Umbra felt especially cold at dawn. The winds and the sun rose hand-in-hand towards the ashen castle in the mountains, providing both the light to a new day and chills to all who was awake at such an ungodly hour. Unfortunately for prince Ignatius, walking the corridors of the Umbran castle first thing in the morning had been part of his new rigorous routine. He was the heir to the throne, carrying the world on his shoulders ever since his father called him to his quarters to talk about the future of the kingdom. And after a somber talk with his bedridden father, Ignatius had found himself in preparations for his coronation set for the incoming weeks. Which now left him to force down his shivers as he tried to get used to waking up at the crack of dawn to begin his princely duties.
His royal advisor, Fredrick, had informed him the moment he left his chambers that his sister Anastasia requested his presence in the throne room. It was peculiar news for a couple of reasons. One of which being that Anastasia never requested, she demanded, and another being the fact that Anastasia was normally on one of her hunts at dawn. For her to request his arrival at the throne room first thing in the morning— before breakfast even, concerned him. Just a little bit. It had only been the night before that his coronation was announced to the rest of his siblings and that was more than enough time for Anastasia to sense a threat of danger towards her family. It had been her sixth sense to perceive the worst before it arrived. And it peaked both his curiosity and worry that her request for his appearance was in correlation to his impending kingship.
So the request from his sister left him briskly walking (definitely not running— princes don't run in the corridors) towards the throne room. Passing by suits of armor, lovely portraits of his family and the ancestors before him, and swiftly greeting the servants who crossed his path. The castle was gaudy, to say the least, far more spacious than needed for his family and staff but that was what made the kingdom of Umbra the empire it was today. Grand. Lavish. Powerful. But also a pain to walk through with the number of twists and turns the castle held. Luckily, the throne room was placed to be the center of it all, and Ignatius knew the castle like the back of his hand; secret rooms, passages, and all.
By the time Ignatius arrived at the large oak doors which held the throne room behind, Ignatius fixed his black garments and released a sigh. It was only his sister. Anastasia understood his position the most out of his other siblings. The two were a year apart in age and shared more in common than their darling sister Eve, brooding brother Dominic, or shy flower Violette. They both understood the harsh responsibilities Ignatius had to face as the eldest son and next in line for the throne and the sacrifices his duties held. He just hoped to whatever deity looking down on him that she wasn't forced to give him another task. She was commanding general of Umbra's battalion after all, and the position left little to no room for her to think about the mental wellbeing of her older brother above her responsibilities for the kingdom.
"I already have an day's worth of itinerary, what is one more to the list?"
When he pushed open the doors he was greeted by his sister in her suit of armor standing patiently in the center of the room. Trying to read the expression on her face was difficult as Anastasia rarely showed any weakness. But the way she spared a small smile for her older brother's entrance at least showed that she didn't come bearing bad news. "Ignatius." The light tone in her voice made the prince visibly unstiffen. "I apologize for this request on such short notice but I wanted to be the one to tell you."
Ignatius went back to his stiff posture as he walked to stand in front of her.
"Should I be worried?"
"Depends on how you see it."
"Worried it is."
Instead of laughing at Ignatius' attempt at a joke (he was never the best at telling jokes sober) Anastasia went back to business. "Your coronation is in preparation and all our allies are beyond excited. Father had sent out the news to them before he even shared it with us." There was a hint of bitterness at the end of her sentence. Maintaining connections with their kingdom's allies was a good thing of course. Yet Ignatius found himself feeling nauseous at the idea of the neighboring kingdoms knowing before his own siblings knew. "I'm worried that with the news becoming public at such a quick rate, there would be people who'd wish to harm you."
Ignatius frowned, slowly understanding where she was going.
"I can take care of myself."
"I know you can but I want to be sure." The look she gave him left him no room to speak. "I am giving you a personal guard. He's new, son of noblemen who sent him to Umbra. From evaluation, he has shown to be promising."
"Why does it sound like you're selling him to me?"
"Because he'll be stuck with you indefinitely." Ignatius wanted to march back to his chambers and scream into his fluffy pillows. When Anastasia made a decision, it was final. There was no way in hell that Ignatius could convince her otherwise. "And another thing," The prince could only groan. "In honor of your royal highness' coronation, father has invited a bard to stay in the castle. He is our guest and father wishes for you to be his babysitter. Says it will develop your qualities as king." From the glint in his sister's eyes, she was enjoying his torment.
Ignatius tried not to grit his teeth. First, he was given his own babysitter and now he was ordered to be a babysitter himself. This was not how he wanted to spend his morning. Nor his life for that matter.
"Fine. Where will I find them?"
"Courtyard. They'll be joining you for breakfast there."
Without saying goodbye to his sister (Ignatius was too petty for that), he swiftly exited the throne room and briskly walked towards the courtyard. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his gut.
Like this was only the start to something different. And Ignatius didn't know how to feel about it.
The song Cassius played was light, the music sounding hazy in the air, as he strummed almost absentmindedly at his lyre. He was seated in the courtyard, with some other man--a man who was, frankly, unimportant to him, because he was after bigger fish at the moment. Usually it wouldn't take any more than a pretty face for Cass to chase, and this man certainly fit that requirement. But when you were planning to chase a prince, suddenly those things became much less important.
