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Adelina Mercier

it's the wild ones who will set you free.

0 · 229 views · located in Blackvale

a character in “Reign of the Usurper”, as played by The Littlest Mermaid

Description

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xxxA D E L I N A x M E R C I E R
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Black Beautyx





"She was life itself. Wild and free. Wonderfully chaotic. A perfectly put together mess."
- The Better Man Project




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n i c k n a m e s x // x Addy , Laney (Callum only)

a g e x // xTwenty-Three

g e n d e r x // xFemale

s e x u a l i t y x // xIndifferent

o r i g i n x // xThe North

t i t l e x // xLady Adelina, Firecracker






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D E C O R U S


h e i g h t x // x1.7 meters - 5'6

w e i g h t x // x55 kg - 121 lbs

h a i r x // xdAdelina's hair lays just below her shoulders in dark brown waves. Unlike her sister, her hair is natural and she hardly ever does anything to tame it, leaving it wildly wavy as a reflection on who she is.

e y e s x // xAdelina's blue eyes are just another factor that link she and her brother closer than either of them are with Brynlee.

o d d i t i e s x // xAddy has a lot of traits that people would consider odd as she couldn't care less about what anyone thinks of her. One especially odd thing, however, is that she is almost always being followed by some animal, whether it be a dog, squirrel, a small fox, etc. She's always had a very strange connection with animals.

a p p e a r a n c e x // xAddy is full of natural beauty, never trying to look good or make her hair fall perfectly, but still achieving it. She's hardly ever seen without a smile on her face. Extremely active like her brother, her body is toned with muscles and she has a near perfect figure.






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F O R T I T U D O
xxxxxxxxxxxxx s t r e n g t h xx \ ˈ s t r e ŋ ( k ) t h \ x


a r c h e r y x // x While Callum picked up a sword, Adelina picked up a bow and arrow. She was out in the field at the age of six, just like her brother and sister. She's got the steadiest shot in the North and even has a few trick shots up her sleeve, thanks to Cal for being a good sport about standing at long distances with various objects on top of his head. Every time Callum goes off to a battle, Addy always begs to go and get her hands dirty in a real fight. Of course Lord Ramsey, her mother, and Callum refuse every time.

p h y s i c a l f i t n e s s x // x Not able to run quite as long as her brother, Addy holds the record for second quickest mile. Since both she and her brother are extremely competitive, and Cal typically spends more time in the woods sketching before he returns to the castle grounds, they choose to do their morning runs seperately. Unlike her brother, however, she does training aside from cardio: lifting sacks of potatoes, doing sit ups, and using her own body weight to work out.

c h a r m x // x Being bubbly, beautiful, and athletic, it's extremely easy for Addy to manipulate those around her: male or female. All she's ever had to do is smile her sweet smile and twirl her hair or bite her lip and she's almost always gotten what she wants.

s e d u c t i o n x // x Nothing like her sister when it comes to romance, Adelina has never had any intention of guarding her heart or waiting until she's found the one she's going to be with to lose herself with a man (or woman). She lives with her heart on her sleeve and at full speed ahead. This makes her very attractive to men, and occasionally women: her confidence, beauty, and the way she handles herself. It's easy for her to flirt with someone and make sexual innuendos if she so desires, she has no shame in that.



I N F I R M I T A T E
xxxxxxxxxxxxx w e a k n e s s xx \ ˈ w ē k - n ə s \ x


p r e t t y f a c e s x // x She's the wild child of Lord Ramsey, and while she still handles herself in a respectful manner, anyone with beauty is a weakness for her. She's independent, but enjoys a fun time so she considers the beauty of others something she has to be wary of. She believes everybody lies and physical attributes can distract from the truth.

s w o r d p l a y x // x Just as she's tried to teach Callum her archery skills, he's attempted to teach her how to fight with a blade. She did well enough to keep herself alive in a simple fight, but she still prefers her bow.

c a l l u m x // x Of course she'd be devestated if any of her family were harmed or killed, but her main concern is her brother. He's her best friend and she'd easily step up next to him in a battle.



M E T U M
xxxxxxxxxxxxx f e a r xx \ ˈ f i r \ x


c o n t r o l x // x Addy likes knowing what's going on so she can maintain a sense of control. Losing that control scares her because then she doesn't know what to do or expect. This is why she enjoys the art of seduction; it's a way to pleasure herself and keep someone under her control while allowing them to believe they have the upper hand.

f a i l u r ex // x She's so well known for her archery skills that she's afraid of not living up to her reputation.





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P E R S O N A L I T A T E
xxxxxxxxxxxxx charming xx extroverted xx wild xx stealthy x


The definition of a wild child, Adelina listens to no one. Her goal in life is to have as much fun as she can, whether that be having men and women be her play things when she's bored, getting information out of someone with a well placed hand or a lowcut dress, scaring the village kids by showing just how exact her archery can be, or really anything that goes against the grain of what a lady should be.

There's almost always a smile on her face as Addy enjoys laughter. She's been told she's got quite the sense of humor and is always able to laugh with the boys by throwing in her own sexual innuendos. She's ashamed of nothing, not even her many sexual conquests (although it's not something she openly boasts about). She's athletically inclined, swears like a sailor, and is like a stallion, so many men try to tame her. They all fail. Her mastery at seduction and charm make it easy for her to use whomever she pleases to get info or simply pleasure. Man or woman, makes no difference to her.

While she runs wild around the castle grounds, she takes her training very seriously. Early in the mornings she can be found running or practicing with her bow and arrow for hours, with a wicked gleam in her eyes. When she's outside, she typically has some sort of animal at her side. This is something no one has ever been able to explain. Animals are just drawn to her and enjoy being near her. Squirrels let her pet them, foxes nuzzle her ankles, and there's no explanation for it.






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H I S T O R I A R U M


Being the youngest born of a Noble Lord has it's perks. By the time Addy was born, Lord Ramsey had experienced the strict child and the reserved child and just assumed that she was going to follow in her brother and sister's footsteps. Due to his assumption, he took a step back in raising her in his "You have to do things for yourself in order to learn responsibility" mindset and basically gave her access to anything she'd need.

While this irritated her siblings, it excited her. She had her pick of handcrafted bows and steel arrows her brother made her without ever having to lift a finger. The men around the village have always fallen to her feet because of who she is and what she's capable when it comes to seduction. Everything has always been handed to her, but that's not to say she doesn't work hard. She runs every morning until her knees are weak and her lungs burn. She trains with her bow after that so she's able to hit a bullseye from a mile away. After that, she finds a way to work out her arms, abs, and legs using her own body weight or sometimes sacks of potatoes or wheat. This causes people to respect her.

The only person who sees through her wildness and into when she's feeling hurt or betrayed, is her older brother Callum. The type of relationship they have has always been close and started around the time she nicknamed him "Cally" because she was too young to pronounce his name. He grounds her when she's going off the deep end, but he also on occasion sends her to use her charm and whatever other methods the situation calls for to get information from rivals or potential moles on the inside of his army.

What she's looking for in the upcoming trip is someone who she can have fun with. Unsure that she'll even find a husband, Addy is wanting to make the best of this opportunity to be away from home and meet some new people, play with some new toys, and perhaps get some information for her brother and father about anything shifty going on in the King's court.





h e x c o d e x // x #5ECA86 x // x f a c e c l a i m x // x Kaya Scoldelario x // x c r e a t o r x // x The Littlest Mermaid x // x c s x // x Scar.-

So begins...

Adelina Mercier's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher

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#, as written by mjolnir
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prince declan castillon
outfitx|x#B70909

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prince desmond castillon
outfitx|x#062078

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princess westerly castillon
outfitx|x#C7B29B

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The sun peaked over the edge of the horizon as morning finally arrived. The Vale seemed at peace, still asleep with fresh dew on the grass and a lark singing high up in a tree. But deep in the Black Keep everything was in frantic disarray. Servants scurried through the halls prepping everything for the impending madness that would descend on the castle. Court was always a place of drama and intrigue, but never have all the powerful houses in the realm been under the same roof... Especially not for months on end. Summer Solstice through to the Winter Solstice. Everyone was on edge and everything had to be perfect. For weeks preparations have been made, dozens of rooms prepared, with renovations and the most extravagant decorations for the celebrations and parties.

The Castillon’s weren't any better than those they had rushing about the castle. None of them could get a bit of sleep, well... aside from the Queen. Visenya was content in a deep night's sleep knowing that within the following months Declan would find a bride or she would assign one to him. In the end, all that mattered was the heir and she knew that it was only a matter of time before their line was concreted on the throne. All the while the King spent the entirety of the evening mulling over all the Keep's fortifications, guard drills and any other weak points the castle could hold. Letting this many powerful people into the Keep was a dangerous challenge, one that he couldn't masquerade as anything less than that.

In the western wing of the castle, Westerly barely got a moment of sleep. Her mind quickly got lost in everything that was about to transpire. She laid in bed looking toward the window and watching as the darkness of night warmed until the sun made itself known. It wasn't shortly after that her hand maidens made their way into her bed chambers to ready her. Unlucky for her, it took hours for Westerly to prepare where as her brothers could get ready in a matter of minutes. She was long awake when Felicity came to her bed side and gently woke her while Mary pulled back the curtains to let in the morning light. They roused Westerly as they've done every day before, but this time the three of them felt as though they were all walking on eggshells, though none of them spoke on it.

After an hour, Westerly had been bathed and her handmaidens had begun to get her dressed. She stood with her hands grasping the canopy of her bed, dressed in her undergarments and petticoat as Felicity began helping her into her corset. Like a practiced art, Felicity was gentle with the tightening of the laces being sure Westerly was still comfortable while properly dressed.

When she was nearly finished, there was a knock on the door. Mary quickly stopped brushing Wes's hair and scurried over to the door. "The Queen, your Grace," she announced as she let Visenya enter, curtsying in reverence.

Visenya being the type of woman she was, over the top, was already dressed for company and probably had been since first light. She was wearing her favored color, gold. Not just with jewels but her gown itself was made of shimmering golden silks. No matter the occasion, she made sure that she was the shining gem in a room full of people, even if the attention was supposed to be on her children and not herself. Westerly hadn't seen the gown before, so no doubt, she had it specially made for that day.

"Good morning, my darling," The Queen said, paying the handmaiden no mind as she made her way over to Westerly. "I brought you something."

Westerly glanced over her shoulder toward her mother, before her gaze fell to what was in her hands. A golden tiara, new from the royal jeweler. It was simple, but still elegant with what looked like a feather like design made to resemble the house's sigil of a Phoenix or perhaps her well placed nickname of 'little raven.' "Mother, it's beautiful. But..." She paused looking up at the Queen's striking yet intimidating eyes. "I thought the reason for this whole situation was to show that we are of the people... Not superior."

Visenya handed the tiara off to Felicity whom took it and quickly went over to the vanity to place it with the other jewels. As she was busy the Queen stepped in behind Westerly, tsk-ing under her breath at the state of the corset, before she began unlacing it. "We are. But we are about to let the wolves into the hen house. And each one of these guests wish to either bed, wed or kill each one of you. This... shows them, that even though we are cut from the same cloth... you have the power.”

"But I have no power," Westerly said plainly. She was a child of the King but that meant nothing since she is a woman. And her mother held her on a tighter leash than a dog.

"They don't know that," the Queen replied curtly as she began re-lacing Westerly's corset.

Unlike Felicity, she didn't go easy, instead pulling the strings as tight as they would go. With each pull Westerly's hands grasped the canopy tighter. Nearly half way through, it was pulled so tight that it made her gasp, bringing a hand to her abdomen. "Mother, it's too tight."

"Darling," Visenya tightened the next row of laces. "You're getting old." Westerly's gaze fell. She was only twenty-five, yet her mother acted like she might as well be an old maid. "Your eyes may show your age. But a corset—" The Queen gave one final tug, pulling a gasp from Westerly as she fastened the strings. "Can do wonders for a woman." With that the Queen ran her hands down the sides of the corset, making sure it curved inward adequately. "Have you chosen a gown?"

Westerly hadn't moved from the side of her bed, her hands grasping at her sides as she tried to catch her breath. Felicity knew how much she hated the whole idea of a corset, so she was always kind and fastened it loose enough that she could still function. But once her mother finished, Westerly was unsure if she'd be able to eat, let alone sit, for the rest of the day. She inhaled deeply through her nose and closed her eyes as she held her abdomen. Gods, it was so tight.

"Westerly?"

"Yes? Yes." She nodded her head and motioned to the gown laid out upon the bed. "The seamstress finished it last night."

The Queen pursed her lips as she walked around her daughter to get a better look at the dress. She pinched a bit of the fabric to asess it's quality before lifting one of the sleeves. "A bit... revealing, wouldn't you say?"

Westerly's brows furrowed as she looked between her mother and the gown. "...My shoulders?"

"You are a Princess." Visenya sighed as she continued looking over the gown. "A fine prize for any man. And as a prize, you are to be chaste... with your flower intact. Presenting yourself so exposed sends the wrong message. Whatever happened with that farm boy, you must show yourself as though your virtue is still pure, and—“

"Mother!! I'm still a maid!" Westerly interjected as she turned to face her mother.

Visenya gave a weak laugh as she tossed the gown's sleeve back onto the bed. "And you expect me to believe that?"

Westerly's jaw clenched as she looked away, speaking under her breath. "Of course not. You never believe me."

Like day and night, the Queen snapped her head around and took a step forward. Her right hand came up and grabbed Westerly by the jaw as she leaned in closer to her. "I don’t care if you have whored yourself with every boy from the Vale to the Marshlands. You will present yourself as a chaste, untouched lady. I will not have you dragging this family’s name through the dirt for your childish whims."

Westerly kept her head held high as she closed her eyes trying to bear her mother’s words without being brought to tears.

"And don't ever raise your voice to me again, or so help me."

With that the Queen turned and stormed out of the room without another word, leaving Westerly standing there, frozen in her room. The quiet seemed to last forever before Wes finally moved, raising a hand to wipe her eyes. The hand maidens waited a long moment before they slowly began to busy themselves around the room again. Mary made her way over to the gown on the bed and began to collect it. "I'll get you another dress, your Grace."

Westerly nodded her head in acknowledgement and remained silent as she watched Mary take the gorgeous gown and head to the door. Just before she disappeared into the hall, Wes called after her, "Wait..."

* * *

Declan had been unable to sleep all night and once the sun rose he could no longer stay locked up in his room. He quickly dressed in the attire that was set aside for the day and slipped out of his room as he fastened his sword around his waist. Dec wondered around trying his best to stay out of the servants’ way as he strolled throughout the castle. He had been hoping this day would never come but alas it was here and he was trying to wrap his mind around it all. It wasn’t an arranged marriage per say but only getting a pool of maybe ten women to choose from… Noble women at that, isn’t much of a choice.

As he turned another corner he nearly knocked over a maid that was carrying a mountain of plates. Quick with his hands, Declan managed to keep the tower from tipping over. “I’m sorry, I should look where I’m going.” He lifted a majority of the stack out of her arms so that he could see her face. “Here let me help you.”

“Your Grace!” the young woman gasped. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s quite alright Juliet.” Declan nodded his head for him to follow her lead. “Lead the way, I’ll follow.”

“Oh… Yes… Thank you Your Grace.” She curtsied before heading down the corridor toward the grand dining hall.

As they entered the room it was filled with two rather long tables and a smaller one a few steps higher where the royals always sat. Their finest white and gold trimmed silk table cloths covered the brand-new tables. The royal bank spared no expense for the festivities. Standing near the royals table the King was at the far end, nodding his head and talking to several of the handmaidens and servants that were going to be working directly for the nobles.

Declan followed Juliet setting down the dishes beside her own stack on the farthest table. The young woman curtsied once again, “Thank you, Your Grace.”

He nodded his head toward her before his attention was drawn toward his father who called out to him, “Declan.” The King motioned for him to come before dismissing the servants around him.

Declan made his way towards his father who was smiling and tried to give him a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “So apparently, your mother is having the other young nobles stay in the empty chambers in the same wing as you and your siblings.”

“That… Sounds like a bad idea,” Declan said as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Well,” the King said, “unfortunately I was unable to dissuade her.” His father paced a bit, scratching his freshly trimmed beard. “There is a lot of time between Solstices, which means our guests will be here for a long while. So please be smart… We’ll have enough issues; we don’t need scandals making this more difficult than it needs to be.”

“Father…” Declan laughed half-heartedly, “you’re telling the wrong son.”

The King gave a relieved sigh and a chuckle before he patted his son’s back. "Of course, he—" His voice trailed off as he looked around, then out the window gauging the time. "It's nearly midday. Where is your brother?"

Declan ran his fingers back through his hair with a playful sigh. "I'll go find him."

As he made his way out of the main hall, his father called out after him. "You're mother wants you and your siblings to wait in the study until the guests arrive. Something about a grand entrance." He rolled his eyes slightly and waved his hand as if he was brushing it off. "Would you tell your sister?"

He gave a nod towards his father before he made his way to the west wing of the castle. Declan bobbed and weaved through the servants until he came to his brother's room. He gave the door a knock before he entered. To no surprise the room was in complete disarray and the bed seemed to be covered in mounds of pillows and blankets. No sign of Desmond, but he heard breathing beneath the mound. Instead digging through the mountains of blankets, Declan went over to the window and threw open the curtains. "Time to get up Desmond," he called to his unconscious brother as he took a seat across the room.

After a moment or two the blankets began to stir before Desmond sat up, his hair standing on end in every direction but his eyes were still closed. "I was sleeping."

"Yes well, it's midday. The Lords will be here within the hour,"

Then there was more movement beneath the blankets before a messy tuft of blonde hair poked up beside Desmond. "What's going—" She froze mid-sentence when she noticed Declan sitting on the other side of the room. "Y-y-your Grace."

Declan chuckled softly as he looked down and shook his head. "Regina." He diverted his gaze down to his hands in his lap while he heard Regina scurry around the room. After a few moments he heard the door open and close. He finally looked up to meet his brother's gaze. "Really?"

Desmond smirked as he crossed his hands behind his head and laid back in bed. "You should give her a go sometime."

Declan sighed softly as he stood up. "I'll leave that to you," he said while throwing clean clothes at his brother. "Get dressed."

"Fine, fine." Desmond groaned as he sat up once again, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed.

"And... Naked." Declan laughed as he stood up quickly, adverting his gaze from his brother. He stopped when he reached the door, holding up his index finger. "Go to the study once your dressed."

"Aye, sir." Desmond saluted his brother as he stood there completely nude until he left.

After leaving Desmond's room, Declan made his way down the corridor to the door at the end of the hall. He gave it a gentle knock, then paced around the hallway for a minute or two until the door opened.

Westerly opened the door and was greeted by the back of her brother. "Dec?" She laughed softly.

Declan slowly turned around, a smile growing from ear to ear. "Westerly, you're stunning." He leaned in and gave her an affectionate kiss to her forehead. "These Lords would be mad not to fall for you."

Westerly smiled as she took her brother's arm while he lead her down the hallway. Surprisingly by the time they reached the end of the corridor a set of footsteps echoed off the stone walls, coming up behind them. Then like a gust of wind, Desmond came up behind them, with an arm around each of their shoulders and placed a kiss on Westerly's cheek. "Good morning, beautiful."

"That was fast," Declan said, glancing over his shoulder toward Desmond who looked like literally threw the clothes on. His hair was still everywhere, shirt untucked, sword in hand and only one arm through his vest.

"Well at least one of us got some sleep," Westerly giggled as her eyes scanned Des’ messy appearance.

"You too?" Declan asked, glancing over at his sister with a sympathetic smile. Part of him wished she had been able to get a good night’s rest, but it was reassuring knowing that it wasn’t only him who was dreading the coming events.

"I wouldn't say I got sleep," Desmond chimed in with a smug smile as he walked around his sister to open the doors to the study for them.

"Who was it this—Wait, why aren't we going downstairs?" Westerly asked as she slowly entered the study, before looking back toward her brothers.

Declan walked into the room behind Desmond and Westerly with his arms crossed. "Mother apparently wants to present us to the court once the Lords arrive," he replied as he walked the length of the books shelves, running his fingers along the spines.

"Why am I not surprised?" With a sigh, Desmond began to fix his appearance. "I could have slept for another hour... Maybe two," he complained as he tucked his shirt in and ran his fingers through his hair.

Westerly wanted nothing more than to sit, but it was like her corset dug into her ribs more and more with each movement. She held her sides, trying to breath steadily as she made her way over to the window. Then that's when she saw it, carriages approaching with a procession of guards. Too far to see their banners, but that didn’t matter. It was happening. There was no turning back.

Her hands immediately began to tremble at the site while it seemed harder for her to breathe. "They're arriving," she said with a shaky voice toward her brothers.

Declan made his way to the window, followed by Desmond as he buttoned his vest. "Is it too late to run?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher

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x Imagexxxx Imagexxxx Image














xxLord Callum Mercierxxxxxx Lady Brynlee Mercierxxxxxxx Lady Adelina Mercier
xxxxxxxoutfit || #7A7B9Axxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx outfit || #EF5E76xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxoutfit || #5ECA86






Callum's shoulders were straight and his posture was perfect as the carriage bounced along the gravel. They had been traveling for a few weeks now, stopping in villages on the way, and he was ready to sleep on the same bed for more than one night. On his right, Adelina was leaning against the window, her neck bent at an angle that would most likely hurt her when she woke, and her mouth partially open, small snores barely audible. On his left, Brynlee held the latest book she'd delved into inches from her nose and almost fully oblivious to the surroundings past the story she was in.

On the bench across from them, his parents sat, whispering to each other and paying him no attention, probably assuming he was napping like their youngest. There was no way he would be able to sleep, though. The butterflies in his stomach were flapping so wildly he was surprised no one in the carriage could hear their beating wings.

They'd risen at the crack of dawn to get ready, his hair styled back out of his face and wearing one of his nicer outfits. He of course got up earlier to take his daily run, making a loop around the small village they'd stopped at for the night. When he'd returned to get ready, Brynlee was in the process of having her corsette tighting by the few hand maidens they'd brought with them, Alysea and Magdalena, while Adelina had chosen to sport a looser fitting, but still equally as glamorous, gown.

"Are you nervous, my love?" Charlotte's voice made Cal start. "Don't be. The women are going to love you, and you already know the princess. The two of you used to run around in diapers together." His mother smiled at the memory before settling her eyes back on him expectantly.

Shifting in his seat, Callum shook his head, "Not at all, mother." He lied, his eyes darting briefly towards his father, who was studying the parchment in his hand. "Adelina's snoring is just beginning to get on my nerves." He nudged his sleeping sister in the ribs, jostling her awake.

Adelina groaned and shot him a dirty look, "Please tell me you woke me because we've arrived." Her eyes were slits, hinting that if it had been for any other reason, the next time he helped her practice her archery, the arrow may slip and bury itself somewhere in his arm.

Charlotte rolled her eyes and chuckled at her daughter, patting her knee lovingly, "Soon, darling. The palace should be just over the hill beyond the tree line." She turned back to Cal. "You only suck your teeth like that when you're anxious. I know this. There's something I want to say to all of you as we draw nearer to the castle." She gently placed a hand on Brynlee's book, lowering it to gain her eldest daughter's attention. "You are at an advantage with the Castillions, having known them for practically your whole lives. Don't let this hinder your efforts." Giving each of them a pointed look, she opened her mouth to continue, but closed it as Adelina began speaking.

"Don't you think if they were going to fall in love with one of us it would have happened already?" Addy questioned, gaining a small laugh from her sister, to which she responded with a raised eyebrow.

