Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Saryylyss
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Saryylyss 'Neath smold'ring ashes

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With the pleasantries done for the moment, the princes and princesses went their separate ways for a time, perhaps to reconvene later at Sulhana's behest. Uriah followed her to her quarters, but remained in the antechamber while Lore continued on to her bedroom. She didn't know what to make of the initial meeting, but her mind was already spiraling with thoughts and possibilities.

"I can feel your energy all the way out here, child," came Uriah's gentle voice. "What's your judgement of the princes so far?"

Loreena was busy removing some of the ceremonial trappings of her station, opting for something more comfortable and casual now. "Oh no, you're not ensnaring me in that test, Uriah. Not this time."

The older man chuckled. "Fair enough. First impressions, then?" Upon hearing the princess made a noncommittal grunt in response, he grinned wider. "Be honest, girl. I'm your teacher, not a tattler."

Lore sighed as she sat in front of her mirror and brushed out her hair. She gathered her thoughts, Uriah patiently waiting for her response. "Dro Vyarin seems a strong man. It is that strength I see reaching for the crown of Astalia, he has eyes only for Lisse. Though whether that's his own ambition or that of his family, I do not know."

She gave a humored snort. "Alvaro I feel I could sit across from Jiny and their expressions would be the same. Neither want to do this, and I hope at least they might find themselves to be kindred spirits in that regard.

"As for Erick and Gil, both seem similar in situation, but for very different reasons. Gil for the fact this is simply not his home, it's so different. And Erick... because I think he feels he is not the right one to be here. In his mind, perhaps he feels it should be another." A tenderness came into her voice. "He was the only one who seemed to show true gratitude for my gift... I appreciate it."

Uriah picked up on the sweetness in her tone and hummed contently. "You do realize though, if he were to choose you, and you accepted, how close to the Empire you would be... It is Jörda's strength that currently keeps them at bay."

The princess was quiet for a moment before she continued. "I know that, Uriah. But why should I think myself any better than my sisters to not take on that danger? Lisse is the heart of Astalia, the crown is hers and there is none more deserving. Jiny will go on to be some amazing warrior and grand bardic ballads will be sung of her heroism. Sulhana will own a piece of every single person who ever draws breath..."

"And you, Loreena? What of Astalia's mage princess?"

Loreena came out from her bedchamber then, dressed in a simple gown of cerulean fabric, the blue topaz-like jewel that acted as her focus for her magic hung by a ribbon at her throat. Her hair was braided softly, a few curled strands escaping rebelliously. "There is no crown for me, Uriah, unless I marry into one. I can barely do more than parlor tricks for another decade or so until I get stronger with my magic. I would be content to make a difference in the world of one person, and spend my days outside of Astalia, learning what magic the rest of the world holds for me."

She looked up at the older mage curiously. "If...if I am ever to leave with my husband at any point...what will become of you?"

Uriah faced his pupil, a fatherly smile on his face. "My duty is to the mage princess of Astalia. Not the king, not the kingdom, the princess. I will remain faithful to my duty until my charge no longer has need of me." He straightened his robes. "Now come, let us go make nice with the others once more before we're late...again." And with Loreena laughing, they hurried down the halls and towards the Court of Flowers.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by SereneDoge
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The turmoil in her heart, raging like one of the great maelstroms off the coast of Astalia, calmed as Annalise's embrace held the fractured pieces of her heart together. Like she always did. The Light of Astalia, their sister was often called within the peasantry. And, how true that was. She shone like the sun, both in her appearance and her demeanor. Annalise was the reminder that no matter how dark the clouds may be that wafted over their lands from the Empire's gaze, the brightest light would always shine to vanquish the darkness. While the triad of sisters pursued their own ambitions-- Jin as a battle-maiden, Loreena as a mage, and her as the watchful eye-- the crown-princess had only concerned herself in working towards the benefit of Astalia. Annalise knew she would inherit the throne sooner or later, and her dear sister had prepared for it greatly. Sulhana often found the fragile princess buried in books within the castle's grand libraries as the midnight oil burned out from the lamps.

She may seem like a trophy, fit only to decorate a man's bed, but the spymaster knew just how much Annalise worked to keep their nation's diplomacy intact.

She was the light that allowed the flowers to grow within Astalia, and every light needs its shadow to keep the horrid things buried and unknown. And, Sulhana knew it was her role to make sure that her sister's radiance continued to shine without being tainted by the things darker than them.

Sulhana chuckled in relief, fingers retreating from the zither as Annalise wrapped her arms around the third princess. When Annalise pulled away, Sulhana stood from her seat before turning to face her elder sister.

"I greet the Light of Astalia," She bowed deeply then before snorting in laughter as Sulhana tucked a strand of raven hair from her face behind her ear. "Imagine the day you would force me to greet you as such, Lisse," She tilted her head as her laughter died down. Then, to Annalise's initial query, the spymaster grinned. "Who knows? Maybe I just wanted to steal away your suitors before they steal you away from us. A warrior, a brother, a braided son, and an elf," She shook her head. "They are as the whispers say."

When Annalise threw a somewhat rhetorical question in her direction, Sulhana sighed before turning to the dim halls that led to the courtyard, still barren of the suitors or their shadows.

"You and I both know how politics and court intrigue work," Sulhana began. "It may seem like an innocent invitation from a princess but I am willing to wager that those men understood that it was more of a... well, dare. An unofficial demand, if you would," She then continued, now looking at her sister before Sulhana's eyes landed on the blinded iris. A well-kept secret of their family. "To refuse the invitation carries a risk of damaging their nation's credibility in the eyes of Astalia and its allies, because why would you refuse the request of the party who just gave you the luxury of a royal bed and breakfast? As a man, it also carries the risk of whispers from their subjects. A man refusing the chance to meet their potential betrothed? What ever would the peasantry say? What would their own nations say?"

Sulhana sighed in anticipation of the men's hostility towards her then. But, she needed to get them in one location to really allow her sisters to get to know their potential intended without the prying eyes of their father. A chance for her to gather whispers with her own ears.

"I can already tell that they dislike me, but you know that I will do what I must to make sure they are trustworthy," The princess looked up at the darkening skies then, her eyes glinting at the studded starlight now peeking from the curtain of night. "Love be damned, but I need to know if they are civilized enough that their hands are gentle and their words soothing on each of you when we finally part ways." Then, Sulhana turned to face Annalise as she placed her hands on her stomach. "And, if I ever see a mark on your face that belonged to them. Well, you know that your sister has ways."

Suddenly, a strange call, like a bird's, that seemed to originate from the many arches of the courtyard sang to Sulhana as the spymaster smiled.

"You asked me if I think they will come," She shrugged her shoulders before turning her head to the hallway opposite them. "Some of them are already here," Her green eyes focused on the dancing shadow and flame in the hall as the princes appeared.

The rumble of the seas crashed against the walls, and soon, the hazy sun vanished from the horizon, causing the torches to burn all the brighter. Over by the Astalian Bay, a thousand flaming lights burst anew. The distant Great Lighthouse of Altera shone in majestic splendor: massive yellow and red tongues of fire danced at its peak, guiding sailors home to the greatest bastion of freedom on Sahas.She waited until the princes had come up to them before she bowed her head in their direction. Her eyes quickly fell on the two nobles, observing every feature of their being. Looking for anything that might denote weakness. An errant twitch. A wrong look in their direction. More importantly, in Annalise's direction.

"I greet you, princes Gil and Erick," Sulhana replied. "My heart is soothed with your arrival, my lords. I was scared that my abrupt invitation meant that no one would arrive, you see," She chuckled, clenching her hands together in front of her chest. "I have a special show planned for us tonight, and I hope you all can find some semblance of peace after everything you have been through," She smiled at each man then. "You are safe within our walls. So, in the meantime, I hope you also get to let down your walls and just... have some merriment. We may not look like it, my lords, but my sisters and I know our way around a drink or two," Then, Sulhana offered a small laugh with a wave of her hand. "How do they say it? Ah," She bit her lip as if in thought. And, then, her eyes fell on them once more as she gave them a small wink. "Make sure we don't drink you under."
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by bloonewb
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Finding this 'Court of Flowers' was easier in Vyarin's mind than it was quickly turning out to be. The palace was tall, imposing even on the inside, intricately decorated down to the smallest corner. In his lone eye, the world within seemed stretched upwards uncannily, like cowhide in a tannery. Windows stood the height of two of himself, but barely the width of three-quarters himself, packed closely together in organized regiments one after the other. The effect was exacerbated by the figure of the doorways that line the halls and the various items of furnishing and decoration, all built conversely too small for him. He had to duck down to enter into giant spaces. It was a fever dream to navigate, like something out of the maddest stories his carers would tell to him.

