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vielle

'tis the golden hour

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Port Thea is a study in warm colors, and the way the sun dapples over the buildings, the sand-yellow bricks, the deep blue ocean cresting on the horizon makes something ache in her chest. This is the first time she has ever set foot on the shores of Thraece, and Varda tries her best not to recreate the expression of a lost puppy as she gazes at the sights and scenery from her vantage point near the carriage window, moving leisurely through the streets on their way to House Senaria’s seat of power on the island.

Jasper has it in mind for House Hildebrand—and by extension, Lady Hildebrand herself—to pay courtesy calls to every other noble house in a gesture of goodwill. Having just recently visited House Dali, and for Iyalon to have visited House Uldwar as her representative, Varda had decided to visit House Senaria next, knowing very little about the foreign-born nobles. The wildlife and water conservation projects she has heard about only bolsters her interest.

Nai is silent from where he sits across the carriage, dark eyes scanning through the book in his hands with single-minded focus. In truth, Varda knows he had not wanted to come, had not wanted to be displaced from the comfort of his herbal workshop and the diligent care of their ailing mother’s health, but Lady Hildebrand had insisted, and so he had gone. Though Aspen would have been a better fit, more attuned to the relationship of nature and the land than her brother, Varda had a selfish reason for wanting otherwise: it has been too long since Nai had taken a step out of Hildebrand lands, and this foreign visit is one way to drag him out of his shell. She only wishes he’d actually take some time to look around.

“It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?” She taps his shoulder to punctuate her intrusion into his personal bubble.

It takes a moment, but then Nai lifts his gaze to catch hers, confusion evident on his face.  “What is?”

“The city, brother,” Varda rolls her eyes even as she smiles, gesturing out to everything outside the window. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“Ah.” He pauses, adopts a pensive look as he shifts his gaze to the scenery around them. “Yes.”

A startled laugh bursts from her lips, and she clamps a hand over her mouth, glaring playfully. “Nai! That’s all you have to say?” He smirks at her, then, about to turn back to his book when the carriage makes a sharp turn, and then there it is, leaving all prior conversation forgotten.

Solaria Estates stands proud and sprawling, its facade overlooking the Thraecian coast. The sight of the greenery so close to that brilliant blue beyond sparks a longing in her chest that has only very rarely been addressed: despite her love for the ancestral lands of her youth, Varda had always wanted to live near the sea, where she could farm within sight of the rolling waves framing the horizon. It calms something in her, the idea of that quiet life.

“We are here, my Lord, my Lady.” Iyalon appears at the foot of the carriage, outstretched hand ready for her to take. Varda clutches the bouquet of white roses entwined with chicory tight as she alights from the step onto the ground, gazing up at the estate. The color of the stone looks almost like the wheat of her fields; if anything, she thinks she would not feel homesick, not within view of that familiar color.

Nai hovers behind her, and soon, the words come spilling out so easily. “Imagine waking up to this view everyday, brother,” Varda smiles, casting her gaze out to the beautiful, restless sea, “with the wind and the waves so close. It’s, um—it’s peaceful.”

Nai turns to her, follows the direction of her stare. “You wish to live like this?” He hums in thought, tilting his head as he shifts his eyes back to her. “I can understand the sentiment.”

They share a half-smile for one brief moment, then they turn their attention back towards the estate, waiting for their noble hosts to meet them.

 


 

@danzilla3 @Sleepy Seal

 

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Grant stood completely still for a few moments before his hand blurred to the revolver at his hip, drawing the weapon, aiming, and firing it in the blink of an eye. The target, a ballistic gel torso covered by the kind of plate armor that many military forces wore, jerked as the round impacted. Holstering the weapon, he smiled as he saw the baseball sized hole that had been blown through both the breastplate, and the torso behind it. While the Vulcanium weapon at his hip was still at the prototype stage, it seemed like the weapons were well on their way to being ready for mass production.

"Sir, your guests have arrived," spoke a messenger.

The prince nodded and unbuckled his gun belt before handing it off to a servant to be taken back to his private quarters. In anticipation of this visit, he was already wearing black trousers, black shoes, and a dark red silk shirt. It didn't take long for him to walk to the gates, which opened to let his visitors in, and he smiled, and offered his hand.

"Lord and Lady Hildebrand, welcome to my home. My name is Grant Knight, Lord of House Senaria, and Regent of Port Thea."

