Dread. It had been creeping, lurking, lying in wait for the Prince as soon as he had set foot out of the carriage and had entered the abyss that was the Festival of Fantasy. One might conclude him to be dramatic, but to him, this could very well be the end of everything good.
He'd trashed his chambers at home, in the palace of Phora, just the night before leaving for the festival. He'd done all the rioting and bargaining in the world to convince his father to let him stay home. There was even a lovely plan to pretend he had fallen gravely ill, but the king would hear none of that. He supposed it had been his first mistake to even suggest his little plan to the King, thinking that his father would possibly understand.
Fast forward to the night before the first event, up in his chambers provided for the Hell he had been forced into, Atticus paced. He circled, loomed, weaved nearly intricate patterns as the iris sat atop his pillow and he shot glaring glances in its direction as if it were the blasted flower's fault. Suck it up, buttercup. His brain tumbled with options. You might survive a fall from the window. Curiously, Atticus stopped his hurried stroll to peer out the window, hands pressed tightly on the sill, shoulders to cheeks as he peered over the edge. Actually, that would probably be an unpleasant fall, after all. It was times like this that his mind waged war on itself.
Surely, the war would wage on through a sleepless night.
━━━━━━━━ ✠ ━━━━━━━━
“Nonono, you don’t understand-” A gentle nudge in the right direction. “You see, I don’t really want to bloom like that note said-” Another nudge. One can’t be too pushy with a royal, but ushering them to their spot was not out of the question, especially when they were avoiding the gardens like the plague. They were waiting for him. He was no mental case, but he swore he could almost hear the whispers of the florals plotting out his untimely demise via a love match. Atticus dug his heels into the soil path underfoot.
One last plea.
"The truth is that I find you rather handsome and I would much enjoy staying here with you."
The silence that followed his words was deafening. Well, he hadn't been lying. The guard prodding him to his early grave was surely agreeable in looks, and that wasn't going to be ignored. However, the attempts to cause pity had failed. The Prince knew he was defeated. There were only a few options left and his time was slowly ticking.
This time, Atticus actually moved in the correct direction of the gardens, shrugging his shoulders, rolling the lean muscles under his skin casually as if nothing had happened. One could pretend, anyway. He was as prepared as he could get for such an event. Probably a bit underdressed than the other men that were sure to make an appearance and with his purposely disheveled hair, Atticus looked just... fine. Adequate enough, considering he had no intentions of doing anything more than perhaps flirting or causing a scene to eventually lead to his parting.
His flower was pinned to his vest, the petals crumpled and rather pathetic looking compared to when it had been given to him the night before. They were dreadful flowers, anyhow: irises. The Prince found them to be saddened and wilted even when they were perfectly healthy, one of the only flowers he’d come across that he would call truly ugly. Just pathetic little things. However, as he had been adjusting it onto his attire for the day, Atticus couldn’t help but feel maybe there was some resemblance between himself and the flower seemingly chosen for him and his match of the day. Pathetic, like him. Dreadful, like the prospect of love. HIs eyes had been half lidded until he had raised them to stare into the mirror back at the lean, dark-haired self who had the audacity to raise its gaze as if it actually belonged there. Belonged anywhere.
But aha! What a morose outlook! Atticus couldn’t let his thoughts get too darkened then, for it had only been the morning before the first event.
And now, he was here, standing in front of his siblings before the gardens, his eyes shifting over Adelaide, Alera, Alistair. Their fun little family. And not so much to his surprise, they were only missing his twin, though Anastacius was sure to be late. It was like clockwork that Atticus fixed his eyes on the oldest, regarding Alera with a nod. The words had not even been spoken outright before he practically heard something along the lines of ”Don’t you dare make a scene,” or some other threat. Trust that she didn’t have to say anything for him to know what she would prefer. But… whether or not Alera said anything to try to keep them in line, things were sure to go amiss.
Offering a lopsided, knowing smile, he linked his arm in Adelaide's, sure to be punched the second that he touched her. "Are you all as excited as I am for our first event?" Light sarcasm dripped in his voice at his question, nothing more than a tone in his voice that was quick in passing. However, if his siblings knew him at all and paid the slightest bit of attention, they would know that Atticus of Phora didn't seek love, nor chase it.
Almost as soon as he had arrived, Atticus was strolling away from his siblings, contemplation heavy in his head. How could he escape? Scaling the gardens walls seemed like a poor idea- Back to the flower… hadn't he read somewhere once that irises symbolized death in a culture? And what else had he read? The Prince wasn't but ten feet from him when he snapped his fingers in a loud 'click.'
Aah!– Irises could make one sick if consumed! Well, that settled it!
Without a second thought, the dark haired nuisance of a Prince plucked the flower from his clothing and held it between nimble thumb and pointer finger. Removing the pin that made it less edible, Atticus surveyed his new route to freedom. He'd eat the damn flower and it would make him sick, perhaps he'd down a drink or two on top of it. No one wants a retching fool at an event meant for love. And! The book hadn't said he'd be gravely ill. And destroying the evidence of having a flower at all would be the icing on the cake.
3, 2, 1...
His teeth clamped down. The thing was rubbery, he almost had to question if the flowers were all fake and he was chewing a substance that might kill him entirely. But no, the King would never skimp out on extravagant measures; yes, fake flowers were out of the question. So, he chewed. Or tried to, at least.
•• ━━━━━ ••●•• ━━━━━ ••
"I looked at the dawn with tears
for the inevitable sadness of all beauty"
- Atticus, the Poet
Sebastian definitely had not expected Henry – wonderful, miraculous Henry – to appear right in front of him. He’d been fretting over the foul smell floating off the hem of his trousers, contemplating just skipping the first day as a whole and not meeting whoever else had a lotus, when his dear friend materialised right around the corner. Some part of him felt so, so relieved at the recognition of a familiar face from Cidal – inky black hair and piercing onyx eyes. Yet there was also the embarrassment of being caught in such a dishevelled state.
Heat rising to his cheeks, Sebastian stared at Henry, just as baffled as he was. “Oh my god. Oh, Henry, thank god you’re here– Oh, yes, yes I’m alright–” He said breathlessly, before he caught sight of the knight’s expression. “What- what are you looking at?”
Slowly, slowly, Sebastian moved his gaze down to the mud-stained trousers, flinching at the scent again “Oh my god,” he said again. Inhaling sharply, he grabbed Henry’s shoulders, manoeuvring them both behind a tall hedge away from any prying eyes. “I- I was just trying to pluck another lotus, but it was in a pond, no, some sort of muddy water pool, and it was going alright before the whole damned plant came off,” he babbled frantically, gesturing wildly towards the gardens and his ruined outfit. “And because of that I accidentally stepped deeper into the pond and now–”
He stopped his incessant chatter when he realised that Henry probably couldn’t make out a word of what he was saying. “It’s fine. It’s all fine,” said Sebastian, running a hand through his hair and making him look even more manic. “Perhaps I’ll just go back and fetch a new pair of trousers. Yes. Yes, that would work, wouldn’t it?”
Sebastian tried to force himself to stay calm and level-headed, but to no avail. “Have you seen Rhiannon? Or Dorian? Perhaps- no. No, that wouldn’t work. You haven’t caught sight of anyone else with a lotus, yes? Oh god. I hope the other person ate it or something. Then no one will have to see–” he paused, gesturing to himself. “This mess.” His face was growing paler and paler as he spoke.
“What flower did you get? Please tell me it’s a lotus, Henry. At least if you’ve gotten one I won’t have to live with embarrassment with the rest of my life.” Sliding down against the wall and slumping down, Sebastian looked up at the knight, embarrassment and distress evident on his expression. He let out a long sigh, steadying his breath and shutting himself up before glancing towards the gardens again. There weren’t any lotuses around just yet, and some part of his anxiety ebbed away. His eyes scanned across the cerulean-blue skies, verdant green grounds, and suddenly landed on yet another familiar face – his sister.
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Rhiannon!” Sebastian cried, scrambling to get up and grab Henry’s hand once again, dragging him towards the gardens. Yet he failed to notice that when he had sat down dirt had splattered itself all over his rear end.
A sort of parched dryness enveloped his throat as he struggled to make sense of the heaviness in his head. Dim light hazily flitted through the silk drapes adorning the tall windows, allowing just enough slivers of the morning to dress his bed. These drowsy mornings were ones Callahan looked forward to the most. Nothing to scramble out of bed for, no one to hustle out of his room before dawn. Just him and the lull of sleep, playing games with his mind as it drifted in and out of consciousness.
He was able to enjoy his slow morning, opening his eyes just enough to pull one of his figurines off the floor and place his sister's cauliflower ever so safely on the bedside table. However, the sounds of the festival's beginning drew him up from his slumber, hissing and spitting with excitement just beyond the thin wooden doors that separated his oasis from the real world.
And so we begin. The performance of a lifetime that repeats once a year. Kiss, kiss, pretend to fall in love. Callahan wished that he had a more open-minded and light view of the festival, like his sister, but his required attendance to these functions with his father had replaced rose coloured glasses for ones of grey. Pulling on his black trousers and adorning the red ribbon tie upon his chest, pessimism met him in the mirror. His duties were the same as ever: give Bruwyth a good look, associate with our allies and be cordial with those we do not see eye to eye. This year, find a wife. Note the lack of passion in that last demand from his father. A wife, not a lover, not the love of one's life. Just someone to run the kingdom when the world runs anew with him and his sister in the ruling court.
At that thought, a caving feeling sat into his stomach. His father would crown him the next king, undoubtedly so given his knack for picking up the royal duties. However, it was a title that bore no meaning to him past his loyalties to his parents. This game show, jester's play, façade of a ball, it was all just rhyme and reason for him to secure the throne. Callahan snapped up his cufflinks, his lips pressed thinly as his mind grazed over the expectations he didn't ask to inherit. But he couldn't have asked for anyone else to take up the burden of king. Especially not his sister.
Sweet Lorelei. Born more for the forest and with dirt under her heels than primly sewn ballet slippers and heavy gold jewelry. Petticoats in public over thick, tulled dresses. Asking her to the ruling court meant to ask her council of plants, too. It was an obligation of sorts, a favour out of love to have taken on his father's training rather than leave it in the hands of his two minute older sister. Callahan might share the same emotional gentleness as his twin, but he had built up the walls to survive the questioning and pressure of advisors and allies. The council of plants wouldn't have agreed to a second of the gruelling behind the crested green curtains of the meeting rooms.
The final test of his placidity came in the form of a small flower taped to a cream coloured cardstock. The Kingdom of Solstice humbly invites you to the Fes—. Again with the formalities and the "how dee doos". He was well acquainted with the events of this week, having heard it via door from his parents. One would think it would be a better idea to keep your heir in the loop rather than to leave him searching for the agenda on his own. Lacing up his dress shoes, he buffed away a smudge on the charcoal leather with his sleeve before pocketing the flower and one of his figurines. He'll seek out his sister for plant identification before the festivities truly begin, but the figurine was for entertainment should his match be less than exciting.
