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Thread: [M] War and Peace ~ Breggo and Hannelorian [IC]

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    Default [M] War and Peace ~ Breggo and Hannelorian [IC]


    Asterious was beautiful in the summer - as long as one stayed away from the border of the Empire and avoided travel in late August as the storm season came about bringing with it torrential downpours that flooded rivers and washed away roads. The mud made travel especially treacherous for anyone daring to brave it on a wagon or carriage, the wheels getting swallowed in the earth and causing the passengers to constantly get out to assist the device out of their predicament before clamberring back into the relative comfort of the carriage only to repeat the exercise a meer 200 meters later. During the storm season, Asterious closed down to all but the bravest or the most foolish, the rains marking the end of the harvest and foreshadowing the winter that would come sooner than expected, starting more often than not in the second half of October. As rain gave way to snow, the countryside would be transformed into a wonderland, the roads becoming passible as the mud solidified in the cold and the winter trading would begin in earnest before the darkest time of the year.

    Regardless of the season, traveling the borderlands was ill-advisable. The southern border was an active war zone against the Tyrenease Conglomerate, fortifications and walls lining the battlefront, nameless graveyards from both sides already beginning to disappear beneath freshly planted oaks, a tradition of Asterious that was, according to some, responsible for the empire’s lush forests. To the north, rebellious forces hid among the mountain peaks, prefering to hide among ice and snow away from the prying eyes of the Flight and stocking rumors of a freedom that many lowly citizens silently prayed would come. The western seafront was plagued by pirates, an annoyance for the country but it successfully blocked the royal fleet from continuing its typically steady advance. And recently, tensions started to rise to the east as Lys threatened to break the peace pact established over twenty five years ago. All this forced the empire to remain on high alert, adding to the conqueror image of Asterious from long ago.

    Originally, the kingdom of Asterious was just like any other, vying for survival under the sun and struggling to compete with its neighbors. Its royal family didn’t have magic like its neighbors and some said, had the first emperor of Asterious not discovered the Bonding ritual thus bringing dragons under the kingdom's banners, most likely the small kingdom would have ceased to exist. As emperor Sebastien, the first of his name, claimed the throne from his cousin, the new empire rose to push away invaders, continuing to grow to its present size, slowly conquering each new land with each new emperor. Presently, it was fighting to keeps its borders strong and intact, slowing to digest everything it had consumed over the past few generations.

    Too much, though the young Emperor, huddling deeper into his cloak from the rain seeping in among the oak groove. Although the mighty trees that grew on the eastern border blocked out the worst of the weather, the storm season made for a less than enjoyable expedition. It was a pity that this particular diplomatic endeavor could not be postponed until finer weather passed - time was of the upmost importance as any delay increased the inevitability of a war. Alistair had never ventured to the eastern borderlands before, spending his military career in the southern campaign, however, he could sense the same tension in the air, weighing heavy on everyone in their current makeshift camp. Typically, the emperor wouldn’t give it much thought as the hot breath of his black dragon reached his skin; however, in order to avoid any unnecessary attention, he was alone.

    Sharp, cold eyes observed the men before him with boredom as the warriors accompanying Duke Riddle and two other high-ranking politicians moved among their chores, some double checking the tents, a few cleaning their weapons as they wearily watched the shadows in the trees. A small group gathered around the main fire, chatting quietly over the huge pot of stew and laughing softly among themselves. If not for the three pompous men huddling under a temporary tent, Alistair could almost be happy. Almost for the second his eyes landed on his politicians, the fattest of them immediately started making his way over. Stifling a groan that threatened to escape him, the young Emperor waited for the man to approach, nearly slipping in the mud and cursing loud enough that the soldiers around the makeshift camp jerked their heads up in alarm.

    “I do not believe the word ‘inconspicuous’ is in your vocabulary, Lord Riddle,” Alistair didn’t raise his voice yet it seemed that his cold tone pierced everyone around him. The duke’s pudgy face immediately melted into a scowl before he got his emotions under control once again. It frustrated the young emperor that he could not remove this man from his toasty position as the Lord Diplomat just yet although a full cleanse of the stuffy and overly confident cabinet of advisors was one of his top priorities. Unfortunately, simply dissolving the cabinet would be equivalent to declaring an all out civil war and while he did not fear a scrimish within the capital, he understood enough about strategy to know it would invite others to attack while Asterious was bleeding. As such, it had been a slow battle to move out the old aristocrats who reigned for his father and brother, starting with the minister of internal defense. That post was crucial to Alistair as he could not phantom having his second in command be a man he didn’t trust and he certainly did not trust Marques de Pombal. Thankfully, with a bit of digging, there was enough evidence to encourage the Marques to resign and leave for his country estate, allowing Alistair to promote his own to the post, causing an uproar in the cabinet. A few harsh words and threats of whipping quickly quited down the most vocal.

    “Your imperial majesty,” the duke started as he bowed before the emperor but catching Alistair’s gaze paled and gulped.

    “You are mistaken, your grace,” Alistair’s expression remained disinterested.

    “Sir Alistair,” Riddle corrected himself but the emperor’s brows furrowed in disappointment. “I mean to say, Sir Alexander.”

    “You were highly recommended to me as the most savvy diplomat in the empire,” blue eyes lazily watched the duke’s cheeks flush in anger. “However, I am disappointed in your inability to remember such a simple alias that I have adapted for this specific envoy.”

    “If your….if you, Sir Alexander, would only appear before the Lys court without disguise, we could avoid this whole charade and we, as the delegation, could focus solely on our mission as opposed to wasting time and effort in remembering your alias,” Riddle huffed before wrapping his expensive travel cloak further around himself. “Or better yet, remained in Asterious as your father and brother had done.”

    “I am neither my father nor my brother. Lest you forget, Lord Riddle, I will be sure to remind you. And believe me when I say, forget you will not.”

    “Are you threatening me now, boy?” the duke snarled, losing patience as his muddy green eyes lit up in anger.

    “It’s not a threat, it’s a promise,” Alistair’s lips curled into a predatory smile, exposing slightly elongated canines. “Cross me again and you will bear the reminder of my forgiveness etched into the skin of your forehead for all to see. What were you cabinet rats whispering about?”

    The duke was resembling a poisonous mushroom, alternating red and white spots on his pudgy complexion and struggling to breathe from the anger that consumed him. His fists clenched inside leather gloves and his nostrils flared as his murderous stare turned to the ground. Alistair waited, not bothering to acknowledge the hatred that the older man was struggling to hide. The hatred and the fear. Even as their small campsite continued to be embraced in a steady rain, the emperor could see his vassal shaking in his boots. This fear and yet pompous bravada that the cabinet constantly wanted to display amused Alistair on some days and made him want to howl on others. It was as though each and every one of the old men sitting in the capitol and wearing flashy swords for show wanted to test his temper and confirm on their own skin his wrath. Keeping himself restrained was getting harder and harder although the old politicians had a knack for stopping just before he really did anything that he’d regret.

    “We were discussing your desire to keep your brother’s engagement commitment in tact, sir,” with a huff, the duke of Qieren gathered his features into something resembling calmness. “It is a perfect time to step away from this agreement that was binding the previous Emperor to Lys. Asterious only stands to lose if this marriage goes through - the kingdom is weak with the king on his deathbed and the princess does not have any of the royal gifts that were a primary consideration when the original agreement was drawn. If we step away now, we will not lose face and can align ourselves with another powerful ally.”

    “Your worry for the empire is noted, you are dismissed,” Alistair waved to send the duke away however Riddle would have none of this.

    “You are acting like a spoiled child, sir,” he noted, “Chasing, rushing into something that does not guarantee any benefits for the empire. Lys is a kingdom with nothing to give us and this attempt to honor the agreement that was made practically when you were born -”

    “I said you were dismissed,” Alistair’s voice had the effect of an ice water bucket thrown over the man before him. “Ensure that your grace and your cabinet rats get enough rest tonight. We will continue early and push to arrive by nightfall. If you aren’t ready to leave when we are, I will leave you behind.”

    “You wouldn’t!” the duke’s eyes widened.

    “Do not test my patience further,” the emperor slowly rose, straightening his frame until he towered over the older men. “Your tend to forget that I am the sole ruler of Asterious and my word is law. I have earned the respect of the Flight by spilling blood and I will not hesitate to do so once we are back. You, duke of Qieren, are replaceable in my eyes as are the rest of your kind. You have the honor of advising an emperor, not a right. Now get out of my sight.”

    Turning on his heels, Alistair didn’t wait to hear the response on Riddle’s lips, his long strides carrying him towards the outer edges of the campsite and as far away from his responsibilities as he could manage. He could feel all the gazes upon his back - angry, concerned, confused, understanding - but straightening his shoulders and raising his chin, he ignored them all. Once, when he was young, he craved the attention constantly bestowed upon his brother, wishing someone, anyone would look at him. Oh, the irony was cruel indeed - now, everyone watched his every move, holding their breath each time he stepped out of the confines of decorum. Tugging the hood of his cloak onto his head, he ended up perching on a fallen tree trunk, eyes turned towards the darkness of the forest.

    It was a stupid idea to sneak into the deligation heading to Lys, he had to admit it even to himself. The only reason he hoped to get away with it was that no one knew the new emperor of Asterious - he had always stayed in the shadows either by choice or circumstance and anything that people knew about him were rumours spread of the Flight in general. By some joke of fate, he did not even resemble Sebastien closely. There was no softness to his features, no warmth in his gaze and he even skipped the royal family’s typical blonde hair-green eyes coloration. Alistair was certainly an outcast among his own. Once again, the predatory smirk exposed his canines, making him appear almost feral with the hood hiding his eyes in shadows. Fate was a funny thing indeed.

