(( I have learned the hard way that expecting on thread to hold everything is bad, BAD idea. I hope you noticed how things were getting… Lost in the shuffle with the last one. So, without further ado, I present the continuation from the morning after. ))

Lord Bentley paced out front of the main keep.  It was yet still early, and if past events had shown anything, what he expected would still take a fair amount of time.  Of course, that was not his fault in any way - it all depended on whether the blacksmith could bring himself to get out of bed or not.  Regardless, it left the Earl of Jondd awake and awaiting the boy's presence.

OOC: We got pretty far with the last one, though. I’m really proud of that. 🙂

BIC: Despite the nightmare that Jared had had the previous evening, he and Melinda still managed to get some much needed sleep. Jared woke up the next morning remembering that today was the day: the day when he would leave Eselbrador - for the first time in his life - to travel to the Elvish ruins, to search for the materials needed for the Whitedeath crowns. He was the Blacksmith appointed to forge the materials once they were found, and so it was mandatory for him to join the expedition. But of course, he knew that already.
Jared looked over his shoulder to find that Melinda was back in her regular position beside him while he was in the nightmare. The idea that he had gone to the afterlife in his dreams was difficult to believe, for it all depended on complex and sophisticated science that Jared unfortunately did  not understand. But that didn’t matter right now. What mattered was that Jared did what needed to be done and joined the others at the main keep before they left without him. Jared stood up from his makeshift bed, got dressed, placed wood in and lit the fireplace, and began to comb through the drawers for breakfast. He set up the cooking pot and poured water and rice into it. While the rice cooked, he searched the drawers again for eggs and sausages.  Behind him, Melinda awoke and pulled herself up on her elbows. “Jared? What are you doing?”

Jared smiled at her as he tied a skillet to the cooking spit and poured oil into it. As it heated up, he began to crack the eggs and pour them into a bowl, which he then began to stir with a whisk. “I’m making breakfast, Mel, for the both of us. There’s no time for you to return to the orphanage, so I’m making you breakfast here so you don’t go home hungry.”

Touched, Melinda put a hand to her heart as she blushed. “Oh, Jared, you’re so sweet.”  Jared blushed as he continued to stir the eggs. Melinda stood up and went into the other room to get dressed. When she returned, she took the sausages lying on the end table beside the fireplace, and slowly placed them in the heated oil in the second cooking pot. Having no knowledge nor experience in cooking, she had to be as careful as she could. Jared saw her placing the sausages and quickly put down his eggs so he could help her. He took her hands and directed them towards the surface of the cooking pan, and Melinda set them down, where they sat happily frying. The two lovers stared into each other’s eyes, and Jared smiled, kissed her on the cheek, and went back to his eggs. Seconds later, he added them with the sausages.

Minutes afterward, all the food was done, and the two lovers sat down at the small wooden dining table beside each other to eat. Melinda tried to convince Jared to talk about his nightmare the previous night, but Jared resisted, as it was too traumatic for him to talk about, and he didn’t want Melinda to know about his relations with the Elves. After several tries, Melinda gave up and turned to her food. Sooner or later, the subject of the breakfast discussion eventually became school and homework. Despite the strangeness of the conversation, there was a romantic feel in the air…...

A couple of hours later…..

Jared was excused from school that day because of the expedition, although there was still an hour left before school actually started, so Melinda went with Jared to the castle keep so she could say goodbye to him before he left.  Jared found Lord Bentley pacing around the entrance, and quickly told Melinda to wait while he spoke with him, remembering that he had required something of his “expertise” the previous day. Jared hurried over to the Earl of Jondd, knelt before him on one knee respectfully, and looked up at him with the same respect. “Good morning, Lord Bentley. If I remember right, you wanted something with me and my services. So I’m here, and at your service. What is it you need with me?”

Lord Bentley stopped pacing when he noticed Jared's approach.  Smiling, he motioned for the boy to rise. "Yes, I did, and the Prince has asked me to bring something else," he said, turning to enter the keep. "Of course, your lady friend is welcome to attend with you as well, if you like," the Earl added, glancing back to see whether Jared was going to ask her along or just rise and follow.

"Of course, your lady friend is welcome to attend with you as well, if you like,"

Jared stood up quickly, turned back, and beckoned for Melinda to follow him. How did he know Melinda was with me? he thought to himself. But that didn’t matter now; Lord Bentley wanted his services, and his services were what Jared planned to give.

