Cinderfellow

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
Henrietta had sat alone in her room all night long. Unable to sleep for thinking. There was much to consider. Too much. Yes, it was all too much. But knowing that fact would not make any of it go away. Thinking it over for hours did not make the solution magically appear. It only brought about a searing headache and gut wrenching. And tears. Oh so many tears. But she was alone, so she had a right to be vulnerable.

Mother, all those years ago, and now Father... And a stepmother she would never meet now. There was sure to be some trouble over that, considering that she had been foreign royalty... And that just brought her back around to her father. The one person to turn to over this sudden crushing responsibility was the one person who could no longer offer advice. Was he watching her now? If so, surely he was as nervous as she if nit more so. She had always known, distantly, that this day might come. In an abstract way, that she may be left with the throne. But it was so impossible... Worst of all, because her father hadn't succeeded in producing a true heir, in order to keep the peace, she would have to keep up the charade. She would have to remain not simply "Prince Henri," but King Henri Alexander Charmont. Forever.

"You promised, father... I know that you did your best, but you promised me that I could go and live my life someday... But not now... Now... How by all that is sacred am I to find a queen before the coronation?!"

That was when she decided. She needed to get out of here. She needed to breathe fresh air. Free air. She needed to be free from all of this crushing weight of responsibility iand decorum. Be herself one more time.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Lord Tremaine had sensed by Henri's dark mood on the way back from the tombs that the royal would be slipping out again soon. It wouldn't be the first time, but it would necessarily be the last. He would allow it this time, since he knew how distraught she was. It might do her some good. But with so many nobles about, and with talk of the coronation and its implications beginning to circulate, she could not afford to do anything foolish. That was why he kept an eye on the stables. He knew better than to hover outside her quarters when the lack of one horse would be a far clearer sign, and by this way he could avoid confrontation and she could retain a semblance of privacy.

Really, it should be General Gage on guard duty, but he doubted his tact. The captain of the royal guard had been keeping to himself more than usual, and when he did make himself seen, there was something about his demeanor that was just a bit off. Well, they were all grieving in their own ways...

Sure enough, the princess's favorite horse, Storm, was missing. And not long gone. If he hurried he could catch up with her, and he had a fairly good idea of where she had gone. The old castle ruins.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

"Where's the Ash boy?" Luther called down the hallway, looking in every room before stopping at the entry to the kitchen. "He slept by the fire again, didn't he? I can tell, because there's a dog-shaped spot here on the fireplace."

"Do you really have to yell?" William asked with a yawn.

"I do if I want that lace-waisted little sister of ours to hear me." Luther took a breath before bellowing out. "Elle! Oh Ellie dear! Where ever is our breakfast?!"

"You're going to wake father acting like that. Why don't you just ask the old woman to make something?" William sat back down in the drawing room and went back to his book. "Besides, he's probably off galavanting in the woods or whatever he does."

"Eh. You're right. Whatever he does. I probably don't want to know." Luther chuckled. "But still. There's no excuse for breakfast to be late. Father will be down any minute. Ah. I have a brilliant idea. We aught to get a bell."

"What, to call Eli and the servants?"

"No, to put around his neck."

"You are twisted, brother."

"Why thank you," he replied with a grin and mock bow, "I come by it honestly."

That made even William smile, for a moment.
 

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
“She’s gone again!” Ariane watched as her father, Hugo, stormed about Henri’s empty room. “And she’s most likely alone, where she could get hurt with no one to help her.” He growled. “If she comes back with another scrape, I’m going to strangle that magician.”

“Court Advisor.” Ariane corrected as she fixed Henri’s bed.

“Whatever!” Her father threw his hands in the air. “The magician should’ve known this would happen.”

“He only knows things when he wants to know,” Ariane muttered as she fluffed the pillows roughly. “Or tells people when it suits him, that arrogant, pompous,” Ariane growled and gave the pillows one last hard tug. Her father paid no mind as he continued pacing and ranting.

“I knew this would happen! We should’ve just told everyone the truth so she doesn’t have to run off to be herself! Her running off is dangerous. What will happen when she needs to bear an heir? Will she just run off and have a child alone?”

“Of course not!” Ariane chimed as she went into Henri’s closet. “I will be there as her nursemaid and so will you. You are her doctor after all.” She heard her father sigh.

“But to have a child in secret is no way for a woman to be treated. It will be hard and she will be stressed with trying to keep up this lie.” Ariane came out with clothes for Henri. Her father was leaning against the desk, his calloused hands pinching the bridge of his nose. “This lie will kill her before any disease, man, or child does.” He muttered. Ariane sighed as she laid out the clothes. It would be a meeting day so it was a causal green overcoat, a black vest, and a cream tunic with brown trousers. When she was done, she patted out the clothes neatly, then went to her father.

“Father,” Ariane grabbed his hands and pulled them from his face. “You are a doctor. It is your job to help her recover from injury and to keep going. This lie does not keep you from doing that.”

“It certainly does not make it any easier.” He muttered. Ariane let go of his hands and shrugged.

“No, but it makes her job, as ruler of this kingdom, easier.” Ariane sighed and went to sit on the bed. “The people are at ease knowing that someone is next in line, that we do not have to look for a King. And while it is a burden for her, you know she will not abandon the people her father cared so much about.” Ariane reasoned as she put her hair behind her ear.

