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Elisabeth walked home with Sebastien, the two of them trying to dodge in and out of the rain. “Come on, Sebastien!” She cheered, her hair being soaked, matted, and droopy, becoming much longer than she was normally used to. Sebastien shivered near her, even in his jacket, which was why they ended up hiding out and riding through the storm in a nearby shoppe near the end of the town. Elisabeth looked around, and noted that it was the same book shoppe that she had purchased the flower book for her godmother in. She smiled when she thought about Anita, the woman having brought her so much joy and happiness in such a short time. It was clear why her mother and she had been great friends in her mother’s short life.
She browsed the shoppe with Sebastien meandering behind her, looking at all the old texts. She found something, a small but thick book on the kingdoms of Wiccashire and Arunedelle, and thumbed through it. She found the small paragraph she had read entirely interesting, and purchased it immediately. She followed Sebastien around the store as he shopped, and read to him random tidbits regarding what she found that she had found more than interesting.
“Did you know that out of the four Kingdoms, only two had existed previously, before a big war that separated them? Devonshire and Renvale were one, and Roudel and Lanval were another,” She said. She had known of the split from her childhood, just more of a story than fact. That was what her life always seemed to be. A story. But she wanted more, she wanted fact. She wanted more than to daydream her life away, and do something important, and if that included helping Sebastien and Sofia than she was proud to do so. She couldn’t stand to think of anything happening to them. In doing so her mind wandered while she read, thinking about the two children. They had been on her mind so often now, they never wandered far. And she was constantly afraid of them getting hurt.
Now even she thought of them, and she ceased reading. “We can probably take a ride home now, they carriages can take us,” She said, and they headed towards the door. They passed a man and his child coming in, and Elisabeth thought that the rain must surely be easing up. That was not entirely the case as the rain still came down quite hard. They made a run for the carriage, disregarding the cold wetness that lay upon them. A little cold was okay if they were going home to take a hot bath.
Elisabeth watched the world go by, the dark, gloomy world that seemed to be creaking up near her in a way that she couldn’t stop. She felt sad all of the sudden, and couldn’t put her finger on why. But there was something there, something else that picked at her as if she were a wounded, fresh scab. So, she decided to ignore it, pus it down inside her and continue on until it presented itself again, and then maybe she would face whatever the fear or sadness was.

At the manor, it was eerily quiet. Quiet did not actually describe the feeling. It was not serene, it was not soundless. It was…dead. She didn’t even hear any of the useless chatter of the maids. She told Sebastien to go take a bath and dry off, and she decided she would bate later, and instead just dressed in another dress of warm clothes. Afterwards, hearing the water running in the bathroom and checking on the young man, she searched the place for Kyier and Sofia. She didn’t see them, and assumed that they must have been together. She wouldn’t worry until she had to, because she was only worried because of what she didn’t know. They’d be back later. She took her book and headed towards the study, starting a fire in the tea room. Ara came down, stared at her for a few moments, and then padded upstairs.
Mathius brought Sofia home a bit later, before the sun had set. They came inside, Elisabeth almost having nodded off, and Sebastien had joined her in the sitting room. She got off the sofa and met them at the door, thinking at first it was Sofia and Kyier.
“Mathius! What…what are you doing here?” She asked. He merely smiled that handsome, white smile of his.
“Sofia here decided to join me at my shoppe today, and then helped me around the place while the storm passed. I just wanted to bring her home and make sure she got here safely,” he said, smiling down at the girl. Elisabeth knelt down and smiled, too.
“I wish I had known-,” but Sofia just walked past her, not angrily, but as though Elisabeth simply did not exist. Elisabeth understood, for as much as she could, and she wanted to make it right, but that would take time.
“Everything…okay?” He asked, watching as Sofia disappeared. Elisabeth only nodded.
“Yeah.” She looked over at him, and gave him a sad look. “We’ll be okay. Have you…have you seen Kyier? Honestly, I thought Sofia was with him,” She said, just as lightning one again took over the darkening sky. It seemed much darker than it should have been, because of the clouds blocking the sun.
“No, actually. I haven’t. I thought he was here,” he said, and looked at the door knob. He seemed as genuinely lost now as Elisabeth had felt.
“Okay, I’ll wait until he gets back. You should stay here and get out of the cold, it’s getting dark, and the storm is coming back,” she said. He just nodded, and went into the tea room to chat with Sebastien. Elisabeth looked out the large door, passed the physical, passed the green grass and the dark clouds, passed the pathway and the trees, and she looked into something that was out there. Something that was in her, and she prayed silently, asking for aid in times of hardship and stress, and asked Feist, God of Bonds, if they could be bound together. Friendship was going to be more important now than ever.

It was three days before Elisabeth began to pace her bedroom. The storm had not let up, and after so much torrential downpour she thought she would be going crazy. But that wasn’t it. It was something else. She had not seen Kyier at all for those three days. She knew he was quick, and could easily come inside and to his room without anybody knowing, specially her. If he wanted to avoid her, he was doing one hell of a job. But she didn’t think he was. She now spent her days worried for Kyier, and her nights crying herself to sleep from sadness.
She looked out her window again, hoping against hope that he would be coming up to the door. Sebastien hadn’t mentioned seeming him, and Sofia…she had barely seen Sofia. Every time she entered the room or encountered the young girl in the hall, it was always the same reaction. She just turned and walked the other direction. No matter how hard she tried, Sofia would not listen to her. She tried baking a cake, anything to lift her spirits. But it sat there and remained untouched, and eventually is got crusty so she had to throw it away.

The only thing that shook her from her thoughts was the loud knocked that echoed through the still empty halls. She made her way towards the entry hall, down the stairs and gently let her hand roll against the dark wooden banister. She pulled the door open slightly, peering through the small slit as she watched Duke Hastings stand on the outside. She gasped, and made to shut the door when he reached in and opened it. She fell back, moving quickly away from him. Kyier’s words echoed in her mind, and she had tried too hard to avoid him. She wanted to yell and run to tell Sofia not to come down. But that would have done no good.
“Duke….Joshua…what are you doing here?” She asked him, watching as he came closer.
“I came to see you. You haven’t graced my presence since the ball, I was hoping when I came to you and sought to tell you my secret that it scared you?” he questioned, sounding so…gentle. And so…there was something more there. Elisabeth knew she couldn’t trust him, no matter what he told her.
“I don’t mean for this to sound rude, Your Grace, but perhaps it might be best if e had this conversation at another time,” She whispered, almost afraid to look him in the eye.
“I think now is good. Really, Elisabeth, have you no mind how to treat a guest properly?” He asked. She looked up at him, bravely forcing her sight into his.
“Guests are invited,” she said. “I believe you just showed up and expected compensation of sort…” She refused to let her eyes waiver, though she was terrified. This man might have saved her life, but she was smart enough to believe Kyier, a man in which did not hide behind a mask. His identity was clearly known. “I think it might be best if you say your piece and leave me rest, Sir,” She said, still trying to maintain an ounce of politeness for the man, though something reminded her she did not deserve it.
He stepped nearer to her, his scent wafting towards her and invading her nose. She almost coughed, because the scent was purely putrid. She never noticed how unattractive he was before. Perhaps it was best she thought of everyone the same until she could see who they really were, and perhaps now he was changing. But she still did not understand why he would use her.
“I don’t believe that you should treat me in such a way, Elisabeth. I did save your life after all,” he drew on. She nodded.
“That may be so, but you never told me why. Why did I deserve to live? I could have died. And Kyier has saved me just as many times as you have, I have counted and realized that-,” she kept talking, but his gaze shifted and he looked angry. But then she said something else, something that made him draw back. She stepped forward, braver than she had been, braver than the day she came to Landon, and looked him dead in the eye. “What colour are your eyes, Joshua?” She asked. “What colour are they?” For the first time, even though her façade of bravery she was more scared than she had been, and she reached back to search for a potted plant on the end table, the green vines wrapping around her delicate wrist and growing up her arm.
Joshua laughed, his head tilting as a maniacal smirk overtook his lips, "There's no need for embellishments, Elisabeth," he grinned wider, referring to slick green vines encircling her arms. "I already find your beauty enchanting." He forced a step through the door, his rain soaked jacket dropping to the floor at his feet. "My dear, there is no need to ask such a question. Surely you can see the color of my eyes for yourself." Joshua reached out to touch her face, somehow surprised when she flinched away from him. "Do you doubt me? I don't understand, what have I done to wrong you so? I have only tried to help you in any way possible."

"It would be a lot easier to believe in you if you'd just leave!" Elisabeth shouted, taking another few careful steps back. Her words did stop Joshua's advance. He continued to pursue her with an unsavory look still plastered over his grim face. "This is the last time I'll ask nicely... Please, get out!" she cried, her heart beginning to race. There was something different about him. Something evil. She whipped her arms forward, the vines acting like a catapult that sent the stone engraved pot flying for the man's head.

