OOC: Apologies for the length. Also, the first part of this has already been posted earlier in thread, but as it's been quite a while, I didn't want to make everyone have to go back and dig it up again. IC: Evaleene Davers The Great Continent, Across the Sea Daversport, Castle Daverston Training yard—two weeks after the wedding Most of the other men in the yard had stopped their own practice to watch. Evaleene paid them no mind; she was in battle mode, and when she got herself far enough into that mindset, nothing else existed. Evaleene loved the thrill of a good fight; the rush she got out of it was like a drug. It was actually even a little dangerous if she got too into it, at least in training situations like this. She had to constantly keep reminding herself that this was just a practice session, not a real battle, and the man she faced was a friend, and no threat to her. He was bigger than her, wielding a sword, while Evaleene used a spear to jab at him when she wasn’t blocking his blows. He had already managed to knock her shield out of her hand, and as he brought down another heavy blow, the princess used the long shaft of the spear to catch the blow—she was surprised that the force of the blow didn’t break the spear in half—and pushed her opponent back, briefly throwing him off balance. Using his brief disorientation to her advantage, Evaleene spun and kicked him in the gut, knocking him flat on his back and sending the sword flying from his grip. Before he had a chance to recover, she was crouched above him, the point of the spear at his throat. “I yield!” he shouted immediately, bringing Evaleene back to the here-and-now. She dropped the spear and straightened, offering him a hand to help her comrade to his feet. “That was a good bout, Othar,” she said with a smile. “Aye, but I’ll be feelin’ it in the morning,” he jested. “In front and back.” He gingerly rubbed his backside with one hand while the other massaged his stomach where she’d kicked him. “Oh, poor baby,” Evaleene teased. “Maybe I’ll just have to come check on you this evening…” Something in her tone, however, suggested she’d like to do more than just check on him. She’d had one or two other lovers before Othar, but unlike the ones before him, he seemed to understand that what they had was a strictly physical relationship. She liked Othar; he was a good friend and a good ally—and certainly quite a bit of fun under the covers—but Evaleene wasn’t a romantic sort. She wasn’t looking for any kind of deep emotional connection with him, and neither was he. “Maybe you should,” he replied, cocking an eyebrow at her as a mischievous grin played across his face. Before she could retort, a different voice called out, “Princess Evaleene!” Slightly annoyed at the interruption, Evaleene whirled on its source, one of the servants. “Yes?” There was a very obvious tone of impatience in her voice. Slightly taken aback by her tone, it took the servant a few seconds to recover and reply. “Yer—yer father wants te see ya in his study.” At that, Evaleene calmed down a little, but at the same time she wondered, what could Father want? “Thank you,” she said, raking her fingers through her coppery hair to push it out of her face. “I’ll go straight away.” Briefly turning back to Othar, her smile returned. “I’ll get back to you about tonight,” she told him wryly, before heading up the stairs and into the castle. After several minutes of winding through corridors and climbing stairs, she arrived at her father’s study and went right inside, not bothering to knock. Her father and mother, Isen and Cressida Davers, were within. Evaleene didn’t waste time on pleasantries and greetings, instead getting right down to business. “You summoned me, Father?” He glanced up from the table he had been bowed over, piercing her with his bright eyes. Her mother stood by his side with her hand resting on his shoulder fondly. “Evaleene,” Her mother scolded, “I know you have no manners, but the least you could do is knock-“ Her father held his hand up. “It’s all right, Cressa.” Her mother’s disapproval showed on her face, but she stayed silent. “I trust you had a good spar?” Evaleene spared enough attention to her mother's chiding to roll her eyes, though she did take some exception to the comment that she had no manners--she had manners, she simply chose not to use them unless it was worth her while. They were her parents, not visiting nobles from the mainland. She loved her parents and she did respect them, but she saw no reason to waste time putting on airs for them. "I did," she said in answer to her father's query. "Gave Othar a few new bruises to repay him for the ones he gave me last time." She did not mention that “last time” did not refer to a sparring session. She didn't care whether or not her mother and father knew what she got up to with Othar, but she wasn't about to open the subject for discussion, either. Plopping down