[size18 [google-font https://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Sue+Ellen+Francisco] [sue+ellen+francisco [center The King of Cresal has finally reached the ripe age of twenty-one - meaning the kingdoms most adored tradition is about the begin: The Queenstrial. Thirty lucky woman between the ages of 17 - 20 are selected, one from each sector of the kingdom, to compete for the king's hand.]]]
[size18 [sue+ellen+francisco [center The Queenstrial is composed of two major competitions. The first being three months of intense combat where each young woman shows the king and their kingdom exactly how capable they are of protecting the people of Cresal should war break out. During this segment, twenty-five competitors are eliminated - leaving the remaining five to be tested in a far more subtle warfare: that of the King's court.]]]
[size18 [sue+ellen+francisco [center The second part of the trial takes place within the heart of the kingdom, the home of the royal family. The remaining five move into the castle where they will be expected to partake in studies of etiquette and history. Each week the girls will have to put on a banquet for visiting dignitaries to show how capable they are of hosting members from different cultures. This does however provide the young women with the opportunity to get to know the King.]]]
[size18 [sue+ellen+francisco [center However, there are is some history that won't be taught - like the real reason magic is outlawed in the kingdom of Cresal. A very well hidden secret of the royal family is a long line of powerful shape-shifters. However, the previous King had been romantically involved with a witch for several years outside of his union to the Queen. When the truth of their endeavors came out, the King promptly ended the affair to save face. This did not end well for the king though, for the witch then placed a curse on the king and all that are descended from him. A curse of an uncontrollable beast that craves blood shed, that takes control at night one week out of the month, to which the only cure is a married forged from reciprocated love. ]]]
[size18 [sue+ellen+francisco [center Having not believed the witch, the king continued on as though nothing happened. But upon the next full moon the king transformed into a monster of nightmares - slaughtering his beloved wife and several innocent servants of the castle. The devastation caused the king to go mad and take his own life.]]]
[size18 [sue+ellen+francisco [center The loss of both of his parents due to this curse caused the young king to outlaw the use of magic, an offense punishable by death, not knowing that magic is a genetic abnormality. Like his royal bloodline, magic is not something that people acquire - they are born with it, or have it inflicted upon them.]]]
[size18 [sue+ellen+francisco [center Years pass and the mandatory lottery is held for the lucky women selected to take the king's hand in marriage - yet somehow Mariana feels anything but lucky when she is announced as the Aspa Sector's chosen contester. If anything it begins to feel like a curse when she becomes a favorite of the people and makes it into the final round, for she has a secret of her own. And if the king finds out, she could lose her head.]]]
Identifying Marks: Bullet Wound Scar on the back of her left shoulder.
Likes: The feeling of cold rain on her skin, sunrises, honesty, the feeling of moist soil, food
Dislikes: total darkness, dishonesty, unnecessary violence, squishy food, wasting food
Identifying Marks: Triple Goddess Dream catcher tattoo on Left Hip.
Religious Affiliation: Secret Follower of the Moon, pretending Follower of the Sun
Powers: An Affinity for all animals, controlling them, healing them, altering them.
Identifying Marks: None.
Likes: Revealing Clothing, High Tempo Music. Gourmet Food
Identifying Marks: Thick Claw Marks covering her back.
Identifying Marks: Bullet Wound Scar on the back of her left shoulder.
Likes: The feeling of cold rain on her skin, sunrises, honesty, the feeling of moist soil, food
Dislikes: total darkness, dishonesty, unnecessary violence, squishy food, wasting food
Identifying Marks: Triple Goddess Dream catcher tattoo on Left Hip.
Religious Affiliation: Secret Follower of the Moon, pretending Follower of the Sun
Powers: An Affinity for all animals, controlling them, healing them, altering them.
Identifying Marks: None.
Likes: Revealing Clothing, High Tempo Music. Gourmet Food
Identifying Marks: Thick Claw Marks covering her back.
[center [i ~ * no need to post everyday, we all have lives, but try to post at least once or twice a week if possible, and message me if not * ~]]
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Michael and his Grimstone are the first to board the plane. Michael enters his study which is by the loading bay. He sits down and begins working on his enormous pile of paperwork that he missed during his week in the woods. Michael puts his earbuds in and begins his work as he works on the pile he notices the elevator emerging from below. He sees everyone but for a moment longer he keeps his eyes focused on Mariana, she turns and notices Michael she smiles softly and waves. He returns the gesture with a wave as well. He smiles softly as she joins him in his study even if she is at a different table. Out of all the rooms she chooses to her complete her documents it’s in the room he is in. Michael takes out an earbud [#000080 “So what’s your paperwork like?”] he asks Mariana with a smooth soft tone. [#DAA520 “Oh you know just dull party planning for Boclen you know, the most eclectic nation I’ve ever read about.] Michael laughs at her comment. [#000080 “Have you heard of Norda? It’s a small neighboring nation to the kingdom.”] Mariana looks at Michael confused. [#DAA520 “No, Ms. Baker hasn’t gone over any small nations yet in her lessons.”] Michael nods [#000080 “You should ask her about Norda then. They may be small but Boclen doesn’t hold a candle to them in comparison.”] He smiles [#DAA520 “You enjoy making me suffer don’t you? If I ask Ms. Baker about a small nation she will make me do an essay about them and I’ll have to do it in the small free time I already have.”] Michael chuckles [#000080 “Ok now that sounds terrible here try this instead.”] Michael stands up and pulls a book from one of the many shelves and brings it back to Mariana. The book cover is smooth leather and the writing and sigils on it are laid with white gold the book seems to be four inches tall and six inches wide. The title reads “The Complete History of Norda” Michael hands it to Mariana [#000080 “Every time a ruler dies these books are recalled for updates and every decision the ruler made is written in these pages. If you truly wish to know you may read it and once you’re done, we shall talk about what you think of Norda.”] Michael smiles at Mariana as he hands her the book. [#DAA520 “I will definitely look over this when I have more time, But for now I have this finished. This is my budget for the Boclen visit would you be able to look over it now so I can get the preparations started as quickly as possible?”] She asks as she lifts a file up to Michael to take. [#000080 “I can spare a moment on this.”] He says with a smile. As he sits down at his table he begins looking over her budget for the party. As Michael looks over her plans it comes up twenty gold pieces over her starting budget Michael smiles as he puts his signature at the bottom. [#000080 “I don’t see why you can’t have an additional 20 pieces. Though I must admit I am curious what you need sparkers for.”] He says setting the papers down in front of Mariana once again. [#DAA520 “Well if I told you it would take away from the surprise. Even you deserve to be surprised some times.”] She says giving him a wide smile. Before Michael has a chance to say anything else, Alyssa appears in a fur lined white coat cinched around her waist by a red belt with leather roses adorning it and matching red tights with white fur boots on. While the outfit itself comes off angelic, the shortness of her coat definitely stays within what Alyssa has previously worn. [#8b0000 “Michael, is there any chance we would be able to fly together in a more private chamber? I feel as though I am the only one to not get your undivided attention thus far.”] Alyssa says as she walks over with swaying hips, to most the look in her eyes would come off as sweet but Michael catches the subtle desire in her blue eyes. He contemplates for a moment, chewing the inside of his cheek [#000080 “Certainly, let me gather my work first and then I will join you. Have Alexis show you to the council room as we will enjoy the flight from there. I will be joining you shortly.”] Michael says giving a small nod to Alyssa’s hand maiden before returning to his documents. He begins to pile up the finalized documentations of the peace treaty with Eswa, placing them into the leather binding they belong in. He gives a short wave to Mariana before heading to his private chambers. He puts the leather binding on his bed before leaving to the council room, wanting to head there before the flight begins. It’s a quick walk for most, but Michael manages to take it with far greater speed, one of the few perks of the curse. In but a moment he crosses the long hall to the council room, giving the door a slight knock before entering. Upon entry he finds Alyssa sitting in the center of the leather couch, looking far more contemplative then he has seen her before. [#000080 “Is everything alright Alyssa?”] He says as he claims the seat to her left, placing his hand on her upper back, attempting to comfort her. Her face softens when his hand touches her back and he hears a small sigh come from her. [#8b0000 “I was just thinking that it’s a lot harder to get you alone then I had previously imagined. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t even going to get a chance to prove why I’d be a good choice.”] She admits turning to face him, while the lingering of desire remains in her eyes; he sees something in them he hasn’t before, dedication. He can’t help the smirk that comes to his lips as his caressing hand begins to trail his fingertips slightly lower on her back [#000080 “Well you have your chance now.”] A brief understanding crosses her gaze before she begins to lean in to him, as her lips are inches from his she says [#8b0000 “As wonderful as I’m sure you assume I am in this department, this isn’t what I meant.”] She leans back a bit, crossing her legs once again [#000080 “I saw that you were looking over the peace treaty recently signed with Eswa and I was hoping to be able to shed some guidance over the best way to proceed. I know my sector is on the border of Boclen, but I have spent many years in Queen Melissa’s court, I know some of her likes and dislikes. She is also rather fond of my family because of the trade network you had my father assist her create within Boclen.”] Michael’s cheeks flush a deep red as he clears his throat and leans back a bit, doing his best to recover quickly. [#000080 “And how would you proceed if you were Queen, with such a fragile and sacred task as signing a peace treaty with another country?”] He says moving his arm to the back of the couch. [#8b0000 “Well, I would find out exactly what the country needs the most, not what they want, but what they truly need, navigate the best way to provide that while still gaining what we need in return. Then once the treaty is signed, as a show of good faith I’d also provide a small fraction of what that kingdom wanted, or at the very least what their ruler wants. That way it shows as a sign of favor for them on a personal level so if the time came they would have a favor to return to you, not as the King you are, but as the person you are.”] She says, leaning back as well. [#000080 “Interesting, so what would the Queen of Eswa want?”] [#8b0000 “Well she has always been a fan of the famous Cresal Rose. As a personal gift you could send a gardener her way with 100 Cresal rose bushes, of course only after sending her a personal letter confirming that such a thing would be appropriate, and then allow that gardener to go and show the Queen’s gardeners the best way to care for such a fickle flower.”] She seems to be slowly leaning into Michael as she says this. [#000080 “I shall write her a letter myself to see if such a gift would be acceptable. Thank you for the recommendation”] He says tapping his chin a bit, contemplating what exactly he would say to her. His contemplation is cut short when Alyssa’s red painted lips are pressed against his own [#8b0000 “Of course Michael, now I believe there was something else you wished to do during our flight? Perhaps something a little more suited for your chambers?”] She says moving her lips to his ear before giving it a slight tug. He turns towards her, looking deeply into her blue eyes, feeling the monster swirling deep inside of him urging to break free. He clears his throat and stands, crossing the room to take a non-disclosure agreement form from a safe, before returning to her side. [#000080 “If we do this, then you will need to sign this, it’s a basic waiver saying that anything beyond kissing did not occur and that you will deny all allegations of such events.”] He says handing her the paper and a pen. She bites her lip and chuckles slightly [#8b0000 “Of course, because the king would never partake in such vulgar events before his wedding night.”] She says, signing her name to the paper without a second thought. He takes the paper and puts it back into the safe before walking over to her and picking her up, slipping her legs around him before he takes her back to his bed chambers, unconcerned of anyone walking by them, for the floor itself is guarded by Grimstone with no one on the floor.
Once Michael has finished distributing his [i "rewards"] for the girls hard work, he says his goodnights and leaves the council room. [#2F4F4F "Ladies, you all did a wonderful job with making the event a truly magical affair. Even if Jocelynn will not thank you for your efforts you should be proud of what you accomplished tonight. For now you should return to your bed chambers, you have a very early flight to catch so you should sleep as much as possible."] Joffery says giving a slight head nod to them as he opens the door.
As they exit the council room, Rebecca and Amberly take the lead with Mariana mindlessly following behind. After their first week in the castle, the girls are rather use to roaming the halls, most enjoying the art hanging from the walls. While the other girls talk in hushed whispers in front of her, Mariana spends the time looking at the mural. The amount of detail is honestly a bit incredible. The strength it would have taken to cast a curse that has lasted this long with such a fine eye for the smallest details truly does inspire Mariana a bit. Not in the destruction of the king or it's kingdom, the way this curse clearly intended, but in making it better, pulling the kingdom back from such horrors and gruesome unnecessary deaths.
Mariana sighs deeply, turning her attention to the girls in front of her as they finally reach the hall their rooms are on. She notices that they are standing together with arms laced, they've grown confident throughout the night. Previously they were pulling on their gowns, trying to cover themselves up, but now Amberly is walking with her hips swaying, and Rebecca's shoulders have relaxed. The tension made her defined muscles seem as if they were going to rip apart, now they are simply there. Her dress seems a little looser at the collar because of it, revealing a bit more of her back, including a very slowly fading pair of black wings that stick out just slightly from the dress.
[#DAA520 "Holy Shit."] Mariana can't stop the words as they come tumbling out of her mout [#DAA520 "Oh my gods, you're... You? The head of the capital city guard? Seriously?"] Mariana stutters a bit, watching as the two slowly turn around. Rebecca locks eyes with her while recognition and rage roll through her eyes. If it weren't for Amberly's hand on Rebecca's arm, Mariana is certain that she'd charge her and beat her into silence if need be. [#228b22 "Before anything else is said, why don't we get ready for bed. I'm certain there is something that can be worked out to make everyone happy. Mariana, this is your room right? Go ahead and get ready for bed, Rebecca and I will be in there soon and we can talk like the reasonable women we are. Please, give us a chance to talk before you do anything."] Amberly says, gesturing to her bedroom door. Amberly seems perfectly calm and collected, like she already knows that her close friend is a witch, and has experience in silencing those who find out with her kind smiles.
Mariana blinks a bit, not sure how exactly to respond, so she instead walks into her bed room and into the massive closet. She takes the gown off and pulls out some simple pajamas to put on. She's sitting down at her vanity, pulling jems out of her hair when the knock comes on her door. She gets up and lets them in, before returning to the vanity chair. While looking at the two girls sitting on her bed through the mirror she starts [#DAA520 "I don't know how I missed it. I mean I could have guessed that Jocelynn would be a witch before you. She's so uptight like when you hold it in for far too long, but I never would have guessed that you were a witch. I mean you are always so composed but not in a force myself not to look at the blood shed on the walls composed, more like a calm and collected I cant see the monster ripping people apart kind of collected."] Mariana says, doing her best to keep her hands busy in untangling the jewels from her hair.
With that comment Rebecca immediately goes from a offensive posture to a sympathetic one. She walks over to Mariana and swats her hands away, assisting in removing the ornate jewelry from her hair [#4b0082 "While growing up I've spent a lot of time in the castle and by the king's side. When we were just children we were actually pretty close, so when his parents died I got to see first hand what damage the king's mistress had done. Michael likely doesn't remember this, but during his first change I actually helped him a lot. I've got the ability to suggest animals act in certain ways. If their wills are weak enough it works, and Michael was very very weak emotionally during his first change. I knew that if I wanted to be able to help him the best thing I could do is to stay by his side, no matter what would happen if he found out the truth. The murals are a twisted knife in Michael's back for a crime his father commited. I hate keeping it a secret, and I hate seeing what that witch did every day, but at the same time it makes me stronger. I may not love Michael or even find myself romantically drawn to him, but I want to protect him. Someone has to save him from himself."] She admits, getting the hair pin free from her hair and picking up a hair brush.
[#DAA520 "Have you tried telling him the truth? If you guys are so close do you really think that he'd have you exicuted for the use of magic?"] Mariana is shocked to the point of near speechlessness. She watches Rebecca in the mirror, trying to see any signs of decet that might exist. [#4b0082 "Michael is a very complicated man Mariana. I'm sure you've realized it by now, but he only does things that are either his idea or because of love. He's a foolish man, a great king, but a very foolish man."] Rebecca says chuckling a bit as she manages to brush Mariana's hair free of any tangles without tugging on her head once. [#DAA520 "What about you Amberly, what kind of abilities do you have?"] Mariana asks, knowing that while she might not be able to see her, she hasn't moved from her spot on the bed. [#228b22 "Me? Oh gosh no, I wasn't lucky enough to be born with a gift from the gods. I was always just a third wheel with Rebecca and Michael. They would always do a lot of running around and everything, and I'd get hurt if I tried to keep up with them, at least at first. So we started to do safer stuff together, like playing with animals. Rebecca would summon them to us, and then we'd all just play around, never hurting them. Michael was so distraught with greif when his parents died that I think he actually forgot how often the people in his life used magic, especially Joffery. I just tend to protect Rebecca's secret now. I may not have any abilities from the gods, but I sure can talk someone into a hole."] Amberly says, and Mariana catches the softness that comes over Rebecca's face at the mention of Amberly protecting her.