The Duke's eyes widened for a second before he ducked to evade the incoming projectile. The grin was quick to wash from his face, giving away to something much more malicious. "You will pay for that." he hissed. He watched as Elisabeth frantically dashed around, her hands flailing about the dresser surfaces to find anything she could possibly use as a weapon against who she had once thought to be her savior. "Why did I save you? Is it really so hard to figure out? You are the King's niece, the only person left in his line. Can you imagine the political advantages to having you at my side? Would that have really been so bad?"

Mathius and Sebastien ran into the room then, the smaller one nearly tripping over the larger. "Is there a problem here?" Mathius asked as he moved swiftly to Elisabeth's side. "We heard a crash..." At the same time, Sofia appeared at the top of the stairs. Her little hand gripped the banister, feeling as though all the air had been sucked straight from her lungs. Joshua's eyes met hers, looking almost as shocked as she did.
Without warning, she ran down the stairs, charging at the Duke with everything she had. A burst of dark energy surrounding her much like an aura, a power she had no control over. Her hands became enveloped by surges of deep purple sparks that she sent flying at the wide-eyed man. He flew backwards, crashing through the manor door. His body skidded across the cobblestone pathway, laying unmoving in the pouring rain. Sofia felt a hand come over her shoulder and she whipped around,panic over taking her as the realization of what she had done sunk in. Sebastien trusted the pair, more than anything he did, but above all... He shuffled Sofia behind him, watching hard on Elisabeth and Mathius' reaction to her. Both adults stood frozen in place, both looking back and forth between the little girl and the Duke laying unconscious outside.

"She-she's not bad, okay?!" Sebastien swallowed, his brown eyes steadfast and strong.

Elisabeth looked over at Sebastien as if he were crazy. "Of course she's not," she said, swallowing her words. It would be a lie to say she wasn't shocked, because in all honesty, she had no idea. She had believed to only have met two castor's before, one good and one evil. And good was stretching it, because she hardly knew anything of him. But Sofia, Sofia she did know. She looked over at her, "I know you're anything but evil, Sofia," She said, afraid to embrace her only in the fact that she knew that Sofia had been angry with her, but she was never one to pass up a hug. She pulled Sebastien into an embrace so she could get passed him, and wrapped her arms around Sofia. "Don't try to deny me this, Sofia, please, I can't take it," she whined, holding the girl who had become so dear to her together.

Mathius was silent, and nobody really saw what he did, except for Sofia watching over Elisabeth's shoulder. He offered his assistant a little wink, to let her know that it was okay. She had to know she had friends there that would be by her side. But then he said, "Maybe this should wait until later, Elisabeth. Until your friend is taken care of?" he suggested.

Sofia pushed away from the Duchess, her eyes staring at the man getting himself back up to his knees. He wiped the blood from his lips with the back of his hand. "I'll keep your secret if you keep mine." he grinned, looking directly back at Sofia. The little girl didn't flinch a muscle. She swallowed. "And as for you... Elisabeth... I won't forget this." he growled as he pulled himself back up to his feet. "Don't worry though, I'll be sure to take real good care of that little boyfriend of yours. He hasn't been doing too well of late." Sofia was about to react again, but it was actually Elisabeth who sprang into action. She charged at Joshua, only to stop in front of him and allow her magick to do the talking for her. Vines sprouted from the ground, taking hold of the Duke's wrists and neck.

"Where is Kyier?! You have him?!" she shouted, the vines growing tighter in her anger. Joshua gasped for breath.

"Elisabeth, stop! He's the Duke! We can't do this, the consequences will be- Um... Think of Sofia and Sebastien, they need you!" Mathius cried out in desperation, not wanting a murder of a royal official on their hands.

Joshua was dropped immediately after mention of the children. His hand went to his neck, his eyes flooded with murderous intent. "Kyier is my mother's prisoner until the man can learn some manners. My cousin being the way he is, the rats will have eaten his decaying body before that happens." The Duke brushed himself off, clearly doing everything in his power to keep himself from killing all those who stood in his wake. His body was tense like stone, "Let us both forget this little meeting ever happened, shall we? I have a feeling we'd both be better off for it." His words were spoken through clenched teeth with fists clenched at both his sides. He turned then, seemingly true to his word as he walked back toward the carriage parked at the end of the lane. The Duke smacked the driver upside the head to wake him, ducking into the carriage, finally disappearing from view.

Sofia immediately ran to Mathius, hugging him tightly before giving him a sweet little kiss on the cheek. It was what she did next that took everyone by surprise. Sofia ran back to Elisabeth, opening her arms to allow the woman a proper hug. The woman was stupid, surely, but seeing her stand up to the Duke like she had, and then what she had said... Sofia honestly wanted to believe in her. She hugged her, holding to her like her life depended on it. A few tears escaped her eyes that she now hid away in the crook of Elisabeth's neck. It was stupid, she knew, but a part of her had really missed her.
“Come on, you three. I think we need to go evacuate our friend,” Elisabeth said, a plan already formulating in her head. She could tell neither of the children wanted to go, and she completely understood. She didn’t want to see Joshua, but even more so she could tell it was Mathius who was as terrified as the children. She just smiled, “I thought maybe you three could go ask Chrystiem some questions, and see how he is doing,” She said, but looked more at Sofia. “That is only if you’re feeling up to it,” She said, her heart breaking once more for her friend. Sofia nodded, and for a moment she looked frightened, but a mask of bravery recovered her face. But Elisabeth didn’t think that it was a mask at all, because she knew that little girl had more bravery than she could ever muster up inside herself.

The three of them got ready. At least Elisabeth did. She made sure everything was ready, and she even wrote the lengthy letter, sitting where she had sat to write the letter to her mother, in tiny, neat scrawl she worded out precisely everything that she was offering, and she taped up the letter, wrapping a parcel ribbon of the colour red around the tan package. And finally she stood, recollecting her overcoat and meeting up with three somber individuals.
The ride through the rained out city was quiet, and everyone merely stared at the other. Mathius spoke first, “What are you going to do?” Elisabeth looked up at him, and fingered the parcel in her coat pocket.
“I have a plan,” She said. That was all she would let them know for now though, until the time was right. Then everyone would know what she did, what she had to do to protect those who needed protection. The carriage jolted a bit as it came to a stop, the man offering them an umbrella to escape from the downpour. They all hurried to the castle.
Inside, it was clear everything had changed. The feeling used to be regal but warm, and now it was dark and cold. It flashed lightning, creating an atmosphere like none they had ever witnessed. An elderly man came downstairs to collect them, and Elisabeth asked if she may speak with the Duchess. He nodded, and seemed so solemn, so…tight. Mathius and the two children quickly went out of sight as Elisabeth followed the man to the small sitting room. The seats were the same, though they now felt prickled, as if an unseen spirit blew upon her spine. She was left alone in the room, and looked around nervously. There were three seats set around the dark oak table. A small fire sat in the corner, giving the room a terribly eerie glow. The lightning flashed again, and Elisabeth moved towards the lattice embedded window, staring off into the gardens. She couldn’t believe these people who once ruled the kingdom were gone forever. There was a terrible ache in her heart that she felt may never be filled, not with their missing love.

The door opened, and the man appeared once more, standing to the side. Elisabeth turned and watched as he introduced the woman, who glided inside. She coughed, as if she was expecting something but she remained silent. “Lady Hastings,” Elisabeth greeted, bowing her head politely.
]“You better have a damn good reason for storming my castle and wasting my time with an audience,” she hissed. Elisabeth was surprised at how her voice sounded so intense. And from the last time she had seen her, the woman had seemed to be aging steadily. “Though I think I know what it is you want,” she finished. It took Elisabeth by surprise and she looked towards her blackened eyes.
“I don’t wish to waste your time,” She said. “But I come bearing tidings, a…a bargain, if you will,” She said. The woman folded her fingers and leaned forward.
“I have the right mind to throw you out of this Kingdom, peasant,” she said, waiting for her response. Elisabeth nodded slowly again.
“I understand that. I want Kyier’s freedom from your dungeons,” she chose her words very carefully. But Beatrice only laughed.
“What could you have to offer me?,” she spat. But Elisabeth smiled kindly at her.
“The one thing you need from me,” she said. She pulled out the envelope and placed it in front of her. “What you need of me is nothing. You don’t want me to be here,” She said. “I can’t be here. We both know being here will cause more trouble for your son to take the throne. What I am offering you, in return for Kyier’s freedom from this castle, is my written word that I will leave, and never return here to Landon. Is my proposition clear?” She questioned. It stung her to have to say it, but knowing that if she left, the children would never be safe without her here. She would make sure they were safe - The children and Kyier both.
“Your written word?” The Duchess asked, her eyes beading over the page. She looked up at the woman, and she gave a crooked frown. “A peasant like you belongs where all peasants do. In dirt,” she spat once more.