"Yes, I did, and the Prince has asked me to bring something else,"

Wonder what that could be? Jared thought again as Melinda returned to him. They joined hands and followed Lord Bentley inside the keep. Considering what Prince Narvis had written to him the previous day at the meeting, it couldn’t be something of Eselbrador. Could he be caught in some sort of destiny web now that it had been revealed that he was a descendant of the Elvish royal line?

“Umm…..Lord Bentley, I don’t mean to be rude,” Jared began as he opened the keep door for both the Earl and Melinda (who smiled as she passed him inside the keep). “but what exactly is it that you want with me? What, more specifically, did the Prince want with me? Not that I am accusing him of suspicious activity, but being quite a strange person that I am considering what I discovered about myself yesterday, what exactly are we doing at the keep?" Jared closed the door behind him and made his way into the stone keep. He had never been here before so he didn’t know what to expect or how to feel. So he just waited for answers from the Earl of Jondd so he could know what to do, and what he wanted.

"My business is a little more personal," he said, leading the couple towards the antechamber of the set of rooms he was staying in.  The room itself was typical of the luxury of the royal estate, and he motioned to two chairs seated side-by-side for them.  "However, I think it best that I handle the Prince's business first," he stated, taking a seat half-way across the room, yet facing the pair.

Inhaling, he tried to think of the best way to phrase it.  Being blunt seemed to fit the best, though.  "Jared, the Prince wants to see you elevated to the Peerage," he stated matter-of-factly.  "He was non-specific as to how, though, and left those details to me.  And I understand his perspective quite well: anyone of verifiable blood from any realm, past or present, should be treated according to his titles and honours, whatever they may be.  Where we run into a problem is the history.  Many of the Peers would not accept a village blacksmith suddenly being thrust into their world.  That is, of course, unless he can prove directly that he was exactly whom he said he was without requiring the use of any arts or interpretations."  He gave the young blacksmith a look, pausing for a moment to let that sink in.  "That said, the Prince does have, with the King's permission, the right to immediately elevate you to whatever rank they can both agree upon.  However, and please do not take things the wrong way, but I do not think you would be ready for the cut-throat politicking that goes on.  A few wrong words here, one bad cup of wine there, and your line would cease to be."  He did not intend to speak that as a threat, but a truth.  However, he thought for a moment perhaps it was a little too blunt.

"Instead, I would suggest a slower, though more… Merit-based path than any claim of foreign blood be.  Jared, by order of the Grand Master of the Royal Order of the White Rose, you have been selected for the position of Esquire within the Order.  I strongly recommend you accept."

Jared let Lord Bentley’s words sink in to him. The Earl of Jondd wanted him to be part of a chivalric royal Order? But Jared was nothing but a mere peasant who just so happened to be the Royal Blacksmith, and wasn’t that ”royal” enough? Then again, Jared was a descendant of the Elvish monarchy bloodline, and perhaps this Order of the White Rose, as the Earl called it, was something to protect him; maybe, maybe not. He had also said something about “cut-throat politicking”, so he guessed that somehow fit into the puzzle as well. He would also have to prove himself directly that he was worthy of them, although he didn’t know. But Jared could ask his questions later. He began to ponder the words again.

Lord Bentley had said that it was the Prince’s request that he be chosen for the Order of the White Rose, and apparently, whatever the Prince said went, as it was with all the Eselbrador royalty. Jared was unfamiliar with the Royal Order of the White Rose of Eselbrador, but he decided to give it a try anyway. And what the heck was an Esquire?

”I strongly recommend you accept.” Lord Bentley had said. Jared hesitated slightly as he looked around at Melinda. She had immersed herself in one of her school textbooks and apparently hadn’t heard a word that Lord Bentley had said. But then, what if it was a trap of some sort? On the other hand, how could it be? Lord Bentley had presented to him a request from Prince Narvis, and Narvis would never do anything to lure him into a trap with the intention of doing any harm to him. So that was simple enough.

Finally, Jared looked Lord Bentley in the eye and proclaimed strongly, “Lord Bentley, I accept the request to be an Esquire of the Order of the White Rose. I will do what I must to prove myself worthy of the Order, and fulfill the Prince’s request.” He clapped a fist to his left breast and bowed his head in respect. Then he adjusted his position on his seat and asked. “Now, what of your request? The one you required of me the other day, at the meeting where we planned for the expedition? Does it have something to do with the expedition, because my blacksmithing expertise is at your service, Sir.” At this he sat up straight, absentmindedly fingering his blacksmith’s hammer which hung on his apron belt with a hidden hand.

