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VenomousEve

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Thoroughbred
« on: November 14, 2017, 05:42:53 pm »
Scarlett ran her fingers over the cool fabric of the dress. Midnight blue silk, dripping off the table, and a pretty card caught in the folds. “Rose parties are always a pain.” She said. More to herself than the girl in the corner, but it earned her a weak hum in response anyway. Scarlett flashed her a quick smile, a feline mischievousness in her southern sea eyes. “Don’t worry about it too much. We’re allowed to say things like that here.”

The girl nodded. Cereus court had a different relationship to the estates than most, after all. Scarlett sighed. “So, this is what it’s like. Her majesty sends me this pretty thing,” she gestured with a flick of her fingers toward the rich silk. “I can’t really, in any sane kind of way, turn down a gift like that. I wear it tonight, because that’s the only thing a girl can do, and the king will see.” Scarlett grinned a little wider. She was complaining, but it was apparent she wasn’t particularly upset with any of it. “I’ll bet her majesty is interested in lunch with Cereus court tomorrow or the day after, depending on how exciting the evening is.” She pushed a fall of her autumn spice hair behind her ear and went about shimmying out of her clothes.

Simple, slim-fitting jeans. A button-up blouse with a small crest over the breast that gave away its pedigree. If they’d been anywhere else, she might pass as a standard, well-bred New England girl. The girl, a Heart testing the waters in the Jasmine Estate, averted her gaze. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but why Cereus instead of Jasmine proper? Or Chrysanthemum? You seem shy, but I could see you doing nicely in Chrysanthemum.” Scarlett hummed. She was usually good at that kind of thing, placing the youngsters. Not because she was an exceptional judge of character, though she was quite good, but because she was fairly intimate with the inner natures of the reigning courts.

“Well, I thought it was kind of interesting, being a little a part of everything. And Cereus is good at helping people out, when it wants.” the girl said. Scarlett laughed, freckle-starred shoulders bobbing lightly. How pure. Which was not unheard of, but most came to Cereus for the drama and intrigue. The ruining of people rather than the pleasing. She tipped her chin upward. There was some debate over why Scarlett had come knocking here too. She slipped into a plush robe, and tugged the belt tight. “You’re not going to try it on?” the younger girl sounded a bit disappointed. Scarlett sucked on her lower lip.

“It’ll fit like a glove and look stunning, I promise.” Scarlett assured her. It wasn’t worth trying on one of King Luna’s creations ahead of time. Various denizens of Cereus court received her gifts from time to time. She had never been known to guess their measurements or shapes incorrectly. “Here, let’s have a bite before the marathon of party preparations.” She waved the other girl toward the door after her, padding out onto the plush hall carpet in her bare feet. “They call you Daisy, you said?”

--

In her salon, the Jasmine King was shaking her head. “Too gaudy for tonight, I’m afraid.” she said, smiling apologetically at the boy on the chaise across from her. Wisteria shrugged.

“I wish I could be more helpful, but, I’m just the messenger today.” Wist said. Luna waved him off.

“Certainly, it’s not your issue. I appreciate the Rose Estate’s thoughtfulness, of course.” she said. It could be exhausting, all the gifts running around on the night of a big soiree. And none was bigger than the Winter Gala. Wist tried to keep a smirk from curling his lips. He’d met Jasmine’s king a handful of times, both before and after her rise. Luna had not seemed to change much with the throne. He could tell she was thinking harder than she should have about the jewelry. He inclined his head. It might have been an unfair thought. As king, she was watched so much closer than he’d ever had to worry for himself.

“May I see the rose gold pendant again?” she asked. Wist nodded, standing from the chaise to box the necklace she’d rejected and produce the first item he’d been sent with. Wist wasn’t an aficionado of these kinds of luxuries, but the Rose Duchess two suites up from his modest housing was. She’d been called with the rest of Rose’s titled students to a brunch meeting today and had asked Wisteria for the favor of delivering her gifts to the various estates. Wist opened the box to the chain and pendant Luna had asked for and extended it toward her. He’d glanced discreetly at his watch in the motion. He still needed to deliver to Hyacinth house after this. “I’m sorry, am I holding you up?” Luna asked, startling him. He shook his head quickly.

“No, of course not, your majesty.” He said. It didn’t really matter if that was true or not. It was always true enough for royalty. Luna arched one dark brow, but did not bother to comment.

“This one is lovely.” She said, without examining the pendant she’d asked for. She had already handled it thoroughly earlier, and was making a mental note of what she’d have to pair it with now. It certainly wouldn’t work with the gown she had intended to wear, but it was the best option of the offerings she’d been presented with. And it was a gift of the hosting estate. She sighed, and Wist caught the meaning as recompense for catching him checking the time. 

“I will let the Duchess know you said as much. I look forward to seeing you this evening, your majesty.” Wisteria said, collecting the other boxes on the table. Luna nodded.

“Thank you for taking the time to come out to Jasmine today, Wisteria.” Luna said. Polite, and nothing more, but she had a way of making names intimate. Wist did grin then, and ducked his head a little as he made to leave the salon.

“My pleasure, Highness.” He hummed. He was quick to return to his car and set off for the Hyacinth estate on the north most end of the Gardens. The Duchess had sent him with a fine selection of cufflinks for King Idella.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2017, 09:20:08 pm »
The iron mouth of the niche in the wall had grown orange and white teeth upon being fed the lit, scented paper boat. Ebelt, tall and hugged by a black coat, lilac vest peeking up curiously above the only button, held the bright reflections on his dark eyes. Frailer, but almost as tall, Hiev watched his preferred lover with admiration. He wondered so much about his own heart while the dark, former King Rose paid respect to the local religion, that it came out as another question.
 
“You’re can be a ruthlessly pragmatic man, Ebelt. Why do you sacrifice for the Vespertine’s blessing.” He asked in the only accent that he could have. Ebelt kept his silence until the paper had become black powder and one of the cloaked figures came from the wall to dip fingers with lilac nails into the still hot ashbed. She had to reach a bit to smudge his cheekbones before she offered the same blackened fingerprints to Hiev, who nodded gratefully. After she’d given each boy their night’s mark she put wet cloth in their hands.
 
“If your adversary has the same strength in her body as you.” Ebelt started once they’d crossed the threshold. “And he’s as beautiful as you, according to the people.” He only dabbed the cloth to the sot when they were out of the little, lavish chapel and passed its polished gates. “And they know as much about you as you know about them and everything is equal between you when it comes to desirable war traits.” Already Hiev heard there would be a scalding point, and his pulse was spreading heat for that perverse longing. “But your adversary has the blessings of the Vespertines and you don’t.” Ebelt dropped the darkened cloth into the bin for exactly that purpose on the corner of where the fence turned away from their intended path. “Who do you think would win?”
 
Hiev lowered his head until his chin touched the blue tie knot held in place with a silver pin. “They would.” He admitted and savored the embarrassment on his cheek and the worship in his heart. Ebelt grinned, and captured that low head so he could kiss on the light hair.
 
“And then I would have to save you again.” Ebelt injected before he gave Hiev his head back. “Always think of Rose, Hiev, you weak bird.”

It was a rare display of public affection from Ebelt, for the passing inhabitants of Versailles, and it looked out of place. He was a good actor, the drama teacher had said, but he couldn't turn the metal of his soul into something more agreeable simply through charades. The foremost patron of his theater, though, was well convinced, and kept blushing by his side.

They made it into the main building, which was rife with bodies, preparing for the coming evening. Ebelt split with Hiev then. The bird-boy could make decisions regarding this feast as well as himself. Hiev even enjoyed it more. Ebelt turned black eyes with silver reflections to one of the passing girls. It was lovely that she was wearing a tattered maid's dress and an old ceramic vial on her hip. Satire, of course, but she was liking the part.

"Clever. Put some dirt on and we'll find you a bedpost somewhere to be tied to." he commented as she passed and turned.

"Promise?" she asked without stopping. He was grateful. He wouldn't have to underline this act with a quick fuck.

"Not at all. But we'll consider you for a title, now that we've noticed you." which was all they ever wanted. She squeal despite herself, and hurried off to continue her work with making the castle mansion presentable.

Ebelt went quickly to shrug out of his coat and vest to rummage and replace them with higher collars. He must be off to Hyacinth so he could pretend he had nothing to do, and asses her mood. It was hard to guess on insane people, but he would rather have seen her than not, when she'd be so close to Hiev, tonight. He was expecting to reach her at any of rooms where she was known to find a booze, or in any of the training rooms.

He of course, instead, found her sitting in one of the decommissioned fountains of her estate, warming a bottle of something dark inside her jacket. Right hand of Rose sat down on the edge, and reached out for the drink. "Please. It is cold out here for an old man." he started and waved leather squeezed fingers. "And you always have the good stuff." he complimented. "How are you today?" he'd ask, once the glass mouth touched his naturally flared one. It was a crucial question, and so it had to be spoken lightly.

-

Phellar had thrown himself into the dance. It was violent with her. She'd not known his talent in the beginning, which was no wonder, since she had all the possibility of the world here in Versailles, and she'd chosen to hone her body first and foremost, and couldn't imagine something bought at such a high price for her would come easily to someone else. Her exquisite schooling did lend for limber limbs for his sudden changes in mood, though. The violinist knew what tug meant what. Phellar was spinning her violently, and giving her long moments in the air. She was exhausted, both from fear and having to keep composure, her head inelegantly snapping to the side at some returns, but she wouldn't dare tell him to stop more than with her acceptably shrill breaths.

Eventually he drove her into a maneuver that compromised her ankle, and it gave. She called his title as she was falling, an apology and a plea for help at the same time, and he caught her, and danced with her for a few more turns before he finally tossed her into the air, prettily, but also with the intention sewn into the motion that she was being discarded. Her landing was atrocious. She tumbled and he wondered if she sound of her hard parts on the hard floor was actually bones breaking. How lovely she was, panting and undone at the end of it, though. Phellar took a knee between hers, and held her face as she tried not to cry and failed. That expression was a fitting dessert to what had been a challenging exercise. A bit of frustration with horror, and a bit awe, too, on her taut, athlete's face.

"There you go." he said and tired her lips when she still needed air. She grabbed his arm in panic, but she wasn't strong enough to suggest he stop. She was livid for breath when he tossed her back. Phellar stood and finally snapped his fingers for the violin to be dead.

He had showered soon, and was wearing gray pressed pants with his asymmetric leather jacket as he went out onto the Chrysanthemum yard, hair voluminous and back, catching light despite its darkness. It didn't take him long to be driven to the Jasmine grounds. He wasn't invited, but Houses were usually open to anyone, and at the very least a King could come and go as he wanted if there was no order to keep him out. There was a trail of followers for him soon, all polite but very likely wondering what he wanted with Scarlet.

They had given him some guesses as there where she might be, and striding toward one of those possibility, in a hall, he saw her and wore a fittingly wide smile. "Scarlet, perfect." he said and reached for her hands. He lent the other girl a look, truly considering her in that short moment, and threw his head to dismiss her when she lost his interested. If Scarlet took his hands he'd spin around her once, to see the robe flare modestly. Phellar and his long extremities did move well, like a collection of powerful javelins, determined. Theatrical in almost an angry way. "Lovely. Just like you. Mind if we talk? I have gossip for you, too." which meant he wanted some from her.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2017, 10:42:06 am »
Idella stood in the sterile white room, lights dimmed and curtains drawn. The hum of machines sang like the worst music he’d ever heard. He touched the ring on his finger, the Hyacinth crest in gold with a blue backdrop. The king’s ring. It had been bloody when Wicker tossed it to him in what felt like years ago. He still remembered how she’d thrown it from herself like it was nothing and he caught it like it was his own beating heart.

He rolled his tongue against his teeth, looking around the room with mild contempt before finally turning just a little to the side and looking at the bed and the young man sleeping in it. Hayden looked so much younger, so much softer, than he had back then. There were rumors that king Hayden had fled the school, out into the real world, and other darker whispers said he’d died—that Wicker had killed him. If she were ever reminded he was so close, she just might.

Idella wasn’t sure why he visited. No one else did. Then again, no one else knew he was there, tucked away in the deepest corner of the infirmary in a room only the king of Hyacinth could open.

“No one misses you,” he said with a sigh, looking away again. He lifted his chin and looked at the bare table by the window. No flowers. In a school that coveted them so—not one bloom was spared for him. “The court is well without you. Do not wake.” That was what he always said, voice grave and low because it was just the two of them.

He left, the door sliding open before closing again with a sharp seal. It felt like a tomb.

Idella rolled his shoulders, lean muscles pushing at that thin knit sweater that hung on his collarbones. He was pale like snow with auburn hair that always managed to fall in perfect disorder into the cold gray of his eyes. He took the stairs down to the first floor where a small staff of students waited for him, heads bowing when he passed.

He rode back to the Hyacinth Estate and found it abuzz with excitement as everyone readied themselves for the ball. It was one of the biggest traditions they had, the Winter Ball to set off the season of new titles and new students. He had only been given a title formally once and it had been a thrill. He still remembered his first Winter Ball, the way the Hyacinth court had drawn him in and how proud he’d felt later in the year when the King made him a knight. Hayden had been a god then. He’d been a god to Idella right up until she felled him. First a merciful one, then great, then terrible, and then at last—no god at all.

He returned to his office, one of the countesses sitting on the edge of a sofa mooning over a rack of his suits and trying to sway his decision. It wasn’t that she so much cared about which suit he wore as it was about being the one that picked it out for him. He let her try her best but only smiled that sideways grin he gave when he wouldn’t give what they wanted.

She huffed at last and left him to his tea, but not before saying that if he wore the gray, it would be the one she picked. She ran off before he could say anything contrary but before his door closed, one of the assistants grabbed it, poking his head in. “Your majesty, Wisteria of Rose is here to call.”

Idella raised a brow and then shrugged and took another sip of his tea. “Show him in. Oh, and send one of the trainee knights to remind Wicker that tonight is the Winter Ball and not a rave,” he used the lip of his cup to hide his smile, rather liking to pretend at annoyance.

-

Wicker showered and dressed in the lavish changing rooms of the Hyacinth Gym, equipped with saunas, jacuzzies, ice baths and a fully staffed spa. The gym itself was a multilevel masterpiece, a separate building from the estate itself. It had everything anyone could look for, many of the Hyacinth knights excelling in physical activities. She favored the four story rock wall that curled over the ceiling, the octagon, and the Olympic grade track.

Hyacinths were a notoriously physical bunch, not as a rule but just as a habit it seemed. People with excess energy seemed to gravitate to one another and to the playground offered up to distract the often hyperactive, overachieving lot.

Her blue hair was still wet when she left the gym, pulled back into a thick ponytail. The cold air outside threatened to make icicles of her and she smiled just a little to herself, blowing out a breath that turned into a cloud and shoving her hands into the pockets of her jacket. She’d thrown on her clothes after showering—she’d have to change again soon anyway for the ball. Right now, she crushed snow with her ankle high sneakers, her soft harem pants wrapping tight around her calve under her knee, leaving a stretch of leg that flashed a hyacinth tattoo. She was littered in them. Many had seen with their own eyes because she wasn’t shy. She wasn’t shy about the scars either. Wicker played hard and it was no secret.

“There you are!” A voice called and Wicker smiled wide because no one would see, the other woman running up behind her. She was sure to frown when she finally caught up. Wicker didn’t stop walking the stone path toward the main estate.

“What are you wearing? Why are you out here? You’re going to freeze to death! Oh my god, look at your hair!” Duchess Vinnia wailed, grabbing at Wicker’s arm and touching her wet strands, though Wicker didn’t stop walking—forcing the other girl to keep pace if she was going to continue fussing.

“You do know it’s the Winter Ball tonight, right? Did you pick a dress?”

Wicker huffed out a laugh and eyed the girl sideways. How many times did they have to do this dance.

Vinnia withered, always one for drama. “You have to make an effort! You’re the Hyacinth champion, people will look at you! You represent the Estate and the King will no doubt end up being photographed with you. You can’t do this again…”

“I’m on my way to my room. I’ll change. I have an outfit picked out.”

Vinnia wobbled her lip, tears gathering in her eyes. That never worked on Wicker but she always tried anyway. “A real outfit? And you’ll let them do your hair and makeup?”

Wicker raised her right hand. “Swear it. Fake lashes and enough hairspray to kill a horse.”

Vinnia eased just a little, curling her arms around one of Wickers as they walked. “It’s so cold out here, how can you stand it?”

“Still warm from the shower. Did you really come out just to yell at me?”

Vinnia giggled, squeezing her arm. “No. I went to the gym to yell at all the stragglers and spotted you out the window.” They neared the mainhouse, rounding it toward the main door. The tall windows exposed the flurry of action inside as everyone prepared for their favorite day. Someone called out a window to Vinnia. God, they loved to be urgent about a party that didn’t start for hours. Vinnia unraveled herself from Wicker’s arm, catching her hand and giving it one last squeeze. “Dress nice and I might even dance with you!”

Wicker grinned at her. “Dress bad and I might make your night,” she said in that dark voice that made people’s eyes dilate.

Vinnia lost a step before collecting herself, cheeks flaring red before she ran ahead to the side door of the Estate mainhouse.

Wicker slowed, stopped, and looked up at the grand building. Peaceful now.

The door was congested with activity and faces. She took a few steps backward before turning, walking into the garden instead of inside. Everything was frosted, heavy blooms glassed over in ice and snow. She drug her sneakers through it, stopping in front of the big fountain, the one with the wide shallow pool and a statue of a lady in the center, her hands raised to the heavens and her face turned up to bask in light. But it wasn’t summer now and there was no great sun beaming down on her, and the pool was drained.

Wicker stepped over the lip and into the empty fountain. She took a breath and let it out in a cloud. This was where the coup had ended. This was the spot, though only a few people might know it. She looked down at her shoe, rubbing at the thin layer of snow to see the bottom of the fountain. This was where a knight felled her own king.

She reached into her leather jacket with cold fingers and pulled out a flask, thumbing off the lid and pouring out a drink before taking one herself.

She lifted her head when she heard someone coming but she hadn’t expected Ebelt. She smiled, though weary, and joined him at the edge of the fountain, sitting with a rose in the snow. “Ebelt, the once king. I never know quite what to call you. Have you given yourself a title yet?”

She handed him the flask, watching him carefully as though he might attack but not as though it would be unwelcomed. He asked how she was and her smile hardened, a little less true. So that was what this was? Checking on the Hyacinth madness? She looked up at the statue in the fountain. “I am well, flattered that you would ask. Though I am hardly the most dangerous person coming to your house tonight.” She tipped her head to the side to look at him again. “Have you asked King Phellar how he is today?”

-

Almi had cut a photoshoot short, abandoned the set, taken a private jet back in the dead of night and two hours in the car up to the estates. It felt like she hadn't slept in days and she realized that was very nearly accurate, but she just couldn't miss the Winter Ball. No one in her life outside understood why it was so important. It was everything.

She burst out of her car, a second following with her luggage, and thanked the driver holding the door. She took a deep breath and heaved it out happily, looking up at her beautiful home. She could own a hundred houses, penthouses, and estates and none of them would fill her heart the way the Rose Estate did. She hurried up the stairs on her Louis Vuittons, cream with spikes and a pink underbelly. Her tea-length dress was tailor made, like all her clothing, and hugging her torso and flaring out at her hips in the same sweet cream as her shoes but with no spikes to hinder her love of hugging people. Her pink curls bounced, makeup forever perfect no matter the travel. She bit back a cry of delight when she walked in to catch her home estate in the throws of preparations.

More than a few took notice of her return, stopping even in their rush to order the staff about their tasks to give her a kiss. There was simply no place in all the world, like home--and she had looked.

Almi smiled brightly when she reached Hiev, resisting the urge to throw her arms around him and smother his pretty face in kisses. Instead, she curtsied perfectly, and inclined her head. "Your majesty."


VenomousEve

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2017, 10:33:22 pm »
Wist stepped into the office and bowed, though he kept his face upturned. He wasn’t the groveling sort, which was fine, because he wasn’t the power-hungry sort, either. He was asked to go on these little delivery boy expeditions more often than not, as a result. Wist’s only reputation in any of the estates was a reasonable love for drunken scuffling of most varieties. “Your highness,” he said, when the assistant shut the door behind him. “I’ve been sent by Rose Duchess Manon bearing gifts.” He said. The ghost of a cheeky smile, because this sort of proceeding was mechanical for all involved parties, and he pulled four boxes from the inside pocket of his leather jacket. “She hopes you might accept one of her creations for tonight’s event.” He said.

He approached the king’s desk, setting the boxes out in front of Idella with his slender, tattooed fingers. Manon was busy building an empire out of jewels. She wouldn’t possibly miss the chance to have her wares on royalty from all the estates. It was fortunate Rose was hosting the ball, this year. Otherwise, the Duchess could hardly expect everyone to accept. “Naturally, she was unsure what you might be wearing so… she sent several offerings to complement your preferred style. Cufflinks, this year.” Wist stepped back. It was a little odd, being so formal with Idella. He’d known him reasonably well, before he’d become king. They’d been navigating the Gardens, fresh from the Suits, around the same time. He couldn’t say they were ever close, but he supposed they’d been friendly. It had been easy to respect the distance of his position, regardless, with the bloody way he’d ascended. That spoke more to the swirling mess of rumors Hyacinth had been to the other estates than it did to Wist’s opinion of Idella, himself.  Still, standing in the same room, Wisteria had the fleeting sense that they were all just kids in the end. That this whole world they’d built was, at least a little bit, a sham.

“I trust you’ve been doing well,” he said, offering conversation when the silence seemed to want it. “A few years ago, I would have said you should have come to Rose like me. I have to admit I was mistaken.” Wist said, glancing around the office. It was not overwhelmingly lush, but anyone who’d been raised at Versailles could account for the meticulous quality of the place with a cursory glance. “Your majesty has done quite well for yourself.” He did grin then. Not that Wist had any clue of the burdens carried in Hyacinth’s court. So far as he’d been told, the dirtiness of the estate’s civil strife had been cleaned up and left in the past. Wicker still made people uncomfortable, but Idella was a fairly well-regarded king. At least at the Rose estate.

