I never thought I'd write this. Seriously. LynKent is down there with all the pairings I'd say I could never see myself writing. SethEirika is pretty far down my list too. I guess I don't get inspired much by the KnightPrincess pairings. But hey, anything for a Deviantart Secret Santa giftfic :)
Lyn owned few personal possessions. There was her dress, the blue one from Sacae she wore even now in Castle Caelin as its princess. The care was so obvious in the even stitching that it sometimes gave Lyn a brief urge to learn how to sew before she remembered that all the Caelin tailors were unfamiliar with the Sacaen style. There was her hair band, the one she herself put on everyday despite the servants insisting on helping her. There were her boots, the ones with worn soles and stained leather, but she wore them anyway because her father had made them for her. There were her earrings too, little round stones that dangled from her ears. They did not shine as brightly as those of other noble ladies but Lyn kept them all the same because her mother had adored them.
Everyone in the castle remarked upon her dress except her little legion and her grandfather who claimed she could wear a flour sack and still look ravishing. The kinder servants would say Lyn looked exotic. Of course, things like performing monkeys and Illian whores were also commonly described as exotic, but Lyn acknowledged that the servants were trying to be nice.
But the nobility had a different idea about tact. Visiting nobles always put in a word or two about Lyn's foreign appearance. Some were genuinely curious about her culture but others seemed to want nothing more than proof that Sacae was the land of really was no need for a reminder that Lyn barely belonged in higher society, so she tried to pass it off as nothing. Of course, there were the few who would brazenly ask Lyn if she ever ate raw meat. The answer somehow always surprised them.
"Never?" said a noble lady fluttering her feather-lined fan.
"Never," said Lyn as she had so many times before. The other theory Lycian nobles liked to entertain was that Sacaens roamed the plains naked. Perhaps the blatant insults were better described as ignorance.
The result of the prejudice and haughtiness so evident in upper class was that half-Sacaen Lyn didn't mix well with other nobles. She did not wear the gold and silver that other ladies wore in abundance. The smoothness of silk was alien to Lyn; in the plains, leather and cotton were the norm. She could not look at a corset for turning away in disgust at the thought of willing self-suffocation.
Lyn fought well and could hold her own against any man, but she did not enunciate perfectly like the other ladies did and her etiquette was nowhere near as refined. Some whispered that she was too brusque for a husband but Lyn ignored them. What did gossips know of love aside from torrid affairs that ended in empty sighs and arranged marriages that led to years of quiet suffering?
Lyn missed the simplicity of the plains the most whenever she was surrounded by frowning nobles. In Sacae, she could see the faraway horizon without velvet curtains to block her view and breathe in the fresh air without choking on pungent perfumes. No gossips, no need to impress nobles she had never met before and she would likely never meet again. In Sacae, there was only the wind at her back and the grass beneath her feet.
- - -
The date of Lyn's first banquet was approaching. It was a gathering of nobles from all across Lycia and this year, Caelin drew the lot and would host the banquet. Lyn could never understand what the big fuss was about. It was just a dinner attended by nobles showing off their status and wealth, as far as she knew. Thankfully, dutiful Kent was there to help her out.
Her most trusted knight had an immense sense of responsibility that was as rare as his red hair. Kent was a man who exuded reliability from the tilt of his chin to the way he stood. His feet would be slightly apart, toes facing out, and he looked like nothing could push him away from her side. If Lyn had a complaint, it would be that he didn't smile often enough.
"This banquet celebrates an annual Lycian event," explained Kent. "It's common amongst everyone, even the peasantry. Traditionally, it is a time for families to get together. Usually, gifts are exchanged during this holiday."
"Gifts? For what reason?"
"To spread cheer and good will."
"What an interesting custom," said Lyn. She smiled and said in a teasing tone, "So you'll spare me some of your cheer and good will?"
"But of course," said Kent. He took the request seriously and bowed while Lyn laughed. She told him afterwards that she was just joking. Surely he knew her well enough to know she thought little of material wealth. Kent assured her he completely understood, but with his poker face, it was hard to tell.
The banquet was two weeks away, yet somehow, all the preparation felt like some kind of hectic, headless race. Lyn spent a lot of time meeting a tailor who took her measurements while commenting on her beautiful figure -- so uncommon for a barbaric Sacaen. Kent always stood outside the door despite whatever argument Lyn came up with.
"Honestly," said Lyn, "I'm sure you have better things to do than make sure my dress fittings are uninterrupted." (She wished they were.)
But Kent was stubborn. He shook his head and said, "I must insist that you let me do my duty."
The seamstress worked surprisingly fast. In a day, all the fabrics were picked out, chosen because they matched her eyes so well and very comfortable to boot. Indeed, the material slipped through Lyn's fingers like water, a trait said to be desirable in highly-fashionable clothing.