Dusk sat astride his horse, looking down on the village from atop a hill. The village was dotted with fires and corpses, the results of a recent bandit attack. He watched as a bucket brigade made of guards and villagers attempted to quell the fires. He turned his horse away from the devastated village and rode slowly toward a small forest nearby. He stopped his horse a few paces from the edge of the woods and waited. After a few minutes, a large and well bearded man walked out of the woods. He looked very skittish, his eyes darting from side to side. He wore a rough tunic over a rusty chain mail vest and had a sword sheathed at his waist. He stopped next to Dusk’s horse and looked up at the black clad man. “Lord Dusk?” He asked.
“Yes, that’s me.” Dusk answered. The man relaxed noticeably. He turned and waved at the forest. Out from the forest came at least a dozen more men, clad in similar fashion. Dusk grabbed his cane and got down from his horse. He walked over to the roughly clad men and stopped in front of the large one who came out first. “Were you successful?” He asked the man.
“Uh, not exactly, my lord.” He said, some of his old skittishness returning,” We found the elf and her boy, just where you said we would, but before we could grab them, this man came along with a great sword that cut through us like nothing. Must have been made of mithril or something. Anyway, by the time we finally drove him into the street and killed him, the elf and her boy had escaped, couldn’t find them anywhere.” He explained. Dusk’s face had become dark the second the man said ‘not exactly’.
“I gave you one job, bring me the elf, and you failed at it.” Dusk said bluntly.
“Hey, you told us to grab the elf lady; you never said anything about guys with mithril swords.”
“I don’t care if he had the armies of hell fighting for him; you were to bring me the elf, alive and unharmed.” Dusk said angrily.
“Yeah, well you still got to pay us, I lost a lot of good men on this raid, and we couldn’t even stop to grab that mithril sword or any other loot.” The bandit leader said just as angrily. A low rumble of agreement came from his comrades behind him.
“You want to get paid, eh? Fine, you’ll get your payment.” Dusk said. He tossed a bag of coins at the bandit leader’s feet. “But I want compensation for your failed job.” He said as the bandit leader leaned down to grab the bag. With a quick motion, Dusk brought his cane down on the back of the bandit, driving him to the ground. Just as the downed bandit rolled over, Dusk brought his hands down on his throat. “I needed that elf, lad.” He grated between clenched teeth,”You are going to have to take her place.” While he had been saying this, the bandit had been trying to break free of the smaller mans grip, but to his surprise, said grip was like iron. Dusk began to squeeze on the man’s throat, not enough to kill, but enough to stop his struggling. While the other bandits had been dumbfounded for several seconds, they started to realize that their leader needed help. But before they could come to their leader’s aid, something happened. Dusk had closed his eyes in a look of concentration. Then, using his magic power, he…

… woke up. Dusk slowly opened his eyes, looking up at the canopy over his bed. He looked down at his chest to see that the vixen was still seated there. He let his head drop back down on the pillow and groaned. “I can tame a fox to be comfortable enough with me to sleep on me all night, I can blackmail the queen herself, but I can’t shake the ghosts of the past?” he moaned. He shook the fox awake and gently pushed her off himself. He quickly changed into his normal suit and hat, adding a cloak to his ensemble. He walked out of his chambers heading in the direction of the kitchens. He passed several servants and bureaucrats who stopped to bow to him. He gave them little attention, focused more on his hunger than on being polite. Riva joined Dusk as he walked into the kitchens.
“Did you sleep well my lord?” Riva asked.
“Well enough, I suppose. Tell the cooks I want breakfast, as soon as possible.” Dusk commanded. He walked over to a large table that stood in the corner of the kitchen.
“My lord, wouldn’t you rather eat in the hall?” Riva asked.
“I don’t want to deal with all those bureaucrats, merchants, and minor lords today. If I have to go on this quest today, I’m at least going to have a good breakfast.” Dusk said. He sat down at the table and waited. Riva shrugged and went over to the head cook to carry out his lord’s command.

