Welcome to Gaia! ::

Sofia sighed sadly as Elisabeth helped her unzip the boots on her little feet. They were tossed to the closet and the Duchess held out her hands for the child. Sofia held them tightly as her fluffy black dress was undone. The wet thing fell to the floor. She was about to step out of it when she was whisked off her feet and into the arms of Elisabeth. Before she knew it, she was wrapped tightly in a blanket as tears began to fall into her silky midnight lockes. "I'm so sorry all of this has happened to you, Sofia. You've lost so much and I know the terror you felt down in that dreadful basement. You're so young and you deserve none of this. My sweet little girl..." Elisabeth sniffled, her gentle hand stroking the girl's damp hair. "I will always be here for you, Sofia. I promise. I love you, I hope you know." She forced a smile, and Sofia blinked as Elisabeth's finger came down on her nose. "I'm going to go check on Sebastien. I'll be just down the hall, and Mathius is here if you need anything. Goodnight, Sweetheart." Sofia took a deep shaky breath once Elisabeth turned her back. She wasn't thinking. Her body was moving all its own and she just couldn't help it. The little girl wrapped her arms around the back of the Duchess. Words like that... Only one other person had ever said them to her before and actually meant them. It was a moment later before Sofia was in Elisabeth's arms again. She felt so warm all of a sudden. Despite being mature beyond her years, Sofia was in all honesty still a child. No matter how she tried to fight it, she needed someone. She needed to be taken care of. Her head fell to rest against the Duchess, her tired eyes closing slowly as the soft humming resonating from Elisabeth's lips sent her away into a sweet slumber. She was carried into Sebastien's room and laid down softly beside the tearful boy. Elisabeth brought the covers up over the pair of them before sitting down on the side of the bed beside the boy, "No more tears, Sebastien. Anita and Cederick would hate to see you so sad. She acts tough, but Sofia needs you to be strong." The boy looked to his left and hastily wiped away his tears. He swallowed, nodding his head.

Elisabeth smiled softly and kissed both of their foreheads. She left the door cracked and stepped out into the hallway where she was met by Mathius. "I will be back in the morning to check on Kyier. I think it best we leave him to his own devices tonight." Elisabeth bit her lip, "Um, actually, Mathius... `Would you mind staying here for a few moments? I would appreciate some time to- to say my own goodbyes to my god-parents." The Apothecary nodded humbly, "Of course, Elisabeth."