In the end, Vyarin decided the best path forward was tried and true methodology. It was simple, once he thought back on it. He will simply start entering doors and offshoots until he reached the Court of Flowers. There were only so many places a courtyard fit for a party could be; he will doubtless stumble onto it long before it ended. So, alone and armed with his conviction, he began his search . . . and immediately rammed headlong into a particularly thin candle sconce. Rubbing his temple and glowering, he righted the object, looking around for any sign of disturbed castellans, which there fortunately were none. He will keep a hand to the wall at all times.

Path after path, road after road, a few minutes began to stretch to near the majority of an hour. Most of the rooms he came across were as strange themselves as devoid of flowers. Some were bare of all things, blocked off by a simplistic looking door, awaiting a renovation that may take centuries to come. Others were perhaps bedchambers, but so clean that it was most like prepared for some guest that will never arrive, as evidenced by the thin sheen of dust upon the desks and sheets. Good luck was on Vyarin's side, for he did not stumble upon any spaces already occupied, and quite unfriendly to his sudden intrusion. Yet, as his ears picked up the faint sounds of some commotion, he concluded that was not to be for long. Instinctively, he felt relieved at the presence of a resident of some sort. He could ask their guide towards this elusive Court. Then, he stopped short, realizing the fault in that reasoning. It would entail him having to communicate his own desire, as well as understand their response all in Astalian. Holding a hand to his forehead, he rehearsed some crude phrases to himself.

"Excuse . . . where . . . the Chamber of the . . . the Primrose? The Chamber of the Primrose . . . is . . . to be? Excuse, where the Chamber of the Primrose . . . is to be . . ." He nodded, and raised himself to full height, striding purposefully in.

He didn't know what to expect from this next room, but that was not it. A lone girl, one of the four daughters in fact, armed with a sword far larger than his own, dancing about and striking at invisible foes. Vyarin could only watch for a few moments, observing the movements closely. They were precise, swift, she is obviously familiar with their use. Was it their way, in this strange land, to arm and train women as one would do for the men?

"Excuse," he finally said, breaking the silence. He pointed to the sword, the one so great it must be wielded in two hands. "Apology. Is . . . interest. Very interest." A heavy silence fell on the room, absent of the clatter of shoes on polished wood.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Mistress Dizzy
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At footsteps, Jinayah grumbled very faintly. She had her back turned and was still midswing, thinking it was one of her sisters coming to collect her. “Yes, I’m going to the party in just a moment, let me finish this.” Of course she had said that to herself nearly 20 minutes back, and again at 10 minutes. But the voice that spoke out was definitely none of her sisters, neither was it her father or any of the other knights she knew by name.

Ever so slowly, she turned around, finally seeing Prince Vyarin darkening the doorway. “Ah.” Carefully, she sheathed the practice blade and stared just a bit at him. What to say? She imagined he had a thousand questions, the first of which was likely why a woman was allowed a blade in the first place.

“He- hello Prince Vyarin.” She dipped a low curtsy, the tip of the scabbard at her back nearly brushing the ground. “Er, I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing out here instead of at the party.” Was she imagining that shocked gaze? He looked so blank she wasn’t sure what to do. “M-my father has permitted me the use of the sword since I was of age to start squire training. If you wish to know what was behind that decision, please feel free to ask him.” The sword, despite it not being hers, gave her courage. Her carefully coifed hair was in disarray, and there was dust on the edges of her pink gown. But she was still of the royal family and would command herself as such. “If you wish to know why I wanted to learn anyway, well, look around you. The Empire creeps insidious into our back rooms, taking what they will from our people. I will not sit by and do needlepoint while my world is taken from me. I have no kingdom to inherit, no magic, no spies. By Gods, if all I have is a blade and my body, that will be enough.”

“Father may see me as a piece on a board and that’s just fine. But I aim to be the Steel Dragoon, if I’m to be a piece at all.” In the game of war, the Steel Dragoon was a most sought after piece to get onto the board. It could capture and remove adjacent pieces, sometimes drastically changing the flow of the game in its wake.

“No man, not even you, will keep me from this ambition.” Her piece said, she waited with head held high for the outrage. Instead, she just found confusion on the Prince’s face. Only then did she remember the translator from earlier.

“Oh no. You didn’t understand a word of that, did you?” She smiled in a truly embarrassed way and shook her head, her cheeks burning. What to say now? Slowly, she put the sword back in the rack with its brothers, and took a moment to collect herself.

“Good evening, Prince Vyarin.” She said in careful Prodzy. She had practiced these phrases for a solid month, but they were slipping from her mind as she spoke. “It is… an evening of beauty, no? What is your… preference - no, purpose! What is your purpose?”
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by CassyK
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The constellation of Aldask hung in the sky above the courtyard, Erick was confident this was a good omen. As one story went, Aldask, the most ancient and powerful of the Gods, often concealed himself as a stag in the realm of the mortal creatures. One day a human happened upon him, he notched an arrow in his hunting bow and let it fly, strong and true it plunged into the chest of the deer-God. As the arrow struck, the figure of the stag shattered into many large, shining shards which slashed deep wounds through the skin of the hunter, miraculously he survived but his sight was taken by the blinding light of Aldask; the human had only a few moments to witness this splendour, as the God’s earthly shell shattered. The hunter somehow stumbled home and told the experience to his kinsfolk which quickly spread throughout his fellow countrymen. It was agreed that from that day forth, a prayer must be uttered to Aldask before striking a deer, bow or otherwise, so the God may grant them exception to their mistake. In many areas of Jörda, this story was often interpreted to extend to any and every kind of animal.

The Court of Flowers appeared almost as if timelessness itself may reside here, where the Gods retired to recite their ballads. As the glow of the sun began to wane, the moon cast its cold and mysterious light in the darker places the torches did not reach, mánibjart as this was called, where the lunar luminance gave for a short time divine and unpredictable power to the spaces otherwise enveloped in darkness, and sometimes, provided a gateway through which to glimpse the other worlds. The old magic was ingrained deeply into the people of Jörda, through tales and stories of the old Gods, but the true knowledge of it had been lost through time as the progress of man - of whom very few knew how to wield such power - dominated the natural and previously wild spaces of their land, and so it faded into myth and legend. Fear, reverence and yet acceptance, of this unpredictable magic, that presented a divide the thickness of a single thread between life and death, decay and rebirth - the domain in which Aldask conducted the fates of all within the mortal realm, remained strong however.

There were only four of them who had yet attended the courtyard, The Princesses Sulhana and the eldest, Annalise seemed to watch them approach from the platform with a collection of silent instruments. Erick had caught up to the Prince Gil, who had dipped his head in greeting the Princesses from a short distance, the Jörda prince addressed him in Orcish, “my friend, strength is upon you” he stated, extending his hand as such that may lock their arms in the way of the Orcish warriors, he met the bright blue eyes of the half-orc with his own of deep hazel. Erick was not fluent in the Orcish language, but was familiar with a few words, statements and greetings (although he wasn’t sure if the dialect was quite the same) from the warriors amongst the ranks of Jörda’s military - how they came to be there however, was a subject of particular tension between the two nations and was a matter of on-going diplomatic effort. Although Erick’s greeting may have been received with some distrust, the Afdan prince responded in kind before they turned their attention to the Princess Sulhana who had stepped forward with her sister to welcome them. Erick approached and he bowed to the Princesses in a similar display; yet his eyes did not avert meeting with their own each of them in turn, “Princesses” he stated in acknowledgement. The Princess Annalise was quiet, reserved, and seemed to allow her younger sister to take the lead, the Princess Sulhana was not unlike someone else he knew - bold, forthcoming…challenging? There was an underlying tone in her voice and gestures that seemed to imply that sometimes, oftentimes, her thoughts and words were misaligned, much like his little sister - a formidable foe…or ally perhaps, yet given their gender this usually was expressed in a far more subtle yet no less unsettling manner. Sulhana’s green eyes burned into him, examining, scrutinising in fine detail - he’d seen it before, her words were lighthearted however, she laughed and winked alluring them to her playful challenge.

Perhaps she’d like to see them try? Disarm them?

Erick knew he’d have to tread carefully, inhibition and.. sense was quite easily lost in this way. “Princess Sulhana, Annalise, please, I would like it that I might drink as the people of Astalia do drink” he pulled a small grin, he would like a drink if nothing less for something simply to hold and channel his nerves should they falter, for he did not have the pommel of his sword to absorb this energy from him, as such he made do with gently gripping a part of his cloak as though it was meant to be gathered, whilst the other palm was folded gently but produced his gestures as he spoke, otherwise he could not help but thumb the heavy rings on his fingers, which he mostly refrained from doing.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by LostDestiny
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Annalise couldn’t help but stick her tongue out at her sister when she called her “The Light of Astalia” a title the people of their county had given given her as she had gotten older and blossomed into the young woman she was now. “I would never force anyone to call me that Hana, but especially not my family.” The eldest daughter listened to her sister speak. She had known of her sister’s spys for years and it wasn’t uncommon for Sulhana to give her information that was otherwise unknown before powerful people joined them at the castle, though she made a point to take much of Sulhana’s information with a grain of salt.

