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Malik Falmari

"Happiness is good wine, good company, and the smell of the ocean."

0 · 443 views · located in The Kingdom of Mederva

a character in “Within the Castle”, originally authored by Pyroteknik, as played by Selene Durlan

Description

Malik Falmari

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Name: Malik Balthazar Falmari
Nicknames: Those not fond of him call him the Prince of Thieves. He actually kind of likes it, and will sometimes introduce himself thus.
Role: The Prince of Thieves//Royal Guest, Crown Prince of Shahari
Age: 26

Likes:
Spicy Food
Good Wine
Women
Heights
Sailing
The Ocean

Dislikes:
Blandness—in pretty much anything
Being stuck on land for too long
Ale
Confinement

Appearance Details:
Compared to most people in Merderva, Malik is quite exotic-looking indeed. Skin bronzed equally by his heritage and the sun contrasts noticeably with the light, almost icy blue of his eyes, though he’d prefer to think of them as sky-colored, thank you. His hair is dark enough to be almost black, shot through with caramel-color, worn to just above his shoulders. Not excessively tall, at perhaps five feet and eleven inches, he is quite well-built, smooth and svelte muscle layering a frame with no excess fat. He favors loose silks in interesting, deep colors. If at all possible, Malik actually prefer to be barefoot… and/or bare-chested. His culture is considerably more permissive of such things than the “stodgy” Merdervan traditions. Interestingly, he moves in complete silence almost by habit. Not visibly armed, though it isn’t hard to guess he knows his way around more than a few weapons.




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Bio: The island nation of Shahari is blessed with rich resources: exotic woods, the home of peerless silkworms, fruits the like of which grow nowhere else, bountiful fish and corals from the ocean, and so on. It is also conveniently placed on an ocean trade route from Merderva to basically anywhere else, and as a result, its people, sailors by custom and the very best mariners and navigators in the world, have come to hold incredible wealth for such a small population. It is said that even the poorest Shahari peasant owns a proper home, a well-maintained boat, and more than enough to feed his family for as long as he lives. And in the middle of what her citizens firmly believe to be the most beautiful land in the world, it’s hard to imagine that any of them could ever want to leave.

This does not, however, always earn them the respect of other nations. Some feel that the islanders’ wealth is unearned, or that they should be more generous with it, and still others blame the Shatari monarchy for its pirates, who do have a tendency to raid foreign vessels more often than native ones. Thus, in hostile circles, the Shatari Queen, the current reigning monarch, is called the Empress of Thieves, or the Pirate Queen. Her only son and heir naturally inherited the hostility, especially because, as her diplomatic envoy, he is often the public face of his nation.

He’s also known for bringing his culture to foreign courts, and it’s quite… different. For starters, there are very few restrictions involving interpersonal relationships outside of marriage, and Malik has no issue taking casual lovers, something which has made him rather notorious in certain circles. So, too, is he more casual in his speech and relaxed in his forms of address to most people, even fellow royalty. He uses first names, or if he must, lady or lord, but usually nothing fancier than that. It’s not as if anyone can censure him—basically every country relies on goods and ships he will eventually be in charge of.

Regardless of how flighty and vapid he may seem at first, Malik is a man with complex, interconnected layers. Surprisingly intelligent, secretive, and prone to the antics of a trickster, he wears many faces for many occasions, and it’s hard to tell which sentiments are genuine and which put on for show. In the staid court life of other countries, he’s a flash of color and vibrancy, searching every room for a kindred spirit, someone he might get along with, and in many cases, he finds people falling over their own feet to be that person. He seems to take almost arbitrary ‘likings’ to people, at which point he’ll impose his friendship on them until they can’t help but reciprocate, and his mother would tell you he’s always been like that.

After some years as her official envoy, Malik is technically supposed to be taking a break from that, but has shown up in Merderva, apparently with intentions of visiting the royal family for an extended amount of time, though his motive is as mysterious as the smile on his face.

So begins...

Malik Falmari's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Elijah de Montefort Character Portrait: Bliss Barnard Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar Character Portrait:
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When the prince spoke, the handmaid's fears were confirmed. He would hold fast to his pride & his nobility.

Bliss could not help but feel a little hurt by what he said. Over time she had come to think of Elijah as a good friend, & Lyanna as well, & the fact that he did not seem to feign any concern or interest in possibly having insulted one of her companions confused her. A warrior, nonetheless, a person who would lay down their very life to defend him- even they merit no priority? It only made her sister's warning ring more true. Her cheeks burned & she felt a strange stirring in her chest. She swallowed the lump forming in her throat.
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"Forgive me for expecting anything out of the ordinary." Bliss said, in such a way that was less than apologetic but still sounded polite. She then lowered her eyes to her bowl & silently ate the rest of her oatmeal & fruit. Because there is no amount of turmoil that can cause Bliss to lose her appetite, she ate with gusto & finished promptly.

"It matters not. At any cost, if you will not speak to her, I will." Bliss dabbed at her face with the napkin & stood. She spoke pithily & curtsied. "Good day, your highness. A pleasure as always."

"Besides, I have my own things to attend to and I'm sure Gi will need you to brush her hair or whatever you girls spend your day doing together." Elijah snappishly said, as he too began to make his leave from the table.

She ignored his final comment and briskly exited the dining hall, seething in her mind & aching in her heart. She knew she was foolish for feeling the way that she did. She knew Elijah; how could she ever expect him to be anything other than what he was? It was indeed too much to ask & she never should have. That was why she felt so rotten right now. Something has changed. I have. And I need to do something about this.

In the hallway she saw the lady knight making her way outside.

"Lyanna?" The handmaiden called out & ran to greet her.

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When the ship from Shahari arrived in the port of Mederva, Laurent's heart swelled at the sight of the castle in the distance. Home at last. It was not that he did not enjoy traveling, quite the contrary- for he adored visiting foreign lands, but no matter how awe inspiring a landscape was that he visited, nothing ever made him happier than his homeland.

This particular trip was an unusual one for two reasons: One being that Ephraim kept privy any details as to why the Royal Guest would be visting & in attendance at the ball, & two being that the Crown Prince of Shahiri was, in himself, unusual. He was a friendly enough fellow, that was true, & they had even found a commonality when they discussed traveling- both apparently sharing a deep passion for it. But his habits struck Laurent as a bit...eccentric.

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For instance, the Prince of Thieves refused to adhere to social niceties & strode about the vessel bare chested & barefoot the majority of times. & over the short course of their time together he had already taken to informally referring to the steward as "Lorri." All of which he could take with good humour, but his habit of sneaking up on the Medervan gentleman was a bit harder to get used to. Laurent was not entirely certain if he did it on purpose or if he simply could not help treading so silently.

"Your Royal Highness," Laurent announced, turning to Ephraim's guest with great flourish & a charmingly large smile. "I present to you my humble home land, the Kingdom of Mederva."

The dock workers busied themselves lowering stairs to the pier for the ship's occupants to disembark from.

"I hope you find it to your liking, sir." He bowed deeply & gestured for the Prince to descend.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Giselle Angelou Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Bliss Barnard Character Portrait: Ephraim de Montefort Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar
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Lyanna had shrugged off the lingering burn of shame by the time she set her feet back to the stones and out towards the stables, but she was interrupted in her progress by Bliss, who called after her. Slowing to a stop, Lyanna about-faced, perhaps a bit too crisply for a conversation with a friendly acquaintance, but then she wouldn’t really know that. The knighthood was just in everything that she did, plain and simple. She managed an expression of pleasant interest, which was honestly about as close as she ever got to smiling. Even Ephraim was less serious than she was, and that was really saying something. Those close enough to her understood that there was no offense to be taken in this, and Bliss was probably one of those people.

“Bliss?” she questioned lightly, examining the other woman’s face for any sign of distress. She wasn’t really sure if something had happened after she left, but Bliss wasn’t one to become overly flustered and needlessly frustrated in social situations like she was, so she doubted that. Perhaps the Lady Giselle needed something? No, she had left a while ago and was probably still with Ephraim.

