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And so our story begins...


In the vast Kingdom of Roudel, a plague of hellhounds and dark shadow castors has befallen its citizens. The everyday way of life is still maintained, however everyone knows to remain indoors after dark. The King and Queen of the fair kingdom have worked tirelessly to find a solution, however their current focus has them sidetracked. It had just become realized that the queen is incapable of bearing her own child, and thus the future of the kingdom is in jeopardy.

Because there is no direct heir to the throne, the King must now look to his nieces and nephews as candidates.

The first and most likely candidate is a young man whose mother is the Queen's younger sister. Though the most qualified for the job the Duke’s son, Marquess Kyier Cross, has grown cold and uncaring.

The second candidate for the throne is Kyier's cousin, son of the Queen's sister. Joshua Hastings is a dense moronic individual, however as lacking as he is in intellect, Hastings is more than manipulative and a born dictator.

The third and final candidate is a young lady by the name of Giselle Thurn, or in actuality Duchess Elisabeth Francesca Rose. She is the daughter of the King's deceased brother and had long since been lost to the kingdom. Upon hearing the news that his darling niece is still alive, the King sends his two most trusted subjects to fetch and return Elisabeth to Cambridge where she will take up residence at the Cross Manor…

Meanwhile...aside from the hounds and castors, an ominous evil lurks in waiting amongst the shadows. Very few are aware of its creeping presence. Chaos is slowly beginning to accumulate, soon to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting kingdom.


Disclosure: The above is a set summary for book one only. Currently book four is in the process of being written. Thus, to not give anything away... the summaries from the other three books will not be posted here. (Even though simply looking at the character profiles below essentially gives everything away anyway).
Characters

Kyier Maxton Cross
Age- 18
Title- Marquess
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Elisabeth Francesca Rose
Age- 19
Title- Duchess
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Mathius Gabriel VanAelst
Age- 20
Title- Apothecary/Shop Owner
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Chrystiem Alexander Royle
Age-28
Title- Left Hand
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Raina Victoria Evelyn
Age- 28
Title- Right Hand
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Cederick James Cross
Age- 39
Title- Duke
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Anita Lavinia Cross
Age- 38
Title- Duchess
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Sophia
Age- 10
Title- ~~~
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Sebastien
Age- 12
Title ~~~
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Lilliana Ariel Hastings
Age-16
Title- Marchioness
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Extra box just in case... Carry on now, Dear. Carry on.
The night air was soft, gently tucking past the folds of the laced curtain of the manor. The Duchess lay still, rocking back and forth as she watched that curtain blow in the wind from the open window. The small woman held her daughter close to her, letting her head touch her breast as she closed her eye from the tiring day. Her husband saw down the hall from she, and she listened for his footsteps. Her heart pounded and shook, and she stood when she heard the beginnings of a mumbled yell. Her husbands yelling sounded softly at first, and continued to become louder, until it was just outside the room. The Duchess stood near the door, scared for herself. And scared for her child.

Her husband yelled to her, yelling out her name, ordering her to run. So, she did as she must, holding the small, fragile bundle not yet even a year old. The footsteps, many of them, running swiftly towards her. Her husbands yells stopped, and now she was almost alone. She bolted the door, standing back and watching it, BOOM! Nothing but loud, thunderous roars on the deep wood. "Leave us be!" She commanded, though merely plead. "Please, just take what you want and go!" But there was no more. She felt a hand on her shoulder, gentle, and friendly. She turned, and stared silently as her crying baby was passed from the Duchess to the man.

So, she was safe now. She was safe, her baby. She sat back in the chair, now alone, and rocked back and forth as she listened to the pounding on the door, and her eyes never strayed from that window, watching the lacy curtain blow back and forth, the soft wind, a gentle reminder of her daughter, and all that was good in the world.


Chapter One:
A Duchess in Van Hollen

With dark clouds looking over the southern Devonshirean mountains, Lucy Thurn lay still in the garden of her own workings. With soft petals and solitude, this was her own special paradise. Her hair was matted, with curls in curls, laying dramatically over her shoulder. She waited for rain, waited for it to start softly from the sky and pelt her pale skin. It never came, though, and instead she remained seated on the dirt floor of the garden and day-dreamed about her life. Certainly, now she was only the daughter of a not-so-prosperous farmer and pub-keeper, but she dreamed instead of a place far from this reality: a place of ships that roamed from on a sea of clouds, and an underwater kingdom where women of half-fish swam to their hearts galore. Her mind was filled of these imaginable images, ones she normally drew pictures about in her small notebook.

Lucy sat up, glancing at the distant sun for a moment before jumping up to her feet. She had lost track of time, which meant she was late, which meant that her mother was going to rip out her throat. She looked around the small forest of green, searching for the soft, brown leather of her shoes. She couldn't find them. She was about to run home regardless, but they were her last good pair, so losing them would have been an option, yet a wretched one. She gave one last glances, before she started to make her way towards the forest path that lead to town. She saw them, laughing giddily at her own idiocy, and then grabbing them as she ran towards her home.

The dust curled behind her stomping feet, and soon the town of Van Hollen came into view, with its small cottages, main square with four separated buildings, and a Church of the Seven that worshiped Amaranth. Nothing about this place was grandeur, or even special. It was quaint, and everyone knew every bodies business. There was not another town around for many, many miles, and in order to get the food stores here, the shop owners would have to go themselves to different markets for the more expensive, 'foreign' items, and then otherwise they would grow the items themselves.

The pub where she worked was small and smoky, and always crowded. It was the place to be after a long, hard day at work. She went around the back way, stepping over some of the the cabbage garden, and opening the door. She dusted off her dress, and placed one of the already rather dirty aprons over her smock. She put her boots on quietly, and moved from the back of the room into the crowded dining hall. Like she had expected, the place as filled with working class men, all dirty from their days in the field, or from the nearby mine. She looked up, catching the glimpse of her father from across the counter. She just smiled bashfully, letting her cheeks glow dim red as he shook his head, and then, success: he smiled. She was rarely in trouble by her father. However...

"Lucy Edith Thurn!" Margerie Thurn yelled. The red-faced, plump woman came over to her, with her hands on her wide hips, and her graying hair astray out of the bun.

"Mama, hi!" Lucy attempted to say, though was quickly dragged towards the back behind the bar. "Come on, Mama, don't be so upset, I'm here, aren't I?" She asked, tipping her face into her mothers view and smiling at her. "Come on..." She giggled. Marge rolled her eyes, taking a deep breath.

