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You Smell Like Horse; <Den>
Topic Started: Apr 29 2018, 05:19 PM (1,376 Views)
Cassandra
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Cassie was supposed to be at her harpsichord lesson but she really did hate them. She could never get her fingers just right and the music master wanted her to play too quickly. So clearly she wasn't in the music tower. Instead she was in the stables this afternoon. She liked the stable-hands. They were always nice to her.

Riktor was younger than TuRea but he reminded her a lot of him. He was always happy to see her and he liked spoiling her too. "Come to see your mother's horse again?" She nodded before running around him to find the stool. She wasn't big enough to reach the bars to pull herself up to see inside the stalls just yet. But using the stool she was just the right height to peek in. And mommy's horse was really pretty. She wished she could have one of her own but she wasn't big enough for that yet either.

She ran back out with the stool, startling a few horses in the stalls she passed as she headed for the one that housed Morgana's horse, Isilme. Setting it down and quickly scrambling up it, she giggled softly as the horse greeted her by licking her fingers. "Riktor, do you have treats?" she called back over to him.

The young man smiled down at her. "You know you spoil her." Smiling, he shook his head softly. "Do you remember how you give it to her?"

"Like this!" Cassie held her palm out flat. "But she won't bite me. She likes me."

"She really likes carrots too and you don't want your fingers to stop her from getting her treat do you?"

"Nuh-uh!" She took the carrot from him and made sure her palm was flat before she offered the horse the carrot. The horse, already being used to the child, was surprisingly gentle. "See! You're a good horsey," she said as she gently patted the animal's head.

"So are you avoiding lessons again, little one?"

"Nooo." The word was far too drawn out and guilty. The wide-eyed look on her face as she looked back over her shoulder at him was confirmation enough.

Riktor shook his head again as he laughed. "Which one this time?"

"The harpsichord!" she pouted, her little hands on her hips as she stomped a foot on the stool. "I just can't do it." There was a bit of a commotion coming from the front courtyard that caught her attention then. "What's that?" She leapt from the stool to peak out the entrance, hoping it wasn't her teacher coming for her.
Edited by Cassandra, Apr 29 2018, 05:24 PM.
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Happily Hiding ~ TuRea
Such Strange Wanderers ~ Alvatore
You Smell Like Horse ~ Augustijn van Osterhout, Morgana
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Augustijn van Osterhout
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The Idian Duke
It had been a long time since he'd been here - at least, he thought so. So much had happened lately that it had been hard to keep track of time, even with Marja's help. His ride up to the castle had been relatively mundane, though he always found that it was slightly unnerving at times. Whereas Château van Drakenguard was build to be impressive yet stylish, a great feat of work by Turel van Drakenfeld's ancestors, Castle Esgalóre seemed to have a more intimidating appearance, firmly painting itself as a stern obstacle in the path of any invading army.

Flanked by his guards, his sister alongside him, they'd passed through the castle gates relatively smoothly, although they had been required to give up their weapons. He suspected it was more a formality than anything - five ordinary men, even fully armed and armoured, would accomplish little in a place such as this. Still, he'd not argued, for he certainly had no need for any blade here and trouble was the last of his intentions. As they emerged into the courtyard, his eyes swept across the people about their business who, once they caught sign of his entourage, seemed to forget what they were about and start to stare in his direction - what started as mere whispers quickly turned into a rather audible murmering as more of them looked his way and talked to their neighbour. Augustijn wondered if it was because they didn't receive many guests or, perhaps more likely, if it was this particular guest who was so unexpected.

With a nod to his side, Augustijn sent one of the guards to request a place for the horses to stay, then turned to his sister, offering an awkward smile as he gently scratched the horse's neck.

"So far, so good," he muttered, eyes returning to the people watching. He wasn't quite sure how well they would be received today, but he hoped that things would proceed adequately. It had been a long journey from Idia, across land and sea, and Augustijn would hate for it to amount to nothing. Still, if nothing else, it had done him good to get out of the town - indeed, out of the duchy - for some time. The situation was tense and the arguments with his brothers had grown more frequent. Truth be told, he was beginning to wonder if perhaps it was he who was the problem, in all of this. Reaching down to his side, he pulled free a canteen and sipped the water from it, awaiting the return of his guard.
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Cassandra
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"There's people here!" she exclaimed excitedly, hopping up and down as she pointed out the door. She didn't really get visitors often.

