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supernal

A rose grows in concrete [dali]

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Minor Summary

House Dali is throwing a pre-nuptial celebration to honor the upcoming marriage of Saskia Dali and Anson Mythal and the consequent union of House Dali and House Mythal.

Full Summary

The scene begins with Halisera Dali running training drills with an apprentice. After kicking him about the chest area and recommending he practice tangram puzzles to increase his spatial awareness, Hali is alerted by Talaos, her butler, that the caterers arrived and are preparing for the dinner celebrating the upcoming marriage and House union. Hali takes a shower, discards the dress picked out for her in favor of more practical cape, jacket and trousers ensemble, and goes downstairs to meet Tansy (head of intelligence) in greeting their arriving guests.

House Hildebrand arrives with Lady Varda and her sister Merel; House Mythal arrives with Lord Milo, young Anson, Easton and Austere Mythal; House Tankred had stayed the night prior so Bernadine and Fitzhugh were already in the manor.

The scene ends with Lady Halisera and Lord Milo in the Red Library, discussing the nobility of the children of their respective houses in understanding the monumental task that lay before them and the momentous occasion that their acquiescence allowed.

(OOC: This is canonizing only the 15 posts that came before for the purposes of establishing House Dali in the canon, and is not meant to close the thread. Please continue posting as regular.)

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[ dinner time, seated around the table ]

 

Varda takes a long inquisitive look around the table, the various noble faces and personalities, and resists the urge to bolt from her seat.

She is definitely not made for such gatherings. A pang of bitter regret rises in her, and she quickly squashes it, pushes it down under lock and key to ruminate on later.

By her side, her sister is silent, glancing about the table with shrewd eyes. Merel has taken the seat closer to Lady Dali, and Varda does not say a word.

She knows, right now, where the Lady’s affections may lie. There is not much to say about it, and so she is content to sit on the other side, next to the members of House Tankred. Varda quietly turns her gaze towards them, watching the intense looks the siblings are directing towards their cutlery with a slow-growing smile.

It takes her a moment, but then she remembers: House Tankred specializes in the pursuit of knowledge and the creation of innovative technology.  She has never met the members of their noble house personally before, with them being situated across the sea, keeping to themselves and her being tethered to the soil of Ravenel Manor. She merely knows of them from what Jasper has deigned to inform her, the day a small fleet of mechanized seeders appeared in the fields of the Hildebrand domain. Her brother handles the foreign trade deals outside the house, so of course, she muses irritably, he would know them more than she does.

Her gaze traces their dark features, the long thick dark hair spilling down their heads, the intelligence hidden behind their dark eyes. She also notices the girl has a ring under her nose, and Varda can’t help but stare in curiosity.

Perhaps she should extend a hand of friendship herself and build ties with them.

“What are you doing?” She asks the siblings, a timid smile shakily holding itself together on her face. “I, um—this is for you.” She shyly offers up a small bouquet of white roses in their direction. “It is tradition in our family to, um,” her eyes flicker towards Merel, but something in her gut steels itself. She must make an effort to stand on her own feet, as Lady Hildebrand. “To offer flowers as, um, as a greeting. May you have peace and plenty for you and your noble family.” Varda bows as much as she can while seated, keeping her eyes lowered lest her bravado fail her again.

 

@roboblu @ethela penna

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(OOC: I mean I'm not just gonna NOT post.)

Before taking her seat, Hali made it a point to speak to Tansy – she cautioned him that, in offering his condolences to the Hildebrands, that he not strike too sour an emotional note too often. 'Allow them a moment to forget,' she whispered into his ear, 'For just one moment, that their burden is heavy'.

Once everyone was seated at the table, and served, and the clatter of utensil on plate added an unobtrusive soundscape to the various threads of conversation, Hali leaned towards the Hildebrands and the Tankreds.

Hali took a modest sip of wine before speaking.

"Your flower is in bloom young Lady."

She poised her intrusion into the conversation so that it came just after Varda concluded the ceremony of gifting a bouquet, and just before the Tankred siblings had a chance to capitalize on the breath of space provided for reply.

"Beautiful flowers draw the eye, the nose, the hand. One should mind to whom these things are attached. Beauty can be appreciated but it can also be coveted, and a plucked rose does not endure very long. Many men and women will have many promises for you."

Hali restrained herself, kept herself from a sidelong glance towards Milo, kept her mind clear of Lord Uldwar's failure as a diplomat on the Dali grounds, and so kept the indulgent smirk free from her modulated expression. As she spoke Hali was mindful to let her eyes switch from Varda to Merel to Bernadine to Fitzhugh, a signal that they were all equally welcome in the side-conversation.

"But this, I'm sure you've come to realize already. Should I take the abundance of bouquets as a sign that the Hildebrand harvest has been successful? I can't imagine any other outcome honestly."

@roboblu @ourlachesism @ethela penna

Edited by supernal

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Vesper Moontraveler was late for dinner.

 It was not as if slumber overtook her afternoon, as she rose before the sun crept over the horizon. The beach house, a mere cottage in comparison to the sprawling estate of House Dali, was placed strategically to witness both oncoming ships and a glorious sunrise. Yet it was not the promise of a sunrise that caused Ves to abandon the darkness of her dreams.

  No, it was the tendrils of soft hair that spilled over the white sheets of her bed. Violets and indigos blended seamless with the wild black waves that poured free from the bondage of their braid. Vesper’s calloused finger traced a strand of verdant green. It danced and it skipped beneath the waves before it rested lightly upon Laila’s neck. A steady heartbeat pulsed beneath the milky expanse of her skin. Ves sighed in the predawn shadows. Sleeping murmurs answered her unspoken relief. The remnants of nightmares shook from her head, and Ves rose from the tangle of blankets that formed her nest. Laila’s hand, still stained with dry streaks of paint, brushed against the scarred formations on Vesper’s back and grasped at the space her lover once occupied.