    It had been fate or misfortune that forced him to take this opportunity. It had been during the preparations for his brother’s coronation as he was leaving the castle when he felt a strange urge to turn around, his blue eyes sweeping the landscape with his usual bored disinterest when…his heart skipped a beat. She wasn’t wearing anything special, just a simple summer dress adorned her figure, hiding her body in flowing silks and lace yet it heightened the flush of her cheeks and the brightness of her intelligent eyes. A soft smile played on her lips as she listened to those standing beside her though he couldn’t tell what exactly was on her mind. Regardless, Alistair couldn’t move until his comrades brought him back, the Flight requested to return to the South. It took him a few days of inner torment before finally discovering her identity and…

    “I wanted to check on you, sire,” the voice of his friend brought him back from the past. Turning to look at the broad shouldered warrior with the hazel eyes, Alistair shook his head. Beside him, Westley sighed before starting to humm an old ballad under his nose, pulling out a small piece of wood and his knife. As the song progressed, accompanied by the rain, a pile of shavings started to grow at the mens’ feet. Growling, Alistair swung to look at the casually relaxing comrade.

    “Will you shut up?”

    “Are you asking me as my friend or as my emperor?” Westley raised an eyebrow, his hands continuing to carve a small figurine of a dragon. “If its the later, I will stop immediately and await my punishment.”

    “Your jesting talents were wasted on the flight,” the emperor grumbled under his breathe. “I wanted to be alone.”

    “And I wanted a warm bed and a hot body in my arms,” the reply was cheery as could be. “I cannot understand why you decided to trug through to Lys of all places and not even as yourself.”

    “If this is your attempt to raise my spirits, you are doing lousy,” The two men sat in silence, listening to the sounds of the forest around them. Finally, Alister sighed. “What do you know of the prince regent?”




    The prince regent of Lys leaned over his father’s work desk, absently tapping the edge of his quill against his lips in thought. His dark brown eyes slowly traced the words on the parchment before him, going row by row, over and over again. Mountains of scrolls, books and notes stood on every available surface - chairs, side tables, the floor. Off to the corner, a large and well detailed map of Lys laid sprawled out with colorful pins stuck into it marking off nearly every populated part of the country. Used goblets, empty jugs and bottles and a tray with half eaten food completed the surroundings, candlelight flickering on the golden utensils.

    Crysos sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair before dropping the quill on the table and pushing away. No matter how many times he re-read the silly poem, no matter how much he wanted to gleam just another clue about where to find the answer to his problem, the universe laughed and hid any new knowledge from him. He had spent countless hours trying to glean anything that would narrow down the search for the savior of his kingdom, anything past the blood moon on a summer solstice that marked her birthday. Involuntarily, his lips started to repeat the prophecy now etched into his memory.

    Beneath the crimson moon's embrace,
    A witch of power, born with grace.
    On solstice night, her fate decreed,
    To face the dragon riders' greed.

    Her magic strong, a fiery art,
    To save or doom, a world apart.
    With courage firm and heart aglow,
    The kingdom's future, she shall sow.

    As dragon riders seek control,
    Her choice to mend or take its toll.
    To stand against their empire's might,
    Or let the realm succumb to blight.

    Her path unfolds, an ancient rhyme,
    A prophecy forged in threads of time.
    The kingdom's destiny she'll claim,
    In her hands, its hope and name.

    Through trials deep, she'll rise above,
    With power fierce, she'll reign and love.
    A witch of greatness, truth be told,
    The kingdom's tale shall then unfold.


    As the last line fell softly into the air, Crysos grinned like a silly boy. It had been so simple in his mind - having a minor gift of prophecy, the crown prince had known from a young age that it was possible to go against one’s fate. With that knowledge, he was determined to find a way to keep Lys independent from the Asterious Empire to the East that threatened to consume the smaller kingdom. Although the treaty arranged by his father with the empire ensured peace, it was a price much too high in the prince’s eyes. And so, Crysos tried to find anyone who could give him some sort of direction to follow.

    He had almost given up hope when fate finally smiled upon him. A powerful fortune teller, a traveling gypsy, caught his eye at a fair in one of the smaller towns of Lys. Although Theobald had warned him against it, Crysos could not pass up the opportunity to glimpse into the future. The old elf frowned as she looked at his palm and muttered something under her breath in a language he couldn’t understand before standing up and rummaging in her worn out trunk. The look over her shoulder had made the young prince wonder if he perhaps it was a bad idea and Crysos looked around the hazy tent to find an inconspicuous way to leave however, before he could muster up his courage to slip away, the fortune teller was back, spilling the pile of vials, pouches of powders and other trinkets on the table. With the first scented candle, Crysos forgot everything that was happening; however, when he came back to his senses, the scroll with the prophecy was in his hand and he was frowning as he read it over and over again.

    His father would hear none of it - as Crysos tried to catch his breathe, eyes aglow with excitement, the older man frowned and locked his hands in front of him in a dome, elegant fingertips touching each other. His deep brown eyes hid under the salt and pepper brows, giving him a slightly hawkish appearance as he pondered what his son just told him before leaning back in his chair and shaking his head.
    ”I wish, my son, you would stop chasing fantasies and spend more time preparing for your sister’s wedding and coronation. This fan--” he stopped as a violent cough made him nearly double over before taking a few shaky breaths and slowly dabbing the corner of his mouth with a handkerchief. ”This fantasy you harbor, this prophecy you seek to believe will only bring the kingdom into disaster. Lys needs to prepare for the inevitable and maintain as much of our own as we can.”

    “But father --”

    “Go Crysos, I desire to rest…”


    That memory never angered Crysos, rather causing him sadness. King Poloneous the Forth had been the present monarch for over forty years. To some, the beloved king was synonymous to the prosperity and stability that Lys had gotten accustomed to. He managed to bring together the most conservative and the most progressive of the kingdom, aligning his policies to keep the people fed and happy. His waning health was a blow not only to his family but to everyone who called Lys their home. Crysos inherited a kingdom ready to be consumed by the empire when his sister married the new Emperor Sebastien and it seemed time was of the essence. Finally the de facto leader, the young prince dove into finding merritt in the prophecy, only pausing when Theobald pointed out Saskia’s warm regard for the ruler of Asterious. As he fought to put his sister’s happiness above the kingdom’s freedom, news from the East changed everything.

    The emperor was found dead on his bed within weeks of ascending the throne, the crown going to his younger brother Alistair. Overnight, the peace seemed to have cracked with the engagement between Lys and Asterious covered in uncertainty. The new emperor was rarely seen at court and, more often than not, completely forgotten by the royal families of the world. He was a dangerous man however, a warrior who had proven his skills in countless battles and skirmishes, surviving encounters that would have killed other men or, at the very least, turned them into babbling idiots. Most importantly, he was merciless and cold, able to murder in cold blood if that is what was required to secure a win. Ad maius bonum seemed to be his motto and, if Crysos was honest, it frightened him.

    And overnight, it seemed that the heavens blessed his search for independence. Crysos only had to look at his sister to realize that he could not force her to make such a sacrifice for Lys and, as such, dedicated all his energy into finding the witch that the prophecy spoke of. No one dared to go against him but he could hear the whispers in the hall, see the pity in the eyes of those living in the palace and the quiet disapproval of the older generation. To him, it did not matter and with his head held high, the prince continued to come closer and closer to his truth. As the hunt for the savior of his kingdom consumed him, he felt his determination grow and it steadied his mind that he was doing what was right.

    “Crysos?” Theobald’s voice from the door shook him awake and dark brown eyes rose to meet the deep blue ones resembling the darkest depths of the ocean. “How can you breath in here?”

    “Theo, close the door,” Crysos smirked as he watched his older brother try to sneak into the large office, his efforts complicated by the disarray currently in the room. Shaking his head as Theobald Ward closed the door on quiet hinges, the prince walked to the furthest window, opening up the colorful glass pane to let in a slight breeze, almost immediately dropping down to the floor to gather the loose leafs of paper that were scattered there. “It really isn’t so bad…”

    “It’s stuffy, muggy and has a distinct stench of coffee. Stale coffee,” Theo’s voice remained flat but that only made the prince chuckle.

    “The maids will clean it up and air it out tonight when we host the banquet for the Asterious delegation though I still don’t know why we are bothering. I will not allow Saskia to marry that bloody bastard.”

    “The emperor will not risk war until next spring,” Theo offered as he strode over to help the younger men, his armor moving silently as though it was a second skin. “You do not take Saskia’s own feelings into consideration.” It was a statement but Crysos’ lips curled into a frown.

    “Of course I take her feelings into consideration! She doesn't even know this new emperor - none of us do! Though there are enough stories reaching Lys that even if she knew him, I would not in my right mind allow her to marry a murderer.”

    “Are you planning to break off her engagement fully then?” The men froze as the words hung in the air. If Crysos really did break off the engagement or, rather, did not renegotiate, it would effectively destroy the peace that prevented the empire from attacking Lys for as long as he was alive. The prince had complained about this countless times before and quite vocally however there was his father to calm his temper or his sister’s happiness to hold him back. Now, was he really ready to throw such an insult at the most powerful military country close to Lys?

    “We should prepare for war, rally the troops and start training the militia,” sitting back on his heels with a thick stack of papers in his hands, Crysos paused before straightening. “Regardless of how this negotiation goes, I do not want to be caught unprepared. As you mentioned, it would be unwise for me to disregard Saskia’s thoughts on the matter.”

    “You are wise beyond your years,” Theo smirked, straightening himself and passing Crysos the papers he collected. “Though this wild goose chase…”

    “It will work. The circumstances of this witch's birth are so specific, I doubt there will be many who were born on that day. Besides, the gypsy said she will be no older than the treaty itself.”

    “You are ready to trust a gypsy and risk Lys based on her words?”

