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Thread: XX Royal Lies [Alura and Koti~] IC M

  1. #21
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    “I will keep that promise, though I make no such vows about the horse.” Diana spoke at an attempt to make a joke. She was thankful that the girl was willing to teach her, to help her grow from just a simple treasure locked away. Her eyes drifted to Byron, who was looking at them with a mixture of curiosity and something else, like a parent watching their kid to prevent them from trying something stupid. She couldn’t hold the gaze as she finished off her current mug of ale, looking into its depths before letting out a sigh.

    A steady silence fell between them, Damanius unable to place the feelings bubbling between them. It was like a tick in the back of his head, a need to fill the silence that sat heavy between them, yet feeling unable to start on a topic. He still didn’t want to talk about the night prior, and nothing about the place had grabbed her yet to really talk about. Most of the others had moved on, the few brothers that had come in late eating in silence while the travelers headed to the cottages they had purchased for the night. His meal was gone, and he sat, clutching the empty mug as he just let the world move about him, letting the quiet thicken like a cotton blanket.

    “You two could make a drowned man look pleased.” Byron spoke as he moved to speak with them, his voice a bit raspy from his tales. Throwing back the rest of his ale, he let out a rather loud sigh and settled into the bench, looking the two of them over for a while longer. Damanius could feel himself shrinking into himself, trying to pull himself up to a better feeling, yet it was hard to come by. He was content with how things were, but felt a bit of unease that seemed to lurk just out of view.

    “Look, ya can’t waste your time just starin at the sun until things happen, both of ya.” Byron spoke, pointing a finger at the both of them. Damanius began to speak back to him, but the old knight held up a finger to silence them.

    “Listen, let me tell you a story about your father, the late king. I think it suits both of you rather well.” Byron spoke, shifting a bit closer while looking heaven bound. Damanius remained silent while Byron set himself up for another long story. The jovial storyman from prior had been set aside for a more serious knight, one who still longed for the glory of his youth.

    “Your father, may his spirit rest with God, was a shrewd man, though knew how to address his people. This was before your second sister was born, Kokiri was born. We were on a campaign to address the southern borders and the threat of invasion. We had come to the local inn and retired there for the night, on the third day of the trail. Most knights were tired and ready for a good meal.” Byron spoke, giving himself a thoughtful pat on his stomach.

    “I don’t remember this one.” Diana spoke, trying to scrub through all she could remember of her lessons. All of her fathers campaigns had been implanted into her, from quelling the emerald tides from the east, to governing the lands. The fact that one of the campaigns would be left out either meant the mission was a complete disgrace, or a sordid affair best forgotten.

    “It was a meager one. Most of the dealings with the south were never written down due to how simple they were. Only a show of force was enough to keep them quiet. Now hush and let me tell my story.” Byron spoke to her, shushing her. Damanius felt slightly indignant at being told off like a child, but he would hold in his tongue for now.

    “Regardless, during the evening meal, a local jester had begun his words. He began upon the king, roasting him with words I would dare not speak. Shango and I, both having followed the king to the pub, had moved to silence the man for daring to speak against the king.” Byron spoke, a twisty smile curling his lips. Damanius sat in mild shock, knowing that insulting the king was about a sentence to the gaols, or even worse. His father was a strong man, never to suffer a fool that dared mock him.

    “Before we could so much as draw our blades, Aminan moved in, staying us as he moved in. The jester turned whiter than a ghost, dropping to his knees as the king stood over him. He waited a moment before pulling up the man, giving him the goofiest grin I thought possible.”

    “‘You got it all wrong, Jester. It was a mackerel that had managed to knock me off the boat, not a tuna. At least tell it right!’ He corrected the man, moments before the rest of the room burst into laughter as he moved to return to his seat.” Byron spoke, letting out a deep chuckle at the memory.

    “So, of course in shock I asked him, ‘King Aminan, how could you let him off so easily, even as he insults you,’ To which, his response still shocks me.

    ‘Never be ashamed of what has brought you here, nor worry what past you carry. Those who judge you will neither pity or praise you if you hide from all that you have done. If I am to be judged by the people, I will let them know I am not a folly to tomfoolery like the rest of them.’