into a chair across the table from her parents, she began to remove the gauntlets from her wrists as she tried again to get her father to explain the purpose of her presence here. "What did you want to talk to me about?" Glancing up at her mother, he sighed. "I've signed your betrothal." Wait, what? The news came as a bit of a surprise, and it was a few moments before Evaleene responded. "To whom?" Her voice was calm, even curious—her parents probably expected a vehement objection, but in fact, she wasn't really all that upset by this development. "The true king of Mirwyth..." Her father eyed her. "Matheus Reynard." King?! Even with her private hopes of making a good marriage, she had never dared to dream of marrying a king. For a second, her inner excitement might have flashed across her hazel eyes, but it suddenly faded into confusion. Mirwyth and its people were not exactly well-thought of over here, so why would her father propose to marry her to their king? And what did he mean by “true king?” “Can I ask why?” “There’s a question I was waiting for,” Her father said after a throaty laugh. “When you marry him, you’ll be queen. Queen of a ravaged land, but with the dowry you bring, the Reynards should be able to stomp out whatever resistance remains.” “I doubt she even knows about the rebellions.” Her mother frowned. “Always sparring, never learning.” While the idea of being a queen was definitely one that appealed to her, just now she was more interested in understanding what her parents were talking about. Ravaged land? Resistance? Once again, she ignored the slight. "What rebellions? What do you mean 'true king’?” “Mirwyth is at war,” Her father said. “Formal war was declared by Matheus’s father, Fenton, but now he’s dead, and so are the three self-declared kings he planned to war with. New kings are cropping up in their places, and with them the real war comes. Matheus is the true king. His father ruled before him, and his grandfather before that.” “And you’re to marry him,” Her mother finished. Evaleene slowly began to nod her understanding of her father's brief run-down of current events in Mirwyth, and was still nodding as her mother finished off. She could get a more in-depth version later, but for now she was focused on the details of this betrothal. "All right. What sort of dowry are you sending me off with?" "No complaint?" Her father's brow furrowed. "No defiance, no refusal, no I'm-not-going and you-can't-make-me?" Evaleene gave a little laugh. "Usually you'd be near to begging me to be this compliant, and it bothers you that I'm not putting up a fight? Besides, as my father and ruler, you can make me." Not that that would be necessary. "I'm just...surprised," He smirked. "Your dowry contains a hundred ships, thirty thousand men, and a sizable chunk of our coffers. A dowry befitting a queen." "He must find you an upside to this dowry as well," Her mother said, "You're already a foreigner, and an improper woman on top of that. If you displease him...no amount of soldiers or ships will make your marriage a happy one." "It must be a happy one." Her father stood from his chair, clasping his fingers behind his back. "And, a long one. With Mirwyth as an ally, the Davers can accomplish some expansion we've been waiting generations for." That was a sizeable dowry, indeed befitting a queen, and bound to impress King Matheus. Or so we shall hope. Once again, she only half-listened to her mother's nagging. I know I'm not Brigitta, Mother, but just because I choose not to act like a prim, proper, perfect princess doesn't mean I don't know how. She almost said it aloud, but for once, decided to hold her tongue. Or at least to say something a little less likely to start an argument. "I promise I shall conduct myself in a manner so as not to embarrass or disgrace you," she assured her parents, though it was more directed at her mother. "When do you wish me to depart?" she asked her father. "Three days," Her father answered. "You have three days to say your good-byes." She nodded again. "How many ships am I taking with me--I imagine you don't want me taking all one hundred at once, or those thirty thousand swords." "Fifteen ships and three thousand men. It'll be a crowded journey, but we can't risk giving it all away without being for sure." He stared at her. "We must make him sure. You must make him sure." "I will, Father. Is there anything else?" If she only had three days before leaving, then they would undoubtedly be three very busy days, with all the preparations that needed to be made before they set out. "That's all, for now." He stared at her for several seconds. "Nothing? Not even one complaint? She laughed again. "No, but if you want me to make a scene, I might be able to think of something," she jested. "I'm sure you could," He chuckled, then slowly grew serious. "Evaleene…" Her father's jaw locked, as if he was about to say something. Finally