    “I have to! I cannot stand to see my homeland disappear from existence,” Crysos placed the pile on the desk, moving one of the heavy statues standing as decoration to stand atop it and press it down. Running a hand through his hair, he turned to Theobald. “It has been my dream to keep Lys safe since I was born. More than a dream, its my duty. Why can’t you see that this is my only chance?”

    “I…I think you’re wrong but,” Theo raised a hand to stop Crysos’ angry response. “But I will support you. You are my brother and I will go looking for this witch.”

    “Thank you,” Crysos clasped hands with the captain of the guard. “I would not ask you of this if I didn’t believe.”

    “I know, I will leave at dawn.”
    Last edited by Breggo13; 04-01-2024 at 04:52 AM.

  2. #2
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    The sun had barely even risen, the morning breeze had begun to sweep across the capital. Argent, had long been awake, stretching and straining, groaning in the fading darkness. The smell of fresh breads and cut flowers for sale were wafting through the immaculately clean streets. The King’s Road, which ran through the center of the city, all the way from the Gates of the Dawn, through which one entered Argent proper, stretching across the land, through the farms and stables, through the market square and on and on, seemingly endless until it reached the Gates of Midnight, through which lay the Royal Palace of Lys. It was a towering and imposing structure, once nothing more than a lowly castle now elevated in elegance and prominence.

    The Gates of Midnight would be flung open wide to allow the citizenry to pass through and gather on feast days and special occasions. The bells of the Cathedral and from the highest towers of the Palace would ring out, welcoming all, or celebrating something joyous. The Royal family would assemble on the famous Balcony of Silver Light, speeches would be made, newborn babies shown off, a newly married King would stand tall and greet the masses below.

    The Kingdom of Lys was a mighty one, whose heart was alive and beating in the chests of its citizens and in the body of its King, and his devoted children. Its borders stretched as far as the eye could see and beyond. Though at the borders there were rumblings, and the forces of Asterious, the Empire with which the fate of Lys was irrevocably intertwined were gathering. Too long had Lys put off fulfilling the terms of the treaty that bore the name of Lysian capital city.

    Argent seemed almost immune to the impending chaos. For over twenty-five years Peace had reigned, cemented by the birth of one girl, the first daughter of the beloved King. She was born a beacon of peace, serenity, the heralding of a new era. While her arrival was a beginning, it also marked the end, it triggered the counting down of the years, months, weeks, and days until Lys would exist as an independent kingdom no more. The war-torn country was resigned to its fate, and perhaps should be easy if the baby girl was reviled, but rather the opposite, there could be no more beloved figure than Saskia, born a Princess, created Princess Royal, the highest title a woman could hold aside from Queen.

    Saskia was beautiful, intelligent, serene. She carried herself with all the authority of a woman who knew what needed to be done. Her compassion and care for her people was known from border to border. Never one to raise her voice, or speak ill of another, her charitable works were her life. From the moment of her birth, she was betrothed to the Prince Imperial of Asterious, nearly 15 years her senior. The cost of peace was her freedom, and that of her people. Sebastien as he was known, was a kind and gentle soul, wise beyond his years, handsome. A capable heir, and one who above all held the promise of a peaceful assumption of Saskia’s homeland. The two had met on many occasions, often being left in relative peace on neutral ground to allow the future couple to get to know when another. Fate could not have been kinder to the Princess Royal, who had genuine affection for her betrothed.

    As Saskia grew to marrying age, becoming regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the known world, her father grew sicker and sicker. As his health declined, the marriage was delayed. And then the most unfortunate happened, the Emperor of Asterious, father of Sebastien had suddenly died, and vaulted the heir to the throne, and this was when arrangements for the wedding were kicked into a higher gear. Almost finalized and completed. Then fate struck once more, and struck down Sebastien, leaving his younger brother, Alistair to inherit it all, including a hastily arranged meeting in which her fate would be determined and revisited. The delegation were on their way.

    In private Crysos, the Crown Prince of Lys would rage against the treaty. After all, if all who originally signed it were incapacitated or dead, it surely must be invalid. There would be no need to sacrifice his own sister to the Asterians. In public all was well, but the people were unable to rest easy, no one knew what fate would hold as the Empire grew weary. His advisors beg him to reconsider, to hold the terms as they were once issued. Of course, the King is of no use, and the council set in motion the gears to name Crysos the Prince Regent, fully carrying the weight and might of the Lysian throne behind him.

    The day was hot, hotter than most had imagined it would be for such a time of year. The golden rays that swept the land brought warmth from the first gleaming. And lo’ on the other side of the capital, just beyond the estates of the landed nobility, stood something new. A massive structure of stone and wood, polished to perfection, a series of ornate buildings, gilded with gold and silver. The wood beams of the roof had been carved beautifully into shapes and figures that told the story of Lys, the founding of the great Kingdom. There were tremendous stone statues that lined the path to the front gates, each statue depicted a different King of Lys, facing their respective Queens on the opposite side, with lush trees that had been planted between them.

    The new path was to be called the Long Walk, and it culminated at broad iron gates, now to be known as the Gate of the Sage’s – the new structure, with it’s large walls, beautifully bright and ornate windows was a university, the first of its kind in Lys, it was not a guild of magick, or religious house devoted to knowledge. It was for the higher learning of the most gifted Lysians. The sons and daughters of the nobility, a different kind of education. It would house the students who came from nothing and would seek to lift them up.

    In some years’ time should it be allowed to exist, the walls would certainly be coated in lush green ivy that slowly, slowly climbed them. Just as it had done on the great houses and palaces of the realm. And today was its first day. The newly admitted students and faculty, the greatest scholars from across not only the Kingdom, but the world. Elves and Humans, Dwarves, those with Magic and those without would all be welcome here and may they all learn from one another. This institution was meant to be the marvel of the world, and so it was commissioned by the King to rehouse older institutions, and it blossomed into something wonderful and magnificent, an edifice meant to stand the test of time.

    Within the central courtyard, entered from any of the four distinct colleges, was wide open space, a park of sorts and a perfect gathering spot for a makeshift stage, in which this captive audience stood, waiting with a sense of breathless anticipation as the rector took to the platform and began his oratory. He was an older man, all his hair had gone gray, like a classic academic he had a rather lengthy beard and he stood in brilliant blue robes, the color of the mighty Alforth river after the summer rains had swelled it. The robes flowed long and caught in the sweet morning air. He went on for some time, perhaps too long, but still the audience remained captive and mostly attentive.

    “However, one thing that has no been addressed…” the older man began, looking out over the crowd, the corners of his mouth upturning, forming a hint of a smile on his face. “Is a name.” Now the crowd was actively engaged, and all awaited patiently for the rector to announce it. “Such an honor is not mine to bestow. I would like to welcome a guest in our fine house to join us.” The faces in the audience seemed perplexed, they looked left and right at one another, at the rector. There were shrugs and murmurs, or whispers.

    “Please join in welcoming a woman who needs no introduction. A woman without whom, we would surely be dust. Her Royal Highness, Saskia, the Princess Royal.” All at once a wave seemed to roll across the crowd, it erupted into vigorous cheering as all gathered turned to try and spot where Saskia might emerge from. The thunderous applause continued as she finally made an appearance. The doors of the largest hall were opened, and a figure emerged.

    Stepping slowly on to the stone path in the grass that led to the gathering, was a woman with porcelain skin, entirely unblemished. She was slender, her hair was a rich shade of brunette, almost a chestnut. It was neatly arranged in an up-do, it had been carefully braided, it almost appeared like a halo. She stood tall, taller than average at 5’8. Saskia was the picture of perfection, an elegant dress made of silk and the finest fabrics hung from her frame, hugging her in all the right places to accentuate an ethereal beauty, a radiance and elegance that she carried so well. It was the color of deep blue, the Royal blue that had long been associated with her lineage. She moved with grace, never missing, or mistiming a single step. It was almost as if she was floating.

    Heads turned as her footsteps drew nearer, and the crowd parted like the sea. Behind Saskia were two soldiers, the royal guard who had sworn their lives to protect her. Charm was easy for the Princess. She would stop along her path to greet individuals as she went. She would offer a warm smile and inquire after their presumed studies. She would ask them what they were most looking forward to. She would ask them what more she could do to assist them on their way. To each person she talked to, it would feel like the rest of the world faded and it was just the two of them. Saskia exuded a warmth that few could. Though Saskia, rather a consistent disappointment to her father for she had not manifested the Ice gifts of her blood line, was in the hearts of every citizen. She had won them all over, and she would hold onto that love, and do her best to love in return.

    Although her guard encouraged her to move faster, the Princess would always take her time, drawing out the time she spent amongst the people of Lys and Argent. It seemed like an age had passed by the time she had joined the rector on the stage.

    “Thank you. Thank you all. The Rector is far too kind to me.” Saskia smiled brilliantly as she stood before the crowd, her hands at first folded before her, but she would allow them to relax as she began to speak. “Truly, it is an honor to be invited to such a momentous occasion. Just imagine this space a few years ago, it was nothing but homes, ruined in the war and allowed to decay. A constant reminder of our suffering. Of our great national pain.” Saskia had an ease with which she spoke. It would make one feel like she was speaking directly to you, and in those moments where someone in the crowd would catch her eye, it felt like electricity.

    “But we cannot live in the past. We must look toward our future. So, with a little help from our citizens, we tore down the old. We need no buildings, no ruins to remind us of what was lost. We carry that reminder with us, in our hearts. Now and forever more. My mother, the late Queen, she a passion for learning, for education. She believed this to be a fundamental right of a progressive society. A Kingdom that transcends the world we know and creates its own path forward. My father, our beloved King echoed that same passion and created a platform where all of us can benefit from it.” Saskia’s pauses were strategic, her emphasis was exact and calculated. She spoke from her heart but in a measured way.