Callahan's chest filled with a last calming breath as he pulled open the carved doors. The sweet, rosy air serenading him with the memories of his slow morning just as they fade into the day's events. There was nothing to be truly upset about, but unless there is magic in their water there wasn't much to be all too excited for either. Vis-a-vis, the festival was a secret promise to satisfy the needs of their parents and kingdom in a match made of simplicity and requirement. Perhaps it was possible to pretend for just a week.
Moving through the bustle of the castle, he could sense the urgency that riddled through the servants. No, the tables can't be placed there because there will be an ice sculpture of the kingdom. Let's skip the shrimp cocktails, someone in Phora has an allergy to seafood. Can someone tell me where this flag is supposed to go? He could only match eyes with a few of the passing girls before they scurried off to finish preparations. The unwavering sense of trepidation drew him to a feeling of unease, absorbing the stress of those around him made him feel more than antsy. This was nothing like his happy little chamber. Thumb settled on his figurine, he began to mold the earth into mindless shapes, hoping to distract himself from the waves of stress flowing off the castle workers. It would be a good time to find his sister.
"Lorelei?" Callahan's voice rang out in the crowd. Gardens. Earth. Planties. Find. The serenity he posessed whilst leaving his room was no longer present. "Lei-Lei?"
"'Scuse, have you seen Princess Lorelei? Bruwyth."
"A little short. Very short. My twin? We don't look alike."
"Probably talking to plants."
"Garden? Anyone know where the garden is?"
Oh, the stress was most definitely getting to him. Wandering around the Solstice castle was familiar to him, thankfully. He had walked these halls several times as a child, but in the throes of people jostling around it was alarming not to have his sister by his side. In one hasty turn, Callahan pulled himself into the exit, feeling the crunch of grass under his shoes as it strayed off the marble pathways. "Lei, you in here?" He called out, doubtful that his voice would travel too far over the castle grounds.
What do you get when you take a former bandit and throw him into a bunch of silks and tell him that he’s now an entertainer and has to rub elbows with some of the biggest political heavyweights of the world?
Auguste was a bit panicked before, y’know? Strange fellow asking him if he wanted to take a walk alone? It wasn’t really his fault. If someone in the bandit clan had asked him that, then you’d have to fight the dude for your life and it often ended in blood being spilled… hopefully, not yours.
After the fifth attempt to gank the gangly kid, the bandits had given up trying to kill him and put him to work instead.
But yeah, Helios asking him to take a walk? Alone? In a secluded area? You’d think that that might help his nerves - a bit of an introvert and nervous nellie around large groups of people and all that. But no, not even a little bit.
If anything, it made him panic even more than the prospect of this person perhaps being the person he’s supposed to marry (gag).
Helios offered an arm out to the giant.
What the fuck.
How was he supposed to grab that? Was he trying to immobilize one of his arms? One of the bandits had tried that, he’d broken their arm.
How was he supposed to- was he supposed to stoop?
Was he staring too much? He might’ve been thinking about this too much. Oh he’s going to think that he’s a fucking weirdo just grab the-
Auguste wrapped a large hand around Helios’s elbow. Yeah. This was fine.
He cursed himself quite a bit for being so… much.
It wasn’t that he really hated his body, it’s just that he kinda hated his body.
Dancing in general had a height cap of 6 feet, or 6 feet 3 inches at the most. Anything more than that was considered disgraceful in the circles that he ran in. To be 6’7 and move as fluidly as he did was almost unheard of. It was the long limbs that could get tangled up, the amount of effort extended to control every fiber of your being had to be that much more when you were controlling that much body.
And he was built to be terrifying.
Scars across his face and his torso and his arms and his hands from his years of banditry. He was built muscular and brawny, none of the sleek leanness that people tried to associate with dancers.
He’d been the ideal once.
Once upon a time, his frame had been eating itself, breaking down muscle and fat to keep his body moving with the amount he exerted it - not nearly eating enough to retain muscle.
But now? He was eating properly and that led to muscle growth which led to his 6’7 frame filling out into something gigantic and monstrous and it wasn’t very good for what his occupation cried out for.
And his eyes.
He’d gotten everything from his father, all of his bone structure and his hair and his gangliness. Everything… Except for his eyes.
His mother had been a fortune teller, and she’d had these icy eyes that mesmerized and hypnotized. The type that could pierce through a soul and stare right into someone’s very being.
Auguste had inherited those eyes, and when he’d been a bandit he’d perfected a terrifying intimidating stare that more often than not sent people running for their lives.
It was a crown jewel back then, but now in the courts… well… he wasn’t really trying to intimidate people anymore… It was more like he was trying to “be polite and kind” or whatever. Follow the standards of courtly manners.
Which meant that his eyes had now become quite a bit of a hindrance to be completely frank, because what was he supposed to do now?
Was he supposed to make eye contact and potentially freak someone out? Or was he supposed to keep his head low and make himself seem like far more of a pushover?
Oftentimes, he figured that the latter was more acceptable than the former.
And then Helios started tugging him along to meet his sister (were they going to gang up on him and kill him?) which was fine. That was fine. More people he had to awkwardly socialize with. Hooray!
“Ehm… Yeah. Yeah that… that sounds fine.” He mumbled quietly as he was being tugged along, though something told him that protesting would’ve been futile anyways.
The flash of eye contact with the sister. A stare that promised violence and death left in his wake… and then it was gone as Auguste resumed staring at his feet. Shuffle shuffle shuffle.
She was a small human. Maybe a foot shorter than him. Oh dear, take care to not step on her. Wow this floor was very interesting. Shuffle shuffle shuffle.
An awkward throat clear as he attempted to greet himself
“Ehm… Hi.” Where was he going with this again? “I’m… Auguste…” Yep. That was his name. “... itsreallynicetomeetyou”
A game between two parties: a noble and a commoner.
Who will win?
Graham was charismatic in a way. Had a certain gravity to each movement. He felt the tension between them give a little bit, Rajah giving him a little bit of slack, and listen.
Someone gave him an inch, Graham could turn it into a mile.
His permanent smile turned perhaps just a bit sharper. A bit more charismatic. Perhaps just a bit more arrogant. The fuck boy in him truly clicking into place as the two engaged in their strange little dance.
“I think I’m fecking adorable. And I think you’d agree.” He said, Rajah seemed to respond well to a bit of banter after all, a bit of playful arrogance. A bit of forwardness - precocious presumptiveness. “Or am I wrong in that assessment?”
A hand caressed his jaw. A harsher movement, Graham liked putting up a fight when it came to dominance, but at the end of the day, he wasn’t actually opposed to losing - fun came in all forms after all. And pleasure was always quick to follow.
There was a slight hitch in the plan, though.
Throughout Graham’s careful feeling out of the situation, he’d come to one conclusion: Rajah was a snake in the grass.
He was playing with fire right now, and there had to be careful maneuvering in order to not get burned. In short, Rajah was a social climber, trying to climb the ranks through any means necessary. Not the type to sleep with a gardener - more than that, the type to be insulted that a gardener had the audacity to flirt with him.
Therefore, his occupation was best left out of the picture for this fun little dance, quietly unmentioned in the hurricane of action that was about to be taken.
Wording would have to be careful, walking around the fact that his role in the Bruwyth court was “gardener and consort” rather than anything with actual substance to it.
“Graham Byrne of Bruwyth” Another smile, a purr added to his voice. A hand extended to a handshake which was then brought up to a kiss at the back of the noble’s hand. “I’m something of a… hidden gem in the court.”
Which wasn’t a lie. He was popular…
“And you, beautiful?” Graham watched as Rajah introduced himself, there was a careful tightrope which he walked: vacant but also an attentive lover. Someone safe, but also just wild enough to draw people in. A measured dance that he did.
“It’s a pleasure, Rajah.” Another purr added in to his voice. He’d gotten a nibble on the bait, it was time to start reeling him in.
Curved with indelicacy, the corners of Graham’s mouth could suggest the dwelling of something vain. Egotistical perhaps, but to the Viscount, seen only as valued honesty.
“Wrong, my pet.” Insouciant tone followed with a sly tilt of the head, Rajah took all the likeness of a cat cradling feathers in its mouth. A touch sadistic, toying with food before the strike. Indulging his taste in entertainment that itched like a vipers puncture, only once appeased was an antidote offered.
“Adorable is underselling yourself.” No shame to be read, admission slid easy as a blade under apple-skin. Dividing rind from fleshy fruit, cooked soft with cream and sugar, no bite or bitter. “I have an inkling you’re more valuable than just looking pretty, yes?”
He also had inklings about other things.
And wow, Hell was going to have a strong climate.
With their introduction, a portion of information had been left amiss. Graham Byrne of Bruwyth; vacant status fled to Rajah’s immediate attention. Who had been answered. What remained a mystery. Greed pooled wet on the tongue, stolen title yearning stolen crown, festering splinters of dishonesty pinched painful under skin.
After a decade on streets cloyed thick with smoke and petrichor, suspicion had all but tattooed itself onto the surface of Rajah’s skin; divined in fear and carmine entrails, constellated mappings of scar-tissue. Splitting fine hairs of conversation, second-guessing the flicker of an eye or twitch of a lip, folding blade between the napkin of one’s lap and cross-examining negotiations laced with vying tongues, survival was— is but a sheepskin agenda.
Patience, Rajah decided, weed out answers another time. Instead watching them redirect a handshake into a smooth, well-versed display.
Raj was going to steal that.
“Well.” Self-control fought valiantly to maintain eye-contact with the half-naked man, and lost. “You’re not that hidden.” A false complaint, really. The whereabouts of that shirt was a mystery best left unsolved.
But alas, Rajah dared not hold bias this early in the festival. Whilst reputation exceeded him in Tairis; not a man of long-term relationships, he couldn’t afford to let behaviour bleed into Solstice. A perfect gentleman, ideal as a King.
Violet-stained thirst at the prospect of feeling wanted, how could the Viscount refuse? He rarely would, never learned to plug his ears to sirens’ wail. Another day, another time, Rajah would’ve sequestered away to introduce incisors to their collarbones. Lips to jaw, throat, shoulders, mast of their spine, learn their shape and noises and commit it all to memory–
Fingers snapped urgency in his mind:
PAY ATTENTION, WHORE.
“Rajah,” focus resumed, as did a smile and swell of noise. “Rajah Ibadah of Tairis.” Viscount status carefully sliced away with a paring knife, portioned elsewhere to match the Bruwyth guest. “However, I'll also respond to Beautiful.”
Unlike the usual self-interest and forked tongue curling for lies, Rajah did permit himself interest in their kingdom. Prosperous in agriculture and painted emerald, a traveller's curiosity not buried so easily.
“So, Bruwyth,” a hand reached to the small of Graham’s back, palm lingering against spine in subtle invitation to walk with him. “What is it like? Pleasant? Come, you must tell me all about it.” Not intended as a warpath of steel traps, the burlap of questions instinctively unravelled themselves: Did Graham know the twins? Was Graham perhaps one of them?
But most of all:
Were the twins hot?!
Have some respect? No.