 Her former lover. Laila Cormoun vowed to leave the island as soon as the bridal portrait was finished. It rested on its easel, the last layer of still-damp oils emitting a ghostly glow. Though gorgeously rendered with Laila’s skilled touch, the girl that stared out with solemn moon eyes was too silent, too ethereal to be Saskia. It was as if another girl had hatched from an egg, a changeling child gifted from the fae, a shadow heart---wordless and pale, forever attached to the living breathing Saskia. The portrait was finished. Whatever Vesper whispered in the night, Laila would depart for the mainland and Vesper would remain.

 Vesper Moontraveler would abide, as it was inevitable that this is what she must do. Already, her heart took on the task of untangling itself from the arms of another. She tugged on her leggings, yanked a tunic over her head, and slipped out the window. Her bare feet were noiseless against the dunes of sand.

 They always left, in the end. There was something rotting at the core of these islands. Its corruption spread like a disease, infecting every soul that burrowed into the festering land of Ursa Madeum. They decayed in the heat. Flies swarmed in the perpetual summer and grew fat on the mounds of nameless graves that overtook farmsteads and villages. Take one step forward, and you tread on a snake. A step backwards, and your boot smashes bleached bones into fine white powder.

 She stepped into the lapping tides, released an animalist bark of frustration, and channeled her energy into the water. Damien once referred to her as the “Sea Witch”, amongst other things, when he found his knights, bloated and grey, washing up on the shore without a mark upon them. It was as if some vengeful creature had risen from the depths and forced them down into the sea water’s deadly embrace. That something was Vesper.

  If the Sea Witch did not drown her enemies, her Sea Wolves would sink their fangs into their flesh. They disrupted the flow of supplies to houses allied with the Tyrant-King, they destroyed ships, they stormed the gallows and executed the executioners. They murdered and they maimed so that those crushed under the boot of oppression could see the light once more. When peacetime came, they scattered. Vesper remained.

 Morning passed. Vesper walked along the tranquil surface of the sea as though it were glass. The tides twisted and turned as her will dictated. She spun along a whirlpool, she sank to the bottom and disappeared in a forest of kelp. In this realm, all was quiet. Wrapped in her chrysalis of air, she was untouchable beneath the waves. Nightmares and ghosts and memories could not follow her here as they did upon land. She felt only gentle pressure, the thumping heart of the ocean.

 No words.

 All silence.

 It was not until an hour before noon that she emerged, soaked to the bone and panting with satisfied exhaustion. Her blonde hair looked like honey when wet. It stood on end as she ran her hand through the short strands. Laila was there, waiting for her before she boarded her ship and uttered her final farewell.

 And so it was not until mid-afternoon that Vesper emerged from the beach house with the portrait of Saskia placed safely in her capable arms. Absorbing the excess moisture from the fresh paint had been an entertaining exercise, a delicate task that provided enough challenge for the Sea Witch’s amusement. Lady Halisera’s love for puzzles manifested itself across most of the Dali family, and Vesper was no exception to the rule. The changeling child’s moon eyes were covered by a white sheet, calling forth thoughts of long dark hair like an oil spill in the night sea. She walked on while her thigh high boots of supple brown leather clicked against the pavement and provided a brisk beat to the butler of the beach house’s harried speech.

 Ves felt the need to meet his concerns regarding her punctuality and the potential displeasure of Lady Hali with an eloquent observation. “Jonathan, you know very well that these dinners are nothing more than an opportunity for dick swinging and politicking. The presence of Hali’s pet guard hound is scarcely needed.” Her voice then rose over the older man’s subsequent protests, until she was satisfied that her point would come across without interruption. “What else do you think I am? Would she keep me around to be a breeding cow for a nobleman?”

 It was a rather ridiculous notion: that of Ves in a bridal agreement. Tall and built with a sinewy strength, the Sea Witch was not someone that would be considered classically pretty. Though some found beauty her strongly cut jaw and high cheekbones, her lips were a touch too thin, her nostrils had a tendency to flare in irritation, and there were knives that lurked in the hazel brown of her eyes. She could dominate a room and command an army of mercenaries and rebels, but she could not hold someone sway beneath the power of a creaking corset and fluttering eyelashes. Even Jonathan felt a smile creep across his anxious contenance.

 “You shall see. Everyone in that room is aware that Hali has the biggest set of balls, and that she’s too smart to put them on the table.” The slash of a grin flashed on her tanned face. “There’s no need for me to even bark.”

 In response to her bluster, Jonathan merely shook his head and extended his elegant hands outwards for Saskia’s portrait. “Allow me to bring this to Talaos. And Lady Vesper? Remember your audience. Do your best to tread softly.”

 She vowed that she would. Instead of saying goodbye, she gave a flourishing bow and said “Woof.”

 This was why Ves entered the dining room well after the Lost House of Dali’s guests had claimed their seats. Despite the faux pas of appearing late for the celebratory dinner of her little cousin’s betrothment, the Lady Vesper Moontraveler was devoid of any apologetic behavior. She stepped through the doorway with a natural swagger, as though she were arriving precisely at the right minute, as though this exact time stamped upon the grandly carved clock in the hall was dictated by Gaia to be Vesper’s time and her time alone.

 In matching with Tansy and Hali’s cloak and cape of deep reds, Vesper wore a finely cut knee length coat of maroon over soft beige breeches and a white linen shirt. A light jerkin of doeskin leather that matched her boots nipped in at her trim waist and a single earring of silver looped through her left earlobe, but it was the coat that gained the most attention from her ensemble. Tailored perfectly for her frame, it was lined with silk of deep violet and adorned with golden buttons. Epaulettes capped her shoulders, boasting of her rank in the Dali militia.

 She offered a bow to Lady Halisera and Lord Milorian, more shallow than one she had theatrically displayed to Jonathan the under-butler in the privacy of the Trophy Room.