Dusk walked beside Riva on his way to the stables. They were currently doing a final check of all the things Riva would have to do in his lord’s absence. “And you know the schedule for the policing of the town?” Dusk asked him.
“Of course my lord. You have no need to worry, I have memorized everything you told me to do, and I have written it down as well. You can trust me.” He told Dusk.
“I know, I know, it’s just that I’ve spent so much time making sure that the peasants are happy and such. I don’t want all that work to be destroyed just because I leave for a few weeks. Now, have the packhorses been prepared?” he asked Riva. Riva nodded in response to the question. Dusk nodded back and then walked over to the stable where his black horse was being readied. He swung up into the saddle of the large animal and grabbed the reins. He walked the horse out into the courtyard and waited for the gates to be opened. As soon as they were he turned slightly and said “Have the packhorses waiting for me outside the royal castle.” He said to Riva. Then, he kicked his horse into a gallop, running out of the gate and down through the town. He enjoyed a good gallop every now and then. He managed to reach the capitol in a few minutes. He slowed his horse down to a trot and entered into the city. Once again, he reveled in the unease his presence caused. He trotted his horse up to the palace and dismounted in the same stables as yesterday. He handed the reins to the current stable boy, handing him a small sack of gold as well. He was very free with his gold, as it had very little value to him personally. He reentered the building. He stopped a passing servant and asked for directions. He was informed that Jared and Lord Bentley had already arrived and where he could find them. He thanked the servant and then walked towards the indicated room. His cane made a soft thud on the carpeted floor every time it came down, announcing his presence to others. He slowed his pace as he neared the room and then stopped just as he got into the doorway. He then stood, his hands resting on his cane, as he awaited acknowledgment.

Lord Bentley, Earl of Jondd, was rising out of his chair as the door opened. Of course, he knew no servant would dare try to stop Dusk, a Peer himself, from going about the castle.  They would have just assumed he had permission, whether that was the case or not.  However, intruding into the private rooms of another lord was oft frowned upon by that lord, save if the intruder was royalty.  To say that Lord Bentley was a little upset at seeing Dusk enter was like saying that the ocean was a little wet…

"BY THE GODS!" he yelled, the volume welling up from deep within the man.  "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, THAT YOU CAN JUST WALK INTO ANY LORD'S ROOM UNINVITED? GET OUT, OR I'LL SEE TO IT THAT YOU ARE THROWN OUT!"

Such an anger, though, was unusual for the usually calm and collected earl.  Usually, his ire became cold and terrible, promising of a great retribution against those that drew it.  Even now, though, his mind was not entirely focused on the sound and fury.  He had determined that, should Dusk come with ill intent, his first focus was to see that Jared would be safe.  The second focus was to himself, he viewing the girl as expendable in the long run.  Jared could always find another, or take up company in one of a dozen dozen inns.

Vladimir didn't need nearly as much sleep as the normal human. He found that the energy he gained from sleep was now only secondary to that he drew from the Void. The unnatural energy was becoming more of a part of him, taking over more of his normal processes. That fact was troubling even for a coldhearted man like Vladimir, but the power that other world granted him helped him overcome that uneasiness. Because of this lack of natural need for rest, he had been watching the lands around the keep from a balcony on a high floor since around two in the morning. He had witnessed the prince's excursion on the metal dragon, though he did nothing to track his travels.

Vladimir had watched Lord Bentley pacing, and witnessed him letting Jared and Melinda into the keep. He made a mental note about the girl, for anything he had against Jared he would use. He the saw Dusk arrive and enter as well, no doubt following the others, but he was of no particular interest to Vladimir. Vladimir would have not been able to see any of these things from his height normally, nearsighted as he was. However he was currently wearing a pair of glasses, that no only normally aided his vision, but had a sight spell woven into them as well. As emotionless as he was, Vladimir didn't like being seen in his glasses, so when he heard footsteps in the hall the balcony was attached to, he quickly removed them.

-

The door behind Vladimir opened quietly, and his cousin Ania stepped out on to the balcony. She was wearing only a thin white nightgown, having just woken up and investigating who was on the balcony. Ania stood next Vladimir, as he leaned on the railing, still surveying the ground below. He had already taken into account her presence, and who she was, but he didn't even bother to turn and look at her.

"Vladimir, what are you doing out here so early?" Ania asked softly, "you hardly sleep anymore." There was a hint of sadness in her timid voice.

"You should go get dressed," Vladimir said, still not turning his head, "the cold is biting in the mornings."

"Not as cold as you are, Vladimir." Ania said in little more than a whisper, "please, tell me what is on your mind, I will listen."