Closing her book around one finger to mark her place, Brynlee turned towards the youngest of the Mercier children. "Sorry, Addy, I only laugh because the biggest memory Desmond and Declan have of you is probably you running around the courtyard completely naked up and shooting the apples from their hands as they tried to eat them." Brynlee placed a hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh at the thought, and as Addy's eyes searched for a defender among her parents, she noticed that both her mother and father were trying to hide their amusement. "That's not exactly what I'd call a love inducing memory." Brynlee opened her book back up and resumed reading, the smirk still dancing across her lips.

Grimacing, Adelina protested, "I was seven!" Then she smirked, and coughed, "I bet that's a sight they wouldn't mind seeing now. Especially Desmond."

This earned her a stern look from her father and a warning pinch on her knee from her mother. "As I was saying," The matron continued, once again lowering Brynlee's book, "Callum, I know your main interest in the trip is to visit the meetings and talk strategy with your father and the King. Try to enjoy other aspects of the kingdom. If nothing else, pick one girl and try to speak to her once a day. Perhaps practicing your conversation making will help if we do not succeed here this season."

Adelina rolled her eyes at Callum, taunting him, "Yes, dear brother, do try to open up and find a suitable wife to bring home to mommy." Her brother swung his arm over her shoulders and jerked her into his chest, threatening to mess up her hair and makeup. After several protests and laughter from both, he released her.

"Brynlee," Their mother continued, ignoring the horseplay from Cal and Addy as she was used to such behavior when the two were together. "Maybe you could spend a little less time with our four-legged friend, and a little more time with gentlemen who only have two. We brought Colt along at your request, but try to take your nose out of the books and leave the stables long enough to get to know some of the men.

The youngest turned to Brynlee, opening her mouth to make a smart retort, but Brynlee gave her a stern look, lifting her book and silently threatening to smack her with it if she made a comment. Adelina was silenced anyways when her mother said her name.

"Adelina, you are a free spirit with a disciplined mind and a wild heart. I know of your endeavors with the men and women of our land and I'm sure word has spread to the Castillions as well. Be mindful that most men will want a pure lady, such as your sister." Adelina rolled her eyes in Brynlee's direction, who had already returned to her story. "I say this because, even if they are aware of your past, you can make it just that. Your past. Treat yourself with respect while we are in this court. Also -"

Lady Mercier stopped her speech as Ramsey placed a hand over her knee and gave it a gentle squeeze, indicating he wished to place his imput on the matter at hand. Setting the parchment roll in his lap, he cleared his throat and said in a deep voice, "King Rowan has told me of his son, Desmond's, favorite activity. You made a remark about it earlier so I assume his reputation preceeds him up North as well. Allow me to make one thing clear," Ramsey placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, so he was breathing the same air as all of the children. His eyes were on Adelina. "The only reason for him to be in your bed - or you in his - will be if you are consumating a legally binding marriage."

For a moment, the three children sat there, staring. Even Brynlee had ripped her attention away from her book to tune in to the conversation. Callum was stone faced as always, but he was noticeably stiffer in his posture than he had been moments ago. They both had the sense to avoid Ramsey's eyes, even though he'd already leaned back into his seat and continued re-reading whatever the scroll in his lap was. Adelina was the only one who was still staring her father straight in the face. Callum glanced at his favorite sister, trying to read the action behind her eyes. There were several, flickering in and out. Rebellion. Placation. Anger. Shame. Amusement. After a long moment, Cal squeezed her knee, seemingly bringing her back to the carriage that was now filled with an awkward silence.

"Of course, father." She finally replied, as much daddy's little girl as ever.

Suddenly, there were three sharp knocks on the roof of the carriage, causing each of them (besides Callum and Ramsey) to jump. "We're pulling in, sir." The driver's voice came in muffled through the closed windows.

Adelina turned towards the window she'd been sleeping on minutes earlier and looked out. They weren't just pulling up. They had arrived.




As soon as the horses had come to a complete stop, both sides of the carriage were opened, revealing guards in uniforms bearing the King's sigil. Their belongings were in the carriage that had followed behind them throughout their journey, being pulled by Brynlee's horse, Colt. After each of the Mercier's had been helped down to the ground, the servants went about unloaded their luggage. Brynlee had walked over to feed Colt a sugar cube, asking the stable boy who had come to get the horses to put him in the royal stables, where he always stayed during their visits.

"Lord and Lady Mercier. Absolutely lovely to see you again." A valet whom retrieved them nearly all of their visits said, dipping his head to the family. "The King and Queen are waiting for the arrivals now. May I show you in?"

Ramsey simply nodded, while Charlotte offered the valet a small smile and allowed her husband to take the lead just behind him. Callum made quick work of smoothing out his outfit and making sure that his blade, Frostbite, was securely at his side. Brynlee had fixed her beaded headband and taken her book back out. She was tracking her place on the page with one finger, her eyes darting to the ground in front of her every other word to ensure she didn't fall. Adelina ran a hand through her hair, loose curls falling into place and framing her face. All three of them were nervous to some degree, Addy less than the other two, and as they neared the King and Queen, everything became more real.

Once they had stopped in the middle of the room, Ramsey cleared his throat, bowing to his King deeply. "My lord, my King, my friend." He said as way of greeting. "I know it has been a while since we all met last, but I hope you remember my children. Callum. Brynlee. Adelina." Each bowed or curtsied when their name was said, Brynlee having tucked her book back underneath her arm. "And of course, my wife, Charlotte."

Charlotte took a step forward and curtsied, dipping her head towards the floor. "Thank you so much, both of you, for inviting us to such a wonderful season."

Brynlee, Callum, and Adelina all shared a quick look. So it had begun.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers

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ISOLDE / #495b70 / attire X COL / #53706a / attire X EMERY/ #62566b / attire

Into the dark of the arch the swan floats
and into the black depth of my sorrow
it bears a white rose of flame

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On the day of the Meeting of the Families, the Cavaliers rose with the sun. 'Meeting' was perhaps the wrong word- it implied that they did not know each other- a statement that was blatantly false. Even if they had only met in passing, or exchanged brief pleasantries and empty words, or jousted one another at annual tourneys, they knew each other. Names, ages, interests, talents. Dowries, family reputations, interpersonal relationships, past rumours and hearsays. They may not all be familiar with each other, but they knew each other like they knew the dates of the most important battles of Rowan's Rebellion, or the geography of the Vale- they had studied. Tutors had supplied them with information since they were young, with lessons intensifying every time there was some sort of meeting with other nobles on the horizon.

This one had been toted, fittingly so, as especially significant, and as a result, all three of the young Cavaliers were exhausted by information, and sick of reciting figures and facts. They had even grown to not mind the lengthy journey so much, as at least it gave some respite from the lessons that took place with every stop along the way.

In a way, Emery had been lucky- no one was wanting nor expecting her to win a royal's heart, and so for her, the lessons had been far less gruelling; a way to ensure a pristine reputation, rather than an ambitious move.

She sat in a different carriage to her two siblings, and had long-since noted that her seating on the journey tended to depend on Lady Beatrice's mood day by day. Today was the day of arrival, and thus, Beatrice was on high alert- focused and determined, impatient for them to get to their destination. Hence, Emery sat separately- well out of the Lady of Cavalier's way.

Looking out the window, she met eyes with many a crowd member. The main streets to the Keep had been closed off in preparation for the noble arrivals, but that hadn't kept the public from pervading every nook and cranny not fenced off by armed guards. They stood in tight, excited throngs on the street's edges, and peered in the multitudes from each and every passing window.

It didn't make her nervous, not really. Fear and anxiety had yet to hit her in the way she anticipated it may touch her half-siblings. Rather, she was quietly intrigued by the novelty of so many nobles together, for such an extended period. The last time they had all been together was at the annual Violet Tourney, where Col, as the winner, had given his proclaimed 'queen of love and beauty,' a crown of roses. But even then the families had not been present in their entirety, nor had they been kept in such close quarters, for such an extended period.

There was sure to be tension, and even Emery had trouble anticipating what conflicts may arise from the assemblage of such a dangerous set of people.

Whatever happened, though, wouldn't hurt her too much. She was a bastard, after all. The politics of the noble families should hold little concern for her.

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Col peered through the gaps in the wooden slats of his carriage, smiling at the many faces that lined the streets, craning for a peek at the Cavalier Swans. They would have no such luck- the windows were purposefully carved in a way that allowed in plenty of light, without offering much of a view from the outside.

"City folk are simple creatures," Beatrice had explained when she discouraged them from interacting with the crowds, "They enjoy mystery." She hadn't mentioned that she was a paranoid woman, and that there was always a part of her that feared a carefully aimed arrow, or a rushed attack slipping past the guards. Neither Col nor his sister sought to mention it.

"Nervous?"

Col drew his glance away from the window. "Nervous? What makes you say that?"

Isolde looked pointedly at his hands, her tone matter-of-fact, "You've been fiddling with that ring for the past hour."

His finger's drew back from the ring on his finger, expression sheepish. He hadn't even realised. Just as quickly as he retreated, his fingers reached back, thumb grazing thoughtfully across the swan emblazoned into the gold. James had bestowed the family heirloom upon him just before their having left the Marshlands, and the weight of the ring, both physically and emotionally, still drew beats of seriousness in the otherwise carefree lordling.

"Just getting used to it, tis all." He aimed a questing look, "What about you? Any trepidations?"

"Not in the slightest."

Col grinned teasingly, leaning toward her. "You might be a good liar, but even I can catch that one."

Isolde pursed her lips, and then opened them to reply, only to be cut off by Col's encouraging smile. "It'll be fine. You are good at this. You've always been good at this."

Isolde felt a flush of reassurance, "Thank y-."

"I hope so, anyway. If you bugger up mother will be furious."

He laughed, knocking his head on the ceiling of the carriage as he jumped back to dodge Isolde's swatting hand.

"Twas a jest! Twas a jest!"

Isolde frowned, face creased in a blend of exasperation and reluctant amusement. Col was right. She was good at this. She had always been good at this.

But nerves seldom listened to logic, and she forced her disquiet to the back of her mind, trying to will it out of existence.

"I'm not the only one mother will flay if we do not make a good impression, you know."

"True, but I have a not-so-secret weapon." He leaned into a simpering pose, tilting his head against his hand. Isolde was mid-eye roll as she felt the carriage coming to a halt.

"Oh, thank the gods."

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Stepping out of the carriage, Isolde and Col looked everything like siblings, from their shared hazel eyes to the deep azure of their attires, coupled with glittering gold additions, here and there. Beside them, Emery stood out slightly- her hair and eyes were far darker, and her own gown was, like her other clothes, carefully designed with the constant exclusion of navy and gold.

It was, according to Beatrice, best Emery avoided the house colours. To do otherwise could be interpreted as an insinuation of nobility.

Or, to be more blunt, more drama than it was worth.

One thing the three had in common, however, was the confident fluidity with which they moved, and as they followed the valet into the throne room, led by James and Beatrice, followed by Isolde and Col, and ended by Emery, they all looked unmistakingly noble.

"Presenting the House of Cavalier, Lords of the Marshlands, Keepers of Eastmarsh." The valet called out with purpose as the Cavaliers strode into the room.

"Your Grace, I would like to thank you again for your hospitality in inviting us to your beautiful home." James swept into a formal bow. "You met them only last spring, at the Violet Tourney, but allow me to reintroduce my wife, Beatrice, and my children, Col and Isolde." At their names, each family member bowed or curtsied, demure smiles on their faces. James gestured softly to Emery, urging her to his side. "And this is my natural daughter, Emery."

Following her curtsy, she stepped back once more, keeping a touch behind her trueborn siblings.

"We look forward to spending these coming months with you, and with the other Great Houses, and hope that this occasion will bring future years of harmony and prosperity among we eight Noble Families." He offered a polite smile the Lord and Lady Mercier, before turning his attention back to the royals before him.

The Cavaliers all followed suit, confidence radiating, and masking any note of apprehensiveness.


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers

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L a u r e n c e C h a m b e r s
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S i g r i d C h a m b e r s
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E l i r a C h a m b e r s
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A l e c C h a m b e r s
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Early morning light spilt in through the window and Laurence frowned as he slowly roused himself from sleep. He cracked one eye open and saw Alec across the room, half-dressed and silently reading. Silent was an apt word to describe Alec, it always had been. Laurence rolled onto his back with a groan, which elicited little response from Alec other than a flicker of his gaze before the younger brother turned the page of his book.

“Why are you always reading?”

“Why are you not?”

Laurence squeezed his temples as he contemplated waking up. “Because there is no pleasure in it.”

“Well, those of us who haven’t taken a hundred knocks to the head find pleasure it not getting knocked on the head.”

Laurence propped himself up on his elbows. “Baby brother, are you calling me stupid?”

Alec was silent as he turned the page of his book. “I wouldn’t dream of it, my lord brother, but if the boot should fit…” Alec barely had time to smirk before a pillow grazed his ear and thudded against the wall. “You missed,” was his dry observation.

Laurence swung his feet over the edge of his bed and ran his hands through his hair. “Is anyone else awake?”

Alec reached back and rapped his knuckles on the wall. Silence hung in the room for a few seconds before a knock echoed from the other side. “Sigrid is awake. Elira and our Lady Mother have been awake for hours.”

Laurence reached for his undershirt and pulled it over his head before rinsing his face in the basin. He opened the door and almost knocked his mother over. “I was wondering when you would wake up,” she said, taking in his state of dress. Laurence smiled at Jocelyn and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I take it the pins are for Elira.”

“You know your sisters well. Now hurry. Your father wants to be on his way as soon as possible.”

“Yes mother.”

Jocelyn left him and disappeared into a room down the corridor of the inn. He could hear the quiet murmurs of the people downstairs. Laurence closed the door and turned to Alec. “Am I the only one not dressed?”






Sigrid had her dress hitched up and was pulling her leggings on beneath it. She had already acquiesced to her mother on wearing the damned contraption, she was at least going to be comfortable wearing it. She looked over at Elira who, as always, looked radiant. Her hair was half up. Jocelyn hadn’t been happy with the handmaidens work so she re-started it. The door latch opened and Sigrid barely had enough time to get her skirt back down before her mother came back in.

“Behaving yourself?”

“I always do.”

Sigrid took a seat while her mother fussed over Elira, sweeping her hair back and up. Like a doll Sigrid thought. Elira might have been mother’s favourite daughter, but Sigrid wasn’t sure she would be able to cope with all the preening that went into it. She was much happier being a disappointment.

“Aren’t you going to do something with your hair?” asked. Her voice was muffled by the pins in her mouth.

“I’m sure they were about to when you shooed them all off.” Sigrid twisted a lock of hair around her fingers. She caught sight of Elira’s smile in the mirror of the vanity dresser. Sigrid couldn’t see Jocelyn’s face, but she could almost sense the despairing eye roll from her mother as Sigrid tied her hair back from her face in a leather tie.

“You are aware of the purpose of this season, Sigrid, aren’t you?” Jocelyn asked as Sigrid moved towards the door.

“Of course I am. To make Elira look even better so she can marry someone wonderful,”she answered with a wry smile as she opened the door. “You look beautiful Elira.”

“So do you.”

Sigrid took a moment to look down at her dress. It was green, like Elira’s, but Sigrid suspected she paled in comparison to her younger sister. “I’ll see you downstairs.”






Laurence stood next to Sigrid. It was one of the handful of times he had seen his sister in a dress. Her arms were bare and the strength in them was clear to see. Even in her finery, it was clear that Sigrid was a warrior, not a damsel. Alec was fastening the belt of his coat. And Bayard...Bayard was waiting by the carriages, his face stony from impatience. “What is that damned woman doing?”

“She insisted on doing Elira’s hair herself.”[/b]

Bayard shook his head in response. “You two,” he pointed to Alec and Laurence, “One day, you will get married, and you will love your wife, but do not ever, for the sake of your sanity, attempt to understand them.”

Alec looked at the ground and kicked a stone loose from the dirt. That familiar gnawing feeling was back in his gut. It happened every time his father mentioned his future marriage. There was little chance of avoiding his marriage to a young woman, but he was banking on delaying any engagement for as long as possible.

Laurence leaned over to whisper in Sigrid’s ear. [color=#800000] “You’re wearing trousers under that, aren’t you?”


“Of course I am. Makes it a tunic, not a dress.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

Sigrid looked him over. “Do you want to reconsider that?”

Laurence playfully nudged her in her ribs. They heard their mother’s voice from inside the inn and suddenly all three children were standing a little straighter than they had been. Laurence ran his finger along the inside of his collar as Jocelyn stepped out with Elira in tow. Sigrid sighed and leant over to Laurence. “She doesn’t look any different than she did a half hour ago.”

”Don’t tell father that.”

Bayard stepped forward and embraced his wife. “I thought you would never be done.”

Jocelyn frowned at her husband and ushered him to the carriages. Alec stepped forward and offered Elira his arm as they joined their mother in one carriage, while the elder children rode with their father.

“And you didn’t even offer your arm.” Sigrid teased as she climbed into the carriage. Laurence mimicked her words in a high pitched voice as he followed her into the carriage.

“Behave yourself, you two.” Had it been from their mother, the not-quite-twins might have taking the rebuttal seriously, but Bayard always maintained a hint of humour when dealing with his oldest children.




Elira slept with her head on Alec’s shoulder. Alec shuddered to think what hour Elira had been woken at. ”You will look after your sister, won’t you Alexander?”

”I may be the wrong brother to be asking that to, Lady Jocelyn. I will be her friend, as I always have been. Laurence and Sigrid have always been her protectors.”

Lady Jocelyn seemed satisfied with that answer and she turned her gaze to the window. The scenery rolled by. Hills gave way to meadows, and meadows gave way to fields. Alec wriggled his shoulder. “Ellie, we’re here,” he whispered. She had always slept lightly.

Elira stirred as they approached the city gates. “How long was I asleep for?”

“A few hours.”

Upon hearing her daughters voice, Jocelyn leaned forward and began fixing her hair. “You should always tip your head back if you’re going to sleep in the carriage, sweetheart.”

“Yes mother.”[/b] Through the gap in the windows, they could see the people lining the streets, straining to see their new guests. [color=#9a8262] “Is the capital always this busy?”

“More or less. The Vale is much bigger than The Bluffs. I suspect we will get used to it in time.”
The carriages pulled into the courtyard of the palace. Just ahead of them, Alec saw Laurence help Sigrid out of the carriage, much to his elder sister’s bemusement apparently. Alec jumped from the carriage, and turned to help his mother and then Elira from the carriage. ”Breathe, dear sister.”

Elira smiled at him, warm and nervous. She linked her arm with his as they were escorted into the palace.

”Presenting House Chambers, Lords of the Western Bluffs.”

The family entered the room as they were announced; Bayard led Jocelyn at the front, followed by Sigrid and Laurence, and Elira and Alec coming last. Bayard dipped his head to Rowan. ”It’s good to see you in fine health, Your Majesty. On behalf of my family, allow me to thank you for your hospitality.

Behind him, his children were furtively looking around at the other nobles who had gathered, Mercier and Cavalier, looking at people they had known their whole lives in an entirely different light. It was possible they might end up married to one of these families. Sigrid looked to Laurence. He knew the look. They were in the belly of the beast now.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers

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lord bastion thorne
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lord kester thorne
outfitx|x#8A6EA3

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lady amara thorne
outfitx|x#736A76

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People often feared that which they could not explain; the subtle sound of footsteps nearby, the whisper of the wind that sounded like a voice, or perhaps the snap that accompanied a broken branch beneath one's foot. The deep dark woods were a scary place for anyone unprepared for the suddenness of its lack of silence. But for the children of Morgana and Vladimir Thorne they were a haven, a winding maze of trees with twisting branches that wound together a path through the endless dark.

Of the three of them, it was Amara Thorne who could navigate that darkness the best. Holding in her hands the ability to call upon the woods themselves to guide her away from its dangers. She stalked those woods with vicious authority, the only place she could let her inner call to freedom run wild. She would take her precious bow and a sheath of arrows to those winding trees and find herself wasting hours tracking some silly creature through its darkness. Her eyes accustomed to the shadows and the tricks they would play.

But today she could not commit to the same ritual. Her longing for the woods smothered by the tightening of a corset round her waist and the feeling of her mothers talon sharp nails digging crescent moons into her skin. “You will listen to me darling and listen well,” Morgana begun, “Don’t bother with the lesser children, Declan is the heir and therefore the one you should be focusing on.”

“This will be done, lest we wish to bother with wiping the lot of them out.” Her mothers tone left no room for a remark, not argument nor agreeance. She had all control, her anger a mighty beast that scared Amara into a complacent silence. She wished for this to be done with – she wished for her mother to stop tightening her clothing to the point of breathlessness. At this rate, Amara would be dying of asphyxiation long before they arrived at the Vale!

“Mother I –“Amara cried out as she tightened the last lace, her eyes watering at the pressure applied to her ribcage. “Hush child, you must be seen and not heard, understand me?” Amara nodded wordlessly, and at long last her mother let up. Amara straightened her body and breathed as deeply as the vice around her would allow. She would find a servant as soon as her mother’s back was turned to loosen the forsaken thing, but until then she allowed her mothers hands to rake through her hair.

Mother rarely allowed anyone of ‘lesser blood’ touches Amara, including the servants. Her stance is that they would taint her, or tempt her into an unholy union – that of which Morgana refused to allow, no, her daughter was meant for greater things. Things that would lead them all that power they imagined they already had.
Amara attempted to keep her hisses between her teeth as her hair was twisted and pulled and pinned together with fine jewels. Being brought away from her face to show off those sharply delicate features her mother so prided herself in passing down to her children.

“There now, much better.” Her mother let go and Amara tried her best not to let her relief show too boldly. She wanted badly to be there already, away from the constant contact that her mother liked to keep with her. At least at this event, they would have time to exist outside of their parent’s realm of control. Her mother would be too busy juggling Amara between reigning in Bastion and Kester, who had yet to even show back up at home from when they last left – they knew of course where they were meant to be going but seemed not to care in the least.

Amara envied their ability to do what they wanted, whenever they wanted without consequences. Sure, their parents often tried but nearly always failed as her brothers were made of a different cut of steel than them. Bastion would laugh and Kester would simply disappear for long periods of time, whereas any wrongdoing of Amaras wound up being punished to the fullest extent – as if her isolation weren’t already enough.

“Now, as soon as those bastard brothers of yours appear we can be off,” Morgana Throne pursed her lips, Amara bit her tongue. She hated that her mother seemed incapable of treating either of her siblings with any level of love.

But Morgana is a cold woman, someone made up entirely of ice and because her Sons were rebellious couldn’t fathom having any love spared for the either of them. Amara often doesn’t know how any of them survived infancy with such a careless upbringing.

“I must check that everything is in proper order,” Morgana swept towards the door, her own fine jewels sparkling in the light from the sconces. That was one thing that Amara never enjoyed about living in the Dark Woods – there was barely any light. Even the sun could not penetrate the cloudy atmosphere of her homeland. Amara nodded but kept her lips tightly sealed, wanting her mother to simply go away at this point.

To which she thankfully did, allowing Amara her sigh of relief at long last. Now to find someone to free her of the boa constrictor wrapped around her.




A mighty flapping of wings echoed around the small courtyard where Bastion and Kester Thorne stood, sword to sword as they parried and swayed through the dance of a swordfight. Birds startled as each clang of blade on blade rung out but settled again along the branches of the deadened tree’s surrounding them. Bastion laughed, amused by his brother's attempts to thrust the blade towards his midsection – easily batting the blade away. They had been at it for several minutes now, ignoring the world around them as they tended to do. It had been a long couple of days and neither was inclined to be anywhere near a family member that did not happen to be one another.

They may hate each other, but brothers knew better than anyone how to come together in solidarity. “I suppose –“ Bastion blocked another thrust, grinning viciously with every sharp tooth showing “That we will both be after the same thing?”