"If I never scolded you, you'd ne'er be here, child. We have a business to run, and I need you help. You know this," but though Lucy did know, she had trouble being what her mother claimed was responsible. "You need to be more responsible for yourself. Now go, wash your hands, and get t' serving." Lucy nodded, and thought she looked sad, she instead smiled from being out of trouble. She did as she was told, and on her way passed the bar, she felt her father's hand on her shoulder, and he gave her that look again that always made her feel better. In the bar area, she handed out ordered drinks, and was making her way passed pushed together tables in order to reach the man who ordered some beef/cabbage entree. She was stopped by Alice, a young woman who had been hired by her parents, and she made mention towards the door, where two people had just walked in. Imperial guards. Important, too, judging by the Rose symbol on their shields. Direct from the King of Roudel.
The woman took lead, her booted feet walking across the old wooden flooring with a sense of purpose. She found an empty table and pulled out her own chair to sit down, placing her imperial shield at her feet. Her partner, a tall, fit gentlemen with blonde hair followed behind. He looked much more at ease than she did. The female knight's movements were rigid, stiff and structured. She sat in her chair with her back perfectly straight, eyes peering systematically over each person's face that occupied the tavern, "He knows." Raina stated, watching the man behind the bar watch her. There wasn't a single doubt in her mind. He was the girl's father, and he did not looked pleased to see her. They were greeted with seemingly added haste to what the normal customers at the place were accustom to receiving. A petite girl with hair as big as she was came over to their table with a beaming smile. Her gentle brown eyes avoided looking into Raina's directly out of respect, Raina assumed. There would be no doubt judging by the uniforms she and Chrystiem wore that they were from the imperial army. However, it would take a trained eye to recognize the honorable crest's worn only to the King's two most trusted and skilled knights in his service. There was little difference in the design, the small rose with golden trimmings crossed by none other than Allistar, the King's own sword, the symbol of his office. It was only the tiniest hand in the corner of the shield that gave privy to their positions. Raina watched the young lady as she rambled about the tavern's specials. The light from the flickering lantern in the center of the table shown brightly over her features. She was very enthusiastic, as if their happiness would make or break the business. "The special then. We'll both have the same, thank you." Once the waitress took her leave, Raina directed her attention back to Ryst, "You heard what she introduced herself as, correct? Lucy. She's the one."

Chrystiem, on the other hand, couldn't be bothered by Raina's words at the time . His sights were set on the waitress being harassed by a group of lowlifes sitting at the table behind their's. "Wots it 'ake to get a 'ittle peice a ya, Elys?" The man with three missing teeth grinned, giving the poor girl a generous slap on the rump. His graying hair was balding at the top, his beard scruffy and unkempt. Ryst's fists clenched, his eyes narrowing angrily. "Aw, come on, don't give us that. The tiny one may be off limits, but that ain't mean you are." "Chrystiem- I think we sh-" Raina's head turned slowly only to find that her partner was no longer sitting with her. She sighed, shaking her head in annoyance at the man's inability to focus on the mission at hand. He was casually waltzing his stupid a** over to where the group of men were teasing some woman that was entirely unrelated to what they had come to accomplish. Chrystiem cleared his throat, "Ehem, excuse me, but I must politely request you cease the harassment on this fair maiden." The noble knight smiled, placing a protective hand on the young girl's shoulder. Most of the men grew quiet at the sight of one of the King's men, but of course there was always one... "Looky at you comin in her' all high and mighty pretendin you got some right to this wench?!" Raina leaned forward in her seat, bringing her cheek to rest in a very unladylike way against her fist. He always did this. Always!!! Next he would casually reach for his sword, revealing nothing more than an inch of the finely crafted metal from its sheath as a quiet warning, and soon-"Wench? How dare you refer to such a beautiful maiden with that demeaning title." Ah, yes... his valiant speech had begun, "Especially when you are nothing but scum. It is clear by the beautiful sparkle in her eyes that this woman is so much more than a mere tavern wench. Perhaps if you didn't act as an animal and presented yourself as a proper gentlemen, you wouldn't find yourself having to resort to such pitiful ventures to gain the attention of women."

"What you sayin'? Talk normal you blue blood b**t**d!" At this point in the game, Raina could no longer sit in wait. The woman was inbred with very little patience to begin with so it never took very long for the essence to run thin. She stood up from her chair and stalked over to escalating brawl where the man's fists were now up and ready to attack her partner's face. "We are not here to cause a scene." she hissed, just before grabbing the back of both of the buffoons' heads and slamming their skulls together. The foul man took a tumble to the floor, but her partner was caught stumbling back into her own waiting arms. Chrystiem hissed as he held his pounding head, "I am sorry for the disturbance we have caused to your business." Raina stated after turning to look back at the three standing with wide eyes behind the bar. The shortest, the brown eyed, curly-headed girl was nearly identical to the picture they had been shown of the late Duchess. There was no doubt that she was the one. Raina stepped away from Ryst once he was stable enough to stand on his own again and proceeded to where the small family stood in waiting with Chrystiem glaring at her back all the while. "I would request an audience with Lucy Thurn." Raina stated once she was in close proximity. The girl's father grew tense, his eyes shifting a gaze to his wife. "Lucy, you-" Her partner interjected, "I expect the two of you know why we are here. Perhaps it best for you to explain things to your daughter before we divulge exactly why we are here today." Bufard was the first to speak after a long, drawn out silence that was broken only by the soft spoken, "Mama? Papa?" stated by the worried, frightened young lady. "Thank you, Sir-" "Chrystiem Royle, Left Hand to his majesty Alphonse Kenick Rose, and the violent one is my partner; Lady Raina Evelyn, Right Hand to his majesty." Bufard took a deep breath as if that information had reaffirmed his fears. For the King to send his hands directly... The time had come. "Allow us to provide you with a room for the night. We'll shut down this place in the hour so we can talk without wandering ears." Bufard touched the small of his daughter's back, leaning in to whisper in her ear, "Everythin'ill be okay, Baby Girl. I'll see no tears of any sorts leaking from those big brown eyes, understood?"
"This is it then?" Lucy asked. The five people were sitting around the bar, Bufard Thurn having closed it down already for their private conversation. "Just like this, you're going to tell me not only that I am adopted, but the damn king is my uncle. This isn't...it's not...why wouldn't you tell me?" She whispered. It was her mother, who looked close to tears, who spoke.