Mariana realizes that they weren't just walking together as friends, but a bit more romantically. Mariana blushes a bit at the thought and moves over to her bed, crawling into the safety of the sheets. [#DAA520 "So if you've got an affinity for animals, why was the magical sign still on your back? I mean I figured you controlled the birds at the ball when I saw it, but it should have gone away by now shouldn't it?"] Mariana can't help but continue to pepper her with questions, even thought she feels guilty for interupting whatever she had interupted. [#4b0082 "Well I am actually a half breed. I'm half witch half shape shifter. I can shift better then I can do magic, but when I do the markings last a while. I know it sucks, but all it means is that I've got to keep my back covered. I haven't been able to shift since the beginning of the competition and I'm itching to do so. I don't get the build up of magic too bad but instead I get this urge to shift that other shifters don't get. I'm more connected to the animals inside of me and when I shift I'm like the alpha of all the near by animals that I've shifted into. It's weird but cool. What can you do though, I should get some answers too."] Rebecca says grabbing a pillow and hitting Mariana with it before tucking it into her lap.
Mariana chuckles but simply shows her abilities rather than explaining. Simply by opening her hand, the barely budding flowers hanging above Mariana's bed begin to grow, flowing well beyond their pots and to the post on her bed, wrapping their vines around the posts and bloom large bleeding hearts. In her other hand she creates a small fire, letting it crackle and create smoke that she turns into a ball of air before that finally turns into a small rain cloud. [#DAA520 "I can control the elements. I'm stongest with plants but I can do stuff with the other elements too."] After that the girls go back and forth peppering each other with questions and just all around goofing off far later then they should. At some point Cheyenne comes in with refreshments for the girls and they talk her into staying and talking too.
In the morning the three contestants are awoken by the blinding sun coming from curtains Adriana draws without warning. [#4169e1 "Good Morning ladies. Did you enjoy your night together?"] Adriana says turning with her stern but polite smile painted perfectly accross her face. In response the girls simply groan and pull the blankets over their heads. Throughout the night they had ended up cuddled together with Amberly laying in the center [#4169e1 "I'm glad, now it's time for you to get up. It's a big day today, let's get started. No more time to lay around"] With a strength beyond what her slender arms should have, Adriana manages to rip the blankets off of the girls. Mariana sighs but climbs out of bed, taking a quick shower and getting dressed. She allows Adriana to do her hair, but gets to pick her own clothes, finally gaining some control over her appearance on a day to day. She dresses warm because Aspa typically gets the first of the seasons chill, even though Mariana has never needed to previously, she must put on a show for the camera's.
While Mariana is busy securing the buckles on her boots, Adriana is sweeping through the room packing up nearly all of her belonging that are left scattered around the room. Somehow she makes it so that the room doesn't look lived in and her things fit into two suit cases. Mariana chuckles a bit as they roll the bags behind them on their way out of the room [#DAA520 "You are going to have a cow when we get to my house."] Mariana admits as Adriana leads her through the castle and out into an asphalt field.
Even in a distance, Mariana is able to see the massive metal bird awaiting to take them off. She falters a bit, completely in awe of the construct that they are about to board. The closer they get, the more strain is put on Mariana's neck as she tilts her head back to take in every detail she can, from the massive bolts to the smooth black texture of the metal. It's not until she feels a familiar rule hitting her back that she stops gawking, [#f08080 "Miss Faye, a Lady does not gawk, she walks face forward and shoulders back. This is a televised visit, do not embarrass yourself."] Lady Baker says, falling into step beside her while doing exactly what she just described.
Now looking forward, Mariana finds that they are walking towards a metal box large enough for them to fit into that seems to go straight into the construct. She looks around to see if anyone else is surprised but only finds calm and collected faces. She does her best to compose herself, but she can't help but feel a bit panicked at the thought of being enclosed in a metal box. However before she can even say anything, they are already boarding it. [#f08080 "There are listening devices available to you in your room, preloaded with music you seem to like waiting for you in your chambers Mariana. Consider it a reward for all of your hard work since arriving. I find listening to music sooths me during trips like these."] Lady Baker says, keeping her eyes forward, but the slightest smile crosses her face when the metal box stops.
Stepping inside the metal construct is like stepping into a portable castle, with art hanging from the walls and grand stair cases leading to high levels. Adriana leads Mariana to a bed room that is only slightly smaller then her room in the actual castle, before the two quickly unpack her things. Mariana tucks the listening device into her pocket and grabs her paperwork for her banquet. [#DAA520 "You've made sure that the others were able to join our flight right? I'm going to need all the practice possible to get it down."] Adriana has a look of mock insult on her face at the notion that she hadn't done everything asked of her.
Mariana shakes her head a bit and follows her instructions to the sitting room they are supposed to be in for the main trip this morning. It's very much like a sitting room over the garden, and for the first time Mariana spots Michael sitting at a table over paper work, all business. The set of his jaw and intensity of his eyes make her heart skip a beat, something she immediately pushes away. She clears her throat and gives him a small wave before sitting at a different table to spread her documents across.
As Michael and a squad of eight Grimstone knights make their way to the vehicles Michael leans against the grill of his truck he knows that it is about to be a very rough week. He looks back at the kingdom and smiles [#000080 “I shall return to you.”] He says with a heavy smile. The guard looks at him and says with compassion “She shall be waiting for you sire.” [#000080 “Thank you Adam this is going to be a long week.”] Adam nods his head and opens Michael’s door “Sire we should get going if we are going to be at our position by midday.” Michael looks up and smiles “Alright men let’s move out, wheels up in five!” Douglas shouts. Michael climbs in his suv as Adam shuts his door. Adam circles the vehicle and reports to Douglas.
“Vehicles are prepped and ready to go sir.” ”Good Alright men there are eight of us. Four will ride with our king, the others will be in the Raptor. Now it’s our duty to make sure that the king gets back to his kingdom and behind the walls of his castle by 18:30. Alright now our king is showing us the way Duke you’re driving the Raptor I need you to keep up with the Rex. Move out!” Michael starts up his vehicle as he chuckles his engine roars like the beast that once was. As the men pile into Michael’s vehicle he looks at Adam [#000080 “Your personal opinions ... think Duke can keep up?”] “I believe he can Sire.” [#000080 “Please just Michael this is not a business negotiation, think of it as a vacation”] He says as he knows that for him it will be a week of hell. Adam smiles as the other two in the back are excited. Michael smiles and picks up the radio linked to the pick up truck.
[#000080 “Raptor this is Rex I’m ready when you are.] “Rex this is Raptor, I’m right behind you.” [#000080 “Duke do you think you can keep up dude?”] Duke goes to answer but then Douglas there leader takes the radio from him.“Sire I can assure Duke is capable of keeping up, I would not have him drive if his abilities were not suitable to our situation.” Michael smiles and chuckles [#000080 “Man Douglas is always business isn’t he?”] Adam nods his head has the two in the back say in sync “YES!” Michael laughs [#000080 “Alright Douglas I’m gonna need you to loosen up can you do that? No sire just Michael ok now I want you men to know that even though there is a full moon tonight we are going to a desolate location in the woods. I am proud to know I can share this burden with you men but from now on while were in the woods no sire understand?] “Yes sir I understand” [#000080 “Ok now put Duke back on”] “I’m back Michael and yeah I can keep up with you.” Michael smiles [#000080 “Seems someone is cocky”] Adam looks at Michael “Duke usually drives our off road expeditions, Him and ten others.”
Michael smiles [#000080 "Let’s see if he can keep up with me then.] Michael slams his foot on the gas and the tires spin throwing dirt behind him and the Rex takes off, Duke shortly after. As Michael races down the beaten path Michael takes a sharp left turn sliding in harmony throwing dirt everywhere duke takes the turn as well as the Raptor slides Duke straightens out the wheels later than he should have. The raptor spins out of control Michael continues to drive on. [#000080 “Woah that was close Raptor, here’s a nav-point to the cabin we’ll be at meet you there.] Douglas looking down on duke “Duke what happened?” “A miscalculation sir won’t happen again.” ”Good it better not.” Duke takes off throwing mud as Michael did before he keeps a sharp eye on the fresh tracks but then the tracks soften up. Duke looks at the monitor “We’re not even close why would he let up?” “That doesn’t matter keep going.” Duke looks around but is unable to see much due to the shrubs and the trees. Duke continues on and out of nowhere they are hit from behind. Duke looks back in a panic.
“Raptor to Rex, Rex come in!” Only static comes over the radio. After two minutes of complete silence and this mysterious truck ramming into the back of the Raptor. [#000080 “This is Rex what’s wrong?”] “We’ve got a unidentified truck ramming us, where are you sir?” [#000080 “Look up the hill Raptor, Adam says they’re bandits we’re nowhere near a district don’t know why they’d be this far out unless were close to the bases.”] “We need to get rid of these guys!” [#000080 “ I have an idea! Hold on Raptor!”] Michael puts down the radio and looks at Adam [#000080 “This is about to get rough, put the straps on guys and let me know when were good.”] The men buckle the two extra straps for extreme off road expeditions. “We’re good!” The men call out. Michael turns the wheel and they bolt down the steep on a collision course with the little pickup truck [#000080 “Hold on!”] The impact shakes the men and the little truck is now sliding do to the Rex hitting perfectly making it a T-bone incident. Adam yells out. “Michael there’s a cliff!” [#000080 “I know, hang on guys!”] The men in the truck are worried but have faith in Michael they have fought with him on the field and they know that he would not sacrifice everyone’s life for no reason. Michael slams on the brakes at last minute the truck continues to slide off the cliff and the Rex is right on the edge.
[#000080 “No one move.”] Michael reaches for the radio as he picks it up the truck angles down slightly sliding. [#000080 “Raptor this is Rex bandits are gone I need your help now!] “This is Raptor already behind you Rex.” Duke jumps out the truck and runs to Rex’s back tow cable and pulls on it extending the cable. He pulls it to a close tree and wraps it around the base, he gives a thumbs up to Douglas. Douglas gets on the radio “Rex you’re attached back it up nice and slow.” Michael puts the truck in neutral and they move forward an inch before the cable tightens, Michael puts flips the switch for the rear tow motor, and it slowly pulls them back away from the cliff. Duke detaches the cable from around the tree and Michael keeps the motor running and as the cable returns to the nest Michael turns it off.
Duke comes to window and smiles at Michael. Michael rolls the window down laughing [#000080 “Well that was fun.”] “Let’s not do that again please!” [#000080 “Well the cabin is just over the ridge we should get going.”] Duke nods and jogs back to the Raptor and hops in. Duke backs up and follows the path Michael follows duke keeping ten feet between the vehicles. They can spot the cabin at the top of the hill. The cabin is made of pure oak slightly covered in vines, but is clearly seen no one has been here for a while. The bushes are so far over grown that they have turned into shrubs. As they reach the cabin Douglas comes over the radio “We’re gonna have to hide these vehicles.” [#000080 “No need there’s a underground passage.”] Michael presses a button by his sun visor, and the ground opens up creating a narrow passage way big enough for their trucks to barely fit. As they continue to go down the hall it opens up into an enormous room they park the trucks beside each other. They all exit and grab their gear from the trucks, Michael presses the button again and the metal doors covered by earth start to close. Once the doors shut lights in the room turn on. [#000080 “Come on guys I’ll show you where we’ll be staying.”] Michael leads the men down a hallway where there are six foot metal doors.
Michael opens a door and demonstrates that the doors are three inches of pure Cresal Steel then he shows them the circular door at the end of the hall. [#000080 “This is my room I will only be in it during the nights. Let’s just say I won’t be getting out of here.”] The door stands eight feet tall, six feet wide, and a foot and a half thick of Cresal Steel. The door has two locks on the outside that have to trigger within five seconds of each other. [#000080 “Alright gentlemen make yourselves comfortable for the night I shall be in my room. Oh and gentlemen please to try to relax and enjoy yourselves.”] He says as he enters the room closing the massive door behind him. As the week went on every night the men heard screaming, the breaking of bones, and then silence only to be followed by the spine shattering howl.
“Men pack up get the vehicles ready we’re moving out in thirty.” The men nod their heads as they pack their gear in the vehicles. As Michael comes out of the room he whispers in Douglas’s ear. Douglas nods “We can do that lord.” Michael arrives at his castle with a light heart. Joffrey meets Michael at the door [#000080 “Am I late any?”] he asks Joffrey [#2F4F4F “No sire actually quite on time!”] [#000080 “Ah perfect, let us start this banquet.] [#2F4F4F “We shall as soon as you get changed.”] Michael smiles and rushes up the stairs to change. Michael changes into his attire matching Jocelynn’s fire element as he makes his way down to the banquet hall he notices how quite it is. He wonders to himself why is it so quite? As he opens the door he sees the room is hardly elementally decorated besides the centerpieces of each table. He looks at Jocelynn and smiles while a bit of disappointment covers his face. He walks towards Jocelynn and once he reaches her he asks [#000080 “Why are only the centerpieces and other small areas the only things with elements? Why are the house banners up as well this is a time for the elements to grab hold of the spot light…not us Jocelynn. I hope you have a trick up your sleeves.]
As Michael finishes his statement Jocelynn walks away and stops Marianna, Michael cannot tell what they are saying but he can see that everyone is starting to get bored. As Michael talks to the guests to try to lift their spirits. While he speaks with the group of people all of a sudden very upbeat music with a loud base begins to play throughout the room as the lights flicker from reds to blue hues before settling on a warm blue. As the lights flicker, the banners flap, as if adjusted by a very huge gust of wind coming seemingly out of nowhere, and change into banners that seem to be made from fire with the table clothes to match. Flocks of ravens fly into the room in perfect pattern as they carry draping garland, hanging them on the practically invisible hooks on the ceiling before exiting out of the windows. It changes the whole scene into that of a fairy-tale, with everyone in complete awe.
Everyone cheers and begins to dance to the beat that rumbles through the walls and floor . Michael sees a slight sigh of relief from Jocelynn. He wonders if she received any help from the other contestants. He enjoys his night with the guests and the time in the banquet hall. After four hours Michael and Jocelynn say farewell to their guests and once everyone has left Michael turns to Jocelynn and says [#000080 “Well it looks like you had some tricks Jocelynn, I had a good time goodnight dear.] Jocelynn smiles and curtsies as Michael walks away. [#000080 “Joffrey gather up the girls that helped Jocelynn please.”] [#2F4F4F “As you wish sire.”] Michael walks down the hall and enters a room where Marianna, Amberly, and Rebecca are sitting at a table with Joffrey behind them. [#000080 “Ladies I understand you helped Jocelynn, but why did you help her?”] Rebecca would be first to speak up [#4b0082 “Why what? Why did we help her?”] Michael nods his head as he takes a sit. Mariana then adds [#DAA520 “She needed our help. Sometimes our best of intentions still need assistance from others.”] Michael smiles [#000080 “Did she ask you for help before tonight?] Amberly asks [#228b22 “Why is that important?”]