he turned away, looking nowhere in particular. "Go…go on. Enjoy these last few days...” She thought he'd been about to say something else, but whatever was going through his mind, he chose not to voice, merely dismissing her instead. Evaleene got to her feet, gave her parents an uncharacteristically polite dip of her head, and left the room. Despite the fact that she was now technically betrothed, part of her rationalized that it wasn’t official until the Reynard king agreed to it, and so she felt little guilt in going to see Othar that night. She wouldn’t be able to enjoy his night-time companionship for much longer. The Docks of Daversport Three days later Evaleene had been at the harbor since early that morning, taking a final inventory of provisions for the trip to Mirwyth. Men rushed about, prepping the ship for the voyage, and though this was one of the largest ships in Evaleene’s fleet—her flagship, the Charybdis—it was still fairly crowded, and everyone kept bumping into one another. One man had gotten so annoyed at the constant jostling that he got into a fight with another, and the unfortunate target of his anger had suffered a broken nose, a broken jaw and numerous bruising blows before Evaleene had been alerted and put a stop to it. Two hundered men to a ship, confined on board for how long? Her father was sending her off with three thousand, but Evaleene would be surprised if she arrived in Mirwyth with that number. Voyages were fraught with danger as it was, without the men having short tempers. Finishing her supply check, Evaleene headed back down the boarding ramp to the dock. Her family would be here soon to see her off. Her sister was already there. Brigitta was poised at the edge of the docks, hands clasped at the front of her skirts. Her retinue of maids were gathered around her, some picking at her skirt, some at her hair. She paid them no mind, instead craning her neck in the most ladylike way she could. When her eyes caught Evaleene, her tight lips broke into a grin. She murmured something to her maids that made them step away from her, and then lifted her skirts to meet Evaleene halfway. "Evaleene," Brigitta didn't wrap her arms around her, as she might have done when she was younger and less conscious of her ways. Still, the smile she gave Evaleene was one born of genuine adoration. After curtsying, her smile had slipped some. "I. . .I can't believe the day is here." Evaleene dipped her head in reply to her sister’s curtsy, and returned the smile. Except for their father, Brigitta was the only other member of her family who seemed to like her. Even so, the influence Cressida had on the younger sister was all too clear, from the maids to her dress to her manner. She won’t even hug me anymore, Evaleene thought bitterly. And Mother’s not even around to get onto her. It seemed to her that although Brigitta would stand up for her to their mother, the sisters weren’t as close as they used to be. Would the gap widen while she was gone? “I know. Pity I can’t take you with me,” she teased lightly. At the same time, though, she was just a little glad that Brigitta wasn’t coming. King Matheus might decide he preferred the prim younger sister to the rough-around-the-edges elder. "I would love to go," Brigitta bit her lip. It was a habit she had never been able to quit. "Father wouldn't allow it. He said it was your time to shine." The younger sister took Evaleene's hand, smiling. "And it is. It's your time, sister. Show Mother how much you're worth." Evaleene's smile faded. Though her sister's words were meant to be encouraging, they also intensified the bitter feelings stirring up inside her. "I wish she would see my worth without my having to marry a stranger a world away, even if he is a king," she remarked. And what if King Matheus refuses? Then she will really think me worthless. And Father would be disappointed, too. "Mother. . ." For a moment, Brigitta's mask faded away. "Mother'll realize, one day. . ." Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. "She'll realize what I've always known." The sisters had never let go of hands, and now Brigitta squeezed Evaleene's. "Just how outstanding of a lady you are." Evaleene couldn't help smiling. "Coming from you, that's quite a compliment," she said. "You're more of a lady than I could ever dream of being, Evaleene." The tears were streaming down her sister's cheeks now. "Promise me. . .promise you'll never forget about me, even after you're a foreign queen with you're own family to care for. . ." She laughed through the tears. "Promise me." "How could I ever forget you?" Evaleene reassured her. She let go of Brigitta's hands and gave her a hug, not caring if their mother was around or not. When she pulled away again, she pulled out a handkerchief and wiped at her eyes. "And don't cry, all right? If I get going, Othar will never let me hear the end of it," she joked. "We'll see