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Old 08-25-2012, 10:15 PM   #1
Armphid
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Prophecy of Ruin or Salvation (closed for heartofcourage)

There were many continents on the gleaming, wildly spinning world that shone like a cerulean and green jewel in the fabric of space, and those seas and that land teemed with life, and on both (unknown generally to one another), there were many things that lived, and some that lived were not mere life but peoples, though little they often resembled each other. Those peoples gathered into nations, and the fates of those nations, and of all the lives within them, hinged on the belief of many, and the actions of few.

On the northwestern shelf of a continent in the northern hemisphere was a lush, green land of mountains and rivers. The peaks rose on the eastern border and formed a barrier between it's western ports and the rest of the land. Ridges and foothills rolled through it, leaving wide and fertile valleys, fed and made by many running rivers and pouring streams. All of it, valleys, hills, mountains, was green. Forests grew lush and wild and free, carefully harvested and hunted for their bounty on the hills and ridges. The valleys held fields and flowering orchards and pastures where aurochs, cattle, sheep, goats, darters, and other beasts were raised and bred.

The rivers teemed with traffic; fisherman fished, goods passed along on barges, riverboat merchants plied their trade. Hides, meat, herbs, nuts, lumber, and the other fruits and labors of the forest flowed down them and out to the rest of the world. The fields and barns brought forth grains, vegetables, milk, cheeses, oils, wool, cloth, all manner of goods and products for all the world to partake of and use.

Its' people worked hard and long and with great skill, yet they celebrated as much as they toiled, and many also took care to train in less productive arts to guard their land from those who would despoil and claim it for their own. It was the law of land that every man and woman keep a bow and train in its' use at least an hour on each day of rest. They knew how to stalk and hunt quietly, how to track and trail, skilled with knife and spear.

And yet, they were still vulnerable. And in their hearts of hearts, as they prayed in churches and hill shrines to gods of fertility and plenty, and most of all to the great and grand God of the Sun, held highest above all in their eyes, they knew and feared that other saw they were vulnerable as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The mighty darter stepped over a fallen log on the forested path, the massive avian creature easily avoiding the obstacle that a horse or ram or one of the four legged beasts others rode would have had to jump or be stymied by. The riding bird was taller than a man at the wing, with thick and powerful legs, wide spread gripping feet with large, curving talons on each foot. It's wings were large and wide, but not enough to lift its' body in flight, though they could add distance to their great leaps both vertical and horizontal. Its' feathers were a sleek, glassy black, the legs a full orange, the heavy, thick, curved beak was a bright harvest pumpkin orange. The bird's eyes were the size of a large man's fist.

A bit was in it's beak and rich tackle of brown leather and polished sleet reins and tack fit the saddle and the rest of the bags and tack. A quiver hung there, as did an unstrung longbow the size of a man, a keen hunting dagger, and other common items and tack. Only one item made the gear stand out, beyond it's high quality and make, a thick bladed sword perhaps three feet in length.

The darter's rider was a tall young man, standing a hand taller than most. His shoulders were broad and his waist tapered from them, giving him the build of a woodsman and hunter; strong and powerful but agile at the same time. His face was handsome and noble; his features clear but strong, clean shaven and sure. Keen eyes of storm cloud grey took in the forest around him and his hair was a rich forest brown, falling to his shoulders, but currently gathered back and held in place by a simple leather thong. He was young, perhaps five years into his second decade but no more than that, and yet his eyes and shoulders seemed bent with many cares.

His clothes were of rich fabrics but were simple, garments for every day use but the use of a well born person, all in hues of green and brown save for his cloak; black with a white tree flowering out of a blue river beneath it. An elaborate and cunningly made ring was on his right hand, and a gleaming circlet of gold with an engraved leaf pattern was about his head.

King Valius Argetlam rode through the woods of his country and he was troubled. He did not ride alone; a full branch of rangers were spread out around him, moving quietly through the trees on darters of their own, some with spear in a hand, others with strung bow at the ready. Four others rode with him as well, dressed in the raiment of forest nobility.

"Sire," one began, an older man with a receding hairline and a finely cultivated, curling mustache. "I feel I must address this once more."

Valius sighed, "Magnus, please. It's decided." The young king shook his head, "I still can't get used to being called 'Sire'...it feels wrong."

His advisors all looked to one another. One of them, a young woman only a few years older than Valius shook her head, "Val, I mean, Sire, don't say that. You are the rightful king, you have our full trust and loyalty."

He winced at her words and snorted softly, "Doesn't mean it's right, Enna. Countess Enna, I mean. It should have been another ten years."

The older man who first spoken looked at the young woman with a grimace, "Countess, this is a matter for the high nobility, not for-"

"She is here at my request, Lord Magnus," Valius interrupted, "and my pleasure, as are you. Don't forget that." He looked back at the man, who was suddenly looking sheepish. "But it doesn't matter, I suppose. Neither does you bringing up the argument again."

He had been king only a month. The eldest son of his line, he had been trained to become king; been taught, trained, and schooled, watched his father and mother govern to learn it. But he was not to become king until his third decade, his father stepping aside as had been done for generations. But then the accident; the bridge had collapsed under the royal family while riding, and the river below was cold, swift, and hungry. Only he had emerged alive.

"Sire-"

"The Fire Nation needs what we have, Magnus. The troubles they've gone through, they need food, water, lumber, all of the goods we make and sell. And they'll buy them, certainly, but they can't afford all they need." Valius shook his head, "And we need arms, and soliders, and metal. And we can't buy as much as we need. If they can't get what they need one way, they'll decide to take it. Maybe not this year, but soon. This way...we can head that off, make a powerful alliance, and maybe even make a more permanent alliance." Marrying the princess of the Fire Nation would make him heir to that arid, strange land beyond the eastern mountains. "Without this, it will come to war in time."

"But you're so young, Sire. And she is as well. And there's that rumor about her sister..."

"None of it matters, Lord Magnus." Valius shook his head and urged his darter forward. "The letter is sent and once word is back I will ride there straight away. Young nor not, I am king, and my country must be served my her lord."
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Last edited by Armphid : 03-04-2013 at 04:10 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 12:47 PM   #2
heartofcourage
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The dreams were the same nearly every evening. Water would surround her in every direction, no land in sight. Her gauzy dress billowed around her as she floated on the surface, the gentle ebb and flow pulling her in all directions. When she opened her eyes, she would see rain clouds gathering, the gentle pattering of drops hitting her skin and chilling her to the bone. A giant shadow would cross the ocean, a dragon colored dark green and brown. His harsh cry called out across the desolate water, harkening something that would happen very soon.

With a sigh, Bryn would always awaken as the dragon moved lazily along, leaving her staring not at a cloudy sky but at the canopy of her bed. She closed her light blue eyes and prayed for the saving grace that would bring prosperity back to her land. Times had been hard on her adopted homeland and it seemed that there was no end in sight. Ever since she had come to live with her father things had been bad and she thought of herself as more of a curse than a blessing.

It had all started with her birth. The old ones said that she was both a blessing and a curse, the means to a beginning and an end. Her father was the great king of Al’Tir, the Fire Nation, the most prosperous ruler in all of the world. However, her mother had not been the dower Queen Sophi, a hard woman who had won the right to marry the king after her father had threatened civil war. No, her mother had been the true love of his life, a serving maid in his own household.

That was where her story had begun. Bryn had been born on a floating island in the middle of the ocean. Her mother, Tali, after learning that she was pregnant and not wanting to face the wrath of the queen had run back to her home to have her baby in peace. Tali had feared the long reach of the royal family she had served and kept her new daughter a secret for as long as she could.

Her beginnings were not unusual. Her mother had given birth to her in the healing waters of the Alerum springs, the water source that gave the island its name. She was like others of Alerum heritage, clear blue eyes upon a delicate heart shaped face, full bowed lips, and a pale complexion. The thing that was not usual was her hair. It was fiery red, a riot of curls that seemed to never be tamed. No one born on the island had ever had red hair. Her own mother had hair as black as midnight, silvery shocks of blue racing through it. No, of course Bryn could never be one to follow all the conventions that the Gods and nature set out for her.

It had given rise to the legend of Bryn Alerum. Bryn was an ancient word that simply meant woman. Alerum, the name given to her home, was water. The woman of water was an ancient prophecy that had been handed down through many generations. It spoke of a woman who had the ability to combine fire and water into a bright flame and who would, in her time, see the mountains bow to her. She was the unifying force, the all consuming being, and it seemed that she’d finally arrived.

News had spread to all parts after she was born. Despite her new found fame, she grew up a happy child, shielded from those that would seek blessings by her mother and her mother’s parents. It wasn’t until she reached three summers that she had her first taste of the path her life would take.

Her mother died shortly after her birth celebration and Bryn was left in uncertain times. Her grandparent’s were poor and unable to take care of a child as young as her. She would lie in bed late at night and hear their weary voices talking about what they were going to do. The answer seemed so simple to them but to her it meant leaving the only home she’d known.

The first time she met her father was in the winter of her third year. He had shown up on the banks of Alerum with his soldiers, coming to answer a letter that had been sent by her grandfather. She stood before him in a new dress that scratched her skin unmercifully and she tried her hardest not to fidget. She hadn’t known who he was but even a girl so young did notice that the man before her had the same red hair that she did. It made her smile and when he kneeled on one knee before her in his shining armor, he explained everything.

She was to go home with him and meet the rest of her family. She was going to be raised in the royal household and given every opportunity for a good life. To leave Alerum was heart breaking for the young girl, but what struck her more was the sadness on her father’s eyes when he looked upon her. He was a strong man, handsome, but he looked so sad. Bryn had agreed, when in reality she had no choice, and had gone with him and his soldiers back to Al’Tir to begin a new life.

Bryn’s thoughts were broken when her bedroom door flung open. She sat up in bed, watching as her sister, the Princess Charissa, came bounding in. If there were ever two opposites in this world, it was Bryn and her sister. Charissa was tall and statuesque, incredibly beautiful with flowing blonde hair and dark brown eyes. Her tanned skin was accentuated with a flowing gown of yellow and precious metals and stones gleamed in her hair.

“You’re still in bed? Get up or else we’ll be late! I’m not going to give Papa an excuse to yell at me today.” Charissa immediately went to Bryn’s clothing, digging through the chest to find something appropriate.

Bryn sighed and pushed the linens off her body, stepping from the soft bed and stretching. She had never grown tall, standing at a modest height, with small sleek curves that were wrapped in a creamy pale skin. Her features had grown more defined over the years but many described her as the most beautiful woman in the land, much to her sister’s chagrin. Her hair had grown to the tops of her thighs, the curls braided back from her face, much like her sister’s. The women of Al’Tir were not allowed to cut their hair until marriage and the braids were the husband’s alone to untwine.

“Papa only yells at you when you don’t go to Temple.” Bryn said, catching the flying clothing that was hurled at her. She looked down at the gauzy small clothes that would cover her body and pulled them on before a dress of dark blue was thrown from across the room. “Would you calm down? We’re not going to be late. The Mother Priestess was there late last night and will not begin the prayers until after breakfast.”

“Don’t tell me you were there too.” Charissa looked at her sister with a mixture of shock and amazement. “I don’t know how you do it. It must be so boring.”

Bryn was pulling on her blue gown when her sister spoke. She paused in lacing up the gauzy fabric and simply stared at her for a moment. Could Charissa really be so out of touch with the wants and needs of her own people? She was the heir to the throne after the untimely death of their older brother, and it seemed that she could care less about Al’Tir.