It had been unspoken since the invitation arrived but Bastion knew just as well as Kester that neither of them was in it for love – they had other goals in mind. Whether it be summed up to the constant fight between them or the largely unspoken call to power that the Castillons had unwittingly put out. Bastion had his eyes on one singular prize – and a very fine one at that. Sure, nobody in the kingdom had heard anything of the princess for some time now but he knew that she still existed – perhaps in a similar way to how their mother kept Amara as a marionette on a very short string.

Kester too had big plans, and maybe they didn’t align perfectly with the Thorne way of thinking. He had always been different, a shining light in the darkness – the sun to their moons and it showed in the way he scoffed. Offended by the assumption that he would be following his brother's footsteps in trying to bag the crown. He had his own agenda, a need to escape this dark place for better lands. If that journey leads him to the Castillons then so be it, but he wanted something that no one else in his family could even fathom – an escape from this place.

But Bastion didn’t need to know nor understand Kester's intentions.

“Of course, we wouldn’t have something to fight over otherwise,” Kester replied. Stepping further back so as to get out of the way of a rather deadly strike. They were using real steel, nothing like the wooden sticks they had once trained with as young boys. Kester may be taller and had put on more weight with constant training but that paled in comparison to the way Bastion played underhanded tricks. He was faster than Kester too, knew how to wait for an opening.

It was no surprise when their blades met this time Bastion swept a leg out and took one leg out from underneath Kester entirely. Knocking the younger to the ground and quickly pressing the tip of his blade right into the others throat. Barely applying enough pressure to prickle at the skin as Kester swallowed heavily. Both were panting, still viciously expressive though Kesters had warped into a scowl.

“And if I don’t want the competition?” Bastion muses aloud, unmoving from his position. “If I end it here and now before you have the chance to try? That’s one less person I’ll have to deal with after all – and we both know those other nobles stand very little chance.”

”Don’t be a fool,” Kester interrupted, recognizing one of Bastions spiraling monologues and lack of heat behind his words. If Bastion had ever wanted his brother dead it would have been done ages ago – these were the games they played. ”You would miss the challenge.”

With that, the younger reached a gloved hand up and knocked the blade away. The loose way it was being held more telling than the silence from Bastion, who simply reached a hand forward to help his brother back to his feet.

”Suppose it’s time for us to be getting back, Mother will be furious that we’ve yet to prepare.” Kester said, glancing upwards at the sun through the sliver of clear sky where the canopy of trees broke away. They were late no doubt, he half expected their parents to pack Amara away and leave without the two of them. There truly is no love lost in the Thorne family.

“Mmmmm,” Bastion nodded, though it came out more amused than anything. “Let us not waste any more time then.”

”Yes, lets.”




By the time every member of the Thorne family had gathered in the main courtyard they were in varying states of distress. Morgana, and her manic energy making their servents buckle under the pressure of their fear of her. Vladimir stood away from his wife, conversing with their personal guard at the head of the carriages, his body language as harsh as the expression he nearly always wore on his face. From where they stood the three Thorne children could hear him gruffly threatening their men with severe – perhaps deadly – punishment were anything to delay or harm them; in that particular order.

”Nervous dear?” Bastion had turned his sharks grin to the youngest of the trio, little Amara whose skin had turned a ghostly shade of white in the sunlight – so rarely did she see anything but darkness.

She cut a glance his way but otherwise did not react. Nothing about the way she stood, nor the expression on her face gave away any sort of emotion. Still as a breathing statuette. An eerie thing to see if one did not know Amara and the way she operated.

”Leave her be,” Kester hissed. Bastion laughed, stepping away from Kesters side and round to Amara.

”She even dressed you up didn’t she?” He scoffed, partly in disgust. Partly in horrified awe, to have someone so completely under control intrigued him. Though he hated to see her strengths being put to waste inside her gilded cage.

”She always does.” Kester answered, once more for her.

Always the protector, big brother Kester. Amara did not twitch, nor did she smile – but in her own way she was grateful, he knew that. As well as he knew Bastion was simply bored and poking at the both of them to alleviate that.

”I’m talking to Mara now Kess, so hush.” He placed a finger to his lips, grinning around the leather glove. Never taking his eyes off of his sister, the fine purple dress she wore – their colors! How precious. He may have been wearing similar attire, but the way she was bathed in it seemed to scream Thorne pride. ”Stop.” Kesters tone was harsh, a bit like what their fathers often could be.

”Fine, fine! None of you are any fun at all.”

”Bastion! Their father called out to him, one arm raised in a beckoning motion. Bastions manic smile slipped from his face. He rolled his eyes, considering ignoring the commanding tone but thought better of it at the last moment. He wanted this journey to go as smoothly as possible, and if that meant listening to his parents for a few dull hours than he would make that sacrifice. After all, he had such a prize waiting for him at the Vale.

Once gone, Kester turned to Amara. Though he was concerned he knew better than to ask her how she felt. He simply gripped one of her hands in his, ignoring just how delicate she seemed sometimes. He had always felt responsible for her in a way, and he knew that despite Bastions constant picking and poking that he did too. They were after all the last line of defense she had against their parent’s cruelty sometimes.

”You look beautiful Amara,” He squeezed her hand gently with his then let go, ”Bastions a bastard, but we’ll both make sure nothing happens to you. Mother may think she has all of this in her hands but she seems to forget that we three are no longer toddlers without the ability to think for ourselves.” The boys had long since learned to do their own thing, but she didn’t have the same luck.

”I know.” Amara whispered, façade breaking just for a moment. She glanced sidelong where her mother was busy making sure that the Dark Woods would not be run into the ground while they were gone. ”But I also know its easier to do what they want.”

She patted her brothers shoulder with a small, pinched smile.

”Worry not for me Kester, I know my orders.” And with that, she too started off for the carriage. Leaving Kester standing there in thought. Until of course Bastion started towards him once more, to his sides were two mighty steeds, their reigns in either hand. He recognized the pure black coat and silvery mane of Bastions horse Omen. The other was Kesters, a dappled gray stallion named Sorrowsweet, for the teardrop-like markings beneath each eye. Amara had named the horse for him after Kester had spent many long nights toiling over it as a young boy.

Father wishes for us to ride at the sides of the carriage,” Bastion did not have to explain why. The trees were easy to hide in and nobles traveling the winding roads were fools not to have protection at all sides. Kester glanced at their father, Vladimirs imposing form already astride his horse Deathbringer; unsurprisingly the sire of his children’s steeds.

It was a basic formation, their father at the front with two of his men, the two boys at the side, women in the carriage with various members of their guard escorting them from the behind. Two of the men riding their mother and sisters horses, as they would not be permitted outside the carriage themselves until arrival at the Vale. Nobody would dare say out loud to Morgana Thorne that it was much too dangerous on the road – they all knew she could kill anyone as well as her husband could – but there was tradition to uphold.

”Bastion! Kester!” Their father once more called to the two of them expectantly. With varying degrees of haste, the two of them mounted, splitting to either side. Amara had already gotten into the Carriage and all that was left was their mother. Whom stopped to turn a cold eye to Bastion as she got into the Carriage. A clear warning; one that he would ignore to the full extent of his being.

They were off then, at the beginning of their long journey.




Their arrival was not swift nor easy and by the end of it, Amara was utterly sick of hearing her mother lecture every small thing she did. She was glad then when the carriage pulled to a final halt and the sound of hoofbeats against the ground stopped. She wanted to peer out of the carriage, to take in the scenery but she knew that would simply be frowned upon.

”Come on Mara,” At long last Kester peered into the Carriage, offering an arm to her in order to help her step out. The dress still constricted her movement in ways that much annoyed her. Not that she would show the discomfort.

Once they were all out they were quickly ushered into the palace, everything a blur of color and sounds that Amara simply was not used to. She tightened her grip on Kesters arm, and in turn, received a knowing look from him. This was unknown territory, dangerous in all the same ways that made it safe. Bastion appeared, looking perfectly like he had not been complaining the whole way there rather vociferously - as was his way.

”Presenting House Thorne, Lords of the Dark Wood.” The steward called as they entered, a proper announcement of their arrival and one that Bastion found he enjoyed hearing immensely. Vladimir led the charge with Morgana, their children filing in with each boy acting as a buffer with Amara between them. They were all looking around, but it was he who was taking in the grandeur of the setting rather than the people who had already arrived.

Amara had eyes only for the other nobles, her heart suddenly jumping into her throat – there were already so many people and more to come, how was she to compete? Outwardly she simply showed nothing of her nerves. But did smile as she was told to.

”Your majesty, it is an honor and a pleasure to have received an invitation. It has been a long time since last we spoke – my children were eager indeed to have this chance to meet so many fine nobles of their own age.” Vladimir motioned the three of them forward, ”May I present my children, Bastion, Kester, and my youngest Amara.”

Each of them bowed and Amara curtsied in turn.

”We thank you for this fine opportunity.” Morgana spoke next, not one to stay on the sidelines. As soon as introductions were out of the way the three younger Thornes turned away and towards the grouping of other Nobles.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers

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#, as written by Seravi
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Lord Audric DavernyxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxLady Isabel Daverny
Hex || #8A6759 Outfitxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Hex || #BF9480 Outfit
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Through the years the Daverny children had spent much of their lifetime aboard various ships, learning the ins and outs of life at sea through hard work and labor. They were treated as crew for the majority of their journeys, learning exactly what it would take to run a proper ship. Both of them took to it with the usual whimsy of children seeking adventure. Of course with age that began to die down until they had both settled into a more sturdy role. Audric always stood at his fathers side, ready to lead at a moments notice - he was the heir after all and his future seemed to be set in stone.

Isabel loved her home, the sea, and running about the ship as much as any other adventure seeking young woman but she knew too that one day it would no longer be hers. She clung to it with a desperation unlike any other - she wanted nothing but to stay there, in that peculiar middle grounds between child and adult so as to not have to give any of it up.

That however was proving quite difficult. Between her brothers insistence upon her finding love and her parents will for one or both of them to gain them a seat of power. Her emotions were skewed, a swirling whirlpool turning round and round until she felt sick and couldn't move. She glanced at her dress in the dirty mirror, the soft fabric cost her a pretty coin but it was something she had chosen for herself. Had gone to the towns all on her own with the coin in her pocket and paid for it to be made by one of her few true friends left.

It was nothing like the dresses her mother tried to get her into. No, those were gaudy, the ugliest tan color one had ever seen - and the frills. She would have rather died than wear any one of them. But this one left nothing of her heritage to the imagination. She could hide things beneath the skirts, and it did not trip her feet up when she moved like many of the others. This dress was made for a fighter, for a reckless adventurer, it was made for Isabel Daverny - a pirate.

She wouldn't have it any other way.

Thus she promptly dressed herself and headed out of the barracks where she and Audric bunked and onto the deck. Her brother was already there, dressed up and ready for their arrival at the ports. Her mother stood to his left, admiring the rolling waves that crashed against the sides of the ship. The salt in the air so thick that she could taste it. Their father did not appear to be within sight, but that surprised her none. Since this began he had been hiding away, plotting. Often times dragging Audric with him. He was the heir after all - and Isabel was just the daughter they assumed they could shove off on some other noble to marry.

"Really Ric, Thats what you're wearing?" Isabel crowed, great peals of laughter spilling from her lips as she approached the two of them. Audric turned, immediatley his face twisting in dissaproval - oh she loved that look sometimes. It truly brought her great joy on days like these. Her mother however did not seem to be as outwardly displeased as her brother - it was a good thing after all that Father chose to hide away. He certainly would have some words for the less than 'noble' dress she wore.

"Hush Bel, I think he's looking rather dashing." Elena ran her hand along Audrics shoulder, smiling at her son as if he were a beacon of light.

"He's looking rather something alright," Isabel rolled her eyes and joined them overlooking the sea.

"At least I look like a noble, did you get that dress from the shanties?" Audric quipped. Ignoring the way that Elena's face dipped into a frown. She was a strict woman, but loving, and she hated to see them fight. She opened her mouth to speak, to quiet the both of them probably but was promptly cut off by Isabel.

"You think so low of me!" Came her indignant cry, "I had Helen Brayer make this specially for me, paid with me own gold and everything!"

"Helen Brayer? The strumpet that accosts the navymen at all hours of the day and night? That Helen Brayer?" Audric knew the Brayer woman, the lot of them were Harpies and no doubt overcharged his sister for the rags she wore. Helen herself had in fact come onto Audric more times than he cared to even mention, she always was after more wealth to supply to the raggedy lot that made up her clan.

"She is not a strumpet, she's a working woman Ric." Isabel's face reddened, instantly finding her head full of red hot anger. How dare he? How could he say such a -

"Hush now the both of you! Arguing like infants, honestly what impression do you think that'll make on the other nobles?" Elena's voice cut through their argument like steel, sharp edges and cold syllables. Her face had turned red much alike her daughters, the same anger painted on her features. They were so very much alike in that aspect. She would not tolerate her children acting out when they were so close to their destination. It had been a long journey, and they may all be tired - but there was no excuse for acting like fools.

"Apparently none at all if Bel has any say in it - you look like a commoner for pity sake." Audric, ever oblivious to the situation completely ignored their mother.

Never a wise move when it came to Elena Daverny.

"Audric." "Shut up Ric." Mother and daughter spoke at the same time, clashing against each others anger. Elena pursed her lips, hands going to her hips in a stance that both children recognized immediately. They were on very, very thing ice - and both of them were wearing boots made of heated metal. Isabel swallowed thickly, anger deflating in a moment. They could argue later, in private, while mother wasn't ready to lop both of their heads off with a rusty axe.

"Thank you." Elena sighed at last, releasing her stance and turning back towards the water. "Oh look, we're nearly there. Her excitement seemed to wash away the tension in the air as curiosity took over the two of them. Both had been to the ports before, Audric more so than Isabel but neither had done so on a social occasion. Isabel felt her pulse kick up, a rush of nerves running through her body.

This was it, this was the beginning of something brand new.

--


The very first thing that Isabel noticed once they had docked was that their horses were nowhere in sight. Father had promised that they would be brought along. So then, where exactly were they? Isabel couldn't fathom borrowing, or riding a horse that she hadn't personally bonded with. It had taken her ages to find her footing with Stormchaser, and anytime she had attempted to ride her mothers or brothers horses it didn't quite work out the same.

"We're going by Carriage? We didn't bring the horses?" She worried her bottom lip. It wasn't so bad, but she really would have preferred to have her own steed.

"They'll arrive separately, until then its only proper of us to arrive the same way as the others will." Audric commented, appearing at her side like the constant protector he was. He did not comment on her show of nerves, she would collect herself eventually. "Don't worry, Father and I will be at the reins."

They had more plotting to do after all, his father had just barely scratched the surface of his goals in the last meeting. Audric did not want to participate in this madness - but what choice did he truly have. He was his fathers son, the Misty Isles would be his someday, he would need to ensure their future power. Something that Hector constantly nagged them all about.

"Come on." He held his hand out to her. She took it, much less weary now. They walked hand in hand to the carriage, where he helped her and his mother in and made sure that both had settled in. "We should be getting along shortly."

With that he turned and headed back towards the dock, where his father stood among a trio of men. Their faces scarred and battle worn - nobody good it seemed. But Audric had no business interfering with whatever his father seemed to be doing. Rather, he slowed his stroll noticeably until his father finally looked up. Peering through squinted eyes at his son. He took Audric in, face twisted into some unknown expression before settling into neutrality.

"I assume we're all ready?"[b] Hector waves away the men, all of them averting their gaze from Audric as they went. He didn't comment, nor did he look at them either. He focused on his father, standing there, both of them as emotive as they ever would be.

"Yes, Mother and Bel are awaiting us at the Carriage now," Audric motioned back towards where he came. Hector nodded, deep in thought as he began to walk. As he passed Audric he reached for his sons shoulder, turning him forcibly to walk side by side. They were not men of physicality unless it was rough after all.

[b]"You remember what we discussed,"
Hectors voice did not imply a question, but a confirmation. Audric nodded, weary once more at his fathers ire. "Good man," He patted his sons shoulder, too hard too be comfortable. Audric winced, but said nothing once more. Stared straight ahead as they neared the Carriage.

"And you're sister?" It was telling that he would ask this time. Of the two he rarely paid attention to his youngest, Isabel was merely a secondary pawn in this game he played.

"She's come around." Audric bit his tongue after speaking - lies were intolerable by Hector, who could seem to sniff them out from miles away. "Is that so..." He turned those shrewd eyes to Audric once more, staring deeply at him for a long moment. But seemed to settle on not calling him out on that little fib.

"I see, then this should be much easier than I thought." Hector let go of his son to move around the other side of the carriage. "Hurry up lad, we haven't got all day." He barked, kicking Audric into gear. The two of them sitting side by side at the front of the Carriage. Driving it along. He itched to be inside of it with his mother and sister, it would be far less of an awkward silence if he were.

--



Elena did not speak until the carriage began to move. The rocking motions nothing to either of them, both being used to the sea as they were.

"I know we've lived a somewhat sheltered life darling," Sheltered was a very, very strong word for a child that traipsed about the Misty Isles without fear nor worry of harm coming to her. She had nicked coin purses with street urchins, climbed the tallest trees, had even hidden away on a navy ship once that was due at the vale - though Audric had caught her with that one. She had scars, marks, and bruises galore to show all the ways that she did not live a Sheltered life. "Rarely have you come into contact with other Nobles, unlike Audric. But I don't want you to fear whats ahead. A beautiful young woman like you has just as much a chance as any other."

"Yes I know mother..." And that was the problem.

Isabel sighed, settling her head against the small window on the Carriage door. She closed her eyes, as she did not want to see the scenery that passed them by - it only made her miss home all that much more.

--


Audric gave a heavy sigh as he descended from the head of the Carriage and opened the door to find Isabel fast asleep. Her head having been resting against it as it was sent her nearly to the ground. Though he caught her in time. She seemed dazed for a moment, blinking up at him the same way she used to when she was a toddler sneaking into his room at night for him to chase away her nightmares.

"We've arrived." He states as gently as he can, but he can see that she's frazzled by the way she tilts out of his grasp and nearly hits the dirty ground again. She straightens herself with a huff, glancing around to see if anyone noticed her bumble. Then decides she could care less as she marches to the front. Her father and mother standing tall and proud side by side.

Both of the children were nervous but knew that this ritual would only be the first step towards the rest of the season. The steward seemed nervous as they approached but did not shy away as Audric assumed he would - brave then to be facing down the likes of Hector Daverny and not flinch at the commanding boom in his voice. Audric steeled himself, realizing that they were going to be introduced into this room full of other nobles now. They were quite late to arrival after all, living as far as they did. It was no short journey getting from the Misty Isles to the Vale. Even with a direct passageway through the sea.

Hector lead them at the front, with Elena wrapped around his arm. Though neither showed any weakness to their stance. In their world there was little difference between which parent had the most parent. Hector and Elena were both fierce, formidable beings with their own iron fists.

Audric brought up the rear, pushing Isabel ahead of him despite the way she kept stopping to stare about.

"Presenting House Daverny, Lords of the Misty Isles!" The stewards voice boomed through the room. Audric did not outwardly show his nerves, and he was no stranger to scrutiny, but this was a whole different world for him.

It was Elena who stepped forward to speak, for if Hector were to do it there would be no words in the world nice enough for him to use. His anger was a constant thing, seeping through his very pores. And his distaste for the crown never failed to be noticable. Thus their mother was the solid mediator.

"We thank you for this opportunity your Majesty."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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#, as written by mjolnir
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prince declan castillon
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prince desmond castillon
outfitx|x#062078

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princess westerly castillon
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The sight was blinding. Maybe it was the sun, or maybe it was the inevitable future that rolled toward the keep surrounded by guards, hidden in over embellished carriages. The fear, excitement and anxiety knotted in their stomachs as the guests grew closer to the gates. For a moment, Westerly even contemplated her brother’s comment. Was it too late to run? Her head turned, glancing past raven curls toward the door with a deep sense of longing… or was it dread?

There was a heavy silence that hung in the air, thick like fog at first sunlight. Declan ran a hand back through his dark mane. As his fingers passed through, strands fell free from where ever the servants stuck them in place. Less princely, but more… Declan. Neither himself nor his brother fit the mold of how a Prince should look, bearded, scruffy with long unruly hair. No doubt not what any of the young women about to cross their threshold would envision. 

But his sister? Declan let out a soft sigh as he let himself sit back on the bench. His head slowly leaned to the side, resting against the cool window pane. His gaze slowly drifted over to Westerly. Unlike Desmond and himself, their mother’s claws ran deep into his sister. Even as she sat there pondering over a chance to flee, her posture was perfection. Every single thing about her exactly how a Princess should be. But her eyes couldn’t hide the woman beneath. She was sad, scared… and lost. 

The only sound that echoed off the walls of the large study was the rustling of fabric as Desmond continued to adjust his clothing. His hair was in messy waves, but with a few run throughs of his hand he looked… presentable. It suited him. No one expected him to act the part of a Prince… aside from their mother. The throne wasn’t weighing on his shoulders nor the future of Blackvale. And while his siblings sat their in a terrified silence, Desmond couldn’t help but feel excited. 

Desmond’s hands shoved the tail of his shirt into his trousers as he stepped closer to his siblings, unable to hide his grin at the sight of the arriving parties. 

”What are you smiling at?” 

His attention was drawn from the window down to Westerly who sat before him. It seemed that the moment he smiled down at her, her expression lightened. Desmond always had that effect on her. Declan was the comforting brother while Desmond could always make her smile, and for a moment he could see glimpses of the old Wes in there. ”Well, dear sister,” he said with a sarcastic tone as he crouched down beside her, resting his arm on her knees.

Wes glanced over toward Declan who chuckled and shook his head. This was all in her hands now while her other brother enjoyed watching. Her brows raised out of curiosity, even cocking her head slightly like an animal hearing an odd noise showing that she was listening, intently.

”A gaggle… Yes, you heard me correctly. A gaggle of gorgeous men and women are making their way through our gates at this very moment. That is, at the very least, fifteen young Lords and Ladies around our age.”

Desmond answered with some finality in his voice like what he said should be have been sufficient enough of an answer. But when Westerly and Declan exchanged sideways glances and confused smirks, he sighed and continued. ”That is several other beautiful people who have lived stuffy noble lives like ourselves for the majority of their lives and they’ll be under our roof for the better part of half a year.” He patted his sisters knee affectionately before he stood upright again. ”That gives me roughly…” He paused, pursing his lips as it was nearly visible that he was doing math in his head. ”Roughly a week to seduce each one of them.”

Declan and Westerly exchanged amused glances just before the pair of them burst out in laughter. Dec nearly doubled over, holding his stomach. Gods did they need a good laugh. Leave it to Desmond to bring light to a dreadful situation. Wes couldn’t laugh as whole heartedly as her brother when her corset constricted around her like a snake. But her face showed the laughter she couldn’t physically express.

Once Declan was able to catch his breath, he peered out toward the nobles down below as they orderly exited their carriages and began to make their way inside. ”Who said they would be beautiful? Last I checked, you do not have to be attractive to be a noble.”

Dark locks bounced about Desmond’s face as he snapped his head around to look toward his brother. His expression was one they all knew too well, a quirked brow and a sly smile. He was up to something… Something their mother undoubtedly would despise. ”Let’s see about that then, shall we?”

Without waiting for a reply from his siblings, Desmond pivoted on his heels and headed for the door. He had barely crossed the threshold when two guards went to stop him, a conflicting matter when he, in fact, was a captain of the guard. The men didn’t seem particularly keen in stopping him, but it was always clashing orders when it came to whatever Desmond said versus what the Queen demanded. But none the less, they backed down.