“Remember dear sister, your whispers are all biased, one-sided, there is more to these men than that which your whispers tell you, do not make judgements until you have conversed with them personally.” Sulhana’s whispers had allowed Annalise to remain cautious of certain individuals in certain situations but she was always careful to leave room for her own findings. She listened to her sister speak in response to her somewhat rhetorical question. Hana was correct, it would not look good if the men outright refused to meet her and her sisters when requested. Not only would it look bad to the men’s people but it would give The Daughters of Astalia a reason to mistrust these men. Why would suitors not meet with them in a more private setting if they did not either need the direction of another individual or have something to hide from the sisters?

As Annalise thought on her sister’s words she heard Sulhana say she was sure the men didn’t like her. To which she couldn’t help but scoff. “Again, you have not interacted with these men yet dear sister, you cannot make those types of assumptions. If anything they are thrown off by a woman being as confident as you, but I highly doubt they have made the outright decision to dislike you.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “As for if any of them lay a hand on any of us especially myself, seeing as I present myself as the weak one,” she paused and chuckled a little, “it would not be hard to turn the people of Astalia against those who would cause us harm. After all, the people love us and laying a hand on the Light of Astalia, would surely result in a very public backlash.” There was an almost sinister look in the eyes of the eldest daughter. She may seem weak but it was her who held the love and loyalty of the people of Astalia as the crown Princess, not whoever she was going to marry.

The whistles drew both women's attention as the 3rd Prince of Afdan and the now Crown Prince of Jörda entered the Court of Flowers. The half-orc male bowed his head with a simple greeting coming out of his mouth, his eyes carefully watching the sisters present. Before his attention was pulled by Prince Erick who greeted him and then her and Sulhana. Annalise watched the two men as Sulhana addressed them, her expression soft up until she couldn’t stop herself from letting out a chuckle when her sister told the men not to let them drink the men under.

Annalise stood behind her sister with a soft smile on her face though her eyebrow was raised at the challenge her sister had presented. She shook her head and for the first time addressed the Princes that were currently present. “My sister teases at least where I am concerned. She would have you believe I was not a lightweight when it comes to drink.” Her voice was soft, inviting, though still clearly teasing. “Please, take a seat, relax, you do not need to keep up the formalities here, our father and none of the court officials are watching. My sisters and I may be the Daughters of Astalia but we are no better than our people so treat us in the same manner as you would any other.” She was attempting to get the two clearly stiff men to relax a bit. After all, if they were on guard, worried about doing or saying the wrong thing they would be much harder to get to know.



______________________________________









Gil entered the Court followed by Erick, who stole his attention only for a moment greeting him with a warrior’s handshake and a statement which took him a moment to recognize as the Orcish spoken by the few remaining Northern tribes. He cautiously accepted the greeting. Rumours from those who hailed from Erick’s homeland made Gil skeptical about the intentions of this man’s people however he was also aware that humans especially, misunderstood the culture of the Orcs for many things. So it was likely the rumours were simply that. He had little chance to respond before the one who had invited them to the event addressed them though his eyes lingered on the man beside him, attempting to determine if the rumor of his country was true or not. Though his attention was quickly drawn fully to the Princess speaking when drink was mentioned. He doubted the alcohol of this country could compare to that of his people. The likelihood that anyone could, as she said, drink him under, was slim to none so the challenge made the half-orc man smile. His blue eyes lit up before he spoke.

“With all due respect Princess, I doubt any of you could drink me under.” It was his way of accepting the challenge if that is what she wanted. After all, the Eldest daughter had just told them to treat them as they would anyone else. Gil was never one to turn down a challenge, especially a drinking challenge. He had been drinking heavily since he was young so it was a part of his upbringing. He and his siblings competed in similar ways constantly. Though he was sure his larger size would make it hard for any human to out drink him. The exception being maybe the Prozdy prince, though Gil wasn’t convinced that man was fully human.

Gil could feel the tension of the other Prince beside him, so, in an attempt to calm the man down and also assure him that, for the time being, Gil held no ill will toward him, he slapped his hand on the man’s shoulder and shook him around a little with a laugh. “Relax brother, there is no threat here.” His statement came out in Orcish without him really thinking about it. He released the man’s shoulder and turned back toward the two women. “I wish to see if you can, as you say, drink me under, so your challenge is accepted my lady.” Gil seated himself in a chair, a glimmer of curiosity and excitement of a challenge shining in his blue eyes.
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Vyarin could only watch dumbly as the smaller figure before him continued to speak, getting progressively louder as she continued, as if addressing the audience of a music hall or the troops before a battle. With his limited Astalian, he could only conclude that she seemed upset about something, or at the very least concerned. Was it something he said? The fool Vyarin, perhaps he should have studied more about the culture of the realm that may one day belong to his progeny. However, the more he thought about it, the less sense it made. Did she find something objectionable . . . regarding the way he asked about her sword? It made no sense to him, but the more he considered the possibility, the guiltier he felt. Mayhaps he had said the wrong thing after all.

Well, he needn't think of that longer, because after a moment's silence between them, the princess spoke again, this time in Prozdy. What a relief that was, that she didn't seem nearly so angry at him after a pause.

"I am . . . to see- er, to find . . ." he began in Astalian, trailing off and not knowing how to continue. It seemed only good manners, at least that's how he understood it, even if he spoke painfully slowly and was no doubt losing the meaning of some matters in translation. "The . . . Chamber? Of . . . erm . . ." he scratched the back of his head, looking down and away. He had thought out what to say so thoroughly, and now that he needed it, everything was gone.

"Is interesting." Nevermind then. Curiosity, he must admit, had gotten the better of him, and he wasn't about to come up with anything better to say. He strode purposefully to the rack that the princess stood by, and pulled from it one of their curious long-swords. The hilt was massive, longer than some daggers, obviously meant for two hands to grasp. "I am not see. In life, I am not see." He could not imagine the metalwork necessary to make something like this. Would it not snap halfway up, from the strain of maintaining its own form? Perhaps he should steal it when nobody is looking, and bring it home with him. This would be quite a curiosity for both his father and his advisors, that is beyond doubt. "You knowing this, yes? What is . . . how is . . . ?" he asked.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by SereneDoge
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At the orcish prince's return of her challenge, Sulhana beamed. Hands clasped gleefully at her front as a slight giggle slipped from her lips. She turned to Annalise with a tilt of her head before glancing back at Gil with an expression of apparent interest: brows raised, green eyes twinkling with mischief. With an exaggerated wave of her arms, the third princess motioned to Gil as if trying to convince her sister.

"Now, here, we have someone who knows how to have fun, Lisse," Sulhana chuckled as she stepped aside to let Gil pass by her to take a seat, but not before delivering a gentle slap to his left arm.

It was then that she turned to Erick, her expression softening from childish to one of understanding as she offered him a sincere smile. She had heard whispers of this man. Honorable, duty-bound. Death's familiar friend. She wondered how such a young man no older than her could keep it all the shattering fractals of himself together despite the mountain of losses upon his shoulders. And, it was in those anxious eyes of his and the visible tension in his body that she knew that war had robbed Erick of his childhood as it did many others. For while she and her sisters danced in the warm hearths of their parapets of stone, this northern prince weathered the cold to keep Astalia and all of Sahas safe. Men like him would be broken in one or two places, and yet, it was in his imperfections that Sulhana felt a sense of gratitude towards him and the people he protected.

Perhaps, she just had a softness for strong yet fractured things.

Her hand went up to his shoulder, gentle and soft on the tense muscle there.

"I know that friends and companions are often hard to come by when it comes to those who bear the weight of crowns upon their heads," She said before her gaze landed on the serpentine bracelet upon his right wrist. She also caught the unmistakable sight of Lore's jewel adorning the leather bangle on the left. "But, at least, you can consider me and my sisters as your friends. And, friends," Sulhana said, raising her right hand as she backed a pace away from Erick. She made a dramatic show of her right hand as she spun, covering it with a piece of cloth she held in her left hand. And, with a blow of air from her lips, the white cloth caught fire before quickly fizzling it out of existence. And, in the ashen wake of the burnt cloth, there was a small glass of wine which she offered to the crown-prince. "Are at ease when in one another's presence," Sulhana a proud grin before a chuckle overtook the corners of her mouth. "Oh, it is not magic, Erick. Only my sister Loreena is blessed with such a skill, I'm afraid. But, you would be surprised what some cunning swindlers know when it comes to beguiling the senses. A simple... trick, if you would. A sleight of the hand."