"That's not to say we didn't want to tell you. For so many years, it has been a burden on us to keep this a secret. We wanted what was best for you, we were told we had to-," She quieted down at her husbands glance, but her hand never left Lucy's. Lucy was too upset to even notice her lapse of wording, and instead stared off dreamily, her eyes wet with tears, and her brain working in overload. "So, I'm a duchess. I am a duchess of this kingdom, and...my blood is not as I thought it was. But it is, that's what isn't fair, I don't think I am someone else, not someone who isn't me, Mama," She began her interlude of her thinking. "This is every little girls dream, right? I thought about this, becoming royalty. You know I did, and I should be happy, but I can't get my mind off that fact that you...you lied to me about it. You never told me, and that leads me to question whether you were ever going to tell me. I didn't want to find out like this. I wouldn't have gone off, I wouldn't have left you. I hope you know that," She said, standing. "This is too much. I- I just need to go rest, I'm going home. Home, my home, to my bed, and to sleep. And then when I wake up tomorrow, I'll tell you whether or not I am prepared to go face this new fate." She bowed politely, because her parents always taught her to be courteous of both guest's and host's. "Thank you. I hope you find a liking here in Van Hollen," She said, before taking her leave.

Marge sat there still, watching her daughter leave the pub to head home. "I'm sorry it has come to this. Bufard and I, we thought about telling her, but our daughter is different. You have to understand. She is smart, but she doesn't use it. She prefers to keeping her head in the clouds instead of down here on earth. She's too imaginative for her own good, and while I love her more than my own life, she...we were just scared," She admitted, feeling Bufard's hand on hers. She smiled up at him, letting her head rest on his shoulder. "I know how selfish my other reason is, but we didn't want to lose our precious baby girl..."

***


Late in the night, Lucy got up from her bed, her head aching, and her thoughts racing. She stepped over the leather bag, that lay open on her short armoire. It was late now, and she supposed that her mother and father were fast asleep. She placed another dress in the bag, and then stared at its plain, boring colours. Would this change anything? Would she be forced to become another person, or could she stay herself, and her belief system? Maybe, just maybe, this whole experience would give her some ability to help people, and that must be good for the world. Everyone should help, and now this was her chance. This had to be her own adventure.

She ceased packing, and instead moved towards the bedroom door. She peered down the dark hall, seeing the only flickering candle flame in her parents bedroom, and crept down the hall. She stepped outside, from the kitchen, and began to walk down towards her field of flowers. The night air was crisp, and it made her shiver, only for her to realize she was only in her nightdress. She just kept walking, hoping by tomorrow her head would be cleared...

She stood there, in front of her garden, and breathed deeply. This was it. She was going to leave this place, this was her solitude, and now no more. She was sure she would be able to visit. She listened to the muffled noises of someone behind her, and without turning, she spoke with them. "I'm scared, you know. I'm very scared. What if nobody likes me? How can you force me to do this? You want me to just pack up my life and leave the only family I have? They need me. They need me more than this Kingdom does. There isn't need for another duchess. There is need for a daughter, though." She turned, and she smiled slightly under the luminescent light. "By Lumos, tell me, why now? Why have you come for me now?"
"Force?" The female knight questioned the word, her eyes narrowing coldly. "With all do respect, your grace, our kingdom is balancing upon the edge of peril. The reason we come to you only now is because your survival had been kept a secret from the King himself." Raina replied, trying to keep her tone in check as she spoke. "We are not forcing a blade in your hand and demanding you pierce the hearts of your parents. You are not bidding them farewell forever, and they will always be your parents, no doubt." This was hard, difficult even. Words of comfort and soothing had never been ones that the knight was skilled in expressing, "But, do you truly have no curiosity welling inside you? What of your birth parents who gave their lives so that you could live? Does no part of you wish to find out more about them? Geoffrey and Seraphine were noble people, kind and just and they loved you." Raina remained standing tall and rigid, her arms stiffly at her sides, "Your parents here are not the only family you have. You are meant for a greater destiny than this tavern. Lucy Thurn kept you safe all this years, but the time has come now for you to move past what once was." She stepped forward then, placing a hand down gently on the girl's shoulder. "People will come to know you, and not everyone will like you. I won't lie and tell you that this is going to be easy, but harboring fear toward the future will only hinder you. We are here to protect you and will remain loyal to your side. You will be certain to meet others that will share our same fondness if not greater, if only you give them the chance." The knight withdrew her jacket, placing it then around the shivering girl's shoulders. She blinked in shock when so suddenly she felt the girl falling into her, her arms wrapping around her in a tight embrace. Raina wasn't sure what to do at first. She swallowed, her own arms slowly coming around to secure the girl. "Now is no longer the time to seek shelter. Hold on to your values and ideals, forget not your parents nor who Lucy was... but it's time now to leave her behind and breathe life back into the sleeping duchess... ... Elisabeth Francesca Rose.
Lucy smiled at her mother, now standing in front of their small cottage, both of her parents seeing her off. Chrystiem and Raina were putting the few bags she was taking with her up on the top of the carriage, and speaking in quiet tones to the driver. She was still taken aback at the regality of it all, and this was just the carriage. The way the two knights held themselves, and their speaking mannerisms were so eloquent. She couldn't do that, and the driver must have been from the royal city of Landon, too. His britches were unlike anything Lucy had scene. She heard a small cough, and turned to look back at her mother and father, who were shaking their heads.

"Lucy, please, present yourself well, these people are going to...they might not appreciate you for...you," Her mother said. She looked up at her, and smiled; her mother's voice was soft, different than it normally was. She was normally much harsher, and though a loving mother, was strict. This side was one Lucy hadn't seen before, and she was sad that she had to leave when it finally presented itself. "We love you, Lucy, and just...don't forget about us?" She said, holding her daughter tight. Lucy watched her father grin sadly from over her mother's shoulder.

"Papa, I-," And silently he brought her into a hug, whispering to her that she was always going to be his little girl. Before long though, the two Hands cleared their throats, and Lucy knew it was time to move on towards her new life. Her father presented her with a single rose, grown from their garden. "Thank you, Papa." She watched teary-eyed as Chrystiem took her hand and allowed her to enter the carriage. Her draw dropped once inside, the burgundy lined seats and dark oakwood panels were beautiful. The carriages around here were down trodden, open in the back, and still expensive. This was unimaginable. She looked around, and noticed that the two silent guards were staring at her again. "So...It is nice to meet the two of you. And you must know my uncle very well. Tell me, is he a nice man? I never would have imagined my uncle, my uncle would be the king. The king of this kingdom." She fell onto the seat, making a soft plop noise on the cushion. "I do apologize for this, for the way I act, but I have still yet to believe this is happening. I am trying really hard to be brave. For my mama and papa, they deserve it. This is all for them, really, more than me." She sighed, her big brown eyes glossing over as she imaged her childhood. She reached over into the small leather bag that sat next to her on the seat.

