The sun’s vibrant hues are quite blinding, isn’t it? Like a signal lit up into the sky to remind us that a new day has come, andI, your favorite author, welcome it with open arms. Oh dear, are you really wondering why? Well, as most of you know, this is not just any other day. A new season has arrived, and I must say we have some restless flock eager to chirp around. My oh my, seems like I will be needing a few extra quills for this one.
Pucker up dearest. The Queen of Casterlot made it known that her castle doors are once again open– inviting the ton to celebrate with her the start of a new season. An event hosted by none other than the matchmaker herself; And we must not forget our precious debutantes, the stars of tonight’s event.
“The Diamond of the Season”. I can almost hear the faint rumble in their stomachs– their hunger for title and recognition. Oh but no pressure really. Her majesty’s discerning eyes must not be so hard to catch.. I think. Any advice, you ask? Chin up, select your most chic gown, and wear your best smile. After that, well.. I’ll be sending prayers.
As for our noble bachelors, surely the ladies must not be doing all the work. Keep it sleek and take the lead. The music is already set for you to extend an arm to one of our precious jewels.
This upcoming occasion will surely harbor the sweetest melodies of discussions. You must not forget, I am all ears for the loose lips of the ton. Keep away from prying eyes if you do not want to be hunted. If anyone shall reveal your most kept secrets, it is I. Make haste my gentle readers, we have a ball to attend.
A sweet mellow hum gradually envelopes the room. It was the same song that always effectively lulled her to sleep when she was younger. Although she hardly remembers the words, it’s the melody that was imprinted on her mind. Lost in her own world, the lady carries on with her pleasant tones as it echoes throughout her chambers. The nostalgia she feels when she sings it to herself– somehow it helps in calming her nerves. It was her way of escaping reality even just for a while.
Soon enough, her humming was interrupted with a light tap on her back causing her shoulders to twitch at the contact. In the wake of her eyes, she finds herself sitting in front of her vanity– the same oceanic gaze staring back at her. “Oh, I didn’t mean to startle you Lady Francine,” Occupying the rest of the reflection, there she sees a familiar face standing behind her with a few accessories in hand. “What about this necklace? Rose gold is a lot more fitting with this dress, don’t you think?” Francine chuckled as she met the eyes of their housekeeper. “That’s alright Nancy,” Turning to her direction, she takes a brief scan of the jewelries dangling in front of her. “Hmm.. you’re right I’ll take this one then,” She gave Nancy a quick smile before facing back her mirror. “I’ll put it on for you my lady.” There she sat still as her housekeeper gently lifted her long peach locks before swaying it to the side to expose her nape. With a soft click the lock was quickly secured.
Through her reflection, her gaze falls on the jewelry now resting on her neck. The pretty stones glinted even with the slightest movement. She felt its weight along with another feeling she knew all too well.. pressure, followed by responsibility. It was a beautiful leash she had to wear and one she would never escape.
This is the day where she’ll soon be branded as a debutante. She noticed her hand shake as beads of sweat dripped on the side of her head. It was her body reacting to her anxious thoughts. I can’t fail. She repeated those same words inside her head, clasping her hands in an attempt to feel less nervous. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to numb the churning in her stomach. Until.. she felt a strong slap on her back making her cough a few times due to the sudden impact. Francine winced at the sharp pain before turning to Nancy. “What was that for?!” The housekeeper sighed and followed it with a gentle rub on her back. “You’re too tense my lady. And look, it still works like a charm!” The young lady glances down at her hands realizing that her tremors seem to have subsided.
Francine exhaled and stood her ground, facing her housekeeper once again. “Thank you,” Nancy knew how to help when she needed it. Always in her beck and call, always someone she could rely on. The debutante was more than grateful to have her by her side. The housekeeper answered with only a smile as she continued in assisting the young lady in preparation for today’s event.
“Make haste Francine, the carriage is here!” Another faint voice calls out her name, this time coming from downstairs. Its sharp tone was easily recognizable.. at least for her. “Coming mama!” The young lady was about to step out of her chambers but Nancy’s voice caught her attention. “One last thing my lady,” The housekeeper hurriedly reaches for the tiara and plants it on top of her head. It was the last piece that brought it all together.