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The Lord of Senaria appears as the gates unfurl to allow them entrance to the estate, and the siblings take a few steps forward to meet the man halfway.

"Lord and Lady Hildebrand, welcome to my home. My name is Grant Knight, Lord of House Senaria, and Regent of Port Thea."

Varda and Nai bow in practiced synchronicity, prim and proper almost to a fault, before she steps forward to clutch Grant’s hand with her own, a wide grin suddenly making an appearance on her lips. “I see you are not one for traditional greetings, my Lord,” she laughs, taking a moment to shake the man’s hand. As she steps back, the bouquet she has prepared is thrust forward in Grant’s direction. “However, I am forced to remain a stickler for tradition, as it asks us to greet others with flowers, the symbol for our values of peace and prosperity. I must thank you for allowing us this courtesy call today; it has been long overdue.”

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Grant chuckled, "Please forgive my informal greeting, I'm still getting used to being a noble," he gratefully accepted the flowers before handing them to a servant, "I'll have them planted in a place of honor in the garden. Please, follow me."

The Knight led them through the mansion and into a study that he often used to entertain guests. Most of the furniture was all polished hardwood and luxurious leather surrounding a fireplace that was currently lit. Shelves of books lined the walls, and along the far wall was a fully stocked bar. Grant walked behind the bar and retrieved a chilled bottle as well as three glasses, carrying them both over to where he had directed his guests to sit by the fire. 

"Thrace used to be famous for it's many winery's you know," he said as he poured, "Sadly, only one currently remains, but they are true masters of their craft. They gave me this as a gift when I became Regent, and I would love to share it with you."

He handed each of them a glass and held up his own, "To friendship between our houses, and the prosperity of Ursa Madeum."
 

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Gazing about the halls of the Senaria estate, Varda finds herself marvelling at the warm tones, the sunny colors prevalent throughout the manor. Truly the House of the Rising Sun, this one. The sights inspire a sort of homeliness in her chest, and it inevitably brings a casual grin to her face.

She takes a moment to look about their host’s study, hovering near the bookshelves as Nai stiffly takes a seat near the fire, obviously uncomfortable in such a new environment. Varda resists the urge to laugh openly at him, turns to the Lord of Senaria instead with a twinkle in her eyes.

"Thraece used to be famous for its many wineries, you know. Sadly, only one currently remains, but they are true masters of their craft. They gave me this as a gift when I became Regent, and I would love to share it with you."

“You are too kind, my Lord,” Varda smiles as she takes the glass Grant extends towards her, Nai wordlessly accepting the offered wine with a polite nod of his head.

"To friendship between our houses, and the prosperity of Ursa Madeum."

She laughs, warm and comfortable, as she takes the initiative to clink her glass with Grant’s own. “I must drink to that!” The wine slides over her tongue like the softest silk; she can see why her ancestors had long considered the wineries of Thraece to be one of their fiercest competitors in the wine business. The drink is truly sublime.

“I must tell you, Lord Knight, that this visit is but a simple courtesy call. I’ve long been curious about your noble house and the island you call home, as I had yet to visit Thraece until this very day.” She twists the neck of the glass between her fingers, deep in thought. “Tell us of House Senaria, if it does not burden you to do so?”

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Grant took a long sip of his wine before answering the question.

"Well, our House hails from the nation of Hyperion, where my mother and father are the Emperor and Empress, and I am the Prince. I don't know all the details, but my mother tells me that her people have always had a connection to Thrace. Once she heard that the Tyrant King Damien had been deposed, she looked to aid the islands recovery in any way that she could. In gratitude for our close relationship with the Veluriyan Empire, Emperor Titus granted us nobility, along with Port Thea."

Another sip before continuing,"Right now my houses main efforts are being directed toward restoring the land that suffered during Damien's rule. We aim to make the land workable again, to restore life to the seas, as well as turn Thrace into a scientific and technological hub of UM."

The prince put down the glass and smiled back at his guests.

"Perhaps you would tell me a bit more of you're house?"

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Varda has long known of House Senaria’s origins, but to hear just how weighted their overseas alliances are—it is rather chilling, in all honesty. The tiny part of her that screams tradition is frothing at the mouth at the existence of a foreign-grown noble house, but she quickly squashes it, cuts it at the root before it can take to the soil and grow.

