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Everything posted by Christine

  1. You have to EARN that. That being said, I will gladly tell you what I think your name would be.
  2. Dearest Narg, Why have you not eaten Verbal yet?
  3. I actually have a Wolfkin Name, that I rather like. It is Brook Melody. This was given to me by members of the WKSG after I reached the last rank of Elder. I rather like it. It expresses the idea of a calm brook through a forest, with the water flowing gently against rocks and the dirt on either side, and just flowing along. I think it's beautiful, and it fits me... somewhat. It is more like the person I want to be. It is the wolf name I would WANT Hopper to give me. That being said, my name would likely be more like Burning Leaf, in that I'm rather hotheaded, and I seem to float around against everything. Or perhaps Burning Rock, since I'm also hardheaded and fling myself against things. And I would probably hate it.
  4. In the Wheel of Time, a Wolfbrother (or Sister) is someone that develops a relationship with Wolves and gains some Wolfish abilities. This includes enhance sight and smell, the ability to tell emotions, and joining the Wolf Dream (Also known as Tel'aran'rhiod). But, to the Wolves that a Wolfbrother grows attached to, our names are not correct. I would never be known as Christine. That doesn't express the image that is needed. The emotion that a Wolf feels. Perrin is known as Young Bull, because he is young and strong. Elyas is known as Long Tooth, because of the long knife that he carries. The Question I pose to you is this : Hopper and his pack have just run into you. You are a member of the pack. You are Wolfkin. What do they call you? And why? Do you agree with the name?
  5. Chapter Nine : Oh What A Night "I will not wear it.” “Come now, Eleanor. You are Queen in all but name. You must wear it and embrace the woman you are becoming.” “I said I will not wear it. Take it back, Mother. Until father is dead, that is still yours. I will not wear it, no matter what you say.” “Eleanor, please, just be reasonable. You are presiding over the ceremony as the monarch, so you should look the part. No princess would be appointing a new commander nor appointing a new council member. You should wear the crown of a queen, not the tiara of a monarch.” “Mother, I will not wear your crown until I am crowned Queen. That is final. I am still a Princess, and will appear as such.” With those final words, Eleanor grabbed the crown from where it sat on top of her head and shoved it into her mother’s pleading hands. “Please. Let me be a Princess for another night. Just give me that.” The Queen stared down at the crown in her hands for another moment before giving a small nod and turning away from her daughter to return the crown to the box. Eleanor knew that her mother was trying to be helpful, but she simply wasn’t ready to take over as Queen. It was silly, as she had been ruling alone ever since her father became ill, but she wanted just a few more days to be the Kingdom’s beautiful princess, before she became the commanding queen. “Everyone leave,” Eleanor said softly, and everyone went to leave the room quickly. Her mother picked up the box and went to leave as well, but Eleanor grabbed her arm to stop her instead. Once all the doors were closed, she pulled her mother into a hug. “I am sorry, mother, but I am just not ready yet.” “I know, my dear. I know.” The queen was stroking her back like she had when she was a child, and Eleanor hugged her mother tighter. It was so hard, to be growing up so fast. She had thought it would be at least another 10 years if not more before she would have to take the throne, and yet here she was, only two-and-twenty, becoming Queen. Perhaps she should have been married sooner, or had more training, but all of that was the past now. All that mattered was she had to make the most of the time she had left as a Princess. “Will you help me finish getting ready?” Eleanor asked her mother as she pulled back, and the Queen gave her a small nod in response, accompanied with her gentle smile. Eleanor was already wearing her dress for the evening. The dress itself was blood red, with the underskirts and the decorative embroidery being white. The bodice was tight and the sleeves were slightly off the shoulder. At her hips, the dress split to reveal the bright skirts beneath, and the embroidery danced along the split up to her bosom. It was a dress made for a queen. The top half of her hair was twisted into a bundle with numerous ringlets falling down from it. The rest of her hair was flowing over her shoulders and back in gentle waves. The tiara that was slid into her hair was a bright silver with a single gem the color of carmine in the center. Her mother helped her to slide stud diamonds into each ear and then hooked the red and white gemmed necklace around her neck. The finishing touch was light color on her cheeks and lips. Staring at their reflection in the mirror, Eleanor studied herself before giving her mother a smile. She couldn’t believe how much they looked alike, but their coloring and hair were the same. The only difference was that Eleanor had her father’s dark eyes. “You look like a Queen, my beautiful daughter.” Eleanor turned on the chair and faced her mother. “I look like you, my beautiful mother.” The two women shared another hug before they went to leave the room together. The Queen went first to resume her place beside the dying King’s bed. As much as Eleanor asked her mother to join, the woman had said no and instead wished to spend a few more moments with the man she had loved for the past thirty years. Eleanor would not pressure her too hard away from his bedside. Stepping down the stairs, Eleanor kept telling herself to breathe. She had a long evening in a tight dress and needed to keep her cool. No matter what happened, she had to keep numerous secrets and wear a pretty smile without throwing all of the rules out the window and just doing as she pleased. She may have been born a princess, but she felt as though her life was held tighter than her stomach currently was. The walk down to the throne room was quiet as the halls seemed to be almost empty except for guards. Every noble was awaiting her arrival and every servant was preparing for the feast afterwards. It seemed to take forever, as she quickly placed one foot in front of the other, but eventually the double wooden doors that led to the grandest room of the castle came into view. The guards that stood on either side of the closed doors moved quickly to open them as she stood before them, and waited to be announced by the herald that stood by the door. Every person within the large room rose from their chairs and turned to face her. Keeping her shoulders back and her arms relaxed at her sides, she walked into the room, a soft smile on her face. Walking up the aisle, she saw that the three suitors were standing near to the front of the room, with their chairs being some of the closest. On the opposite side of the seating were the council members, save for Brandon and Lord Erstein. The two men for whom the ceremony was celebrating were standing before the three throne, both with a smile on their faces. Erstein looked proud, whereas Brandon