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Edmond Alderich

King of Beleth

0 · 268 views · located in Beleth

a character in “Till Death”, as played by Torrentwolf

Description

Image



Name: Edmond Aldrich


Age: 24

Gender: Male


Description: Edmond is a tall man standing at 6’2. His skin is light honey tone with a tan on his arms from being in sun. His hair is black and runs down just below his shoulders in a tied up ponytail. His short closed beard is complemented by his dark brown eyes which appear black but this a trick of the light.


Personality: Edmond is a gracious and kind man with a helping nature. Edmond would easily help a commoner or soldier without hesitation. He is considerate of all people and tries to make life beautiful for everyone who is deserving of it. But do not mistake his kindness for weakness, Edmond will turn on anyone trying to take advantage of his helping nature with harsh repercussions.

Edmond is a calm man who does not give in to anger or bouts of rage easily. His mind is a calm eye of the storm even when chaos rages around him. Even in the most chaotic battle Edmond will remain as cool as the winter snow.

Edmond is a well educated man and values knowledge. He believes of all the weapons he has fought or used, the mind is the most powerful weapon a man can wield. In Edmond mind knowledge is the ultimate power and he will gladly take whatever knowledge you give him. This has translated into making Edmond a tactical expert in matters of all kinds from politics to war. This complements his advanced training in combat as he uses his mind to outthink his opponents.

Edmond has a deep respect for women and does not treat them like subservients. Edmond treats women like a gentleman and gives them the respect they deserve. Edmond likes seeing women become strong and independent and has been encouraging this line of thinking. Nevertheless Edmond likes female company and even the female body. He is by no means a womanizer and would by no means want to make any woman uncomfortable. But he does appreciate the female gender in from an aesthetic and interactive point of view.


Likes: Painting, female company, his little sister, sparring,

Dislikes: People hurting his sister, needless killing, endangering his people, people taking credit for his art,


Skills:

Painter: Edmond spent years learning the art of painting and many of the grand paintings in the palace are contributed by him.

Warrior: Edmond is a skilled warrior, trained in multiple arts of weapons and unarmed combat. He may only be a master of only a few arts, but his diversity makes him very hard to fight.

Rider: Edmond has been riding since he was able to mount a horse. Over the years Edmond has become a very skilled and fast rider.

Memory: Edmond does not have a perfect memory, however he is able to remember things most people don’t. This has helped him in many of his studies and remembering subjects people struggle with.

The Negotiator: A moniker Edmond has is the name; The Negotiator. Through much research and experience Edmond became a great negotiator. Though it failed to achieve the peace he originally wanted Edmond has negotiated many deals, trade offers and peace treaties successfully.



Nationality: Beleth


Religion: Spiritualism


Possessions:

The Grand Collection: Edmond has over a hundred paintings that are attributed to him. Though many of them are in the possession of other nobles and collectors a lot of paintings remain within the palace, all of which he owns.

Beads of the Soul: Given to him by his sister Kyziko, these beads are crafted to be a connection medium to the spirit world for Belethan’s. They are typically crafted by the owner to form a stronger bond. But after the death of their parents Kyziko made a set of Spirit Beads from their parents, her brother’s and her own beads to give to Edmond. It is one of his most treasured possessions and believes the bond he has with these beads is stronger than his originals.



Family:

- Kyziko Alderich (Adopted sister, Alive, second in command)

-Malchior Alderich (Uncle, alive, trator)

Staff/Court

- Ava Otaru (Maid/assassin/bodyguard)

- Claramond Friedrich (Wamaster,)

- Katherine Noriega (General)

- Flenior (Court wizard)



History: Edmond Alderich is the thirteenth child in the line to throne of Beleth. One might think he has bad luck but in truth his life is quite normal. Born to Queen Adela and King William Alderich, Edmond was the only child to be born to the king and queen. His birth couldn’t come at a more chaotic time, as the rivalry between Theren and Beleth was growing into hostility one again. The one friendly rivalry which turned to hatred many generations ago was now once again boiling into conflict once again. Edmond was to given as much of a normal lifestyle as his parents could allow but he would be the next in line to inherit the burden of this rivalry for the next generation.

Edmond was allowed a normal childhood up until he turned ten, when he was given an education into all topics a prince should be but at a much more heavy and rapid pace. Above all he was given a rigorous combat and military education to prepare him for the inevitable conflict. Edmond took to his lessons rather well and had no objections to learning how to fight. Over time however the education began to wear on Edmond, he understood why he needed to learn these things but the concept of the feud was rather pointless. What's more he didn’t know how it began in the first place and had little reason to become another pawn in this feud. Though Edmond continued to meet the standards his parents wanted he found other outlets to put his mind to better use. Edmond took to painting as a way to balance his teachings, choosing to learn how to create rather than destroy. Edmond found it relaxing and while he enjoyed most of his lessons painting helped provided the balance he needed to his spirit to avoid becoming resentful.

But then Edmond found a reason to become a player in this feud. Edmond took to working with the commoners as a way to become a better king. Through this Edmond connected with the people who grew to love the prince and vice versa. The people’s loyalty grew as Edmond bonded and helped the people not just with words but with hard work and advice. Edmond also made friends among the people who would become important people to him in his life such as Kyziko whom he considered his little sister and Claramond who was one of the nobles he trusted without hesitation. People like them motivated Edmond to become strong enough to one day be a ruler that could protect his people and those he loved. When he was of age of sixteen his father began taking him to meetings and parties with other nobles and royals. It was through these meetings Edmond learned arts that would later help he become a better negotiator. During one of these meetings in a foreign country he met the King of Theren and his daughter. At the time the feud was merely a hostile rivalry held in check by other countries.

If it weren’t for alliances on both sides and even some threats Edmond no doubt would have been born in a time of war. But here Edmond wanted to end the feud with his generation and tried to talk to the king in hopes of at least starting the process of bringing peace to the two nations. But despite his efforts and even a complement from the king on his boldness and ideals, Edmond failed to end the feud. Edmond did manage to meet the princess Meera and was quite taken with her. Under different circumstances he might have considered courting her but with the feud still hot as ever it would never have been allowed, at least by the king of Theren. Edmond’s parents would have allowed him to court Meera even during the feud but the princess father would have not allowed. So for next seven years Edmond continued making himself strong, building a powerbase with people he trusted from all walks of life and even convinced his parents to adopt Kyziko into their family. For Edmond it was a joy to have a little sister to call his own even if it did come with the same headaches.

When he was given his own responsibilities Edmond set about creating a miniature court filled with people he trusted. His sister Kyziko became his second in command, Claramond became his warmaster to the soldiers under his command. Katherine Noriega, an older woman who championed women’s rights joined his court and Ava Otaru to be his secret agent, much to her joy. Edmond chose women for his first court as the start of his goal to give women on equal footing with men. With this court Edmond was able to accomplish much and as a result was given more and more responsibilities little by little which forced him to add more people to his court slowly over time. In the end Edmond was given a third of the power and responsibilities of the king and queen as a way to not only give him first hand experience of running a country but also to give him equal say in the responsibilities. This was critical for Edmond as very soon his life would take a drastic turn.

When Edmond was twenty-three Edmond and his family attended a gathering of royals in the city of Roclare. For three days they enjoyed the festivities and interaction when it happened. While taking a walk Edmond, Kyziko and Ava were attacked by unknown assassins. Being well trained in their own arts, the three dispatched the assassins before even the guards could respond. Though the fact they were able to dispatch the assassins was an impressive feat the attempt on their lives wasn’t an isolated incident. When they were escorted to their parents they found guard swarming in and out of their quarters;

And their parents dead.

Edmond and Kyziko were devastated, the people who loved them and raised them, who brought their people peace and prosperity, were now gone. The rulers of Roclare offered their condolences and many royals vowed to help bring the people responsible for this to justice. Among those who made such a vow was Edmond, who promised his little sister he would do his best to honor their parents. Things moved quickly as Edmond, Kyziko and Ava took the king and queen’s bodies back to Beleth to be buried. The ceremony was filled with mourners of all walks of life and though some nobles objected to commoners being present in the ceremony they were quickly silenced by Edmond who was at the time in no mood for any of their issues.

After the burial ceremony and a few days of mourning period the royal court pressed for the crown to be passed onto the new king, Edmond. Three weeks after the death of his parents a coronation was held and before the nobles and commoners Edmond was crowned the new king of Beleth. Though the grief still run strong, loyalty to Edmond ran strong and the people celebrated the coronation of their new king. Edmond’s reign began with a resolve to find his parents killers and those who hired them. Quickly Edmond set to work, he purged all of the people he knew were corrupt and disloyal in the court including several nobles. He made sure to take all he knew were trustworthy and merge them into his already established court and then began his crusade. He sent the most talented people into the underworld of the nations to root out information on the assassins. Meanwhile Edmond worked to make his people happy and install his ideals into their society. In almost a year Edmond accomplished much and made Beleth into a stronger and better country. But then the news came, they found who had ordered the assassination on Edmond’s parents;

The King of Theren.

With documented proof Edmond quickly exposed this proof to the other royals and some of Theren’s allies with the threat if anyone interfered with justice they would be considered accomplices and give no mercy. This threat was taken seriously as Edmond had not only vastly improved Beleth’s military but increased it’s numbers by over thirty-five percent. This gave Beleth one of the most powerful standing armies. Edmond was quick to set his demands, come forth to a trial of his peers (The other royals of the lands) willingly or be dragged to it in chains. Needless to say, the King of Theren chose for latter.

And so it began, Beleth and Theren once again were at war only this time, they were prepared. For months the war raged on with both sides utilizing their advantages to maximum effect. But the power balance couldn’t have been more stacked, where Theren had a the homefield advantage and moral, Edmond had been prepared for this day and had the skills and knowledge in addition to a sizable and well trained army. Though Teren did have the advantage of Edmond being careful of collateral damage to the lands and taking as many prisoners as he could. This was because Edmond did not wish to punish the people for their kings sins and took every opportunity to make sure the war did not affect them. This did put a strain on his supply lines as he often made sure food and other materials were given to towns and villages affected by the war. Nevertheless slowly but surely the war turned in Edmond’s favor until the final battle near the capitol of Theren took place.

Named The Battle of the Two Kings, the King of Theren took to the field to face Edmond’s army head on. Edmond, who had been leading from the front lines since the war began, met the king with great zeal. This battle lasted longer than any other, for four days the armies clashed with their kings fighting amongst their men. On the fourth day the King of Theren and Edmond finally clashed blades. Both were great warriors in their own right but Edmond had the advantage of being young. Had he been older this duel would have been decided by skill but Edmond used his advantages to defeat the king and take him prisoner. With their king captured the moral of the Theren army faltered and soon they were routed by Edmond.