The third princess stepped back then.

"It is as Gil said," She smiled. "Be at ease. You're safe here," Then, with a chuckle, Sulhana began to walk to prince Gil's side. But, not before sparing a look at Annalise as that knowing expression filled her face for the briefest of eternities. It was the clear message that when it came to Annalise's situation, there were only two princes worth her prestige in the most practical sense: the crown-princes of the League and of Jorda. She had a feeling that Vyarin had already set his sights on Annalise with how Sulhana knew his people and the culture that raised him from birth, but between the two, Sulhana felt that Erick may be a better match. Of course, it would still be up to her sister's judgment, but... she did have a few qualms with the Prozdy prince. His lack of a working knowledge of the Astalian tongue was telling of his personality despite the effort that she and her sisters exerted to learning the Prozdy speech. Sulhana, especially, but while she could comprehend more common expressions and the more formal phrases, she dared not to speak it yet. But, it was better off for people to assume she couldn't understand.

Men who could not make clear their intentions with words often found themselves using their fists. That much was clear.

So, she had already started setting up the stage, but she had a feeling Annalise would be able to catch up quickly soon.

Soon, Sulhana had paced in front of the seated prince. Hands on her waist as she feigned a challenging look at the large man whose eyes seemed to bore into hers. He looked easy on the eyes. Quite unlike the stories and whispers she had heard of those with orc blood running in their veins. Pleasantly surprising.

"Is it too late to ask that you pull your punches when it comes to me, Gil?" She said, a small laugh interrupting her words. Sulhana turned to the long banquet table, and there, she turned to two golden glasses already sitting there by the large jug of wine. "One of the finest Afdani red, I am told, with a name I dare not butcher with my tongue. But, I am told that it sears the throat. Loosens the tongue. Spills all the secrets of those who succumb to its rich flavor," The princess mused with a chuckle, her eyes affirming the small markings on the bottom of the two glasses that she filled with the strong wine. Then, when both were adequately filled, she sauntered to Gil's front as she began extending the glass to the orc prince. "Fancy a wager? If I am able to drink more than you and still have my wits about me at the end of this banquet, you'll have to teach me all about the braids that the Afdani often wear upon their heads, and to tell me how you got all of yours," She proposed. "If you win, well, I believe it depends on what you would ask of me."

As she paused, Sulhana took a breath as she steadied herself and her will to see this little game through. She swirled the liquid in her chalices as she approached.

"So, you better ready yourself because," She smirked, and before the prince could obtain the large grail from her hands, the green-eyed princess suddenly raised the cup to her lips before downing both goblets in succession. As the liquid scorched her throat and almost immediately warmed the length of her back and her chest, Sulhana uttered out a shaky sigh before she opened her eyes in defiance at the prince. She waited until she could grip herself once more. Oh, she hoped there would be no mistakes in her preparations for this evening. "You're already two drinks behind."

The princess turned to the array of lights shining by the sea, and with a tilt of her head, she motioned for Gil to follow her to gaze out upon the ledge.

"Come, walk with me while we wait for the others to come," She grinned as she started walking to the stone railings, and as she passed by the curtain of vines and roses, she gave one of her cups to a passing servant. It was then that she heard twin bird-like calls that seemed to have echoed from the walls. Like two songs melded into one.

Vyarin and Jin have met, have they?

Looks like things were unfolding as she had envisioned for now. The pieces were moving, and only time would tell how their destiny would unfold. Eight had been gathered in Astalia today. Eight years had passed since the Empire had intensified their aggression against Astalia and her people.

"To just fly against the heavens, and just look at the world below without a care," Sulhana remarked to herself with a wistful look on her face as she stared out against the rolling waves. The stars looked down upon her in affirmation of her sorrow, and they, in turn, reminded her of the freedom she had lost long ago. "The things I would give..."
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Loreena and Uriah made it to the Court in time to see Sulhana greet the two princes. Erick looked stiff as a stone pillar and Gil seemed trying to help make him relax. She was about to step forward and greet them when she saw Sulhana perform her prestidigitation. Something about the sight made Lore's heart clench. What her younger sister could do was visually far more impressive than what Lore could currently control, and to see such a display, an uncertain wave of envy washed over her. It was why she never practiced in front of anyone except Uriah and the other mages. She found herself taking a step back, only to fetch up against the unyielding form of Uriah. He did not allow her to back down, having seen the display as well.

"Go, child. You are here to get to know your new brothers and see if one is a suitable match for your future life. Not to show them tricks or make a display of yourself." He nudged her forward, making her press onward, and shadowed her along the perimeter of the court along with the other staff. Lore was offered a glass of wine, which she accepted, seeing Sulhana and Gil engaged in a drinking contest. Glancing at Erick, the corner of her mouth turned up when she saw the glint of yellow on his wrist. Her gift to him! He had incorporated it into his outfit! Gravitating towards him, she gave him another customary yet more informal Jördanian greeting. "You...wear my gift, Erick. I am glad it pleases you enough." Reaching up, she touched his hand gently where he gripped the goblet Sulhana offered him earlier hard enough that his knuckles were edged in white, hoping the gesture would encourage him to relax his grip a little. "You feel as awkward about this as we do." She glanced down to her own hand holding her chalice, seeing the way the liquid rippled in the cup as her hand quivered a little. "It is difficult to get past the feeling we are all actors performing on a stage trying to find our cue and impress each other." Her nose crinkled a little in a playful smile.

"You have nothing to prove to anyone here, Erick."
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Gil deployed a hefty grip upon Erick’s shoulder and he rattled him somewhat, likely with unintended force given the size of him, as the half-orc spoke in Orcish, Erick only partially understood the statement with knowing a couple of words ‘brother’ and a concept of quietness or peace depending on context; regardless, Gil’s cheerful disposition made it clear of his intent on reassuring him. The Jörda prince expressed a grin and nodded fondly, responding to Gil with a firm slap on his other arm to acknowledge the sentiment. Gil then turned his attention to the princesses, he accepted the challenge and took a seat - he already seemed at ease.

Erick wasn’t sure from which place within him his tension seemed to arise, though this was a different kind of battlefield he supposed.. there was no thundering cavalry, no clash of metal, no crunching of bones or the slip of a blade through flesh, and yet, somehow, Jörda’s fate still rested upon him. The silence, the peace, the tranquility which, recently, had been foreign to him, was what unnerved him, even before he’d have to begin to woo a bride and with this too, he was also fairly out of touch. If it was any consolation, Astalia’s daughters seemed to be as free-women were; spirited and independent, and the third daughter in particular appeared to enjoy entertaining if not toying with the suitors, whilst Annalise, although seemingly quieter than her younger sibling, observed with a sense of confidence before she had spoken to the princes trying to put them at ease; Erick had met her eyes, smiled and blinked in appreciation of her efforts - he would take her up on this invitation.

Sulhana acknowledged the Afdan prince when he passed her to be seated, she turned her attention to Erick and her playfulness seemed to temper, as though she understood he perhaps needed her compassion, he glanced as she placed her hand on his shoulder before he reconnected with her gaze, he thumbed the rings on his right hand but did not move otherwise. He scanned her eyes as she spoke, and followed them too as she examined him, but as she took a pace back, quite unexpectedly she produced the glass - Erick felt both impressed yet foolish for the trick to deceive him which he could not contain - he bit his lower lip and smirked, “very good” he acknowledged, as Sulhana passed him the wine he raised it to her for a moment in a gesture of praise. He drank deeply from the glass and observed her as she made her way to the prince Gil to continue her mischief, Erick’s hazel eyes slipped from her to Annalise, he approached her and leaned in, looking at her from under his brow he glanced to Sulhana, “do you also drink like your sister?” he remarked, amused, although there was not a tone of disapproval in his voice, he seemed to be resisting yet again another smirk from unfolding across his lips for he did not wish to offend, this concern disappeared as the princess Loreena seemed to apparate to his side - he’d not seen her skim the fringes of the courtyard between the dancing light of the torches before Uriah encouraged her to emerge. She greeted him convincingly in his own language, so well-practiced his mind faltered for a moment he was about to respond in kind before he tumbled back into Astalian, as a result his first few words were something of an amalgamation, he seemed to pause to glance away with some embarrassment; Erick cleared his throat briefly and began again, “we do not have these such items” he gathered together the reply but Loreena’s openness, her touch caught him off-guard. The princess’s words were incredibly exposing, she’d said aloud what the others had also easily perceived as much as he’d tried to mask it, perhaps yet still he could pass it off as some quiet reservedness? Regardless, she’d admitted they too didn’t seem comfortable with the necessary arrangements, but yet they found it within themselves to extend warmth to the foreign suitors in their home, Loreena smiled and he returned one of some kind of gentle sympathy.