"I don't need someone to listen to me. None of you can understand," Vladimir turned to his cousin with a grim look in his blood red eyes, causing her to take a step back from him, "everyone is so simple, so foolish. You could never understand my motives."

"If that is how you want it, Vladimir," Ania said quietly. She turned and went back into the keep, leaving Vladimir alone on the balcony. He stayed in silence for a second, before putting back on his glasses and turning to the courtyard again to watch. He would go downstairs and join the rest of the party soon, but not yet.

OOC: I know humanized Ania has no profile yet, but she is close enough to her animal profile in everything but race.

Dusk raised his eyebrow at Lord Bentley, completely unafraid. “I am I sorry lad, I didn’t realize that these were your personal quarters. The servant I asked for directions was in a hurry, so he did not have time to elaborate.” Dusk then turned to Jared and did something he never did. He bowed. “Hail, Master Jared, I hope you are well this day. And I trust the beautiful young lady is Melinda.” He bowed to her as well. He needed to stay on good terms with Jared. With his connections to the elf king line, no matter how faint, he could accelerate Dusk’s plans one-hundred fold. “Seeing as our company is coming here, one by one, I would suggest that we adjourn to a larger, more public room so as to accommodate our growing numbers.” He suggested.

Jared jumped in his seat as Lord Dusk entered the room and Lord Bentley scolded him for his intrusion. But then he raised a skeptical eyebrow as Dusk presented his apology and then bowed to him. Melinda, who had still been reading her textbook, finally looked up and asked, “Sorry, what’s going on? I thought I heard my name.” She closed her book and looked over to the door, where Dusk was standing, and she too jumped in her seat. She fearfully turned to Jared, one of her hands groping for his. “Uum……..Jared? Who…..who is this guy?”

“Believe me, Melinda,” Jared answered in an almost inaudible whisper. “You don’t want to know.”

“Seeing as our company is coming here, one by one, I would suggest that we adjourn to a larger, more public room so as to accommodate our growing numbers.”

He’s got a point, Jared thought. This keep can’t hold everyone. He turned to Lord Bentley and looked him in the eyes again. “Lord Bentley, in case you did not hear me the first time, I accept your proposition to join the Order of the White Rose as an Esquire. I will fulfill the Prince’s request, and when the time permits before our company arrives, I will hear and ponder yours. Now, I think Lord Dusk is right: we ought to move to a larger room if we want all our company to be comfortable.”

OOC: Read and understand what Jared is saying: it’s all a sign that Jared is finally learning to grow up. That, and he is very respectful to his elders.

Kariska reached out and located Dusk, and then transported to his side, changing to semi-normal appearance, making his hair normal, but keeping his electric eyes. He rolled his eyes as he saw Dusk's companions. "Your level of companions has degraded." His eyes sparked with cruel amusement. Kariska turned to Lord Bentley. He rose an eyebrow, harrumphed and turned to Jared. He bowed and grinned, baring his savagely pointed teeth before saying contemptuously, "My lord, and newly appointed Esquire of the White Rose." Before turning to Melinda, he shot a psychic thought to Jared, "Half-breed." Kariska narrowed his electric eyes before bowing. He flourished his steel-coated nails in an elaborate gesture. "I assume you know who I am, Melinda?" He smirked. "Ah yes, I know who you are." He jerked his chin at Jared. "This…pup never stops thinking of you." He walked around her and looked her up and down before coming back around and cupping his chin in his hand. Kariska snapped his fingers and said, "Yes, that's it." He twirled his hand and summoned a fine, silk, blue dress with matching slippers. The clothes molded to her body. Kariska laughed delightedly. "There! Expensive clothes suit you very well. That is Zaridian silk, the finest in all the land!" In his head, Kariska knew that by giving a nice gift to Melinda, he might lessen Jared's prejudice to him somewhat. In his distraction, he almost forgot to keep a clamp on his appearance, when he noticed his hair had started smoking. He barked an elvish curse and controlled his appearance again. He shook his head in disgust before saying, "Well, shall we gather the others so we may set out?"

While the questers gathered from the journey ahead on them, Kiara had woken up early enough. She had wanted to bid them all a farewell and a safe trip. Draping herself in her dressing gown, she crept her way from her own bedchambers to that of her soon-to-be husband.
With the guard stepping aside, she opened the doors to Vikenti’s bedchamber with a soft smile. Walking into the lavish room, which would soon be hers as well, she quietly closed the doors and walked over to his bed. “Wake up sweetheart. It’s time to get up and get ready to say goodbye to our baby … Do you really think he’ll be safe enough?” She asked sitting at the edge of the bed.