Michael turns towards Amberly and looks into her eyes. [#000080 “Due to this being a Queenstrial no one is allowed to help the other with changing a social event they are only allowed to help if asked. So again did Jocelynn ask you for help and did she plan for the turn of events this evening?”] Marianna speaks up [#DAA520 “No she did not ask for help it was my idea I recruited Amberly and Rebecca to help so if there is any fault to be blamed or any punishment to be handed out I am the one to be blamed.”] As Amberly starts to protest Mariana's words Joffrey places his hand on her shoulder and she becomes quite and still. [#000080 “There is blame and there will be punishment.”] Michael says [#000080 “Blame that you three women have the kindest hearts to help those in need. Yes the rule is not to help but if a queen does not help her people then what kind of queen is she? So for helping Jocelynn Amberly what would you like?”] He asks with a light heart. Amberly’s eyes widen [#228b22 “What would I like?”] she says very hesitantly. [#000080 “Yes for a present my dear.”] She says softly [#228b22 “I didn’t do this for a reward your grace.. I mean Michael.”] Michael smiles [#000080 “ Good deeds should not go unrewarded.”] She looks at Rebecca and back to Michael
[#228b22 “There are rumors that you have automobiles is that true?”] Michael chuckles at her question [#000080 “As a matter of fact I do I have twenty in total why would you a ride in one around the Mudflats?”] Amberly smiles [#228b22 “I would actually like to learn to drive one.”] Michael smiles and nods his head [#000080 “I can defiantly arrange that. What about you Rebecca what would you like?”]Rebecca holds her head high. [#4b0082 “I request to be able to assist in the investigation on Devon.”] Michael nods his head [#000080 “It shall be done tomorrow Joffrey will give you access to the Security wing. What would you like Marianna? ”] Michael smiles as he can see her searching for what she would like for a gift. [#DAA520 “I would like to have my budget for my banquet extended.”] [#000080 “How big of an extension are you wanting?”] Marianna gives a cheeky smile [#DAA520 “I would like to plan everything out then show you the expenses.”] Michael ponders on her request [#000080 “Ok but I must approve the final stipulations on your banquet.”]
That night at dinner, rather than the girls having to wait for the King to arrive to begin eating, they are instead informed of the sudden business that has taken him from the castle for the week. They are informed that their schedules will be altered during this time frame to better prepare them for the events following his return. They will be able to eat away from the grand dining room if they so wish to do so, but beyond that their schedules remain pretty much the same. The following morning, Mariana gladly takes her breakfast on her balcony, enjoying the peace and quiet before their day begins.
The rest of the day is very unusual for her though, for every time she walks passed a guard alone, they stop her and begin to dance with her, it’s very alarming at first, but after a bit she finds humor in it. By the third day of this happening, Alex finally says something to her about it, alerting her to the fact that it was his idea to help her learn in a much more fun way. She is begrudgingly thankful for it, even if it does mean that she takes a lot longer to get from place to place.
Throughout her studies, Mariana ends up falling in love with the Bocelenie language and begins practicing it every chance she gets, which is more than she figured she’d get, given that her handmaidens also speak the language, Adriana more fluently than the others. She ends up finding out that Adriana is married to Caulder, that Alex comes from a small village from the sector Aspa as well, and she thinks almost half of the guard’s names. She ends up learning more about the staff than she thought she would during this first week, and is becoming more invested in their lives than she wants to admit.
Joffrey spends a lot of time with Mariana as well, discussing magic, her family, his family, the king’s law, how many people in the castle know the truth, the kings curse, as well as Mariana giving up so easily on being Queen. [#2F4F4F “Mariana I heard that you are not keen on becoming Queen of Cresal, why would you not want to become queen?”] Joffrey asks as they stroll through the garden one afternoon.
[#DAA520 “Well, it’s hard for me to look at the king and think about anything but the countless men and women he’s killed in this crazed witch hunt. Why would I want to marry someone who kills people just because of the fact that they have magic? He has said it himself that he’s heard that magic is a genetic thing, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing the law. If I married him I would not only be constantly putting myself at risk but condoning what he is doing. I couldn’t do that.”] Mariana says, letting magic flow from her hands and into the floral around her, following Joffrey’s idea and wearing gloves during her trips to the gardens.
[#2F4F4F “It is certainly understandable; the reason why he has not changed the law is because of his small council, they do advise him to keep the law active. I do believe that they put doubt in his mind that if he were to change the law it would show his people that he is weak and indecisive. Over the years I have been trying to tell Michael that his people would not view him as weak for changing his mind, that some of his people would even rejoice if he altered the law to prohibiting blood magic or the dark arts instead. Especially since using magic can allow things to prosper greatly if used for the right reason.”] Joffrey says as he watches Mariana bring life to the garden.
[#DAA520 “I totally get that Joffrey, and I greatly respect that, but I don’t have years to make a choice or to convince him. I have a few days over a month to change his mind before I would marry a man who would kill me the second he discovers the truth. Not to mention that I still don’t fit in with this whole noble thing. I don’t know how to dance, I don’t know the proper etiquette for dealing with people, heck I don’t even know which spoon to use and when. I would do nothing but make a fool out of myself if I were to become queen.”] Mariana says, looking over at Joffrey.
Joffrey smiles at her a bit before extending his hand out to her; she takes his hand, a bit wary. The moment her hand touches his, they are transported to a portion of the castle that Mariana vaguely recognizes. Joffrey leads her to the very end of the hall and gestures for her to glance around the corner. When she does, she finds herself staring at one of the times Alex stopped to dance with her. [#2F4F4F “You see, the guards have been stopping you to teach you how to dance, per my orders. I imagine if you were to be lead into any number of dances at this point you would know it far better than you think. I have also made sure that each of your meals is specifically catered around the different silverware so you will subconsciously grow accustomed to their weight. Learning the proper thing to become Queen does not have to completely alter who you are Mariana, it just means being more knowledgeable.”] Joffrey’s hand is warm on Mariana’s shoulder as they are transported back to the garden.
[#DAA520 “I had no idea you were doing that, why are you doing all of that for me? That doesn’t matter, even if I do learn all of that, it doesn’t change the fact that the king would kill me if he knew the truth.”] Mariana says turning away from Joffrey and walking over to a bench to sit down; hoping that staring at the ground will help calm her down. [#2F4F4F “The king would not kill you just because you have magic. Mariana, the sway you have over the king is far more than any of us could have expected the contestants would have at this point. In the many years that I have known him, he has only gifted three of his paintings to anyone. The first being his late mother, the next as a wedding gift to the Emperor of Boclen, and the third to you, if that doesn’t express how much you already mean to him then I don’t know what would. If you spent a bit more time with him, and tried to sway his opinion on magic, I truly believe that you would have a very easy time changing his mind.”] Joffrey takes a seat beside Mariana and places his hand on top of hers.
[#DAA520 “Truly, you think I have that much of a chance to change his mind? That I could not only change the law but become the Queen of Cresal?”] Mariana takes a deep breath, feeling her chest tighten slightly at the thought. [#2F4F4F “Indeed,”] he gestures to the vibrant flowers around them [#2F4F4F “But you need to remain strong, truly competing for his heart is no easy task. It’ll require true dedication Mariana, but I will assist you as much as I can because I truly believe that you would make the best Queen.”]
Mariana takes Joffrey’s words to heart, and spends the next few days really hitting the books, soaking in every ounce of detail that she possibly can. She requests to be in charge of the event when dignitaries from Boclen come to visit only to find out that they will be the one’s visiting the following week. This inspires Mariana to work harder, staying up late into the night to study their traditions and even recruit help for their visit.
Finally the time comes for Michael to return and for Jocelynn’s event to be held, throughout the week Joffrey had been informed of additional parameters being added to the event. Such as, being required to wear something that puts each girl slightly out of their comfort zone, not so much that they wouldn’t be able to attend, but just enough, as well as the fact that it much be in the theme of elements to represent that each visiting noble provides key elements to the kingdom of Cresal.
Given that he has been gone for the past week, the first time the girls see the king will be during the event that night. During breakfast Mariana, Amberly, and Rebecca decide to eat together and Mariana ends up finding out that the other girls families will be attending since they all come from the head of their sectors. Amberly expresses that she wishes Mariana’s mother would be able to come but is excited for their trip next week. The thought of being able to go home the following week is exactly what is going to get her through this whole event.
When the time finally comes for them to meet up, Mariana can’t help but feel highly uncomfortable by how much of her sides are exposed in her dress, but Adriana has assured her that it is very secure and will not suddenly expose her during the event, so she finds her way to the waiting room with the other girls. The moment she walks in she’s greeted by a collection of very nervous looking women dressed in very different attire. Amberly and Rebecca are sitting together on a couch talking in hushed whispers while Amberly tries to pull the bottom of her dress down and the top of her dress up. Rebecca is rubbing on her bare arms that are very defined and muscular. Jocelynn keeps pulling her dress down in the back and looking over a stack of note cards, muttering whatever they say over and over again to herself, while Alyssa simply looks annoyed and tugs at the high collar of her dress. Alyssa looks over at Mariana as she walks in and seemingly gives a nod of approval at what she’s wearing. They aren’t in the waiting room for long before Adriana appears to take them into the grand hall.
The moment that they step into the grand hall they are greeted with loud and very elegant music, to which Mariana believes is the national anthem. She looks around the room to find it decorated with banners of every house in the room. The décor seems oriented far more to those that are visiting and less to the elemental theme provided to her. Mariana looks a bit confused at Jocelynn who is simply smiling widely and confidently. Looking around the room, Mariana can see that there are several tables with ornate centerpieces that seem elementally oriented but beyond that it has a very similar set up to that of when the women arrived.
As the women walk in they walk towards their respected sector’s tables and instructed to remain there until the king walks in, with the exception of Jocelynn who stands and awaits his arrival. When the king arrives, Mariana catches the glimmer of disappointment that crosses his face before he walks through the room to Jocelynn’s side. When he is standing beside her, she turns her attention back to the crowd and begins speaking [#f08080 “Thank you for joining us tonight. We are here to celebrate the kingdom of Cresal and all the marvelous members that pull together each element of our kingdom. King Michael is a very gracious host and an even kinder king, we are lucky to have been blessed with such a kind man. During tonight’s event we will be celebrating what makes each sector its own. I hope you will join us in one of our kingdoms most treasured dances.”] Jocelynn says giving just the slightest nod before the orchestra begins to play.
As instructed, each contestant asks the head of their sector to dance with them, to which none disagree. Soon several of the guests are on the dance floor attempting to dance one of the most graceful and intricate dances in the kingdom. Mariana is a bit shocked at how easily she is able to keep up with the dance, and as she holds idle chatter with Lord Lylie, she notices the occasional distressed look on Jocelynn’s face, not to mention the comments coming out of those around her about this being tired and boring. When the dance finally ends, it appears that Mariana isn’t the only one concerned about how well tonight is going. Rebecca and Amberly are standing near each other talking about ways to help the night get better. Mariana quickly walks over to them [#228b22 “We could have some of the free servants grabs some wreaths and bring in some flowers, but that only covers one element. How are we supposed to make this fit all of the different elements after it’s already begun?”] Amberly asks, looking over at Mariana briefly.
[#4b0082 “Well I remember that the lights here have controls where we could alter them, give the room a watery look or even a fiery look if we so wished it. I imagine a guard could show me where those controls are. The food seems fine enough, but I still don’t think it’ll be enough. Look at her, Jocelynn seems to be panicking, and in front of her father too, he looks so disappointed.”] Rebecca says, still rubbing her arms.
[#DAA520 “I’ve got it, I’ll get Joffrey’s help on this, but if we could manage to use the ravens to lift vines of flowers up onto those hooks at the same time as the lights change and music turns on we can save this. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, trust me, Jocelynn will thank us. Go talk and I’ll give you a signal.”] Mariana says, spotting Joffrey across the room, who is already staring at her and he simply nods, somehow already knowing what she’s thinking.
As each of the girls slip into their separate directions Jocelynn stops Mariana, grabbing her by the elbow just as she’s about to reach the door. [#f08080 “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t leave now, the event has just begun.”] Jocelynn says, looking slightly bewildered. [#DAA520 “We aren’t leaving; we are trying to make sure everyone else doesn’t leave. I promise, it’s going to be a good thing, you’ve done a lot and this turned out amazing, so go relax and take credit for your work and the reactions everyone is going to have.”] Mariana says, giving Jocelynn’s hand a slight squeeze before slipping out of her grip and into the hall.
It doesn’t take long for her to find what she’s looking for and make it back to the room. She’s standing beside the servant’s entrance waiting until everybody has returned as well. The restlessness of the crowd grows with each passing second, but the moment Amberly’s head appears in the crack of the grand doorways, Mariana gives a small nod.
With just a few clicks on a viewing pad, very upbeat music with a loud base begins to play throughout the room as the lights flicker from reds to blue hues before settling on a warm blue. As the lights flicker, the banners flap, as if adjusted by a very huge gust of wind coming seemingly out of nowhere, and change into banners that seem to be made from fire with the table clothes to match. Flocks of ravens fly into the room in perfect pattern as they carry draping garland, hanging them on the practically invisible hooks on the ceiling before exiting out of the windows. It changes the whole scene into that of a fairy-tale, with everyone in complete awe. Mariana takes a deep breath and looks over at Jocelynn who is glaring at her for a moment before becoming the picture perfect of proud.
After having to put on the happy and graceful front, Michael is glad to be in the confined space of the viewing room. Just as he had promised Rebecca, he has come to watch the contestants train, to see just how well they fair against his Grimstones and under Caulder’s legendary training. He rests his arm against the window and stares down at the training room, watching as the guards walk in, hearing Joffrey enter at the same time. [#000080 “Hey Joffrey, who do you think is going to land the most hits today? I mean besides the obvious answer being Rebecca.”] Michael says, taking a swig of his ale, savoring the flavor. [#2F4F4F “It is hard to say your grace, after careful viewing of their starting trial I would have to choose Mariana. She had the surest footing out of those that made it thus far, as well as the most practical training in the group.”] He says, sitting down in one of the four plush chairs in his very pristine manor as usual. [#000080 “Well I guess we will have to wait and see, won’t we?”] Michael says turning around and joining him. [#000080 “Would you like a drink Joffrey? I can make you something.”] He says standing directly in front of a chair. [#2F4F4F “If you wouldn’t mind, I would prefer to make my own drink. Please sit and enjoy”] Joffrey says as he stands and walks over to the bar and mixing something up.
Michael can’t help but chuckle at the first pair, [#000080 “Well this is definitely not a fair fight.”] He says before taking another swig of ale. Joffrey merely makes a sound of agreement as he reclaims his position in the chair. As the fight between Alyssa and Anthony continues, Michael wonders aloud [#000080 “I wonder what Caulder was thinking putting her up against Anthony, because he is just like Caulder in that ring. I don’t think he even understands what it means to [i ‘go easy’] on someone.”] He takes another swig of ale.
When the match is finally over he simply shakes his head [#000080 “Well that was quick, hey how many hits do you think Mariana will get?”] He asks, looking over at Joffrey. [#2F4F4F “I don’t know, perhaps at the very least four. For now let’s watch Amberly and Meredith pair off.”] Michael nods before glancing back out to the training room. When he spots the weapon Amberly is carrying he stands up [#000080 “Is she welding a scythe? Joffrey have you ever seen anyone fight with a scythe? It’s nearly twice as tall as her!”] Michael says staring bewildered at the field below. Joffrey chuckles a bit at this [#2F4F4F “Yes I have, quite a few people, but I must say her skill with a Warhammer is far better. I’m rather curious why she didn’t choose it. Perhaps next week we will be lucky enough to see that instead.”] He shakes his head in disbelief [#000080 “This is going to be a rather interesting fight.”]
Once the fight concludes Michael returns to his chair [#000080 “It seems as if Amberly underestimated herself, for a weapon that’s almost twice her size she is definitely rather quick with it.”] He flops down into his chair and sets his empty glass on the table beside him. [#2F4F4F “Very true, perhaps we will get to see her true skill before too long. It would be a shame if she didn’t show her true strength before you make your choice.”] [#000080 “Very true”] Michael nods, watching as Jocelynn and Stefan take their positions in the sparring field. He watches as they swing their rapiers in nearly perfect synchronization, but she only manages to land one hit [#000080 “That’s a bit surprising, she only managed to score one point, but they seemed rather evenly matched. She also seems to be holding back a lot. What do they hope to gain by holding back?”] He takes the break to refill his glass [#2F4F4F “Perhaps they are worried about you seeing them break a sweat. Some nobles are taught that they must appear feminine at all times in front of their potential husband. Either that or they want to see the skill level of those that they are going up against before giving it their all.”] Michael fills his glass and retakes his seat. [#000080 “Both make sense, but I don’t understand why they would hold back, because if this was a real combat they wouldn’t be able to hold back. There is no point training differently than you would fight.”] Michael sighs and shakes his head, watching as Caulder and Rebecca step into the sparring ring. [#2F4F4F “I agree, but not much can be done about it right now, all we can do is watch.”]