She was aware, however, that her schedule was pressing, and she couldn’t afford to be late. “Can we walk and talk? The Shahari Prince likely just disembarked from his boat and is riding to the palace as we speak. I need to be there to receive him.” Actually, it might be a good idea to have a member of the castle staff there as well, and though Bliss was far from typical ‘staff,’ Lyanna didn’t think her presence would hurt anything. She was, in many ways, what the lady knight sometimes wished she was: gracious, graceful, kind to everybody, and clever. Not to mention sociable. If they wanted to make a good impression, Bliss wouldn’t hurt at all.

Tilting her head in the appropriate direction, Lyanna started walking at a moderate pace. “Is something the matter?” Her floundering tended to abate either in the line of her job or in conversations with those she knew well, and since both were true here, there was nary a stutter to be heard, only a subtle, surprisingly gentle confidence over a layer of duty-bound steel. It was really a shame it abandoned her at crucial moments.



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At first, he was almost certain that he’d mortally offended her, and was thinking to apologize again, when she thanked him. At first, it was a bit tremulous and uncertain and not at all like spirited Gigi, but then she repeated it with a smile and a gale of laughs and her usual fire back in her tone, and for once in his life, Ephraim grinned, broad and unabashed and lively. He’d never say it out loud, because it sounded trite and cliché, but nothing in the world made him quite as happy as the happiness of others, especially his friends. If he happened to have some hand in it, well… that was all the better.

He stood with her, escorting her to the door. “I’m glad my earnestness is amusing,” he said with the arch of a brow. But he knew it wasn’t that she laughed for, and that was just fine by him. If only securing the happiness of the rest of the people in his life, in this kingdom was the matter of a gesture so simple and obvious to grant—kingship would be a much easier burden to contemplate.

They reached the door, and he glanced back at the stacks of paperwork on his desk. Most of his work was done, at least everything that he could do for the day, but he still had a few last-minute matters to set up regarding the ball. “Just so you know,” he informed Giselle, opening the door for her, “Prince Malik is arriving from Shahari today. I don’t think the two of you have met—I only met him on a state visit a few years ago, but he’s a very… interesting fellow.” He shrugged; it seemed prudent to inform her so she knew the stranger staying in their hallway was supposed to be there.

“Alas, I have to go see the chef and a few other people about arrangements for tonight. Also…” he hesitated for a moment, unsure for once if the offer would be poor form or not. It wasn’t, after all, every day one broke off an engagement of nearly seven years, “If milady doesn’t find an appropriate escort to this evening’s festivities, she would be welcome to rescue me from the boredom of it all.” He wouldn’t want her to be uncomfortable because he’d chosen today to drop this on her, after all. “Of course, I highly doubt finding an escort of more suitable sort will be a challenge for you.” His tone was light, even jocular, and it was clearly one of those rare moments where it wasn’t so impossible to believe that he and Elijah were related after all.



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Malik threw on the shirt Su’da handed him with an air of faint disappointment. Sailors rarely bothered adorning their upper bodies, and the prince of Shahari was definitely not new to sailing, or heated weather. But Merderva was a temperate clime, and frightfully stuffy about certain points of etiquette that simply didn’t exist in his country. So a shirt it would be, and boots as well, for that matter. It was probably for the best; the place was honestly a little too cold for Malik, even now, in the height of summer. Ridiculous.

He tied the dark blue sash over the black-and-silver shirt, pulling his boots on as Lorri gave him the traditional welcome speech, variants of which he’d heard in every country from here to the ends of the earth. Still, it wasn’t bad—he could tell this particular Merdervan had a real fondness for his home, even with so formal a recitation. “Well, she does come highly recommended,” Malik conceded with a crooked smile that lit his sky-blue eyes as though from within. “My father was Merdervan, Lorri, and he never did quite get over how much he missed it.”

The diplomatic marriage between his parents had been basically the opposite of a love match, which was probably why there was only ever one son. Add to that the fact that his father was dead, probably at his mother’s hand, and it was perhaps understandable that Malik himself didn’t much believe in things like romance. Sensuality, sure, and sexuality was great, but love was… well, it was something for stodgy, stiff people like the ones who generally tended to occupy such traditional countries as this one. Malik didn’t really do traditional, but for his mother’s sake, he curtailed the worst of his habits on his diplomatic missions, and only ever complained to Su’da.

Then again, he shared almost all of his thoughts with Su’da, so that was hardly surprising. The man was an astute listener, and much smarter than most people would assume. That he’d done a lot of the father’s or older brother’s work in raising Malik tended to help. Glancing over his shoulder at said manservant, Malik flashed a grin, one that clearly read ‘let’s see what trouble we can stir up,’ and descended the gangplank on feet as quiet as cat’s paws. That was something he’d learned from the man behind him, as well, and now it was as natural as breathing.

There were several horses awaiting their party, and though Malik preferred boats to beasts, he’d learned how to ride over the years, perhaps somewhere back in a visit to Effemagne, where it was like the men were born riding. If you were going to pick up a skill, learn from the best. Swinging astride the beast, he surveyed the port, finding it not half as lively as the one back home but almost as busy, and then they were off. The palace itself was about an hour’s ride from the docks, part of that through town and the other part through a bit of farmland. He was looking forward to seeing it. Travel was rarely boring, after all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar Character Portrait: Su'da Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Su'da




Su’da gently lifted the pile of silk shirts, searching through one of the many trunks stowed neatly along the walls of the great cabin. He at last found what he was looking for, replaced the others, closed the silver trimmed oaken lid and turned, handing the black-and-silver shirt to the Crown Prince.

While the Prince adjusted the shirt, Su’da opened another smaller trunk, drawing out a blue sash made of exquisite hand woven silk. This also he passed to the Crown Prince who tied it about his waist, hiding a snake skin leather belt beneath it.

Su’das own outfit was of dull contrast to his masters. The only colour was the orange strips that cut through the black of his knee length pants. His upper body, muscled arms and shoulders bare to the elements, was nonetheless covered at chest and back by leather armour that had been worked with oil and the ashes of a fire until it was as black as his leggings. On his feet he wore sandals of the same colour that wrapped halfway up his calves. Only the silver emblems of the Royal family on his chest marked him in any way.

The weapons at his waist were of the same expert quality and alluded to his status within the Crown Prince’s household. A long bladed scimitar with a dark coloured gem on the hilt was stuck into a thick leather belt covered with an orange silken sash. Several short throwing daggers, and a larger fighting knife, were all visible as well. It was his final weapon that would draw the most stares however. Coiled on his right hip, and as black as his pants, rested a wicked looking whip. It could reach out to sixteen feet and was tipped with wicked barbs along the last three feet of its length, ending in a snake head with two needle like fangs.

Su’da selected a pair of boots from the dozen or so pairs the Crown Prince had brought, fine black ones with a hint of a blue sheen. He placed them next to his master without a word and then retreated from the cabin as the conversation with the Medervan continued.

He made his way up the ornate staircase and onto the upper deck. The vessel was built in the classic style of his people, long, narrow, and low to the waves with steeply swept back masts that allowed it greater manoeuverability and speed. The vessel was also a floating embassy and showed as much in its luxurious seating area, expensive materials used in its construction and the amount of gold and silver that trimmed almost every surface.

As his black eyes swept the decks he found nothing to alarm him and so moved to the gunwales, casting his gaze down onto the busy docks below. There was no denying that the port was a lively one but something was missing. There were the standard fish mongers, beggars, prostitutes, but, he had it, no spice market!

He was interrupted in his thoughts by the arrival on deck of the Crown Prince and the Medervan Steward. Su’da offered a subtle nod to the Prince and received in return the grin that always signaled trouble.