--

Fern resisted the urge to look into the room when Phellar strode out. She even drew a breath like she was considering saying something about it. Instead, she sucked on her lower lip like she’d eaten something tart and trailed after the king with her hands folded behind her back. She’d be playing guard at Chrysanthemum for a few months now. It was a nice show of diplomacy from Hyacinth Estate to allow knights to serve elsewhere. Phellar, more than the other kings, seemed inclined to take up the option. Today, she’d not been hired by the king himself. Instead, one of his untitled assistants had requested her to follow him around. Between Phellar’s volatility and the general buzz of the day, it was good to keep keen eyes close.

The knight was quiet, walking after the king. Despite her talent for it, she’d not been hired to talk. And the Chrysanthemum King did not seem overly inclined to acknowledged she’d be posted to him. In truth, it was debatable as to whether or not Phellar himself had wanted a guard for the day. The assistant had simply called on her because she was one of the more recent hires on the roster. She waited by the door to his suites when he went in to shower and change, and followed him when he went to the yard. Fern took her own vehicle to the Jasmine estate, where she re-established herself as his shadow for the day. However, when the king made his way to Cereus court’s building, she stayed outside the front door. In truth, there was very little day-to-day danger to any Versailles student, beyond typical matters of bullying. Knights and guards were for verbal barbs, sport, and show. Their titles meant loyalty more than anything else. Only when real wars, microcosmic catastrophes, broke out—like the civil strife her own estate had endured—did knights act like anything truly akin to their battle born namesakes.

More threatening than any danger to King Phellar was the potential misunderstanding that she might have been there to spy for Hyacinth. So, when it came to Cereus, Fern planted her feet firmly outside. She sighed and leaned against one of the towering marble columns flanking the doorframe. Checked her watch. Two more hours before the king should be in the fussing hands of his court attendants in full preparation mode for the ball. She’d get to go home then, too, and ready for the evening.

--

Scarlett was quick to turn and dip into a curtsey for the king. “Dashing Chrysanthemum. To what do I owe the honor?” she matched the enthusiasm of his smile and gave him her hands when he reached for them. Daisy was quick to step to the side of the hall when Phellar whirled the wily redhead and set her robe dancing. She laughed at his flattery and adjusted the shoulder of her robe, which had slipped, back into place. “Of course you do.” She purred, grin pulling a little wider still.

She glanced at Daisy. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to enjoy that little brunch for the both of us. Duty calls.” Scarlett waved at the younger girl to dismiss her politely, and Daisy was quick enough to take her cue and depart down the hall in the opposite way the King and Scarlett seemed to be going. Scarlett watched the girl go. “She’s cute of course, but I doubt she’ll thrive in Cereus. I’ll happily petition to keep her pretty face in Jasmine, of course.” Scarlett said, low enough that the departing girl would not hear. She gave Phellar a commiserating sort of look.

Scarlett reached out to loop her arm on the king’s. Duchess of a false court, but the rumors Cereus peddled in gave them a special sort of confidence. “It’s been a little while since you came to visit me here. What’s brought you so far out of your way?” She hummed.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2017, 09:36:21 am »
Wicker wasn’t a politician foremost, but brute force alone hadn’t taken her all the way to kingmaker. Still, she didn’t strike him as one to scheme. Her instincts were sharp enough to make short work of his façade, though. He thumbed the flask and drew a bow in the thin snow by her sneaker with the tip of his sole. Practical shoe for the warrior. Of course. He tasted what she carried and smiled into the metal mouth. “This is atrocious. Doesn’t your king spoil you?” he asked with a grin before having another go at the vial. He returned it with a shrug.

“You can call me king of the party, if you like. I couldn’t be bothered with the other games, anymore. Rule is not for me.” And that was a profound lie. In here, despite his ambition, he would likely never be considered a contender for the throne of merriment, and he was bothering with the political game right now, wasn’t he? As for rule, it was as deeply set in him as survival. It was a reflex he’d had to control every day for six months. “And Champion is too pedestrian.” He teased.

He placed his hand on his heart, jacket creasing with the sudden print, silver shadows bright on his black eyes. “Oh, I am just here socially. I don’t suspect you of anything.” He said with a voice that had been cleaned of insincerities, so much so its sentiment was obviously false. He was sure she could appreciate that kind of satire. “But it’s good that you’re in a good mood, Champion.” He frowned and wasn’t very keen on joking when she mentioned the other king. Ebelt was quick about taking the flask again and looking at its design, as though that had been its purpose. After he’d tasted more he licked his lips the way lions do.

Phellar was always a problem, and this level of recon could never cover all the variables surrounding that asshole. “Phellar’s cool.” He said, voice expressing the sting of the drink. He lowered his head to look at the lack of laces on his footwear. “We decorated a room and opened it up to the main hall so he has a place to sit and drink. He should be well entertained all night.” Said through a sigh. At least that much the Chrysanthemum King expected. But Phellar was an old wildcard. If they’d survived him in the past, another Winter’s Ball shouldn’t be much of a problem. “Why? Has Fern said anything?” it was worth a try.

“Since you’re in such a good mood, maybe you would consider showing off your legendary talents in a duel with him? I’m sure that would be fun, and it would spare me a lot of headaches, either way.” Because then one of you might die, and I could worry half as much. He stood without the flask and put his fingers in his pockets but hung the thumbs on the outside. This was poise, not comfort. “Also. Aren’t you cold?” he asked without knowing she’d been pressed on that point before.

-

Phellar seemed to look over the girl again, as she left, when Scarlett said she was cute. Cute things are worth having. He was always shopping for new dolls. “If you need a place to put her, perhaps she can try her foot in my court. What does she like?” He said with genuine interest. His ballerina, who’s dreams of Prima had been delayed by his rough admiration, had told him what she liked. It would all be a matter of if Scarlett wanted the girl to be another way of pleasing this king, or if she’d want to spare the girl. Or even, if she’d seen something in the girl that might suggest an adherence to the kind of romance Phellar provided.

He walked steadily by her side. “Has it really been so long?” he asked and looked around as though Jasmine would let their walls show any sign of age, or that the timeframe Scarlet spoke of could have been so vast. “I quite like our meetings. I should visit more often, then. And you should come to me, too. Chrysanthemum is always open to you.” Nothing better than favors served up at his own door. He did not consider, though he was aware, that she could probably take out her own payment in secrets that she picked up upon entering the main building.

They were taken to a pretty room. He was certain he’d seen it before. The offered treats were a bit heftier than casual tea, but he supposed if she was going for brunch it had become that hour. The boy who offered him anything from the kitchen had perfect, slick hair but his chin was a bit undecided for Phellar’s liking. He dismissed with a look before chastising the teacup. “I like you Scarlett.” Which was a bit out of nowhere, but it was a small eccentricity for a king. “Tonight’s the winter ball.” He liked to call it that, but it was more of a festival. “At the roses. And I would like to know something delicate. Oh, has Ebelt wizened up and promoted himself? What about Hiev? Any official partner?” Her mind could take two primary things from that, which was that he’d meant that he liked her, but that she could change that if she didn’t keep him happy, and that he’d rather have secrets that gave him advantage over the kingly pair than any crass thing their underlings might be up to, unless it was related.

He laughed eventually, cooling the brass liquid. “Where are my manners? I mean, of course, how are you?  You look radiant, I have quite a thing for this hue as you know.” His free hand stroke a mane he didn’t have. He was putting Covalije and Stanizza in the conversation without their presence. He laughed again as he set the tea down. He might be amused at his own rudeness, or at the thought that he owed anyone courtly behavior. He seemed content in waiting for her answers as he used the teaspoon to cut off a bit from a crustless sandwich. It tasted like flower jam and gentle cheese.

He might strike as perfect gentleman in a picture, if it was taken now. And he could be, because that’s what he’d been taught. But his secrets were the midnight kind, as she knew. Cereus knew of at least three girls who’d been given and then lost the lives in their bellies on account of this king. But the secrets he’d rather they keep were the ones were he visited the toddlers in the nursing houses, and played with them like he imagined a father would, and swelled the coffers of the lowest clubs that he found the softest. His heart was like a pillow with razor frill. Smart people like Scarlet would see that, and not be too charming around him, lest he dance with her, too.

-

Hiev was happy to see his ward and friend. He held out his hand for her to stand from her dip and then embraced her. “Almi.” She was one of his favorites. Her ascension to her current position was supposedly purer than his, but their disposition wasn’t so different. “Come with me.” He said, and it sounded like an order, but it never was with Almi. “I’m sure you’re tired, so I’ll lead you to your room.” He knew well where it was. She could decide on her way if she did not want to rest, after all. A few people greeted him simply so they could hug her. He frowned brightly.

“You’re far more popular than I am. Maybe you should have the crown instead.” He said as he waved away a few decisions on changed décor. “How was the shoot? I’ve seen the picture you put up. Can’t wait to see the campaign.” He stopped her dramatically at one point and then stole her into a somewhat quiet room, and ushered her closer to the corner where no one would hear. “I’d say stay away from anyone with a red rose with a single blue petal. You have three suitors tonight, and they are in competition.” He said as though it was scandalous. People were usually not so lewd with Almi, so he enjoyed her aura of purity. He had made it a prerogative to protect her in the past, so the three gentlemen had come and asked him at a quite official capacity. He did not tell her the roses had been his own idea. It was a betrayal he’d confess at a later time.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2017, 02:36:33 pm »
Idella preferred when Rose sent Wist—far better than the social climbers, the schemers and the Rose extremes. It was easier, simpler, with Wist. Idella didn’t have to pretend too much or read into things. Though nothing was ever as easy as it had been before he was king. Being a knight allowed for a lot more freedom and casual conversations. Now, everything he said mattered. Everything could be used against him. He smiled against the lip of his teacup because, damn did he love it. He wouldn’t go back for anything. He hadn’t known he wanted to be king until he was thrust at the throne, but it was his and now he couldn’t imagine having lived near it without ruling.

“Good morning. Tea?” He gestured casually to the cart with fine cups and a bright silver teapot.

Oh, yes, Manon. Talent often imposed itself on the rest of the populous. But the duchess was a Rose and tonight was no night to disappoint them—not before the party even began. He gestured again, offering Wisteria a seat in one of the leather chairs across the desk from him.

He smiled when the other boy mentioned the past and the idea of Idella having joined Rose. He, himself, had not cared much at the time what house he served in. He had been naïve then, to think it would not matter. And a year and a half ago, when the civil unrest of Hyacinth was all they could breathe, he may have wished deep down that he’d picked any other house than his. Now, he could not imagine being anything but Hyacinth. It grew in his soul now, the roots deep and the blooms bloody.

“Yes, I am where I should be. And you seem happy,” he offered just as much assumption in return, smiling warmly and reaching out to take the boxes one at a time. He could have just picked one at random, he would in the end, but it was customary to look over his options and choose with care. It showed that her offerings mattered. Nothing mattered between strangers. Anything they wanted they could buy or have made and the gifts given that meant something to their young hearts were only the ones given by the people that made those hearts beat. Of course, none of those thoughts stopped Idella from playing his role with care.

“Did you take this duty of delivery to get away from your court while they prepare? Or have you been flirting with royals?” Idella opened the second box, holding up the cufflinks to catch the light. Wist was not so rare at the Hyacinth court, since they did throw many parties throughout the year—sometimes spontaneously—and he had shown himself as one to partake. It allowed Idella to feel almost familiar with him, almost like one of his own House. A dangerous feeling, perhaps.

-

She smiled easily. Wicker did most things easily. He protested to being king, making excuses and even jabbing at her. She laughed warmly and watched him. Eblet was the most curious person she’d ever met. Most were easy to read. They wanted and they took or they feared and they hid. But Eblet? He wanted and resisted.

She shook her head when he implored for whispers from Fern, not even wondering herself if she was answering ‘no’ or simple ‘not going to tell’. That wasn’t how this game went. She wasn’t a whisperer of secrets—she was a howler of judgements.

“When I first came to court, a boy told me that kings were meant to give law to the lawless, the court designed to give us structure. We are too free, you see. We are wealth and talent embodied. But we are motherless, miserable things and without the courts, without the reign of our peers, we fall easily into madness and cruelty.” She rubbed the toe of her sneaker into the snow. “But sometimes kings forget and fall all on their own—dragging the rest of us down with them.” She rolled her head to the side, to look up at him with her ocean dark eyes. “But you know that, don’t you? You are a king, even if you hide it.” She sighed. “You were born a king, whether good or bad we did not find out, but you are what you are and when you go from this place, you will find something out there to rule—a corporation or a land or a cult,” she smiled at that idea. He didn’t really seem the type. But she hadn’t pegged him for the type to yield his throne either.

He suggested she duel with Phellar and Wicker could not hold back her full grin even if she’d tried, tongue touching her teeth at the idea before she wrinkled her nose. Her shoulder bumped his. Her fingers flexed before receiving the flask back, long digits turning red in the cold. “Dueling a king is a fine thing, my last one took well over a year and it ended messy. I don’t imagine I’ll do it again unless I have to.” Her gaze lingered on his a second too long, looking away before risking revealing that she had had to last time. They liked to think her unhinged and wild and it served her court well that they believe it. And maybe she was. Felling a king and his court was no small thing. Kings did not like to imagine losing their thrones.

She tipped her head up and back to watch him when he stood, looking up at him with the bright winter sky for his backdrop. What magnificent things kings were. Cold, he asked. “I am frozen,” Wicker answered, certain that ice had begun to grow in her hair, she could see it on her lashes. “But I would not leave a conversation with you, over a bit of frostbite.”

-

Almi squeezed Hiev’s hand in hers, happy to have it. She was a lover of affection, you see. In a life without parents, without family, she had found many in need of gentleness. For all their comforts and wealth, for all their servants, this was still an orphanage, and most were hollowed from childhood. She had rarely spent a night alone in her bed, always inviting other children to join her when they feared the dark or sniffled their woes or simply wouldn’t let go of her hand. She still held some of them at night, snuggling and whispering sweet things in their ears in hopes that they would make for good dreams.

She hurried along at his pace, smiling brightly at his excitement as if it was her own—and it became her own because she felt it through him. “I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep a wink! I want to dance with everyone so I think I must start at the very first song—I can’t miss even one.” The last six months with Hiev as king had been the very best of her life, she was sure. Although, to be fair, Almi often thought every moment was the best moment of her life while living it.

She giggled at his compliment. “Popularity does not mean one is worthy of ruling, your majesty. I do not have the kind of strength one needs for that.” She gasped when he stopped suddenly, her eyes big with curiosity when he drew her into a quiet room and ushered her closer to a corner. She held both his hands in hers, delighted to be whispering in a room with her friend. She blinked at his words and then blushed with a nervous laugh.

“Suitors? No. You’re joking! I haven’t been home all week, they must have forgotten me by now.” Her heart beat faster. She was truly a romantic soul, but always flustered at the idea of actual romance. It left her suddenly speechless, often still, and abruptly shy in a way she normally never was. Almi found it incredibly embarrassing and often worried she’d miss her true love because of it. “Competition?” She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “You’re so sweet to warn me. What should I do? Will you tell me who they are?” Her mind was reeling, that blush still heating her cheeks. Suddenly her stomach was in knots.

VenomousEve

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2017, 10:30:55 pm »
Wist wasn’t stiff enough to refuse tea and treats when they were offered. He listened to the cadence of Idella’s voice as he prepared himself a cup and thought there was an impressive distance between them. Not the sort of thing that made the room go cold, but the sort of thing that made him reaffirm that all monarchies were only what kings and their subjects made of them. The Gardens were as much kingdoms as anything beyond. Idella was as much a king. For a second, he thought about apologizing for seeing it as a sham, but then he remembered he’d not made any such comment out loud.

“Rose is plush, even for us little people.” Wisteria agreed. It was an empty sort of thing to say, but he meant it in good humor. Nobody at Versailles was little and all the estates were luxurious in excess. “The Duchess gives me a good excuse to take my car out, from time to time. Flirting with royals is an exciting morning, too.” He answered. Wisteria was known to love his cars and bikes—he’d purchased use of a large garage on Rose property to house his collection. “Hyacinth is hosting the Spring gala, this year?” He asked. It was the sort of thing most students kept up with, but might have been a legitimate question out of Wist. He was happy to attend parties and play his part, but he’d always been moody about climbing ranks and keeping track of schedules.

Wist took a sip of his tea and held the saucer on one hand, watching Idella go through the motions of caring about what finery was crossing his desk. Manon was not particularly special to any king. There were few with that sort of skill who especially were. It said nothing of their skill and everything of the sort of access the elite of Versailles had. “Do you still pick out your own suits, or do you get to have somebody do that for you, now?” Wist asked, small grin over the lip of his teacup. “That’s a dumb question, isn’t it? You can have it either way, can’t you… ah, there’s always something worth envying.” Wisteria shrugged. “But, admittedly, I’ll take pulling my own suits over worrying about wolves any day.”

A more honest admission of his general comfort with his place at Rose. He flashed a sudden, sharp-toothed grin. Uncharacteristically boyish. “Ah, I did have a fun piece of news for you, your majesty. I nearly forgot.” He said, reclining in the chair Idella had gestured for him. “Miss Tanaka is single again. I mean, not that it’s any real interest to you, I’m sure. But for nostalgia’s sake, I thought you’d like the tidbit.” It had been the fashion of boys in their class to entertain crushes on the professor. She had joined the teaching ranks of Versailles the same year they’d started at the academy. In truth, Wist couldn’t remember whether Idella had ever been one of her fans, but he did know they’d met in circles that liked to comment on the woman’s slim frame and pretty lips. Her relationship status was the sort of thing he and other “commoners” liked to keep tabs on for fun.

--

Luna was fretting in her dressing room when Thistle knocked on her door. He peeked around the corner of the frame when she called him to enter, catching sight of her dark hair drifting as she passed between the racks of clothes. Designer gifts and purchases. Her own collections. “Your highness,” he stepped into the suite and shut the door behind himself, striding across the thick white carpet toward the entrance to her dressing room. “Almi has returned,” he said. “I thought you’d like to know. Your gift was left in her suites, of course.” Luna stopped her fussing to glance back at him.

“Ah. I hope she likes it.” Luna said, a flicker of concern in her silver-on-the-sea stare. Thistle flashed her a small smile. He’d been one of her close assistants since she took the throne. The king was lovely, but she’d often say she couldn’t do her own designs justice. In that regard, Almi was her muse, which meant the king genuinely worried over whether or not her creations pleased the cotton candy-haired beauty. Thistle thought it was fortunate that Luna was talented and Almi was sweet. If there was ever a situation in which the king could afford to lack confidence, it was probably in the safety of that combination. He did wonder, on occasion, what it said for everyone else. In her work, Luna was unflappably self-assured with all others. “Did Scarlett accept her gown?” Luna asked then, the generally soft hue of her stare sharpening to something a little steely.

“Of course, your majesty.” He said. She hummed.

“That’s good. Make sure to put her on my schedule next week.” Luna said. Thistle grinned. She wasn’t conniving, his king, but she was careful. Meticulous, which allowed the rest of Jasmine to flourish in its own, preferred decadence. Thistle chanced allowing himself into her gargantuan closet and thumbed through a few of her newer pieces until he found the slinky, crushed velvet gown he’d been looking for. It was a pale, moonlit hue that shifted silver and white as the light hit it, and dramatic neckline that would kiss the king’s graceful collarbones. He’d seen her try it on once and been smitten.

“If you haven’t settled on anything yet, I would like to humbly submit this for your consideration,” he said, taking it off the silk-lined hanger and holding it up for her.  Luna pursed her lips.

“I’d had something picked out, but it appears I’m wearing rose gold tonight.” She said, and sounded sour. Thistle did his best not to laugh. She was delightful when she was petulant, too.

“That is a shame.” He agreed.

--

“Trust me, she’s not likely to survive Cereus and less likely to survive Chrysanthemum.” Scarlett said, casting a bland stare in his direction. Not likely to survive him, at least. “I do feel a bit responsible for her, seeing that she came to me first and all. I’d be a little hurt if she ended up unhappy.” She added as they turned into the room. It wasn’t that she minded, or had any place to mind, the king going after new interest. Rather, she was certain Daisy would be such a passing bloom it seemed a shame to waste her on him.

Scarlett peeked out the window before taking a seat across from Phellar. She had a hungry sort of expression, piqued, and the king could be sure it wasn’t wholly for the fine spread brought to the table. It was not the most courteous thing to play at being dismissive, but the duchess liked her games as much as the next. It’d be surprising if she didn’t take a higher spot in Cereus soon enough, for all her confidence. “I like you too, your highness.” She said, accepting a glass of sparkling water when it was set by her hand. “Isn’t that little razor-tongued Fern outside?” she asked, as if she hadn’t heard the rest of what he’d been after.

She swirled the liquid in her flute. “I know you like your fineries, but I’m still impressed by the boldness of it,” she sighed. It wasn’t really her business how closely the estates were keeping friends from outside their gates. But it did seem a little odd. Particularly considering Phellar’s propensities… or those that Scarlett had deduced. “Not that Hyacinth ladies are known for weak stomachs but, it doesn’t seem worth teasing her too much.” She said, half smile. “Did she ask you about Lyanna?” the pretty dancer from the morning. It wasn’t the kind of gossip he’d asked for, but it was a kind favor. Scarlett had heard about the unfortunate girl’s dance much too quickly for the source to be anything other than a Chrysanthemum regular. A quick whisper passed down the hall, startling Daisy, before the king had made it up to them. She frowned. “Not Fern talking, of course. She’s being polite outside, don’t you think?”  Scarlett took a drink and added some fruit and a half biscuit with thick, dark jam to her plate.

“Ebelt has always been wise enough. You know that as well as I.” Scarlett said at last, as if she’d not been off chatting about other matters entirely. Nothing of promotion. “And kings are kings with titles and without. They know it, too. Or Ebelt does, right?” Scarlett laughed. “Which makes me wonder about Hiev.” She shrugged. “I think it might frustrate Ebelt a little. If you want to talk about official partners, I think he’s the one that needs one.” She waved it off. She wasn’t really in the business of orchestrating heartbreak, let alone for kings. It was a curious sort of thing, though, those two.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2017, 11:05:22 am »
Ebelt lingered in the story she hung up between them for moment after she’d told it. He had high expectations of himself after Versailles. He was hoping to find a corrupted place, had already scouted a few out, and climb it. Something that needed to be policed and streamlined rather than nurtured. Something he didn’t love. He’d be the kind of ruler he wanted then, instead of the one he should be. Conquests were easy if you didn’t have to raise them, too. Perhaps there’d be a Hiev to borrow virtue from if he ever needed it again. That’d be his unfinished legacy, all those kingdoms without his soul reflected. “Sounds pretty. I’ll send you a postcard from the top then, when you’re peddling your violence below someone just like me.” It was a fond scenario, meeting again out in the world, when their fairytale in Versailles had concluded.