Declan’s eyes went wide as his brother, so confidently, strode out of the study like he wouldn’t face their mother’s wrath later that night. He shared a glance with his sister yet again, but neither of them could deny the smirks that began to creep over their faces. After another moment or two passed they both were on their feet chasing after Desmond, playfully pushing past each other.

They quickly caught up with Desmond, laughing amongst themselves as they neared the great hall. No double the largest room in the keep, the ceiling stretched the full height of the castle with massive marble columns that extended down to the ground like the fingers of the Gods. Handcrafted stained glass windows upon the ceiling let in a rainbow of colors that shown on the King and Queen as they waited before their thrones.

The Castillon siblings rounded the corner each one of them practically launching themselves forward with the grasp of a column. Desmond led them to the balcony that resided high above the great hall’s entrance. Their perch looked directly out over the large room, directly facing the thrones. It was one of their favorite places since childhood. No one ever dared look away from the King to glance up behind them, so the only people who knew they were there were the servants… And occasionally their parents.

They each slowly approached the railing with playful giggles and curious smiles. Whatever laughter that was about to leave Westerly escaped from her lips like a whisper on the wind when her gaze was met by her mother’s. The Queen might have even called to them and made them go back to the study if the doors beneath them hadn’t distracted her as their first guests arrived.

Each one of the siblings leaned over the balcony slightly, while their hands white knuckled the railing waiting to catch a glimpse of the first family to arrive. It was hard for them to tell who any of them were when they only saw the back of their heads. Declan couldn’t help but laugh softly while he leaned in toward his brother. ”Well… They have nice hair,” he whispered.

Westerly felt a pang of familiarity strike her, although she could not make out their faces. A blonde young man and two fair brunette ladies. ”I think that is the—“ she began to whisper to her brothers only to be cut off by the voices below.

”My lord, my King, my friend,” Ramsey greeted the King like any noble would. "I know it has been a while since we all met last, but I hope you remember my children. Callum. Brynlee. Adelina. And of course, my wife, Charlotte.”

"Thank you so much, both of you, for inviting us to such a wonderful season.” Lady Charlotte added with a curtsy.

The Queen gave a curt nod while Rowan bowed in return toward them as a sign of his respect for the family. He then descended the stairs toward them. He first gave Callum a firm handshake and a warm smile in greeting. ”Such a fine grown man you’ve become. Your father has told me great things about you.” The King then gave both Adelina and Brynlee a gentlemanly bow, bestowing a kiss upon both of their hands, like any proper man should. ”And your daughters are as radiant as their mother.” He then gave a friendly kiss upon Charlotte’s cheek before embracing his life long friend. ”Welcome my friend, our home is your home.”

Not a moment later, another family entered the great hall. "Presenting the House of Cavalier, Lords of the Marshlands, Keepers of Eastmarsh.” The herald announced to the present company.

"Your Grace, I would like to thank you again for your hospitality in inviting us to your beautiful home,” James greeted the royals with a formal bow. "You met them only last spring, at the Violet Tourney, but allow me to reintroduce my wife, Beatrice, and my children, Col and Isolde.” Each one of them respectably bowed or curtsied when presented. James then guided the last one who hadn’t been presented forward. "And this is my natural daughter, Emery.”

The King greeted each one of them same as he did the family prior. James and Col both receiving a strong, yet friendly handshake while Rowan bowed and gave each Lady a kiss upon the hand. King Rowan diverted straight for the last young lady. Like he had with every lady before, he bowed in respect. But then he took both of her hands in his own. First he placed a kiss upon them, then smiled toward her while still holding her hands to show his admiration.

It took a strong will for a natural born child to be so openly presented to the world, especially considering the scrutiny they usually bare witness to. He gave her a warm smile with a tender squeeze of the hands. ”You, my dear, are most welcome. You shall be respected as any Lord and Lady should be. And if anyone says differently, you may come to me directly.” He released her hands and let her rejoin her family. Rowan was a strong believer of all the people under his rule being treated as equals, much to his wife’s disapproval. And although what he said might not have seemed necessary, he wanted the girl to feel safe and welcome in the keep during her stay.

"We look forward to spending these coming months with you, and with the other Great Houses, and hope that this occasion will bring future years of harmony and prosperity among we eight Noble Families.”

”Of that, I have no doubt. James, you and your lovely family are more than welcome. Please, think of the Keep as your home while you gift us with your presence.”

Filing in behind the Cavaliers another family of dark haired beauties and one red head that stood out among the others. ”Presenting House Chambers, Lords of the Western Bluffs.” The family approached in a paired off fashion, first the Lord and Lady of the house, followed by the elder children Sigrid and Laurence, then at the back was Elira and Alec, their youngest.

Bayard bowed, paying the same respect toward the King as the Lords and Ladies before him. ”It’s good to see you in fine health, Your Majesty. On behalf of my family, allow me to thank you for your hospitality.”

”Welcome, my Lords and Ladies. You all honor me with your presence and I hope that your time spent in the Keep is as comfortable as possible.” He made his rounds to every member of the house giving the same respectful gestures as he done previously. All the while the Queen stood behind him with her hands cupped before her giving the same smile and curt nod to the nobles that approached, occasionally giving soft greetings of her own.

Up on the balcony, the siblings watched as noble after noble was announced. Every one of them Declan and Westerly had committed into memory their names, houses and anything else their mother seemed fit to drill them with in the weeks leading up to this very day. While Desmond continuously commented on how attractive each and every one of them were, followed by asking twice and three times what their names were.

It seemed that the more nobles entered the great hall, the more tense Westerly became. Her hands furiously rang her silks gloves, twisting and turning the fabric as she watched them each be presented. Perhaps it was how each new addition to the hall made her hands shake more or the excitement in her gut that one of these men could be her escape from her mother… Whatever it was her grasp slipped and the black gloves fell from her fingers. She gasped softly and Declan even quickly reached forward to grab them but was too slow.

Each of the siblings stood their in silence, watching as the light fabric slowly fell like a feather on the wind. The Queen’s eyes were trained on her daughter as the piece of fabric descended. Westerly could feel the fire of that gaze, not daring to take a breath. The Queen had planned out every single fraction of the events that transpired that day… Especially the presentation of her perfect trophy children. Luckily, it landed peacefully upon the ground far behind any of the noble families. But that didn’t mean that the three of them weren’t going to hear the end of it later.

”Presenting House Thorne, Lords of the Dark Wood,” the Herald’s voice echoed through the hall breaking the silence and nearly scaring Westerly half to death.

”Your majesty, it is an honor and a pleasure to have received an invitation. It has been a long time since last we spoke – my children were eager indeed to have this chance to meet so many fine nobles of their own age,” Vladimir said before motioning his children forward. ”May I present my children, Bastion, Kester, and my youngest Amara.” Each of the children paid their respects with a bow or curtsy.

”We thank you for this fine opportunity.”

The King kindly greeted each member of the family, ”We are so thankful that you were able to make the long journey here. We hope your stay is pleasant.

After the Thornes joined the other noble houses, the Herald broke the silence yet again. "Presenting House Daverny, Lords of the Misty Isles!”

Unlike the other houses before, the Lady of the house, Elena stepped forward to address the King. Rowan was no idiot and he knew about the bad blood that the Davernys and Thornes had for him. But rather than show it, he smiled and bowed to Lady Elena before she spoke.

"We thank you for this opportunity your Majesty.” 

Rowan greeted the Lady and her children with the appropriate hand shake, or gentlemanly gesture. But knowing Hector’s own disdain for him, the King opted for a silent bow toward the Lord.

They waited a fair bit, seeing if any other families would be coming through the door. No doubt, the journey to the Keep is a long and grueling one, and tardiness was to be expected, although the Queen hated it so. With her patience wearing thin, worried her children would make fools of themselves before being properly presented, the Queen stepped forward. ”My Lords, my Ladies. The King and I are thankful for the journey you all took to come stay with us for this fine season. Without further adieu, I present my son, Prince Declan, heir to the throne.”

Declan was quickly ushered to the grand staircase by two guards. He ran his hands back through his thick mane one last time before he made his way down the stairs. Every fiber in his body was trembling. He fought the urge to gawk at the other nobles, instead repeating the same words his mother would say to him over and over in his head. Head up. Back straight. It seemed like a lot of pomp and circumstance. Declan couldn’t help but feel stupid being presented in such a manner while all the others got a simple introduction. He took a deep breath before taking the final step and making his way over to his parents. Once beside them he gave the crowd a proper bow and greeting, ”It is a pleasure to meet you all.”

The Queen motioned to the stairs a second time. ”My son, Prince Desmond, Captain of the King’s Guard.”

Desmond snaked his way past the guards knowing damn well where the stairs were and how to walk down them. Unlike his brother he descended casually like he might any other day. His left hand was hooked in the leather strap of his sword sheath, every step taken with a light bounce. Desmond didn’t shy away from looking directly at the crowd of nobles, a mischievous smile upon his face as he took them all in. When he came to stand beside his brother, he quickly drew a blank as to what to say. ”Ditto,” he said with a smirk and a playful nod of his head. And if they weren’t surrounded by nobles, his mother would have quickly slapped him in the back of the head.

”And finally,” the Queen added with less gravitas than she had used for either of her sons. ”My daughter, Princess Westerly.”

With a deep breath and no chance to turn back, Westerly took up a handful of the fabric that made up her skirt in her left hand while her right rested on the railing. With one more sigh she took her first step, trying her best not to watch her feet and not to misstep. The descent down the stairs felt like ages, each step hours apart as she focused on her posture, poise and presenting herself exactly like her mother had told her.

Declan kindly excused himself from the crowd to go wait by the bottom of the stairs for her. Westerly was nearly there, with one more step. She released her grasp on the skirt so that she could take her brother’s arm. And just to her luck, a piece of fabric from her dress caught under toe. A gasp escaped her lips as she began to slip, her hands quickly grabbing hold of her brother. Declan stepped forward with haste to help steady her. 

”Are you alright?” he whispered to her, keeping hold of her arms until she met his gaze.

Westerly gave a quick nervous nod of her head. She didn’t dare look toward their mother who undoubtedly was furious. Instead she simply let her brother lead her over to their family. Once there, she released her hold on Declan. Taking up her skirt in each hand, she gave a curtsy, her body lowering until her right knee brushed the ground, then stood upright again.

The King gave his daughter a reassuring kiss on the cheek before he stepped forward to address the nobles. ”Once again, I want to thank each and everyone of you for giving us the pleasure to host you for the season. Our servants are currently taking all of your belongings to your rooms, showing your guards and servants to their quarters and taking your horse to their stables. In celebration of this wonderful season we are hosting a feast in your honor.” The King smiled, and motioned toward the large sets of French doors to his left. ”What other way than to better acquaint ourselves over a wonderful meal.”

The Queen made her way toward the ballroom on the other side of the doors where several tables were setup, while leaving the center of the room open for dancing at a later time. Soft instrumental music played from the orchestra on the balcony above. One table stood out from the others, the grandest of them all. ”My Lords and Ladies, let us adjourn to our table and let our children get better acquainted.” With nothing more to say Visenya took her husband’s arm and made their way to the grand table.

Westerly twiddled her fingers as she stood there silent. A lady should be escorted, her mother’s voice rang in her head. She bit at her bottom lip slightly, not making eye contact with any of the Lords or Ladies before her. Instead eyeing her gloves from the other side of the room, hoping she could slip away once they all moved to the other room to get it.

With a gentle touch to Westerly’s shoulder, Declan gave her a nod of reassurance before he went to step forward. She quickly grabbed his arm, wanting him not to go. ”Breathe, you will be fine.” He gave a kiss to her forehead and descended the few stairs toward the crowd of younger nobles. Desmond gave her a quick wink before following suit after his brother.

Declan would have much preferred to escort his sister into the dining hall and sit at a table that was just him and his siblings. But he knew what was expected of him. So instead he took on the events of the evening with a strong chin and approached the group like it’s something he does every day. He had no idea who to ask, nor did he know much about any of them. He let his feet wonder until they lead him to a dark haired beauty in an elegant gown of blue and gold. He gave a gentlemanly bow before offering her his hand. ”Emery Rivers, might I escort you to dinner?”

Desmond took a much more direct approach. He saw that red hair like a light in the darkness. She was stunning, a breath of fresh air in a sea of brunettes. He snaked his way through the different Lords and Ladies until he came to stand before her. He gave a bow, not nearly as perfect as his brother’s and extended his hand toward her. ”Hello, my lady. You are absolutely breath taking.” He gave her a smile while loose strands of dark hair fell from behind his ears. “Would you do me the honor of letting me escort you to dinner?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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ISOLDE / #495b70 / attire X COL / #53706a / attire X EMERY/ #62566b / attire

Into the dark of the arch the swan floats
and into the black depth of my sorrow
it bears a white rose of flame

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With the addition of each noble family to the grand hall, the Cavaliers did not waver in their firm pride. The four of them were all polite smiles and poise as each noble head made their introductions. If one had not grown up in the noble sphere, they would likely assume that there was nothing to them; that their enthusiasm with every arrival was genuine and unassuming. But a noble knew better. Underneath the guises of deference, there was a hum. A quiet hum, but a hum nonetheless. A hum of judicious stratagem. As much as they may claim neighbourliness, all those in the room were well aware of their true reason for being here, and that knowledge hung, silent and unmentioned, between every meeting of eyes, and every kiss of the hand.

This all said, everyone seemed to be putting up an excellent front, enough so that some of the warmness could even be genuine, although it was impossible to tell, when the actors were as expertly trained as this.

The king, in particular, seemed especially amicable, as he acknowledged each family in turn with pitch-perfect courtesy. He behaved as a king was expected to, for the most part, although expectations shuddered among the people in the room when he greeted the Cavaliers. Or, more specifically, when he greeted the not-Cavalier.

"You, my dear, are most welcome. You shall be respected as any Lord and Lady should be. And if anyone says differently, you may come to me directly.”

Emery had been trained brutally for this moment, but not for something quite so companionable. She, nor her teachers, had ever anticipated the king's touch, nor such warm words addressed to her directly. She had always heard good things about King Rowan Castillon, First of His Name. However, she had always taken such praises with a pinch of salt- the history books could seldom properly critique and criticise a king still living. One just had to look at the Authorial Purge, where Xalvador killed over one hundred of the land's writers and historians after a small group had the audacity to write about his failures in battle and economics.

But even with her peerless percipience, Emery failed to find any falseness in the king's gaze. His words did not feel empty, as other nobles' had in the past. It was, suffice to say, a pleasant surprise.

Hiding her bemusement, she bowed her head, responding to the king's kind words with a soft, genuine smile.

"You are too kind, your grace. Your reputation as a man of benevolence precedes you."

A smile touched the lips of both Isolde and Col as they witnessed the interaction, both relieved to find that the king was as kind as they remembered. There had been a degree of worry in how the court might react to Emery's presence in the foreground, rather than as a barely visible presence, like before. Beatrice had, predictably, wanted to leave Emery at Eastmarsh, but James had insisted otherwise, leading to an action that could have potentially come across as disrespectful. James' familiarity with Rowan's nature had apparently worked in his favour, however, and both the trueborn siblings felt a rush of thankfulness that power had not completely gone to His Grace's head.

Attention may have lingered on the interaction for a fair while, even with the arrival of other nobles, but when the royal 'children' were introduced, for a brief moment, it was like the event had never occurred. All eyes were on the young Castillon's as they descended the stairs in turn. Of course, the crown-prince was the main attraction, and the families gazed upon him with mixtures of desire and disdain as he sunk into a bow.

Over his words, Isolde could hear the whispering memories of her mother's instructions. Charm him. Intrigue him. Delight him. Humour him. Win him. Not an easy task, but one that she had been preparing for since she was a young maid.

Then again, so had every other noble woman. Competition was rife, but, she supposed, that was half the fun.

The next prince to saunter down the stairs was far less noble-seeming, and Isolde resisted rolling her eyes at his antics, even as her brother beside her perked up in curiosity. Col was good at pretending that the noble ladies were just as fascinating to him as the gentlemen, but he was only human, and humans had their weaknesses. His just happened to be boys with swagger and sharp jawlines.

Finally, the princess descended the stairs. When she tripped, everyone's breaths seemed to catch simultaneously. Isolde didn't doubt that there were some in the room that wished she had fallen, but, machiavellian as she was, she had no such desire. She had no ill will towards the princess, and besides, secondhand embarrassment was never not excruciating.

As the queen signalled for the heads of the families to join her, the room shifted slightly. Here it was, the first battle of this political chessgame. Rook to E5.

Or, in her brother, Col's case, Noble Charmer to Clumsy Princess. He walked up to her with his signature conviviality, shooting her a bold smile from his bow.

"We meet again, my Queen of Love and Beauty." The reference was to last year's Violet Tourney, where Col's victory had given him the privilege of 'crowning' his choice of women in the audience. It had been an amusing event, the audience laughing along as Col jokingly offering the crown to one of the princess' brothers (he forgot which) before officially granting her the wreath of flowers. "May I be so bold as to request the honour of escorting you to dinner?"

Isolde watched the interaction unfold with curiosity, feeling the burn of her mother's pride, even when not directed at her. Col had it easier than she did, though. As a man, he was allowed to ask, to be bold. Women did the same thing, and they were looked upon as shameless. The double standard did not escape her, but she had long-since grown used to such ridiculousness.

Then again, perhaps she need not worry, for she saw a familiar face, a famous face approaching her, shamelessness unrequired. As the crown-prince advanced towards her, she was a touch bemused. She had expected more effort to be needed. She was a pretty face, most certainly, but that meant little in a room full of similar loveliness. She gazed up coquettishly, as her mother had taught her, hazel eyes alit with a proud but delicate shyness.

Only for him to pass her.

For a moment, she felt a jolt of stung pride, but that subsided into shock when she heard Prince Declan's next words.

"Emery Rivers, might I escort you to dinner?”

For the second time in less than an hour, attention was on Emery. She didn't like it. For a second time in less than an hour, she was thrown for a loop. She liked that even less.

She looked up in surprise at the man before her, her years of lessons suddenly and frustratingly vacating her mind.

"I- I beg your pardon?"

The lessons came back a moment too late, not that they would have done much good had they come on time. She had never been told how to reply when a royal requests your company- such classes had always been saved for Isolde. Did she reject him out of humility, and recommend her noble, trueborn sister in her place? But then again, was it not ruder to reject such a simple request, even in acknowledgement of her natural-born status?

"You shall be respected as any Lord and Lady should be."

"That is to say," Emery offered a warm smile as she took his hand. "It would be an honour, Your Grace."


Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers

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The Thornes arrived not long after the Chambers had. The siblings watched with just a hint of curiosity as they approached the king. Sigrid couldn’t decide if their daughter was hauntingly beautiful, or just haunting with her paper-pale skin and large eyes. Elira turned to her sister and whispered, “The young Lady Thorne would make a fascinating subject.” Sigrid knew very little about art beyond what she thought looked good when it was finished. On matters of finery and art, Sigrid regularly deferred to her sister’s superior knowledge and judgement. And then there was the matter of the Thorne brothers. Alec seemed to be watching them intently. Laurence seemed less interested.in the sons. They were a handsome family, that much was obvious, but there was something about Bastion that screamed trouble. Kester was gentler in his appearance than his brother, pretty almost.

“Careful brother, I think you might be the least pretty one here,” she teased Laurence. Laurence looked sideways at her and shook his head with a wry smile on his lips.
“Now, now Sigrid. I’m much prettier than you are.”
Elira and Alec were biting their lips to hold back a laugh. Alec had lost some of his decorum and disguised his chuckle as clearing his throat. Sigrid arched an eyebrow, but Laurence’s smile did not falter.

The steward announced the arrival of House Daverny and it felt like the room drew in a collective breath. Even those among them who didn’t pay attention to the courtly intrigues knew there was bad blood between the Davernys and the Castillons. Alec had wondered if they would accept the king’s invitation. To his credit, King Rowan handled the situation amicably, without a hint of animosity. And then it was time to meet their potential prizes; the princes and the princess. Even Alec could admit that Princess Westerly was a beautiful woman. Sigrid rubbed her arm, something Alec had often noticed his sister doing when praise was heaped on Elira. He reached back and squeezed his eldest sister’s hand in what he hoped was a reassuring manner as the king announced a feast the families’ collective honour.

Sigrid looked down at the pale hand in her own. A small smile graced her lips and she squeezed his hand in return. The Castillons had been blessed with handsome children. The princes probably would have had maidens swooning without their titles, and Westerly was the picture-perfect princess between them. She placed a hand on Elira’s shoulder. “Be careful, Ellie.”

Elira went to turn to query her sister when a voice captured her attention. “Hello, my lady. You are absolutely breathtaking.” The pause in his words gave Elira half a moment to asses the man before her. Desmond was handsome, no doubt, and there was a roguishness to his looks. “Would you do me the honour of letting me escort you to dinner?”

Laurence seemed to have forgotten how to breathe as he awaited Ellie’s response to the prince. He cast a glance at Alec. It was not helpful as his baby brother was as unreadable as he near always was. Laurence knew of the younger prince by reputation and a fierce rush of protectiveness overcame him and quelled just as quickly. Elira was an adult, a woman in her own right. She knew her own mind and the expectations that rested on her shoulders. She was, he realised, much better trained for this than he was.

A soft smile graced Elira’s lips as she dipped into a curtsey. “You flatter me, Your Highness. I would be honoured to be your guest to dinner,” she said as she placed her hand in Desmond’s for him to escort her.

With Elira gone, the remaining siblings looked at each other. “Well, I can’t ask anyone, can I?”

Across the hall, Declan was escorting Lady Rivers to the dining hall. “Well, that is interesting.” The elder siblings looked at Alec. “Well, Lady Rivers is a bastard child and Declan is the heir. He’s bypassed Lady Isolde, who by the laws of court, is much more eligible bachelorette than her partial sister. Have heart, dear Sigrid, you may be queen by summer’s end.”

Sigrid punched Alec’s arm. “I don’t want to be queen.”

“Should I ask Lady Isolde then?”

“No. Lady Cavalier has her sights set on the throne. Unless you were serious in courting Lady Isolde, I wouldn’t suggest it.”

“Then who should I ask? They all seem perfectly lovely.”

Alec was silent as he perused the hall for the maiden who would match his brother. Alec already knew who he would ask. Laurence watched Sigrid lean in and whisper something in Alec’s ear. Alec nodded. “Lady Sister and I agree that you should ask Lady Thorne.”

Laurence swallowed the bubbling nerves as he crossed the hall to Lady Amara Thorne. It was one thing approaching a girl he knew was interested, but this was different. He knew very little of this woman. She might choose to humiliate him. This was so public. And then he was in front of her. He bowed to her. “Lady Thorne, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to afford me the honour of escorting you to dinner.”

With Laurence taken care of, Sigrid and Alec watched the crowd for the moment. Gods above, Alec hated this part. Still, as soon as this season was over, he could live out the rest of his life as a confirmed bachelor. If he couldn’t secure a wife among the most elite women of the realm, then where would he find one? “Go and ask her.”

“And leave you alone? I would never.”

Sigrid gently pushed her brother forward. “I’ll be fine, Alec. Now go, ask.”

He considered telling her she was acting like mother, but he remembered the deadly glare he had received the last time he did that. Alec was fairly certain he had lost a few years off his life after that incident. He nodded and began mingling with the crowd of people. Sigrid watched him go, trying not to feel too self-conscious as she stood alone in the hall. Alec made his way to the Mercier children, particularly to Lady Brynlee. She was the quieter daughter, from what he remembered, and therefore less likely to draw attention to herself, or to him. “Lady Brynlee,” he said with a bow. “May I accompany you to dinner?”