House Hildebrand can become allies and friends of House Senaria. Varda will do her utmost to assure this, no matter what others may think of them.

“Well,” she looks over to Nai, her smile teasing, her gaze twinkling, “what else is there to know about us besides our love for plants?” Varda chuckles, takes a sip of that very fine wine before launching into a spiel about her noble house. “I suppose you know that our family’s business is in agriculture, my Lord. House Hildebrand controls a vast expanse of farmland in Corinth, and we pride ourselves on our contributions to the flourishing of trade and commerce, as well as keeping a large portion of the populace currently well-fed, quite unlike the olden dark days before the Empire came about. ”

She had only planned this visit to be a formal courtesy call, a meet-and-greet of sorts, but there is opportunity glinting bright against the sun-warmed tiles: perhaps she can establish some form of trade deal, somehow, to cement business ties with Thraece’s noble house.

“Tell me of House Senaria’s aim to make the land reworkable again; how goes its progress? Is there anything House Hildebrand can help provide you to assist in your endeavor?” Varda’s gaze loses focus as she ruminates on the matter at hand. “Some seeds perhaps, various new crops for your farmlands? We also have crop research scientists who could be of use to you as well.”

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Of course Grant had known of Hildebrand's history since before he'd even set foot in the Senarian Estate; as he had researched them when he had been told he would be Regent of Port Thea. He had done the same for all the other houses as well; the spymaster in him not being able to go in without knowing all he could about the land and those who ruled it. So Varda was correct in guessing that he knew about her families agricultural expertise. What was less expected, though by no means unwelcome, was the offer of trade, and assistance from their crop scientists. Never one to turn away from an opportunity, he drained his glass and smiled.

"Substantial progress has been made in restoring the land. We reclaimed and repaired a water treatment facility that was leaking pollutants into the water, which has reduced the algae bloom in size by fifty percent. This has allowed some of the aquatic life that had been driven away to return, which has injected new life into the islands fishing industry. We've also cleared dead vegetation from the abandoned farms, and the land is now ready to have new seeds planted, and put the farmers and agricultural workers back to work."

Grant got up and took the bottle of wine, offering his guests more. 

"All of which makes your offer of seeds and assistance exceptionally well timed. Perhaps we could establish some kind of trade agreement? Right now we produce wine and fish more than anything else. There are other things in the works however, and allies of our house would of course be the first to be offered them."

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Varda smiles and nods approvingly at the discussion of House Senaria’s developments concerning the environment of Thraece; their conservation efforts are admirable in her eyes, all the more so with the Hildebrand’s specific relationship with nature, their connection with the soil beneath their feet and the crops growing on their lands.

"All of which makes your offer of seeds and assistance exceptionally well timed. Perhaps we could establish some kind of trade agreement? Right now we produce wine and fish more than anything else. There are other things in the works however, and allies of our house would of course be the first to be offered them."

She sneaks a glance over at her brother leaning casually against the other chair, taking note of his slightly amenable expression. Perhaps she can ask Aspen and Nai to spearhead this particular project, another excuse to lead them away from their own obsessions at the mercy of their workbenches.  

“Aside from your generous offer to trade, I rather think the partnership to be established in the name of restoring your lands holds more value in our eyes,” Varda replies, raising her glass of wine in Lord Grant’s direction with a bright grin. “However, I would not be averse to a larger supply of this fantastic wine. For the moment, that exchange will have to do.”

Nai snorts into his cup, soft but audible, and Varda turns her smile towards him, wiggling her eyebrows for a brief moment, a joke shared between siblings. For a while, she muses on further discussion and eventually finds a reasonable topic to latch on.

“You’ve made mention of House Senaria’s allies,” she murmurs, taking a sip of wine before continuing. “I’ve heard it said your noble house has established ties with House Singlance. Our houses have not yet had an opportunity to personally meet, so I must hopefully and politely impose on you to tell me what they are like.” Her query is innocent enough, borne from a curiosity ever since the Uldwars' letter disparaging the estranged noble house to her.

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Grant chuckled, "I'm sure we can arrange a trade agreement that suits both our houses. Of course, I also welcome your aid in the conservation of these islands. Perhaps you could even help a friend of mine with a case of mutation caused by pollution."

