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Blood on the Tundra

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Wed May 17, 2017 4:34 pm
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Lael says...

Farin Northguard

It was as though magic had come over the hall as soon as the first note shimmered in the air. Farin smiled as she watched Alik dance about. It seemed that there was always something more to learn. Although he played a Tundran song, it felt as if he had introduced the warmth of the Plains, like a cozy fire.

"Tell me that the night is long
tell me that the moon is glowing
fill my glass, I'll sing a song
and we'll start the music flowing . . ."

Until she noticed the princes and her sisters looking at her, Farin hadn't realized she was singing along and swaying to Alik's music. But she didn't mind the attention at all.

"Come on, let's dance!" she exclaimed to her sisters, though she didn't care if they didn't follow her. She jumped from her seat and spun away. This was a good time as any to dance and have fun.

The cheers flew past Farin's ears as she moved to the music. A kick and a flip of her skirt, then she was skipping, spinning, until she was in front of Alik. She met his eyes full of laughter and they danced together, not touching but in synchronization with every step and twirl. As the prince played his violin, the words to the song tumbled from Farin's smiling lips. It was as though they were the only two people in the room.

But as the song neared the end, at which there would usually be a barrage of deep drum beats, Farin blinked. She stumbled slightly, but recovered before anyone could take much notice of it.

What am I doing? Was Farin falling too quickly into this? They all had only met that day. But still . . . he seemed so kind and didn't mind her small deviations from standard protocol as a princess. What should I do?

Before she could think of a reasonable plan, Alik flourished his bow high in the air with the final note. Claps and hollers sounded all over the room. Farin realized that many of the people, whether gentry or commoner, Plain or Tundran, had joined them on the floor to dance and sing together, putting aside their differences for a moment of joy while King Rolan and Farin's mother looked on with expressions of the least worry since the royal families had met. She couldn't deny that Alik had a strong charisma that could make others around him happy.

Alik came to her side, putting a hand on her shoulder. "That was fun," he said, grinning. "You were wonderful."

Farin glanced at his hand for a moment, but quickly pulled a smile on. "Thank you," she replied. She hesitated, then added, "Alik."

She had a lot of thinking to do when she was alone again.
Spoiler! :
I tried. It's kind of short and may not be up to par, but here it is.
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:13

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Sat May 20, 2017 8:17 pm
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Wolfical says...

Ibsen Stormwind

Ibsen was eternally grateful when the song was over and everyone returned to their seats. He, of course, had not risen to dance. Dancing in the dining hall - what a silly idea! He was most of all humiliated that it was his little brother Alik that had started the whole disaster, strutting up to the stage like a peacock and drawing those irresistibly beautiful strokes across his violin. The music was very nice of course and extremely pleasing to the ear, but even so, a prince should never carry on as if he were a menial minstrel in a pub; a prince should be regal and solemn, especially in the castle of his betrothed, and especially on the first night of their unification. A prince should be quite like himself, Ibsen thought. Why couldn't his brothers follow his lead?

Ibsen cast an apologetic look toward Anumati. She smiled back, and her eyes sparkled with joy. She clearly hadn't minded the music, even though she was one of the few who had also chosen to stay seated. Ibsen looked down at the silver place mat in front of him, and the mustache of his beard rose ever so slightly; a grin was tugging at his lips. Like Alik's music, Anumati's smile was irresistible.

He realized suddenly that he hadn't thought of Julie in quite some time. Right then he tried to think of what she looked like, but could barely make out the features of her face, or the color of her eyes. Her hair was the color of sunshine, but what else?

Ibsen swallowed. Good Delor, had he forgotten her so soon? Why?

He wasn't stupid. He knew why. But that didn't mean he was going to admit it, even to himself.

Deep down, he knew that his heart was less inclined toward Julie than it was toward the Plains itself. But she was a living part of it, and relinquishing his affection for her would be like relinquishing a piece of home. Marrying her, on the other hand, would be like tying a piece of the Plains to him always, forever next to his heart.

At the head of the table, the queen furrowed her brow. "That's odd," she said, glancing around the room.

"What is odd?" the king asked.

"It's nothing alarming, really," she assured him. "It's just that my steward, Bryn, isn't here. I saw him slip out quite a while ago, before the music started, and he hasn’t yet returned.”

“Is he typically a loyal fellow?”

“Absolutely. He always stays close by, making sure I’m alright.”

Bryn. Ibsen remembered meeting him, and recalled liking him - the diplomatic and proper way he carried himself was a reassuring way to begin their Tundran visit. Whatever he was up to, Ibsen was sure it could only be for the good of the queen.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.

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Sat Jun 03, 2017 2:03 am
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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...

Bryn Toltear

He had snuck out as the young prince had begun his song. The boy's cheer is infectious. He may be a problem, he thought to himself.

Leaving out to the grounds he was startled by the appearance of Leon. "You damn assassin. You trying to scare me to death?"

"If I wanted you dead, it would already be done," Leon chuckled. "Besides it wouldn't do any good for me to kill you. You still owe me the rest of my payment."

"After you have completed your mission," Bryn growled as he continued away from the killer. He paused a moment before turning back. "So I am aware, just how do you plan on doing it?"

"She goes out for a morning ride. I will wait for her to return in the stables. I'll bar the door so that none of those guards, Plains or Tundran, can enter until long after I have finished. Don't worry. It will seem like a terrible Tundran hater has murdered the dear princess, and spark your oh so important war."

"You best hope so. If you fail, I can promise you a fate much worse than death."

With that Bryn strode to his quarters, making a mental note to stay clear of the stables in the late morning.

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Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:59 am
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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...

Alik Stormwind

Seeing Farin smile was wonderful.

She has a nice smile, Alik thought to himself.

Walking back to the table he took his seat and handed his violin off to the servant that had brought it to him.

"Well done," Eli said grin.

"You play quite well, Prince Alik," Princess Delilah agreed.

Alik gave a nod of appreciation to the praise. He could tell that Ibsen was not pleased about what he did. Ibsen had always been about keeping face no matter what. But that was what was needed to be king. Alik just gave a shrug, which was responded with an eye roll from his eldest brother.

The tension that had once been in the room between the two separate people was more of a faded memory now. The royalty all seated continued their rather quiet diner.

"I hope I wasn't too far out of line," Alik whispered to Farin.

"Not at all. I was a little odd to do, but I liked it," she responded.

"Well maybe you can convince my brother to lighten up a little." He could tell that Farin was trying very hard to keep her smile hidden. Deciding to tone it down for a bit, Alik concentrated on his meal as he let the diner continue without interruption.

"Um...Prince Alik? Tomorrow I generally go on a morning ride. I was wondering if you would like to join me."

"I would be delighted to. Where do you usually ride to?"

"Through the city outside the castle. I enjoy seeing the craftsman's wares and speak with the people."

"Give me an opportunity to learn more about the culture. Sounds like fun." Alik could see the small smile on her face. But there seemed to be some confusion in her eyes. But he was someone that took a little time to get used to.


As the diner came to an end, Alik followed the Tundra soldiers to his quarters. He gave a nod to them as he passed, which was met with a skeptic glance.

Beyond the double doors, there was a rather expansive room. To the right was a large fire place with a roaring fire already burning. Just in front of that was a table and a set of chairs with a pitcher and glass on it. The bed that was across from the door was a large canopy bed with a series of blankets at the foot of the bed.