So Cassius wasn't playing to impress, not at the moment; He was playing because he was--as he was often--bored. There was no strong melody to the tune he played, and his voice came out as a soft hum without any theatrics. It was a song he had been working on lately, noodling to the best of his abilities. A song about his father, like most songs seemed to be when he played them long enough. Only this one was far more raw with the lyrics, so he supposed it was one he would never play for the stage. Even now, he was humming instead of singing, afraid of even this one man hearing what he thought.
After a moment longer, his humming died out, and he played one final chord before tucking the lyre back into his pack. This was no time to be thinking about such sad things, after all; He had bigger things that he was after, and couldn't allow himself to get bogged down by thoughts. He leaned back slightly, using his hands to prop himself up on the bench that he was seated upon.
Well, he supposed, using a cheap plaything for the time being wouldn't be the death of him.
Looking over at the man seated in the courtyard with him, Cass let his smile shine through, tilting his head to the side as he gazed upon the other. Yes, certainly easy on the eyes, and, he thought, maybe a good consolation prize if things with the prince didn't work out for him. Not that anything would work out for very long with anyone; Cassius was born for the road, as he liked to say in a somber tone to his lovers when he left them behind.
(It was far better than explaining why he actually couldn't stay, thoughts he didn't want to even let into his mind right now.)
Crossing his legs, Cass let his hands settle on his knees and widened his smile.
"Waiting for the prince as well, aye?"
he asked. He supposed that title was going to change soon, and maybe it was even presumptuous for him to call him anything other than the crown prince. But Cassius never had too much respect for authority--not that he didn't know how to turn it on when necessary.
He looked away for a moment, at the rest of the sights in the courtyard.
"And what gives us the pleasure of waiting together, hm?"
He could tell that the man was a guard of some kind, certainly, but was unsure why exactly he would be waiting here, though he could make some guesses.
Before he could converse with the other for too long, he heard footsteps behind him, and looked over his shoulder to find the crown prince himself. Cass schooled his smile into a passive one and rose from his seat, stepping over to the prince and kneeling down in front of him.
"thank you for giving me the pleasure of meeting you. I do hope we'll get along well, in our time together."
Then he was taking the prince's hand and kissing lightly on his knuckles.
"You truly are the crown jewel of the heavens, just as they say,"
he said against his hand, before letting it go and rising to his feet. Certainly a cheeky move, but Cassius thought it fit him.
These days, knowing more makes you more miserable.
Go on the dawn patrol they said. It would be fun, they said. WELL CURRENTLY IT WAS NOT FUN! Nate had sealed his fate by volunteering for an extra patrol shift before he left for the palace. He was bored and plus he wanted to look good to his officers. Maybe his family would let him come home sooner. He didnt know it was the one for early that fucking morning but it would be fine. Hopefully.
The shadows danced and swayed underneath the sparse light of the village as they entered. The few lights that were sprinkled about were mainly smashed or merely burned out. A small mental note to get that checked and fixed. The sun was just starting to pick over the edge of the mountains in the distance, colour slowly coming to this washed-out village. While Umbra was known for its breathtaking night sky, Nate was glad it was retreating into the distance.
Lune seemed to be the only steady presence as they lumbered down the street. A hand trailing idle circles along the rein, the other laying on the pommel of his sword. Three of his fellow members have already tried falling asleep, which caused them to slow down quite a bit. What were they going to do without him? All though it wasnt a good look on them, Nate would make up for it. He waved and smiled at the few folks who were up and about. While he seemed to pay attention to the people, his mind and eyes were roaming over the street, studying the cracked beams of the houses and the splitting stones along the bases. Making sure there really were no threats in the city.
After a bit of wandering around and assessing the area, brief words spoken to the others, he was off.
He really needed to go if he wished to make it to the palace on time. Which he knew would cut it close. Though the village only sat about an hour ride from the palace. Lunes body swayed with the movement of the road and avoided massive rocks and so did Nates. The village was nothing but a blur behind them as they entered a small grove of birch trees. They passed just as fast as the city grew brighter in the distance.
It wasnt long before he entered the area of small farms and housing that sat lazily along the river, people strolling about getting ready to do their tasks. Nate slowed to a canter as he entered the busier areas, nodding to fellow guards in their gleaming gold and black amour. He wondered how he even got chosen to become a personal guard for the crowned prince considering he just joined the guard a couple months ago. Not nearly as much experience as most.
The palace loomed in the distance with its gleaming and imposing structure, something that could take the breath away from anyone. By the time he reached the gates and exchanged a brief interaction with the guards, he was let in and guided to the courtyard where he was to meet the prince. A mental introduction slowly falling into place.