“I heard they brought a baker.” He’d fault how his heart shook tempest to its near-mention: his sweet beloved just out of reach. Cheesecake. A grin, fierce blazing of light bestowed as he cut ahead and rounded on Graham. Nails latched to the shell of his arms in an excited vice.
“Is this true?” A subtle shake for answers, “there is a baker here?”
Oh, Solstice breath, composed of mystique and wonder. Blessed by the tickles of faint wisps o' laughter. Their hushed, feathered tones left kisses along her ear. Worries of the night before melted and rid her of the lead coat called misery. In the distance, there was the familiar, sweet tune. Now swaddled by a cloak of comfort, the soles of her feet turned prickly from anticipation. Lorelei licked her lips. "I want to go," her conscience beckoned. "I want to go where the bees tend to their masters…”
Lorelei was about to step forward. Sweated palms against quivered breaths halted in their war to seek solace among the bed of jewels. Lorelei blinked— broken from her stupor. She tore her fixated gaze away and met eyes with Sir Cesare. Rich oak with a core of steel and cowhide. Tough and unwavered, guarded by thorns and daisies. Lorelei beamed sheepishly at her knight who looked ever intimidating. She did not fail to notice the servants and guests scurry past the beast. However, in her eyes, he was a solemn wolf wearing her halo…
Fingers gently grazed her tinted cheeks at his comment. “Who needs a parasol when I have you?”
Let all be clear, Lorelei did have her parasol at some point, but to lug around a tool designed to obscure her was due for abandonment. In other words, she ended up giving it away. Lorelei inched away from Sir Cesare; her attention was becoming more and more distracted as time passed. “Come now,” she coaxed. She wanted nothing more but to pull him along to the garden. “Shall we visit Felly’s— Hm? Cally?”
Lorelei looked down at her appearance. The princess twirled as if she was checking for something stuck on her bodice. “No, it appears my brother is not with me.” She seemed unbothered by Callahan’s absence, but fell silent to Sir Cesare’s prattle. To witness such a formidable man fall prey to worry and stress… Lorelei, unwavered by the curious gazes directed their way, focused on Sir Cesare with amused eyes.
The last remark brought Lorelei to burst into giggles. She approached Sir Cesare with a reaching hand. An index tapped gently on the knot between his eyebrows. They, the wrinkles stricken along his face, made him look aged and tiresome. “It is unlike you to underestimate my brother. Trust in him as I trust in you,” Lorelei spoke with sincerity. She knew Sir Cesare would find her and her brother no matter where they were. Even when her hope threatened to run dry, it was Sir Cesare and her brother who quenched her thirst. Her voice turned soft as she spoke of her beloved sibling. Earthen eyes relaxed as wispy fingertips soothed the wrinkles on the knight’s vest and secured his flower into place.
“Now! No more fretting,” Lorelei commanded in a light tone. “My new friends might know of his whereabouts, you worry wort. So, let’s go,” she laughed. It was her second attempt to appease his dread. A grin sparked against her lips and a hand clasped the end of his sleeve as she guided him into the fray.
Upon entering the garden, Lorelei released her hold on Sir Cesare and skipped ahead. Airy tulle swayed and danced beneath her as she walked around with invigorated elation. “I can hear them,” she thought as she weaved through the crowd— promises to be “well-behaved” were abandoned the moment she entered.
“But who should I speak to first?!”
But, sweet Lorelei, whatever happened to the quest of finding love at first sight when thy eyes are shot downcast at the ground?!
The princess seemed to have forgotten the purpose of her attendance as she wandered the garden grounds. Distant echoes of her father’s warnings were exactly that— distant and slowly faded into nonexistence. Warnings? Whatever may those be since Lorelei had no recollection of them!
She ventured around the first half of the garden. It was a vast and intricately designed garden, indeed. Lorelei marveled at everything she saw. From manicured trees to hedges shaped like animals. From rows of bouquets to flower beds. What was more intriguing were the conversations among them…
“It’s lively today~!”
“My, my… What a spectacle to wake up to…”
“Why are they all wearing us-”
“Is that man… wearing me as a belt?”
Lorelei’s bubbling never faltered— not even when whispers of her oddity reached her ears. Instead, cool relief drenched her and left nay a speck of anxiousness unlike last night. It wasn’t exactly home, but at least, she wasn’t stripped of her comfort entirely either.
She approached one of the beds carefully. The princess slightly bent her frame forward to get closer to the flower bed. Oh, she wished to sit with them— the natives of Solstice. She wanted to get acquainted properly, but this dress... Right, Lorelei wouldn’t dare get her mother’s fine dress stained. Lorelei cleared her throat and the flowers of Solstice fell into silence. “Pardon me, Sweet Ones,” she greeted. There was a gentleness in her tone. “I happen to be looking for someone very dear to me…”
The process of interrogations were far simpler with botanical subjects rather than her human counterparts. All that’s required is to butter them with praise and pleasantries. In some cases, a tango of bribery for quality fertilizer in exchange for valuable information comes to play.
“No, no. He looks nothing like me- better looking in fact. Oh…”
“He’s tall. Extremely tall. No, not like those trees haha!”
…Lorelei performed a curtsy before the counsel of petals and pollen once her questions were answered. As a form of appreciation, she made a promise to visit again with the intention of sharing more lighthearted conversations.
An attendant, who carried small sweets on a silver platter, passed by Lorelei, who plucked one and chewed it as she walked. Crumbs dotted the corner of her lips and cream smeared on her cupid’s bow. “I noticed those nice fellows had an accent,” she commented to Sir Cesare. A twinkle in her curious eyes meant she pacified the hungry spirit prowling within. “Also, this tart is so good. Not as good as Felly’s but— Oh! Cally!”
Dame Tart was dropped as Lorelei spotted her brother. Even if she were thrown into a sea of bodies with her eyes covered by cloth and hands bound by rope, she would always find Callahan with ease. There was no one else like him, after all. There he stood beneath the silk touch of the sun. Softly caressed by its golden fingers against a sheen of sweat. He looked frantic and there it was again— that knot between his eyebrows. She wanted nothing more but to smoothen those worries. What possible could have ailed him so? Was he famished? Thirsty? Lorelei quickened her pace. A hand lifted her dress while the other guarded her lily from falling. A mountain. An accomplice to her spontaneous exploits. Her better half suited for a world full of strife and judgment. He, who was chiseled by the hands of God’s determination and doused in honey. Draped in fine garbs to conquer the masses with his smile and debonair. Yes… The better half, indeed…
“Let me relish you with wild flowers and vines o’ plenty.”
“Cally,” she called with glee as her arms prepared to engulf him in her embrace. With him by her side, there is nothing that can go wrong…
The moonlight sifted through the pale glass window. The stars were pinpoints like the holes that arrows create when they pierces a flimsy wall. A sheen of sweat covered his bare chest, and his heart throbbed from exertion. Looking around his bedroom, he grimaced. It wasn’t exactly a mess, but everything, even the bed, had been pushed against the walls. It was unsightly, but he promised himself to rearrange it the day he left. He would need the space to do what he was doing now. Sword work.
Grabbing his sheath, he slipped Dyrwyn into its sheath. Propping it against the wall, he lifted the pitcher of water by his bedside and drank deeply, feeling night chilled water stream down his throat, as well as splash against his chest. Picking up a white shirt of his, he quickly dried himself off before throwing it onto the bed.
“Well Dyrwyn, how did I get here? I’m a simple knight, not well known, living in the middle of… the woods,” as he said the last two words his tone took a dreamy state. The woods. The anchor of his sanity. But here, the only wild things are the birds that fly overhead
“But back to the point, how am I supposed to court someone? I haven’t even talked to a girl my age for more than a couple minutes? I have a feeling this won’t be a walk in the garden. Why did the king choose me?”
He looked back in from the window to something he hadn’t noticed before in his bed. He didn’t notice it because… Well… He got in late and ever since he got there he had been relieving his stress by sword work. Walking to it, he realized it was a flower. Specifically a Cockscomb. He had eaten the edible flower before, and the temptation slipped through his mind right then. Shaking his head, he picked his sword up again, unsheathed it, and went back to practice.
A soft stream of sun sifted through the windows, the warmth of the light warming Arc's face. He squinched his eyes and sneezed, several times. He swore his back creaked as he sat up. Looking around, he realized he had fallen asleep on the floor with his sword. "Well, Let's hope nobody saw that," he said to his sword as a soft smile stretched across his face. He half suspected some sort of spying on him, but he didn't really care. They can watch him all they want.
Looking into the mirror as he straightened he buttoned up the three buttons on his forest green shirt, he noticed the shade under his eyes. The lack of sleep from travel and the night before was showing. He probably was going to crash later that day. Yawing, he put on his leather jerkin and adjusted his leather wrist cuffs. Slipping into his boots, he strapped his sword to his back, and then tied the flower to the front of his sword harness.
Opening the door, he startled a maid waiting with a tray with a pot of coffee. Thanking the maid, he grabbed the pot, and took a sip from it. It was perfectly hot and bitter, enough to wake him up. Walking into the garden, he sipped his coffee pot and surveyed the faces, and flowers, that where already there.
What an unnecessarily extravagant meaning of a name for a boy who wants nothing more than to nap outside in the Solstice gardens. As a matter of fact, that was exactly what the eldest prince did the night before the first event. He wanted to sleep under the stars and inhale the country of sunshine. He had heard rumors from travelers and merchants about the mysterious kingdom of Solstice. Rumors such as that the country has never seen winter. The sun never sets in the realm, so the people of Solstice have never basked in the moonlight before. Anastacius’s favorite rumor was that Solstice royalty had scales for skin with snakelike tongues and amphibian heads.
The night the royal family of Phora arrived, Anastacius promptly slipped away to miraculously find his way to the royal gardens. He must have worried his knight, Valeria, so much that when she had found him the next morning snoozing away in the middle of the once pristine bushes, she lovingly yanked his ear back into his room. The poor prince held onto his sore ear and yelped in agony with every turn until he was finally dragged into his room at the break of dawn.
It wasn’t like Anastacius was excited for this absurd festival of fannies, or whatever the celebration was called. Actually, he wasn’t. He wasn’t sure why he had thought of that. Maybe he wanted to use the word “fannies” somewhere. Though, the prince wasn’t exactly sure what a fanny was. It either was a fancy way to say fan or a pretentious way to say ass.
He supposed the rest of the Phora siblings didn’t seem too fond of the festival either. Anastacius proposed they should all ditch the party and run away in the forest. Although, he wasn’t sure if his cute little Alistair would survive out in the wilds. There was a HIGH risk of the sickly boy dropping dead from chomping on a random leaf. The rest of the siblings, though? They would definitely make it alive in the woods. Especially little Addie, the little gremlin with fangs for teeth.
The weary prince flopped on his cushiony bed and decided to doze off since Valeria oh so rudely woke him up from his peaceful slumber in the flowers. What would have made his slumber even better is if his beloved brother, Atticus, had been here in his arms. It was silly that the kingdom separated the two. Atticus and Anastacius were as close as brothers could ever be. Even though the silly prince was not thrilled being at this festive, at least there would be booze.