"See, here?" She asked. "These are some of the pictures that I took," and she passed them to the man and woman. The man, Chrystiem, seemed much happier to look over them then Raina did. "I was a chubby child, wasn't I?" She giggled. She had to remember, this was for the good of the kingdom. She wasn't going to be held prisoner in a tower. Her blood was what made her, and with it, she could actually become queen. That was a hard concept to grasp. She couldn't imagine that she'd be queen. "Queen Lucy Thurn." Blech. She laughed, "That doesn't have a tune to it, does it?" She questioned. It was Chrystiem who mentioned it behind his bright smile, that that would not be her name. "Oh yeah!" She said, "I forgot I am going to get married, and then with my husband, I guess I don't know....what my name...would..be. Oh." She realized that her name was entirely different. "Elsiabeth?" She questioned. "No, Elisabeth? Elisabeth. Elisabeth', such as the French Elizabeth?" She questioned. She rounded her mouth to speak the foreign name. "Oh, I hope I don't forget it..."

Their travels were light, Lucy, or as she had to begin to remember, Elisabeth, questioned whatever she could think about. "So, these two gentlemen who also are in the running for the throne?" And she heard about Marquess Cross, and Duke Hastings. "I do not like to think I am totally brainless about governmental business, however, with parliament and the council, I just don't think I am going to be the right woman for this..."

Sometime during the trip, Lucy fell asleep, and she lay across the velvety seat as she drifted off to a place she was by far more comfortable. The driver, they all knew, wanted to make good time, as that was what he was being paid for. But they would need to stop eventually. Sometime, during the first night, the carriage jolted, and it awoke the occupants. Lucy stared sleepily as the two blurry guards questioning the drivers antics when they were jolted again. Sometime after the third jolt, and they began to worry.

It was only when an arrow head broke through the wooden paneling and the others began to attempt to cease her worries. The carriage suddenly was slammed to a stop, and Lucy fell foward onto the floor. Raina got out, with Ryst stating his orders to protect Lucy. Lucy watched the guard dissapear, and tried to calm her breathing. 'What's going to happen?" She whispered, now, because of the sudden fear, and the unknowing, she trembled slightly. They were alone in the carriage, listening to the wind outside, for any sign of Raina. The door to the carriage opened slowly, and the fat head of an ugly, beastly man made his way in. Lucy was pushed back in a move of protection while Chrystiem and watched as he lunged himself forward, the big man yelping in surprise.

"Gerodine," The man boasted, not giving a second thought as to the young girl or who she might actually be. For a second, Lucy realized she might be safe. They didn't know who she was. "So," The man said, "Whots' it your hidin'?" And then Lucy saw the sudden realization before her. She was unknown, and they could allow these men to just take what they wanted. "Outcha go." He commanded, and Chrystiem and Lucy exchanged a glance. As soon as they stepped out, they realized that they were outnumbers, and Raina was watching with the slightest glint in her eye. Lucy realized then just how smart the two of these guards were. She seemed to be trying to explain something to them. "Miss, let them take what they want." Lucy looked at the group of bandits, "Feel free to search. Unfortunately, I am just a poor beggar woman who hired this carriage to escort me to the capital city. Can't imagine that you'd want any of my dresses," She said. These men and women, they were like the drunkards of the pub. They didn't know what they wanted, only booze and sex, and now that they were being offered, what were they to do? Just let them go about their business and nobody would have to get hurt. Lucy knew that the guards were trying to avoid violence, and from what she gathered, Chrystiem would have liked to hurt them - though, seemingly only if they stepped another foot out of bounds. The situation they were in sure was tricky.
"No, no, Little Girly. I'm not as dumb as they look." The female leader grinned, referring of course to her eight followers all gathered around the carriage. The beastly man who had grabbed them roughly from the carriage reached to seize Elisabeth's arm, "You touch her and you die." Chrystiem hissed, his eyes and tone completely lethal and changed from his usual light demeanor. His arm reached behind his own back to provide both a barrier between the thug and the young maiden as well as an added feeling of security for her benefit. "Oh, my... What fierce eyes you have, Handsome? Just who is the little strumpet you seem so eager to protect? No poor beggar would ever fetch herself a sum great enough to squander away on a high-class carriage like this one." Gerodine sang seductively, her dark eyes hungry. "Maybe she's the Duke's late sister, yeah?" One of the men piped up. "You idiot! That'd mean she's dead." another chortled. Raina's fist clenched, her own rage building at the damn fools who dare dedicate their lives to crimes condemnable by her fair and beloved king! "I bet she's a countess, or maybe a lady to some lord... Or the daughter of em'!" Gerodine clicked her tongue, "Aw, calm down men. Throwing the word lady around is just ignorant. Just look at the scrawny thing, she's not even a woman." The woman's smile took a sickening turn, "So young and innocent. Perhaps we could do the little thing a favor and help her into womanhood. My boys would make quick work of her." Chrystiem's lip curled, "Yeah, I bet they would." he scoffed. "Keep talking like that and we'll be taking only your heads back to the King instead of your pitiful entireties." The woman didn't seem phased by the Left's comment. "Such a dirty mouth for a face as handsome as yours. Hm, I like that." The men around them began to grow impatient with their leader's talk. Their puny attention spans were simply too elementary to be held by this idle chatter. About three of them started to stalk behind Ryst and Elisabeth, making a move to begin raiding the carriage for any goods they could plunder while the others took pleasure in shouting suggestive and demeaning catcalls at the poor, wide-eyed young woman. Chrystiem felt her grip on his overcoat tighten behind him and his heart honestly went out to the girl.

"Oh, Gods, I've had enough, Chrystiem!" Raina yelled from beside them before she launched herself forward. Without even drawing her weapon, the Right Hand was able to take out two of the men that both stood twice her size. She slammed their heads together and threw both of their burly bodies into the ground once she was through. Before he could help himself, a small smile had escaped onto Chrystiem's face. "This will all be over soon, Lucy." Ryst stated softly over his shoulder. "Who the Hell are you?!" Gerodine squealed as Raina tossed her into one of her comrades. "You are not a foe worth my name." Chrystiem's eyes darted back and forth as he attempted to gather how many thugs remained. With a flick of his wrist, a dagger seemingly flew from his sleeve attached to some kind of wire the likes of which the simpletons had never seen. A stray breeze guided the wire around it's target just as it's master pulled down on its reigns, "She's off limits too." Raina turned around just in time to see Ryst yanking his arm back to send one of the last of the criminals crashing into the ground. If he would have pulled just the slightest bit tighter, the man's hand would have been cleanly cut straight from his wrist. "Coward." Raina hissed between clenched teeth, quick to realize he had tried to get the jump on her from behind. She offered a quick nod of thanks to her partner and jogged over toward them, "You two okay?" Raina asked as she kicked one of the unconscious bodies to the side. She jumped into the carriage which had been entirely untouched aside from when Chrystiem and Elisabeth had been forced out, "Fools...thinking they could plunder a royal carriage of all things." she muttered, emerging again with nine individually crafted ropes in her hands. "These scoundrels won't be robbing or threatening anyone anymore." Chrystiem nodded, turning around slowly to face the terrified looking girl behind him. He offered her a gentle smile, "We do apologize for this, Lucy. I'm afraid my partner and I haven't undertaken many escort missions, so as for protocol... I suggested we limit any violence as much as we were able because I was afraid something like this might- well I just didn't know if..." he sighed, trying to find a way to explain himself without giving insult to Elisabeth.