    “For generations learning has been kept to the Churches, the Monasteries. Or perhaps it has been with our fine Knights. The warriors of Lys who make undaunted any number of sacrifices. So, let us rejoice together. Let us commence a journey whose destination is unknown. But we do so together because we can. Because we are Lys, and we stand united in all our endeavors. I am pleased to present to you The Queen’s University. In honor of my mother, and of all the Queens who devoted their lives to this Kingdom, in peace and in war. In our most blessed times, and at our lowest moments. They like the men they serve have been unyielding, uncompromising in their faith, and their love. Thank you.”

    When Saskia spoke, everyone listened. There was not a sound uttered from the crowd, not even a sneeze. She commanded their attention. She commanded their respect and their admiration. When she had finished speaking, another round of thunderous applause. The Princess bowed her head, and in a sign of true respect offered a curtsy to the crowd assembled. She was there ever to remind them that she served her people, they did not serve her.

    As Saskia was assisted from the stage, she was guided through the crowd once more. But something had indeed caught her attention. There was a little girl holding white flowers in her small hand, the other was tightly holding onto that of her father. The Princess stopped, and every gave her ample space.

    “Well, hello there, what is your name?” Saskia asked, taking a kneeling position to get closer to the child. The little girl looked up at her father, who gave a gentle nod of his head.

    “Margaret.” The girl responded sheepishly.

    “It’s nice to meet you, Margaret. Those are beautiful flowers you are carrying.” Saskia leaned in and sniffed the small bouquet, the smile she wore never left her face, not for a second.

    “They’re for my mommy!” The girl responded with glee, and the biggest smile Saskia had seen in some time, her smile showed off the girl’s teeth some of which were naturally missing as part of childhood.

    “She’s going to love them. So very much, but not nearly as much as she loves you.” Saskia patted the girl on the head and stood up, looking at her father. “Thank you for your time.” She nodded her head, and the man, the father’s face had gone bright red, in a little bit of shock that he was standing before the Princess. “Of course, your highness!” He bowed and took a step back. The girl, Margaret, took a single flower from the bunch and held it out to the Princess. “And this one is for you!”

    “Now that is special. I would be honored to receive such a gift.” Saskia reached her hand down and took the flower. Within a moment she raised it and placed it within her hair, just beside her ear. “Now the entire Kingdom shall know of your kindness, Margaret.”

    “Ma’am.” A soft voice spoke into her ear and Saskia nodded. She understood the prompt. “Please tell your mother that she raised a wonderful daughter.” The Princess turned swiftly and continued to work toward the exit, and back into the carriage which would take her up the road to the Palace. It was not a long journey, but the Princess was grateful for the momentary reprieve. As the carriage passed, she would smile and wave at those who spotted it, though it wasn’t exactly hard to miss. When the carriage neared the palace, the massive gates drew opened, welcoming the Princess home. When it finally rounded the long drive to the front, as expected there were a contingent of the family's most faithful servants waiting to assist.

    The Princess Royal was all smiles as she alighted the carriage, taking the hand of one of the guards who had accompanied her. "Good morning everyone." Saskia called and bowed her head. "Your Highness" was the resounding response from the staff who seemed delighted to see her. "None of that, none of that." Saskia waved a hand, dismissive of the formality.

    "How was the opening?" Prudence, one of her maids had asked as Saskia made her way inside rather hurriedly.

    "It was fantastic, Prue. You should see the place. Nothing was spared. To think it only took six years of pushing the conservatives to the center to get it done. Oh father would be so very proud." Saskia took a moment of pause, thinking of her father... she would see him soon.

    "It sounds rather lovely." Prudence replied, following closely behind the Princess, though she seemed to be moving at rather quick a pace.

    "Tell me, has Theobald returned from the rounds yet?" Saskia had little hesitation in asking, though if she were honest, the idea of impending Imperial visit was beginning to claw at her. Saskia did not know Alistair, but she knew of him. At least the rumours that had made their way back to Lys. None of it was pleasant.

    "He is expected shortly." Prudence kept her thoughts to herself and simply answered the question that was asked.

    "Excellent, well, that makes this rather simple." Saskia clasped her hands together and turned now to face Prudence. "Perhaps you might get us some tea, and we can look at outfits for the visit. I'll need to look my best if I'm to support Crysos." Supporting Crysos was one thing Saskia was not entirely convinced with. She had to, for he was her brother, and that was her duty. But she knew he would attempt to spare the marriage, and somehow avoid the possibility of war.

    "Will he do it ma'am?" Prudence had stopped, her head looking down at the floor. It was plain to see that the young maid seemed somewhat embarrassed that she had asked at all.

    "Hmm?" Saskia thought for a moment. "Ahh." Saskia, in the middle of a corridor suddenly changed her course, resting her hand on the silver gilded handle and opening it, stepping through, closing the door silently behind Prudence. "My dear... I have no idea what my brother intends to do. I have ideas, but that's all." The Princess moved in close to Prudence and rested a hand delicately upon the girl's shoulder.

    "I wouldn't worry. He will do what is best for Lys. And as for me, I've spent my entire life without a choice, and that has not changed. I will serve my King, the Prince Regent, and above all the people of Lys. But you needn't think too much of it. All will be well. Run along now, I'll be there in a bit." Saskia nodded, and sent Prudence on her way before silently departing herself and disappearing down another set of corridors.

    When she emerged it was in a rather unassuming hall, it was larger than most, and it's walls were adorned with numerous portraits and landscapes. All number of famous figures and places throughout the realm were depicted. Some were bright scenes, while others depicted the harsh realities of war and conflict. Almost every one of them seemed to be trying to teach some sort of lesson. Even the portraits, one in particular Saskia often stopped by to stare at.

    The painting was of a young man, he could have been no older than 25. He had an oddly neutral expression on his face, rather flat and slightly pursed lips. His hair was brunette, much a similar shade as to Saskia. But in his eyes, if you looked hard enough into his pupils you could see the trace of something. Whatever he was staring at seemed a dark force, something unknown or uncertain. There wasn't exactly a fear that Saskia could see, but almost like a hesitation. If she could just reach... and see what he saw... maybe she would understand the rather haunted look that one could only see if you watched the painting enough.

    "Princess!" A voice called as a tray dropped to the floor. Saskia's attention was snapped away, turning to the source of the voice, a footman she knew relatively poorly, he was new to the service.

    "I'm so sorry!" Saskia called out, and moved to help him collect the pieces of the shattered cups on the floor. Thankfully he had only been clearing a used tea set, so no liquid was present. "I... didn't mean to surprise you. I just get... distracted." Saskia wasn't entirely sure why she was apologizing, perhaps it was the image that stayed with her, and made her somewhat uneasy.

    "My apologies, your Highness. I wasn't expecting to see you here. I thought you were out." He was rapidly attempting to clean up his mess.

    "I was... but, never mind. If the housekeeper raises hell, just tell her I tripped." Saskia smirked and sent the man on his way, and when she was alone, she took a step toward a large set of double doors. They were heavy, made of ancient wood or so it seemed. Behind here was a world she entered as frequently as she would be allowed. The world of her eldest brother.

    Her relationship with him... it was complicated. She adored him, perhaps in more ways than she did Crysos. They were so different. Theo was... kind and measured. A talented soldier. He was naturally handsome, and every day of his life that the two had been together, he had vowed to protect her. And every single time Saskia took him at his word. Theo made her laugh, he made her feel safe and loved. And a part of her had to acknowledge that she felt perhaps what she should not. A feeling of love, and that despite her affections for the late Emperor, that perhaps in some life Theo was who she was truly meant to be with. He had been adopted by her father before either she or Crysos had been born. Now he was Captain of the Guard. Every time he had left home to pursue his training, it pained Saskia so.

    Standing then in his room she closed the door behind her. He had not yet returned home. Saskia smiled softly as she allowed herself to walk around, her fingertips running along objects, each of them bringing her closer to him. She let out a soft sigh, spotting a doll that Saskia had made when she was young and gifted to Theo. She picked it up into her hands and held it. The fabric was worn, frayed. It would fall apart if handled much more. "So he kept it..."
    Thanks to Hayabusa/Ryoku for the set.

  3. #3
    Little ball of fire
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    Theobald Ward was a lucky man. Even though the origin of his birth was hidden even to himself, he never stopped thanking the stars that his father took him in and raised him as his own, providing him with every opportunity a young man of means should be awarded. The only thing Theo would never be able to lay claim to was the crown of Lys but, contrary to whispers in certain slums, he never craved the power and pressure that came with ascending the throne. No, he was quite content with leaving the governing of the masses to his brother and instead standing behind both Crysos and Saskia at formal events, acting as their bodyguard and protector. He did make for an imposing figure - standing easily at 6 '3, toned with muscles etched out through years of training, Theo possessed the reflexes and grace of a lion. Quietly observing with deep blue eyes that had a tendency to border on violet with his arms usually crossed across his chest and mouth drawn into a hard line, no one dared to cross the Captain of the Guard. Around the palace, he was a well known figure striding in a perfectly polished armor uniform, the crest of the royal family etched delicately on the front, his bastard sword hanging from his hip with a well worn down leather handle.

    It hadn’t been easy persuading the population that he had no desire to inherit what most eldest sons would get by right of birth. For the first few years that his father started to fall ill, Theo had been approached by quite a few different factions, those opposed to the reforms and progress that King Poloneus introduced, all trying to seduce the young prince to their side. At first, Theo grew angry - he reacted violently to the messengers, beating a few of the most determined just a few breaths short of death. This caused the schemers to step back and reassess but ever since, the young man went out of his way to ensure the world knew of his loyalty and support. As he was entrusted with the safety of the Crown Prince and Princess Royal and uncovered a few feeble attempts to conspire against the royals, the world finally seemed to get the message. Now, if someone dared to approach him with a similar request, Theo only felt pity as the fool was carted away - there were, after all, certain benefits to his elevated position.