And plenty of it.
Roaming the royal gardens once more with Valeria, his radiant knight in tow, Anastacius debated whether to chow down on his flower, a buttercup. Valeria would constantly remind him that it was actually a primrose. Clearly, she’s wrong because this cute, dainty flower is a bright pastel yellow. Obviously, it is a buttercup. Another thing Valeria is wrong about is that “butter does not come from the buttercup flower.” So why is a buttercup called a buttercup if it is not because it doesn’t taste like butter? Or maybe, the buttercup flower tastes like butterscotch.
Anastacius twirled the petite flower in his fingertips as he hummed to himself, debating what flavor this would possibly have. The thought of trying to find his match by finding someone with a flower like him made the prince uncomfortable. Actually, not really. He didn’t really care whether or not he found himself a match or something because he would never be interested in them. Anastacius felt bad for the person that is paired up with him. The mystery partner would most likely be searching for love, but then to be paired with a prince who doesn’t want a kingdom and never bothered to care for his studies? How unfortunate.
Oh well, maybe he would poke fun, and then he and his partner would become best of friends. Thick as thieves. Friendsies for lifesies.
Oh yes. Anastacius was supposed to meet up with his siblings in the Solstice royal gardens. With a pep in his step, the prince started heading towards his family, all huddled together (except for Atticus, God, how he missed his brother so).
But then, the prince stopped.
The small not-a-primrose-but-actually-a-buttercup was begging to be devoured by the eldest prince of Phora. His bright eyes grew while gluttony filled his mind. It would be okay if he ate it whole, right? Since Anastacius gazed at his flower so lovingly, he knew exactly what it looked like down to the very last detail. Honestly, he could easily find his partner since he knew exactly what his flower looked like and the type. That’s it. He should eat it.
Before Valeria did anything, Anastacius plopped the most-definitely-a-buttercup in his mouth. As he was doing that, he noticed a girl from afar with a flower just like his on her body.
Alas, it was too late for anyone to tell him to spit the damn thing out of his mouth. He had already done the deed.
But then, he started hacking the flower out of his mouth after learning that a buttercup did not taste either butter or butterscotch.
Rather, it tasted like absolute garbage.
Who in the world told him it was okay to eat a buttercup flower and expect it to taste like butter?
Sleep doesn't come easy to Dorian. Like a disobeying dog, it never comes when he needs it to. This week had been particularly difficult for him. Be it the stress or general anxiety, sleep evaded him night after night leaving him tired and just a bit grumpy when the sun would spill its blinding rays into his room.
In normal circumstances, he'd be able to fit at least an hour to himself somewhere within his busy schedule, but this was no ordinary circumstance. This was the Festival of Fantasy—the event of the year. He must be trimmed and groomed and prim and proper every day leading up to this event. As the eldest of Cidal royalty, there was a particular image Dorian felt he had to uphold. Not only was he the next in line for the throne, but he had to bear the weight of responsibility left in the wake of his father's death. The mere thought of it made 5 new grey hairs spontaneously develop.
He did his best, and with that came the sacrifice of rest. He told himself that he could push through—that the time spent in preparation was all worth it in the end, but at a certain point, he didn't know if he meant it anymore. The closer and closer to the festival he got, the heavier and heavier he felt. The stress and worry felt like a shock to the brain every time he acknowledged it.
Dorian has never been a social person. He is, in fact, quite awkward as it seems. It is as detrimental as it is embarrassing. What kind of future king could barely hold a conversation with people without sounding like a bumbling fool? Even with as many strengths as he possessed, his weaknesses were just as prominent, but it was too late to worry about that now. He was far too tired.
The journey to the mysterious Solstice was just as long as it was short. Dorian felt like he had been in the carriage for ages, but the moment he stepped foot on Solstice soil, he felt like only minutes had passed. Although, even with his apparent exhaustion, he couldn't help but take in the beauty of the kingdom. With the moon high and giving the land a chilling glow, Dorian stared in silent awe at the surrounding area. He expected nothing less of the mysterious Solstice anyway.
There wasn't much publicized about the kingdom, but Dorian read what he could in preparation for the festival. Even then, he knew he was grossly underprepared—at least by his standards.
With pleasantries, thanks, and introductions out of the way, Dorian was led to the room he'd be staying in. Honestly, he felt utterly dead on his feet, so as soon as he saw the bed, he couldn't help but collapse on top of it once he was left to his own devices. Never once had he fallen asleep so quickly before. It was as if the sandman himself had sprinkled Dorian with his sand, carrying him away into a much-needed rest.
And just like that, Dorian opens his eyes. The sun greets him with its blinding rays. There's a crick in his neck, and somehow his blanket ended up on the floor.
Blinking dumbly, Dorian groaned as he pushed himself into a sitting position. He was terribly confused. Not only did he not remember falling asleep last night, but he could also barely remember where exactly he was. He sat in silence, trying to gather his bearings before it all hit him like a kick from a horse. "The Festival!" he exclaimed out to nobody in particular.
Springing to his feet, Dorian sputtered around his room haphazardly, not knowing where he'd start first. A barrage of questions swarmed his brain, each sounding more panicked than the last. What time is it? Did he miss the event? How late was he? Why did no one wake him? What would his mother think?
It all came to a head when he haphazardly brushed his hand across his cheek after feeling something tickle him and seeing something pink fall from the edges of his vision. He froze and looked at the ground. A yellow petal.
A yellow petal?
Moments later, something clicked in his mind, and he grunted. Peeling the flattened flower from his cheek—apparently glued there by his drool—he looked at it delicately. He didn't even remember seeing a flower on his pillow last night, but then again, he didn't remember much of anything from last night. He curses himself and his exhaustion. If this was a sign of anything, it means that today would be very long.
As it turns out, Dorian had woken up right on time. Only minutes after he sprung to life, a servant had come to wake him, in fact. Even in his restless delirium, Dorian was perfectly punctual. How in character.
After finally coming to his senses enough to shove the panic down and get dressed, Dorian exited his room with an inward cringe. Truthfully, he hated his outfit, but he wasn't the one to pick it. The royal tailor had insisted on something "extravagant" to attract a "future queen" (whatever that meant), and when running the designs by his mother, she didn't necessarily disapprove. Dorian despised it but kept his mouth shut. Sacrifices had to be made, it seems.
With a confident stride and the slightly limp daffodil tucked behind his ear, he made his way toward the garden. His mind quickly wanders to his siblings. Another grey hair miraculously appears. As much as he loves his siblings, he can't help but feel the need to have them within his sights at all times. Of course, it was stupid to worry about them because they haven't needed his guidance since they were children, but the job of being his younger siblings' keeper is one he'll never retire from.
He feels warm all over when he steps into the garden. He bathes in the sun's gentle kiss and feels the tension leave his body for the first time since he left Cidal.
He wasn't the first to see the garden's beauty, as many others were roaming around. He recognized a few faces, but none of his siblings came to view. His eyes scanned over the area—a sigh leaving his mouth. With calculated steps, he began to venture into the garden. The only thing on his mind at the moment was finding his siblings, but things don't always go as planned. He was less than a minute into his search when a familiar head of blonde hair suddenly came into view.
"Princess Camentis?" he called out, almost not recognizing the girl. Almost. He hadn't seen her since her mother's funeral, which was months ago, but even then, he pick her out of a crowd with ease.
Being the youngest of four never bodes well, but it especially never bodes well for the youngest sister of four. Many people tend to think that youngest brothers can fend for themselves, make better friends among their elder brothers and simply ignore what their older sisters think of them. But youngest sisters have it much worse. They’re an annoyance to their older sisters, and their older brothers want nothing to do with them or their frilly pink-ly dressed dolls.
However, Princess Carmentis had always been somewhat of a lucky girl, and she certainly lucked out with the sibling lottery; specifically her eldest brother, helios. Helios and Carmentis were always very close. They were both very close with their mother, meaning they both learned the value of having your loved ones close and making time for said loved ones. Helios never treated Carmen like an annoyance, she has always looked back on memories with Helios with him welcoming her with open arms for a great big bear hug.
Amidst any form of chaos, Helios was her familiarity, her warmth. She always felt safe around him, so when her head turned to see him and another tall, VERY tall, gentleman walk her way, she was thrilled.
“Helios!” her face lit up, her attitude did a complete 180 degree spin, going from down and gloomy, to ecstatic and bright. It really hadn’t been THAT long since she last saw her brother, but she could never deny that ever since her mother died, Helios has been her home. Her comforter, her rock, Helios had been her favorite person since they lost her mother; out of everyone in the world, Helios could understand her pain. Because it was the same pain he was going through.
Carmen didn’t care if she looked a fool in front of everyone, she ran to her brother and almost tackled him in a hug. She gave him a big squeeze before jumping down and turning her attention towards the other man he was with.
He was tall. Like… really tall. Which tends to not mean a whole lot from Princess Carmentis, seeing how she was already pretty short, but this dude towered over even Helios. So yea, he was tall.
She stood quietly as the man stumbled over his words, just trying to say his name. She found herself laughing inside, how could a man so tall and intimidating seem so shy and nervous?
He introduced himself as “Auguste” and nothing more. She gave her brother a teasing look of “wow, you sure know how to pick em, huh?” but nonetheless, she kept on her smile and waited to introduce herself.
“Well it is a pleasure to meet you, Auguste of….?” she paused for a moment for him to say where he was from. She gave a small nod and another smile before she continued. “I’m Princess Carmentis of Tairis,” cue a cute little bow “also known as Helios’ youngest sister,” she stayed with the men a little while longer before someone caught her eye.
Let it be stated for the record, Princess Carmentis doesn’t do crushes. She’s never seen someone and had her heart flutter. She’s never grazed hands with someone else and felt a spark. She’s never spoken with someone and thought “oh my goodness, we must be married immediately”. She can never put her finger on it, but she’s just never had feelings for anyone.
Until a certain pen pal entered her life.
She remembers the first time she met the wonderful Prince Dorian of Cidal. It was one of her very first Festivals of Fantasy, Tairis had hosted. In true Carmen fashion, she had snuck away from her family and her royal duties, in search of having some actual fun. And she came across a boy, he looked to be a few years older than her, standing all by himself. He looked shy, nervous, almost.. Scared?
But if there was one thing about young Carmen, it was that she wasn’t afraid to make new friends. She marched right up to that boy, grabbed his hand, and started to show him around Tairis. She showed him where the best booths were placed, of course she bragged that she helped her mother place the different booths. She showed him her favorite spots outside of the fair, her absolute favorite being a small, serene brook just far enough from the town that it was washed out by the sound of running water. The two kids had a blast exploring, playing, and talking. Well, Carmen had a blast, she could only assume Dorian was as well.
That festival ended with Carmen forcing Dorian to dance with her. It wasn’t even a formal dance, because Carmen was going through her phase of thinking formal dancing was lame and boring. No no, Carmen brought Dorian to dance their troubles away. To dance and be with each other one last time before they went back to the pressures of being royals.