Su’da couldn’t blame the younger man however. The Prince had been born to privilege and wealth and was quite used to getting what he wanted. Su’da could only imagine it would work out much the same here. He would offer no complaint though, for he and the Prince shared a similar taste for adventure, excitement and Medervan women.

They disembarked and Su’da caught himself scowling as the horses were brought forward. He was a fit man and could run as fast as horse for some distance and had never enjoyed riding them. That being said, he was still an excellent horseman, one had to master whatever skills were necessary to keep up with the Crown Prince.

He swung into the saddle, ignoring the stares of the townsfolk who, in all probability, had never seen a man of his skin colour before. He clapped back his heels and his horses hooves struck sparks from the pavement as he rode after the Prince.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Bliss Barnard Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar Character Portrait: Su'da Character Portrait:
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Lyanna slowed her pace, which allowed Bliss to quickly catch up to her. She took a small step back when the knight turned sharply.

“Can we walk and talk? The Shahari Prince likely just disembarked from his boat and is riding to the palace as we speak. I need to be there to receive him.”

The handmaind had heard stories of the Shahari Prince, but she had never actually set eyes on him. If any of the rumors were true then this would prove to be a rather interesting time for the castle.

As the knight spoke, Bliss could not help but notice that there was not a shred of a stammer left in her speech. There before her stood, once more, the confident warrior of the battlefield. Whatever had befallen her in the dining hall had left no traces behind. Bliss wondered if she should still even ask about it. What if I misunderstood? She smiled cordially.
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"But of course! I do not wish to interfere with your duties." With that said, she strolled along side Lyanna & together they made their way to the stables.

“Is something the matter?” Lyanna tilted a concerned gaze in the handmaid's direction. She had probably noticed the flush of pink in her cheeks that Elijah had elicited with his remarks.

"I was going to ask the same of you," Bliss replied. "Did you truly leave in such a hurry in order to recieve the Shahari Prince?" She made sure to keep her tone pleasant & curious so as to not sound accusatory & risk offending the girl. "It's just that...I thought you might be upset," she explained. "& I wanted to check on you."

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"Ah. Pardon my forgetfulness, m'lord," Laurent said. In truth, he was a little embarassed by it. All that time spent devouring historical documents & he couldn't even remember the simple geneology of a neighboring royal family. Glad that education served for something, Laurent. Nonetheless, Malik's comment appealed to Laurent as he took great pride in his homeland & was always glad to hear positive statements about it from others.
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He waited for the prince & his servant to get down before he did so himself. There on land a party awaited with horses, the best one (a beautiful, gold hued palfrey), of course, being reserved for Malik Falmari. Laurent mounted his own horse, a white rouncy named Hughe. Su'da was accomadated with a horse similar to Hugh, except a charcoal in color.

He noticed Su'da's scowl as he approached the horses.

"I assure you, they are gentle & well trained creatures." He said to them, thinking that perhaps they would be apprehensive to ride. This thought vanished however when he saw them skillfully mount the beasts & guide them forward. "Ah. Nothing such fine gentlemen as yourselves can't handle," he quickly added.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Giselle Angelou Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Bliss Barnard Character Portrait: Ephraim de Montefort Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar
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Lyanna tried to think of a way to answer the question that would make sense without making her seem like an idiot. Deciding that there were none, she sighed, glancing askance at Bliss. “I did need to go meet him,” she answered truthfully, “but…” she trailed off, struggling to find the right words for the idea she wanted to express. The flagstones moved by underfoot, and a pair of servants opened the doors for them, letting them out into the eastern courtyard, which led out into the stables eventually.

The morning sun was warm on her face, and suddenly, nothing seemed so bad as it usually did, not even her ridiculous behavior. She preferred rainy days, but cool mornings like this were wonderful also. She tried to find pleasure in the simpler things since the complicated ones often eluded her like the trout in the streams back home had evaded her childish efforts to catch them with her hands. Oh, how her brothers had laughed at her then. Sometimes, she still missed living with her family, but… she was doing something honorable, and around people she genuinely liked. She had no room to complain, and so she didn’t.

“I can’t talk to people, Bliss. Well, not people I don’t know, anyway. I just… the secret things that people slip in between their words, the hidden jests and the implications… I don’t always see them. I just assume that everyone’s being serious unless the joke is in their tone, too. I can’t read people worth a… a fig.” She’d been about to say ‘damn,’ which would have been find around the men she commanded, but she wasn’t sure how Bliss would feel about it. Yet another way in which she failed to be delicate and subtle enough.

“I grew up a soldier, not a lady, and I spent all the time everyone else uses for etiquette and comportment lessons on the field, practicing harder. So… I can’t do the dancing with words.” She spun a wrist in a vague gesture for ‘dancing.’ It wasn’t an excuse, really: plenty of people managed to be good at both things. Just look at Ephraim, or the king of Effemagne. They were warriors and nobility, and excellent at both. Maybe a little too informal sometimes (King James particularly), but good all the same. “I’m not mad at anyone, just… frustrated. At myself, for always ending up in these situations where I don’t know what to say or how to be.” She always said too much or not enough, or was too sarcastic, the kind of rough humor the knights employed fully present, but she was unsubtle, direct, and that could be a problem.

“But I probably shouldn’t have said that. You’ve got enough to deal with on your own, right? Nobody here has it easy, I know that much.” It was true that she didn’t know what it was like to be a servant, though she did know how to serve, in her particular way.

They reached the stables then, though, and there wasn’t a whole lot more time before a small party of riders became visible on the horizon. At the head of the column came Laurent, Ephraim’s personal steward, and he was escorting a smaller group than shed expected: apparently just the Prince Malik and one other, a man of ebon skin and what seemed to be a shaven head. Lyanna had never been to Shahari, but she’d met a few people from there, so it wasn’t exactly unexpected. The fact that he seemed to be the only servant attending the prince was more unusual, but perhaps Malik preferred to travel with a minimum of fanfare.

Lyanna assumed a posture of parade rest, feet apart and hands clasped together behind her back, and waited until the party was fully arrived before addressing them. Sweeping into an elegant bow rather than a curtsy, she spoke. “Their Royal Highnesses Princes Ephraim and Elijah de Montefort of Merderva welcome you to their home.” Straightening, she assumed a pleasant expression, if not one that was a smile. “My name is Sir Lyanna du Lac, and this is Miss Bliss Barnard.” She indicated the young woman at her side. “Our stablehands will take care of your horses for you. If you would prefer to be taken to your rooms first, I can show you there directly. Otherwise, breakfast is currently ongoing in the Main Hall, and you are welcome to join.” This was definitely her business mode, and that much was evident from the efficient nature of her tones.



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“So formal!” Malik observed with humor, cocking his head to the side and grinning. “And ah, yes, I have heard of you. Not many lady knights in Merderva, no? So strange.” He shook his head good-naturedly. In Shahari, if you could and wanted to fight, you fought, regardless of whether you were male or female. But, alas, tradition. Mischief firmly intact in his eyes and tongue planted solidly in-cheek, he swept a bow over Lyanna’s hand and pressed a light kiss to the backs of her fingers.

Calluses, interesting. The title was not just for show. He flashed a wider grin when she turned scarlet, and repeated the gesture with Bliss. “And Miss Barnard. Enchanted, I assure you.” Despite his joviality, there was something genuine and facile in his demeanor, and he turned his attention to the two men with him.

“Well, we didn’t get a chance to eat aboard the ship this morning, so breakfast seems like a splendid idea. Lorri and Su’da here are of course free to do as they please.” He knew Su’da would follow him—he took his duties as manservant very seriously, sometimes too seriously. Malik found he couldn't hold it against him, though.



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Ephraim wasn’t sure it was entirely wise for him to skip out on work and go riding, but he’d been breaking his back over arrangements for Malik’s visit, tensions between Merderva and Brunswick-Lüneburg, and various other diplomatic matters. It seemed that his beloved kingdom was slowly headed for a perfect storm of trials, between the succession crisis, an almost-inevitable war, and all the visitors. One misstep on his part or Elijah’s could bring the entire realm crashing down around their ears.