    Recently, however, he was faced with new battles. As his father, not a young man by any means, succumbed to a slow and painful death, tied to his bed in the royal chamber, Crysos stepped in as the de facto leader. While the young prince had the kingdom’s best intentions at heart, his obsession with a misplaced prophecy caused worried whispers among the nobles of the court. Whispers that Theo heard in daily reports and on more than one occasion stepped in, forcing those frowning upon Crysos actions into silence. Working quietly behind the curtain, he had managed to keep the vultures at bay, in no small part thanks to the indirect help of Saskia. As the date of her arranged marriage drew near, the courtesans focused on preparing their migration to the Empire, shaking their head the the young prince of Lys and just nodding in compliance. The inevitable moment was going to make any nonsense surrounding a prophecy and a separate, small and weak kingdom go away.

    The death of the young emperor caused a ripple of changes in the world of politics, putting peace to balance on the tip of a blade. Theo gritted his teeth, remembering the shocked, lost eyes of Crysos as he passed his brother the letter, the prince seeming to resemble a statue as Theo read the official letter from the empire, informing them of the incident. Murder seemed more appropriate but the captain kept such thoughts to himself as he watched Saskia read her own letter, addressed to her by the Dowager Empress and go through some resemblance of grief. The young woman had always been strong and it didn’t surprise Theo in the least when Saskia refused to show the depth of her emotions even to him. Since then, he had become more concerned with her emotional state, worried that maybe the death of her fiance would cause her great pain.

    Theo’s body moved toward his rooms at their own accord, not needing any involvement from the man himself. He had comandeered one of the farthest wings that, although seemingly out of the way, was equidistant to both Crysos’ apartments and Saskia’s. Below, the rest of the royal guard took their barracks, ensuring that they were always on hand and ready to move should duty called. Once in a while, Theo ensured drills were carried out to check the real effectiveness of the guard and so far, his men passed with flying colors. The large picture gallery outside his room was a minor inconvenience to live with - Theo had been uncomfortable under the gazes of those imobolized in paint and canvas, constantly thinking they were frowning down at the nobody. Keeping his stride even and squaring his shoulders, he passed by paintings with his gaze focused on his door, involuntarily flinching as he passed the two portraits of the late queens, both beautiful and both accusingly looking down at him. Shaking his head, he pushed open the door, slipping inside and closing it with his back to it.

    Of course, that is when his cold gaze fell upon the only person in the world who could make it soft. He wasn’t sure if she heard him but he crossed his arms and silently observed her, leaning back against the solid wood of the door. It was refreshing that the princess of Lys was a tall, young woman and as such, he did not need to crain his neck at unimaginable angles trying to look into her eyes. Finally catching a glimpse of what she was holding, Theo gave out a snort.

    “I liked the reminder of your annoyingness when I was away. Besides, I always suspected you were mine for a time,” he paused. “I knew about your engagement even before I knew you.”




    The imperial delegation approached Argent at full speed - after the rain that plagued them the past few days, all they wanted was to embrace the luxury that the capitol of Lys had to offer, starting with a hot bath before a feast to celebrate their arrival that no ruler would ever deny another. Although the small group of riders was heavily restrained by the carriage, it didn’t stop Alistair from halting his stallion just off the road to stand up in his stirrups and look up in awe at the white washed walls of the city. As he took in the rather ornate fortification, his blue eyes froze on the motto engraved above the gates in an ancient dialect that was once spread across the whole continent. Vorandel, Velanis Ethrialum, the simple phrase made his grind his teeth. Duty, destiny, it seemed as though those words followed him ever since the faithful moment he ascended the throne. What idiot decided that a whole country should follow duty first, destiny foremost?

    “Sir Alexander, we should go. The sun is going to set soon,” Westley was presently using his hand to shield his eyes from the last of the sunlight, scanning the horizon and frowning. “The gates will not wait for us and god forbid I have to make camp for the duke and his minions one extra night.”

    “Aye, we should,” Alistair responded softly, turning his mount around back towards the road. His heart started to race as the two riders picked up speed to catch up with the carriages, the muscle squeezing with each breathe tighter and tighter, making him almost forget how to breathe. This was certainly not a good idea - in many ways, reckless and dangerous - but since that fateful day, he wanted to know if Saskia was as beautiful on the inside as everyone proclaimed and, more importantly, if her heart was open to a monster such as himself. Alistair held no delusions about his past - while his parents wanted to forget about him or at the very least, provide the world with a much softer man, the young emperor knew his sins. There were many from the innocents his squadron murdured to the massive lists of those that were left dead and dying after battles. It certainly would take an angel to love him.

    The gates of Argent greeted them with a delay - the villagers tried to file out or in, depending on their desires, as the guards attempted to finalize the traffic and bring the iron down. As the delegation filed into the stream trying to make their way in, the carriages and horses only doing so much to assist them, Alistair watched the folks passing. The men and women were certainly not the most well off with their clothes worn from use and age. Their cheeks seemed to be hollowed with hunger and dark from the sun, a sure sign that these were hardworking folks upon hard times. Not that it made sense - the harvest should have just come to completion with the best meals planned for the coming weeks. However, it looked as though these people were still running short on supplies.

    “Sir Alexander, please,” one of his men brought him back. The group was approaching the two guards confirming the identities of the delegation, the men in Lys uniforms eyeing the group with curiosity and some reserve that made Alistair smirk and then hide his expression in the folds of his cape. If only they really knew. Sir Keith - the knight commander in charge of the delegation’s safety - spoke in a quiet voice, the youngest man at his side hosting the Empire’s flag on the standard. Within a few minutes, they started into the city, the group now going at a much slower pace with the full fanfare of a diplomatic envoy on show, flags and banners fluttering as the few folks on the streets stopped and stared. It was an impressive sight - twelve horsemen, six in front and six in the rear, following a decorated carriage pulled by four black horses, draped in blankets of the empire’s colors. The rhythmic echo of horseshoes on cobblestone resonated in the streets as they slowly made their way to the palace.

    Alistair had never seen Argent before or Lys, if he was being frank. The architecture, the design of the city - everything was different from his own capital. He took in the elegant structures full of tall, glass windows and the intricate stone carvings decorating the facades. The motives were nature based, a few houses pure work of art where it looked as though the stone was alive, a frozen melody of vines, leaves and trees. If he let his imagination roam, he was sure he would feel the trees come to live. The beauty of Argent was old, covered in mystery and tales much older than he could phantom; however, the same age that gave it charm gave the city signs of fatigue. The facades were starting to need repair, doors had faded coloring and signs to various shops, stores and bars were covered in cracks.

    The royal palace seemed to have fared better or was more restored and as the group slowed down in the courtyard before the grand staircase, the sharp blue eyes continued to observe the surroundings. Columns and coriades, windows and decorations seemed to make it come alive, embracing and echoing the natural themes seen out in the city. Turning to look at the top of the stairs, Alistair's eyes grew large…

  4. #4
    The Grey Lady
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    The Princess Royal had not in fact heard the door close in Theo's chambers. So transfixed was she upon the object in her hand, a moment of sentimentality had washed over her like a wave. The signature snort of her eldest brother broke the silence swiftly. The corners of her mouth upturned into a smile upon hearing his voice, and Saskia found herself turning to greet the source. The delicate worn fabric doll stayed within her hands, she held it close like one might a tender bouquet. "I will always be yours." Saskia turned to set the doll down and practically glided across the room as though her feet barely touched the floor such was her grace. Her voice was soft, but loud enough to be heard, and without so much as a second thought the young woman embraced her brother warmly, and took a step back to view him in full.

    "The world knew of my engagement before they knew me." There was no anger or resentment in Saskia's voice, she had long adjusted to the idea of her fate, even if now it was something to be called into question. "My darling Theo..." Saskia had rested a hand upon his chest for but a moment before she withdrew it and nodded. To the people of Lys, Theo was an imposing and serious figure, he seldom smiled, he served with dignity and pride. He made clear his intentions to every person who might challenge them, and above all he was an ardent supporter of Crysos, just as he had been of their father, and still was. After all, the old man was not yet gone from this world.

    "Mother would be so proud to see you now." Their mother had been a hard woman, kind to an extent, reasonable more than most. Patient, most of the time. She loved hard, and ensuring the success of her daughter was her top priority. So much so, that Theo and Crysos likely never saw the warmth and affection that the late Queen had been capable of. "You always feared she judged you so." Saskia shook her head and sighed somewhat shallowly. "She was just afraid." Saskia turned and walked deeper into the room, taking a seat upon the small red settee that had been there as long as she could remember. "Afraid I'd fall in love with you, rather than my intended."

    The late Queen was not wrong. Saskia, or a part of her, had always been in love with Theo in a way she had no right to. He was her brother, even if not by blood, and her affections were meant for another. A man she did also love, fully, truly. But the heart is complicated, and Saskia knew that more than most. But no matter how she felt for Theo, she could never act upon it. "But... that is neither here nor there I suppose." Saskia made sure not to comment on the matter further, she would never admit her own feelings, at least not now.

    "My little birds tell me that tomorrow is day." Now there was a sadness in her tone, a profound sort of anguish. What she needed, more than anything was Theo by her side, to protect her, to ensure that she followed through with her duties. "He's sending you off in search of the witch of Prophecy." Saskia scoffed at the manner, knowing full well how this idea had consumed Crysos beyond the point of reason, so much so that it threatened war, a renewed and restored conflict that they had so desperately been avoiding, the country barely having recovered from the last one. "How foolish." Saskia did not believe in this at all, a fool's errand. A waste of time and resources. With Asterious sitting angrily upon their borders it was hardly the time to send the captain of the Royal Guard away.