    “What… what does that even mean? He corrected a jester's tale about a bad fishing trip, and that his was response?” Dianaspoke, a puzzled look across his face as she glanced between the two of them while trying to figure out his meaning. She had remembered several of the lessons her father had spoken to her, most of them sensible and straightforward. This was as straight as an arrow in a windstorm.

    “You have more brains than smarts, don’t you? King Aminan was never ashamed of his past and actions, knowing that everything he had done was all he could in the heart of the moment. Hold yourself with pride and humility, for your actions were done for what was needed.” Byron spoke, looking between the both of them so they could soak up his words.

    “Now, by your leave, I will retire to rest. Unlike the two of you who slept the day away, some of us had to actually work.” Byron spoke back in his jovial tones, smiling at the two of them before excusing himself from the table.

    “...I feel more confused than before.” Diana spoke rather bluntly as she watched him hobble through the main doors, leaving a sour taste in her mouth, yet more puzzled than anything else.

    ON THE ROAD

    Joaquim held onto the side of the wagon, the moon hiding behind the clouds, obscuring their road travels. The wagon driver and guard had just crossed through the next town, a short ride into the castle town. He had persuaded the men to ride through the night, knowing that Sir Byron wanted them back as soon as he could. Even more, if he could reach them early enough, it would leave enough time to enjoy some of the more pleasant sights. More so, the roads had been unpleasant to them since passing the first town.

    Guards had been posted both at the entrances of the town, stopping any and all who traveled through. The wagon had nearly been torn apart while they dug through anything they could. Apparently, the men were looking for a kidnapper and noblewoman, the princess of the late king no less! Joaquin didn’t even know one had still lived, and the news that she had been captured had him worried yet very excited. Already he was fantasizing what the young woman must have looked like, thinking of what this could mean to the current king. While he was no fan of king Sinal, he didn’t dare speak out against him. Those were the whispers between the riders and himself, just pondering what the princess must look like, and what that meant for the current King.


    "Even Dreams, can be a nightmare"
    Spoiler: Click it, I dare ya! 




  2. #22
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    Day 2 - The Friary, Evening

    A few forlorn apple cores stood in a row near Horatia's elbow and she poured herself another cup of ale, head a little fuzzy from the drink. She knew that the relief was temporary, but between the firelight and the burning liquid her muscles had unknotted a bit and her mind had been able to move on to more than just worry. She hated sitting still like this, but waiting is what Alfson would do she thought. When the action was somewhere else and you had something you needed to keep hidden, it was best to keep out of sight.

    It was like that time they had lightened one of King Sinal's supply carts of a couple of bushels of autumn-ripe apples and a kenning of sugar. It did little as far as resistance was concerned, but the little cakes that had been made of the stolen supplies were somehow sweeter for the little victory. Byron had allowed many things, but thievery and other unbecoming, even criminal activities he had squelched. At least, mostly. It was in large part due to his meddling that they had steered away from a more unscrupulous path in the end. They might not always see eye to eye, but he always steered them true when they listened to him.

    When the man himself came to them and poked at their attitudes, Horatia laughed at Diana's attempt to interrupt before straightening herself on the bench and refilling their cups. Once the old man launched himself into a tale there was little on earth that could interrupt him. She rolled her eyes behind the pitcher to Diana and set it aside, batting her lashes innocently at Byron.

    "Rest him!" Horatia said, lifting her cup before drinking when the old knight mentioned the late king. Despite her flippant attitude, she found herself caught up in the man's story as he mentioned their campaign, leaning in a little despite herself. Her smirk when Diana was reprimanded was a bit like a barn cat who had just eaten a mouse, well pleased not to be the brunt of Byron's telling off for once.

    At the mention of her father, though, her attention was totally recaptured. Her father rarely spoke of his time in service to King Aminan, not the way he had when she was a child. Such things were, she supposed, different to him now. In many ways the fall of the king, the loss of his father and son followed quickly by his wife had broken him.

    Laughing loudly at the picture of King Aminan being knocked from his bark by a mackerel, Horatia elbowed Diana's arm amiably, eyes half-closed as her smile widened. She kept chuckling as Byron continued, pausing to turn her laughter on Diana when she questioned the moral of the story, wiping a little twinkling tear from the corner of her eye and folding an arm across her stomach as if it would hold in the stitch from her laughing.

    It was hardly the first time Byron had accused someone of being a few horses shy of a cart, but at least he thought Diana had brains.