“I agree, Your Grace,” Elisabeth continued. “As promised, written and signed, I, Lucy Thurn, will never return to Landon,” She spoke. The beaded eyed Duchess looked at her through the darkness.
“Done,” she hissed.

In the dungeons, Elisabeth was not permitted to enter. She didn’t make a fuss about it. Mathius and the children awaited in the carriage, both parties having been able to successfully avoid the Duchess. Kyier climbed the stairs, the guards having tied rope around his wrists as if he were some sort of criminal who was bound by attacks of insanity. Though perhaps partly true in a sense of the thought, Elisabeth knew knew well now that the man was anything but a monster. They looked to be dragging him, almost, as his legs hardly lifted to make each step. His reddish-brown hair lay a tangled mess pulled from its tie and falling just short of the Marquess' shoulders. Elisabeth could barely see the mulberry of his squinted eyes that were no longer accustom to the light. She wondered of the conditions for the prisoners dwelling in the dungeons and if they would be the same had her beloved aunt and uncle not have been murdered. No outside light could conquer the thundering clouds, so for Kyier's eyes to be so sensitive to the dim lighting of the candles and lights of the foyer... He almost must have lived the past three days in total darkness.
“Has Beatrice discovered yet another means of torture to bestow on me?” He asked her, even though it seemed as if he could barely stand.
“I’ll take it from here, gentlemen,” Elisabeth said to the guards, wrapping an arm around him with a quick roll of her eyes.
“What…what did you do?” He asked, his voice weary and tired and yet still managing to hold onto to the bitter sting at each of his words.
Elisabeth shushed him, “I saved your life. Now…shut up.” She led him out into the rain, and into the carriage. The others were silent again, watching the weakened Kyier as they were taken back to their manor.
“What happened in there?” Mathius asked Elisabeth, who was busy trying to tend to Kyier who weakly tried to brush her off. There wasn’t much she could do now. He needed a bath, and to get some food and water.
“Nox be damned, I don’t think they fed you at all,” She said.
“Elisabethwhathappened?” Mathius said in one breath. She glared at him.
“I’ll tell you later!” She snapped. “Not now. Just…wait, okay?” She said, this time more apologetically. And then they made it home. “Sofia, Sebastien, go turn down Kyier’s bed and draw a bath, okay? I’m going to make sure he gets some food in his system.” The two children went, and Elisabeth heard Sebastien talking to Sofia about Chrystiem. It made her wonder what had happened and if he said anything more. But she knew it had to wait as well. She led the man she practically carried to the kitchen. She hated seeing him so weak. She sat him down, Mathius standing there watching sadly as his best friend seemed so deteriorated. He seemed so lost, so Elisabeth instructed him to start making something…anything, anything that would be heavy on Kyier’s stomach so he could get some sort of strength back.
“Kyier, you need to eat something okay? Eat, and then we can talk about what happened,” she tried to explain. Even weakened his personality remained fiery. He glared at her, though it seemed to take much effort on his part, and then she put the food in front of him. “Kyier, eat. Eat, or all of this would have been for nothing.” She stood up to go check on the children, but Kyier had stopped her.
“What did you do?” He asked, his head hanging down towards his food. She just turned around, before she closed the door to the kitchen, and told him the same thing.
“I saved you, Kyier. That’s all,” and then she was finished.
"Tch. Damn her." Kyier growled under his breath just as she vanished from earshot. It was not quite the response one would expect from someone who had just been set free from prison. She was going to be talking about this for days, Kyier was certain. Tireless rambles about how she supposedly saved his life. Oh, the humanity of it! He could see her towered above him, hands on her hips as she laughed and laughed while holding the gesture over his head for all eternity. "I think I'd rather stay rotting in that prison cell." Kyier mumbled to himself, only confusing his counterpart that hadn't the ability to see the imagines circling the man's mind. With a shaky hand, Kyier struggled to get the soup filled spoon to his mouth. "Criminals or otherwise, the state of my uncle's dungeons are deplorable. Food and water once a week..." The Marquess smirked as he lay the spoon back down beside him, "I hadn't made it that far." he laughed, as if it were some joke. He looked subtly at his silverware before leaning back in his chair. It was ridiculous the toll four days of no food or water took on the body. He was ashamed that he hadn't the energy to get the food to his mouth, despite how truly starved he was. His pride would never allow him to admit it either.

"Kyier, what are you doing?" Elisabeth asked. "Please don't do this. You need to get some substance into you..." She didn't need to beg of him, she didn't think she would have to, either. She looked over at Mathius, giving the expression as though she asked him to do something. Mathius looked at Kyier, and then at Elisabeth, unsure of what to do himself. Kyier just sat there while Mathius thought, his expression showing his troubled thoughts.
"He won't do anything you force him to do, Elisabeth," the Apothecary told her, his own heart torn for his friend. "Please, just tell us what we can do to help you..." he begged..
"You could all stop staring at me like I'm dead," Kyier grumbled, rolling his eyes. He looked down at the food and then back to all the worried faces around him. He couldn't do it. It just wasn't in him to ask for help no matter how eager he knew they'd be to give. Sofia came up to his side, climbing up to his lap without giving him the chance to debate or otherwise. She brought a cool cloth over his face, washing away the dirt and grim as Kyier sputtered in protest, his head shaking to and fro like a child to its mother. "Gah! Dammit, Sofia. I can't breathe." he hissed. She tsked him, smiled sympathetically before falling into a soft hug. Kyier sighed, finding it ridiculously difficult to be angry at this particular little girl. She lifted his goblet from the table and carried it up to his lips, hoping the others would be wise enough not to gawk and stare. The Marquess took a few satisfying gulps, the cool water feeling almost intoxicating as it traveled down to his barren stomach. He inclined his head to Sofia in thanks. "So..." he cleared his throat. "It took you three days before you thought to try and find me?" he grinned smugly with a raise of his eyebrow.

Both Elisabeth and Mathius looked around shamefully, their eyes adverting whenever necessary from Kyier. "Well...you aren't exactly social..." Elisabeth mumbled nervously.

"That never stopped you before." Kyier scoffed. He looked down at Sofia then, "And what do you think, you're doing? You think this seat is free? The food, Pipsqueak." Sofia scrunched her lips before she dipped the spoon into the soup and carefully carried it to the Marquess' mouth. The eyes of the others were on him, their silence near driving him mad. "What? This is service, dammit. You are clearly all just jealous." he shrugged, his mood oddly light. Perhaps his mind was just loopy from the lack of energy. Sofia helped him eat the rest of what had been placed in front of him, Kyier gobbling done absolutely everything he could. For a small man, he could eat like a horse.

"How did you end up in the dungeons, anyway? I know your aunt is bonkers but-"

Kyier cut him off, "I ran into her on my way to uncover a few of my aunt and uncle's old things- things that I'm certain they don't want Beatrice or that damn Joshua to exploit or destroy. She said I few things that I simply didn't agree with and I may have lost my tongue. That's all it took." He would leave it at that too. There was no point in explaining the details of the conversation. He knew his best friend, and all the better he knew the man's guilt complex as well.

"And what about you, Elisa?" he questioned, raising his brow. "I believe the question of the day is how the likes of you could manage a tango with the crypt keeper and come out not only alive, but with keys as well?"

'Elisa?' the duchess thought, surprised at the sudden nickname. It was even more surprising that it was Kyier who used the name. 'Oh, well at least it has a nice musical quality,' and then she smiled rather silly-like, and put her head in her palm. 'At least it is better than 'stupid girl',' though she never was truly angry at him for that nickname. She took it as a term of endearment.