Her duel was a modern legend. He of course wondered if he’d fared better if he’d been in Hayden’s shoes. There was a fleeting thought of asking her what had transpired, but if she’d said nothing that Cereus had heard, then he wouldn’t expect she’d spill it all in dry, cold fountain.

He clucked his tongue in disappointment as he squatted down to look at the icy details on her. “Why didn’t you say? Let’s go inside, brute. I think if I’ll war with Hyacinth it should be over something other than turning their hardest into a stiffy.” He had an impulse to offer her his jacket, but figured she’d just laugh it off. “It’d be a shame if you were sick for the party, too.” He said and grabbed her arm without aggression, starting to pull her up. He would take a pummeling or compliance.

“You are coming, aren’t you?” he pressed as he looked around, standing again. His usually shaky festive persona was just a memory now. She was more accomplished in that. The real Ebelt was collected. He gestured out of the fountain. “We have drinks and I hear a few quarrels are going to see their peak tonight.” Wicker liked duels. “We assume Idella will be there, so.”

It would be a good thing if he could copy Wicker’s persona. She was abrasive, and her greatest work was already done as far as this place was concerned. If she was content with filling her head with dizzying fumes and keep Idella safe, then she had truly found her place. Ebelt pinched his fingers together in his pocket. He smiled to himself. Maybe she was right. Maybe King was an illness before it was a title. “If you press me I’ll even have that skirmish with you, if you want. But I’d hate for you to remember our ball bitterly.” He offered. They both knew it was better the swords of the houses didn’t meet over trivial matters.

When they were walking, he meant to ask her something lighthearted that might elicit something more on her suspicions of Phellar, but a black-dressed boy came around the corner ahead of them with a sinister attitude. It was an odd ensemble to wear any day, without a visible shield or crest, but the intent in his step would have given his mission away before the clothes did. Ebelt looked at Wicker to see if she’d noticed and if she might prefer he handle this instead, but before she could answer in any subtle way, Ebelt decided he definitely wanted to see her navigate this one on her own. He threw his leg out far to the side, theatrically, and then slid away with it before the assailant went on to assail.

The hood flapped to clearly give away distinctive details to his face before he attacked, swinging a short rubber club at her in a burst of speed that was so dedicated his shoe slid on the increasingly slick walk without much consequence to his aim, though it might affect the power. Ebelt had the time to connect his hands behind his head to comfortably view it all, which meant Wicker should have more than enough time to decide on a way to thwart this attacker.

“King Killer! Long live Hayden King!” the discontent boy shouted like he was in a holy war, and this was its crescendo. Ebelt felt sorry for the misguided crusader, but was also excited to witness this joke of an uproar. He turned from side to side, elbows still high, wondering if there were others that would follow in this effort. There was not.

-

Hiev adored Almi’s nature. She was a fresh break from the dark things kingliness came with. Their little oasis of innocence, that others and himself kept clean from their own filth. It was an unspoken thing, that Almi must not be touched with the dirty fingers of politics. “Of course I could.” He said and sounded a little like Ebelt then, formal throat with playful words. Maybe it felt good for the king to feel like he was in control of something, for once. “But I think I won’t.” He admitted with a flare of teeth. “I couldn’t betray them when they’re so happy about their plans. I’ve said too much already. Oh, please pretend to be surprised when it happens.”

He was not so secretive anymore, because the drama of it had played its part. It wasn’t like the suitors would have hired eyes and ears to guard their secret, so Almi could very well speak about it, if she wanted, while they walked. “I will offer now though, that I will pummel them if they’re anything but gentlemen to you. They’re a good trio, so I’m not worried. But if you feel offended you have the crown behind you.” He laughed at the seriousness. Soft boys, who had great, romanticized murals in their heads, the kind of boys that would never leave Versailles in spirit. The kind of boys that hadn’t discovered the sordid desires yet, and didn’t yearn for girls with dark smiles and knowing bodies.

“But you should also be sure if you want boys in your life at all, darling.” He warned with a sigh and touched behind his ear. “Sometimes they can be a bit inconsiderate.” He could not have been talking about anyone but Ebelt. “The former king, now confidant, seems to only humor me when it comes to throne-related issues. I have to talk about the greenhouses where we  grow the biggest roses to have some cuddles.” He was a bit embarrassed at the wording. Almi didn’t usually speak of such things. “Well, no matter. Your suitors will be better, because I won’t allow anything else!”

He snapped his fingers for the spread in the room and an ambitious boy quickly retrieved a steaming cup for Almi. “Have coffee, at least. I won’t have you collapsing before tonight.” He touched the bottom of it, to hurry it to her lips.

-

Phellar was more interested in the girl when Scarlett so obviously kept her from him. He hadn’t decided if the itch should become one of focus yet, and was easy to distract with other things, especially his newest accessory. “Ah, you noticed?” Fern. “I like the way she looks. I am looking forward to all her expression. I hear she can be quite the hellion inside a courtroom.” Another spoon of bread. His eyebrows raised in a warning but joking way when she presented her knowledge on Lyanna. He chuckled after, because he wasn’t ashamed of his vices. It wasn’t like the limping girl could keep that secret, anyway. How unsettling, playing with the issue like that, like he’d just been caught stealing cookies, or scolded for a crass joke.

“Lynn is particularly lovely. You should see her worry when she’s hurt. She worries for her injury before she feels the pain. Oh, the academy really did a number on her.” As though he hadn’t. “Well, we all have our priorities. And we have good healers here. She’ll be peddling her lack of passion and excess of text-book form to an unknowing audience soon enough.” In his position, he had seen more ballets in more prestigious cities than what Lyanna could hope to shoot for. Almost worse than injuring her, to belittle her potential. “Ah, you know, she progressed in my arms, and some of her landings were inspired. If she has half a heart in the artistry she should ask me to dance next time. I could teach her real emotional content.” And he believed that whole-heartedly. If there had been flies on the wall, they might have agreed. Dancing for survival evokes all kinds of emotions, and her expressive limbs had not know real strife until Phellar.

“Fern almost asked.” He finally answered. “It was on her lips, making them small. I wanted to flick her then, to see if she’d explode. I hope she brings it up.” He said with dreamy eyes to the side. “Do you suppose her lips are like that?” He asked pointed to her jam. He liked that thought, it seemed, and eventually the extended finger came all the way over to take a smear of the sweet spread. It was on his tongue soon. “Oh, I hope so. Maybe we’ll have to hurry it all along, if she’s too well-contained.” He said with a wink and jam on a tooth before his tongue cleaned it. “She’s either well-composed, or a coward!” he called out, filling the room with his voice. It was a challenge for Fern to come, if she heard. Phellar was in a good mood.

“Ah Ebelt the not-king.” He said and swayed from side to side in his seat. “He’s nuts, isn’t he? It makes me a little angry. I think he makes a lot of people angry, keeping Hiev on the throne like that.” He had some more tea and then picked a pastry to crumble with a fork on the saucer for his cup. “But you’re right. Hiev should have an official partner.” And there was a blackness in his quicksilver eyes. He looked right at her, and that suggestion should be more than enough for a secret monger. “I don’t know. Seems like someone so ripe should be more than willing to be plucked. There are other lovers than Ebelt. Many stems for any blossom.” Had he come here for this? To play with the integrity of his own security. Smart Scarlett. She might figure it out.

“But enough about me!” what a joke that was, but he had convinced himself. “What about you? How will you spend the party? Do you have someone’s arm to hold, or someone leash to hold, instead?” he pressed as he took the fork of crumbs to his mouth. “I think someone you’d like would have to be particularly honest, yes? How else could you share you heart.”

Ara

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2017, 12:44:52 pm »
Idella hummed at mention of the Spring Gala. “Yes, I believe so. It seems far away now but I suppose it’s just around the corner.” The court was already making plans, the students that thrived on such organization and responsibility already organizing a picnic in their gardens with plans to remove one of their fountains for more space. Something about crochet and tea tables.

He opened the last box. All very nice, of course, though he despised having his clothing chosen for him. He laughed when Wist brought up his suits. Yes, good to be King. “It’s all up to me, but for some reason that makes everyone want to pick out my suits even more.” He nudged his chin toward the rack of suits in the room. “I think just about every member of my court has told me their suggestion and that means, no matter what I wear, someone will think they chose it for me.” He sighed out a breath and shrugged because it sounded silly to care once he said it out loud.

Idella almost forgot the cufflinks when Wist’s voice rose with some interest, offering him news. His smile spread wide at mention of the school’s favorite boyhood crush. He laughed easily and took another sip of his tea before returning the cup to the saucer. “Is she really? Oh, that should make for an interesting semester. Do you remember last time she was single and that duke from Jasmine said she’d come onto him? A whimp of a boy with a voice that cracked on every other word. I think the rest of us were just furious he’d even try to lie about it like that, especially when she’d made such a habit of turning down kings even at their final year.”

Idella had always been put off but just how many of the students crushed over the same woman, but he wouldn’t abandon the fanatical nature of the whole thing. It had become a common ground for most of them—one of their first true crushes in adolescence. And he was almost certain she fanned those flames. More than once, he’d wondered if it was all another strange construction of Versailles.

He picked one of the four boxes. It was mostly random but he pretended well. “Do tell the Duchess I loved them and that they’ll go perfectly with my suit.” Whichever suit he wore, as he still hadn’t decided on that yet. He was also going to tell his assistants to point her out to him at the ball so that he could thank her in person. Favors were meant to be paid at these things.
-

Wicker found it strangely easy to laugh with Ebelt, considering she never really understood his intentions. Maybe it was that he thought so little of her. That made everything easy. “Oh, I do not know if you are the sort I peddle my violence for, once-king.” Violence. Brute. That’s what they saw her for and that’s what she let them have. She hadn’t always been this. She’d been a bright-eyed child wanting to make her Garden proud. She’d wanted to be a knight. She thought that meant something, being a knight. She was supposed to protect the other kids, champion for her kind, swell their hearts with pride. But she found their hearts beaten and no one safe. What choice had they left her? Someone had to do it, didn’t they? That’s what she told herself. Would the fallen court, the ruined and outcasted, the dead king, agree?

He pulled her up by the arm and she rolled easily to her feet, body lean but strong. Another delicate tattoo of a hyacinth stem, blue and purple blooms, curled from the collar of her open jacket, over her bone and twisting to the side of her neck. Did they really think she’d spend the rest of her life like this? That she wouldn’t find every adventure the world outside could offer, climb every mountain, jump every cliff, and maybe—just maybe—find another person worth saving? Because that was what a knight was, wasn’t it?

“I suppose I should change. More than a few of my Garden would likely poison me if I showed up to your lavish party like this,” Wicker confessed but her smile said she quite enjoyed flustering her own court. “Oh, the King would not miss it.” Like that was an option. Kings were about the only ones that couldn’t miss a Ball.

She looked up at him at her side when he offered a duel, full of half-jokes that she imagined could easily be nudged into reality. “Oh, I lose beautifully, but I understand if you’ve never seen it happen before. But, as I said, I try not to take up duels with Kings,” she winked, grinning wide and shoving her cold hands into her pockets as they headed toward the house. “I’d hate to frighten your court.” Not a hundred percent true, but maybe one percent true. There was someone she didn’t want to frighten among the roses.

The boy in the hood finally made his move. She blew out another breath, forming a cloud in the icy air. He swung hard, with all the fury of his bitter heart, and she ducked slow, squatting onto her heels with her hands still in her pockets just as he swung over head, throwing his body forward violently. She twisted, turning away and around and standing upright again just as he stumbled onto the ground with all that power driving him forward without anything to strike.

She cocked her head to the side, squinting. “Baron Edan,” she remembered, a wicked smile pulling her mouth. “Well, former Baron. Doing well?”

He mashed his teeth, pushed up to his feet and came at her anew, swinging wildly. Wicker continued to backstep, ducking and dodging easily. “You ruined everything! Murderer!”

She pulled a hand from her pocket just as he swung again, grabbing his shoulder and pulling him close—too close for his swing to strike her—but just close enough for her knee to drive up into his chest. All of his air came out of him in one gush, eyes bulging. She held him there, against her shoulder, for a second longer, not looking at him but at the garden beyond and the other knights rushing out at the sight of the squabble. “I spared you. Be grateful.” She shoved him back and he fell onto the ground just as the three other knights reached them, one kicking Edan in the chest again when he tried to stand, shoving him back to the icy walk. “I will not spare you again if you come back to this Garden. It is not home to you,” Wicker said clearly even as he was shouting obscenities at her. She was a murderer. She was a usurper. She was throne thief and a king killer. She had no right.

With a flick of her hand the other knights grabbed up Edan and started dragging him toward the front gates and the edge of the property. Wicker watched them for a second longer before her eyes narrowed and her body swiveled to the side, remembering Ebelt. He stood there, watching like the most scrutinizing of audiences. “You’re fortunate he was so ill prepared. If it had been a good attempt on my life, I might have suspected your hand in it.” She smiled a little, taking a step back and onto the first step of her house stairs, possibly even making her his height. “But, I think if you tried to kill me, I might just die.” Or maybe his mystery made her think too much of him.

-

Almi smiled warmly at his offers to protect her, if need be. She had rarely been in situations where she required saving, but the rare occasions that she had—taught her to always appreciate the presence of those that would and to always try to safeguard those she could. Maybe if they all looked out for the people they could protect, they would all find themselves someplace safe in the end.

“Well, I won’t spoil their fun but I don’t promise to be wooed,” she said with a grin and a flutter in her chest. He went on to warn her about boys all together and she nodded, listening carefully. She took his arm, curling hers around it when he spoke of Ebelt. “He always has been quite focused. Task-oriented, might be the way to put it. But everyone can see that you are special to him. He chose you for his king,” she whispered.

They had taken a turn about the room, everything coming together so beautifully for tonight. Beauty always came easily in Versailles. Even their worst moments were beautiful. She found the world outside to be disappointing in comparison—muted even.

Almi tried to decline the coffee, eyes widening but hand already holding a warm cup and her king already nudging it to her lips. “Oh, but…” she sipped and then cringed, lips pressing in and heels doing a little double stamp at the floor when she shuddered against the bitterness. “Milk and sugar. I like milk and sugar in it.” She whined with a little laugh after her sip. The boy looked horrified, quickly snatching the cup back with a babble of apologies before returning with another—this one creamy and sweet. Almi had a true weakness for sweetness.

Her smile vanished the moment a white-haired boy with sunken eyes walked into the room. He wore the crest of Hyacinth on his vest, blue and delicate. She stared at the crest for a moment too long and then at the boy before turning her cheek and taking another drink of her coffee.

Hellum took the steps to the Rose King measured. It was a curiosity that the Hyacinth Garden often sent a mute messenger. Some speculated that it was strategic. He couldn’t exactly offend or deliver the wrong words. The delicate boy with furious green eyes stretched out his arm, holding up the gold envelope to the king as he bowed. The card inside was from the Hyacinth King, offering gratitude and good will for the night to come, looking forward to seeing the Rose King, and offering a gift.

When Hellum gestured to the side, two Hyacinth students entered, carrying a large glass platter between them with a sculpted rose tree. It would only take seconds to realize that the miniature blooms were made of chocolate, delicate and coated in a thin layer of gold to be eaten.

Hellum stood, watching the Rose King to see if the gift was received well, brow lifting just a little and expressive face full of question. He never looked at Almi. Not once. Not ever.

VenomousEve

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2017, 05:22:47 am »
The window in the room had been cracked open to let in a sharp flow of winter air. It was a fine contrast to the crackling fire in the corner, and chilled Scarlett’s fingertips as she smeared the jam with her knife. Outside, Fern’s stare slid upward when she heard the Chrysanthemum king’s voice. Purposeful, of course. She sighed, a little dry, and folded her hands across her chest. Thank god she’d gone to Hyacinth house. Idella was a saint to Phellar’s heathen, so far as Fern could tell. She would have marched up to the room then, if she’d had more of a temper. But following a king from another estate into Cereus court quarters, of all places, was a terrible idea. The knight glanced at her watch again. Twenty minutes and she could take her car and leave Phellar alone to the company of rumors. It wasn’t that she particularly disliked Phellar. She didn’t know him well enough for that.

It was just that she’d gone to Hyacinth house for a reason.

Scarlett’s lips curled into a small smile. “You’re in high spirits.” She said. He wasn’t trying to be subtle, which was both intriguing and concerning. She didn’t mention that she’d said Ebelt needed a formal lover—not Hiev. It was telling enough that he’d gone on about the sitting king. Scarlett took a small spoon of extra jam for her biscuit, as if Phellar had harmed its integrity with his sweet thieving. She took a dainty bite.

“I’ll be on my own this evening,” she said, tone turning just the littlest bit wicked. “Unless you were offering your arm and a scandal?” Scarlett laughed, and pictured herself and his currently preferred pair of redheads all making their way into the largest Rose ballroom together. She waved off the idea of any particularly serious interest holding her hand or heart. “You’re not wrong. Honesty is intimacy in its own way,” she said, and the lilt of it seemed to suggest she wasn’t sure that was an intimacy she could demand.

“And you still haven’t bothered with a Queen.” She hummed, finishing her biscuit and folding her hands under her chin. “Is it too much work?” she asked. “Or, maybe it conflicts with your grander plans to have somebody else too close to the top.” Scarlett shrugged. She wasn’t above asking things outright. Not because she expected an answer but because sometimes people answered anyway. She thumbed her lower lip. “Are you letting one of your adoring girls play accessory tonight, regardless? Maybe Lyanna for her efforts?” It was teasing, mostly, but Phellar had been both notably complimentary and demeaning of the girl at once. By Scarlett’s reckoning, it must mean the king was still, at least, modestly intrigued by the ballerina. Perhaps it was crude to call her an adoring girl so soon after she’d suffered his attention.

A knock on the door alerted them to the dark-haired boy who’d brought them their food, cracking the door open to give Scarlett a quiet, but meaningful look. “I suppose I should be preparing myself for the evening’s work.” Scarlett said when the boy left them again, wordless as when he’d entered.

She gave Phellar a conspiratorial sort of glance then. “If you miss me tomorrow, I’m sure I can make the time to come by. The same company can get boring, after all.” There were always new stories after a ball. She’d be keeping tabs for King Luna tonight, mostly, but there was nothing to say there wouldn’t be other rumors to share in the morning. Besides, if Phellar was intending to make waves—and it did seem he had something in mind, he might like to know what gossip blossomed in his wake.

Outside, Fern had gone back to her car and was ready to leave. She sent a quick email from her phone to inform Phellar’s assistant that she had shown her face as requested for the requisite time. She did not add where they were. If the King had it in mind for his court to know where he was moving, they already would. They would not require a Hyacinth knight to remind them.

--

Wist ran a hand through his hair and let out a sigh. “Yeah. I want to say it was Duke Marx. I guess it says enough that I can’t quite recall if I’m getting his name right.” He laughed. “I’ll let the Duchess know you. She’ll be elated.” Wisteria added. He stood, setting his cup on the lower level of the tea cart. “It was good to see you, your highness. I’m glad to see Hyacinth is serving you well.” He said. Straightening his jacket and preparing to leave. He took the boxes Idella hadn’t selected.

“I’ll be looking forward to the spring gala. I mean. Maybe I should just be enjoying tonight first, but, you know how it is.” He said when he’d gone to stand by the door. And it was that way, for the students who weren’t fighting for much. One party after the next. A fine, if shallow sort of existence. It might have been evident in his shoulders a little. Wist had never really had the right kind of ambition to hunt titles, but it didn’t mean he had any less a desire for fulfillment. Sad rich boy, underneath there somewhere. “All of Rose is looking forward to seeing you this evening.” He said, bowing as he dipped outside the door. Idella and all the other royals. Phellar. Luna. Their full courts.

--

When she reached the gates of Hyacinth, Fern was chewing hard on her lip. She left the keys to her little silver jag with a valet and shrugged her coat on tighter. She nearly ran into Wisteria as he was leaving. He was glancing past her, watching her car turn back down the drive. “Sorry,” he dodged a step out of her way when he saw her adjusting her course. “Oh. Fern.” He said, and it was hard to tell whether he was happy to have crossed her path or not. Fern shoved her hands deep into her coat pockets.

“Wist, wow, it’s been a little while. How are you?” she asked. They hadn’t spoken in nearly a year. Not because they were avoiding each other, so far as she knew. They’d just stopped having a reason to look for each other. Her expression had gone rather blank. Really, she wasn’t terribly sure how she expected him to answer. He’d been in a bad state, when they’d been in regular contact. Wist gave her a crooked grin.

“Well enough. See you tonight?” he said, walking on. Fern turned to watch him go. Maybe they were avoiding each other then, and she just hadn’t known?

“Of course.” She said, head inclined. A sigh, and she turned back toward the sprawling gardens leading up toward the largest estate house.

--

Lyanna had been given help back to her suites by one of Phellar’s assistants. The violinist has left almost as soon as Phellar’s steps had been lost down the hall. One of the athletic team doctors was knocking on her door not too long after she’d been made comfortable on her salon settee. The doctor was not as gentle with her ankle as she’d have liked, but she found herself wincing on principle rather than being in any severe pain over the manipulations.

She was left with withering looks of disapproval and an ice pack. “Wear something reasonable to the ball tonight.” The doctor had said, without any attempt to suggest she not attend. It would have been promptly ignored advice, of course. Laying back with her blonde hair splaying across the muted grey fabric of her furniture, she stared up at the baroque intricacies of her ceiling. Her usual dancing partner, Sir Hermes, had gently suggested she think of an excuse to deny the king this morning. Any opinion out of Hermes was usually not to be taken lightly, being a fairly silent and somber sort. Lyanna thought she owed him an apology now. She’d teased him for being jealous before waving off his concern.

--

The king had settled on a green ballgown, tiered satin and a wide sweeping skirt. Illusion lace across a dramatically low back, dripping with pinpoint emeralds, gave the mirage of the shimmering fabric melting into her skin. The gown’s collar was fantastically chaste in contrast, fastening high around her slender neck and leaving a field of rich fabric for the delicate rose gold chain and pendant to hang. She turned twice in the mirror, the fabric swaying and catching the light and shifting in deep sea tones as she moved. Thistle was nodding approval—as if she needed it. Luna smiled at him appreciatively nonetheless. “It’s more of an autumn sort of look.” Luna admitted.