    "You must promise me... you will be careful on your journey, Theo. I can't lose you." Saskia's gaze was turned downwards, the slightest welling in the corners of her eyes, the tears were never far. "But first... there is something far more important, and I will need your help." Saskia pushed herself to a standing position and stared at Theo, quite obviously the beautiful young woman was concerned. "The delegation will arrive from Asterious shortly. Crysos will act as fool hardy as he has. He will do everything in his power to spare me the marriage, and losing his crown." The Crown that technically Crysos had not even received yet. The Crown he stood to inherit when their father finally succumbed to his long illness. "He will risk open war, the destruction of our beloved Lys. He will challenge the treaty, claim it invalid as both the late Emperor and my original betrothed are now dead. But you know as well as I do that if father could stand and speak he would never agree to what Crysos wants."

    Saskia loved her brother Crysos, she always had admired him and his intelligence, his determination. But a wise rule he was not. At least not yet. "I have spent my entire life prepared to move forward with this. Even if Sebastien is..." She could hardly bring herself to say the word 'dead.' To simply use his name was something that made Saskia feel overcome with grief and sadness, but she would push that down for the time being. "I will not have it be for nothing. I will not let him do this." The Princess Royal was a woman wise beyond her years, and arguably the smartest of the three children of Poloneus. Her pride in her country and her duty to the crown came before her own personal satisfaction. "He can do as he wishes, and use you as a puppet to find this witch... if she even exists. Pursue to the ends of the known world. But he cannot be allowed to throw us directly into war."

    Saskia wiped her eyes with her fingers so gently and once more standing right before Theo her hands rested again on his chest, she looked up at him with all the gravity in the world. "I've heard the rumours too... of what kind of man Alistair is. But that's all they are, rumours. Even if he is horrible, that would not stop me. That will not stop me. Do you understand?" Saskia nodded her head, as though to assure herself of her own decision. "I'll leave you to get ready... I must change anyway." The Princess rose to the tips of her toes, she placed a gentle kiss upon Theo's cheek and then departed, there wasn't much time left.

    ----Some time later---

    "Quickly, your Highness." A voice called, standing in the doorway of Saskia's chambers. It was a rather harried older man who kept looking out as dozens of servants moved up and down the halls preparing for the delegation's imminent arrival. No one was empty handed or without a task. This was the first time an Asterious delegation would arrive since the small group who brought news of Sebastien's unexpected death. This time the tone was far more serious, and even Saskia knew there was a chance that even if she were allowed to submit to the terms of the treaty, she lacked the magic to prove her use to the Empire. The newly crowned emperor might not even want anything to do with her anymore, preferring instead to find something closer to home, or perhaps of less noble blood than that of the Royal family of Lys.

    "Reginald, do calm yourself please." Saskia called back with a laugh, the slight giggling of one or two ladies' maids also could be heard. "We'll be there on time." The delegation would not wait, and Saskia, alongside both of her brothers would need to be there to greet them, welcome them to what would be their new home, or part of it anyway. When the Princess Royal finally did emerge, she was a figure transformed. She wore an evening gown of the finest silks the land had to offer, it was snug and fit her body like a glove. She wore black and red, the colours of the Empire and had done so out of respect for those who would come representing the new Emperor. Her hair, no longer braided but still remained up in a complicated look that was allegedly the latest in Imperial trends, though neither her nor her ladies could really confirm that. The tiara of diamonds and white gold sat atop her head almost becoming one with the elegant hairstyle as to ensure it remained firmly in place. It was an imposing piece, it belonged to her mother, having been made especially for her on the occasion of an anniversary. Saskia was tall and thin, porcelain skin unblemished she was a perfect picture of beauty and grace.

    Even Reginald, the harried valet could not help but be in awe when he saw Saskia for the first time that early evening. And together, with her ladies in tow, she made her way to the entrance hall of the Palace, the formal receiving hall. There awaited Crysos and Theo. The group would depart and make their way to the top of the staircase that led to the very front doors. Crysos, the Prince Regent would stand in the center, Theobald to his right and Saskia to his left. Both the Princess Royal and Theo, a prince by right stood several steps behind Crysos, allowing him by rank to take the position of prominence he was entitled to. A broad smile was upon her face as she looked at the delegation, the horses and their riders, and between those two flanks, an Imperial Carriage of State, those inside agents of the Imperial Crown. Saskia remained undeterred, and with her hands folded before her, she looked at each of the riders, at least those whose faces she could see, and remained smiling, giving a bow of her head to those who caught her eye. She waited then for Crysos to formally bid them welcome and invite them inside for the feast in their honor.

    Before this of course, once the Royal Family of Lys had assembled, and stood proudly atop the stairs, a large group of onlookers, a crowd formed just behind the Imperial delegation. A courtly noble stepped forward to announce the following:

    "Before you all, and our honored guests, On behalf of His Majesty, King Poloneous, fourth of his name, we present their Royal Highnesses, Crysos the Prince Regent and Saskia the Princess Royal, and Theobold Prince Captain of the Royal Guard."

    As though it were clockwork, every bell in the city began to toll heralding the arrival of the delegation and the meeting of the royal family. A grand gesture most assuredly.
    Last edited by Hannelorian; 09-06-2023 at 07:20 PM.
    Thanks to Hayabusa/Ryoku for the set.

  5. #5
    Little ball of fire
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    Theo wasn't sure how to respond as the young woman approached him, his eyes following the elegant, effortless movements, frozen in place as she brought up the late queen. Worse, she knew what his adopted mother always feared and expressed a few times to her husband. Theo shouldn't have known but he loved exploring the old castle and once he discovered the closed off old corridors running in parallel to the servant passages, he couldn't stop himself. It just so happened that one of the days he got lost in the architecture of the castle, he ended up by the Queen's small drawing room. The acoustics were so great, it was as though he was standing in the room with the adults. Back then, he was hurt and confused - how could that ever come to be? But now….now, he felt like he constantly walked on a knife's edge when it came to Saskia and her heart.

    In some ways, it had been a blessing when she confided in him her feelings for the late Emperor. She had all the symptoms of a young bride besotted with her intended although she hid it well from the general public. In her letters and in their private conversations, Saskia was much more open and looking forward to the future. Theo's heart had squeezed a bit in pain but he always thought it was because he was losing her, letting her go to a new land. Now, he wondered if there was something more hidden in his heart, something he didn't want to admit even to himself and complicate the world already far too complicated.

    Her outspoken position on her brother's actions made Theo chuckle. "A fool's errand it may be but I cannot abandon Crysos in his time of need. If this empty search will give him peace and allow him to move forth with the inevitable with grace, so be it." He didn't want to leave - not now when the Asterious delegation was here and when peace was of the upmost importance. This year has been tough on the kingdom from bad crops to worse weather and a plague hitting one of the most remote areas. Theo had thanked the stars, moon and gods it was so far as an epidemic in the capital would have been the end. The king's declining health and Crysos' desire to chase a dream did nothing to improve the morale of the Lys people.

    "I…" Theo paused, trying to form the right words and searching Saskia's eyes with intensity. What was there? Was it fear, determination, loneliness? Pride, decisiveness, anger? He knew from the set position of her lips and the defiant tilt of her chin that she was serious but he simply couldn't fully read her. This scared him - Saskia was always an open book to him before today. "I will not stand in your way, Ki. Lys will not go to war."

    He watched her go with a sigh worthy of a hundred year old man. His hand itched to stop her, to talk her out of the engagement, to protect her. Alistair was a dangerous man, rumors or not. He was a dark horse, a shadow of a man, not unlike Theo himself. Staying out of the spotlight, away from the royal household, training, fighting - they were so similar. But while Theo knew from his first day that he was loved and knew how to love, he was not sure that the young Emperor could say the same. And a man without love could not be predicted. Was he really strong enough to allow Saskia to marry such a man if the marriage was still on offer? He promised not to interfere but would he be able to keep that promise once the negotiations started? Could he really hold back not only his own fears but Crysos' desire for an independent kingdom?

    Groaning, the warrior slid down the wall to the floor, a hand covering his eyes. He had dreaded the assignment that seemed nothing more than a wild goose chase across the country but perhaps it was for the best. Slopping around the countryside with a few of his men was certainly preferable to witnessing Lys crumble to war or, worse, seeing Saskia sacrifice herself for her kingdom. He always knew the young woman had an iron core, a will of her own and unbounded amount of love for her country. If he tried to stop her, surely he would lose her and if she left, well, he would lose her either way. At least, if she was gone, he could pretend she was happy. Yes, leaving suddenly made a lot of sense, damn it all. Ignoring the throbbing in his mind, Theo slowly pulled himself up and turned to his wardrobe, pulling out garments practically at random. He just needed to get through one evening…




    "So that is what the Prince Regent looks like," Alistair muttered under his breath, his cold eyes gazing over the three figures announced as the bells of Lys seemed to sing them praise. Crysos was the first to catch his interest - standing in armor that was most certainly not intended for the battlefield and shining with polish so much that it was blinding, the young prince did not smile at the introduction. His jaw looked set in determination and his eyes looked past the delegation as though the Asterions were not even present.

    The older prince, the guard, was a different story. Taller, a lethal warrior in armor that has clearly seen battles, he observed the Imperial delegation with a calm, cool and calculating look of piercing blue eyes. His posture was relaxed but Alistair looked through the facade easily - there was a rigidity to him that stemmed from something and the quick, almost imperceivable glances between his siblings hinted at the source of his concern. The young emperor's eyes blazed with curiosity as he shifted his gaze to the final member of the royal family.