“Lovely as always, Lady Francine,” The debutante takes one last glance at her vanity, quite in awe as she gazes at her reflection. In her time away from Glimmerbrooke, she placed no effort in grooming herself for she couldn’t allot enough time to do so. Like a whole new other person, this is an image that must not falter in this process. Francine takes another deep breath, hoping to exhale the leftover anxiousness from her glossed lips.
The tapping of her heels echoed loudly as she strides along the empty halls of their manor. Nancy followed behind her, guiding her every step for the lady’s convenience. The rooms were still unfilled for the Berkeley’s had only just arrived the night before. There was still much to do, however, that can be handled at another time. Soon as she exited their gates, the debutante was greeted by an open carriage stationed at the front of their abode. Sitting inside was her mother, motioning the lady to come in. Francine lifted her pink gown, keeping it away from getting stepped on before entering the carriage. As the coachman closed the doors, Francine could still see Nancy through its windows. “We’ll be back soon.” She mouthed the words to her and wore a subtle smile on her face. Alas, with a signal to the horses, the carriage begins to move.
It didn’t take long for the debutante to notice the unusual behavior of her mother. Any minute now she would have received an earful, but the viscountess seems too absorbed with the sheet she’s holding. Lady Whistledown? There was a logo printed on its front with the author’s pen name written below it. It was but an impulse as Francine’s curious gaze wandered along the paper– but she could hardly make any sense for the words were too small. The lady was quick to give up and didn’t bother to pry. If anything, she found peace in this quiet drive.
“We’re nearing the castle!” The coachman worded, audible enough for the passengers to know. “Your back is slouched dear,” Francine felt her mother’s fan tap against her back. As soon as it was mentioned, she was quick to react and straightened her posture. When the horse's hooves slowed down, her ears twitched at the murmuring crowd. It gradually became louder and was accompanied by the elegant music being played in the background. She gently swept the curtains to the side and was greeted by the grand castle with lavish decors– surrounded by lush greenery and colorful floras. It was breathtaking, indeed. Built just like in fairy tales.
In mere moments, the coachman had already opened the doors. She blew a sharp exhale hoping it would shake off any residual tension. Be flawless and carry yourself with grace. It was a demeanor she must wear on this battlefield. At least for tonight, she must achieve her first goal.. to secure a suitor.
The carriage jolted along the cobblestone streets, its ornate wheels clattering in rhythm with the palpable tension inside. Adelheid, resplendent in her satin gown, sat on one side of the carriage, her rigid posture a testament to her stern demeanor. Her lips were pursed, and her sharp eyes stared out the window, refusing to acknowledge her stepson's presence on the opposite seat.
On the other side, Edward, tall and immaculately dressed, maintained a facade of indifference. He clasped his gloved hands together, fingers tapping ever so slightly in a rhythm that only he could decipher. His gaze was fixed on the carriage's velvet curtains, avoiding any eye contact with his stepmother.
The atmosphere was thick with unsaid words, their strained relationship a chasm between them that neither was willing to bridge. The resentment between them had festered for years, poisoning their interactions and leaving scars that seemed impossible to heal.
As the carriage continued its journey toward the palace, the clip-clopping of the horses' hooves providing a relentless soundtrack to their silent battle, Adelheid's temper finally got the better of her.
"Edward," she began, her voice sharp and cutting through the tension, "I do hope you intend to behave yourself tonight. Your conduct reflects on this family's reputation as its heir, and I won't have your foolishness tainting it."
Edward turned his gaze toward his stepmother, his golden eyes meeting her piercing blue ones. "Of course, Lady Adelheid," he replied, his tone polite but distant. "I always conduct myself appropriately in public."
Adelheid sighed, the corners of her mouth twitching as if she wanted to say something more, something different. But years of pride and stubbornness held her back. Instead, she turned her attention back to the passing scenery outside the window, the grandeur of the palace looming closer with every passing minute.
"I hope for your sake that you keep your word," she bit out.