"You'll feel like you're wearing nothing at all," said the seamstress with her head held high and a note of confidence in her voice.
Lyn, however, didn't really care how lightweight it would feel. She rubbed the fabric between her fingers, noting how thin it was. "Won't it tear easily?" asked Lyn.
The seamstress replied, "That's why you'll need to be careful, milady; I'll have none of that sword fighting."
The part Lyn hated the most was wearing the dress as it was hemmed and fitted to her body. Why she had to stand there and endure it for hours Lyn could not fathom. Whenever she fidgeted, the seamstress would scold her. Lyn had to stand absolutely still. The term for doing so out on the battlefield or the plains would be "sitting duck", but of course, talk of war did not become a woman of her standing.
When the dress was done with trimmings and all, Lyn thought the worst was over. She stood there dumbly when the seamstress told her to return again.
"But the dress is done!" said Lyn.
The seamstress clucked her tongue. "Yes, but there are other things to consider, milady."
In the days that followed, Lyn felt like she was being trussed and dressed up much like a roast boar. She did not enjoy the thought of being handled like food, but what could she do? Politics were a strange game to her but she knew enough to know that if she did not look presentable, her grandfather would be shamed.
To that end, Lyn bit back her cries when they pulled her hair into a tight braid. She did not cough when they applied generous amounts of powder to her face. She frowned at the jewelry that was to replace her Sacaen accessories but did nothing more than scowl. When they told her they would do all of it again just before the banquet, Lyn gave a polite nod even though she felt like breaking a few chairs.
Perhaps the strangest and most vexing part of it all was the beauty treatment, otherwise known as old wives' tales of how to cling to whatever youth and beauty they had. Lyn couldn't help but fidget within the buttermilk-filled bathtub.
Her lady-in-waiting said, "It's better if you hold still, milady."
"How long do I have to stay in here?" said Lyn. She didn't usually whine but being seen naked within a tub of what she would normally eat with her morning toast was not an experience she wanted to prolong.
Her lady-in-waiting said, "Be patient, milady. It's worth it."
That didn't answer her question. This was another thing that made Lyn long for the plains. The plains people had a habit of giving straight answers and they rarely talked around her questions. In Lycia, the streets were lined with walls that told her, "This is where you must go, not there, nor over there, but here and only here." She missed the open plains, the sloping hills, and the seas of grass that felt like home the way Lycia never did for her.
Afterwards, Lyn met Kent at the door as she always did. It occurred to Lyn that even if she was the one who had to sit naked in a tub of food, Kent was the one who waited for her alone in the hallway, nodding politely as everyone asked the same old question, "Are you waiting for Lady Lyndis?" It was a wonder that he didn't get tired standing there for hours and hours. Lyn noticed that he always seemed to be standing tall, back straight and eyes alert as if he had stood at attention the whole time. Seeing how it was Kent, he probably did.
"Honestly Kent," said Lyn, "just because I have to get myself 'beautified' doesn't mean you have to suffer too. I'm sure you have better things to do."
"As a matter of fact, I'm here to make sure you receive your gifts," said Kent.
"From the lords of neighbouring territories, Lady Lyn. Shall we go?"
Lyn sighed. "Let's get it over with," she said. Kent bowed again and they left.
As it turned out, most of the gifts from the lords of neighbouring territories were bolts of fabrics and jewelry. Lyn had never heard of any of those territories, much less met the lords, but every fabric came from some renown tailor or another and the jewelry was all set in precious Illian stones that Lyn never knew existed.
"What do I do with it all?" said Lyn.
"They're gifts," said a servant.
That didn't answer her question.
- - -
Days later and the morning of the banquet came knocking on her door. Remembering her ordeal during the past two weeks, Lyn prepared herself for what she knew would one long torture session. The powder pads might as well have been ironing brands. Ten hours later (ten!), Lyn stood in front of the mirror, transformed.
Her bodice fit perfectly, her hair was done up into the braided bun that was in style at the moment, and the powder turned her complexion a perfect, creamy white. Every ribbon was in place, every strand of hair tucked away neatly, and every square inch of her skin was flawless. Around her, the servants wiped the sweat from their brow and nodded their approval.
One of them smiled and said, "Ravishing! Look at yourself, milady, no one would think you a Sacaen!"
Lyn forced a smile but she couldn't bring herself to say anything. She allowed herself to be escorted to the door where Kent stood outside, back straight and eyes alert.
"You've waited for me again," said Lyn.
"Of course, milady," said Kent. "The earlier guests have arrived. Would you like me to accompany you to the dining hall?"