    "Don't feel badly. He usually tells me I've smarts, but even the smartest ass is still an ass." Horatia snorted, nearly spitting out the sip of ale she had taken in the process, and wiped the dribble away with the back of her wrist still crowing.

    Dipping a half-hearted bow with hand over heart at the man, Horatia watched him retire with sparkling eyes, coughing faintly. "Oh, Byron," she said softly to his retreating form. One thumbnail scratched at the long board absently.

    “...I feel more confused than before.”

    Giggling at Diana's admission, Horatia shook her head softly.

    "It's simple, really, when you think about it. Some people, like Alfson - I so wish you'd met him first - are good at thinking. They take their time and can see far, almost like they know what people will do before they do it. Some people are good at doing. That's us, maybe. Old Byron seems to think so, anyway. You see a problem, you solve it. As far as I'm concerned it's the best way to be." Annoyed, she rubbed the back of her neck and sighed.

    "You are going to have a lot to do going forward, too much to worry about where you've been. People are going to have a lot of questions about who you are, where you came from... Some, even in the Resistance, may want proof that you are who you claim to be and not some puppet Sinal threw a fine gown on and called a princess of Hymnascal. That's just the beginning of it, I'd wager. I can't help you with those things, but Byron can even if it's in parables.

    "Maybe Ignatio. He'll know what you should say and," She waved a hand over the young woman still wrapped in brown friar's robes, "How you should... do princess... ness." She trailed off, entirely out of her depth, and tried to mask it behind another drink of the ale she had meant to stop drinking.

    "He is right, though... Byron, I mean. Waiting isn't for everyone. Plenty to be doing while we are here. Look, I..." Fumbling for words, she took another steadying drink before setting it aside and using her hands to talk. "I don't really know how this should work. I suppose I should be bowing and scraping every time you enter a room, but that's just going to take too much time and effort we won't always have likely. So how about this. When we can I'll call you 'Your Majesty' and when others we don't trust are around I'll call you 'Rhiannon'... No, wait, better not. If someone remembers... maybe best we just avoid that. Diana, Byron's niece will do, I suppose. 'Your Majesty' and 'Diana'. Until we get you back to the castle, for a proper coronation let's just skip the kneeling and ring kissing and 'by your leave' bit, fair?"

    Holding out her hand as if they were striking a trade agreement, she lifted her brows expectantly.




    Day 2 - Castle Kitchens, Evening

    Alfson was not always calm. Tonight in particular his mind was reeling as he moved at a measured clip along the corridors of the drafty castle. Rumour was as deadly as truth since the king had sent out his bounty on convincing tales. People were turning in their own families, their own sisters for their own estates. Second, third sons were giddy with the possibilities, dispossessed cousins coming out of the very woodwork to point fingers at aunts and women who had not looked favourably upon their romantic overtures. Fishwives and wise women from villages far and wide were brought forward and accused. Disgruntled farmers claimed their wives of fifteen years were secretly yellow-clad horsewomen in disguise.

    The women were not alone. A few enterprising men sought to undo their competitors in love and business by proposing that they, disguised as a woman in yellow, made off with the Princess Diana after secretly wooing her away from her engagement. This rumour was also the one the Resistance chose to fan, planting the seed of the idea that it was ludicrous a woman would be capable of managing such a feat. What a shame the old Knight Hast had to die for the actions of a wild, lovesick youth to steal away the king's bride.

    Of the princess herself, there were ladies flocking to the castle in hopes of claiming the crown for themselves, insisting that they were Princess Diana despite the fact that some had the weathered hands and dark features of the common folk. They came in all ages, all sizes, all manner of dress - all willing to marry King Balaser if only he would just believe them to be his missing bride.

    Alfson himself had whispered in a few ears here and there. The value of servants could never be understated. The aides, the ladies who attended their mistresses, the body servants, the messengers, the cooks - all ruled their tiny kingdoms within the walls of the castle and beyond, and spread news around and outward from there, radiating it through the castle town. His handsome face, slim frame equal to the elegance of riding, and quiet demeanor made Alfson a perfect match as he darted amongst the most elegant of the castle's servants, those who served directly the king and his retinue themselves. Despite the pride of place and arguably the relative safety of his position, he had slept little knowing that every action now could ripple into catastrophic consequences for those of them still here at the heart of the Usurper king's displeasure.