"I guess they were expecting us to be freezing when we arrived," Alik chuckled to himself.

A gentle knock came at his door. King Rolan entered quickly and gave a warm smile. "Well...not the way that I would have gone about diplomacy, but it seemed that everyone enjoyed it," Rolan said with a smile. "You still seem to have a way with people."

"Thanks," Alik said with a nod. "I just thought that it was needed. Everyone was so focused on the past that no one is looking at the future peace."

"A few are I'm sure. Well, I am sure that you are tired. It was a long travel to get here." Embracing his son he headed out to let everyone get some rest. Alik hurried into bed, enjoying the softness of the bed.

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Remington38 says...

Anumati Northguard

The sound of violin filled the room and an infectious happiness swelled up inside Anumati. She does not stand but merely sways the music fully aware of her surroundings. Ibsen seems lost in thought and looks up only once when she is not looking. She looks up at the last moment and catches the glimpse of what seems to be an apologetic look. She smiles as if to brush the he look and thought away. She smiles at him and forces back a small laugh, she must remember to stay together. He smiles back at her and that retraint fails; a small giggle escapes her lips. It was unavoidable, with the way his face and eyes see right through her. She feels transparent and and see through. She shivers, a cold air suddenly seemingly to go to the bone and straight through her silver gown of a dozen layers. She has not felt at her healthiest since the start of this winter. Her throats is rough and she stifles back a cough. No medicine seems to have been helping, but she chooses to ignore the symptoms. After all she has to time to be ill and if she ignores it perhaps it won't get any worse. She coughs again and picks up a napkin to cover it. When she sets it down she can't but help to see smallfkecks of red on the white napkins but merely nods it off as from her lipstick. She takes a sip of the wine before her, warming her throat and settling in her stomach.

She doesnt hear her mother discussing the absence of her guard and instead is focusing on repeating a Mantra of her people's religion. She was never one for their strange customs, but followed blindly nether the less. It was her duty. Instead she turned to Ibsen and King Rolan and asking about different political and historical questions of their territotries. He raised an eyebrow slightly and seemed to be impressed at her expanded knowledge. A silent sign of relief passes, she had spent months memorizing those facts as to impress the king. His eye squint and he laughs away the formalities. His smile reveals years of laugh lines growing deeper with age and crows feet about his eyes. Here was something warm and friendly about him hat comforted her.

Later that evening when they finished eating their grand meals Anumati went to her chambers to reside for the night but sleep evades her. She wanders into the library. She was in nothing but a silky night gown and a robe over it expecting no one but the guards to see her. She walks in quietly shutting the door behind her to find the fireplace already crackling and lit with life. The flames dancing and she wanders behind a bookshelf when she feels a tap on her shoulder.
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Wolfical says...

Ibsen Stormwind

Anumati whirled around, the drawstrings of her robe brushing Ibsen's thigh. Her wide gray eyes looked orange from the light of the fire.

"Sorry," Ibsen said, touching her arm reassuringly. "Didn't mean to scare you."

"What are you doing in here?" she whispered.

"Same as you, I'm sure."

"Oh." She looked uncomfortable, and drew her robe tighter around her chest.

"Sorry," he said again. "I'll... I'll leave. I found a book already. I'll just take it to my room."

"No, that won't be necessary. There is more than one chair in this library. I wouldn't mind your company."

He smiled ever so slightly. "I'd like that."

Ibsen had come to the library in search of comfort, warmth, and solitude, but he found that he was more than happy to have Anumati with him. He placed his chosen book on a chair and turned to tend briefly to the fire, not wanting Anumati to be cold in her thin clothes. Ah, but who was he kidding? She was probably immune to the cold and it was he, in his buffalo coat, who was shivering.

Once the fire was healthily blazing again, Ibsen returned to his chair and opened his book. Anumati seated herself shortly afterward.

"What are you reading?" he asked her.

"A book of poetry. And you?"


She looked surprised. "You haven't read it?"

"No, I've read it before, but... It's comforting, somehow, to be reading it again here."

"I understand that," Anumati said. "It reminds you of home."


They lapsed into silence, and Ibsen browsed the familiar, fire-lit words. For the first time in a while, he felt utterly content. The fire was warm, the book was good, and the princess seated across from him was beautiful, in both her appearance and the fact that her late night interests were so similar to his own. Phaedo's tumbling philosophies had the effect of drawing him into a state of peace, and he relaxed in the chair and straightened his legs so that his feet could be closer to the fire.

He felt that Anumati was watching him and sure enough when he lifted his eyes they were met with hers. She quickly returned to her poetry, smiling, but rather than returning to his own book Ibsen crossed his legs at the ankles and cocked an eyebrow, waiting for her to look up again. It didn't take her very long.

She bit her lip, grinning, and looked at him again with sparkling eyes. Ibsen grinned too - yes, showing his teeth and forgetting about the chipped one - and even though they didn't exchange any words he could guess her thoughts. They were the thoughts he had himself, about how funny it was that two people from different kingdoms could be so similar, finding each other in the library at such a late hour, and happening to be betrothed as well.

He thought back on just that morning, when he had seen Anumati for the first time and was repelled by her colorless complexion and cold, somber stance. But here was the same girl, laughing in the warm glow of the fire and flushing with life.

Ibsen couldn't deny it any longer - he was in love.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.

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Mon Jul 31, 2017 2:29 am
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Lael says...

Farin Northguard

Farin opened her eyes and smiled, snuggling a little deeper under the covers. It was still dark, too early to be going out, but that couldn't stop her from thinking: Prince Alik was to join her for her morning ride into the city. Perfect time to really, really get to know him better. Not that Farin could stop the marriage or anything. She just wanted-- needed--to go into it feeling confident in their relationship.

"Might as well get up and get ready," she whispered to herself. She slipped off the bed, her bare feet touching the ground.

Needless to say, she spent the good portion of two hours trying to perfect her appearance. Whether to wear light or dark blue, or if she should wear her sable fur cape. Farin was a bit surprised at herself; she normally didn't think for three fourths this long when it came to her morning attire.

"Get it together, Farin Northguard," she told her reflection as she braided her hair. "We're just going to be going out for a ride into the city."

But she had never invited anyone to ride with her. Not even her sisters.


"Hello, Your Highness. You're here early," said Farin as she approached Alik outside of the stable. She had to hide her smile at how bulky his wrappings were. He must have been wearing at least five layers.

"I wouldn't risk missing this for anything," replied the prince, smiling. The tip of his fine nose was red, and he subconsciously shifted from foot to foot, as if to combat the cold, which was almost nonexistent to Farin. She was pleased to see her bracelet peeking out from his sleeve, though.

"So," she continued, "are you ready to . . ." She trailed off as her eyes fixed on the sword at his hip.

She swallowed and she said, "Must you--must you bring your sword along with you?"

Alik's hand moved to his hip where the ivory hilted blade rested. His bright eyes thinking for a moment before his smile suddenly returned. "Force of habit. I apologize. It is generally custom for Plains royals to carry their swords with them. However, since we aren't in the Plains . . ." he removed the sword from his belt and gave it to a nearby stable boy. "Take care with it okay? It's very precious to me."

"Yes, go on, Tom," said Farin, in case he did not want to obey the Plains prince.

The boy nodded, eyes wide as he accepted the sword. "Yes, Your Highness."