You have nothing to prove to anyone here, Erick.

His expression broke into the smirk he’d fought earlier to contain, “oh.. don’t I?” he stifled a laugh as he looked at both the princesses Loreena and Annalise in turn before passing his gaze once again in the direction of Sulhana, whom seemed eager to bait them to her challenges..
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“On the contrary, dear sister. He must prove he can hold his liquor.” Annalise remarked to Lore as her sister entered the courtyard. There was a gentle smile on her face as Annalise removed the annoying half veil from her hair. Finally the slight discoloration of her right eye was no longer hidden. She silently hoped the setting sun would hide this from the suitors just a little longer, but it was a nice test. Their reaction to the realization that she did not have vision in her eye would tell her a lot about them.

Finally she fully acknowledged the man who she had realized had moved closer to her asking if she drank like her sister. “I do indeed drink, though I would say Sulhana can, and does, outdrink me on the regular. But don’t let that discourage you. What do you say Prince Erick, Lore, care to insert ourselves into Sulhana and Prince Gil’s competition? Or Maybe we have our own competition.” She raised her eyebrow and then turned to Uriah who she had seen shuffle to the side with the rest of the staff.

“You wouldn’t mind if Lore missed out on a day of training due to a hangover would you? Also not telling our father would be much appreciated.” She smiled softly at the man who, had she had any magical talent, would have been her teacher. She had no doubt that the man would at least not tell their father about anything that happened here tonight. At least not anything as harmless as a drinking contest.



______________________________________









Gil couldn’t help the stupid smile on his face when Sulhana asked if it was too late for him to pull his punches. “I do believe it was you who extended this challenge so I have no intention of going easy on you. Treat you as an equal I shall.” He watched the princess move toward him with two glasses, one he assumed was for him and one for herself. He did his best not to run his eyes across her body. She was beautiful for sure, but he was still trying to be respectful. That was until she proposed a wager. His eyebrow raised as he listened to her speak. She knew what she was doing.

He reached for the glass but it was quickly moved away from him and the contents consumed by the woman in front of him. “You have yourself a deal Princess.” He wasn’t going to tell her he would answer any questions she had about his culture without the wager. It was more fun this way. He wasn’t sure her true game, and if he were honest, he didn’t care. He had spent weeks traveling with nobody but Sioban and Aldar, only one of which was any sort of fun. “If I win you have to tell me what you really feel about all of…this.” He motioned to the group that was already there, sure she would understand his meaning. She seemed to be an intelligent individual.

He watched the woman as she turned and motioned him to follow, inviting him for a walk. He let out a little chuckle as he quickly poured himself not one but two drinks and quickly downed them. “Now we are even.” He said as he stood to his full height and followed behind her. It was silent for a moment until she remarked about what she could give to fly.

“I have only flown once. Though it was a cruel joke pulled on me by Sioban, the Shaman that traveled with me.” He looked up at the stars with a small glimmer in his blue eyes. “At first there was fear, as my body left the sturdy familiarity of the ground. Then, even though I didn’t get very high up before my brothers and Aldar made him put me down, pure joy. I was a small child when this happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday.” He sighed, a weight now sitting on his shoulders, realizing that he would never feel that freedom again. Not after marrying one of the Princesses. He would have a duty, at the very least to his family, old and new. He hadn’t realized the smile he wore had faded slightly at this realization.

After a moment he shook his head a little, attention going back to the green eyed woman he now stood beside. Gil nervously scratched the back of his neck. Which pulled his collar down just enough to reveal the top of the black markings that covered part of his upper body. Tattoos he had recently gotten to decorate his body. “We seem to be missing your youngest sister, the Elven Prince and the Prozdy Prince, yes? I hope they didn’t get lost. I know I almost did while I was exploring.” He leaned on the stone railing, effectively bringing his eyes to her level. He didn’t want to look down at her, nor did he feel right to make her look up to him. Putting them on the same level seemed the most respectful thing he could do. And seeing as the only way to do that was to either pick her up, or he slump, he opted to slump.
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“The sword?” Jin searched her mind for a suitable word in Prodzy, but she was coming up empty. Did the word not exist, or had she just forgotten? “Longsword.” She finally said in Astalian. Switching back to Prodzy, she approached Vyarin carefully. After all, he did have a blade in his hand that he didn’t know how to use. Sir Arnold had always beat it into their heads that an untrained novice was sometimes more dangerous than a trained professional. You had no idea what they could do.

“Please to excuse.” She gently gripped his hands and adjusted them on the hilt. “Better now.” As far as she had read, Prodzy had plenty of weapons. So why was this one so curious to him? She would have to get with her sisters and ask them to translate better.

Speaking of sisters –

“Ah, wait! The Court of Flowers is waiting on us!” She looked down at herself. There was a bit of a mess on the very edges of her gown, but there was no time to change into another. Sighing softly and trying to rearrange her hair, she nodded to Vyarin.

Briefly in Prodzy, she explained. “Come, follow!” Then she headed back inside, making sure Vyarin was somewhat behind her. With her short legs and his long ones, he could easily catch up. She led the way to the Court of Flowers, and paused once more before entering the area proper. There were going to be looks, she knew. But if they were to be her new brothers, and one a husband, they’d find out eventually. Best to discuss her proclivities on her own terms.

Striding in with squared shoulders, Jin smiled warmly at all present. “Sorry I’m late. But I found one lost prince!” Seeing wine glasses already tabled (and some empty), she picked one up and took a sip. It was stronger than any they’d let her have before. Only a few years ago, they had been watering down her wine with meals. Was she suddenly such an adult now?

Seeing Sulhana with that mischievous cat look on her face, and Annalise nearby, she went to Loreena instead. “Hi Lore. Having fun yet?” She curtsied briefly to Uriah as well. He wasn’t royal, but his status garnered a lot of respect in her eyes.

“I got… a little sidetracked. Do you think it’ll be too noticeable?”
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The Court of Flowers was well named, Vyarin thought, as he lumbered into the moderately sized meeting hall, adorned with flowers hanging from baskets all along the walls and peeking up from long vases an entire two thirds his own height. Heads of red and gold, violet, white, even pale blue clear as the sky bowed in solemnity as the shamans do. If they had arms, perhaps they would be raised above their heads as well, until the lack of blood left them white and hard as the branches of trees. Perhaps these flowers as well were of a mystical nature? Many things were in this land of the southeast, far from the natural ebbing of the spirits. They weave the world with their 'sorcery', raising large works of stone tall as mountains such as the building within which he stood right now. Recalling his amazement as he passed under the gates, he recalled how the entire estate seemed to grow out of the ground. What a marvel it was! He imagined taking some of this sorcery home with him, and transforming the entire cityscape with its power. Would they remember him as Vyarin 'the Magnificent' for his effort?

The others had arrived first, sharing conversation amongst themselves sat about a table. Golden chalices were displayed in some of their hands, filled with a dark liquid that looked unlike any juice he had ever had or seen. Some turned to meet his new, sprightlier acquaintance as she bounded in, which inevitably led their gaze towards himself. Whether they were looking or not, Vyarin gave a small and curt nod to the six others, then ambled over to a corner of the table and swiped one of the chalices, lifting the contents to his nose and sniffing. That's when he realized what it was.

It was forbidden, he knew. The shamans said again and again, for as long as he could hear them. That which is rotted has been given to the spirits, and is beyond its time for the world of men. This was Essence of the Rotted Grape! He could have stumbled at the noxious odour. Did they not realize that by its imbibing they become cursed? Surely they must know better, he thought, glancing at the faces of these merrymakers. Mayhaps it would not be so bad, that they would enjoy it and fear naught. Things were different here, after all, in these lands of magic and mystery. If he were to one day take charge of their armies, he must then learn to live as they live, and if that meant drinking this product of rot, then he could do so without too much concern. The spirits would understand, he concluded, as he lifted the chalice again to his lips and sipped of the fluid. It was a mistake, in the end. Gasping and reeling, he sat the cup down with a too-loud clang. It tasted as foul as it smelled, too bitter and thick and somehow wrong on a level fundamental to his soul. He felt dirty, the dregs that remain swilling under his tongue. He leaned on the wall, whispering curses the sky in Prozdy, hoping nobody paid too much mind to his outburst.
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Loreena tilted her head to Lisse when her sister spoke of the Jördanian prince needing to be tested on his handling of liquor. Her eyes widened a little as she realized now what was going on. A drinking game! Lore herself rarely imbibed outside of a glass or so at dinner. She was always afraid of how it would make her behave, having heard the stories of people becoming angry and violent, of saying things they never meant nor remembered, and making fools of themselves by getting sick and clumsy. Nor did she know how it affected her ability to focus her magic. Until she had better control of her abilities, she feared what would result from any senselessness on her part.