Edmond wished to see justice served but had no desire to kill the king without a proper trial. When it was announced the king was now their prisoner and would be tried for his crimes Edmond took his army and left Theren. The plan was to send the king back to Roclare to be tried by other impartial jury nobles but the king never made it, as he was killed before he made it to the city. This enraged Edmond who wanted justice not vengeance and quickly set to finding who disobeyed his orders not to touch the king. It turned out members of the Royal Guard were found to have held a hate for the King of Theren for killing their king and queen and decided to speed justice along. But they were still loyal to Edmond and what they told Edmond and his sister shocked them to the core. Apparently their uncle, Malchior Alderich, had learned of their discontent and when the time came approached them with an offer. He told them the King of Theren would never see punishment done to him and gave them the opportunity to do it themselves.

Edmond had the guards imprisoned and set to work on finding his uncle who had gone into hiding. Though raids on his uncle's quarters and other places he frequented they found out he had been the orchestrator of the whole situation. Though the king of Theren had a hand involved in this conspiracy he had not ordered the death of Edmonds parents, but the sword that had been used was found among his Uncle's possessions. Notes and letters found among his uncles things and even in the King of Theren’s explained how the two conspired to dethrone the Edmond’s parents and put his uncle on the throne. But apparently this went off the path when Malchior killed his brother and sister in law and from there everything spiraled out of control. Edmond presented this to a conference of Royals who also agreed Edmond’s uncle needed to be found and tried.

But this raised to light a problem, Malchior’s actions had disrupted the balance in the region and left much damage in it’s wake. It had accelerated Beleth’s development by putting Edmond on the throne, making it the third of the largest powers in the region. Though Edmond had kept collateral damage to a minimal the war had damaged Theren’s infrastructure and severely weakened its military. And with the damage it had left the widowed queen and young princess of Theren in a precarious situation. With the country weaker than it once was it was now a target for any other country or royal who desired their territory for their own. In short Beleth was now a major player in the region and Theren was not only no longer a major player but also now in danger of being conquered. Though Edmond had taken no spoils of war or wanted the country for his own he knew that no royal would aid Theren due to the danger helping them might bring to them. Edmond was not a person who liked to destroy, he wanted to create and make beautiful the world around him. So in an effort to prevent Theren from suffering from any force foreign or domestic Edmond drafted a treaty to be present to Theren by the other Royals which would make Theren a vassal to Beleth for the next ten years.

This would give the country time to rebuild and make itself strong again so it could stand on it’s own. Once explained the royals were thankful for Edmond making a move to aid his rival who told them he did not want the feud to continue and hoped it would help rebuild the relationship the two countries once shared. But the royals wanted to solidified both the treaty and reconciliation and set down the condition that Edmond must marry the princess of Theren. This surprised Edmond, he hadn’t seen Meera in years and though he would have loved to have courted her those years ago he didn’t think this marriage was a good idea. But the royals wouldn’t help support either unless such an arrangement was agreed to. Edmond did managed to get them to agree it wasn’t a good idea but they wanted to insure these plans for Theren and Beleth would remain true. So Edmond laid down an ultimatum, he would agree to the condition if they could convince both the queen and princess of Theren. If they could not then the royals would have to agree to let him support Theren without interference. He managed to get them to agree this with the statement; “I won’t force them into something they do not desire. Either we start the rebuilding and reconciliation with effort from both parties or we don’t”.

So the royals dispatched the most diplomatic among them to Theren to explain the situation and everything to them. Edmond hoped for the best and waited for good or bad news to return. Two weeks passed with no progress made by the royals. But a week after the royals left Theren news reached Beleth of a response from the queen and princess. Not knowing the queen and princess feelings on the feud Edmond expected everything from insults to requests to negotiate a more favorable treaty. But he didn’t expect them to agree to the marriage condition of the current treaty.

Now the bells toll, the festivities are set and the hearts of many Belethan women break at the news.

King Edmond Alderich of Beleth is to be married.

So begins...

Edmond Alderich's Story

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Character Portrait: Edmond Alderich
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Twenty beads, the number was always the same, twenty beads. Twenty was not the standard, each one had it’s own amount depending on it’s crafter. But for Edmond, twenty was the number of beads his Spirit Beads had been made with. His previous set had been made with twenty five, each one representing some great moment in his life. But these beads were made by his sister using beads from her set, his and their parents. By all means they should have been more connected to his sister, but for some reason the bond he felt with them was strong, stronger than the one he had with his prior set. Even now as he held them, brushing his thumb across each one, he could feel the spirit energy flowing off of them. Edmond smiled, their connection to his parents and the fact his sister made them for him made them a priceless treasure. Granted every Belethian took great care of their Spirit Beads but didn’t remained joined by the wrist to them. But unlike his other set, which Edmond would leave in his room or office where they would be safe. Edmond never removed the beads from his body for any reason besides sleeping. Anywhere he went, they were on his body at all times, no more than a hand’s reach away from him, nor would they ever be any farther. Edmond would life his life with these beads on his body and be buried with them in the grave.

A knock at the door brought Edmond back from his thoughts. He looked up from his place at the window in his private chamber, “Enter.” Edmond called. Immediately an elderly man with a grey beard entered and smiled, “Young master, I came to inform you the princess will be arriving soon.” The man said. Edmond smiled at the Court Wizzard, “I somehow doubt that’s the only reason Flenior.” He said. Flenior frowned a bit and nodded his head, “Yes, you appear to be unsettled as of late. What ails you young master?” He asked. Edmond sight and looked out the window, “I’ve wanted to end the feud for quite some time Flenior. But then the my parents were killed, which forced us into a war with Theren and resulted in the death of it’s king who should have been kept alive for trial.” Edmond explained, “Now I am to married to the daughter of that king whom I believe might hold resentment towards us for the death of her father. What should have been a treaty to help a fellow neighbor and burry the sword of animosity has turned into an arranged marriage I’m sure she does not want. In short not only has my traitorous uncle caused us a mess of trouble but we are now bringing a less than pleased queen into our home. Whom I don’t know and probably won’t know where she stands.” Edmond finished.

Flenior nodded, “Indeed, you do raise very good points young master. But perhaps you can make her feel at ease. I remember many years ago you had a desire to court her.” He said. Edmond shook his head, “Yes and it was not a good idea then and not a good one now. She is very beautiful and if her reputation is like we’ve heard she has an attractive personality. But courting is a process meant to find love, you can’t just marry and expect love to come with it.” Edmond sighed once again, “ I will do all I can to make her at ease and end the feud with our generation. But regardless of how it turns out, Theren will be restored as I promised whether this marriage works or not.” He said. Flenior smiled, “You are indeed too kind young master. I know many who would have taken the lands and queen without a second thought and yet here you are worrying about the well being and independence of the country not only your neighbor but one which has been our enemy for three generations.” He said.

Edmond made a sour face, “Let’s set the facts straight, ed has not bethe fuen between Beleth and Theren, it’s been between the royal families of the two. Everyone else were just pawns caught in the middle of their game. I hope it will end with me and Queen Meera and bring peace for many more generations. But it’s out of my hands, all I can do is try to steer it along. In the end the fate of this feud lies in Meera’s hands.” He said. “Yes, indeed.” Flenior said solemnly. His mouth took a wicked turn full of mischief many elderly people find themselves full of, “Perhaps this old wizard can brew you a love potion should things not turn right? Or cast a spell of loyalty upon the young Queen?” He said playfully. Edmond scoffed and smirked as he cut his eye at the court wizard, “As if those will work. People may fear magic and wizards but lets face it, all you “wizards” do are just smoke and mirrors. A trick of the eye meant to frighten others into line and awe little children.” Edmond said with smug smile. Flenior smiled lightly and nodded, “Indeed, but with the New Ways spreading people believe magic to be dying out.”He said, “There are not many disbelievers but one day even I will be useless once the people accept the age of magic is over.”

Edmond frowned and stood, he walked over to Flenior and put a hand on his shoulder, “You my friend will never be useless. You are a wise man with many decades of experience and knowledge who any man would be honored to have as their teacher, mentor and adviser.” Edmond smiled reassuringly, “I know I am honored and the day you leave sue is a day I hope does not come for many years.” he added. Flenior smiled thankfully, “It is I who is honored to have such a kind and understanding man as my king. I thank you for your words and will endeavor to aid you as your council for as long as I am able.” He said. Edmond squeezed the man’s arm in a gesture of thanks, “Thank you my friend, now let us go. By now the Theren royal part is near and we should at least be in the royal hall to greet them.” Edmond said as he lead them out of the room, “Of course. But remember young master, I may be an illusionist, but I still have great skill in alchemy. Should you ever need it I can brew a more, “potent” love potion for your bride.” Flenior said. Edmond laughed as the true meaning of his words were not lost on him, “Of that I am sure not only would it work, but if she does not want me dead now she would after the effects wear off.” Edmond said as the two laughed at the implied after effects of the implied “love” potion.

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Character Portrait: Meera of Theren Character Portrait: Edmond Alderich
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#, as written by Madame
Image
Image

Image“Your smile is not wide enough, they will notice.” At her mother’s words Meera’s smile widened.

“Find the truth in your lie, convince your moment and you will convince them. And for our sake, please him above all others.” The Dowager Queen reminded her for the hundredth time.

“I will mother, I will make them love me.” And then I will make him choke on it Meera finished the thought in her head.

“How could they not… You are my daughter, and your father’s as well... Cromwell.” Cromwell stepped forward as his mistress called him to attention. “See to it that every opportunity is taken, you know our goals as no one else does.”

Every opportunity your majesty, and some that need a little prodding as well. Beleth will come to love their new Queen, Theren has every faith in her.” Cromwell assured his mistress, but kept his eyes trained on Meera, reassuring her as well.

Meera nodded at him, her smile fell a little, “I think that’s enough mother, we can’t delay any further. I must go.” The Dowager Queen sighed and shut her eyes as her daughter said this. Meera knew that her mother had been stalling all morning with preparations, despite her expectations she did not actually want to send her daughter into a den of lions and snakes.

“Your majesties if I may.” Cromwell interceded, Meera nodded to him, allowing him permission to speak. “I have never seen any more gracefully prepared then Theren’s Queen, this struggle will be a long one, and sacrifices will have to be made, but Theren will get through this, stronger than ever. And with the most capable people behind her to aid and protect her with their lives.” He assured them.