It was easy to ignore the fact that he was a human being with a need for food and rest like all of them when such ponderous thoughts occupied him and he was still forced to deal with the mundanity of social events like the one tonight. But then… he was indeed just a man like the rest, and he’d be lying if he said he’d had any time to himself at all recently. Perhaps one day wouldn’t really hurt. It wasn’t like any of the problems that hovered over his head could be solved with the application of a few hours’ reading and trying not to tear his hair out.

Ephraim sighed through his nose. “All right, I’ll go riding. But not all day.” He gave her an apologetic look. “I really do have to see to some of these arrangements myself, I’m afraid.” He hoped it would be enough—he didn’t want to ruin her jovial mood, or his own relief, but there were simply too many things to be done. He should probably pay another visit to the barracks this afternoon, see how the latest round of recruits was coming along in training. If he was unlucky, he would need each and every one of them soon.

Shaking himself out of it, he managed to keep his thoughts mostly in the present as he was dragged along, more or less, by his childhood friend. “Forgive me for saying so, Giselle, but you’re ah… hardly dressed for riding. Perhaps a detour is on order?” He didn’t mind standing outside her door for a few minutes while she arranged something a little less… delicate for an outing, after all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Bliss Barnard Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar Character Portrait: Su'da Character Portrait: Karl Hastenbeck
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Su'da




Su’da had to admit to himself that the ride to the Capital was not so bad in the end. Granted it was not his home and was to cold by half but he could not help but admire the scenery and vast green landscape that they rode through. His own home, blistering hot at this time of year, could look like a desert if the rains did not come.

They passed at least one other village, their party receiving the bows of peasants who buried their faces in the dirt as the riders passed. Twice they over took marching columns of troops, a reminder that Medreva was at war, and the soldiers shuffled off the road at a bugle from the Kings Steward, glancing resentfully at the passing entourage.

Su’da was shocked at the quality of the soldiers he had time to flick his eyes over as they rode by. They were shabby, poorly armed, and looked down trodden. Once he dropped back to speak with a member of their Medrevan escort.

“You are at war?” He made it a simply question, it was always best if most people assumed he spoke only basic languages other than his own. The young knight looked surprised at the question and for a second Su’da thought he saw a flash of fear in the mans eyes.

“We are.” The Knight confirmed, speaking slowly as he gestured to the west where distant columns of smoke were barely visible. “The Kingdom of Brunswick-Lunebrg has taken the Western provinces.”

“But your King has party?” Su’da pressed the question, completely baffled that the event they rode to would take place with enemy armies trying to batter down the kingdoms gates.

“He has invited your Crown Prince, maybe to try and fortify his position, but he has also asked for peace with our enemies. They send the Iron Duke for talk. You understand?”

Su’da understood and he thanked the Knight before rejoining the Crown Prince. The Iron Duke, he was familiar with the title but not the man. Su’da had met several of his own people returned from mercenary work who had told them about the Duke of Brunswick. It was also rumoured that the Iron Duke retained two of Su’da’s own people in his household troops.

He pushed the matter further back into his mind as they rode into the Castle, Su’da noting with some surprise that their reception was little more than two women. One of them was a Lady Knight, but otherwise there was no one in sight and he felt the touch of a subtle insult that the Medrevans couldn’t do more than this for a man they hoped to make their ally.

He dismounted with the Crown Prince and observed the two women with an impassive face. His own years in the fighting pits made him an excellent judge of soldiers and he was impressed with what he saw in the Lady Knight. She would certainly be a challenge for the Crown Prince but Su’da knew that no amount of practice, nor armour, could substitute for years of experience. If had to kill the woman, he would do so.

The fine features of the two women were not lost on him though, nor on his master he noted as the Crown prince swept a short bow to kiss their hands. Su’da would do no such thing for he did not expect to be even noticed by them beyond a rude stare or two.

“Well, we didn’t get a chance to eat aboard the ship this morning, so breakfast seems like a splendid idea. Lorri and Su’da here are of course free to do as they please.”

The Crown Prince had spoken lightly enough, and he well knew that Su’da was not going to let him out of his sight, especially not in these new surroundings. He bowed his head slightly and spoke in their native tongue, his voice a deep, yet pleasant, rumble.

“Your servant shall stay to protect you, highness.”




The Duke of Brunswick




Three Days Ago - Western Borders of the Kingdom of Medreva

The grey walls of Raneis Castle glistened with the dew of the fresh morning, the clouds hugging the mountains that surrounded it so low that the higher towers of the fortress vanished into them, hiding the yellow and blue banners that hung limp in the dead air.

A clatter of chains broke the still morning, a trumpet challenged the sky, and the drawbridge dropped with a crash over the moat newly filled with rain water that poured from the mountains.

Then a thunder of hooves and the Duke of Brunswick rode forth. He was mounted on a great black charger and wore the fire-blackened armour that was his trademark. With him rode over one hundred of his household troops and at their head went his banner, a great square of blue cloth halved, blue with a golden crown on one side, red with a black armoured fist rising from the water and clutching a sword upon the other.

For the Medrevan soldiers who, up until a few months ago, had been siegeing the castle it was an impressive display and he galloped through their camp without sparing them a glance, his contempt for them clear.

He did return the salute of one Medrevan nobleman, gesturing for the man to ride with them as he continued east. The older man, his senior by twenty years, fell in to ride next to him.

“Off to do a bit of dancing, your Grace?” The Medrevan asked with a small grin.

“If by dance you mean tear the balls off your Prince, then yes.” He laughed. “It is not to late to join me and be on the winning side Baron.”

The older man smiled tiredly. “May I have leave to consider your offer until you return my lord?” He asked. Baron Travan Haverty had been charged with holding the Iron Duke at the Western Mountains and his army had crumbled, his fortresses had fallen and now he was but a shadow of his former self.

“Of course Baron, we are enjoying a ceasefire after all are we not?” The Duke spoke lightly but then he turned slightly in his saddle and locked his eyes on the Baron who shivered slightly at the gaze. “But when I return, if we do not have an accord, I will smash your army and put this country to the sword, so think carefully.”

The older man nodded and then curled his horse away from the Brunswick column. He could feel nothing but despair as he watched yellow and blue of Brunswick-Lunberg ride swiftly alongside the armoured fist of the Iron Duke.

He prayed for peace, if it failed, those same banners would ride his men into ruin.

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Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Bliss Barnard Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Laurent Adoroar Character Portrait: Su'da Character Portrait: Dai McNeill
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Bliss patiently listened to Lyanna explain, glad to lend a sympathetic ear. She had not spent much time with the knight outside of the training grounds & their private archery lessons, as one could never convince Lyanna to stray away from her knightly duties, so this was all news to her. She never could have imagined the inner turmoil that the warrior felt in stuffy social situations.

It made sense though & Bliss did not know why she had not realized it earlier. Lyanna had to work extremely hard to prove herself to her male peers, so of course she would not have had the time (or the energy & desire) to learn how to be "ladylike". The handmaid found herself wondering how Lyanna ever managed to get through her younger years, especially so far from the support of her family...How difficult that must have been.

“I’m not mad at anyone, just… frustrated. At myself, for always ending up in these situations where I don’t know what to say or how to be.”
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"You need only be yourself," Bliss loftily said. "If you give people the chance to see you, who knows? They might surprise you, Lyanna."

“But I probably shouldn’t have said that. You’ve got enough to deal with on your own, right? Nobody here has it easy, I know that much.”

"No one can known what it is like to be anyone other than themself." Bliss tried to sound casual, but as they drew closer to the stables there was a slight twinge of panic in her words. The handmaid kept an eye out for any unattended horse, lest one try to snatch up her hair or dress in its teeth.