 “Lord Mythal, it is a pleasure to see you and your kin in our halls. As a gift for young Anson, I took it upon myself to commission a portrait of Saskia from one of the finest artists in Ursa Madeum. It’s now under the care of our butler, but it can be presented to you at any time you wish.”

 Woof.

 Hildebrands and Tankreds, but no Uldwars? It may have been pleasant to see the Mythals reclaiming their power, yet it would have been more satisfactory to see Damien's strongest House of Warriors crippled and placed on a leash even tighter than her own. Grim desires burned in her gut, spurned on by the ghosts that had dragged themselves out of the ocean and onto the shore---the ones that latched onto her skin, the crawled along the compass carved into her back, that swam beneath her brow; fleeting images of a lance through Kiva's belly on the beaches of Misral, of a boy floating face down under a full moon.

 Whatever her demons, Vesper would abide. She claimed a seat besides the siblings of House Tankred. Whether or not her presence was announced meant little to her. The focus of her indomitable will was now directed onto the thought of the mushroom pastries she had smelled from the kitchens, though Birdy managed to attract a few spare strands of attention. To put it more specifically, it was Birdy’s attention to her forks that caught Vesper’s sharp eye.

 Without turning her head, she lowered her voice into an undertone and gestured towards her own display of dining utensils. “Smallest first. Then work your way in for each course.”

 

@supernal @Aleksei @roboblu

Edited by KittyvonCupcake
I caught you now, spelling error!

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[ In the Library] 

 

TWACK! 

 

TWACK! 

 

TWACK! 

 

The sound of the rod ripping through the air hurt Merida's ears, almost as much as the physical pain she felt in her palms as it struck her soft pale flesh. Her Governess found her mind wandering yet again, and that meant lashes to her palms with a flexible wooden rod. She was fond of the rod, Merida however was not. She was supposed to finish this text an hour ago, so that she may be present for the dinner going on, but now she was late. Horribly so. Salty tears sprung to her eyes as she clutched her hands to her chest, the stinging beginning to burn. 

"Wipe those tears from your eyes child, we have no time for your silliness." Greta, her Governess said in her cold, deep voice. She hoisted the girl up by the arm, getting her to her feet. "At least you remembered to dress appropriately." 

Yes, appropriate. The long dress she wore went down to her feet, covering them so that her satin slippers were barely visible. The dress was dark red in colour, almost burgundy. Her bright red hair was down, the end of it just brushing against the small of her back, delicate braids kept the hair away from her pale freckled face, though it didn't bother her. Her large sightless blue eyes stared ahead of her, one slightly more cloudy than the other, while one was just glassy, it's unnatural sheen almost unsettling. 

 

"Let's see if Her Ladyship will excuse this lateness." Greta said, and she wiped the tears from the girl's face. "I expect you to be on your best behavior, if not there will be no merrymaking tonight for you, Young Lady." 

 

Merida nodded, silent. She loathed her Governess. This woman her mother hired to help her, seemed more like a demon than a nanny, or some other motherly figure. She wanted to convince herself that she was like this because the old crone actually liked her, but alas the evidence wasn't enough for her. As Merida stood, she felt Greta's wrinkled hand on the small of her back, leading her towards the door. It wasn't a long walk towards the dining hall, but it seemed to take forever. 


As Merida entered the hallway, she could hear the soft chatter of the guests, and she could smell the food being served. It was savory and earthy smelling, the familiar scent of mushrooms, one of her favorite foods. Greta's hand pushed her towards the dining room, and she could feel the plush rug disappear from under her shoes, and her feet started to echo as they hit marble. 

"Excuse our lateness My Lady," Greta said apologetically to the head of House Dali, their respected Matron. "There was a slight delay." 

Merdia bowed her head. "My apologies." She said softly, her voice cracking slightly, and she cleared her throat. "I don't mean any disrespect." She said, her voice clearer. 

Once their presence was known, Greta lead her towards an empty seat, to her chagrin, next to Merida's Aunt Vesper, the military lieutenant. Greta pulled out Merida's chair, and gently helped the girl into her seat. 

'Strange. The only time she's gentle with me is in front of Lady Halisera.' She thought to herself.  

Greta herself did not sit, she instead stood behind Merida's chair, so that she maintained a constant presence over the child. Merida however, recognized the voice of her beloved Aunt as she spoke softly to the Tankered girl, Birdy she believed her nickname was. A soft smile grew across her freckled face, happy that at least she could have this one small thing this evening. 

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Anson was in the company of strangers, but the general splendor made him feel a bit more comfortable in this place of influential faces. This situation reminded him of regular dinners back in the Free Marches where Crossroads saw constant visitors at its tables and barns. He has eaten countless meals with countless individuals of all sorts, and when they left they'd quickly be replaced with another. Somewhere in his little mind, he believed there is some kind of weakness in him that called for the attention of others, all the while shunning it so he wouldn't have to stand alone in the limelight. 

"There are a few too many Lords in the house of Mythal, please do me the pleasure of calling me by my given name. It would lessen any opportunity of confusion."

His musings interrupted, he lifted his head from his empty plate to look at someone speaking about him and a gift; Milo exaggerating his words so the audience could be dazzled by his explanation. Glancing at his uncle, he saw Milorian smiling over Easton's head and next to the pair was Austere mimicking his brother. There were secrets under those casual smiles; he glared their way before the stranger elaborated more on the gift. Oh, he thought with a bit of displeasure, Saskia ... of course, that's why they're here - right? That's what those smiles meant - oh, right.

Right now though? In front of everyone? But they'll laugh, he looked over to the Hildebrands and thought no one laughed at them for their flowers, no matter how fluffy the gesture was. Milo and Austere had a few of the offerings woven in their hair, and by some miracle Easton had a single, unscathed flower tucked behind his pointed ear. It was proper to show appreciation and why wouldn't he appreciate a portrait of his betrothed? He doesn't hate her, may even like her a little if he knew her. Wait, what's he going to do with a portrait? 

"Think any harder, vehnan, and steam will come out your ears!"