A few years after that Festival, Carmen received a letter in the mail, from the one and only Prince Dorian. He wanted to check in with her, see how everything was doing after the hustle and bustle of the Festival of Fantasy. And ever since then, they were pen pals, always writing to each other, always talking and updating each other on the most recent affairs and personal drama going on.
And then the tragedy hit; the Queen passed. Carmen’s life was a blur at that point, but she did remember how many people came to her funeral. She didn’t even know that many people knew her mother. Of course, she noticed Dorian, how he had grown up some.
Thinking back on it THAT had to be her favorite thing about the Festivals. It was just about the only time she saw Dorian, and she got to see him as he grew up, taller, more filled out, and definitely more handsome.
So when her eyes connected with him, Princess Carmen, miss “i don’t do feelings”, felt her heart flutter.
“Yea that’s cool,” she trailed off with Helios and Auguste, slowly walking away from them “mmhm yep, well i gotta go.. Uh,, bye!” she stumbled over her words. Dorian wasn’t even next to her and he made her flustered just by looking at her.
Once she was away from her brother and his date, she met Dorian half way through his walk. Dorian had always been taller than her, so it wasn’t new for her to have to lean her head back a little bit to look him in his beautiful, sparkling, brown eyes.
When she got a good look at him, she knew this would be her favorite Festival of Fantasy, because she had never seen him clean up so good.
“Dorian!” another squeal came out, she couldn’t help it very much, the squeal would come out whenever she saw a familiar face that made her happy. And how could she not be happy to see Dorian? She stood on her tip toes to give him a long lasting hug.
“It’s so good to see you again! How’ve you been?” she awaited an answer before she forgot, “oh sorry. PRINCE Dorian of Cidal,” Carmen made a little spectacle about bowing in the presence of a prince, before quickly giggling and looking up at him; waiting for him to respond and adoring him all at the same time
You are not nervous. You are the epitome of cool, calm, and collected. Walking the distance over to Carmentis was a dangerous mission. Helios couldn’t keep his eyes on the destination. It seemed every two steps he’d dart his gaze down to his arm and then quickly look anywhere else but Auguste. The prince knew he liked strong people. Whether by muscles, power, or sword he was not picky. It was common, right? To be into someone who could protect you and crush your skull at the same time? It made sense why he fancied knights so much. But this, this was something he had not prepared for. Hands?
It wasn’t his fault that the stranger he got paired with seemed to be half-giant. Long legs, long torso, long fingers. His palms felt clammier by the second. He could feel the burn of his cheeks down his neck, his ears, everywhere. Helios guessed this wasn’t a bad way to go. He dug his own grave. “Hey stranger why don’t you take my arm with your big hands and calloused fingers” was definitely what he said. Helios you’re an idiot.
Luckily Carmen saved him once again. She practically met them halfway, running over to the prince and tackling him into a hug. Helios slipped away his arm to wrap it around his sister, giving her a little spin. Were they making a scene? Probably. Helios was confident the Phora siblings would make a bigger one soon so this didn’t matter much.
Hugging Carmentis vaguely felt like hugging his mom, at least what he remembered of it. His memories of her were slowly fading. What she smelled like; the sound of her voice. He still knew his mother felt safe, like home. No matter where they were he belonged there. Just like with Carmen. In this crowd of people, he knew he had someone who depended on him. Someone warm and familiar. That thought kept him together.
Helios nodded along as Carmen spoke as if saying, “Yes look, this is my sister. Isn’t she great? See I’m not a kidnapper. I have a family.” Helios looked around to see if he could spot his other younger siblings. Iggy was probably off in a tree, he’d bet on it. When it came to his other sister though he wasn’t so sure. “That’s right. Carmen is the baby of the family. I can recall so many embarrassing stories. There was this one time,” Helios trailed off, seeing if that would bring Carmen's attention back to their conversation. While they were talking the princess seemed to spot something, rather someone, who stole her interest. It was like she was already checked out, and before he knew it, she bounced away from them. For Dorian.
Was that.. something? He knew it was. His sister had a crush. Helios shot the Cidal prince a brief stare that said “I’m watching you.”
Helios turned to face Auguste. “Can you believe that? She ditched us,” he looked up at the tall man in disbelief and shook his head. Helios couldn’t help but smile. Well, at least she finally fancied someone. He was happy for her, and he trusted her judgment of character. But.. it wouldn’t hurt to make sure Dorian was a good fit for his sister, right? That wasn’t a bad idea, not at all. Helios ran a hand through his hair. “What’s on your mind? Would you still prefer a walk or would you perhaps like to relax here in the garden? I’ll follow your lead,” Helios gave a little smirk to the tall man.
Ignatius always thought the universe had a cruel sense of humor and as he approached the inviting yet enigmatic Kingdom of Stars he couldn't help but feel like this was confirmation of that theory.
After nearly a decade of petitioning the king to allow him to visit the kingdom he had his opportunity to explore it and all its wonders and mysteries unhindered for a week and yet…
The vibrant colors and architecture were breathtakingly indescribable. The stories of the famed Towers of the Stars could not and did not do them justice in person. It was as if someone had ripped the night out of the sky and crafted a kingdom with the constellations and yet…
Arriving in Solstice should've been a dream come true for the Tairis Prince and yet all he felt was this numbness in his chest. He registered everything. Joy. Fulfillment. Wonder. It was all there but it felt as if there was a filter muting his heart.
"Mother would've loved this place." He found himself saying absent-mindedly to no one in particular.
Of course in this place he would feel her absence more than ever as she was the one who lit the fire of exploration in him. He often recalled her sharing stories of the Kingdoms of Garene and her particular love for Solstice was apparent. It was one of the few things in this world he knew she loved.
Shaking himself from his stupor the prince went off to make his arrangements. Flashing the guards his invitation as they let him through. Ignatius swore he would indulge himself as much as possible. He would not let his future be dictated by ghosts.
After listening in on servant gossip here and there he had discovered the first event of the festival would take place in the garden. So of course Ignatius made a beeline towards the kitchens. He was in an immense need of a drink. Slipping through the kitchen Ignatius swapped a bottle without being spotting and made his way toward the garden following the stream of nervous servers and attendants.
The garden was as breathtaking as everything else here in Solstice but it was as if someone painted over the grandiose plant life with hues of greys. He was not moved in the slightest. The same could be said for the party goers. They were attractive enough but their beauty felt as if trapped under rippling water, just barely above the surface but muted and distorted.
Ignatius had found out his siblings were also in attendance and seemed to be chatting up their dates and felt a mix of emotions. He loved them but wasn't prepared to face them after nearly a year of silence and absence. What would he say? What could he say? That his grief and anger and resentment made him do something stupid?
In a cruel twist of irony he found himself reminiscing on those days back in Tairis when they all played together as children running through the castle reeking havok, much to the frustrations of their nannies and maids. It felt like a lifetime ago. It was.
Since staying in the garden would run the risk of a very uncomfortable reunion that he wasn't ready for Ignatius slipped out of the garden and began to wander the castle.
Just before she found herself about to finally drag herself to the garden to get it over with, a familiar voice called out to her. “Alera?” Thank god she was able to turn and see the familiar face of her older sister. She gave her a toothy grin at the words she spoke and said playfully, “Don’t worry, the pink is just there to trick some poor bastard into thinking I might be some ‘feminine pushover’. I might leave here with a partner and end up divorced on the next anniversary.” She laughed quietly to Alera so most guests couldn’t hear her. “But you look just as stunning as you always do.” She returned the compliment, a more genuine smile to her. Typically, her and Alera never really saw eye to eye but maybe it was because of the anxiety and fear of choosing a life partner that she felt a little more closer with her.
She perked up at another familiar voice as Adelaide noticed her older brother, Alistair, enter the scene. “Alistair! Doesn't surprise me you're the first of our brothers here.” She teased, giving him a little nudge. Honestly, she wasn’t sure of Alistair's feelings on this whole event. She wasn’t the closest to him but all the other Phora siblings seemed reluctant, even Alera shared in on these feelings. Alistair was a golden child like Alera so maybe he just didn’t show his disdain for the whole event in order to keep their father happy. In any case, she would show him as much sympathy as the others.
“Hmmm, I haven’t looked around much but maybe our partners haven’t arrived yet. Which means there's no point in looking yet.” She pointed out, trying to give them an excuse to stay together. To some extent, she felt a bit guilty using them as shields from socializing with the other guests. It wasn’t new or anything to her but, similarly to her lady-in-waiting, she did feel like she could be holding them up from making the best of whatever they can while they were here. This was the Solstice kingdom, a place they had never been to before after all. What if they wanted to explore the place a little? She broke out of her thoughts as she noticed a tall woman in a suit nodding a greeting to them.
The woman was clearly a knight, evident by the decorated sword sitting pretty in its sheath and she was very pretty, though handsome was a better word to describe her. The outfit matched the stoic and regal aura she gave off perfectly. Her jet black hair perfectly framed her face. Not only that but an unusual small flash of yellow caught Adelaide’s eye and she paused. A small dandelion, pinned to the front of the suit like a brooch and it clearly matched the one sitting atop of Adelaide's ear. The lady passed by and Adelaide was left staring as she entered the event. That was her partner? The lady was at least a foot taller than her and genuinely one of the most attractive women she had ever seen. Everyone here was attractive but a knight in a uniform?
She jumped a little as an arm suddenly linked around her own. She looked up to see one of the older twins, Atticus. She glared up at him, snatching her arm away and folded it into crossed arms. Normally she would punch him for even thinking he could lay hands on her. But they were in public with other royals around so she couldn’t be too rash. Instead, she opted for a more civilized solution. With all of her might, she stomped on his foot, grazing the side of it with the pointed heel of her shoe. “Super excited.” She muttered dryly in response to his sarcastic question, her eyes wandering back to the knight from early. Luckily her height made her easy to spot in the crowds though her nerves started to spike up a bit at the idea of approaching her.
How does one approach another at these events? She had given brief introductions before but never actually stayed with anyone other than her siblings and Briar. She paused as she noticed a figure in the corner of her eye and saw her missing brother appearing with his knight. Just as she turned her head towards him, she watched him swallow what appeared to be a flower. Almost immediately, he started hacking it up and Adelaide was almost bold enough to go over and start a fight with the brainless dummy. For now though, he was spared from that until later because Adelaide had already turned heel with a quick goodbye to Alera and Alistair and left him before she became associated with that particular brother at the event. Her social reputation wasn’t the best but ‘idiot’ wasn’t a part of it yet.
The down side was now she was walking towards her partner for the event, something she didn’t notice until she was within five feet of her. She had unintentionally thrown herself a few feet right behind the knight with no plan or anything. If the knight noticed her before she could speak, she might think she was stalking her throughout the party but Adelaide hardly had the words. What if she got the wrong person and she misinterpreted the flower type? The lady was a lot taller up close, practically towering over her by a foot or so. A thin layer of smoke started to rise around her as she quickly tried to find the words and quickly get them out.
“E- Ahem, Excuse me? My lady, you seem to be my partner for this?”