looked… in awe? That could not possibly be correct. Walking between the two men, she went up to the throne and bowed her head for a moment before moving and taking the smaller chair to the left of the High Throne. That was still her father’s place while he was alive. The throne to the right was her mother’s. The spot that she took was that of the heir. Everyone took their seat after she did, and Brandon and Erstein knelt down before her. The words that Healer Dominic spoke passed through one ear and out the other as she watched the religious part of the ceremony take place. When it was finally her place to speak, she stepped first in front of Lord Erstein. Taking the thick chain from the servant beside her, she placed it over his head and let the chain rest across him. Only Dukes of the Realm could wear the heavy iron and jeweled chain across their breast. Next, she slid the fat ring onto the third finger of his right hand. This particular ring had to be dug out of storage, as it had been a long time since anyone other than the King commanded the army. No longer was he Lord Erstein, Marquees of Gweal. “Arise, Lord Commander Erstein, Duke of Gweal.” The man did so and took her outstretched hand to kiss it gracefully. He gave her a small fatherly wink before turning and stepping to the side so that Brandon could take the place he had just been kneeling upon. For Brandon, she took another ring, this one somewhat smaller in emblem, but the seal of Equitan sitting firmly in the middle. She slipped this onto the third finger of his left hand. From there, she took the cloak being offered to her and draped it across his shoulders. Anyone of nobility were given a red robe lined with white fur to signify their rank. Next, she took out the ring that Erstein had slipped to her earlier that day. It was the ring of a Council Member. She slid this onto the third finger of his right hand, and finally grabbed the rolled papers from the servant beside her. He was now a nobleman. “Arise, Lord Brandon, Marquees of Equitan.” Brandon looked up at her from his kneeled position and his eyes seemed to shine. She wanted for her eyes to shine back like his did, to show how proud she was of him, and how glad she was to have him at her side. She had so much more to say to him, and so many more things that she wanted to do for him. But not here, not in front of the court, and her suitors. He finally did rise, and gently kissed the top of her hand. It reminded her of how badly she wanted his kisses in her hair. Eleanor could already feel her face turning red, so she turned away from the Lord and walked back to her throne. Giving herself a moment to stop blushing, she turned to face the court and resumed her seat. “Now, let the feast begin!” She said, and the people began cheering and clapping. Quickly, the hall began to empty from the back first. It was always custom that the back of the room emptied first, moving towards the front. The back of the room held those of lesser ranks, whereas the higher nobility sat closest to the crown. This way, if the King had something to discuss with higher nobility, he could do so without completely dismissing anyone else. Soon enough, the only ones left in the room were the three suitors sitting to her left and the council sitting to her right. Eleanor rose from her seat and signaled to the guard to shut the doors again. Lord Erstein offered out his hand to help her down the steps and she took it and walked down slowly. Eyeing first the Council members, she then turned to face the three suitors. “Your Royal Grace Alexander,” he seemed to flinch for a moment at the reminder that his father was dead. “We intend to support you in this defense against the attack of Archaria.” The Prince nodded his head and looked somewhat relieve, even though he had already been told that. “Duke William, I feel that before anything continues, you need to know that Venaramine is preparing to go to war. Will that be a problem with you and yours?” The Duke paused for a moment before shaking his head no. “Duke Phillip, our kingdom is going to war. You will be called upon to take up arms regardless of your position. But, will you support the crown, in whatever way necessary?” Even Phillip seemed to understand the gravity of the situation, and nodded quickly. “Good. Now remember, what has just been said, stays here.” With those words, she walked towards the doors of the throne room with Erstein at her side, escorting her. She took a single glance back to see that Brandon was behind her with the Councilors and the suitors just behind. She was now at the lead of the final group to go to dinner, with the group being the highest rank in the realm. It was hard to believe sometimes that she would be leading them. • • • Dinner was going smoothly. It was often times lonely, sitting at the head table. Her father and mother’s chairs were so often empty. She looked across their seats to see Healer Dominic, Master Tirrwin, and Master Torrell engaged in a healthy discussion while leaning over Lord Bohen in between them, who seemed to have fallen asleep in his chair. Turning towards her left, she smiled, for in this meal she was not alone. Erstein sat beside her, with Brandon on the other side of him. Rising from her chair with a graceful smile, the room silenced as all eyes turn to her. “Please, allow me to make a toast. To the Lord Commander Erstein, and to the newest Council Member, Lord Brandon, we give you thanks in supporting our beautiful Venaramine, and hope that you continue with your support.” The court responded accordingly and she gave them both a smile before returning to her seat. She saw out of the corner of her eye that the suitors were all having their own interesting evening off beyond Brandon. William seemed to be buried in a book; if she wanted a king that would leave her alone, he would be the one. Alexander was glaring hardly around the room, and she wished to know what was going on in his strategic military mind. The man that caused her the most worry, however, was Phillip. He seemed to already be buried into his cup and continuously calling for more. Brandon met her eyes for a moment after he glanced towards the drunken Duke, and gave her a small nod before turning away from her. She prayed that the night would just continue and finish with no blood shed or anger. • • • Lord Brandon, Marquees of Equitan and Captain of the King’s Guard. Brandon truly liked the sound of it. After working so hard and for so long, he was being rewarded with a great honor of not only land, but also title and a place on the Council. It was a greater dream than any that a knight would have. He knew that he should not feel as proud as he was, but it was inevitable. Eleanor trusted him, and that was worth far more than the land or title. Phillip was also starting to cause an issue. The man truly needed to be punched and thrown out of the castle. He had been making snide remarks all evening about Eleanor and her choices, and if he continued to drink, then all secrets held by the realm would be released. Taking another glance towards Eleanor, Brandon had to work to catch his breath. She was absolutely beautiful, almost to the point that it hurt him. She could be his, if only he would be honest with her. He wanted to be honest