“You knew about this.” Her father narrowed his eyes at her and Ariane smiled.

“Well, it is my job to make sure that she is ready for any outing.”

“Am I the last to know everything?” Her father exclaimed as he shook his head. Ariane chuckled and fiddled with her lion pendant.

“I am just in a position to know Henri.”

“And the magician,”

“That haughty court advisor just happens to assume things correctly.” Ariane snapped, gripping her lion pendant.

“Easy there, lioness.” Her father chuckled as he pushed himself off the desk and approached her. “I still don’t understand your grievances with him.”

“He is aggravating. Nothing more.” Ariane said quickly as she pushed wrinkles out of her skirt. Her father shook his head.

“Is the general with her?” Her father asked sitting beside her. Ariane shook her head.

“I have not seen him since last night after the return of the funeral. He was,” Ariane paused, tracing the lion pendant. “Adamant about seeing Henri afterward.” Her father turned to gaze at her, his eyes searching her dark green long-sleeved gown and face.

“Are you all right?” Ariane patted his arm, resisting the urge to look at her arm.

“I am alright father.” She smiled, then it turned into a frown as she continued tracing her pendant. “I just, he concerns me. The way he looks at Henri, I wish on no woman.”

“It is his job to always be looking at her. He is just trying to keep her safe.” Her father put a hand on her shoulder. Ariane looked to him and opened her mouth. Her eyes roamed her father’s weary face, and then her mouth closed into a soft smile. She clasped his hand.

“As we all are father. We all have our part in Henri’s wellbeing. Let the others worry about where she goes. You help her when she gets back.” Ariane’s smile widened when her father sighed and some of the weariness left his face.

“You’re right, my lioness.” Her father pulled her in and kissed her temple. “I shall go get my salves ready.” He stood from the bed. “Maybe I’ll find the General and inform him. Hopefully, I’m truly not the last to know.” He chuckled as he left. Ariane smiled back ruefully.

“Hopefully.” Though Ariane knew that the reasons she hoped the General did not know Henri’s whereabouts and the reason her father hoped the General did not know where very, very different.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Gaston knew action and orders. He was a man of authority, and had been raised under authority. It has taught him the most valuable lesson he ever knew. Authority was about control. The current loss of the King and his new wife were out of his control, out of Henri’s control.

“She will be in authority now.” Gaston murmured as he took a sip of brandy in his room. Despite his bare chest and half state of dress, he went to the window. He looked down upon the town. “She will be controlling all of you.” He took another sip of brandy. “After she meets your conditions.” Gaston slammed the glass down on the sill. The empty cup making a sharp clink.

Gaston hated that his people expected more out of his princess, but that’s what underlings did with their leaders. They expected more. They expected the best.

“Do not worry though. She will meet all your conditions.” Gaston pushed himself away from the window. He turned to the portrait of Henrietta hanging in his room above his fireplace. Well, it was when she was Henri, posing for the royal portrait. Still, he gazed up at it. “She is strong and beautiful. I taught her well. She will only want the best.” Gaston gingerly traced the contours of Henrietta’s face in the air. “And as always I will provide.” He sighed, a glazed smile on his face. Then he quickly turned around and went to his closet.

“Provided that the Duke of Vesque provides me the right information.” He took out his best clothes and furs. He turned back to the portrait. “Do not worry, my princess, I will find us a perfect queen.” Gaston focused back on his clothes. When he was finished a knock came at his door. “Come in.”

“General!” Gaston looked to see the palace doctor, Hugo come in. “Have you heard the news?”

“What news, Doctor?” Gaston answered slowly.

“Henrietta has run off-”

“SHE HAS WHAT?” Gaston rushed to grab his sword and would have run out the door, but the doctor grabbed his arm.

“Calm down, my boy.” The doctor chuckled jovially. Gaston shook his head.

“But Henrietta! I knew I should have stayed in her room! That blasted wench kept me out of her room.” Gaston growled. He quieted as the grip on his arm tightened.

“Careful there, boy.” The doctor smiled sharply. “That’s my daughter you are speaking about.” Gaston resisted the urge to roll his eyes and remind the doctor that his ‘child’ was not truly his. Everyone knew it, but the man and girl themselves. Instead, Gaston huffed.

“I apologize.” The doctor let him go. Gaston composed himself and looked back at the doctor. “It is just that, I have to know where she is so I can protect her, make sure that no one finds out her secret. It is important to her.” The doctor nodded.

“I understand. But maybe she needs this time to be alone. To be herself.”

“She can be herself with me.” Gaston pouted. The doctor laughed and patted Gaston on the back.

“Don’t sound so heartbroken, my boy.” Gaston glared up at the man, wishing that the doctor was just a doctor and not a warrior that could heal a person just to kill them again. “You are still her general and she will come back. Just give her some space.”

“Fine.” Gaston huffed as he stomped out of his room. The doctor followed. “And what of the magician? Where is he?” The doctor shrugged.

“I don’t know. And no one else seems to have seen him either.”

“That man. What good is he if he is never around when he needs to be?” Gaston complained.

“He comes when he knows he’s truly needed and has never failed us. Trust him.” The doctor patted his shoulder. Gaston shrugged it off.

“I’ll trust that man when I know where he gets his magic and information.” Gaston murmured.