"Please do," said Lyn a little too quickly. Dutiful Kent walked by her side all the way to the giant doors. Her hand was already wrapped around the bronze doork handle when Kent cleared his throat.
Lyn looked at him. "Yes, Kent?"
"I've... a gift for you," said Kent with just the slightest hint of an uncharacteristic hesitation.
In spite of herself, Lyn blushed. "Oh no, I couldn't possibly -- I haven't prepared any gifts for anyone else!"
"I insist, milady. I... thought hard on this gift."
"Oh... well -- if you've gone through that much trouble -- rude to refuse, wouldn't it?"
Kent held out a package Lyn hadn't noticed before. She took it, feeling her face grow hot and redden. Maybe it was a good thing that the corridor was dim. Lyn smiled and said, "Thank you Kent. Do you want me to open it now?"
"Please do," said Kent.
Lyn opened the package. Her smile faltered when she saw what it was. "It's beautiful," said Lyn. Now she really was glad that the corridor was dim.
It was a blue silk shawl. The fabric flowed through her hands much like the same fabrics the seamstress had told her not to fight in. Little Illian stones she had never heard of were sewn into the edge. It really was beautiful.
Lyn fought her disappointment. It was Kent, after all, her patient, door-guarding knight.
"If I could be so bold," said Kent as he reached over and took the shawl. He draped it around her head and shoulders making a loose knot around her neck. "This is the style that many Etrurian ladies favour."
"I see," was all Lyn said. So now she was not only Lycian and Sacaen, but Etrurian as well? At the very least, it hid the braided bun that Lyn wasn't very fond of. Lyn sighed softly and looked up at Kent. Dutiful, reliable Kent. "Thank you," she said with a small smile. "It was thoughtful of you to get me a gift."
Kent nodded. "Shall we go in? Lord Eliwood is already here."
Kent grabbed hold of the door handles and pushed. The grand oaken doors creaked open. Light spilled out into the corridor. Lyn blinked. The dining hall had never looked like this before. The tables were pushed to the side and were stacked with mountains of food and drink. Crystal chandeliers hung from the walls and the ceiling, lighting up every corner in the room. Lyn noted the darkness outside the windows. Had the preparations really gone on for so long?
There were already a few ladies and lords scattered around the room, chatting and enjoying some hors d'oeuvres. At the back of the room, Lyn saw her grandfather talking with Eliwood. Lord Eliwood was another redheaded man and Lyn had always felt that he was different from other lords. Maybe redheaded men just had a tendency to be kind and chivalrous.
When Lyn and Kent approached, Marquess Caelin and Eliwood turned. Eliwood smiled and said, "Well, what a lovely woman! I don't think I've ever had the honour of meeting you."
Lyn couldn't help but smile. Eliwood was a man of good humour and it was contagious. But before Lyn could say anything, Kent, poker face and all, said, "This is Lady Marie, cousin thrice-removed of Lord Hector. It's her first time out of Ostia."
Eliwood winked at a bewildered Lyn and said, "Well, Caelin is a beautiful place and I hope you enjoy your stay. I hear the princess is a wonderful, strong woman."
Marquess Caelin looked at his granddaughter with a knowing twinkle in his eye. "Forgive an old man his bias, but I have to say she's more than just wonderful and strong."
Kent bowed. "If you'll excuse me, Lady Lyn requested that I show Lady Marie around."
"But of course!" said Eliwood with a smile. Lyn felt confused as Kent led her somewhere out of earshot from anyone else.
"What's going on?" asked Lyn. She looked back. Eliwood caught her eye and waved. Lyn waved back before fixing Kent with what she hoped was an urgent glare that would get the truth out of him.
Kent said, "I'm not blind, milady. Nor is your grandfather."
Lyn sighed as her ever-dwindling patience hung on by a thread. "That doesn't -- would you please tell me what's happening? Who's Lady Marie?"
Kent cleared his throat. There was that rare hint of hesitation again. "Please, think of it this way, milady. Being the princess of the host territory, Lady Lyn would not be able to leave freely. However, what if Lady Marie of Ostia decided she needed some fresh air? And if she should mysteriously disappear during the night when there are too many lords and ladies here to keep track of them all?"
Everything dawned on Lyn. She touched the edge of her blue silk shawl and realized she must have looked nothing like she usually did; she was not known for being a princess who indulged in make-up and high fashion. "You -- this was all a plan? Lord Eliwood and grandfather as well?"
"Forgive me, but Marquess Caelin and I conspired on this together. He told Lord Eliwood as well, I believe."
"Oh... but will no one notice that I'm gone? I'm supposed to help grandfather host the banquet."