"Well, then, I think we are ready to set out." Other stable hands came out with Farin's mare and another horse, one usually reserved for guests. She mounted up easily, not for the first time grateful that no one criticized Tundran women for wearing pants. It made riding so much easier.

Alik blew warm air into his hands before he pulled himself into the saddle of the other horse. He gave a gentle pat to the horse's neck as he took the reins. "I have to say that you have very hardy steeds here. Horses of the Plains are not so imposing," he said flashing his grin to her.

"Really?" she replied. "I didn't know that." She spurred her horse on, faster. "Come on, I want to show you all sorts of interesting things in the city."

They soon exited the castle gates and crossed the stretch of bare ground between the castle and its city. Before she knew it, they were already riding through the cobblestone streets, surrounded by the bustle of Tundran people working, shopping, chatting with one another.

"Isn't it brilliant?" she asked, smiling brightly.

Alik nodded. "There is much more movement than I thought there would be in the snow," he commented. "When it gets cold in the Plains people tend to stay inside." He released a strong laugh as he nodded to a few passers by, many of them ignoring him, while others did nothing to hide their disdain.

Farin stared at them briefly, then sighed. "I'm sorry about the people. The war has hurt them the most." She straightened. "But things are going to change, now that our kingdoms have the treaty."

"You have nothing to apologize for," Alik assured her. "I didn't expect to be accepted as a friend over night." He paused a moment, pulling his horse to a halt. "What is this?" Alik stared at a series of sleds that a wood worker was currently selling. The curved front had a rope that resembled reins.

"Oh, those are special Tundran sleds," said Farin, glad to have something to explain. "You would hitch up a team of horses--or some people even have reindeer, I've heard--and that rope is to drive them. It's rather fun to ride down slopes on them while it's snowing. We have one at home--maybe I should show you sometime." She turned to address the woodworker. "Hello, sir, lovely sleds you're making here."

The man straightened, then had a double take as he saw her. "Thank you, Your Highness."

"Maybe I should buy one from him?" Farin whispered to Alik.

"Why not? I'm sure it would make his day. And besides . . . it would make a good addition to our home . . . I--well, I will tell you when we are done here," Alik hurried, after he realized he was having a conversation in front of a wood worker who was still waiting to see if he needed to help them with anything.

"Oh, please excuse us," Farin told the man. She dismounted. "I would like to buy one of your fine sleds, Master . . . ?"

"Wilkins, Princess," replied the woodworker, with an expression of such shock and joy at the same time. "Here, right this way."

As Master Wilkins showed her his wares, Farin made a mental note to ask some of the servants to come pick up her new sled.

Alik smiled as he watches her select her sled. He leaned forward slightly to just watch as she moved through the snow. Farin felt self-conscious under his gaze, but she played it off with a smile and by sitting in one of the sleds to test it out.

Alik jumped a little as they heard a rather harsh voice calling out.

"Your Highness! I don't think it wise for you to be out here without an escort. Especially with him," a guard with the mark of a sergeant on his shoulder.

Farin glanced up with a frown. "Prince Alik can protect me perfectly fine, thank you, Sergeant. He wants peace between our people, just as I do."

"Princess, you have not seen these people as I have. They are conniving rats who only seek what is best for themselves," the sergeant growled through his teeth.

"Sir, that man is my betrothed. Regardless of our unchangeable pasts, I will not have you speak about him or his people in that way," said Farin, adding, "please."

But Alik dropped from his horse and walked to stand in front of the soldier. "For centuries our two nations have been at war. It seems to be ingrained in minds of everyone, Plains or Tundran, that we mustn't trust one another. But if you honestly believe me a threat to your princess, then go ahead. Draw your sword and run me through. I will sign any statement to preserve the peace before my death."

The sergeant seemed shocked by Alik's apparent disregard for his own life. He set his jaw defiantly as if to visually show his distrust of Alik's word. "I hope that in the years to come that I may earn your respect, sergeant. And in case you are wondering, there will be no repercussions for what was said here." Turning on his heel he stopped beside Farin. "Where to next?"

"Ah . . ." Farin blinked at him, at a loss for words. She turned her gaze upwards briefly to get her thoughts together. "Yes. Why don't we go visit Masters Watson and Duncan at their forge? Watson helped me by making the clasp on your bracelet."

"That is a wonderful idea. I can commend him on his skill," Alik said taking the lead of his horse.

They walked through the streets, Farin stopping every so often to greet some of the people like old friends. All the while, she couldn't help but think about the prince's words to the guard. He had been assertive and firm yet also respectful. And kind.

If he acted this way all the time--and not just to make a good impression--Farin believed things would be rather nice in the future.


It was peaceful as they walked together through the castle gates, leading their horses, like this. Farin could almost imagine doing this for the rest of her life with him.

"Alik!" a voice called.

Farin and the prince turned to see King Rolan in the distance. He seemed to be waving at them.

"I believe my father is calling for me," said Alik with an apologetic expression.

"That's all right," replied Farin. "I can take your horse in for you."

"Would you? Thank you, and I'm sorry to do this to you."

"No, no, I'm glad to help. We already had such a wonderful outing together." Farin smiled at him encouragingly as she took the reins of his horse. "Go on. Don't keep your father waiting."

With a grin that melted a piece of Farin's heart, Alik turned and hurried towards the Plains king. Shaking her head a little, she walked into the stable.

After leading the horses back to their stalls, she glanced about. The stable boys didn't seem to be around to curry the horses' hair and feed them.

"Tom?" she called. "Jack? Will?"

No reply. Strange. Farin shrugged their absence off. They were probably off having a bit of fun. She could tend to the horses herself; she had before.

It was when she was approaching the wall with horse care items hanging on it that she heard the scraping sound of the stable door's bolt. She halted, confused.

In that moment of hesitation, a large hand grabbed Farin around the waist. She stumbled, her back colliding with a solid body as something that felt colder than snow bit into the side of her throat, just below her jaw. Her breath caught as she felt a sharp sting and the fresh tang of blood.

Her mind was filled with flashes of memory, of being snatched on the streets and feeling a blade slicing through her flesh. Screams. Fear. Involuntarily, she let out a shaky breath that was both a sob and a whimper. Tears welled in her eyes.

A low voice murmured in her ear, "Sorry, little princess, it's nothing personal. But I can't promise that this will be painless."

She would die like this, alone, pathetic. With no cry for help, or even for mercy. Please please please please please please please--

"Leave her alone."

Farin watched as Alik, stepped into the stable. She almost didn't recognize him. His face looked so serious and dark, and his sword was unsheathed before him.

As if he were out for blood.

"Ah," said the assassin. "I was hoping you'd come, Your Highness."

"If you're here for me, then here I am. Let her go."

"I'm not here to kill you, boy, but I will gladly take your life from you. It'll be a bonus."

The man turned Farin around with a quick motion and brought his knee up, fast, into her stomach. The wind was knocked out of her and she crumpled on the ground as he let her go.

As she looked up at Alik, it was like seeing a completely different person. The normally bright and happy eyes were dark and filled with a burning anger. His hand tightened around the hilt of his sword to the point that his knuckles turned white.

He wasn't who she thought he was, beneath that normally smiling face. Prince Alik of the Plains looked almost like a monster.

The two men flew at each other. No matter how her mind refused to see the violence, to hear the sound of steel clashing, Farin's ears and eyes remained open.
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:13

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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...