Seeing that Caulder himself is taking on Rebecca, Michael stands once again [#000080 “Oh this is going to be an exciting match to see. I imagine Rebecca will give him a run for his money.”] And that she does, managing to nearly match his every hit up until the last few blows when he eventually wins. Which finally makes it Mariana’s turn and she’s up against Alexander. Once the fight is finally over Michael turns back to Joffrey [#000080 “Mariana has one skilled eye, I mean after just a couple of moments in the ring with him she was able to find his weakness and use it against him.”]
[#2F4F4F “Well I did tell you that she was likely to do very well.”] Joffrey says as Caulder walks into the room [#DC143C “Who are we talking about? If we are talking about Mariana I’m certainly not surprised, she became the people’s favorite during the combat trial for a reason, I would have expected nothing less from her.”] He says, grabbing a premade sandwich and plopping down in one of the chairs. [#000080 “How did you know who we were talking about Cal?”] Michael says as he takes a swig of his ale. [#DC143C “Well given that she’s the only commoner it would be safe to assume that you were surprised at how good she did, unlike those whose parents paid for them to learn every skill possible to be a good match for you. Which I might add did significantly worse than I was expecting them to.”] Cal says before taking a large bite of his sandwich.
Michael would nod [#000080 “I agree, especially Jocelynn, she needs to shed her formal training. She was withholding far too much during that match. If she wishes to join my side she’ll need to train as if she was in an actual fight, otherwise how am I supposed to know if she can defend our people.”] Michael says while taking his seat. [#DC143C “I’ll break her, just like I’ve broken them all. Don’t worry about it Mike, you’ll see her true colors before you choose who to marry.”] Cal says grabbing Michael’s ale from his hand and taking a swig. [#2F4F4F “Speaking of which, do you have a favorite yet?”] Joffrey asks while standing and pouring Michael another drink.
Michael sighs but accepts the new drink [#000080 “It’s currently a three way tie between Amberly, Jocelynn, and Mariana. If you guys were in my shoes, who would you choose?”] Michael asks taking a sip of his drink and realizing that Joffrey had given him something a lot stronger than ale. [#2F4F4F “Well, Michael we aren’t you so we couldn’t make that choice for you. This is something you must decide on your own”] Joffrey sits back down and states in a very matter of fact voice. [#000080 “I’m not asking you to make the choice for---“] [#DC143C “Mariana”] Cal interrupts Michael as he’s trying to explain the question to Joffrey. [#000080 “Geez Cal, could you not wait until Joffrey responded?”] Michael asks, turning towards him [#DC143C “Sorry your grace, I didn’t realize that I had to wait to respond. I’ll make sure to keep that in mind for next time.”] Cal says sitting up straight. [#000080 “Oh shut up Cal, don’t be a smart ass. However, now that you have said something about her, I’ll be honest, there is something unusual. Something about the way she talks or the look in her eyes that just draws me close to her.”] Michael says while staring at the bottom of his drink. [#DC143C “So you do have your favorite then! No need to act like your keeping your options open if you’ve already got your mind made up.”] Cal says patting him on the shoulder. He can’t help but smirk [#000080 “As I said before, I have my top three; there is just something about her that’s different. Plus Mariana doesn’t even think she will become Queen, she wants to make it to the final three but beyond that she doesn’t really want to be here.”] Michael says taking another drink. [#DC143C “Oh, so you’re saying that someone didn’t enjoy having their entire life flipped on its head while being forced to compete for your hand? I thought your witty charm would be enough to win any girls affection.”] Cal says while getting up and walking over to the table, grabbing another half sub.
[#2F4F4F “I must agree that so far Mariana has proven to be the best candidate, I am rather surprised that she doesn’t think she could become Queen. I will definitely try and find out why she doesn’t believe in her abilities and attempt to ease her desire to leave. For now I shall leave, I have gifts that I have been asked to prepare”] Joffrey stands and bows to Michael before quickly exiting.
When the days training is finally over and Michael has finished all of his duties for the day, he decides to take a stroll through the garden, hoping that it’s as fully bloomed as the brief glimpse he caught in the morning. As he begins to walk into the spring flowers, he finds Mariana staring at him as if she was expecting him. [#000080 “Good evening Mariana”] He can’t help but be very alarmed at the look on her face. [#DAA520 “Good evening your grace. I was, ah, just leaving.”] She also seems a bit alarmed to see him, and shoves her hands into her pockets, almost as if she has something to hide. [#000080 “You don’t have to leave Mariana; if anything I’m glad I ran into you. I was hoping to take you up on your offer to seek your council.”] Michael can’t help but want her to stick around, if he could just talk to her a bit longer, maybe he can convince her to stay. He gestures further into the garden hoping she’ll at least walk with him. [#DAA520 “Um, of course, I did offer. What can I help you with? It’s a bit early to be confused about your potentials, don’t you think?”] She asks, stepping into line beside him, but still looking incredibly uncomfortable by his presence. [#000080 “So, just as a question, what do you think of the law on magic? Your honest opinion please,”] he knows that it’s a touchy subject with most people, but the thought of his law has been crossing his mind a bit more lately. Even still he keeps his eyes forward, trying to stay in control of his emotions [#DAA520 “My honest opinion?”] He nods, counting his breathing [#DAA520 “I think it’s stupid, I mean you’ve basically outlawed an entire people. From what I’ve heard, magic is a genetic thing, not something you can control, so you’re killing people for being born with a specific set of skills. You might as well outlaw people with blue eyes while you’re at it.”] He chuckles at the notion, daring to look at her [#000080 “Or I could outlaw everyone with green eyes.”] When she looks back at him, he has to force himself to look away or else she might be able to read the hope in his eyes. [#DAA520 “Ah, but then you’d only have Alyssa and Rebecca to choose from, it would be a shame to have to lock up Amberly, and you two seem so close.”] The sarcastic tone in her voice causes him to genuinely smile. [#000080 “I could pull some strings for Amberly.”] He looks over at her [#000080 “But I have also heard that magic is a genetic thing, it’s just that there is emptiness inside of me because of magic. It’s an emptiness that I will have for as long as I live. I understand that some people do not understand why I have outlawed magic while others do. You don’t need to know or understand why it’s outlawed, just that it is.”] He says, not entirely sure if he’s attempting to convince her or himself of this fact. [#DAA520 “Of course your grace, not like I have any reason to break that law. I imagine that’s not why you wanted my council though. So what can I advise you on?”] The sudden formality definitely goes noticed, but he keeps his tone light and even [#000080 “I was actually wondering where you trained to fight like that. I mean Rebecca is the guard captain of Illea, so it’s expected of her to hold her own in battle, but for you to do so well was very shocking.”] He asks, gesturing to a bench in a rose clove, watching as Mariana sits down and thinks before responding, her eyebrows crinkling as she does so. [#DAA520 “Train is a strong word. I just picked it up along the way I guess. There aren’t a lot of people in my village who are too terribly fond of my mom providing so much for the orphans. Especially the ones who have more than enough, they say it makes them look bad, and that it isn’t our job to take care of them it’s the orphanage in the major city. So when we don’t listen to them and take care of them anyway, some of them tend to get violent when they are drunk. My mom has this whole do not harm others thing, so if I don’t protect her I get to watch drunk idiots beat up my mom. I did that once, got me knocked around a couple of times after that, and then I got pretty handy with a spear. That and hunting requires some skill with a bow or a weapon of some kind. So just day to day life trained me I guess.”] [#000080 “You said you and your mother would help the orphans, why are they in your village and not in the city at the Orphanage?”] The bewildered look on Mariana’s face is alarming [#DAA520 “Well, the orphanage in Aspa is vastly over populated and its head mistress is basically a fire breathing dragon. She came to our village once and practically tore this girl Jill’s arm off when trying to force her to go back to the orphanage. It broke my heart to see it. She managed to get Calvin back, but he was only gone for about two months before coming back to the village. He was covered in bruises and his leg was broken. I can’t even imagine what happens at that orphanage. So we do what we can, I used a lot of the hide from my hunts to create them clothes and bedding, they live in these handmade huts in the forest, not far behind my house. It’s actually one of the things that I want to work on with the prize money I get from making it this far in the competition. I want to fix up our house and take over the orphanage. No one deserves to feel unloved and not worth a meal.”] It takes everything in Michael to not lose his cool [#000080 “That’s very admirable, thank for providing me this new information. I will definitely make sure to personally look into it, you have my word. Those children will be provided for as they should be.”] He says, keeping his face very firm while imagining all the ways he could tear that woman apart. [#DAA520 “If you are going to be personally looking into it, does that mean you will be going to Aspa?”] He looks over to find her staring very eagerly. [#000080 “It does. Does my confidant wish to visit as well?”] The sudden sensation of Mariana’s hands on his arm is followed by a cold chill rushing through him; he does his best to ignore it. [#DAA520 “Yes, I mean not the major city of it, but I would give anything to go home and see my mom again. I haven’t even had the chance to speak to her since this all started. I would love it, even if it was only for five minutes.”] He smiles gently down at her, finding that the longer he stares into her emerald green eyes the more he feels drawn to her. [#000080 “We will definitely be able to stop by your home for longer than five minutes. We can make a day of it. That can be one of our next events, being able to go and see each one of your families as well as do a tour of the Kingdom. Obviously it will only be me and the girl’s family we are seeing that will come with on the home visit but it’ll give you a chance to see some of the major cities. We can stop by Aspa first, that way they don’t have any warning to us coming by to put on a front for the king’s visit. How does next week sound?”] He asks, putting his hand on top of hers, as he finally becomes fully captivated by the beauty of her eyes, wishing in that moment that she would want to stay, that she would truly want to try and make a place at his side. [#DAA520 “That sounds absolutely wonderful. I think the other girls will love it as well. I imagine our tutors will not though. Lady Baker will probably insist on joining us to make sure I keep my shoulders back during the visit. I imagine we will have some kind of assignment at the end of it. I know we have one coming up for the end of this week, some kind of elemental ball that has the nobles of our kingdom coming by as well. It’s Jocelynn’s turn to prepare the event so I haven’t given much thought to the preparations, just that I need to talk directly to my seamstress so I can make sure she tones down how flashy she makes my dresses.”] She admits, suddenly pulling back again and letting go of his arm and staring at the pavement. He chuckles a bit at the thought of her in something super flashy [#000080 “So you don’t like it when you wear something that draws a lot of attention to you?”] He asks, standing and walking over to the rose bush wanting to create a small bouquet for her to take back to her room [#DAA520 “Not really, there isn’t much of a point for me to show off how I look since I’m not going to be the one to become queen. Plus I’d likely be able to sell the dresses I get easier if it’s something that could easily be worn and not something so overtly crafted that it’s a priceless piece. No point for me to hold onto clothing I will never wear again. I’ll probably keep some of the nice pants I’ve gotten though, they are surprisingly comfortable.”] Hearing how confident she is that she wouldn’t be Queen he can’t help but ask [#000080 “How are you so sure that you will not become Queen? I’m just starting to get to know everyone; I’m not even close to making my decision.”] He starts piling up the roses in his hand, pulling them so they have a slightly long stem [#DAA520 “Well, it’s the same thing as I told you earlier, I’m not graceful, terrible with people, and I don’t know the first thing about dealing with dignitaries. Heck my hand is likely going to be bruised tomorrow from Lady Baker’s ruler from not knowing which fork to pick up. Even if I did manage to learn all of that, I would never belong here.”] She says in a tone that makes it seem like it should be perfectly obvious why she shouldn’t be here. Michael spots a small rose that hasn’t bloomed yet and smiles at it, putting it in his hand and turning to where she could see it [#000080 “Imagine this flower as you; it’s small while the rest of the roses are fully bloomed. It seems like it doesn’t belong, but if you give it time and care it could bloom to be larger than the rest.”] He hopes that He might actually be able to break through and show her that she could stay, that they could actually have a chance. [#DAA520 “Or it could wilt and die.”] The morbid thought almost makes him laugh, but the pained look on her face stops him. [#000080 “Indeed, it could wilt and die, but due to our new gardener that wouldn’t happen. If you don’t fight the tutors too much, you could thrive here as well.”] He says walking back over to the bench and sits beside her. She sighs and puts the distance between them once again [#DAA520 “But then I wouldn’t be your Queen, I wouldn’t even be me. I would be the person the tutors turn me into. That’s the thing I hate the most about this stupid tradition. You force a bunch of women who are within a certain age range to try and fit into a life style that they were either trained for their entire lives or they have no idea what they are doing and get humiliated for not knowing what to do and when. To top it all the whole nation has to watch. Why on earth would I want to fit in to a world or a kingdom that loves its precious tradition of humiliating 29 young women just so that its king can find the perfect woman to push out babies for him, how wonderful?”] She says in a mocking tone, tearing the rose off the bush and turning on the kind, looking at him as if he were stupid for his suggestion.
He takes a deep breath to attempt to calm his rage, knowing that if she wasn’t taking out her anger on him he would agree with what she’s saying. However it’s the small rose in her hand that draws most of his attention [#000080 “That was totally uncalled for”] He says in a warning tone, slowly rising to his feet [#000080 “What did that poor rose ever do to you?”] He says with a completely serious face. Mariana stares at him for a moment, obviously taken back by his comment before looking down at the rose in her hand. Rather than continuing on or creating another joke, she simply looks a little sad [#DAA520 “You’re right, it was uncalled for, but so is this tradition. It’s got a great point, but a terrible execution.”] She sighs and practically begins to cradle the rose. [#000080 “I agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I get to go around ripping flowers out of the garden, I’d look like a mad man if I did that. A very rich madman, but a madman nonetheless”] He says smiling at her, hoping that the humor would give her even the slightest reprieve. The sound of her chuckling lightens his heart a bit [#DAA520 “Well, at home everyone thinks of me as a madwoman anyway, no one thought much of it if I slaughtered the poor innocent dandelions. Old habits die hard”] He chuckles a bit with her, before the familiar shiver runs through him, alerting him to the fate he already knew [#000080 “Well you may not kill my dandelions, quit your dandelion snipping spree, because I have business to attend to, so please, no more flower homicide.”] He stands and walks out of the garden at a politely quick pace, leaving the flowers for her.
With the full moon reaching its peak in the next few hours, Michael knows that he must be quick. However what he doesn’t expect to find is Joffrey waiting for him at the door to his wing with a bag already packed and ready for him to leave. [#2F4F4F “Your usual ride is waiting for you downstairs Michael. I have made sure that all the proper preparations for you stay in the cabin have been taken care of. The usual guards are in their positions and know their rotation. I already have this week’s schedule mesmerized and will make sure all of your duties are taken care of. The women will also be too busy this week to notice that you are gone. If you need anything from me you know how to reach me. Have a good week hunting my grace.”] Joffrey practically strong arms Michael out of the castle and into his private automobile. [#000080 “Thank you friend, if not for you I would not have made it to be this old, but I must go. I feel the change is coming on stronger this time, I do not know what has caused the change, but it has. I will call you in the morning to tell you how I fared the night.”] Michael says, turning the vehicle on and giving Joffrey’s hand a squeeze. Joffrey merely nods before taking a step away from the vehicle and watching him drive away.
Even though Mariana is happy to be able to sit by herself and actually enjoy every rich and savory bite of her lunch, she can’t shake the loneliness that fills her heart. She looks around at how happy the other girls seem to be about being here, and she can’t help the small seed of envy growing in her chest. Mariana is only here as a means to an end and also because of the stupid mandatory tradition, not because she wants to be Queen. She can’t even begin to imagine what that would mean, what kind of duties she would have. The only thing, and the most important thing, she knows that she would hardly get to see her mom and she can’t handle that.
She shakes the thought from her head, knowing that she only has to endure a bit more till she can go home. She is practically counting down the days till the end of the Queenstrial. Only a little less than five weeks till she can truly feel safe again.