Riktor came up behind her to see what was going on. There was a small group in the front courtyard which appeared to consist of two members of the aristocracy and a handful of guards. He had heard no mention of any planned visits today. They were usually good about letting him know when he should be expecting extra horses to take care of. Not that they didn't have the room or supplies to care for them. "Cassie, you should probably go back to the castle now," he suggested as one of the guards headed in their direction.

"But I want to meet them!"

"Do I need to call for your teacher?"

"This is my castle and that means that they came here to see me," she told him matter-of-factly as she peered out at them, a look of concentration on her little face. "They're not bad!" she declared as she ran out of the stables.

She was too quick for Riktor to catch and he hesitated between her and the guard she had just darted around. She was safe within the walls. He knew that any weapons the visitors had would have been taken at the gate and he had a job to do now. He called to the other stable hands, just in case they hadn't heard the commotion outside yet. "We've got seven!" Then he went out to talk with the guard to see how long they were planning on staying and what sort of care their horses would need.

Cassandra remembered herself as she neared the horses. Riktor had told her plenty of times that when she was too fast she scared the horses and that would be bad with people still on them. She slowed down considerably and beamed up at the man and woman. "Hi! I'm Cassi--Cassandra Draigo von Schönburg." She rocked back and forth beside the man's horse as she beamed up at him. "I like your hair!" she told the lady with him.

Duncan hurried down the front steps. It was hard to be everywhere at once. There was so much going on today and the little duchess in training had run off from her lessons again. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw her greeting their impromptu guests. Well that was one less thing to worry about at least. It also spoke to the pair's character. If they were ill-intentioned she would have wanted nothing to do with them. It was both an uncanny and extremely useful ability that the child had and one that they were all grateful for given her tendency to run off.

The pair in question looked similar enough in the face that he suspected they were related in some way, but there had been no plans of visitors in the near future and he was not familiar with these two. Were they here to make a complaint or did they want to meet the child? Were these people that Morgana knew?

"I apologize. We weren't expecting visitors. I see you've met our little duchess, who is supposed to be at her lessons."

"But we have visitors! I can't be a good hostess if I'm in the tower trying to play the harpsichord! We need cookies," she informed Duncan. "Do you like cookies?" she asked the man, staring up at him with her startlingly blue eyes.
Edited by Cassandra, Apr 30 2018, 03:39 PM.
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Happily Hiding ~ TuRea
Such Strange Wanderers ~ Alvatore
You Smell Like Horse ~ Augustijn van Osterhout, Morgana
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Morgana
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The Dark Duchess
Morgana looked up from her book, angling her head to better hear the sounds coming in through the open window at her back. Those were horses. No one was supposed to be visiting the court this week and there had been no mention of any sort of training for the Blood Riders this afternoon. With a frown she pushed herself up from the chair and made her way over to the window in question.

She counted seven and a very familiar little blond head running to greet them. She sighed heavily. That was most certainly her daughter. She tried to take a closer look at the visitors. There was something in the back of her mind that bothered her about them. Almost as if she had known them from somewhere, but she couldn't quite place them. The angle was all wrong. And it wasn't as if she could just go down and greet them as her daughter was already doing. She needed a different window.

As she left the library and began to make her way downstairs, she stopped every so often to look out another window. One of the younger servants was running up the stairs from the main hall. She held out a hand to gently catch the girl's arm. "Who are they?"

"A lord and lady from Avalon, ma'am."

"From Avalon," she whispered. "Tell Duncan I want my daughter inside, now." The courtyard was far too open and they still had their horses. She wasn't going to chance that they had been sent to bring her back. Cassandra was far too trusting for her own good. Anyone sent to retrieve her would think that they were doing what was good and right. "They should be received in the parlor. If she complains, she can join them there."