with her, to tell her the truth. He needed her in his life, just like she needed him, even if she wasn’t honest with herself about that. Everything about her screamed at him that she was to be Queen: A beautiful, wonderful, amazing Queen. Even still, he wanted to make her all his. “So, what did you do to get the Princess to come and support you? Did you give her some support first?” The words were accompanied with a rough laugh, and Brandon jerked his head to see that Phillip was leaning over William to talk to Alexander, who looked completely uncomfortable. Brandon did not know how to respond – he was now a Lord and not just a Knight protecting his Queen. Did he still have a right to step in? “Oh, shut up Phillip. You know she will never pick an idiot like you, so why are you bothering to try and run us off?” Those words came from a voice that he had rarely heard, and he looked at William in shock. Had those bold words truly just come from that small, weak man? Even William looked to be in shock and was now stuttering out an apology. “Oh, shut it the both of you. She is preparing for a war that result in numerous losses. There is more important things for her to be worrying about than the three of us!” Brandon nodded to himself and tried to keep his eyes off the three men. If anyone was to have her, he hoped it would be Alexander. The man was a dedicated warrior and would be too devoted to his cause to worry about his new wife. She would be free to rule with Alexander leading her army. If only the man had money… The three continued to bicker, but Brandon attempted to ignore it. Phillip was slinging out drunk insults while William kept telling him to be quiet, and Alexander tried to do the impossible and speak reason to a man intoxicated beyond his wits’ end. He already knew that this was going to get far worse before it got better, and Brandon could only hope that the dinner would end before it got to that point. Thankfully, people were beginning to file out of the hall to take to their own rooms, and soon enough it was mainly just the High Table and their people filling the tables. Brandon could see that Eleanor was exhausted where she sat, and he wanted to escort her out before Phillip got completely out of control. She seemed to have noticed that Phillip was insulting her, but just looked too tired to care anymore. “Fine then, you can marry her, but a boy like you can’t take care of the real needs. I will take care of the heir and the rutting!” Brandon heard Eleanor gasp while he jerked his head to glare at Phillip, ready to step in and give the man the punch that he deserved, but it seemed that someone was already a step ahead of him. Alexander had jumped up from his seat with clenched fists, but it was William that had his arm drawn back. Before anyone else could move, William had already punched Phillip. Everyone stood there in shock, minus Phillip, who was on the floor, and William, who was clenching his hand tight against himself. Brandon had heard the distinct pop of breaking bones and knew that the hand would have to be bandaged. There was no blood coming from where Phillip had hit the floor and he moved forward to make certain the man was still alive. Some of Phillip’s men rushed forward but Brandon stepped in, as he seemed to be the only one that had any sense about them. “Take him back to his room and let him sleep it off. Don’t let him leave the room until morning.” The men eyed him for a second before nodding and taking Phillip off. “You idiot! You never wrap your thumb underneath your other fingers. Leave the thumb out next time!” Alexander was already looking at William’s hand, while William looked to be on the verge of tears. Eleanor had already fallen back down into her seat from where she had risen a moment before, anger and sadness written across her face. This was one of those moments that Brandon wished more than anything he could pull her into his arms and make everything better. He would destroy a thousand men for her. End nations and depose kings. He would do anything and everything for her. Of course, the one thing that he wanted most and she needed more than anything, he could not do. The Goddess was being cruel for pushing him into this fate, and it was destroying both of them. • • • Eleanor just sat in her chair in silence. She made no signals of acknowledgement to anyone that left the room and didn’t respond to any servant that moved towards her. She just sat there and waited for the silence. A tap on her shoulder brought her out of her thoughts and she turned, ready to yell at the person that dared interrupt her thinking. Looking up, she saw that it was Alexander. Her nerves immediately settled and she beckoned to the now empty chair beside her. Everyone else seemed to have gone save for the servants cleaning. “Princess Eleanor, I was wondering if I could speak with you, for a moment?” The Prince looked hopeful and Eleanor gave him a nod, allowing him to continue. She was now more curious than anything about what he wanted. “Royal Highness, I must-“ “No,” Eleanor said simply, shaking her head. “Eleanor. Just Eleanor. Given the current predicament, I think that just Eleanor and just Alexander will be acceptable.” Alexander nodded slowly in response then relaxed back into his chair. He seemed to have stiffened when she interrupted him. “Eleanor, then. I wanted to thank you, for your support in this time of trial for my Kingdom.” Eleanor nodded her head for a moment before speaking. “Alexander, we share a common enemy, and now we share a common loss.” The prince stiffened beside her for a moment and Eleanor nodded again. “Yes, my father was poisoned as well. His, however, was not as swift. He has been wasting away for the past few weeks. I think it is the fact I am not married yet that he is still alive. He wants to make sure I am able to become Queen before he passes.” There was a silence between them for a moment, but it was not uncomfortable. Eleanor rested in her chair and just stared at the room around her when she felt a warm hand touch her. Jerking her head to look at Alexander’s hand holding hers, she looked up at the man. “Eleanor, I know you are stuck here. I think you need to know, I would not be a bad King. This is your kingdom. I would gladly lead your army to numerous victories as your champion. At the same time, if you come to Bromaric to support us against Archaria, you do not have to worry about a marital alliance. We would be sealed to each other with your support alone.” Eleanor nodded and looked away from Alexander, letting her hand stay in his. It wasn’t the same touch as Brandon’s. Alexander’s hands felt rough and harsh against hers. Brandon’s hand, while calloused, had seemed so gentle and nurturing. Brandon also wasn’t acceptable for marriage. “I know, Alexander. And I know that you would make a great King. I just fear that it doesn’t matter what I want, but instead will become what the Kingdom needs.” Alexander stiffened at her words and jerked his hand away. “Is that why he is still here?” There was no need to say who the he was. Everyone that did not know Council details were wondering why Phillip was still around. “I fear that I may have no other choice.” Alexander’s hand touched her cheek and she was reminded that his touch was