Austere was quick to comment on Anson's paniced look, putting the young man in the spotlight he earlier dreaded. Milorian would not say a word. Instead, he became more occupied with the cake being shoved into his nose and mouth by the youngest Mythal. Plus he wholeheartedly believes in Anson, he will know when to act and how to act once he gets over the butterflies and formalities, and the hurdle of his uncle poking fun at his worries. 

"I wasn't expecting a gift is all; the gesture is appreciated, and I'm sure I will come to treasure it."

Anson's response was short and measured, his 'tude a bit haughtier than necessary, but Austere could be thanked for that. He also wasn't going to put on too many airs around these people, it's best they know right now he's hot, nervous, hungry, and nervous. Clearing his throat, he turned his attention to the Lady Dali at the head of the table.

"I have a gift for Saskia, but it's elaborate and ... personal, I would rather offer it in private if that is acceptable."

@supernal @KittyvonCupcake

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Of course, there are reasons for everything. Merel considered the fork in her hand as she turned it over and over again, considered the reflection of straight-backed Hali to the right of her and weak-smiling Varda to the left. Aunt Hali occupied the spot which Father had usually taken. In fact Merel could not remember any such dinner without his comforting, enormous presence at the head of the table just a few feet to her right. He had always been there — as he should have — and the little girl, growing less and less little between each memory, remained in that same location within reach of his left hand. Varda, too, was in each of those memories, in the same place she was now. A few feet to Merel’s left, and a little downcast, and a little nervous, as if searching for some quality she had lost somewhere at that table. Why was this cleft here, between the Heiress-Hildebrand and Father, between the supposed Lady-Hildebrand and Halisera Dali? This stilted crevice inside which was wedged the body of one Merel Hildebrand. A loving older sister on one side, and all that that older sister was meant to be on the other, and the twain never to meet for what reason?

Merel stabbed her fork into the pasty and broke off a piece, placing it delicately in her mouth. Chew, swallow.

Of course, there are reasons for everything, and groups of close-sprouting mushrooms often share the same root. Merel, reflecting her way through half a pasty, thought she had the reason for Varda’s troubles, for her own position splitting her sister’s heart in two. In fact she was right, for both these things and for a great many things which would eventually come to haunt both Hildebrands in the remainder of the interactions they would have from then on. Yes, to her it could be no more clear. She was, after all, the daughter of the reason.

In his death, Father’s role in all their lives became abruptly clear. In his absence, all the things that had felt his warmth became obvious and cold. The more she dwelt upon it the more she marveled at how much had changed without him, at how insidious his presence had been in their lives. If Father was the trunk then they must be the branches, but he was no trunk, he was not so discrete from them as that. He was heartwood and sapwood, the veins that permeated into each branch and nourished them. So they had not been prepared for his death. In the vacuum left they were beginning to collapse.

Merel realized her grip on the fork had begun to exceed courteous capacity. Her knuckles were white, and the tines were starting to shake. Whether Hali noticed was inconsequential, and Varda remained trapped within her own nerves and ill at ease smiles. Within the rush of decorum and within the vacuum space that their Father had not taught her to fill.

In many ways, all the whole House Hildebrand remained children at heart. With the exception of Jasper, all the rest of the children lived lives of love. Varda had farmed away her whole life without a care for politics, and Merel had only contact with the other houses because Father wanted to show off his favorite daughter. And if it were not for the grim years of King Damien Jasper’s talent for administration would not have been compelled, either — Father had said so much to Merel once, regretfully. If only all of his children could be as carefree as he would have liked for them. Father had that unfortunate tendency, Father to whom his children were his children and for them to be divested of that innocence and naivete, an unacceptable outcome. For this reason, Varda never grew up. Jasper aside they were all still going through the motions of youth, of flights of fancy and childish obsessions with their own devices.

One might say that Varda was robbed. She was, but only of a fate that she would not have wanted. But neither did anyone want for Father to die, and yet it had happened. So the shoes that had fallen for them to step into were ill-fitting. A child trying on a Lady’s boot.

Never mind that something in the Hildebrand estate seemed to preserve their physical youth so that their age became unknowable. Merel and Varda could have been only two years apart for all anyone else could tell, and was that sickly woman their older sister, was often the question from visitors, forgetting that the mother of the house was ill, forgetting to put two and two together.

That was why Merel chose to laugh when Hali commented on Varda’s blooming flower. Hali was right on levels beyond physical. Varda was only now, a few years into her youthful thirties, faced with the reality of her position and the sacrifices that it demanded. For the Hildebrand children, truly everything of adulthood was delayed. For just a few of the same reasons.

Merel would have been even more a child, but of all of them she had fell the greatest height with Father’s death. From falling there is wisdom to be found.

“Lady Hali is right, sister. Soon you will have to marry, but—” and this, she said more sharply, for Hali’s benefit, “—you’ve been practicing weeding all your life; I’m sure you’ll be able to prune the weeds and pluck a flower everlasting.”

She chose to snip her statement there, forcing Varda to answer the question of business. Some things had to be learned, and Merel was not their Father. She had no interest in protecting her siblings from the world. Not because she hated them, but because she could not.

She could hardly protect herself.

@supernal@ourlachesism

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"What are you doing?"

Bernadine looked up and around the table, only to find the voice seated next to her. Varda Hildebrand, one of Ursa Madeum's most powerful political players, was smiling timidly in their direction with a cluster of flowers in one hand. 'Odd', the inventor thinks, her eyes flicking from the Lady's face to the bouquet and back to Varda's quivering lips. 'Is it customary to bring flowers to dinner here?' Though none of the Tankred children are particularly well-endowed in social graces, Davyn had taken most easily to the frivolities of high society. The second eldest Tankred had been adopted from the lowest class of the isles, and so one might expect he'd be the most adverse to this game of smiles and handshakes. From Davyn's perspective, politics were nothing more than street smarts with an added algorithm. The basic wants and needs of the individual man were amplified on a larger scale, and all he needed to do was play to those desires with a grin and a few silken words. Bernadine and Fitzhugh had no aptitude for it, but, sitting at a table full of money and influence, Birdy wished she had had least taken more interest in the political sphere. She didn't know what to do but accept the bouquet with a hesitant smile, shooting Fitz a desperate sideways glance. Were they supposed to have brought party favors as well? 