“With the black opera gloves?” Thistle asked, holding the lamb leather set she’d handed to him to hold. Luna shrugged her slim shoulders.

“It helps. I wish these damnable gifts weren’t always things I had to wear—” she stopped herself and looked sullen for a moment. “The note did assure she was not obligated to wear it, right?” she asked, brow furrowed. Thistle nodded.

“Almi is accustomed to receiving your designs often enough that I am certain she’d understand that was the case. However, you are correct. I saw it when I added the card to the package. You were adamant that she should not feel you were trying to impose.” Thistle assured. Luna’s expression turned sharp for a split second, as if she thought to scold him, but seemed to think better of it.

“Well, you see, that’s just the thing. It isn’t my place to impose upon anyone from another estate. I don’t understand why Manon thinks she’s being clever.” Luna did roll her eyes then. Thistle laughed. He was deeply fond of his king.

“You are the prettiest sort of dichotomy, your highness. Particularly when you are sulking.” Thistle hummed. Luna ignored him, turning again to watch the gown’s skirt settle.

“Make light of it all you like, but it’s practically subjugation, so far as I’m concerned. I don’t carry Manon’s jewelry in my collections.” Luna replied with a thin smile. The king was kind, but she could be cold. Duchess Manon’s creations were generally well-liked. Then again, the king’s collections were always orchestrated to the most minute details. He watched her twisting before the mirrors. Even the way the fabric sounded as it moved.

Verse

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2017, 03:49:57 pm »
Edan. Seemed his vengeance was misplaced. He'd not thought this through very well. He'd not even planned the melee, if Ebelt had to guess. The form wasn't much of anything, but the passion was always notable. It said a lot about a man when he fought out of himself. Most others here only became reflections of their trainers. Some truth in their chosen physical paths too, but it was without obstruction of instruction with Edan as he swung. Must have been a last cry for help, since the weapon would not have been immediately lethal, anyway. Or he was simply another boy thinking he was greater than the sum of his experiences.

There was little to see from Wicker's side of it. She was practical, and wasn't even going to humor the opponent. Effective and to the point with her knee. Ebelt noticed he'd kept his own leg at the ready if she somehow failed to defend herself. He kept his elbows up as the other knights came in but lowered them soon after. It was a bit heartbreaking to see him be cast out right there, but it wasn't like Wicker was left with much choice. At least the bodily harm would stop here if Edan decided to listen to her and stay clear of Hyacinth from now on.

"You're useless! Idella is useless!" the unmasked called as he was making two lines in the snow with his shoes as he was being persuaded away by two guards. "This IS my home, traitor! Hayden knew how to rule a house! You're all soft and weak!" Ebelt assumed Edan had a better life when Hayden ruled. That king had made Phellar look like a man of the people. Seemed odd to call someone who'd bested you in most ways weak, though.

Ebelt wore a congratulatory smile when he had her attention back. He would have liked to participate in the planning of Wicker's death, but he was struggling to see the gain in that, since Idella would still be a ruler, and though Hyacinth would be undermined, Rose wouldn't fair much better for it.

"I did have a hand in it." he said with a small smile. "Taught him everything I know. That's why he was so formidable. Look at you, you barely got out with your life." he gestured to supposed places where Edan had hit her. He laughed a little at the thought. Maybe it wasn't so bad, to strain the relationship between houses. He wanted to ask about unrest, but this was not the place, and even if he found a good opportunity to ask, it might be in her interest to not to answer. Some matters of the house were just that. If he found himself curious later on, he'd ask Cereus. Seemed like that level of political intel might cost him, though.

At the stairs of the house, as they climbed, he shook out his shoulders in a way that should be suspicious to her. "You know." his voice was somewhat serious. "A week ago someone who'd been overlooked for steward twice because of his attitude tried to come at Hiev with a pig spear from the banquet." no other ears were close enough. As they reached the platform before the door, Ebelt arched a picturesque, wide hook that would land perfectly on her chin and rattle her brain and send her tumbling, dumb and perhaps even unconscious down the steps if she didn't see it. It was better than anything Edan had come up with, but in this light and at this distance, she'd have to be pretty unaware to miss it. Still, it was not an insult of an attack. His show of heart, along with the tidbit on Hiev's almost assassination. "It's hard to be king, and it also hard to be almost king, isn't it?"

-

Her words did make him feel better. It wasn't such a deep misery, anyway. He just felt it harder when he thought about it with any intensity. It seemed their relationship was dominated by politics, and Ebelt had never said anything to truly dispel that suspicion. He gave her a little tender kiss on her brow as thanks. This had not been his intention. He supposed he couldn't share this kind of thing with many others, and overreacted to having Almi back.

He was collected while the boy had to remake the cup of coffee for her. It wasn't such a big mistake, but he could understand the nervous fumbling. Almi was adorable. Perhaps he should trick her into other bitter drinks, sometime.

Hiev had seen Hellum before. He hadn't really known Idella very well before this, but now they exchanged niceties often. It wasn't a window to knowing the warrior and king, but at least there was a desire to keep a good relationship. He nodded at the boy and took the envelope. He read it quickly and made sure Hellum saw a please expression as the same boy who'd served Almi the coffee came to take the golden arc. Hiev smiled when the gift was presented and went over to it quickly.

"Ah, this looks good enough to try right away!" he said and reached for a twig, but then stopped himself. "But it'd be a shame to ruin the craftsmanship before tonight." He called two other servants over who lead the bearers out with the tree. "You have to have some later. I'll have them put it by my chair." which meant Almi would have to sit by him, too. Everyone knew of her sweet-tooth.

"Please tell Idella I'm looking forward to meeting him again." For a knight, the King of Hyacinth was rather good at this kind of thing. Hiev's fingers flared at the boy. "Almi, Hellum. And Hellum, this is Almi." it was better to introduce, even though they most likely knew of each other. "Ah it seems this years Winter Fest will be quite something." he mused as he locked his hand around his wrist, excusing Hellum with a nod and then circling Almi.

"Hyacinth seems eager." he said. "And I've made preparations for Chrysanthemum, too, without hearing any objections from Phellar. In fact, he's expressively said he's excited to come." Hiev was at her side then and turned his head a little closer to hers. "Oh, and Jasmine too. I plan to meet their king and greet her directly. Would you like to be there?"

It wasn't teasing, he wanted to give her every opportunity to be happy. And although he'd not pried too much with his spies, it was plain to see the emotions in the air between King Jasmine and their Almi were warmer. "I don't think I'll have the proper time to stay too long though. Do you think you could entertain her in my stead, at least for a little while?"

-

She was right. His spirits were raised, and though he wasn't infused with much more energy than usual, his persona had space for quite some outbursts before his behavior could be considered uncommon, which meant the flavor of his demeanor was different, rather. Sharp Scarlett. This was why he came here. Like holding up a mirror. He also liked to see what kind of thing he was letting out from his seething vault of secrets, and learn how to tighten his act.

He clapped his hands together soundlessly when she brushed the idea of them going together. Wouldn't that be lovely, and wouldn't that be positively suicidal for his plans. He toyed with the idea of control her gossip always, but knew she wouldn't be who she was without her secrets being able to sprout like dandelions out of concrete. "That would be such a fun night. But you keeps your wits when drunk, don't you? I should have your drinks spiked." he laughed because that would be delightful, not because it was unthinkable.

The subject of his queen was often sore in his house. He liked it that way. Here he had no qualms of talking about it. "Ah, having a queen is not so much work." Not the way he ran Chrysanthemum. "But he or she would reflect myself, and so I have to choose wisely, don't I?" As though he would always be King, and never leave Versailles. He leaned in a little closer, and ran his finger along the rim of his cup. "It's all for my amusement, their hopeful hearts and pretenses that its for some greater good." In his own way, he loved Covalije and her frustrations and passions behind closed doors, and her little tells of emotions bordering on mania when she tried to be cold in public. In truth, her and Stanizza gave him very little reason to grant the title to either, if they were so perfect now. Sentimental King.

"Lyanna?" he asked when the name was thrown in for his consideration. Her use was her dancing, and he'd spent that for a while. But Scarlett cast her in new light. "I couldn't, could I?" But he was being coy the way his duchesses were coy with full dresses on with no undergarments. "A limping partner at the ball?" How avant garde. She could be his conversational piece. Cova would be left at home, angry, and Stanizza would be confused. "You little demon." he said, with no concern whatsoever over how Scarlett had such fresh information. "I'll think on it."

Phellar looked at the boy who had a message in his eyes, and then confirmed by looking at the boy's mistress. At least she sent him off with the best kind of offer. "Yes. Tomorrow. I don't mind if you wear the same thing." he said to show good spirit. It would be unacceptable if she did, of course. He had the rest of the tea and none of the crumbs before standing and taking her hands the same way he had when they'd met today. As a play of excitement, before she could stand to see him out, he bowed low to kiss her her on her lower lip. It also afforded him a position of power, his height towering over her sitting self. Relationships with kings were perhaps even more complicated when there was a clause of familiarity involved.

"I might find you, tonight." he promised. It was always ab it of a threat, with Phellar.

He moved out without needing escort, and stood outside for only a few seconds before his device told him where Fern was. Ah. Somehow she'd eluded him. His own vehicle was ready for him, and he got in, content with this visit.

-

Perhaps Hermes would have been jealous if he saw the raw aura of the dance earlier. He had joined into chasing form like Lyanna, and the two had found themselves a good partnership in building each other's styles. Their communication was admirable, too, the way they continued lines the other had started. He always caught her at the same juncture of the fall and she always felt the same in his hands. And it wasn't like their union on the floor was without emotion, but he'd never put her in danger or loved himself and thereby the dance and her as much as Phellar. Hermes did not worry about emotional content before he was concerned with how his limbs aligned with hers at any given point of their numbers. Still, the violinist and the few that had seen could not have denied the fervent life Lyanna and Phellar had stumbled upon and worn.

Happily oblivious, but not happy at all, Hermes knocked on her door. His firm rapping parted the door from the frame since it hadn't clicked into place. He thought it should be alright for him to stick his head in, then, to call her name. When he saw her on the settee announcing himself was no longer needed. "I heard." he said and stepped inside. It was bad for her to have temporarily lost use of her foot, but he was glad it wasn't worse.

Hermes kneed on the floor by her, and looked at the ice and the wrap. They would do at least this much no matter the severity of the sprain, since her ankles were her life. "How bad?" he asked and touched her shin. She'd not changed out of her dancing clothes. It was the best she ever looked to him, anyway, if they didn't count her costumes when they preformed. "Hopefully he won't invite you anymore, even though he would be hard pressed to find a better partner." Cordial, complimentary. Collected. It was all meant to make her feel better, after all. He did not think he needed to press the danger anymore, so that she didn't have to remind him Phellar offered little choice.

"How was it?" he asked at last, because this was their art, and he wanted to know if the king, a known lover of the expression, had somehow found any legitimate skill in it. It was obvious it would be disenchanting to him, the way he expected it to be to her too, if she confirmed his worry. Even kings should not have everything.

Ara

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2017, 11:15:13 am »
Her heart beat just a little bit faster when Ebelt swung at her. Who didn’t like to take a swing at Wicker? The ones who met with her cheek often kissed their knuckles—her blood was an honor and a blessing. Twisted fuckers. She grabbed his arm and used it to angle herself out of its path, pulling to have his chest collide with hers and spinning them until it was his back that hit the wall. He’d feel her fingers against his abdomen, just above his belt, two fingers and the edge of a sharp blade. No one would see it, though they’d caught plenty of gazes. “You’re going to cause quite the rumor. The whole Ball will be whispering about our spat this morning.” She whispered, pulse jumping in her neck, and the touch of the blade was gone, her body sliding back a step but she’d give him one more shove to the wall if he stepped away from it too quickly, a smile in the corner of her mouth because she suspected this was still play.

“Sounds like your would-be steward was rightly overlooked.” She didn’t have any information about it if that was what he was looking for and though she intended to keep an eye on her own king tonight, he was hardly as vulnerable as Hiev. There was some fortune in putting a knight on the throne—trained to see threats and to defeat them. She often thought it bad form of Ebelt to put someone like Hiev on his throne, but then she also wondered if it was his intention. Had he put something soft in what should have been his own seat to flush out spear-wielding rivals?

“And I wouldn’t know about being an almost-king, former-king. I am just a knight—as you pointed out. Pedestrian through and through. Being King is dangerous. All other positions are safe—so long as the king is good and strong.”

“Wicker!” A voice cried from inside, full of pretend fury and delighted exasperation. “You said you were going to get ready but your staff is still—” Duchess Vinnia burst through the doors and then almost fell back at the sight of Ebelt, jerking so quickly to a stop that she actually staggered, blinked, and took a breath. She looked away from the two of them, flushed. “We only have a few hours before the Ball…” She ground out, seeming unsure how to scold or berate Wicker in front of someone from another house.

Wicker smiled at Ebelt. “If you’d like to try punching me again, you’re welcome to blindside me at the party. It wouldn’t be a good Ball if I didn’t leave with a busted lip or a black eye, right?”

-

Almi sipped her coffee, ignoring the Hyacinth messenger as best she could without being rude. It was awkward, because she wans’t good at anything close to rude. Her eye lingered on his crest, blue flowers. She’d painted those flowers on her walls ones, when she was a child and new to a court. She had thought then that she’d be a Hyacinth forever, but that had not been the case. She flustered still at the thought of that time, of how dark a court could be and how brutally it collapsed.

She still remembered the knight with the blue hair, touching her cheek and whispering in her ear—not the sweet fairytales that Almi whispered to her friends at night—but a sweeter promise still. A promise to be vengeance, so Almi could simply let it go. A promise to make a court safe and clean. A promise to deliver Almi from it before even the first shot was fired. Almi had never known the Hyacinth Madness. She had left for Roses before the first royal fell from grace—but she had been there the day it started.

She exhaled and smiled for her king. “Hyacinth does love to party, your highness.” She agreed to their excitement and hoped that his plans for Phellar would go well. She did not know much of him, but the rumors made her uncomfortable. She almost forgot those thoughts when he mentioned Jasmine. Yes, that was the charm of their seasonal parties wasn’t it? All the gardens gathered together. She had rushed home for it. She perked up, smiling brightly and touching his hand. “Oh, I would love to. I haven’t seen Luna in weeks. She is a dear friend, it would be no trouble to entertain her if she had the time.” Almi laughed a little. “You kings are awfully sought after during these parties though, especially with all the new students and pledges looking to get into the courts.”

-

Idella dressed in his office. He did most things there. It was his favorite room, after all, and everyone catered to that well enough. He'd decided on the dark blue suit, pulling in the slacks with a dark belt that hugged his narrow hips, still shirtless when soft knuckles rolled at his door before one of his assistants slipped in. Idella drug fingers through his unruly red hair, pushing the strands back from his face and eyeing the other boy in the mirror.

"Ebelt is downstairs."

Idella raised a brow. "Do I have an appointment with Ebelt?"

"No, your majesty, and we do not think he has come to speak to you."

Idella laughed shortly. It sounded like something he should be offended about, but it was a sort of relief. "Who then? Is the quitter cheating on his king with one of my princes?" Not likely. The man was so enamored with Hiev that he'd put the boy on his throne.

The assistant managed not to crack a smile. The boy had gotten the position for that straight face of his. "Wicker, it seems."

Idella laughed again, turning his back on the mirror to look at the assistant. He waited for the punchline of a joke that didn't come and then frowned. "Where?"

"On the doorstep. Edan was also here and tried to attack the Champion. As far as the knights can tell, it had nothing to do with Ebelt's presence..."

Idella frowned. But he saw it. Great. "Anything else, day wrecker?"

The corner of the boy's mouth twitched then, with an almost smirk. Oh, someday Idella was going to make him smile. "Fern has returned."

He nodded once, another relief. "Great. I can't go to a Winter Ball without my best knights, right? Send her up when she has time--before we leave." He added the last bit to make it clear he didn't care if she got ready for the party first, but he cared if she didn't present herself before they left the Garden for Roses.

VenomousEve

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2017, 09:29:13 pm »
Scarlett had squeezed Phellar’s hands lightly and received his kiss easily. It probably wasn’t his preference, given the girls he liked to tease. Scarlett considered herself fairly friendly with the king, though, and thought that sense of rapport might have been expressly because she was not one of his blushing girls. “For you, your majesty, I shall wear as much or as little as you like.” She smirked. It wasn’t so different from wearing the Jasmine king’s gown tonight, really. At Versailles, it seemed best not to squirm at the thought of whoring yourself out for favor, in whatever form that took. She would not, of course, seek out the Chrysanthemum court in something so scandalous as a dressing gown, but it did tickle to consider it.

“I’d be delighted.” She said; if his suggestion read as a threat, her response read as a challenge. She wouldn’t have nestled herself into Cereus if she didn’t like thrills at least a little bit.

When the king had departed, Scarlett made her way back to her own room. The gown Luna had left was predictably gorgeous—she had been expecting no less when she’d seen the quality of the dark silk. The garment hugged her as only custom pieces can, dripping like a waterfall into a pooling train of silk on the floor. The skirt had been edged in thick velvet so that it moved with weight and the silk was left unsullied when it slipped over the ground. A shower of twinkling white sapphires encrusting a thick white gold rope secured the neck of the gown and lay cold and brilliant along her bare spine. Scarlett laughed at her reflection. Luna was never so brazen when dressing herself; when she sent things to Scarlett, it always seemed like the king made a point of putting her on display.

It was a curious show of presence. More than any other king, Luna had kept Cereus close and leveraged the reputation of Jasmine’s most desirable residents. Scarlett would hesitate to call her king conniving, but it did seem unfair to call her anything less than calculating.

--

Fern wore a strange expression when she was sent into Idella’s office, something between relief and annoyance struggling on her features. “My king,” she said, bowing low when she entered. “I was told you wished to see me.” She didn’t sound surprised. Fern did not see the king every time she went out to play diplomat at other estates, but she was called on occasion. Other knights who’d found themselves carrying similar roles expected the same. If anything, it was probably a bit overdue with Chrysanthemum estate’s recent calls.

“If it’s about King Phellar, I assure you the repeated requests are entirely for his amusement.” She said blandly, settling onto her heels. Which was not to say there wasn’t more worth talking about. A king flitting around Cereus court before a big party was always worth talking about. And there was the spy, too. “If he felt he needed any real protection from Hyacinth’s corner, he’d most assuredly have been pestering you to lend him Wicker.” Fern sniffed. It should have been a joke, because she couldn’t picture Wicker defending anyone outside Hyacinth without good reason and, frankly, she couldn’t think of any good reason Phellar would have provided. It should also have been a joke, because she was certain Idella would be reluctant to send over his champion for door duty, just to play nice. And yet, she could certainly picture Phellar requesting Wicker anyway.

“Anyway, how may I be of service?”

--

Lyanna grimaced when Hermes came in, not because she was unhappy with his company but because she supposed he’d been right to dissuade her from the king. “Nothing life altering.” She answered with a tight smile. “But nothing great.” She’d be nursing the injury for a few weeks, at least, and then she’d need to take it slow before she was back in full force. “I’ll keep stretching… I’m sorry,” she sighed. This mishap would put their practice schedule back to a significant degree. They’d probably still be fine for their next planned recital, but it was a bit disheartening regardless.

She sat up pushing her platinum strands behind her ear. “I don’t think he was terribly impressed.” Lyanna admitted against Hermes’ compliment. It was, perhaps, the most frustrating bit of the whole affair. He’d discarded her like a passing fad and looked at her like he’d been sold false promises on her skill. “So, you may not need to worry,” Lya bit her own tongue as she said it. She hadn’t meant to imply it, sitting there with her ankle wrapped, but she realized she’d somewhat admitted she wouldn’t turn down the king if he asked her again.

Lyanna sighed, hand on her cheek. “He was better than I had anticipated, though I guess it’s not right to underestimate kings. Technically, well…” she trailed off. He’d surprised her, but with his intensity over his technique. Which had been surprising still, because she’d been impressed despite particular textbook failings she’d often ridicule in the younger dancers. “He was very intense.” She decided after a pause that was longer than it should have been. She rubbed her ankle.

“And now I’ll be stubby at the party.” She muttered. This was not true, objectively speaking. Certainly, it would be ridiculous for her to attempt the pretty stiletto lofts she liked to give herself. But, Lyanna was built like a runway model seen at a distance. She had achieved, as if with precise purpose, no greater height than the precise 165 cm accepted by many conservatories; however, she was constructed of willowy limbs and a long, slender neck that easily fooled for a greater stature from across the room. “Stubby and limping.” She sighed again. It would be very easy to say the king had ruined her week, but it felt somehow more complicated than that.

“You should be getting ready, should you not?” She asked him. It was a polite way of asked him to leave, but Lyanna also needed time to prepare. More so now, if she was to be hobbling. She didn’t look pleased about it, as Hermes was company she generally enjoyed, but the Winter Ball was serious business and she had every intention of participating to the fullest despite her injury.

--

When the sun was burning the furious orange of dying coals and sinking low on the horizon, Luna called her car around. Outside, it was colder with the fleeing daylight and the king pulled her cape tighter around herself. It caught the light in jewel tones, prismatic black feathers wrapping her like she’d nestled into a pair of wings. Her dark hair was loose and tumbling, tamed by neat braids around her crown. “And the games begin in full force,” She hummed, glancing back at Thistle with a wry smile.

“Rose always throws a good party.” Thistle relied.

Verse

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2017, 11:46:52 pm »
Ebelt followed in her maneuver. It was her turn, after all. At least she extended him more courtesy than Edan. Perhaps because his attack had a friendlier intention. He didn’t try to interrupt their spin, but still got comfortable, free hand on her hip and rare to the wall to kill the momentum before his shoulder blades connected. “I should think so.” He said about their rumor. “But I’d hate for you to go to the ball with that abominable excuse for a fight on your palled.” He breathe which lifted his chest slightly into her blade before she retracted it. “You’re welcome.”
 
He wore a skeptical line for a mouth when she deflected the title of almost-king. It wasn’t like anyone here wouldn’t listen to her if she gave an order. He was sure Idella would fall in line for her too. Still, they were all prisoners of their own complexes. She quickly tugged at his. “I think good first and foremost.” And there it was, the answer to his predicament, and why he’d chosen Hiev, despite being weak. If that was a debate she wanted, Ebelt wasn’t going to give it here, by the sound of his voice.
 