not Brandon’s. She turned her face to look at his, and she saw that his face looked hard, like that of a military man again. “Eleanor, I swear to you now, if anything should happen with that man, I will come back and protect you. You need not fear him, should that be your choice.” “She doesn’t need to fear him. I will kill him before he ever hurts her.” Eleanor looked up to see Brandon standing behind Alexander. She wondered how long he had been there, and she pulled away from Alexander to look up at her newest Lord. Alexander had also turned to face Brandon and rose from his seat to grasp their forearms together, like those of military brothers. “I think that I shall hold you to that, Lord Brandon. That man does not deserve the honor that is most likely coming to him.” Eleanor wondered if Brandon had meant his words. Would he really kill a Duke to protect her? It seemed silly, to have that thought. He had promised to protect her, so why not protect her from the Duke? “No, Brandon,” she said softly. Both men jerked back to face her. “I must marry to take the throne, and you know that we need the funds. If anyone has to kill him, however, it will be me. I may be a woman, but I will not be taken advantage of.” Both men nodded in response and then Alexander bowed before her. “Now that that is settled, Princess, I think that I shall retire for the evening. Sleep well.” He leaned forward to take her hand and left a delicate kiss on the top of it. She nodded and watched the man leave before turning to look at Brandon. “How much did you overhear?” she asked softly, before stepping backwards and returning to her seat. Brandon stepped forward and took the chair that Alexander had occupied just a moment before, and sat down before turning to face her and respond. “I heard all of it. And we both meant what we said. Phillip will never hurt you, Eleanor.” She nodded for a moment before sighing. “I think I fear myself more than I fear him. Phillip is a small issue in the grand scheme. I have a kingdom to run and a war to prepare for. I fear more than anything that I will be a bad queen.” She felt a hand touch her cheek and immediately felt warmed. It was such a different response from Alexander’s touch, and she had to remind herself of the predicament she was in. The hand turned her face to look up at her loyal Knight. “Eleanor, of all the things you have to worry about, that should be the least. You will be the greatest Queen this kingdom has ever known. See yourself as I do, and you will know the words I speak are true. They stared at each other for a moment before Eleanor pulled away from his hand. She was marrying in two days, to someone other than him. She couldn’t do this to herself. It was torture being around him, and more than ever, she was reminded of all the feelings she had buried over the years. She had always felt a warmth around him, and when he had begun to blossom into a young man, she had felt the butterflies in her stomach while she grew into a young woman. Now that they were grown, she could ignore the feelings no longer, and yet, she could do nothing for them. “Brandon, I think I need to go,” she whispered, unable to tear her eyes away from his. His eyes looked so sad, and she wished more than ever she could kiss his eyelids so that he would open them with a smile across his face. She wanted to be the reason for his smile, as he so often seemed to be the reason for hers. “I know, but I do not want this night to end.” Eleanor fought with herself mentally for a moment before rising from her chair. “Then walk me back to my room, so that you may have a few moments longer.” • • • He needed her. Like he needed air, he needed to touch her. Just having her arm draped through his as he escorted her back to her room was not enough. Brandon wanted to run his fingers through her hair again, and to kiss her forehead gently while she traced her fingers over his chest. He wanted to have sweet moments like he had often seen the King and Queen having. He wanted to be her King, and when she looked at him sometimes, he thought that she wished it too. They walked slowly back to her chamber, not speaking at all, and too soon they reached the door. She flicked her hand for the guards to move down the hallway, and soon enough it was just the two of them. He didn’t know why she had dismissed the guards, but he was grateful to have a moment with her alone. Even though it had only been earlier that day, it had been far too long since it was just the two of them. “Brandon, I-“ she was speaking again, but Brandon stepped forward leaned down slightly to place a gentle kiss onto her forehead. Her skin was so soft and warm under his lips and he rested them there for a moment before he pulled away. She was looking up at him with the most beautiful, radiant smile across her face. Neither of them spoke as they stared at each other, and Brandon wanted to tell her everything. In that moment, all he wanted was to spend his life with her, and she needed to know that. She needed to know everything. “Eleanor-“ His words were cut off by the door beside them opening. A servant – he thought the woman’s name was Gayle – stood there, and looked at them both with knowing eyes. He realized then that one of his arms had somehow slid around behind her back while the other was dangerously close to touching her hair. They pulled away from each other quickly before Eleanor gave him an apologetic smile. “I think this is good night, my Lord.” Brandon nodded then gave the servant a glare. “Indeed. Good night, Princess Eleanor.” He bowed low and waited for the door to shut before he turned and went to find the guards. Sending them back to their post, he rushed off to his new room in the castle, overjoyed. She had felt it too. For a moment, she had seemed to feel the love that he felt for her. He would tell her. As soon as they had a moment alone again, he would tell her. And hopefully, with a little luck, she would be his. • • • Gayle was rambling on about how she shouldn’t be caught alone with Brandon, but Eleanor didn't care. The skin on her forehead still felt warm from his kiss, and she felt as though she floated on air while she undressed and slipped into bed. His lips had been so warm and soft against her forehead, and when his arm had wrapped around her back, she thought she would fall over with delight. She loved him. At first, it had been a childhood dream, to marry a knight and live happily ever after. Then, she had told herself he was simply pleasing to look at. Eventually, he had become the valiant knight chosen to protect her. And somehow, along the way of growing up, she had fallen in love with him. It had taken all these years and the realization that she had to marry to have to finally face the truth, but face it she was. She was in love with Brandon. Chapter 8 Chapter 10  
  6. Not to be a stick in the mud, but your sig has to be 500x125. I can fix that for you real quick?
  7. I can't imagine my life without Wheel of Time, and DM too. I joined DM in 2003, and that was right as I started High School. It got me through those horrible teen years, and now as an adult, it still fills my life while my husband is deployed. I also love Stormlight Archive! I have reread The Way of Kings so many times, I might be obsessed.