The Marquess was quick to grow impatient, "Ahem, Moron... I asked you a question?" he snapped, breaking her from her little merry trance. Elisabeth jumped up with a smile, "Soon, soon! But first...." Kyier watched her prance off to the kitchen, listening to the sound of the freezerbox opening. "Now is just the occasion-" she yelled happily from the other room, "I made this one special, and I promise it's delicious!" Before Mathius had the chance to stop her... The Duchess made the most dreadful of mistakes by placing a cake in front of Kyier. The Marquess stared daggers at the hated baked good, the decorative icing making him cringe in disgust. "There's something you need to understand, Girl." Kyier growled as Sofia hastily wiggled from the warming man's lap. "I." A fiery hand plunged into the sweet desert, "HATE." Before he uttered the final word, Mathius had already leapt up and took cover behind a wall. Sebastien was backing away slowly with Sofia, and only Elisabeth remained nearby, standing stupidly with a dumb look on her face. "Cake." Kyier hissed just before he hurled the what was in his grasp at the woman's face. It splattered all over her, a direct hit that covered her face in pink and white icing. A moment of silence ensued before the Marquess burst into a raucous laughter, "Ah- ahhaha! That looks just sweet, Elisa, much preferred to the usual."
Elisabeth, splattered in the creamy frosting, licked her lips and then wiped her eyes. She opened them and tried to peer at the others through the cake-induced fog. She stood still, watching the man before her as he laughed. This was the first time she had ever seen him laugh as he was, and in all honesty she was unsure of how she was supposed to react herself. She stood there stupidly, but then a grinning Mathius sidled up to her with a warm cloth that she began to wipe away her face.
“Tried to warn you…” He whispered to her, having been fully aware of his best friend’s hatred for the desserts for many years. He too had made a mistake just as grave once in his childhood. Something told him though that Elisabeth was going to be prone to making the same mistake again.
“Yeah, right,” She said, grinning herself as her eyes became fully wiped once more. She looked over at Kyier, trying to get a piece of the pink frosting out of her hair. “Kyier, my friend or not, do you really think-,” her voice was cut short as another glob of the cake she had baked hit her in the side of the face. She turned slowly, expecting Mathius had thrown it because he was there to the right. But Sofia stood there with a lopsided grin on her face, the first kind she had ever seen like it. And even she couldn’t help but allow her smile to come back. Anything that brought them laughter had that effect on her. But then Elisabeth picked up a chunk from the table, her hand squishing against it, and she chucked it at Sebastian, who was laughing as loudly as Kyier.

But Sebastien ducked, and he had been standing somehow between her and the Marquess. So the same cake went into Kyier’s face instead. She gasped for a moment, but then started laughing. And then someone, SOMEONE decided it was a brilliant idea to pour a bowl of rising yeast flour over top of her head. She stood shocked, but the laughter never died. She almost fell over as she heard Kyier commenting to Mathius on what a good toss it had been. Her gut hurt from the laughing fit, and suddenly it was like everything had snapped, and food and cake and flour and pastries were flying at one another.

People were ducking under the table, and somehow it became Kyier and the children and Elisabeth and the Apothecary on two teams, Kyier having flipped over the table, with the children’s help of course, and Elisabeth sat behind the island. They fired projectiles of any sort, any food they could find. She had never seen Kyier act this way. He was so carefree, even if it was only for a moment. But eventually, the ‘fighting’ had to cease, and Elisabeth ran out with a white, rather large lace doily. She waved it in the air, “We concede! We concede!” She laughed, but then Mathius stood and yelled out.
“Speak for yourself!” And the last remaining chunk of cake in his fist came flying at her, hitting her somewhere on the neck and in-between her chest, sending her reeling back towards the children, and almost knocking Kyier over. She lay on the floor with them, listening to the sweet sound of Sebastien laugh, and she saw Kyier above her, and for a moment there faces were very close to one another. She could smell his sweet breath, but then realized it must have been the cake that rested on his face. But the moment was over before it even started, and she looked over at him as Mathius helped him to his feet and to clean off.

She was a tad bit put off because she still didn’t believe that he had eaten that much. But as long as he was able to stand, and he did look a bit better. Her eyes stayed on him, squinting slightly as if she were looking for something that wasn’t there, or didn’t belong there. She understood later that it was his smile that caught her off guard. She had seen him look happy before, mainly once when he had thought she was dead, and then he kicked her…but then he retreated into his shell and became stone-like once more. But this time he wasn’t retreating, he stayed this way. And she couldn’t be happier! There was nothing that could ruin this moment for them. Her eyes widened when Kyier glanced over at her, and noticed her staring, so she quickly averted her eyes momentarily before going back to him. There was still cake in her hair, but she didn’t care, because today…today was alright for a girl to have cake in her hair.
The Marquess had his hand on his best friend's shoulder. He leaned in toward Mathius' ear, his eyes shifting narrowly, "Look, tell me you don't see that." he hissed under his breath. "You see the way she stares at me? You can't tell me you don't believe that she really attacked me whilst I was in the shower. Look, just look at her gawking!" Elisabeth blinked as if being snapped back from a trance. She smiled widely for the pair, obviously oblivious to the conversation they were having. "You don't fool me." Kyier mumbled as he took a step closer to her. He circled around before falling back on his heels. The Marquess watched her brown eyes. They were completely void of any sign of intelligent life... "Much like her usual self." Kyier thought with a roll of his eyes. How could one with such a vacant stare find herself able to negotiate a deal with someone as conniving as his aunt. "Go on then, Girl. Enlighten us with the makings of your victory, my patience on the matter is wearing thin."

"That's because you have the patience of rabid beast at the sight of fresh meat." Mathius chimed, ducking down immediately after to avoid whatever Kyier was sure to fire at him.

The Marquess didn't bother though. He merely shrugged the man off and continued to watch Elisabeth expectantly. But she just smiled at him again, tilting her head as if she knew something that he did not. "Do you really, really want to know?" She asked, as if she enjoyed having this secret over him. "I'll tell you, I will, but you have to really want to know!" And she was a child now, acting quite immature, but she only meant it in fun and game. Kyier just shrugged, though, acting so nonchalant as he headed towards the exit. He didn't even manage a word, behaving like he couldn't care less. Ah, gods but it was killing him! His mind pulsed, demanding answers lest it explode from the unsolvable conundrum. "Wait, okay I'll tell you!" Elisabeth said, waving her hands about madly. She moved up to him quickly, closing the space in between them. Kyier took in a deep breath, smirking to himself as she came up beside him.
"Okay, so...I told Beatrice that I would go back to Van Hollen, and I-,"

"You did what?!" Sebastien yelled, his eyes looking as if he could burst into tears suddenly. She didn't realize how it had sounded, and didn't expect the audience.

"No, wait...hear me out!" She said. She looked back at Kyier, "I am not going anywhere,"

"Bah! Shoot my hopes up and then you go striking them down. That's just plain cruel." Kyier interjected, shaking his head.

Elisabeth huffed, her little game not turning out near as fun as she'd hoped. She glared at Kyier before continuing, "I signed the agreement that stated as I was leave as Lucy Thurn, and she never even read it. Lucy Thurn will be in Van Hollen, but I am Elisabeth Rose, therefore...I can stay!" She said, "Don't you see? Wasn't it a good plan, Kyier? Did I do...okay?" She asked.

The Marquess fought back a grin, declaring to himself right then and there that he was going to be present whenever his aunt drew glance on Elisabeth's face next. "Tch." he shrugged. "Child's play." Inwardly he smiled, however, more than amused by the feat the girl managed to pull. "I'm off to a shower then. Mathius." Kyier called his name sharply as he clapped his hands twice, his eyes peering from their corners. The apothecary sighed, rolling his head over his shoulders. Kyier rose an eyebrow, refusing to take a step forward until his friend obliged. Eventually, Mathius gave in, trudging over to Elisabeth with a groan and taking her wrist in his hand. She looked up at his with a more than peculiar expression on her face. "Simple precautions." Kyier answered before she could ask.

He stole away to the shower quickly after that. He took one of his mother's fluffiest towels from the closet, draping it neatly over the rack next to the porcelain tub. Kyier removed his four day old clothing, tossing the dirtied garments to the floor. He cared never to see the likes of them again. The water the children had prepared for him was nearly to his liking since it had been cooling all the while since he had been home. Being one who dealt in fire, Kyier truly appreciated the soothing feel of cool, calming waters. He took a deep breath and stepped slowly into the bath. He still couldn't believe it. The idea of his aunt and uncle having been murdered...they were gone. They were really gone. He would never see his aunt's brilliant, yet soft smile. Nor would he feel the pride of his uncle's wise eyes. Over and over the words from his aunt's note to him played in the back of his mind. They ate away at him, and for a moment, more than anything he wished his body would just allow itself to perish in the cool waters. It would have been a more merciful fate, much less painful than the guilt of disappointing those you love most. His lungs burned, yearning desperately for the air he was finally forced to breathe. For the remainder of his soak, Kyier cleansed his body of all the dirt and grim he had collected in the dungeons, along with the cake and icing that had gotten matted in his hair. There was no room left to try and relax after all the debris was washed from him. Kyier cringed at the dirtied waters. He lifted himself from the tub to dry off, the heat from his body causing some of the water to evaporate almost instantly after he stepped onto the carpet. While wrapping the towel around his waist, Kyier did everything in his power to avoid looking at himself in the mirror. He couldn't stand the sight of himself. He was disgusted by his own failures as a person and too much a coward to face them.

"Oh, Mathius, please! You know very well Kyier exaggerates!" Elisabeth's voice carried down the hall, sounding much further away than the reality. She stormed the corner just as Kyier emerged from the bathroom, their bodies colliding to send them both tumbling to the ground. Elisabeth fell atop the unsuspecting Marquess, knocking the wind straight from him. He gasped, his mind lost in a dizzying whirl as he still hadn't quite regained his strength entirely after being trapped within the dungeons.