"As for House Singlance, I would first say that their ill reputation is largely unfounded; owing to the animosity between them and House Uldwar. It's true that they are less refined then the average nobility around the isles, but they are also smart, loyal, and creative. Their ingenuity and drive has already led them to success, seeing as they are already the owners of one of the most successful businesses in the Veluryiam Empire. In particular, their technical expertise is invaluable, and they have been an invaluable ally to my House. If you'd like, I could arrange an introduction with them?"

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"I'm sure we can arrange a trade agreement that suits both our houses. Of course, I also welcome your aid in the conservation of these islands. Perhaps you could even help a friend of mine with a case of mutation caused by pollution."

Varda beams, most pleased with the turn of events so far this lovely afternoon. “We’d be very much happy to help out wherever you deem our assistance necessary. I’d find it a blessing to see Thraece’s wildlands restored to their full glory someday through our joint partnership.”

The conversation shifts towards House Singlance, and really, Varda is quite surprised at the praise that comes in the name of the foreign noble house. Lord Senaria’s perception on the Singlances is a far cry from Lord Uldwar’s incensed letter to her, detailing them to be crude and violent enough to bring injury to Lady Uldwar upon their visit to the Mil Dot Lunaris.

Other houses aside, it is quite difficult to forget that House Singlance had once apparently insinuated House Hildebrand’s propensity for fornicating with goats, which is quite frankly insulting no matter how one looks upon it. Varda doesn’t think Esme had completely gotten over that incident, if her constant tirades against the foreign house are of any indication.

"If you'd like, I could arrange an introduction with them?"

Nai looks slightly nauseous, but quickly recovers, burying his nose in his book as he leans backward in a sudden coughing fit. Varda can’t say she faults him; she feels a little queasy about the suggestion as well. However, there are appearances at stake, strong alliances to be cemented for times of need that might soon come. If anything, public opinion rests on fickle foundations. She might as well find out for herself whether or not House Singlance is the brood of barbarians that people make the pair out to be.

“That would be lovely, Lord Grant, many thanks,” she inclines her head, a half-smile upon her lips as she studies the man before her. “What makes you say they are invaluable to House Senaria? What technical aptitude have they displayed that has won you over?”

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Grant sat back down, "Well, for instance, that water treatment facility that I told you about earlier. It was Thurgood Singlance who made it functional again; and considering the state it was in, that was no mean feat. He also helped me set up a mining facility recently, bringing along technology that saved us weeks of labor. In addition, he works closely with my research and development team all the time. Most recently he was instrumental in helping us to understand a recently discovered mineral known as Vulcanium."

The prince swirled the liquid in his glass around, as he spoke, looking at it intently.

"It's important to remember that Uldwar go out of their way to slander those they don't like. But I also believe that while the opinion of others is important; you can never truly know a person until you've met them for yourself. Too often, people rush to judgement based on rumors and gossip. I suppose that some of that is just human nature, but it is an aspect of our nature we should strive to overcome."

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Varda leans back in her chair, absorbs the information laid out before her with a considering ear. She knows not completely the infamous skills and abilities that the Singlances exhibit, but word has reached her ears of the strange, modern developments and establishments the noble house has been pouring their efforts towards. It is not exactly the common way of life, but she can appreciate the apparent desire to provide the populace with more advanced technology, even as the use of mundane magic has become entwined with the very soul and beating heart of the islanders’ everyday lives.

She only wishes they weren’t so—crude.

As if reading her mind, Lord Senaria continues, speaking of public opinion and biased slander, and really, Varda has to smile at that. Who could’ve known how apt his statements have been to her personal reality?

“You speak words of wisdom, Lord Grant,” she murmurs, inclining her head in acceptance of what she has heard from him. “We shall take that advice in regards to House Singlance. Perhaps some newfound ties of sorts can be established, should we choose to overlook the skewed judgement of others. We shall see where our meeting should take us, in the near future, and of course, at your discretion.”

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SUMMARY: The leaders of Houses Senaria and Hildebrand meet at the Senarian estate to establish good relations with each other; and to discuss the ongoing conservation effort. During the meeting the leaders arrange a trade deal, under which Senaria will export it's wine to Hildebrand, while the other house will give them seeds that can be used to restore the land. Varda asks Grant about House Singlance, and he gives them a glowing recommendation. The meeting ends with Grant agreeing to mediate a meeting between Singlance and Hildebrand.

SHORT SUMMARY: Houses Senaria and Hildebrand meet for the first time.

@Csl @Ataraxy

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