"Elisabeth?" Kyier questioned, his voice hardly a breath. It was as if he had just realized she was standing with him, her form pressed tenderly to his. His brows furrowed as he looked down over her. Had it really been her standing in the distance moments ago? "You're freezing," he whispered. The wind swirled around them, knocking back the rain from their faces. Was this truly what it had wanted... What she wished for? What was he even thinking? He truly must have lost his mind. "Silly girl... What are you doing out here?" Kyier sighed as he spoke, feeling her hold on him grow tighter still. What is it that she had said to him? The Duke was so lost in his own head that he barely heard her words. "I just- I wanted to say goodbye to them without the eyes of the lingering crowds," Elisabeth answered. "Mathius and I had both thought you were still shut away inside your room." Before he knew what he was doing, his head fell softly against her wet curls. Everything around him froze as it felt like time itself was standing still. He sighed, holding back the tears that threatened to escape his eyes. His parents were truly gone. He would be able to speak to them no more. Kyier swallowed heavily, wiping away the lone tear that graced his cheek hastily before pulling away from Elisabeth. "Say your goodbyes another day, Elisabeth. You'll get catch if you remain out here and I for one do not care to have to take care of you. You're usually a mess as it is anyway, I can only imagine you taking ill." The Duke sighed at himself again and shook his head. Wait. He vaguely recalled her thanking him for something... His eyebrow rose at the thought, "And what in the God's names were you thanking me for?" Kyier rolled his eyes as he started walking, not giving her the time to answer.
The next morning, when they awoke from their slumbers, a fresh blanket of white snow had made its way across the ground. Elisabeth had awoken the earliest, she had supposed, and was with the few maids helping with breakfast. Well, she tried to help them, before she thought to send them home. Though it may not have been her place, she understood they were all still in mourning, and thought they could use some rest of their own. She took over in the kitchen, doing what she had done so well in the tavern her parent’s owned. She made tea and coffee, bread for toast, and eggs. She kept her eyes on the large windows that lead outside, watching the snow fall heavier each moment. She loved the snow. She wondered, too, if the snow had also started to fall for the winter in Van Hollen.
She looked up from stirring a pot of hot chocolate when she heard someone enter the kitchen, and turned and looked at Sebastien and Sofia, the two looking too drained for children so young. “Good morning, lovelies. How did you sleep?”
Sebastien looked at her as if he were unsure of the answer himself, and before answering glanced at Sofia. “Alright, I suppose.” He looked over at the food, and Elisabeth smiled. He ran over and started to take what he could, making two plates before he handed one to his friend. “Thanks, Elisa!” he told her, and she nodded, smiling slightly as she watched him eat.
“Eat up,” she told them, “Funerals can take a lot out of people.”
She wondered if Kyier would still be sleeping or if he would have joined them. She was going to make him a plate of food to bring to him if he didn’t come down. She didn’t have long to worry though, because there was a chime at the door, the sound of it opening surprising her. She wondered who it could be before she headed out into the foyer, glancing back and Sofia and Sebastien, of whom one of them was entirely excited about the snow. In the foyer, Mathius stood with another woman, who Elisabeth recognized from the funeral, though she was not too sure who she was. But the woman had to be a relative of his sister, for she was too tall, too blonde, to be anything else. And her eyes were just as sparkling green as Mathius’. There as something beautiful about her, her skin, and her hair, Elisabeth watched her as she took off her overcoat and flung it at her, nearly knocking out her air. She had not expected the sudden deposit of the article.
“Take care of that will you?” The woman said. She looked at Elisabeth as if she had expected her to do something, and Elisabeth just looked helplessly at Mathius, who was as shocked as she felt. “Mathius, what is wrong with this girl? Have the Cross’s lost all of their good help?” She sighed, before Mathius coughed.
“Th-that’s not the help, Isabella. That’s Elisabeth…Elisabeth Rose…the Duchess,” he explained. “She was at the funeral with us!” he took his sister’s jacket, and attempted an introduction. “Elisabeth, this is my sister Isabella. Isabella, this is Elisabeth.” Isabella should have been put off, but she just stared at the girl.
“You live here?” She questioned. She huffed slightly, before passing by her. “You don’t know how lucky you are. Tell the Marquess we’ve arrived.”
"Oh, he knows." Kyier sighed as he stepped into the room. "You have a rather commanding presence, Isabella. It's one that's rather difficult to ignore." The woman chuckled at that, seemingly quite pleased by the Duke's comment. She pushed passed the dumbfounded Elisabeth and made her way into the dining room to sit with the children. Isabella stared at them both, wondering where exactly they spawned from. Sebastien sunk down bashfully in his chair under her scrutiny. Sofia heard him gulp audibly next to her and all she could do was roll her eyes before glaring back at the rude woman. What was she looking at anyway? Her eyebrow rose, issuing a challenge to the stranger. It wasn't long before Elisabeth took a seat back beside Sofia. She cleared her throat and extended her hand to her friend's sister.
Isabella stared at the hand, and then glanced back up at the girl. Elisabeth tried once more, “It really is a pleasure to meet you, Isabella,” before being huffed at once again. With her hands on a hot cup of tea, she glanced over at Kyier before going back to Elisabeth. Her eyes narrowed only slightly.
“So, Marquess, do you still play the piano as well as you used to?” She grinned.
“Kyier’s ANSWER,”
“Of course I never stopped. I could never let your skills surpass mine,” she grinned cheekily.
Isabella looked over at the youngest boy again, before raising her eyebrow. “So, how long have these children been staying with you?” There was not really any ice to her words, not like when-,
“For quite a while!” Elisabeth interjected, causing a surprised Isabella to whip her head around, causing her perfect curls to bounce against her shoulders. “Sebastien and Sofia have become a part of this family. Elisabeth didn’t care the expression on the woman’s face, instead smiling at the two children who she had come to love so very much.
“They had done that before…” And Isabella almost smiled, thinking about the Cross’s in her own lifetime. She only wished she had stayed. Elisabeth tilted her head, and watched the other woman. Something changed when she spoke of the Cross’s. And then something else caught her eyes, a glinting silver charmed bracelet that rested on her delicate wrist.
“Isabella, that’s a beautiful bracelet,” Elisabeth said, trying to make peace with this woman who she was determined not to be disliked by.
“I know,” She said, and though she sounded smug the look on her face was shining.
“You still have that?” Mathius asked, coming out of his own conversation with Kyier.
“Of course I do!” She hissed at her brother, handling the small charms. “Of course I do…” She said a little more softly. She looked over at the Duchess. “It was a gift, from Kyier, before I left.
Elisabeth’s face remained the same, but she still nodded and said some sort of pleasantry. And that was all that Isabella seemed to need. “Kyier, my friend, would you like to dabble in another play with me, for old time sake?” She asked, her hand reaching over to lie on top of his. Elisabeth knocked over her tea cup, and Sebastien started laughing.
Kyier scoffed, "Oh, please. Do not ask tiresome questions that you already know the answer to, Isabella." A very small grin played at his lips though, "The real question is if those over-manicured hands of yours can still hold a bow."