“Speaking of information,” Gaston looked to the doctor. “I saw you head out last night with some of the funeral’s brandy. Where did you go?” Gaston stilled for a moment. He thought no one saw him. But it was no matter, Gaston relaxed and continued forward.

“I went to see a merchant about my fur dealings. I wanted information about where they will come from. The brandy was to soften him up.” It was not a lie, per se. Just trade in fur with potential brides and it was the truth. The doctor believed it and laughed.

“Nothing softens a deal like good brandy.”

“The best brandy.” Gaston smirked because he got the brandy and Gaston only gets the best.
_______________________________________________________________________________________

The Duke of Vesque, Charlot Perrault smiled awake. Things were coming together. Of course, he heard about the unfortunate passing of the King and his new wife. And like any other loyal servant of the kingdom, he was distraught. But to hear that the Prince, soon to be King, was looking for a bride. Well, as a loyal servant, Charlot’s company had to do whatever was necessary to help his kingdom. And if it lined his pockets, well that was the gracious King’s gift to him. Charlot hobbled out of bed. His bent leg aching.

“Not today, you useless limb,” Charlot growled at his leg. He grabbed his cane and used it to prop himself up. “Today we must prepare for the harvest.” He limped into the kitchen. Curled up on the ground was the ash child in its maid attire. “Get up, fool!” Charlot whacked it with his cane. It jumped up into a sitting position. Ashton’s wide sky blue eyes stared at him. “I said get up!” Charlot sneered as he whacked Ashton with his cane.

“Yes, your grace.” Ashton bowed his head, turning into the ash child once again. It stood up and curtsied. It ended the curtsy with its head bowed and hands clasped in front of their apron. The perfect picture of submission. Charlot scoffed. He knew that this thing only acted in submission. It was never truly submissive.

“I have a job for you.” It looked up. Charlot whacked it with its cane. It flinched and looked back down. “But it seems you cannot even follow the simplest rules, stupid wench.” Charlot noticed how its hands squeezed tighter. Sara did that when she was angry as well. She would fist her hands and her eyes would become as dark as thunderclouds. Charlot gritted his teeth. “So, listen closely.” Charlot snapped and pointed to a chair. It quickly moved to pull the chair out for him. Charlot sat down and snapped again. It appeared before him and knelt down.

“I want you to go to the salons today. Rumors have been circulating of the prince’s need for a bride. Find out who is going to join the ranks and get me the information on all of the eligible ladies.” Charlot ordered as he put his hands on the top of his cane.

“All of them, your grace?” Ashton’s blue eyes, clear with disagreement and disbelief, gazed at him. Charlot slammed his cane down.

“DO I HAVE TO REPEAT MYSELF?” He sneered through gritted teeth. “I said all of them.” Charlot grabbed Ashton’s arm and pulled him close. Ashton did not flinch or shy away. There was not even fear. Ashton bit his lip as his eyes darkened with anger. Charlot growled. “I do not care if you have to go to every salon in the town. I do not care if it takes you all day. At the end of the day, I want to know about every single eligible bride in this town. And if there is even a single lady unaccounted for, I will make that scullery maid an eligible bride.” Finally, worry and fear flashed through Ashton’s eyes. Charlot tightened his grip. Satisfaction rolled through him as Ashton winced. “Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, your grace.” Ashton sneered back. Charlot glare, but Ashton’s sneer did not waver. Charlot threw Ashton to the ground.

“Good.” Charlot stood up and turned away from Ashton, done with him.

“Your grace?” Charlot froze at the ash child’s call.

“What?” Charlot did not turn around.

“What about breakfast for you and your sons? Who will-” Charlot turned around and slammed his cane on the ground, ending the ash child’s questions.

“What makes you think you can question me, wench? Have you forgotten your place?” He pointed to the fireplace. “You are nothing but dirt underneath my shoe. I tell you what to do, where to go, and you do it. Is it not the scullery maid’s job to do housework?”

“I know your grace but she is old and frail and cannot serve you as you deserve,” Charlot’s eyes widened as the child bowed its head deeper and placed a hand over its chest.

“Do not try to flatter me with your words fool!” Charlot spat as he tightened his grip on his cane. This child was testing his patience today. If the child was not so useful, he would have gotten rid of it long ago. “Now get out of my sight and my house, and go get my information.” The child was still for a moment before curtsying.

“Yes, your grace.” The child turn and left out the back door.

“Good riddance.” Charlot scoffed. He did not have time to deal with children and Ashton today. He had to plan for the harvest of eligible ladies who would be heartbroken that the Prince did not choose them. “Perfect time for my sons to pick fresh wives,” Charlot smirked as he hobbled up the stairs.
_________________________________________________________________________

Eli remained quiet as he grabbed his bag of extra clothes and went to the stables. He stopped when he saw Rupert the groundskeeper.

“Ru,” Eli coughed, getting rid of the airy tone in his voice. He hated how vapid his voice sounded. “Rupert, I apologize but his grace ordered me out on another mission. I have to get the information of all the eligible brides in town.” Eli’s voice went deeper in a mock of Charlot’s. Then he composed himself and gave Rupert a small smile.

“Please tell Blanche that she has to do the housework and it might be all day. I sincerely do apologize. I will try to be as fast as I can.” Eli promised as he bowed his head and ran to the stables. He quickly mounted a brown mare.