Alik Stormwind

"How was your ride with the princess?" King Rolan inquired. "You didn't get cold did you?"

Alik rolled his eyes before responding. "No, I didn't. With the layers the sun kept me pretty warm."

"Good," Rolan said with relief. "I just don't want you to get sick again."

"I know, Father. I really don't think..." Alik's statement dwindled off as he looked back to the stables. The massive door that let the steeds and riders in and out was closing. Standing in the narrow space between the two doors was a man. From the slow grin that stretched across his face Alik knew that he wasn't there for any good purpose.

"Guard!" Alik cried as he ran for the doors. Throwing himself against them and rebounding off the solid wood. Several of the guards came and looked to him in worry. "Get that door open! I'm gonna find a way in!"

Running around the perimeter of the stable he came to the back where he was saddened to see the stable boy, Tom, still holding his sword and his throat cut. Picking up his blade he fixed it to his belt before using the wall and the side of the stable to climb to the window leading into the loft.

He could see the man holding a knife to Farin's throat. Whispering something into her ear.

She looked so scared. She didn't even seem to be fighting back.

Shrugging off the layers of clothes he could feel the sting of the cold air, but he didn't worry about it. Drawing his sword with a quiet rasp he dropped to the floor below. "Leave her alone," he growled, his blade held up between them.

"Ah," said the assassin. "I was hoping you'd come, Your Highness."

"If you're here for me, then here I am. Let her go."

"I'm not here to kill you, boy, but I will gladly take your life from you. It'll be a bonus."

The man turned Farin around with a quick motion and brought his knee up, fast, into her stomach. Alik heard the breath knocked out of her as she crumpled to the ground.

Inside, he felt something snap. He was far beyond angry at that point. A small part of him cried out that he was about to let Farin see the very thing he wanted to hide. But he couldn't stop it now.

Like a raging river his anger flooded through him and he was ready to cut the assassin to ribbons.

The two moved almost in unison toward one another. Their steel clashing with a harsh ring.

For a moment the assassin was shocked to feel himself being pushed back before deflecting Alik's sword and bringing his cutlass down.

But Alik was already gone.

Running passed the assassin and the blade sweeping harmlessly away from him to the cobblestone floor. Alik began a barrage of blows that put the assassin on the defense. Switching his lead foot periodically to change the direction of his strikes.

Cuts and scratches appeared all across the assassin's arms and legs. Alik had him pressed against the post of the stable, their blades between them.

"You're good prince. Best I've had in a long time," the assassin grunted out. "But I should let you in on something." The assassin grinned.

"I fight dirty."

Alik was blinded for a moment when the assassin gave him a vicious headbutt. His nose radiated pain and his eyes were blurry from the tears that welled up. He barely had the moment to roll away from the slash set to remove his head.

Blood running from his nose, Alik found himself desperately trying to regain the upper hand again. The assassin didn't use and form and technique. He just hammered away with the cutlass in his hand.

With a sound of breaking glass the curved blade that Alik held suddenly shattered. Leaving only a few inches of the blade still attached to the handle. Alik bravely attempted to parry with the broken blade from the onslaught of the assassin.

But it all came crashing down when the basket hilt of the cutlass crashed into Alik's head. Spinning from the force he gave out a pained cry when he felt the cold steel cut across his back from shoulder to hip, the gash showing hints of bone.

Alik fell prostrate on the ground. Every movement was agony. Sharp pains jabbing into his body as his eyes tried desperately to fight the darkness that was consuming them.

He could see Farin huddled down with a look of terror on her face. I can't save her, he thought as he felt a hand grip his hand and pull him up. Every twist of his body sent another bolt of pain through him. He gave near pitiful groans as he was braced against the assassin. The wound ground against the leather and belts.

"Well now, prince. How do we end this little event?" the assassin mocked. "Do I let you bleed out on the floor of the stables as I finish off your betrothed?"

Alik weakly reached along the belt of the assassin, grasping for something he could use.

"No...I think I'll cut your throat in front of your little wench and let her witness the horror before I gut her like a fish!"

Alik felt the steel of the cutlass against his throat and he could faintly hear a scream. He could only guess it was from Farin. His left hand grabbed at the blade against his neck as his right found what he was looking for. He pulled the dagger from the assassin's belt before driving it through his stomach.

The assassin let out a surprised yelp and released Alik with only a scratch along the side of his neck.

"You little rat! I'm gonna kill you and drag your princess with my horse through the streets of the city!"

The assassin raised the cutlass high just as the latch for the stables gave way. Alik didn't see who rushed in. But he could hear the struggle and someone beating the hell out of the assassin.

He let out a pained cry as someone lifted him up and held him close. He could see the outline of Ibsen's face. He was trying to call to him, but his voice sounded so far away. "Farin...Princess Farin," Alik whimpered weakly.

"Get the healers!" Alik heard a feminine voice call out.

"She's safe Alik," Ibsen said quietly.

"Hang on little brother," Eli said taking Alik's hand, the knuckles of his hands bloodied.

"Keep her safe," Alik said grasping desperately at Ibsen's shirt. "Keep Farin safe."

Alik passed out, hearing his brothers and father calling for him in the darkness.


Alik was vaguely able to sense himself being carried. A warm, comforting energy filling him and easing the pain in his body. He didn't know how long he was like that. Lost in the darkness of unconsciousness. But slowly he began to will himself to the waking world.

His eyes fluttered open and he recognized the posts of his bed in the Tundra castle. Slowly rolling his head he could see his father sitting at the foot of his bed, hair disheveled and praying quietly. His brothers sat by the fire in the set of chairs in front of the fire. Even the Queen stood near the fire staring into the dancing glow.

"Well this is a familiar sight," Alik said weakly, but with the quiet of the room he might as well have shouted.

Everyone turned to him, their eyes filled with relief before rushing over.

"How do you feel?" The Queen asked gently.

"Like I've been run over by a battalion of horses," Alik said with a grin. "How long have I been out? What happened to the assassin?"

"Only a few hours. After Eli gave him a good thrashing," Ibsen commented. "He was taken by the guard to a cell. Bryn Toltear is interrogating him now."

"Where is Princess Farin?" Alik asked trying to sit up. The pain radiated from his back before he was pushed down by Eli.

"She's safe. She's with her sisters and a few guards. You shouldn't be moving. That cut nearly left you paralyzed. Any deeper and you wouldn't be walking. Took the combined efforts of the Tundra and Plains healers to close up the wound."

Alik nodded as he rested. Closing his eyes for a moment. She saw it....Delor what does she think of me now? Alik thought. He could still see that fear on her face. But was it fear of what was happening? Or of him?

"Thank you," King Rolan said through his tears. He was clasping Queen Terra's hands in both of his. "You have no idea what this means to me."

"Your son saved my daughter. There is no need for thanks. He has earned every comfort I can spare," the Queen responded. Taking her hands back she rested one gently on Alik's bandaged shoulder. "You get some rest."

Alik nodded as the Queen made her way out with King Rolan right behind her. Alik noticed the Tundra guard posted on either side of the door. The sergeant from that morning standing tall and resolute. Giving only the slightest of nods before the door closed.

"They insisted on refortifying our guards at the door," Eli explained with a grin. "Something about earning respect."

Alik chuckled a little and regretted it as the pain would spike each time. Alik sighed and swallowed quietly. "She saw it," he whispered quietly.