He turned his head quickly for Vinnia. It was hard, sometimes, to know the etiquette of Versailles. It wasn’t like their blood was worth anything to the grounds, they’d only be here for their formative years. And still, they were kings. Vinnia was right to assume a more compliant persona, though, if not for him, then for the onlookers, so it wouldn’t undermine Wicker. “I am sorry.” He said and lowered his head in a gesture of submission to tease the new woman. “I have needlessly wasted Wicker’s time. Thank you for scolding me.” He said and then looked at the blue haired woman.
 
“I am looking forward to our brawl at the ball, Wicker. I am sorry in advance for having to teach you a lesson. I’ll make sure the floor is clean for your face.” He smiled and moved away, pretending to lose confidence as soon as he passed Vinnia, and bowed deeply again, as though she was of higher status than either of them. “Queen Vinnia.” He said before he backed off, sure not to turn before there was a polite distance between them.
 
He was at the Rose house again, soon.
 
-
 
Hiev had a hard time keeping his eyebrows low when Almi was oblivious to his jesting. He even gave a look to a baron walking by, helping with the preparations, and he was also a little confounded by Almi’s naivety. “Well,” he continued, not entirely sure what to do now when Almi’s innocence proved impervious to suggestion. “I am glad that I can count on you, dear.” It was easy enough to fall back on the act. This wouldn’t affect the outcome, of course. He still got to dub himself matchmaker, which was one of the few kingly things Ebelt let him do without supervision. Since his coronation he’d been instrumental in joining at least a handful of powerful couples, and a dozen of lower titles, but no less love-struck.
 
It was more exciting because it was Almi. He retreated to her sometimes, because she was such a pillar of light. He had abused his title a few times to get her audience. It helped that she lived in his house. During those meetings, he was grateful she was so such a romantic simpleton, because many others would have tried to use such privacy to be intimate with him, and even though Ebelt had expressly encouraged him to take other lovers, Hiev had tried to wait for the former king, always. Ebelt was a good partner, when he was there. Hiev, despite having risen in rank mainly through acting as a courtesan, didn’t have a very well fortified heart. If it had been a reason for Ebelt to pick him for king, it was also a reason for his own misery, sometimes.
 
“Speaking of us kings and our duties.” He said and touched her shoulder. “Now that I have caffeinated you and asked a favor, I must leave.” He laughed in embarrassment and then sighed at the tasks ahead. He had a few more approvals to give and then he’d have to wrestle with his tailors. Ebelt had already picked something for him, it seemed. Hiev was sure he was going to upturn that outfit, even though he hadn’t seen it yet. “I am looking forward to whatever you choose. The pressure is on, ms. Model.” He said and winked at her.

-

Hermes popped a bubble on his hidden tongue when she apologized for having been injured. It might sound judgmental to anyone else, but it was his way of of being annoyed with something he didn't agree with. She'd hear it often when he was practicing by himself. This time it meant she had nothing to be sorry for.

There was genuine disgust on his features, quite suddenly, when he learned Phellar might have thought little of her skill. But she wouldn't be modest in that way, to make herself look bad to avoid speaking ill of a king that wasn't here. She could be honest with him even about their king. His brows lowered into confusion. He heard the implication of a second joust, even though this one had cost them at least a fortnight before fully functioning again. He wish he knew if she'd be going because she wanted to or because she felt she needed to. The former was most alarming. Could there be anything desirable with someone who had many other interests beside dance? How atrocious.

As she went on, Hermes became further uncertain as to why Phellar would be a good enough partner that it would leave her this-- unbalanced. It was a dark thing in his heart, but he hoped all this was because she'd been shaken by a rude man, rather than that she was intrigued. "Intense is never good if you don't have the right training." he tried, and hoped she'd confirm for him. "Toddlers are intense."

He petted her knee again as he got up from his. "Anything to get better." because they must not miss the ball, but he didn't mind if she took care of her injury, and walked a little off for it. If it was selfish, he didn't see it. It was suddenly urgent they dance again, practiced, and not only because of the deadline.

"I'll come if you call." he answered to her polite dismissal, and leaned down to stroke her shoulder. "Verdamte king, forcing you." he said again, hoping she would give him any sign that she agreed with the cuss. He would be leaving whether he had it or not. It was important he look good, as well, and there was little left to say to make her feel better. He closed the door the only way he could think, which was deftly, and with a quiet click. He left her alone in the room with the swollen, aching memento of Phellar, that'd laid between them.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #14 on: November 21, 2017, 01:44:00 pm »
Between the near constant visits from his court, checking to make sure their outfits were in his favor or worrying about how and when to leave the Garden for the ball—all nonsense and pomp because this was how these events went, an excuse to fuss, an excuse to smile—Idella had barely managed to dress, his jacket still on the hanger and his fingers working the buttons of his vest into place when she walked in.

Polished black shoes and dark blue slacks, a vest in a shade just lighter and a crisp shirt with the collar open. He might not have even bothered with the jacket—often rolling up his sleeves—but he had to at least make a show of wearing the cufflinks he was given.

Fern walked in, a faint hint of annoyance about her that made him smile because it was familiar and it boded well. He didn’t make a show of looking her over but those gray eyes cut across her, quick to check that she was whole and no obvious signs of a fight. He preferred to believe that Phellar wasn’t as bad as some whispers hinted, but he never liked risking his own people on that hope. Phellar was impulsive at best.

“Welcome home,” he turned to his mirror again, assessing the vest with a tip of his head. Everything fit perfect but he shrugged lightly at himself as though to say “that’ll have to do”.

He did laugh when she spoke of Wicker. “If Phellar was in need of real protection I doubt he’d risk telling us he was so vulnerable. And Wicker would be the last knight a king asked for,” he said it easily because of the familiarity between them, but his brow pinched immediately regretting those words and how they might be taken. He would not shy away from asking Wicker and he knew better than to think her some wild threat with hungry for royal blood. But she was a threat of sorts to anyone who owed a debt of blood and she had a reputation now that could not be cleaned away.

Idella could not imagine a circumstance where he might lend Wicker to Phellar, if only because there was a strong chance the Champion would spark conflict rather than ease tension. She was no politician and her skills were not in tact.

He turned and considered Fern. “I’d like you to walk in with me. I want you to enjoy the party but I’d like you and the other knights to keep an eye on the court. The goal is to perpetuate good will between the gardens while we take in new students this season. I don’t want anything getting in the way of that and you are so very good at putting out embers before they catch into flames.” Hyacinth had princes and princesses and dukes and duchesses—a flurry of titled students in its court, but Hyacinth favored its knights and had even before one took the throne. The court enjoyed its champions, its protectors and guardians.

“I don’t suppose you learned anything that might be helpful while guarding the Chrysanthemum king? Anything I need to know?” He leaned his hip back against his desk, watching her and waiting. It was an opportunity to report as well as to complain since they were just the two of them. Idella had always valued candid banter.

-

Wicker forgot that she was cold, eyes fixed on his when he spoke. Was he confessing to not being good enough for his throne? Strong enough, but not good enough. How could he know if he hadn’t tried? She would have encouraged him to give it a try, to be the king he was meant to be, and promised to take him off his throne if he truly was unworthy—but then came Vinnia.

Wicker grinned wide when he played on Vinnia’s need for propriety. Her eyes widened, flickering up from the ground briefly to see him lowering his head to her. She lost all color, eyes bulging and sweet mouth dropping open. “Wh—No!” she eeped out the cry of distress but he didn’t let up.

Wicker brought the back of her hand to her mouth to discreetly hide her grin when he thanked the duchess for scolding him. Vinnia looked like she might faint or vomit.

He offered to make sure his floor was clean for their next brawl and Wicker flashed him that grin, waving him off. “I’ll look forward to it but you should know, I’m a terrible student. You might have to teach me a few times…”

Vinnia almost lost her footing when he called bowed to her and called her Queen. Wicker saw her vision lose focus and caught her elbow, steering her back into the building. “I-I-I…” Vinnia stammered, looking back over her shoulder at the retreating Rose.

“You showed him,” Wicker prodded, leading her inside and into the crowded hall. People were starting to appear dressed and ready. Shit, she really was behind.

“I didn’t! I was just…”

Wicker laughed and stopped, turning Vinnia in her arms. “Hey. Hey, are we ready to go?” Wicker asked, lashes frozen and still wearing her comfy after-gym clothes.

That snapped Vinnia out of it. She sputtered, nose wrinkling at Wicker. “What? Are you insane! Go get dressed!”

Wicker grinned wide and leaned in, catching a kiss that surprised the other girl even more, her eyes shooting wide but doing nothing to escape. Wicker let her go after a second, stepping back and walking away while Vinnia was still blushing.

“You’re not wearing that are you?” Wicker called back.

Vinnia blinked in confusion before looking down at herself, still wearing a big sweater and jeans. “Son of a bitch, Wicker! I’m going to be late! This is your fault!” She was shouting but running in the other direction toward her own rooms.

-

Almi blushed comfortably, giving her king’s hand a squeeze and kissing his cheek before releasing him to his duties. She needed to get up to her room and change anyway—she and a few of the court were going to lead the new students around before the ball, show them the Garden and explain some of the customs before the others arrived.

She found her rooms just as perfect as they were when she left, two maids already unpacking her suitcases. She showered, abandoning clothing on the floor and knowing that it would all magically find its way into her walk-in closet. She did her makeup and hair first, neutral shades and subtle glitter, pink lips. She returned to her room in her silk robe, eyeing the white box on her bed. She bit her bottom lip subconsciously and picked up the card, thumbing it open. She hadn’t even planned what to wear tonight—heart certain that it would be there waiting for her. Sure, she had racks of options to pick from, gowns she had never worn waiting for a chance to be seen, but what she waited for was that box.

She smiled at the words, careful and reassuring that she need not wear what was inside. It made her grin because she was sure she’d wear it even if it was a tutu and a tophat. She put the note on her bedside table, not to be swept away by the magical maids, and then opened the box, plucking away tissue paper to reveal the gown inside. A white bodice that fit her perfect, no sleeves or shoulders, and a full skirt, just past her knees in the front but long in the back, with a layer of pastel pink beneath to give that flare of color she so loved, fine stitching detailing the whole gown. She dressed, holding up the train when she walked to her wall of shoes to pick the perfect pumps, the same satin tone as the pink inside.


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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2017, 02:33:00 am »
Fern pinched the bridge of her nose and made a vague gesture with her other hand. “Well. He’s as dedicated to his own whims as ever.” She said, then folded her hands in front of her with a more serious expression chasing away her shallow perturbation. “And, more importantly, making personal visits to Cereus court on the day of the ball. I don’t know the king well, but he seems too self-assured to not have plans of some sort right now.” Fern shrugged. “Not that I’d want to be the source of baseless rumors. But the timing seems pointed, that’s all.” She knew it wasn’t unheard of for kings and queens to visit the puppet court, so she didn’t think it was fair to be overly suspicious. Still, it seemed worth telling Idella.

She grinned when he said she should walk with him. “I would be honored.” She said. Putting out fires before they grew was not the traditional picture of a knight, perhaps, but she was proud of that kind of recognition. “These events are always dramatic. It would be negligence on my part, if I weren’t already planning to represent Hyacinth to the fullest.” She laughed. “There are quite a few new faces from the Suits this year. Are you hoping for anyone in particular?” she asked. More often than not, it was the new academy-goers vying for spots in an estate. However, Hyacinth could be a little more forward as a house at times. Good knights could be recruited as well as they could come looking, and Hyacinth did pride their knights. She stood a little straighter at the thought.

--

Lyanna had hummed in agreement. She had often thought that their partnership worked so well because they were both so exacting. They didn’t get nervous, dancing with each other. Perfect, full dependence on one another to do their part and do it precisely. Phellar had made her nervous. When she danced with Hermes, she found his reliability the sort of thing that let her trust herself. The king had made her question her own capacity and made her heart beat fast and flurried. Lya touched her chest, as if there was need to calm her pulse at even the thought.

“Toddlers are intense. And, apparently, so are kings.” She tried it as a bit of a joke, but only because she felt a little crude for equating anything about her spin across the floor with Phellar as childish. “I know you will.” She said with a small smile, when he told her he would come. Reliable Hermes.

She pressed her tongue against her teeth at the little profanity and gave him a berating sort of look. “Don’t get caught up in it, you know. I wouldn’t want to cause any more trouble.” Lyanna said. If the wrong princess heard Hermes say that kind of thing, it wasn’t the most minor offense to put an untitled student into a bit of a bind. Her swollen ankle was enough of a delay to their partnership. His petty tongue didn’t need to delay them further. Before he left, she called his name.

“Hermes, what color is your suit tonight? I’d like, at least, to make sure what I picked for myself isn’t going to clash horribly.” Which was not to say either of them had asked to go on the other’s arm. Rather, there was simply the expectation that they would spend a good deal of the evening together on principal. Had her ankle been well, she would have also assumed they’d try their hand on the dance floor together too. There was not much ballet at balls, but it did not prevent the dancers from displaying their pretty lines when the music afforded it.

--

When Scarlett’s car pulled up to the Rose estate gates, the sun had all but fled and the main drive to the first Rose hall was brilliant under a heavy web of twinkling lights. The lights had been strung between columns wrapped in rose garlands in shades of white and cream, like a canopy of stars dripping low to kiss the garden. Scarlett felt her heart skip a beat. She lived for nights like this. The beautiful company, the intrigue, the drama, the most decadent after parties. The winter ball, out of all the parties, was easily her favorite. Versailles felt like another world, shimmering in frost and moonlight, and the estate halls became intimate escapes from the lonely cool of winter’s night. It made the gossip fly closer to everyone’s cheeks and the wine sing a little warmer in everyone’s veins. “I shouldn’t hope for anyone to cause a scene tonight, but part of me can’t help it.” Scarlett confided in her driver before she stepped out of the car.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #16 on: November 22, 2017, 08:37:07 am »
Hermes had not been pleased when she warned him about his hot temper that had only yet been on his face during conditioning and stretching, never during their dances. He wasn't overly confrontational, though he did excel in underhand behavior. It couldn't be helped that he felt a little as though her awareness of the risks of speaking too freely was a defense on the King's behalf. It brought another cluck to his tongue. It could be heard as both admitting she was right, or the truth, that he would have rather she indulge him. He came here in part to berate a spoiled boy who thought he could do their art without their training. Phellar had been known to dance most of his life, though, and Hermes would have loved for that to be only that.

He smiled when he turned on his way out. "Just black and white." he was as traditional when they preformed. "For my pocket square I was thinking Wednesday red." They had hurried after practice one day, so that he could see about some tailoring, and when he'd come back she'd been tugging at the folds of a red dress on display, a rare thing that looked its part, but was also good for moving in. He knew she'd procured it a few days after, and he'd ordered fabric to match. It had been in the middle of the work-week, of course. "Get better." he said, as though she could command her healing. If anyone could, it was Lyanna.

-

Ebelt thought it would be pertinent to stay with the theme, which was unofficially always winter. A black dinner jacket, but the tie with its pearls and stones were white, and so was the shirt and the medium collar. Between the lapel and the shirt he wore a silver scarf, passable for a vest when mostly concealed. A subtle silver sheen to his black shoes. It was his own creation, because he didn’t have to rule at this event at least.
 
Leaving Hyacinth had been a lighthearted ordeal after speaking with Wicker and torturing the mortified Vinnia. Perhaps he could find the poor girl and do some more of that this evening. He had the time for such things now. Nobody knocked on his door, asking him to be ready, because he had a history of being exactly where he should be when he was needed, and also because he wasn’t officially anything, anymore, even if he did take Hiev’s safety as a bit of a personal task.
 
As a daring accessory, though in par with the latest trend of Versailles, he wore an extravagant belt on the waist of his jacket, holding a rapier in a polished sheath. The belt, which of course favored the side with the weapon with a perfect tilt, had a few green and blue details. The silver shadows in his eyes did well in all the sterling of his attire. Perhaps if he’d been a king, he would have been a winter one. He looked himself in the mirror, hair in a black wave to the side, and spread the fingers of one hand and raised it by his temple. Asymmetric crown. He sighed, frustrated, and threw his hand down.
 
“Better to drink and live it up like a peasant.” he muttered to himself as he hung a silver chain over his shoulders to be worn outside of the jacket. The pendant was a red glass rose.

-

Phellar liked long cars. It didn’t hurt if they were either antiques or tributes to gone times, as most of the things in their beloved, glorified orphanage. This evening’s vehicle was restored rather than special ordered, and he circled it with some excitement. He was still in his day-clothes, watching two barons polishing away. It was a magnificent means of transportation, and he’d purchased and shipped it just for today. It would be downgraded to something he might drive himself after this.
 
“Will you be accompanied by anyone but the driver, my king?” Rinchord asked. The silver-haired youth had been primed to be a butler. Phellar had kept him from advancing, but Rinchord never seemed to mind. He had been mostly claimed by Covalije, though, and she used him as a means of being coy while she was being invasive. It was a valid question, the boy had chosen the right time to ask it, since the car only had two seat unless the additional ones were opened in the back, which was not suggested by the care given to it now.
 
“No. Just me and my plans and another pair of able hands.” He said and tapped the shoulder of one of the barons, who nodded in compliance. Better take one who knew this beast if it acted up, given its real age. “You can tell your mistress she’s welcome to attend.” He said with wink at the boy who was stiff by design. Rinchord nodded but stayed. He was often tongue-tied by Cova’s orders. Phellar had become proficient in guessing on Rinko’s body language, though. It was almost always something kind. Ah, of course. “And tell Stanizza she must also attend if Cova does.” It seemed to shake something loose in the servant, which most likely meant Phellar had been correct in his assumption Cova was somehow preventing Stanizza from attending. But king’s word is law, especially to both of the supposed sisters. Rinchord stepped lively, after that.
 
Phellar came to think of something, and waved two fingers in the air for any servant to come. It ended up being another grease monkey, this one with pretty dark hair and drastically flattering overalls. He approved with a look. “Tell the dancer she must go too.” Since Scarlett had put the thought in him. He sighed at the memory. “But tell her to dress better than she emotes, will you?” It was cruel, especially since today’s indulgence had cost the girl a few weeks from her craft. It was a pleasure on its own though, to sneer at elite things, one Phellar would not deny himself. It would be unusual for anyone like Lyanna not to attend, but he supposed he wanted to make sure her injury did not dissuade her.
 
The letter was produced.
 
Dear Lyanna,
 
Your attendance at the Rose Winter Ball has been made mandatory by our Beloved King Phellar. He would also like it if your attire is better than the emotional content of your dance.
 
Signed
Rael, for King Phellar of Chrysanthemum
 
A pretty choker, which had been added as an afterthought, was included in the envelope of thick paper. The glistening lace made up a Chrysanthemum in flight. Rael delivered it to the door herself, and slid it over the threshold. She was not a malicious woman to have written the letter like that, but she’d rather be sure to have said the right thing even if it was bullying, than disappoint Phellar. She hoped maybe Lyanna would find the significance of there being a letter at all, which should mean something, given it was from their king.

-

Out of habit Ebelt was already standing to greet the guests as the cars arrived. The pledges had already come, of course, and the hall inside was made-over, some of it rebuilt, to receive. He was overseeing the security of things, and had half a thought on Edan and his implications always. The night was well on its way, the light early in bed to give way to this deep blue made black by the contrasting lights of the Rose house.

When Scarlett came he was sure to take her hand. He liked her, but he also knew there was some catching up to do if Phellar had been speaking to her. "How perfect." he said about her dress and admired the tail of it as they walked. "You are of course very welcome, Scarlett, and I hope we can provide a good time. I hear there is a trio hopelessly in love with Almi, and they're acting on it tonight." He walked closed, leaned in. "And there's this thing about two brothers quarreling over the same boy. I've promised them muskets. I am also a bit interested in attacking Wicker of Hyacinth, myself." he said. "Anything interesting on your end, about the Winter Ball?" gossip for gossip, which was a little crass, but he was sure she could appreciate his concern.

-

The Chrysanthemum King was let out of his monstrous car soon after. His attire had cold tones, mostly gray and white with frozen blue lights. The jacket was detailed, traditional, one button, but the shirt and bowtie underneath were almost completely translucent, telling of a pretty sternum and straight shadows. It was a sensual kind of ensemble, and he had a silver cane rounded with a Chrysanthemum orb ontop, it's petals folded in for his comfort, as though the flower was sleeping.

He winked at Ebelt and stroked Scarlett’s shoulder as he passed them. It wasn’t his ego, but the look in Ebelt’s silver-coins-on-night-sky eyes that let him know the pair might be talking about him. “This one, Ebelt.” He said and held the neck of his cane to point the flowerhead at Scarlett. “She’s going to change your life if you speak to her.” he was walking backwards as to not stay and interrupt. “Took your suggestion and invited the dancer.” He laughed again like it was some prank. Pretty, swirling, jumping girl, but tonight she had a limp. “You’re devilish.” He rewarded her and patted his temple with his finger before turning to take the stairs with good-humored, agile feet.

Ebelt didn’t rush in. Even Phellar wouldn’t do something so suddenly. His polite silence by her side waited for confirmation that either she’d hold any secret she had, or share with him.

-

Hiev sat on a lifted glass throne. It was rather comfortable with its woven flower pillows. He’d picked a simple blue suit and topped it with a rose in the collar, also blue, as faded. He was getting kisses on his knuckles from a duke of Chrysanthemum when he saw that King stride in through the door. The invasive look Hiev was subject to made him feel violated and helpless, and he retreated into the back of the chair. What suggestive thing to wear, he thought secretly, and the kissing duke felt a bit of heat and a layer of breath’s trace on the back of Hiev’s hand.

“Your king is aiming to have a lot of fun tonight.” The Rose Ruler commented, and the duke noted it was entirely off topic.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2017, 01:27:48 pm »
Idella nodded casually at her report. Curious but not damning. There was even a chance Phellar had gone to the Cereus with Fern in tow just to kick up some rumors.

He shook his head at the idea that he was scoping anyone in particular out. “Not really, but you’re always welcome to make suggestions.” He pulled on his jacket and plucked a cufflink from the open box on his desk. “I’ll wait for you at the entrance,” Idella smiled easily. “I hear Duchess Vinnia and Prince Whellam are herding the house tonight, don’t let them rush you. It’s not like they can leave without me anyway and I’m in your car tonight.”