“Sorry girl. I know you were out last night, but we got another job.” Eli patted the mare’s neck as she stomped before he led her out. “Let’s go to the river by the ruins, okay Rose?” The mare nodded and headed for the ruins.

They arrived at the river quickly. “Atta girl,” Eli praised the mare and gave her an apple. He pulled out the blue and white dress from his bag. There were purple splotches on the bottom of the dress when Elle got close to Bourgeois to swipe what he owed Charlot. “Why do men have to be so clumsy when they get drunk?” Eli sneered.

If he was to go to the Salons, he had to look ready to spend the day to gossip, not to change or be beautified. “This is going to take a while.” Eli sighed. He looked around. The ruins were usually empty. “Might as well take the time to wash and enjoy myself while I wash these clothes.” Eli shrugged off his brown maid frock and went into the waist-deep water.

“Wench, I am fat, lazy, and I have a broken leg that is your father’s fault. So go get my money wench, go get me information wench.” Eli mocked as he washed the dresses. “What about your very capable sons? Oh, wait! One’s a heartless fool with his father’s brain, and the other one,” Eli paused his scrubbing and blinked. “Well, William is not that bad. He is just quiet. Like I am.”

“Perfect quiet, obedient little Elle.” Eli resumed his scrubbing as the water grew purple. “The perfect little wench who can steal your wallet, collect your information, and do your housework. Who needs Eli? Who cares about Eli? Compared to Elle, what can he even do?” Eli stopped scrubbing, the water a clear blue, reflecting his image. “Do you have an answer?” Eli asked his reflection. It stared back, as he held up the dress. Even though he wore no makeup and his imperfections clearly shown, his heart stopped at how he could see Elle. At how she said nothing but stared at him disapprovingly.

Eli closed his eyes and slammed the dress into the water. “I am mad!” Rose neighed in response. Eli chuckled. “Thank you for agreeing, Rose.” Eli smiled at the horse who was grazing in the grass. Eli sighed and pulled out the dress. The purple splotches were out. “Well, I, must admit. I am good at the laundry.” Eli showed Rose the dress. She huffed. Eli smiled and set the dress aside. Calmly, he washed his frock and set it aside with the other dress.

“It is not so bad being Elle. The thrill of the mission and the busywork is nice.” Eli said as he undid his hair. “Ah,” Eli rolled his neck as he combed his fingers through his hair. “Much better. I could definitely do without the hairdos.” He stretched in the sun, enjoying the moment to just be. Then he went into the water. He was unable to hear the other person enter the ruins.
 

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
If Blanche grit her teeth any harder, they might fall out. She had heard the whole exchange, and just as soon as Eli came bounding out of the house to do that duke's bidding, she came in carrying a basket of eggs and vegetables. "Good morning, master." She faked cheer, and yet her inflection made it sound more like a question. Over the years she'd come to just about the end of her rope with this man, but here lately she had tried a new tactic that seemed to be working. She would fake dimentia when it was convenient, and pretend not to know or notice the things that upset her the most. It also allowed her to take little jabs at him now and then, as she apparently innocently confused time and facts. "Where's that little girl run off to? Gone to fetch some more seasonings I should hope. Are you and the boys hungry?"

She set to work cooking. "Oh, did you hear the news about the king? Nasty business that. We might have war on our hands if the prince isn't careful. It just goes to show, you never know when the end might come. Always be prepared for judgment day!" She singsonged the last line, before turning to look at Perrault. Well not exactly at him. Her eyes seemed a bit unfocused, but that was on purpose. "Oh but you needn't worry about things like that yet. You're young still, Master Gabriel." He looked nothing at all like Lord Ashton, but she couldn't let the opportunity to get under his skin slip by. "It's those boys you need to worry about. They're like to get into trouble if they don't settle down soon." That was the one thing she would encourage. The sooner they were out of this house, the better. "Would you like luncheon in the dining hall, sir, or shall I make you a pail?"

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

"Aye, my boy. I'll tell her. She probably suspects it already, though. I would help if I could." Rupert called after Eli. He stared after him a moment before setting back to work trimming the hedge. That boy worried him. He had to sit him down sometime and remind him who he was. He was prpud of him, but at the same time it made him angry to see how he was treated. That he just accepted the disgrace, and bowed and scraped for that no good piece of filth... But if he were in Eli's shoes? Best not even to think about it. He'd probably have been locked away for assaultas it stood if not for Eli's appologies on his behalf. It would be so much easier when this was all over. He'd bet anything that Duke Perrault already had some schene going. And Eli caught in the middle of it too. All he could do was pray for the boy. That everyone involved would get what they had coming sooner rather than later.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Thinking herself alone, Henrietta had dismounted and tied Storm to a tree in back of the ruins. She had hidden one of her mother's old informal dresses in a blanket roll on the horse's back, and she made short work of changing. Ah, finally she could breathe properly with her chest unbound! She took a satin ribbon and tied up her hair with it. Next would be to apply some powder and rouge. She could use the reflection from the water for that.

Then she heard a splash, followed by the faint sound of someone talking. She panicked for a moment thinking that they might have seen her. But no, the noise was coming from the river, too far down to be detected. As quickly as she could she hid the clothes she had been wearing. Oh, shoes! Why ever hadn't she thought to bring shoes? It was either walk barefoot or put her riding boots back on, so she chose the latter. She might have left right then, but she was curious, and frankly a little bit defensive. It wasn't as though these ruins were off-limits, but she had spent time here with her father when she was little, so in her mind they belonged to her. She had frequented this place when she had wanted to be alone, and had never seen anyone else here before.