The Dowager Queen hugged her daughter, “Go then, before I have a chance to delay you any more that you should not go at all.” She held Meera tighter, before finally letting go. Meera blinked tears from her eyes and departed from her mother.

“Take care of them mother…” Meera said over her shoulder as she left hurriedly.

█████████████████████████████████||Two Weeks Later||Beleth||█████████████

A Belethan scout arrived before the traveling party to alert the castle that a physician should be on standby when they arrived. The reason for this was soon apparent as the carriage, galloping, arrived and opened, to reveal a merchant father and his daughter badly injured, with the Queen and her ladies tending to them, their beautiful dresses and hands stained with blood. The father and daughter were carried away promptly.

“For the love of any gods above or below, see to it that they live.” Meera called after them and watched them go. The situation they had stumbled upon half a day’s ride from the castle had come at the worst possible time. The Queen was in no condition to meet the King, she looked down at her state, and then to her ladies. They looked as though they had just witnessed a massacre, pale and in shock. The Poor merchant’s wife and little girl’s mother had not survived. Her wrapped up body was deftly lowered from the top of the carriage, and handed to the Belethan guards. Meera didn't know how to compose herself at the moment.

Lord Cromwell promptly jumped down from his saddle, “Her Majesty is in no condition to meet the King. And what’s more there are bandits in your wood.” Lord Cromwell set about briefing the nearest people in charge of the situation.

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Character Portrait: Meera of Theren Character Portrait: Edmond Alderich
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Claramond Friedrich, Warmaster of Beleth and King Edmond had prepared for many things to happen when the Queen arrived. Everything from a smooth transition to her new home filled with happy tidings and a smile on her face to bitter woman ready to take off the head of the nearest servant who even looked at her. Thankfully Claramond was prepared for most of the situations, though the number of guards had been kept to the bare appropriate levels so as not to make the Theren party feel uncomfortable, several of Ava’s trained maids and butlers were among the staff ready to step in if need be. What she hadn’t expected was a scout to come galloping in to alert the court physician for an emergency and the carriage to come roaring in with a wounded man and his daughter. What surprised her was the queen and her handmaidens tending to them without hesitation. “Quickly! Take them to the medical wing! Eile!” She barked in a accented voice to the servants moving the man and his daughter. “Take her majesty and her handmaidens with them, have them checked for injuries!” She added as some man jumped down from the carriage and began speaking, “Her Majesty is in no condition to meet the King. And what’s more there are bandits in your wood.” He said. She approached him and spoke, “Bandits?! What happened, tell em everything!” She said to the man.

"We came upon an overturned and sacked carriage, but were not there for the attack. We sent no one after the trail in case they decided to attack us later. That is all we know of the incident. The man's poor wife was... well let us hope she died quickly." Lord Cromwell explained quickly and calmly, removing his gloves as he did so.

Claramond frowned in disapproval, “You had enough men to send one man ahead to alert us of an emergency and still feel safe. Yet you could not spare a man or two to follow the trail of the offenders? A trail which grows colder every moment it is not followed?” She said with the same disapproval in her voice.

"We, unlike you, do not take the life of our Queen lightly, and we, unlike you, do not allow bandits in our royal wood." Cromwell stated simply, cutting Claramond off. Besides, it was as though the woman was suggesting that one or two men were sufficient for an untold number of bandits.

Claramond swallowed her retort and continued on where she had been cut off, “Very well, I will send some men out to handle this. Where did you find them?” She asked. If this had been any other man other than the royal party she would be calling him an honorless dummkopf for not sending someone to find these scallions. But she didn’t need to cause a diplomatic incident as tense as things were right now so she would hold her tongue until Edmond gave her permission to speak her mind.

"Half a day's ride behind us, that's a canter not a gallop." Cromwell held his hands behind his back, turning to the side and taking note of the servants.

Claramond narrowed her eyes once again, one might swear she was gritting her teeth but that would be unlady like, “Well, it could be worst. It could be a day’s ride behind you.” Claramond said as she turned and walked to a guard, “Send a scouting party to find and locate this place along the royal party’s path. Track these bandits and find where they are and report back their numbers and position.” She ordered. The guard snapped a crisp salute and with a ‘yes ma’am’ dashed off to muster the riders for this task. Claramond turned back to Cromwell and crossed her arms, “Is there anything else I should be aware of?” She asked.

"Yes, it is a pleasure to make your aquaintence. I am Lord Cromwell, Royal Secretary and Chancellor." Cromwell gave a rueful smile and clicked his heels together, bowing before making his leave and attending to the carriages. He already knew who Claramond Friedrich was, and didn't need telling.

Claramond sniffed in disapproval, but said nothing. She knew of the man, having been briefed ahead of time. She didn’t recognize him until he gave his name but needless to say she was not pleased by his attitude, as she had expected much more from a man of his position. But then again Edmond had probably spoiled her considering the people he surrounded with were noble and honorable. Nevertheless, she wouldn’t be breaking back to help the man like she would some of her other friends and comrades.

"We weren't injured, there isn't any need for a fuss... " Meera and her ladies were being coralled to another location, probably to the infirmary, but she was still in too much shock to fully understand what they were saying.

"Get your hands off of me!" Lady Nyme snapped as a servant who had come too close to the already highly strung woman. "We just need a room where we can change, go make yourselves useful elsewhere." Lady Nyme rubbed the caked blood on her hand onto her skirts. Lady Estelle was silent, and looked as though she might- she did indeed turn around to hurl, her nerves getting the best of her.

"I think Ladies that we should just do as they ask, Estelle looks so pale in any case." Meera went over to her and steadied her, gaining back her senses when her friend was in need, "Lead the way then." She nodded to Ava, a servant who came up to them.

Ava bowed as she was trained to do and in a neutral voice not betraying her disapproval of Lady Nyme gesture towards doors of the castle, “As you wish, this way your grace.” She said as she and several servants lead them inside. Unbeknownst to them, the servants were well trained assassins ready to defend them at a moments notice or kill them if they were given an order to. Edmond may have been willing to extend his trust for the sake of ending the feud but Ava was not quite ready to trust the queen quite yet. She would abide by the marriage as long as Edmond was happy, so long as she could remain close to him. But if the queen made one wrong move she would have her blade at the queen’s throat as she slept.

The three ladies made their way onward, Meera looking back at Lord Cromwell, were they to go alone? She somehow did not feel safe doing so.

"Unpack, take the Lord Numaire to his chambers he can be presented to the King Later, I must accompany her Majesty. You three come with me." Lord Cromwell issued the necessary orders and pointed out three Theren guards to accompany them. He trailed behind his mistress.

As the servants carried the two wounded into the castle Edmond, Ava and Flenior came rushing towards them, “Hurry, lets get them to the medical wing! Where is the court physician?!” Edmond said as he quickly moved to help move the man, not carrying his clothing became bloodstained. The servants protested but he silenced them, “To heck with protocol, this is an emergency! Now where is the physician!?” He asked in a firm but not unkind tone, “The rider sent to get her has not returned. She and her assistants are still administering the yearly vaccines to the people.” One servant said. Edmond scowled, “Which leaves only the most basic staff on call. Flüche!” Edmond cursed in langued he had learned from Claramond. “Flennor, go to the infirmary and prepare yourself, we have to move quickly before they bleed out, hurry!” Edmond said. Flenior nodded and quickly rushed to get the infirmary ready while Ava stayed nearby, holding onto the the rest of Edmond’s ceremonial clothing he had failed to put on once word reached him of the emergency. “Ava, drop those things and help her majesty and her handmaidens to the infirmary, then come help us.” he said. Without hesitation she dropped the clothes, which a nearby servant rushed to pick up and went to escort the queen and her party to the infirmary. Edmond looked over the man, then to the girl whom he assumed was his daughter, then back to the man, “It is your right to pass over to the spirit world sir, but today will not that day.” he said.

It did not take long for them to reach the infirmary with Edmond helping them. They quickly placed the two on the bed as Edmond began pulling off all of his rings and loose pieces which might cause problems, “Someone get us some water now, we need to clean their wounds before we can treat them.” Edmond said as he rolled up his sleeves. “ My lord we can handle this.” One servant said but Edmond waved him off, “These two need to stabilize them and the only people here qualified are me and Flenior. I’m not about to let anyone die when I can do something about it. Now please get me some rags, water, bandages and some needles and thread.” Edmond asked as he quickly set to work opening the man’s clothing while Flenior cut away some of the girl’s dress near the wound.

Meera and her ladies passed by an open door to one of the infirmary's rooms, she paused and looked in. Servants were moving about quickly, a very old man and a younger one poured over the father and daughter pair. She supposed they were physicians.

"Best to situate ourselves elsewhere your Majesty." Lord Cromwell placed a hand on the small of her back and gently moved her along, he knew from experience that people needed to get in and out without having to dodge around curious women when an emergency was at hand. Besides, his Queen had already flawlessly played her part, all there was to do now was wait for the King. Who Cromwell noted was one of the men tending to the commoners. He was right about him, he was just like Meera, and putting them together would not be difficult if the cards fell right.

Once settled into a room Lord Cromwell set up the guards out front, more for peace of mind's sake than anything else. In truth they were too heavily outnumbered and in a foreign land, there wasn't any defending them if Beleth wanted to attack their party, but the world was like that. Much was done for propriety rather than practicality.

"How much longer are we expected to sit in these clothes?" Lady Estelle voiced, looking down at her skirts, which were silver and now most likely ruined.

"Bring water so we may get her Majesty and her ladies cleaned up and have a change of clothes brought for them, suitable clothes, ones fit to meet the King in." Cromwell ordered Ava and her servants. Ava bowed and wordlessly left the room with some of her servants, leaving a few behind to tend to the royal’s needs.

"We could've changed in proper rooms like I said..." Lady Nyme rolled her eyes.

"Yes Nyme but we'd best just do as we're asked for now, before Estelle releases her stomach's contents on any nice rugs." Meera joked, they all looked at one another and started laughing. It broke their tension.

"I don't think there's anything left there for me to ruin tapestry anymore." Estelle noted when they calmed down. It was a dark joke, but they need something, anything to make the situation they were in better.

"This couldn't have gone worse." Meera chuckled, "Oh we're doomed aren't we." She shook her head. Already things were going awry.

At that moment two nurses entered the room wearing the traditional robes of the medical staff, “You grace,” They bowed, “We are here to check up on and treat you for any wounds you may have.” She said as she came closer to the queen while her partner moved to treat the queen’s maidens, “This will be quite simple. But I must ask you to be completely honest with me, are do you have any feelings of pain of any kind?” She asked as servants came in with water and towels.