"It couldn't be helped. Assassins come with the territory of royalty," Ibsen said.

"Not that. She...I lost control. She saw...what happens to me when..." Alik's eyes brimmed with tears. "She was so scared. She looked just like that servant from before."

Ibsen and Eli gave each other a knowing glance. "Alik, you did what you had to. I'm sure the princess understands that," Eli said trying to comfort him.

"You two don't get it!" Alik snapped. "What if never gets passed that? What if she is always afraid? Can you imagine being married to someone you were afraid of? Always frightened that at the wrong moment they might turn into...a monster?" He sighed as he tried to calm the fearful storm in his chest. His worst fears realized and he didn't know what to do.

Ibsen took a deep breath. Patting Alik's hand he stood up. "You should get some sleep. The healers said you will be tired for a little while, but should be back to your old self by tomorrow or the day after."

Alik nodded as his brothers left him in the massive room. Even when he was bed ridden with healers around him day and night from his illnesses, he had never felt so...small. me

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Sheyren says...

Eli Stormwind

Sitting by the fire, just himself and Delilah, became increasingly more awkward. It was clear that she had no interest in him or this arranged marriage, which was fine by him. He felt the same. However, the king and queen were clearly set on the two spending time together, as they would be married, set to spend the rest of their time together. They sat in a small, round room, made of marble floors and velvet wallpaper. On the far end, opposite the door, was a fire with two chairs. Delilah had called it the "Relations Room".

Eli had no interest in her or their relationship, but he felt obliged to initiate conversation. He looked up at her, before glancing away as she noticed his gaze. Opening his mouth for him nowhere, as he had no plan for what to say, and simply shut it. What are you, a fish? Eli was never skilled at talking with girls, or for that matter, boys. In fact, he wasn't really skilled at talking at all. He could plan an entire conversation in his head but not get past the first word when speaking aloud.

Finally, Delilah broke the silence. "I take it the guards have been treating you nicely?" Her tone was not unfriendly, but rather distant, a distinct indicator that he wasn't to get too close to her.

"Why yes, they have." He hesitated. "Though it is clear that they dislike me. I am from the plains."

She sighed. "The guards fought alongside each other in that war. Many had friends they watched die at the hands of your men. Do not forget the war isn't over yet."

"No, you're right. And I'm sure some would do anything to keep the war from ending."

Delilah raised an eyebrow. "Who wouldn't the death and destruction to be over?"

Eli pulled out the small map he kept in his breastpocket and unfolded it, flattening it on the floor. Putting his chair leg on one corner was enough indicator that Delilah should do the same, and she complied. Eli then began pointing different territories. "This country, the Mountains. Just south of the Plains. We pay them to supply us with extra troops, so that we can continue the war effort, despite having lost nearly half our troops. They have prospered with our pay. Should the war end, they'll be unable to afford the upkeep of their castles and strongholds, as we will no longer pay them.

This country, the Desert, just west of the Tundra. Should the Plains win, then the combined area of the Tundra and the Plains would need to be patrolled. Such a distance is difficult to guard daily, and so most of the Tundra would be abandoned. The Desert would have it all to themselves.

These are just some of the possible forces wanting the war to continue. I'm sure there are many more. Hopefully, none take action and forcibly restart the war," concluded Eli, indicating for Delilah to lift her chair. The chairs were pulled back, and he retrieved his map, folding it and delicately placing it in his pocket.

"I… I hadn't thought of that before."

"I wouldn't worry though. While we're both prime targets, as long as we aren't alone, and have guards on us, then--Delilah, don't panic, but doesn't Farin go on horse rides every morning?"

Delilah's face paled, and she leapt out of her seat. "Crap! Um, uh, oh no! We need to get to the stables! Desmond!" She called, expecting someone to emerge from the shadowy doorway. There was no response, and she looked confused for a second. Finally, Eli jumped out of his seat and began sprinting out of the room.

"No time, let's go!" He shouted over his shoulder, gesturing for Delilah to follow. After a second of hesitation, she complied, and the two took off for the stables.
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Sheyren says...

Delilah Northguard

The only sound in Delilah's room was her deep breathing. She sat on the floor, in the center of a painted circle, with a candle in the four cardinal directions on the ring. Her eyes were shut tight, and her legs were crossed over each other. The sole source of light were the slowly burning candles on the floor. As she sat, meditating, she turned the attention of her mind to Alik. Opening her eyes, she was in the room where Alik was resting. He was sound asleep, and Farin sat on a chair beside his bed, watching him with concerned eyes.

Delilah sighed, seeing how Farin fawned over the arrogant boy. However, he had saved her from the assassin, and so a bit more respect has been earned. Delilah imagined herself approaching the bed, and got a closer view. Farin was holding Alik's hand, her eyes closed a tear trickling down her cheek. Delilah wanted to comfort her, assure her, anything, but they were across the castle from each other, and she couldn't do any of that. Sighing, she mentally stood and crossed the bed, looking to see how Alik's injury was healing.

Suddenly she was snapped back to reality, and sitting inside a painted circle. One of the candles had gone out, and Desmond stood in front of it. Evidently, he had blown it out.

"You still practice that fake art? The events you see aren't actually happening." He asked scathingly.

"It's not fake. The monks could actually use it to watch other events play out, and I can too. I had Monk Gehta teach me himself. If you hadn't interrupted me, I could've seen how Alik was doing."

"Oh, so now you care about the princes?" Desmond's gaze bore into her chest, like he was trying to see her heart, and see her real thoughts.

"He saved my sister! I--we--owe him a great deal!" Delilah exclaimed, surprised with Desmond's outrage.

"And what about that Eli boy? The one I saw you getting cozy with today. So much for your heart staying with me."

"Speaking of, you were supposed to stay outside those doors, so that if we needed you, you'd be there! And you weren't! Your absence nearly got Farin killed!" She took a deep breath. "You really think I like that boy?"

"It was pretty obvious, from the bits of conversation I heard before leaving."

"You are sorely mistaken. Eli is dense and impersonable, and I would never choose him over you. Even though I'm forced to be with him, I will always love you," she said, embracing him in a hug.

His arms remained at his side for a short time, and then reluctantly he draped them around her hips. Something in his eyes warmed, and he rested his forehead on hers. "I'm sorry for doubting you. This was a stupid argument."

"I won't disagree there," she replied in a teasing tone, before pushing away from the embrace. "Anyway it's late, and I should sleep. Good night, Desmond."

"Good night," he said as he turned and headed for the door, while Delilah laid herself onto her bed.

"Desmond? Is your shift over?" She asked hesitantly.

"It is. I was actually headed to my quarters, to get some rest too."

"Then, why not stay the night?" She paused. "What if an assassin comes for me while I sleep? I'll need some protection," Delilah suggested, winking.

Desmond smiled. "Sure," he said, taking off his heavy metal gear, dropping his sword and shield, and laying down beside her.
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Remington38 says...

Anumati Northguard

It was nice... pleasant. That's really the only way to describe it Anumati thought to herself. Her and Prince Ibsen spent the entire night talking about books and after a little bit she didn't even mind that she was in her pajamas. They lit the fireplace, but that wasn't the only source of heat in that room. She felt a spark, and cozy feeling grow in her chest and butterflies in her stomach. Later that night he walked her back to her chambers. She couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the evening and he would not escape her thoughts. Most important of all, she did not think he saw what book she grabbed...