Thinking about her mom and getting to go home carries her through until they are finally dismissed to change for training. [b “So you were taken to the King’s Wing? I hope that you acted like a potential Queen and behaved yourself.”] Adriana asks, helping Mariana step out of the gown. Mariana can’t help but laugh at the notion, causing Cheyanne to look at her stunned [#DAA520 “Sorry, it’s just that the whole idea that I’m the one that the king would is ludicrous. I basically told him as much and we agreed that it would be better for me to act as his confidant for the rest of the competition.”] She admits, grabbing the brush off the vanity and trying to brush out as much of the curls as possible before twisting it into a braid.
[b “I’m sorry what?”] [b “Cheyanne don’t”] Adriana warns [b “No, Mariana, how can you give up on being Queen so easily? Don’t you want to help make the kingdom a better place?”] [#DAA520 “Cheyanne, even if I wanted to, I couldn’t be the queen.”] [b “And why not? Sure you might not be as graceful as Jocelynn or as eloquent as Alyssa, but you actually know what it’s like to live like the people. You can make a kind of difference that the others can’t. How could you not want to seize that opportunity?”] She says, staring at Mariana with pure bewilderment. Mariana sighs and shakes her head, knowing Cheyanne won’t give up till she gives an actual answer. [#DAA520 “You two are sworn to secrecy right? Everything I tell you stays between us right?”] Mariana asks, looking between Cheyanne and Adriana, the both nod, while Adriana makes quick work of locking the door.
In a swift motion, Mariana clasps her hands together only to pull them apart and reveal a blazing fire between them. Cheyanne can’t seem to find any actual words to respond, and just stares, while Adriana simply sets a pile of clothing on the vanity [b “If you think your magical abilities prohibit you from being Queen then you are the only one who could change your mind. For now, you should focus on your training. Cheyanne come.”] Adriana states in her same even tone, before she guides Cheyanne out of the room.
Mariana quickly changes and gets as much of the makeup off as possible. She steps out into the hallway to find the other four girls in such elegant armor, that they might as well be wearing dresses in comparison to the plain leather Mariana is in. Based on the annoyed or discomforted looks on the other girl’s faces, Mariana doesn’t have to guess that they are wondering the same thing Adriana was wondering. Rather than meeting their eyes and letting the question get spoken allowed, Mariana simply leans against the wall and taps her worn leather boot against the ground, taking comfort in the familiar sound. If she closes her eyes she could almost convince herself that she’s inside the Mayor’s office getting in trouble for openly using her magic to entertain the orphan twins again. [#2F4F4F “Come Ladies, no time to waste.”] Joffrey’s voice breaks Mariana from the happy memory and back to her bleak reality. Once again Joffrey manages to appear seemingly out of nowhere but Mariana simply ignores the prickling sensation on the back of her neck and simply follows him through the halls.
They follow him all the way to a gymnasium on the same level as the dungeons. The room is vast, with an unnatural tiling covering nearly every inch of the room. A large circle is sectioned off in the center of the room, likely the sparring circle and weapons of every kind lines the far wall on a vast number of weapon racks. Towards the ceiling there is a viewing room, where the king and Joffrey now sit. The man who was speaking with the king earlier in the day is standing in the very center of the circle. Now that she’s able to actually see him, Mariana can’t help but stare. The man has an unnaturally fare complexion with hair that is pure white, despite his young appearance, most striking though is his blood red eyes. He seems completely unphased by Mariana’s staring and instead gestures in front of him. [#DC143C “Each of you has an opportunity to become the next Queen. I am not here to treat you like a Queen potential. I am not here to treat you like a noble lady you may or may not be. I do not care for your titles or your previous training. I am here to train you as I train the rest of my soldiers. In this room you will work harder than you have ever worked, you will learn the skills necessary to survive if the castle is under siege or you are attack on the road. You are no longer damsels in distress who spends your training time with instructors your father has paid to make you feel good about your skills. From what I have seen from the first portion of this competition none of you have any actual skill. That changes in this room.”] His voice is incredibly deep, and Mariana doesn’t think he blinked once during that speech, which strikes a fear in her she has never known. [#DC143C “Each of you will train with one of our Grimstone members, this is the sparring circle. I’m certain each of you has noticed that this isn’t a traditional training room; this tiling will simulate the different environments you may have to fight in so that is what you will train in. No one will blame you for not being able to keep up, but that doesn’t mean that the king won’t think less of you as a Queen if you can’t with stand the same training conditions he has endured his whole life. Now, each of you came with a weapon, the same one you used during the first trial. You will not be using that weapon, not during our training; you will instead be using one of the stock weapons on the wall behind me. Select one now, and take you seat, I will pair you up once you all are sitting.”] He steps outside of the circle and from out of the wall, four guards walk into the room dressed in what appears to be their preferred armor. They stand in a perfect line beside the instructor, watching as the women walk forward and select their preferred weapons. Jocelynn selects a very delicate rapier, tossing it between each hand for a moment before heading back to sit down. Rebecca picks up a sword that’s nearly as large as her, with complete ease and in one hand, filling the other with a shield. Amberly seems a bit conflicted, standing in front of what appear to be a scythe and a war hammer, both significantly larger than her, before selecting the scythe. Alyssa doesn’t even flinch before grabbing a net and a spear. Mariana takes a moment before grabbing a spear as well; she walks over to the bench and sits down beside Amberly. [#DC143C “Alright, First up will be Alyssa and Anthony, make sure you go easy on them for today, I want to see where they are in person.”] The trainer says nodding to one of the guards.
They both step into the circle, and while Alyssa has a cocky look on her face, the guard seems unphased, swinging his sword as if he’s bored. They circle each other before the guard takes one swift motion towards Alyssa, hitting her in the ribs but not cutting at all. Alyssa seems surprised that she was actually hit before taking a step back. They circle some more before they start attacking each other, Alyssa barely landing two blows on the guard where as he lands another nine. She is beat red and obviously furious when she sits back down. Amberly is up next with a guard named Meredith, both of them wielding massive weapon. Amberly has better luck than Alyssa, managing to land four hits to her partner’s ten, however she comes back looking very excited. Jocelynn and Stefan gracefully dance across the floor, Jocelynn landing only one hit to his ten, but still seeming perfectly composed the entire time. Rebecca is against the trainer himself, both seeming evenly matched, Rebecca even seems to be winning, matching blow for blow before the Trainer eventually wins the match, ending it at ten to eight.
Finally it’s Mariana’s turn, and she is going up against Alexander. The moment she steps onto the sparing match, she almost losses her balance as the stage raises up a couple of inches. [#BC8F8F “So you are a bad dancer and can’t keep your footing? Having me as your partner is almost going to be torture for you”] Alexander’s voice is immediately recognizable as the guard she danced with previously, only now he doesn’t have a helmet obscuring his face. [#DAA520 “Ah yes, well bad footing isn’t going to be what gives me away.”] She admits, chuckling a bit, gripping her spear tighter and watching his every movement. She catches that his left foot drags just slightly as he walks, indicating a weakness there. [#BC8F8F “Oh, I’m sure I’ll still be able to sweep you off your feet my lady.”] And with that he attempts to connect his sword to her back, but she manages to bend forward just in time, using the blunt end of her spear to lift up one of his legs and knock him to the ground. She spins the spear around and points it at his throat [#DAA520 “Or maybe I’ll sweep you off of yours.”]
She manages to land another six hits, but he still manages to beat her without breaking much of a sweat. She returns to the bench breathing heavy but definitely invigorated. [#DC143C “Alright, you all know how poorly you did; by the time this ends I want each of you to be able to hold your own enough to win against these guards. For the remainder of this training session you must do fifty laps around this room, a fifty pushups, sit ups, and pull ups. If you can’t, then do what you can and more to make it so you do 200 in total. Make sure to take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated. These four will remain with you during this and I will be up with the King watching your progress. Do not disappoint me.”] Caulder says before disappearing into the wall.
Being used to the physical exertion, Mariana and Rebecca both finish their two hundred assigned exercises rather quickly, and decide to train more. Rebecca provides Mariana with some tips, walking her through different footings and possible fighting styles. Mariana can’t help but be in awe at how easily she picks up a spear and fights with it after seeing her fight with the great sword.
When the training is finally done and over with, Mariana watches as the other girls hurry off to their rooms to freshen up and get changed, Mariana simply shakes her head and decides to go to the rose garden, hoping to release a little bit more pent up magic.
The fresh air is nice, and Mariana quickly finds herself deep into the floral garden. She smiles at the sight of the flowers, holding a slightly wilted rose in her hand and bringing it back to full bloom with nothing but a thought. [#2F4F4F “The smell of freshly bloomed roses is magnificent, aren’t they my lady?”] The sound of Joffrey’s voice behind Mariana causes her to freeze and go wide eyed. She bites the inside of her cheek and quickly turns around [#DAA520 “Yes, they definitely are. The king talked about how wonderful this place is. I thought I’d check it out for myself.”] She says folding her hands behind her back, knowing that her palm would currently have a green tint to it from the magic she just used. [#2F4F4F “Holding in your magic for too long is rather dangerous, wouldn’t you agree Mariana? Feel free; the garden could use the touch of a powerful woman again.”] He says gesturing to the bushes beside them, not blinking once at the mention of magic. [#DAA520 “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean Joffrey, magic is outlawed in this kingdom. It would be treasonous to use such a thing, on castle grounds nonetheless.”] She says, walking around Joffrey, saying what she thinks he wants to hear as she approaches a wall of Rhododendron looking at the small yellow flowers to hide her wide eyed expression and her pounding heart. [#2F4F4F “Yes, magic is outlawed but the king was young when he created such a law and it was done out of rage due to the passing of his parents being caused by magic. It’s rather understandable for such a young king to do, lash out at what he believes is the cause of his parents leaving.”] He comes to stand beside Mariana, [#2F4F4F “You may trust me with such a thing, I wish to convince the king that magic possess no danger to him. Perhaps you can assist me with such things.”] Mariana stares at the flowers, wondering what the catch is. [#DAA520 “Right, and hypothetically if I was a witch, this would be the part I openly do magic and then you run and tell the king. I’d have no head before dinner. Why should I trust the Chief advisor of the king with something like that?”] She says kneeling in front of the bush and running her hand through the mulch. The soft touch of Joffrey’s hand on her shoulder sends a rush of pure magic through her. Without meaning too, Mariana transfers that magic straight through to the mulch and causing the small yellow flowers to double in size and bloom brightly, releasing a small amount of magic themselves into the ground as they do so.
Mariana stands and turns around [#DAA520 “Okay, I trust you.”] She says noticing the black color of his hands [#DAA520 “You have time magic? I didn’t know that still existed.”] She says, watching as he quickly puts his glove back on. [#2F4F4F “As far as I am aware, it runs within my family. Sadly I am the last to have inherited this gift. Your secret is safe with me, all I ask is when you must expel your magic, come to me. I know the safest time and place to expel it; we wouldn’t want the King’s favorite to get caught before we can change his mind.”] And with that he vanishes from her side.
Mariana turns around to see if he simply moved, her mouth open to respond, but simply finds the king rounding the corner into this clove of the garden. [#000080 “Good evening Mariana”] he says looking at her a bit confused. [#DAA520 “Good evening your grace. I was, ah, just leaving.”] She says shoving her hands into her pockets. [#000080 “You don’t have to leave Mariana; if anything I’m glad I ran into you. I was hoping to take you up on your offer to seek your council.”] he admits, looking a bit sheepish at that moment but gestures down the path for them to walk together. [#DAA520 “Um, of course, I did offer. What can I help you with? It’s a bit early to be confused about your potentials, don’t you think?”] She asks, stepping into line beside him, but making sure her hands stay firmly in her pockets. [#000080 “So, just as a question, what do you think of the law on magic? Your honest opinion please,”] He says, keeping his eyes forward, not looking at her. He seems far too relaxed for someone who knows that he’s walking with a witch, so Mariana manages to stay breathing evenly. [#DAA520 “My honest opinion?”] she says watching him nod but not respond [#DAA520 “I think it’s stupid, I mean you’ve basically outlawed an entire people. From what I’ve heard, magic is a genetic thing, not something you can control, so you’re killing people for being born with a specific set of skills. You might as well outlaw people with blue eyes while you’re at it.”] She says with a shrug, staring at the flowers that they walk passed, hoping her nonchalant tone doesn’t reveal how invested she is in the topic. He’d chuckle a bit [#000080 “Or I could outlaw everyone with green eyes.”] She’d look over to find a smirk on his face [#DAA520 “Ah, but then you’d only have Alyssa and Rebecca to choose from, it would be a shame to have to lock up Amberly, and you two seem so close.”] [#000080 “I could pull some strings for Amberly.”] He’d look over at her [#000080 “but I have also heard that magic is a genetic thing, it’s just that there is emptiness inside of me because of magic. It’s an emptiness that I will have for as long as I live. I understand that some people do not understand why I have outlawed magic while others do. You don’t need to know or understand why it’s outlawed, just that it is.”] Mariana bites the inside of her cheek, drawing blood to keep herself calm.
[#DAA520 “Of course your grace, not like I have any reason to break that law. I imagine that’s not why you wanted my council though. So what can I advise you on?”] She says, keeping her tone even, but disconnecting emotionally from the conversation. [#000080 “I was actually wondering where you trained to fight like that. I mean Rebecca is the guard captain of Illea, so it’s expected of her to hold her own in battle, but for you to do so well was very shocking.”] He asks, gesturing to a bench in a rose clove.
Mariana would sit down and think about it for a moment [#DAA520 “Train is a strong word. I just picked it up along the way I guess. There aren’t a lot of people in my village who are too terribly fond of my mom providing so much for the orphans. Especially the ones who have more than enough, they say it makes them look bad, and that it isn’t our job to take care of them it’s the orphanage in the major city. So when we don’t listen to them and take care of them anyway, some of them tend to get violent when they are drunk. My mom has this whole do not harm others thing, so if I don’t protect her I get to watch drunk idiots beat up my mom. I did that once, got myself knocked around a couple of times after that, and then I got pretty handy with a spear. That and hunting requires some skill with a bow or a weapon of some kind. So just day to day life trained me I guess.”]
