tones.

He kept his sense alert as he slowly and quietly led Marynn and himself towards the far wall of the ballroom. Out in the open they could be attacked from all sides. But if they had their backs to the wall, thats one direction they wouldn’t have to worry about.

Rhaegar froze when he heard movement behind him. He quickly and carefully shoved Marynn out of the way to the left while he dodged to the right. Just as they move, the blade of a sword slashed down between them, slamming into the stone ground. Rhaegar spun around, putting his right foot down on the blade while he grabbed the attacker by the head and slammed his nose into his left knee.

Rhaegar ripped the sword from the assassin’s grasp and kicked him in the chest, knocking him to the ground. He was tempted to kill the man, but instead wanted answers. So he quickly pinned the man down on the ground, his knees pressed down into the man’s arms. Rhaegar raised the sword and slammed the hilt of the weapon into the assassin’s head, knocking him unconscious.

***

Magnus quickly took Elizabeth in his arms and brought her close when the lights went out. “We need to get to safety,” he said to her. But it was too dark for him to navigate the dark hall without the potential of running into a threat.

He moved himself before Elizabeth, but without a weapon, the King would be able to put up that much of a fight. When he heard someone approach, Magnus raised his fist, preparing to do whatever he had to. But as the person got closer, he quickly recognized one of the King’s guard, Sebastian. “Your Grace, the Prince has ordered me to take you and the Queen to the holding room.”

Magnus looked towards Elizabeth, “Lady Grayson is coming with us.”

“No, she is not,” the Queen hissed from behind Sebastian, surrounded by four other guards.

“She comes, or neither of us go.”

“Your Grace, we must go. I have my orders,” Sebastian said.

Before anyone else could argue, the King’s guard members ushered them through the nearest door that led down a secret corridor. Once out of the ballroom, a servant met them with candles and guided them to the panic room. They all filed inside, locking the door once in.

“What about my children?” the King asked, wanting to go back out there with a sword in hand, ready to fight for his family.

“Your Grace, I got my orders directly from Brom. I could not see Princess Gwendolynn or Rhaegar, but there are at least another dozen guards in the ballroom.”

“Why aren’t they in here with us!? Go get them!”

“My love,” the Queen said as she walked towards the King. “Your safety is always of the utmost importance. Your sons are well trained, they will be fine.”

The Queen placed her hand on the King’s shoulder but he shrugged it away, pacing around the room. “And what about our daughter? Their as much your children as mine, Guinevere. You could at least pretend to care about them.”