“Charissa, you are a Princess of the Blood. This should be your main concern. We are in the middle of a drought and people are dying.” Her sister was frivolous, obsessed with wealth and leisure. She didn’t see anything wrong with a few people dying of hunger if it meant that she got to keep her place in life. “They come to the Temple in their time of need and it’s our duty to at least hear them out.’

Charissa’s delicate nose wrinkled at the thought of mingling with the common people of Al’Tir. Bryn sighed and finished dressing, giving her long hair a good brushing before she placed a simple veil over her hair. It was respectful to cover one’s self before entering the temple, but her sister’s veil, covered with jewels and metals, probably didn’t fill in the area of respect.

“Have you heard about the marriage proposal?” Charissa asked as she stood at Bryn’s wide window, looking out over the twisting desert sands of their land.

“What will you and your mother find wrong with this one? Is he too tall or too short? Too fat or too thin? Too smart or too stupid?” Bryn asked, glancing over at her sister with a raised eyebrow. She would have killed to have a marriage proposal offered for her, but she was not a Princess of the Blood and her life was destined to be spent serving the Gods in the Temple.

“It’s from the Mountains.” Bryn stood as she picked up a gold chain and looked at her sister with surprise.

The mountains could be seen in the distance from her window, the high capped peaks dusted with snow. She had never been to the lands beyond them, but she had met many of those who worked in trade. They were good people, but very fiercely protective of their way of life. Never had she heard of someone from that region offering for the hand of a foreign princess.

“And what did Papa say?” She asked, standing beside her sister at the window and looking across the sands. She could see men going to work in the mines which dotted the landscape. Others were going to train for war at some of the camps on the outskirts of their lands. She had never truly seen the boarders of her father’s kingdom, but much of the Fire Nation was arid and dry, supporting no life save for the nomads that still tried to carve out a living as their ancestors had.

“He sent a reply that said he would like to talk to the King.” Charissa said, her voice laced with disappointment at the idea of being married.

“Well, you can only pray now that he will be a kind man. We need the support, Charissa.” She placed her hand on her sister’s arm and gave her a reassuring smile. “It will all work out. We must go before we’re late. It wouldn’t do if prayer seekers showed up and their Goddess was not there.”

Charissa laughed at that and took her sister’s arm, walking hand and hand with her to the Temple so they could begin their day.
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Old 08-26-2012, 04:53 PM   #3
Armphid
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"Rotting sand in my rotting boots, and if not that, one of those knife spiders," the man speaking shook his head, his features worn by many years of toil and and service. He wore the supple armor and gear of a ranger as he leaned against a yellow feathered darter laden with tack; his bow and spear were on his mount, a long hunting knife and a stout hand ax in his belt, the arms of the country's military. He was on the outskirts of a large camp in the sands; the tents unlike those of the normal nomads as were the people who went about it. Not far in the distance was a shining white city; walls gleaming in the not yet dawn.

The weathered man spat on the desert sands. "Scorpion, Sir Claudius," said a voice and he jumped to attention, as did a number of men and women standing with him. "Those 'knife spiders' are called scorpions, and I'd be careful about spitting again. The people here find a man who takes water from himself as mad, the traders say."

Valius Argetlam was more royally dressed than any of his vassals had seen him; save for his coronation. His garments were still green and brown, but richer and more vibrant hues, and most of what he wore was silk and not cotton. The signet ring of his station gleamed on his right hand, but he wore another ring on the left, and bracelets of gold set with amber. His green cloak billowed in the desert wind, fine and light, the edge embroidered with gold thread in wheat patterning and a broach of silver and emerald on his breast fastened it to him. He wore his sword at his belt now and the scabbard was richly tooled and silver characters named his blade.

Sir Claudius bowed, as did the other rangers, "And I think they're mad for living in this mess, Sire, we'll get along fine," the ranger-knight retorted.

Valius looked around the dunes, "I actually think it's a very clean." He then clapped the older man on the shoulder; the man who'd taught him to shoot and move in silence and many more things. "Camp's breaking, Sir Claudius, we're to be away in a half hour."

"Aye, Sire. And a runner couldn't be sent to tell me that?" The rangers around the older man exchanged worried glances at his tone, a rebuke clear to his liege in it.

Valius shrugged, "They're busy getting everything taken down and the beasts tended and moving. I was already dressed and had nothing to do. No sense tying up hands better used elsewhere."

"Except that you're the rotting King, Valius," he growled. "You can expect that that lot's king," he jerked his thumb over at the glittering city that awaited them, "don't go running errands for the palace servants. You need to make an impression. Sire," he added after a beat.

"The impression I want to make," Valius answered, heat in his voice, "is that I'm not a pampered, string spined, nothing of a noble." He grimaced, "You sound like Magnus."

"Old wise men'll tend to sound alike," Claudius agreed.

Valius stared at his old teacher and protector for a few moments and then threw up his hands. "I'll try to start acting more kingly then, you rotting old leather faced goon. But if I'm acting king-like, shouldn't I have you flogged for speaking to me this way?"

"Sire," the ranger looked hurt, "it's the duty of a singulare to advise his liege as he seems fit. You'd not do such a thing to a man for doing his duty an' keeping his sworn word?"

Valius laughed, unable to even pretend to be upset with the man. "Depends on if I want to be a good king or a tyrant. I haven't decided yet, so I'll let it go this time. Anyway. Half an hour, Sir Knight, Rangers."

They each lifted their right arm and crossed it over their chest in salute, "Sire," they responded in unison.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
The procession of King Valius Argetlam was a spectacle neither people would forget, and all would tell stories of. The streets and nearby buildings were crowded with on-lookers; staring, whispering, waving and calling out. Some cheered, others cursed, many prayed but the visitors for their part maintained a careful, cautiously friendly discipline.

The great birds that the people rode were unlike anything the people of the city had seen, save those few who had reason to go on the trading routes to the mountains. Not only those they rode but the two fine cows that came in with them, behind the wagons that carried the strangers supplies and gifts. Their garb was strange and foreign, the huge bows they carried alien and even a little silly to the people of the Fire Nation; they must have been decorative, surely no one could bend such a bow.

The make-up and very nature of the group was also something of a stir. The soldiers of the foreigners, rangers the traders called them, had both men and women in their ranks. All of the strangers seemed pale to the people of the city and also tall; even the women as tall as many of the men of the Fire Nation.

The king rode with two others beside him, an older man and a young, radiant woman with long hair. The woman carried a banner that was black, with a half circle of blue out of which a white tree grew and flowered. As they rode into the city, the young king looked about and his keen eyes saw much. When they reached the gates of the palace, he spoke briefly to the people at his side and the older man nodded, then turned his beast back and rode to the wagons.

The woman, most of the rangers, the beasts, and all but two of the wagons when into the gates of the palace. The king hung back and then turned his steed to face the on-lookers. He raised a hand and they hushed; stunned that he would acknowledge them, much less speak to them. "Thank you for your welcome, and for your hospitality. In my land, a guest coming to stay bears a gift for his hosts." Behind him, the older man was directing a group of rangers who were pulling bread and large wheels of cheese out of the remaining wagons. "I cannot do so for all of you, and for that, I must beg your forgiveness. But of the stores I have here, each person who comes and asks may have a slice of bread and cheese. A gift, to my hosts and soon to be friends, I hope, and a promise of better things for us all."