"We weren't harmed in the least." Meera answered.

"But Estelle upchucked." Lady Nyme added, ratting her out. Estelle stuck her tongue out at Nyme and took her chance to wash her hands and arms.

The nurse giggled a bit, “Well I’m glad that is the only thing that has happened to you.” She said as she walked to a cabinet. She rifled through it before pulling out a vile and walking over to lady Estelle, “Drink this, it tastes bitter but it will settle your stomach.” She said as she reached into her front pocket and pulled out a white cube, “Then eat this to take the taste out of your mouth.” She added. Lady Estelle was happy to obey.

"How are the man and his daughter?" Meera asked, "Do you know anything?"

The nurse looked to the queen and shook her head, “They are not in good condition. The time couldn’t have been worse, as the royal position is out giving out vaccines for the Venos disease. A rider was sent out but they not returned. For now they are just trying to stabilise them long enough to give Alora time to return. But do not worry, I have the utmost confidence in the two men tending to them.” She said with a firm look of hope.

In the other room Edmond and Flenior were hard at work treating the wounds of the two wounded. Things kept going back and forward from good and bad as they tried to stay on top of the situation. The cleaned their hands and the wounds to prevent infection but the blood kept coming out in bowls as they tried to sow up the wounds. But try as hard as they might the blood kept making it hard to close up the wounds. Edmond didn’t want to have to cauterize the wounds but if he had to he would. Somehow Flenior managed to close up the girl’s wound and with one of his potions, managed to stabilize the girl, “I’ve done all I can for now. The girl should be safe until Alora returns.” Flenior said. “Good, help me with this one.” Edmond said. Together the two worked trying to close the wounds with aid from the nurses but it was slow going. Just when Edmond thought he had made a false promise the finally managed to put in enough stitching to stop the bleeding. But the man was in far worse condition than his daughter was due to the blood loss.

“He’ll live but we need to get him a blood injection. Someone get a blood wick ready now!” Edmond said. The nurses moved to get the wick and equipment ready while Flenior spoke to him, “We may not have enough time to find someone to give the man blood.” he said. Edmond looked at his grandfather figure as he rolled his bloodied sleeves up further, “We don’t need to.” he said.

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Character Portrait: Meera of Theren Character Portrait: Edmond Alderich
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Despite each of the ladies having their own rooms, they all congregated to Meera's room once they were let out of the infirmary, and stayed there together. Somehow that put them all at better ease. Meera's room was more like an apartment, fit for a Queen both in size and lavish comfort. The walls were painted in ornate ways, she found herself touching them and staring. They were her favorite part. Whomever had painted them had done so with great skill and warmth. Nothing like that artistry detail was ever done to Theren walls, though they did have a great deal more statues. She found she didn't miss those very much however.

"I wonder who painted all this." Meera mused aloud.

"Oh wear this one!" Estelle held up an evening dress, coloured in dark blue with lilac. It was one of Meera's more revealing pieces.

"She's busy gafawing over the walls can't you tell Estelle?" Nyme teased.

"Ha. Ha." Meera teased back deftly, dropping her attention from the art and walking over to the dress, touching the fabric as Estelle held it up. "It's very... cheeky isn't it? Do you think it too much?"

"The sash makes it classily cheeky though, besides, you're going to marry the man not negotiate a trade deal." Estelle noted, proding the dress forward. Meera gave her a look and took it.

"Good point, although really something can be said about the similarities of trade deals and marriages I think." Meera slipped out of her dress gown, they had all dressed for naps earlier, their energy having been depleted from the excitement and tiresome journey. Meera was the only one not dressed yet.

With the help her her friends her hair was pulled back in braids halfway, and with her lips and cheeks rouged they were finally ready. Lord Cromwell came at the appropriate hour to escort them to the dining hall.

Edmond blinked his eyes as he fought back some lightheadedness, he was slightly off balance from the amount of blood he had to give the man to stabilize him. Nevertheless it was worth it as the man and his daugher lasted long enough for Alora to return and treat them properly. It was thankful Edmond had been there for the man had been tested as Blue Blooded, a rare blood type. Edmond was a Grey Blooded carrier, which was compatible with any blood type. It wasn’t the first time he gave blood to another, many soldiers in the war had needed blood and he hadn’t hesitated to give as much as his limits allowed him. So when the time to chose came there wasn’t a choice to make, Edmond gave the man blood so he could live for his daughter. After he had done what he had to do he ordered Alora to look after the father and daughter before treating him, of which she was less than pleased about but followed her orders. From then on he hadn’t stopped to rest, Claramond filled him in and with less than happy words told her to get as much information as possible to hunt the rats down. No one preyed on his people without harsh consequences.

Right now he stood in his quarters dressing for the dinner for tonight. Ava was helping him as normally with Kyziko sitting on a chair watching, “I can’t believe someone would do something like that!” She shouted as he dressed. He had chosen a royal blue tunic and trousers with black boots for tonight. He had forgone the crown and royal jewels and was contemplating whether or not he wanted to have the cloak, “Believe me Kyziko, they will be punished when we find them, severely.” Edmond said the last part with a dark tone which made both women shiver. Everyone knew there were three things you never did to Edmond, threaten his kingdom, harm his people and if you wanted to live don’t even think of touching his family and friends. So they knew his response would be over kill but effective. By now Edmond had had chosen to forgo the cloak and just take a minimal and humble approach. The only accessory had on him was his Spirit Beads hanging from his belt off to the right of his waist. “Is there ever a day when you leave that in your room?” Kyziko giggled. Edmond gave her a dark but playful look, “Not even if you offered me the world would I part with these.” He said while giving the beads a pat. Ava giggled as well, “So sentimental. It’s a quality a lot of women like in a man.” She said.

Edmond snorted, “Well hopefully it makes an impression on the lady now in my life.” He said as he walked over to Kyziko and offered his hand, “Now lets get going, it wouldn’t do to keep our guest waiting.” He said. Ava smiled again despite being slightly sad, “And a gentleman at that. She doesn’t stand a chance.” She said.

In the dining room Edmond and his court stood waiting for the Theren party to arrive. The dining hall was one of a few in the castle. This one had been selected for it’s unique V shaped table. On the left side was the Belethan side while the right the Theren side.This way both sides could face each other and in any event of an insult leading to a physical confrontation the distance between sides would give them time to stop a fight before it began. To Edmonds right was his sister Kyziko who was dressed in a burgundy tunic and black trousers with matching boots. She was always more comfortable in clothing ment for men than a dress and often said while she was a girl she wasn’t that girly. To his left was Flenior, who was in his humble brown robes with his staff in hand. Claramond was to the left of Flenior and she too was dressed in a dress uniform fitting for a man but included a skirt coming down to her knees. Her long coat was draped over her shoulders in place of a cloak. To the right of Kyziko was General Katherine Noriega. Normally found in a dress suit Katherine had opted for a set of black and red ceremonial robes and cane for this dinner. Behind and to his right was Ava in her usual maid outfit, which saddened Edmond. He did not like these types of dinners as he much prefered to take his meal in one of the mid sized rooms where he, Kyziko, Claramond, Ava, Flenior and sometimes Katherine would sit and just have a jolly time eating, drinking and generally having fun. Now Ava would be on her feet working and serving rather than enjoying the meal with her friends.

Things became serious all of the sudden as they left the safety of the room, as though it had been a little sancturary for them, a sanctuary of Theren, and now they were in Beleth. Her senses were now finely tuned, and she could keenly hear her own breathing. They were supposed to have met by now. These nerves were supposed to be put at ease. She couldn't afford them. Never had she been so nervous to meet someone, but then again never had she been at anyone's mercy as she was to this man.

Meera arrived at a pair of closed doors, Estelle rearranged her hair behind her and then nodded at the servants manning them, an usher announced their arrival as the door slowly opened.

The door shuttered and Edmond turned back in time to see them open and reveal the Theren party. Edmond’s face did not falter from the warm smile he gave them but he was very surprised, Queen Meera had changed a lot since he last saw her and now she was a beautiful woman. The dress she had on was a bit revealing but somehow remained conservative. In short just the right mix of seductive and classy. Edmond waited until they came closer before bowing low with the others following suit, “You grace Queen Meera, it is a pleasure to see you once again in person.” He said before returning to his upright position, albeit with some difficulty from his light head that didn’t go unnoticed. “Forgive me for not meeting you sooner, we had some complications to take care of at the time of your arrival.” He said.

Meera and her ladies curtsied low, rising only after the King did. "Yes... I must apologize for causing those... complications." Meera could not tell if she was being reprimanded, "I did not have the heart to leave those people unattended. Nor did you grace I think." Meera realized, now that she was looking at him, he had been one of the people attending to the father and daughter. She studied his face for a moment, and smiled, "If I may, this is the Lady Estelle and Lady Nyme, they are my ladies in waiting. Over here is Lord Cromwell, the Royal Secretary and Chancellor. And Lord Numaire, he is to be the Theren Ambassador." Meera introduced the people attending the dinner with her.

Edmond smiled, “And I thank you profusely for lending aid to my people.” As he gave her a short bow of respect. He took note of the members of her party as she introduced them, “An honor to meet all of you.” He said before gesturing to his people, “These are the members of my court. My second in command and sister Kyziko Alderich, my Warmaster Claramond Friedrich, General Katherine Noriega and the Court Wizard Flenior." Kyziko gave a quick wave, “Hello,” she said with her typical enthusiasm. Claramond gave another bow, “Your grace.” She said in her accented voice. General Noriega also bowed, “I am honored with your presence my Queen.” She said. Flenior gave a bow of his head, “We are all honored with your presence Queen Meera of Theren.” He added.

Edmond also bowed his head, “And it is our sincerest hope you will feel welcomed and at home here in Beleth as if it were Theren.” He said.

For murderers, the Belethen King and his court were courtious and warm, a phenomenon which befuddled Meera, but not one she lingered on. Better to take the opportunity than to question it, overthinking their courtesy and warmth would give way to bitter thoughts. Bitter thoughts were the enemy of what she was attempting to portray.

Meera opened her mouth as if to say something but changed her mind and only smiled, looking down and curtsying again. "Your warm welcome heartens me much."

Lord Cromwell trained his eyes on Lady Claramond, looking half amused.