    Saskia was as beautiful as he remembered - tall, confident, poised, dressed in the colors of the Empire, his empire, she smiled kindly upon his men, her dark eyes warm and welcoming. It was quite a contrast from her brothers, stark enough that Alistair couldn't help keeping the smirk off his lips. Regardless of the future and her own feelings, it seemed that the princess received quite the education when it came to keeping face. It wasn't difficult to imagine his subjects falling in love with their new empress, her kindness becoming known to the farthest reaches of Asterious. When paired with Sebastian's own perfect heir image, the union would have been a celebration of the ages.

    Unfortunately, he was not Sebastian and he wasn't sure if her composure and kindness would be enough to sooth the internal disarray of the empire. After two consecutive emperors died in quick succession, the political union of the high nobility was strained. Accusations were whispered in every corridor, new rumors springing up in every shadow ranging from curses being inflicted on the Imperial family to pondering if the young spare had finally gone crazy, choosing to commit fratricide instead of living out his short life with the Flight. Stirrings from distant cousins and opportunists started to be reported by his men but for now, all Alistair could do was grind his teeth and soldier on. There were too many issues to tackle that were more pressing than chasing rumors in noble households.

    His smirk turned into a scowl and he ended up turning his eyes to glare at the mane of his stallion, his jaw locking. So many problems and he had rushed here to see if the arrangement between Asterious and Lys was still worth saving. Most called him an idiot for coming, an irresponsible impulsive boy, a thief but how could he leave this to his ministers? Perhaps his father and Sebastian had been content to rely on others to negotiate alliances and, perhaps if it had been his own man, Sebastian may have felt more confident but he was not about to risk unnecessary war due to a pompous cabinet rat deeming the terms unacceptable. Nor was he willing to sign over his personal fate to circumstance when it came to choosing a bride - beyond politics or love, he needed an ally. He needed a woman who could stand on her own and push his vision of the future for the empire, someone he could rely on and know she would not bow to pressure if he had to leave her. That was more crucial to him than any other aspect of a union, especially as his nobles were parading their daughters before him, each one loyal to her own family to a fault.

    In front of him, the carriage door was opened by one of his men, allowing the three older politicians to step out. Even exhausted by the last leg of their journey and dressed in muddy travel clothes, Lord Riddle and his companions radiated the wealth and power of Asterious, the rich colors barely muted by the dirt on them, golden accessories catching the remaining sunlight. Bowing in strict precision, the Lord Diplomat walked forward as Crysos lowered his head in acknowledgement though his eyes remained hard. To his left, Alistair heard Westley give an undignified snort. Shooting his friend a glare, he turned back to observe the exchange that unfolded.

    “Your Highness,” Lord Riddle bowed once again. “It humbles us to be greeted by you and their royal highnesses at the doors of your home.”

    “Lord Riddle,” the prince finally brought his bored gaze to the man’s pudgy face, his features putting on an air of reserved surprise and hospitality. “Please rest assured that Lys welcomes you and the rest of the Asterious delegation to its halls. I hope the roads were not too treacherous seeing how unfavorable this time of year is for travel.”

    “We make do, your Highness,” Riddle smiled, his demeanor seeming to become softer. Looking at him, Alistair’s eyes narrowed, trying to understand how the pompous aristocrat more familiar with the buffet at a fancy soiree than out in the elements, was able to portray such comfort in the idea of travel. The diplomat made is sound almost wishful in one sentence and so believable, Alistair’s blood boiled. This was exactly why he always hated the palace and the politics - words were dangerous weapons that could not easily be erradicated even with a dragon’s fire. “Our mission could not wait for finer weather thus we persevered. Tell me, your Highness, how fares your father?”

    “Thank you for your concern. His health remains much unchanged,” Crysos’ jaw clenched tighter for a moment but with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, he extended his arm in the direction of the palace. “Please, you must be tired. We have baths waiting and a banquet in your honor. These conversations can wait until you are rested, at least until we break fast together.”

    “That is extremely considerate of you, your Highness,” Riddle bowed, his comrades a beat behind. The rest of the Asterious guards remained unmoved, only the horses shuffling their weight underneath them. Alistair observed the full exchange with a removed interest, his face a mask of boredom as he skimmed over the political exchange to observe the two other figures standing behind the prince Regent, frowning when he noticed the Prince Guard’s elongated ears. Did anyone ever mention it to him that the adopted son of Lys was an elf? If they had, he would have remembered. Shooting Westley an annoyed look that the man had the audacity to ignore, Alistair turned to observe the young princess standing beside the men.

  6. #6
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    In most regards, if not all, Saskia had received far more training in diplomacy than her brother the Prince Regent. These trite conversations held on the steps outside the palace were all part of the art, and what was most important is that one never let their face slip into open reaction. Saskia's mouth remained in a broad smile that showed no trace of failing her or betraying any true emotion she may have felt. Her hands remained ever so perfectly before her, her attention focused now on the members of nobility that had emerged from the Imperial carriage. Saskia had to admit it was surprising that these men would dare show themselves even in a slightly dirtied appearance. Perhaps they meant to show strength in just how determined they were to arrive for these accords.

    The Princess Royal finally stepped forward, and with a gentle hand she placed ever so briefly on Crysos' lower back, she had made her intentions clear that she was now the one who planned to speak. The brother and sister had differing views of what was to come, but one thing was always clear, Saskia was a woman of her own mind, who made her own decisions no matter what. Both were clearly children of their father, both politicians, both unwavering in their commitments and beliefs.

    "My good Lord Riddle, how wonderful to see you again." Saskia spoke softly but her words appeared entirely genuine. Saskia stepped forward toward the man and bowed her head, a sign of respect for the delegation and for the man. The only men Saskia bowed to were to her elder brothers, both of whom took precedence over her, her own father, and the Emperor of Asterious. "I regret that our meeting is not under happier circumstances. On behalf of the people of Lys, our hearts still mourn the late Emperor, my beloved Sebastien." There was no world in which Saskia could be less perfect, or say the wrong words. She had trained for this for her entire life. She was bred specifically for this.

    "If you will allow me, I will escort you to your apartments. You will find a taste of home there. Brandy, wine, and Tellus apples. All from the Imperial capitol." Saskia had these things imported to suit the tastes of the men who would be at the table. Every detail had been accounted for, and she would leave little to chance. "Argent and Lys are to be part of your home, and I would remiss if we did not make you feel most welcome." Saskia continued to smile her eyes now drifting slowly out of the crowd of Guards assembled and their horses. There was one man in particular who caught her eye, though she did not recognize him. Not that Saskia imagined she would. She could swear she had felt his eyes on her, almost as though burning through her, but she would have to pay it no mind. At least... not now.

    "Prince Theobald will escort your men and their horses to their respective lodgings. They too are welcome to their share of treats, and whatever their hearts desire." Saskia didn't mean to be quite so literal, but there it was said anyway. Stepping forward to Lord Riddle, she extended her arm and rather gently took his into her own and turned to lead him inside. The grand doors of the palace, compromised of wood and gold gilding were opened. The Princess Royal did her duty without failure and would make pleasant small talk with the Lord Diplomat as they made their way to their destination.

    Saskia had effectively cut off the Prince Regent and taken over duties as hostess, something she would normally have done anyway. But this was different. In many ways Saskia needed to be in control. She wouldn't chance what she felt was giving her brother an opportunity to do something foolish. He was smart, she knew that. But why take risks that seemed unnecessary?
    Thanks to Hayabusa/Ryoku for the set.

  7. #7
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    Crysos clenched his jaw but maintained his smile as Saskia swept forward to take over the negotiation, offering the Asterians the hospitality he was about to suggest. Scolding his features into a pleasant expression, he nodded when Saskia mentioned the late Emperor’s demise though he did not care much for the man. Frankly, why would he care for anyone who was planning to take away his birthright and expect Crysos to simply allow it without attempting to find a way to keep Lys’ independence? The few times the man visited Argent, the young Prince Regent had been civil but he could never warm up to the Emperor who was closer in age to Theobald than himself. He kept his opinions to himself, however, especially after he saw Saskia slowly develop something akin to love for the young man. While Crysos continued to fight against the seemingly inevitable takeover, he felt torn between his kingdom’s independence and his sister’s happiness.

    “Your Highness is too kind to my men and I,” Lord Riddle bowed again, hand on his heart in thanks. Crysos wanted to snort at the falsery of the whole scenario but years of his etiquette’s teacher unbearably strict lessons didn’t allow him to show his disdain for the charade in anything but the gleam of his eyes. The old man continued. “If it would please your Highnesses, we would like to freshen up and change before the banquet. We have pushed hard to reach Argent as soon as possible to decide upon the best way forward for both our countries.”

    “Of course my Lord,” Crysos nodded in understanding. “Reginald will be able to help you with anything you need including ensuring your travel clothes are washed and returned to their original state. Reginald, please have baths ready for all the men.”

    “Of course your Highness,” the man bowed in strict protocol.

    “Theobald, please,” Crysos locked eyes with his brother. The two went through a silent dialogue that had been perfected since Crysos was born. His eyes seemed to ask the older man to keep an eye on the warriors who seemed somehow different to the diplomat’s usual escort, Theo’s begging him to keep him emotions and patience in check. The prince wasn’t sure when they became so attuned but he could almost hear his brother’s voice telling him to not do anything stupid- like break the treaty right there and then.

    “Of course. Gentlemen,” The Prince Guard nodded to the royals and diplomats before striding forward, the Asterians dismounting almost in unison at the command of their leader, a man in his late forties with an impressive mustache, nodded. All, that was, except the lone rider in the back of the group who remained seated on his black stallion, his cold calculating eyes taking in Saskia with an interest that left Crysos frowning. The man possessed an unsettling demeanor - tall and built like a warrior, he had eyes that seemed to pierce to the soul and hard set features of command. Beside him, his commrade said something in Asterian and the rider nodded, slipping off the horse and turning to pay attention to his superior. Crysos’s gaze met Theo’s for another silent exchange, the prince asking his brother in no uncertain means to keep an eye on the foreigner who showed such an interest in the Princess Royal.