Bliss saw a group of riders approaching in the distance, Ephraim's steward being the only one recognizable. Two, uniquely dressed men rode alongside of him. The larger one with a shaved head appeared to be, almost literally, armed to the teeth. These must be the visitors from Shahari. Her curiosity piqued & she felt a tingling wave of excitement as they drew closer. By the time the party had fully arrived, Bliss had a silly smily plastered to her face.

“Their Royal Highnesses Princes Ephraim and Elijah de Montefort of Merderva welcome you to their home. My name is Sir Lyanna du Lac, and this is Miss Bliss Barnard.” Bliss instinctively did a proper curtsy & bowed her head when Lynna introduced her. It was second nature by now.

As Lyanna continued with the formalities, Bliss studied the guests. Nosy as she was, she was always fascinated by anyone & anything that potentially offered a break from the droll normalcy of every day life. The Prince's pleasant appearance did not escape her attention either.

“So formal!” The prince grinned & Bliss found herself liking him already. He said something more, but she did not entirely listen since she was too busy delighting in the prodigious sight of a Prince kissing Lyanna's hand & consequently making the knight turn bright red. The smile dropped from her face, however, when the royal from Shahiri then repeated the process with her. Her cheeks burned pink. A prince greeting a handmaid in this way! She quickly glanced up at the royal's servant & raised her brows, as if to ask Is this normal?

Her hand dropped to her side & the Prince turned to address his riding party. A riding party which, Bliss noted, was unusually discreet.

“Well, we didn’t get a chance to eat aboard the ship this morning, so breakfast seems like a splendid idea. Lorri and Su’da here are of course free to do as they please.”

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Laurent's brotherly worry kicked in when he observed the way in which Malik greeted Lyanna. He was not entirely certain why it bothered him so. She was, after all, a lady & it was not so unusual of a greeting with that considered. He was slightly relieved when he saw the gesture repeated with the handmaid, but not entirely. Laurent dismounted & several of the stablehands came forward to tend to their horses.

“Your servant shall stay to protect you, highness.” The older man said, cearly devoted.

"I will go to kitchen to ensure everything is to your liking, m'lord. Please let me know if you have any special requests, & I will happily oblige." A royal messenger had been dispatched ahead of them, so Prince Ephraim should be well aware by now that his guests had arrived.
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"After the meal I must depart from you, however," he explained as they walked to the dining hall. With another guest on the way & the ball tonight, Laurent would have his hands full running errands & accomplishing whatever tasks Prince Ephraim had in store for him. "But you have the good fortune of having the honorable Lady Lyanna to escort you where you desire." He smiled at his friend as he spoke of her & then performed another flourishing bow before he excused himself.

In the kitchens he encountered Elijah's manservant, Dai, helping Horike prepare food. The man seemed to be genuinely pleased in doing so as well.

"Good morning, Dai," Laurent said. He eyed the hunk of meat that Horike & Dai were skillfully carving away at. "Lovely kill."

Although he & Dai did not particularly see eye to eye, Laurent always tried to keep his manners intact in spite of who he may be conversing with. "The guests from Shahiri are in the dining hall, if you wish to let Prince Elijah know where they are."

Laurent stopped one of the servants that were about to leave the kitchen with tray bearing pitchers of drinks. "If you see Bliss Barnard out there, tell her to stop sticking her nose in other people's business & go tend to the princess Giselle, as she should be." he growled. His good humor tended to falter at the thought of someone ignoring their responsibilities, although that wasn't the only reason her presence had bothered him. He knew by now how much the handmaid enjoyed stirring up gossip & scandal, & considering that Ephraim seemed to want to be tactful about his royal guests, the handmaid's presence should be a cause for concern. "I would have told her myself, but the royalty was present."

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Lyanna fought down her embarrassment. She was a knight of the realm, and a Captain at that, and this was what had been asked of her by her sworn liege. She could not and would not let Ephraim down, not when she knew just how hard he was working himself every day in an attempt to deal with the plenitude of issues facing the kingdom. The least she could do was man up (or, unfortunately in this case, woman up), and get these people to where they needed to go.

“I apologize for the lack of a welcoming party,” she said, sticking to her formal script so as not to find herself as thrown out as she had been that morning. “But their Highnesses both have pressing matters to attend to, and will gladly pay more formal and decorous welcome to you at tonight’s festivities.” The primary reason for this party was the Crown Prince’s arrival: Merderva would need the favor of Shahari if they hoped to hold out against Brunswick-Lunberg. Ephraim’s uncle, the previous king, had not been a warlike man by any means, and the army he’d left his sons was basically a shambles. The training regimens for foot soldiers had been a joke, and funding for armament was running dry faster than Ephraim, Elijah, or any of their stewards could find money to replace it.

Merderva’s sole military advantages lay in two things: the small, but elite corps of knights that it had long trained and maintained as a sterling tradition even the previous king could not lead to ruin, and Ephraim himself. He, as she, was a lifelong soldier, but he was also an excellent tactician, and there were those that speculated that the only reason Brunswick-Lunberg hadn’t overridden Merderva entirely was his ability to do a lot with a little. She’d seen the situation firsthand, and couldn’t help but agree. Two thousand of the world’s finest knights did not an army make, and their slipshod foot-soldiers were only just now beginning to receive training up to her liege’s standards.

It was, in other words, a complete disaster. But they couldn’t afford to let this show to potential allies, hence the frivolity of this evening’s festivities. They had to impress and court (figuratively speaking) Prince Malik, and they needed to do so as quickly as possible. Only then would an alliance with Shahari give them serious leverage at the bargaining table with Brunswick-Lunberg, who relied just as heavily on that country’s shipping and the graces of the Sea-Queen as anyone else. It was enough to give Lyanna a headache.

Fortunately, they reached the dining room thereafter, and Lyanna bowed the Prince’s entourage inside, gesturing to the central table, at which nobody currently set head. Elijah had left, then. Probably for the best—it would be awfully awkward for the succession crisis to look so obvious. At formal dinners, that chair was thus far left unoccupied.



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Malik, a man much sharper than he seemed, was aware of a great deal of Merderva’s current woes, and could easily forgive the absence of a member of the royal family from his welcome. He was interested to see if these princes could pull off this little balancing act of theirs. From what he understood, the older one, Ephraim, had the might of the military behind him, but that was a rapidly-dwindling comfort. The younger, Elijah, had the favor of more of Merderva’s powerful noble houses.

As if to make it all that much more complicated, it seemed like one representative from every royal family under the Goddess’s bright sun was here, and none of them could be refused if they wanted to come. Merderva couldn’t stand to lose an alliance with offense, not now. And those alliances needed to get stronger, more official, if they had any hope of taking back their western provinces.

Finding his way easily to a seat at the right of the head of the table, Malik piled his plate with food, apparently entirely unaware of the tenseness of the situation around him. But it was everywhere—even the servants had a certain stiff set to their shoulders, as though of a mind to tough through it and endure, come what may. It was actually a little impressive for a place in such dire straights, and perhaps the spirit of this nation would not break as easily as its arms. Cold comfort, but interesting. The lovely Lady du Lac took up a standing post behind him, and he inferred that she was to be his guide for as long as he wanted one, which would suit him just fine.

The dining room was mostly empty at this point, but Malik was entirely unconcerned by this. He considered using his wit to interrogate Lyanna for a while, but decided against it, instead gesturing for Su’da to take whatever refreshment he wanted. Malik wasn’t one for much formality, and was perfectly fine with his manservant eating at the same table as himself. It was kind of pointless for him to occupy a spot so far away they couldn’t converse, anyway.



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“And you said I was too formal,” Ephraim chided, shaking his head at her use of the word ‘Sire.’ He put up with it when necessity demanded, but it wasn’t his preference. He’d always preferred to exhibit the common touch when possible, perhaps because the first portion of his life he’d spent in much less high a station. He waited politely outside her room, arms crossed over the broad expanse of his chest, back pressed against the stone wall, and closed his eyes for a moment.