He rose in his stirrups and bowed to the still stunned on-lookers before turning his mount again and riding into the gates of the palace. Behind him, Lord Magnus had the rangers set up lines and rows so that those who wished might receive the food their king had offered.

~~~~~~~~~

There was a muted roar from the city outside the palace walls and the closed gate. Valius looked back and sighed, "Should have brought more." He nudged Blackavar, his darter, forward.

Countess Enna and Sir Claudius awaited him, already dismounted and cordially surrounded by Fire Nation soldiers. A valet came up to him and took the reins of the king's darter as he dismounted. He patted the bird's flank and joined the rest of his small retinue.

Enna still held his banner, her face speculative. "A grand gesture, Sire. And a display of wealth and what we can offer."

Valius gave his childhood friend a hard look, "Countess, I didn't do that to make a gesture. I did it because those people were hungry." The young ruler shook his head, "Rot and blight, I read the reports but seeing it..." He shrugged, "The King's retainers will have to do with a little less cheese and bread from us as a gift. Those folks needed it more."

"Hm." But she smiled, "I wonder if the King will agree with you, Sire."

Valius adjusted his cloak and walked forward, Enna falling in behind him, Claudius on his right, and a lithe female ranger on his left. "Let us present ourselves to His Majesty and find out."
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"Nothing can happen unless you swing the bat." -- Haruko Haruhara

Last edited by Armphid : 08-26-2012 at 04:56 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 06:15 PM   #4
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The palace was in an uproar since receiving word that the foreign king would be visiting to ask for Charissa’s hand. Her sister was morose, her eyes red from crying in the long days since her father had informed them that he would seriously consider the betrothal. Queen Sophi was mad enough to spit venom, her once beautiful face clouded with stark anger that would make a grown man shake and quiver in his boots.

To her credit, Bryn steered clear of the whole mess, devoting more of her time to the Temple and learning from the Mother Priestess. More and more people were coming to pray for rain or for health and fortune. Bryn would sit and listen to each of them, promising that she would do her best to intervien in the Gods master plan. It was silly to Bryn that these people thought that she herself had the power to do such but if it brought them comfort, she would do it.

The morning it was quiet, not a soul to be seen in the Temple. Bryn walked through the columned walls, a frown upon her face as she found the Mother Priestess looking at something from their high vantage point.

“I’m surprised no one’s here, Mother.” She said in a soft voice as she bowed before the woman before she was beckoned closer.

“It’s because of that, my dear.” An old gnarled hand pointed towards a scene that was just beyond the palace gates.

As the highest point in Al’Tir, the noble Temple afford spectaular views of the surrounding areas. It was a richly decorated marble structure that had been built by her great-great grandfather as a gift of thanks for a long and glorious reign. It was adorned with gold and silver fixtures, billowing curtains kept out the worst of the desert heat and sand. To Bryn, it was a second home and a place to think.

What she was seeing through the Temple walls was almost too much to be true. She saw the foreign king’s procession and a wide array of new and unusual things following him. They rode great birds, so unlike the Adari that the soldiers of the Fire Nation rode into battle. The giant spider like creatures were vicious and it took the most skilled rider to keep them under control. These birds looked so…fragile.

She was stunned to see the large contingency of soldiers that he had brought with him and was even more stunned to see women among them. It wasn’t unusual to hear of nomadic tribes that had women at the helm but they rarely amounted to much. In this group, men and women were riding as equals.

“He has women guarding him. How positively…barbaric.” Bryn said, a soft laugh escaping the Mother Priestess at her observation.

“Just because it is unusual, my child, doesn’t mean that it’s barbaric.” The old woman looked at her student and smiled warmly as the young woman bowed her head and asked for forgiveness. “Learn this lesson well, Bryn. As great of a nation as Al’Tir is, it cannot survive alone any longer. He is feeding your people. Do you still see that as barbaric?”

“No, Mother.” Bryn said in a reverent voice, her head still bowed.

“Good. You best be on your way or you’ll be late.” The Mother Priestess lay her hand upon Bryn’s red hair and said a blessing before she dismissed her young charge.

Bryn backed away, her head still bowed until she entered the main sanctuary and she was allowed to turn her back to the high priestess. Exiting the Temple into the hot morning sun, she sighed. She could already feel sweat trickling beneath her long white gown. A ribbon of blue cinched tightly beneath the small swell of her breasts, accentuating her tiny waist and signifying her place among her people. No one else in the entire kingdom of Al’Tir was allowed to wear blue.

Another silly law, she thought as she hurried down the well worn pathway, her skirt pulled up in one hand and her slippers pounding against the sand as she ran. She was late and she would most definitely hear about it from the Queen. The woman had never liked her and most of that had to do with the jealousy she still harbored for her mother. Bryn could do nothing about that except take the abuse in silence.

As she came upon the Palace, she heard the roar of the crowd beyond the gates cheering in happiness. A small smile came to her face at the thought of those poor people so happy. They deserved every happiness that came their way.

“You’re late!” The deep voice ahead of her had her laughing. “Do not laugh. The Queen is about to have my head!”

Her guardian, Dax, stood at the side entrance she used, his dark eyes narrowing at her. Dax had been her brother’s best friend, the man who had returned with the news of his death so long ago, and he had been placed as her guardian shortly after her eighteenth summer. He was an imposing man with a handsome face and short cropped blonde hair. His skin was an even tan, his arms nicely muscled with broad shoulders. He would intimidate even the strongest of her father’s soldiers.

He was dressed in his ceremonial armor. His golden breast plate had been polished to gleaming and a fresh red silk shirt lie beneath it. Leather breeches and boots finished his ensemble besides the long sword that hung from his belt. Many of the other soldiers would be wearing much of the same and Bryn suddenly felt very underdressed for the occasion.

“She can have my head instead, Dax.” Bryn said as she slipped inside, his heavy footsteps following her as she made her way to the Great Hall.

She could hear the sounds of an argument in the distance, her sister’s whining voice sounding shrill with panic as her father’s booming bass yelled back. Bryn sighed and took a moment to steady herself for the fight she was about to walk into. She fixed the gauzy veil that covered her hair, making sure that the golden pins, her only adornment were firmly attached. With a deep breath, she entered the room to see her sister, tears in her eyes, begging her father to reconsider.

“You will go out there and treat that man cordially. If you so much as look at him strangely, I will make sure your punishment is harsh.” Her father was in a bitter mood today it seemed and he was taking it out on his eldest daughter.

Charissa turned and fled into the Great Hall, most likely into the waiting arms of her mother, her yellow gown fluttering behind her as she ran. The king stood there and sighed deeply, his strong shoulders hunching as the weight of the world returned upon them.

“Papa, it’ll be alright.” Bryn said softly, moving towards him and placing her hand on his arm. “She’ll get over her emotions sooner or later. I’m sure the king is a great man.”

King Aldor of Al’Tir turned and looked at his youngest child with a soft smile. She was a creature of grace and beauty, much like her mother had been. She didn’t cause a fuss and was obedient to a fault. He placed his large tanned hand over hers, his smile growing wider. His hair had turned grey at the temples in the years she had been with him, but his face as still youthful and his dark eyes sparkled with humor. He was not the warrior king that many feared when he was with Bryn.

“I’m sure he is, Bryn.” He said as trumpets sounded beyond the corridor where they stood, announcing the entrance of their guests. “Duty calls.”

Bryn smiled as her father squared his shoulders and accepted his crowd from his manservant, placing the golden circlet around his red curls and entered the hall to the calls and cheers of his subjects. She watched through the doorway as he sat at his throne and nodded towards his guests.

“Go.” Dax hissed into her ear, practically shoving her into the Great Hall.

It was tradition that Bryn always came last in the procession, something she was never truly comfortable with. She was not a Princess of the Blood nor was she someone terribly important. To those people though, she was a Goddess on Earth and she was treated as such. As she walked down the center aisle towards her spot, her father’s citizens knelt before her, their heads and hands bowed in prayer. She glanced at the newcomers, seeing the look of shock and confusion on their faces. This certainly wasn’t the first impression that she wanted to make.
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Old 08-27-2012, 06:19 PM   #5
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"These people keep staring at me," Masha muttered. She was the female ranger on Valius' left. "I've gotten more dirty or amused looks than if I was dancing on a tavern table with my shirt off." She then blushed and glanced at the king.

"I didn't catch that last part, Tribune," Valius said. He had, of course, but no need to embarrass her further. The delegation had not yet entered the Great Hall; apparently the final touches needed to be made. "But it wasn't just you, I noticed it when we were coming in. The crowds, the guards, were all looking at the female rangers that way."

Countess Enna shook his head, "And you didn't see a single woman with arms either, did you, Sire? Women fighting seems to be something they don't do; it might even be illegal or taboo."

Sir Claudius grunted, "Backward idiots."

"They think the same thing probably, Claudius," Valius said. "Claudius, Masha, I trust my singulares with my life, but when we get in there...please don't say anything." The last thing he needed now was the plain spoken but well meaning rangers to cause an incident.

There was a fanfare and then the doors in front of them opened. Valius took a breath and stepped forward, the others following a step behind. As when they entered, Claudius was behind to the right, Masha behind to the left, and Enna immediately behind him with the banner. Magnus was still administering the handing out of food or he'd have been there as well. They carried nothing with them save for a spare bow and quiver of arrows that Claudius bore, a cloth covered oval cage that Masha carried before her, and two ornate boxes tucked into Valius's belt.

The Great Hall earned it's name. The space was massive; wide and long, with high curved ceilings that trapped the hottest air away from the people below, and windows high up that let sunlight sheet down and illuminate the great chamber. Many pillars supported the vast vaulted ceiling and the walls; cunningly wrought in the elegant curves that the Fire Nation seemed to enjoy, looking far too thin for their task but beautiful and intricately decorated. One the floors were tiled mosaics of great kings and heroes of the nation's past; rendered magnificently and artfully. At the far end awaiting the throne of the king, his family and closest advisers gathered near it, the rest of the court spreading out away from that location. Guards in shining golden breastplates stood by each pillar, long blades belted at their sides, and bright red shirts and sashes decorating them.

The walls and the nobles gathered within seemed to drip gold, silver and jewels. Ornate and elaborate jewelry was wherever the eye looked and beaten sheets of precious metal sculpted into friezes were alongside statues made of stone, cunningly carved. The men and women alike were garbed in clothes of the finest cloth, often elaborately embroidered, all of bright and vivid colors. They also were all quiet. They watched the foreigners enter and spoke only in whispers to one another. There were no cheers, no shouts, no calls, just fervent muttering.

At the far end was the throne, and already nobles were gathered near it, but two in particular stood below the large chair but beside it and closer than any others. Both were women, one clad in blue, the other in yellow. The one in blue was older and was handsome, would have been lovely in her expression were not so severe. The other with her was much younger; her hair a cascade of blond braids and her figure ample and curvaceous. Her face was partially hidden by the veil draped over her hair, but she seemed lovely, though Valius noted her eyes were red as if from weeping.

Queen Sophi and the Princess Charissa, from their descriptions, Valius guessed. Charissa...that was the woman whose hand he was here to seek. She was a beauty, but beyond that, who and what was she?

The delegation drew up to the appointed spot and stopped, the men bowing and women curtseying to the queen and princess. Then there was another blare of music, this more elaborate and precise and the king of the Fire Nation entered.

The hall erupted into cheers as he came into view, the gathered nobility and even some of the guards calling out and and saluting. The man was tall and broad shouldered; his build powerful. His hair was brilliant fiery red under the golden circlet that proclaimed his rank, though there was gray at the temples; his face was young despite his age, though there were lines of care and worry at the corners of his eyes and mouth. His dark eyes were sharp and bright under his brow, and Valius wondered what they saw when they looked at him.

The delegation again moved in careful concert, all sinking briefly to one knee before the man, save for Valius. The young king bowed low before the older monarch but he would not kneel. He was here as a friend and suitor but also an equal. He only nodded in reply, and Valius felt a bit nettled but it was the man's house, he could do as he wished.

As the group of outlanders rose back to their feet, everyone other than the royal family knelt as another young woman entered the room. She was small and slight; slender yet her figure left no doubt to her gender, modest but pleasingly shaped. Her gown was simple; white and clean with a ribbon of blue under her breasts, a gauzy veil over flaming hair the same color as the king's.

Valius felt thunderstruck at her appearance and the reaction of the Fire Nation nobility. Who in the rotting hell was this girl to get that kind of reaction? She was gorgeous, from what he could see of her features, achingly so, and she stood with the royals, but...who was she?

And how should they greet her entrance? Hellfire!

"Bow," he hissed under his breath, "Rotting bow, damn it." The visitors did so a moment later, the same deep bows and curtseys directed towards the queen and princess earlier given to this new young woman as well.

The gathered nobility had their heads bowed and hands clasped in prayer, yet many heads had also turned just enough to watch the strangers. Several faces darkened at the bow, and there was again a wave of murmurs and whispers.

"Oh, dear," Enna breathed, her voice a bare whisper, "they don't look very happy."

"Then they shouldn't have given us a surprise to react to," Valius growled in answer as he straightened from his bow. He kept his voice low as well, his words meant only for his own little group.

The nobles rose to their feet as well, slowly, and after a few moments, Valius was given a slight nod which he took as leave to speak. He squared his shoulders, "Your Majesties, Your Highness..es, and assembled nobles of the Fire Nation, I am grateful for your courtesy and hospitality. Ever we have been good neighbors and for that I am thankful. I am Valius Argetlam, 19th king of Ithilien, 9th of my line, House Argetlam." He had thought several times about listing his various titles but in the end it just seemed like such a waste of breath. "We have been good neighbors as I said, but separated from one another and content with that alone."

His eyes swept from the king to Princess Charissa and then to the unknown redheaded girl and back to the king again. "But times change, and I am no longer content to be a neighbor alone, but wish to be a friend, and perhaps...a son in law." That drew a number of murmurs itself. How widely known was it why he was here? "These are matters we will speak of long, I am sure, but today, I am merely a happy neighbor and a humble guest."

He gestured and Claudius and Masha stepped forward and then kneeled, "Many gifts I have brought for you and your court, Your Majesty, but these I wished to present personally and first." Claudius lifted up the bow and quiver and Valius gestured to it, "This bow was born by Fidelia Phyrgius Argetlam, my great aunt by marriage, and with it she slew a wyvern that had terrorized our northern flocks. It was the weapon of her father and his before him and his before him, but she had no heir and it passed to me. I give it now to you, a mighty warrior's weapon for a powerful lord of men." The bow was old but it had been well treated and maintained all it's years and was still as supple and strong, and as deadly, as it had ever been.

A valet came to take the bow and as it was done, Valius took one of the boxes from his belt, "Queen Sophi." Her look might have turned a lesser man to stone where he stood, but Valius simple smiled. Inside however, he was wondering why the rot he was getting that dagger glare from her? He opened the box and inside gleamed a string of brilliant pearls, "There are the finest pearls gathered the last two seasons by the divers on our northern coast; gathered and made into a necklace with your renowned beauty in mind."

It fit that they were from the northern waters as well; Her Majesty looked like a very cold woman.

As the box with the necklace was taken away, he drew the other from his belt, "Your Highness, Princess Charissa, your beauty is...greater than reports made it, and a welcome vision after crossing the desert. I have brought this for you, your Highness." This box contained a bracelet made of silver and gold, cunningly worked into the shape of vines and leaves, a flower of both metals blooming at the apex of the arch. "Take it with my compliments, for there are many flowers in my land, but I can see that the desert has the fairest."

But now there was a problem. That other girl up there. She was obviously someone of note and importance but he didn't know who or what or why. He also did not have a gift ready for her. Well; fortune favors the bold.