Fitz managed to return the glance, but for different reasons. A rather fierce-looking woman had planted herself next to him, and immediately caught onto the pair's uncertainty like a shark smelling blood in the water. Still, she offered solid advice- even if his initial hypothesis had been incorrect. The weaponsmaster hefted a disappointed sigh, picking up the smaller fork after considering his defeat. "Thank you," he managed after a moment, too nervous to make more eye contact than a brief flicker of the eyes. He chewed his food slowly, as did Bernadine; they were not used to eating so much in one sitting, much less with an audience- and besides, with so many pieces of this unfamiliar puzzle, both found themselves with many thoughts to organize. 

Fitz took a draught of his wine, savoring the taste of something other than mountain swill. 

"Your flower is in bloom, young Lady."

He choked mid-sip, spitting some of the contents back into his glass. Birdy kicked him underneath the table, adding a few tears to his eyes. 

"Beautiful flowers draw the eye, the nose, the hand. One should mind to whom these things are attached. Beauty can be appreciated but it can also be coveted, and a plucked rose does not endure very long. Many men and women will have many promises for you."

The somber words resonated with Birdy, though her brother was busy clearing his throat with water. It was possible that Lady Hali had offered the advice in response to Varda's greeting to Tankred, which would have stung if Birdy cared even a little. Instead, the mechanic mused on her own house and its main symbol. A well-placed candle could provide its owner with warmth and light, but a candle burning from both ends resulted in nothing more than a puddle of wax. Much like a freshly picked flower, Birdy felt as if she were slowly wilting, melting away to nothing with the weight of a house on her shoulders, on her bare left ring finger ... The parallels between she and Varda did not go unnoticed in that moment, though the inventor knew her options were slimmer, the suitors more sparse. Her house's dealings with the tyrant-king had resulted in a demotion, and she imagined that Cassidy's recent flurry of activity was looked upon with pity, if not disgust. If Birdy knew her mother at all, she expected that Varda would soon be the subject of more desperate Tanrked promises. 

"Steel doesn't wilt." Bernadine turned her head sharply to look at her brother, who wasn't typically one for words. He had since recovered from his fit of coughing, and apparently had received her earlier message. From the depths of a pocket he had withdrawn a small set of tools, and was extending a lovely little wrench to the Lady Hildebrand as repayment for the bouquet. Birdy stifled a groan, but didn't stop her brother from hesitantly offering a screwdriver to the woman seated next to him. "May your house be, uh ... may it burn bright." After the exchange had been finished, Fitz gave his sister a confused look- did he pass around more gifts for the entire table, or was it enough to only offer a gift to their neighbors? Birdy's furrowed brows answered his question, and Fitzhugh pocketed the remaining tools in his set. She had avoided speaking lest her stutter gain the upper hand, but the situation demanded mending. 

"O-o-o-our ch-ch-chef r-r-r-ref-refuses t-t-t-t-t-t-t-to c-c-c-c-cook-cook w-w-w-w-w-wi-with any-any-anyth-th-th-thing-anything bb-b-b-b-b-but-t-t H-H-Hilde-Hildeb-b-b-brand p-p-p-p-prod-d-d-duce th-th-th-these d-d-d-d-days," she managed to spit out, stutter aggravated by her nervousness. Birdy loathed the way the table needed to fall silent for her to finish her sentence, and, at the end of it, wasn't even sure that her words had been comprehensible. She looked to her brother for help, but the bastard was apparently engrossed in his food. Useless. "W-w-w-w-we h-h-h-h-hope f-f-f-f-for pl-pl-plen-plent-t-t-t-t-pl-plen ..." The mechanic trailed off, unable to finish the sentence, and too embarrassed to continue trying. A humorless laugh escaped her lips. She settled for a long sip of wine, swallowing her pride along with it. 

She was going to kill Fitzhugh when they got home. 

Edited by roboblu

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The Tankred lady accepts the flowers with a smile and a glance that speaks volumes about her own anxiety in this situation. Varda understands that very sentiment, and so she takes note to forge a friendship with this lady, if not the whole Tankred family. She is about to turn back to her plate when Lady Halisera speaks.

"Your flower is in bloom young Lady."

Varda chokes on air, her fingers gripping a snapped rose stem, the victim of her surprise, and she sends a panicked glance at her sister and her laughter. The sight of a Tankred sibling in a similar circumstance, spitting his water back into his glass, is both a comfort and a concern. She murmurs a bashful “thank you” to the Lady Dali, yet the matriarch continues.

"Beautiful flowers draw the eye, the nose, the hand. One should mind to whom these things are attached. Beauty can be appreciated but it can also be coveted, and a plucked rose does not endure very long. Many men and women will have many promises for you."

She carefully does not let her gaze stray to anyone other than Lady Halisera, does not let her embarrassed smile wither away. Her restless hands, hidden under the table, set about contorting the snapped rose stem, caressing the white petals.

"But this, I'm sure you've come to realize already. Should I take the abundance of bouquets as a sign that the Hildebrand harvest has been successful? I can't imagine any other outcome honestly."

She takes a sip of water for a moment, mind racing for a possible response, when Merel intervenes.

“Lady Hali is right, sister. Soon you will have to marry, but you’ve been practicing weeding all your life; I’m sure you’ll be able to prune the weeds and pluck a flower everlasting.”

Varda’s cheeks heat at the kind words her sister offers, and she resists the urge to grasp Merel’s hand with her own, in case she does not want it. “Thank you, Merel,” she says instead, a bright smile alighting on her lips. She spares a moment to nod in greeting at the newly-arrived members of House Dali, though she is yet to make acquaintances of them: the severe, tall woman of military countenance, the young red-haired girl with a chaperone hovering over her shoulder.