  8. There is more to DM than just RP and the Social Groups, chuckles! There is also discussion.
  9. Chapter Eight : Goddess, Save Me As Eleanor walked down the hallway towards the dining room with a cool smile on her lips, she felt her stomach instead twisting and turning. Of all the things that she needed to be doing right now, having lunch with the three suitors was not one of them. There were Lords to meet with, and petitioners to listen to. She had more reports from Bromaric on the death of the King, and she even wanted to spend a few moments with her father while he was still alive. She knew that as Queen her time would always be precious, but not even having a moment’s peace was growing tiring. When she walked into the dining room, she saw that all three men had already arrived, but were doing their best to not talk to each other. Duke William was sitting in a chair reading one of the books she recognized from her library. Prince Alexander was talking with a man that looked like his servant and reading over a few papers that she swore had the same seal that hers had coming from Bromaric. Duke Phillip had an empty glass of wine in one hand and was beckoning for a servant to refill it with the other. They barely even noticed her entry. She was, of course, slightly late. After the Council meeting had finished, she had gone straight to her study and immediately pulled all of the pins and ribbons from her hair. She needed to feel for a moment that she had some freedom in her life, and the woven strands of hair too closely signified the way that her life was already woven for her. With her hair free and waving softly over her shoulders, Eleanor had returned the simple tiara back atop her head. If Brandon thought anything odd of her change in hair style, he made no display of it. For a moment, she had thought about dismissing him while she was in this luncheon. There were plenty of guards and servants around, so she would be safe, and did not want to punish him by having him stand and watch her deal with the three suitors. At the same time, she also wanted his strength nearby for her to rely on. When she had almost not walked through the door into the Dining Room, however, her decision was made for her as he had been the one to escort her inside. Not even glancing at the men, Eleanor made her way to the head of the table. Brandon immediately moved to escort her to her seat, and once she reached the chair, she coughed slightly to grab the attention of the other diners. All three immediately turned towards the noise, and they all had mixed reactions. Alexander quickly looked away and dismissed the man he had been talking to. Phillip seemed to groan slightly and walked towards the table. William completely dropped his book and dashed to his seat. Brandon pulled the chair out for her, and Eleanor gave him a soft smile. As she sunk into her chair, she watched the other three men do the same. Alexander, as a Prince, sat to her right hand side. William, as a Foreign Lord, sat at her left hand, and Phillip sat on the other side of him. Brandon moved to take a place standing just behind the right side of her chair, always present if she needed anything. With a simple nod of her head to the nearest servant, Eleanor signaled the start of the meal. The glasses were immediately filled with wine and trays of meat and fruit were brought out and placed upon the table. Eleanor took only a few pieces of pork and sipped at her wine slowly. Baskets of bread and cheese were brought out quickly as well, and she took a few pieces of cheese. If she could succeed in keeping what was on her plate down, she would be happy. At present, however, her stomach felt ready to flip. The table was completely silent as they all idly ate their food, and Eleanor was ready to just rise from her seat and leave them all there. She had actual work to do, and dealing with the cause of the awkward silence that filled the room was the least of her priorities. She took a single glance back at Brandon, and he stepped forward immediately and bowed low so that his ear was at the same level of her lips. She licked her lips as she prepared to speak, and she watched his eyes dart towards her mouth quickly. Color came to her cheeks immediately, and she had to work to whisper out the words. “Lord Brandon, get me out of here,” she whispered softly, then jumped when a loud pounding came from across the room. She turned quickly and noted that Brandon’s hand immediately went to the sword that lay across his back, and the cheeks that were once red now became white. Duke Phillip had risen from his chair, his hand still lying flat on the table, and was glaring at Eleanor and Brandon. Brandon had released his hand from gripping the hilt of his sword and Eleanor gave him a simple shake of her head. The man stepped back and lowered his arm as Eleanor turned back to the now seething Duke. “Duke Phillip, is there something you wish to say?” she asked cooly. Her eyes had settled back onto her plate, as though she barely even noticed his sudden outburst. Eleanor raised her eyes to see that Prince Alexander had slightly risen from his chair. His hand was resting dangerously close to his sword hilt and his eyes were glaring at the risen Duke. Eleanor’s eyes then glanced at Duke William, who had also risen from his chair. Instead of looking angry, however, the man looked scared out of his wits, and was standing on the other side of his chair, close to Eleanor and her protection. Phillip still looked angry enough to destroy the table. “If there is not something you wish to say, then I strongly suggest that you sit down and eat your food.” The bite on her words sounded almost like a Mother snapping at a child throwing a tantrum, but the effect worked, and the Lord returned to his seat. Alexander did the same, although his hand was still resting on his sword, and William scooted his chair further from the angry man to his left. “Thank you, my Lord.” Eleanor glanced back at Brandon, who was still standing there taking in the scene looking as tense as ever. She gave a glance towards the door, then looked back at the man and shook her head slightly, to signify that she no longer wanted out of the room. She had to talk to the men sometime, and it was clear that emotions were starting to run high. Rising from her seat slowly, she shook her head as all three rose with her. They all returned to their seats slowly, and she rested the palms of her hands on the edge of the table and leaned her weight forward onto them. Some of her hair fell forward but she still continued to glare at the three men sitting around her. “My Lords, I will not lie to any of you. You all know why you are here, so I shall keep my words simple and make the truth plain to all of you. I must marry. You all three come with things that I need. All three of you desire an alliance with this crown and kingdom. My birthday is the day after tomorrow. I will be choosing then. After that point, if you are not chosen, an alliance will still be drawn up, if you and those you represent choose to move forward with it. Tomorrow, you will each have time spent with me. Until then, do not presume too much of yourself. None of you are my husband, yet, and none of you rule in my palace. Keep yourself respectful, or else see yourself out. I have no time for games.” None of the three men moved. They all just stared at her with their mouths wide opened, and she glared at each until she got a simple nod. Excellent. At least they now understood their place. And, she had given herself a deadline and let them all know to prepare to spend time with her. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have other matters to attend to. Lord Brandon, if you will-“ Her words were cut off by another slamming of a hand on the table. Unsurprisingly, it was Duke Phillip again. His words flowed from his mouth before she could even get over her shock and glare at him. “LORD Brandon? You have raised your father’s pet to a LORD?” “Phillip, sit down and silence your tongue before I cut it out.” Eleanor’s fist curled up into a ball, but she kept her anger in check. Her voice had a powerful tone in it, as did her glare, and he sat back down quickly and looked almost in fear of her. “LORD Brandon is now a member of the Council, and therefore holds a higher rank in the realm than you. Remember your betters before you speak again.” Turning on her feet, she gave Brandon a small glance before walking straight towards the door. The knight looked shocked but followed after her just as quickly. Once the doors to the Dining Room were shut behind them, Brandon immediately turned and grabbed Eleanor’s arm and turned her to face him. The guards that stood on either side of the door looked nervous, wondering if they should protect their Princess, or leave them in peace, given who the person grabbing her arm was. She waved them off with a single glance and then looked up at Brandon. “You cannot marry him. He would destroy the Kingdom, after he destroyed you.” Eleanor sighed. That was one of her many fears about marrying Phillip, but she needed the money he would bring. “I know, Brandon, but did you not hear what Tiirwin said?” Eleanor realized that they were standing in the middle of a well traversed hallway with servants and guards milling about. This was not something they should be discussing in public. “Lord Brandon, I have a dress fitting I must go to. We shall discuss this later, before the ceremony, alright?” Brandon looked like he had more to say, but he nodded his head anyway. “Of course, Princess, but we must discuss it.” She gave him a simple nod then looked around the hall for a moment. Seeing that the hallway was suddenly empty save for the two guards that were looking away from them, she reached her hand up slowly to Brandon’s cheek. Tracing his jawline slowly with her fingers, she thought about the feeling of his lips in her hair the night before. Had it only been one night since she had been safe and secure in his arms? She wondered for a moment what it would be like to be held in his arms again, and to feel his lips back in her hair. Brandon’s opposite hand had come up to delicately touch her arm. His fingers were warm against the sleeve of her dress and she thought about the feeling of his fingers touching her own bare skin. “I know, Brandon. I know what I risk. But I do not have much of a choice.” Her fingers lingered on his cheek for a moment longer before her arm fell to her side, and his fingers did the same. They stared for another long moment deep into the other’s eyes, and Eleanor wished that the moment would never end. “Eleanor, there you are, I have been-“ Eleanor turned to see her mother walking down the hallway. The Queen had paused in her words and steps upon seeing Eleanor and her knight standing together in the hallway, and Isabella eyed the two before speaking again. “Come, daughter. You are late for your dress fitting.” Eleanor nodded then glanced back at Brandon, who stared down at her sadly. “I shall see you at the ceremony, my Lord. Until then…” She turned and walked away from the knight, not even able to turn and look back at him. As soon as she was at her Mother’s side and out of sight of Lord Brandon, Eleanor grabbed the Queen’s arm and stopped them both in their steps. Isabella looked down at her daughter with sadness in her eyes, and Eleanor could see the redness that still surrounded them. “Mother, I don’t know what to do,” she whispered softly. Isabella just nodded in response. “I know, my child.” The two women spent a few moments in silence as they slowly began walking down the hallway, and the Queen slipped her arm into her daughter’s as they walked. With their arms link, Eleanor leaned her head to rest on her mother’s arm as she had so often when she was younger. The silence was not interrupted by anyone around them, and Eleanor feared to speak. “Mother, I am so sorry, about father.” The words were barely audible, but the Queen heard them all the same, and she nodded again. “Thank you, my dear. I am sorry as well, that this is being placed onto your shoulders so soon.” It was Eleanor’s turn to nod. They reached Eleanor’s receiving room in silence, where numerous dresses were placed around the room for the princess to try on. While it would be spoken that all of the dresses were to be for her selections for the ball and the ceremony that evening, Eleanor was also looking for the gown for when her father died. The tailor knew that she would need a wedding dress that would also fit a somber occasion, so there would be no need for too much secrecy, except from the servants assisting. Eventually selecting out three dresses, Eleanor dismissed the tailor and her assistants and beckoned for her mother to follow. The entire time while the fitting occurred, Queen Isabella had stood to the side and watched in silence, offering only a nod or a shake of her head to signify her opinions on various dresses. Both women were silent as they walked towards the guarded area of the Council hall, and as they approached the door to the inner Council chambers, Eleanor flicked her hand, signifying the guards away. They nodded simply and moved away from the door to take an opposite stand across the hallway. They could still guard without being right beside the door, and Eleanor wanted to know that her words could not be overheard. Walking into the Council doors, Eleanor shut the doors gently and turned to her mother, who looked on the point of exhaustion. The woman had most likely not slept in the past few weeks, and if she had, it was only due to absolute weariness. Eleanor almost wanted to keep her problems to herself, but she needed to talk about it with someone. “Please sit, mother. You look as if you are swaying where you stand.” The Queen simply nodded her head and did as told, sinking into one of the soft chairs. Eleanor walked to the other side of the table and stood watching her mother for a moment. The regal queen could not even look up from where her haunted eyes graced the floor. Slipping into her chair, Eleanor opened up her stack of papers and pulled out one which was covered with the writing from the Master of Finance. She needed to know how much her mother knew about the state of money in the kingdom, because depending on how much she knew would show how worried her father had been about it. Sliding the paper in front of her mother, the princess watched silently as the Queen picked up the paper and glanced over it quickly. Her eyes widened greatly, and Eleanor knew the answer to her question before she even asked it. The question came out in a simple whisper. “Did you know?” Immediately, the queen’s eyes shot up from the paper, her mouth opened slightly in surprise. Her eyes held for a moment before they looked back down at the paper again in shock. “Eleanor… what are you going to do?” Eleanor took the paper from her mother and returned it to the stack. This was bad. In all matters, her father