Valius turned to face the redheaded beauty, "My Lady, your presence makes my words all the truer; never have I seen two such beauties before. I know not your station or your title, and I ask your forgiveness of my ignorance, but I ask that you take this." He reached up and took the broach from his breast, Enna quick enough to snatch up his cloak as it came free and drape it over one of her arms. "This was my father's and his mother's before. I pray you take it and think kindly of your guests, who come to you honestly and openly, and forgive any offense given by accident."
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Old 08-27-2012, 07:33 PM   #6
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‘They bowed to me.’ That was the first thought that crossed her mind when she passed by the delegation of the foreign king. ‘Why would they bow to me? They don’t even know me.’

As she took her place next to her father, she looked out over the people gathered and understood in an instant why they had bowed. The nobility had pressured them with nasty looks and muttering whispers. Bryn had never felt more embarrassed in her life and she felt her cheeks flame red as a handsome man stepped forward from the group and began to speak.

He was certainly handsome. His garments were a rich fabric in vibrant browns and greens. ‘Much like the dragon from my dream.’ A ring shined in the light and a brilliant bracelet of gold and amber caught her eye. He was a man of power and wealth but one that seemed like they were all just trappings of his station instead of what made him. The very thought warmed her heart towards him in an instant.

Valius. His name was Valius. She committed the name to her memory, standing silently as she listened to him speak in a deeply soothing voice. She found herself smiling as he began to present gifts to the royal family. A handsome bow was presented to her father and as she looked at his honest face she could see the impression that this young king was making upon him. A beautiful set of pearls was given to the Queen and all she could do was narrow those hate filled eyes and purse her lips. A bracelet of silver and gold was presented to Charissa and Bryn felt a pang of jealousy run through her. Her sister did not deserve such a lovely gift, especially because of the way she’d been acting recently.

The little ceremony should have continued then, her father ready to make his greeting and offer gifts in return, but the king turned towards her then and addressed her as he had the others. She watched as he removed lovely brooch from his chest, a clear amber stone that was surrounded by a design of gold. It was one of the most beautiful things she’d ever seen in her life and she was stunned that he was giving it to her. She bowed her head in acceptance, her voice escaping her at his gesture of friendship.

She could hear the nobles of Al’Tir murmuring behind the delegation. Their tone was happy. This man from a distant land had made an offering to their Goddess and she had accepted. Surely fortune was smiling down on the union of their princess to this foreign king.

“I welcome you to our lands, Valius Argetlam.” Her father began in his deep voice, a smile welcome upon his face. “I am Aldor tu Al’Tir, king of the Fire Nation. We have enjoyed a long and storied relationship in trade with your people and I am very keen to expand upon this. We shall talk of many things during your visit, most important of which is the marriage that has been proposed between your illustrious house and my daughter, the Princess Charissa”

Aldor snapped his fingers and servants stepped forward with the gifts of welcome that had been gathered for the diplomats. There was honeyed wine made from the Dori plant that grew wild in the hottest part of the desert. A handsome set of finely wrought golden cuffs that the most fierce of Al’Tir’s warriors wore. A sword with a finely jeweled hilt, covered with gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Each was presented to the young king by a kneeling servant, their heads bowed until the gift was taken and they were allowed to retreat.

Bryn suddenly felt as if she needed to return the favor that the king had bestowed upon her. She stepped forward suddenly, her eyes turning toward her father. “Papa, I ask that I be allowed to give my own gift in return.”

Aldor stared at his daughter for a moment before he allowed her to continue with a flick of his wrist. Bryn stepped towards Valius, her cheeks blushing red as she reached out and placed her hands upon his dark hair, her eyes closing as she spoke in a loud and clear voice. It was a simple prayer in the language of the ancients. She was blessing him with health and longevity. Many there would not understand the words that she said, but it did not stop the nobility from bowing none the less.

When she finished, she opened her eyes and stared up into his. It was strange to feel a connection with a person that she did not know, but that was the only thing that she could think of when she felt a strange pull in her stomach. She took a step away from him and bowed before she took her place once again. As she looked along those that were gathered, she saw happy smiles upon their faces. Their Goddess had chosen this king for favor.

“We shall talk of business on the morrow, Sir. Tonight, we will celebrate the new relationship between our kingdoms.” Aldor said, rising and making his own way towards the young king, clasping his shoulder in a greeting between brothers in arms. “You shall rest now after your journey. Enjoy our hospitality. I’m sure it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Aldor looked over his shoulder at his head warrior, motioning for him to step forward. The tall and muscled man did as he was bid, his sword point driven into the ground and he bowed his head as he waited for his order.

“Show our honored guests to their chambers. Make sure they want for nothing.” With that, the first meeting was over and the king and his queen made their exit from the Great Hall with the Princess Charissa on their heels.

A loud murmur filled the hall as the nobles talked among themselves and the guard gathered to escort the delegation towards their quarters. Bryn stood in her place, glancing to her right as Dax appeared at her side and placed the brooch in her hands. She looked down at the lovely piece, studying it in the light with a slight smile on her face.

“What do you think of King Valius?” She asked Dax, looking at him as she held the precious object so dearly.

“He seems to be a great man but time will tell.” Dax said, his hand resting on the hilt of his well worn sword.

Bryn turned her gaze back towards the king and thought about what he had said about the brooch. Surely she could not ask him to give her something that was so important to him. It was his father’s brooch, his grandmother’s before that. It would be unfair to keep it, especially considering that he had been surprised by her appearance.

She moved from her place and slipped around the guards before anyone could say anything to her. She cleared her throat gently to gain his attention and she gave him a slight curtsey.

“Your highness, I must decline your gift.” She said, placing the brooch back into his large palm. “It would be wrong of me to accept such a present, especially since it must mean so much to you.”
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Old 08-29-2012, 10:53 AM   #7
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King Aldor tu Al'Tir was a generous man, to be sure. Valius accepted the gifts that the king's servants brought him but he felt a little awkward doing so. The wine would be excellent, he was sure, but the golden cuffs and the sword seemed so ostentatious. All that gold and those jewels...well, like as not this was a weapon for ceremony.

Still, Valius accepted it all with a nod of his head, tucking the wine under an arm, allowing the kneeling servant to affix the offered cuffs to his sleeves, and sliding the ornate sword into his belt.

Then the redheaded girl stepped forward and spoke and Valius could hear the reactions of his own delegation behind him, Enna's speculative hmm, Claudius' grunt, and Masha's muffled gasp. She called Aldor "Papa" and he acknowledged her words. She was a princess too. What was going on here?

Then however, Valius blinked as she stepped up and put both of her hands on his head. He didn't know what she said, but he recognized a prayer and a blessing when he heard one. Her cheeks were red and the color...it made her look very good. Now that she was closer to him, he could see that she was a rare beauty indeed. So lovely and so small...and so mysterious as well.

When she stopped, his storm cloud eyes met her blue ones and they held each other there for a few moments before she stepped back. He felt...something pass between them. He could also hear again, happy and pleased mutterings from the nobles around them. His eyes flicked to the side and he could see they seemed relieved and impressed.

Who was this girl?

He did, however, turn his focus back to King Aldor as he spoke. The young king's smile was honest as Aldor approached him and clasped his shoulder, Valius mirroring the gesture as well. "As am I, Your Majesty. The journey was hard and so a rest is not amiss, but it was certainly worth all that toil and more."

As the king exited, the Ithilians bowed again. Princess Charissa didn't so much as look back at them though. She almost looked as though she were about to trod on the Queen's heels she followed her so closely.

Valius sighed. That was a great beginning with the King, but he did not feel excited about how his bride-to-be had reacted. And then there was that mysterious girl...

"Well, Sire," Claudius nodded, "that was a fine fancy introduction. Your princes is shaped right for making heirs, I'll say that."

Masha sighed, "Such a romantic, Captain. Can you wait to be vulgar until we're out of the Great Hall at least?"

"Enough," Valius said. "We can talk more once we're away from so many ears."

They made to follow the waiting servants when a lithe and quick form slipped around them. The stunning redhead princess cleared her throat and Valius turned to see her curtsey and then place the broach back in his hand. As she did so, their fingers touched just the slightest bit and he noted how soft and warm her skin was.

The forest king inclined his head, "Your Highness, it's a gift worthy of you, and I didn't bring anything for you as I'm sure you could tell. We were, ah, unaware that His Majesty had a second daughter." Gods, if only they'd known. He could have asked for her hand instead of-

Wait, what did he just think?

He shook his head slightly to break the thought away. "It is kind of you to seek to return it, but I have nothing else that might take its place as a gift to you, Princess. Besides, my father once said that "the purpose of jewelry is to be given to beautiful women," and you are the most beautiful I have seen this day."

Valius then pursed his lips and smiled, "If not as a gift, perhaps we can do an exchange. I will give this to you, and you will take it, if I may know your name. Surely that's more fair."
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Old 08-29-2012, 08:35 PM   #8
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Bryn blushed deeply as King Valius nodded towards her, saying that she was the most beautiful woman he had seen that day. Surely he was just saying sweet words to gain her favor. There was no way that she was prettier than Charissa. She gave him a small smile as she felt the eyes of his delegation upon her.

“Bryn, my lord. My name is Bryn tu Al’tir.” She felt his hand against hers, pressing the brooch back into her palm. “My lord, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that I am not a Princess of the Blood. I do not hold any title in this land, so it is wrong to refer to me as such. Queen Sophi is not my mother.”

She blushed deeper, a great shame coming over her as she admitted that to this handsome king. Her father had never granted her title or lands as he had her sister. She was simply Bryn, albeit a Goddess that walked among her people. She had always wondered if her father had done this on purpose or if it were an oversight on his part. Of course, as his daughter, she never brought it to his attention.

“Thank you, my lord, for the beautiful gift. No one has ever given me something so lovely.” She said in her soft voice, a wide smile crossing her face. “Perhaps this evening you might favor me with a dance.”

With that, she bowed to him again and slipped out of his delegation the same way that she’d come. She found Dax, turning to look over her shoulder and smiling as she saw the king still looking at her. She turned her eyes away with a soft smile and allowed Dax to escort her from the Great Hall.

The Great Hall would be decorated in fine style as soon as the crowd was cleared out. The banquet that would be hosted that evening would be one that would put all others that had been hosted to shame. The kitchens were hard at work creating Al’Tir delicacies that would impress their honored guests with their variety and uniqueness.

Once back in her room, Bryn sat at her mirrored vanity, turning the brooch over in her hands to watch it glint in the light. She found herself smiling as she thought of the handsome king that had thought just of her when he’d given her such a personal gift. It made a strange warmth grow in her as she placed the brooch on the polished wooden top.

Standing, she walked over to her chest, opening the decorative lid and staring at the garments that were inside. Suddenly her gowns didn’t seem as pretty or vibrant. There was no way she could out do her sister or catch the eye of the handsome king.

What did she have that thought? He was going to be her brother-in-law very soon and she was having fantasies about him. It was very dangerous to have thoughts such as that. She couldn’t allow herself the pleasure since it wasn’t her path in life.

Bryn sighed deeply and pulled out a gown of light blue. It would set off her eyes and show off her shoulders and pale skin. It would also look lovely with the brooch that he had given her. She spread the dress out on her bed, sitting at her vanity as she set about brushing her hair and styling it in a becoming fashion. It was piled high upon her head but still trailed down her back. Her eyes she lined with kohl, the blue more deep like the ocean. On her ears she placed golden earrings that were twisted in an intricate design. She looked at her reflection and thought that she looked becoming.

Perhaps the king would think that was well.
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Old 08-30-2012, 04:29 PM   #9
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Valius watched the slender young woman go, moving with an easy natural grace that to him seemed to remind him of water more than desert sand. Like the water that flowed in the rivers of Ithilien, sweet, clean, and lovely. "Bryn tu Al'Tir," he murmured as he watched her and a tall, muscular man who must have been her bodyguard leave the Great Hall. "At least one dance, I think." A bastard then, but recognized to bear her father's name though he had not given her title or rank, it seemed. Yet she clearly commanded the respect and love of the people as much, or even more, than her father. Why? There was something here he didn't know and he could feel it.

He would have to find out. Any unknown element could disrupt everything. And it would let him talk to the delicate beauty again when he would otherwise have little reason to.

Valius then turned and gestured to the waiting guards, "Sorry for keeping you waiting. Please, lead on." The men nodded and moved on, forming an escort around the foreigners and leading them through hallways and upstairs to come in time to a set of suites at the end of a large, spacious wing. Lord Magnus was waiting for them when they entered, as were the rangers who would be staying in the palace proper rather than on the grounds.

"Is there anything you require, Your Highness?" The guards who had brought them hence were waiting at the door to the largest of the suites given to Valius for his use.

The young ruler thought a moment, "A bit of wine and basins of water for washing, please," he responded. "But not much of either, we need to take the edge of travel off not but the edge of wine on."

The lead man bowed, "It will be done. Should you need else, ring for a servant and it will be attended to." The guards then left them, though Valius was sure that some would be left on the wing at the very least.

As the door shut, Valius paced to the window, "How did things go with the food handout, Magnus?"

The older noble raised his brows and then sighed, "Well, Sire. The folk here are orderly enough; only three tried to come around for a second helping, the populace polices itself well. But they are lean, Sire. The burden of the drought may not yet have hit the nobility but it is felt out there." He shook his head, "The common folk will be well disposed to you, I think. Most of them seemed surprised; I do not think there is a great deal of charity from the nobles here. From what I could gather, any of that comes from the temples, who have little to go around." He took a seat in a rich chair. "How was the introduction?"

"Seemed to go well," Claudius answered before Valius could speak, "gifts went allright, though we got a surprise. And our king here spent most of the time eyeballing the wrong princess." The rough looking ranger grinned at the sour look his liege gave him and shrugged. "Just my impression."

"The wrong princess?" Magnus looked shocked. Quickly Valius related the events that had taken place in the Great Hall. By the end of it, Magnus was frowning. "This is unexpected. We must find out more about this, such an unknown element could disrupt everything we're here for!"

The king smiled at his adviser's echoing of his earlier thoughts. Magnus had taught him well. "It could. We need to find out more." He looked around at the assembled group, "At this feast tonight, I'd like you all to see what you can find out about her, and the royal family in general. The Queen up there looked like she'd have ordered me hung if she'd had her choice, and Princess Charissa looked everywhere but at us. There are dynamics playing out here we need to know about."

Enna nodded, "Of course, Sire." She rose, "Unless there's anything else, I think I should go and prepare. You too, Masha, you'll be attending as a Baroness, not a ranger tonight." The fighting woman made a face but rose as well.

"One thing," Valius said, "Until we've been here a while and they're used to us, none of our female rangers should wander alone. We don't know how these people will react to having their values challenged and while I don't want any ugly incidents, I want dead or injured rangers even less. Spread the word; buddy up and don't take chances." He then paused, "And don't start any fights...but finish any that come up."

Claudius and Masha both saluted and the rest of the group filed out of the suite for their own chambers, Magnus closing the door behind him as he left. Valius then sat down on the low slung couch in the main room of his suite, adjusting the jeweled sword given him and his own family blade before doing so. He tried to think about how he would approach Princess Charissa at the feast and try to talk to her, get some idea about this woman he might spend the rest of his life with. All the mysteries aside, arranging the marriage was why they were here.

But the shining blue eyes and fiery hair of Bryn intruded on those thoughts each time he began them; lovely and fine.

He groaned and put his head in his hands. This whole journey had looked much easier this morning.