The Duke rolled his eyes, "Must you always be such a klutz, stupid girl?" Kyier sighed. He whipped out his napkin and tossed it at her, shaking his head. His hand slipped from Isabella's as he stood from the table. For a moment, he hesitated, looking in the direction of the grand piano that presently sat silently in the living quarters. The one in the garden had been a gift from his Uncle. The piano in the living quarters, however... It's proud, stunning ivory had belonged to the Duchess Cross. The winter wind whistled outside the window, flurrying snowflakes dancing, almost begging for music to accompany them. Kyier gave a small nod, "Yes, I think I will agree to that..." he responded softly. Sofia jumped up and followed swiftly behind the Duke, following him and the home intruder back into the living quarters. The little girl smiled as she climbed onto her favorite spot in the whole room, giggling only softly when Kyier's hand came down atop her head. He sat down next to her and let his fingers fall softly to the keys of pure ivory. Sofia was still cross with him for having kicked her out of the manor... Sebastien and Elisabeth she definitely understood, but her?! She supposed she could forgive him as he had suffered a terrible lose. Just this once though!

The Duke looked back at Isabella as she readied the violin to her cheek and gave him a small nod. It was a moment's breath before the first note was played and the music swept them away. Kyier closed his eyes as the instruments harmonized, allow the sweet sounds to whisk him back to a world that he knew as a child. The memories became so vivid as he watched the smile that came across his mother's lips when she had played. It had been like no other. Sofia's icy blue eyes were brilliant as she watched him. His fingers moved so fast, so skillfully. It was aw inspiring.
The same happened to Isabella as soon as her bow hit the strings, and their duet allowed her to take a step back into her own childhood, into a time before her life fell into shambles. Before she left, even, and for a moment, she was a young girl again, with the pouting Marquess. Her red and green satin dress and hair tied up all nicely for the Cross’s, it was snowing just as it was now, but the night had come and the two families huddled together in the house and watched the two children play for them. It was a very nice moment, Anita clapping and standing nearest Kyier, and then Madeleine watching the children with tears in her eyes next to the Duchess.
Elisabeth now stood in the place of Madeleine, in the same near spot. But her thoughts were not on the two playing exactly. She didn’t quite understand their friendship that seemed to be rekindling before her very eyes. She had just started to believe that she understood who Kyier was…becoming his friend. And now it was as if that was all going up in smoke. She didn’t know how to take Isabella. Was she a friend or foe? Because she already felt as if Isabella had made her own opinion on her.
The music came to a soft close. A small breath escaped the Duke's lips as his eyes opened to the dim light. He smiled as he stood from his bench and offered a bow to the lady. "You have not lost your touch, Isabella. Your violin is as beautiful as ever... The only partner I would allow to accompany my piano." Kyier knew that he owed her a great debt then as he was uncertain if he would have ever graced the keys again without her pushing him to them. He had thought perhaps it would simply be too painful, but now he realized that the real shame would have been giving it up entirely. He doubted his mother would have ever forgiven him. "Thank you, Isabella." Kyier set his sights on Mathius then. His face grew much more stern, "I ask that you excuse your brother and I for a few moments."

Kyier had never spoken so politely before. It was not at all in his nature. He left the room silently, listening for the footsteps of his friend following behind. The Duke pulled himself up the stairs, grunting a bit at the strain it put on his still injured ribs. He led Mathius into his bedroom, walking back to his desk to take an old photograph into his hand. Kyier sighed as he turned to hand it over, "I thought you might want this." he stated quietly. The Duke watched as his friend's green eyes scanned the photo of the two boys standing with his parents. The picture had been taken a little after Isabella had left them for reasons that had never been told to him. Anita's arms were wrapped around Mathius, both smiling happily together while Kyier looked ever so annoyed beside them with his proud father at his back. "Mathius, I- I owe you an apology, and for the sake of my parents I cannot allow myself to be too prideful to give it." he sighed. "I am sorry that I was not present at their funeral, and I apologize for leaving you to deliver their eulogy alone. It was not my place to force that on you, but then, I know that they were just as honored to have you speak for the as they would have if I had had the courage. You have always been as much a brother to me as a friend, and I thank you for that."
“Kyier, my friend, you have no idea how much this means to me,” Mathius said. He twirled the picture in his hands, and held it against his chest. “Really, thank you.” Mathius grinned quite a grin and stepped forward, basking in the look of horror on his friends face. The taller of the men was least likely to use force, but even so the smaller was quite frightening. Only a quick glimpse of horror flashed on his face as Mathius enveloped him in a hug, and he stiffened at first. Mathius laughed. “Relax, would you? I’m not Elisabeth.”