He sat up in the tower, pulling down box after box of his aunt and uncle's old possessions. Many a photo album collected dust at the ends of the circular room that brought the Marquess' eyes to water and a fierce cough to burst from his lungs. He flipped through the antiqued pages looking over so many familiar faces. Though he never knew them, Kyier recognized Elisabeth's parents standing with his own. They all smiled cheerfully... All aside for his own Pa'pa who looked overly annoyed by being poked by Seraphine's gigantic hat.
Elisabeth's eyes were large as she stared momentarily at Kyier. She hadn't an idea of how they got into this position...again. And she hated that her mind wavered for a moment as she felt his heated muscles flex beneath her. His clothes surely didn't hide what she could now feel. She pushed off him, not before looking him deadpan in the eyes, and staring for what felt like an eternity. To her it was everything, and they connected, shared something, but for him she was sure it was just another hindrance, a thing to annoy him further about her. That was why she got up so quickly. He was just now becoming happy around her, the free she wanted him to be. "Kyier, I am so, so sorry!" She said, sure her dress would now be set ablaze. She moved from him, trying to help with his towel but having no success. It seemed like she was trying to rip it off of him more than anything, and that was not the case. "Sorry!" she shouted in his ear, sounding more like a macaw than anything and then tried running down the hall, knocking over another decorative plant.
The tick worked its way through Kyier's jaw as Mathius reached down to grip his arm and help him back to his feet. He held onto his towel, readjusting the damn thing from when the little moron had attempted to savagely rip it from his body. He waved his hand through the air after her, silently offering his best friend exhibit A. "I'll take that apology any time you are ready." Kyier mentioned smugly, rolling his eyes at the sound of yet another crashing vase echoing from down the hall. The apothecary chuckled, nodding in resignation to Kyier's claims. He yelped suddenly, leaping into the air with his hands clutching his burning rump.

"Gah! B-but I agreed with you!" Mathius cried out.

Kyier turned and rose an eyebrow, "You think her attacks on me are a laughing matter, Mathius?" The Marquess retorted. "You wouldn't be so damn chortly if it were your body being inhumanly desecrated!"

Mathius flung out his hips, his green eyes nearly bulging from his head as he pointed to his rear, "And what do you call this?!" he snapped.

The Marquess couldn't help but smirk, a little laugh escaping his own lips. He placed a warm, friendly hand on the man's shoulder, "A reminder, my friend." Mathius gave him a droll stare, but ultimately shook his head and heaved a heavy sigh. He followed after Kyier, quickening his step to keep up with the smooth sailing Marquess. His bum remained a bit sore, but nothing he couldn't handle. Kyier would never honestly hurt him. At least... Mathius was pretty sure he never would. Hopefully.

"I'm going back to the castle tomorrow." He could feel his best friend's disbelieving glare held against his back. The door shut behind him. Kyier's eyes shifted to meet Mathius', the grin never leaving his handsome face. "Don't worry, I'll eat before I go over. Just in case." He pulled up the drawers that he had laid neatly on his bed many a day prior, moving then to wardrobe to dig out his favorite breeches.

"That's hardly funny, Kyier. If Elisabeth hadn't-" But he didn't finish. Mathius thought better of it, and thankfully Kyier ignored his folly.

"I owe this to my aunt and uncle. I will not have their names defiled by my hateful aunt or her thoughtless son. I want their funeral to honor their persons and exemplify their values. I want for the citizens of this kingdom to see them as more than their rulers hidden behind the walls of the castle." It was clear the man felt strongly about his words. He had yet to cry for his lost aunt and uncle despite how it pained his heart. Kyier wouldn't allow himself to mourn their lose when he still had much he could do for them. Tears accomplished nothing. "I hope they will hold off the funeral until my parents return, but something tells me my aunt won't be so considerate." Once he was fully dressed, Kyier fell back on his bed, plopping down beside the thinking apothecary. "Before running into my aunt at the castle, I requested the services of one of the messengers in service to the King. I sent him to Lanvaldear to deliver word of the tragedy to my parents with utmost haste. I expect they should be returning soon."

Mathius smiled, "Your father will take the throne then and return proper order to Roudel. Everything will work out, Kyier. It's not good for your health to take all the burden onto your own shoulders."

The Marquess stroked the soft fur of his favorite feline. He remained silent, simply taking in Mathius' words. "I need a favor from you then. Take the children tomorrow. I can't have them walking on my heels when I have business to take care of."

His best friend agreed without much fight. He took the guest room beside Kyier's room, claiming it too dark to go home. He wasn't fooling anyone though. They all knew he was just worried for the Marquess' health. The night drew on with little event. By the apothecary's demand, Kyier was banned from his research and had been forced to spend the night relaxing. Sofia and Sebastien followed him into the courtyard, running about to catch the golden fireflies illuminating the Duchess' shining white irises. They both laughed and giggled together while Kyier allowed his fingers to softly play the keys of the piano. It wasn't long until Elisabeth joined them all. The stupid girl simply had no shame. She sat right beside Kyier on the bench and was somehow surprised when he pushed her straight off while still managing to play the keys with his free hand. She huffed a bit, crossing her arms over her chest like a child. Ultimately though, she ended up laughing.


"No." Kyier stated yet again, staring at Elisabeth over the top of his paper. That had been the- Well in all honesty, the Marquess had lost count of the number of times the young Duchess had asked to come with him today.

"Oh, come on, Kyier! Of course you'll need your hero by your side!" Elisabeth pleaded with a bit of a grin. The Marquess licked the syrup from his lips, "Fine." he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Lydia, would you mind washing the crimson towel from the basket in my chambers? Elisabeth here insists I take the thing with me." he shrugged. "I know what you're thinking... It's going to clash entirely with my outfit but I suppose the extra protection is worth it." Elisabeth huffed in response, smacking Kyier on the head with a newly cooked pancake. The Marquess' mouth dropped. His hand reached for the hashbrowns setting in a bowl just to his left.

It hovered for but a second before a loud shriek escaped Lydia's lips, "NOOO!" she cried out.
"I will not be cleaning up another mess the likes of the one you pair left me last night!" she shouted, shaking her head. "That took me hours! You will both behave and EAT the food!"

"Tch." Kyier grumbled, knocking the bowl with the backside of his hand.

"Alright... Ahem, well then. Sofia, Sebastien, are the pair of you soon ready to go? I'm looking forward to having you help me at the shoppe today." Mathius smiled happily. Asking the apothecary to watch the children was hardly a favor at all. Too often the man was a dreadful form of lonesome. Having the kids around would be no burden at all.

"Don't forget your coats, you two!" Elisabeth called after them with a little wave. Sofia and Sebastien scurried off, the little boy jumping on Mathius' back when he knelt. The apothecary laughed as he carried him off, Sofia pouting as she ran behind.

Kyier dabbed his lips clean of food, almost smiling as he watched the group of three disappear out the door. He stood up, thinking to himself how wonderful it would have been if only Elisabeth had gone with them. In all honesty, he wasn't sure why she hadn't. In all logical sense, Mathius and Elisabeth... The Marquess couldn't fathom why the pair wasn't in love with one another already. It was like the Gods had made them for one another and yet... And yet here she stood now as his damn shadow. "Gods! If you're insistent upon coming, then lets go. I'm not waiting for you to change or check your face or any of that crap. I have a job to do. Oh, and don't speak. I don't want to hear you."
“Okay!” She said immediately before her hand flew over her constantly flapping orifice. “So, sorry!” She said. At least for now she had no intention of angering the Marquess, not until they got to the castle and she could help him search for his documents. She almost skipped down the stairs, twirling her jacket over her head and following Kyier silently towards the carriage. She followed him quickly, and as soon as they entered inside and he sat against the rich purple lining of the seat, she sat next to him, her legs pressing up against his and her hands sitting daintily in her lap. Kyier stared at her, his dark, pink eyes glancing at her, and again she realized how close they were, and another fact…they were alone.
“You smell…you smell good,” Elisabeth said, staring at her friend. She couldn’t decipher between his looks, whether he was truly debating pushing her from the carriage, or…or setting her ablaze. But then Elisabeth did something else, to try and appease the embarrassing situation that had become of them in the previous evening. “Sorry about everything, Kyier. For embarrassing you,” She said, trying to take the high road and make sure their friendship stayed secured.