Oh, it was a man, and he was swimming half naked! Her cheeks colored. Maybe it was rude to disturb him, but she was still too perturbed to do otherwise. She had to know why he was here in her sanctuary. "Excuse me, sir! What are you doing here?"
 
Last edited:

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
Charlot froze on the stairwell at the scullery maid’s grating voice. He reminded himself that the old hag was losing her mind and that he did not want to lose anymore dignity by allowing the old hag’s bastard husband to hit him. Plus, he just had to remind the hag exactly who she was talking to.

“It is your grace, maid. You will address me as befitting of my title.” Charlot ordered as he turned to face the woman. “Feed my children what they desire and then send them to my room. I will take my food upstairs today, maid.” He turned to finish his climb but stopped to look at her one last time. “And do try to remember my title, maid. Or I might just forget about you and your husband’s pay for the rest of the year.” Charlot threatened before going to his room. His useless leg was already throbbing.

_______________________________________________________________________

When Eli rose out of the water, he gasped for air. Only for it to escape him as he heard someone behind him. Eli jumped and turned around.

His eyes observed the person speaking, a woman. A woman, in a dress and riding boots. One of his eyebrows rose at the odd combination, but somehow it fit the strong woman. For everything about the woman told of strength in beauty and heart. From her worn riding boots to her gold old yet bright dress, to her long hands, to her braided sun golden hair, to the sharp angular features of her face, everything about this woman was vibrant, strong, and bright. Eli felt his face flush when he met her emerald green eyes. He was never one to examine a woman in such a way, especially not when they spoke to him, but usually, he was Elle. Another girl who spoke in carefully measured words to gain the approval of those around her. Now, he was Eli, standing naked in a river.

At the realization of his state of dress, or lack thereof, he bent down and tried to cover more of his body in the water. He tried to focus on the woman’s question, and not the heat rising in his body.

“Uh, I am washing.” Eli knew that his very eloquent answer would satisfy the curiosity of a horse. He looked around and saw that the dresses were still laying out on the bank. A story already came to his mind. He looked back to the woman.

“The ruins are quiet and while they hold secrets, and possibly ghosts, they do not whisper gossip.” Eli chuckled as he quoted what his mother said when she told stories about the ruins. “My sister and I thought to wash our clothes here but forgot some at home. She went to get the forgotten clothes and I stayed to start our task. I believed I was alone and the river was inviting, I answered its call. Though I can see that this is not the case.” He bent his head down. “I apologize for that.” Then he looked back up to the woman. He had not seen her odd attire around and he would have remembered such bold features. Who was she?

“But do you mind telling me who you are? Many people do not come here, for the ghosts said to linger in the walls. Are you a brave human looking for peace such as I am or a ghost wishing to unload your secrets?”
 

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
"Oh, is that so? Your sister must be the trickster kind then, as I see she forgot to leave you your trousers. She probably left the rest on purpose too." Henrietta laughed, and it was good to not have to mangle her vocal chords with a manly one for once, although as the prince she didn't do very much laughing that wasn't forced. "It must be great fun to have a sibling."

She averted her gaze tactfully, though still blushing somewhat. "I apologize for my rudeness. I used to come with my father here when I was little. It always seemed like our special place. So yes, I suppose you could say I am here to speak to a ghost." She sighed, getting sad again at the nostalgia of memory. "It has been some time since I was last here... Is there still a garden growing on the inside, or has it gone to thorns? Oh, right. You wouldn't know, would you? Unless you are very good at climbing." She went back to Storm and patted him as she felt among his saddlebag for a key. Then she thought of the clothes. Something told her that sister of his would take her time coming back. "Hmm..."

"It looks like my brother left a change of clothes on his horse." She faked a frown. "Well. One good bit of mischief deserves another I suppose. You can have them. I'd hate for you to have to go round the woods naked." She set the pants beside the edge of the river, not thinking that she had just said that she didn't have any siblings.
 

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
Eli watched as the woman laughed. The way she laughed openly and slight shock on her face told him that she might not have laughed so freely in a while. He hoped that she would do it more often. Even if he had to tell stories of a sibling who did not exist because the siblings he knew were not great fun.

As she spoke of her father, a lovely blush rising to her sharp cheeks, softening them, a familiar pang of loss hit Eli. He did not know what it was like to have a father, but he did know the longing to speak to a ghost of the past.

“Uh, the garden?” Eli paled at the mention of the garden. The personal way she spoke of the ruins, spoke of how sacred she saw the place. Contradicting how he normally came and worked here as if it was his. Eli never felt so much like the criminal he was till now. Not even his first time stealing made him so sick. The ruins were just where he could be himself without word getting out. If he knew that it had such sentimental value, he would not have touched it. Granted, he just took care of the garden, enjoying the flowers that grew there. His mother loved the roses, bluebells, and lavender flowers anytime he brought them to her.

“Brother?” Eli whispered. It seemed she did not catch her slip of tongue as she placed the trousers on the bank of the river. Eli thought to mention it but then closed his mouth. He knew of some woman who preferred trousers and riding boots over the confining dresses, which he greatly understood. Though he also knew the harsh looks and judgments such women received. Maybe that was why the woman before him was so strong. She had to face such comments in her life. He would not let her think that he thought less of her for simply trying to be herself.