The carriage came to a halt before the towering palace doors, and a liveried footman quickly descended from his post atop the carriage to open the door. As he extended a gloved hand to assist the marchioness, she reluctantly accepted his help and emerged from the carriage with all the grace and poise that one of noble blood demanded.
Edward followed suit, stepping out onto the grand courtyard of the palace. There, they found themselves amidst a scene of opulence and grandeur. Other noble families, draped in exquisite gowns and tailored suits, were also arriving, each eager to make their mark at the royal ball.
It was the day young ladies and lords looked forward to each season, the event that marked her rise in status among the peerage, the ball that once brought forth her ambitions of a higher place but now only invoked mild amusement in the proceedings. Or at least, that would have been the case had she not had a “debutante” to worry about. And what a “debutante” they were.
Walking primly down the steps of her front door, careful to step around anything remotely unsavoury-looking, Josephine pursed her lips and prayed that the ball tonight would go in her protégé’s favour. God knows he needed the luck. Shifting the weight of the train in her arms and ignoring Kitty fretting over her unsightly appearance — she had paid more than a petty sum for the dress in her hands, and while she believed the price worth it, ruining it with water stains before the main attraction was definitely not.
More than a thousand yards of handmade silk netting covered her embroidered evening gown, and ribbons of bronze green satin ran up the sides and back of her dress to evoke images of floral growth; even more trimmed her sleeves and train as if the designer had never heard the phrase “less is more”. Her turban was made of the same extravagant nonsense, with dyed ostrich plumes and pearls embellishing the saxon green crêpe, topped off with an emerald brooch inlaid in gold. All in all, an exorbitant ensemble, and therefore would not touch outside ground until she had been in the ballroom proper.
Kitty bested her to knocking at the door with her unburdened hands — not that the duchess was planning to knock at all. There were simply not enough servants in the house to reach the door before she could unlock it, and efficiency was key on a night like this. It was a fact that she had given Lorenzo the building next to hers so that she could give guidance to the fool whenever it was required. She was not planning to act the stranger starting today.
Repositioning the train to rest on her shoulders and whipping out a key from one of her pockets, she promptly unlocked the door before her maid could think to protest.
“Madam!” Kitty spluttered. “Where did the key even come from?”
She had stolen it from the butler of her main capital residence, and it was unknown if he had realised yet.
The butler of the current address was rushing over with a startled face, and while she disliked making trouble for the domestic help, there was simply not enough time to reassure the man. Marching up the stairs and to her “debutante’s” bedroom door, she sharply knocked twice.
“You had better have made use of the valet I gave you,”
she warned in what she thought was a relaxed tone but most likely sounded more sinister to the everyman’s ear.
W E B E R , E L O I S E Interacting with: Location: Castle Grounds
Her father knew exactly what he was doing when he had dropped her off at the castle two weeks prior to the event. She held no interest in it— vying for the attention of men and getting some fancy title she didn't even want didn't seem fun at all— but Eloise always agreed to stay at the castle. If anything, to visit her dear cousin and to check on her. They might not be as close as they were when they were children but Eloise still worried about the queen's wellbeing. And hey, seeing the young prince wasn't a bad deal either.
Of course, she fell into her father's trap and now there was no choice but to attend the ball. If Lucretia willed it so, Eloise could do nothing but obey. Of course, she didn't exactly roll over and show her belly immediately— however, after six unsuccessful attempts at escaping throughout the week (or, well, within the past three days), Eloise finally gave in.
"To think you'd be so resistant, Lady Eloise. Do you not want to find a proper husband? Perhaps even be the Diamond of the Season?"
Eloise scoffed as her personal maid aided her in preparing for the event. At the very least, her father had some sense to send a couple of dresses and gowns she could wear throughout the event. "You know me well enough by now, Mary. I've little interest in it."
The maid rolled her shoulders in a shrug. "One can hope my lady could change." Mary moved Eloise to a chair in front of the vanity, preparing to brush and style the young lady's hair. "And the castle is rather locked tight. If you are unable to escape, then why not just try to enjoy the festivities anyway?"