The girl hurried back off in the direction from which she had come and Morgana followed her down the stairs, splitting ways when the girl went to do her bidding and she snatched her cloak from Leopold from it's hiding spot as she headed for the parlor. It still held some magic in it and it was enough to suit her purposes. The parlor was windowless, lit by a fire. There would be shadow and that was all she needed for them to not notice her until she wanted them to. If she did.
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Augustijn van Osterhout
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Augustijn was somewhat taken aback by the arrival of a small girl, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, who had made her way past the crowd and towards his group to address them, introducing herself rather enthusiastically. As she gave her name, he couldn't help but start to frown - fortunately able to catch it in time and force himself to smile at her. Draigo von Schönburg. It unsettled him for some reason, though he did his best to hide it. Marja nudged him from behind, but he ignored it for the time being.

Slowly, eyes fixed on the young girl, he dismountedm his horse, landing gracefully on the courtyard floor. As she complimented his sister's hair, Augustijn saw the man approach them briskly, giving an apology as he arrived beside the girl. Little duchess? This bothered him a little more but, again, he kept a straight face as he'd practiced so often in his youth. He was sure that Constantijn would have had something to say, but Augustijn was happy to listen. Happy to learn. So much had changed that he still felt unsure about everything, though his memory seemed to get better by the day, little parts of the past becoming more and more accessible, if somewhat murky at times. He'd been told much, but he knew that more still was being kept from him by those at his court, if he could call it that. Whether that was out of malice or merely a concern that he not overwhelm himself too much at once, only time would tell.

He nodded gracefully in response to the man's apology, ignoring the rest of the exchange between he and the girl. "There is no need to apologise, I come unannounced. Indeed the apology should be mine. I am-"

He was cut off by the girl asking a question. At first he thought it ridiculous, then he reminded himself that she could be no older than five or six, looking at her. No, it was a perfectly reasonable question for a young girl, even one who was supposed to be learning how to be a noble. He looked down, before slowly dropping to one knee, smiling in a friendly way. "Yes, indeed I do like cookies, my lady. I am also fond of harpsichords, too," he said with a wink, before rising again.

"I'm sorry. I am Augustijn van Osterhout, of Drakenfeld. We've traveled quite some distance, so I would be very grateful if you could provide for our horses for the duration of our stay. I would also request lodging for myself and my men. They will remain out of the way as long as we are here, though I expect you'll have them watched, naturally." He paused for a moment, wondering whether or not he should continue. He'd said nothing truly revealing yet, and he was uncertain as to who exactly this youngster and the courtier were, so it perhaps would be better not to reveal his business quite yet. After all, it could merely be a ruse, though he had no real reason to suspect such.

"I realise that we arrive without any formal arrangement, but I seek an audience and I would be most appreciative if you would receive myself and my sister, Marja, in the castle," he continued, glancing back at his sister, who had also dismounted. At her side she wore a satchel, filled with the documents he'd asked for, and unusually she wore breeches and a jacket that was somewhat akin to a cavalryman's uniform, rather than the dresses he was used to seeing her in. It was a sight which had taken some getting used to. "I of course understand if that is not possible today, but I am hopeful that we can make an arrangement," he finished, looking between the man and the girl, still offering a disarming smile.
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Cassandra
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She decided she liked him. And at least he liked cookies. She would be nice and not think any less of him for liking harpsichords though. She tried to wait patiently as he talked to Duncan but it was boring stuff and she found her mind wandering. He had a hard name. She frowned as she tried to quietly say it to herself. Kind of like her name. His sister's name was easier though.

"Of course, your lordship. It appears our stable hands are already discussing arrangements for your horses," Duncan indicated with a nod toward the stables. "The servants are no doubt already preparing rooms." The front door opened and Duncan looked over his shoulder with a frown. One of the servants in question was approaching warily. "Excuse me."

He stepped away from the lord for a moment. There was a somewhat heated exchange before the girl nodded and went back inside the castle. His attention turned to the child. "Cassandra, there are cookies in the parlor. Would you like to wait for our guests there?" The girl grinned and happily ran off.

"I apologize for the distraction. As I said, rooms are already being arranged. van Osterhout, you said?" He remembered the name now. "Any relation to the little prince's guardian?" There was suspicion in his gaze now. It was not something that could be easily hidden. They all took the little duchess's safety seriously and if Morgana was correct in her worry these were no friends of theirs. He had been her confidante for years now and he knew what a hurried warning like this would have to do with. "Might I ask what it is you seek an audience about?"