“I suppose it would be a hindrance for you to know that an unknown man was running naked in a place sacred to you.” Eli chuckled as he got out of the river. He put on the trousers. They fit well. “And if siblings teach you anything, it is to be prepared.” Eli reached into his bag and grabbed a simple undershirt he carried. “I’m grateful that my sister decided to not look into my bag.” He chuckled. Though barefoot, he was somewhat modest and faced the woman.

“Again, I apologize for my lack of dress, my lady.” He curtsied automatically. Then froze as his face began to turn red. “I apologize. I taught my sister how to curtsy and it seems I forgotten how to bow when addressing a beautiful woman.” Eli’s eyes widened as his words reached his mind. He knew his flattering tongue was going to be the death of him. “I deeply apologize, that was very forward of me! I assure you that I am usually not as uncouth or forward in a woman’s presence. Not that I am in women’s presence often. Actually, I am,” Eli admitted, but then he realized how odd that sounded.

“But not to court them! Not that I am trying to court you. You are very courtable and anyone would want to court you, it is just that I do not know your name and,” Eli snapped his mouth closed and bowed his head, his hands clasped in front of him.

“It seems my sister has taken my brain as well as my trousers.”
 

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
She suddenly realized her misstep. "Well, he isn't my brother exactly. I only call him that. I suppose that sounded a bit confusing, didn't it?" She looked perturbed. How much should she say? Could she quickly think of someone? The only person she could think of was her friend Ariane. She relaxed as she knew she could easily adapt her story to suit her purposes. "He was adopted by a friend of the family. We grew up together and we have always been very close, so we call each other siblings. I'm lucky to have him. He makes me feel less alone. But I imagine having a real sibling would be very different... Still. I can always go to tailor and have another pair made. It makes me wonder what he was doing with clothes hidden away in the first place." She gave a mischievous smirk. "Has he been sneaking out to meet a lady I wonder?"

She couldn't help but laugh again at seeing such a handsome and strong young man tripping over his words. It made her blush. For the first time, she felt desirable. As a woman. "Well then, I shall have to tell her to give you them back." She hesitated, then smiled. "Alexandria is my name. And I only wish that I were free to be courted." She hesitated again, realizing that she would need a reason, then sighed. "You know, I do wish it was done differently. I am not allowed to seek a suitor until I've been presented at court and it... makes things a bit difficult since this was supposed to be my year. But as you know, there cannot be a ball without... a king..."

She felt a lump in her throat, and couldn't continue for a moment. She looked away from him. "That's terribly selfish, isn't it? That I should blame the untimely death of the sovereign for my inability to move on with my own life... He was always good to his people, too..." She wiped her eyes. "Please, please, forget that I said that." With a deep breath she looked down at the key in her hands. It was very old and slightly rusted, but it should still fit. She hesitated though. "It's probably a terrible mess in that garden now. I'm not even certain that I want to go in now. But I came all this way..."

The ruined castle had not always had a garden. In fact, there should not have been grass, to say nothing trees, in what once had been the interior of a tower. War, age, or both had so crumbled the ceiling and walls that light streamed in from every direction, and life had found a way. She and her mother before her had tended to what was there, adding flowers and bushes not native to the forest outside to those that were, until it became a natural and well hidden paradise. She had the only remaining key. The only other way would be to scale one of the broken walls and climb down into the garden.

She handed the key to him. "You do it. I can't bear to look at it now if it is horrible. I do not think my heart could take such a thing."
 

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
Eli still did not think the woman had a ‘brother’. She certainly had a friend. He could tell that her story was true in the way she was confident, but her hesitation, in the beginning, intrigued him. She even admitted to it being confusing. Granted, he was not one who could call out lies and berate someone for their lack of grace with words. So, he would still keep silent about her ‘brother’.

Plus, the way she offered to go to the tailor to have another pair of fine trousers made, her fine clothes, eloquent speech, and the need to be presented at court, this woman was high-born. Alexandria, was a woman above his station, unpresented to court, and without a father. Eli looked away as he realized that a thief that dressed as a woman would be undeserving of such a woman. Then Alexandria’s strangled voice caught his attention.

“I have never met the king, and I must admit that while I have a forward flattering tongue, I do not dabble with court politics. Power is quick to make people,” Eli paused, looking for the right word. “Blind. But I do know that it is alright for you to be saddened by both of your losses. You lost a man that you seem to have admired and the hope that you could have a magical night to be swept away into the beauty of womanhood.” Eli shrugged. At her mention of the garden and her displeasure, Eli stepped to be by her side.

“I am sure, that if anything can surprise, it is time.” Eli smiled. He took the old key from her. “But if you insist,” Eli sighed. But before he opened the gates. An idea came to him. “My mother used to say that every time you open a locked door, we are to make a wish.” Eli turned to Alexandria.

“So will you close your eyes, and imagine.” Eli stepped closer to her. “Imagine a moonlight garden, with torches lighting your way to the center.” Eli stepped behind her and put the key in her hand. “An archway of the reddest roses you have ever seen stands between you and the shining splendor of brightly colored satin gowns that spin and sparkle like the stars. There is music dancing in the air.” Eli slowly guided her soft yet calloused hand. Much like a knight’s hand. Eli smiled.