Mary was making sense. Neither her father's personal bodyguards (see: jailors) nor the castle's royal guard was going to let her go that easily. At the end of the day, the only way she could feasibly escape was to just grit her teeth and go through the festivities and hopefully not make a fool out of herself. And if she was lucky, maybe she would be able to see some familiar face; or maybe even get a chance to find this so called husband her father wanted her to have.
"I still don't like the idea of winning the Diamond of the Season." Eloise admitted with a small grumble. Unbecoming of someone with her pedigree but it was just her and her maid, who was there to judge? "You know as well as I that it would leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth should I handle the title due to my... proximity and relation with the queen."
Lucretia wasn't the type of person to be bought out by money or bloodline— she was a fair woman after all. But Eloise highly doubted everyone else would see it that way.
The two fell into a comfortable and familiar silence after that. Mary had been her personal maid for as long as she could remember— loyal and faithful, perhaps, and Eloise counted her lucky stars to have her around. Once they were done, Eloise let out a sigh and gave her a strained smile. "Wish me luck."
Mary placed a hand on her shoulder. "Luck is not what you need and both you and I know that."
The young lady grimaced, staring at her reflection. She liked the events because she was allowed to wear such extravagant clothing without seeming pretentious— but a bigger part of her wished she was anywhere but here. However, the weight of expectation burdened her shoulders.
Eloise had no right to present herself alongside the queen so she had to take a route around the castle to enter the grounds alongside the other noble families. She took a deep breath and entered, adopting her more regal and noble persona. The one that people wanted to see. The one her father wished she truly was. With a gentle smile plastered on her face, she walked forward, eyes scanning the crowd to pick out who she knew from who she didn't.
B R I A R H E A R T , L O R E N Z O Interacting with:Ambiloquous Location: Undescribed pink-walled room in a house
"Please don't say it like that. Lady Winchester will have my head if she finds out."
Lorenzo was looking down at a piece of ripped clothing that had made its way to his favorite shirt. While he could just replace it with something else, considering he had quite the selection before him, Lorenzo wasn't very willing to part with such an article of clothing. Charles, the valet that Lady Josephine had given him upon his introduction and the lending of the house he was currently residing in.
"In any case, we must get you dressed, Sir Briarheart. Madame Winchester will be here at any second and you have much to prepare for."
With a heavy heart, Lorenzo moved on from the rip on his shirt and moved to actually get dressed for the event. He didn't carry much with him. His father hadn't sent him with much aside from the clothes on his back and a letter to Lady Winchester regarding their previous talk about aiding Lorenzo with matters of nobility seeing as he was not exactly the most well-versed regarding them. Charles moved to put on the finishing touches of both the coat and his gloves before finally handing him is tophat.
"Looking sharp, Sir Briarheart."
Lorenzo gave him a small, bashful smile as well as a light chuckle. "Ah, thank you. Well then, we should-"
The two of them nearly jumped out of their skin— well, Lorenzo did; Charles merely turned his head towards the door— when two sharp knocks followed by a warning bled through the door. After calming his racing heart for a total of two seconds, Lorenzo nodded to Charles who then opened the door.
"Mister Charles has been a great help." He reported. Despite Josephine's sharp tone that sent chills running down Lorenzo's spine, he greeted the woman with a smile and a bow of his head. Be everything as it may, Josephine had a much higher status than he could ever obtain and, as such, proper respect was due no matter how terrifying she was.
He fixed his coat and presented himself in front of Josephine. "I think I dress quite nicely. Don't you think so as well, Lady Winchester?"
There was a cold breeze in the night sky. The party hadn't even started and all Lucretia wanted to do was to close her eyes and let the wind bring the sands of sleep. Alas, tonight was not a time for rest as there was an event waiting for her at the banquet hall. "Hnghh..." The child spurred at the lack of movement that helped him sleep. His face scrunched up at the need for attention. It was moments like these, when the prince was in her arms along with the peace and quiet, that she cherished the most lately.
"Hush now, Laurenz. Mama is right here so dry your tears." Lucretia whispered softly as she placed her lips on his forehead. It didn't take long for the child to fall back to sleep, one that was deep enough that will let him rest through the night... hopefully.