Downstairs, Elisabeth was caught in a very awkward silence with Isabella. The two woman seemingly refused to speak to one another. One merely wished for the silence, while the other was at a loss for words. “I am sure Mathius is so happy that you’re back, Isabella. He has surely missed you,” She said. She looked at her hands, resting in her lap as she sat quietly on the sofa. Sebastien and Sofia had left quickly after Kyier to go whisper to one another. They didn’t want to be here, and neither did Elisabeth. But leaving a guest would be rude. She thought it better if she befriended the woman. She left when Sebastien called her from the kitchen, standing and offering a polite bow. “Excuse me,” She said before shuttling from the room.
Isabella stood by the fire of the Cross Manor, watching the flames burn against the dark wood inside, licking up the sides of the hearth. The shadows flickered across her young, porcelain face, but her mask was solid. Her full lips never faltered from anything but the lady-like smile she had held on for years, and her eyes never glistened with unnecessary tears. Her shield was strong, but being back in Landon she could feel it breaking piece by piece. Being so close to him, so close to her true love she felt the fire build within her, like her old self – the self she was before her parents died, before her mother died of that wretched illness, and her father selfishly took his own life.
Her eyes blazed with their dark green colouring that matched her brothers, the shining orbs portraying every ounce of her sordid, sad life she shared with her now ex-husband. Her curling hair shimmered in the firelight against her pale skin, and when her head moved to look at the family portrait of the Cross’s above the fireplace, she almost lost it. She never did tell those wonderful people how appreciative she had been of their encouragement and love. They would have gladly taken her in, but she was a foolish child, who ran off and married a man solely for his money. If she had stayed she wondered if her life would be any different. Her hands trembled against the glass of tea she held, before her hand came up to touch her ruby lips. Her composure slipped for merely a moment before she was once again the mirage of composed femininity. She would never allow herself to make a foolish slip like that again.
She was Isabella Van Aelst. She was not about to allow herself to mourn or cry like a child. She would remain composed, and beautiful. She would be an adult, and she would do it for Anita and Cederick Cross. This would be her way of thanking them. She turned when she heard her brother cough behind her, and she spun delicately on her heel, her bouncing curls moving behind her back.
“Kyier has requested another song with you, Isabella,” He said tenderly. She just smiled and nodded delicately.
“I’ll be right out, Mathius. Just give me a moment,” she ordered, and he nodded before she once again found herself in solitude. Just the way she was used to it. Just the way she liked it.
The rest of the evening was filled with a quiet sense of intimacy. Everyone gathered together in the magickal bliss of the instruments orchestrating as one. The harmony filled the air, providing a sense of comfort to all those it touched. Sofia yawned, her head falling softly to rest gently on Sebastien's shoulder. The boy looked shocked at first. His face blushed a bright red as he gazed down at her sleeping face. He gulped audibly before a small smile graced his lips. "I think it might be time for bed here soon." Elisabeth whispered softly. Sebastien nodded as the song came to a serene end. The fire crackling in the hearth was the only sound to grace the company's ears for a few silent moments before the Duke stood from the piano. Without saying a word, he walked gracefully over to the children and gently took Sofia into his arms. Her small feet dangled at his sides while her cheek rested comfortably against his chest. Kyier exchanged looks with Mathius, the two having another one of their silent conversations. With that, the apothecary stood from his seat. Mathius wanted to say so much to the Duke, and yet something told him that Kyier already knew. He bowed his head and thanked his brother softly for a lovely evening. Isabella gave his cheek a soft kiss, "We will get together again soon, Marquess. It was lovely to play with you again." she smiled. Kyier nodded in agreement, "As always, Isabella," he replied. He showed the two out, all the while carrying Sofia in his arms. Elisabeth met him in the hall, looking as if she had something to say. The Duke gave her but a glance before walking passed her to deliver the young girl to her bedroom. He laid her carefully amongst the covers and sweetly moved the bangs from her eyes. "Sweet dreams, Little One." he whispered as he pulled the blankets up to her chin. He patted her head before turning from the room, "Goodnight, Elisabeth."

Kyier awoke the next morning to a little over a foot of snow covering the earth. Noir watched quietly as his master got dressed, the little black kitten only ever allowing the man before him to stroke his silky fur. He purred softly at Kyier's feet, weaving in and out from between his legs until finally the man lifted him into his arms. The manor was eerily quiet. Kyier examined his pocket watch, "It's already 11:30?! How could I have allowed myself to sleep so long?" He sighed to himself. Plenty of nights the young man would stay up burning the midnight oil, but never had he stay a slumber passed 8. He made his way to the window, looking out over the sparkling white wonderland outside. Elisabeth and the two children were outside, tromping about the snow like morons. Even the elegant, silvery hound was prancing about the sea of white. As he watched out the window Kyier could not help but smile. In all honesty he absolutely adored the snowfall. There was something about the snow that just seemed magickal. It was almost as if the world was cleansed of all its evil; everything vile wiped away by a beautiful, new, white, blanket.

Kyier looked back about the room. It was beginning to feel as if his parent's portrait was haunting him. He groaned angrily to himself as he grabbed his coat and gloves from the mantle. Kyier placed Noir back to his feet before pausing at the door. He must be out of his mind. There was no time for merriment with his-his what? What were these people to him anyway? The thought slipped from his mind the moment his foot sunk deep into the freezing snow.