Edmond did not miss her hesitation and suspected something was making her uncomfortable. He quickly filed it away to ask her later on and moved on, “I’m pleased it does. If you should need anything to make you more, comfortable, please feel free to ask.” Edmond said, hoping she would open up a bit before grasping his hands together, “Now I’m sure you all have had a tiring day and would care to relax.” He moved one arm to the side to gesture towards the table, “Would you care for some refreshments?” He asked. Though Edmond’s outward appearance betrayed no emotion but sincerity and warmth, inside he was on edge all the while. Edmond was determined to end this feud, at the very least he hoped to establish a friendship if not a loving relationship. But Edmond knew he was tip toeing around inside the dragon's lair, one wrong step and the whole thing would fall apart. His only hope was to convince her that despite all that had happened, intentional or not, he indeed wanted peace if not for himself, for his people.

"Thank you." Meera said no more than this. It was perhaps Edmond's tension that also strained hers. She had to find a way to break it.

Having been invited to sit down everyone did so, Estelle and Nyme making sure to sit on either end of the their Queen. They knew their advisor's places as, well, advisors, but they felt that they could do a better job at backing up their Queen in a social situation.

Claramond did not miss Lord Cromwell training her eyes upon her with a half amused look. She in turn locked gaze with him, lips in a tight line and her eyes hard as steel as she stared him down. She would admit the man did have good qualities for a man of his station but his general personality wreaked of falsity and dishonor, something she absolutely hated. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of breaking her own code of honor just to wipe that amused look from his face.

Cromwell couldn't keep a smile creeping to his lips, try as he might. This woman was just too easy. Hard as steel and unabashed to stare him down into a puddle, were he a regular man he would shrink under a glare that fierce. He wondered if she was used to getting her way in that regard. He'd be sure to dissapoint.

"There is much of Beleth that is surprising. From the notorious General Noriega, to Warmaster Friedrich. I have never witnessed women as high ranking to the military as this. Though it is high time the world should have them." Meera sat directly accross from Edmond but addressed members of his court.

Claramond ignored Lord Cromwell’s smile and continued her steely gaze until they all became seated. Upon hearing the Queen’s surprise Claramond’s expression turned to soft with a slight smile on her face, “It is not just the military you’re grace. Women are now given free route to high ranking positions in all places. Most recently three noble woman have become the leading heads of their houses and many guilds have seen their Guildmasters appoint women as the new leadership.” Claramond explained. “Edmond has been working for some time to insure equal rights for all which, has allowed Beleth to prosper.” She added as she gestured to her king. It was not lost on everyone at the table she had not used the proper protocol when addressing her king. General Noriega nodded her head, “Indeed, Lord Edmond is indeed a rare breed of man. One to be respected and not ridiculed like most.” She added, this produced a light laugh from Meera and her ladies, as if to agree. Meera was quick to stiffle it however by taking a drink.

Edmond noticed Katherine had made a light sexist comment but it was open to interpretation enough to not warrant a correction from him. “Ok you two enough with the praise.” Edmond said humbly.

"How did you get your people to accept this new policy so quickly? Surely there was complaint and defiance, I find that if men are not continuously reminded of their superiority they are quick to anger or pout like a child." Meera asked, genuinely interested in the answer. "If you would allow me to confess, I've spent most diplomatic dinners in this manner. Dancing about the egos of this or that Lord."

Edmond smiled a bit before answering Meera’s question, “You’ll be surprised to know your grace it isn’t completely accepted. A good portion of the nobility took great offense by it but a year of profit increases for them have silenced most of them. Many still attend open court complaining and trying to have me repeal the law but their efforts are in vain.” Edmond said. “Though my own personal ideals it’s only logical. By giving women equal rights and common people protection from the nobility among other things, it gives access to an untapped labor. Though it sickens me speak of people as just tools to be used for personal benefit, it’s the only thing most of the hard headed nobles will listen to.” Edmond paused for a moment before continuing, “As for the men they have no choice other than to accept or leave for a better country. Much like there are new laws protecting commoners from the nobility, laws are in place protecting the rights of women from discrimination and violence. If a woman wishes to say no to man she can do so without fearing punishment. If she wishes to serve as a soldier, a land owner or head of a noble household, they have that right.”

Edmond’s eyes turned firm as he continued, “The ego’s of men have halted progress, which is why I‘m grateful for never having developed one. I welcome anyone, man or woman, who can stand in front of me, look me in the eye and say ‘you’re wrong’ without fear, regardless if am right or wrong. No person of any creed, race or gender should be stifled by ignorant dogma. So long as the right laws are obeyed everyone should be free express their thoughts and ideals and to chose how they live. Beleth will be a free country where everyone may find peace, happiness and freedom. This is my vision for this country, a free nation for free people. I have no doubt I will not live to see to completion, but I know I’ll be here long enough to see it’s beginning.” He said firmly.

Meera nodded in understanding, serious look reflecting Edmond's as she listened. Beleth was not a mystery to her, not entirely. But Theren sorely lacked a relationship with Beleth long before either she or Edmond were born, and so the cultures and nuances of the two countries were something lost upon one another. There was much about Beleth that she did not know, besides it's general progressive attitude, of not only its King but its people. It was interesting to hear that the transition to new policy was not all met with smiles and cheer. It made the process seem more real, rather than the second hand news of progressive victory she had come to know it as. This conversation was serving multiple ends, to paint a picture of Beleth that she could see in her mind's eye, and to fill the room of uneasiness with thoughtful conversation one could engross themselves in.

"I look forward to learning more of this." Meera noted, raising her glass to Claramond and General Noriega pointedly. She could tell that liking these particular ladies would be no challange at all.

As they spoke servants came to each chair and offered it’s occupant a fairly good sized menu. The menus was filled with a wide variety of dishes, beverages and appetizers. But when Ava passed out the last to Kyziko Edmond was the only one left without one, “Sorry Edmond, I’m afraid Alora ordered a special meal be served for you to help replace the amount of blood you gave.” She said. Edmond smiled and shook his head, “And the doctor strikes again. Should have expected that after pulling that stunt.” He said. Ava smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Don’t worry, I made sure the meal fits the doctor’s bill and will be satisfactory for you.” She said. Edmond smiled and patted her hand, “Thank you Ava, I’d be lost without you.” Edmond said with friendly smile. Ava blushed slightly but managed a giggle, “Oh I’m sure you’d survive, you always find a way. Now if you’ll excuse me I have orders to take.” She said as she moved to take Kyziko’s order.

Meera's, and everybody else's eyes from her side of the table flickered to the lingering hand of the maid on the King's person. Most had the modesty to look away, except the Ambassador. This, Lady Friedrich's familiarity in addressing the King, it all had implications. Lord Cromwell cleared his throat, and nudged the Ambassador under the table, diverting his subtle attention and gawking. To which Edmond barely missed, which made Edmond wonder what the cause was.

"Amount of blood your Majesty?" Meera inquired, brow furrowing and taking the opportunity to divert attentions elsewhere as well.

He brought his attention back to Meera but before he could answer Kyziko, who had finished ordering, jumped in, “The man who you brought to the castle lost a lot of blood and would have died before Alora came back. So big brother gave the man some of his blood to keep him alive until then.” She said enthusiastically with a proud smile. Edmond smiled and shook his head at Kyziko’s enthusiasm, “The man had a rare blood type that would have made finding a donor difficult, which could have lead to his death. Since mixing blood types has a risk of death we couldn’t give him just anyone’s blood. So we gave him my blood, which is universally accepted by all blood types.” Edmond waved a hand, “A choice didn’t need to be made. I wasn’t about to let him die so I did what anyone in my position would have done.” He explained.

"Your brother supposes much of those around him doesn't he?" Meera smiled warmly at Kyziko, she could tell she had much admiration for her older brother, it was sweet. She recalled how many times she wished she had a sibling to love growing up.

Kyziko’s smile lit up the room, “Oh yes, big brother really cares for us and the people. He wouldn’t hesitate to help someone, even if they were his enemy.” She said.

That's a lie. Meera thought to herself, but listened intently to Kyziko all the same.

“Everyone here is familly in one way or another, even if we all aren't related. Like my brother often says, family is more than blood.” She added. Edmond was glad she chose to explain the relationship all of them shared, hoping it would give the Theren part some insight into way things worked here in the castle. He could tell some of their customs surprised them, even more so the way Edmond and his court interacted. The only one following protocol was Katherine but even she would slip up eventually.

"But forgive me, for I do not have a physician's knowledge of these things, but is that not a taxing thing to do to the body? Giving blood? Is your Majesty alright?" She did not hide her concern, no, this was a time to show it, even if it was slightly condemning to feel it.

Edmond smiled and waved a hand, “I appreciate your concern. Yes it is taxing on the body and can have some side effects from dizziness to loss of conscience. Most common is fatigue brought on from the loss of one’s own blood. I have experienced both in my donations to others, though I can’t say i regret it. I will be fine so no need to worry, the effects I currently feel will have passed by tomorrow.” Edmond explained.

"I trust this means that they should make a full recovery then?" Meera asked tentatively. The ladies Estelle and Nyme were also clearly interested in the answer, as they too tended to the father and daughter as best they could inside the carriage.

“Yes, Flenior and I managed stop the bleeding and stabilize them long enough for Alora to get back and treat them. They will need plenty of time to recover and some therapy but they will be fine.” Edmond said, “They will pass over to the Spirit World, but today is not that day.” Edmond’s eyes eyes narrowed and his gaze became sharp as a sword, “But I cannot say the same for those who did this to them. Once they have been located there will be severe consequences.” Edmond all but growled darkly. There was no doubt the anger projecting from Edmond was real and promised a very severe punishment.

The smiles from the ladies dropped as the mood switched sharply. Was the King's anger this quick? This severe? Meera supposed that his anger must have blown hotter than even this when he attacked Theren. They were all reminded of the mercy they were beholden to. As tempting as if was to become silent and shrink, Meera pressed on, eager to change the mood. "We are all glad to hear this, in the carriage we doubted... well we did not think..." Meera studied her glass carefully, averting her gaze, "That poor girl might have ended the day losing both of her parents..." She tread carefully, but did not keep the sadness from her statement. "I'm sure in due time you will catch those that did this." she added before trying to change the subject.

At this Edmond and Kyziko exchanged a knowing but solome look. There were quite familiar with this, Edmond had lost his parents a year ago to the conspiracy, but Kyziko had lost two sets of parents, her birth parents and her adopted parents. The two were much more familiar with the concept than they wished. Edmond, who’s expression had softened, spoke first, “Nothing can ever replace a mother or father. Rest assured justice will be served."