“Your brother waiting for you underneath the archway. Beaming proudly as he presents another star to the vast world.” The key entered the keyhole. “As you smile and shine like the moon that shines above you, a finely dressed nobleman, maybe even the Prince himself, stands entranced by your glow,” Eli whispered as he leaned close to her ear. They turned the key. “So he holds his hand out to you, inviting you not only to dance but be the only woman he sees.” Eli pushed open the gate. He was not a professional gardener, but he worked hard to maintain the beauty he stumbled upon. He hoped it was what she remembered. “Now open your eyes and be swept away.”
 

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
She knew that it was an act, but it was in her best interest to play along. Yes, it was very easy to imagine a ball. She had seen and been to plenty of them. But not as he imagined. The prince himself? She nearly laughed, but stopped herself.She pulled away from him as she stepped through though. But the skeptical look left her eyes once they settled on the garden. If anything, it looked - and smelled - even more beautiful than she remembered. "Either you are magic, or else very good at climbing. I'm leaning more towards the latter." Her steps fell softly so as to disturb as little of this wonder as possible. She really did wish she had brought more appropriate shoes, although these at least would not be a shame if they got mud on them. It took a few minutes of wandering before she came back to him.

"Thank you. I know it must be you and your sister who did this, and I also know that we are complete strangers, and you could not possibly have been thinking of me or someone else particular. It isn't even as if this is mine to be proud of, ir to thank you for tending to it. But it means a great deal to me to see this garden again, so I do thank you."

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek.

Blushing, she pulled away again. "And that was a lovely thought about the ball. Maybe something like that will happen someday... Although... The world seems so uncertain right now." She sighed. "I am too old to be having daydreams about dresses and parties and handsome noblemen. You are very sweet, but I doubt I will be having any kind of happily ever after anytime soon... I should be getting on."

She reached down and picked a white rose blossom, putting it in her hair. "Is there anything that I can do for you, to show my gratitude? Or perhaps for your family? It may sound silly, but seeing my parent's garden still thriving after they have gone, well it... it gives me a bit of hope." She smiled at him.
 

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
Alexandria wore a skeptical look and her lips smirked as he relayed the story of the ball. But when she opened her eyes and saw the garden, Eli lost the ability to breathe. He had forgotten the way someone could smile at his honest work. She was not flattered by his words or pleased at his ability to be cunning. She smiled in wonder at the simple flowers around her. Eli felt, accomplished. He felt like the little boy that put a smile on his mother and Blanche’s faces whenever he brought them flowers. Eli stayed back to let her explore, but he heard her speak. “Climbing is something one gets good at with siblings.” Which was true. He learned how to climb a tree as a teenager to avoid and hide from Luther or Charlot. Alexandria came back, her smile soft on her sharp face. Eli was amazed at how this woman was sharp yet soft, strong yet vulnerable, honest yet secretive. It made him wonder.

“Gratitude does not need to be given. It was always said in my house that if you can do something, you,” Eli was interrupted as he felt something impeccably soft, like rose petals against his cheek. The same scent filled his nose, and he was sure he was as red as one. Then it was gone. Eli turned to see Alexandria wearing a similar blush to the one he felt.

It was odd. Men had tried to kiss him or lay their hands on him. It was always demanding and rough. Eli learned how to move and turn away. But with a woman, with Alexandria, it was so very different. She was soft, gentle, and Eli found himself wanting to stay. To take her hand and kiss her cheek as she did his. To see the blush that soften her cheeks and complimented her emerald green eyes. To give her flowers and watch her smile in wonder. Is this what courting was supposed to be?

He did not want her to leave. He did not want her to stop dreaming, or smiling. As she put a white rose blossom in her hair, some strands of her golden hair falling loose, she asked to show her gratitude. But he wanted nothing of her, but to see her smile. Then something came to mind.

“Well, for my family,” Eli tapped his chin. “They would certainly be appalled if I did not show your brother any gratitude for the trousers. So, if you could give this to, your brother.” Eli smirked as he leaned in and lightly pressed his lips to her cheek. It was certainly not as sharp as it looked. “As gratitude for the borrowed trousers,” Eli whispered as he came a breath’s away from her face. “And your lack of proper shoes.” He smiled as he glanced down at her feet. Then he looked back to her emerald eyes.

“As for me, if you wish to show me gratitude,” Eli lightly brushed the fallen strands of her hair back. “Do not abandon the ghosts here. Come back and wish for happy endings and balls. Wish for dreams, because the ghosts,” Eli gave Alexandria a sad smile before stepping away. “Well they forget to do that themselves, and it can be lonely working in fallen palaces.” Eli did not know if he was talking about the ghosts or himself.
 

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
She laughed. "I doubt that this would mean the same coming from me, but if you insist, I'll pass the message along." She laughed even harder as she imagined the look on Ariane's face as she told her the story later. "As for my shoes, can I be expected to go riding through the dust in anything decent?" She almost wanted to come clean that she didn't have a brother, but it was a white lie, and it might prove useful if she needed to leave in a hurry.

Her smile turned sad. "The ghosts, hm? Sometimes I envy them their rest, but I suppose that they envy the living even more. You are right. We should do what we can for the sake of those who lost their chance. You have lost someone too, haven't you. I can tell. You did not tell me to stop being selfish or to move on. Only someone who has experienced loss can understand it." She smiled. "Or maybe you are just being nice to me out of pity. Either way, thank you..."