each other again; if King Matheus accepts this proposal, Father will probably come for the wedding, and I'm sure he'd be happy to bring you along." Except Mother would probably come, too. "I'll be at your wedding," The younger sister said fiercely. "Not even Mother could keep me from coming to it." "Nor would I want to." Wearing a dress of scales that rippled in the sunlight, Cressida watched both of her daughters from a few steps away. "I'll kiss the ground beneath both of your feet if Evaleene manages to pull this betrothal off." Brigitta broke away from Evaleene's arms, dabbing the rest of the tears from her eyes. Frankly, Evaleene was surprised that her mother had even bothered to come to see her off. And her words did little to make Evaleene any happier to see her. "If you have so little faith in me, why didn't you convince Father to send Brigitta instead?" she asked, trying as best she could to keep any hostility out of her tone. "What I wouldn't give to be able to see the look on your face when you hear that I've won over the Reynard king." Nevermind her expression, Cressida would probably have a heart attack. "Winning him's only part of the battle," Her mother stared at her. Her gaze never once broke away. "Once you have him, you'll be queen alright. Queen of a broken land, left with only the pieces. If you can marry the boy and repair the kingdom. . .then maybe you'll have proved yourself to be a lady." The 'maybe' struck a nerve. "And when I've done that, you'll think of something else I must do to prove myself to you," she retorted, more than just a tinge of anger in her voice. "Nothing I do is ever good enough for you." "You prove time and time again why I'm right." Cressida hissed to Evaleene, looking around them. "I thought you'd at least have the decency to respect me in view of the commons. I hadn't realized how unruly you've become." Honestly, Evaleene had rather forgotten that there were others around them who could hear their heated exchange, but most of them were men under her command anyway, and this would be nothing new to them. Many of them knew of their princess's issues with her mother. A glance toward her sister, however, told her that Brigitta was clearly becoming uncomfortable. She would have liked to say more, to point out that her mother did not appear to respect her, but Cressida would very likely come back with another stinging reply. Evaleene was not going to win this argument, so rather than escalate it any further, she changed the subject. "When will Father get here?" The sooner he gets here, the sooner I can leave, then I won't be your problem anymore. "Whenever he likes." Her mother turned back to the castle, as if trying to spot her husband. "Ross's out reaving, and Alfred. . .I'm not for sure about Alfred…" "There he is," Brigitta said simply, and pointed to the gaggle of maids she had left behind. Alfred had one of them off to the side, a skinny one with her arms wrapped around him. He planted kisses on her forehead, cheeks, and finally her lips. Observing her younger brother's attentions to the maid, Evaleene rolled her eyes. "Typical Alfred," she said, equally amused and annoyed. "He has three bastards already," Cressida shook her head. "Your father needs to get him good and married, before he goes of and weds one of these commoners." "Lilia is a good maid, Mother," Brigitta said, not meeting her mother's eyes. "Maid is the key word there." Cressida gestured to the castle. "Your brother is the heir to Daversport. He needs to marry for wealth, for power, for control. A maid brings him nothing but pleasure in the bedchambers." Considering the fact that she had a lover herself, Evaleene couldn't quite be too critical of her brother, but at least she had the sense to be cautious enough to avoid any unexpected pregnancies. And she only had one lover; who knew how many Alfred had at any given time? But it was kind of nice to hear her mother complain about someone else for a change. "I think pleasure is the only thing he thinks about, at least where women are concerned," she muttered. It was then that Evaleene's father came striding to the docks. Lilia the maid disentangled herself from Alfred's arms when she saw him. At first he looked confused, but when he saw his father he laughed, planted another kiss on her, and then walked with his father to the rest of the family. "Glad to see you can pull yourself from a woman's arms long enough to wish your sister well." Cressida said to Alfred as they arrived. "Actually it was her that encouraged me to come." Alfred frowned. "Then I owe her thanks," Evaleene said. "At least one my brothers can be convinced to come and see me off." Though I suspect he's not all that sorry to see me leave. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be. I don't understand why-" "You're to rule. Ross isn't. I've told you this for years now, Alfred." Isen Davers looked both respectable and regal, even while interrupting his eldest son. "Besides, you might not see her for a long time to come. Perhaps the two of you could try to get along for once." "A hopeless cause." Cressida sighed. "What a lovely way to see Evaleene off." Brigitta cried out. "This is her day!" "Brigitta!" Their mother looked shocked. "Where are your manners?" "Where are yours, Mother?" "How dare you talk to me like this!" "How dare you talk to Evaleene like you have been!" Brigitta maintained her poise even while losing herself. "This is the last time we'll see her for months, and all you have to say to her is how much of a failure you believe her to be!" The young lady crossed her arms. "She isn't a failure. You are wrong Mother." "I will have you punished for this. No more sweetcakes, for a month at least!" Cressida reached out to grab Brigitta's forearm, but caught Isen's hand instead. "She's right," He said softly. "This is Evaleene's day. Can you not hold your tongue?" Cressida looked from Isen to Brigitta, and then finally to Evaleene. She pursed her lips and nodded. Evaleene hadn't had a chance to enter into the family debate, and was somewhat glad for it. My loving family, she thought sarcastically. I can't say I'll miss the fighting. "Thank you, Father," she said. She wanted to say that it was a little late to be telling Cressida to keep her disparaging comments to herself, but she didn't want to start another argument. Her father stepped forward and took her hand in his. "Evaleene. . ." He spoke low, so that only the two of them may hear. "I know you won't fail me." He tightened his grip on her hand. "You haven't once in your life." In an uncharacteristic display of emotion, he kissed her forehead. "Thank you," she said again. At least I am not a disappointment to him, she thought. "I won't let you down." "Is. . ." Her father looked out to the fleet. "Are they ready?" "Yes," she answered. "I've just been double-checking our supplies while I was waiting for you." Had it not been for him and Brigitta, Evaleene wouldn't have stuck around to say goodbye. "Then," He gave her hand a final pat from his own, "I guess it's time." She sighed and nodded. "I guess so." Evaleene was about to tell her men to prepare to cast off, but as she turned to look for her second-in-command, her gaze fell on a man approaching the dock. She didn't recognize him, and there was nothing particularly remarkable about him, but he seemed...out of place. His head was shaved, and his clothing, while not overly elaborate, was not the sort of attire one usually saw here on the islands. Noting that the man seemed to be heading directly towards them, Evaleene looked to Isen. "Father, who is he?" "Ah!" Her father waved the man over. "I was afraid he wouldn't make it! This, Evaleene," He gestured to the visitor, "is Philippe Wood." The man bowed before her. "It is an honor to be in your presence, Princess." Evaleene gave the newcomer a nod of greeting. "A pleasure," she replied, even as she cast a questioning look to her father. He'd told her who the man was, but what was he doing here? "I originated from Mirwyth, m'lady," The foreigner said, "I come before you a humble man with all the knowledge of his people. Your father requested that I be your aide in this foreign land." "I expect your knowledge will prove quite useful," Evaleene told him appreciatively, not sure what else she should say. She knew that she did need as much information about Mirwyth as she could get, but with her past tutors, Evaleene had not exactly been the best student. She preferred spending her time in the training yard, not sitting in a study room. "With that settled..." Her father gestured to the fleet with a grim smile, "I think it's time." Evaleene nodded and took a steadying breath. It's really happening. I am leaving everything I know, to journey to the other side of the world to marry a king. If all went as planned, she would be the future queen of Mirwyth when next she saw her family. "I won't let you down, Father," she promised him again. "I know you won't," He squeezed her shoulder. "You're a Davers. We conquer. Conquer Mirwyth, Evaleene. Conquer it with love, and if that doesn't work," The smile he gave then was even darker than the last, "Conquer it with steel." Hopefully it wouldn't come to conquering with steel, but if King Matheus did not accept their proposal, she would make sure he regretted it. After all, there were how many other kings fighting over power in Mirwyth? Although, considering that point--"With the rebellion going on, I may have to conquer it both ways," she said, not entirely jesting. "With our armada, it hopefully won't be much of a battle." He then gestured to a man standing perched high above them, on the deck of one of the ships. The man blew his horn, with a great AROOOO. The entire docks grew silent and still. "Now, Evaleene," He whispered to her, "Tell your people the news." She re-boarded the Charybdis, taking a few deep breaths and a few moments to gather her thoughts. This was another thing she didn’t much care for, making speeches. Rousing her men to battle was easy enough, but formal speeches like this were a different matter all together. Once she knew what she was going to say, she climbed up onto the ship’s railing so that she could be seen, speaking loudly and clearly enough to be heard across the docks: “People of Daversport! You are familiar with the words of my family: ‘You cannot cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.’ Well, we have been standing and staring at the water for too long. But after today, we will stand by no longer. Today I depart for the kingdom of Mirwyth, to wed their king and to aid him in the fight against those who would denounce his rule. This new alliance brings with it new opportunities for us to spread our influence, our culture, expand our reach beyond our islands, and bring in a new era for our people.” Having said her piece, Evaleene climbed down from the rail and went back to her family for last good-byes. Brigitta was the first. Tears poured down without a care, smiling and biting her lip at the same time. “Farewell, sister. I hope he’s everything a king should be and more.” Evaleene returned her sister's smile, and though she wasn't about to cry in front of her mother or Alfred, she could feel the sting at the back of here eyes. "I hope so, too, 'Gitta," she told her, before drawing her in for one last hug. "I'll miss you the most," she whispered so only Brigitta would hear. The next was her mother. Cressida stood impassive, watching Evaleene separate from her hug from her sister. "Just marry him," She sighed. "Do whatever you have to, but marry Mirwyth's king." Evaleene bit back the retort that immediately came to mind--Will that finally convince you that I'm not the failure you think I am? Will that finally make you proud of me?--and simply gave Cressida a respectful nod. At least she hadn't taken one last opportunity to criticize her. "Goodbye, Mother," was all she said. And for the dimmest of moments, her mother's eyes seemed to quiver with tears. She bit them back. "Goodbye...daughter." Were those tears? Evaleene wouldn't call her mother on it. She'd probably deny it anyway. But to hear Cressida call her daughter...it wasn't even really what most would consider a term of endearment, but to Evaleene, it was more than she usually got. In a rare gesture of affection, Evaleene gave her mother a genuine smile and briefly gave her hand a squeeze. But she wasn't about to push her luck, and Evaleene ended the moment before anything could ruin it, and turned to her brother. "Keep the scoundrels out while I'm gone, all right?" She was only half-teasing. Alfred--and Ross, as well--would have to pick up the slack in defending the waters around Daversport in Evaleene's absence. "Would I do any less?" He grinned back at her, reaching his hand out to shake her own. "You sleep with the scoundrels if you have to, Evaleene. Maybe he'll be decent enough." Evaleene laughed as she shook his hand. They might not get along much, but at least once in a while they still had something to laugh over. She could imagine Cressida probably didn't approve of the jest, though."'Bye, Alfred. And tell Ross goodbye for me." He nodded. All that was left was her father, who stared at her with hopeful eyes of his own. She didn't hug her father often, affection between them usually manifested in other forms, but she made an exception today. It would be a long time before she saw him again. "Thank you," she told him as she embraced him. "For having faith in me." "Just make the Davers name what it once was again," Isen said while giving Evaleene reassuring squeezes. "I know you can if anyone. Send a raven when you arrive, and another with news of the betrothal. If it's a yes, our ships ride. If it's a no, they ride. An army's coming for Mirwyth, and the Reynards better hope it's with them and not against." Evaleene nodded to acknowledge his instructions as she--somewhat reluctantly--pulled away. "Goodbye, Father." "Goodbye, Evaleene," he murmured with a final squeeze to her shoulder. "Spread your sails." She nodded once more, before she finally stepped away and started up the gangplank, giving her men the order to cast off. A horn blast sent the signal across to the other fourteen ships that would follow the Charybdis to Mirwyth, and together, they began the journey out to sea. Evaleene took the wheel herself, but as the ship slipped out of the Daversport harbor, she looked back as her home, and her family, began to shrink into the distance. She saw Brigitta move to the end of the dock to wave, and though she wasn’t sure her sister would still see, Evaleene waved back one last time. Once Brigitta, Alfred, and her parents were too far away to make out, she turned to face the open sea—and her future. TAG: No one.