"I have them all contained, all that's left is to load them up. Not a scratch on any of us, and they didn't manage to touch a thing." Raina smirked proudly. "Well, all except our driver. The coward bailed on us before the debacle ever left the ground." The Right Hand tilted her head toward her partner and then to the young girl looking to be shaking where she stood. "What he's trying to say is he didn't know how much violence you could handle seeing. He figured you might freeze up or get sick at the sight of it." Raina shrugged. "Otherwise we would have been done with those foul-mouthed, disgusting pigs at lot sooner. That said, we've wasted enough time as it is. You two get inside, I'll drive." Ryst sighed, but did as his partner instructed. He held out his hand for Elisabeth, helping her then back into her seat on the velvet purple cushion. "Don't think for two seconds on anything they might have said to you, Elisabeth." Raina called through the window. "If you let the words of filth like that get to you, you'll never be able to survive in Landon."

Chrystiem shook his head, "What she said does have some truth to it, but we allowed them to carry on far longer than we should have, and for that I'm sorry. I hope you don't find yourself too upset by the words of those mongrels. And please know that you were never in any danger, Lucy. I don't wish to sound boasting, but Raina and I truly are the best. The King sent us for that very-" Chrystiem was cut off once more as the carriage hastily rounded a corner a bit too sharply. One of the left wheels sprung off an ill-placed rock, sending Elisabeth flying into Chrystiem's capable arms. He held her securely against him until Raina got the carriage righted once more. "Rai, it won't do us any good to get their faster if we're all dead!" he yelled. He shook his head again, having almost forgotten about Elisabeth still huddled on his lap. He laughed lightly, "The best all aside from Rai's driving. But I promise, Lady Elisabeth," the Left shifted slightly to help her get situated back in her own seat once more, "So long as you are in our care, no harm will come to you, and you won't be alone in Landon. There will be more than a handful of people to offer you a hand whether you ask for it or not." he smiled. "All that aside... am I safe to assume you've never ridden a train before?"
Lucy sat there staring at the two. She had heard rumors of the trains, knowing of their speed and dexterity, but never seen one with her own eyes. And she most certainly had not been on one. She could only shake her head at the guards, and silently pray that it wouldn't make her sick or worse, scare her into some embarrassing situation. "I haven't been on one, never thought I'd have the money for it." She thought about her families money problems, and the fact that now they would all be set. Did she have an inheritance? "Chrystiem, I was just thinking...my parents died when I was young, and they were...Duke and Duchess? Did they...did they leave, um..." She recalled her parents telling her how topics of money was frowned upon, and rather bad, so she instead kept her mouth shut. "Never mind," She said, smiling at him. She would figure that out later, and she was sure she had something, and whatever it was, it could keep her settled up in Landon, and the rest could go to her parents. That was what she decided.

She looked out the window of the carriage, watching now as the towns, villages, and trees all flashed by in the darkness of the night. Chrystiem mentioned how now that they had been attacked, and with Raina's driving, they were now heading straight for the train station in , which would then allow them to hop on a train to go through Hillside County towards Landon, and then stop, get in another carriage, and enter the capital city. However, despite knowing that she would be able to sleep on the train, her heavy eyes got the best of her, and she rested for some time.

When she opened her eyes again, Chrystiem stood above her, and smiling downwards. She rubbed her eyes, sitting up. "You could have woken me," She said, though she knew it was kind of him to let her sleep. The darkness still roamed, and as Chrystiem helped her out of her carriage, he told her that Raina had gone off to put the bandits they arrested on the new train. She nodded, moving around to the side quietly, and moving to pick up her things. Chrystiem clicked his thumb and middle finger together and someone in uniform came quickly to collect them for her. She looked at Chrystiem in surprise, but he just smiled politely, to her she wondered if he was making fun, but then she thought better of it. He was too kind of a gentleman.

The train station was empty, for the most part, as it was now almost the midnight hour. There were conductors walking about, attendants, and a few passengers going to one of the two trains that sat homebound on the tracks. She looked at the machines, the large, foreboding things that stood against her tiny side. They stood shiny with metal, the black coating so sheer it was like a mirror. Lucy moved to the side of one, and stared excitedly. "Wow!" She had never seen something like it. A patron looked at her in a sideways glance when she exclaimed, and she giggled, not to be embarrassed. Chrystiem began to lead her into the main carriage, and she hopped up the silver stairs, and then moved down a narrow hall. They had a whole carriage to themselves, too, and opening the door, she stepped inside. The plush lining of the two facing sofa's was a deep purple, and warmly inviting. Lucy sat down, falling into the chair. It was more amazing than anything she had felt thus far.

Soon enough, they were joined in the carriage by Raina, who sat next to her, and Chrystiem across. Lucy, once more, stared dreamily out the window as the train began to set into motion. Faster and faster, the steady pace of the mobile began to increase. She was so befuddled by this instrument, never knowing something so magickal could exist. She could hear the soft whistle of the steam rollers, and the steady slap of ind against the paint. "This is amazing!" She said, before standing up and pressing her face to the glass. "I've never seen anything like it!" She looked back at them, nothing but a big smile on her face.

Throughout the night, she must have fallen asleep at some point, being gently shaken awake and staring up groggily at Raina, who she had used as a pillow. "Oh, I'm sorry!" She exclaimed, and sat back, trying to wake herself up. The sun was in the middle of the sky, streaming through the windows, and off in the distance there were large, gray clouds. "Is that the kingdom?" She asked, "I heard the rain there is terrible near the mountains." She watched the mountains in the distance, and felt the train begin to slow. "Are we there?" She forgot that they had to take another carriage, as carriage and horseback was the only way to get into the city. As the group embarked from the train, they had whispered conversation about the bandits, and then the procedures of everything they would go through. "Who am I staying with? When will I meet my uncle? Who are they? Will I be able to remember their names?" She asked. She was beginning to panic, but luckily, she remembered what Raina told her before and that eased her fears slightly.