[#000080 “You said you and your mother would help the orphans, why are they in your village and not in the city at the Orphanage?”] Mariana would look over at him a bit shocked [#DAA520 “Well, the orphanage in Aspa is vastly over populated and its head mistress is basically a fire breathing dragon. She came to our village once and practically tore this girl Jill’s arm off when trying to force her to go back to the orphanage. It broke my heart to see it. She managed to get Calvin back, but he was only gone for about two months before coming back to the village. He was covered in bruises and his leg was broken. I can’t even imagine what happens at that orphanage. So we do what we can, I used a lot of the hide from my hunts to create them clothes and bedding, they live in these handmade huts in the forest, not far behind my house. It’s actually one of the things that I want to work on with the prize money I get from making it this far in the competition. I want to fix up our house and take over the orphanage. No one deserves to feel unloved and not worth a meal.”] [#000080 “That’s very admirable, thank for providing me this new information. I will definitely make sure to personally look into it, you have my word. Those children will be provided for as they should be.”] He says, his face going as firm as a marble carving. [#DAA520 “If you are going to be personally looking into it, does that mean you will be going to Aspa?”] [#000080 “It does. Does my confidant wish to visit as well?”] Mariana brightens up and look over at him, grabbing his arm. [#DAA520 “Yes, I mean not the major city of it, but I would give anything to go home and see my mom again. I haven’t even had the chance to speak to her since this all started. I would love it, even if it was only for five minutes.”] He smiles gently down at her [#000080 “We will definitely be able to stop by your home for longer than five minutes. We can make a day of it. That can be one of our next events, being able to go and see each one of your families as well as do a tour of the Kingdom. Obviously it will only be me and the girl’s family we are seeing that will come with on the home visit but it’ll give you a chance to see some of the major cities. We can stop by Aspa first, that way they don’t have any warning to us coming by to put on a front for the king’s visit. How does next week sound?”] He asks, putting his hand on top of hers, as his icy blue eyes melt into her, threatening the guard around her once again. [#DAA520 “That sounds absolutely wonderful. I think the other girls will love it as well. I imagine our tutors will not though. Lady Baker will probably insist on joining us to make sure I keep my shoulders back during the visit. I imagine we will have some kind of assignment at the end of it. I know we have one coming up for the end of this week, some kind of elemental ball that has the nobles of our kingdom coming by as well. It’s Jocelynn’s turn to prepare the event so I haven’t given much thought to the preparations, just that I need to talk directly to my seamstress so I can make sure she tones down how flashy she makes my dresses.”] She admits, looking down at the ground thinking back to his earlier statement about magic. He chuckles a bit [#000080 “So you don’t like it when you wear something that draws a lot of attention to you?”] He asks, standing and walking over to the rose bush [#DAA520 “Not really, there isn’t much of a point for me to show off how I look since I’m not going to be the one to become queen. Plus I’d likely be able to sell the dresses I get easier if it’s something that could easily be worn and not something so overtly crafted that it’s a priceless piece. No point for me to hold onto clothing I will never wear again. I’ll probably keep some of the nice pants I’ve gotten though, they are surprisingly comfortable.”] [#000080 “How are you so sure that you will not become Queen? I’m just starting to get to know everyone; I’m not even close to making my decision.”] He would pluck a couple of roses, creating a small bouquet in his hand [#DAA520 “Well, it’s the same thing as I told you earlier, I’m not graceful, terrible with people, and I don’t know the first thing about dealing with dignitaries. Heck my hand is likely going to be bruised tomorrow from Lady Baker’s ruler from not knowing which fork to pick up. Even if I did manage to learn all of that, I would never belong here.”] She says, watching him delicately pull off the flowers. The king would stop moving and look over at Mariana, [#000080 “Imagine this flower as you; it’s small while the rest of the roses are fully bloomed. It seems like it doesn’t belong, but if you give it time and care it could bloom to be larger than the rest.”] He says smiling at her gently once again. Mariana can’t help the ice melting a little bit, but chooses instead to look at the rose [#DAA520 “Or it could wilt and die.”] [#000080 “Indeed, it could wilt and die, but due to our new gardener that wouldn’t happen. If you don’t fight the tutors too much, you could thrive here as well.”] He says walking back over to the bench and sits beside her. She sighs and moves over to where he was standing and looks down at the rose [#DAA520 “But then I wouldn’t be your Queen, I wouldn’t even be me. I would be the person the tutors turn me into. That’s the thing I hate the most about this stupid tradition. You force a bunch of women who are within a certain age range to try and fit into a life style that they were either trained for their entire lives or they have no idea what they are doing and get humiliated for not knowing what to do and when. To top it all the whole nation has to watch. Why on earth would I want to fit in to a world or a kingdom that loves its precious tradition of humiliating 29 young women just so that its king can find the perfect woman to push out babies for him, how wonderful?”] She says in a mocking tone, tearing the rose off the bush and turning on the kind, looking at him as if he were stupid for his suggestion. [#000080 “That was totally uncalled for”] the King says in a warning tone, slowly rising to his feet [#000080 “What did that poor rose ever do to you?”] He says with a completely serious face. Mariana blinks for a moment, looking down at the rose in her hand. It’s slightly wilted from her aggression and it takes her a moment to calm down. [#DAA520 “Your right, it was uncalled for, but so is this tradition. It’s got a great point, but a terrible execution.”] She sighs and holds the rose more delicately. [#000080 “I agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I get to go around ripping flowers out of the garden, I’d look like a mad man if I did that. A very rich madman, but a madman nonetheless”] He says smiling a bit at her. Mariana can’t help but chuckle at his comment, slumping down onto the bench beside him [#DAA520 “well, at home everyone thinks of me as a madwoman anyway, no one thought much of it if I slaughtered the poor innocent dandelions. Old habits die hard”] [#000080 “Well you may not kill my dandelions, quit your dandelion snipping spree, because I have business to attend to, so please, no more flower homicide.”] And with that the king stands and walks away, leaving the bouquet of roses bound with a strip of leather. Mariana can’t help but smile, and when he is a good distance away she returns the rose to life, not causing it to grow any larger than it already was. She takes it and tucks it in her hair, grabbing the bouquet and making her way back to her chambers; wanting to spend some time alone with the books she got from her tutoring this morning.
[#000080 “What of you Rebecca were you getting jealous?”] He asks softly holding her close after twirling her. [#460082 “Well truthfully it is a bit unfair that Mariana got invited to what I can only assume the kings quarters, but I’m more interested in seeing what you’ll do to make up for such unfairness.”] She says with a smile and a playful tone. [#000080 “Well what interests you Rebecca? What shall we do?”] He says looking into her warm brown eyes. [#460082 “Let me see… I do love a good fight and to test my wits against strategists.”] [#000080 “Ah yes, how could I forget? You’re always the first to volunteer for a sparring match…looks like I have some competition.”] Michael says with a smirk. [#460082 “Competition? You do remember what happened last time right?”] Her words cut at Michael. [#460082 “I remember three bruised ribs on someone and the only thing that happened to me was my shield was knocked from my hands.”] She says reminding the king of the match.
Michael smiles and twirls Rebecca. [#000080 “I mean you no offense, but I was pulling my punches my lady,”] He says staring deeply into her eyes with a serious intensity. [#460082 “Well then, I would gladly enjoy a real match then”] She says confidently as she grips his hands firmly in a show of strength. Michael smiles [#000080 “It seems as if I have stroked your fire Rebecca, and I look forward to scheduling our rematch soon.”] The music stops as Michael bows and Rebecca curtsies in kind. [#460082 “Thank you for the wonderful dance your grace.”] Rebecca says with a smile. [#000080 “Thank you for the wonderful company my lady Rebecca, I will have Joffrey come to you later on to schedule our rematch.”] [#460082 “I look forward to it Michael.”]
As Michael and Rebecca finish their dance the girls sit down at their tables. Michael smiles and looks around the room before approaching Amberly. [#000080 “My lady Foster, may I have this dance?”] He asks, bowing slightly in front of her but keeping his eyes locked on her vivid green. [#228b22 “Yes…oh yes I would very much like that your grace.”] She states, originally overtly excited before managing to calm herself down and regain her composer, before standing and taking his out stretched hand. As Amberly and Michael reach the floor, Michael twirls her around while she involuntarily releases a girlish giggle.
The orchestra begins playing another beautiful song, this time softer and slower than before with far more emphasis on the violin. Amberly sighs and rests her head on Michael’s chest, not bothered by the sudden intimacy created in this action. [#228b22 “This is my mother’s favorite song…she loves to play it on the violin.”] She says soft enough that only Michael could hear. Michael holds her softly against him and whispers [#000080 “She’s a very talented woman, playing this song is no easy feat.”]
[#228b22 “My mother would be happy to know you speak so highly of her.”] Michael smiles and runs his hand through Amberly’s hair, clearly having a soft spot for her already. [#000080 “What about you Amberly what do you enjoy doing? What do you like, dislike? Tell me about yourself.”] [#228b22 “Well I greatly enjoy horseback riding.”] Michael smirks, [#000080 “What is your favorite breed of horse?”] [#228b22 “The Cresal Draft is my favorite breed.”] Michael pulls away and looks down at her shocked by her response. [#000080 “The Cresal Draft is for moving heavy objects, and you ride them for pure enjoyment?”] [#228b22 “We unfortunately don’t have enough money to own horses just for personal enjoyment, so I tend to take the older horses we have and I ride on them when they are too weak to pull things. They are such gentle and loyal creatures when you treat them well.”] She says as she lays her head back on Michael’s chest, chuckling at his bewilderment. They dance for the remainder of the song in silence, merely enjoying the sensation of being in each other’s arms. Michael makes a mental note for getting Amberly her own horse as her first gift; he plans to tell Joffrey about it once the event is over. As the music stops Amberly curtsies as Michael bows, not a word was spoken but their eyes speak for them, until Michael has to look away and finds Jocelynn.
He notices Jocelynn sipping on tea and taking abnormally small bites out of her sandwich as if she’s had too much eat. Michael can’t help but wonder why she is eating like that, could it be that she ate prior to coming to the event or if it’s simply a learned habit. It oddly enough reminds him of his mother, but even with her, he couldn’t understand eating like that. He approaches her table, and once again bows before her, keeping his eyes locked with her olive green eyes [#000080 “Jocelynn may I have this dance?”] he says as he extends his hand out to her. She takes his hand while standing gracefully [#f08080 “Of course”] she says as they walk to the dance floor, she curtsies before the music starts to play. Michael immediately recognizes the song and knows that it’s one that is mainly played during royal banquettes. He takes Jocelynn’s hands and notices that she is waiting for him to lead. Instead of sticking with the traditional dance Michael decides to change things up to see just how graceful she truly is. [#000080 “I am terribly sorry for this my lady”] he chuckles, looking down at her with a mischievous smile. [#f08080 “And why might that be?”] she asks, her tone filled with curiosity and a hint of concern.
Rather than giving an actual response, Michael begins to lead her into a completely different dance than the one traditionally meant for this song. [#000080 “How have the Queenstrials been to you thus far?”] he couldn’t help but to be impressed at how quickly she picks up the commoner dance he’s lead her into. [#f08080 “It has been better to me than others; it has honestly been rather exciting.”] [#000080 “Exciting you say?”] He chuckles, curious as to how she could possibly be excited to part of such an antiquated event. [#f08080 “Well, I have had a chance to learn so much from the other young women who were apart of the first portion of this competition. It’s also provided me an opportunity to spend some actual alone time with you, something beyond the required social interactions of the King and a Lady of the court.”] She says, not seeming to notice or at the very least be phases by Michael’s reaction. [#000080 “Fair enough, I also look forward to us spending some proper alone time together. What would you like to do in this alone time?”] He asks, mimicking her polite tone.
Jocelynn would take a moment, with a very thoughtful look on her face before actually responding [#f08080 “Well, I am rather interested in the garden you spoke so highly of, perhaps we could start with a private tour of the castle grounds. I think it would be interesting to see what all the heart of Cresal has to offer.”] She has a slightly sneaky smile on her face as she finishes her proposal. [#000080 “The heart of Cresal, what do you mean by that my lady?”] He asks, keeping his face and tone even. [#f08080 “The castle, obviously, it is of course the home of the King, and in the center of Cresal itself, making it the bright and powerful heart of the kingdom. I must admit though, I certainly wouldn’t mind a chance to take a peek at your personal library. It’s rumored to contain secrets of the world of old, from a time before our glorious home. Unless of course you thought I meant your heart in that of an object to be obtained?”] She asks, clearly concerned at such suggestion.
Michael couldn’t help but laugh at her response [#000080 “My sweet Jocelynn, I was not talking of my heart, just curious what it was you wanted to see. But of course, we can make plans for a trip to my wing for you to view my personal library and between you and me there are in fact books of the old world in my library. They are delicate and quite old, they are typically kept in sealed boxes, but I think I could arrange for you to look at one or two.”] He winks at her and gives her a very charming smile. This causes the first crack in her perfectly crafted mask, as she blushes brightly and goes wide eyed at the thought. [#f08080 “Truly? I could touch one? That would be amazing beyond words Michael.”] She says as the music comes to a stop. She seems to have been lost in the moment and surprised at the end of the song, fumbling a bit to curtsy before him. He would merely smile and bow in response, glad to see even a glimpse beyond her ingrained grace.
Hearing the tenderness in his voice, Mariana forces herself to remember the amount of witches he’s killed to stop herself from feeling bad for him. She suddenly realizes how close she is to him and quickly moves to the window seat, putting as much space as she can between them. She stares outside, hoping that the sight of flowers will steady her a bit.
Even with the flowers working their own magic, Mariana can’t help but crack a joke at the king’s expense. [#DAA520 “That’s a lot more ordinary than I expected. I don’t know why but I always figured that your mother [i was some great and perfect person who was always put on show but at home, kept in some kind of gilded cage. Whereas your father was this larger than life man who never had time for anything but ruling the country, leaving you and your brother to be raised the highest paid nannies in the world and taught by the best in each field.”]] Mariana even puts on her most ridiculous and snobbish voice to play it off as if it’s nothing but a harmless joke.
However, her comment is met with nothing but silence, which eventually causes Mariana to turn around. She is surprised at how similar the confused look on the King’s face is to that of a curious puppy. [#DAA520 “That was a joke, mostly. I know we aren’t supposed to talk about your family, and joking about the dead is in poor taste.”] She quickly adds, feeling the need to explain herself. [#000080 “It’s perfectly fine, no one has ever really joked with me about my family, but now that I know that’s how you joke, you may do so more freely.”] He says walking over to the bench and sitting beside her.
As he looks around the room, Mariana looks back out the window, wishing she could be outside or literally anywhere else in that moment. Yet as the silence stretches on, Mariana finds herself needing the fill it. [#DAA520 “so how was your day?”] [#000080 “It’s been pleasant, but certainly going slower than usual. Do you like the studio?”] He asks, looking back to Mariana. [#DAA520 “It’s incredible, it’s larger than my entire home, but amazing all the same. The fact that you are able to capture the world in such a beautiful way is really impressive.”] She admits honestly, while also mentally counting how many witches killed in this year alone.
The King simply nods [#000080 “We should probably return to the ballroom”] He says with a sigh as he stands and holds his hand out to Mariana. [#000080 “Shall we?”] Begrudgingly Mariana takes his hand and stands [#DAA520 “Sure might as well.”] Even though Mariana wants nothing more than to drop the king’s hand, she doesn’t. As the rushing of magic flows through Mariana, she has to bite the inside of her cheek hard enough that she tastes the copper of her blood causing the rush of magic to dull to a manageable sensation.
It’s always hard to touch something that is cursed for very long, yet Mariana has to endure his touch for the next several minutes. [#000080 “So what is your family like Mariana?”] Even if it is personal, Mariana welcomes any distraction possible. [#DAA520 “Well I don’t know anything about my father, mom never talks about him, but my mom is awesome. She’s the village medicine woman.”] The memory of her mother’s violet eyes works its own kind of healing magic, even from this vast of a distance. [#000080 “Your district doesn’t have doctors?”] The King seems a bit confused. [#DAA520 “I imagine our district has many doctors, my village only has the one though, and he charges money for his services. Only a few of our people have any kind of steady income though, so those who can’t afford his medicine come to my mom and I for more easily obtained healing.”] She smiles a bit bigger at the flashes of memory of kinds coming into their hut to have their bumps and bruises healed and the look of pure amazement at the magic used to heal them.
[#000080 “Ah, so you help your mother with the medicine and the facility?”] He asks, clearly so removed from what her reality looks like that. Facility? Her home hardly has enough room for the both of them to sleep, and the most Mariana can do is enhance the herbs used in healing poultices. [#DAA520 “I guess you could say that.”] Mariana says, clearly confused what kind of like he thinks she lives.
Obviously oblivious, the King abruptly changes the subject [#000080 “I noticed that the painting of the stag caught your eye. If you’d like… you could have it.”] He says smiling down at her. Very bewildered by the abrupt change of subject, Mariana blurts out [#DAA520 “What?”] before taking a deep breath and composing herself [#DAA520 “Very random, but I guess so. I mean it’s a beautiful painting and I do really like it, plus it would be ruse to say no.”] As Mariana stares up at the King she notices that his eyes have taken on a very glossy look, as if he isn’t truly there in this moment. [#000080 “Very well, it shall be yours. I shall have Joffrey hang it in your room before night comes.”] He says as they finally reach the ballroom. He finally lets go of her hand and turns towards her again. [#000080 “I had a wonderful time with you Mariana.”]
As the King reaches for the door, Mariana realizes that this might be her last chance [#DAA520 “Wait, Michael.”] She says his name, hoping it’ll soften him up a bit. [#DAA520 “Let’s be honest, I’m not Queen material, I don’t belong here like the other girls do. It’s obvious that I’m not going to be the one you choose so rather than pretending that this is going somewhere it’s not, let’s make this a beneficial relationship. You can talk to me about the other girls, get any kind of advice or tips I may be able to provide, and you keep me here long enough that I could afford to help those in my village as much as possible. I could act as your confidant of sorts, what do you think?”] She says, knowing that inserting herself as his trusted advisor during this competition gives her the best chance she’ll ever get in changing his mind and saving future witches.