He still held his arm out towards the door to lead them into the castle proper and down the hall to the parlor as he paid close attention to the man's answer. He opened the door to the room in question rather slowly, but that was more a warning for the true mistress of the house.
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Morgana
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The Dark Duchess
The door opened quickly and Morgana straightened in her corner. It was just Cassandra. The door swung shut behind her and she realized that Duncan had likely sent her on ahead. Perfect. She quickly crossed the room.

"Cassie," she prompted, causing her daughter to jump as she grabbed one of the cookies from the table. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean to scare you. This is very important though. Mommy needs to know who those people are. Did they tell you their names?"

"I can eat the cookie, right?"

"As long as you tell me their names. Quickly." She nodded to her reassuringly.

"Marja and Au...Aug...his name was hard!"

"Augustijn?"

"Yeah! That was it!"

"Very good, sweetheart. Now when they come in, I need you to pretend that mommy's not here, okay? It'll be like when TuRea couldn't see me."

"Ok. I'm going to eat my cookie."

"Alright." She kissed her forehead then wrapped the cloak back around herself and went back to the corner.

This was not good. Constantijn had to be behind this. Even this was too much though. Sending the both of them here, especially Augustijn. Of course, he thought her dead. Everyone did. He had no claim on her daughter though. She had made sure that the arrangements were soundly made. Leopold had only truly been interested in his son. Cassandra would have just been another noble in that court. A princess, true. But she would have never had the opportunity to rule. Here she had that. She was surrounded by people that loved her. She would not let them take her away!
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Augustijn van Osterhout
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The Idian Duke
He smiled with gratitude as the man confirmed permission and provision for their stay. Though he'd been prepared for the possibility that they'd have to find boarding at an inn, it was an option he had been hoping to avoid as much as possible. Although comfort was a factor, it was only secondary. Being so far from home, with such limited protection, he felt vulnerable - even in a land which ought to be fairly friendly.

The sudden arrival from the castle surprised him, but he simply nodded his head as the man excused himself and went to talk with her. At this distance, he couldn't make out a word and whilst he'd never really been bothered by it, lacking the special abilities of so many in this land was occasionally hinderance. Today was one such day.

Upon the man's return, the young girl was sent away and Augustijn watched her disappear into the castle, seemingly quite eager and causing him to grin. "Children loving sweet things is something that never changes, eh?" he said with a smirk, though the man still seemed quite serious.

He gave an apology which Augustijn felt was unwarranted, but he nodded in thanks nonetheless. The question which followed was completely unexpected, however. Prince's guardian? Who... He turned to look at Marja, demanding an explanation in their native tongue. His sister looked at him apologetically, before turning her head away. "I'll explain later," she said softly, as if afraid, though he couldn't be sure why. He'd known his brothers had kept things from him, partly out of necessity - he already had much to deal with - but he suspected partly because they didn't trust him so much of late. But his sister? That stung.

"I'm afraid that-..." he trailed off, noticing that the crowd had gathered around them and inched closer over time, eager to hear what these foreigners had to say, no doubt. He couldn't blame them, for he'd always been the same, but some things were better to be unheard by those types. It wasn't ideal to have your business become the gossip of the town, even as far away from home as this. It could have terrible consequences.

"Perhaps," he continued, glancing at the audience that had assembled, "it would be better if we were to discuss matters inside, with a little more privacy? I have nothing against your people, but this is a sensitive matter and I'd rather it was heard only by those it is relevant to, if you would be so kind."

The man, who Augustijn assumed must be the steward, had every right to refuse. In fact he probably ought to, without further information. But then, Augustijn's party hardly made any threat. They were unarmed and outnumbered, with no knowledge of the interior of the castle to aid them. They were completely at the mercy of the nobility here, which was precisely what Augustijn was relying on. He could only hope that he had calculated the risk well, or this could end up being very bad for him indeed.