    “If you’ll follow me,” Theobald gave a small nod, barely the tilt of his chin in Crysos’ direction before starting towards the stable yard, walking beside the commander. The prince watched them go just as beside him one of the new diplomats muttered something in Asterion under his breath, the action gaining him a meaningful glare from Lord Riddle.

    “I thank you and apologize for my mens’ behavior - my usual escort was required elsewhere and these soldiers are fresh from the Northern scrimishes. I fear the etiquette and finer manners of the court life are lost on them.”

    “No harm done, my lord,” Crysos assured him, making a mental note of the detail and trying not to frown as his mind raced to analyze why military men were escorting diplomats of the Empire. “I understand that there has been unrest.”

    “As is to be expected with the loss of our beloved Emperor Sebastian, may he rest in peace,” the man agreed sadly.

  8. #8
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    Saskia had briefly taken notice to the single rider who failed to dismount his horse and had his gaze trained upon her. She had not been as keen as brother to take note of the kind of men who were guarding the diplomats, not until the comment was directly made by Lord Riddle. Military guard indeed was something that seemed quite off, and spoke only to the state of war readiness of the Empire, at least to the Princess' mind. But still her attention remained on the diplomats who she walked and talked with toward their rooms.

    Saskia was quick to point out various works of art, particularly pieces of Asterian origin which she had sourced and personally selected. All were signs to welcome in their new overlords, the exact opposite of what Crysos had in mind most likely. But the show of good faith and good will was more important to Saskia than her own brother's feelings. Saskia was her father's daughter, and she believed in what he had. This was the way to forge peace. If this wasn't her purpose, Saskia was lost, alone, and afraid. The flaws of her own character seemed absolutely lost on her family. Well, on Crysos. Theo on the other hand, she shared her every thought with, or most of them anyway.

    When she had settled the men into their apartments, she ensured that their servants were provided the necessary access. Further, Saskia had assigned additional maids and footmen to dote upon the visiting diplomats. All of those details were important, and she had picked only the best, only the most trusted of those who served the Royal house of Lys. Most of those who worked for them had done so for generations, it was in their family lineage, their blood. Their fate was intertwined with that of their people.

    Of course now it was the Princess turn to speak with her brother. As the woman carried herself down the halls, conscious of every set of eyes upon her, she betrayed nothing, she was the image of perfection. The Princess Royal stopped before the same set of doors that Theobald had stopped before previously. Raising her hand to the wood she knocked heavily upon the door and rather than waiting for admittance, she simply opened the door and saw herself inside, sealing the doors behind her. There he was, seated and looking as joyous as ever.

    "Good afternoon to you too Crysos." Saskia called as she made her way further into the room, making her way to the windows and opening them to let even more air in. "You really must let me have this cleaned from top to bottom. It's no good for you to be trapped in this musty room all day." Saskia genuinely had been worried about her brother's health and wellbeing.

    "I apologize if I overstepped with the greeting of our.... friends." Saskia sighed deeply, knowing just how uncomfortable Crysos was. The Princess stepped in front of him, and placed her fingers beneath his chin, pushing his head up to look at her more directly, to her soft smile, the one that said she was concerned, that she cared, that she worried. All of it was true. "They won't be here long. But it's important that we discuss this now... Not between the Prince Regent and the Princess Royal. Discuss this between Crysos and Saskia, brother and sister. Family." Saskia moved to take a seat close to her brother, her hands resting in her lap she leaned forward.
    Thanks to Hayabusa/Ryoku for the set.

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    Crysos watched Saskia take the diplomats away, his eyes full of sadness and acceptance of what must be done. It unsettled him that for the first time since their father’s illness, the two siblings were seemingly on different sides of a complicated political issue. He had kept quiet when Sebastian had been alive if only for the sake of his sister whom he loved, swallowing all his hatred and comments as much as he could though the occasional tongue lashing of the treaty and the impeding doom of his country seeped out when he was alone with Saskia or Theo. However, Saskia had always seemed so happy when she spoke of the late Emperor, always blushing whenever he teased her about the blonde man. Thankfully, as mauve tone as it was, the man was six feet under and Crysos was no longer bound to keep silent. From the various rumors and retellings of the new Emperor, there was absolutely no way Saskia would ever love that monster which, in Crysos’ own opinion, meant that the treaty was all but dissolved and it was only rational that Lys start preparing for war.

    And if war was on his doorstep, he needed an edge against the Empire’s dragons. He had never seen them close and personal and, frankly, he hoped to keep it that way though he had searched Argent’s extensive libraries for any old text documenting anything at all about the flying lizards, the riders of Asterious and the mystical bonding ritual. So far, his research had brought him nothing but grief - there was barely any mention of warriors overcoming the Asterian dragon knights and none at all on the methods they used to do just that. It was time he turned his attention to Lys’ own advantages of magic and mixed heritage in the hopes of a miracle. Miracles and prophecies, he grinned in silliness to himself as he ended up pouring over another musty tome in his study once again, asking Reginald to notify him when the delegation was ready for the banquet.

    A quiet knock had him look over his shoulder from the window where he was standing, a frown of annoyance on his face but Crysos softened slightly when he saw his sister enter, closing the door behind her. Gently sliding a ribbon to mark his space in the book, the prince snapped it shut, sneezing as some faint dust particles hit his nose. Shaking his head, he rolled his eyes when the young woman mentioned cleaning up in the room.

    “You and Theo really are cut from one cloth Ki,” he huffed, walking back to take a seat in the main chair, placing the book on a pile of similarly abandoned tomes and crossing his fingers in a dome structure before him much like his father. “I do not mind you stepping in but I wish you would warn me about it. I will never pull rank on you but there is nothing to win when you undermine me and we both know that. Lys needs to appear strong and unified now more so than ever before.”

    Sighing as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, Crysos gave her a small smile. “You are, however, correct that we do need to talk. Starting with the fact that there is absolutely no way I am letting my sister tie her fate to a phsycopathic power-driven brother-killer. You will not marry the Emperor of Asterious.”

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    "Do you mean that Theo and I both worry for you?" Saskia asked without giving it too much thought. Her eyes darted around the room, she had seen this kind of disarray before. Her brother was planning something, scheming something. Books were out and splayed open to assorted pages, there were plans and drawings along walls on his desk. "You look like father when you do that." Saskia motioned quietly to the arrangement of his fingers into that same dome like structure. In so many ways Crysos was an exact replica of the man who raised them, but significantly different in the only few that mattered.

    "Ah. So now we speak like adults." Saskia shook her head and sighed deeply. She could feel a deep sense of conflict and sadness rising up within her, welling and welling further and further. "We cannot undermine one another. I agree brother, we must be a united front. But what happens when we don't agree? Whose will has to bend here?" Saskia leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs nodding in acknowledgment of Crysos' words. "It pains me to think I would work against you... but I suppose you might be right." Saskia laughed a bit, not because she took pleasure in what she had done or what she had admitted to, but because she felt an immense relief at simply being able to speak openly with her own brother.

    "You won't like what I have to say, and if I were a betting woman, I'm sure Theo has already told you to be aware of my feelings or his usual... light touch." Saskia knew her brothers well, like the back of her hand she could predict so much of them and they of her. "We don't know who Alistair is. We know rumours. We know stories that come from the war torn lands." Saskia was trying to give a complete stranger the benefit of the doubt. "But even if they are true... Most importantly if they are true... it changes nothing. And you of all people know that it can change nothing." Saskia's face took on a serious, forlorn look, one resigned to her fate.

    "The people, our people... have been waiting for over 25 years for this. They have been waiting since before I was born. We cannot sacrifice a chance at peace, a long lasting peace with Asterious. This is my sworn duty, my oath and my honor." She spoke of her honor, her sacrifice, her life was a sacrifice and she had known it. "No one has ever let me forget what my responsibility is." Saskia paused to think for a moment on how to address what she felt properly.

    "This is what our father wants. This is what our mother agreed to. And you would give it up for what? A war we could not possibly win? The destruction of our people, of our society, our way of life? So you can keep your crown." Saskia felt the sting of her final words, they were ones she wished she did not have to speak. "You will never be King, and I understand how robbed you feel of your birthright. Of what you deserve by blood. Hundreds of years of our family sitting on that throne." Saskia too felt pain over having to surrender this. "But... what would you rather, be King over the Ashes or the Archduke of a healthy, thriving country within the Empire?" Another sigh. Saskia's hands began to tremble, and for the first time, alone at least with her own family, did she allow herself to show emotion, tears falling down her cheek. "Father, our own father was and is willing to make that sacrifice... to surrender his own crown for a lesser one. And so long as he is alive how could you betray him as such? Betray me?"

    Saskia stood and raising her shaking fingers to her cheeks she wiped the tears away only for new ones to fall. "I can work to preserve Lys, and our way of life. I can and will do everything in my power to keep our home safe and as independent as possible. I would die for Lys. I am sure I will die for Lys, even if I die at the hands of my husband I will have done what I was meant to do. And you can reign holy hell down upon Asterious, but if we have even one chance for peace... and prosperity... could you truly deprive our people of that?"

    The Princess Royal had now knelt down before her brother, looking rather small in the giant pile of fabric that was her dress. But she was open and honest. "I'm begging you... let me do as I was born to do Crysos. He's not ideal this... this... Alistair. But I'm not doing this for a man anymore... I'm doing this for all of us." A final token of her own honesty, Saskia took in a deep breath.

    "You are my brother, and I love you. I will always love you and defend you no matter what... but I cannot do this without you and your support." Her cards were on the table.
    Last edited by Hannelorian; 03-21-2024 at 12:44 AM.
    Thanks to Hayabusa/Ryoku for the set.

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