shared with her mother. Things from a servant’s family member dying to matters of state and diplomacy had always been discussed between the couple. If her father had not shared the details, it meant that even he didn’t know what to do. Rising slowly from the chair, she looked down at her mother sadly. “There is more. Alexander’s father is dead. Archaria is to blame for yet another Royal death.” The queen’s shocked gasp in response almost made Eleanor flinch. She didn’t need any reminders of how bad the current situation was, and without her mother even controlling her emotions, it was just another reminder that things were progressively declining. “Eleanor, I do not-“ Her mother’s voice shook as she tried to speak, and the woman slid from the chair onto her knees, her face buried deep into her hands. Her words now came out in just a rasp of her voice. “By the Goddess, what shall we do?” The princess slid from around the table and sunk to her knees before her mother and wrapped her arms gently around the woman. The two hugged each other tightly as Eleanor fought back tears. She had been hopeful of finding solace within her mother, but the Queen was far too broken to be of any support now. “The Goddess will provide, mother, and I will do what I must.” • • • Within moments of Eleanor entering, the Temple had been completely cleared of anyone that was inside. Dominic had offered to stay with her, but she had simply shaken her head, wishing to be alone. Once the doors were shut, she looked around the place that she was now using for sanctuary. The Great Tree was directly before her, with short grass around it. The stones that lead up to the grassy area were cold beneath her bare feet as she slid her feet from her shoes and within a few seconds, she felt the earth and grass where stone had been a moment before. Her feet flexed for a moment as she lifted the hem of her dress, careful to get no dirt on the hem, and walked towards the base of the tree. Standing just beside it was a row of candles that Dominic had retrieved for her before disappearing. It was a row of ten candles, held specifically for the Royal family. A small bundle of matches lay beside it, ready to be lit from one of the candles that were still resting on the stone behind her. The candles themselves were all in a single holder that was resting on the ground. Taking a match, she went and lit it from one of the already lit candles and walked back up to the base of the tree. Folding up the front of her skirt, she sunk onto her knees so that the inside of her dress was all that touched the ground. There before the Great Tree that made every Temple a true temple to the Goddess, she lowered her head reverently, then looked to the candelabra beside her. Goddess, bestow me with wisdom. Goddess, grant me clarity. Goddess, favor me with your light. Goddess, show me your mercy. Goddess, make me strong. Goddess, weaken my enemies. The words came out easily enough, which she had repeated far too many times to remember. With each new request, she lit a single candle. It was not a prayer from the religion, nor was it one spoken by the Healers, but instead it was a prayer of her family. Many generations of Venaramine rulers had prayed the prayer, asking for help as they lead the kingdom. Goddess, protect my family. Goddess, heal my spirit. Goddess, guide my path. Her hand paused then, looking at the last candle, and a single tear rolled down her cheek. So many times she had prayed this prayer, and yet she did not feel full of wisdom. Her thoughts were still cloudy. Everything was falling around her. There was no mercy being given to her. She felt completely weak. All her enemies were growing stronger. Her father was dying, and her spirit was dying with him. Even the path she was taking seemed to be going nowhere except down. Goddess, give me your Blessing. Eleanor slowly lit the last candle, then blew out the match in her hand. She watched the ten flames flicker back and forth, and she looked back to see that someone had come in to join her. Brandon. She should have known that he would not leave her alone for long. After leaving her mother, she had gone up to her room and changed into the dress for the Ceremony. It was a deep red, darker than blood, with a curved neckline and small pearls for decoration. The bodice was tight around her frame and the skirts swept out at her hips. The sleeves were form fitting but not too tight. It was one of her favorite from all she had tried on, but not a royal purple she needed to wear for her coronation nor the white she had to wear for her birthday. After finishing dressing, she had slipped from her room and down to the Temple, not wanting to run into a suitor or anyone else that needed to discuss politics. She had no one to turn to for solace except the Goddess, so that was where she planned to spend a few moments before making certain the plans for the ceremony were complete. Looking back at the candles, she watched them burn. Eleanor didn’t know how long she stayed there, on her knees in simple thought, but a hand on her shoulder eventually brought her back to the present. Blinking a few times, she realized that they were over halfway burned. How had an hour passed so quickly? The hand on her shoulder disappeared and was replaced by a chin as an arm slowly wrapped around her waist. She knew without looking that it was Brandon. He pulled her back to lean against him, and she let her body melt against his for a moment. Neither of them spoke as they stayed there, both on their knees, with now both his arms wrapped around her waist. When the candles had burned down to the point of having almost no wick or wax left, Eleanor pulled away from Brandon and rose to her feet. Brandon did the same, and they both turned in silence away from the tree. Her feet slipped back into her slippers quickly before she walked across the rest of the stone and went to open up the door. A light breeze immediately greeted her as the door opened, and she stood there for a moment, soaking in the warmth of the sun that poured in. She felt a presence standing close behind her, and she glanced back to see Brandon with a solemn look. “I think, my Lord, that the ceremony will be starting soon.” Brandon nodded his head once. “Indeed, my Lady.” A silence came over them again for a moment before Eleanor reached out her hand and slipped it into the curve of his arm. He looked down at her, shocked for a moment, and she looked away, back towards the palace. “I think, my Lord, that we also need to have our talk. Will you please take a walk with me through the gardens?” Brandon did not respond as they began walking towards the nearby gardens. They did not speak as they passed by benches and fountains while making their way into the furthest back area. Guards stood on either side of this section, allowing only the Royal Family and their guests to enter. They both gave a slight nod as the pair of them stepped through the archway and Eleanor walked a few more steps before sitting down on the stone edge of a fountain. Brandon stood there for a moment before sinking down to sit beside her. Eleanor let her fingers trail across the water for a moment, her fingers brushing the petals of flowers that floated on the calm surface. The silence was not awkward, but peaceful. Even still, it could not last. “If I can somehow secure an alliance with Alexander that does not include marriage, then I will select William. By choosing William, I can get money and