He followed the man in silence as he led them into the castle, shooting the occasional glace at Marja. What was she hiding from him about this? What else had she not told him? He didn't like this at all. Since his return, Marja had been his only true ally, the only one who had been there to support him. If she was in on whatever it was her brothers were doing, too, then he was truly alone in all of this. That scared him more than anything else...
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Cassandra
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Duncan watched the exchange between the two carefully. Augustijn was clearly confused by the question but the sister behind him knew something. Was the man being used as a pawn? It was not a thought that brought comfort.

As the crowd closed in around them, no doubt just as eager to hear his answers, Augustijn suggested that they enter the castle. Duncan had already been ready to let them in. There were only a handful of them and while they might not truly be well-wishers, he was of a mind that it would be much easier to keep an eye on them from within the castle. And Morgana already had a habit of doing so. Their guards, which the lord had promised would stay out of the way anyway, could be housed in the southern wing if necessary. It would really depend upon what their stated intentions were.

As the door was opened it would reveal a very comfortable room that was clearly meant for waiting. A plush scarlet couch with gold brocade pillows was the centerpiece with matching armchairs to either side of it. A fire burned warmly in the hearth to keep the chill out of the room. Above the fire was a very realistic painting of the seascape of the coast. Off to the right side of the room, a set of mahogany table and chairs were arranged. A light refreshment of cookies and tea had already been set out.

Cassandra happily sat in the corner of the couch already enjoying a cookie as her little feet seemed to bounce of their own accord off the edge of the couch while she attempted to wait patiently. While her energy seemed to be barely contained, she was at least minding herself more and actually stayed quiet as they entered. Although that could have just been because she was preoccupied with the cookie.

Duncan allowed their guests to enter first, following behind them and closing the door before he again asked his question. "Now that we are away from the public, I must insist. Just what is it you are seeking an audience about, milord?"
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Augustijn van Osterhout
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The Idian Duke
He followed a long swiftly, glad to be out of the courtyard and away from the growing crowd. It wasn't that he didn't care much for the people, but rather that his business was a little too sensitive for the time being. Footsteps on stone echoed as they went, backed by the feint clinking of buckles, barely audible over the rest. It was a strange feeling for him to be in a castle other than his own, and this one was certainly very different, in terms of both its design and decor.

Augustijn almost felt nervous, something which seemed rather ridiculous to him. He'd been in far worse situations than this. Was he really unsettled by being treated as a guest? Even though he could tell the steward was rather suspicious of he and his group, he'd been better received here than at many other courts prior to today. Upon passing through the door into the room, he was first struck by the luxury on display. The room was warm, filled by a crackling fire, and the seating looked more than comfortable. It was a very welcoming space, he thought, something he'd not seen enough of recently.

Upon the fine couch, seeming pleased with the sweet treat she was eating, sat the young girl. Though she still seemed overly-happy, she was also a little more reserved. Perhaps she'd been instructed to say nothing, or perhaps cookies were even more interesting to unannounced guests. In truth, it mattered very little. He wasn't sure that the girl would play much of a role in the discussions to be had, for she'd doubtful have much if any knowledge of the kind of dealings he was about today. What puzzled him was that he'd not heard mention of anyone but her. Was the man here actually a regent? The girl was clearly too young to rule herself, but Augustijn would have expected another family member to have pushed a claim if there was no other in line before her. It was odd, indeed, and it certainly complicated matters, but he was stuck for options at the moment.

He smiled to the girl, then turned as the man spoke, inadvertently letting out a small sigh. There was no way he could avoid putting off giving an answer to the question any longer, which meant he'd be going into this a little less prepared than he would have liked. Still, politics was all about playing games, and he'd had much time to practice that, if nothing else.

"Yes, of course, I suppose it's right that you know. I came here seeking support, actually. I realise that it is more customary to to send an envoy, but my situation makes that rather difficult. The only people who know of my whereabouts, as far as I know, are yourselves and the few that I have traveled with."