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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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lord avery thatcher
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lord elliot thatcher
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lady adriana thatcher
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Avery sighed as he stared at himself in the mirror. He hated parties. He loathed them in fact. He felt as welcome as new born colt in a room full of glass. Any wrong step and you were sure to shatter some alliance or bond that was forged years before your birth. And he couldn't understand why they all had to go to this extravagant display of power. Avery was content not to wed and just stay here to ensure everything went well. It was summer! Their harvest was thriving and needed to be tended. True, they had farmers to take care of it all, but that didn't change the fact that this was the busiest time of year for their family. Besides, what if this was a decoy? Call him cautious, but with all the lords out of the manor, the manor was up for the taking.

"You are doing it again," came a voice from behind him and Avery looked up in the mirror to see Elliot grinning at him from where he was leaning against the bed frame. Avery hadn't even heard him enter. And as always, Elliot looked the part of a born noble with not a hair out of place. Both he and Elliot wore the deep evergreen of their family crest, but Elliot's silver embroidery down his front was an eye catcher compared to the pale green on Avery's. He was sure Elliot would make a statement if he decided to put on the cape their mother made for him. Elliot looked natural in his attire, graceful. Avery just felt awkward and fake.

"Doing what?" Avery sighed to humor his brother.

"Scowling. You're going to scare away all the beautiful ladies waiting for your arm," Elliot chuckled and moved forward to help Avery adjust his hair into a slick and polished look and straightened his coat. "There you are. The women will be swooning. If you could just remember to smile. You aren't walking down to the executioner's block." Elliot teased.

Avery huffed and shook his head but did offer a small smile."I still don't want to go."

"Sadly, you don't have much say in this regard. But look, you are not going to try to win anyone's hand in marriage, right? Then you have nothing to worry about. Just be you, and enjoy the party. Take it as... some much needed time off. You've been overworking yourself."

"You know mother and father will expect I find someone. It can't all just be fun and games, Elliot."

Elliot rolled his eyes and rested an arm on Avery's shoulder. "Boo. You are such a bore." Elliot stuck his tongue out at Avery's reflection in the mirror and started to make funny faces at him. Avery chuckled lightly and reached up to tussle Elliot's pale hair. "Ah! Avery!" Elliot cried and pulled away to try and straighten it out again. Avery couldn't help but laugh then.

"You're worse than Adriana."

"Ugh. I'll never understand why you two belittle the power of first impressions," the younger lord scoffed. Elliot managed to fix his hair then and raised his head up haughtily as he headed for the door. "Father sent me to get you. We are ready to head out if you're done pretending to be a gargoyle."

"Alright, alright. I'm coming." Elliot grabbed his sword and strapped it to his side before he hurried out of the room with Elliot and headed for the carriage that was waiting for them.

Adriana was already waiting outside beside the carriage. Her hair had been coifed elegantly on her head, with a few strands of curls cascading to frame her delicate face. The lines around her eyes brought out the stormy fire in her gaze. Her rich green dress wrapped around her form and flowed outward towards the bottom. It was simple, with silvery embroidery on her arms and chest but it was no less elegant and spoke volumes of the person wearing it. Like Avery, she did not like flashing riches, preferring simpler things than embellishments. She wouldn't even have worn jewels, but upon her mother's request, she sported an emerald necklace and earrings to match the dress.

Adriana focused on her breathing, fingers lightly touching the corset she wore. She had forgotten how tight it needed to be at galas like this. It was going to take a moment to get used to. She truly hated these contraptions. It prevented her from doing anything she enjoyed. She hoped this party was worthwhile in the end. In her book, it was nothing but a waste of time. She knew she would not marry. Who would be interested in her? She had a mind of her own, a biting tongue, and pension for healing. She doubted a husband would be willing to put up with her fancies. She looked up and smiled when she saw her brothers coming out of the manor.

"Finally! I was beginning to wonder ifyou two got lost."

"Ah, Adriana, you look stunning," Avery greeted his sister and gave her a cordial bow and kissed her knuckles.

"Thank you. You both look handsome."

"Ah, my children!" Ophelia called as she exited the manor with her husband at her side. "You all look so beautiful." She made a point to examine each of her children and gave a nod of approval. "You three will turn some heads, I am sure of it. Now, in the carriage!" she ushered. Avery helped his mother and sister into the carriage and watched as his brother mounted his stallion and moved to his place on the other side of the carriage.

William moved to Avery's side and squeezed his shoulder in a reassuring gesture. Avery turned to his father and gave him a nod. "I know your distaste for this, Avery. I understand the pain you cling to but perhaps, it is time for you to let go. Give this invitation a chance before you close yourself off."

"I know, father," Avery sighed. That didn't mean he wanted any part of it. "I will do my best."

"I know you will, son. I am proud of you, regardless of who you end up fancying at the party. I want to see you smiling and happy again."

Avery simply nodded and mounted his own horse as his father entered the carriage and the party began their trek towards the castle.



As the Thatcher's neared their destination, a man rushed out in front of the carriage. "Wait! Stop!" the man called and waved at the party.

"Whoa!" Avery called to still his horse and raised a hand to tell the carriage to slow. Avery frowned at the frantic stranger as he moved forward to be nearer the man. "What's the matter?" Avery asked the stranger.

"The bridge you are heading towards collapsed earlier! We had a storm that destroyed it. You can't pass through this way. You can get around through the forest, there is a trail," the stranger explained.

Avery hesitated a moment and looked towards the forest. He was wary of straying off the original path at the word of a stranger. "Thank you my good man," Avery said and offered the man a coin and watched him run away. He turned the carriage but slowed his stead to knock on the door of the carriage. When his father pulled back the curtain, Avery leaned low. "A man just told us the bridge up ahead has been destroyed and gave us a detour. Something makes me uneasy. I will send Elliot ahead to check it out."

William gave a nod. "Let's head into the wood but stay close enough to the tree line to give the horses a chance to rest in the shade a moment."

Avery led the carriage towards the trees as instructed. Elliot trotted over to Avery. "We are heading into the forest path then?"

"Maybe. I need you to scout ahead, see if the bridge is out. Be careful. Stay out of sight of the main road. We'll be here waiting."

Elliot gave a nod before he hurried off to do as Avery asked. It didn't take Elliot too long to reach the bridge that would allow them to cross the rushing river. Indeed, it was in shambles. Elliot sighed as he hurried back to the waiting carriage and gave the affirmative. This was going to delay their arrival to the castle.

Avery sighed at the news. "Then it looks like the forest it is." Avery led his family through the trees, slowly. They had to move slower considering the roots, stumps, and other vegetation that may snag a wheel or something or jostle everyone too much. Just as the trees began to thin out to show them the way out, the carriage lurched and a crash resounded, scaring a few of the birds nearby into flight.

"What happened?" Avery asked as he returned to the carriage side. "A wheel got stuck mi'lord," the driver said as he too hurried over. Elliot groaned in frustration as the carriage door opened. They hadn't even gotten to the castle yet and things were turning for the worst. This was an omen, he knew it. Avery helped everyone out of the carriage then as he and the driver looked at the damage they could see. "If we can just move the carriage out of the rut here, we should be good to go again."

Avery nodded and he, his brother and father, and the two guards they'd brought along, took on the task of slowly getting the carriage out of its hole without causing further damage. A damaged wheel was the last thing they needed. The men were just beginning to rock the carriage and get it lifted when he heard his mother and sister cry out in alarm. Avery dropped his side of the carriage as he turned, hand on his sword. From deeper in the tree line, a group of men were rushing towards them. Most of them looked like commoners. They sported no armor or blazon to identify them. A couple at the back were far more armed. There were maybe 10 of them that Avery could see. Two were headed for his mother and sister but before he could reach them, Elliot rushed to their side, dual blades blazing as he parried the attackers.

Avery turned his attention to the others coming towards him and blocked their clumsy swings. The regular commoners were easier to get through, considering they had no formal training with a blade and no armor to protect them. Avery on the other hand, still sported light chain mail beneath his attire. He'd never go anywhere completely unarmored. Avery shoved his third attacker back and slice him through only to be surprised by one of the more prepared attackers hiding behind the initial attack. Avery shuffled back and slid to the side just barely in time, earning a slice to the face. The two parried blows, neither giving the other much room for anything else. The enemy however lost his footing and Avery used that to his advantage, his sword singing in the air as he slid it home in the man's gut and twisted. The man sputtered as he slid back, blood spraying from the cut as he fell to the ground.

Avery looked up wildly, panting, to see how everyone else was fairing. Elliot was still beside their mother and sister and he looked unharmed. The guards on the other side had taken care of most of the attackers beside his father. Everything had quieted. The young lord gave a sigh of relief. He'd known something wasn't quite right about the bridge situation. He should have expected an ambush of some sort. He sighed as he looked down at the men who'd attacked them as his father came up beside him.

"Bandits..." the lord mused.

"They were somewhat organized but not enough. Most don't look like bandits."

"Being poor often makes dangerous decisions seem favorable. They saw our carriage, fine clothing. They hoped to get some of our jewels or money no doubt," the man sighed. "You did well." William patted his son's shoulder and glanced at his attire. "Well, speaking of attire, I hope we have a suitable change for you. I highly doubt the king will be impressed by you walking in stained with blood."

Avery looked down at himself with a groan. And this is why he hated finery like this. It always became more of a mess. He looked up when his siblings hurried to his side. Elliot too had blood stains on his wardrobe.

"Avery, are you alright?" Adriana asked and looked him up and down, taking out her headkerchief to pat at the cut on his face.

"I am fine. How are you both?"

"Peachy," Elliot grumbled. "We are late. Or going to be. We should be at the party already."

Adriana swatted his arm and scoffed. How could he only think of the party after just being attacked? "We are fine."

"What?" Elliot pouted. "I am just saying. But anyway, Mother said we might have something to spare clothing wise in the carriage." Elliot motioned for his brother to follow where his mother was indeed looking through a chest full of clothing they'd brought for the days at court. She eventually grabbed a suitable replacement for both of her boys. To Avery's delight, it was a far simpler design than coat he was currently wearing, with just a bit of golden trimming.. Elliot however looked peeved as he pulled on a black and silver shirt instead. So much for the color matching idea.

With the boy's changed, they finished the task of getting the carriage moved and they were on their way towards the castle again. Late. As they approached, they hurried to stop where directed. From the look of the various carriages, it looked like they were the last to arrive. "Quickly Quickly!" he heard his mother call as she stepped out of the carriage with her husband's help. Elliot helped their sister out and hurried to take their places behind their parents with Avery beside Adriana and Elliot. They made their way to the doors then where a herald was waiting to announce their arrival.

Declan had began to direct Lady Emery toward the adjacent hall when he caught glimpse of the late arrivals. He gave the Lady's hand a gentle pat while smiling politely toward her. "Would you excuse me for just a moment, my Lady?" Before he left her side, he gave her a bow. Declan then slid his arm from her grasp as he moved from her toward the entrance to the main hall. He weaved his way through the other Lords and Ladies, nodding his head and smiling in apology while making his way toward the Thatchers.

Once free of the crowd, Declan ran his hand back through his hair and adjusted his outfit. "Welcome to the Black Keep, Lord William and Lady Ophelia." He bowed before them.

Desmond was quite enamored by the stunning red head before him. Enough so that he hadn't noticed the late arrival of another family, nor that his brother had excused himself to welcome them. It wasn't until Declan cleared his throat quite loudly that it caught his attention. He sighed softly and gave Elira's hand a gentle kiss. "Just one moment, my dear."

Desmond quickly joined his brother's side and gave a bow, far less proper than Declan's and a bit rushed. No doubt due to his attention being drawn elsewhere to his redheaded companion that waited for him to escort her. "This is my brother, Prince Desmond Castillon, Captain of the King's Guard."

Lord Col seemed quite eager, nor did he even attempt to act like he was thinking of asking another. He beelined straight for Westerly, which took her by surprise. Her mother warned her about the numerous Lords and how she would draw their attention, but that didn't prepare her, none the less. Before she could reply her brother's gaze met her own from across the hall as he greeted another family. "Please forgive me," she said with a polite curtsy.

Westerly reached her brothers just as Declan presented her to the Thatchers. "My beautiful sister, Princess Westerly Castillon." She smiled warmly, enjoying this introduction far more than the parade her mother made her do, entering down the main stairs. Wes curtsied before them and while her head was down, she caught a glimpse of her lost glove on the floor a few feet away. She quickly looked away and stood back upright with another friendly smile.

Desmond then took the moment to be... Desmond, and gave his brother a playful pat to the chest. "And this handsome devil is Prince Declan, Heir to Blackvale."

Trying to quickly sweep Desmond's less than proper nature under the carpet, Westerly took a small step forward and motioned her hand toward the adjacent room. "We had just adjourned to a banquet my parents had prepared. They would be honored if both Lord William and Lady Ophelia would do them the honor of sharing their table. Lord Avery." She paused for a moment, noticing the blonde Lord amongst his siblings. Handsome, no doubt, but a fresh cut adorned his face. Curiosity made her wish to inquire about it. Instead, she quickly cleared her throat and continued to address them all. "Lord Elliot and Lady Adriana are welcome to join my siblings and I, along with the other young Lords and Ladies to super."

The Thatchers were taken by surprise as the three royal children moved towards them to greet them personally. Each bowed deeply or curtsied in their respect for the royal family. Lord William and Ophelia glanced at each other briefly before inclining their heads. "Thank you for your hospitality, and our apologies for our late arrival," Lord William answered. Then as directed, they departed from their children to take their places among the other noble parents.

Avery, being the perspective soldier he was, noted how the princess glanced at something behind them. He took a quick look back and noted the black gloves on the ground that he and his family had passed. Were they her gloves? When she called her name and then the names of his siblings, he gave her his rapt attention and gave another bow in thanks. "Thank you for your gracious invitation and your welcome here," Avery returned in kind. "Princess Westerly, would you mind holding a moment?" he asked.


Declan and Desmond gave one more polite bow before the pair returned to their escorts, not wanting to be rude any further. Well, at least in Declan's case. His brother was more concerned with getting back to the gorgeous redhead who waited for him before someone else swept her up. Westerly planned to follow suit until Avery addressed her specifically. She parted her lips slightly but no words came out. She glanced back toward her brothers briefly before looking back toward the blonde Lord and waited patiently.

Avery pulled away from his siblings, watching his every move in curiosity. He collected the gloves and dusted them off before he returned to her, a hand offering the gloves to her. "I believe this is yours?" he asked.

Westerly felt her cheeks flush when Avery retrieved the gloves she dropped earlier. She had hoped for that to go unnoticed but it had seemed otherwise. She wasn't used to anyone beside her brother's being tuned her more subtle tells. "I, uh... Thank you, Lord Avery." Her hand hesitantly reached out to take the black silk gloves from him.

"And I see I took you away from your partner for the evening. Might I escort you back to his side?" he asked. He may not be interested in finding a wife, but if anything, Avery was a gentleman and he would not forget his manners.

At the mention of her partner, Westerly glanced back over her shoulder toward the waiting Col, giving him a sheepish smile. Her gaze returned to Avery and before she could help herself, the words fumbled out. "Do you need to be shown to the infirmary to address your wound?" Her hand motioned toward the cut upon his cheek.

Avery was a bit surprised that she would zero in on his wound. It was a small thing after all. He reached up to touch his cheek but when he pulled away, there was no blood. "Oh, you are too kind my princess. I am well. Your concern on my behalf is appreciated. It is just a scratch." He glanced up at the man he needed to return the princess to. Did she perhaps not wish to return to him? He would hate to cause more disruption considering their arrival and he really didn't know the situation. Maybe he was just seeing things considering their earlier ordeal. "I am sure you already have plenty of suitors asking for your attention, but perhaps when you are freer, and you feel so inclined, we might have a chance to speak?" he asked as he began to escort her back to Col.

Westerly took Avery's arm and let him escort her back toward Col. His inquiry made her brows quirk as she glanced over at him slightly. What could he want to speak to her about? But then her mother's voice rang in her ears, like it so often did echoing the countless lectures of the Lords all vying for her attention. Although Lord Avery seemed to understand this. He didn't press for her attention but asked when she had a moment free. Wes nodded her head slightly and gave him a gentle smile. "Of course."

"Thank you, my lady," he said and gave her a nod of his head and turned to Col and gave a nod of greeting to him as well as he let go of Westerly so she may take Col's arm again. "Good evening," he said in greeting and farewell as he pulled away.

Westerly let her one hand slip from Avery's arm while her other took up Col's. She hadn't gotten a chance to tell the gentleman whether or not she accepted his offer, but it would have been rude not to. As the blonde Lord went to leave, she called after him. "Lord Avery, you are welcome to join us at our table if you wish." Wes smiled friendly toward him before looking back up to Col with just as friendly of a smile.

Avery turned back to Westerly when she called to him and he gave her a smile and a nod in acknowledge and watched her turn away. And now to find a lady to escort himself. He glanced around the room trying to see where everyone was and piece together old descriptions with names and faces. Ah, there was a beautiful girl unescorted. Her dress was interesting to say the least. He walked forward to Lady Adelina and gave her a bow. "Hello Lady Adelina. Might I have the pleasure of escorting you this evening?"

Elliot for his part, had been shocked that Declan had moved to greet them personally and invite his siblings for a private meeting as well. And Declan was absolutely dashing. Not that that meant anything. He highly doubted someone like Declan would want anything to do with someone like him. He had nothing to offer a crown. Well maybe be part of a spy network but he didn't know if he wanted to go that route just yet. Still, he was enraptured. He cleared his throat a little as the two princes walked away. Desmond was pretty handsome too, in a more gruff way. He only noticed Avery was up to something when Adriana elbowed him. Elliot quirked an eyebrow as his brother walked off with the princess.




Elliot and Adriana turned towards each other then and chuckled. "Did you think Avery was going to go after the princess?" Elliot asked Adriana then.

"Nope. I did not see that coming. I wonder if her beauty has charmed him."

"Well we've seen plenty of beautiful women and none has turned his head before."

"Let's make a bet. I think he was just playing nice and you think he wants to go after the princess?"

"Yep."

"Then if you win this little wager, you can have my face creams. I know how you've been eyeing a couple."

"Fine fine, and if you win, what do you want?"

"I want that black cloak you have, the one with the grey highlight."

"Hard bargain," he mused. That was his favorite cloak when he went on his little missions. "Deal."

"Good then. Now, who are you going to escort?"

"Ugh. I don't know. Some of the lords here are really quite handsome. I want to get to know some of them but, I think I'd give mother a heart attack if I didn't pick a female." He looked around the room then and his gaze settled on Lady Daverny. She looked positively interesting. And considering she came from the Misty Isles, probably had a lot of juicy gossip or just new information. He was sure her tales of adventure would be inspiring. "Ah, I think I have the flower in mind." he mused. "And don't you worry your pretty little head, I am sure one of these handsome bachelors will come for your hand," Elliot winked at his sister. He blew her a little kiss before he made his way through the crowd to stand before Lady Isabel. He gave her a flourishing bow then. "Hello Lady Isabel. You look positively radiant!" he flattered. "I would love to get to know you. May I escort you to dinner?"

Adriana smiled as her younger brother reached Lady Isabel. She knew that regardless who he was going to escort, he would have some sort of fun. She wondered if her brother would manage to get one of the strapping lords to share his bed. Somehow he always found someone willing. He wondered if that made her brother happy or if there was something more he craved. Ah well, she could not control that, nor would she want to. Adriana moved away from the door to take up a spot closer to the gathering and clasped her hands in front of her. It was not her place to ask a man to escort her though she'd rather do that than have to wait here and hope someone picked her. It made her anxious. She didn't like the thought that perhaps she wouldn't be picked, regardless of her general 'stay away' attitude. She wanted things to go well, especially after their bout in the woods. She had been useless there. Her father refused to let her bring her bow and she'd been defenseless and vulnerable. Just like now. She hated that feeling.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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lady brynlee mercier
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lady adelina mercier
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lord callum mercier
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Callum was standing at full attention, his shoulders back and his eyes gazing at a spot on the thrones past the King and Queen so as not to meet their stare out of respect. He only stiffened slightly when the King began to make his way towards he and his siblings. They had grown up being tossed into the air by this man, but the older Callum got, the more professional he acted when they were around each other. King Rowan stopped in front of him, and only then did Cal allow himself to look his King in the eyes.

They gripped hands and the King said, ”Such a fine grown man you’ve become. Your father has told me great things about you.” Only the small smile tugging the corners of Cal's lips upwards gave away his delight at the kind words. He gave a respectful nod back before releasing Rowan's hand and allowing him to move on to his sisters.

Ramsey greeted Adelina, Brynlee, and Charlotte with bows and kisses before turning to Ramsey and embracing him warmly, "Welcome my friend, our home is your home."

As the King moved on to greet the next family who had followed suit to introduce themselves immediately after the Mercier's, the three children took respectful steps backwards to allow the new family to be centered in the throne room. Addy elbowed Cal as they all came to a hault and rolled her eyes, "Lighten up, Cally. You act as he's not practically your second father."

Callum ran a hand down the front of his uniform in an effort to straighten it out where it had shifted. "Maybe you, baby sister, should learn when the time to be serious is, and when is the time for childish antics." He raised an eyebrow in her direction before clasping his hands behind his back and returning his attention back to the other families who had started filing in.

Adelina scoffed, shaking her head slightly before catching her father's eye. He didn't look angry, just concerned. She supposed they were both right. The idiots. In her peripheral, she noticed Brynlee slowly raising her book and flipping it open to the last page she'd been on. "You'd better be careful." She crooned to her sister, eyes darting to where their mother stood transfixed on all of the welcomes and introductions.

Brynlee just kept reading, muttering "Mind your own business."

It wasn't until the Chambers family was being addressed that Brynlee and Adelina really turned their attention to what was going on in the throne room. As the King moved to greet the final Chambers child, Emery, it seemed as though everyone else in the room stilled. When he embraced her as he had every other royal child and said, "You, my dear, are most welcome. You shall be respected as any Lord and Lady should be. And if anyone says differently, you may come to me directly.” Brynlee let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. Bookmarking her page, she hugged the book to her chest as a small smile danced across her lips. The girl looked so relieved and it made Bryn's heart so happy. So happy that she didn't notice her mother edging closer to her.

"The book, my dear." Charlotte held her hand out but offered a loving smile to her daughter, "You can have it when you're back in your chambers after all the festivities of the night."

A swell of panic threatened to make Brynlee explode as her eyes danced between her book and her mother's open hand. It was her safety blanket. Where she went when she felt small or out of place. A comfort. And here in this room with so many royals - so much, competition...

Callum's hand was on her back in a touch that said, I'm here. It's okay. When she looked to her brother, his eyes were still on the other families and for that she was grateful. She was too proud to let them know she felt as though she needed her book with her to keep her sanity. They had never been as close as he and Addy were, but he was still her eldest brother and protector.

Turning her eyes back to her mother, she slowly placed the book in her hand and straightened her posture, turning back to the introductions. Charlotte pressed a swift kiss to her eldest daughter's temple before turning and handing the book to the nearest servant. "Please leave this in Lady Brynlee's chambers by her bed. Thank you." The servant rushed out of the room as quietly as she could, as to not draw attention to herself while the King was speaking.

The King had just finished acknowledging the Daverny House, at whom Cal had cringed when they had spoke to his King, when Lord Ramsey was suddenly standing right behind his three children and whispering in a voice just loud enough for them to hear, "Remember what your mother and I have taught you and make us proud, but guard your hearts. Not everyone is hear for the best reasons." He then placed a hand on Adelina's shoulder, "And my dear, please respect yourself."

Addy whipped around and stared at her father, astonished and also amused by the small smile playing on his mouth while Brynlee, and even Callum, tried to keep their cackling silent.

”My Lords, my Ladies. The King and I are thankful for the journey you all took to come stay with us for this fine season. Without further adieu, I present my son, Prince Declan, heir to the throne.”