( ooc – was feeling a little left out, so hey! Making a little cameo 😛 )

Two steps - the distance from Lord Bentley to the weapon rack in his room - was all he took.  There was the soft sound of metal sliding along steel, along a the soft piercing ring.  While he was certainly without his armour, the veteran warrior was far from helpless.  "I'm going to give you both one last chance to get out of my chambers, or I will see that both of your gibbets are left for a decade," he growled, not really caring where the two intruders went.  Brandishing the naked blade, he took a single step towards the pair, being within the perfect distance for a good lunge, if he so determined.  Jared could wait, surely, for this insult to be at least temporarily addressed.

Prince Narvis yawned as he came out of his chamber. He had been up most of the night working on the dragon after his test flight and there were still a few of things to fix. So he sent a servant to get him some food while he finished his dragon, it only took about half an hour then he was going to take it out again. The servant came back with the food and he ate it. After that he climbed up on the dragon and took off, his flight went well and everything seemed to still be working right. He flew around for about a half hour and then flew back to the castle. The dragon was done, now all he had to do was go meet everyone else. He walked down more stairs until he came to the council room where everyone had been the night before, he sat down at one end of the table and pulled out a scroll and a book and one pencil then started writing until someone should come in.

King Vikenti yawned and stretched, finally sitting up in bed. He had been up a long time the previous night, discussing certain policies with the some nobles, and hadn't quite gotten the proper amount of sleep. "Oh yes, today is the day, isn't it," Vikenti said, "I think he should be fine, between Vladimir and Lord Bentley. Though hearing about Kariska's involvement is bit unsettling." Vikenti slid over to the edge of his bed and sat next to his wife. "I admit that I too am not certain of his safety," he sighed, "but there must be a time when a boy becomes a man, and he wanted to be part of this expedition."


A second or so after Bentley had laid hands on his weapon, the door to the chambers opened and Vladimir entered. While his face was expressionless in and of itself, there was look it his eyes as he stared at Dusk and Kariska that said he would have killed them both if it were in his power. "Dusk, Kariska, you are not welcome in Lord Bentley's chambers," Vladimir said with a voice as smooth as silk and as cold as ice, "withdraw to the counsel chamber, our business is with the halfbreed alone." The fact that Vladimir had said our made it quite obvious that he did not intend to leave right away himself.

Kariska bared his sharp teeth at Vladimir. "I didn't know where I transported. I only transported to Dusk's side." The Emperor of Zaridia barely spared Bentley a glance. "Bentley, put that toad-sticker away. You couldn't harm me if you even tried." He released his appearance and smiled as his hair burst into flames. "Ah, that's better." He frowned at Bentley's sword still pointed at him and flicked his wrist, telekinetically pointing it away from him. Kariska looked pointedly at Vladimir. "It's affecting you, isn't it? The Void always has unsettling effects."

Dusk simply took his cane and shoved the point of the sword away from himself. “No need for violence lad, I was merely speaking my mind before I left. I will retire to the council chamber with Kariska, and I trust that all of you will eventually follow.” Dusk turned about, tapping Kariska on the chest with his cane, indicating him to follow him. He stopped at the doorway just in front of Vladimir. “Step aside, lad, I can’t leave, as you wish, while you are blocking my only exit.”
OOC: I know it a bit short, but there wasn't much else I could do.

The queen felt cold shivers down her spine as Vikenti mentioned Kariska’s name. She grabbed Vikenti’s arm and wrapped it around herself as she cuddled into him for a moment. “But why must he grow up so fast. It seems like yesterday he was taking his first steps, and now he’s going off on an expedition; though that would leave me time to take care of the other man in my life.” She said with a smile, kissing his cheek before getting up and walking over to the closet to get dressed. Most of her clothes resided in his room, ready for when she moved into the same room.
“With all that about the Void, one would think your bother would be able to protect the castle from intruders like Kariska.” Kiara said with a sigh picking out a fitting dress for the occasion.