"Which reminds me, Lady Friedrich, I understand there was some anger at the way we chose to handle things after the incident. Allow me to formally apologize, we came upon the carriage not long after it was attacked but had no way of knowing how many men attacked it. The decision was made not to pursue whomever had done this as we did not have permission to hunt in his Majesty's wood and are not familiar with it either. We thought no good could come of pursuing the threat, especially if we were attacked later, and so stayed together as one until we reached the castle. I apologize if this at all hinders your ability to track the scoundrels down." Meera addressed Claramond directly in a clear manner, wanting to explain the situation before she formed a poor opinion of their actions. It was clear to Meera that in order to win over King Edmond she must win over his court as well.

Claramond quickly waved her hand, “No no your grace, no apologies necessary, you did indeed make the right decision prioritizing the safety of the father and daughter. “ Claramond said. “While some parts of being informed of this were, quite irritating,” Claramond said pointedly, to which Lord Cromwell seemed unbothered by despite the comment being aimed at him, “My anger, much like Edmonds, is due to the fact I have very little tolerance for attacks on our people. It is dishonorable to attack unarmed people who cannot properly defend themselves.” She said with a condemning tone, “Do not worry your highness, our rangers know the area well. Though the scoundrels have a head start, they can only hide for so long before being discovered.” She said.

"I am glad to hear of this. We have every faith in these rangers then." Meera nodded, smiling. She would be very interested in meeting the scoundrels as well, though entirely unsure of what to say, she'd have some sort of unpleasant choice words for them. In this, at least Theren and Beleth were united.

At this point servants approached the Beleth side of the table with trays containing empty bowls, small bottles with strange liquid in them, jugs of water and towels. After placing them in front of them the Beleth party including the king opened the bottles and poured an amber liquid into their hands before proceeding to rub them. This honey appearing substance stuck to their hands and slowly began to foam as they continued to rub their hands for a minute. Once finished they took the water jug and rinsed their hands thoroughly before drying them with the towels. They thanked the servants as they took the trays away. Shortly after the food arrived the Beleth part displayed another peculiar custom. Once Edmond and his court had finished the typical etiquette before eating, they pressed their hands together, closed their eyes and in near unison said outloud “Hana vo sota”. With their strange ritual complete they took their utensils and began eating. The Theren side of the table watched this curiously, wondering what they were doing, and what the short prayer they said before eating was. Meera looked to Lord Cromwell from her seat, he nodded to her knowlingly. There would be much reading and research for him tonight, by tomorrow Meera needed to know everything she could about Belethan etiquette.

The rest of dinner was spent in a light and pleasant manner, issuing small talk, of nothing too important. Although the ladies helped however there were a few who remained for the bulk of the evening very quiet. Nothing controversial was brought up or spoke of, and no fights broke out. All things considered, a successful evening for the first of many dinners Edmond and Meera would be sharing as husband and wife.

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Character Portrait: Meera of Theren Character Portrait: Edmond Alderich
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The night was calm and peaceful within the castle. Edmond closed his eyes and immersed himself in the feeling of the world around him. He could hear the crickets chirping their music, feel the light breeze caress his body as they passed by the windows, sense the spiritual energy currents swirling around them. Yes it was peaceful, yet frustrating at the same time. Edmond had been trying for years to disconnect from his body and cross over to the spiritual plane Novol. But to this day he had no success despite trying to live a balanced life. Perhaps there was something he was missing? It had been a long time since he had sought counsel from the Order of the Lotus, perhaps a visit tomorrow or the next day was in order. For now however he would have to deal with it later and focus on the beauty beside him.

He pulled back from his self examination to look towards Meera, whom he had offered to escort back to her quarters before retiring for the night. He had not seen her in years and yet she had grown into a very beautiful woman. If things had been different he would have courted her and they probably would have married sooner. But things were different and if he was being quite frank, he didn’t think this was a good idea. He was interested in growing a bond with her much like he had his friends but there was no love. Attraction yes but love? That would come with time but he couldn’t be sure they were even compatible. But there was only one way to find out. “I trust dinner was satisfactory?” He asked Meera as they walked.

"It was lovely your grace, but I think you know that already." Meera noted, a little quiet and not bothering to smile as she did before. Despite the pleasant evening there was a wall of politeness either had yet to cross. This was the very least of the obsiticles between them but the wall felt high all the same. How to climb it was the question... "Do you remember when we first met?" Meera asked, looking ahead and summoning the scene in her mind.

Edmond noted her quiet demeanor, he wondered what was troubling her before asked him if he remembered their first meeting. Edmond smiled and closed his eyes, “Yes I do. It was fifteenth of Sojurn in Roclare. You were wearing white dress with gold trim made from Theren Silk, which hugged your frame and exposed your shoulders a bit. You wore a necklace but apart from that you wore no jewelry. It was conservative but alluring at the same time, just enough exposure to draw attention but remain proper. Though you did admit the dress was a hint tight around the waist.” Edmond said, “ I sought you out and initiated a friendly conversation regarding the artwork. You had a three quarters full glass of wine with you at the time, Glethan white aged ten years.” Edmond chuckled, “I remember we talked about art a bit before discussing our two countries and then about ourselves. I remember we shared a dance, though I can’t for the likes of me remember the song they played.” Edmond opened his eyes and smiled, “It was my favorite part that night, spending time with a such an intelligent and kind young woman.” He said.

Meera made a sound somewhere between a scoff and a laugh, her cheeks flushing. "I can't believe you remember all of that. Now I'm sure of it. Had you been allowed to court me back then I am certain I would've fallen for you..." Meera looked away, bitter.

Edmond smiled, “I have a very good memory, but I wouldn’t have needed it to remember such a night.” Edmond said and was quite amused at her blush. His smile turned to a frown when he noticed her expression shift into a bitter one as she looked away. Once again Edmond could sense she was uncomfortable much like when she came to dinner. “Your highness, may ask a question?” Edmond asked, “When you first entered the dining room you appeared as if you wanted to say something but then changed your mind. It was if you were uncomfortable with speaking your mind. Once again you appear to be uncomfortable, not like at diner where you hesitated but more like something said or a memory has caused you distress.” Edmond said, “I want you to know, you do not have to hold your tongue with me. Beleth is a country where you should feel comfortable with speaking your mind, especially with me. So please tell me, what is making you uncomfortable?” He asked.

She wasn't smiling, she was trying to, but failing. "...I don't..." She stopped walking, turning away and then turning back, looking at Edmond with a serious look on her face, trying to speak but no words forming. She got closer abruptly, until she was inches from his face, having to crane her kneck to do so. Meera looked him straight in the eye, demanding his every attention and thought. "I do not like farces. I do not like them at all. Not when it comes to the people in my life I love, not when it comes to people I'm supposed to love. Can you understand that? I am going to marry you, dedicate my very life to you. I will give you children that will one day sit on your throne and mine. You can not stand there and pretend as though this is some normal arrangement made between two equals. You can not stand there and pretend as though you did not march an entire army through my home and mortally wound my entire Kingdom. Mortally wound me. In more ways than one your majesty. That is why I am uncomfortable. I don't have any choices, any options, my country is crippled and I am beholden to another for it. I am beholden to you. And despite..." She closed her eyes, willing away tears, "Despite your insistance that I can say as I please and feel at home here. I know that I can not. One wrong move and I can condemn my people." The look she gave him was almost challenging, but frightened and worried at the same time, "Can you tell me you would not feel the same in my place?" She whispered.

When Meera turned away then set a serious look upon him, he remained calm, concerned in appearance but calm. As she came within a few inches of him he remained the same. When she looked in the eye demanding his attention he gave it, but remained calm. Edmond stood there as she revealed her true emotions and feelings, her thoughts and fears. But unlike before he showed something else in his features, his eyes brimmed with tears. Calm he may be, the tears began to flow from his eyes, a display of empathy most could not share. Men were supposed to be strong but Edmond was not that way. He cried for people he never knew, the pains they felt, the tragedies they suffered and the hardships they fought. His hand raised instinctively to his Spirit Beads and he fondled them, a gesture he used to calm and center his mind. It took him a moment to gather his mind before he took a breath and looked up to her, but it was anything but challenging or aggressive, but pensive. “I can say I do understand your fears. Maybe experienced under different circumstances but I know. I know what I have done has harmed you, I regret it went that way. I lost my parents and wanted justice, not vengeance, justice.”

Edmond continued to fondle his Spirit Beads as he spoke, “I didn’t want to go to war, but at the time, I didn’t see any other way. I did everything I could to minimize the impact on both sides, but even that couldn’t stop the backlash to follow. Not a day goes by I don’t wish I could have done it differently. But even when it was all over the first thing I thought of, was how Theren would fair in the aftermath.” Edmond looked out one of the windows to the city and grasslands beyond, “Beleth didn’t have to worry, I didn’t know who killed my parents but I prepared for the worst just in case. Be it a war or a manhunt, I wanted to be ready to move to apprehend the offender. But I knew Theren wasn’t as prepared, so while I am the king of Beleth, my concern for Theren was strong.” He turned back to Meera, “The treaty was meant to help Theren recover from the war. Regardless of what I had to do, even if you made me beg, I would have done it for you and your people. Because it was the right thing to do.” Edmond paused to take a breath before continuing.

“You have every choice available to you here as in Theren, you are free to do and say as you wish within morality. Because I swear on my life, no matter what you do, I will make sure Theren recovers.” Edmond said his resolve firm, “As far as we are concerned, I do not love you and I have no doubt you do not love me. How can we when we barely know each other. I wish to have a bond with you, but what type of bond that will be is up to you. I didn’t want this marriage, but the other rulers insisted it was time to end the feud and wanted a marriage between us. I would have fought them tooth and nail to give you the original treaty but then I made a mistake. I told them if you accepted their marriage proposal as part of the treaty then I would agree, if not then they would let us work it out.” Edmond smiled sheepishly for a moment, “I never expected you to accept the offer, I'm surprised you even accepted it after being explained of the two options. So in my assumption you would refuse I guess is another fault of mine we’re here.” Edmond went solomon once again, “Beleth’s people are free, you are a free woman here. What you say our relationship will be is what I will abide by. If you want to remain friends, then we shall until we die. If you want to try and find love, I will walk that path with you. If you will hate me until I die, then I will accept it. But never the less, I will hold to my promise to aid your country…. and make you happy for as long as I live.”