His worries threatened, as they always did, but he could hold them off just a little longer. She reappeared a few minutes later, hardly recognizable as someone of her status, but then he looked more like an ordinary soldier than a prince every day, so it was certainly not his prerogative to judge. He nodded once, rolling his eyes a little. “Not really, but it seems I have little choice. My friend is quite insistent, and she tends to get her way. I can hardly object.”

The journey to the stables passed in comfortable silence, and he thought to seek out Celeste, the stablehand usually on duty at this time, but she didn’t seem to be around. A boy, no more than twelve or so, hurried to prepare their horses instead. Ephraim’s personal mount was a sturdy warhorse, a beast fire-tempered and strong enough to carry him in full plate and then some. She was black from head to toe, with the kind of intelligent glimmer in her eyes that indicated to the knowledgeable that she’d originally been bred in Effemagne. His last name-day present from King James, as it happened. Perhaps appropriately, she’d been named Sable, and he hadn’t seen fit to change it.

Swinging astride, he cast a glance at Giselle, just then mounting her own horse. “What say you? The forest, perhaps?”

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Su’da




If his lord saw hope in the bearing of the castle staff, Su’da saw something much different. He was older, perhaps wiser, but his age did give him experience in reading the moods of men. What he read here did not fill him with confidence in their proposed allies.

It was true that all of his combat experience came from the fighting pits and he had never stood in a true battle line, but neither had his liege. The reason Sharai produced so many excellent individual warriors was their lack of any serious enemies to threaten their homeland. True, they waged war on the seas from time to time but he was not foolish enough to think that warfare on the high seas was anything like warfare on dry land where trees, even a hill, could hide an entire army. At sea, battle was fluid, quick, with on tricks, but on land, well, it took a different kind of man to wage that kind of war.

Before coming to Medreva he had joined his master in learning all that they could about the distant Kingdom. The reports of the war that was being waged were scarce but it was plainly obvious that the Medrevans had been caught totally unprepared by their enemies. What surprised him most was that there appeared to be no actual cause for war, anywhere, almost as if the war had begun by some accident or trick of the gods.

His mind was still mauling this over as they entered the grand dining hall. It was an impressive space and he could see how it might look wondrous indeed when filled with people and music but today, with only a few people at the long tables, it spoke volumes about the troubles of the Kingdom.

The Crown Prince sat, the lady knight taking up a stance behind him. Su’da moved quickly to stand behind the Crown Prince, facing outwards towards the Lady Knight. He would not sit at this strange table and have both of them with their backs exposed.




The Duke of Brunswick




One Day Ago – Western Provinces, Kingdom of Medreva

“There she is…” The Duke spoke quietly as he shielded his eyes from the sun with an armoured hand. In the distance, barely visible amid the haze that promised a hot day, the bulk of Medreva rose into the sky, topped by its formidable looking castle.

“Going to be a brute to siege m’lord.” The Knight who sat easily in his saddle next to the Duke commented, absently slapping at a horsefly that had settled on his leg.

The Duke grunted his agreement then lowered his hand, looking about him at the wealthy towns and lush fields that stretched away from his position on the crest of a high hill. From here the dirt track lazily wound its way down into the river valley, several stone bridges with mills turning slowly above them making for a tranquil scene. There was wealth here and he, like all soldiers, knew that if there was no other reason for fighting wealth would certainly do.

“If they were as good at soldiering as they are at farming we might not have made it this far this fast.” The Duke said aloud, his companion nodding in agreement. “As for that Castle, we’ve both learned that the Medrevans are rather unimaginative defenders though the bastard Prince is rumoured to be a tougher nut to crack.”

The Duke had many qualities but none greater than his ability to remember virtually everything he saw, heard or read. Over the past year he had read much on the leaders of Medreva, their strengths and weaknesses and in a Kingdom so divided over succession he found many a willing nobleman who would tell all in exchange for a purse of desperately needed gold. Medreva was rift with spies, many of them his own, others split between the two Royal Princes and he was sure that surrounding Kingdoms had their fair share as well.

The two horsemen sat in silence for some time until, as the mysterious letter had promised, a small group of horsemen rode from a barn below and up the road towards them. They wore no marks on their shields or armour and their leader wore a close faced helmet despite the rising heat of the day.

When they were within fifty yards the faceless leader curtly ordered his men to stay and then rode on alone. The Duke kicked his own horse forward to meet him and the two riders came together in a little swirl of dust.

“The Iron Duke.” Said the faceless man as he reined to a halt. “Your reputation precedes you.”

“And I have heard much of you, Count Von Trasel, from your younger brother, nothing good of course.” The Duke replied, a wiry smile crossing his face.

“Of that I have no doubt.” Said the other as he pulled the helmet from his head, revealing short cropped black hair and a nose hooked like the beak of some bird of prey. Two piercing green eyes regarded the Duke from beneath a pair of equally black eyebrows. Von Trasel knew of the Iron Duke, few people didn’t, but sitting on his horse, quiet and contained, it was hard to imagine the fury and terror that he had unleashed upon Medreva. Many might guess at the Dukes nature but the Count, who had known him since they were lads, guessed that his childhood friend would have only grown more intense as the years passed.

“Your note suggested you might have a solution to our mutual… Problem.” The Duke said, interrupting the Counts train of thought.

The other nodded and smiled. “Still straight to the point I see. Very well, yes, I have a suggestion.” He pulled a roll parchment from under his chest piece and held it up. “Myself, along with a number of other Nobles, feel that we might come to an accord. We all wish to see the true heir, Prince Elijah, on the throne. Since most of the western territories belong to supporters of the bastard we suggest surrendering those to you in exchange for you promise not to interfere, or continue your campaign, when we depose of the bastard.”

The Duke raised his eyebrows slightly. This was certainly an unexpected turn of events and he held out his hand for the parchment. “You are aware that I ride to negotiate a ceasefire, and possibly an end to the war.”

“Which we both know you have won,” Said the other man bitterly as he handed the paper over. “You negotiate from a position of total strength. Let me salvage what remains of our nation.”

“With you as the Kings most trusted advisor I am sure,” Said the Duke with a hint of sarcasm. The thin smile on the other man’s face told him he was not wrong. “I will consider it. That is the best I will give you under the circumstances.”

The Count nodded and pulled his helmet back on, faceless once again. He regarded the Duke for a long moment through the helmets eye slits and then shook his head sadly. “I regret we ever became enemies Karl, I really do.”

A sardonic smile played across the Dukes lips as he replied, “Join me for dinner tomorrow night then and, for a night, let us be friends once again.”

The Count gave a curt nod and was gone in a spurt of dust and gravel. The Duke of Brunswick watched him go before riding slowly back up the hill towards his waiting men.

Many more friends would lie buried in the earth before this war was over.

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Character Portrait: Isabelle Marcot Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: James Bandeaux Character Portrait: Su'da Character Portrait:
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James Henry-Ernest Bandeaux
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“Just standing there?” The king piped in, “I was obviously lacing up your dress after an intimate night together.” His tone was sarcastic and his eyes were filled with amusement. That was surely what the little maid had seen. Without even thinking the little lady assumed that the royal bloods were developing a scandal. The thought made him chuckle. The staff was always throwing together wild theories and tall tales of those of a higher status, like they’ve nothing better to do.

The King walked at a steady pace, in a happy and confident swagger. His step was so bright that he could have been mistaken for a little skip here and there. Having always been a Crowned Prince and now the King, James was used to having the quicker step. It was a custom in Effemane that the King be ever so slightly ahead of those he was conversing with. It was both symbolic and action of respect. Symbolic in the way that the King was always to lead his follows, and respectful in the sense that his men did not upstage him. Though not entirely keen on the idea, James had developed the habit.