Anumati spent the entire day in her bedroom, she pretended to be fatigued and asked not to be disturbed. Once her hand maid left the room Anumati knelt under her bed and pulled out the book she had grabbed earlier in the previous night. The books was of illnesses and she frantically searches the pages; looking through plagues, colds, and diseases. There is an illness wreaking havoc on their kingdom, this they knew. Nobody else knows that it has somehow reached their royal quarters. Nobody knew she had it.

Her eyes search desperately search for key words. Infection of lungs. Coughing up blood. Fever. Loss of color. She saw nothing when the screams sounded.

She rushed downstairs and when she finally finds the source of it she sees her sister and the princes crowded around. When Ibsend sees Anumati he finishes speaking to his brother and walks over with his back facing the crowd and his hand holding her arms relays her of the events. She couldn't focus much with him touching her arm like that. It tingles with electricity until he says the word assasin. She could harldly believe it, but she walks no closer to her sister. Alik is holding her hands and whispering softly to her. She dare not interfere.
"She will be all right though?" Anumati asks, her voice quivering. Ibsen nods. "We must double our security, I want more people at every corner of this place." She finishes and looks at her mother for reassurance of her orders. The queen nods firmly.

A shiver runs down her despite her warm dressing. She never get cold, this comes as a shock and yet she still feels perspiration forming at her brow. She fights the urge to cough and fails. Her hand flies up to cover her mouth and a rough cough erupts from her lungs and tears through her throat as it emerges. She winces and quickly places her now red flecked sleeve behind her back.
"We should all get some rest, it is getting late and has been a very hectic afternoon. I can tell the servants that supper will be taken to everyone's chambers individually." She says hoping her authoritative tone will mask her fear. Ibsens eyes piece through her and she feels naked in front of him. Exposed, like he can tell she's lying.

No one argues or says anything at all. The silence is thick and fills the room. Anumati walks with the rest of the princes and princesses to the grand hall where all of their chambers are neatly in two rows. She feels Ibsen's eyes on her as she quietly enters her room and shuts the door behind her. On her bed is the book of illnesses open and she quickly walks over and places it back under her pillow. She only hoped that no servants or guards walked by her room and saw.
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Lael says...

Farin Northguard

"Farin, open the door," called Queen Terra. Her voice, though muffled by the thick barrier, was laced heavily with worry and strain, more than Farin had ever heard in her mother's voice, but even that wasn't enough to make her stand from the corner she was huddled in, cross the room, and unlock the door. She felt safest completely cocooned by her thick, warm quilt, with no light coming in to her tent-like existence.

Instead, she tightened her arms around her knees and buried her face in the folds of her nightgown, trying to stifle the deep, heaving sobs welling up. She could feel a cold sweat forming over her body. It had been a day already, but no matter how she tried to forget, she couldn't block the image and the sounds of--

Farin screamed, a shriek mingled with a wail. She squeezed her swollen eyes shut and covered her ears as she cowered into a fetal position.

Physically, she only had some minor scratches and deep bruises, but on the inside, she was full of fear and turmoil.

Her mother must have ordered someone to open the door somehow, because within a minute, she was kneeling there, gently lifting the edge of the quilt off of Farin's head.

"Oh, my sweet girl," murmured the queen as she pulled Farin to her feet and led her to sit on the edge of her bed, keeping one arm around her. "I'm so sorry." She used her handkerchief to dab at Farin's face and dry her tears, quietly humming a common but soothing Tundran song.

Farin tried to speak, but only a hoarse croak came out. She had to swallow and try again. "Make them go away," she whispered, meeting her mother's eyes pleadingly. "Please, Mum."

Queen Terra's expression was pained as she shook her head. She knew exactly what Farin meant. "I can't, gem. I cannot just let our countries fall back into war." Her eyes seemed to glisten.

"But I--I can't face him again."

"Yes, you can." Her mother's voice was growing firmer again. "I want you to get out of your room, for at least half an hour. It is mid-day now. Go see the prince. He was badly wounded in his fight--" She paused as Farin flinched. "--but he was trying to defend you."

"Do I have to?"


Mother would never take no for an answer.

She stood several feet away from the bed, her fists clenched and trembling as she watched him from her maintained distance. Farin stepped forward, slowly, with one foot, then the other, until she was standing over Alik.

He was different. There were no hints of the anger and what could nearly have been described as bloodlust left in his face. With his hair fanned out on the pillow and his lashes resting lightly on his cheeks, he seemed almost peaceful, though there were deep creases between his brows.

It was like watching a sleeping child having an unpleasant dream. Helpless . . . and innocent.

How could this boy and the ferocious man from before be the exact same person?

She reached out carefully and took his hand. Her vision blurred as her skin touched his and she felt the calluses on his palm.

He got them from using his sword. Using violence.

With a gasp, she dropped his hand and fled the room before the torrent of memories hit her again.
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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...

Alik Stormwind

The night of the attack, Alik wasn't able to sleep. His back was only a dull ache, but the pain wasn't what had him up.

It was Princess Farin.

The scared look on her face in the stables. Staring at the canopy of his bed he couldn't get it out of his mind. It was just like the servant girl years ago. He sighed as he got up from his bed. His torso wrapped in bandages to keep the salve to his back to help with the pain. He was still weak but he was far better than he was a few hours ago.

Pulling on his robe he grabbed his violin and bow and headed out the door. The guards wanted to protest, but a firm look was all it took for them to fall in line behind him and march with him to his destination.

The music room.

Walking in, it looked very different from the first time that he had arrived. It was darker and didn't have the decorations that once ran along the walls. He smiled at he enjoyed the solitude. Moving to the piano he sat down on the bench. Drawing the bow over the strings of his violin he began a slow lullaby that resounded around the music room. His eyes closed as it soothed his own soul.

As the last note rung out, he was startled by a voice saying, "That was quite beautiful." Turning in place he could see the eldest princess, Anumati, at the door. He moved to stand before she held out her hand. "No need for that. You are still recovering and I am not here as a princess. I'm here as a sister."

Alik nodded as he set himself on the bench once more. "I am sorry if I woke you," Alik said gently.

"I was already awake. I doubt anyone is sleeping tonight," Anumati admitted as she moved to stand by the window near Alik. "What you did today for my sister...I can't possibly express my gratitude. I have heard of the courage of Plains men, but I never expected someone like yourself to be so willing to jump into the fray."

Alik chuckled. "We are taught that our duty is to our family and our people first. It would be shameful of me to have sat idly by while my wife-to-be was killed and not done anything."

"And yet you have no reason for are here. Troubled."

Alik sighed as he set his violin down. His smile disappearing as he took a moment to be open with the future queen. He almost seemed to age right before her eyes as his normally carefree and optimistic smile turned to a creased brow. "Do you know why they call me The Smiling Prince?" Alik asked.

Anumati responded with a shake of her head.

"When I was born...a great many things went wrong. My mother lost her life during the ordeal and I was sick for many years. I didn't leave the castle until I was twelve years old. Told to remain in bed and to not strain myself. People walked around with sullen looks on their faces. Like they were expecting me to die at any moment. Not to say that there weren't times I was sure it was over. But I got so tired of people acting like I was made of crystal. Speaking to me in that...tone like they don't want the last thing they say to me to be too harsh. I started smiling. Even when it hurt, especially when it hurt. If no one was going to smile for me then I would be the smile for everyone else.