The flowers they've brought might not be enough for all of them, she muses worriedly.

Varda smiles at the exchange shared between the Mythals before quietly making her reply to Lady Dali’s question. “Well, the—the Hildebrand harvest this season has been most fruitful, and we are all blessed to have had a prosperous, um, reaping.” Indeed, the Hildebrand harvests have been more plentiful than ever under her own caring hands and Jasper’s watchful eye, but Varda does not have it in her heart to brag. She gives her sister a small smile, as if inviting her to share in the joy of their house’s achievements.

“Steel doesn't wilt. May your house be, uh ... may it burn bright."

Varda looks on in thinly-veiled surprise as the Tankreds offer her a small wrench, and she gingerly plucks it from the man's hand. “Thank you,” she bows her head at them with a smile. “I will treasure it always.” The Tankred lady then stutters out a statement she is hard-pressed to understand, but after a moment, Varda nods. “We send our regards to your chef. I hope that, um, our produce is to your liking as well.” Her mind is awhirl with the presence of so many individuals, the constant worry of committing an error. Varda turns her gaze back to her mostly untouched plate.

She doesn't feel very hungry after all.

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@KittyvonCupcake @Witches Brew

When Vesper sauntered into the dining room, all of the man stood in recognition and remained standing until the new lady took her seat. Hali, along with the other ladies, remained seated of course, but unlike the rest of the ladies, had something to say. This, the ability to speak her mind, not without concern but certainly with less fetters than those around her, was an end towards which Hali had sacrificed a great deal of toil and sweat.

So she always took the time to delight in the fruits of her labors.

"Isn't that just the way Moontravelers think?" Hali turned her head about as if addressing the table as a whole, but kept her eyes trained on Vesper. This was a message just for her.

"A slap to the face, but so long as the glove is velvet, you should be thankful for the privilege."

Writ and read on paper alone, there could be no doubt as to the acidity of the Lady's words. But taken in with a softening of the eyes, an amiable quirk of her lips, the welcoming gesture of one arm which bade Vesper take her seat, the blow was softened from gale force to pleasant breeze.

"Do let Laila know that she hasn't been ex-communicated because of the vagaries of passion. I'd still very much like it if she stayed in the main house a while. Combine the garden and the beach, and you've distilled creativity to its very essence."

Then to alleviate Merida's concern.

"You've nothing to apologize for Merida. Vesper was late too, you keep good company."

@Aleksei

" . . . offer it in private if that is acceptable."
Hali's attention was drawn away from the Hildebrands and the Tankreds and towards the Mythals, where young Anson came to a stand and announced an intention.

Hali came to a stand as well, just as her goose was being taken away and replaced with prime cuts of suckling pig.

"In my day it would have been improper to allow a young lord and a young lady private time in private quarters." Hali took up her wine, drank enough of it to leave behind only a sip, and placed it back on the table. "And it was still a fairly rampant belief that you could divert an illness by saying it happened to someone else. How curious customs and beliefs look through the lens of time."

She bowed her head one inch, signaling agreement. Naturally there was no such thing as 'alone' in an estate peopled by multiple noble families, and otherwise suffused with servants. Talaos left nothing to suggestion when, bowing his excusal from Hali's side, he followed young Anson to the family floor  

@ourlachesism @ethela penna @roboblu

A glance at Hali's left eye, at the milky film covering it, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the Lady Dali saw a little less now than she used to in her youth.

But whether her vision was impaired or not, and those who saw her on the archery fields would swear she's only gotten sharper, this detail of her biology failed to sap any sharpness or clarity from her insight, fed as it was by intuition rather than the eye.

Keen vision doubtless took note of the practiced and proper grace with which Merel placed a portion of pastry against her tongue; Hali's unyielding scrutiny noticed a little more, namely the barbarity with which she dissected the portion out from the main body.

Hali noticed – noticed the white on Merel's knuckles as she clenched her delicate lady's hands around the little trident – noticed the love scintillating in her eyes when Merel looked towards her sister, and how that light on occasion alternated with shadow, shadow leaking down over her face from her brow, casting that light and those eyes of her into a certain darkness. She noticed for reasons of concern peripheral to her primary directives; Halisera Dali cared for Merel, even if Lady Dali could afford to put nothing before the family.

Leaning back to create some distance between her and all those seated near her, Hali took a less modest drink of her wine and let the chilled wine warm itself next to her plate. As Varda responded in kind, to the Tankreds and to herself, Lady Dali cut her goose into morsels and ruminated on each (both chewing and thinking).

"W-w-w-w-we h-h-h-h-hope f-f-f-f-for pl-pl-plen-plent-t-t-t-t-pl-plen ..."

Halisera let her gaze rove the table, mindful of who watched Bernadine for more than a few seconds, with especially attention to the lines of their faces and what emotions those people may be projecting out into the common atmosphere. Finding nothing even neighbor to such dismissive reactions as contempt or disdain, Hali turned back to Birdy.

"Much. You hope for much. For a great deal." Hali broke the short silence following Bernadine's self-deprecating scoff in hopes that the monosyllables proved easier to shape.

And back to Verda.

"Prosperous is certainly a word for it. As I understand from the crop reports, your yield this year was higher than last and you haven't increased your planted acreage as yet. With the new fields it's an easy thing to project that next year's reaping will bring in still more. So far as food is concerned we're ambling towards a golden age. One hopes that the various other pillars which make for a happy and productive society will follow suit."

Edited by supernal

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  Ah, Merida. No doubt the girl could feel the purring contentment that radiated off of the Sea Witch, a rare phenomenon that seemed to only occur when Merida was near. Though her edges had softened for her niece, her niece’s governess did not benefit from the shift in her temperament. Fitzhugh found Vesper fierce. Greta found Vesper to be devilspawn.