"Though in truth," he continued, looking from the man to the girl and back again, "I'm not altogether sure just exactly who I am to be addressing. This arrangement is not what I was expecting and..oh, do forgive me, but I haven't actually asked who you are." It was not necessarily rude, the man appeared to be a servant of some kind, but Augustijn had learned early on that a difference in status was no reason to treat someone poorly. He glanced to the side as Marja made her way past him, sitting down near the girl and giving her a smile, but making sure to keep a fair distance. Augustijn had made very clear to everyone that they should do their best to avoid causing any upset, or making themselves look dangerous. Not that, in his mind, it was really possible for his sister to look dangerous. That was probably what was the scariest about her.
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Cassandra
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Cassandra quietly nibbled on her cookie as she listened to them talk. This had to be important or mommy wouldn't be hiding.

Support. It was a simple claim but not really much of an answer. Just what sort of support was he seeking? And why did none other than his party know where he was? Or was this just a lie he had been told to tell? He was beginning to question who he would be discussing his matter with. Of course it would be confusing to him, given the situation. This would surely be something that Morgana would want to handle but the question was whether or not these people could be trusted to have an audience with her or if they would have to go about this in a roundabout way.

"Of course, milord. I'm merely attempting to decide who to bring your issue to. How rude of me. I am Duncan. I oversee the household staff and am the personal servant of the duchess...well as much as I can be of one for the time being."

Cassandra smiled at Marja as she sat near her, but aside from that her attention was on Augustijn and her cookie. She frowned at his words. She kind of understood. She knew support was help. She didn't know what an envoy was. And he said that people didn't know where he was?

"Are you hiding?" she asked with more animation then she had shown since they had entered. She loved hide and seek. "What do you need help with? Can you not find a good spot?"
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Augustijn van Osterhout
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The Idian Duke
Overseeing the household staff? A steward after all, more or less. Did that mean that the girl was in charge? It seemed possible, but still not probable. If she was, that could quite easily work in his favour, but even more easily work against. He thanked Duncan, before his attention was directed towards Cassandra, her youthful voice and innocent words catching him a little off-guard.

"Hiding? No, no, not at all. It's just that sometimes it is better if you are free to do the things you need to do without others stopping you. Much like skipping a harpsichord lesson, one could say," he said with a friendly smile. "The problem is more that I have a good spot - not to hide in, of course - but other people seem to want to take it for themselves."

It felt odd to explain his predicament in such terms, but then it was odd to be talking about a serious matter with someone so young, too. He ran a hand through his hair, still remaining on his feet, trying to work out what to make of the situation. Maybe this was just a trick or a test? He still found it hard to believe that this girl should have any business beyond taking her lessons and petting her horses, yet here he was presented with her as if she herself was in charge of matters. At least, that was as far as he could tell. He noted that she'd seemed much more interested in what he was saying now, but if she viewed it as merely a game, that was understandable.

A game. He forced himself not to chuckle. That's all politics is, is it not?

It was then that a thought occurred to him and Augustijn turned back to Duncan. "You mentioned something about a prince's guardian, and that I might have some link to that. What did you mean?" He looked at the man's face, watching for any signs. He was sure that any answer he'd get would be limited at best, yielding only what was absolutely necessary. But he was used to looking for cues that would suggest something was being hidden, even if it wouldn't really give him any idea what. The matter was very peculiar to him and it still bothered him that Marja knew more than she had originally let on. That was something they would discuss at length in private, but that could wait. For now, he was more concerned with finding out what this man knew and how it affected him and, more importantly, which of his brothers was involved. Across from him, Marja shifted uncomfortably in her seat. He frowned, but said nothing more, choosing to wait on Duncan's response.
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Morgana
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The Dark Duchess
Cassandra had unknowingly asked the right questions but she had been far too innocent about it. It did gain her at least some bit of understanding though. He wasn't in hiding per say. But he was being limited and trying to compete for something. What help was it that he was seeking from them then? From the question that he asked of Duncan, it would appear that her very apt servant had already made the connection, but that the ex-Duke knew nothing of it. What part did he play in the grand scheme of things now? What did he know about what was going on? Could he be trusted? She would love so much to be able to trust him. To not have to be a wraith hidden away within the castle. But she would not risk her daughter. And Marja's sudden uncomfort at his question was not lost on her. She would have to find someway to speak with him without her present. If only she could get into his mind, this would be so much easier!