So, she just had to remember, she was going to be meeting Anita Cross, the Duchess who was her Godmother, and that was who she was staying with. She wondered why she was never just sent to live with this woman, and if...did she not want her? Maybe she wasn't given the option, or maybe her life was just to hectic? She wondered how close her birth parents must have been to the Duchess then, to have left her with the title of Godmother. She didn't even realize when she was lead into a new carriage from the station, and then the same thing again, the quick pace of the horses and the bumpy ride on the dirt rodes. She let her thoughts cloud her mind until she saw something in the distance. They had seen nothing but hills for a while, being in hillside county, and while she dreamed of living in the vast meadows here, she saw the cherry blossoms on the road ahead, and then she smiled. There was a neatly painted sign that stood infront of the main gate, and it read: 'Welcome to Landon'.
~~ Two days prior to the young Duchess' leave from Van Hollen...

"Anita." The Duke Cross sighed as he knelt down to pick up yet another dress his wife had dropped to the floor, "Would it not be wiser to first wait and see whether or not the rumor of her survival is indeed truth before we purchase all fifty fou-" Cederick rolled his eyes as Anita threw yet another fluffy dress onto her pile that was already stacked higher than her head and wider than two of her combined bodies, "Five. Fifty five dresses for a young lady neither of us have ever met?" he finished. Despite being unable to see her face behind the immaculate pile of clothing in her arms, Cederick knew well enough that his wife was staring daggers at him from behind it with those beautifully unique mulberry colored eyes of hers. "Cederick Cross, don't you dare say such things! I held that child in my arms the very day she was born!" Anita huffed. Cederick sighed, "Yes, yes, my dear. I apologize for my choice of words. Perhaps I should have instead mentioned that we haven't a clue what size she takes, or perhaps her choice in taste?" Anita scoffed, her hand making a wave-like motion to dismiss her husband's nonsense, "Cederick, if Elisabeth is alive-Oh!" she gasped as she was forced to stumble backward. Cederick's hand gripped her small shoulder, a smart-alack grin on his face, "You can preach to me once we are home, Love... Well away from small children you might mindlessly trample, hmm?" Anita rose a curious eyebrow and craned her neck to see the frightened little girl looking up at her from the ground. "Oh, heavens! I am so sorry, Sweetheart!" Anita cried, shoving all the dresses into Cederick's arms. "Oh, Mrs. Bennet! Then you... This can't be Madison?! You have gotten so big!" The Duke chuckled from behind her, "Apparently not big enough..."


~~

"Oh, Cederick... I'm getting worried." Anita frowned, her sad eyes illuminated by the fire that flickered brightly in the stone hearth. "It's been nearly seven days now. I-I don't think my heart can bear if this was all just some cruel prank." She shook her head and brought her knees to rest under her chin. "Anita, I've never known you not to be optimistic." Cederick mentioned as he came around to sit with her upon the soft black leathered couch. He brought his arm around her shoulders, drawing her close, "We have to believe what the young man told Maxton was true. ...That we will get to see her again." Anita smiled softly up at him, fingering the delicate photograph she held in her hand. "Oh, Seraphine..." she whispered. "I pray your baby is safe, and I promise you now the same as I did while your heart beat the same as mine. After all, I loved her the very moment her eyes held mine... My sweet, Elisabeth."

Chrystiem laughed, "Take it easy there, Lucy. This is a royal carriage, after all. You don't want to make enemies of the maids and butlers before you even begin." he smiled, pointing to the smudge marks over the glass where her entire face and hands had been pressed. Chrystiem took note of the pink petals collecting across the green grass and dirt as the carriage continued along the path. It was one of the first signs of the coming of fall. His eyes also noticed the graying of the skies ahead of them. What Elisabeth had mentioned of the rain was very true indeed, but it was that surplus of rain that kept Landon the greenest of all the cities and towns and Roudel. "The cherry blossoms really are a sight to see though. Queen Vivian takes great pride in them. Anita, or rather, Lady Duchess Cross, is the younger sister to the Queen and Duke Cross is His Majesty's royal advisor. They are very politically involved and often make appearances when the King and Queen are unable." Chrystiem explained, "Most public complaints and requests are actually taken to the Duke and Duchess before the King and Queen, and the pair of them rarely forward anything up to the royals." Raina smiled, haven't having spoken for quite some time now, "They really are the nicest of people, Elisabeth. You don't need to look so worried. Lady Cross especially... she- Well... You'll see." Raina could have sworn to seeing the poor girl's heart beating through her chest. "Any other questions you might have, I'm sure the Duchess will answer before you can ask." Raina smiled. "Would you look at that... We're here." she grinned.

Chrystiem was the first to jump from the carriage and paid the driver that had picked them up at the station. "Is the Miss going to be okay? She's looking mighty pale." Ryst sighed, "She will be, once she meets the Duke and Duchess and realizes there is nothing to be nervous about." he smiled politely. "Well what about-" The Left held up his hand to silence the man. "She is stressed enough as it is." Ryst jogged back around to the front of the carriage where Raina was trying to literally pull Elisabeth from the carriage. "Come now, Elisabeth! If you stay in there any longer, we'll be sure to meet the rain. After a week of travel I would have thought you'd be eager to get from that blasted carriage." But a moment later, a rumble shook the ground which they stood and Raina couldn't help but shoot the girl a look that shouted, 'I told you so.' Chrystiem shrugged off his jacket, jumping back into the carriage to lay it over top Elisabeth's head. "It's time, Elisabeth. Lets go. Raina and I will be with you every step of the way." The Right smiled, "We do only as instructed by the King for most, but we do have a tendency to stick around... For our friends, that is."

The three walked up the gray cobblestone walkway together, the rain increasing in volume with each step of their feet. The grand maple door was a sight to behold, "That there is the Cross family crest. You have your own crest now, you know. You share the same as His Majesty's." Chrystiem was about to knock against the flawless wood when Elisabeth's hand stopped him. She looked up at him with the most distraught, terrified eyes he had ever seen, "What if I'm not really Elisabeth? What if there was a some kind of mix up. How do you know this right?!" Her words were in panic, surely one last attempt of her nerves to get the better of her. "We don't." Ryst answered simply. "We have no means of fancy testing, nor any proof to go one other than-" "Other than the Duchess." Raina interjected. "The King left it up to her to decide." Then, without any further discuss, Raina pushed open the double doors.