"Aw Mama! Mama, mama please! I want to play in the snow! Look! It's soo pretty! Please Mama!" The young boy looked to his mother pleadingly. In response the duchess laughed at her child's excitement. Never before had the boy shown the emotion of pure, absolute joy. The Lady was delighted. "Of course my dear son. There is no need for you to beg, let us steal your father away from his studies then." She smiled warmly. The young lad cheered and smiled as he held the hands of both his mother and father. The happy family then proceeded to play together in the magic of winter. The Duke laughed as his small son created a snowball at least three times his size. "This can be the bottom!" the little Kyier cheered. When the snowman was finished his parents scooped him up and toppled over into the soft snow. All three were laughing happily, staring at one another. "I love you mama, I love you papa." the little boy whispered."We love you more." The Duke and Duchess replied in unison.

Kyier wiped away the lone tear that had begun to travel down his cheek. The snow was once filled with happy childhood memories, but now...he sighed. "There is something magick about winter, isn't there? It's like a crystal ball into the past." Kyier spun around, startled by the sudden appearance of a man who knew as not himself. "As well as a sparkling reminder of what can come." Binks bowed before the new Duke. "I apologize for the intrusion, young Duke. You appeared so forlorn I took it upon myself to provide you with some friendly guidance." he smiled cordially. Kyier rose an eyebrow as so many questions soared through his mind. "Do not allow me to keep you from them, Kyier. They are your new family. By no means will they replace the one you have lost...but they are family all the same. And you my friend...need them now more than ever. Fare the well." Binks grinned, disappearing as swiftly as he had come.

Kyier's trance was now broken. He didn't provide response to Binks' comment, but rather, he found himself moving toward the sound of Elisabeth's and the children's laughter. His hands were both tucked away in his pockets and he didn't dare look up, but he moved forward nonetheless. Sofia was the first to spot him approaching. He looked so lost...so timid, not himself at all. Sofia sighed, "I'll fix him! I'll fix him real good!" she thought to herself. She took off through the deep snow in a flash, having no choice really but to hop through the stuff as it came up well above her knees. In all but a few seconds Sofia leapt up and mustered the strength to tackled Kyier. The poor guy was caught so very off-guard that even someone as tiny as Sofia succeeded in taking him down. She landed on top of him, only to roll off into the soft snow to his right. She then began to laugh softly. Kyier looked up at the sky and smiled before he joined her, the sound of laughter filling the air like a beautiful melody.
Watching Kyier enter the gardens, Elisabeth caught herself smiling. She was so happy that Kyier was coming out to join them…to have fun. And when he smiled, when he truly smiled, he was one of the most beautiful creatures ever to be hit by the rays of the sun. Elisabeth felt the beating of her heart quicken in his presence. ‘Kyier is smiling…and being happy?’ She thought, “I’d never thought that something like this could be,’ she laughed inwardly, ‘He looks so happy.’ But then she did something different, and unexpected. She slinked lowly behind one of the big trees that was covered with the sparkling snow. She made a large ball in her hands, and jumped out when she thought Kyier was near. She hocked it from behind the tree, barreling towards the Duke as fast as she could throw. Of course it only managed to hit his leg, despite it being with a sounding thwack. She laughed and stared above her, watching the dark gray clouds and the few lone snowflakes that now drifted towards the earth. She stuck out her tongue and caught what she could.
But Kyier had been too quick anyway, hiding now upon the very tree that Elisabeth sat under and with an unguarded face…a face that peered up towards the clouds, he bounced and the tree branch moved and the snow that lay upon it fell into the openmouthed Duchess. “I think I win,” Kyier smirked at her. With eyes gaping wide, Elisabeth stared at him incredulously. He just sat there, so smooth and unconcerned, being all ‘Kyier-like’ and such. She shook her head, making the flakes of snow fall from her thick locks, and then grabbing Kyier’s ankle, she pulled him downward until he fell on his bum in front of her. And that made her laugh harder than she has ever laughed before, nearly knocking the wind out of her!
“Can you at least pretend you are a female?” He asked her, turning his head to look at her. But she had already been staring at him, he had found.

But she crawled over to him on her hands and knees, moving in-between his legs and feeling his bodily warmth. “I do hope you are not terribly hurt,” she said, though she could barely say it without laughing. But then their eyes locked again, and she did stop laughing. ‘Who would have ever thought that this…this could truly be happening?’ These feelings she had for him were coming on and hitting her like a canon to the stomach. She was falling so quickly for the man who once hated her.
“No…I think it quite the opposite,” he whispered. Then he took her hand in his and helped her to her feet, where he turned to watch the attempted making of a snowman by a very happy Sebastien and Sofia. “Come on,” he said, “Let’s help them.” But their hands didn’t drop from one another until Kyier had pulled the girl closer.