The queen's voice brought the family back to the present and all of their eyes lifted to the top of the staircase. As he made his way down the staircase, he looked poised and confident to most, Brynlee was sure. She could tell that he was trembling, though. Interesting for the heir to the throne to be so nervouse about meeting maybe twenty people. Most of whom he'd met before. She always remembered him being a little more on the quiet side as they were growing up. Especially in comparison to his brother, Desmond. He sure had grown up well...

"Well if he isn't the definition of tall, dark, and handsome..." Adelina taunted her elder sister softly, wagging her eyebrows. Brynlee had always had a bit of a quiet crush on him, ever since they were close when they were children, but she'd always been content to crush from afar and be his friend up close. Giving her sister a smack on the arm over Cal, she kept her eyes focused on the Prince as he spoke, hoping to catch his eye. It had been a while since they'd seen each other.

Declan gave his greeting with a small sweeping glance over all the families and stood by his mother and father while his brother descended the staircase. He was the definition of arrogance, and Addy could have sworn she even saw stone faced Callum roll his eyes a bit at the swagger of the other Prince. She didn't mind through, he was gorgeous for sure. "Don't mind if I do.." She murmered, not minding that no one in her family was paying attention to her unnecesary, under-her-breath comments.

When Westerly descended the staircase, almost tripping, Callum's clasped hands gripped a little tighter but he showed nothing in his face. Were he braver and maybe someone else all together, he woud have thought about running forward to make sure she didn't fall, regardless of the fact that her brother was there to catch her. After she had smoother herself over and joined the rest of her family, the King stepped forward to speak once more.

”Once again, I want to thank each and everyone of you for giving us the pleasure to host you for the season. Our servants are currently taking all of your belongings to your rooms, showing your guards and servants to their quarters and taking your horse to their stables. In celebration of this wonderful season we are hosting a feast in your honor.” The King smiled, and motioned toward the large sets of French doors to his left. ”What other way than to better acquaint ourselves over a wonderful meal.”

Addy was leaning over to Callum to tell him to go and ask to escort Westerly to the dining hall, knowing that he may feel more comfortable with someone he already knows, when Col Cavalier stepped up to the Princess. Giving her brother an apologetic smile, she flitted her eyes around the crowd to see who the Princes would ask and was most disappointed to see they'd each asked someone who was not her. She thought about turning to Brynlee and teasing her that Declan hadn't asked her, but when she looked at her sister, she saw that Lord Alec Thorne was already there.

Brynlee had been doing the same as Adelina, watching the men ask the different ladies to escort them to the table and praying that someone would ask her so she didn't have to walk into the hall alone, when a handsome man walked up to her. He was young and dressed in all black and she was fairly certain they'd met before. She rememebered his name to be Alec. As he bowed and asked to accompany her to dinner, she let a small smile turn one corner of her mouth upwards as she knelt into a small curtsey and tipped her head down. "I'd be delighted, Lord Alec." Brynlee took his arm, and as they walked off, she gave her brother and sister a small glance over her shoulder hoping they would join her soon.

"Alright big brother, who are you going to escort to dinner?" Addy asked, trying to make mental bets on who the lucky girl would be.

Cal's frame stayed straight, but he was wringing his fingers behind his back in attempt to get rid of all the nervous energy. "Can I not just escort you?" He asked, trying to play off his discomfort. "If I don't, you may end up walking in alone." He accepted the blow she paid to his shoulder without flinching.

"Now, Cally, we all know that's not going to happen. Even if it did, I'd much rather walk in alone than on my own brother's arm! I think you should ask Adriana. She's pretty and you may look tough to everyone else, but I know you're probably intimidated a bit by the other ladies." The young Lady teased, but placed a reassuring hand over her brother's clenched fists in an effort to calm his anxious tick. "Go." She said more reassuringly.

Clearing his throat and forcing him to take one step after the other, he walked up to Lady Adriana, who had walked in moments earlier and bowed deeply before speaking, "Lady Adriana, may I escort you to dinner?"

"Good job, my love." Charlotte whispered next to her youngest. It was quite the feat to get Callum to do anything in regards to making a show of asking a girl to go somewhere with him. Adelina was opening her mouth to reply to her mother when a young man walked up to her. He was certainly handsome and a coy smile played across her lips immediately as she dismissed the fact that he had just been smitten with Princess Westerly a few moments earlier.

"Hello Lady Adelina. Might I have the pleasure of escorting you this evening?" He bowed and rose again.

She took a moments pause to act as though she was deliberating turning him down, and then did the tiniest of curtsies and nodded, reaching to take his arm. "I'd be delighted, my lord."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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#, as written by Seravi
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Lord Audric DavernyxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxLady Isabel Daverny
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After exchanging pleasantries with the King and Queen, Audric ushered Isabel to a safer standing place out of the way. Audric had expected that it would be their mother who did all the talking during their stay, and he was frankly glad for it. As he was unsure that his father could be anything but unpleasant to anyone that did not carry daverny blood in their veins. He was too set in his ways.

“This is going to be interesting.” Isabel says to him, cutting a glance toward their father. The older man gave no indication that he noticed anyone at all. His attention fully on the King and Queen, though his eyes did not hold any such obvious hatred - he was blank as ever, keeping his emotions closed off - Audric knew him well enough to know that nothing kind was going through his head. He sighed, and turned his attention away from his family.

The King and Queen were getting ready to present their own children. Both Daverny children watched with interest. Audric more so than Isabel. They both had a general knowledge of the crown, if not from lessons than from their fathers enraged ranting at times. Mother had tried her best to keep the two of them up to date on the kingdom though, told them that it was their duty to know just who the other nobles were and what responsibilities they had. Audric as always retained the most information.

Isabel, well...she did what she could to even pay attention most days.


”My Lords, my Ladies. The King and I are thankful for the journey you all took to come stay with us for this fine season. Without further adieu, I present my son, Prince Declan, heir to the throne.” Prone to easily becoming bored however it came to no surprise that Isabel began to drift her attentions elsewhere. Eyes scanning the crowd of gathered nobles with bright eyed curiosity. She could name very few of them, but had a general knowledge of the families and who they were. For a long moment her gaze froze on the Thornes, they were just about the only family that she had been warned away from specifically. She could see why, they were all sharp edges and steel gazes - but then again so were most of the Lords and Ladies here. She bet that they had an awful lot of tales to tell, living in a place like the Dark Woods.

Audric cleared his throat, and she peeled her gaze away from the Thornes. Sweeping over the sea of brunettes and blondes. They had begun to blend into formless, shiny, shapes. All of the ladies were lovely, beautiful goddesses, decorated as they were in silken dresses and fine jewels. Isabel suddenly realized why her brother had been so prickly with her earlier. She was woefully under-dressed in comparison. And the men too, sharp as needles. Proper gentlemen the lot of them, even Audric though she was loathe to admit it. He always was much more attuned to acting like a Noble. The silent gentleman of their family.

These people were both prospect and competition….and she had no clue as to how she could even compete. She looked back to the King and Queen for just a moment. Just long enough to catch the tail end of them introducing Desmond.

”Ditto.”

“Do you think they're all so well spoken?” Isabel jokes in a hushed whisper, ”Ah, well, suppose he knows how to use his sword at least.” careful not to let anyone but Ric hear her.

Audrics lips thin into a tight frown, the picture of stern authority. ”Hush, Bel.” He whispered back sharply. She rolls her eyes, elbowing him lightly in the ribs as if to jab the attitude out of him. This was going to be the longest courting season in history if he didn't loosen his belts a little.


”And finally,” Spoke the Queen. ”My daughter, Princess Westerly.”

Audric had expected that the Princess would be beautiful. Her parents and siblings were a testament to good genes - but he didn’t quite expect her to be so breathtaking. He may have let his gaze linger on her for a fair bit too long. Which did not escape Isabel’s notice, though she was far too busy in that moment wincing as the Princess nearly lost her footing. Audric knew though that once Isabel had the chance to she would tease him about how he couldn’t take his eyes off of Westerly.

”Once again, I want to thank each and everyone of you for giving us the pleasure to host you for the season. Our servants are currently taking all of your belongings to your rooms, showing your guards and servants to their quarters and taking your horse to their stables. In celebration of this wonderful season we are hosting a feast in your honor.” Thank the Heavens. Isabel thought to herself, she had worked up quite the appetite on the long journey. And she was eager to get to speak with some of the others. Sure, she still had her reservations about this whole thing but being here now, seeing so many faces that were new to her was thrilling. She wondered what sorts of stories she would hear. She was sure that some of them - perhaps not all - but some of them would have some exciting tales.

As soon as the speech was over Isabel began to scan the crowd once more. Excitement blazing anew through her. Audric places a hand on her elbow to gently reign her back in. If given half the chance she would disappear into the crowd, and he wouldn't see her again.

”Wait for a Lord to approach you,” He instructed lightly, no longer tense in demeanor. He did not want to leave her side, but knew that he himself needed to get out there. He could not spend all of his time watching over her, as much as he wanted to. Isabel would figure herself out as she always did. Besides, he needed to go out there and prove that the Davernys were proper nobility after all.

”And f I don't want to be escorted?" She asks, not altogether jokingly.

"You'll survive somehow, try not to cause trouble." He lets go of her elbow, watches her flounder for a moment. Mouth opening and closing as if she's going to try and argue further. But he can see that she's nervous by the way she cannot stand still. Fluttering slightly, hands refusing to stay at her side as she speaks.

"Where are you..." He does not hear the end of her sentence as he turns away, trying to keep the mirth from showing in his eyes as he heads out into the crowd. The Lords and Ladies have already begun to quickly pair off. Audric knows himself, knows that his silent, stoic demeanor can be a bit intimidating - or awkward depending on the person. He doesn't wish to come off as aloof, or alike his father that very rarely could smile without looking like something pained him greatly.

He plastered on a generic, small smile.

Early on he had noticed Lady Sigrid, The Mountain Wolf, he believed she was called. That interested him the most, the strength that not only she, but the title she was given carried. He knew very little about the Western Bluffs in comparison to the other Regions in the Kingdom. But he had noticed that one of the Chambers had no issue approaching the young lady of the Thorne family, and thus hopes that they could see past some of the more intense prejudices surrounding his own family.

"Lady Sigrid," He bowed to her, confident in his choice. "I would greatly enjoy escorting you to dinner this evening, should you have me that is."

-


Isabel stood nervously on her own, conscious of herself in a way she hadn't been earlier. Her enthusiasm had not dimmed in the slightest of course, but that did not mean she took joy in waiting for a Lord to approach her. Would anyone even want to escort her? She knew what others thought of them, it came with the territory of being a Pirate. She knew that, and it had been one of the driving factors that kept her from wanting to come in the first place. But Audric had convinced her... until now.

"That blaggard." She mumbles to herself. Hands held behind her back, standing up tall and proud. Attempting to look less like a nervous, blundering child and more like the proper lady she's meant to be. Though her teeth clicking and grinding behind her lips doesn't exactly paint the picture of confidence...

Just before her discomfort could begin to manifest in other nervous tics she noticed the approach of Lord Elliot. She stopped grinding her teeth, and tried her best to smile brightly as he came near.

"Hello Lady Isabel. You look positively radiant!" She could feel her face flushing red hot. Not used to such compliments at all. "I would love to get to know you. May I escort you to dinner?"

Me? Oh uh, I mean yes of course! That would be lovely.” Common sense flying out the window as she blunders into a curtsy. "Shall we?" She asks brightly, hand held outward for him. It was a good thing that neither Audric nor her parents were there, she could just see her mothers pitying smile in her mind.

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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lord bastion thorne
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lord kester thorne
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lady amara thorne
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The next few arrivals and subsequent announcements drag on and on, though none of the Thornes drift their attention away. At least, not until dinner is announced, causing the abrupt break off of Lords from their families to seek out Ladies to escort. The three Thornes still do not move, however. Amara's eyes track Declan as he walks towards the Cavaliers, trying her best not to seem too disappointed that she wouldn't be chosen. Mother had practically groomed her for this, made her into a pretty doll, and it felt almost like a hit to her already diminishing confidence.

Furthermore, she sucked in a deep breath as he chose to ask Emery. He would rather a lady born of illicit blood? Nothing about it made sense to her. It wouldn't have been obvious just by glancing at her. The rigid stillness of her posture did not betray anything. Her face, usually expressionless had only changed minutely. Lips tilted downwards, brows pinched closer together unconsciously in a show of silent distress. She wrung her hands together, unconcerned with anyone seeing as they were hiding behind her back. Such obvious displays of weakness were to be hidden away.


“Mother cannot get angry at you for the prince choosing someone else to escort,” Kester comments, leaning in close so as to keep his voice down. They’re side to side for a moment, both facing the crowd with varying degrees of uncertainty. Amara, because she knew her mother would be watching - waiting in the wings for her to mess up. Kester because he had very little interest in the larger scheme, he wanted simply to level the playing field a bit. Get out there, discover new things, new people. He wanted very much to have comforting words for his sister, something that would break her from this trance their mother held over her. He was afraid that there were no words out there to convince her.

“You don’t know her very well then,” Amara whispers, the first crack in her composure. “She’ll find some way to twist it on me.” She always did.

“You’re far too old to fear mother Mara, believe me, she lost interest quick enough once Kess and I stopped feeding into that fantasy world in her head.” Bastion steps up to her other side, looking perfectly at ease as always. Blatantly arrogant in his confidence. He looked upon the other nobles and saw each one of them as another piece to the game he’s playing. Ready to be shuffled around at his whim.

“You still fear her, it’s just that neither of you shows it.” Amara accuses without any heat to back her words up. She glances at each brother - one clearly concerned and the other just going through the motions - shuffling her feet listlessly beneath her skirts. The tiny movement was not missed, of course, they were attuned to each other far more than any of them wanted to admit.

Bastion smiled, for once lacking its usual condescension and laid a hand upon her pale wrist; squeezing gently, a rare sign of care on his part. “I fear nothing Mara.” Her lips twitched, almost a scowl. His laughter rang in her ears as he stepped away, motioning with his free hand the approach of another Lord. A Chambers, Alec or Lawrence, he never did bother to learn the difference between them. They’re an interesting bunch, to say the least, but nothing to be worried about in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps he’ll be able to bring Amara out of her stiff shell.

The two brothers retreated a ways away, giving Amara plenty of privacy to figure out what she would do.

“Lady Thorne, I was wondering if you would be so kind as to afford me the honour of escorting you to dinner.”

The honour? Amara tested the words in her head, almost amused if she weren’t thinking about how very much this man was not a Castillon. Though she supposed her brothers were correct in that she could not go the rest of her night worrying about mother. “I’d be delighted.” She answers politely, if not somewhat distantly. Her hand arose and offered itself, almost as an afterthought on her part. The coldness had nothing to do with the Lord before her, but rather an ingrained mannerism. Be seen, not heard. She did not smile, knowing that it would be more awkward looking to force it.


“One taste of freedom and the little witch is already running wild.” Bastion shakes his head, amused as he discretely watches her awkwardly interact with another living, breathing person.

“Wild.” Kester snorts. “It’s good for her, she should get to enjoy herself.”

“Oh, I’m sure she will, up until Mother sets that icy stare upon her.” Bastion replied. “Even I’m already shaking in my boots.” His hands come up, hugging himself as he mocks the situation. Kester simply chooses to turn away from his older brother - clearly done with him - and finding nothing about his flamboyant displays to be funny. Bastion rolls his eyes, “Again, you’re absolutely no fun Kess.”

“We aren’t here to have fun,” Kester stresses, “I would have thought you’d take this seriously.”

“Oh I’m as serious as can be,” Bastion says, but the laugh just behind his statement disregards them entirely. “But come on, it’s like watching wild animals pounce upon their prey,”He motions to the sea of Nobles, the lords and ladies with their sharp eyes and sharper claws. Some of them genuinely there for the event, others because they know what kind of power play is in order here. He'll have to keep an eye on the latter half, but for the most part, its fun just to watch. He's already done the math, sans the Graysons there isn't an even ratio of Lords to Ladies, if he plays his cards right he can simply do his own thing without anyone being able to dispute him.

“You would know.” Kester bites back. They wouldn’t both be standing there otherwise, and while Kester could care less about the crown he’s still incapable of not playing Bastions game. Their war ever raging.

“You say that like its a bad thing.” Bastion grins.

“It is.” The fact that he can't see that is quite frankly alarming.

“Oh well.” The older Thorne holds his hands up, shrugging. Not a single care in the world.

Bastion as always seems to simply be trying to rile the younger man up. Frustration rages through Kester, and he wonders just how much trouble he would be in for initiating a real fight here. “Whatever,” He exhales under his breath. He doesn’t have time for this anyways, doesn’t have time to entertain his brother - who seems to have very little care towards the thinning crowd. Kester himself has been patiently gauging the crowd, examining his options with far less Manic energy than either of his siblings so far have managed.

He finally let his gaze settle on a dark-haired beauty in a deep, deep regal blue dress.

“Tread lightly brother, those Cavaliers are hungry for the crown too,” Bastion says, noticing his brothers interest just as Kester begins to walk away. The younger ignoring him entirely, annoyed to the depths of his bones.

Isolde Cavalier, like most of her family glowed with an ethereal sort of beauty. Of the lot of them, she was particularly breathtaking to Kester, and he found himself dialing up the charm tenfold. A swagger in his step as he approached, he wasn't nervous in the slightest. Bastions words aside, he understood that many of the young women here were vying for the crowd; but that didn’t mean he couldn’t try. He bowed low, one arm planted across his chest and the other his back. Formality aside, he didn’t mind the required poise, he quite enjoys etiquette. Likes to show off that he isn't some barbarian from the depths of the Dark Woods.

“Lady Isolde, you’re looking beautiful as ever tonight, might I have the honor of escorting you to dinner?”


Patience is a virtue, one that Bastion Thorne excels in beyond all else. Like his namesake, the Death Adder, awaiting the moment he can strike out. Sink his fangs into whatever poor creature happens across him. He waits now, watches with a keen eye for his moment. It comes as they trickle towards the tables, his eyes tracking Princess Westerly and the lord that dared to see himself fit to escort her. He felt his body thrum with energy, the kind of adrenaline when one gets in the midst of battle - only this coming more from the idea of causing trouble. What better way to catch someone's eye after all?

“Princess Westerly!" He sweeps into place, "Allow me to get that for you,” He doesn't spare Col Cavalier a single look as he pulls out her chair - he isn't worth Bastions time, and truthfully, if the other Lord were to cause a commotion over Bastions actions...well, it wouldn't only reflect poorly on the Thornes. Once seated, he chooses the seat to her side, holding back his own smarmy grin behind the shield of a placating smile.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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#, as written by mjolnir
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prince declan castillon
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prince desmond castillon
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princess westerly castillon
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Westerly stood patiently at the base of the stairs that lead up to the thrones. She couldn’t help but wonder which of the Lords before her would be bold enough to ask to be her escort. All the men in the room before her were handsome in their own ways. It was a daunting sight that made her stomach knot up and her hands tremble against her skirts. A soft smile grew upon her lips when she noticed her brother ask the Rivers girl to be his escort. Their father would be proud, but mother would be fuming. Declan nor Desmond seemed to fear their mother quite like Westerly did, but then again, none of them were their mother’s own personal pet. 

It wasn’t long that she stood there alone. Col Cavalier, bold as ever, strode right on over to her. He didn’t even give a second glance toward another woman. His path was sure and direct, leading him straight to Westerly. He was handsome. His dark hair matched his equally dark robes. A strong attractive jawline and a smile… Not too different than her own brother’s. Desmond always made a similar face when he set his sights on something he desired. 

“We meet again, my Queen of Love and Beauty.” Westerly smiled only to hide her desire to chuckle at the forward comment. Queen. If her mother had heard that… It would have been a very interesting start to an eventful summer. She remembered the tournament from the summer past. Westerly wouldn’t have gone if her mother got her way, but her father insisted that their family should be presented strong and in unity. Col won and nearly gave the crown to her brother, which he often held over her head to this day. But then the wreath of flowers found its way into her own delicate grasp. A kind gesture, one that started her father buzzing about a potential marriage in her ear ever since.

“May I be so bold as to request the honour of escorting you to dinner?”

Westerly hadn’t had a chance to answer before the Thatcher family arrived. She politely excused herself and followed Declan’s lead to greet the family. She tried to make her introduction brief but was sidetracked when Lord Avery returned her gloves. With the silk fabric in her grasp, she rejoined Col with a gentle smile. ”I apologize for that. Yes, of course you may escort me.” Wes took his arm with her hand that held her gloves, while her other hand could grasp at her skirts so she didn’t further embarrass herself by tripping on those as well.

”I-I beg your pardon?” Emery looked toward him with a face of utter shock.

Declan gave a soft, but friendly chuckle. He understood why it seemed like such a surprise to her. After all, the heir to the Kingdom chose a known bastard over the other more appropriate ladies gathered before him. He gave her a warm smile as a silent gesture to show he wasn’t offended and she could refuse him if she wanted. If someone like Emery did not want the attention of being escorted by the Prince, he’d respect that and ask another. 

”That is to say,” the dark haired beauty smiled and took his offered hand. ”It would be an honour, Your Grace.”

Declan gave Emery a slight bow and began to lead her to the adjacent hall when the Thatchers arrived. He nearly let out a sigh but composed himself and turned to the woman on his arm. “Would you excuse me for just a moment, my Lady?” He made polite yet quick work of presenting himself and his siblings to the recent arrivals. 

When he returned he took Lady Emery’s hand, bowing and placing a kiss upon it. ”I beg for your forgiveness, my Lady.” He then gently guided her hand so that it rested in the bend of his right arm. It seemed as though, with him being the Prince that the others were waiting on him to lead them into the next room. 

There were large marble columns that lined the Western wall of the throne room. Between them hung large curtains and French doors left wide open. Through the doors a few steps down lead into a grand ballroom. Opposite of where they entered more doors opened out into the vast gardens. Large chandeliers suspended from the ceiling illuminated the hall in a soft, quaint glow. In the far right corner a small orchestra of a couple stringed instruments and a piano played calming tunes. The center of the room was left open, presumably for dancing or socializing as the night carried on. And lastly, the room had three large tables. One to the left his parents already sat at with the other Lords and Ladies, which left the two to the right for the younger Lords and Ladies.

Declan helped Emery down the stairs, being sure she had his arm for support. He had seen half of the contraptions that go into the attire a woman wears from his sister. And it surprised him how they managed to walk at all. He made his way to the table closest to the gardens so that they had a nice view as they dined. Dec then gently released her arm, pulling out a chair for her. ”My Lady?” He smiled, nodding toward the chair. Once she was seated he gently pushed her chair in then took the seat beside her at the head of the table.

Desmond could feel the tension that permeated off of Laurence after he asked his fair sister to accompany him. He spared a glance toward Elira’s brother who didn’t seem all to pleased about at the situation and gave a brief smile. His attention was then drawn back to the stunning redhead when she spoke up. “You flatter me, Your Highness. I would be honoured to be your guest to dinner,” she replied as she took his offered arm.

He was halfway to the adjacent hall when the tardy family arrive. Desmond politely excused himself and returned in no time to her side, allowing Elira to take up his arm once more. ”So, how is it that you are not brunette like your siblings, but lucky enough to be kissed by fire?” he asked as he helped her down the stairs into the grand hall. Desmond decided to sit at the other table rather joining his brother. After all, the summer was about meeting new people and... whatever else he could manage. Staying neat his siblings all the time wouldn’t give him such a luxury.

Desmond stopped behind the chair at the head of the table, and instead of sitting at it himself, like most might assume considering he is a Prince, he pulled the chair out for Lady Elira. ”Someone as stunning as you should sit at the head of the table so everyone else can admire your beauty.” Once she was seated, he lowered himself into the chair beside her with a charming smile. ”Have you ever been to the Black Keep before, My Lady?”