Elisabeth stared at him, but suddenly found herself alone again, and followed Kyier out of the carriage and towards the castle, the man moving quickly towards the side of the castle. She wondered why they didn’t use the main doors, but instead of asking questions, she just followed him through the misty morning. Since the leaving of her aunt and uncle, the castle had already started feeling cold and distant, like a haunted house on the top of a hill instead of the warm, loving environment it had become. He entered through another door, a smaller one near the back of the castle. He didn’t even bother to look around as if there were others watching him, but Elisabeth was worried. She thought they were sneaking inside, even though the castle was all of theirs, or none of theirs.
She followed him down the corridor, and she was impressed with his knowledge of the layout and where they were going. Up and up they seemed to go, until they found the room that he had wanted all along. It felt like hours, but that was more likely because Elisabeth was paranoid of being found out. She felt like they were doing something illegal, even though the King and Queen would have loved for them to be in the castle. There was a door that Kyier opened, right at the pinnacle point of a tower, and he entered. She followed, willing the sweat formed on her hairline and underarms to go away.
Inside the room, Elisabeth took a breath of dusty air. Kyier had moved around some boxes, all piled up to different lengths and sizes. There was a small, circular window near the opposite wall, and Elisabeth opened it, allowing some of the cool morning air inside. She looked back, sighing as she had lost Kyier somewhere in the maze of boxes. The Duchess could hear him, rummaging quickly and carefully in the boxes as he searched for whatever it was that he needed. But it was another box that caught her attention. Against it, in small, neat script, ROSE was written on it. She opened it, and peered inside, looking carefully through things that appeared to be her mothers. She felt a heavy pressure in her chest as she looked at the items, and brought them close to her chest. She was happy to have found a memory for her, but there was something else she longed for, something she felt like she needed to search for, she just didn’t know what.
KYIER'S RESPONSE- Kyier's mouth dropped open. His usual expression of slight unhappy distaste turned into one of absolute horror. He was at a complete lose for words. How could she say something so absolutely wrong? Of all the ways to approach the matter... "Embarassing...me?" he echoed, his head snapping around to gawk at her. "A-are you kidding?" Kyier gasped, honestly flabbergasted. He swallowed his gall, doing his damnedest to control his building rage. What did he have to be embarrassed about? And more importantly, what the Hell did the opinion of one stupid little girl matter anyway? She opened her mouth to speak again, but he immediately silenced her. "I was not embarassed," he hissed. "Most people do not take kindly to being sexually harassed constantly." Kyier spoke the words through clenched teeth, never in his life hating the girl more than he did now.

Kyier peered around the corner, watching in secret as Elisabeth dug through box after box with such sheer emotion on her face. Those big pools of gentle brown filled with tears that Kyier could easily tell were of honest felicity. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall. There was something different about her in that moment...Something remarkable about the way the stream of the morning's golden light shining from the window illuminated the stunning amazement held in her eyes. The Marquess scoffed at himself, his mulberry eyes shifting down to the photograph he held in his hand. His uncle stood tall and proud, his strong hand held down on his younger brother's head. Geoffrey was smirking, his handsome hazel eyes glaring up at the King. To his side stood Kyier's own father, the only one of the group not smiling. Anita and Seraphine stood side by side, with the graceful Vivian looking to be giggling up at Cederick's expression. It was clear why his father had been so annoyed. The woman's hat was just as obnoxious as her hair, the giant a** thing poking into the Duke's face. Anita and Seraphine held hands together out front from everyone, and the Duchess Rose had her free hand laying softly over her round abdomen. It was truly uncanny... how much Elisabeth resembled her mother. It was no wonder not a single soul challenged her as the rightful heir of her parents. Her smile radiated the very same as Seraphine's, touching the heart of each it graced. The Marquess finally stepped forward. He approached her silently and held out the photograph to her. "I'd like to have this displayed at their funeral, but afterward... If you'd like to keep it, it's yours." Kyier mentioned then nodded toward one of the many ridiculous hats kept atop the head of a manikin. "Anything that belonged to your mother or father is rightfully yours, by the way. I know that's what Auntie Vivi would have wanted." He took a step back and looked around again, absolutely astonished by the number of boxes and storage fixtures scattered about the tower. Elisabeth was silent as she took in the photo Kyier had presented her with, and for once, the silence bothered him. He could see the tears well in the Duchess' eyes as she became overwhelmed with emotion. He could only sigh, "We have a lot to go through. Most people don't realize how much of a pack rat Auntie Vivian is..." Kyier thought about the tense of the word and frowned. He turned away from Elisabeth and disappeared back behind a nearby stack of boxes.

Sitting on the dust covered floor, he reached for an old dirty box of photos. He almost laughed picking out the first of he and his aunt and mother on his sixth Birthday. There had been no way in Hell he would have worn that girly little outfit for anyone other than his aunt Vivian. He could still hear his uncle's laughter when he came out wearing the ridiculous thing. That had been one of the few times Alphonse had shown his softer side. The man was respectable in every aspect of the word. Kyier had never known a man so focused as his uncle had...been. Picture after picture, the more he saw, the more Kyier couldn't believe they were truly gone.
“Well,” She began, “Now I’m the foul one to be embarrassed,” She said, tilting her head so that some of her hair fell into her eyes. “Accept my apology?” She asked him, being as sincere as she possibly could, and only hoping that he would understand that she meant it. She didn’t wish to fight with him, or for him to be so angry with her. Especially not over something so silly that could be easily amended. “Do you hate me terribly?” She asked, her heart suddenly beating again, for she honestly feared the answer now.


Elisabeth thumbed the picture of her parents and godparents, looking carefully and examining their faces, committing each design, each flaw and shape to her memory. There was something beautiful about the picture, something that showed her that their friendship was real, because she could see it in the picture. She found it odd, in a humorous way, which she was actually in the picture as well, though only non-directly. She looked at her mother’s very pregnant belly, wondering if she had brought her joy as a child, and if she would have been proud of the woman Elisabeth was today. She wanted more than anything to make her proud. She looked through the box again looking at thickets of other photographs, drawings on crinkled pages, with flowers doodled at the tips of parchment and then full charcoal coverings of grayscale floral designs. Were these really her mother’s?
And then she saw a journal, with a faded bronze lock on the front in the shape of a rose. She picked it up, looking at many of the pages. It felt almost heavy in her hand. When she opened the light brown book a small slip of lined parchment fell out, and she opened it. It must have been when her mother was pregnant with her, and she had written and doodled names that were possibilities for her daughter. Most were scratched out, and the boy names were small in comparison to the girl names. Two names stuck out though, the many times circled Elisabeth, and the one under it that was underlines. Evangeline… so, her name may have been Evangeline…it was pretty, or at least she thought so. She opened the journal and thumbed through the many yellowed pages of small, neat text. She held it to her heart, knowing she was going to read it, and for a moment it felt as though the pages in that book had a heartbeat, the heart of her mother, and her life was inside that text. Elisabeth was going to be able to be a part of it, a part of her mother’s life, and see into something that she was denied in her childhood.

She looked up at hearing the ruffles of other papers and moved towards them, standing behind Kyier as he leafed through. He looked…he looked beautiful. She could have watched him forever, the sunlight hitting his face in just a way that his skin shined luminously, and his eyes seemed wet. “Kyier?” Elisabeth said, moving close to him and kneeling towards the ground. She sat next to him for a while, and suddenly her hand was on his back, offering him a sanctuary, a place to be embraced if he needed it. palevioletred]“I’m so sorry, Kyier,” She said, “Truly, you’re too good a person for this,” She said. She looked at the papers, clipped to another portrait of his aunt, her smile simple, elegant- beautiful. There was another picture, of the three sisters together. They must have been much younger, too.
“Are you against becoming King?” She asked him suddenly. “For what it’s worth, you would be wonderful. And that’s coming from…from someone who may not always know what she’s talking about, but and I may not know of all the plights of the poor, but I certainly have lived my life. And I know how things could be better. I think you could do it,” She said. “But I understand why you wouldn’t want to,” She said more quietly. She wanted to look over at him, but every time she did her palms began to seat with nervousness. She knew of his feelings for her, but she wanted him to be her friend; which is why she tried to be there for him. She stood up though, and she moved towards the other boxes. The bustle of her dress felt heavy, and the dark pink fabric of her dress felt itchy suddenly against her skin. She moved away despite the sudden itchiness on her skin, and she moved back to look through more of her mother and fathers boxes.
She felt something long and smooth above boxes, and pulled it down. It said Geoffrey on it, like Seraphine’s had. But it was a single, dark wooden box. She placed it on the ground, and opened the latch on it. It was a long, silver rapier, with a red rose mounted near the kiss of the handle. It was beautiful, in her eyes. She touched it gently, fingers draping lustfully against the hilt. She picked it up, holding it outwards and examining it. She could feel her heart beat pulse in her wrist as she held the magnificent sword.
"Tis a pretty sword, but none quite the grandeur as to what I could offer you." The Duke's snide voice carried up from the stairs, his grotesque grin appeared through a wooden trap door. He climbed up into the tower, making his way behind the potentially horrified Elisabeth. She looked back at him with such disdain in her eyes, it struck a cord, the Duke becoming aroused by the sight. He licked his lips and pressed his hardened manhood against her backside, "It would grow even more magnificent in your beautiful, delicate hands." he whispered, warm breath breathing in her ear. He reached out to grab her wrist before she could pull away, using his free hand to cover her mouth and stifle her screams. "Such a lovely place you've found, Elisabeth. I had never come to know such a tower existed, and such a lovely surprise it was to find that you hadn't left as you had sworn my mother. I had been hoping for the chance to... bring you to an understanding." The rise and fall of her chest was violently irregular. Her body squirmed and fought against him, giving every attempt to escape his snake-like grasp. But her movements only proved effective in augmenting the sick man's lust.