"Lady Cross-" Anita gasped the moment the maid entered the room. She sprung from the sofa, her eyes wide as her strawberry blonde hair swished neatly into place. "Tell me you bring news of Elisabeth." her voice shook. The maid smiled and nodded, "The Right and Left are waiting in the foyer. I saw a young lady with them for just a brief moment before-" Of course she never got to finish telling the Duchess before the woman was off running through the winding halls of the stone manor. Cederick nodded in thanks to Lydia, "See to it then that another place is set at our table." he smiled widely before following his wife's hurried footsteps. He was catching up quickly, Anita's small form now stopped halfway down the carpeted staircase. The Duchess' mouth had dropped, her left hand rising to cover her quaking lips. She swallowed, looking for a brief second down to the photograph and then back to the young lady standing nervously in between the King's two hands. Anita took a deep, shaky breath, "Oh, Seven..." she whispered, "Duke and Duchess Cross, I am beyond pleased to introduce to you, Elisabeth Francesca Rose... your god-daughter." Raina smiled. Chrystiem took his jacket back from atop Elisabeth's head and gave her a gentle push forward. At the same moment, Cederick gave Anita the small push she needed. The Duchess descended the remaining few steps, her eyes glassed over with unshed tears. She bit her lip, Anita reaching for the young lady's hand. Her small form with mad, curly light brown hair, her gentle pools of soft brown eyes... Everything about her was Seraphine. "All aside from your nose and chin." the words escaped her lips in a whisper. "I'm sorry, you'll have to forgive my tears. You must think I'm some kind of insane, but this moment... I never thought- Oh, my. Elisabeth, Dear, welcome to Landon." Anita smiled "I know you don't remember me, but your mother always got mad at me because I seemed to be your favorite person back when you stood no higher than my knee. Um... I'm sure you already think me nonsensical or my husband likes to call me 'batty' on most occasions, but I'm going to go ahead and hug you now, and I hope you don't mind to terribly." she smiled through her own falling tears.
Lucy felt so warmed and welcome by the woman who stood before her, she couldn't help but smile. There was something Magickal about her, and the house itself was overflowing with warmth. Lucy couldn't help but smile at her, "It's really good to be here!" She said, yelling accidentally much more loudly than she needed too. "Sorry," She said bashfully, finding her hands trapped in Lady Cross's. Not that she minded though, by any stretch. She could tell her appearance was really expected and welcome in the manor, and she kept smiling at her. She was still really overwhelmed with everything. First, these people, they new her as a child and they knew her birth parents. The second thing still on her mind was that she was adopted, and that she never even suspected. This was all so new. And she never thought she was going to be here, in the capital city of Roudel, in Landon! She had dreamed of coming here, of course, just one of many, and she always hoped. She never would have believed that she would be here because she was a duchess. Though the idea of her being, or rather having any sort of power, more so than she had ever had previously, was still so fresh and potent in her mind. She realized that Anita had said something to her, and she stared wide-eyed at her for a moment before smiling, and nodding along. "Wait, I beg your pardon but...what? I think I may have gone off into my own little world there!" She said laughing!

Anita smiled at her, and repeated what she had said before. "Would you like to go see your room?" And Lucy nodded, and saddled up behind her. She threw a glance to Chrystiem and Raina, smiling to let them know she was okay. She introduced herself to Anita's husband, Cederick, as well before going up the stairs with Anita. She kept glancing down at the photo framed in Anita's hands, and became so pre-occupied with that now that she never heard the following statement, and then finally ended up tripping around a table. She smiled bashfully at the Duchess, and was happy when it was politely ignored. Anita had been telling her about the house, and the different rooms, and how long it had been her family. It was truly a work of art, and Lucy was mesmerized by all the art that hung up on the walls, all the paintings and pictures of distant lands.