Location: The Gardens Mentioned: ( sunnieside
) Speaking To: (Prince Anastacius of Phora sunnieside
The memories that Lehna once kept near and dear to her, are soon starting to fade away, the more she wants to remember, the more she thinks about it. Thus creating an unimaginable image of her mother laying next to her. Oftentimes, she gets nightmares about how it really happened. Lehna was young when the accident occurred and to say she remembers every bit and detail about it is a lie. Lehna wants to remember what happened that night, but she can't, or at least she tries not to remember.
As the morning chores went on, Lehna chose to bury herself in her work, scrubbing the floor until she had visual marks on her fingers from gripping the brush too hard. Lehna preferred to allow herself to get buried in work because it would keep her from talking to the other maids who don't like her. Last night was already hard for her to go to sleep, and the last event she would need is another debacle with the girls. Though one event that she didn't mind was the festival. This morning was quite a surprise when she came back to her room to find a delicate flower resting on her pillow. It looked too delicate and beautiful for her hands to pick up, to the point where she didn't feel worthy of the flower. She was surprised that she was picked to attend the festival, but being given the flower meant that she had a partner who bears the same fate that she does now.
Lehna was never too trusting of the royals, she heard way too many stories about them, but who is she to judge when people have heard many stories about her, which are certainly not true? Lehna was a beacon of truth and when spoken to, she would never sugarcoat anything. The head maid always said that she had her mother's personality and there was a fire inside of her that could never be extinguished no matter how hard people tried to bring her down.
The ticking of the tall mahogany clock down the hall constantly reminded her that every second that had past, turned into minutes and she would be one step closer to attending the festival. Lehna picked herself up from the floor, using the nearby wall as support, before patting her dress. She looked at her hard work and was proud that she had gotten all the rooms done on this floor, and had time to clean the hallway too, even the fact that she was only running on an hour's of sleep. She grabbed the metal bucket full of dirty and murky waters and made her way downstairs to drop it off before heading to her room.
Lehna was definitely running late to the festival, oh how great, now I am going to be the only one showing up late... she thought to herself as she was rushing to bathe herself and get ready. Her gown, or should we say, the piece this evening wraps her body delicately and the rest of the pieces are draped over her shoulder with pins of pop-up butterflies hanging out. Lehna hadn't gotten the resources or money to buy her dress, so she did what she could with the fabric she found around the castle. With the last finishing touches, she decided to pin up her hair and allow some locks of hair to cascade down the sides of her face. Even though this look was her riskest one, she did enjoy allowing her creativity to roam free.
As Lehna made her way down the hall, she heard chatter and found everyone was making their way to the gardens. Lehna was interested in what would happen in the gardens if the person was going to like her or not. Lehna never really cared too much about what people thought about her, but she somehow felt nervous when she was walking around. Trying to find the person with the same flower as her, a primrose, it was a gorgeous flower. And she held it with her fingertips to not damage the flower. When Lehna stopped in her tracks, it wasn't because of the stairs she was getting, but because she saw the same exact flower that she had, being devoured by a careless man.
"You know, it's not good for you to eat unknown flowers like that. It is. a good thing that primroses have some good properties, if you know how to prepare it well enough." She spoke softly as she twirled the flower around with her finger. She watched as she made the flower dance in front of her.
As a matter of fact, Eridanus expected Maia not to be up and about, preparing herself for the festival as she should. Despite his desire to believe the opposite, he knew that expecting more from Maia would set him up for failure. What Eridanus did not expect was to be nearly knocked out and thrown to the ground as the sheer force of Maia's arm threw him off his balance. In pain, his hands caressed his sore nose, groaning after being forcibly knocked off his feet. At the moment of impact, he swore he saw stars.
“Oh! Eri! Are you o- yeah, you’re okay. Suck it up, buddy.”
There was something unsympathetic about that, but Eridanus brushed it aside and focused instead on his throbbing pain and Maia's lack of preparation. Was Eridanus surprised, however? No, not exactly. It was typically up to Eridanus to restore Maia's motivation and get her back on track, just as he has in the past. The options Eridanus had when it came to convincing Maia were nearly exhausted, whether it was through pep talks, empty threats, or even bribes. Although the likelihood of these efforts succeeding was slim.
Was he going to try to persuade the inconvincible again? Perhaps, not. As of right now, he had better things to worry about, like lying on the floor without any desire to get up. As well as his composure, he presumed that his will to live had also been snuffed out. Suddenly, staying on the floor didn't seem so bad. Even so, his desire not to be late for the festival was much stronger, and he forced himself to stand with a grunt.
“Erriii! I’ve already messed up today. Go on without me. Find a beautiful partner to rule the kingdom. Just don’t find someone smarter than me. I want to be able to talk to whoever you marry without having to carry around a dictionary.”
With his back facing her, Eridanus sighed gently as he leaned against her bed with a softened frown on his face. After a moment of silence, he ran his hands through his hair with a slight sense of frustration. Afterward, he glanced over his shoulder at her.
“Maia, this festival is for all of us. You should also be happy with someone you love. And, if you don't get up, Mother and Father won't be pleased with either of us." Although intended as a threat, Eridanus' subsequent chuckle indicated that he had already moved past his anger. Upon further observation of Maia's disregard for dressing, he opted not to bother her further. He had a festival to attend anyway.
In fact, when should the festival have started? A glance at the clock in Maia's room revealed to Eridanus that the festival had already begun. A sense of panic began to spread.
His hands swiftly fanned around his outfit and hair, ensuring that nothing appeared disorganized. Eridanus groaned and whipped around, muttering a curse.
“Ok ok, do I look alright? Nothing out of place? Does my nose look alright—actually, nevermind." Eridanus hurriedly turned around and walked fast towards Maia's bedroom door, hurriedly saying, "I don't have time to worry about it." Suddenly, he turned back to Maia, who was still laying comfortably in her bed. Clearly lost in thought, he was constantly opening and closing his mouth, as if he wanted to say something, but kept deciding against it.
“And Maia, if I don’t see you at the festival in the next 30 minutes to an hour, I’d come and personally drag you out of bed. Now that I think about it, I really don’t want another lecture about keeping an eye on you.” After that, he promptly left the room and walked toward the gardens.
As he walked through the extravagant halls, he approached some servants busy rushing food to the festival and greeted them with either a cheerful nod or a humble bow. It was a bit alarming to see them grimace when they saw his face. For now, he attributed their concern to his hair, so he smoothed it down with his hand to make sure no stray hairs were sticking out.
His face contorted into an expression of pure anguish as he touched the bridge of his nose and winced from the pain he felt. That Maia…
He furrowed his eyebrows and decided that he'd subject her to an hour-long nagging session at night.
His golden-brown eyes scanned the crowd of gowns and luxurious tunics as he arrived at the gardens. While strolling through the crowd, he reminded himself to touch the tulip at the side of his waist occasionally to make sure it was still there.
His attention was caught by someone whose tulip matched his own, so he smiled warmly and approached them.
"I think the tulip is one of the most beautiful flowers; indeed, it suits you well. Prince Eridanus of Solstice, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
The first thing he noticed about her was her beauty, so he paused to examine her face in more detail. Her icy-blue gown reminiscent of frozen water also captured his attention.
“I do hope you felt welcome at Solstice. After all, it is my duty to ensure that all of our guests feel right at home here. Please, do feel free to let me know of any requests you may have, and I shall personally fulfill them. Goodness, and here I am chatting away without asking your name.” He flashed her his signature smile, bowing lowly and holding his hand out in the hopes of lightly kissing her own as a show of respect.
"And to who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”
Honestly, Henry wasn’t surprised that Sebastian had brought himself into such a predicament. He stared at the boy’s trousers, beginning to compile some sort of plan to ensure the Prince was presentable for the Festival. In mid deep thought, a pair of hands landed upon his shoulders and dragged him behind the tall, leafy, natural structure. And then it all came out; words. Upon words. Upon words. Henry stood in silent awe, watching as the Prince’s mouth moved and continued to blabber out strings of sentences. He squinted his eyes ever so slightly as if it would aid in helping his ears to hear better. From what he could gather… Something about a lotus. And then something about a pond and stepping into it.
But now the Prince was declaring that it was fine; it was all fine, apparently. The frazzled expression upon his face and the stench radiating from the hems of his trousers spoke otherwise. A small frown started to seep upon Henry’s complexion, showing his distrust in Sebastian’s words. Because he was struggling to believe that it’s all fine. However, at the mention of going back to fetch a new pair of trousers, Henry’s eyes widened in agreement before he began to nod his head. Yes! It was the perfect plan! They would just need to get him back into his chambers before anyone else could see - or smell - the mess the boy had gotten himself into.
Sebastian’s next questions were met with head shakes and a lower lip enlarging. No, he had not seen the other Cidal royalties and if he was becoming completely honest, it wasn’t here his focus laid. Sebastian was where it was. He had been entrusted to keep a firm gaze upon the boy, and ensure he didn’t get himself into any trouble. Look at that, he thought to himself How many hours have we been here and he’s already managed to get into this… mess. Sebastian mentioned how he hoped that the other person had ate their lotus, Henry had to give the Prince a bewildered look. Why would someone eat their flower given to them?
Speaking of flowers.
The Prince’s train of words and sentences was making it way towards a new destination; now they were discussing about Henry’s flower. It felt like someone had pinched the back of his neck at the mention of it, instantly tensing his body. He remembered making his way back to his chambers in the middle of the night only to see a flower upon his pillow. Henry had picked it up to examine it, curious to the name of the flower. It seemed the other guards were mind readers as they began to talk about the said flower. “A lupine” One of them had mused as they took their shoes off, stretching their poor and cramped toes after a long day “You know, when we were kids, we used to go into the next field over to steal some from the farmers. Those little seed pod things - oh, you eat those and you feel dizzy and lose coordination. It was like being drunk. You should try it. It’s a hoot”
Henry did not try it.
In fact, the flower laid upon the nightstand next to his bed, as a staggering reminder of the real reason why he had been summoned here. It was to make the Kingdom proud. He would do anything for the Kingdom that took him in as a child and raised him. The Kingdom his father had loved so much.
As the thought of the flower taunted him, he had barely had time to register that the Prince had slunk into a seated position on the floor. But it wasn’t for long; for he spotted someone worth gathering his courage and energy for. Princess Rhiannon. The Prince gave a cry to his sister before scrambling to collect himself and up off the floor. Just as Henry turned to look towards where Princess Rhiannon may have been, he received whiplash from Sebastian as he took hold of his hand and began to drag him towards and through the gardens. As he was being dragged, Henry could only think of three things.
One; Did Sebastian know that his bottom was now covered in dirt and instead of looking like he had been standing in a pig pen, he now looked like he soiled himself?
Two; The emotional rollercoaster ride the Prince had just brought him through. The anxiety, fear, worry, and now running towards some form of sweet salvation? Honestly, Henry was going to demand some sort of raise.
And third; the flower. It was sitting there, in the back of his mind, etching into his anxiety. There wasn’t much that could make this grown man anxious. But, apparently, a flower could take him out in a second.