  For a moment, they regarded each other with cool distaste. Their masks never slipped from icy politeness, yet there was a palpable link of tension between the two women. It was Vesper that broke the silence, in a quiet voice that was accustomed to delivering orders in an aside.

  “You may retire for the night, Greta. I shall serve as Lady Merida’s chaperone. Good evening.”

  With that, the governess departed. As fortune would have it, Fitzhugh had not yet placed his screwdriver into her hands. The temptation to throw something hard and pointy at Greta’s head would have been a siren’s song, nearly impossible to resist.

  “Isn’t that just the way Moontravelers think?”

  It was just the way Moontravelers think; under the shallow guise of a favor for another, the Moontravelers were prone to doing as they pleased and obtaining what they wanted. “But I did this for you,” they would say, and they would flash their white teeth with a twinkle in their sharp eyes, and it was rare that anyone (apart from Halisera) would say anything more.

  "A slap to the face, but so long as the glove is velvet, you should be thankful for the privilege."

  She returned the sphinx's smile with an open grin. Riddles were relished gifts, and Hali was generous with her wit. “All lessons, whether of silk or steel, have value. I’ll remember gratitude, my lady, and the glove’s wearer shall remember me.”

  The remark about Laila, however, punctured some of her gusto. “Though distilled, her creativity felt confined. It needs the open sea.” There was something in the slight frown of her lips that suggested Vesper spoke of more than just Laila. “But she appreciates your hospitality, and your understanding.” More than you may know, her eyes silently added.

  After a concentrated effort to punish any artists that openly denounced the patronage of the Tyrant King and his associates resulted in the destruction of the Corinth Guild of Classical Arts, Laila found the hands of her master, Giotto Hamdan, staining a triptych depicting Gaia and their former Queen in the center of their ransacked studio. She found refuge in Pirate’s Cove, and then in the quiet grounds of the Lost House of Dali. But now, it was time for her to leave, if only so that she could learn to breathe once more.

  She tucked a wayward strand of red hair behind Merida’s delicate ear, and, upon hearing Anson’s request for a private meeting with Saskia, disguised an oncoming snort of laughter by taking a hasty gulp of wine. It’s elaborate and personal, eh? Had she been flanked by her brothers, an assortment of elbows would have burrowed into an assortment of ribs. Her niece and Fitzhugh were spared from all but an arch of one brow and the slight crinkle of her freckled nose.

  Rather than offering a platitude for his house after accepting Fitzhugh’s screwdriver, Vesper offered the inventive siblings a different wish. “May your research be fruitful and your minds stay strong.” The little tool danced between her fingers and knuckles before it disappeared into the depths of her sleeves. A wink punctuated the end of her trick.

  “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced yet,” she continued, with the another shark-like grin. “My hands have been full with other matters. I’m Lieutenant Moontraveler. This---” her calloused hand rested for a moment on Merida’s dainty shoulder “---is Lady Merida. Have you an interest in transmutation magicks? She’s quite dedicated to her studies. Do the Tankreds research enchantments along with their engineering?”

@Witches Brew @roboblu @supernal

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Merida sat silently, feeling the glares that her Aunt and her Governess were sharing, she was used to it, though she didn't like it very much. She once tried to have a conversation about her Aunt Vesper to Greta, and that did not end as peacefully as it had started.

Greta however was pleased that Lady Halisera was not displeased with them, but acknowledging her ward's Aunt was another story. She preferred not to speak with the dastardly woman at all, it made her blood boil. It was when the Lady Moontraveler spoke to her now, her face twitched, and she tried to control her rising temper, to not embarrass herself in front of such distinguished company. 

"You may retire for the night Greta, I shall serve as Lady Merida's chaperone. Good Evening." 

When she spoke those words Merida's heart lept from her chest almost, her Aunt never failed her. Greta however was very displeased. "My Lady, it's my job that was specially picked for, I think I should-" She stopped. She was making a fool out of herself. "Very well." She turned to Merida and put a wrinkled hand on her shoulder. "I shall see you tomorrow morning, My Lady." She said softly, and she curtsied, for Lady Halisera's benefit mostly, and then exited the room swiftly. She was none too pleased with Vesper, that woman was brutish, and a horrible influence on the child in her care. 

Merida didn't speak for a while, she mainly focused on her meal. She carefully located the fork, though it was no trouble really. One thing about eating at these dinners, the cutlery always was placed in the same spot, and she could see their silvery shadows on the place mat. She speared a mushroom, and placed in into her mouth, loving the garlicy undertones she was getting. She didn't know much about Laila, but she knew she and her Aunt were very close for a time. She turned her head just in time as her Aunt lovingly moved some hair that had fallen out of a scarlet braid, and moved it behind her ear. She smiled at her, and she ate yet another mushroom. 

She turned her body more towards her Aunt Vesper and the man, Fitzhugh, who's voice was deep and kind of gruff sounding. She liked it. It was very much unlike the shrill high pitched voice of her governess. Upon her introduction, Merida leaned forward slightly, and she smiled brightly, her mood lifting since that dark shadow of hers left. Her Aunt's rough hand hand't yet left her shoulder, giving her some extra confidence. 


"Hello, how do you do?" She asked, and she awaited his response. She really didn't get to meet new people very often, so this was exciting to her. She then blushed hard once her Aunt bragged about her prowess in Transmutation. "I'm only an Apprentice, b-but I'd be happy to help in any way I can!" She exclaimed, and she nervously tugged on her hair, but then quickly recoiled from it, remembering a lesson she had with Greta about manners, and how and how not a Lady should act. She mostly used Vesper as negative examples. It wasn't a very fun lesson at all. 

 

@KittyvonCupcake  @roboblu @supernal

Edited by Witches Brew

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He did say if it was acceptable. Those words were placed in front of the matriarch for a reason, having expected to be gently set down and denied. If so, he was comfortable with that and would resume overthinking his current situation while the adults went about their strange dance that wast mostly toes and no heels. 