"These pictures are wonderful! Have you been to all of these places?" She asked, looking at a picture of one who could only be a young Anita sanding on the shore. "So many adventures," She whispered in awe. She looked up bashfully to Anita, and told her the truth. "I've always dreamed about having my own adventure. I suppose now it is actually happening."

~~~

As soon as they entered Lucy's room, she ran forth and spun slightly on her heels, turning to look at Anita. "This room is gorgeous! I've never seen anything like it!" She plopped down on the bed, making the down comforter muffin around her, and she giggled dreamily. She was surprised when two kittens came out from under the bed, and Anita went immediately to the floor, and scooped them up. "They're precious," Lucy said, coming to join Anita. "What are their names?"

"Noir and Feenix." Lucy picked up the small, black kitten, and held it to her face, listening to the soft purr resonating from it's throat.

"So adorable," She said. Anita began telling her how they were making a dinner especially for her, and she froze. "I...I don't have anything that's really nice that I can wear," She admitted, feeling her face red. But Anita got this look on her face, and she looked...excited!
The Duchess walked over to the wardrobe, opening the double doors to reveal the fifty five dresses she had bought despite her husband's objections. "I had no idea as to your taste or what size you took... As my husband pointed out many a time mind you, " she chuckled. "But I- Well," Anita smiled. "I still can't believe you're here." The Duchess wiped another tear from her eye, "Oh! Don't even look at those silly dresses yet, I have a better idea." She hurried off down the hall, Feenix running circles around her feet. "Oh, you silly little thing, get out of my way." It didn't take the Duchess long to return, holding in her hands a covered gown. She shuffled over to the bed, laying the dress down on the bed. "Now wait, wait! Before you look..." Anita smiled, her hand laying softly atop Elisa's. "This dress belonged to your mother. It's the one she was wearing the day your father proposed to her. I kept it all these years, but I think Seraphine would have wanted you to have it." Anita smiled warmly, pulling the girl into her arms for a soft embrace, "I'll help you try it on...if you'd like."

The Duke's son rounded the corner gracefully, pulling on his collar to loosen the blasted thing from his neck. He was already sure to be gaged by insufferable "oows and ahhs" directed toward some insufferable peasant girl he couldn't have given a rat's a** about. The Marquess certainly didn't need his clothing taking part in the world's endeavor to suffocate him miserably. He passed through the large archway into the dining hall where most were already seated around the decadant ovalar table. The young man entered silently, raising his eyebrow at the fool of a butler who pulled out the chair beside his mother's empty one, "How many times need I request to have my seat beside my father before you learn to comply?" he hissed, walking passed the man and whipping out the proper chair in a loud show to prove his point. The server offered a humble apology as Kyier plopped down in his seat. Chrystiem smirked from across the table, "Don't sweat it, Garde. Kyier just doesn't want to sit next to his mother because he's a little self-conscience." the man grinned. Kyier's fiery eyes stared daggers through the Left Hand. They narrowed on him, and damn if looks could kill, Ryst would be dead. Sweat dripped down the butler's brow, "Sir Royle, I-I was clearly just mistaken, please just..." Chrystiem waved him off, "Nonsense. We all know Kyier won't sit next to the Duchess because he could be her twin. He doesn't like making it so obvious." he smirked. "It's not to be ashamed of though; unique, grogeous mulberry eyes, a soft feminine frame, such shining silky hair...." The man was signing his death warrant. The teasing words of the Left were not all false, there were any a trait in the Marquess that mirrored his mother, that was simply undeniable. "Shut your damn mouth, Chrystiem." Kyier hissed. The man's smile only widened, "Oh, come now, Kyier. You know how I love to tease you." He paused a moment, his smirk growing, "I just adore the blush of color it brings to your pretty cheeks." Kyier's eyes turned lethal, "I'll kill you!" he yelled. Chrystiem fell back in his chair, collasping to the floor as he dodged the raging inferno soaring toward his head. The fireball crashed into the wall, igniting one of the bouquet of flowers Anita had arranged specially for thie dinner with her goddaughter.

"Ehem..." Raina coughed, trying to break the uneasy te "We are rather surprised to see you joining us, Kyier. Ryst and I never bothered to tell the Lady Elisabeth of your existence, assuming the evil sorcerer so seldomly wanders from his chambers. It just seemed unnecessary." she smiled. Kyier scoffed, sitting back down in his chair that Ryst's little comment had forced him spring from, "I wouldn't be here if I hadn't been ordered. But rest assured, after today I plan to never see the wench again if I don't have to." he growled. "Kyier! Watch your tone. I will not stand for you treating our guest with any disrespect." Cederick spoke up with authority. He shook his head, "I here footsteps. Best behavior, Son." he smiled.
Lucy stood before the Duchess in her mother's dress. She couldn't help but smile. There was just this wonderful feeling she got from being here. Then, as she sat at the vanity, she watched as Anita softly pulled her hair with the horse-comb brush, and the bouncing curls elegantly were sprawled over her shoulders. She never had this moment, this type of contact with her mother. Her mother, though she loved her so, never allowed her the vanity of this extreme, and this contact, it was more special than anything Lucy could have hoped for. She looked at Anita through the glazed glass, and she smiled at her, watching the Duchess smile on her own. She looked so happily content, and Lucy wondered if it was because of her, if it was because she reminded her of her most trusted friend. She had so many questions, and she wanted to ask them all now, but she knew she had time. She had time, lots of it, and then she would ask and she was sure Anita would be happy to answer whatever it was that she could. For now though, it was time for dinner...

Now Lucy kept going forward, her finger twirling at the delicate necklace that Anita had bought for her, and she could hear the voices. She took a deep breath before the two ladies entered, and she looked around her. It was not as bad as she had expected. She saw most those she had known, and was staring to know: Chrystiem, Raina, Duke Cross, and Lady Cross was beside her. She moved towards where Chrystiem was holding out a seat for her, and she stared slightly at the man who sat across from her. Chrystiem was the one to introduce them, and Lucy was shocked at hearing it. "I don't believe you have met Marquess Kyier? He is the son of the Duke and Duchess." She shook her head, "I had no idea that you had a son," She spoke to Anita, who sat quietly beside her, and then back to Kyier, "It's wonderful to meet you! I had no idea that there would be anybody my age here!" She said happily. "I'm Lucy," She said, standing quickly, and going to put out her hand, accidently knocking over a water goblet.
Kyier rolled his mulberry eyes that so perfectly matched those of his mother's. He eyed the fallen goblet before glancing at the girl's outstretched hand and then briefly around the table. The Marquess shook his head before chuckling cynically at the girl's expense. "All the commotion fitting about the manor this past week has been for this crude, uncouth girl who can't even be called a lady much less a Duchess?" he laughed. Kyier stood from his seat, and turned his head to stare directly at the Duchess, his hands holding to the table's edge, "Mother you realize it has been ages since you made me attend dinner, and now I am suddenly obligated because you decided to overdress a credulous peasant?" Anita bit her bottom lip, a trait her own mother had forever tried to wean her away from. The improper act did not suit a comely, sophisticated lady, however... Every now and again stress got the better of her and Anita just couldn't help herself, "Kyier, please take your seat and I ask that you apologize to Elis- to Lucy." Despite his respect for his mother, Kyier refused to even acknowledged the girl's existence at present, much less apologize to the wench. "What do you really wish to accomplish by pulling this mockery, Mother? She can't even accept her real name. How do you expect her to survive in this society. She'll be like a caged animal to be poked, prodded, and whipped by anyone you think you can honestly present her to." Anita shut her eyes, taking a deep breath, "Kyier, that IS enough. I have no agenda hidden as to Elisa-" she sighed, "to Lucy's future. She is more than welcome in our home as nothing more than that which she is and I will not have you, son or otherwise, treating her in such contempt!" The Marquess rose his eyebrow, "We both know that's a lie." It was his father that spoke up next, "ENOUGH! Kyier excuse yourself from my table. I have never seen you behave so cruelly to your mother and I will not stand by and allow it. I can not express how disappointed I am in you."

Kyier didn't let on just how badly those words stung him. He bowed his head to his parents before tossing his napkin over his plate. The Duchess could have cried as she gazed on to her god-daughter's distraught expression. She reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze, "There are happenings going on in this kingdom you are not yet privy to. My son has been stressed for weeks on end and I ask that you don't take any word of what he said to heart." Anita stated softly, her eyes harboring ever ounce of her sincerity. "The King and Queen are incapable of producing their own heir, that is why it seemed almost ironically timed that rumors of your survival reach the ears of the King." The Duchess' head snapped around to shoot her husband a warning glare, "That doesn't mean, of course, that we carried any heavy expectations of you. The Kingdom's plight is not yours and I'm certain you're overwhelmed as it is so do not trouble yourself with my husband's words either." Cederick nodded apologetically. "Lady Cross speaks the truth, Elisabeth. None of us carry any hidden agenda like Kyier described. You should have seen how the Duchess' eyes lit up at the news of your possible survival." Anita blushed, "I only ever wished to get to know you, Dear. There is so much I wish to share with you and I hope this dinner hasn't ruined that chance." she stated nervously, terrified that after her experience here Elisabeth would want nothing more than to return home to her family in Van Hollen. It was just as Kyier had said, despite their good intentions, they were creating the exact cage he had spoke of...

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