Just, absolutely demolished him in one blow. He’d survived traveling on the road, a bandit attack, a bandit clan, the court of Solstice. And now this was how it was going to end, surrounded by flowers in a nice garden from a lovely girl half of his size.
“... oh… ehm… solstice. I’m from Solstice….” He mumbled quietly. They were siblings, then. The two of them? Extra scary. Meeting family. He wanted to die a little bit.
Or perhaps if people stared close enough, they could view his slow creeping melt into the floor.
He just… stood awkwardly off to the side as the siblings had their little reunion. This was fine. As long as the attention was not on him. Hooray! He watched. And watched.
And then just like that, she was gone! Poof!
A head tilt as she quickly ditched them for some… dude. A prince? Probably a prince. Did all these people know each other previously? He didn’t know that that was even… possible? Huh. Fucking weird.
An incredulous statement from his date - a small break from the oppressive politeness that stifled the former bandit. And perhaps there was the smallest twitch upwards of the giant’s scarred lips. He could work with a bit of banter much better than greetings and stuffy formalities.
“How dare she.” Though, there was no actual bite to the rumbly voice. A tinge of humor sneaking through the soft, calm tone.
There was a small shift of his eyes as they took in everything around him. He was asked what he wanted to do and what was on his mind.
A lot of things, Helios. A lot of things. For one, he was watching the rest of the guests out of the corner of his eyes, guessing the chances of what would exactly happen should someone stab another - the fallout. The chance for survival. The best way to escape. Where to hide. Where to run off to. And maybe, if Helios was lucky, Auguste would bring him along with him.
“Ehm…” Oh no. He was given power again. What was he supposed to do. Help. Help. Help. Help. “... I don’t know. What do you want to do?”
The default to polite deferral slipping out before he could truly panic about what he was supposed to do.
“...” A stare. Blink. “... ehm… sorry. We can…” Trail off. Awkward. So painfully awkward.
“I can give you a tour of the castle? It… It would… come in handy, no? For when you… Y’know… Have to be a diplomat to Solstice?”
Like this wasn’t already a diplomacy thing.
“Ehm… No. Wait. You’re already here as a diplomat in a way… ehm… sorry. But… Would you like a tour of the castle?” Not awkward in the slightest bit.
Cyrus only had to wait a few moments for Esme to appear, watching the dress as she showed it off with a spin. “Bravo.” She was always dressed up these days. He supposed that was normal for royalty. It would be nice to see her as just Esme on occasion, rather than as the Princess.
“You’ve hardly given me the chance,” Cyrus countered. Of course he’d compliment her. It was more than deserved. “You’re lovely.” But she always was. Even a fool could see that. “I think the lotus suits you. Perhaps more than the tiara.” He smiled as he straightened the crown on her head.
As usual, Esme dragged him around, making Cyrus keep pace. Her excitement wasn’t matched, instead his palms were sweaty and throat tight. As the event grew closer, he couldn’t help the dread that coated his mind. There were a million possibilities. Solstice had always been so safe in isolation. Opening up swiftly like this, they were hardly prepared for attack. If anyone tried something, they’d surely succeed, especially with guards preoccupied with their participation.
“Petunia.” Cyrus had almost forgotten about his own flower before autopilot forced the word out of his mouth. “Listen Esme,” He started, instinctively feeling for his sword, only to feel nothing, worsening his anxiety. “I know I said I’d do this with you, but…” Every step made him feel dread. “I think it would be safer if I stuck to my duty and-” Too late, royalty surrounded the two of them much too quick. Fancy dresses and enough food to feed an entire kingdom made him realize the festival had caught him in its trap.
“Protect you.” The words were soft on his tongue, barely audible. Cyrus couldn’t be caught speaking like that now, not with everyone watching. His demeanor immediately changed. Dropping Esme’s hand, he stood up straight, trying to convince himself of his ability to blend in.
“Please… be careful.” Cyrus was always too cautious with her. “I won’t be far. If there’s any trouble, you must call for me.” It was hard to leave her. All their time together would soon end, and he’d be lying if he said it didn’t hurt. Though he hadn’t caught sight of either of their matches, it felt like the two of them had already parted.
Keen eyes darted around the festival. Everyone seemed virtually harmless, multiple solstice knights in attendance should guarantee safety. Yet, Cyrus’s heart couldn’t calm. So many variables to consider, even more so with emotions in the mix. As much as he wanted to relax and enjoy the festivities like any other, every part of him made the task impossible. Moments like this, Cyrus knew he’d fare better hiding inside with a good book.
It was beautiful. The gardens, Solstice, the weather. Her paces slowed as she admired the surrounding garden. One may not have connected the wild Cidal princess as someone who admired flowers and the natural beauty of their world, but when that same Princess is slacking on her royal duties, there needs to be something to fill the time. Perhaps that was why she was so particular about the flower she had been assigned to, even though it ultimately was arbitrary. It was really about the individual who received the same flower that ultimately mattered. Hopefully whoever I’m paired with today is more exciting than this tulip.
Her steps finally came to a halt, choosing a stone bench to sit upon. It was a pity the wine’s effects didn’t carry over from last night. A high tolerance would do that she supposed. It’s not that she wanted to be so inebriated that she forgot her surroundings. But even her confident air was slightly dampened, not that many, if anyone, would even realize. Which was fine, Rhiannon didn’t want them to. Maybe her mother’s aversion to weakness did rub off on her daughter to a degree. She despised these feelings that welled within. Small emotions of potential disappointment. More of a nagging sensation. But when constant, even the smallest emotion would grow and fester with enough time.
A commotion could be heard off to the side. Curiosity caused her to turn, eyes widening slightly as her name was called by a familiar voice: Sebastian. A grin formed on her face at her brother. “Sebastian! I’m glad to see a familiar face.” Her words trailed off as he bounded into view, poor Henry in tow behind him. The scene was even more familiar than her brother’s voice: the middle Prince drenched and mud stained. Rhiannon quickly rose, holding out an arm towards her brother. “Oh no. I spent a solid thirty minutes rushing to look like I didn’t just crawl out of bed. You will not get me covered in mud – why are you covered in mud. And.. is that a whole lotus?” Rhia eyed the lotus, stem and all, skeptically. She rose a brow at Henry, as if the silent knight might have the answer to her brother’s state.
“I’m impressed though,” her grin widened, a hint of mischief evident, “I would’ve thought I’d be the one to land in a pool of water. You beat me to it.” There had always been a mutual bond between her and Sebastian. Not that she didn’t have that with both of her brothers, but as Sebastian was not the Crown Prince, their duties were shirked together often. “If your partner for today’s event is too polite to comment on it, have no fear. I will never let you live this down.” Rhiannon took a step forward before lightly punching his shoulder, it more of a tap than anything. “You’ll certainly make a wild first impression though. No other way to do it!”
Rhiannon’s attention was once again quickly turned toward another approaching figure. Thankfully, this one wasn’t one bounding for her with a knight dragged behind him, though it would have been a fun sight to see. Her eyes caught sight of the tulip at the man’s waist before scanning over the rest of him. His defined features were striking. Stunning even, the regalness of his attire complimenting it. Though, if it were not for the stranger’s formal attire, his polite way of speaking surely was a give away to his status before his name was even given. Quickly she bade her brother farewell, knowing she’d want to catch up with him afterwards before approaching the Solstice Prince.
At his gesture of an outstretched hand, Rhia instantly recognized his intentions. Complying, she offered him her hand in return, the back of hers facing upwards for him. “Princess Rhiannon of Cidal. A pleasure to meet you as well.”
The formality of his words were similar to those back home. To those who had duties and likely saw to them. A formal style she could mimic, but preferred not to. “Thank you, Prince Eridanus. It’s been a pleasure. Your kingdom and people have been so welcoming in the short time I have been within its boundaries.” A hand moved towards the tulip weaved into her hair, fingers lightly brushing up against the petals. “Thank you. I admit tulips are not a personal favorite of mine, but the ones here in Solstice are exquisite. Perhaps I will have to reconsider,” her words light, offering a smile towards her host. “The tulip suits your outfit as well. It must just be one of those flowers.”
Rhiannon’s eyes shifted about her surroundings briefly before motioning forward. “Would you care to wander the gardens? I know these are familiar to you, but I’d hate to miss seeing the sites by just standing still.”
Graham, admittedly, loved the chase as much as he loved the thrill of the catch. And this was certainly turning out to be far more entertaining than he’d expected. For someone so… forward, Rajah seemed to be blocking any actual movement to any horizontal positions.
Playing around, as it were. Keeping it just dangling out of reach, like the fruit of Tantalus.
“However, I’ll also respond to Beautiful.”
“Duly noted, handsome.” He said, the compliment rolling off the tongue. Just enough cheek to him to keep the little flame alive. Dancing. A careful give and take. Yes, he had Rajah on the line now, talking to him. But it wasn’t like this was a sealed deal just yet.
He allowed the snake to lead him in a nice walk. There was no reason to object other than petty dominance reasons. Rajah could win this one, it was no skin off of the gardener’s back.
And then… he was asked to describe what Bruwyth was like and here was the real… hm.
See, from Graham’s perspective, Bruwyth was a bunch of beautiful greens and hardworking people. People that worked hard in the fields all day, but then had a fantastic amount of fun at night. Work hard, play hard. Forests and nature surrounding everything. A gardener’s paradise full of diversity.
But, would a noble take any of that to note? A person born and raised in the palace with very little time outside of it?
Graham sincerely doubted it. And perhaps this was Rajah’s test to see if he was actually worthwhile. Careful not to tread onto the snake, lest he gets bitten.
“The palace is quite beautiful. Obviously, with our gemstone, we boast some of the most magnificent plants. Therefore, I’d say our gardens are quite extravagant - really I’d say it’s something someone has to see at least once in their lifetime.”
Carefully put as to not set off too many alarm bells about what exactly his occupation was.
“Yeah. I believe there’s a baker here.” He said, with a slight nod of affirmation. Perhaps Rajah had a sweet tooth? Who would’ve guessed. But there was a breath of relief that came through him, quiet and unnoticeable, now that he wasn’t directly being put underneath the microscope.
“But that’s enough about the Bruwyth representation.” Please. Any more and he wasn’t sure exactly how he was going to keep his occupation a secret. “You must tell me about Tairis. What’s a fire kingdom like? Is everyone from Tairis as charming and handsome as you, or are you the exception?”
The seductive purr added in. Graham subtly began leading Rajah away from the rest of the party. A little nudge here, a little invasion of personal space to get him moving into a different direction there until they were at the edge of the gathering
“Would you like to go somewhere a little more… private?”
It seemed that the festival was in full swing. Many a person had gathered in the gardens, mingling with one another... and amongst them would hopefully be Estella's partner for this event. Her eyes swept over the crowds, scanning through the plethora of people gathered here. It was moments like these that she was thankful for her height. Other times it could be a slight nuisance. One hand rested upon the pommel of her ceremonial sword a she strode forwards, her boots making a tapping noise with each step upon the stone path. She took in her surroundings, taking in the beauty that was the Solstice Gardens. She often came down here, patrolling, when she wasn't on guard duty. It was here she met Beaky all those years ago. A smile spread upon Estella's lips at the memory... She then paused frowning ever so slightly, small creases forming upon her brow. She felt something... eyes upon her person. Turning around slowly she heard a voice call out to her. "“E- Ahem, Excuse me? My lady, you seem to be my partner for this?”"