Westlery’s grasp on Col’s arm tightened slightly when they reached the stairs that descended into the grand hall. She didn’t need to make a fool out of herself twice in one night. Thankfully he was strong and tall in stature, so if she were to have a misstep, she hoped he would help steady her. She let him guide her toward the table Declan sat at, remaining toward the opposite end. The summer breeze was warm and gentle as it billowed the curtains and rolled in through the open doorways.

Then like a ghost, another Lord appeared to her right. ”Princess Westerly. Allow me to get that for you.” Wes quickly turned her head, tossing her raven curls, met by Bastion Thorne pulling out a chair for her. The situation took her by surprise, causing her to gasp slightly as she looked back at Col briefly. What was she supposed to do in a situation like that? Westerly could feel the gazes of those around her drilling straight through her.

She cleared her throat as she placed her gloves upon the table before her. Westerly looked toward Col once more, before facing Bastion and giving him a polite smile. “Oh, thank you, Lord Bastion.” Her gaze drifted over to her brother Declan as her hands swept her skirts beneath her frame as she lowered herself upon the chair. She was barely settled in her seat when Bastion made himself at home in the chair beside her at the head of the table. Westerly tried to give Col a kind smile as she motioned to the other seat beside her for him. Her mother might have prepared her for all sorts of situations and how to handle them, but this was not one of them.

Westerly couldn’t bring herself to focus on either one of the men beside her as the tensions was so palpable it could be cut with a sword. Her gaze instead drifted toward the other Lords that escorted the Ladies to their seats. Callum caught her attention up in the balcony before she was even presented to them. A familiar face was always a welcome sight, although they hadn’t seen each other in several years. Now he was a man, tall, stoic and handsome. She couldn’t help but wonder if he even remembered her. He didn’t act like he did, looking at her like a perfect statue.

Avery Thatcher’s blonde hair was like a light in the sea of dark haired beauties that scurried to their seats. Westerly was surprised at how perceptive he was at being able to place her gloves when no one else had. And what surprised her still was his forwardness is requesting time to get to know her… So soon. It was admirable but also brought into question his motives. Something inside her said that he wasn’t the type to masquerade under false pretenses, but her mother also warned her of the venom nobles concealed behind false smiles.

Then her gaze stopped on deep eyes hidden in the sea of dark beauties. Westerly noticed Audric’s gaze when she was presented to the Lords. He was handsome in a way that many of the other Lords weren’t. Where they were all perfect representations of a Lord, he was rugged and foreign like the rest of his family. Wes found herself curious about him, similar to her own curiosities about the Thornes. Although half of her questions about the later would be answered one way or another with the presence of Bastion beside her.

Declan’s hand clenched when he saw Bastion make quite the show of slipping in to seat his sister before her escort. He watched intently as she tried to remain calm and take the seat. When her gaze met his for a brief second, Dec tried to give her a reassuring smile but it was tight and forced, his eyes showing the protectiveness he tried to hide. He tensed in his seat when the Lord was even more bold as to take the seat opposite of him at the head of the table and at his sister’s side.

He inhaled sharply, allowing himself to slowly relax as he looked over toward Emery Rivers, giving her a slight smile. ”Apologies,” he said, speaking in a hushed tone so only she could hear. He leaned forward grabbing a decanter of wine, then glanced over at his company. ”Would you like a drink, My Lady?”

Once everyone was in their seats, pouring their drinks and conversation slowly took a hold, the servants came out from the kitchen. In their hands they brought the first portion of the three course meal. How anyone was expected to eat all that food baffled Declan, but Desmond no doubt would eat it all and then some. The servants passed unnoticed by most and then one a single cue, they all placed a salad before each noble and fresh breads upon the table, then departed back to the kitchen.

With his food before him, Declan grabbed his own goblet of wine and raised it to Emery with a smile. ”To you, My Lady. To your beauty that brightens this castle and that your time hear is all you desire and more.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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ISOLDE / #495b70 / attire X COL / #53706a / attire X EMERY/ #62566b / attire

Into the dark of the arch the swan floats
and into the black depth of my sorrow
it bears a white rose of flame

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As Col watched the interaction between the young lord and the princess, he was touched by neither bitterness nor jealousy- he was far too focused on the Lord Avery's facial wound. The elder Thatcher seemed unperturbed by the mar, which Col found somewhat difficult to understand. If it were him, he would have been distraught- his face was precious to him, just as valuable a tool as his charisma and swordsmanship. He was famous for it, and for his consequent vanity- to see such nonchalance in the face of a potential scar was befuddling to him, not to mention endearing.

As Westerly returned to his side, Col called out to Avery, "You must join us, Lord Avery- I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to hear all the gory details of your mid-trip adventures!"

Isolde and Emery both smiled softly at their brother's antics, before turning their attentions to their own escorts. Or, in Isolde's case, lack thereof.

”I beg for your forgiveness, my Lady.”

"No apology necessary, your grace. You are merely being a good host."

Isolde watched as her sister and brother left for the dining tables with their respective escorts with a brewing envy. She could sense her mother's wrath even when the Lady Cavalier was no longer present- it bloomed like storm clouds; an inevitable, unstoppable threat.

“Lady Isolde, you’re looking beautiful as ever tonight. Might I have the honour of escorting you to dinner?”

Isolde looked up at the young Lord Thorne, betraying no sign of her inquisitiveness even as she studied him. He was far more handsome than she had anticipated- her mother had warned her about the Thorne family, but the woman had never claimed them a pretty bunch. The way she had described them, Isolde had expected a more frightening trio of children. But even his dark eyes were far from piercing; on the contrary, they were soft. Pools of ink, not poison.

Greeting him with a bow of her head, she took his arm. "The honour would be all mine, my lord."

Escorting Westerly to the dining table, he glanced up in surprise when Westerly's chair was pulled out for her before he had the chance to even reach for it. As soon as he recognised the man responsible, however, his surprise faded into calm amusement. He knew enough about the Thorne family to be well aware of the unfortunate reputation of Bastion in particular. The young lord seemed proud of himself, although he hid any trace of smugness behind a conciliatory smile.

His rude act was followed by another, as he seated himself without hesitation at the head of the table. As Col took a seat beside Westerly, he chuckled, offering Bastion a good-humoured grin.

"Well, it is certainly a relief to find that your reputation for impertinence is unfounded, Lord Bastion. On the contrary, it seems as though you are polite to the point of competition."

As she followed her own escort to the table, Isolde restrained a snort at her brother's comment. He was always so polite, so jovial- to the point that it often seemed as though he was mocking people under the guise of well-mannered compliments. This seemed such an occasion- his compliment placed Bastion's actions in such an inappropriately positive light, it bordered on forced. Or it would have, if the young Cavalier did not have such a knack for sincerity.

Emery too, stifled a smile, although her focus was on decidedly more impressive things. Namely, her escort, who alarmed her still with his very presence at her side.

”Would you like a drink, My Lady?”

She knew she should probably refrain, but her nerves had incited a parch in her, and she offered her goblet.

"If it pleases your grace."

Her tongue grew ever more parched when Declan raised his goblet, directing his toast to her. ”To you, My Lady. To your beauty that brightens this castle, and that your time here is all you desire and more.”

She raised her own glass to meet his toast, smiling politely as her siblings did the same. She sensed a coolness in her sister- Emery had known Isolde long enough to know when the woman was perplexed, even if she did hide it well. And she did not blame her- how could she, when she herself was just as baffled by the crown-prince's actions? Col, on the other hand, raised his glass with his signature enthusiasm, adding to the toast.

"And to you and your family, your grace, for hosting us all so excellently."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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lord avery thatcher
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lord elliot thatcher
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lady adriana thatcher
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"You must join us, Lord Avery- I'm sure I am not alone in wanting to hear all the gory details of your mid-trip adventures!" Col called to Avery. Avery turned towards him and the princess and gave a cordial nod of his head to acknowledge he'd heard the man. He however, had absolutely no desire to talk about the attack. If anything, it was a matter for the prince to hear to ensure the safety and security of his borders. For all he knew, one of the nobles here had orchestrated the attack to eliminate rival houses. That was for later pondering, however. For now, he had a lady to escort.

When Adelina paused to debate her answering, Avery thought she would refuse him. She certainly paused long enough to make him feel uncomfortable., or maybe he was coloring her actions. He knew that most of the ladies here would be far more interested in the princes, but he still wanted to form some connections, romantic or no. He wondered if it was his appearance that seemed to turn her off slightly. He certainly wasn’t the richest looking noble, though his family was quite wealthy thanks to their crops. Or maybe his reputation as a man of work had preceded him and she had no desire to be seen with a lord who would ‘stoop so low’ as to work in the field himself.

When the lady did accept his invitation, Avery pushed away those thoughts. They had no place here and had no business poisoning his relationships with noblemen and ladies ha had not previously gotten to know. He offered her a charming smile as he took her offered arm to escort her. “You honor me with your acceptance,” he said then as he began to walk her towards the table. She was certainly beautiful; the Black Beauty indeed.

And it seemed there were no specific seats for each of them. Avery’s eyes widened slightly as one of the Thorne brothers moved to pull the princess’s seat out and then sit at the head of the table. He certainly wasn’t shy about his intentions, was he? He would have to keep an eye on that lord. He did not want to get tangled up in some mess. Col’s comment however intrigued Avery. He’d known many nobles to take such a slight seriously and call out the other’s wrong doing. Col did not. His polite comment was amused in a way and he seemed unperturbed by the other. Perhaps Col too could be a good friend and ally. He would have to watch him as the events progressed.

For now, however, he still needed to pick a seat for himself and Lady Adelina. Avery remembered and heard the royal family’s welcome to sit close by, and Col’s request as well. Avery didn’t particularly care to spin a tale about his ‘adventure’ that day though he did want to get to know Col. Adelina at least may appreciate being seated close to the royalty. If he sat next to Princess Westerly, she may think he was trying to give the princess his attention rather than her. And either way he’d be close to Bastion and he wasn’t interested in that in the least.

Perhaps sitting nearer Prince Declan would be the better option. With his mind made up, Avery escorted Adelina to the head of the table where Declan was seated with Lady Emery. He gave a nod of greeting to both before he was quick to pull out a seat for Lady Adelina and inclined his heads towards her. “My lady,” he invited. Once she sat down, he sat beside her. It put him right between her and Declan.

In one sphere, he understood she would want to get the prince’s attention, but he was still a man, and she still the one he’d invited to escort. He wanted to gauge her personality and what perfect way than this? He would be able to see if she preferred to talk around him to get to the prince, indicating she was solely interested in rank, or if she did indulge in conversation with him, and thus a relationship could be formed with the beautiful lady, either friendly or romantic. He wasn’t here really for marriage, but connections were always welcome, and it wasn’t often one found friends in court.

“Lady Adelina, won’t you tell me a little about what you like to do in your pass-time?” he asked her then. “Perhaps we have come common ground.” He then poured her a drink as the food began to arrive.



Elliot was amused by how surprised Lady Isabel was that he wanted to escort her. He wondered if she had reservations because of who her family was. True, she was not like the other noble ladies and that was precisely why he’d chosen to escort her. She was exciting, had a chance to experience and be things that others of this court could only dream of. He wanted to know what it was like to live a life on a ship, visiting far away ports and truly being alive. It was a freedom he could only graze. Maybe he could learn from her. The evening at least wouldn’t be boring. Elliot’s siblings always did say his head was up in the clouds more often than it was grounded but he liked to be a dreamer. Maybe he and Isabel had that in common.

“Yes, I would like to escort you,” he mused and took her hand in his and kissed her knuckles before he began to lead her to the tables. “I must admit, I am fascinated by the life you live. It sounds like you are able to grasp a freedom denied to most of us. I would love to hear all about your travels.” The young lord paused when he too witnessed the power play Bastion attempted. He arched an eyebrow a bit curious. It was early in the evening to make such bold power plays, but it was intriguing to say the least. And the way Col brushed it off was admirable. His eyes lingered just a touch long on Col. He was handsome. Bastion himself was tall, dark, and handsome. That confident smile on his face would have made him shiver, if not for the fact that Elliot knew he would be playing with too high a risk with him. Bastion was a wild card and with the rumors of how power hungry he and his family was, he did not want to become a pawn in the political game that was easily thrown into the pyre.

Elliot’s eyes settled on his brother then and was once again surprised. Avery was going to sit beside Declan? What was his brother playing at? First he gets the princess’s attention and now he was going to sit beside the future king? Did he not realize how this would look to the other nobles? Was he really trying to get into the family’s good graces and win the princess’s heart? He’d never taken his brother as the sort to play the game this way. He was really going to have to pull his brother aside and ask what the hell he was doing. How was he supposed to help Avery and be his eyes and ears if he didn’t tell him what he wanted? Well, there was nothing he could do about it now.

Unlike his brother’s calculated seating arrangement, Elliot simply decided to sit at table two because it wasn’t filling as fast as table one and had far less power-hungry nobles it seemed. And besides, with Bastion and Col right there, he was going to have a hard time not staring at them. He did want to give Isabel her due respect and his attention after all. “Please, have a seat,” he cooed to her and pulled out her seat before he too sat down just as the food was being set. “Would you like a drink? And What would you like to know about me, my lady? I have already asked much of you.”



Adriana was watching her brothers escort their ladies to the table while she waited. She should have been looking over the potential lords that were still available, but she was far more concerned with her siblings. Both were very dear to her and she didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. Thus far, they both had had their hearts broken and she wished she could protect them from another. Though it wasn’t often a luxury they could afford with their title, she did want them to be happy and find love or companionship.
"Lady Adriana, may I escort you to dinner?"

The words caught her a bit off guard, and she gasped as he turned his gaze to the lord standing in front of her. A light flush touched her cheeks at being caught so unawares. She must really look a fool. Where was her calm confident focus? She was better than this! She was not some silly fragile maid. She could take care of herself if given the chance. She would not appear as a weakling now, even with her frazzled and out of her element.

She offered a bright smile to Lord Callum and gave a little curtsy to him. “Lord Callum, I would be delighted,” he answered him. She offered her hand to him then so they may begin walking towards the table. Both of her brothers seemed to already be engaged in conversation, that was good. Maybe even Avery would enjoy the company then. The poor thing was lonely though he’d never admit it to anyone. He wondered just how much his brother hid from her and Elliot. He always seemed to carry the world on his shoulders.

She brought her attention to Callum them and offered a smile. She’d heard of Callum’s finesse with the blade and the honor given to him as Commander of the King’s Army. It was an honor few would achieve. It seemed like he was an honorable man. She wondered what else was behind Callum’s political mask. “Lord Callum, I have heard of your skill on the battle field and the respect you’ve earned from your men. I must say that is rather admirable. You must truly take your job seriously. Do you enjoy it as well? It is amazing when duty lines up with passion. It makes the duties easier,” she mused then.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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L a u r e n c e C h a m b e r s
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S i g r i d C h a m b e r s
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Sigrid watched the proceedings as the lords chose the ladies they would escort. There was a small disruption as the Thatchers arrived late. Sigrid frowned, realising that the Graysons were still nowhere to be seen. Suppose something had happened to them on the road? She was disturbed from her fears by a man’s voice. She looked and saw the Daverny son, Audric is her memory was right, was standing before her. "Lady Sigrid," He said with a bow. "I would greatly enjoy escorting you to dinner this evening, should you have me that is."

Her family hadn’t had many dealings with the Daverny’s, namely out of a wish not to anger the king by having too close a relationship with the proverbial black sheep. Still, Audric had been the only one to actually approach her. She returned the polite smile. “I’m sure I should enjoy your company, Lord Audric,” she answered, taking his arm as he escorted her. Image
E l i r a C h a m b e r s
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A l e c C h a m b e r s
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Elira was a little way ahead of the rest of her family, following Desmond into the ground hall. “So, how is it that you are not brunette like your siblings, but lucky enough to be kissed by fire?”

“It comes from my mother’s side of the family, I believe. Every forge needs a flame, otherwise it is only another room.” Elira paused, silently regarding Desmond as he pulled out the chair at the head of the second table. What was he doing?

“Someone as stunning as you should sit at the head of the table so everyone else can admire your beauty.” Elira took her seat. She was sure she had a flush of pink to her cheeks now. The prince thought she was beautiful. The Prince. “Have you ever been to the Black Keep before, My Lady?”

Elira knew that her family had visited the Black Keep before, most noble families had, but she could only recall hazy memories from her infancy of their visits while reparations were happening across the nation. “Many years ago, although I confess, the memory is hazy.” Elira looked around the Grand Hall, taking in the sweep of the ceiling, the portraits lining the walls, the ornate covings that topped the walls. It was a room designed to impress, to awe. “Although, if it is half as beautiful as this room, I won’t forget it again.”

Laurence took Lady Amara’s hand and linked her arm through his. Her hand felt cold to his touch, not cold enough that he could feel it through his sleeve, but he had noticed. Obviously, it was cold in the Dark Wood. It explained her paleness as well. Laurence escorted her to the grand hall, away from their parents. “I’d say breathe, Lady Amara, but I’m never sure how women move in those contraptions, never mind breathe,” he quipped as he guided her down the stairs. A warm smile was on his lips. Quiet didn’t necessarily mean uninterested or vacant, watching Elira grow up had taught him that. Laurence just wanted to make sure the Lady Amara was as comfortable as she could be, even with that torture device strapped around her ribs.

As they came into the hall, Laurence looked around to see where there were free seats. He saw Elira’s hair through the gathering and guided Amara to that table. He wanted to keep an eye on the prince, more so than keep an eye on his sister. He pulled out the seat at the opposite head of the table. ”My lady.”

As for the youngest Chambers, Alec had escorted Brynlee into the hall in time to see Bastion make a show of pulling out a chair for the princess. Alec’s curiosity got the better of him and he guided Brynlee to that table. Bastion was an unknown entity, all the Thorne’s were. It was part of the reason he had guided Laurence towards asking Amara to dinner. Knowledge was the greatest weapon at his disposal in this place. Ever the gentleman, Alec pulled a seat out for Brynlee. Once she had taken her seat, Alec took the seat between herself and Bastion. “Would you care for some wine, my lady?” he asked her.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Clementine Grayson Character Portrait: Warrick Grayson Character Portrait: Faye Grayson Character Portrait: Garrett Grayson

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lady brynlee mercier
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lady adelina mercier
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lord callum mercier
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As the young Lord Avery offered her a smile that was more of a facade than anything, Adelina took a moment to recall the details of each suitor, male and female, her mother and father had gone over with she and her siblings. The only point that really stood out in her mind about Avery Thatcher was the whispers of a change in the lord some years ago that no one had ever been able to explain.

Opening her mouth to ask about his family’s farmlands, she was stopped short when all eyes were turned to Bastion Thorne, walking into the dining room without an escort and pulling out Westerly’s chair, even though she was being escorted by Col. Although she felt for her childhood playmate and the awkward situation the bold action had surely put her in, Addy couldn’t help the small smirk that danced along the corner of her lips. After all this was essentially a competition and everyone knew the Thorne’s were out to play.

”Cheeky bastard.” She muttered under her breath, along with a small scoff and a shake of her head.

While she couldn’t remember much about Lord Avery, there was plenty to be said of Lord Bastion, who seemed to be the equal if she and her brother had been born mixed in the womb.

The scrape of a chair brought Adelina’s focus back to her escort as he pulled out her seat towards the head of the first table, only a seat away from her sister on one side, and Prince Declan on the other. While the king to be was handsome, of course, she wasn’t too interested in shy and soft spoken. In fact, both the men to her right probably would have gotten along much better with Bryn in the romantic way, although Lord Avery seemed like a kind man and perhaps would make a great friend. Especially if he enjoyed animals and nature as much as she hoped he did from living in the farmlands.

“Lady Adelina, won’t you tell me a little about what you like to do in your pass-time? Perhaps we have come common ground.” Addy looked down to see that he was filling her goblet up with red wine, which she loved, and smiled as her eyes traveled back up to his handsome face.

“I actually have been wanting to ask you of your family’s land, Lord Avery. I love the outdoors. My brother and I run the trail outside of our walls every morning and I think my favorite part is always seeing which little creatures decide to join me when we reach our resting spot. Being up North we of course get caribou and foxes. I’ve even seen the occasional Polar Bear.” Addy knew she was rambling but didn’t really care, and from the corner of her left eye she could see Brynlee look over and shake her head out of what Adelina could only guess was exasperation. Picking up her glass and taking down a gulp, she turned back and asked, [color#5ECA86]”What sorts of animals do you run into where you reside? I’m curious as to if I’ve seen them all!”[/color]

After taking down another gulp, Adelina lifted her eyes to see Callum walking over with Lady Adriana on his arm and the two already in conversation. How fitting for him to ask her escort’s sister, and… of course to come and take the seat across from her. Flitting her eyes to the left, she was reminded that Princess Westerly also sat near the seat Cal had chosen. Although she was next to positive that his choice had to do with herself being there and not with the princess, the coincidence was almost too much to handle. Her lips curved into another smile as she braced herself for the awkwardness that was her brother with women.

“Lord Callum, I have heard of your skill on the battlefield and the respect you’ve earned from your men. I must say that is rather admirable. You must truly take your job seriously. Do you enjoy it as well? It is amazing when duty lines up with passion. It makes the duties easier,” Lady Adriana’s voice cut through the haze Callum was in while concentrating on the chair across from his youngest sister, silently praying no one else would take it before he could get there. His face gave away no anxiety, however.

Reaching the table, he pulled one chair back for Lady Adriana before taking a seat himself and turning to answer her question. “Thank you, m’lady. I would be nothing without my men, however.” Making quick eye contact with Adelina, he dipped his head into an acknowledging nod and found two full glasses, setting them in front of both he and Adriana. “Being able to serve the King and my father in battle is one of my greatest prides. I hear you’re quite good with a bow yourself. Perhaps you and my sister, Adelina, would get along well in practice.”

Callum’s eyes looked over the lady’s face, taking note of how breathtaking she really was. It made him nervous. Moving his hands under the table, he began to wring his fingers together - bam!. His eyes jerked upwards to find Addy giving him a side eye after kicking his leg. A not-so-gentle reminder to take a deep breath and calm down.

“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t interrupt!” Adelina interjected, “But should you ever want to go out in the early mornings and do a little practice with me I would love that! Callum here may be a wizard with a sword, but with a bow he lacks a bit. I’ve taught him all I can.” Her laughter carried down the table, reaching where Brynlee was sat with Alec Chambers.

Rolling her eyes at her younger sister’s volume, Brynlee turned her attention back to her escort. “I would love some wine, my lord. Thank you.” He certainly was a handsome man, but there was something nagging her. A rumor she’d heard passed through the lands about him. His interest in men. Not that it particularly bothered her, she just wasn’t particularly wanting to fall for someone who would rather take her brother to bed. Maybe she would gain a great friend in him. ”So, Lord Alec, I hear of your love for plants and herbalism is great. I do so love admiring the scenery when I’m out riding.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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lord bastion thorne
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lord kester thorne
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lady amara thorne
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“Oh, thank you, Lord Bastion.” The Princess seemed momentarily flummoxed by his brazen display but Bastion took no mind to her apparent surprise. Perhaps a bit too forward then, but Bastion was nothing if not exceptionally forward. Dealing in underhanded tricks only served as half of his preference for getting what he wanted, and it often came second to the full-on pursuit. It did not shock him however that his actions had caused a ripple around the room, nothing outright, but noticeable where it counted.

He cataloged each notable reaction in his mind, and even further those that shielded against outward displays. Most interestingly he noted that Kester had no qualms in openly shaking his head, looking more or less disappointed by Bastion. As always. Bastion had to restrain himself from acting upon the inane urge to wave at Kester, settling for a simple placating look, 'Your move brother.