The door creaked quietly, revealing one of her most trusted servants in the castle, the Housekeeper, Miss Lucy. "Your majesty, the guests have arrived." A nod was directed towards the old woman, a thank you flowed away from the Queen's lips. "I had Miss Clarke take your chosen dress for tonight and brought to your chambers. I shall take my leave and continue to prepare the girls for the guests."
Lucretia couldn't stop the corners of her mouth to curve into a small smile as she watched her former governess walked away. When the her mother had died, Miss Lucy had stepped up and became a secondary mother figure to a young and grieving Lucretia back in the day. No amount of words can express the fondness and appreciation she had for the old woman.
"If only I could just stay here with you, Martienne." Lucretia admitted softly to her slumbering son, the gentlest of touch caressed his cheek after putting him down to his crib. "I wish you could have met your uncle, he would have dotted on you to no end." A laugh escaped her throat at the visual representation in her mind whilst a pang of pain and guilt hit her chest like a hammer. It was supposed to be him ruling Casterlot and not her, but there was no changing the past and she's stuck in this position whether she wanted to or not.
The door to her son's room closed as quietly as possible, she waited for a moment to ensure that her child didn't stir awake from the noise before continuing to her own chambers where Brooklyn had waited for her with her dress for the night. "Brooklyn," Lucretia greeted, endearment filled her eyes as she looked at the woman in front of her. "Join me in tonight's festivities? I don't think I'll handle mingling with the ton if it's just me."
There were echoing sounds amidst the silence. The clicks of a lady's footsteps only ceased to a halt after her own realization hit from the resounding echoes trickling down the the room's clear mid-path aligned with barrels along its sides. Ahem. A sudden voice made the woman jump out of her skin as she twirled to view a man with neatly tousled hair, well-groomed just above the standard of the upper scale winery's dress code. "Can I help you find something?" He asked, tilting his head slightly toward the woman as she attempted to mutter, "Code to the vault, maybe?"
"I'll have you know, I am here for a business deal," She wisely realigned, before noticing the unchanged expression on the man's face. How could he be so indifferent? Well then again, no plain guest . . or worker for that matter would truly have any direct buy in. He was just quite formally dressed for the winery to be- "Follow me," He nodded over his left shoulder before turning right back around the corner. The visitor huffed under her breath, trying not to gallop after him with his long somewhat purposeful strides.
The winery was massive. Rows upon rows of oak barrels were stored within dimly lit rooms for ageing. A clean main breezeway offered the seamless transition between spacious event spaces, luxurious wine tasting bars, clean kitchens, and state of the art wine production centers all the way to the property's multiple indoor outdoor seating areas presenting one of the main reasons why this business woman was here today . . gourmet meals.
"Lord Oliver Emerson," Her cousin's familiar voice from behind open double doors snapped the visitor back to reality just as quickly as her human map stopped right before her. The nerve. "TCH!" She seethed, failing to stop herself behind his abrupt halt as his arm looped behind him in a smooth steady motion to assist her into the room. "Chef Bolton," Oliver nodded upon guiding Bolton's acquaintance into the room. She remained silent as they somehow synced in step with their arms formally linked in disguise to prevent her stumble. "I see you have met my cousin," The chef replied as the double doors came to a close.
"I presented her with a tour of the winery . . why-"
"By letting her gallop after you?!"
Oliver chuckled as he lifted his head from the signed deal, "It worked, did it not?" The baron admittedly walked her along the longer route throughout the winery as they navigated to the meeting room. What a prime way to tour the facility in all its glory, letting its features speak for itself. "What good would it do if we all sat around a table with a plain contract between us," Oliver stood from his desk, rounding its corner with a slight shift as he swung his coat on. The Boltons were treasured guests within the food and beverage industry. Whipping up a fine dining experience seemed to run in any descendants' blood. However, it was the line's first time within the deeper nooks of the winery away from their guests' usual areas. The Boltons visited for a gourmet meal partnership, exhibiting the winery's refined production lines as well as state of the art kitchen upkeep only proved the side of the contract Emerson Distilleries would uphold. "Is that not what we did-," His righthand buddy's voice cut off at the glance Oliver shot, "Alright, that's what you both did with myself jogging in pursuit the last leg of the way."