"I can't stay here. I have to make myself busy while I can..." She looked sheepish. "I kind of snuck out of the house to come here. Besides, I'm sure your sister will be back any minute. I would hate to have to explain what happened." She went back to her horse, and tossed him a small bag of coins. "This is for your time and trouble."
 

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
Eli realized that she did not see that he caught onto her lie, but her laugh was growing to be one of his favorite melodies. It made him consider keeping up the charade. But, for once in his life, he did not want a conversation to be full of flattering lies and sweet words. He wanted the truth. He wanted to truly know this woman, to know Alexandria.

When her smile turned sad with his, he felt his heart swell. Her compassion was not deterred by the sorrow she faced. Then she correctly assumed that he knew loss. She was as sharp-minded as her sharp looks.

“Loss is a dear friend of mine and I know it well. As any orphan should.” He tried to shrug off the lingering emptiness and ache that started to gnaw at his heart. “Well I am not truly an orphan, I do have a charge, but,” Eli trailed off, not sure what to say. For he would be fine if Blanche and Rupert were his charges, but Charlot. It would be a blessing to see him leave. “Loss is still loss and anyone who knows a friend of mine, is a friend as well.” He finished with a smile.

Then she spoke of leaving, another loss he would have to face. Though at her sheepish look Eli grew interested. She snuck out. A woman who fought her roles but understood the responsibility enough to go back. Could this woman be any more interesting? He followed her to her horse and when she threw the coins at him, he caught them effortlessly. Eli thought about rejecting the money, but if he did not get Charlot’s information, the money would help soften his anger.

“Thank you, for the trouble and please take as much time as you want.” Eli bowed. “For you are becoming more interesting by the minute, Lady Alexandria.” He stood up and smiled at her. “And while I know that your shoes are decent for riding back, your dress is not. Would you like your trousers back?”
 

Red Thread Fate

Active Member
She had been caught in the lie. Rather than being angry, however, she was pleased. "Well, you figured it out but are still speaking to me. For that you are a bigger man than I have met recently." She considered his offer to give them back, but then glanced behind him. "And have you walking home in a dress? Never. I'll suffer a little discomfort for your sake. It's the least I can do." A little discomfort was an understatement. She would have to sneak back into the castle dressed as a woman. She knew of hidden passages, but it would be embarrassing to be caught and have to say that she was meeting the prince. Imagine the scandal! But still, there was something very special about this man. "You know, there is something that you can give me in exchange. Something more valuable than those trousers. I have yet to hear your name."

"I hope to see you at the next ball, my good sir. In fact, I shall be very put out if you are not there. I must have someone to share a dance with, after all." It was then, right at that moment that the idea hit her. A ball. A masquerade ball. That would be the perfect thing for finding a princess. Or maybe, should she find someone trustworthy and cunning enough who wouldn't mind the charade, a prince. Her smile brightened and she waved at him as she rode away side-saddle. Things didn't seem nearly so hopeless to her now.
 

GreenPhoenix3

Um, Shrug....
“Thank you.” Eli was glad that she did not take offense in him ending the charade. But guilt did hit him when she mentioned him being discomforted in a dress. For while it was not a wish of his, he did not find it uncomfortable. It had become routine as doing laundry or cleaning. It was something he had to do. It was a lie he found easy to tell. Even when he was with a woman who could admit her faults and vulnerabilities honestly. When she asked for his name, Eli’s distress grew.

“My name,” Eli paused looking for the right words. He could tell her the truth. He wanted to tell her the truth. But who was she? Would she be one of the women he would need to gain information from, would she end up married to Luther or William, for who would not want such an interesting woman? Or worse, would he steal from her one day? Would his actions be revealed and she would hate even knowing the name of such a criminal?

“I lost long ago.” Eli finished. He fisted his hands and looked away from her. It was fine. He lost his parents long ago, and they would not be pleased with what he became. Even if he did it because Blanche, Rupert, and he would be homeless if he did not steal as Elle. He could see the sad look in his mother’s eyes, and any father would be disappointed in a son that was more profitable as a woman than a man. He was a disappointment to his family’s name. Then he saw a bur branch. His mother and father met under a bur tree.

“But if you must call me something, call me Gabriel. A messenger of your dreams.” Eli flashed a smile to Alexandria, but guilt still weighed heavily on him and he looked to her horse. It was a beautiful steed.

“The next ball?” Well, if there were winds of a ball, Charlot would love to be informed of that. Now if he would be going as Elle or Eli, well, that was the question, wasn’t it?

“Well, if your dream is to see me there, my lady Alexandria,” Eli bowed deeply. “As your messenger, I must provide.” He stood back up and gave her one last smile as she waved. She rode away, her countenance brighter, and that’s all that mattered to Eli.

“I will be there whether you see me or not,” Eli vowed quietly after her. For a moment, he let himself dream. Dream of himself being the man that held Alexandria’s hand, swept her off her feet, was a man she deserved. Eli went to the garden and picked a white blossom for Blanche.

“Dreams are behind every open door,” Eli whispered the words his mother told him as he closed the gate to the garden. The slam echoed in the ruins.

“And like reality, doors must close, and dreams end.” He sighed and turned back to the dresses. “Time for the salon.”
 
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