The startling handsome look he gets when he laughs catches Mariana off guard, but when his icy blue eyes pour into hers it’s hard to put it back up. [#000080 “That would be nice, I’m sure I’ve talked Joffrey’s ear off 20 times over by now. So, shall we join the others?”] He says, lowering his voice into a playful whisper. Still unable to compose herself under the gaze of his wolfish grin, Mariana simply nods.
Inside the great hall, the orchestra is playing such a wonderful melody, that it would seem insulting if the other four girls weren’t dancing to it. The other contestants gracefully sway across the floor in perfect time with their ceremonially dressed partners, dancing something Mariana has never even seen before. It seems that the camera crew is taking filler shots while the King was absent. Now that they are back, Mariana is quickly paired off with the guard that Rebecca was dancing with, and the King sweeps Rebecca off in an elegant swirl of girlish giggles.
[#4b0082 “You were gone for quite some time Michael; I dare say some of the girls are already jealous of all the attention Mariana is getting.”] Rebecca says, picking up the very flourishing dance with complete ease.
Mariana is trying very hard to learn the steps quickly, but her gaze finds itself to their feet far more than it should, and as the guard eventually winces as the heel of her shoe steps onto his toes. [#DAA520 “I’m so sorry, I don’t know how to do this dance.”] She admits, cringing at his pain. [#BC8F8F “It’s perfectly fine, the first time I tried to do this dance; I actually ended up breaking my partner’s big toe. Since then, the rest of the Grimstone calls me lefty now.”] The guard admits, giving such a joyous smile that it’s infectious. Between his dimpled cheeks and his deep brown eyes with the slightest golden flakes around his pupil, Mariana can’t help that her guard is down and she is genuinely laughing along with him.
[#DAA520 “Well, I think I’d prefer to be called Lefty over Pug. When I was a kind, I got into this fight with some other kid in my village, and I ended up breaking my nose. So for a good 6 or 7 months I had that weird bandage of my face that apparently made me look like a dog.”] She says laughing a bit at the memory itself.
The guard shares in her laughter before twirling Mariana so delicately it’s as if he’s turned her into a feather sweeping across the floor. [#BC8F8F “Well, I’d have to say, you’ve come a far way from looking like a dog.”] He says as the dance is finally comes to an end. Mariana can’t help but blush a bit, especially when he bows to kiss her hand. [#BC8F8F “Until we meet again”] he says as he straightens up. Mariana clears her throat and nods before walking over to her table, grateful for the first moment of being alone since this whole competition began, even if it is surrounded by people and cameras.
[#000080 “My mother was sweet, she was always visiting the different districts, yet she still had time for my brother and I. She had the most amazing voice, and she adored singing. My father on the other hand, kept to ruling the kingdom. He was always off on diplomatic errands, hardly ever home. However when he was home he always made a show of it to the kingdom. As a son, I always got to hear how great of a man he was, how he was a just and wonderful king, yet when it came to being an actual father, he lacked greatly. What he lacked, my mother made up for, and I know he loved me, in his own way.”] As he speaks, it’s almost as if he’s just talking about a time so far gone it’s hard to recall. He runs his hand over his mother’s face, recalling all their time together and holding onto the faintest memory of the elegant voice she had.
[#DAA520 “That’s a lot more ordinary than I expected. I don’t know why but I figured that your mother was some great and perfect person who was always put on show but at home kept in some kind of cage, where as your father was this larger than life man who never had time for anything but running the country. Whereas you and your brother were raised by the highest paid nannies in the world and taught by the best of their fields.”] Mariana’s tone turns into a mocking nobility tone as she walks over to the bench in front of the window and sits down, looking outside.
Michael can’t help but be confused at the comment, staring at her wondering if she’s merely telling a joke or if she genuinely thought that’s how his family was. He sets down the painting and waits till she looks over at him. When she does, her eyes go wide and she quickly adds on [#DAA520 “That was a joke, mostly. I know we aren’t really supposed to talk about your family and it wasn’t right of me to joke about the dead.”] [ #000080 “It’s perfectly fine, no one has ever really joked with me about my family. Now that I know that’s how you joke, you’ll be able to do so more freely.”] Following his statement he crosses the room and sits down beside her on the bench. He looks around the room, remembering the time and moments he had while painting each of his pieces in the room. It gives him warmth unexplainable by words, but merely the feeling itself.
[#DAA520 “So, how was your day?”] Mariana asks, drawing Michael’s attention away from his thoughts and back to the moment they are in. [ #000080 “It’s been pleasant but going by slower than usual. Do you like the studio?”] Michael asks, looking back over at Mariana, trying to gauge her response. [ #DAA520 “It’s nice, it’s larger than my entire home, but it’s amazing. The art in here is beyond anything I have ever seen. The fact that you are able to capture the world in such a beautiful way it is impressive.”]
[#000080 “We should return to ballroom, shall we?”] Michael says as he extends his hand to Mariana [#DAA520 “Sure let us join them.”] She takes his hand and they walk out of the art studio the door softly shuts behind them as they continue down the hall. [#000080 “So what is your family like Mariana?”] [#DAA520 “I don’t know my father my mother never talks about him, as of my mother she is the districts healer.”][#000080 “ Your district doesn’t have doctors?”] [#DAA520 “ Our district does but that costs money… so the ones that can’t afford the doctor come to my mother and I.”]
[#000080 “Ah so you help your mother with the medicine and the facility?”] [#DAA520 “ You could say that.”] He smirks [#000080 “I noticed that the painting of the stag caught your eye. If you would like…you could have it.”] [#DAA520 “Really!?”] She bursts in excitement then catches herself [#DAA520 “I mean yes it is a beautiful piece of art I’d gladly accept it.”] [#000080 “Very well it is yours. I shall have Joffrey hang it in your room before the night comes.”] He says as they reach the door to the ballroom.
[#000080 “I had a wonderful time with you Marianna.”] He grabs the door knob to open the door. [#DAA520 “Wait Michael I must be honest I am not queen material and I don’t see myself being chosen.”] She takes a breath. [#DAA520 “So why don’t you confide in me being your confidante.”] Michael softly laughs and looks into her emerald green eyes. [#000080 “That would be nice, I’m sure I have talked Joffrey’s ear off 20 times over by now.”] He says with a smile.[#000080 “Shall we join the others?”] He says in almost a whisper. She nods her head and he grips the door knob and opens the door.
It is but a brief moment of Mariana being in the great hall before the King approaches and bows before her [#000080 “May I have this dance my lady?”] The gesture practically makes her cringe internally [#DAA520 “Oh I didn’t realize we were starting right away, sure.”] The moment she puts her hand in his, the orchestra begins to play something more beautiful than Mariana had ever heard. However Mariana doesn’t even have time to appreciate the music, because she is immediately filled with a rush of heat, a kind of heat she gets when she touches something or in this case someone cursed by powerful magic. A slight ringing in her ears begins as he pulls her closer. Thankfully the dance they are doing is rather simple, something even commoners can do.
As he twirls her around, Mariana takes note of the soft swaying of Jocelynn’s head, clearly enjoying the music far more than she is. When he pulls her back to him, he gazes deeply into her eyes and she realizes he is the monster on the castle walls [#000080 “You look absolutely beautiful Mariana.”] The icy blue eyes are unmistakable. He is the monster on the walls, slaughtering innocents. Here Mariana had only thought him a metaphorical monster. [#DAA520 “Thank you.”] She says doing her best to keep her appearance bored, and not allow an inch or realization to cross her face, even if it takes looking around the room to do so. [#000080 “Is everything ok, lady Mariana?”] There is genuine concern in his voice, and it makes her skin crawl. [#DAA520 “Everything is fine, just not big on dances or being called a lady.”] She says, hoping that it’ll cut the dancing short so she can put as much physical distance between the two of them as possible. Instead he twirls her around again and holds her closer, close enough that she can feel his breath on her face. [#000080 “Is there anything you would rather do than dancing?”]
Mariana has to literally bite her cheek for a second to hold back a scoff [#DAA520 “I could think of a number of things.”] [#000080 “Then what shall we do instead”] The suggestiveness of his tone merely acts to increase the crawling sensation of her skin. However it’s obvious that she has to come up with a better excuse to put distance between them. [#DAA520 “Isn’t the tradition to dance I don’t know what else we could do on national viewing?”] [#000080 “I have no tendency to follow this tradition because I feel it is quite absurd.”] This causes Mariana to waver a bit, with the smallest thought that he might not be so bad piping up in her mind. [#DAA520 “We might as well keep dancing because I do not know what else we could do."] She says, preferring the heavily viewed dance to anything that could put them alone. [#000080 “Do you like art Mariana?”] The question is rather startling, and Mariana responds without thinking because of it. [#DAA520 “Yeah.”]
[#000080 “Follow me!"] He says as he grips tightly onto her hand and practically drags him behind her. Mariana has no choice but to follow him, looking back in hopes that someone might try to stop them, finding only people gawking at the bold move and the camera crew trying to follow. [#DAA520 “Where are we going?”] she asks, hoping that he’ll think the concern in her voice is actually excitement. [#000080 "That is a surprise, Henry make sure the crew don’t follow."] He says to a guard, who is so large he could practically act as a wall himself. The man nods and suddenly her concern is beginning to turn into terror. Michael stops and smiles at Mariana letting her hand go and stating [#000080 “We may walk from here, it shall only take us a few moments, I’d say eight minutes at most."] [#DAA520 “Ok, can I know where we are walking to now?"] She asks, wanting to know where she might be killed at. [#000080 “I to enjoy art and I would like to show you my studio."] his response surprises her, much less threatening than she had imagined.
[#DAA520 "Okay. What part of the castle are we in?"] Mariana asks, hoping to fill the silence as they walk through the castle walls. She is also doing her best to ignore exactly how gruesome the mural is in this part of the castle. [#000080 “We are in the king’s wing.”] As if Mariana needed any other proof of the King being the monster in the murals, she watches as he catches himself looking at it and turning away in disgust. Knowing that she shouldn’t be able to see the mural and that his reaction is supposed to be a curious one, she forces herself to ask [#DAA520 “Is everything alright your grace?”] [#000080 “These walls are… a constant reminder of what I am.”] His response sounds almost pained, as if he feels actual remorse for what he’s done. [#DAA520 “What might that be your grace?”] Mariana can’t help but feel a slight pang of guilt for his pain.
[#000080 "I am king not by choice but by law."] He says as he pulls open a door, announcing the arrival to the art studio. Mariana walks in, curious to see what he paints in addition to landscapes. She is greeted with the sight of animals delicately painted and sketched in what could only be the gardens. As she looks around the room she finds the far wall covered in nothing but windows looking straight out into the garden, where her handy work seems to be flourishing. She looks around the room and finds a painting she can’t help but be in awe of; it’s a stag, with antlers so large it covers a good majority of the top of the painting, leaning down to a rose bush with roses so large they hardly seem real. It takes but a quick glance out into the garden to realize that it’s of a rose bush just beyond the glass.
Briefly forgetting herself, Mariana would turn wide eyed to the King and ask [#DAA520 “Is that an actual stag you saw?”] [#000080 “I know right, I’ve only seen them that big in the forest.”] The King says while walking over to her side, his eyes locked on the painting above them [#000080 “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”]
Mariana looks back at the painting and really allows herself to take in the sheer amount of detail in it. The brush strokes are soft and sure, capturing even the slightest changes in the stag’s fur. It’s hard to imagine a man capable of such beauty also being capable of such hate. [#DAA520 “Yeah it is. So you’ve painted all of these, they are all so beautiful. It must take a lot of time to do them, hard to imagine running a country and making paintings like this.”] Mariana says, walking around the room to look at the other paintings. [#000080 “I usually wake up early in the morning to do so.”] He says, watching her admire the art work around the room. Mariana spots a small painting of his parents beside his easel, she can’t help the unwanted soft spot she feels for him. [#DAA520 “Your mother was beautiful.”] Mariana says without thinking, merely reacting to the fair skinned woman with honey blonde hair smiling brightly in the painting. [#000080 “Thank you, indeed she was.”] He says getting a slightly somber look on his face as he picks up the small portrait. [#DAA520 “What was she like?”] Mariana asks, standing close to the King, close enough to really take in the details of their faces.
As Michael is talking to Joffrey and Caulder about tactics, Joffrey nudges Michael and tells him to look with just the movement of his eyes. Michael turns around and is awe as he sees Mariana dressed in her green dress. Michael thinks to himself she’s beautiful. He approaches her with a bow and an extended hand. [#000080 “May I have this dance my lady?”] [#DAA520 “Oh I didn’t realize we were starting right away, sure.”] As she takes his hand he stands up and places his hand on her hip and they start to dance, to the masterpiece of the orchestra.
As they dance Joffrey is smiling and looks at Caulder with a smile. Caulder smiles as well and returns his glance towards the couple dancing. [#000080 “You look absolutely beautiful Mariana.”] He says looking deep into her eyes. [#DAA520 “Thank you.”] She says looking around the room as if she were bored. [#000080 “Is everything ok lady Mariana?] [#DAA520 “Everything is fine, just not big on dances or being called a lady.] He twirls her around and holds her back to him. [#000080 “Is there anything you would rather do than dancing?]
[#DAA520 “I could think of a number of things.”] [#000080 “Then what shall we do instead?”] He asks as he waves his hand the music stops and Jocelynn stops swaying and asks Amberly, [#f08080 “What is going on?”] [#228b22 “I have no idea all of a sudden the music stopped and Michael and Mariana are just standing there talking.] She says as she squints her eyes trying to read their lips but can make nothing out. [#DAA520 “Isn’t the tradition to dance I don’t know what else we could do on national viewing?] [#000080 “I have no tendency to follow this tradition because I feel it is quite absurd.”] [#DAA520 “We might as well keep dancing because I do not know what else we could do."] [#000080 “Do you like art Mariana?”] [#DAA520 “Yeah.”] [#000080 “Follow me!"]
He says as he holds her hand tight and they walk faster than normal toward a door leading to the Kings wing. As Mariana follows she turns around to look at the people and she notices them gawking at them both. [#DAA520 “Where are we going?”] Michael smiles [#000080 "That is a surprise, Henry make sure the crew don’t follow."] He says to a mountain of a man standing next to the door. Henry nods and as they close the door behind them Henry stands in front of the door. Michael stops and smiles at Mariana and says [#000080 “We may walk from here, it shall only take us a few moments, I’d say eight minutes at most."] [#DAA520 “Ok, can I know where we are walking to now?"] She asks with sheer curiosity. [#000080 “I to enjoy art and I would like to show you my studio."] [#DAA520 "Ok."]
Michael sees that as he mentioned his studio she seemed intrigued.As they continue walking the beastly murals become more gruesome. [#DAA520 "What part of the castle are we in?"] As Mariana asks Michael catches himself looking at the gruesome mural of the beast on the wall he pulls his head back [#000080 “We are in the kings wing.”] [#DAA520 “Is everything alright your grace?] She asks as she notices the king pull his head away from what should be a bare wall. [#000080 “These walls are… a constant reminder of what I am.] [#DAA520 “What might that be your grace.”]
[#000080 "I am king not by choice but by law."] he says as he opens the door to his studio and Mariana can see animals of all sorts from out his windows that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. She sees his desk covered in paintings and sketches and then she sees a painting on top of the others of a wild stag in the gardens.
The look of horror on Alyssa’s face is nearly as shocking as the punishment itself. Mariana had figured that there would be a lot of trash talking during the contest; she truly did come from the lowest position in the kingdom. Even in the first portion of the contest, she was the only one not from an actual town. During the first portion, she had heard leagues worse than what Alyssa was saying to her, but she was told to just ignore it. I guess the stakes have truly changed.