-

Almi greeted the wave of pledges on the steps, leading them in to the ballroom and giving them a short history of the house and a general idea of the nights events and what to expect. The Gardens had seasonal parties, where all kings gathered, and though they usually went to plan—something interesting always happened. No one could ever truly predict nobility, after all.

The girls that coveted the idea of being a princess followed after Almi like ducklings, their eyes big with dreams. The younger hopefuls would be a part of the dinner and opening party but there came a time of night when they would be shuffled away—back to their own Suits—and the party would belong only to the Gardens. She rather enjoyed the earlier hours. Something about all that hope and wonder in their little faces was delightful. She directed them past Hiev, many staring with saucer eyes and blushes, before she scooted them on to their tables. Stewards were posted to keep a general eye on the newbies, steering them from trouble and keeping them from wandering.

Prince Grayson, from the Hyacinth Garden, sidled up to her, holding out a glass of champagne as excuse. Almi smiled and took it with a little curtsy. “Your king has not arrived, has he?” She asked, glancing around the large hall.

“No, your grace, a few of us were sent over early—to check on things.” He smiled, taking a sip of his own glass. “I’m pretty sure it was just to get us out of the way while the organizationally inclined fuss over the less timely.” He took past her shoulder to the entrance, a little smile pressing at the corner of his lips. “But it looks as though Chrysanthemum has arrived.”

She turned as well to see the king enter, always one to stand out even in a sea of indulgent, expensive attire. She took another sip and turned back to Grayson, not wanting to that particular king to notice her looking. “It seems so.”

-
Wicker made her way through the house, up to the third floor and Idella’s chambers. Vinnia spotted her from down a hall and immediately started fretting. “Wicker, no! You said you’d dress up!”

“No rips in my jeans! That’s dressed up!” she called back but didn’t pause—everyone gathering themselves to leave.

Wicker walked in, without knocking or announcing herself. Idella’s assistants never tried to get in her way either. Wicker made a point of leading them all to believe she had zero patience.

She marched in, arms spreading and taking a twirl for her king. Her blue hair was curled, braided, pinned and sprayed into a faux hawk high atop her head, turning into a wide braid down her back. Her soft, asymmetrical, leather jacket had blue hyacinths embroidered on the lower left arm and another over her right shoulder. Skinny jeans and wide ankle boots. And a black silk tank top, hanging to flash bits of her blue bra and most of her collarbones—hints of tattoos and scars.

Idella smiled brightly. “No rips in your jeans! Aw, you really did try.”

She flopped onto the couch, heels on his table. “Thank you for noticing, your majesty!

“I’ll send you a fruit basket in the morning if you manage not to start a war tonight.”

Wicker lifted a brow. “Fruit? Try whiskey and the morning after pill and I might be grateful.” She looked around. “What are we waiting for? We’re going to be late.”

Idella buttoned his jacket. “Fashionably late, and we’re waiting for Fern.”

“I thought we gave her to Chrysanthemum,” Wicker smirked to herself.

Idella ignored the comment and started toward the door, sure that she would follow and even more sure that he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it if she didn’t. “I hear you have a small legion of would be knights waiting to meet you at this party.”

Wicker hummed. “Yes. I’ll do my best to entertain for a bit before having any real fun.”

He held the door for her and she gave him a rye smile for the oddity of it. “Try not to make them duel each other for your entrainment.”

“Would you rather I have them duel our knights? That seems unfair…”

“Wicker…”

“How else will I know which ones to recruit?”

“Talk to them?”

She groaned, following him down the halls and stairs and toward the front doors where the cars waited to whisk them all away to the Rose Garden.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2017, 08:33:10 pm »
Scarlett smiled neatly. “So much lined up already.” She answered the former Rose king. In general, she found Ebelt to be one of the more interesting characters at Versailles. He and the current king—it all felt like it must have been some sort of ruse nobody was in on yet, but Scarlett was hard pressed to believe there was any lack of sincerity in the path Ebelt had followed. He was too much of a lion to turn idly to a lamb. There had been purpose, but perhaps not deception.

“Brothers?” she asked, with a glint in her eye. There were more than a few supposed siblings in the Gardens, but it was all hearsay. To a point, it was almost poor form to refer to them as such. “Well, firearms are unfair when one is a marksman. Do you prefer him? Such violent matchmaking.” She laughed. “Speaking of siblings, there is a fresh face in Clubs who has a remarkable resemblance to a miss Lyra… you know Lyra, right?” Scarlett inclined her head slightly, crimson coils falling heavy across her shoulder. Of course Ebelt knew Lyra. Lyra, one of the few at Versailles with keen reason not to show her face at the Rose estate, winter gala or not. “She’s interested in Rose, I hear, and hasn’t a clue about her supposed sister.” Scarlett shrugged. “I wouldn’t want the sweet king of Roses to see a ghost on such a beautiful evening.”

Scarlett tapped her cheek. “King Chrysanthemum paid me a visit today. He’s in a good mood. We’ve both got a lot to watch tonight, I suppose.” She hummed. As if summoned, Phellar appeared at her shoulder. Scarlett smiled widely for him. “Your majesty. It is you that sent the invite, I’m hardly the devil in this game. I was just talking about how you’re certainly up to no good tonight.” She said, tongue in cheek. She glanced back at Ebelt. “Pick fights with the Hyacinth champion if you like, but I think the throne deserves some attention.” She curtsied, a sharp little bob, and waved away her car so that she could make her way inside.

--

She had left out a white jumper with broad flowing trousers and a one-shouldered design that billowed into a long, structured cape off her left shoulder. Gold buttons drew a uniformed sort of couture, and her no-nonsense chignon made her red-stained lips look fantastically severe. Fern turned once and smoothed the fabric across her stomach. A single sprig of half-bloomed hyacinth in deep blue and a simple choker of red velvet. Fern nodded at her own reflection and swept out the door.

She made it to the car shortly after the Wicker and the king, stepping outside as they were already at the vehicle. “Oh, you dressed up.” Fern said, and seemed moderately surprised that the blue-haired girl had been coaxed into any such effort. She’d occasionally thought it wasn’t fitting of such a well-regarded knight to be so stubbornly casual, but Idella had never seemed to mind so Fern supposed she shouldn’t either.

--

Luna arrived without much fanfare, Thistle three steps behind her. She was pleased with what she saw when she entered the large ballroom, looking out over the spectacular room from the top of the steps. Hiev was picturesque on his throne and the room was breathtaking, but her mercurial stare flitted immediately to the two women she’d elected to dress this evening. Scarlett was, as expected, in her silk sheath. She’d expected that much compliance from one of her own estate, but she was proud to see Scarlett looked stunning.

When she saw Almi, she smiled and turned to Thistle. “She wore it,” Luna said with noticeable satisfaction. “Do you see? It’s exactly the way I imagined it. You saw the sketches?” She asked. Thistle nodded.

“Of course, your highness. When have your designs ever disappointed?” he said. Luna waved him off.

“Almi is a forgiving muse. She could make a paper bag look perfect.” Luna said. “I’m pleased with this one, though.” Luna nodded to herself. “The pink…” she trailed off, lost in thought. Thistle laughed.

“Your highness, perhaps dream about your next design later?” Thistle said lightly. Luna blinked and then laughed.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. You don’t have to babysit me, Thistle. Please… go enjoy yourself.” Luna sighed.   

--

Lyanna arrived in red, a rose save the chrysanthemum choker tied around her slender neck. She was self-conscious wearing a gift from the king and half dreaded seeing Hermes with it on. He’d surely be annoyed with the accessory. She did smile a little, though. He had known about her dress and taken it into account already. She should have expected as much.

When she entered the ballroom, she couldn’t help but audibly gasp. It was beautiful. It took her a while to take the stairs, her limp more pronounced than she’d hoped it would be. She saw Phellar half way down the steps and teetered there for a moment. How miserable. She at once hoped he saw her and hoped he’d not notice her. He’d taken the time to require her attendance, but it seemed almost spiteful for him to do so.

“Ah, Hermes, where are you when I need you?” she mumbled. A supportive arm and a reassuring face would have been incredibly welcome then. 

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2017, 11:39:00 am »
Ebelt hadn't been prepared for a reminder of Lyra, former adoration and still a friend of Hiev's. Her downfall had been trusting him. Her sister might cause something to bloom in the current king. This was valuable information. Scarlett was in a generous mood, it seemed. "She sounds like someone I should meet soon." Intrigued. Hiev was in high spirits. Better the king not falter when all eyes were on him.

Ebelt kept his composure when the Chrysanthemum head moved by like a cold wind, coiling around Scarlett’s shoulder on its way. Ebelt pretended not to care very much at all about his presence, and kept his eyes on Scarlett when she said her warning and her advice. "I give the throne all the attention I can spare. But you know I'm retired." Another lie said with a believing tongue. With his hands behind his back politely, he watched her go, and made a point out of staring at her pleasantly as she went. "Oh, and Phellar isn't the only fan of redheads, Scarlett." It would be out of place if he wasn't complimentary to round off. One hand came infront and flared its fingers toward his chest to offer. "If you feel so inclined." And it was important to keep Cereus flattered.

He shook another few hands and told a pair of jokes before he went on his way inside, pattering with a couple from Chrysanthemum about the help they'd provided in the glittering decor. Another ruse to get in quickly without seeming rushed. He should want to discover Lyra's reminder in flesh, and have someone watch Phellar. These parties were always so much work, so much risk. Ebelt grinned to himself. How exciting.

-

Well inside, Ebelt overheard the conversation between Luna and Thistle. Both married well with the luster of the emblazoned room. He made a proper circle around them. “Another king.” He said and offered to take Luna’s hand if she’d give it so he could lean in closer to kiss her cheek. After, he’d offer the same to Thistle unless she’d gone away, already taking her king’s offer. “Here it is. Hiev slaved hard and I was perfectly useless.” About the preparations. It was pretty much true, too.

“She’s stupefying, isn’t she?” he offered about Almi. In bed Hiev had gossiped about his delight over the two, and Ebelt had actually listened. It could be a valuable connection if this pairing was realized. He also took this opportunity to survey the room after his two targets. He located Phellar and his cold colors speaking with waiter holding a silver tray of cold cuts. Somehow it was worrisome seeing him roll the miniature sword between two fingers, but nothing damnable. Ebelt turned back to Luna. “Hiev said he wouldn’t mind a social chat, whenever you have the time. I think he’s mentioned it to you.” No tension in his voice, because it wasn’t his plan on the line. “I hear your muse might attend, too.” There was a bit of satisfaction there, involving himself, though.

-

“Always ready to catch, mademoiselle.” Hermes said by her side, his hair tied back like they were going out on stage. He’d been here early, because he always was, and wasted time talking venues with a patron of ballet. They both knew him. “Duke Eyrberg is thinking of setting up a little something for a festival in the city, and asked if we’d be interested. He almost choked on his ironic mustache when I confirmed about your foot, but it’s in two months and we decide the choreography, so I said you’d be fine if we wanted to fit his show in.” he smiled and looked her over. He was thrilled until he saw the choker. He had black chrysanthemums embroidered onto the lapel of his black jacket, any house should wear its symbol, but there was something about the accessory’s exclusivity that reminded too much of their king’s personal tastes. He reached to touch it. It was well made.

“When did you get this?” he asked, obviously pricked by its presence over the dress that he liked. A taller man stood behind him then, out of nowhere, and demanded attention from both of them while lending them very little of his own, to start. Phellar flicked Hermes’s shoulder to move him out of the way, and brought two fingers to correct the choker himself. His handling was not as precise, as he hooked a forefinger between the band and her neck, and tugged a little, as firm as the little gesture and the ornament itself could take before he let go.

“The lady got it and wears it however she wants, ballerino.” Phellar said, focused on the gift and then finally at the dancing pair as he took a step back. “So expressive, the both of you.” Because surely they’d wear something worthwhile on their faces. “Please, save something for the dancefloor. Maybe she could teach you something now that I’ve filled her up with real strife, danseur.” He held the cane out to tap the injury he was the father of. “Although you should be careful, ballerina. Your legs aren’t used to real passion, it seems.”

Phellar was having a great time taunting, by the looks of it. Hermes felt a tension take over his back and his fingers curled without much hope of concealing his frustration.

-

“Oh, look.” Hiev said. The display was poorly acted as he finally stepped down from his throne to mingle. He touched the mid of Almi’s back and gestured toward Luna and Ebelt. “My right hand and the Moon King.” Innocently. “What a coincidence.” Hiev nodded to Prince Grayson who understood and busied himself elsewhere. “I think we should go there and say Hi.” He suggested and started walking, sure she’d follow. She had no reason to distrust him, after all.

“Ebelt stayed a little conservative but I do like a man with a sword.” He commented on the former king’s suit for the evening. “And,” he started, walking closer. “How do you think Luna looks, tonight?”

It was a bit exciting, playing a harbinger of love like this. And just as he was at the height of his mischievous amicable intentions, he saw Phellar speaking with two from his house, Chrysanthemum’s pride and joys at the ballet academy. The assumptive and claiming look Phellar gave made him fumble with one step. He brushed it off quickly and hurried a little by Almi’s side.

“Hah. I must have had a bit of champagne before. How embarrassing.” He said, blushing.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2017, 02:02:03 pm »
Grayson took his queue from the Rose King to leave, bowing in a very nearly mocking sweep of his arm—too perfect to ever be called out on—and slid away. What boring games Roses played. Politically perfect romantic intrigues. No danger. No bloodshed. No ruined names and busted open hearts. A complete waste of time.

He moved easily through the crowd, smiling and kissing cheeks, exchanging whispers until he caught sight of the only redhead he found interesting in what seemed to be a small bloody ocean of them at the academy. Grayson was beginning to wonder if one incredibly wealthy ginger wasn’t populating the school with bastards… or perhaps the gingers were simply being cast away as infants.

He wouldn’t broach that particular topic with Scarlett, gravitating to her before that eager count could get there first, smiling widely in the boy’s face before he turned off to sulk elsewhere. A duke couldn’t compete with a prince. Grayson took up Scarlett’s hand, old enough friends to be afforded some casualty but not so old as to not play with all the formalities. He brought her knuckles to his lips briefly. “Scarlett, you silk wrapped viper, how wonderful to see you.” He’d turn to stand beside her, folding her arm onto his and leading her into the great hall.

“You must save me from boredom with some fresh gossip. I can trade, if you like? Only an hour ago, Ebelt was on our steps in Hyacinth squabbling with Wicker herself. He threw a punch and threatened to duel if she showed up tonight,” he added a little flare to the truth, he always did but he loved spreading fire. “I suppose that’s why he’d got that sword on his hip…”

-

Idella drove. He liked to drive and he liked his car. It rumbled like a small storm and offered to speed him away from the world. Of course, tonight he was speeding toward it. Fern would take the front seat, a few duchesses piling in the tight backseat with all their skirts. There’d been quite a fight about who would ride in those seats. Idella had had nothing to do with it. His court was prone to squabbling but he’d mostly picked them for their love of one another and that seemed to keep all things peaceable in the end. He sometimes wondered if it was similar to a family. They’d all read about those hadn’t they? And really, when were they not a gathering of orphans playing at family?

Wicker would take a different car. Idella didn’t fuss about it because he knew she wouldn’t miss a party.

Vinnia shouldered her way past the other duchesses in the back to put her chin on the shoulder of his seat, one arm curling over his front from the other side. He glanced at the rearview mirror to see her grin. “You wore my suit.”

Idella smiled, resisting the urge to roll his eyes because he loved these mad children. “Did I? I thought I bought these…”

A flash of lights behind them, a car speeding up on that winding road through the Versailles grounds. He pressed the gas, getting distance for half a second before that second car moved faster to catch up again. It cut to the left, into the other lane, engine roaring as it pulled up along side them. Three Hyacinth knights, two pledges, and a prince were packed into the car, a bottle of champagne already open and windows down to mess up hair that had been perfect seconds ago. Wicker leaned forward against the steering wheel to flash him a smile around her passenger before speeding up, trying to pass him.

Idella sped up as well, not giving her the space.

“Don’t you roll down that window!” Vinnia pleaded behind him, fingers tight on his left shoulder now.

The flash of lights up ahead caught his eye, another car on the road coming toward them.

A handful of possibilities slid across his mind, combating the urge to hold his ground and make her break or crash. She just might crash. Or veer off at the last second. Or the car might change lanes and hit him and his car full of passengers. That was the problem, wasn’t it? That their cars were full of other people? Other lives? Fuck. He let up on the gas and Wicker slid past him, cutting into his lane just before the other car came barreling past in the opposite direction.

Vinnia sighed behind him, one of the other duchesses texting and showing no sign of having noticed the incident at all. “Any chance we can have her institutionalized? Just until we’ve all graduated?” She half joked.

Idella pressed down a smile at the idea, cutting a glance at Fern. “What are the chances she’d break out and try to kill us if we did?”

Wicker and her carful arrived first. Wicker and the two knights played well at being carefree party goers, while truthfully they were scouting out the entrance—the guests in the vicinity—and any potential threats they might have to keep an eye on before their King arrived.

-

Almi was surprised when Grayson left, but quickly forgot him when Hiev mentioned the Moon King. She hurried a step to catch up to him, curling her arm around his with that casual certainty that he wouldn’t shake her off.

She smiled widely at his mention of Ebelt’s outfit.  “The sword is quite striking, your majesty,” she agreed on their path. “King Luna looks amazing as always. I love her style, don’t you? She’s a designer, so it’s no surprise. Did I tell you she made me this dress? Isn’t it breathtaking? And it fits perfectly. She’s so thoughtful to send me such a gift and I always know it’s going to be just what I love when it comes from her.” She rambled, blushing when she realized she was.

She was actually relieved when Hiev lost a step, because then maybe he hadn’t noticed how ineloquent she’d become. She looked past him to see what had caught his eye, flushing when she saw Phellar there. Of course, it could have been someone else that made his steps falter—but it just didn’t seem likely with that particular king in that direction.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #21 on: November 25, 2017, 06:12:34 am »
Fern turned her eyes upward, as if she might be looking for a saint in the headliner of the vehicle. It was theatrical for Idella more than any real concern with the king and his champion’s reckless driving. “Non-zero,” she hummed with a small grin at her own understatement. “It either becomes a game or it doesn’t, and I have to admit,” she chewed her lower lip for moment, “I don’t see us winning either way,” Fern laughed then. She would admit Wicker’s prowess freely unless Wicker herself was around. Which was silly, because there wasn’t even a close battle of physicality between them. Outside of Hyacinth, Fern might have been exceptional. Inside, she was remarkably average.

When they arrived at Rose, there was already a steady stream of guests taking the steps into the grand ballroom. She was glad to have arrived with some Hyacinth numbers. It wasn’t as if anybody was really posturing at the ball. Certainly, drunken politicking and crafted scheming would abound, but the balls were all scheduled and belonged to their hosting estate. It wasn’t until the conference, and removal, of titles occurred that anything should feel particularly tense. Still, she liked that Idella had the company he did arrive with, and was pleased to be among their number. It was a unity she thought they should be allowed to savor, given the estate’s recent history.

--

Still laughing and blushing from Ebelt’s flattery—a skill that such color was called on command—Scarlett joined seamlessly onto Grayson’s arm. “My prince,” she hummed, as if she’d expected him. It was possible she had. Her reaction would surely have been the same if she hadn’t. “It’s been too long. I’ve had one of my suites remodeled. You should come see it sometime.” Scarlett said with a pristine smile. She liked Grayson more than many of the princes, but that was primarily because it was so easy for princes in Versailles to develop silly complexes and complexes were usually boring.

“Oh, Ebelt is making my evening so fun already?” She inclined her head. Quite the story to run in the papers, this little meeting between Wicker and the King lover. She was inclined to run it, too, if Ebelt’s own confession gave her any indication of its worth. Which was to say, it was a fun story with superficial flair. To hear of it twice so soon in the evening could only mean that the worthwhile bits were far below the theatrics. “It sounds like a sadist’s wet dream, doesn’t it? Wicker and Ebelt—I’d love to see them duel or fuck.” She laughed behind her hand like she’d said something very scandalous. “But really,” she leaned in toward his ear like she was drawing up conspiracies. “They’d be a match, wouldn’t they? A force, rather, both putting kings on their thrones?”

--

Lyanna was not prone to emotional outbursts, which certainly included tears. Yet, a complex cocktail of emotions burnt her throat as she stood on that step. Hermes, ever-reliable, brought with him relief that turned to worry. She’d been ridiculous if she’d thought he wouldn’t notice the choker, but she had hoped sincerely that he would not. He was, like her, too exacting not to be suspicious of the truth the moment he saw it, though. “Well, I think it was—” she could not finish her weak offering, because suggesting Phellar would have been at all inclined to apologize to her was more absurd than hoping Hermes wouldn’t notice the gift. And the king himself inserted himself between them.

She didn’t know if she should feel relieved, at first, and then quickly realized she most certainly should not. His words stung unexpectedly. The note he’d left her had been a bit tart, but the gift had made it seem bearable with the illusion of good will. Her petal-glossed lips opened and closed with a lack of anything to say to the Chrysanthemum king, though her expression curled into a wince when he found her throbbing ankle. “I—I—that is…” She coughed and sent her stare down to her toes. “I will keep that in mind, your grace.” Lyanna finished, a bit miserably. The tightness across her shoulders would make it immediately apparent to Hermes and obvious to the king shortly thereafter: she was trying very hard not to cry.

--

Luna returned Ebelt’s greeting with a small smile, waving Thistle off on his way. The dutiful attendant bowed deeply to them both before stepping away. At Versailles, even the students who attended to others were wealthier than most the rest of the world could ever hope to be. Still, there were certain individuals who seemed to breathe unwavering servitude. Thistle was one such heart, so Luna was certain he’d be lurking nearby, even after the dismissal.

“Almi is the perfect model. I’m flattered that she’s worn anything I’ve made for her at all.” She aimed an unusually honest sort of expression at him then. “She’s been the inspiration for many of my pieces. Sometimes I think she’s simply being kind to me by wearing them.” Luna sighed. “You were a king for a short while. Perhaps you understand. Almi is perfect inspiration, in part, because I don’t believe she’d do anything just to flatter my title.” Her silver-coin eyes narrowed slightly then. “But I cannot tell if she wouldn’t do it just because she’s good natured.” And then Luna laughed, the brief intimacy of her thoughts carried away on the growing volume of the room. She shrugged.