~~~~~~~~~

Hours later, King Valius and his retinue (such as it was) entered the Great Hall for the second time. The grand open space was a riot of color and strange music played with a sinuous, almost sensual feel to it. The scent of food filled the air; exotic and unknown spices and smells for the people of the forest nation. The nobility were in an array of colors once more; dazzling and bright.

Of the foreigners, Claudius and Masha entered first. The grizzled old ranger wore his dress uniform; deep green and sharp in cut and styling, military and crisp with his captain's rank and other decorations hanging on a sash that went through the right epaulet and diagonally across his chest; he looked a bit odd in his finery but his fierce eyes dared anyone to mock him. Masha looked stunning; even surprising the members of her party with how well she dressed up. She wore a gown of lavender that was cinched to display her pleasing curves and give evidence to her being a woman as well as a ranger, her dark blond hair gathered at her neck and then pouring over her shoulders.

Magnus and Enna were next, the old lord and the younger countess both looking pleasantly surprised at their escort. The old Duke wore grey and gold, and looked every inch the noble statesman; his high brow was distinguished and his face was still handsome and contained wisdom in his lines and cares, and though older hit body was hale and fit his garments well. Enna's long brown hair was a glossy waterfall that fell down to the small of her back, far longer than women from Ithilien usually grew their hair, and her burnt orange gown was almost scandalous; both shoulders bare and a slit in the long skirt that allowed for brief flashes of leg.

Valius came last and alone, striding into the Great Hall very aware of all the eyes on him. He had bathed and freshly shaved for the banquet and he now wore the green and brown of Ithilien along with the colors of his house. He wore black, jacket and pants both, bright blue piping on the collar and hem of the jacket and down the outside of each pant leg. The white shirt beneath had a higher neck than the jacket, cuffs also sticking out past the sable sleeves. A sash of forest green went over his right shoulder and across his body, and his belt was a rich brown to match it. The sword that Aldor had given him earlier hung from the belt, peace knotted with a hunter green ribbon.

His eyes scanned the assembly briefly, but then flickered up to where the royals were sitting. Aldor was still the warrior king, strong and leonine. Queen Sophi's gown was elegant and conservative but she had an expression as though she were smelling something distasteful. Princess Charissa looked good; very good even. Her dress was vibrant and drew attention to her lush curves but her expression was haughty and once she noticed him looking at her, her eyes grew stony and she sniffed, turning her face away and drawing the short cape she wore more fully about herself.

And then there was Bryn. She had been effortlessly lovely before, but now it seemed she'd worked on her appearance some and the effect was...to him, breathtaking. Her hair was a wealth of flame that rose and fell down her back in shining, snaking glory, and her smooth skin was pale and fair in the light. Her blue gown drew the eye to her slender shoulders and delicate figure, yet draped and clung in just the right way to leave no doubt that she was a woman. There was a hint of blow shadowing about her eyes, making them more mysterious and warm and deep. The broach he had given her gleamed as well, and he knew as he looked upon her that it was a gift well given.

Realizing then he'd been standing and watching her, Valius turned and smiled to the gathered nobles, making his way to the seat prepared for him for the toast and the beginning of the feast.
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Old 08-31-2012, 07:23 PM   #10
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That evening, when Bryn came down the winding staircase that lead from her rooms, the first sight that she caught was her sister pacing back and forth, fretting. Bryn sighed and looked over her shoulder at Dax as he followed behind her. He looked handsome as usual that evening, dressed in a fresh red silken shirt and black breeches, his boots polished to a high gloss. His sword hung from his hip and although it was peace knotted for the evening, she knew that it would take a simple flick of his wrist to produce the other weapons he surely had upon him.

“Go ahead and claim your spot. I’ll be there in a moment.” She said softly, watching as he nodded and brushed past her on his way to the Great Hall where music and the murmuring of voices could already be heard.

“What’s the matter, Charissa?” Bryn asked as her sister stopped and stared at her for a long moment.

Charissa was beautiful as always and Bryn suddenly felt inadequate in the blue gown that she’d worn. It was simple and modest, leaving her shoulders and arms bare, but covering everything else. She had cinched a wide black leather belt around her waist that had been a gift from a group of nomads at the temple. It told the story of the ancients in delicate carvings and had always been one of her favorite possessions, now replaced by the brooch that delicately held her flowing gown together at the hollow of her throat.

Charissa had out done herself that evening, wearing a vibrant orange gown that left more skin exposed then was probably necessary. It was the new style, one that was developed during the hot summers. Her tanned back and leg were exposed, delicate leather sandals on her feet. She had the tiara of her station that sat atop her golden curls and displayed the strange pink stones that were found in one mine in Al’Tir. On her wrist was the pretty bracelet that the forest King had given her that morning. On her shoulders was a short cape held together by a simple golden chain.

“I will not marry that man.” She said, her voice low. “I mean, they are heathens! Women as soldiers? Ugly gifts such as this?” Charissa held up the bracelet that was clinging to her wrist.

Bryn was shocked by her sister’s behavior. Well, shocked might have been the wrong term. She was use to the temper tantrums but never over something so important as this. She watched as Charissa pulled the bracelet off her wrist and handed it to her.

“It’s yours now. I don’t want it.” She said with a sniff as she turned and entered the Great Hall.

Bryn stared down at the lovely bracelet of silver and gold, designed with growing flowers and vines that crept along the surface. She slid it onto her small wrist, a smile on her lips as it seemed to be at home there. She would wear it with pride, she thought to herself as she entered the Great Hall herself.
She was stunned to find that Charissa had switched their seats. She had taken the seat to the left of Queen Sophi, leaving the seat next to the honored guest open for her. Her father’s face looked thick with anger, but as she took her seat, he did spare a smile for her.

Then the sounds of murmuring filled the air and she turned to watch Valius enter the room behind all of his council. Bryn felt his eyes upon her and she blushed deeply, lowering her eyes as he made his way to take the seat beside her.

“Good evening, my lord.” She said softly, her bright blue eyes turning towards him with a soft smile. “I would hope that you had a long rest.”

Bryn had honestly never seen a more handsome man in her life. She felt so inadequate sitting next to him, so plain and common, but the look on his face told her that he saw her as anything but. She wanted to reach out and touch his hand again, hold his warm palm against hers, but she couldn’t. This man wasn’t for her, but for her sister that didn’t want anything to do with him.

Her eyes left his as her father stood and a hush fell over the Great Hall. “My friends and countrymen, we are here tonight to celebrate the beginning of a long and storied friendship. We shall eat, drink and make merry in accordance with our most ancient traditions. To our new friends, we hope you enjoy.”

A roar filled the hall as he father sat and servants began to enter the room with trays laden with delicacies. When the tray stopped before them, she watched Valius stare at the unknown items, a bewildered look upon his face.

“Try the Tal.” She said softly, pointing towards a roasted meat dish. “It’s not as spicy as some of the other items.”
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Old 09-02-2012, 12:34 PM   #11
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King Aldor was upset about something. The older king was hiding it now, enjoying the feast, but there was anger just below the surface. Had something happened? He didn't say anything but as he sat, Valius did study the king for a moment or two. One more thing to try and discover.

Princess Charissa was also not in the place he'd expected her to be. As he'd understood it, the banquet would be their first chance to really meet and talk; yet she was not beside him but three seats away past her sister, father, and mother.

Valuis again had that feeling that there were things here he was missing. Big ones.

Having Bryn seated next to him made those concerns seem distant, however. The red haired beauty was radiant; her gown was simple but perfect suited her and seemed far more elegant and fair than many of the others he could see. Though her sisters showed off far more skin, and more of her curvier figure, the young king had no doubt which of then he'd rather see more of.

Which he really shouldn't be thinking about. But he was a young man, and it had been almost a year, and Bryn was...she was lovely. It was not just physical loveliness, he thought, but there was a spiritual grace to her as well. Charissa certainly was beautiful in body, but he wondered if she was so in mind or spirit. He had no doubts about Bryn; she had it all.

She was also wearing the bracelet he'd given Charissa. Interesting.