"I find that when attempting to teach another, it is much easier to do so if they aren't petrified and bound." Kyier hissed, stepping around the fortress of boxes that had originally blocked him from view.

Joshua reared back, dropping his grip on the girl instantaneously, "Ah, I see you brought Kyier with you." he growled. "And here I thought you and I had something special, Elisabeth." The Duke held his hands up in a mock surrender, that damn disgusting grin never leaving his narrow, pointed face. He swallowed, glancing at Elisabeth from the corner of his eye. She held her father's rapier to his throat. "My, my, aren't we the bold one. Such a feat would have you sentenced to your death, Elisabeth. Threatening the life of the King as you are." He looked back at Kyier, staring directly into the Marquess' eyes, daring him to challenge. "One of my maid's informed me that she saw Elisabeth wandering about in this direction. She recognized her solely from her hair, it seems. Curious I was, seeing as to how she was banished back to Van Hollen, back to her life as tavern wench." Joshua turned back to face the Duchess with her pursed lips and furrowed brows. The sword wavered in her shaking hand that seemed not strong enough to keep hold of the heavy sword. "I am unsure as to why you struggled against me so, my dear. Am I not your darling masked savior? Do I not deserve so sweet a reward for my efforts? You act as though one of the many grungy tavern goers as not already popped your maiden's head, and I can wager they got you for far less than the sacrifices I have made." The girl's lips quivered, her tears striking Kyier in a way not even he understood. "Drop the brave act, little girl. Release the sword and get to your back where you belong... You filthy little whore. Isn't that how you kept your poor Mommy and Daddy's tavern afloat?"

Elisabeth clearly struggled to fight back her tears, "T-those are lies! My parents would never allow me to be subjected to such disgusting humiliation. I-I have never lost myself to a man!" she cried out, pushing the sword closer to the man's scrawny neck. "And I certainly don't plan on losing it to less than one either."

Joshua's nostrils flared in rage, but he could do little with the silver rapier so very close to pricking away his life's blood. "You lying little-"

"Enough!" Kyier shouted, stepping forward to stand at the Duchess' side. He wrapped his hand around hers, slowly guiding her to lower the sword's point to the floor.

The Duke glared hatefully at his cousin, "Cross, You would stand to defend that delusive harlot?!" he hissed. "I will have her thrown to the dungeons in a cell with mates that befit her status."

Kyier felt Elisa relinquish the sword and take a firmer hold of his hand as honest fear washed over her.

"I don't think that will be happening." A familiar figure climbed up the same way as the others, though his motions slower and much more strained. He used the wall to support himself, standing tall to strengthen the illusion that his present injuries had little effect on him. "As commander of the guard and I cannot see to trying an innocent to the dungeons."

"As commander of the guard your job is to follow orders."

Chrystiem rose his nose to Joshua's words. The two had butt heads many a time. "My duty is to the King."

"The King is dead," Joshua retorted.

"And until a new King is crowned officially and not by simple self-proclaimation, I still uphold the laws of King Alphonse Nathaniel Rose."

"Is it permissible under those laws for another to hold a sword to one's throat?!"

"When one does so in self defense, it is." Chrystiem shot right back, his tone becoming mocking of the Duke's. "You didn't make it a point to keep her voice quieted, and I believe the Marquess would gladly speak on Elisabeth's behalf. Though, honestly... Her word against yours is all I'd need to put your slimy a** away." Gods he had been waiting forever to say something like that. The Duke lifted his lip is disgust. He cowardly backed away from the group, turning to descend back down the steps from which he had come. Chrystiem waited for the sound of his angry footsteps to fade away entirely before he dropped to his knees. Kyier and Elisabeth were both at his side in an instant. He smiled handsomely for the Duchess, reaching to wipe the tears from her cheek. "Think nothing on his words, Elisabeth."

Kyier grunted softly as he took the majority of Chrystiem's weight onto himself. "How did you know we'd be up here?"

The Left Hand sighed, "Gossip. Words travel quickly from the mouths of the maids. They heard the meathead shouting about Elisabeth. I was worried he had her cornered all alone."

Without warning, the Marquess lifted the man back to his feet, "We should get you back to the infirmary. There's no point in pushing yourself, and it will only prolong your recovery time." He looked back to Elisa, "Gather everything that you can manage to carry. With Joshua living here and now knowing of this room, I fear what might happen to its contents after what just happened." Chrystiem pushed him away, hellbent on standing on his own.

"If that's the case, then allow me to assist the pair of you." Chrystiem wandered back downstairs, calling forth the others members of the guard that still remained loyal to the true King. Before they knew it, ten plus men were moving about the tower, gathering up all of the boxes and keepsakes that had once belonged to the Roses. Chrystiem nodded with a small smile on his face as he watched his men work. He was at least happy that he could do this much. "I'll have them load it on a carriage for transport back to the manor." he smiled.

Kyier nodded a thank you. He crossed his arms and looked back to the window where Elisabeth now sat with her chin resting upon her knees. He should have asked if she was okay or tried to reassure her like Chrystiem had, but neither were in his capacity. The Marquess could only stare upon her, glancing away whenever she'd lift her head. The night overtook the sun until all the boxes found a home at the manor. Kyier imagined Mathius would be waiting there with the children, unless he had planned for them to sleep over at the cottage. "Any word from Raina?" It was a question that had burned Kyier for awhile now, but it had been one he had originally kept silence out of respect for his friendship with Chrystiem.

"No.." His friend's voice was nothing more than a breath of sadness. Ryst frowned, stepping aside to allow the last box to be carried out around him. "She- I got hurt Kyier. My arm was broken when we were attacked. They hit us before we could even begin to register what was going on. The King and Queen were both dead before we knew we were under attack." he hissed like the very thought was a knife to his heart. "Rai saw that I was injured and told me to go get help. She said she'd hold them off to give me the chance to return here to warn the council." The Marquess remained silent. He couldn't believe Ryst would obey her request, but he couldn't question him. Even Kyier could see how much it was eating away at the man. He had abandoned her, probably left her for dead. "I know what you're thinking." Chrystiem scoffed sadistically. "Gods, Kyier, I know. I left her. I abandoned my partner, but she-she gave me no choice. Rai- she said that if I trusted her at all, if I believed in her, I would do as she said. It sounds so damn stupid now but I-"

"Did the right thing." Raina finished his sentence for him as she stepped into the room. Her eyes were reddened with dark circles underneath and looked to have been rubbed raw. A bruise was apparent on her right cheek, but other from a few other scratches, the woman appeared perfectly unharmed. With his adrenaline pumping, the Left ran to his partner, taking her in his arms as if she were a long lost lover. He lifted her off her feet, holding her tightly against him, "Do not ever make me do something like that again, dammit!" he cried, honest tears escaping him. The Right Hand touched his cheek, and Chrystiem instantly read the sadness in her eyes. He released her, stepping back as he watched her walk solemnly over to Kyier. Raina looked up into his eyes, forcing back her tears. "I'm sorry for failing you. Your aunt and uncle were killed under my direct watch and-" she took a breath. "I-I have come to find that the Duke and Duchess as well. They- Your parents are gone, Kyier," she swallowed.

Kyier looked at the woman with disbelief written all over his face. He shook his head, "No. My parents are working as ambassadors to Lanvaldear, a kingdom that we consider a great ally. They couldn't possibly...how could this have...what happened?" His mind began flying through all the possible explanations. Kyier could feel his rage escalate. He looked at Raina angrily and flung her ususpectingly up against the stone wall. "Did you not hear me?! I asked what the Hell happened! How?! Why?! No. My parents can't be dead. They can't be!" Kyier's voice had risen and his eyes appeared to be aflame. Raina gripped the Marquess by the wrists, struggling only lightly in his grasp. She had expected this kind of reaction from him, but that didn't make the situation any less trying. "They were murdered, Kyier." Raina gasped. "The scene... It looked almost like an accident. Lady Cross was smashed by the carriage. It toppled and pinned her up against a tree. Your father- we didn't find the body but there was so much blood. There were marks in the ground like his body was dragged away and most likely hidden. All their riches were stolen." Elisabeth let out a gasp beside them. The news, what Raina was saying, hit her all at once like a ton of bricks had fallen down atop her. She collapsed to their right, hiding her sobbing face away in her hands. "It looked to be the work of mere thieves gone terribly, terribly wrong." Chrystiem held onto Elisabeth, drawing her into an embrace as she cried on his shoulder.