    For this reason, he had collected droplets of news like a tree in drought and now headed towards the scullery where he was due to meet Ignatio's adoptive niece, his contact to the outside world. Ducking below the narrow door, the last dark liquid of the wine he had served the king swirling against the silver of the pitcher, he stepped to one side. Women with skirts belted up for ease of movement with their heavy, dirty work moved about running heavy pots to scrub clean while others cleaned and peeled vegetables. A few were separating linens for laundering, ruddy-faced with hands nearly as red. From among them, standing near the cool breeze let in through the open door framing the amber twilight in the little kitchen courtyard and gardens was a woman in pale grey, the ringlets of her hair slipping their confinement piled atop her head. She bent close to one of the girls who had a handful of dripping forks half-wrapped in her apron. With a nod, the girl skirted around the woman and moved towards the larger kitchens where the cooks and kitchen maids were busy at work.

    A smile broke across the woman's face as she turned and saw Alfson, hands folded primly. She was every bit as lovely as she had been when Riga had met her, and Arletta was the sort of beauty who was none the wiser to it no matter how she was praised. Waving him nearer and taking the pitcher from him, she greeted him pleasantly and offered him ale. Accepting, he pretended to stay a moment to rest in her company while she leaned a hip against a low wooden counter patiently. She managed the scullery and saw to it that things flowed smoothly into the kitchens, and despite her sweet nature somehow managed to do it well. He had never met someone in such a position who wasn't chasing about beating people with spoons and shoes. Then again, he had not spent time in many kitchens. His smile was half for her and half for home, remembering the ill-tempered cook who had given him the rough side of a spoon plenty of times - yet always gave him a bite to eat despite the grumbling. He had survived on that grudging allowance for longer than he cared to remember.

    Arletta touched his arm softly, recalling him from his thoughts. "I trust you are well, Alfie?"

    Alfson lowered his voice, taking her hand as he explained to her the state of things. Of Brand he knew the details in full, having stood out of sight but near enough at hand he could bring refreshment to the king if required. Of Riga, Arletta herself was able to give some insight, as he had stopped by the kitchens to speak with her when he had gone to see Brand in the stocks. Her cheeks flushed, and she told Alfson that Riga had said he was going to the execution. Their expressions both darkened, and he took a deep drink of the offered ale, feeling the burn of the rough quality all the way down.

    "Listen, Arletta. I should return to my duties, but if you don't mind I'd like to send my regards to your uncle. Do you think that you could share them for me?"

    Arletta nodded, understanding that the messages she carried for her uncle were something more than they seemed, but not entirely understanding what they meant most of the time. She smiled, confirmed her memory, and even accepted a letter from Alfson. It was a risk to send it with her, but he had taken special pains so that if anyone were to find it, it would seem like a folded blank piece of parchment and nothing more. Bowing over her hand, Alfson drank the last of his ale and turned away to collect a new pitcher of wine and a clean towel. He returned to his place and continued the evening quite like any other, bracing himself for the long night to come.

    Spoiler: Completely Unsolicited, Contextual Praise Definitely not Acquired via Torture 

  3. #23
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    MONASTERY HALLS

    “I don’t think Diana would work well either, as the moment they hear the name and see me, it’ll be a dead give away.” Diana responded as she looked to Horatia. She had gotten accustomed to people bowing to her, but she did agree that it would also be a dead give away if they ever got to a castle. In truth, they had been in such a panic to escape and get here, the lack of greeting had barely been noticed for her, and while she should feel insulted, it wasn’t a big enough problem for her. She tapped her chin while allowing the silence to stretch between them already. A name to hide herself, one that would be different enough to not draw attention, yet one they would easily remember at all times.

    “Maron could work. It was the name of my sister's maid.” Diana decided upon, giving a half smile at the memory, an older lady that was rather pleasing to be around, yet rather stern when needed. It had always been a treat to harass her when the two had played around, a woman who just didn’t give enough care about protocol to be bowing every time when having to deal with them.

    “I think you would have liked her more brash side.” Diana spoke as she reached out, taking Horatias hand in her own. She could feel the strength behind the rough skin, a contrast to her rather light hand as they settled upon the agreement. Now that it had been settled, Diana finally picked herself up and cleared away the mug and food she had been nibbling on in the last bit.