As she pointed out a food to him, Valius smiled, "I may be a trouble to you this evening, Lady Bryn, and need your guidance on what to eat or to avoid." He glanced up the table at the Queen and Princess, "I'm already a barbaric foreigner, I'd hate to make a fool of myself as well."

He took some of it, thanking the servant and asking the man's name. The server looked baffled but did so. Valius always felt it was important to know the servants and treat them well. No one knew more about the palace or nobility than their servants.

Valius tried a bit of the meat; lamb, maybe? It was heavily spiced but not in an unpleasant way. There was heat to it though; something rarely used in food from his homeland. Wow! "That's good, but, hmm, the burn is, ah, interesting." He smiled at Bryn, "I am pleased to have this chance to speak more with you, My Lady. I'm quite charmed by you, not to be too bold."
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Old 09-02-2012, 09:05 PM   #12
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“It is a trouble that I would be glad to bear.” She said with a wide smile, the smile fading slightly as he called himself a barbaric foreigner. “Please, my lord, do not think of yourself as such. You are no trouble and you are no barbaric with your customs then we are.”

Bryn silently applauded herself at the diplomatic answer. Even if her sister seemed hell bent on destroying the relations that her father was trying to create, Bryn could play her part in keeping the hope alive.

Her eyes turned towards the man that was serving them, a smile on her face at the shocked look on his face as Valius asked for his name. It was sad to say, but the nobility of Al’Tir had little need to get to know the lower classes. The servants of the palace were well taken care of, but they never became friends and confidants.

“My lord, this is Meyer. He is from a nomadic tribe to the west of the great desert. He supports his three sisters and elderly mother.” She gave a soft smile to Meyer as she introduced him to the foreign king. She had become close to many of the people of Al’Tir in the temple and Meyer was just one of a dozen she knew by name.

As the man bowed and stepped away, Bryn helped herself to her favorite dish, Tal, and glanced over at Valius. It was a lamb dish and was spiced lightly with many freshly grown plants and herbs. It was delicious and she could eat her weight in the savory meat. She couldn’t help but giggle at the look on his face as he sank his teeth into it, the heat obviously getting to him on the first bite.

“It takes some getting use to, I suppose. If you enjoy it, I can send some of the herbs home with your when you journey back to your kingdom.” She offered as he smiled at her. She couldn’t help but blush with his next statement, her cheeks burning brightly under his gaze.

“You’re not so bold, sir.” She said softly, her bright blue eyes flicking towards his stormy grey ones and she found herself growing warmer. “I must admit that I’ve been quite charmed by you as well…Valius, if I may be so bold.”

She wanted to place her hand on his, to feel the warmth of his palm upon her skin as she had felt it that morning. She restrained herself as she turned back to her food, pushing another piece of the savory meat between her lips and chewing it thoughtfully.

“I am happy that you have come.” She said when she was finished. “I know that you and Charissa will be very happy together. She is very strong willed, but she has a good heart.”

Another diplomatic answer that sat uneasily upon her stomach. She didn’t want to say nice things about her bratty sister, but it was the least that she could do to soothe an upcoming diplomatic storm. She would play the constant optimist, a smile on her face and sweet words upon her lips even if it tore her up on the inside.

“Tell me about your home. I imagine it’s beautiful.” She changed the subject, turning more towards the man at her side as she became truly interested in his words. “I’ve always wanted to travel to distant lands, but because of my position it’s never been possible. The furthest I’ve ever traveled was from my birthplace of Alerum. It’s a long journey from here across the desert and the sea.”
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Old 09-02-2012, 11:45 PM   #13
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The way she said his name was musical. Magical. He never knew his name could sound like that. "I like when you say my name, Lady Bryn. Please, continue to do so." It wasn't exactly proper protocol...but right then and there he didn't give a damn.

Then she brought up her sister and he couldn't help but press his lips together in a grimace, his eyes flashing. "She seems to take after her mother," he said, his temper getting the better of him, "lovely but bitter. To want that in a marriage...to not try for," he cut off, instead eating another several mouthfuls of the spiced meat.

After he'd swallowed it down, and used the time to re-master himself, he smiled apologetically, "Forgive me, I should not speak ill of your sister. I am sure if I am ever able to meet or talk to her...that i will not find her as charming as you, but perhaps we can at least get along."

Valius sighed. To think that he'd find love here was a fool's hope, and he'd never expected that. But the thought of being wed to a woman who wanted nothing to do with him was a terrible one. "But I would be glad to tell you of my homeland. I'll tell you of mine, if you tell me of Alerum and the sea." There was a note of longing in his voice. "I have never been across the sea or even on it for long. I...envy you that travel. This is the first time I have ever left Ithilien."

He paused a moment, "I don't know where to begin except with...green. My land is green. Even the mountains, save for the ones on the border with the Fire Nation, ah, Al'Tir, I beg your pardon, are green; covered with trees and forest. The only places without woodland are the mountain valleys where the fields and pastures are; wide and well tilled, watered by the many rivers and streams that come out of the mountains. It might be hard to imagine it here, but it rains a great deal, especially in the spring and the fall."

Valius spoke for some time of his homeland. Of the change of the seasons and the change in the green; how much of the forest was a riot of color in the fall as the leaves changed and then fell, a skeletal landscape in winter, covered in the white or ice and snow, and in the spring brilliant and beautiful with bright green leaves and the colorful, beautiful blossoms of the fruit and flowering trees. He talked of the coursing rivers and streams, of the many bridges that crossed them and the ravines and canyons they created.

After a time, he paused. "I've been talking for a while, I'm sorry. I don't know that I've done my home credit." Valius raised his brows and then added, "You'll see it for yourself. I think I'll insist that we hold the wedding in Ithilien, and I would want nothing more than to show you my home myself." He glanced down the table at Princess Charissa who hadn't looked at him once since he'd entered. "...It may be the only joy the occasion offers."
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Old 09-03-2012, 10:48 AM   #14
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“You have snow?” Her voice was positively breathless at the mention of it, her eyes large and bright. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to see snow. I had a teacher once that described to me his time in the far north mountains and it seemed so magical. We hardly get rain here and snow is absolutely unheard of.”

The way that he described his country captured her imagination and Bryn felt her heart fill with a longing to see it all for herself. Valius was a good man, a young ruler in need of a woman that could help him with his task. Charissa certainly wouldn’t be that woman, she thought bitterly, dark thoughts churning in her mind before she cleared them away. It wasn’t right to think such bad thoughts, she scolded herself.

“You would marry in Ithilien?” She asked suddenly in surprise. No Princess of the Blood had ever been married outside of her homeland, foreign prince or not. “I’m sure it would be a lovely ceremony, my lord, but I fear that I would not be allowed to go.” She leaned closer against his side, whispering in his ear. “The queen is as cruel as she looks. She’s as sour as the bitterroot that grows on the mountains that you call home.”

She couldn’t help the laughter that burst past her lips then, sharing the humorous moment with the young king as they smiled at one another. She then noticed the side long look that her father was giving her and she was quick to resume her proper distance and decorum. She was dancing on dangerous ground and her father’s justice could be swift.

“I miss Alerum sometimes.” She confessed to the handsome man beside her. “It is always warm there, but not so hot as Al’Tir. It was so lush and beautiful. Green palm trees grow on the sandy banks and the inner part of the island is covered with rivers and marsh. Most of the people there live in stilted homes, up off the water and threat of floods. My mother…” Bryn trailed off, her heart growing heavy at the thought of her dear mother that had been long dead. “Well, I miss my mother very much.”

She grew silent then, slightly sullen as she returned to the bountiful feast that was before them, taking a sip from the chalice that rested on her right, letting the dark rich wine soothe her senses. She hated the bitter feelings that accompanied thinking about her mother. It brought up so much within her that she chose not to think about her birth very often. Why was she not good enough to carry rank and title? Why was she not good enough to be married to a foreign prince such as the one that was sitting beside her? Why was she condemned to a life of menial servitude while her sister could run free and wild?

Her thoughts were broken as the musicians struck up a lively chord and she saw many of those from Al’Tir that were of her age join in the center of the feast. The dancing was beginning, she thought as Dax appeared at her side and offered her his hand with a grin. Dax was a lively dancer, one that usually had a long line of women at his side for a chance with him, but he always reserve the first for her.

“Excuse me, your highness, but I’m afraid I’m here to steal Bryn from you.” He said as he took her hand and pulled her from the table, positioning them among the others that were already there.

Bryn’s eyes traveled back towards Valius as the music began and she could feel his gaze upon her, admiring her from afar. She blushed deeply, laughing as Dax swung her into a lively rhythm as the face paced music began. It was a reel, hands grasped tightly as the partners danced around a circle. The sounds of laughter and joy could be heard intermingling between the casual conversation at the different tables. Bryn even noticed a few bewildered looks of Valius’s delegation that had been invited to dance as well.

“I cannot help but notice that you spend much time talking to the wrong daughter.” Aldor mentioned casually, breaking into the forest king’s thoughts. “Bryn is lovely to be certain, but I’m afraid that she’s off limits to anyone. Now Charissa, she will give you strong heirs. I might say that it will take some work on your part, but you will be very happy with the final results.”

He was talking of his daughter as a piece of property. He did have affection for his oldest daughter, but these days it was hard to see past the materialism that she seemed to possess. She was headstrong, like her mother and would make any man a good queen. As long as they could get past her petulant, child like attitude.

“Bryn is like a rare flower. She must be cultivated, nourished…protected.” With that single word, King Aldor’s entire demeanor changed. There was a reason that his youngest had to be protected and a reason why so long ago he had risked his marriage, his kingdom, and his life to bring his child home to Al’Tir.
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Old 09-03-2012, 12:50 PM   #15
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Had the guard intervened merely to dance with his charge or was it something more? Perhaps to separate the two of them; Valius had noticed the look the kind had given them both, and indeed the monarch now made his thoughts and comments known.

The rebuke made him angry. Very angry. The stormy eyes flashed briefly but he did not speak for a few moments, making sure he would not be rash or foolish. The way he spoke about Charissa was offensive; she might be a brat and it sure looked that way, but he was talking about her like the was a heifer. And his treatment of Bryn obviously made a difference to her; her lack of title, of prestige, how was this protecting her? She was exposed to his eyes. But he didn't know exactly what was going on here. So he would be diplomatic.

However, he wasn't going to be servile either. This was Aldor's kingdom, but they were equals. "The wrong daughter, Your Majesty? I beg your pardon, but I've been speaking to the one acting like a princess." He did not say it with heat, but with a light, almost observational tone. "I suppose her behavior may have deceived me. I'm sure Princess Charissa will be as charming and engaging."

And he might eat one of those spider things the Fire Nation troops rode.

The young king sensed there was a lot that the older ruler was not saying about Bryn. "There is much I would know about Bryn, Your Majesty, but I am a polite enough guest to know that your family is not my business. All I will say is that in Ithilien, we have much practice in cultivating, sheltering, and protecting flowers."

He then rose and bowed to the king, "I beg your leave, but I need to stretch my legs, Your Majesty. I am unaccustomed to food this rich and need to move around a bit before I partake more of your rich and splendid table."

Valius stalked away like a hunting cat; his movements powerful and graceful, and to the eyes of those who may be watching, restive. He needed to get rid of some of this energy; this anger.

The dark haired young man walked the room, greetings nobles and servants and guards alike as he passed them. His eyes took in much; the eating customs, the way people reacted, and the dances taking place. He saw Masha and Enna both lined up to dance, being twirled about and passed along the reel.

Did the men there know Masha was the same woman who'd been with him earlier? That she was a ranger? Perhaps being a woman fighter wasn't as big a deal as he thought. That would be pleasant.