Joffrey leads the girls out of the great hall and to a large room that is lined with bookshelves with what little walls left covered in maps of the old world. The maps are brown with age and wrinkled near distortion. There are artifacts boxed and placed on display on the shelves around the room along with books with leather bindings filling the space. It’s almost as if the room itself has been preserved since the time of old, including the woman sitting at the large wooden desk in the front of the room. She has long black hair with braids spread seemingly random throughout her hair, secured by what appears to be feathers. Her ebony skin is smooth, but the wrinkles around her eyes hint at an age far beyond their own, and wisdom practically pouring from her eyes. She stands far above the rest in the room, with a very strong appearance as well, dressed in strange attire, unlike anything Mariana has ever seen before. Her pants seen to be made out of a mixture of materials with a blue tint to them, and a hide top with fringe coming from the bottom of it. [#D2691E “I believe we are missing someone Joffrey, has someone already managed to be eliminated?”] The woman asks, looking at a clip board that has papers on it. [#2F4F4F “No my darling, just needed to show that our actions do have consequences. Alyssa will be joining your class in about an hour, for now I shall leave you to your class.”] And with that Joffrey leaves the room, leaving the four girls to find seats at the desks facing the front of the room. Mariana chooses a desk towards the back of the room, hoping to avoid drawing too much attention to herself. [#D2691E “Alright, I guess we shall begin, my name is Kiwidinok Royce. No one is very good at pronouncing my name so please just call me Professor Royce. I will be taking care of your history lessons, and we have far too much to cover to spend much time talking. You will find pencils and notebooks on your desk, take notes, you’ll need them,”] and with that the lessons begin.
The world of old had fallen into a war unlike anything we could ever imagine, blessed or cursed, by the gods. The war brought lots of smoke and death, destroying all that had been known or established. After time the world began to rebuild, with many small kingdoms forming at this time. Eventually four major kingdoms gather control of the livable areas, leaving the waste lands to find for themselves. The main kingdoms rein still to this day, the kingdom of Cresal being the largest, followed by Eswa, Boclen, and Upra. There are many small kingdoms left in the world and lands across the seas that are untouched by the man in today’s world. Cresal has many peace treaties with most of the known countries with few exceptions, like that of Upra, a dictatorship led by Emperor Gabriel Faymosta who uses magically openly to oppress his people.
After an hour Alyssa joins the group and not much later the history lesson is over, and Professor Royce leaves, and a petite blonde woman walks in with a very stern look on her face. She introduces herself as Lady Katherine Baker and immediately begins to instruct them on the proper way to sit. The remaining two and a half hour before lunch are spent going over the beginning of three different languages and the proper silverware to use for each dish. She practically stands directly behind Mariana for most of the session, feeling free to physically correct her any time she starts to slouch. Mariana feels like a fried nerve by the time Joffrey reemerges to take them to the great hall for the continuing of the festivities. They are provided with a chance to go and change, and the only one who has to take the offer is Mariana, the only one who chooses to change is Alyssa. The other girls are immediately escorted to the great hall, after choosing not to change, whereas Alyssa and Mariana are escorted to their rooms to change their gowns. After a few seconds of looking at the multitude of dress options, Mariana elects to wear a beige dress with emerald green embroidery overlaid on top of it. Her hair is let down and put into loose curls with a circlet put on her head, and just a small amount of makeup put on, before she’s taken to the great hall.
She finds that she is the last one to arrive, even later than the king. The camera crew is already set up, and the great hall has returned to the festive appearance that it had the previous day. The other contestants stare at Mariana, half in awe, half in annoyance. Alyssa had elected to change into a much simpler piece, a solid red ball gown with a sweet heart neckline but no ornamentation on it. She is surprisingly looks at her in awe as well.
Mariana looks around the room [#DAA520 “I’m sorry for holding things up, King Michael.”] She says, giving the best kind of curtsey she can before trying to make her way to her designated table.
As Jocelynn asks her question of the flowers in the garden, Michael takes a bite of breakfast. As he finishes his bite he clears his throat and answers. [#000080 "Most of them are roses, mother’s favorite, but there are definitely flowers imported. Yet I do not know exactly where they are from."] He says as he softly chuckles as he takes another bite and as he looks at Mariana and smiles as he notices her plate is empty. He finishes half of his plate before he excuses himself from table.
[#000080 "Again ladies you all look beautiful oh and Mariana there are seconds so help yourself I know I always do."] He says as he smiles and pats his stomach. He opens a door and walks out humming the song his mom would sing him before bed. As Michael vanishes Alyssa looks at Mariana and says [#8b0000 "Does your district not have any food,you don't belong here peasant. I can't believe that I, let me correct myself, that we have to compete with the scraps thrown to the dogs."] She scuffs and rolls her eyes.
[#228b22 "Alyssa what is wrong with you, leave her alone!"] Amberly shouts, frustrated by Alyssa's increasing rudeness. The yelling draws the attention of the guards outside the room. Two guards enter the room [b "Is everything alright in here?"] [#228b22 "Yes Alyssa is three utters shy of a cow and she does not deserve to be in this room with us."] As Amberly finishes her rant Joffrey enters the room with a chuckle [#2F4F4F "Ladies play nice, Alyssa if you can't play nice at all well then why bother playing?"]
He says with a smile . [#2F4F4F "So Alyssa for punishment you shall remain in here by yourself for an hour and then join the rest of the ladies later. Ladies if you will torturing is about to begin please make your way to the room."]
The morning greets Mariana with a flurry of giggles. Mariana shoots up and looks around, finding Tarinea and Charlene standing just beyond her feet, holding dress bags and staring down at her. [b "Comfortable my lady?"] Charlene asks before they burst into another fit of giggles.
Being disoriented from the new location, it takes Mariana a minute to realize that she's laying on the floor. In a fit to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, she had decided to make a make-shift bed from the enormous amount of pillows and blankets at her disposal, on the floor. She can't help but blush as she stands [#DAA520 "Ah, well yes, the floor was actually more comfortable than the bed. It felt like I was sinking into it and it made it impossible for me to get comfortable. Also, you don't have to call me my lady, at least not when it's just us. I really am no better than you guys, and not a lady."] She says, running a hand through the knots of her hair.
Adriana walks into the room, pulling behind her a rack with several more dress bags hanging from it. [b "If that's your wish, then Mariana it shall be. We will also make sure that the bed is replaced quickly. Now to business, your seamstress team has finish with a few options for your typical day to day activities for you to choose from. We don't have a lot of time, so we have to get started dressing you in each to make sure they fit."] Adriana positions the rack in front of the balcony doors, blocking sight from outside.
[#DAA520 "I can dress myself you know."] Mariana says, giving her a confused look while walking towards the rack.
Charlene giggles, while joining putting the dress bags in her hands on the rack [b "Mariana, do you even know what a corset looks like, let alone know how to tie one"] to which Mariana gives a frightened look, causing them to burst into a fit of giggles [b "It's okay, that's what we are here for. Go head and get undress, we will start with your training attire."] Charlene says, pulling out five dress bags.
After at least an hour and a half passes while Mariana is trying on clothes, before she actually manages to get ready. She has to argue with Adriana for at least half an hour before they can compromise on her outfit. She is in a pair of sleek and form fitting black pants, an emerald green silk blouse with quarter sleeve and a small golden chain secured to the base of the collar in the front with four diamonds hanging from it, and a pair of black flats while her hair is straightened and pulled back into a tight and high ponytail.
When she finally steps out into the hallway, she finds only Amberly ready to go. Amberly has her long blonde hair done a half up do with loose curls falling everywhere. She's in a floor length fuchsia gown with crystals covering the bodice completely and strings of pearls draping over her shoulders and white gloves covering her hands. [#228b22 "You look really nice, and comfortable"] The look on Amberly's face is one of a sad envy.
Mariana can't help but feel a pang of guilt at her comment [#DAA520 "Your dress is breath taking though, I like the little pearl chains."] she says, gesturing to the sleeves.
It takes Amberly a moment to respond, and during this time Jocelynn comes out of her room in a floor length long sleeved powder blue gown with a navy blue peterpan collar and two thin stripes of the same color ending at a thin belt on her waist and her hair in a loose braid over her shoulder. She politely mumbles her good mornings with a kind smile on her face.
[#228b22 "It really is breathtaking, I am so grateful that my seamstress made this for me. The corset was a fun thing to learn."] Amberly says, placing a hand on her stomach as her eyes flutter a bit. The drain of color on her face causes Mariana to rush over to her.
As Mariana reaches Amberly, she hardly notices that Rebecca came out of her room. She's fighting with the strings on the back of Amberly's dress and she starts to sway. She begins to lean forward before suddenly becoming steady, Mariana glances up to find Adriana holding Amberly up. When Mariana finally manages to get the knot undone, she quickly pulls the corset strings loose and Amberly begins to take deep breaths, clearly starving for air.
Mariana sighs a bit before starting to secure the corset with enough room to breath. The only distraction that comes is in the form of Alyssa snickering [#8b0000 I see Mariana is already accepting that she'll never amount to much more than a mere servant, even dressing as one, how quant. I always knew that this competition would come down to the nobility of the kingdom, as it should."] Mariana stares at Alyssa for a second before electing to say nothing and finishes securing Amberly in her dress.
When she steps back to Amberly's side she notices the guilty look on her face, [#228b22 "I didn't mean to make you help me. You are a contestant just like the rest of us."] She says in a hushed tone with the look of a beaten dog on her face.
[#DAA520 "You didn't make me help you Amberly, I did it because you looked like you were going to pass out. I wasn't just going to sit there and watch you faint. It's really okay."] Mariana says giving her hand a slight squeeze to reassure her.
She lets out a sigh of relief and looks up at Rebecca and Alyssa, finally having a chance to take in their attire as well. Rebecca stands perfectly straight in a blue gown with long and flowing sleeves that is straight and not form fitting at all. It has vibrant flowers swirling around the gown in purples, oranges, reds, and greens with a red and gold sash wrapped around her waist. Her hair is half up in a tight bun, with decorative sticks coming out of it, and half down with loose curls.
Where as Alyssa stands leaning against the wall in a floor length black gown that is see through in the center, showing off the bones of the corset and designs on the lace. It has a deep sweetheart neckline and deep red flowers embroidered where the corset meets the bottom of the gown and wraps around the corset, creating two shoulders and a high neckline, but only one sleeve made of the same lace material with her hair flowing straight down her back.
With perfect timing, Joffery shows up and looks between the girls, lingering only slightly longer on Mariana, before clapping his hands. [#2F4F4F "Alright ladies, it's time for breakfast."] He says, gesturing for them to follow him. [#2F4F4F "The king is in a particularly good mood this morning, best not to bring up anything to upset him."] He says as he leads them through the many halls of the castle, while Mariana does her best not to take in the murals on the walls. [#2F4F4F During breakfast you'll also receive your finalized schedule for the day. Be sure to use some of your free time to familiarize yourself with the approved areas of the castle, because after tomorrows dinner you will no longer have me to guide you through the castle."] He says leading them down two flights of stairs before ending up at a set of double doors [#2F4F4F "And here we are, your seats have are designated by your name card, this is where you will be sitting during your stay here. After someone is eliminated the seating will change. The king will be in shortly, make sure you stand upon his arrival."] And with that Joffery seems to vanish again.
Mariana chuckles a bit to herself but quickly finds her nametag. She's grateful to have Rebecca to her right, acting as a buffer between her and the king, and Jocelynn on her left, with Alyssa unfortunately across from her. Just as she goes to sit down, the King walks in [#000080 "Wonderful morning, isn't it ladies? I strongly advise you to take a stroll in the garden's today, our new gardener is amazing."] The king has an alarmingly large smile on his face, however it's the mention of the gardens that causes Mariana's heart to skip a beat.
She sits down and does her best to keep her expression bored as the servants bring out food. The mere scent of the food far surpasses anything Mariana ever dreamed of eating, and the moment it's placed in front of her she can't help but to begin eating after saying a quick thank you to the servant who delivers the food, completely forgetting that she's supposed to wait for the king to begin eating first.
[#f08080 "That sounds absolutely wonderful Michael, what kind of flowers are in the garden? Anything imported?"] Jocelynn asks, not even glancing at the food or saying thank you to the servant but instead keeping her eyes glued on the King.
As Michael lies in bed he can’t stop thinking about his brother, is he safe where he is, what’s he doing what’s happened or is he dead? Michael shakes his head to shake the thoughts from his head. [#000080 “I need a walk, to clear my head”] He picks up the radio and turns it on static fills Michaels ear [#000080 “Joffrey are you awake?”] [#2F4F4F “I am sire, what can I assist with?”] [#000080 “I need to go on a walk but with no guards, I need to clear my head.”] [#2F4F4F “May I accompany you sir?”] [#000080 “Of course Joffrey, only thing is we will be wearing common clothing.”] He says with a smile. [#2F4F4F “Oh goody I love those itchy garments. I shall be ready and meet you there sire.”] [#000080 “Thank you Joffrey.”] [#2F4F4F “The pleasure is mine sir; I shall be your shadow you won’t even know I’m there.”] [#000080 “Ok, meet you there.”] Michael goes to his closet and separates his clothes and presses the lion head on the mid wall frame and a secret door opens, Michael opens it further and a small room filled with common clothes. Michael dresses quickly and opens another door at the back of the small hidden room leading to a narrow passage way as he continues down the way he meets up with Joffrey. [#2F4F4F “Ah sire there you are I was beginning to think you changed your mind and I’d be able to get out of these ghastly threads.”] [#000080 “I do apologize Joffrey but the guards are far too noisy and everyone in the streets will notice and I need time to myself outside this place.”] Joffrey nods his head as he opens the final door. Beautiful scenery of woods meets both of them. Michael enters the woods as he does Joffrey stays back and counts Michael’s steps. Joffrey shuts the door and checks to make sure the moss that has grown on the door over the years is still intact. He smiles as the moss is strong and still in place hiding the door, he turns around and follows Michael. As Michael walks he thinks to himself, I would live in these woods if I could this place is beautiful. As he continues his path he subtly hears Joffrey [#2F4F4F “Sire, please hold your footing and duck.”] Michael does and as he crouches in the shrubbery in front of him a group of five men walk passed him talking about what tavern should they loot. Michael instantly becomes angered then feels a soft hand on his shoulder and Joffrey looks into Michaels eyes and puts his finger on his lips and whispers [#2F4F4F “We shall find out which one they intend to attack and simply double the guards.”] Michael smiles and nods his head. [#2F4F4F “Leave it to me sire.”] Joffrey slowly stands up and follows the band of thugs. Michael studies Joffrey’s movement, Ah that’s how he does it. Sneaky old fox. Michael stands up and walks the other direction further into the woods. As the night passes Michael returns to the castle’s secret door, but there is no sign of Joffrey. Mmm wonder if he’s inside, Michael thinks to himself. Michael opens the door and returns to his room. Removing the clothes from his body he slowly crawls into bed and soundly falls asleep. Come morning the king is awoken to a knock on his door. [#000080 “Yes what is it?”] The door opens and Joffrey enters and hands Michael his cup of Chocolate chip mint coffee that Michael has every morning. [#2F4F4F “I have inquired the information we needed to secure the tavern they intend to strike sir.”] [#000080 “What tavern are they striking Joffrey?”] [#2F4F4F “The tavern is called “The Rusty Bucket” sire.”] [#000080 “Mmm maybe they should change the name of it to.”] Joffrey laughs and informs the king that he should start his morning walk through the gardens. As Michael walks outside he instantly is in awe. [#000080 “JOFFREY”] Joffrey runs to Michael and also is taken over by the beauty of the garden. Michael knelled on the stone walk way with tears slowly falling down his cheeks. [#000080 “Who did this and this quick, do we have a new gardener?"] [#2F4F4F "I’m not sure sire but I shall find out.”] A tear falls from Joffrey’s left eye as the sight takes him back to where he can see his late lover Sabastian tending to the flowers alongside the queen. [#000080 “It’s so beautiful Joffrey”] [#2F4F4F “Yes it is Sire, Come let us attend the ladies in the dining hall.”] Michael stands up and his spirit has been lifted. He walks lighter and a smile covers his face and it seems he is not plagued by his thoughts. He glides into the dining hall [#000080 “Wonderful morning isn’t ladies, I strongly advise you to take a stroll in the gardens today. Our new gardener is amazing.”] He says with a gigantic smile on his face. He sits down and Joffrey chimes a bell and servants bring out platters of fresh warm breakfast the trays are set down in front of everyone. Michael takes a bite as he hums the song his mother would sing to him before bed.
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