Such thoughts always worried Loreena, and as a result, she kept her wine consumption to a minimum. Lore was about to respond when Lisse turned to Uriah and asked if his student could be excused from a day of training. This made the smile fade just a little from Loreena's lips, and her gaze passed from Erick, to Lisse, to her mentor. The mage gave a deep, respectful bow to the crown princess as he was addressed. "Your majesty, as I told my pupil not long ago, I am no tattler. I am here to see to the magical welfare of charge. How you choose to celebrate this joyous occasion is not for me to judge. And as for being excused from lessons, the decision has always rested on Loreena's shoulders. I may always be found in the gardens in the mornings, and it has been your sister's decision to attend her tutelage as she pleases. That decision will always be hers to make."

Lore's smile widened again and she cast a grateful look to the older man. "We shall see how the night progresses, Uriah. Thank you, my friend." Uriah smiled at Loreena and bowed once more to Lisse before returning to his musings. Loreena returned to the conversation previously with Erick. "I am honored that you chose to wear my jewel nonetheless, Erick. I chose each one in particular from the collection of gems and crystals that resonated with my magic. Although the Astalian blue topaz ended up being the strongest focus of my mage ability, this yellow chrysoberyl was of the purest clarity, and was a focus for me for a time. It still holds a bit of my power, a symbol of the bond you will share with our family."

She heard the clatter at the entrance, and swung her head around to see the ruffled appearance of her youngest sister and the lost Prozdy prince. Judging from the flushed countenances, Vyarin had found Jiny's training yard! She watched as her younger sibling swiped a golden cup of wine. As Jiny approached, Lore embraced her warmly. "Feeling any better, dearest?" She queried, fixing a few errant locks of hair by swiftly removing a pin or two and giving the curls a deft twist and tuck. This relaxed the formerly prim and proper coif the maids had yanked Jiny's glorious hair into, and gave it the look of a lovely young woman who kept her hair away from her face as she wielded her sword. "Peace talks and alliances be damned. Sulhana and Lisse have officially declared war on our guests in the form of a drinking competition. Lisse has also bullied poor, old Uriah into being an accomplice to this affair..." she lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, "...and if ever there is going to be a night where father cannot insist you drink from the silver cups, tonight is the night."

Loreena lifted her head when she heard Vyarin's....protests....against the wine. "Speaking of silver cups it seems..." She excused herself and walked over to a table, retrieving a silver cup, and approaching the man who was muttering angry sounding words in Prozdy. "Dro Vyarin? You are well?" She asked him, hoping he wasn't sick. "Gold cups hold Astalian..." She froze on the next word, struggling to remember. The tense and accent she would use could have a couple different meanings. "...Astalian 'old'...'brewed' grapes." She didn't know if she had used the right word. A glance to Uriah saw his back facing her, indicating she was on her own in this venture. Loreena had studied some language from the surrounding lands, mostly words pertaining to the history of magic in the various kingdoms. Prozdy was harsh for her to speak, the shape of her mouth would never let her pronounce the language perfectly, but she could converse a little.

Offering the silver cup, Vyarin would see a golden amber colored liquid within. "Silver cups hold 'new'...'young' spiced apple." Lore hoped she was making sense to him. Looking to the others, she encouraged Vyarin to join closer to the group. "It seems Dro Vyarin will be the judge of the contest. We do need at least one person clear headed enough to determine a champion among this contest."
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Her eyes slightly widened when the prince asked her to express her feelings regarding these arranged marriages. He was smarter than he let on and had unfairly underestimated him. One's facial expressions were often the windows to their souls. The slightest twitch of their brow or the faintest curl of their lips could easily betray their deceptions. Could simply unravel their foolish schemes when faced against Astalia's Shadow. Many a man had their wicked intentions laid bare with just one chance meeting with her, and yet, this simple-looking prince from the southern deserts boggled her first impressions. He easily played her games, seemingly dancing to the tune she set while still maintaining his own rhythm. It was a refreshing experience to have a man not shudder at the slightest noise or jolt at the smallest provocation. A man who acted as just that... a man. Not a prince nor an heir of an entire kingdom.

He'd make a fine prospective partner for a certain free-willed sister of hers.

"Maybe I was hoping they would bump into each other?" Sulhana shrugged her shoulders, the faintest ghost of a knowing smile turning up her mouth. "They will get here soon, Gil. Trust me," She felt strange asking for trust when she was already betraying Gil with her own deception. "I know all the roads," She smirked at the prince. "And, they all lead to the same place."

Hearing the orcish prince narrate his experience with flight allowed a small smile to curve the third princess' lips. She grinned at him then, emotions of childish curiosity and joy gracing her features as she imagined being able to soar above the ground as her sister would be able to. Her eyes traced at him as Gil lowered himself to her level, and she couldn't help but nod in appreciation of such subtle courtesies. Her brow raised in question when she noticed the fading light of his smile, and she understood that despite the casual demeanor he exuded as a third prince, he was also no stranger to the weight of the burdens they all bore as children of the crown. The silence that followed allowed the princess to briefly observe the man beside her, and it was to the strange markings on his neck that her green eyes found themselves drawn to. These tattoos must have been recent since she heard no whispers of such designs on the prince's being. It always felt... nice to not know at times.

"You also feel the iron coil at your ankles, Gil," Sulhana remarked after she tipped the cup to her lips. She breathed out before using her middle finger to clear the stain upon her chin. "The irony is rich in that it was I who made my own steel tether. Linked it inch by inch and piece by piece before I shackled it around my own heel," She chuckled as she held the prince's gaze. "Can your mind coalesce a future where we could both fly free? Or, perhaps, we were never free to begin with?" The slight sadness in her irises ebbed away almost instantly, and she raised her now empty chalice to the prince. "A question for the philosophers and men with too much time on their hands, I believe. We already have too many questions ourselves."

It was then that the colorful flowers that shrouded the court seemingly glowed as if awashed in gentle starlight. Her investments in buying such prized arcane flowers bearing fruit as the entire area was bathed in a soft light, the magical energies stored in them drawn to the presence of the sole royal whose blood teemed with the very same essence that held the fabric of their reality together. With a slow turn, Sulhana marveled at the foreign flowers that she had decorated herself upon the court and a pang of envy filled her heart for the slightest second as her eyes landed on her mage-sister, Lore.

Talent and intelligence rolled into one. As if their mother had plucked the brightest stars from Aldask's very domain and slipped such gemstones into the hearts that would soon become her sisters. Lore could memorize an entire papyrus scroll with but a simple glance whilst her power only grew under the tutelage of Uriah-- a man who owed no loyalty, not even to the spymaster or king, but to Lore alone. Not even Sulhana had such a trusted companion amidst her web of lies.

Lore deserved a good partner who would see her gifts and thank their lucky stars that they could even bask in her glory.

"Hopefully, you do not fall for me just yet, Gil," Sulhana joked with a laugh, a slight snort unconsciously coming out. "There are still many stars adorning Aldask's antlers," She said before turning to face the prince, her chalice bumping against his in a toast.

And, I am but the dimmest one.

"You have a good tongue for conversation. Go and use it. Might as well help Erick loosen his collar," She gestured her cup to him. "And, remember," She paused as she downed her wine. "You're behind again. Come, I think you should meet Jinayah."

Sulhana moved onward to greet Jin. As she walked towards her, she quickly noticed the large Vyarin take a hesitant sniff of the wine. And, for a moment, she wondered whether he would scoff at their culture in favor of his own. But, when he let the red stain his lips, she couldn't help but smile. Even if he did stagger like a weakened lamb to a slaughter. She'd have to alleviate this soon, but oh well, Lore was there already to console him... But, first things first...

"Jin," She greeted them before she bowed her head to her sisters. "I was worried you wouldn't come," She said as if in despair: eyes downcast and expression forlorn. Such expressions suddenly changed as though they were mere breaths on a mirror. "Oh, who am I fooling? You know I would have thrown a tantrum in front of your chambers if you had run away."

Sulhana set her cup down first before she embraced Jin with a deep sigh that spoke of exhaustion and relief. Her arms trying to contain her in the pathetic spaces she could muster, almost as if she was afraid she would slip away. It had been too long since they had gathered like this ever since the suitors were announced. They were all of them busy with their own businesses. Lisse with her diplomatic duties, Lore with her studies, Jin with her martial affairs... they were indeed children no longer.

"Gods, where did the times go when the governess was just forcing us to try out new dresses and us pretending that we even gave a damn," She spoke before backing away. "Can I be candid and express her horrible taste in suggesting your dress? I was not sure if she was prettying up a princess or readying a jester," Sulhana breathed out, her hands now retreating to clasp together at her stomach. "I miss it. When things just made... sense,"

Much whispers had reached her ears concerning the knights and their beloved princess. She had thought that parting Jin from her companions might be troublesome. Some might grumble against the crown. Worse, others may propose marriage to her, effectively ruining any chance of an alliance.