From my bed I could see a minstrel in the streets playing a violin. I watched as people gathered around him, smiles on their faces. Dancing. Enjoying life.

I envied them.

So I started learning how to play. Performed for my father and brothers from my bed. I finally got them to smile. They looked at me like there was a chance for me to survive whenever I played for them."

Alik took a moment for a breath.

"I was twelve when I first left the castle. I was healthy. To strengthen myself I started learning swordplay. When I was fifteen I witnessed something terrible. A noble beating his servant girl because of some insignificant reason. I lost myself. Challenged him to a duel. I nearly killed him. But what was worse is the look the servant girl gave me when it was over. Fear. Panic. Like I was some sort of monster.

It's the same look I saw on your sister's face before I passed out in the stables."

Anumati looked at him with gentle eyes. Before her wasn't some naïve and immature prince. This was the real Alik. One only his brothers ever got to see.

"I can't imagine how that would feel. It would break my heart if all your sister saw of me was...that. To see the fear in her eyes each time she looked at me. For my own wife to be afraid of me.

I would rather die than have her live like that."

Alik dropped his face into his hands. He was so lost. He didn't know what to do.

"I don't know what my sister saw. But I know what I see. I see a good man who risked his own life to save my sister's. Each of us have a side that we don't want our loved ones to see. Sometimes we are able to hide it. Other times it slips out and all we can do is hope for understanding. As far as I am concerned, and I am sure my mother has the same feeling, you are the bravest noble that I have ever met. And there is nothing that could be done that would change that."

Anumati gave a small curtsey before moving to the door.

"Princess," Alik called as she reached the entry. "Please check on your sister when you can for me. I don't think she will want to see me right now."

Anumati nodded before disappearing down the hall.

Alik didn't stay long after his encounter with the princess. Heading back to his room to try and get some sleep before the morning came.


Alik awoke to Eli and Ibsen entering his room. Their expressions showed that they had been discussing something serious before entering the room with those fake smiles. "How are you feeling today little brother?"

"Stronger," Alik admitted as he sat up. "Though still a little tired." He looked to Ibsen, he was always the easiest to read. "What is it?"

Ibsen blinked before putting on that political smile of his. "It's nothing. Just a rough night."

"Ibsen...I can tell when you are lying to me. What's happened?" Alik countered firmly.

The brothers sighed before looking to one another. Eli was the one to break the silence.

"The assassin is dead. Suicide. It looks like poison. Fast acting too. Guards didn't hear anything."

"What?!" Alik asked in shock. He thought back to his fight with the would-be killer and shook his head. "No. No, he wouldn't kill himself."

"Alik, no one saw anything. There are no windows and no one got passed the guard."

"Ibsen, I'm telling you. He didn't kill himself," Alik repeated.

"How can you know that?" Eli asked.

"During our fight. He was too full of himself. He said that killing me would be a bonus. He was paid to kill the princess. He wouldn't take his own life over getting caught. He would have tried to make a deal. What did Bryn say?"

"Don't know. He hasn't spoken with us yet. He's trying to figure out how the attacker got the poison," Eli said before pausing a moment. "But that would be a good cover."

"What? You think that the Tundran steward is in on this? You two are letting your fantasies get to you," Ibsen remarked with a shake of his head.

"Ibsen think about it. That guard was there all night and didn't see anything and the only person that talked to the attacker before he was found dead was Bryn. Now he is also investigating who killed him."

"What would be his motive? Why would he kill the only man that knew who was trying to assassinate the princess."

"Maybe he was a part of it," Alik suggested. "Maybe by the attacker failing he was too dangerous of a loose end to leave hanging around."

"I'm not hearing this. What about all that stuff you were preaching about having to trust the Tundrans if we want this to work?"

"I do trust the Tundrans. It's everyone else I'm suspicious of," Alik said. He sighed as he leaned further back in bed. "I just...I have a feeling. I can't explain it, alright."

Ibsen let out a frustrated huff as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Alright...alright. So what do we do? We can't just start accusing the steward of treason. We need evidence. We need something irrefutable that points to him without a shadow of a doubt."

"Even if we did, he could play it off as being planted. They wouldn't take our word," Eli responded.

Alik looked to Ibsen carefully. "They would believe the Princesses."

"Are you kidding me, Alik?" Ibsen snapped.

"The Princesses have a close bond. Much like we do. They wouldn't put their sister in danger for any reason. They aren't part of whatever is going on. If we want to figure this out then we need their help."

"We better do it soon. I have a feeling things will get bad the closer we get to the wedding. Desperation can make a man do terrible things," Eli noted.

Ibsen was gritting his teeth, Alik could see the muscles in his jaw working as he tried to think through every possible scenario politically. "Ask her," Alik finally stated aloud. "Ask Princess Anumati for help."

"What do we tell father?" he responded.

"We can't. Not yet anyway," Eli stated. "He is under too much stress as it is with the recent events. We don't need to give him a seed of suspicion as well."

Ibsen consented. It was too soon to tell him.

"If you two don't mind. I think I will get a little extra sleep," Alik stated as he wormed back into the bed.


It wasn't long after that that he heard someone enter his room. He was mostly asleep still, but he could sense them coming to the side of the bed. They kept their distance for a long time before moving closer, taking his hand gently. They sat there for a long moment before pulling their hand away and rushing out of the room with a gasp. Alik jumped a little and looked up, seeing Farin rushing from his room.

Alik dropped to the pillow, the hand she had held clenching in pain. A single tear rolling down his face, fighting the urge to sob.

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Wolfical says...

Ibsen Stormwind

Ever since the attack on Princess Farin, Ibsen seldom left the castle. He always kept a sword on his hip and a dagger tucked in his boot, and was watchful of where the princesses were and what they were doing. The east wing library became his favorite place to spend the idle hours because there was a tall window from which he could see the stables and the road leading up to the castle. It was also warm and cozy, and there was a good chance that Anumati would be there, too. Usually they sat in the comforting silence of each other, but after his discussion with Alik and Eli, she and Ibsen used their private moments in the library as a time to talk.

“I just couldn’t imagine Bryn doing such a thing,” she whispered. They were sitting on the couch so that they could keep their voices low and still hear one another. “He's been there most of my life, and before him his father.”

Ibsen nodded gravely. “Only a heartless man would have been there to see your sister grow up, and then order her to be killed.”

She looked down at the book in her lap, but Ibsen could see that she wasn’t actually reading anything. “Men do strange things for money,” she said.

“Evil things.”

“But… it can’t be Bryn,” she insisted, shaking her head. “It makes no sense. It could be anybody out there—” she gestured toward the window “—who doesn’t really know us. Not Bryn. He’s always been as faithful and trustworthy as can be.”

“And yet, doesn’t that make him the perfect candidate?”

“To kill my sister? I wouldn’t think so! But yes, I know what you mean.”

Ibsen’s gaze wandered to the window, and he watched as four mounted guards rode into the city. Anumati returned to her book. They were silent for several minutes, and Ibsen felt content and sleepy listening to the crackling of the fire.

Anumati broke the silence with a sudden cough. She leaned forward over her book, and her dark hair curtained her face as she coughed again. It didn’t sound good, and to Ibsen it sounded like she was trying to suppress it.

“Are you alright?” Ibsen sat up. “Are you feeling sick?”