Suddenly, Isabelle was all the chatter, which both puzzled James and amused him. She seemed rather reserved and cold in her chambers but now she was jovial and warm. “Oh I’m sure the kitchen will flutter with talk when we arrive together.” James responded. There was no doubt in his mind that that handmaiden had flown like the wind to the first servant she could find. After that it’s history, one after another until the entire Medervan staff was enlightened. Rest assured that Isabelle’s chambers will be well watched and hesitantly entered now.

With a quicken step and a little bit of a skip the Princess Isabelle had passed him. In instinct James picked up his footing and followed close behind her, almost with the feeling of a race. Just a couple steps behind her he listened to her voice chirp. James rolled his eyes as he met her at the bottom. “Pet names?” He noted, continuing on the path toward food. His hand pressed gently against her back as they grew close to the dining hall. “I like it,” He said before adding in a sarcastic “my love.”

In hopes to continue their suspicious behavior and blazing rumor James spoke at a hearty volume. Anyone who was in the hallway would be able to hear his words. James laughed as he thought of yet another maid overhearing them. Oh what fun it would be to fool all of these servants. Then, with some luck, their rumor might hit the nobles. Only then would James have to call to his cousins to explain. Though he wasn't entirely sure that they would care. Ephraim had his hands full with his duties and Giselle and Elijah was... Elijah. He had no real intention of marrying soon. That man wanted nothing more than to have his fair share of women.

Thinking of his dear cousin, James made a mental note to go and seek him out. It wasn't like Elijah to be far from the social event of the morning. After a brief moment James entered the dining hall and quickly came to realize that Prince Malik was sitting at the dining table. He and Malik had spent some time together when James still Prince and seeing an old friend was enough to make the man grin.

"My dear friend!!" James called as he went over and clapped the shoulder of the Prince of Shahari.

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Character Portrait: Giselle Angelou Character Portrait: Isabelle Marcot Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Elijah de Montefort Character Portrait: Ephraim de Montefort Character Portrait: Malik Falmari
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He noted the lady knight take a few respectful steps backwards when Su’da took up a defensive position behind him, though honestly, Malik could have sighed. It would be the height of folly for these people to attempt to assassinate him, and he knew the knightly sorts weren’t the kind to bother with something like that. If this Lyanna had any intention of slaying him, she would have challenged him to open-field combat in that quaint little way Merdervans had. As if honor had a place in matters of life and death. Malik had his own code, but it was strange and obscure to most, and it did not treat in too many of the chivalric principles as such.

Honestly, he rather wished his manservant would just eat, but he wasn’t going to demand that—he’d have food sent up later, perhaps, when he settled into his chambers. Until then, he supposed it would be like this. The absence of company was honestly a bit dreary, at least until two new people entered the room.

He recognized both on sight, though he’d only ever met one of them. He’d heard a little rumor that King James of Effemagne was present, but he hadn’t expected to run into him so soon. “Ah, James! It looks like being king agrees with you!” Malik grinned and reached up to slap the man across the back in a friendly gesture. James was a fellow who knew how to have a little fun now and then, something that was doubtless sorely needed in such a chill place as this.

The lady with him was also recognizable. Princess Isabelle Marcot, preceded by her reputation for manipulation and wiles. He glanced back and forth between the two and raised an eyebrow, his smile growing fractionally larger across his face as his eyes glittered with mirth. “And her Highness Isabelle. My, my, it seems that Merderva really is playing host to half the world’s royalty. I do wonder what has possessed you all to come to this little mixer of the high-and-mighty, but of course, I shall not pry.” His tone remained light, jocular, but there was a keen edge to it, as though he didn’t really need to ask to understand. And who did? A castle this big—the number of spies was simply outrageous. It always would be; there was simply no avoiding it. He would never deny having a few well-placed ones of his own, for why should he need to deny that? It was a practice that everyone knew about, and almost everyone used. He revealed some things so that what was kept hidden remained so.

Better to tell a small secret, so that people never went looking for the big one.

“Please, both of you, do join me. I simply must share a meal with such illustrious company.” Malik gestured widely, as if to encompass the otherwise empty table and all the freshened food that sat upon it. If none of the Merdervan royals was interested in holding court over breakfast, he certainly wouldn’t balk at the chance. Not when it was bound to be so much fun.



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Ephraim debated the merits of this for a moment, but the waterfall was far enough away from the border of the Western Provinces that it would not be an issue. Not with the armies still caped where they were. So it was with a subtle nod that he agreed, picking up the pace until Sable matched Wen in stride, a stride which increased until both were galloping rather rapidly over the terrain. He didn’t travel too far ahead, of course—the simple fact of the matter was that a horse bred for war could last longer than one for leisure, but he chose to remain at his friend’s side, his own inborn sense of caution demanding it.

They had not quite yet reached the waterfall when Ephraim spotted something curious in the distance. A rider, from the look of it, pushing his horse far beyond the bounds of safe pace. The animal, as it drew closer, was obviously in a lather, a dangerous state if they had much further to go. The workmanlike quality of the armor and it plainness indicated a sword rider of some kind, and not a member of the nobility, but that did not invalidate the importance of what the person was doing.

“Hold here,” he told Giselle, his station settling over him like a shroud. That was the voice of Ephraim the General, not Ephraim the childhood friend, and he spurred Sable to intercept the rider, holding up a hand to call a halt to the man’s forward progress. “Hold, in the name of Merderva,” he said formally, drawing up when the other did.

“Gods save Merderva,” the man replied, his voice leaden with weight of weariness. “I bring a message for their Highnesses. Please, it is most urgent.” As if for proof, the man fished a folded parchment out of his cloak somewhere.

Ephraim blinked. “That is a title that I hold,” he said mildly, and the messenger did a double-take, scrutinizing him for a moment before he dipped his head in embarrassment. It was the color of his eyes that made him recognizable, he knew, for he did not wear the more ostentatious regalia he was allowed.

“B-begging your pardon, Highness,” the man stammered, reminding him faintly of Lyanna, who was like as not having a rough time of it trying to keep up with the boundless energy and verve of the Shahari prince. Replacing the parchment, he pulled out another, and a light of amusement crept into Ephraim’s eyes. It was good to know he wouldn’t actually brandish a missive for Royal eyes only to just anyone.

The second paper, he took, reading over the words and resisting the urge to curse under his breath. “All right,” he said calmly, handing the paper back. “Carry this same message to my brother Elijah, and let no one else see it, do you understand?” The man nodded, tucking the message away again, and Ephraim dismissed him. Lashing his horse with his reins, the messenger took up a full-tilt gallop again, making a beeline for the palace. Ephraim returned to Giselle, shaking his head.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and the guilt was obviously genuine, “but I must return. I have to make arrangements to house the Iron Duke and his party. It seems my request to treat for peace is to be answered in person, long before I had anticipated.” Perhaps the worthiest of all the things he could be doing with his time, but one he dreaded. The lord he was to treat with was not known for his mercy, and it would take more than a few parties and a pleasant stay in Merderva to forge a treaty between these two nations. Ephraim was going into this at a steep disadvantage, and just for one small moment, he cursed the legacy of his uncle for that. But it was no good berating a dead man for his lack of foresight, and he had too much to do to waste any time in so unworthy a fashion.

“We must head back. I’ll have to host him at one of the manses—we’re running out of room in the royal wing.” He would inform the stablemistress to send whomever she trusted the most to supervise that part of it, and the same for the kitchenmaster, the head maid, and several other people. They were going to have to split castle staff to augment the capabilities of the manse. Perhaps he would have to send Laurent as well, to manage everything else. It was going to be a delicate balancing act, but by the time Duke Hastenback arrived, they would be ready.

They would have to be.