With the heavy snowfall, this meant that the winter holiday, Luminera, was quickly approaching. When he group headed inside, a now very wet Sebastien thanks to Sofia and Kyier, Elisabeth was walking about the holiday. “What would you like for a gift, Kyier? Perhaps, too, we should…uh…invite Mathius of course…and his sister for dinner?” She suggested, trying to be friendly towards the other woman and also figure out what she could possibly get for the man who seemed to have everything.
Ignoring the first subject, Kyier mocked the other, “Presents?” He scoffed. “Luminera is so…so…” He sighed, but did not continue. “I am sure you have a good time shopping by yourself.” And he bent down in the tea room to start a roaring fire. “This should keep you warm for a while…” he mentioned before giving a parting glance and leaving the three of them alone in the room, while he himself seemed to disappear.
Elisabeth sat with the two children for a while, her mind moving quickly as she watched the fire burn the logs, the crackling fire intense and warm. Just as Kyier was. She thought about the possibility of gifts. She had to get him something that was so perfectly him. She stood up, inviting the two children to go shopping with her, but Sebastien looked over at Sofia and declined the offer, wanting to stay home in the warmth. But Elisabeth nodded kindly, and went off to collect her things.

The town was a lot busier than the Duchess would have expected. People were bustling about, all hooded and draped in warmth as they began to shop for their loved ones for the coming of the holiday season. The entire time she moved about the town, holding her cloak around her shoulders so tightly, she thought about what she could get Kyier. But then her mind wandered as she did, and she wondered if just for a moment, if there was something that Kyier would get for her. But she ignored that thought and allowed herself to continue thinking of the Duke. She stumbled from the crowd of shoppers into the town book store, filled with trinkets and books like Mathius’ shoppe, though sans scientific. She caught a bought of curly blonde hair as she scanned the titles of gold and silver leather lined books. Isabella didn’t turn around at first, though Elisabeth was sure she had heard her.
The Apothecaries sister did turn around though, her eyes not straying from the woman. Elisabeth offered her a quiet smile, but the other did not return it. And when she did smile it was something…different. As though her mind was a clockwork of cogs that didn’t stop thinking of how to get what she wanted. She glided over, towering over the smaller woman.
“Come have a tea with me, Lady Elisabeth,” She said. Elisabeth only nodded, partially scared, and partially curious, thinking that she could get information from Kyier’s old friend of the family. Isabella put her arm around the girl and led her from the book shoppe, and into a small tea store, with a glassy eyed woman with which steam poured from her. They sat down, Elisabeth sipping a tea that was not quite as good as Mathius’ and Isabella not touching hers. The latter woman merely stared at the Duchess, watching her and taking her in.
“I…I am pleased to be able to speak with you, Isabella. You know Kyier better than anyone, expect perhaps Mathius, so I was wondering…what would be a good gift to get him?” She asked rather quickly. For a moment, Isabella seemed shocked that was what she was asking, but her eyes changed suddenly after her smile disappeared.
“I don’t think you want my help.” She stood up, suddenly feeling very hot and uncomfortable. “Elisabeth, get him whatever it is you wish. I don’t give a damn.” And she stormed out, her face a blur of red as she disappeared into town, leaving a very dumbfounded Duchess alone at her seat.
"Oh, hey! Pardon me!" A young man hissed angrily, glaring in the direction of the blonde woman storming away from him. She had been a tall lady, her hair the curliest Lillia had ever seen. She certainly had to have been angry about something the way she had nearly trampled straight over the poor Marchioness standing all by her lonesome in the midst of the stone path. Never had the girl felt so very invisible. Her mulberry eyes darted about the city of Landon. It was all so busy, so loud... It hadn't been anything the likes she had imagined. Surely she had come to the capital city a number of times with her mother, but those trips only ever involved going strictly to the castle. Her eyes had never prior set upon the busy commoners muddling about their daily business, and muddle they did. Lillia tipped her hat further to hide her face, keeping her head down as she moved through the bustling crowds. She knew that as soon as her brother had received word of her untimely...exit... he would send every guard he had at his disposal after her, knowing what she did. That said, given his present status, was unfortunately the entirety of the royal army. She had to get to her cousin at all costs. She knew not how much the man already knew, but she needed to be certain that she wasn't the only one who knew the man masquerading around as Duke Hastings was by no means her brother.

"Get out of the way, Kid!" Lillia nearly screamed as a great big burly fellow came at her and shoved her from his way. He had been muttering something under his breath all the while, shaking his head at her as if she were the scum on the bottom of his shoes. "Stupid, boy." he hissed.

Lillia took a deep breath to suppress her rage, not wanting to cause a fiery scene to attract the attention of the daily patrols. If only the citizens could know who she was... As the Marchioness, she would easily find someone willing to direct her to Cross Manor. As she was now, however, she was no more than a young man wandering about the streets in dirtied, ripped clothing. The peasant she had bought the attire from had been more than pleased by their exchange. Lillia had been happy to donate her mother's money to the young man's family for his assistance. The thought of anything that would enrage the woman gave the young lady a brief flutter of sick joy.