Once he'd made a round, Valius decided to approach the princess he was here to court and test the waters. She was beautiful, if nothing else. The king walked to where she was sitting beside the queen and inclined his head to them both, "Your Highnesses, I hope the feast meets well with you." Neither woman looked happy to see or hear him. "Princess Charissa, I regret that we've not been able to speak yet. Would you do me the honor of joining me for a walk about the celebration? And perhaps a dance; I have not yet seen you take a turn but I am sure you do so well."
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Old 09-03-2012, 02:02 PM   #16
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Aldor watched as his guest stalked away from the table, his parting words making the gears of his mind work in over time. His guest had a soft spot for his youngest daughter, it would seem. He would have been blind to not see the new romance growing between the both of them, but there was nothing that he could do to help it. Bryn would remain in Al’Tir where she was safe. She was a Goddess among his people, they would lay down their lives for her at a moment’s notice. One day they very well might have to do so.

Charissa glanced up as the man that was there to court her suddenly appeared before herself and her mother. She frowned at the man, her displeasure evident at the entire situation. “My lord, I am afraid that I must decline your invitation. You see, I am not well this evening. I feel as if I might not be well during your visit.”

Charissa noticed her mother give her a slight nod and a soft smile. It was a diplomatic answer to his query and one that would very well send him away from her for good. She had no want to speak to the barbarian king nor did she want to get to know him. There was nothing her father could do that would make her either. She tilted her chin into the air and resumed ignoring the man as she turned back to her mother’s company.

As the reel ended, Bryn applauded with the rest of those that had danced, her breath coming in pants and her face flushed with activity. She had a happy smile upon her face that soon turned sad as she saw Valius before her sister, trying to engage her in conversation. Well, it was good that he was doing what he had come to do, but Bryn’s heart suddenly felt heavy. She felt the need to take her seat again as the band struck up a lively tune.

“You dance well.” She complimented the two women from Valius’s delegation, a smile on her face as both women looked at her. “And your gowns are lovely. The colors are very beautiful.” She had a genuine interest on her face as she engaged the two women in a brief conversation before she excused herself to resume her seat.

“You seem to have caught the young king’s eye.” Bryn paused as she looked towards her father, her goblet stopped in mid air as his dark eyes watched her closely. “He wishes to know more about you.”

Bryn blushed and lowered her eyes, unsure of how she felt about that statement. Valius wanted to know more about her? Did that mean that he was changing his mind about Charissa?

“Papa, I find his company…not unwanted.” She told him, her bright eyes looking towards her father and seeing the grim look there. The icy fingers of disappointment gripped her belly and suddenly turned her stomach. “Papa, please at least consider any proposal he offers.”

“Absolutely not, Bryn.” Her hopes and dreams were all dashed at that moment, a hot rush of tears coming to her eyes at the hard determination in his voice. “I will not consider that proposal. Your place is here in Al’Tir.”

Bryn wanted to bite her tongue and accept his word as law, but the aching of her heart had her speak out of turn. “Why am I not good enough for him, Papa? Why is Charissa, a woman who is vain and horrible, the one that he must marry? He will never love her, Papa.”

“Enough.” Aldor hissed, his eyes dark with anger as he stared at his daughter. “You will do well to remember that it is not your place to speak on such matters, daughter. I have heard enough on the subject.”

Aldor turned his gaze back towards the dancing before them, leaving her sitting there, trembling in her misery. She sat there, trying to keep her tears at bay before she lost the battle and excused herself. She hurried through the hall, seeking the solitude of the gardens outside where she could weep in peace.
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Old 09-03-2012, 05:26 PM   #17
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Valius' jaw tightened and again his storm cloud eyes flashed but this time the fire did not die. "Your Highness," he said firmly, correcting her. "As a king, but not your own, you should address me as "Your Highness," not "my lord," I'm afraid."

He shook his head, "I am mistaken yet again. I was told Princess Charissa was a beautiful and regal young woman who would be sitting in this place; here I find a mere child, unschooled and ill mannered." He should likely be watching his mouth. He should be more diplomatic. "I will have to inquire to His Majesty as to where the Princess has gotten off to." He also would not be insulted.

Valius inclined his head to Queen Sophi, who looked even less pleasant than usual, "Your Highness, your kindness in taking care of this little girl is great, but I would suggest you put more effort into her learning of proper behavior and etiquette. I will speak to you both again soon. Perhaps you can have found a royal princess by then." He bowed to the Queen then and turned away.

Valius did not look back at King Aldor, or back at the rest of the feast, or even look to the companions that had come to this foreign land with him. He needed to get out of here for a moment; gather his thoughts and try to bury his rage.

The young lord spotted a familiar face making the rounds with the tray of Tal. "Goodman Meyer." The servant, and the nobles who were taking food from him both seemed startled to have the man addressed so. Valius inclined his head to the stunned looking nobility, "I beg your pardon a moment, gentle nobles. Meyer, I feel a need for some fresh air. Is there a balcony or some other place nearby I may find it?"

The servant nodded, "Y-yes, Your Highness, I will show you-"

Valius held up a hand, "I will not take you from your duties. Simply tell me the way."

The man nodded again, "Yes, Your Highness." Meyer gave him quick directions to the gardens, the young king thanking him and leaving him and the astonished nobles he left the hall.

It was far cooler outside than he would have expected given the heat of the day. But the traders did say that the desert burned under the sun and froze under the moon. Valius closed his eyes and breathed deep of the cool night air

He was in some kind of garden. It was lovely; a striking contrast to the harsh desert outside the city and the hardship within. The plants were beautiful and carefully tended with a keen eye and an able hand from the look of them. Valius smiled a bit at that; even here in the desert, he could find comfort in the green.

The young king started to walk about the lovely space, thinking. This whole trip was looking less and less pleasant. Princess Charissa...he didn't understand why she found him so repugnant that she wouldn't even try to talk to him or get to know him. King Aldor was insistent on her, and he would see why. He probably wanted to get rid of the brat.

But there was Bryn...Aldor said she was "off limits" but why? She had no title or status. Marrying her would give the kingdoms an alliance and not mingle the lines of succession. Surely the older man knew that; it would be to his advantage. This way he'd also have Charissa to marry off to someone within his kingdom and keep the country out of foreign hands. If Charissa married Valius, their children would be heirs to both kingdoms and Ithilien could legally and by rights lay claim to Al'Tir.

What was the man playing at? Why was he so determined to keep Bryn a nothing but not use her to his advantage?

"This rotting place makes no sense," he said to no one, looking up at some strange tree. A palm tree, Magnus said they were called. He'd been out here for a few minutes and should probably get back inside. Valius turned to walk back but then heard someone else not far away. Faint movement and...crying?

The young monarch moved towards the sound. It sounded like a woman or a girl. He could not yet see who it was. He cleared his throat to announce himself, "I pray your forgiveness, My Lady, but are you all right? If you are in need, please speak, and I will help you or fetch whomever you wish to assist you as you would like."
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Old 09-03-2012, 08:26 PM   #18
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Bryn had burst from the Great Hall into the gardens just as the first tears trickled down her cheeks. She moved deep within the dark garden, sitting beneath her favorite palm tree on a stone bench and crying at the injustice of her situation.

She had never wanted to work in the Temple but she had made the most of her situation by not complaining and followed the path that had been set out for her. It seemed for the Bryn Alerum there was no other way except for the one that her people had deemed fit. No one had bothered to ask what she wanted in her own life.

Things had started to go bad when her brother, Victor, had been killed. The heir to the throne of Al’Tir was strong and intelligent and incredibly practical. He was a fierce warrior that would lay down his life for his own men. It had broken everyone’s hearts when he was killed in a skirmish between outlanders and his patrol. All the men save for Dax had been slaughtered. Dax had never been the same after watching his best friend die. Ever since then the rules that governed her life had been more strict, her guard more heavy and her freedom virtually non existence. Something about Victor’s death had put her father on edge and, of course, Bryn had never been privy to that information.

A deep voice in the darkness made Bryn gasp and she turned her gaze towards the man that was asking if she were alright. She recognized the tall figure, his dark hair, and his deeply soothing voice. It was just her luck that it would have to be Valius there to witness her childlike behavior. She smoothed out her hair, brushing her gown of its wrinkles but it was hopeless. She would look a mess, her makeup running and her eyes and cheeks red from the tears.

“I’m alright.” She said softly, watching as he paused at the realization that it was her that sat before him. “Truly, my lord, I am alright.”

She sniffed, looking at a fine linen handkerchief that was presented before her eyes. She thanked him and took the offered piece of cloth, wiping her nose and her cheeks before she scooted over on the bench and offered him a seat. It was probably wrong to sit alone in this dark garden with him but she knew Valius was a man of honor.

“I am simply being a silly girl about the injustices in my life.” She said gently, her fingers twisting in the fine linen of the cloth resting in her hands. “Of course, they are nowhere near the injustices that the people outside of the palace suffer.”

She looked upon his face and she knew that she had to do her best to push her sister and him together. The people of Al’Tir needed a strong connection with his country, if only for food that would alleviate the terrible hunger that clenched the land. He was souring to the thought of her sister, that much she could see on his features, but she could not let that happen.

“Valius,” she began in a soft voice, being so bold as to reach out and gently place her hand upon his. “These people need help. I know she might seem vile and spoiled, but I beg that you give Charissa a chance. I couldn’t bear to see those people punished simply because she cannot see past her own prejudices. She really is kind, I promise you that. She’s beautiful as well. She would make you a good wife and queen.”

Oh how her heart was breaking as those words left her lips. It was perhaps the worst feeling in the world to lie to him so.
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Old 09-04-2012, 11:53 PM   #19
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"I have met two princesses here," he answered. "Both are beautiful, but only one has been kind, only one would make a good wife and a queen." He probably should not speak that way. It wasn't fair to either of them but it as also true. He grimaced. "The other I have met would be a pretty queen but not a good one. If I had acted in such a way before honored guests while my father was alive, I'd have been whipped and made to serve as a stable boy for a week to remember my place."

Then he sighed and leaned back on the bench, his expression softening. "...Your people do suffer. As would mine if your folk had to make war on us for our produce. I do not want to see that either."

The young king shook his head, "But I have seen what happens in loveless bitter marriages; and it is not for me that I would be concerned but for our children. Such children are often torn between parents, played against each other, and even if not, they feel the dislike of their parents and take it into themselves. I would not have my children suffer so, much less if they should come to the heirs of two kingdoms."

He raised a hand to rub over his brow. "...I have not forgotten why I came here. Though my heart implores me to do so, I have not rejected your sister or withdrawn my suit." Valius looked at Bryn, wondering why he was being so open and honest with her. She seemed to just draw it out of him. "But I am also not a pauper or an ogre and I do not tolerate insults. I have been given one already. At three...well. We shall see if it comes to that."

Valius looked away from her and up at the night sky. "There may be other choices not yet addressed. There is much going on that I do not know and much of it about you, Lady Bryn. Lady I call you, titleless though you are, for are more worthy of noble title and bearing than almost any I have met. Your people seem to revere you above even your father, who seems to regard you not at all. I am very confused, and that frustrates me. But I cannot imagine what it is like for you to have all this happen around you."

He paused and shook his head again. "I...am sorry if my coming here has made your life difficult or caused you pain. Mayhap it will turn into something for the betterment of us all." Her hand was on his still. So soft and warm. He gave it a tender squeeze and rose. "I will return within so that you may enter later and there will be no appearance of impropriety, My Lady. I will quite understand if you retire for the evening. Though if you choose to return, it would please me. I do owe you a dance; though I will be here for some time and you may collect whenever you wish."