Edmond looked her in the eye as if doing so would allow her to see the truth in his soul, “I do understand your fears. But I can’t understand your position, as who I am, a man who will not stand by and not help when he can, blinds me to your plight. Who I am, and what I fear.” Edmond had to stop himself at fear, he may have been open to Meera but he wasn’t quite ready to reveal his fears to her. He just took a breath and stepped back. “You have nothing to fear from me Meera, for I will take care of you and Theren regardless. So I beg you,” At this Edmond got onto his knees in a full kneeling position. He bowed his head and said, “Please, trust that I want the best for everyone.” Edmond searched his mind for something to say to help prove this and recalled something she might recognize, “Some would call it an ideal, but that is to suggest that bettering the lives of others and striving to make life great for all those who draw breath is something unreachable. Too far to grasp.” He looked up into her eyes from his humble position and continued, “ I know this to be a falsehood, any goal which is set can be made if the necessary steps are taken.” He wondered if she would recognize her own words. He certainly did, he read that letter every morning until the war holding out hope his dream of ending the feud would end with him and Meera.

And to fail, was one of his greatest fears.

Meera almost stopped breathing, and time almost stopped for her. Those words, they sounded familiar. They were words she lived by and words she shared with Edmond months and months ago in a letter. A heartfelt letter speaking of peace. A hope of peace.

As if to make up for lost breath she began to breathe faster, her heart was jumping from her chest. She reached for his hands and brought him up, kissing one she said. "I will hold you to that promise, as you may hold me mine Edmond..." She squeezed them, they were warm hands.

Edmond shivered a bit when she kissed his hand, he was quite familiar with the sensation of holding the hand of a woman. But this was a new feeling, it was strange and yet delightful at the same time. The soft silky feeling of her hand only enhanced the feeling, causing him to feel a flood of euphoria in his body. He was sure if this was Meera was doing this to him or just a first time experience for him but it was….pleasant.

He squeezed her hands in his, not enough to cause pain but hold them firmly in his in a form of emphasis, “And I shall fulfil these and many more.” Slowly he bowed his head and raised her hands to his lips to return the gesture, kissing each one tenderly before lifting his head to look her in the eye, “Of this I promise you, I will remove any fear and doubt you have.”

"Then I will be glad to find your heart as warm as your hands." Meera flushed for the second time that night. "And I am glad I spoke my mind in this matter."

Edmond smiled at her blush, “As am I, and I hope you will continue to speak your mind.” He said as his right thumb slowly caressed the back of her left hand.

Meera found that she liked her hands in his a little too much. She quickly came up with a reason to wiggle one out of his grasp. "Are you tired? You must be after today, you should rest Edmond." She traced a finger over the side of his cheek, he looked pale. "We're close to my room, I'm sure I can find it from here." She looked in the direction that was the opposite way her room was.

Edmond was no newborn fool and he smiled when she looked in the wrong direction her room was in. She must have felt overwhelmed by the day's events and the exporsure to a new culture and needed to retreat to solitude to contemplate everything. Edmond chuckled and reached up to stop her hand from leaving his cheek, “I thank you for your concern Meera. But I believe I will be fine until I can escort you to your quarters.” Edmond said. He gently pulled her hand back to turn his head and kiss the inside of her hand before shifting his hand to hold it in a more comfortable position for both of them, “Shall we?” He asked as he gestured towards the opposite direction where her room truly was.

She chuckled uncomfortably, "How embrassing, I'll get used to these halls eventually I suppose."

Arm in arm, the two royals continued down the halls, although at a slower pace. Meera found it distressing how Edmond pulled her back when she tried to pull away, but not unwelcome at the same time. He was not unwelcome. He wanted to be close to her she realized, touch her hands and hear her thoughts. This was a wild victory by all accounts, it was what she was attempting to make him feel for her all night. So why did it feel so dangerous? She felt the need to pull away, but she should not. If she did not, she'd...

"I like your hands." She felt them more closely, "You don't have hands like that of any other noble I've met. They have callouses some of them, where they weild their swords. But you..." She contemplated, "Have done more work with them than that of a swordsman haven't you?"

It was best not to dwell on anything that bothered her, she had to stay focused. There was truth in every good lie. Edmond was handsome and an excellent talker. What woman wouldn't feel flushed over him?

Edmond chuckled, “That's a first, never had anyone tell me they liked my hands. ” He said with amusement in his eye.

"I like people's hands, that's not so odd is it?", it wasn't a lie, if she had favorite body parts hands would be among them. Hands were what people used to craft their dreams, touch the people they love, do good, or do bad. Meera looked at his in her own while they walked, bringing her other hand over to let her figners trace its veins and lines.

“I do not think so. Everyone has some feature they are drawn to.” He said as her hand traced lines across his, momentarily distracting him, “As you may know I do have a reputation as a painter. In my spare time one of the things I do is paint. Sure I like to spar or read a book but I’ve always have found painting to be both relaxing and creative.” Edmond said.

"May know, didn't I send you brushes and paint as a coronation present?" Meera teased, of course she knew.

Edmond chuckled, “Yes you did. Of the gifts I was given for that occasion they are my favorite.”

"Now you're just pandering" Meera said, along with her tinkling laugh.

He added with a warm smile, “I’ve been painting since I was seven so my hands have seen more creating. Many of those nobles you speak of used to scoff at my interest for the arts, subtly implying I was a weak pup.” Edmond smirked, “Now they come to me when they want a painting of themselves or their wives. Though since I’m more occupied these days there is a bit of a fight to be first in the waiting queue.”

Edmond looked at Meera, “You’ll find I’ve created quite a collection in seventeen years, some of which you may have seen. Though I kept some of my best pieces here for myself.” He said.

Meera recalled how she'd seen his paintings in various courts, which was how she found out in the first place that he was an artist. "You'll have to show me tomorrow. But that I already knew, and was not what I meant."

Edmond looked at her and raised an eyebrow, “Oh? Then may I inquire as to what you mean?” He asked in a curious tone. Now Edmond truly wondered what exactly she saw in his hands to pique her interest.

She wanted to say they looked like Cassian's hands, but that would have been unwise, "I've seen the hands of those who have done manual labor, that is not to suggest that I think manual labor is beneath anyone. Where would we be without it? But your hands are undoubtedly..." she lifted his palm, and peered at it, putting it back and looking ahead, as though suspicions confirmed, "Hands that have done the work of the common man." She concluded, patting it.

Edmond nodded, “Indeed, I also agree within the subject.” Edmond sighed, “When I was young I didn’t have much interest in being a strong ruler, just a good one. As is tradition my parents sent me out to be among our people and learn more about their world and how they lived. So I spent a lot of my free time amongst the people in Yavana. I played, talked and worked with them, which helped bring me down to their level.” Edmond paused, “I did work with several types of trade from farming and building to cooking and even cleaning. It was through this perspective I learned what people in the lower hierarchy experienced and motivated me to be who I am. A man who wants to see his people safe, secure and happy.” Edmond said. He raised his free hand as if to emphasise, “You could say my hands are a testimony to this. I still help where I can, much to the chagrin of many nobles and my staff. But it helps keep me in touch with the people and lets me form a more close relationship with them.”

"Where in the world do you find the time for that? Or is the life of a King not so busy." Meera asked.

Edmond chuckled, “Oh it’s plenty busy. I don’t have nearly as much time now as I did when I was in my teenaged years, but I do find time for myself every so often. And sometimes I can find ways to incorporate those things into my schedule.” He said.

"Beleth is so very different, in Theren the philosophy of ruling stems from being too far above for anyone to reach. A godly example of personhood that your subjects can look up to, a moniker of strength. I think that's a bit of a lonely existance though don't you? And truth be told, I've always been much too social a person to do that sort of role justice. While here in Beleth your parents sent you out to become familiar with the people you're to rule. A method I can see wisdom in, a great deal of wisdom." Meera noted.

Edmond nodded, “Indeed, it’s been a tradition going back several generations. ‘When one rules from the High Castle they often forget their roots from the forest from which they grew from’. Those were the words of my grandfather from four generations ago.” Edmond said. “He started the tradition in the hopes Beleth would have rulers who would be fair and just to the people and not use them as tools for their own benefit.” Edmond explained.

"Too easily done for most...unfortunately. Will I get a chance to do the same as you and meet the people more familiarly?" Meera asked as they rounded at her room's door.

Edmond smiled and nodded, “Indeed you will, when you are comfortable and ready for it. And I’m quite certain when they meet you they will love you for who you are. I know I do.” He said.

"I dearly hope so." Meera said with a hint of finality, "Then I suppose this is goodnight?"

“I’m afraid so.” Edmond said somewhat sadly. He looked up at the door to her room and smiled, “I see, you were given this room. I hope it’s to your liking.” He said as he reached for the door handle to open it for her.

She paused before turning to go in. Edmond’s eyes closed for a moment as he savored the feeling of her kissing his cheek. He opened them just in time as she stepped into the room and turned to say goodnight to him.

"Goodnight Edmond."

Inside he caught a glimpse of the walls of the room which made him smile fondly at the memory. But with it carried a bit of sadness, “Goodnight.” He said as he closed the door for her. Though whether he was saying goodnight to her or someone else he wasn’t sure.

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Character Portrait: Edmond Alderich
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Peace, tranquility, sadness, grief. The air was permeated with such feelings around Edmond as the two churned within him. Though the night may have ended on a good note for Meera but for Edmond it had gone from wonderful to sad. One moment he was elated at progress he and Meera were making but then one momentary glimpse into his past and the weight of the world was suddenly much heavier. Edmond sighed as he navigated the castle corridors on muscle memory. Edmond hadn’t planned on going to bed right away but now with his mind awashed with so many emotions he doubt he would see much sleep tonight. As he walked he passed by a pair of large double doors leading to the Royal Chambers. One door was golden with the symbol of the sun, the other an onyx black with a symbol of the moon. There was much symbolism in both images, one being the representation of the co-leadership of both the king and queen. Traditionally the new king and his queen would take ownership of these quarters while the prior rulers if they were alive would be relocated to the Elder Chambers.

Edmond placed a hand on the lunar door to the chambers, he had always admired these chambers growing up, now they were his. Since Edmond’s parents had passed the Elder Chambers were currently unoccupied for the first time in many generations. It was Edmond’s hope the Elder Chambers would see him and Meera live to see their children grow into these chambers. Edmond sighed and let his hand slip from the door as he continued on past them. His path took him towards his office, which had once been his room before he became king. Edmond had them remade into his personal office mostly out of the comfort of familiarity.

As he approached the doors a two figures rounded the corner, “Edmond!” One of them called. When they drew closer he saw it was Ava and Claramond, both wearing serious looks, “Whats wrong girls?” Edmond said. He fixed Claramond with a smirk, “ Is Lord Cromwell’s silver tongue giving you fits?” He asked.