It was then that Estella's gaze first fell upon a the one who spoke to her, just catching a glimpse of the Yellow Dandelion above the woman's ear. Estella looked down, her eyes widening slightly at the sight before her. It was one of the three she had walked by not moments ago. Her eyes took in the the sheer beauty before her. A woman of such beauty, no words Estella knew could even come close to describing her. From the deep bewitching Emerald coloured eyes looking up at her that you could easily get lost in, to the Golden locks, radiating like the sun itself that accentuated her face. The truly elegant dress that was dazzling. A pretty Pink that easily drew the eye towards it, adorned with flowers. A necklace hung from the woman's neck, a mesmerising gemstone set within it. "A gemstone? Could she be a Royale?" Estella was rarely lost for words but at this moment in time she was struggling to speak, at a loss having been captivated.
Calming herself down Estella gave the woman a dazzling smile and then bent to one knee in a smooth fluid movement that had obviously been done hundreds if not thousands of time before. Even getting to one knee, Estella was still just a few inches taller than the lady before her. "Estella Blackwood, Royal Protectorate of the Solstice family. It is truly a pleasure to make your acquaintance" Estella took the woman's hand in her own and rose it to her lips kissing the back of it, Hazel eyes looking into Emeralds a smile upon her lips.
Not under Solstice dominion or embraced by foreign air; not weighted by festival expectations nor intrusive eyes of neighbouring kingdoms.
The environment was different, but she was familiar.
Cesare stood before Lorelei, expression icy yet warmed to the bone all the same. Thickened silence bled into her smile of white lace, fervid with coy guilt. Almost with puppeteer’s precision did it glide her features, a pull of a string to curve the supple bow of her smile; Galatea shedding from a membrane of ivory.
An unmistakable reaction displayed her participation in the parasol’s disappearance, and Cesare held a placid stare to Lorelei’s bashful, if not futile, deterrent.
“You misplaced it on purpose.” Pooled from the mouth blunt, not a question but a statement. Air freighting with the unspoken: Where the hell is it.
It had hit Lorelei like oil to water, the concern of Callahan’s whereabouts. Light as air, unweighted by worry as she whirled in her sea of tulle. Cesare could not share in the unperturbed, cloying thick to the walls of his throat; a dry film settled.
“This is serious!” A songlike giggle met his disquiet, then the honey of her words to alchemise fretting. Victim to the feeling as it flowed and brimmed: Callahan is missing, and then ebbed to the distraction between his eyes. It’s a strange little blessing, touch smoothing the pinch of his brows as if to drink in and displace worry.
“I understand but–” he drew a breath, calming the rapid razor-blade flutter harboured in chest, “one should not underestimate quicksand, my Lady.”
Trust was a fickle thing. A bladed pendulum and katabasis dance. Crux between Scylla and Charybdis, quicksand or enemy. Did he trust the twins with his life? Yes. Did he trust the pair to attend their obligations on time and conduct themselves in an acceptable manner?
To watch her entranced with preening the state of his clothing– it was something Cesare would always appreciate. Gentle as the petals she’d cradle, eyes would distract to the Lupine affixed to his vest. Procured from his bed with a letter penned to impart some scrap of information, the value of those words would remain to be seen, as did Cesare’s understanding of them.
He couldn’t read.
And reasonably, the only explanation was the flower happened to be a special gift from Lorelei. Worn as proud brooch, dissonant to austere features abiding her careful fussing. A pampered pet reaping attention, he’d grown oblivious to the strange combination. Lorelei, delicate as silk and clashing against Cesare rough-hewn as coal.
Try as he might to stifle it, the knight’s expression twisted in distaste, wrought iron mangled by the blow; her new friends.
With a melodious laugh, a talon snared his sleeve. Knight-Killer. Eyes snapped to the grab in half-second protest, “that’s not nec–” —before she’d hurried off towards the garden with Cesare in tow.
A true royal, Lorelei was well-versed in vivacity. Rich in light and colour, bathed with air even when sentenced to the most undesirable social situations. That was her power, the delicate lashes and radiant smile enough to spin tension into ribbons of giggles.
Alas, shadowing her in usual sombre fashion; the knight diffused such loathsome energy it’d seem a near death-sentence to approach. There was no magic to Cesare, vacant of smile and warped with thorn and grit. Slicing after her path like a phantasmal thing, the mingling of strangers in the garden could only ripple shockwaves of distress.
Please don’t look at me.
Oops, eye-contact. Guess I’ll die.
Knights were creatures of action, but Cesare desired nothing more than to dig a hole and bury himself in it. Connect with the soil and feed nature with his rotting corpse.
Pulling from mass was a godsend, sequestering to the garden beds to find— not people friends. Flower friends. Relief settled the rigid slope of his spine, tension melting from the twitch of his jaw. He blinked when she spoke with the flora, watching, waiting, a casual occurrence. Coated in politesse did she interact, no knife or teeth to brandish, only kind essence to be shared. Surrounded by the flora carved a longing he hadn’t quite expected, a flavour of homesickness.
An accent, Lorelei told him. A thoughtful hum left Cesare as he followed after her, mind weighing with a topic of utmost importance.
“Do you suppose Solstice cows are the same?”Cows. How his chest leapt bounds to their mention. Their kind eyes, gentle noses, fluttering lashes. And now, maybe, Cesare could only hope, with accents.
Mention of a tart had his eyes squinting with confusion, turning to look at Lorelei. “Tart? What ta-” Sweet poised in her hand, dusting the curve of her lips: danger!
“Where did you get–” Mouth parted in protest as he hurried after the hasty-moving Lorelei. “Miss– My Lady– that cou– what if it’s poisoned?!” A slippery squelch beneath his boot had Cesare’s balance thrown. Gliding grass for a moment, pursuit faltering to stare at the unmentionable underfoot.
Abandoned to the ground in Lorelei’s elation, now trodden into a sickly smear. Danger defeated, but at what cost?
Scuffing his shoe along the grass while he struggled after Lorelei in an awkward gait, eyes darkened to coals with the arrival of recognition, then caught aflame with something else. Annoyed relief. Divinity came a dime a dozen, yet here two deities stood, Lorelei’s pearl smile and exhilarating embrace, cutting into figure equally as striking to his kingdom. Oak root vitality with light catching the formal bones of his face:
There had always been a lodestone, some hypnotic spell-bidden pull like a sun-hot stone sinking into the cold silt of a riverbed. It could be a bond, tendrilled with loyalty to Bruwyth and all that entails: The twins. Revolutionising even the most prosaic of things, willing to bleed bloodless and diluted.
Or perchance, like how it felt now in the Prince’s presence, this loyalty was an anchor. An iceberg where it's hidden depth lies the serrated cold of sharp rationality. His mind tarried, knew better than his heart; the cost of weight upon the conscience that acutely needled him. The steady precision of it, delusion or denial?
“Prince Callahan,” Cesare greeted with a deft bow of his head. “Was it quicksand, My Lord?” He murmured discreetly rather than ring it out, “the cause of your absence?”
Cesare may have been tasked in hounding the twins, but he was never suited for rationale.
Cyrus had always ben very complimentary of the young princess and she liked that about him, who wouldn't? It built up her ego in times when she was feeling lower than usual and even gave her hope in men like she read about in her romance novels. Perhaps more than your crown. It was a funny statement regarding the flower, one that some might consider odd coming from a knight directly to his princess, however Esme simply smiled slightly, shaking her head. "Well, it's just for the day, don't get too used to it." The girl teased, though she did take it as a compliment when he said it. Most looked at Esme and only saw a Princess, someone who held power over them and a gift that no one quite understood. Cyrus though, he seemed to see her as an actual person rather than the idea of one.
"A petunia!" Esme smiled, noticing the small flower pinned to his jacket and straightening it slightly, "There, handsome as ever!" The girl giggled, continuing down the hallway as he spoke. She only half-listened though, she couldn't help it she was too excited! When they finally got there and she turned to him, she could see his face go pale, finishing what he was saying. Esme put it together pretty quickly and in a moment reached to place a hand on his cheek, only to decide against it for appearance's sake. She did step closer though, meeting his eyes as he dropped her hand. "It's all in good fun, Cyrus." She said, "We're here to simply play a game and meet someone new, that's all." Esme reminded him with a comforting grin, "Just try and have fun and not worry about me for once, I promise if I need you I'll call."
Swiftly, the girl gave his arm a squeeze, trying to reassure him. "Go have fun. You deserve it, Cyrus."
And with that final piece of advice, the girl parted from him, waving with a small smile as she began to explore the large, golden ballroom. Everything in the castle was either golden or silver and it expanded that way into the village as well for the most part. Sosltice was a rather wealthy kingdom with all things considered and they tried to spread their wealth amongst everyone as evenly as possible.
With each flower Esme saw, she took a step closer, only to realize it wasn't a lotus. "Where is my match?" She pouted quietly to herself.
Gently grasping the buttercup that she had received the night prior, Katarina questioned the event she was about to attend. Who would she be paired with? Would she meet the love of her life? Would she be paired with a royal? Her mind was flooded with questions, but she had to get ready regardless of how anxiety ridden she was feeling at the moment.
Generally, the girl wasn't too worried about events like this, especially after being a lady in waiting for the time she has been. Many balls and dinners have been held in the kingdom of Tairis, so there was no reason for her to be as worrisome as she is, if only she could figure out the reason why she was feeling the way she was. Perhaps it's the thought of being paired with someone she couldn't stand, or worse, someone who was from Tairis. She knew many of the people from the kingdom that would be attending the event and she really didn't want to have to deal with that.
As Katarina began to prepare herself, she slipped into her dress, then her heels, which would be a great idea until she has a few drinks and is a couple hours into the festival. Confidence began to grow as she applied her makeup, with each swipe, there was more determination to have the time of her life at this festival. She would be mingling with some amazing people, whether they were royal or not, they were from different kingdoms and would give her a taste of other cultures.
Once her makeup was finished, she sticks the buttercup into her hair, completing the full look. The only thing left was to arrive at the gardens and start searching for her partner with a matching flower. As she enters into the area the festival takes place in, she notices quite a few people, some familiar faces, and some strangers, a decent mix of the two. Katarina walks around for a few minutes, admiring the beauty of the venue, and the people as well.
A boy appears in her line of sight, chewing on something. Was that... no, it can't be.. his FLOWER? She hoped that he remembered the type of flower he had, as she approached him with hopes of them being a match, if not, she would move on to the next person that caught her eye. With a curtsy, Katarina eyes the man from her lowered perspective, "How are you on this fine evening?" A smile was spread across her face as she lifted back up to face the stranger in front of her. It was very important for her to make a good impression, how else would she get her fairytale ending?