    “Now that the names are taken care of, I need to go change. Robes don’t seem the most pleasant thing to ride around in. We should also inform Sir Byron so he doesn’t blurt something out. He would be pleased to know his niece Maron is here to stay for a while.” Diana spoke as she left the room, having to take a few measured steps at the start. The ale had been much stronger than any wine she had before, and she could still feel the warmth still resting in her cheeks from the drink.

    The night air was a welcome sting to his face as Damanius found himself momentarily alone, giving a half choked sigh. He mostly blamed the alcohol, but the memories of his sister were starting to float through his mind, and the happier times back in the castle he had when free from his lessons. They had been quite the fun time, terrorizing the servants and just causing general mischief. He had been the more gullible one, and Kokiri was more than pleasing to take advantage of it to try and sneak away as many sweets she could. The last he could remember of her was when she had been sent to an academy for proper ladies, and then the news of her place being burned to the ground just days before the invasion in the capitol.

    Damanius slapped the sides of his face before darting off to the cottage, letting the cold wind burn his face as he moved to change into the riding dress that had already been repaired for him. Entering the room, he was quick to barricade it and let out a sigh. There was no reason to dwell on the ghosts of his past and focus on moving forward, as Byron had said. He had some time before heading to the stable, and even worse it would take time to get properly dressed, so he had time to get back into a good shape of mind.


    "Even Dreams, can be a nightmare"
    Spoiler: Click it, I dare ya! 




  4. #24
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    Day 2 - Friary Cottage, Evening
    Shaking on the names and manner of address settled between them, Horatia nodded, "Maron it is! Has a ring to it. Sounds like someone who doesn't deal in nonsense."

    Despite their agreement just past to be informal, the older woman was quick to take the cup and other leavings of the meal from Diana's hands and wave her off... Informal didn't mean she'd have a princess doing the scrubbing in her presence. Byron would give her more than a slap across the skull for something that egregious.

    Bobbing her head as Diana turned a bit unsteadily to go, Horatia rubbed the back of her skull as if she'd already been slapped. She caught up their cups in one hand, balancing a bowl and trencher with the apple cores in the other hand as she wobbled toward the kitchen where a few of the brothers were still tending to the business of tidying behind the others. She spoke with them a few minutes idly, but the one-sided conversation did little to soothe her nerves.

    She could not have said why they were singing. Perhaps the combination of worry over her friends left behind and the potential the princess might break her neck riding tonight, but she did feel it was a good way to learn. "Nothing for it but to do it," she mumbled to the friars who had long since tuned out her slightly slurring speech.

    Snagging a bottle of wine on her way out of the kitchens, she shifted her eyes around, smug at her success as she followed behind into the night beyond the hall. She found Byron smoking a pipe outside of his own cottage in conversation with one of the travelers who had passed by on his own way to rest. Feeling a little off put by the presence of the stranger, she laughed at Byron's jesting and told him after a brief time that she would be checking his niece Maron was settled in to sleep. He lifted a brow, but nodded his understanding. When he saw the cork of the wine bottle peeking from under the leather coat she had pulled over her tunic before supper he tried to chide her, but she easily danced out of reach and off into the night with an impish chuckle trailing behind her like child of the Lost Woods as she slunk amongst the trees.

    When she arrived at the temporary haven she shared with Princess Diana, she rapped her knuckles at the heavy wooden door and called her name softly, but there was no answer.

    "Diana? I've gone to see Byron and he's excited about his niece Maron staying a while as you thought he would be."

    She waited a moment before rapping more firmly and tried the door: it was barricaded. A stroke of panic sliced through the haze of drink while it clung just enough not to entirely puzzle out that a barricade from within was more likely to be the Princess own doing than not... Glancing about her looking for any signs that someone else had come that way, she shouldered into the door, resorting to kicking at it. With a running start, she shoulder-checked it again and finally burst through, wielding the wine bottle like a weapon and looking about wildly for any hidden danger.

    "Diana?!"