Claramond and Ava fixed Edmond with a hardened glare, “Sehr lustiger Herr Humor.” Claramond responded.

Edmond chuckled, “Ok Clara, I’ve had my fun.What troubles you my friends?” He asked.

Both girl’s faces turned serious once more as Ava spoke, “Edmond, there is news about your uncle.” She said. Edmond’s face turned serious, eyes narrowed and lips in a frown,

“Have they found him?” He asked.

“No, but there is information that may help us locate him. The others are waiting in our old meeting room.” She said.

Edmond nodded and pointed into his Office, “Ok, lets go.” He said as he opened the door and they walked inside.

The room itself was was a bit surprising to those who did not know Edmond. Blue dominated the room from the carpets to the curtains, showing Edmonds fondness for the color. Bookshelfs held books on various topics, mostly those which were most used or needed in his daily work. One wall had a painting of Edmond, Kyziko and his parents which he painted not too long before the fateful trip to Roclair almost a year ago. On the other side sat a weapon rack which held Edmond’s personal weapons of choice, his primary sword and the offhand dagger. Though their artistic appearance was deceiving they were very much deadly. A few more weapons sourced these two, mostly gifts from foreign friends and royalty. Behind a tapestry of foreign goddess of wisdom and warfare clad in ancient armor, Edmond pressed a series of switches hidden in the bricks of the wall. Suddenly a door swung inward, revealing a tunnel into the depths of the castle, “Lets not keep the others waiting.” Edmond said as he moved to let the girls go through first. Ava locked the door to his office before following Claramond with Edmond going through last and closing the secret entrance behind them.

With torch light illuminating their pathway the three moved along the passageways with years of familiarity guiding them. The passages ran throughout the Sky Ruler Castle, allowing one to move hidden through the castle and even reaching into locations people didn’t even know existed. It was only through years of usage or very good memory that one could navigate them without getting lost. Thankfully both were readily available to Edmond and his friends as they made good progress to their hidden sanctuary. Claramond suddenly paused and turned around, causing Ava and Edmond to stop.

“What is it Clara?” he asked. Claramond didn’t say anything, but peered into the distance.

“I could have sworn I heard someone behind us.” She said.

Edmond looked down the lit passageway and saw nothing, “Perhaps it’s just nerves Clara. We’ve all been on edge these last few days.” He said.

Claramond nodded, “Perhaps….It was probably nothing, let us continue.” And so they did. A few minutes later they arrived to their destination, the Chamber of the Hidden Court. It was a large stoned room with a rounded wooden table. Shelves filled with books and scrolls as well as other tools clad the walls and though it was built for work the room had comforts to make working here much easier such as padded chairs and a few kegs of drink. The name was a joke made by Edmond and Kyziko when they first formed Edmond’s court and the name just stuck over the years.

In the room nine chairs were placed at the table, three of them were occupied by Kyziko, Katherine and Flenior. "Forgive us for our tardiness. Clara thought she heard a ghost and nearly had a stroke from it.” Edmond said with a playful smile.

Claramond closed her eyes as she instinctively moved to a chair, “Halten Sie es, eines dieser Tage werde ich meine Rache haben.” She said.

Edmond smiled as he pulled out a seat for her and Ava, “You're welcome at any time Clara.” He playfully taunted as the girls took their seats before he moved to take his, “Flenior, Katherine, sis.” He greeted them before sitting down, “Now let's get to business.” Edmond said but before he could continue Kyziko cut him off.

“The seven hundred and fifty-eighth meeting of this court is now in season!” she said enthusiastically.

Everyone including Edmond just smiled and shook their head, “Yes indeed. Anyway.” Edmond turned serious, “I’m told there is no information regarding former Spymaster and my uncle Malchior Alderich.” Edmond said with such a cool and detached tone it was as if the man was not even related to him.

The others noted this before Katherine spoke, “Our spies haven't found his location as of yet but we believe even more strongly he is indeed still in Beleth somewhere.” She said.

Edmond frowned, “Well, it’s not what I to hear but I’ll take any good news I can get. It does make sense he would remain here. After all he is the best in his field and would have the skills and resources to hide for years in plain sight if he wanted to. But what proof do you have he’s still here?” Edmond asked.

It was then Ava’s turn to speak, “We have contacted many of Malchior’s foreign associates and kept them under watch for months. We were under the impression he wouldn’t stay in Beleth and never thought to watch those here. Since he can’t live without meeting with one of them and we have seen no suspicious activity since, we have to conclude he is using resources here in Beleth.” She said.

Edmond nodded, “It makes sense, but he could have more connections we don’t know of. Perhaps it’s time I got involved.” Edmond said as he leaned back, “Malchior did teach me some of his techniques as part of my education. I think its time to use them against him.” Edmond suddenly stood and walked over to get some parchment, ink and a quill much to Ava’s chagrin. He returned to his seat and began writing quickly upon the page. After about a minute he passed the page to Ava and gestured for her to read it then hand it to the person next to her, “Have some of our men keep track of places that sell these items. Malchior is a smart and cunning man but even he has some things he won’t live without.” Edmond said as the list passed through Ava to Kyziko, Katherine, Flenior and then to Claramond. “If anyone purchase these items have them followed. Eventually one or more people will return to the same place and that is where we’ll find Malchior.” He said.

Claramond pointed to the list, “Edmond some of these items are sold by a lot of places across Beleth. It’s going to take a lot of people and time to not only to follow up with this order but to even compare the information for any similarities” She said.

“That is true but at this point I’m sick of running in the circles my former uncle has put us through for the last year. I want him found now and this time justice will be served.” Edmond said.

Flenior, who had remained silent to this point, spoke out, “By the law or your hand young master?” He asked.

Edmond looked at Flenior with a calm look but everyone knew he could be angry at a person and never betray his calm appearance, “You should know the answer by now Flenior. By the law.” Edmond said almost cooly.

Flenior waved a hand, “I had to be sure Edmond. When the king of Theren was the killer of your parents you wanted justice. But now with the knowledge you had your parents killer not only right next to you but that he had been manipulating you. I can’t help but wonder what your feelings are Edmond. I want to make sure you won’t make a mistake you’ll regret the remainder of your years.” He said.

Edmond’s face remained calm and impassive but a minute later it turned to one of exhaustion as he slumped into his chair, “I know what I will and will not do but you have every right to be concerned Flenior.” Edmond said, his voice tired and worn. He brought a hand to his eyes and began rubbing him, “For years I trusted Malchior, he was my uncle and family so why wouldn’t I? Even when my parents were killed I didn’t think twice about trusting him.” Edmond dropped his hand from his eyes to his arm rest with a thump, “But to find out he not only killed my parents but also gave permission to the guard to kill the king of Theren? I can’t even prove the king of Theren was involved in a plot to dethrone my father because the information came from him. But then again maybe he was and Malchior was playing both sides.”

“We’re all tangled in a large web Malchior has weaved and only now are we free to find a thread to the center of it all. All we know is he has been the unseen force behind three great tragedies in the last year.” Edmond said. No one here had to be told what tragedies Edmond was referring to.

The room was silent for a moment. Kyziko was the first to speak, “Edmond, what will you do when you find him?” She asked.

Edmond looked to her, a tired look in his face as the stress of the last year showed itself, “I will do as I had originally planned to do with the King of Theren. Take him to Roclair to be tried by his peers. I cannot remain impartial in such a trial so others must do it in my stead and I will have to prove my case to them.” He said. “With the documents we found and the testimony of the four guardsmen who Malchior basically gave permission to kill the king of Theren it shouldn’t be too much of a fight hopefully.” he said.

Claramond looked at Edmond with surprise, “The guardsmen are still alive?” She asked.

Edmond nodded, “Yes, for the same reasons I can’t punish them and knowing they killed the wrong man stayed them from taking their own lives as their honor demands. The guards won’t be mislead into killing them because only Kyziko and I can give that order now.” Edmond said.

“And what will become of the guards? For their crime of killing the King of Theren?” Katherine asked.

“The same as Malchior's, trial by their peers in Roclair. In the end once we have Malchior his and the guardsman's fate will be out of our hands.” Edmond closed his eyes once again, “I wanted justice when the King of Theren was the enemy not revenge. The same applies here. Hopefully once we have Malchior this will all come to an end.” he said. Everyone murmured their agreement before Edmond took a deep breath and sat up, “ But for now we must be patient a little longer. We’ll have him soon enough and then we can all relax for a bit. Until then let us focus on the Theren party and bridging the gap between our two nations.” Edmond said. Everyone once again gave a response of agreement, Ava doing so reluctantly, “Unless anyone else has something to bring up we can conclude this meeting and go get some rest.” Edmond said.

With that everyone stood and with a few parting words and goodnights said everyone began leaving to return to their respective rooms. Edmond however took the passageway back to his office only to have Ava follow him.

“Edmond, you’re not thinking about working late again are you?” She asked.

Edmond turned and smiled, “Hopefully only for a little bit. I want to get some things in order for the Theren treaty tonight.” He said.

Ava put a hand on her hip and said with a bit of a scolding tone, “I don’t like it when you work late Edmond. You end up spending most of the night working and don’t get enough rest.” She said.

Edmond chuckled and raised a hand to brush her cheek, which caused her to blush, “Always looking after me. I’m glad to have such a good friend like you Ava. I’ll try not to spend too much time working tonight, so go get some rest.” He cocked his head and looked at her with a smile, “Please?” He asked. Ava’s blush was quite apparent as she remained still as a statue, debating with herself. But eventually she nodded.

“Very well, just please make sure to get some rest. I worry about your well being with how much you work to make Beleth, it’s people and us happy.” She said. Edmond chuckled.

“Ok Ava I will. Now off to bed with you.” He said.

Ava pouted, “Thats my line!” She said. Edmond laughed.

“Well this time it’s mine. Now off you go.” He said as he gave her an encouraging pat.

She nodded, “Very well, good night Edmond.” She said as she turned and began walking the opposite direction towards her quarters.

“Goodnight Ava.” He responded. He watched her until she rounded the corner that went to her room before turning to head to his office. He had a lot of work to do tonight and wanted to get some of it completed before morning. Suddenly his mind drifted back to his earlier feelings and once again grief and sadness flooded him. It would also help distract his mind from more sad topics, something only work, his friends and family appeared to be the only things capable of doing.

With a sigh Edmond continued on to his office to work and find peace.

Elsewhere in the tunnels, Lord Cromwell hurriedly reached his Queen's chambers once more, having learned an abundance of vital information for the night.