"Oh, heavens! Excuse me. Please, please wait!" The voice following her hardly registered in the young girl's mind. It was but a sound like the birds chirping above, a noise blending into the many conversations singing through the air. Lillia carried on her misguided way without a hitch. "Wait!" A small hand reached for her arm, this time causing Lillia to jump in a startle. She whipped around, gasping in her alarm. "I'm sorry to have scared you. I just noticed your arm. It's bleeding." The Marchioness blinked, staring blankly at the shorter woman for but a moment. Elisabeth smiled softly, nodding her head toward the opposite arm from which she now held. "You should get that looked at before it becomes infected." Lillia's head tilted ever so slightly. She swallowed as she looked at her arm, shocked by how great an injury it truly was. Had she been so lost in the thoughts of her mission that the pain hadn't even registered? It must had been from the man had shoved her... She remembered having fallen against the pointed fence, but she couldn't recollect the penetrating injury.

Perhaps the young man hadn't the money to get it treated? Elisabeth patted his hand, trying to think of a means to ask such without sounding rude. "Come along with me. A friend of mine happens to be the best apothecary in town... I'm sure he'd look at your arm for you free of charge."

The Marchioness finally managed to look back over at the woman, yet still managing to keep her eyes downcast. She definitely recognized her from somewhere... If only she could place her. At the very least, she seemed more than kind. She was dressed in the garb of a noble, and yet still she had reached out to one who appeared to be of low standing. A perfect stranger, and this woman acted as if Lillia could be her own child that had been injured. "Um...thank you." Lillia mumbled softly. "That is very kind of you, Miss."

Elisabeth appeared tickled by the conversation, "Oh, don't be silly. My name is Elisabeth by the way." she smiled.

Lillia's eyes widened as the name struck her. Elisabeth. Of course... This was the Duchess her mother hated so. She had recognized her from the funeral. Elisabeth Rose... "I'm L-Luke." Lillia answered as she followed behind the Duchess. The woman had laughed happily. She was carrying on and on about how her best friend from home had the very same name. She was perhaps the most bubbly person Lillia had ever come across. She seemed she hadn't a care in the world the way she told story after story, chattering away. At the funeral, Lillia could recall seeing her stay close to Kyier's side, but then... she couldn't risk everything on a mere shaky memory. From what she had heard of the Duchess, she was loyal to the Cross family, but then, she simply couldn't be sure. A bell tolled overhead, breaking her from her trance.

The apothecary was quick with a pleasant greeting, "Ah, Elisabeth, hello." Mathius grinned widely. "Oh... Who is your friend there?"

The Duchess presented her to the apothecary as Luke, informing him of how she had watched the hateful fellow shove the young man and had taken notice to the wound from afar. Mathius nodded all the while, directing Lillia to take a seat so he could look over her arm.
“I knew you would take care of him, Mathius!” And she looked at the young boy, “See, I told ya!” And she smiled widely before she looked out of the window. “Mathius, I don’t think your sister likes me very much…” She looked around at the gadgets. And she was going to say something else when something caught her eyes and she waved goodbye. “I’ll see you later, Luke! Bye, Mathius! Don’t look so tense! Luke won’t bite you,” She laughed. And she said her goodbyes once more and left, the small bell dinging as her only exit.
Mathius held the arm gently between his long fingers, and he lightly dapped the salve against the wound, trying to avoid any more pain for the patient. But he looked up, staring into those eyes, and when he was sure that Elisabeth was not going to barge back in, he spoke to ‘Luke’. “Luke, huh?” He tried to say, but his smile made him stutter over his words. “You know, sir. You’re a dead ringer for our own Marquess. Or…Duke, I suppose,” he said sadly. He wrapped the soft bandage around the wound and held her hand. He was shaking, but he tried to hold her steady. “It’s nice to see you again, Lady Hastings. I know it’s been quite some time, and I doubt you remember me…” He swallowed, “So, why are you disguised as a little boy?” he asked. “Just out of curiosity. And I won’t tell anyone you’re here, I just suggest you be more careful,” he told her.
Lillia took a deep, shaky breath. Her heart felt as though it had jumped clean up her throat. Mathius may have discovered her true identity, but he had been wrong on at least one account... The Marchioness had remembered the man quite well, and from the looks of his shaking, hands he remembered her all too well as well.. They spoke worlds to her. It broke her heart. "Come, we can go to the back and talk." Lillia watched as the man went to go change the sign on the door from opened to closed. She couldn't believe how considerate this man was. He led her behind a green curtain then, offering her the single stool that stood near his work table. It was a quaint little place... almost like a tiny home. A fireplace was roaring in the corner of the room, warming up the entire cozy shoppe. Lillia sighed, there was no longer a point in trying to hide herself from him. She knew as soon as she stepped into the shoppe and saw him standing there that her disguise was doomed. Damn her and her cousin's likeness. She didn't have a choice now, she was going to have to trust him. Lillia removed the hat from her head, allowing her long light blonde locks to slip gracefully down passed her shoulders. She looked at the ground, only to be greeted by a steaming cup of the most delightfully smelling tea that would ever grace her lips.