    Spoiler: Completely Unsolicited, Contextual Praise Definitely not Acquired via Torture 

  5. #25
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    COTTAGE

    Damanius gave small blessings for his years of practice. Getting dressed into the outfit was more troublesome than anything else, and being tipsy was not helping him out at the moment. He had managed to get most of the delicates on, including most of the corset that came with it. Fumbling with the upper ties, he had just enough wherewithal to hear Horatia begin banging on the door and not completely freeze. He was still holding his breath to make sure the corset sat right on his body and had thus been unable to respond. Just as he had been about to finish the last of the strings, the door burst open, sending the chair and dresser he had used to block it skittering across the floor.

    A small squeak of surprise escaped him as he grabbed the dress from the beds post and cover himself with it, panic coursing through him from the sudden shock of the intrusion. He dare not speak for the moment while staring wide eyed at Horatia, surprised mostly by the strength of the woman. While he knew the barricade wouldn’t hold against soldiers, having Horatia break it down was surprising. Just what was this woman made of. He glanced down to the wine bottle grasped in her hand, ready to strike down any who might bash down those wanting to harm Diana. A growl rippled through while his face turned red, both at annoyance at being seen in such a state of undress, and the fact that he may have just been caught not a few moments earlier. Having himself exposed so soon was not what he hoped for.

    He would need to drive her out, and thankfully her drunken stupor would help himself out. Most normal people would consider two women seeing each other barely dressed would be natural, even with reservations. Damanius was used to only one woman seeing him in the nude, but she had been left in the castle, and Horatia was not that Grueta. He began working himself up, letting his mind work through the words in the few sparse moments from Horatias forced entrance and her crying out his name.

    “I am getting dressed! These doors do not lock, and I prefer to have my privacy! You do not just get to barge in here without my allowance!” Diana shrieked, glaring daggers into the womans as she reached beneath and grabbed one of her shoes she had left nearby. Without letting the dress drop from covering her form, she tossed it with all the might she could, aiming to peg the woman square between the eyes.

    “Get out! Get out!” Diana screeched at her, tossing a second shoe at her once the first had found its hopeful mark. A pillow followed shortly as she did all she could to chase the drunken woman from the room. While she was assured that everything of Damanius had been hidden by garment and banding, there was no reason to take extra risk. Besides that, she still felt uncomfortable being equivalent nude in front of another.


    "Even Dreams, can be a nightmare"
    Spoiler: Click it, I dare ya! 




  6. #26
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    Day 2 - Friary Cottage, Evening

    It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the firelight from the little hearth in the cottage, her eyes brushing over Diana's form to see if there was trouble. None found, it took her mind a moment to take over for the heart still pounding in her chest. She felt a little strange standing at the door holding the wine bottle aloft, but looked at the chair with a now-broken back and the off-kilter little dressing table in confusion and blinked. She returned her gaze to the other woman.

    Diana's embarrassment was mostly hidden in the red-yellow glow of the low light and Horatia's mouth gaped a little as she tried to puzzle out why the door had been barricaded in the first place.

    "Diana," She began more softly, "Are you alright? What on earth are you-?"

    Her words were lost in the sudden outburst from the noble. Horatia's cheeks flushed angrily at the talk of allowance. What a pompous thing to say! "Allowing" her to enter her own room.

    "Oh, pardon me if the finer accommodations of the friary in the middle of the woods that we escaped to because you stabbed a man through the eye doesn't meet with your approval, Your Ma-Och!" Horatia managed to dodge back and turn her face away in time to take the shoe sharply across the temple instead of square in the face. Her arm had not come up quick enough to dodge the attack. She staggered back into the door, blinking and letting out an angry sound at the impact. Kneeing the corner of the dressing table as the shoe plunked to the floor, her temper flared. Scooping up the impromptu projectile without releasing the wine bottle, Horatia flung it back at the princess's chest.

    Since the woman was still screeching and seemed not to be in any danger, Horatia ducked back into the night air, kicking the door shut with an angry crash behind her and rumbling, "Rabid, feral little monster!" The door gapped a bit, wedged by the chair back, but she hardly noticed.

    Her hand went to her reddening temple. "With a shoe, a damned shoe!"

    Horatia shouted back through the mostly closed door, "Did you learn etiquette with a pack of wolves?! You bark as much as you blood bite, you... you brat!"

    She carried on muttering under her breath as she stalked off towards the meadows. "Not sharing the damned wine, that's for certain. Chateau Romani and all. Mongrel!"

    Spoiler: Completely Unsolicited, Contextual Praise Definitely not Acquired via Torture 

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