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Character Portrait: Isabelle Marcot Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: James Bandeaux Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Isabelle Marcot




Isabelle paused at his comment her face betraying her confusion momentarily at the sound of his comment. She hadn't entirely realized what she'd said and the implications it might have held. She broke into a small smile at James' added notion. She could tell that he had his voice at a much greater volume than necessary in hopes of it being heard by anyone within earshot, she was after all at his side and neither deaf or incredibly old.

She didn't mind though, what difference would it really make to her if the maids and whatnot talked. It wasn't like any of that really mattered. The only time it might become an issue if if it somehow made it's way up to their royal highnesses and keepers of this house. Though from what she had heard of the younger prince's escapades they were in no place to become angered at such a matter. Besides, if that did come about she was sure she could explain the simple misunderstanding and it wouldn't prove to be much of a problem. So for now, it was just fun; a little game of sorts.

Isabelle found herself coming to a halt once they were through the doorway into the dining hall of the Mederva Palace. The hand on her back had been applying -a soft amount of- pressure as they walked and James moved himself along at her side so when he came to a halt the hand was almost invisible at her back causing her to almost instinctively stop along with it. Though she was almost glad to have the hand gone, it had been tolerable, though not entirely comfortable; at least by her part anyway, but then again she also wasn't used to being touched outside of a hand on her arm.

"My dear friend!" Ah that explained it. He knew the man seated at the table, and obviously quite well from the way they spoke to one another. The other had even referred to the king as simply James. Isabelle knew quite well that in their sort of circle first names were reserved for close friends and family. The only people to whom she was ever just Isabelle were her parents. To everyone else she was 'your highness' or 'princess' or something of that sort.

"My apologies, your highness. I do not believe I have had the honour yet, and my companion is apparently both terribly rude and impossible at introductions." She chided in James' direction. She assumed he could only have been the esteemed Prince of Shahari whom she had overheard had arrived but had yet to actually meet the man. "In lieu of that however, I would be delighted to join you. The chance of such a meal is one I cannot pass up." She found herself sliding into a chair near the prince.

She soon found herself graced with a plate of fruits and a small bowl of oatmeal. She picked through the fruit with her fork before settling on a raspberry and piercing it with the fork and lifting it gingerly to eat it. She did not fill the gap of silence that breached the air though. She much preferred to just listen during the beginnings of most conversations. It was always best to go into one knowing to whom you are speaking before actually speaking. And though she had a potentially deadly tongue, often what could be even worse was her sheer silence.

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Character Portrait: Isabelle Marcot Character Portrait: Lyanna du Lac Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: James Bandeaux Character Portrait: Su'da Character Portrait:
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James Henry-Ernest Bandeaux
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James grinned at Malik as he was engaged in his boisterous way of speaking. He had not forgotten the beautiful Isabelle, no, but he hadn’t thought it necessary to introduce the two. Though he supposed after her little comment he should have. Truly, even after being specially trained to be one of the most honorable kings James still failed in some ways.

Not wanting to show his slight embarrassment at not introducing the Princess he merely just rolled his eyes and added his own little comment to the mix. Two could play at this game, and whatever sweet talk they had earlier was quickly turning into a bitter and sarcastic humor. “You really are a Princess, aren’t you? Needing always a man to introduce you.” Though he was not his strongest jab, it would do for now. There would be plenty of time at the ball to get under her skin.

It wasn’t that James wanted to irritate Isabelle; it was just a matter of dominance over her. He had heard that she was terribly sharp and extremely independent but he wasn’t quite expecting this. Perhaps coming back at her wasn’t such a brilliant idea.

“But of course!” James said in a cheery manner to Malik. He would gladly share breakfast with such a fine royal man. In fact, if James had a choice of which royal blood he would wish to dine with Malik would be at the top of the list. Not only did that man come from an intricate and unique country, but he himself was very complex and interesting. There was a lot more than meets the eye with Malik, and perhaps he even had the words that James needed to resolve his conflicts.

After sitting down next to Malik and across from Isabelle he was served a platter of some morning bread, meat bits, and a couple of fruit. He thanked the servant simply and then began eating at a leisurely pace. James almost always ate slowly; he enjoyed food and thought it best to really indulge in whatever he was eating. Unlike his father, who ate his food as quickly as possible in order to get to more kingly business, James took time at his meals.

After swallowing a bit of sweet bread James patted his mouth with a napkin and said, “My affairs here are simple.” in response to the Prince’s comment. He explained his visit to the Medervan castle in one vague sentence, “They are my kin and I am in dire need of a place to deal with the demons.” It was an obvious place to get away from his worries for a moment. While he was here he could see clearly what really had to be done for his kingdom and what else he needed to do in order to have a firm footing as the king.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Giselle Angelou Character Portrait: Isabelle Marcot Character Portrait: Ephraim de Montefort Character Portrait: Malik Falmari Character Portrait: Sophia Van Alstine Character Portrait: James Bandeaux
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Malik Falmari




The smile left Malik’s mouth, but never his eyes, as Isabelle spoke, and he found himself quite pleasantly amused indeed but the cut of this one’s jib, to use a sailing idiom he was rather fond of. She was smarter than she let on, what with the observational silence and the gumption to introduce herself rather than wait on someone else to do it. Boldness was a trait that Shahari men tended to favor in women, and in this, Malik did not consider himself an exception. His mother was, after all, the boldest of them all, and look at all she had done for the country.

“I assure you,” he said in response to her introduction, “the delight is just as much mine.” He’d never say it was all his, of course, because he was indeed a rather pleasant person to speak with, and that was no accident.

Less reserved than his counterpart was the Effemagne King, which of course Malik had rather expected. There was something very forthright about James, a quality he shared with Ephraim. He knew them both about equally as well, and Elijah in similar measure, though forthright would not be the correct term there, exactly. In all the wheeling and dealing countries did with one another, the royal children always became involved at some point, and it was better to know than to guess.

He was unsurprised that James was here to take the edge off, so to speak. Being a king was not an easy thing, and frankly, Malik was glad that responsibility was not yet his, may his mother live another fifty years. Always the attentive listener, he chewed over his repast thoughtfully and nodded. “And frightful demons there seem to be everywhere, these days. Lurking about in shadows and looming above our heads. The specter of war, of course, but there are more subtle pressures as well, and they no less ponderous, no?”

His eyes slid to Isabelle, though he directed the question at both. There were a few possible reasons for her own presence, but the most obvious was the one he hinted at—the pressure to wed. It was one that his court now and then tried to foist off on him, but he had ever been an independent spirit, and not inclined to do things just because the court thought it wise or best or what-have-you.



Ephraim de Montefort




Were Ephraim a lesser man, he would perhaps have refused to even consider this new complication. The palace was already almost full to bursting with foreign guests, refugee noblemen and women from the Western Provinces, some of them cowards who’d refused to do their duty to their (presently nonexistent) king and defend their lands before fleeing. That was not necessarily a crime to lay at the Countess’s feet—she looked less a warrior than he did a prince at the moment, and that was saying something. But it was frustrating all the same, that just when his troubles seemed to be multiplying too fast to keep up with, another should blossom in his path.

But he was no lesser man than himself, and so he did the only thing his honor would allow him to do: he offered the poor woman asylum. “You say you have great need to get to the castle, milady. Then to the castle you will go, and if you have need to speak with me specifically, you may air your worries on the way.” He glanced momentarily between himself and Giselle, then decided that his horse was probably the stronger, and so offered her a hand up to ride behind him.

“Forgive, if you would be so kind, the lack of decorum, Countess, but I’m afraid time is short and matters are urgent.” Hopefully she wouldn’t fly into a fuss—he’d known more than a few noblewomen who adhered to the letter of etiquette so tightly they managed to forget the intent. If she was insistent, she could ride with Giselle, but they needed to get back to the castle, and soon. He had a feeling, somewhere in his gut, that whatever tidings she brought were related to the war—it was evident in the defeat she wore like so many others of her peers wore pride. It cloaked her, weighing down her words and her shoulders in the way only the darkest of tidings could, and he did not envy her that.