Instead, he was given a response that made his feet turn to lead. His fault, he hadn't elongated his announcement of gift giving and the customs to follow. Thus, the lady spoke with words that could be tinged with some venom to them, though perhaps that is her way. The Dali House appears to be the sort who prefer their words to be clipped and to the point, something he would have to master if he intends on living long enough actually to marry Saskia. 

"I should have been more appropriate with my wording, allow me to correct myself. The gift may be for my betrothed, but I wouldn't invite the calumny and consternation of her family by asking for her company alone."

Anson wouldn't know what to do if they had allowed himself and Saskia a moment by themselves; the idea made him more nervous than it ought to have. It's been pounded into his head that he must be the gentleman and accept the traditions of the other homes, even though it was them marrying into their family as he is the male. Milorian expected him to dance to the same tune as these adults, but he was never given the steps, never taught how to be an adult in his few years. These expectations felt like a noose. 

The miscommunication and assumptions were now aired out, the repair he hoped to do would only patch a few holes within the wandering minds of those at the table. If he were a mind reader, he wouldn't like someones snideness towards the traditions that's been passed down through the years. How would they understand something they know nothing of? Ah, if only he were a mind reader, then he would be spurred to teach them about his home, about his name. Perhaps at another time when he became soothsayer, for now, he would remain ignorant of the thoughts of others.

"I won't be long."

Unable to do anything else, he took his cue and departed the dinner table to give his gift. 

The rest of the Mythals continued to choose to listen in on the variety of conversations happening at the table. There is an opportunity in listening, plus on their behalf, they had little to say about the sorts of things being discussed. They choose to be as uninteresting and bland as possible, even though the last some years have garnered them a ... impressive reputation. A house who took a stand against the Tyrant King so much that it earned his wrath that swept the Mythals lands and titles, stripping them of their wealth and power. It hardly stopped them from speaking their minds. 

For a moment they will enjoy the calm of not having to scream over crowds or fighting through the fires of punishment. 

@supernal

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Her sentence is completed by Lady Halisera, drawing a deep scarlet into the inventor's dusky cheeks. The correction is made with good intentions, and Birdy can see that, but she is still ashamed and annoyed and most of all, frustrated by her inability to spit out even monosyllabic words without tripping over her own tongue. Will she be trapped in this voice forever? Birdy has never been a talker, but, now that the potential is gone, she feels suffocated. Her fork draws a piece of pork to her lips, but she abandons the morsel in favor of another sip of wine. The attending staff is quick to fill her empty glass, and she takes another long draught, willing the alcohol to numb her frayed nerves. Birdy does not attempt to speak again. 

On the other hand, the color drains from Fitzhugh's freckled face as he is addressed by the woman to his left. The little screwdriver he had gifted is long gone within the folds of her sleeve, and he briefly regrets giving her something so pointed. Regardless, her salutation is met with a polite nod of the head and an awkward, sideways handshake. This mechanic does not deal in anything but handshakes, even to noble ladies of high status. "Fitzhugh Tankred. It's, uh-" His jaw goes slack for a moment as the lieutenant leans back to reveal a child, who is staring at him through a mop of ginger hair with wide, innocent eyes. Fitz had seen her enter, of course, but it had not registered in his head that he might be expected to speak to the girl. As a world-class inventor with too many thoughts to process into words, he often found it difficult to speak to regular adults, let alone children. The man swallowed, and forced a smile toward the youngster. "Nice to meet you, Lady Merida."

He isn't sure what to make of the lieutenant's claim, though the color rising to Merida's cheeks means they aren't joking- or, at least, they don't know that they're joking. Upon closer inspection, Fitz decides that the girl is a few years older than he originally estimated, maybe 15 or 16. Her round cheeks give the impression of someone much younger, and the Tankred children were all more dark-eyed and brooding by the same age. Why, Ramhart Tankred, merely 18 years of age, had already taken the reins of transportation R&D. They had all grown up fast, as was necessary in times of war, but the stark difference between his impression of youth and the bright-eyed girl sitting before him left Fitzhugh at a momentary loss for words. 

Finally, he finds the courage to answer Vesper's question. "I don't personally work in magicks, but my brother Davyn is an adept magitech engineer." Fitz considers the teenager with narrowed eyes, noticing a true spark of intelligence behind her eagerness. He may have been too quick to judge. In any case, any child would benefit from Tankred guidance, prompting his next words. "Perhaps, one day, you might consider studying beneath him. We often take apprentices who demonstrate, uh, as the lieutenant phrased it, dedication to their studies." The engineer wasn't sure if this was the proper place to extend an offer of tutelage, but he could think of no higher compliment than a Tankred apprenticeship. 

Fitzhugh took a sip of water before adding, as an afterthought, "What are you working on now?"

@Witches Brew@KittyvonCupcake

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[ after dinner, in the music room ]

 

It’s after an hour or so of leisurely picking at her food and burying her anxiety in a few cups of wine, and the company disperses to various places within the manor. Lady Dali beckons the Hildebrand sisters to speak with her in the music room, and of course, Lady Hildebrand is willing to obey.

Varda takes a seat in one of the chairs near the glistening instrument in the middle of the room, small and wary as her gaze passes over the room’s ornamental furnishings. It reminds her of their own small music room at Ravenel Manor, now neglected in favor of other more pressing pursuits, in Nai’s case. She gives her sister a glance, watches as she sits by the piano, her hands shifting through the sheet music laid before her.

It only occurs to Varda, then, that she has never seen Merel play the piano ever since their father died, not once.

Quietly pushing down the heartache and that acute sense of loss splintering through her chest, Varda turns to Lady Dali with a curious gaze. “Is there anything you wish to discuss, my lady?” Off the top of her head, she cannot think of anything the matriarch would possibly want to converse with them about, especially away from the ears of the other individuals invited to the dinner.

 

@supernal @ethela penna

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