"Marquess Caelin will tell them you're elsewhere. Sick, perhaps. Lord Eliwood will vouch for him and you'll be free to leave so long as no one figures out Lady Marie doesn't exist." Kent paused before saying, "But of course, there will still be gossip as to your whereabouts. If milady finds it inconvenient --"
Lyn wasn't listening. She was already nudging Kent in the direction of the door. "C'mon! Why are we still here?"
Sneaking out of the castle proved surprisingly easy. The guards all let Lyn pass when they saw Kent escorting her. No one had ever heard of a Lady Marie from Ostia but it turned out that Hector had a lot of thrice-removed cousins. Too many to notice a fictional one, in fact.
As soon as Lyn stepped outside of the castle town's walls, she kicked off her high heels, slipped off her gloves and stripped down to her petticoat. Her hands hovered around the shawl, but in the end, Lyn decided to drape it around her neck so she could unbraid her hair. When everything was tucked away behind some barrels and she felt light and unencumbered, Lyn stretched her arms high above her head. It was a shame that the servants' hard work would all go to waste, but Lyn couldn't resist the opportunity for short trip around the countryside.
"This is wonderful!" exclaimed Lyn. "I've been stuck inside the castle for two weeks straight, they didn't even let me go to the practice grounds!"
"Yes, it was plain to see that you didn't enjoy staying indoors. Your grandfather is a considerate man."
She turned to Kent and playfully twirled a corner of her shawl. "I don't think you give yourself enough credit.
Kent cleared his throat again. "Well... if milady wills it, I'll do anything. Is there anything else you need?"
"Tell me, Kent, does a knight let his lady wander the night alone?"
"Well... I've two swords here, milady. One for myself and one for you. If you would rather have some time alone, I understand."
Lyn rolled her eyes and grabbed Kent's arm, ignoring his wide-eyed protests all the while. "Come now, you're far too dutiful and reliable to let me wander the countryside defenceless and vulnerable."
"You're hardly defenceless --"
"Don't I look the part?"
"-- and I pity whoever mistakes you for a weak noblewoman."
"Do you just not want to be alone with me?"
Kent argued, "I'm afraid it would tarnish your reputation. What if someone notices I'm gone, just like you are? Think of the gossips!"
"I'm afraid I don't care," replied Lyn with a mischievous smile. With her hair flowing loosely around her shoulders and down her back, Lyn said, "What if we never get this chance again? Think of the grand time we'll have!"
In the end, Kent said, "If milady wills it."
He gave Lyn a spare cloak and a pair of boots (Kent had obviously thought of everything) and they were off. The two of them travelled through the woods, listening to the sound of rustling leaves and the wind travelling through the branches. Whenever they heard the sound of a carriage passing through, they ducked behind trees and bushes. Lyn giggled when Kent suppressed a sneeze that had him twitching his nose like a rabbit.
It took a while to reach the hills, but Lyn considered it part of the trip. Lyn had to admit that Sacae did not have such beautiful, thick forests. When she reached the top of the hill and looked back at the woods with the wind blowing at her back, she smiled to think of all the walks she could take there with her grandfather.
And Kent, of course.
"Would you like to stay here a moment or would you like to keep on going?" asked Kent.
"This is enough," said Lyn. "It would be wonderful if we could go to Sacae and back, but I don't suppose that's feasible. I have to be back tomorrow morning to tend to my duties, don't I?" Lyn sighed. She settled down in the grass and patted down a spot beside her for Kent who hesitated before taking the offered seat. Lyn stared off into the distance at the grey mountain range that separated Caelin from its neighbours.
"If I had no obligations," said Lyn, "if I had no duties, no grandfather, no one here to hold me back, I would go back to Sacae. Is that selfish of me?"
"No," said Kent. "If milady willed it, I would leave with you."
Lyn looked at Kent who just realized what he had said. He looked away from her and stuttered, "Wh-what I meant was -- "
Lyn just smiled and fingered the edge of her shawl, the blue silk one with Illian gems. "Thank you, Kent, for your gift."
- - -
Early next morning, they sneaked back into Castle Caelin. Lyn nodded politely at the servants who offered her their condolences for her sprained ankle. It was all going fine until one of them suggested that she take lessons on walking in high heels so as to not repeat the tragedy. It was quickly adopted by all the ladies-in-waiting. Before Lyn could get a word in edgewise, they had already planned out where she would take her lessons, who would teach her, and when.
After all the servants left Lyn's bedchamber, Kent knocked at the door. (Lyn guessed he had been waiting out in the hallway.) He cleared his throat, and hesitated only a little before promising he'd be there with her.
That made everything better.
... OOC? Their personalities seem a little off to me but I don't know why. Man, I haven't played FE7 in so long. So anyway, please review (or not) as you see fit :)