"You have been busy of late, little sister," Sulhana smirked as she teased. "I heard whispers, you see. A princess. A farewell celebration. An armor," She paused. "You should have worn it today. I would have loved to see it, you know. Oh, worry not about father," She scoffed playfully, rolling her eyes at the thought of their king. "He isn't here to give us a lecture about what it means to be a woman. As if he had the parts to qualify for an opinion," Then, she shrugged her shoulders in irritation. "Well, I do hope my dear friend Gil agrees with me," She then said to Jinayah. "Come, introduce yourself, sister, to Gil. Be warned, though. He doesn't hold back in challenges, not even against your beloved Hana." She feigned a morose tone in childish jeering.

Her attention was then drawn to her mage-sister. When Loreena spoke up about having Vyarin as the judge, Sulhana echoed out with her own chuckle. She quickly headed to the two before noticing the liquid that her sister was offering. She nodded in approval before nudging her sister slightly with a grin. As a spymaster who ensured to control others from distant lands, she had to learn their language and culture as well. Vyarin doing his best to try out Astalian culture was definitely a good sight to see, and that encouraged Sulhana to think that this man could still have a future with them yet.

"One of our friends is getting a good introduction to Astalian culture but it looks like we have much to teach the prince," Sulhana said as she observed the man. "It is good that you know how to get rid of the taste, Lore. We'll just need to help him have a seat first. But, I am glad that he did his best. It shows that he cares," The woman mused shortly before she waved to a group of her servants. "The servants will assist."

Now, that most of the players had arrived, Sulhana decided that it was time to get on with the banquet in time for that. So, with a wave of her hand to the stationed servants, the food was then brought out. Mouthwatering platters of assorted meats and delicacies from each of their home nations filled the court and the table. It was an invitation for them to dine and be merry for even just a small respite. She addressed the nobles near her, taking special care to clear her voice so that Lore could hear and hopefully translate a bit of it to Vyarin.

"Friends, we have a lifetime ahead of us to be bound to one person. To sleep at night with them at our side and to awaken in the morn with them unfortunately still at our side," She chuckled softly then at the thought. "But, perhaps, that is what it means to be married. To always be a constant for the other, especially with the uncertainty of the times that lay ahead. To be one another's last starlight when all other of Aldask's lights go out. But, for tonight, we speak, dine, and drink as friends. And, hopefully, you get to meet the one for you," Then, with a laugh she joked once more. "Or, you can all just throw caution to the wind and pick me. I don't mind. Saves both of us the trouble of dancing during the ball and me stepping on your foot until you lose your toes," Sulhana waved her hand then as her laughter faded. "Friends from all lands of Sahas and my dear sisters," She smiled at all of them, gesturing to the grand feast awaiting them at the long table. "Come, dinner is served."
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by CassyK
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CassyK RP OG

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Erick’s smirk widened when Annalise seemed to concur the sentiment, he glanced at Uriah with whom Loreena held a brief interaction - she was free to indulge the festivities this evening, it would seem. The prince scanned Loreena’s jewelled adornments as she described the gems as an aid in harnessing her power, before he looked to that which was wrapped to his wrist, a personal gift indeed.. magic and the soul were one, to him at least, so it was quite right that it had no place other than on his person, “to bond it to me is my honour” he affirmed, giving a thoughtful smile.

Erick flexed his brow and looked about as the last princess and the prince Vyarin arrived to the courtyard. Jinayah greeted them quite informally and made her way to Loreena who was in his company, as was Annalise, as she drew closer he could see she was a little disheveled with some smears of dust about her attire, which he found unusual given her status and the nature of the event, though he concealed his judgment on this observation. He gave a shallow but nonetheless gracious bow with her arrival “Princess Jinayah” he expressed warmly before glancing to the Prozdy prince too to acknowledge him before he arose. Vyarin also seemed quite out of place, if not moreso, which made Erick feel a little better - as he’d shifted to the table and appeared to reel back with the taste of the wine, he felt confident further still… perhaps the Prozdy people preferred the sap and fungi from the forests?

It would certainly make things a little interesting..

Probably not appropriate
.

Whilst Loreena engaged the youngest sister upon her arrival, Erick looked back to Annalise - her veil had shifted and the pigmentation of the concealed eye was revealed, but he gave no indication that he had noticed and seemed to examine all features of her face as he spoke, “I think our own competition sounds like a good idea but…perhaps if not a little unfair” he drank deeply from the glass once again which emptied it - it seemed to be the mellow Astalian wine, and he was quite keen to partake of the robust Afdan beverage, “by what standards would you test me.. Annalise?” he made a gesture for her to walk with him to sit at the table, for he did remember why he was here. Sulhana simultaenously made her announcement, which beckoned all attendees to enjoy the abundance of food and drink presented for them.

The princess Sulhana was indeed a gracious and experienced hostess, but Erick was sure there was a sense of detachment, perhaps sadness in the way in which she expressed things - he understood he supposed, their lives were likely to change and far more greatly than that of any of the suitors..

Did she even have a preference? ..he wondered.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by WindsOfFate
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WindsOfFate The Debutante of Frost

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"Now is not the time for mistakes. Now is the time for action. Do what you feel is best for your kingdom."



As each assembled before the great King, Alvaro was silent. He was observing each of them, wondering what it was like to grow up in their shoes, wondering if there could be any happiness with the cold breath of the enemy on their necks. They all had something in common. They were all on the list of destruction should they choose not to act. Alvaro wondered if he could go through with the lie. To marry the great King’s daughter and pretend as if his heart did not already belong to someone else. The greatest of all fallacies and he questioned his own morals. How could he lead a kingdom and act so treacherously? His conscience continued to gnaw at him. More than anything he wanted to make his father proud, but he also had his own life to live. The great King had graciously invited them all to take the hand of one of his daughters and yet, Alvaro gazed at each beautiful princess and wondered how soft their hair was and how quickly he could braid it. To him, friendships and bonds lasted longer, and although he would no doubt be unable to marry one of them, he would ensure that an alliance would be forged in the shackles of truth.

The great King had offered a moment for anyone to speak, but his daughters presented themselves to each of the princes. Alvaro graciously accepted the beautiful gift from Loreena. Her bow made him smile. It was a sign of respect in his kingdom that equals bowed to each other, but also you bowed deeply to those of higher wisdom and age. His window of opportunity to speak with the great King soon passed, but he felt welcomed in the kingdom and would do his best not to upset any of the royal family while there. He turned to his lover and guard and smiled.

“I will speak with the King alone,” he spoke in his native tongue, “please behave while we are here. We are guests and should act as such.”

They’d been invited to the Court of Flowers. Perhaps he would get another chance to speak with the King alone, but for now he would retire to his chambers and freshen for the festivities that awaited later that evening. The Court of Flowers was sure to be as interesting as it sounded. Alvaro had observed each of the princesses and one had caught his line of sight. She was interesting and yet hadn’t spoken at all during the ceremony. Alas they all seemed to disperse, even the princes and he was no exception.

“Do you think your father will be upset?” Nairo asked.

“My father will learn to understand and hopefully will accept you,” Alvaro said, glancing up at Nairo as he sat on the bed.

“The King can be forgiving,” Cairo stated.

“I know Cairo, but I must be careful how this is done. The great King could find it insulting, and the last thing we need is discontent between kingdoms. I will speak with the King alone, but be mindful while you are here, for we are not home. Use our native tongue to speak to each other, but no secrets. Understood?”

Cairo and Nairo nodded while Alvaro continued to get dressed. He wore a beautiful phoenix embossed garment that flowed from his toned form. A beautiful necklace adorned his neck and chest, the gemstone holding mysteries within it. The solid violet gem seemed to swirl specks of white and gold in its center.. Alvaro’s earrings accented the beautiful lavender garment he wore and he stood from the bed examining himself in the mirror.

“You look amazing,” Nairo said.

“The most fashion forward in the kingdom,” Cairo stated.

Alvaro smiled and shook his head. He was the last to arrive in the great hall. The beautiful flowers made him think of home. He strolled in, and remained silent as he observed what was going on, not wanting to interrupt.

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Mistress Dizzy
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Mistress Dizzy Tired Mermaid Fanatic

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Jin relaxed considerably as Lore adjusted her hairstyle. Her sister’s touch was very warm and soothing. It was so much nicer than when her ladies in waiting did it. They always made the bun too tight. “Much better, Lore. Thank you.” She smiled widely and took a delicate sip of the wine. It was delicious, and quite powerful, and had a different scent entirely than what they usually had with dinner. Sulhana was always good at choosing that kind of thing.