Cassandra frowned down at the cookie in her hands as she thought over his answer. "They don't sound like nice people," she murmured more to herself than anyone else.

"It's not a common family name and given that you shared it, I was under the impression that you were a relative of Constantijn van Osterhout, the little prince of Avalon's guardian. The prince, after all, is about the same age as our young duchess."

Same age indeed. They needed to tread carefully here lest they draw their own conclusions. That was if they hadn't already.

"My mommy lived in Avalon. She liked pretty dresses like me. Did you know her?" Cassie asked Marja, since Augustijn seemed more interested in talking to Duncan.

Morgana barely breathed. It was not a line of thought that she would have encouraged, but perhaps it would serve to test the waters as it were. She needed to know where she stood with these two at least in memory.
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The young girl's response was quite amusing. Naturally, in his own opinion, they were not nice people. Of course they would deny this and say the same about himself. Some days he wondered if anyone was nice at all, but then, that really would depend on how one defined nice to begin with. He nodded his head in response, though he wasn't sure she was watching, then turned back to Duncan as the man spoke again.

It took all his effort not to react to the words as the man spoke his brother's name. What did Constantijn have to do with this? What little prince, exactly? He had no knowledge of his brother having a young charge, nor did it seem like the kind of task the man would willingly accept, but it occurred to him that he'd seen Constantijn only sparingly; most of his dealings had been with Valentijn and Marja since he'd returned to Idia. What had his brother got himself into during Augustijn's absence? How much did Valentijn know? The man had been cagey the few times they'd had a truly serious conversation, but Augustijn had put that down to the strained relationship brought about by having to rule (such as it were) in his brother's absence. More importantly, what did Marja know? He looked across to her again, but she wouldn't meet his gaze. He grew more and more uncomfortable.

"I must tell you that I am not sure what you mean. Constantijn is my brother, but I know of no prince. Perhaps you are mistaken? Who is this prince?" he didn't mean to sound demanding, but the frustration he felt at having so much kept from him led his tone down a path he hadn't intended. He locked eyes with Duncan, studying the man. "Has my brother been here before me?" he asked, not quite sure what he would do with the information if he even got an answer.

Upon hearing the girl's question, Marja turned and tilted her head. She knew her, of course. She had many memories, thought it had been quite some time since any of them had come to mind. Nodding slowly, she leaned in and lowered her voice. "I did know her, yes, little one. It was a long time ago, now, before you were born," she said with a smile, noting the innocence in the girl's face. It must have been nice to be so young and unburdened by all this mess. It made her feel sorry for the girl, really. Marja held no title, yet the politicking was a drain on her. She couldn't imagine having the responsibility as power as well as all of the affairs she'd dealt with in the years gone. At least the girl might have time to enjoy herself before things got too serious. Getting to her feet, she took two cookies from the table, before returning the couch and offering one out to Cassandra. "Just don't tell my brother, yet. He's got a lot to think about as it is. Can you promise me that?" she asked, looking the girl in the eye. She expected a confrontation later. She didn't need it made any worse than she already knew it would be.
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Morgana silently slipped around the edge of the room, beginning to pay far more attention to the men's conversation now. Augustijn's reaction had been genuine. For while he had so expertly kept his face schooled, his response had been all too obvious. He knew nothing. They had to have been keeping him in the dark, especially if Marja's reaction was anything to go by.

There was no mistaking the confidence in the servant's reply. "No, milord, I am quite sure that your brother is Kristian's guardian. Arrangements were made for both children before the King's death." How could he not know this? The boy's guardian was his own brother. The king had been his cousin. When asked if his brother had been here before him, the response was immediate and undeniably harsh. "No. It was my mistress's wish that he not be welcome here." She had not approved of how he was using the child to his own ends, let alone how he was raising him.

Duncan spared a momentary glance for Cassandra then before turning his attention back to the lord before him. He lowered his voice so as not to be overheard by the man's sister who was busy with the child. "Just what support is it that you are seeking here? The child's ability may be limited at the moment but there may be allies here yet."

There most certainly are. All he had to do was say the words. If he meant no harm to her daughter, she would do everything in her power. He had never sought to use her for his own gain. He had truly loved her. He just has no memory of it.
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