"Uh- Thank you," she all but whispered. "You're very kind." Lillia wasn't sure what she could say. She was almost speechless before the man. "I- Please, please just address me as Lillia. I hate such formalities. And to that note..." The Marchioness took a step back and inclined her head into a deep bow. Such a thing was unheard of in their society; for one of such noble standing to incline herself to someone society viewed as below her... If her mother had been dead, Lillia was certain it would have caused her to roll over in her grave. "I know it doesn't make up for the cruelty you were shown, but I hope you will know how sincere I am when I say I am deeply sorry for my mother's behavior toward you the last time we met," she swallowed.
“Oh…I-I…” He just stared at her with his mouth agape, surely certain that his heart was going to burst right through the seams of his jacket. His face turned bright red, so brightly coloured it was almost purple and he let out a breath. “Let me just…may I see your arm once more? Just to see it bandaged correctly?” he asked, looking at it once more while he managed to collect his thoughts and cease the shaking in his hands. He could smell her now, now that she had been in here long enough her soft scents of lilac blossom wafted throughout the smell and he found himself sniffing slightly to get more of the intoxicating aroma. And when he looked up, he found her looking almost sadly at him, perhaps still upset at her mother’s harsh words. Now would be the time, he could tell her that it was not her, say something that would…would calm her own kind heart.
“Please don’t…worry about what your mother said. It is plain as day you’re anything but her, and I hold no grudge against you, Li-Lillia…” he whispered. Oh, boy, did he want to kiss her beautiful face, her loving, laughing pale red lips. He had never seen a woman so beautiful that was even more beautiful closer. He dropped his head again, ashamed of his thoughts of that nature to the woman so high above him, kind as she was. She would never fall for him, so his little…crush….should just be forgotten. “Your arm is all bandaged. I have a slave for you to take home if the pain continues. You should be alright to be on your way now,” he said, offering her a sad, but friendly smile.
Lillia blinked for but a moment before reaching into her pocket to pull out the small change purse she had brought with her on her journey. "I didn't bring much, I-" Mathius cut her off then, shaking his head and pushing the salve into the girl's hands. He insisted that she take it free of charge. "Oh, no... I couldn't. Please, allow me to pay you," she requested softly, still to his refusal. She sighed then, "Very well, then at least accept my thanks." she smiled. Though she had didn't know this man on a personal level, she had certainly heard of him the few times she had been allowed to visit with her Aunt. It was funny to her to think that Mathius could manage to be friends with someone as hot-headed as her cousin. The pair of them just didn't seem to click in her mind. "May I make another request of you, Mathius?" she asked suddenly... So suddenly that she must have startled the man. The small teacup shattered over the floor, and never before had she seen someone's face turn such a bright red color. "Oh! I'm so sorry!" She dropped down beside him to help him clean up the mess. "Are you okay? Your face is bright red... Maybe you should sit down for moment? I could fetch you some water..." But he shook his head, offering that he was quite fine. Lillia stood up with him, tilting her head as if questioning the truthfulness of his statement.

"No, no really. I'm really q-quite fine," he chuckled nervously. Now what was this request of yours?"

The Marchioness gasped as if just remembering her reasoning for fleeing from home and venturing out into the dangerous world she knew so little of. "Oh! Yes... I must speak to Kyier. With everything that just happened I had nearly forgotten! It's absolutely urgent. There is no one else I can trust with this matter, but I-" Oh, how very embarrassing. "I left home by night while my mother slept and managed to get myself to the trains... But I- Once I arrived in Landon- My mother kept me on a very tight leash all my life. I'm afraid I am not versed in making my way through town or anywhere alone for that matter. I became lost. And the disguise- Well I know my brother will have his guards searching for me endlessly until I'm captured... Given what I know." she swallowed, looking quite fearful now that she recalled the gravity of her own situation. "I don't want you pulled unfairly into this matter, but I must-" Her eyes grew wide as the ground below their feet began to quake. The shelves rumbled upon the walls, leaving bottle after bottle to come plummeting to the ground.

"Watch out!" Mathius gasped, leaving Lillia no time to react before he grabbed her by the wrist and whisked her into him. The quakes increased in magnitude, threatening to topple the entire store. The apothecary pulled the young girl along with him, taking shelter together underneath his desk to avoiding injury from the falling merchandise.

"I'm too late..." Lillia breathed. "Gods help us."

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