Valius had not yet released her hand; as he bowed to her, he kissed it and then let go as he straightened. He made his way back through the garden to re-enter the palace at some point well past where Bryn had been.

The Great Hall was still alive with color, delicious scents, laughter, and talk. Dancers still spun on out on the floor; he thought he saw Bryn's bodyguard dancing with Masha and he smiled.

At least some people were having a good time tonight.

Valius made his way back to where King Aldor and his family sat, "Your Majesy, I beg your pardon for my sudden departure. I had a need for some fresh air." There was a great deal he still wanted to talk to the older monarch about. Bryn mostly, but he'd stay away from that for now. But there was other business besides the marriage to discuss. "I have wondered, Your Majesty, if you do any trade or business with the horsemen of the plains to the north of your lands. We call them the Vago and have some trade with them on our northwest most borders."

He took his seat, "But for the last season, the Vago have not come to trade; nor even within sight of our mountains at all. I wondered if you knew of them, or had any word of why they are so suddenly absent?"
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Old 09-05-2012, 12:17 PM   #20
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Aldor looked at the young king as he returned, his departure not lost on the Fire king. He wondered if the sudden departure of his youngest daughter had any thing to do with the way that the man had hastily retreated from the hall. He kept silent on the matter though, accepting his apology with a nod as he took his seat once more.

He began to talk about the horsemen that rode the open plains to the north of Al’Tir, asking if by any chance they had seen the Vago in recent months. Aldor turned his gaze back to the young king, surprise showing on his features as it to ask why he hadn’t heard the news yet.

“They are dead.” Aldor answered bluntly, his answer causing a slight chill in the air. “The men were slaughtered and the women and children that were left behind were taken in by the Churi people that fish in the waters near Alerum. A group of my warriors came upon the scene shortly after they massacre. The women told a story of outlanders that had come upon them suddenly and mercilessly took their lives.”

He frowned, his brow furrowed as he thought of the serious matter at hand. He could tell him the truth of everything that had happened in Al’Tir, starting at the beginning, or he could brush it away as nothing. As a man that was speaking of marriage into his family, he decided that he had the right to know.

“The outlanders come from Glaca. The mountains there are so snow packed that they are almost inhabitable. Before your time, there was a man that had started a religious following there named Christos. He wasn’t a bad man, but he had problems as any ruler does, namely his son and heir. We heard of his death nearly eighteen summers ago and his son had taken his place. He preaches of the end of days and his followers believe him. They have made it their mission to purify the lands of all the undesirables.”

Aldor sighed and looked up to see Bryn reenter the hall, her eyes seeking out Valius before she blushed and turned away. Dax was quickly at her side, a look of concern upon his face before he pulled her into another dance. How he wished that he could spare his daughter from the evil that was lurking, but it seemed that the forest king beside him wanted answers.

“I had a son once named Victor. He was a proud man, much like yourself. He would have done great things with this kingdom after my death.” Aldor suddenly seemed to age as he told the story of his son’s death. “He was on patrol with a group of warriors near where the Vago traveled when they came upon a group from Glaca. They were burning a nomadic village to the ground and Victor’s group tried their best to stop them. My son was killed that day. The only one spared was Dax.” He motioned towards the man that was now dancing with Bryn in the center of the room.

“He returned to us badly wounded and with a message. They would stop at nothing to possess the Bryn Alerum for their own.” Aldor looked at Valius then, his eyes imploring him to understand. “I’ve protected her since she was three years old, since I knew that my blood had fulfilled a prophecy. She must remain here in Al’Tir, Valius. My people would die for her.”
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:58 PM   #21
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Valius' shock at Aldor's blunt declaration of the Vago's destruction was evident. The whole people? Slain? Some were adopted, it seemed, but...how? Nomads were difficult to fight and harder to wipe out; they could just keep moving, after all, having no towns or cities to defend. How had someone managed such a thing?

He put the thought aside for now and just listened. What the older man was now relating was at the core of all of this, though he suspected there were still pieces he did not know. He listened and committed names and places to his memory; all the while noting how much older the king looked as he told his tale.

When he finished speaking, Valius considered it all for a few moments. When he spoke, his voice was low, "I am sorry that you had to tell me this here, when privacy would be better, but you honor me with your confidence. I mourn for the loss of your son; I can't imagine what it must be like to lose a child but as one who has lost all of his family...I feel some understanding."

There was a lot to address here and now might not be the time for it. What had these marauders been doing since the prince's death? If that was when Bryn was three...what had they been up to the last fifteen years? And where were they now? If they said they would stop at nothing...why hadn't they?

His eyes sought the girl out again as she twirled about the dance floor with her guardian. "I understand some now, Your Majesty, though not in all of the particulars." How was keeping her untitled protecting her? Was her low status supposed to be a disguise? It fooled none of the folk here if it did. "I have many more questions, though I will not ask them now, for this is meant to be a happy occasion."

Valius would also not being up the fact that re-locating Bryn to another place might help guard her too. Or making her queen of a wealthy and powerful nation with many natural barriers. He would say it eventually but just not right now.

"She knows nothing of this, does she?" Valius glanced at the older king. "Of the search of these Glacans for her, I mean." Dangerous to keep the truth from her. The first step in avoiding a danger was knowing it was there. "If it would please Your Majesty, I would like any documents you have about these people sent to my chambers, as well as the prophecy that your daughter, ah, fulfills." He almost said 'supposedly fulfills' but that might be a bad idea. Some men set great store by prophecies.

He was not one of them.
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:21 PM   #22
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“No.” Aldor said in a low voice. “She does not know and I would thank you to keep this information to yourself.”

The king turned his eyes toward the younger man as he asked to see all the documents that they have about the Glacans and the ancient prophecies. He thought about it for a moment and nodded.

“I will have a scholar deliver them to your rooms this evening.” He consented, his eyes looking out on the floor as his youngest daughter danced with Dax. “You will find in your life, Valius, that there are some things you would do anything to protect. Everything that I’ve done has been for a reason.”

He let it be then, bringing his goblet to his lips to take a deep draw of the rich wine as their conversation ended. As the music on the floor ended, Bryn bowed to Dax and smiled as he went off in search of another partner. He chose one of the women that had accompanied Valius that evening and Bryn could see the interest plainly painted on Dax’s face. Perhaps romance would bloom that evening, even if it weren’t the kind that was needed between Charissa and the Forest King.

Bryn glanced towards the king’s table, noting that the two men had finished their conversation. She made her way towards them, pushing through the people that were readying for another dance. She stood before Valius and drew her courage close, a blush covering her cheeks as she noticed the hard glare that Queen Sophi was giving her and the way her father was ignoring her approach.

“Your Highness.” She said as she curtsied in honor towards the visit king. “I was wondering if I might ask you to be my partner for the next dance. It would be a great honor.”
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:44 PM   #23
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There were any number of retorts he wanted to make to Aldor. Keeping Bryn ignorant of her danger was in no way a protection. It was risking her life and for what, he wondered. Did he hope that she would be happier not knowing? Did he think the knowledge would somehow crush or destroy her?

Aldor needed to give Bryn more credit.

Valius nodded, "I will keep it to myself for now, Your Majesty." He wasn't going to promise to do so forever. If a time came when he felt the lovely redhead needed to know, she'd know. "I am sure you have acted as seemed best to you at the time." It was a diplomatic response; acknowledging and somewhat agreeing but also withholding full agreement. He thought there were better ways than secrecy and debasement. But now was not the time to suggest them.

Aldor seemed to think there was nothing else to say for the time, and Valius let it go. He glanced over at the Queen and the Princess. Gods, did that woman ever smile? She'd be lovely if she did so. Her eyes were getting harder, if that were possible, and looking past him at...ah.

Bryn's arrival and words made him smile. He couldn't help it. This was going to piss the Queen off even more and likely King Aldor as well. But he found at the moment that he didn't care that much. "My Lady Bryn, to escort you for a dance would be a delight and a privilege. Truly, you have made me welcome here. Your family should be proud."

He rose then and bowed to her, offering her his hand and taking it before they went out to the dance floor. Valius was a bit concerned; he knew many dances, of course, and had danced with many ladies. But he had not danced a bit since the accident and never with the illegitimate daughter of the man whose legitimate daughter he was trying to marry and who seemed to be the only part of that family that was not upset with him to some degree. There was a bit of pressure.

But the feel of her warm, soft, small hand made it less. As did the brightness in her blue eyes, and the happy curve of those lips. Gods, she had lips made for kissing.

He probably should try not to think like that.

Then the music started and he pulled her to him, a hand at her waist, the other holding hers high, and together they moved into the first, swinging turn.
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:00 PM   #24
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Bryn’s smile lit up her face at Valius’s kind words and she took his hand in the instant that it was offered. She could see the worry and concern on his face and her heart most definitely went out to him. She could only imagine the pressure that he was under. He was a foreign prince in a foreign land trying to ask for the hand of a Princess that would have nothing to do with him. It was all beautiful in its tragedy.

His hand was warm and strong, her fingers barely able to close around his. She noticed how strong he was in that moment, a man that probably sought out physical activity and bested his own men along the way. He was kind and handsome, the perfect prince from the fairy tales she’d been told as a child. It made her heart leap and her stomach flip and her knees turn to jelly.

She smiled up at him, her eyes bright as she looked at him when he wrapped his hand around her waist and held her other hand high. He was a fine dancer, the music slower than the reel had been. Her head spun dizzily and not just from the motion that they were taking while they were dancing.

“It seemed as if you needed some assistance, my lord.” She said in a soft voice, laughter tinting her words. “My family can be rather intimidating at times.”

As they swung around in the wide arch, following the rest of the dancers, Bryn was afforded a view of her steaming sister, her eyes narrowed and face red as she watched Bryn dance with her intended. It served her sister right, she thought to herself as she was spun the other direction. Charissa wanted to ignore Valius during his visit but she couldn’t take the fact that he was interested in her sister. She couldn’t have it both ways.

“I fear that if looks could kill that you would be dead where you stand, my lord.” She said in a whisper with a smile up towards his handsome face.

“I might ask you, Valius, if you would like to accompany me to the Temple tomorrow morning. I think it might do you some good to learn about our customs a little more in depth. Well…if it’s not too forward of me to ask.” She blushed prettily as the words left her lips. It wasn’t her place to demand his time.
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Old 09-05-2012, 05:15 PM   #25
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She moved with grace that rivaled that of any creature under the sun and a beauty that few could match. It wasn't enough that her smile made his heart stop and then beat faster or that the drape of her gown on her willowy figure made him ache or how her touch made his hands itch to feel more of her and pull her close; she had to be one of the most excellent dancers he'd ever shared the floor with.

At her words, he smiled and quirked his brows, "They are formidable, as are you yourself, I don't doubt. But they seem not to care for me and I was perhaps close to being undiplomatic. I thank you for your rescue."

Her comment about being struck down by a look made him laugh and he shook his head, "Were it so, I never would have survived the first audience. Queen Sophi has been glaring daggers at me since I first stepped into her vision. What I have done to engender such hostility in her escapes me." As they turned he was easily able to see over Bryn's head and catch sight of the furious looking Charissa. "Ah, well. She's at least looking at me now; that's progress."

He sighed at that. The more time he spent with Bryn, the less tolerance he felt for her sister's childishness and the less he wanted to try and make her acquaintance or earn her acceptance of their marriage. And wanted the marriage itself even less.

But Bryn's words took that unpleasant thought away for a moment. Again she made him smile and he nodded, "I would be glad to do so. Your request is not so bold to me, but welcome. I would enjoy the chance to see how you worship here and learn more of your people and your ways; as I hope to make them mind, at least in part."
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