Nate raised a gloved hand to wipe the sweat beaded down his forehead, sliding off of Lune. A pat on the neck and a smile. “You did good,” He whispered before heading off to the courtyard. There would be no time for a shower, which was not good. He should have arrived earlier. Damnit. He clenched his jaw as he arrived at the courtyard, a pretty area. Covered in seating and pretty trees that shook slightly in the breeze. Someone caught his attention. Someone who was playing a lyre. While it was a pretty instrument matching the pretty person, they were not his main focus right now. A sharp inhale at the faint memory of him singing with his crew on the White Dagger. Which now laid within his sisters care. He hoped Anemoon would take care of them, they were his real family. After a brief scan of the male (probably assessing the danger levels which were close to none) he turned away uninterested.
It wasnt like he wasnt pleasing to the eye but he was currently focused on making a good impression. Which meant starting off right away. A frown crossed his features as he stalked around the courtyard, poking and prodding at stones and trees, anything that might be a secret way in. A way to harm his new prince.
A voice spoke up causing Nate to pause, a stone half turned in his hand. Green eyes slid over to the male, stone faced as ever he slowly stood up and brushed off his uniform. “Crrrowned Prrrince to you,” A gruff voice responded as he stalked closer to the bard. “Im a guarrrd.” Before the other male could say anything, someone had stepped into the courtyard, who Nate could only recognize as the aforementioned crowned prince.
While the other male was sucking up to him, Nate remained stationary. A dip of his head and a fist pressed to his heart, before straightening. “Thisss arrrea isss sssecurrre in cassse you were worrrrrried. Pleasssurrre to ssserrrve you,” A small smile on his face before disappearing, stepping closer to the duo, eyes passing over both of them before another grin set across his face.
“Im Nate, yourrr new perrrsssonal guarrrd. You arrre in good handsss I prrromissse.”
Ignatius spent the walk to the courtyard practicing his smiles for when he had to inevitably do his crowned princely duties and pretend to be accommodating. Luckily, he's been feigning politeness towards dukes, duchesses, kings, and other nobility since he knew how to walk. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy the presence of others. Quite the contrary, the highlights of the balls he'd attend would be talking to the other young royals and wasting the night away engaging in chitchat with a chalice of wine in his hand. What Ignatius didn't like was surprises. And being sent to meet both his personal guard (who he didn't need nor ask for) and act as a gracious host out of nowhere for a guest was the epitome of the term "surprise".
He imagined both people to be just like the other guests he's been forced to spend time with throughout his life. Pompous and full of themselves; his fate was destined to be full of conversations that revolved around no one but his guest. Anastasia had mentioned his guard came from nobility which meant he was probably as arrogant as the bard his father invited was bound to be. It was already terrible enough that he was going to feel like he was made of glass with his own knight watching over his every move, yet his father still wanted to add another job for him to do with this bard. He had four other siblings who were fully capable of being pleasant with their guest until his coronation. Genevieve was the socialite out of the Sinclair siblings, charming all who met her with her charm and natural confidence. But here Ignatius was, entering the castle's courtyard and locking eyes with his fate.
It was showtime.
The prince kept the smile on his lips pleasant and charming, the outside world knew him to be the poster boy of perfection and Ignatius wanted to keep it that way. It seemed that the two had been engaging in conversation before his arrival but Ignatius could care less about the topic. He didn't come to make friends, he came to be what everyone expected him to be. So when the man he assumed to be the bard approached him for a greeting, Ignatius forced his smile to grow.
"Please, the pleasure is all mine."
Lying and acting came easy to Ignatius, as a Sinclair, they were basically a part of his genetic code. Yet for the first time in a long time, he faltered when the bard took in his hand to grace a kiss at his knuckles. Never in his life did that ever happen to him.
Gestures like so were left for his sisters, he and his brother were normally honored with bows and curtsies. It was a new experience and it took a split second for Ignatius to shift back to his polite exterior image.
"You flatter me. I just hope to be all you expect of me as we spend time together and I hope to catch your name."
Instead of focusing on the feeling the bard left on his hand (and how he should be reacting to it) he glanced over to the other man.
Ah yes. His babysitter. He forced himself to turn his narrowed eyes into a gracious nod at the man. There would come a time and place to bicker about his independence, but in front of his guest was not that time.
"Thank you. I am sure my sister chose you for a reason."
Short and simple. Much more suitable than 'I don't need you to secure anything, I am not a damsel in parrel.'
Brushing ill thoughts away, Ignatius took the chance to bow in front of the two men. He learned proper etiquette since he was a boy, everything was but routine and muscle memory at this point.
"I'm know you both know my name by now but I like to see myself as a gentleman."
Ignatius added a light laugh, one he's mastered to a tee to properly sell his openness to the two.
"I'm crowned prince Ignatius Sinclair of Umbra. Although I suppose I won't be a 'prince' for so long."
When he regained his usual, perfectly postured stance he made eye contact with the bard and the soldier, charming smile still gracing his aristocratic face.
"It's my utmost pleasure to have you visiting Umbra."
He looked to the bard.
"And to have your service."
He looked to the soldier.
"If you both are hungry, we could dine together here. My staff have prepared us a meal and while we eat, we could perhaps get to know each other better."
Ignatius only hoped to be mentally prepared for where banter would go with the two men. Looking to his guest of honor he said,
"And after we can go wherever you'd like to go."
He only hoped his attempts to be hospitable wouldn't be a mistake.