Kyier dropped his hold on Raina, watching with dead, unfeeling eyes as she slid down the wall. "Thank you." Kyier stated in an eerie calm. "Thank you for your report." An unnerving grin grew across his face then. He looked down at the girl crying into Chrystiem, his lip upturning in disgust. What right did she have to cry over his parents? She hardly knew him. Her tears were pathetic. "Ha. Haha. Hahahaha! Oh, yes. Thank you for the news!" he laughed cheerfully, clapping his hands. Kyier looked up to the ceiling, losing himself in the way an insane man would. "Why is everyone so melancholy hm...? For pity sake everyone cheer up," he smiled creepily as pranced about like a castle fool. He slapped Raina hard on the shoulder, crouching down at her side. "You know what the wonderful thing is about all this is?!" Kyier's face shown brightly.

Everyone else was silent.

Kyier tilted his head and shuffled over to Elisabeth, waiting for her to raise her head to face him, "I no longer have any obligation to house any of you! Hahaha!" he laughed intensely. "I'll have you all gone by tomorrow. Never will I have to deal with the likes you again. This is excellent news indeed!" he cheered. "So excellent, in fact, I am off to celebrate. Here, here and good riddance to you!"
The unbelievable had finally happened. It was painful, excruciatingly so, to think of the poor fates that had become of those loved so much: the Duke and Duchess Cross. Now, as Elisabeth stood in her bedroom packing what she could, her words echoed in her mind from not long ago. “We’ll be out by tomorrow,” She had told him, for what was she to say. She had no way of saying no to him, not denying him this small piece of salvation. As her friend, this is what she had to do. She might not allow her to
“You can take up residence in the castle, Elisabeth. It’s partially yours as of now.” It had to have been said, so all were made aware. Raina and Chrystiem stood in the doorway, watching the girl pack away what belongings she could.
“I must advise against such action, Raina. In fact I dare say I forbid it,” Chrystiem had said, despite his wounds still insisting on helping the two. Elisabeth just shook her head.
“My only interest in the castle right now is keeping it standing, and by no means do I plan on taking up residence there,” She said. She sighed, coming to sit on her bed. “I’ve been thinking lately that…if Kyier doesn’t want to do this, then I should. I can do this, become Queen. I will have as much say to the throne, and I will certainly be a better ruler than that….that Joshua. Oh, he positively makes my skin crawl!” She said, letting her hands come up and cover her goose pimpled flesh.

But by now the time that had been crawling at a snail’s pace, and dusk had begun to settle upon the horizon. “I’m going to rent a house for myself and the children. We’re not going far now, just towards town, until everything is figured out. I’ll use money from bonds that Cederick had given me before…before they left,” She said, looking over at them, “And since it belongs to me, from my parents, I’ll put it to good use. And I always know where I can find you, too.” She added the last part for them, because she honestly hated seeing their sad faces. Though nowadays it seemed as if sad faces were a part of a mysterious fashion and with the death toll on loved ones rising, everyone was wearing one of their own. She shut her case and closed the buckled straps, holding it up and silently asking for passage through the door. “Everything will be okay,” She said to them, though to whom she meant it she was unsure.
She ended up leaving, wandering about the manor, and she looked around at the once happy place, the pictures that lined the walls and the extraordinary prizes that had been collected through Anita’s family through so many years. Elisabeth let her mind wander as she watched them, thinking of Kyier. None of them knew where he had run off to after the attic incident. Now there was a carriage of forgotten items at the end of the walkway up to the manor.
But the children’s faces were the worse, so somber and stricken. It pained her even more to have to witness it. She hugged them both, but Sofia was the one who pushed her away. Sebastien needed the embracement. He had already lost so much in his short life. Elisabeth had tried to explain to them but her words fell short of anything worthy of an explanation. They had to go for now. They had to….just get out, even if none of them wanted. She wanted to explain to them everything, but now, tonight it would be better the less they knew.
There was a sound knock on the door, and Elisabeth moved toward it. Upon opening the large door, she gasped at who stood before her. “Hello again, Sir,” She began, offering a curt little bow to the mysterious man. It was the same faux-guard who saved her when she was to be hanged for her life. “Come in, come in,” She said, offering him a refuge from the brisk fall air.
“Duchess Elisabeth, I cannot stay, I do appreciate your kindness, though. I merely came in question as to the Marquess who now broods alone at Nox’s Tavern, the small bar next to the Apothecaire,” he said. Elisabeth grimaced. Kyier was going to try and drown his sorrows. She immediately grabbed her overcoat, and was out the door.
“Thank you, Sir Binks! Help yourself to some hot chocolate or tea; I have to go find my friend!” And she was off then, running as fast as her booted feet would carry her. She heard him briefly yell that he would stay with the children and the two inside. The Duchess couldn’t have been more thankful at his appearance, and never once gave it a thought. The town seemed barren once more, and the earlier nights seemed to have already begun to take a toll on the citizens. She ran to where she knew the Shoppe was, standing a few doors down from a tavern that had dark windows and a bolted door. Music blasted through the paneling, an offset of some horrendous classical medley that Elisabeth was either sure she had never heard of, or the band inside was just that dreadful. She moved up to the door and opened it, the scent of smoke filling her nostrils. An old man nodded to her as she entered; the pipe smoke was strong and growing stronger the further she moved in. The tables were all pushed closely together, and people yelled and jeered and laughed and whistled. The rowdy groups were just that…rowdy, though they did not appear dangerous.

At first she didn’t spot him, and her eyes strained to adjust to the dim lighting. She glanced over at the band as she was offered a seat with a group of friendly looking gentlemen who must have just gotten back from a work in the mines of Upper Haste. Kyier, she finally saw, sat alone next to a very large gentleman at the bar. She moved closer to him, at first thinking he was talking to the man, but then realizing the man was blabbering along the lines of something. Kyier had his face down, staring at the two glasses in front of him, but suddenly he started ranting to the man next to him; not about his woes, but about the way that life had moved about. She stood and watched for a while. He was completely intoxicated, and seemed to sway off his chair.

As soon as he turned around though, his eyes grew wide at the sight of the Duchess, and his mouth hung open. “How could you leave me?” He suddenly asked, not sounding cruel but instead like a small child. “How do you expect me to carry on by myself? I still need you, I still needed you!” He cried, stumbling off into the floor and into the girl, who gasped and held onto him. The big man looked at her sadly, and shrugged his shoulders.
“Kyier, come with me…you need to get into the cool air,” She told him. He mumbled something, and she asked him to repeat himself.
“Fine,” he quietly hissed. She wrapped an arm around his small, warm body and led him through the maze of people to the door. They were hissed at to close the door as the cold air came in, and once on the street, Kyier turned to her, “You were both the best people I have ever known, and I'm sorry you had me for a son. You both deserved – hiccup – uh, deserved so much more than I. I'll never be as compassionate, as empathetic and understanding as you were Ma'ma,” he slurred. “I don't know how to offer – hiccup - up my heart to others, how to radiate the warmth and light as you did so easily. And Pa'pa, I'm a coward. Every hardship I have ever had to face I got through it because you were at my side! Something wicked is coming, Ma’ma. I'm not strong enough to stand against it, I'm not Pa’pa! –hiccup- On my own, without the two of you I- I know that I always strived to be alone, but now that I truly am... now that you are gone, wha-,” He suddenly asked as if he realized where he was. The two had been walking, not really knowing where she was going. They walked along a trail, the sound a river flowing nearby.
“What are you saying, Kyier?” She asked, trying to get a better understanding of the Marquess’ drunken ramblings.
“I said…I said…actually, I’ve not a damn clue what I said,” He said, hiccupping so intensely that he heaved back and rolled down a small hill. She followed him quickly, picking up her skirt and almost tripping herself as she stumbled down the slippery slope. Kyier had landed in the water, and she pulled him upright and against the grass. His head rested at first againsther shoulder, so heavy and tired, he seemed to have fallen asleep. But then slowly he lowered himself, and his head rested against her lap. She froze, not sure how they became in such a position, and most certainly not wanting to disrupt him, so she just tried to brush some hair behind his ear. She touched him softly, caressing the side of his face in a soothing matter as he hiccupped from the alcohol. She truly hated seeing her friend in such disarray. And the hardest part was she was trying not to combust into a pile of sobbing tears. They remained shown now, and she knew others could see them laying dangerously behind her eyes. But she now had so many people to take care of and be strong for, and most of all she wanted to be strong for Anita. She let a tear slip down to the bridge of her nose and fall onto Kyier’s hair, and she wiped it away hastily. She had to be strong for him, and she would allow herself to weep for her fallen parents later in her solitude.
“I wanted to talk to you about this, Kyier,” she cried quietly to him, “Drinking your problems away is not going to bring them back,” She said. She felt him tense.
But that only lasted for a brief moments before Kyier heaved a contented sigh, "Y-you smell good." he breathed.

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