There was few who she truly trusted with her life and that of Vikenti and Narvis, her family. She completely trusted Pentus and Lord Bentley.
Jared, she trusted the blacksmith, but maybe not to the extent of Pentus and Bentley.
Dusk on the other hand, she trusted to an point. True Dusk had to be loyal due to the binding contract, but that didn’t excuse him of the things he’s done.
Kariska, she didn’t trust at all. She knew him, probably one of the few in Eselbrador that actually knew him. She knew he hated the Whitedeaths, and yet she still did what she did.
Vladimir, she was a little unsure about. He was Vikenti’s twin brother and her soon-to-be brother-in-law and the uncle of her son, but still, the way he looked sometimes, and his connection with the void. Things just seemed off, but Vikenti trusted his brother, and so would she.

"My lord, and newly appointed Esquire of the White Rose."

How the heck did he know that? Jared asked himself. Then he remembered that Kariska was psychic; he would know everything about him just by getting inside his head. Then he remembered something else.

Uh-oh.

Yesterday when he had first met Kariska, the Emperor had run a hand through his head. Jared didn’t know what effect that had on him, but he had a troubling hunch. Could he possibly have absorbed my memories? he asked himself. It was possible, yes, a being of that power would have done something of that magnitude. When the ”half-breed” thought hit him psychically, Jared clapped a painful hand to his head, and mentally rested his case. He knows me. Gods above help me, he knows me…..

Jared saw Lord Bentley grab his weapon from the wall beside him, but made no attempt to stop him, already knowing that Lord Bentley had heard his acceptance into the Order of the White Rose. Not to mention that he could take care of Kariska and Dusk himself anyway. Jared thought everything would go well the door opened again until Lord Vladimir walked into the room. At this moment, Jared fell out of his chair and disappeared under the nearest table; not out of fear, but out of not wanting Lord Vladimir wanting to see him.

” "I assume you know who I am, Melinda?" "Ah yes, I know who you are." "This…pup never stops thinking of you." It was Kariska again. Underneath the table, Jared narrowed his eyes in anger. Kariska had insulted him. Pup? Pup? I’m 16, damn it! He stared from the darkness of the table as Kariska summoned the blue dress and slippers made of Zaridia silk, and just as he had expected, Jared’s prejudice did lessen somewhat, although not enough to truly trust him. Then he remembered that Kariska still needed 7 drops of his half-Elven blood. As the enchanted clothes were molding themselves onto Melinda’s body, Jared snuck out from under the table, removed the vial from his blacksmith’s apron pocket, and placed it upon the table. Hopefully Kariska would notice it and understand what it was and what it meant.

Melinda meanwhile was in a much stranger situation. She admired the Zaridian silk and actually looked at it on her body in a large mirror on the other side of the room, examining it from all angles and lifting up her feet so she could see the slippers. As Jared stood up, he saw Melinda in a whole new light. He could not begin to describe how beyond beautiful and angelic she now appeared to him. But was Kariska trying to lure him into a trap by inspiring some hidden unfamiliar emotions in him through a gift to Melinda? He cast those thoughts out of his mind as he joined Melinda at the mirror.

“Oh, Jared, aren’t they just marvelous?” Melinda asked, spinning around so Jared could see her from all angles. Jared was truly lost for words; “marvelous” apparently didn’t cut it enough.

He turned to Kariska, and sent a mental thought to him, knowing that the Emperor would hear. ”Despite what you may think about me, being born of Human and Elvish blood, the only thing I can say to you is, well, ‘thank you’.” To prove what he was saying was true, he bowed as low as he could to the Emperor in the most respect that he could muster. He ignored Kariska’s and Vladimir’s arguments about the Void, and was not surprised to hear the same silent scream in his head again, and did not even flinch once. He did, however, proceed to retrieve Lord Bentley’s weapon as it was knocked against the wall by Kariska. He placed it upon the table where Lord Bentley could see it, if ever the need arose for him to pick it up again.

Melinda had been a bit frightened by the sudden appearance of Lords Dusk and Vladimir, knowing that both were of the royalty; but she was freaked out the most by the intrusion of Kariska. But she completely changed her mind once the Emperor had conjured the slippers and dress for her. Once she was finished admiring herself in the mirror, she found her way back to Jared’s side, where she wrapped her arms around his neck and laid her head on his chest, closing her eyes in comfort and rest.

Jared held Melinda close; whatever business Vladimir wanted with him, he wanted to be sure that Melinda was not harmed, or even involved, for that matter. He stroked Melinda’s hair affectionately and stared at Lord Vladimir with anger in his eyes, a sign that he was being cautious about him lest he do anything dangerous.

OOC: OK, I hope I covered everything. Let me know if I may have missed anything. Sorry this is so long!

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