She shut the book suddenly and gathered her hair over one shoulder. “I’m fine. I’d better get ready now. I’ll see you at lunch, okay?” She smiled at him, and rose to put her book back in its place.

“Alright,” Ibsen said. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“Yes, I… I just choked on something, that’s all.”

Ibsen found that remark odd, since they had not been eating anything. But out of politeness he only smiled and bid her farewell.

When Anumati left, Ibsen continued reading. But for some reason, the words did not grab him like they usually did. They drawled on about fictional governments with fictional problems, and there he was living in a very real government with very real, life-threatening problems. He closed the book and returned it to its shelf, and started browsing for a lighter read when he noticed the book of poetry that Anumati had just put away. He plucked it from the shelf.

He started on the first page and meandered through the poems, enjoying the lyrical meters and clever rhymes. He was midway through his thirteenth poem when he fumbled with turning the page. To his dismay, he found that the pages were stuck together by something wet and sticky. He carefully peeled them apart, not wanting to rip the paper…

Ibsen heart stopped.

Fresh blood peppered the pages.

Oh Delor. They’ve poisoned her.

Ibsen fled from the library and dashed up the stairs to Anumati’s room. He had never been inside, of course, and he wasn’t sure which one was hers, but as he stood in the hallway he could hear, very faintly, her coughing.

She’s dying! Oh Delor, please Delor. Don’t do this.

He didn’t even knock, but burst into her room. Her back was turned and she was standing in the corner, coughing so loudly that she didn’t hear him come in. Ibsen could see that the handkerchief in her hand was also dotted with red.

Ibsen felt weak about the knees, and he leaned against the doorway. “Anumati,” he croaked.

She whirled around in surprise. “Ibsen!” she cried angrily. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh Delor. I saw the book. They’ve poisoned you!” He felt so helpless. He wanted to do something. He wanted to save her. But he couldn’t do anything; the sword at his hip was useless.

She shook her head. “No, no. Ibsen, no. They… they haven’t poisoned me. I was like this before. I’ve been this way…” She coughed into her handkerchief. “For a while.”

Ibsen couldn’t quite understand what she was saying. It was if he had already given into utter grief, and he couldn’t pull himself back out.

“Listen, Ibsen,” she said, coming closer to him. “I’ll be okay. I wasn’t poisoned. This is just something I have to deal with.”

“I’ll...I’ll get the doctor,” Ibsen said.

“No!” she said, firmly. “No doctor. I’m going to be okay. Please, get out of my room. And please, please don’t tell anyone about this. Do you promise?”

“I don’t understand…”

“We can talk about this later. Promise that you won’t talk.”

“Alright,” he said numbly.

“Swear on Delor.”

“I swear on Delor.”

“Good.” She gently pushed him out of her room. “I’ll see you at lunch.”

Ibsen turned around to ask her one more question, but she closed the door on him. He stood there, facing the wood, for a good minute. Then he shook his head as if breaking from a trance and returned to the library. He didn’t remember walking down the hallway or down the stairs, but all of a sudden he was back on the couch, the book of poetry in his hands.
John 14:27:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.

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XxXTheSwordsmanXxX says...

Bryn Toltear

Bryn waved off the guards as he came to Farin's room. Hearing from the queen about the princess' fear of the prince was something he couldn't pass up on. If he could create enough of a divide between the two then there may be a chance of sending the two back to war.

Knocking sharply on the door, he cracked it open poking his head in. "Princess Farin? May I have a word with you?"

Farin stepped into his view, her expression wary. Strong fear was still evident in her wide eyes, though she seemed to be recovering from her shock. "What do you need, Bryn?"

"I came to speak with you. I wanted to see how you were doing after the attack from yesterday. May I come in so that we can speak together?" He asked once again taking a single step forward.

A guarded look came over her face. She pressed her lips tightly together and shook her head like a little girl. "Let us go elsewhere to speak, if you would be so kind." She walked around him into the hall and waited with her arms wrapped around herself.

Giving a bow he moved aside for her. "I think the music room would be a perfect place," he smiled as he walkd beside her. "I understand that the attack from the assassin was quite frightening." He commented on the way.

The princess shuddered and, unlike her usual self, kept her eyes on the ground. "I do not wish to talk about . . . that incident."

"I can understand that. After all...I hear that the prince was rather fearsome in that particular event," Bryn commented as he opened the door to the music room for her and closed it behind her. "Though...I suppossed that is to be expected."

"W-what is to be expected?" Farin turned and stared at him. She seemed to be shaking, especially after Bryn had mentioned the attack and the youngest Plains prince.

" are aware of the history of the Plainsmen aren't you?" he said trying desperately not to smile. "Nomadic scavangers that would do just about anything to survive." He moved to the bench of the piano and sat allowing the princess to take the seat beside him if she wished.

She sat, placing a hand on the edge of the large instrument, her knuckes turning white. She looked quite unsettled by his words. "They--they are different now." But the tone of her voice suggested that she wasn't so sure herself anymore.

"Oh yes...I would say so with their settlments and castles. But one always wonders. Are they really changed? or maybe they have just denied what they are." He shrugs. As if the statement wasn't meant as some sort of historic ghost story. "I have heard rumors that just a few years ago a noble attacked a young servant girl for some insignificant reason, before he was stopped by the Plains Guard. Nearly killed the guard too."

Farin flinched, as though the words had been a physical injury to her. Abruptly, she stood. "Sorry, Bryn, I--I don't think I want to listen anymore."

"You're right princess. I came here to see how you were faring and I went off on old stories and rumors. I am sorry. Please...let me know if I can help." He said taking her hand gently with one hand and patting it with the other.

The door suddenly opened, and there stood Alik holding his violin and bow. He locked eyes with Farin for a moment before he looked down, almost ashamed.

The princess visibly shrank when he walked into the music room, stepping away from Bryn. She, too, avoided the prince's gaze. Bryn noted that her fists were clenched tightly in the folds of her skirts.

Bryn allowed himself a small smile as he watched the fearful awkwardness that was strung between the two betrothed. The two that he worried about most for his plans were on the verge of shattering each other...and it was magnificent.

Farin cleared her throat softly. "Your Highness." She said it out of habit and formality, not as if she was glad to see her husband-to-be; if she were not so strictly trained in behavior benefitting royalty since her early childhood, her voice would have betrayed much more instability and fear. Her eyes were still focused downward.

Alik opened his mouth to speak, but he remained silent. The words failing him as he tried to say something to his betrothed...anything that would wipe away this feeling between them. He gave up and dropped his head. "Your Grace," he responded, his hand fiddling with the leather of the bracelet that she had given him.

Bryn moved to Farin with a gentle posture. "Perhaps you are still tired, princess. Would you like me to escort you to your room?"

Farin shook her head, a slow, heavy motion. "No, thank you, Bryn. I will be fine on my own." She walked out of the room, leaving a wide space between her and Alik as she sidestepped him and continued out the door. Her steps were much faster than was seemingly proper, but it was evident that she couldn't bear being in the same room as the Plains prince. Bryn could almost imagine her breaking into an all-out run away from there when she reached the end of the hall.

He composed himself as he gave a bow to Alik before leaving him in the room. A grin spreading on his face as he listened to the young prince slide down the wall and sob alone in the music room. Heading to his office, amused with himself and his accomplishments for that day.

It's been many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable.
— Mr Collins, Pride and Prejudice