Oliver adjusted his coat's collar before tugging his sleeves beneath. Then, he diverted his attention back to Ludovico. The slightly younger fellow remained tense despite attempting to bring up the earlier small talk between them. Lud was tasked for the first time ever to head the town's tavern event, a feat he had yet to cover without Oliver or any other assistance. Oliver roughly clapped his friend's back. "A simple swig, and you will be alright!" The baron smirked before tossing a set of keys over his shoulder.
And with that, Oliver was off to the palace.
If only he took the day off. Then again, would it have been any different knowing the Boltons would arrive as guests at the same gathering? Oliver showed up at the palace just a few moments prior to the night's stream of guests. He thought it'd be a decent idea to check in with his delivery team. Not necessarily for business, but for casual brief one on ones with its members.
Soon enough, the sound of multiple stage coaches and unsettled horses could be heard harmoniously screeching to a halt just beyond the walls. That was his cue to escape- perhaps not. All of this was his father's "dying wish" after all. Besides, why not give it a shot? Oliver re-routed his path toward the entryway, catching all sorts of nobles viewing the palace exterior in awe. His walk veered around their gazes just pausing his frame alongside a pair he recognized. "Perhaps a drink could calm your nerves," Oliver stated between the step-son and step-mother duo. He'd known of the latter's dislike of alcohol, but chuckled upon shifting his gaze to her. "That pup is more loose than you," The baron commented as he gave a single nod toward the stray dog without removing his gaze from Adelheid. Just then, the doors of another stage coach swung open beside them nearly clocking him in the head. Oliver swiftly pivoted with furrowed brows to seek its driver, but instead saw a lady emerge- . . did he know her? The man blinked in thought at the sudden distraction, a safety hazard if you will. "Your nerves are spreading, Marchioness Burke," He muttered, taking a step in a direction to include the newcomer into their group. "The palace is beautiful, calming if you will," Oliver wondered before gradually descending the volume of his low tone, "Is it perhaps the pup with its ferocious paws, thick thighs, and oh so daunting stare hindering the lot of you to breathe?"
A moment of silence lingered as his face slightly scrunched supposedly in deep thought. Oliver glanced at the new visitor with a smirk breaking his features before bending his arms to adjust the cuffs around his wrists. Truth is, the baron felt the tension raging from the same pressures most of them surely felt. Hm, but who was he to amplify its core. As of now, his own self-delegated mission was to shake the nerves away. Anyone's clammy hands would do no one good.
Alas, his own hands were fine. Warm if you will even despite his attempt to break the ice. However, Oliver looked to Adelheid for guidance with a naive gaze only she and a few others would recognize. He simply had no clue how the event would play out.
Adelheid's stern expression remained unyielding as Oliver approached, his attempt at humor earning nothing more than a raised eyebrow from the marchioness.
"I doubt a drink would make much of a difference," she retorted, her words honed to a sharp point. Adelheid spared a brief, seemingly dismissive glance at the stray dog before returning her gaze to the palace's grandeur.
"The palace is beautiful, calming if you will."
Adelheid scoffed. "Hmph, beauty is often misleading," she muttered, her tone sharp and critical. "Though I suppose if any building had the right to be called beautiful, it would be this one."
Ever the diplomat, Edward decided to play along with Oliver's attempt at humor. "Indeed, Oliver, appearances can be deceiving," he remarked, his voice laced with a touch of dry wit as he briefly crouched down to run a hand through the canine's matted fur. "Much like the noble families that grace these halls. This fine gentleman here is certainly better company."
"You'd do well to watch that mouth of yours once we're inside the palace." The marchioness snapped, fan swinging open to cover the lower half of her face.
"Of course, of course." The young heir raised his hands in surrender.
"... Edward makes a valid point, however. The palace is glamorous," Adelheid said, her gaze briefly meeting Oliver's before veering away. "The people you'll meet are less so. But enough about that. You've been taught well, haven't you?"
Edward nodded in agreement, his politeness giving way to a subtle sense of approval. "We've done our best to prepare you for these gatherings," he stated, his tone measured. "Your ability to adapt is commendable."