"The pleasure is certainly mine my lady," He responded almost as an afterthought. Sliding easily between observant of the others around them to being focused on the Princess and her former escort.

"Well, it is certainly a relief to find that your reputation for impertinence is unfounded, Lord Bastion. On the contrary, it seems as though you are polite to the point of competition." Polite to the point of competition. Bastion didn't bother looking for silent insult in the words because as far as he could tell the Cavalier was very much the definition of his own name; thusly, Bastion was unconcerned about the intentions of the other noble. Not that he had been concerned before, but he did find the response more affable than expected. Col, despite Bastions predilection for dismissing all other nobles - or rather people in general - as temporary, would in the least serve as a source of communicative entertainment.

” Ah, that is certainly kind of you to say, Lord Col." Perhaps addressing the other lord without malice would put the Princess at a bit of ease to the situation. He did not wish to cause undue stress upon her with unnecessary displays of aggression this early in the game. Be that for later days, when the true competitors start showing their colors. "I find that reputations are far more like rumors, where us Nobles are concerned. So many opinions spread through so many lips - its impossible, the amount of knowledge that others seem to have in regards to the persona of any person without ever having laid eyes upon them."

"But enough about me," He waved a hand dismissively despite how very easily he could go on and on about himself. "It would be incredibly impolite not to ask how each of you, and your lands, are faring." He continued to address Col alongside the Princess. After all, he didn't want her to take offense for not involving her original escort into the conversation at hand. Though he had absolutely no interest in the Marshlands, he was looking forward to hearing about the Vale from the lips of the Princess herself. He was easily the more politically inclined Thorne - underhandedly political in fact, where competition was concerned. There was always more knowledge to be gained, especially from those that lived within the place of interest, to begin with.




"The honor would be all mine, my lord." Kester smiled softly at her, glad that she was agreeable to his approach and began to lead the two of them onwards. He hoped that this feast would go smoothly, for first impressions would likely hang over them for the duration of their time in the Vale and he had no interest in causing more undue opinions to spring up about their family - their reputation already put him in a rather tough spot. And the Thornes, they would surely have their hands full with disproving the more harsh rumors surrounding them - at least in Kester's case, considering that Bastion was just as much the serpent that his title described.

He remembered then their pseudo-fight not so long ago, the way that Bastion could so very casually hold the tip of a sword to his own brother's throat with no qualms. Indeed, it seemed that his brother was having simply too hard of a time holding back. Kester's smile dropped, shaking his head minutely as he took note of Bastions antics and held his breath momentarily as he listened in for just a moment. But he did not give any other indication that he was paying attention, nor that he cared as he simply grits his teeth and continued to lead Lady Isolde to the second table - as far from his unruly sibling as possible. He was glad to see that Amara too had been led to that table, at least they would be able to focus on their respective escorts and not on one another as they were prone to do. As such he chose to lead her to the far end of the table, opposite of his sister and her escort.

He pulled out the seat closest to lady Elira for Isolde and waited patiently for her to sit before settling to her left. “I do hope this is alright?” He asked, ever the gentleman. Kester then glanced across the table to those seated nearest to the two of them and inclined his head politely, hoping that the feast ahead of them would be somewhat peaceful. Though he suspected that there would be a certain rowdy atmosphere to the crowd. One didn’t simply gather this many young adults into one room and expect civility.





“I’d say breathe, Lady Amara, but I’m never sure how women move in those contraptions, never mind breathe,” For the first time that night Amara's expression shifted to something akin to a smile, almost unperceivable to the untrained eye. "It's just proper," Amara spoke softly, though without any offense taken [color=#736A76]"We aren't meant to be comfortable." Whether she truly believed that or not she didn't say as much, it had simply been another lesson forcefully placed into her head. She did, however, appreciate that he could recognize her discomfort. Though it wasn't just the corset that caused it.

Laurence led her through the hall, and though she was intrigued by the new sights she did not stray her eyes from him for long. Not so discreetly examining him as they went. The people of the dark woods were often fair, as sheltered as they were from the warmth of the sun. Laurence was different from what she was used to, more rugged, defined. Handsome, she could easily admit. She was instantly curious about the scar that curled around his eye and wondered what could have happened to cause it. She only looked away briefly when she noticed what her brother was doing on the other side of the room. "Oh dear," She whispered under her breath, hoping that his actions did not cause trouble for them this early on. She envied the careless way he treated life, but she could not find it in herself to be the same. However, she loathed as well the way that he could simply decide to cause trouble and further scorn their names.

Luckily, with the first table quickly filling up she would not have to deal with being so near to Bastion and his thoughtless insanity. Instead, they headed towards the second table, where Laurence pulled out a seat at the head of the table for her. "My Lady."

"Why thank you, Lord Laurence, you are very kind" Amara graciously took her seat, crossing her ankles beneath the table as she waited for Laurence to take his seat at her side. She felt better to be seated and partaking in an easier form of socialization. The formality of the greetings had all but taken out of her what little energy she had to spare and she found it difficult just then to play the part of the proper lady. She wanted very much to just relax and unwind but knew that it would be unlikely until night came upon them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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#, as written by mjolnir
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prince declan castillon
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prince desmond castillon
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princess westerly castillon
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"The pleasure is certainly mine my lady," Bastion replied as he slipped into the seat beside Westerly. She gave her best smile, remaining calm in the situation. It was the first evening after all. A bold move early on, but she should have expected it.

Surprisingly, Col chuckled at Bastion's actions, as he seated himself on the other side of Westerly. "Well, it is certainly a relief to find that your reputation for impertinence is unfounded, Lord Bastion. On the contrary, it seems as though you are polite to the point of competition." She tried to remain as unfazed as possible while the two men vying for her attention partook in a conversation of wits, or rather, my horse is bigger than your horse argument.

Westerly's eyes lit up slightly when she saw Brynlee escorted to her end of the table. Thank the Gods for a familiar face. She smiled slightly, but couldn't keep her focus on the girl for long with the two Lords on either side of her... Doing what her brothers promised they'd do. She smiled and nodded her head in greeting to Lord Alec as well, part of her wishing her escort, or escorts, were subtle like him. Westerly watched him pour a drink for Brynlee, fighting the urge to sigh in longing. This circumstance asked for a drink, or two. But, ladies never pour their own drinks, her mother's voice rang in her head. Her gaze then drifted to the far end of the table, where a certain blonde Lord with a cut upon his cheek took seat beside her brother. Wes couldn't help but smile warmly toward Lord Avery, even granting him a subtly wave of the hand. He did take her offer to sit at her table, not particularly close enough to talk, but still he was there.

”Ah, that is certainly kind of you to say, Lord Col." Bastion's voice drew her attention back to the men at either side of her. Westerly knew the tone in his voice well from her brother's, when they made underhanded compliments toward each other when their mother made them make up after whatever fight took hold that day. She tried to remain calm, yet her hands clenched the napkin that rested in her lap. "I find that reputations are far more like rumors, where us Nobles are concerned. So many opinions spread through so many lips - its impossible, the amount of knowledge that others seem to have in regards to the persona of any person without ever having laid eyes upon them."

"I have no stock in rumors," Westerly spoke up out of turn. She instantly regretted it. It was, no doubt, better for her to wither away as the men bickered. But they were both vying for her attention, yet she had taken a viewing to the conversation. She had so looked forward to the following months, to see people other than her family. Not have people talk about her, rather than with her. "If all rumors were true, I'd be but a phantom that haunts the halls of the Black Keep." Her voice trailed off when she caught view of Callum seating himself on the other side of Col. Wes's gaze drifted to her empty plate. Now would be a good time for the food to arrive so this conversation could seize to exist.

"But enough about me," Bastion waved his hand as if to brush off the conversation. "It would be incredibly impolite not to ask how each of you, and your lands, are faring."

Why, out of everyone, would he ask her this? Women did not partake in talks of land and country, according to her mother that is. All that she knew was second hand from her brothers, and even they watered down the truth for her ears at times. "I fear you ask the wrong person about the state of the Vale, or Blackvale itself. I merely know, what my brothers tell me. It's been the better part of a decade since I've been off the grounds of the Keep... But the weather is divine." Westerly waited a brief moment then leaned forward slightly, clearing her throat. "I beg your pardon, Lord Alec. Would you mind passing the wine? I afraid I'm quite parched."

Declan smiled warmly toward Emery as she raised her glass to meet his in a toast. He had nearly tapped his glass to hers when another voice from the other end of the table added to the toast. "And to you and your family, your grace, for hosting us all so excellently."

It wasn't until that moment that he realized he intended the toast to be a more private affair of flattery between his escort and himself. But nevertheless, Declan smiled toward Col, and raised his glass in the man's direct. "The pleasure is ours. It's not often we are graced with the presence of beautiful faces," he smiled to Emery. "Or good company." He then looked back over toward Emery and tapped his glass against hers.

After taking a sip from his own goblet, Delcan made sure to offer polite nods of greetings to Lord Avery, Lady Adelina, Lord Callum and Lady Adriana as they seated themselves on his end of the table. He wasn't much of a talker like his brother, Desmond inherited the social traits, while Declan never was much for small talk. He spoke when his words had meaning, not to inquire about the weather or how the lands were fairing. He wouldn't be much of a Prince if didn't know that already. So, rather than keeping his company in an awkward silence, he leaned his head toward Emery and spoke in a hushed tone for just her ears. "I apologize, my Lady. I've never been skilled at small talk." Declan knew that maybe wasn't something a Prince should openly admit, but he was never one to be false or put on airs.

He couldn't help his gaze from shifting to the opposite end of the table to check upon his sister's own circumstances. Declan's attention didn't remain there for long, but was directed toward Callum as he spoke to his own escort. “Thank you, m’lady. I would be nothing without my men, however. Being able to serve the King and my father in battle is one of my greatest prides. I hear you’re quite good with a bow yourself. Perhaps you and my sister, Adelina, would get along well in practice.”

"He is being modest, my Lady." Declan smiled toward Lady Adriana as he motioned his glass toward Callum. "Cal here is one of the finest swordsman I've had the pleasure fighting alongside." Although what he said was directed toward his end of the table, as he spoke his body was turned slightly toward Emery, his gaze meeting hers every few moments. Although he wasn't the best as small conversation or idle chat, he would be damned if she felt she wasn't getting his attention. Declan even gave her a smile every once in a while. She was, without a doubt, stunning but he could only imagine how strange it must be for someone raised as a bastard to be accepted as an equal. He intended to help her get used to it. She was a Lady after all.

"Forgive me for my boldness, my Lady, but," Declan extended his right hand slowly, only hooking his index finger under the palm of her hand. "These hands say you know your way around combat as well?" Her hands had a rough earthliness to them, like a woman who wasn't afraid to get dirty, someone who knew how to handle herself. While a fair bit of these other ladies, with just a glance could tell their skin would be soft as silk, without cut, callus or wear.

Desmond couldn't help the smile that played across his lips as Elira answered his question about her hair. “It comes from my mother’s side of the family, I believe. Every forge needs a flame, otherwise it is only another room.”

"Then every room must become a forge with your presence." There was always something about red heads that made Desmond's blood rise. Their fiery natures and how they were destined to stand out among a crowd. Breathtaking.

Once they were seated, it was no surprise that everyone seemed to flock to the other table where Westerly and Declan sat. The heir to the throne and the Princess that most people forgot existed, so, of course, everyone wanted to sit with them. The Ladies wanted their opportunity to make themselves Queens. While the Lords saw a beautifully naive woman who's been locked away from the world, easy prey to elevate their status? Maybe snake their own way to the throne? Or worse things could come to mind. But neither Desmond nor his brother would let anything happen to her. That was certain. But for Desmond, his reputation proceeded him. He knew that. It didn't bother him, instead it gave him more time with the lovely woman at his side, and better yet, to watch those who hover around his siblings like vultures.

“Many years ago, although I confess, the memory is hazy," Elira replied as she looked around the grand hall. “Although, if it is half as beautiful as this room, I won’t forget it again.”

"It is quite... extravagant. A bit too much for my liking." Desmond took the wine decanter from the center of the table. "To be honest, the real richness in this giant castle is all its little charms. My siblings and I have fond memories of lazy days in the library, playing in the fountains out in the garden or racing down the halls. Or better yet, hiding out in the servants area as the cooks snuck us treats while we hid from our parents." He smiled toward her as he filled both of their goblets. "Sadly, we've out grown most of that." But not all of it. They still had their yearly tradition, no matter how old they got, as long as they lived under the same roof, it always happened.

“I do hope this is alright?”

Desmond looked up just in time to see Kester and Isolde join them at his end of the table. "Welcome friends." He welcomed the others with his free hand, while he poured wine into their glasses as well. "For a moment there I thought I scared everyone away. No one wants to sit with the other royal." Desmond chuckled lightheartedly. He wasn't offended by it. He didn't want all the pom and circumstance that came from being the heir. He was happy where he was. His smile only grew as he raised his glass. "To our lovely escorts," He said toward Kester before looking to the gorgeous red head at his side, and the brunette across from him. "That their radiance that surpasses the stars shines brighter with each passing day."

It was then that the servants filed out from the kitchens one by one, each carrying a silver plater. They slowly surrounded each of the tables, one of them standing behind each of the Lords and Ladies. And then, on que, they set the dish before each of them, removing the cover to reveal the large decadent meal: succulently roasted lamb, with a rich green salad, bread fresh from the oven and golden potatoes glistening with butter. Without a word, the servants disappeared into the kitchen as quickly as they appeared, leaving them to the first course of the extravagant feast.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher

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ISOLDE / #495b70 / attire XXXXXXXXX COL / #53706a / attire XXXXXXXXX EMERY/ #62566b / attire

Into the dark of the arch the swan floats
and into the black depth of my sorrow
it bears a white rose of flame


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Col's words had been spoken in good spirits, but he could understand why some might interpret such a jestful statement as a passive-aggressive one. After all, passive aggression was commonplace in noble courts. Image was everything to the Great Houses, and few wanted a reputation as violent or volatile. Thus, disdain was exchanged with delicate subtlety. No fistfights or shouting contests, just backhanded compliments and underhanded political moves. Col understood the purposes of such behaviours well enough, but he was hardly the type to engage in them, not like his politically savvy sister. No, he much preferred poking fun without consequence. Jokes lost their fun when given such weight.

Thus, when Bastion sank briefly into a self-indulgent spiel, Col was all casual amusement, not a trace of derision in sight. "Ah, that is certainly kind of you to say, Lord Col. I find that reputations are far more like rumours, where us Nobles are concerned. So many opinions spread through so many lips - it's impossible, the amount of knowledge that others seem to have in regards to the persona of any person without ever having laid eyes upon them." Col nodded, raising his glance once more with a wry smile.

"I suppose that is the price to pay for privileged lives such as ours. But if it means I get to sup on such delicious wine with such delightful folk, I must say that it is a sacrifice I am very much willing to make."

"I have no stock in rumours. If all rumours were true, I'd be but a phantom that haunts the halls of the Black Keep." The comment pleasantly surprised Col, glad to know that, for all her apparent nervousness, the princess felt at least comfortable enough to join the conversation. He could sense a touch of immediate regret in the young woman, however, so he quickly replied with a warm smile.

"And what a relief that isn't the case- we'd sorely miss your company, and the presence of a ghost in the Black Keep would make this visit significantly less appealing."

"But enough about me. It would be incredibly impolite not to ask how each of you, and your lands, are faring." "I fear you ask the wrong person about the state of the Vale, or Blackvale itself. I merely know, what my brothers tell me. It's been the better part of a decade since I've been off the grounds of the Keep... But the weather is divine. I beg your pardon, Lord Alec. Would you mind passing the wine? I afraid I'm quite parched."

Truth be told, Col too found the discussion of such things very dry. He'd come to a new place- he had no desire to discuss the past one. Regardless, he sympathised with Westerly; even he often felt suffocated by his noble lifestyle, and he had the freedoms of being a man,he couldn't imagine never being able to leave the Keep. It was a beautiful place, for certain, but a gilded cage is still a cage.

"I'm sorry to hear that- I feel like I would have made several escape attempts by now, were I in your position. Probably failed ones, considering the calibre of the Royal Guard."

As soon as he said it, he glanced about himself, realising the boldness of his statement, and verbally waved off the remark. "Apologies, princess. That was out of term- you're clearly a far better and more respectable scion than I am. Furthermore, considering the dangers beyond the keep," He gestured to the wounded Lord Avery, whose cut, though cleaned and tended to, still marked clear and prominent. "I'm sure that such measures are necessary." He said it out of respect for the royal family, and their decisions, but he did not belief his words. He could not imagine imprisonment as ever being necessary- it felt more like suffocation than protection, and suffocation could kill just as deftly as a blade wound. Perhaps his dubiousness leaked into his words, but he maintained his well-manneredness, and in turn hoped that the princess was not discomfited by his comments.

Isolde glanced at her brother, catching his words, as she was wont to. She had always been the sharp one, the one who spoke with careful deliberation and tact. She could be jovial too, but there was always intent behind her words- she played people in a constant game of chess, one they weren't aware of even as she took piece by piece, moving ever closer to checkmate. Her brother was not even slightly so calculated, and such a thing became clear when he spoke, expressing his own passions and interests, his own vibrant thoughts with little consideration beyond keeping people happy and at ease. It was a lovable personality, but not necessarily a lordly one.

"Welcome friends. For a moment there I thought I scared everyone away. No one wants to sit with the other royal." He wasn't wrong, not necessarily, but Isolde gave him a lilted laugh all the same.

"You are too harsh on yourself, your grace. Crown or no, you're still a Castillon." She raised her filled glass in a mirroring gesture, taking a small sip. She was far from a heavy drinker, and she did not intend on falling prey to drunkenness. Once again, it was a reminder that she was not Col.

Nor was she Emery, who lacked her calculative nature, but possessed the same knack for politics. Such a thing might have revealed itself eventually in the raven-haired bastard, but the softness in her would keep it at bay, just a touch, especially considering her absence of ambition, and her pleasant surprise at the royal currently supping with her.

"The pleasure is ours. It's not often we are graced with the presence of beautiful faces, or good company."

Emery was touched by his honesty, which she could sense beneath what was, in most of these social situations, usually pretense and hot air. "That might be something we have in common, your grace." She felt a tremor however, resisting the instinctive flinch when his finger hooked on her hand. She wasn't used to the gentleness, and it made her heart flutter before she reminded it that she was an adult, outgrown of fairytales.

"Forgive me for my boldness, my Lady, but, these hands say you know your way around combat as well?"

She smiled, slightly sheepish. "Ah... Yes, your grace. My birth status may incite some scorn, but I must admit there are some privileges of it that I quite enjoy." Her thumb moved across the worn grooves of her fingers, "The opportunity to learn unarmed combat being one of them."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Westerly Castillon Character Portrait: Declan Castillon Character Portrait: Desmond Castillon Character Portrait: Bastion Thorne Character Portrait: Amara Thorne Character Portrait: Kester Thorne Character Portrait: Callum Mercier Character Portrait: Brynlee Mercier Character Portrait: Adelina Mercier Character Portrait: Avery Thatcher Character Portrait: Isabel Daverny Character Portrait: Audric Daverny Character Portrait: Sigrid Chambers Character Portrait: Laurence Chambers Character Portrait: Col Cavalier Character Portrait: Isolde Cavalier Character Portrait: Emery Rivers Character Portrait: Elira Chambers Character Portrait: Alec Chambers Character Portrait: Adriana Thatcher Character Portrait: Elliot Thatcher Character Portrait: Faye Grayson

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#, as written by FaddedFox
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lord avery thatcher
outfitx|x#56C471

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lord elliot thatcher
outfitx|x#7E0844

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lady adriana thatcher
outfitx|x#41CBDF

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Avery was a bit surprised to hear that the lady beside him enjoyed nature and interacting with animals. He had assumed that most ladies of the court would shy away from the dirt and filthy creatures. The only woman he'd known to scoff at the idea of being pristine and pretty was his sister. It was a surprise, but a welcome one. His smile transformed into a genuine smile and he relaxed more beside the woman. He hadn't even realized he had been tense. It really had been so long since he'd spoken to a woman so freely in such a setting. Perhaps he and Lady Adelina could have a pleasant friendship after all.

Avery glanced up when he noted Adelina's gaze had shifted and saw Adelina's brother come to the table with his sister. He knew how out of her element she would feel here and the role she had to play. She could hold her own of course, but as her brother, he always wanted to make sure she was at ease and protected. She looked relaxed for now at least. Avery then took a quick moment to look at the second table where Elliot now sat. He seemed in good spirit as usual, but Elliot had always adored parties. He hoped he stayed out of trouble. Elliot seemed to attract that far too often for his liking. With the knowledge that his siblings were doing well, he turned his attention back to Adelina.

"I have seen foxes roaming about our lands but I have never seen a polar bear or caribou. It sounds like you have some interesting creatures on your land. I am far more accustomed to seeing the farm animals. Just your regular cows, chickens, horses, ox, and things of that nature. The forest, however, is home to wolves, coyotes, foxes, and deer. The fawns in spring are the cutest thing to watch as they dance around. They are such curious things. Anyway, those are the animals I have seen more often. Like you and your brother, I enjoy waking early and checking in on all of the animals on our farms. Their treatment and health are instrumental to the farm just as the workers are. After everyone is tended to, we begin our work in the field. I find nothing better than having an active hand in the work," he answered. At that point, he realized he was risking giving her too much information at once. He knew that if he started talking about the work, he may go on a tangent. Even if this lady enjoyed the earth, he doubted she would be enthralled about how he tilled the fields.



Adriana said a small thank you as her escort pulled out her chair and offered her wine which she sipped. Callum's words in response to her question made her smile. He valued his work and made a point to mention his men. He did sound honorable. The answer was a good one. And then he mentioned her hands and her reputation with the bow. She hesitated then. She knew that usually, it was not right for a woman to learn how to use a weapon, but she cherished it. At least he softened his words by mentioning his sister was also a bowwoman. Before she could say anything in response, Lady Adelina spoke up herself and offered to meet up in the morning for practice. Their families seemed similar. She wondered if most of the families here were more similar than different.

"I would greatly enjoy that," she answered. "It sounds like we both best our warrior brothers in the art of the bow," she chuckled lightly in a tease and looked over at Avery.

Avery chuckled and raised his glass to her to respect and confirmation. "I would not wish to cross you in a battle of distance," he added. Avery then turned to Callum and gave him a nod of acknowledgment.

"And while our sisters practice with their bows, perhaps you'd indulge me in a duel. I think we would have an excellent challenge." He had to admit that the prospect thrilled him. It had been a long time since he'd had a challenging duel. He loved the dance of blades, the motion, the testing of one's skill and power against another's and finding the limits of your ability and then training it further. It was a great way to learn. Elliot was less enthusiastic in their duels.

Adriana smiled and looked at the other two siblings. "Perfect! It sounds like we have a date for the morning," she mused. "Perhaps afterward we can go for a walk around the grounds."



Elliot looked up when Desmond addressed Lord Keter and his escort. Though he was further down the table, he had caught what the prince said and put on a charming smile for the man and raised a glass in his direction. "Scare us away, Your Highness? Oh, contrary, we were drawn to your radiance, moths, and butterflies," he mused with a glance to the women, "to a pyre." Elliot drank from his cup as the food began to filter to the tables and he remained quiet until the servants were done bustling around him and the beautiful lady beside him.

"Lady Sigrid, there is an air of fire about you. A unique and dangerous beauty," he complimented. "It is a rare gift for a woman to have a battle spirit and one I think quite charming. You are advancing the front for women who desire to be more than dolls. I admire your strength," he said then. "I would love to know more about you, the things you enjoy," he continued. "And what would you like to know of me, my lady?"