“Rose never disappoints.” She said, making a sweeping gesture at the room. “And King Hiev looks stunning, as always. Your tailoring is lovely as well.” Luna added. “I will make sure to pay a visit to King Rose. He did send a note the other day.” She said. When she made her way down the stairs, past Phellar and his pair of Chrysanthemums and leaving Ebelt to continue playing the gracious host, she left a soft wake of sweet jasmine in the air. The small white blossoms had been woven into the braids in her hair. She would have greeted the other king if he’d not seemed so caught up in enjoying the two blondes.

Luna made her way toward Hiev and Almi with a practiced sort of directness. She paused to accept greetings and closed obligatory small talk with the gentle finesse she’d become somewhat known for. Not a king for long, and young, but efficient in her own way. In her first few months, she’d made it to the top of Cereus’ gossip columns quite often. Like they were trying to flush out secrets with the pressure of publicity. They’d been sorely unable to find any, and Luna had continued on with her curiously amicable kingship. She reached the pair, arguably the most lovely duo in the room, and bobbed in a small curtsy. Despite his position, Hiev and Almi might have been the least likely people to fuss about formality even if Luna had not also been a king.

“Hiev, you’ve really outdone yourself. Rose looks spectacular.” She said. “And good to see you back at Versailles, Almi. As always, I’m incredibly flattered to see you wearing my work.” Luna gave her a quick smile and tipped her chin to the side so that she regarded the other girl slightly askance. “I saw a photo from one of your recent shoots and your hair…” the king touched a lock of her own dark tresses absently. “As usual, you look stunning. I’m happy to see the shade is right.” 
« Last Edit: November 26, 2017, 03:10:42 am by VenomousEve »

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2017, 06:42:16 pm »
Ebelt's smile at Luna's words had a deeper angle than their conversation called for. It wasn't sinister in any threatening way, but he was greatly amused by the compliments this king paid Almi in her absence. It was the same kind of tone Almi would use, although Almi liked to be a little more dramatic and a little less ceremonial. How beautiful and twisted, though, like vines of thornless flowers, that kindness could builds its own deception. He wondered what kind of weapon Almi could be, then. "I think despite the efforts she'd take to make anyone happy, we'd know on her adorable face if Almi was outwardly comfortable, or happy because she was doing something troublesome for someone else's sake." A King like Luna would be an expert at reading things like that, especially. Maybe infatuation, or a brewing one, could put a fold even on such clear silver-coin eyes, though.

A quick nod at her compliment before he watched her move away. He wanted to observe what happened when Hiev brought the two together, but it'd be strange now, following her. He had other things to attend to, also. Wicker had already walked her legs in unbroken denim onto the carpet. He thought it was a bit odd she was loitering, but wondered if there wasn't much more to her supposed procrastination. He put a hand in his pocket as he came over to her. It was a casual way of approaching, and it also let the alert senses in the knights imitating her act know they would have plenty of time to see if he drew his sword.

"Wicker!" he said and reached to tug at the collar of her jacket. "Please, you flatter us with such effort." He nodded to her accompanying knights if they still had any suspicion left of his intentions. "Are you here to scrub the kitchen for us, or will you just be driving the garbage?" It seemed only right he could have some fun with her when she'd held a blade to him today, already. In truth, his joy wasn't some sarcastic act. Out of the people he already met, he probably liked Wicker the most.

"There's good booze inside. If I were you I'd skip by the shots" which were focused on flavor over alcohol content. "And go directly to the blue bowls with the clear ice." Where the bottles with the pure stuff would be. She could ask any waiter too, of course, but some of the servers were weary of giving out strong drinks before dinner.

He was correcting the creases he'd caused her attire just in time to see Idella drive himself onto the premise, and Fern spill out the car with him. "The entire Hyacinth court!" He jogged over to offer a hand, and then a hug if Idella would take it. Hyacinth was awfully friendly, and usually easy to deal with, but it was hard to forget the powers within it that had been the cause for their Madness. It would be a mistake to categorize them as anything but a resting threat, at best. It made for more interesting interaction, most of the time. "Fern." he offered with a quick bow before turning back to Idella. "Rose House is your house tonight, so lets have an unforgettable time. Please, if there are any planned duels let our coordinator know so we can promote it for anyone who would like to see." A house of knights, after all, no insult meant.

-

Phellar would not have pushed all this if he hadn't been desiring this kind of reaction from her. Hermes mirrored her distress with his growing rebellion. The king had seen her this morning, the way she came in through the door, the way she warmed up before their first dance. This delicious bundle of emotions was a world from that composed, ready to show-off girl. He liked it.

Hermes, almost like it was choreography, intended to lift his arm and wrap it around her soon to be moving shoulders, but Phellar raised the cane first, pushing the smooth, sleeping silver chrysanthemum's head against Hermes's wrist to forbid that comfort for her. He did so while looking back at Luna and Ebelt, because such authority was the most natural thing to him. When he turned back, Hermes stood straight. They were both rowed up for their king to enjoy.

"Please have a pleasant night, your highness, I hope you have time to see us again before it's over." Hermes said eventually, choking on what should be only fear but was also irritation. He had never wanted to be king more. He was allowed to take the little beauty down the stairs, hand in hers, and she was allowed to follow.

"Me too." Phellar gave, pale eyes only on Lyanna as she descended. He let her have relief for three steps before the long end of the cane, the end that had tapped her ankle, pointed down to rest on her neck. This would stop Hermes dead in his tracks. If and when Lyanna turned to look up at her king, Phellar would keep her chin up with the tip of the silver stick. "Dance for me tonight, my stunted girl." because it was his joke that she could not emit emotions. "Maybe we were just a fluke this morning, and the two of you can make magic." But that was a miserable thing to hope for. Every dance the designated pair would do after would be a testament to his absence.

But Hermes didn't know, and squeezed her hand tighter as he looked up at Phellar with defiance. He wanted to answer for her, but decided not to give Phellar any reason to hold them longer, and planned to make his rebellion through dancing the best he could with her tonight.

-

It was good to see the Rose princess and the king of Jasmine together. He wanted to step back and simply see them alone, but despite their eager to deny how perfect they were for each other, that might be too obvious, even for Almi and Luna. "Thank you for noticing. We try to put on a good show and a festive evening here." he said. "Ah, yes. I was complimenting her on her attire earlier and she can't say enough good things about the quality and design. When will I have something like this, too?" he asked the other king. he was joking of course, but in a hopeful way.

Hiev was unusually happy in this gathering. Most of the time the king was out of place. He was learning a kind of business he wasn't really used to, and his days were filled with duties he'd never wanted, but King Luna and Almi were a soft presence, and the Winter Ball was aimed to give people joy. He'd memorized the list of titles that needed to be announced this night, so there was little for him to do than enjoy himself. Perhaps the last months of hectic learning under Ebelt were finally turning into something more pleasant.

-

Alios had seen his king walk in. He didn't work very closely to Luna, but he wasn't an unfriendly subject, either. He did exactly what he was told, if he could. Tonight he had no orders, and feared not for her safety, especially with other knights here, so he was bent over the colorful small glasses. His long black hair was loose, and flailed against his well-fitted suit as he threw his head back, holding two shots in his fingers. He swallowed quickly and exhaled with some satisfaction.

"Two are missing here, Fynn. You restock while I catch the culprit." he said to a passing waiter. Fynn laughed and replaced the drinks. "You're such a competent man, sir." Alios said and picked the new glasses up. "Oh. Found him." Fynn had to be on his way after that, but made sure to place an extra few for Alios.

The lanky youth spun with only one of the scented little vials in his hand as he went on, not nearly as affected as he preferred yet. As a principal for bigger events, he tried not to warm up until he got to the vicinity. The Iris Knight, as he had been named by the lonely tattoo growing from somewhere unseen up across his stomach and torso, was well liked by most, and could raise the little liquid at members of any house, passing by. The pretty face on a long neck turned a few directions before he fell back lightly, sitting on the stone edge of a lifted flowerbed. Decadent Rose indoor decor. He swallowed fast and hid the glass between two thorny stems, under their fat, shadowing petals.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #23 on: November 27, 2017, 04:38:06 pm »
Grayson led the redhead into the ballroom. He smiled and the gesture was silk, fine and practiced but so fake that it was very nearly deadly. That was the smile he wore when he heard her name. Wicker, the ruin of all his dreams. Oh, they whispered about her like she was madness itself—stalking the gardens looking for more kings blood to spill. He might have loved her if that was true. For a moment he had believed it himself but enough time in the same Garden had taught him differently. She played mad in public, blood thirsty and uncontrollable, because the fear she cultivated served the Hyacinth crown. She was just a damned knight—hero to the bones. Nothing special. She’d brought order and peace when he’d lusted for cruelty and struggle to survive. Everything came easily in their world of haves.

He turned his head, leaning his cheek into her hair and his mouth near her ear. “One would think they must be eyeing each other’s thrones, to be so interested. It can’t just be lust, can it? Not with how much ass they get on the side. Neither is hard pressed for it. Unless, of course, they’ve both betrayed their kings by falling in love.” His smile grew at the idea. Star-crossed romances were the only kind worth having.

-

Almi’s smile grew when she saw Luna, body leaning toward her, arms so near to reaching out. Almi was a hugger, but kings were not to be glommed on to in public. She was poised enough to know that, but it didn’t quiet the joy in her expression.

She gave a curtsey, low with respect and a little flare to show off her gown, head tipping to the side. “It’s another masterpiece. I hear you’re putting together another collection. The photographers at my last shoot couldn’t stop whispering about it—desperate to be involved. I do hope you’ll allow me a sneak peek.”

-

Wicker tossed her keys to one of the pledges, the boy barely fourteen, and suggested he put the Ferrari someplace close by. She meandered up the stairs, acting a bit tipsy for the onlookers, swagger in her hips and ease in her soft leather clad shoulders.

He called her name and she grinned, pivoting in ankle boots to find Ebelt. Of course, he was there to greet them. This was his Garden, after all. She’d decided on the way here to stop pretending otherwise. They could call Hiev king, but she knew one when she saw one. “Look at you, sword and all. You’re taking our duel seriously. I’ll have to find a weapon.” He touched her collar and suggested liquor. “Boozing me up? Darling king, you don’t need me drunk to play. I like to cut kings.” She said that last bit just loud enough to catch a few ears and send shudders of whispers through the room before brushing past him. “Find me when you’re ready!”

She sunk into the ballroom and ignored the eyes that followed her. She didn’t mind the attention but she didn’t thrive on it either. She thrived on action, on events and passion and the momentum of life. She passed close enough by Prince Grayson and Scarlett to see him quiet, eyes narrowed on her. She didn’t much like him and suspected the feelings were mutual, despite his smiles and flirtatious words. He tipped his head slightly at her and she threw forward an arm in a strange bow that looked more threatening than anything else, grinning with eyes wide and body tipping forward—never losing a step and rising with her back to him, smile gone.

Princes had never been her favorite, though she didn’t mind rescuing them on occasion.

She forgot him entirely when she saw Alios. She emerged from the crowd in front of him, dragging her gaze over him shamelessly before catching his gaze. “You make a girl wish she was in a different Garden, Iris. Treasonous thoughts.”

-

Idella rounded the car and moved up the stairs close beside Fern. He would likely lose her to social affairs soon enough, or at the very least, private words would become far between. “I haven’t had a chance to ask if you desire a new title,” he confess though his grin said he quite enjoyed being last minute about dealing out titles to his court. He often did it on gut and it was both enjoyable and entertaining. “Or who you might suggest for recruitment. You’ve been terribly busy lately.”

His steps slowed, eyeing Wicker ahead talking to Ebelt. What in the name of god was going on there?

“I’m thinking of making Duchess Vinnia a Princess. We have four Princes and not one Princess, you know.” Idella glanced sideways at Fern, a new thought striking him. “We don’t have a Queen either… You are quite sharp. If I made you a Queen would you try to kill me for my throne?” The way he asked forgot to decide whether he liked or disliked the idea.

They’d reach the entrance in a handful of steps and whatever her answer, if she gave him one, would go without reply when he finally neared Ebelt—once king of Rose.

Idella smiled easily and folded his hand against the side of Ebelt’s neck, bringing him in for the hug he offered and holding even when they parted, keeping that nearness for a moment longer. They might look like friends then, maybe even lovers. “Ebelt of the Roses. Are you trying to rile my Wicker?” He asked and made it sound casual, though something in the cold gray of his eyes might have been warning.

His fingers slid from the side of his neck, glancing once at his sword before touching Fern’s spine to start them forward again, anticipating Ebelt joining them on a walk in. Kings didn’t loiter on stairs, after all.

“I’ll have Roman give you their dueling schedule,” he spoke of his knights like beloved children of their house—spoiled and wild. “Although the one I hear the most about seems to be yours.”

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2017, 07:56:32 pm »
Lyanna bit the inside of her cheek hard when the cane touched the nape of her neck. She kept her head bowed until Phellar left. She was glad Hermes hadn’t said anything rash. Counting to ten before she lifted her face to look him in the eye. Her pale blue stare was still shimmering with the tears she’d held back, but it seemed she’d be able to maintain her composure well enough. “Our king is a perfectionist, is he not?” she laughed weakly. It was not the right description, probably, but it was the kindest way to swallow his taunting. “I am afraid I’ll be the worst sort of dance partner for you, tonight.” Lya added. She should not dance at all, hobbling down the rest of the staircase with more of her weight on Hermes’ arm than she would have generally allowed. But, even if it had been teasing, how could they not dance if the king had suggested they ought? Worse, how could she not dance for him when he’d directed her too. Her cheeks burned.

“I am unfit for all of this.” She muttered, inhaling sharply before she stood a little straighter. “But, we’re Chrysanthemum dancers, regardless.” Lya added. Her stare was focused when she adopted her small, Mona Lisa smile. Clearly, she was in some pain, and clearly she intended to make it clear that the discomfort was beneath her. “Shall we go for a drink?” she asked, clearing her throat. Her grip on Hermes’ arm remained firm.

--

Scarlett made a sound, somewhere between delight and disgust. Really, without seeing her face, it was hard to tell which. “Don’t be bitter, Darling.” She laughed. “Rumors are pretty when there’s enough truth in them to titillate. Before that, it’s just egos and hurt feelings and that kind of riffraff.” Scarlett turned her face to steal a chaste kiss. He wasn’t necessarily wrong to suppose, but Scarlett had seen enough drama swirl through Versailles to develop a measure of patience. Beyond that, she distributed her stories with care. Whether Grayson, regardless of how much she might enjoy his company, was someone who should be privy to a Cereus confirmation of this particular web was yet to be seen.

Neither Ebelt nor Wicker were kings, but their fingers rested on thrones and everybody knew. It wasn’t like morsels about Cova harassing pretty girls who caught Phellar’s eye or boys dueling over a chance to catch Almi at lunch. Those two had upset entire estates in their own ways. In the current, tentative peace the Gardens were enjoying, Scarlett thought it would be poor form to imply there were sparks worth fanning. She waved her hand in some deference. “Of course, love is only betrayal if the Kings call it as such. It could just as easily be called a fortunate alliance.” She looked amused. It was a silly suggestion, really, despite the technical possibility. “Sometimes I think sweet King Hiev would do well with a more doting lover, anyhow.” She sighed.

She couldn’t help but find it pleasing when Wicker passed them by then, the blue-haired girl’s confident swagger offering the best sort of provocation. “I wouldn’t mind watching you two duel either, really.” She hummed when Wicker had gone on her way.

“But enough about all that, tell me about you. Prince. You must be endearing to keep your title still. I’m almost disappointed you’re so well behaved.” Scarlett gave him a bright smile.

--

Wisteria caught sight of Alios and Wicker from where he sat, nursing a glass of bourbon. He drank it for the color more than any real appreciation of the taste, but that wasn’t to say he couldn’t enjoy it. He liked them both well enough, and would have ventured to consider Alios a friend. He’d come alone to the ball, despite a few expressions of interest from some younger Roses. He sidled up to put a light hand on Alios’ shoulder. “Madam Knight, you worry me looking at this fine gentleman like that. I hope you aren’t trying to sully his virtue.” He grinned. “It’s good to see you both.” He raised his glass toward them before ambling off to inspect one of the heavily laden dessert trays. “If you’re not occupied later, I wouldn’t mind catching you both for a drink or two. We can call it a duel of constitution, if you like.” Wist called over his shoulder.

As he left, he was certain he felt someone’s stare burning on the back of his neck. Fern, probably. He’d seen her come in beside her king. He didn’t look back at her. Fern frowned, but quickly turned her attention back to Idella. “Ah, I’m happy to serve as a knight, your highness.” She started. “I’ve got a list of new students I think might be strong additions to Hyacinth—I compiled a short report, actually. I was planning to update it and leave it for you in your office after this evening. I’d like to have a word with a few of them before I settle on my top recommendations.” She said.

Fern was fairly dedicated to recruiting. She’d been quiet through Hyacinth’s upheaval, but she’d been quick to help pick up the pieces under Idella in the aftermath. Part of that had been looking for students who would serve Idella and his estate proficiently. Most young pledges who’d come to Hyacinth through Fern would joke about the intensity of her interrogations, once they admitted interest in the estate. Of course, there had yet to be a pledge Fern recommended that did not have the upmost love for the estate and its king. Capable and loyal and, generally, quick of wit too.

She nodded along with Idella’s thoughts on Vinnia. “I think that might be wise. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with a lack of princesses. I imagine it would like nice to have more of a balance, though, and the Duchess is well-liked. I don’t believe anyone would begrudge that decision.” She hummed, making a mental check of all the titles in their garden and the general state of relations. Vinnia was probably a safe choice.

Fern shrugged when Idella’s comments turned toward their lack of a queen. “Well, my king, that’s practically en vogue now, isn’t it? No estate has a sitting queen. I suppose King Phellar has his… harem… and Ebelt is… does Ebelt almost count?” She stopped, though, when he mentioned her. For a very brief moment, she even looked surprised. “King Idella, bloodshed is not my preferred recourse and you are an excellent king.” She said, with a little more force in her voice than she was generally known to give.

Fern was a practical sort, serving her estate’s sitting ruler regardless of her personal feelings. Still, she’d have been lying if she suggested she was anything other than pleased with seeing Hyacinth out of Hayden’s hands. She’d known Idella as a fellow knight and liked him then. She’d had no complaints when he took the crown. She said nothing of the suggestion of herself as a queen. Her philosophy had generally to move where she was most useful. Usefulness to others was power in its own right. Fern had never desired to be queen, but she supposed she’d serve just as well there as anywhere else. She didn’t have any more time to consider the thought; she’d not have given it much more anyhow, idle talk being nothing more than that.

She tried not to grin when Idella pressed Ebelt about Wicker. Protective of what was Hyacinth’s. Fern said nothing, herself, though she did bow at Idella’s side. When he was ready to move on, she went with him. Fern wondered then whether it wouldn’t be wise for Idella to name a queen—regardless of whether or not that should be herself. She thought, walking down the steps, that Idella would look even more the king with a queen at his side. Presence, after all, was half the work at Versailles.

--

Luna nodded. “Of course. You’re always welcome in Jasmine. Thistle knows to let you in whenever you like. I’d be happy to let you see. Rather, if you were so inclined, I’d be flattered if you’d be willing to try some of the pieces on.” She smiled. “Has work been going well? I hope you’re not exhausting yourself…” Luna pursed her lips. It would be selfish to say anything more than that, but she sometimes thought the world outside Versailles hardly deserved Almi. Really, despite their own turmoil, the Gardens were a haven from the sorts of people beyond. At least here, it was pretty universally frowned upon to try and take advantage of Almi.

“Hiev, where did those incredible chocolate roses come from?” Luna asked curiously. She’d noticed the Hyacinth gift when she’d entered. “And what must one do to be allowed to sample it?” a small laugh, and a glance at Almi-with-the-well-known sweet tooth. “When you come to see the new collection, let Thistle know ahead of time. One of the new chefs assigned to Jasmine is a wizard when it comes to macarons. You’ve got to try them.” She added brightly. Luna was not prone to being overly bubbly, known more to her closest Jasmines for meticulously working over her various plans for the estate when she wasn’t in her equally consuming dream world of design. The king seemed lighter around this pair, but it was hardly any wonder. Almi and Hiev were some of Versailles’ sweetest. And that had to be at least somewhat infectious.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #25 on: November 28, 2017, 08:08:40 am »

Hermes laughed darkly. Perfectionist. He didn't know if she was being naive or if she was trying to think better of a bad situation. He thought she was pretty with all these things on her usually collected prettiness, and it felt strange to him to discover such inclinations inside himself. It was also unforgivable that it had been Phellar who'd evoked it in her. She would never be a bad fit for him, on any floor, so he answered that with a shake of his head.

His back did find new posture when she tugged at his pride about their artform. Perhaps Chrysanthemum was more than their king, and if not, then certainly their dance was. He'd not seen the way Phellar could rouse his little partner, afflicting her motions with feeling the way he'd afflicted her ankle with heat, blush and swelling. Hermes was still the person about their dancing that Lya had been before this fateful morning.

"I'm a dancer, Miss. I don't drink." he said to her as he made sure she had all of his support that she needed. "Except for wine." he little smile. "And maybe a cocktail or two." When he joked, and it wasn't all that often, the humor would be dry but well set-up because of his usual persona. "Besides, it's not like we were asked to go through an impossible routine. We can do whatever we want on the floor." It was true. This kind of dancing was easy for them, and he would have no trouble leading them into something that would be soft on her foot.

-

Ebelt had turned once for Wicker to have the sword swing from where it was protected, inside the sheath. “This is just a suggestion. I figured since a few of the fashonistos were sporting them lately, I’d give it a go. It’s kind of fancy.” He admitted. “And if you’re drunk, you move better. It’s science.” He said through a poorly contained grin. He waved two fingers at her when she left.
 
He shed some of that familiarity when Idella came in for the intimacy. It was easier greeting Kings now than it had been back when he’d had the throne and the crown. Still, there should at least be some finery about. “She started it.” He replied. There needed to be some lightheartedness, too. Not that he didn’t notice the possibilities drawn in the cold of Idella’s eyes. He of course went with them since there was no one else beckoning his attention at the moment. The business about the dueling schedule would be easy to deal with. As Roman would bring it, Ebelt would only hand it over to the coordinator, unless he saw any particularly exciting pairs.
 