economy, and still have military support from Bromaric. If Alexander will not lend me his support, then I shall have to choose between him and Philip, but I cannot have a military alliance if I have no money to pay for the army. War with Bromaric, if it occurs, will wait till after we deal with Archaria, of that we can be certain.” She prayed that they would not have to come to blows with Bromaric at all. Any sort of war so soon after dealing with another enemy would surely end in disaster. She had confidence in her army, but this would be pushing them too far. “Philip has the money. Philip has the land with timber, marble, and iron. Philip also has the largest private army. The only negative of marrying Philip is Philip himself. That is the only reason I am even considering anyone else. I have to do what is right for the Kingdom, even if it will destroy me in the process.” Brandon’s hand came to rest on hers in the water, and her fingers stilled from their repetitive movements. Her hand felt warm in his, and she wished that things were simpler and she could truly make her own decision. “Princess... Eleanor… there is another option.” She looked up from where her eyes had been resting on their hands and sighed. “I have to marry to take the throne. I need military support to defend my kingdom. I need money and trade to keep my people fed and my army paid for. There is truly no other options available to me. Do you not think I have taken every effort to release myself from the bonds that are tightening around me?” Brandon nodded once, then pulled away from her, his hand going with him. Eleanor placed her hand in her lap and returned her eyes back to the water. Did Brandon think that she actually wanted to marry Philip? Why would he even suggest there was another way? What if he had something in mind? “Brandon?” He turned back to look at her from where he was standing a few paces away. “Is there another option?” His face seemed to twist for a moment as he turned away from her, and she could tell my his stance that he was deep in thought. For a moment, Eleanor wanted to rise from where she sat and go to him to give him comfort. His thoughts seemed to greatly bother him. When he did turn back, he took two quick steps towards where she sat. She rose then from her seat and stared up at him. The silence was deafening before he finally spoke. “There is another kingdom you could align yourself with. The King is childless and his brother is sure to take the throne. You would have no need for an army with this alliance and with those trade routes open and combined resources, economy would flourish again. You could marry the Prince of Archaria.” Eleanor felt her face go white for a second and she stared at him in shock. Was he honestly suggesting that she marry into the family that had killed her father? Marry the man that could have quite possibly called for the death of two kings? Had Brandon lost it, or did he truly hate Philip that much? Before she could help herself, Eleanor’s hand darted out and she slapped him across the face. He didn’t even move to stop her and just took the hit. No wonder he had been having such a difficult time speaking. Whatever she had been expecting him to say, that was certainly not it. Her fingers burned from the slap, and she raised her other hand to slap him across the other cheek. He was lucky she didn’t curl her hand up into a fist and actually punch him. This time, he caught her wrist with his hand, and his eyes looked sad. She realized then what she had done, and been about to repeat. He released her hand and she took a step back, covering her mouth with both hands in the process. “Oh Brandon, oh my, oh Brandon, I am so sorry,” she gasped out, then burst into tears. Unable to control her feet, she stepped forward and buried her face into his chest. Brandon was still for a moment before his arms wrapped around her, and he held her there while she cried. She kept whispering how sorry she was and begging for his forgiveness, but he said nothing. Finally, she pulled away from him and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Brandon, please say something. Please, I cannot stand this silence from you. Yell at me, hate me, whatever you must do, but just say something.” Brandon’s hand raised to her cheek lightly, and she reacted involuntarily as she leaned her head into his touch. “No, Eleanor. There is nothing to forgive. I should not have brought it up. I simply fear what this war and that man will do to you. It is I who must beg your forgiveness.” Eleanor burst into a fresh round of tears at his words and he pulled her back into his arms. He backed up to sit down on the stone ledge and pulled her down with him, letting her sit across his lap. She was greatful that they were in private so that no one could see them, and she sobbed harder into his chest, knowing that for a few moments she could let it all out. When Brandon finally released her from his arms, she felt cold, wishing that she could be wrapped up in them again. Wiping away her tears with the back of her hand, she started laughing from the way her reflection looked on the water. She needed to return to her rooms and clean up quickly before she went to the ceremony. Leaving Brandon in the garden behind her, she gave him a soft smile and went back to her room, knowing that she still had a long night ahead of her. If things could go her way, she would have spent the evening in the garden with Brandon, or even back in the Temple. His arms wrapped around her had been like a dream, and she didn’t want to let go of that dream yet. • • • He was a fool. An absolute fool. What had he been thinking, bringing up an idea of marriage to her enemy? He knew that that would never happen, ever. He had wanted to tell her that she could marry for love. He had wanted to tell her that she could marry him. He wanted to say that he would take her away from all of the pain around her, and let the nobles sort it out in their wake. He wanted to tell her that Philip would never hurt her as long as she would let him protect her. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, that the feeling of her in his arms felt right, and that she would never cry or worry again if he could help it. Why had he mentioned Archaria? It had seemed like such a good idea, to just mention some other kingdom that she wasn't already looking into, but there was no real other options. Unmarried Lords were too few, and her coronation was only a few days away. It wasn't like Archaria would actually want to align with Venaramine, and there was definitely no way that the King would let his younger brother marry a future Queen and his greatest enemy. His face still burned from where her hand had slapped him, and he cursed himself silently for his own stupidity. He was lucky that was all she had done. By the Goddess, did she have fire inside of herself! The thought of it made his cheeks burn and he thought back to how Philip would destroy her spirit. He couldn't let that happen. No matter what occurred, there was no way that Brandon would let that spoiled boy destroy the woman he loved. Chapter Seven Chapter Nine
  10. *kicks youtube* I started uploading the video last night when I went to bed... still at 75%. I'm going to just get Harriet's reading up, as that is the BIG one that I think needs to be shown in the report.
  11. From the album: Charleston AMoL Book Signing

    Courtesy of Amy Romanczuk
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