“A drinking contest, hm? I suppose I will join. Consider this my entry.” While she had grown used to the nonalcoholic cider in the silver cups, today was apparently the day she became an adult. She took another careful sip of the wine and watched as Vyarin sputtered over his. What was that about? Was he going to be alright? Lore was already on it, so she turned her attention to Hana as she approached.

“I wouldn’t have run away. Not from this. I’m supposed to be the bravest of all of us, aren’t I? So here I am.” She chuckled as she was engulfed in a hug. There had always been a bit of the dramatic in Hana, spymaster or not. She had always been the one to make up stories as children. Her speaking of governesses and new-dress days with four less than earnest young ladies brought a sparkle to her eyes and a grin to her face. It had been simpler, yes. Much simpler.

Jin actually lost composure and blushed when Sulhana mentioned the armor she had received. But she was surprised at her elder sister’s advice. “You think I should have? Perhaps. Then the men would know what they’re really working with, instead of… this.” Sometimes the fancy gowns felt like lying.

She approached Prince Gil, swept a curtsy and smiled. Before they could really get to talk, however, Hana announced that dinner was on the table. Despite her earlier nerves, the head-clearing workout from earlier had made her rather hungry now. It would be good to sit and eat.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by LostDestiny
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LostDestiny Goldfish Brain

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Annalise’s attention remained on Uriah as he spoke, basically confirming what she already knew. She smiled at the mage, giving him a nod before turning her attention back to her sister and Prince Erick who had started talking about Lore’s gift to the man. The eldest daughter knew that of the four of them it was Lore who was far more interested in this deal than the rest of them. From what she had seen she was the most invested out of all the nobles gathered. Anna smiled at her sister as she spoke about the jewel gifted to the Prince beside her. Even she didn’t know the little tidbit that her sister shared. When it came to magic most of it went over her head.

As she was musing to herself in her head Jin entered the courtyard followed closely by the Prozdy prince. She was not surprised by her youngest sister’s disheveled appearance. It was not the first time she had been late to an event in favor of her blades, and it certainly would not be the last. She was about to move toward Jin but Lore beat her to the punch. Ever the caring one she took to fixing Jin’s hair and fussing over their younger sister. She did however chime in when Lore blamed her for the drinking competition. “Actually that was more Hana, and Prince Gil’s decision. I was simply here and thought it sounded fun.” She knew Lore and Jin were not the drinkers that Hana and herself were. Father often insisted that none of them partake in the wine or if they did that it be watered down, however, Hana was always rebellious, and Annalise had taken to drinking to prove that she was no different than any of the male members of the court. Not that it helped, she was still constantly fighting to be heard even though the country would be hers very soon.

Her mind wandered to the suitors, and who of them would allow her to rule her country, who would stay out of her way. Gil, the third Prince who Hana had gathered had no interest in a position of power such as the ruler of a country seemed a good option. He however had carefully avoided talking to her since he had arrived at the courtyard. She was sure that in Gil’s eyes, she was his last choice. She knew nothing of the elven Prince who had yet to arrive at the courtyard so she couldn’t make any assumptions on him at this point. Erick seemed polite enough and he might be content to command Astalia’s armies and remain out of the finer aspects of ruling the country. Though again, this was only speculation. Lastly was Prince Vyarin who was also more or less a wild card. She was sure that if she wanted to be underhanded about it she could use his limited knowledge of her language to her advantage for a while. She wasn’t that manipulative though. She shook the thought out of her head as Hana approached them with Gil on her heels.

At the mention of food her stomach growled, she hadn’t had much to eat today, the nerves had gotten the better of her so any food in her system would be extremely welcomed at this point. She had almost missed what Erick had asked her, lost in her own thoughts. “Hm?” Was all that escaped her lips before her brain fully registered what he had said. She moved to take a seat across from him rather than directly beside him. It was a deliberate action, keeping openings for the other Princes to attempt to make a move, while still remaining close enough to Erick to still interact with him. She waited until Hana finished speaking to reply to his earlier statement and question. “Unfair you say? On whose side, mine or yours?” She cocked her eyebrow at him as her good eye looked directly into his, a very small smirk playing at her lip. “As for how I would test you, well that is simple, we must each finish the same amount of drinks by the end of the night, whoever holds their alcohol better is the winner. In other words, whoever is less drunk.” She emphasized her point by finishing her own glass to make them equal. “If I win…” She paused to think. There were two ways she could do this, the light hearted way or more serious. After a moment she chose the more light hearted option. As much as she wanted to let him know that her country came first, now was not the time. “If I win, you have to tell me an embarrassing story from your childhood. And since we are declaring Price Vyarin the judge he will have final say on who is the winner. Of course you get to name your prize as well, within reason of course.” The smirk was now prominent on her face as she carefully ate a bit of the food that was put in front of her, her stomach instantly reacting to finally being fed.

Her attention moved to the entryway as the final member of this elaborate political game joined them. “Ah Prince Alvaro, happy you could join us. We were just about to eat, please, feel free to join us. Also if you are interested, we have some drinking games in place if you would like to partake.” She motioned to the food and drink on the tables and also to the free seats.


______________________________________








Gil watched Sulhana as she spoke. He was about to respond when the youngest Princess and the Prozdy Prince entered the courtyard. His eyes traced over the pair. The large male appeared more than out of his element and the smaller female clearly disheveled. His curiosity peaked at the two of them. What exactly had they been doing beforehand? He didn’t assume anything promiscuous but still, he wondered. He couldn’t help but let out a chuckle when Sulhana mentioned him falling for her already. Though he didn’t get a chance to respond before she was off to greet her sister finishing off her drink as she did so. He too finished his drink, not wanting her to get ahead of him and followed her.

He did his best not to listen in on the conversation Sulhana had with her sister so instead he wandered off a bit to get himself another drink, returning just as Sulhana moved away to make a speech before offering food. He opened his mouth to greet Jin just as she started talking and closed it to allow her to speak. At the mention of food his stomach growled, realizing he had not eaten since before his arrival to the castle. He decided it was as good a time as any to get seated and get some food in his system, especially if he was going to be drinking heavily. He walked over to the table and pulled out a seat, offering it to Jin, more out of habit than anything else. “I could use some food, how about you?” He questioned the Princess politely. “Besides, if we are going to be drinking we should probably make sure we aren’t doing so on an empty stomach.” He smiled as he took his own seat, child-like excitement to eat some food, and hopefully taste some Astalian dishes. He hadn’t even noticed the Elven Prince enter as he seated himself.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by bloonewb
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bloonewb Primordial and also soupy

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Vyarin gratefully takes one of the silver cups, looking down into the well to see for himself. This did not look particularly different from the profaned drink of the gold cup, but an experimental sip told him that it was well and safe enough. Opposed to the chokingly bitter sample before, this was mild, sweet but with a spicy aftertaste. How did they manage that, he wondered? Did they crush apples into a chalice, and sprinkle in a dash of ground peppers? What an amazing culinary tradition this land of Astalia kept. His mind came alive with the most absurd things being served on a platter. Goat's livers covered in honey? Fresh honeygrass mixed in with fried horseflies? Entire frogs, stuffed full with stalks of raw grain? He was certainly willing to give them a try.

"Let us go forth to glory," he sarcastically muttered in Prozdy, finally building up the courage to take a full swig from the spiced drink. It was a common phrase spoken before the consumption of a dinner. No man of the League would dare speak in the night preceding a battle. The various principalities that dotted the land were all unique in their own customs, but they all shared that much. The drink was strong with spice, so much so that he could feel particles of it scratch at his throat as it went down. It was powerful and uplifting, like the drink was made of fire, like it could fill him up with a fire's fury and he could raise fortresses with his own hands. Only guiltily afterwards did he realize he had taken the entire chalice in a single gulp, and was greedily eyeing another one. How unseemly of him, he thought to himself, pulling out a chair and joining the other heirlings as they gathered about the table, servants already melting away as they left behind them plates of resplendent, though disappointingly mundane-looking food.

The other seven chatted eagerly amongst themselves, all they who were fluent in Astalian. Vyarin felt a frustration bordering on anger bubble up inside him. So long as he sat here, he was deaf in all the ways that matter. He imagined it to be not much different from wading into battle missing an arm. Perhaps he could pick up a word that appeared frequently enough. 'Wine, wine,' they said. That Astalian word appeared frequently, but he could not even begin to wonder what it could translate to. Was it marriage? That was their purpose coming here, after all. Perhaps they were speaking of arranging matches between themselves. Was it war? There are hushed mentions of a brewing war, greater than any skirmish between princes Vyarin would ever have seen, between this land and the great northern realm. He could not see any sign of worry on any other faces; they are mighty and stoic, these fellow heirlings, brave in the face of threat. What could this 'wine' possibly be?
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