“You know, it started like a joke, but I think we’re both kind of invested now.” Ebelt said about himself and Wicker. It could never be a serious ordeal. As the night went on she’d be deeper into the fog, and he had no intention of taking any competition seriously, and look like a bore. “If nothing else, it’ll add to the things people might remember about the Rose Winter Ball.” He shrugged and put his hand on his sword, to keep it from bouncing, as they reached the end of the stairs. “Do you have any suggestions? Any weaknesses? I have height on her, but is there something else? A bad knee maybe.” He tried. Idella was a serious as any king could be - not kind like Hiev or indulgent like Phellar, not social like Luna – but that didn’t mean he couldn’t play, too.
 
"Oh, you're amused, knight?" he asked Fern, pretending at insult. "Well, it's settled then. You'll have to be by my side when she comes at me. I'm sure you've seen enough of her that you can give me an advantage."

-
 
Alios laid one of his legs over the other, flashing colorful socks. A vibrant Jasmine, of course. He smiled brightly, innocently, but still engaged with her eyes. He knew all kinds of games and sharpened any corner of his personality to fit. “I’m sorry if I drive you to deceit, Wicker. I hope I’ll be worth it.” He stood quickly and pulled out a long cigarette from his inner pocket, spun it once in his longer fingers and then placed it in with his pocket square. Idiosyncrasies were special effects in his trade. “I like the way you dress.” He said and took an overly dramatic step closer. “You stand out in a crowd, even at the Winter Ball.” His breath would be filled with all of the spices he’d downed with the shots.
 
“How should we poison ourselves tonight, Wicktoria? You look a little healthy.” He said and slid the broad of his fingernail over her cheek, as though to erase the glow. Wisteria had a good suggestion as to how they might find intoxication together, and Alios turned to him. They brushed each other every once in a while. Alios loved him dearly, and was still trying to find a moment when prodding him about that little twinge of shadow swimming about in his eyes would be appropriate. It was not now.

"This must happen. I warn you. I will be the crowd favorite. I'll even take you both on!" he challenged and smiled widely as Wist disappeared. "Yes, you better walk away."

"If for no other reason then to let us see his backside in motion, yes?" he said to Wicker.

-

"Ah." Hiev sounded, as though surprised by Luna's desire for the sweets. "They're from Idella." It seemed this conversation was becoming delightfully informal, anyway. He'd be perfectly content just watching the two interact. He thought he was quite clever, leaning in and pretending the sounds were straining his hearing, when in truth he conspired to bring Almi closer to the Jasmine King. He waved quickly and twigs were produced on a silver tray for them, one each. He picked his up and waited for the other two.

"To perfect seams and good design." he said and waved the little treat. "May they keep our houses together, and keep us looking good, too." he laughed too much for the little joke, so he shut himself up quickly by breaking off some length of the chocolate with his teeth. His blue eyes expanded. "Oh. This is perfect! I think Idella might be sweet on me, after all. Wouldn't that be something? Me and Hyacinth King and Almi with you, Luna?" It had come out of nowhere, but he didn't regret saying it.

Half a moment later, Chrysanthemum King and his staff stood by Hiev’s side, the one not occupied by Almi. “Are we conspiring again Hyacinth? Why are we laughing?” he asked, almost childish in glee. It was a joke of course. “I hear Chrysanthemum is ripe for the taking, rather. Their king is absolutely out of his mind.” He nodded at Luna and then at Almi. Polite but interested, and then romantically inclined, in that order. While he pointedly ignored Hiev, he put his cane arm around him, which seemed enough to make the Rose king blush. A twig also found its way to Phellar’s free hand. "So, did anyone hear about Ebelt and Wicker? It's become such an ordeal, hasn't it?" the smooth head of the cane pressed cold against Hiev's heating cheek. It seemed to do nothing to calm the temperature.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #26 on: November 28, 2017, 01:53:27 pm »
Grayson laughed when Scarlett mentioned the very idea of he and Wicker dueling. However she meant it, he wasn’t fool enough to think he’d survive. She wasn’t his flavor of bedmate and, though he adored himself, he had no illusions of defeating her in any duel. Even if he chose something he was better equipped to win, he was sure she would come out on top. He had seen it happen enough times with others. She had a will to survive and a desire to win. Grayson envied that, and often thought that he act of treasons had stolen his chance to learn any such ruthlessness.

“Oh, little viper, I only tell you the dirty secrets I want the world to hear like bells. I wouldn’t let you find out about my own.” He promised, explaining his own good reputation easily enough. He did plenty of wicked things, but he was a little too calculating—a little too tame—to be caught. “I think Prince suits me well, though I admit, if I could get Idella to name me Queen I’d take that promotion.” He laughed again, though something bitter shone in those pretty blue eyes. “I hear he’s going to offer it to another though. Quite a few are in for an upgrade of titles this season. He’s terribly kind, isn’t he?” He said it without an ounce of compliment.

-

Almi almost leaned too far from Hiev’s arm in favor of the other king, at mention of getting to try on her works before they were shown to the public. The public, in Almi’s mind, still meant the whole of Versailles. The world outside, though very real, was still just a far away place—less in all ways. “Oh, I would be honored. And work has been interesting. Sometimes it’s fun, being dressed up and a part of it all, but sometimes I just want to come home—you know? Nothing is ever the same as here.”

She turned to look at the rose tree, a few hovering nearby and one boldly plucking a petal when he thought no one was looking. She smiled at how unfortunate the boy’s timing was—just when kings turned to look. Her cheeks grew warm when Luna mentioned their meeting again, because now it felt like it was more than just a nicety to say that she was welcome, now Almi really could call on her. She’d try to wait a week and even made a mental note of it.

She picked up the last of the three twigs. It was easy sometimes to forget the ranking of her friends, but this was the Ball and she was in the company of Kings. The chocolate was dusted in gold. She took a bite after Hiev, smiling at the idea of Idella having a crush on him. It wasn’t impossible though she wasn’t sure the two had spent much time together at all. Still, the notion of the Knight King sweeping Hiev off his feet was a lovely one.

She coughed when he compared his possible flirtation with Idella and her own relationship with Luna. Her fingers touched her lips, surprised by the sound that had come out of her. To her mounting surprise, the moment was saved by Phellar, of all people. She turned to look across Hiev at the other king. His arm wrapped around Hiev, forcing her a step to the side to avoid his cane.

“My, this has become quite the royal gathering. Hyacinth might well suspect you’re plotting,” Almi said, voice a little quieter now, straining to find comfortable ground again. She only knew Phellar by reputation. Her friends had generally suggested she avoid the Chrysanthemum disasters. Someone once told her that there could only be one happy Chrysanthemum and she thought it all alarmingly sad. “Ebelt and Wicker, your highness?” What could their guardian of the throne have to do with the Hyacinth Champion?

-

Wicker was happy to smile and watch Wisteria walk away. A fleeting figure that always returned so long as one stayed at the party.

She would have slung an arm over Alios’s shoulders if he didn’t have such an impressive height advantage on her. She rarely found men that didn’t—which often led her into the company of women.

An idea struck her, born from their almost formations of plans. “You can be my first duel of the night!” She took his hand, fingers lacing and pulled lightly—he could break it easily if he wanted, or he could be drawn to the nearest table where she’d use the toe of her boot to pull out his chair before taking her own. “I don’t have many firsts left, you know, so you should jump on the opportunity,” Wicker suggested slyly, signaling one of the waiters and then pointing sharply at the line of bottles on the wall. “Shots, Iris?”

She sat down, looking briefly at his belt buckle now eyelevel. Her smile changed a fraction, not quite hiding the thoughts behind her gaze when she slid her focus up his long torso and to his face again. “You may want to decline. I will take advantage of you when you’re drunk tonight…”

-

Idella walked into the ballroom between Fern and Ebelt. The question at hand seemed to be how to help the former king of Roses defeat his own champion. Wicker had plenty of weaknesses, the king thought, but none that he would divulge and none that would help in this matter. “The harder you try to win, the harder she will. Like escaping quicksand.” He offered and considered himself excessively benevolent for it.

A small grin pulled at one corner of his mouth when the Rose tried to recruit Fern into standing with him against Wicker. Fern had dueled Wicker plenty. Hyacinths enjoyed duels, especially in their own home, and many arguments were resolved with challenges and defeats. Fern and Wicker were not well matched for one another, both proficient in different fields but neither inclined to yield without a fight. Their duels, though often brief, were some of the Hyacinths favorites. Still, Idella doubted Fern would stand with another house against Wicker—though he left that particular decision up to her.

They stopped inside, Vinnia approaching with a bob of a curtsey and an extra glass of champagne for her king. She eyed Ebelt uneasily and Idella resisted raising an eyebrow. It seemed Ebelt was ruffling more than just Wicker’s feathers in his Garden. Perhaps he needed to keep a better eye on the former king. Had he changed his mind about not holding a crown? Perhaps he loved Hiev too much to take back Rose.

Idella took a sip of his champagne and let his eye settle past his own gathering, grazing the near cluster of kings in conversation. A part of him didn’t care—wouldn’t care—what other kings were up to. But then there was the other part, the part that swelled with suspicion at the sight. Being a king was a dark mark on the heart—impossible not to have it change you.

“I didn’t know your King was so intimate with the Phellar,” Idella might interrupt to say, gray gaze cutting to see the other man’s reaction, if he gave any at all.

VenomousEve

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #27 on: November 29, 2017, 06:30:31 pm »
Luna was not one to indulge in sweets frequently. It was a matter of restraint over preference, of course. There was no mistake in sending fine patisseries to Jasmine. When the king did choose to partake, she expected the best. As if it were tantamount the vice was made worthwhile. Beyond that, the estate was known for entertaining and being entertained; it only made sense that they’d pride all sorts of indulgences. She had been waiting politely for Almi to pick which dainty twig and bud she wanted when Phellar arrived to narrow the selection for her. There was a very slight shift in the king’s expression, her silver stare just a little chilly. Before the look became to pointed, Luna was glancing around the room.

“Ah, you’re right, Almi.” Luna was quick to agree. “I think it’s too early in the evening to start gossip like that. Hyacinth should only be on its toes for duels, after all.” She flashed a quick smile and then offered her arm to the pink-haired girl. “It’s nice to see you, Phellar. I’ll not deny you the attention of our generous host.” She said. Luna looked almost apologetic when she caught Hiev’s eye, but trusted he’d want to save Almi the discomfort of prolonging this particular gathering. It could only stay so informal when kings started to gather.

If Almi went along with it, Luna would comment lightly as they left Phellar and Hiev behind. “Join me for a closer look at that tree? Idella really does have good taste. I’d like to try it.” She’d laugh too, since Hiev had been so kind as to have the chocolates brought to them though she’d not gotten to take a twig. When they were out of earshot she’d also apologize. “I didn’t mean to drag you away from them. I just didn’t want to set a precedent for clustering kings. It was selfish of me to pull you along with me.” She’d say, keeping her arm crooked loosely so that Almi should feel comfortable to stay or leave her escort as she liked.

--

Scarlett smiled wider. Of course. “But, that’s why I want them so bad,” she laughed. “I’m a sucker for teases.” Vaguely feigned distress. She’d been about to tell the prince she wanted a drink when he mentioned a Hyacinth queen. “Ah, wouldn’t that be a Versailles fairytale?” she mused. “We’re rather short on queens, these days. It might almost be sad that our kings are either so cautious or so lacking in flair.”

She brightened when he said Idella was supposed to be naming somebody at all. It was an extra treat that he seemed less than thrilled about it. Scarlett didn’t particularly desire Grayson’s, or anyone’s, unhappiness—but there was almost always a better story when foul moods were involved. She shrugged. “Kind?” Her voice dropped. “You’re not suggesting you miss your old king, are you?” more laughter. “How does it work in Hyacinth these days? If you don’t like the way titles are distributed… can you challenge for them? There were rumors it used to be that way. That you could duel to take a title. Nobody ever found that particular detail interesting enough to confirm or deny for me.” She sighed, like she’d lost something.

--

Fern smiled at Ebelt. “You have a lovely sense of humor.” She said, and then shrugged. “But really, if everybody could take advantage of Wicker in a duel, it would remove some of the satisfaction of beating her.” It was almost a joke, but she wasn’t about to stand on any side but her own estate’s when it came to duels. She followed them down the steps.

On the ballroom floor, a few couples were already testing their dance steps. Some to show off, and others out of inebriation. There were certainly students who wasted no time in indulging the flow of alcohol at galas. From around the dancers, she saw Vinnia making her way over. The Duchess carried champagne for two and was quick to reach them. She’d be a good and attentive Princess. She thought Idella was making a good choice. Better to have some friends closer to the king, given some of the remaining weeds.

Fern glanced around the room until she saw Prince Grayson with Duchess Scarlett of Cereus on his arm. It made her wrinkle her nose and she had to bite back a little sigh. Troublesome, but meticulous… he was remarkably good at holding his position and keeping his dirty laundry tucked away. She hated to see him with Cereus company, of all people. Really, she hated to see most anyone from Hyacinth around Scarlett. It rarely meant anything good.

--

The tension in Lyanna’s shoulders eased. She liked it when Hermes let his sense of humor show. It felt a little special, because it was a rare experience, and often more entertaining for it. “True.” She agreed. This wasn’t a performance, even if it felt like it. There was a reasonable chance the king wouldn’t be watching when the pair took to the floor, but Lya would feel as if his eyes were on her, judging, regardless. She didn’t add that they could well do whatever they pleased because, in truth, nothing was likely to satisfy Phellar. At least, not to the point of receiving any positive feedback. Even when she’d thought he might have enjoyed bits of their dance this morning, the king had only had the most acerbic commentary. Hermes wouldn’t like it if she mentioned those things.

“Well, wine and then a dance… if you’ll be gentle with me.” She decided, returning his smile. “Thank you for suffering my company tonight. I hope I’m not relying on you too much.” She said.     

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #28 on: November 29, 2017, 08:35:44 pm »
Almi was appropriately befuddled by Phellar’s presence. He’d never really had any taste for her brand of sweetness, and there was an unspoken thing strung between those with power that Almi should remain untouched. Usually he would revel in such forbidden pursuit, but since there was nothing concrete against touching her, and at the same time a promise she wouldn’t be worth the effort, he’d never been moved to try the matter. Her quieting voice now, though, did intrigue him a bit.
 
“Haven’t you heard?” he looked from Hiev to Luna, and told it as though it was that king who’d asked at first. “Sparks were flying today, and it seems it’ll all burn into a duel later.” It fit that Almi hadn’t heard, though. “I think it’s going to turn out friendly, to ruin the fun for us, but it is by far the main fight of the card, wouldn’t you say, King Luna?” he asked he pulled Hiev closer before turning to Almi again, which would almost brush his nose into Hiev’s hot cheek. The Jasmine King had already made her move. Valiant. But Almi wasn't yet out of earshot. “How about you, Almi? Wouldn’t it be delicious to see the two sort things out with sharp objects and some alcohol in their blood?” he threw an eye back at Luna then.

"And it is nice to see you too, Jasmine King." he said as he looked at Hiev expectantly, as though Luna's offer of generosity meant something more than just casual company and conversation. "Hope to chat more, tonight." he said onto Hiev's face even if it was meant for the two who might be leaving.

"Ah, listen." Hiev said, close to stuttering. Phellar was letting him go which put some steady back in his being. The transparent shirt really did flatter the Chrysanthemum Ruler. Hiev was bewildered, but didn't know why this attention did this to him. It all felt more pointed than the last time he'd met Phellar. "I have to see others."

"Oh? Not so generous after all." Phellar injected but took a step back and nodded. "I understand."
 
-
 
Alios did follow her, arm swinging in her hold. When he had it back, and she was at a suggestive level, he put his hands in his pockets, tenting his pants conspicuously closer to her eyes. He was smiling widely. “I’ll drink with you, since you seem so thirsty, Wicker.” He said and sat down across her lap, forcing her legs apart to share the cushion with her, his legs over one side as he took the first shot from the serving tray she’d called for. “To putting things in your mouth.” He said, and held the glass to her lips, and would tip it whatever her response would be. He didn’t mind cleaning up is she wasn’t the swallowing kind.
 
-
 
Ebelt nodded, eyes on the ground, when Idella told him about Wicker and her iron will. “Quicksand is famously bad for your suit.” He mumbled to himself.

He listened to Fern say her bit about the value of Wicker's prominence in the dueling branch. Perfectly put, which placed Fern somewhere in the middle, away from the offer of pairing up. Her mouth really did the work of a sword. He conceded with a shrug of one shoulder.

When Vinnia came by with a glass for her king, Ebelt smiled as though they were very old friends, but then reached for the champagne just as she put it in Idella’s hand, pretending to be mortified that he’d hoped it was for him. “Ah, I’m sorry, madam. I forgot my place again.” He brought three fingers to tug at his own collar. “It’s just that life is hard, you see, and I was parched. It won’t happen again.”
 
Ebelt’s eyes, black wells with silver on the water folds, also turned toward the three kings just as they were dissolving. He knew that blush on Hiev. How concerning. He waved it away because he had to. “Let him have his fun. When he’s not a king he’s a host. He’s lost his entire childhood.” It could have been a joke, speaking about your king like that, but it had a different flavor when Ebelt, the actual caretaker, said it. Perhaps he’d not let the position go, entirely.

-

"There is no suffering in good company." Hermes promised, and though it such a strong truth that he didn't even look at her as he said it, walking them toward a raised table for two. The stools would be easy to access even with her injury, and it wouldn't flaunt her pain by sitting completely. He made sure there was a bottle of good wine soon.

He took some time to consider the couples that went onto the floor. Most were trained well enough, dancing could be a social weapon, but none were tempered at any studio. Still, Hermes enjoyed the eclectic display.

"I asked the Prima from the city" The Constantinople Company had a good relationship to Versailles, and their current prima had been a student. "for some pointers. She said something I couldn't understand about joy in my moves, always that, like ballet is about frolicking like children. But at least she liked my lines, and thought I have built my strength well." they both knew each other's careers very well. "Have you heard back from any of your outside contacts?" Most of it would see fruition after their performance, coming up, the one that wouldn't be rocked, but perhaps at little affected by her injury. He poured a glass for her and then held an eye at the dancers again.

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Re: Thoroughbred
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2017, 01:58:49 am »
Almi was stolen away and glad of it. Something about Phellar always made her uneasy. It reminded of another king, one she’d only known briefly but was marked in the memories of childhood. A bad king that threatened to show her the world.

She had seen the world since, and found that it was not such a frightful place. It was only those particular individuals that were foul, rotting away the things they touched.

She managed to toss Phellar a thin smile with an appropriate bob of her head at his words, though offered to reply in agreement.

She took Luna’s arm, so grateful to leave the other king that her heart only barely had time to register the nearness of the other woman and flutter accordingly. What an odd flutter. Almi had many dear friends and was often holding hands, curling arms, hugging and even snuggling. And yet, her heart fluttered this time, different than others. “Oh no, I was glad to go. Not that I don’t enjoy my own king’s company, but well, perhaps too many kings make it difficult to focus,” she fibbed to be kind. She squeezed Luna’s arm, leaning into her side as they moved across the room toward the treat of a tree they’d used as excuse to escape.

She chanced a glance back. “I do hope someone rescues Hiev, as you have rescued me.”

-

Grayson nodded at her words, smiling wistfully at times long gone. “Yes, there were many duels. And titles could be challenged and won in combat—so long as Hayden allowed it. Of course, the king could take and give as he pleased. Now the duels are just sport.” He laughed a bit. “Though my kinsmen seem to love sport. They duel daily, it seems. I feel as though we do not make it through a single meal without one breaking out.” Really, it was like living with animals. Or maybe just closer to the truth—children.

He spotted Wicker and Alios and managed not to roll his eyes, catching Scarlett’s elbow and turning her just so that she might follow his eye. “You see. Duelling all the time. Knights. Beautiful, violent things but not a great deal of foresight. Their intentions are always to win. It makes them predictable.”

He sighed, finishing the glass of champagne in his hand and reaching out to drop it on a passing tray. “I would not be foolish enough to say that I miss the old king. Horrible times, truly. But perhaps this is not what I signed up for either.”

-

Wicker let out a lash of laughter when he dropped himself into her lap, arms spreading across the back of her seat. He took the first shot and put it to her lips. They were painted tonight, her lashes thick and dark and her ocean eyes staring up at him when her mouth opened and his glass tipped. She held his gaze when she swallowed, tongue cutting into the corner of her lips to catch a bead of whiskey. It burned down her throat, that first drink coating the inside of her chest and making her skin just a tiny bit warmer. She smiled up at him, because she wouldn’t mind losing to this flower.

“Any interest in changing houses, Iris? I might be able to pull a few strings and get you a place in Hyacinth. Might even be able to get you a room in my wing of the house…” she doubted he’d take her up on the offer. It wasn’t the first time she’d suggested it. And the mirth in her gaze told him full well that his room would be wedged right next to hers.

She picked up another shot, putting it to his lips this time. “To putting things in my mouth.”

-

Idella smiled sharply to himself at Ebelt’s words. Concern for a suit. It was all just talk but it said enough. He highly doubted Ebelt had the stomach to do more than banter with Wicker.

He pretended not to pay attention while he and Fern exchanged words but the way she handled it only made him more curious about the idea of naming her Queen. She could handle it and perhaps the garden would be better for it.

Vinnia advanced but just as Idella reached to accept the glass she offered—so did Ebelt. He seemed to be getting overly familiar with a lot of Hyacinth. He studied him when he played on Vinnia’s nerves like a fine violin. Vinnia colored for it, flushing and floundering, gaze darting between him and Idella. “What? No. I—What?” Vinnia looked stuck somewhere between furious and crestfallen.

Idella tsked, sucking short between teeth and tongue to dismiss her worry. He took a quick sip of his glass, caught her hand and pulled her to his side. “Thank you, love. Don’t let the roses fluster you. No one is a king here but me.” He promised in a whisper that wasn’t quite quiet enough to be a secret. She exhaled relief at it just before Idella’s interest was turned back to Ebelt and the issue of gathering kings.

He glanced at the scene not far away. Luna had left with Almi. Hiev and Phellar still whispering to one another. Ebelt remarked on his kings lost childhood and Idella didn’t even bother with that pretend smile nobility were so good at wearing. He preferred that deadpan stare instead. “Yes. A shame there was no one else to be king so that he might have kept his childhood.”