Vows of Blood and Honor
Author's Note: It should be explained that I liked Joseph Feines as Shakespeare and we adopted the idea of Shakespeare in our world only we named him Tredorian. We said he came from the Silver Marches to Cormyr.
"Peace, I'll stop your mouth." Benedict said with a both tender and wicked smile. His lips pressed to Beatrice's and did indeed silence her for the length of the kiss and several moments after it.
Through the teasing and merriment afterwards Benedict lost his smile only once whilst contemplating Don Jon and then cajoled his liege into a reluctant smile of his own. They were both swept away into the dancing and singing as their friends descended upon them.
The dance led round the stage and merrily off it through the crowded theatre and finally out of the side doors. The laughter faded from the audiences ears though everyone waited in the silent hope that perhaps there was one more line? It was not to be. The curtain fell, bringing everyone back to the cold earth with a thud, and after a moment of stunned joyous awe, the applause erupted.
The curtain rose again, and the cast stood to make their bows. From one of the choice balconied boxes close above the stage the royal family sat as was their custom for the opening night of each play. With them sat Briar and Dragon, both beside their sweethearts clapping enthusiastically.
Under the noise of the applause Briar leant close to Sebastian and whispered. "Dare I voice the opinion that the play resembles to a certain extent, the events that unwound here half a year back?"
Sebastian's deep blue eyes gleamed appreciatively as her movement unbeknownst to her gave him a glimpse of her cleavage. "Asrai I think, had a hand in the writing of it, or at least told a tale to the author and he embroidered it suitably."
Briar smiled down at the rippling golden-maned girl who curtseyed on the stage. "She is Beatrice to the life. Her gift is remarkable."
"And not completely unsuspected." Sebastian murmured. He nodded at his parents who were smiling with pride. As he leant forward he caught a glimpse of a dark haired dark eyed figure standing watchfully in the wings of the stage. As if feeling his glance she looked up and jerked her chin in a casual nod, drifting back into the shadows.
Briar tucked her arm through Sebastian's and laid her head on his shoulder. "I think she did wonderfully." She murmured. It was rather early in the morning and though she'd bathed and changed her gown after their sparring session she was still inclined to wish for sleep.
Sebastian unwound her arm and slipped his own around her waist, pulling her from her seat on the chaise beside him into his lap. "She did indeed." He agreed cuddling his love closely. Mischief colored his sapphire eyes a brighter hue as his hand nimbly unbound her hair and let it spill down her back in a long fall of ebony.
"Sebastian." Briar laughed into his neck. "Why do you do that?"
"Because." Sebastian smiled and his hand flexed on her waist. Briar pulled her head back and looked up at him. Dark green eyes asked again. The prince smiled again and his other hand rubbed the back of her neck. "I love to see your hair down, it reminds me of the nights you used to sleep in my bed. I'd lie awake, watch you, and I was amazed at how happy I was knowing that you trusted me enough to sleep while I guarded you."
Briar brushed her lips over his jaw and smiled. "That's all?" She teased him. "Nothing else?"
Sebastian's smile widened and he hoped he didn't appear unbearably smug. "Of course my Rose there are also the delightful memories of our private lessons." He murmured. "And seeing you clothed in nothing but your hair."
Briar blushed, the tips of her ears turning pink along with the skin over her cheekbones. Sebastian had taught her a great deal about her body and his, though he left the pace of their lessons up to her. "You liked…" She whispered almost shyly, her blush deepening as she remembered how he'd encouraged her to explore his body.
Sebastian drew her closer, pressing her body down to his, letting her feel how much the memory alone excited him. When he'd pleasured her with his mouth she had gone wild. But she had been intrigued by the idea that she could do the same for him. And she had done so…clumsily at first but so lovingly and eagerly that he'd been completely undone. "Oh yes," he whispered even more softly. "Oh very much love."
Briar lifted trembling fingers to his face. "And you don't mind…" She asked.
"I've told you." Sebastian kissed her gently. "And told you." He brushed his lips over her cheek. "And told you." He trailed a kiss down her neck and reveled in her sigh and shiver. "I will wait forever for you."
"I love you." Briar whispered and lifted her mouth for his kiss.
"Ehrumph…" Someone cleared their throat in the doorway. Sebastian looked around Briar and grinned at Andreas, Lorelei and Dragon. Briar's brother didn't look exactly thrilled at seeing Briar in Sebastian's lap but he didn't say anything about it.
"Private discussion?" Andreas asked with a grin.
"Actually before we digressed we had been talking about the play." Briar said with a faint blush still in her cheeks.
"Seemed a bit familiar didn't it." Dragon observed. "Though I confess to truly enjoying Tredorian's Don Jon." His slow wicked smile spread over his lips as Lorelei entered. "And his Beatrice was truly a wicked wench."
"It was very amusing." Lorelei nodded. "But Benedict was tedious."
"How can you say that?" Andreas protested. "He was hilarious!"
"He was insipidly handsome." Lorelei retorted. "Though he had some funny lines."
Dragon shook his head and extended a hand to his love, pulling her gently down beside him on the couch and keeping her hand clasped within his own. "I quite enjoyed him, though I found a few of his observations on women disturbingly…" He paused and Briar laughed.
"A bit familiar?" She finished and laughed again when Dragon nodded.
"And exactly who do you think Hero was supposed to be?" Lorelei taunted laughingly. "Fainting away and pretending to be dead?"
"I am not so insipid, nor so young and foolish." Briar returned. "Nor is Sebastian as easily swayed by guile as Claudio."
"Though I am as foolish, just not inclined to display it in public." Sebastian pointed out. He explained at their inquiring glances that he had accused Briar of exactly the same thing in private as he had at Court.
"But he realized he had been deceived even as I was protesting my innocence." Briar defended him. "And they had to use magic to do it. He wouldn't have believed it otherwise."
"My sweet constant love." Sebastian kissed her affectionately.
Dragon rolled his eyes. "Thank the gods all that foolishness is over." He said. "And Tredorian's play is not completely true to life." He grinned at Asrai who stood in the door. "And here is our tale bearer now, along with her Lady Faith."
Asrai made a face at him and Faith rolled her eyes. "I don't bear tales." She told him taking a seat by the fireplace. "But rumors were already flying about what happened during the summer. I simplified and clarified a few things and Tredorian did the rest."
"Ah, was part of your simplifying making Briar and I look like foolish children?" Sebastian inquired with a self mocking smile.
"And what was I supposed to say? That you aren't the fool you pretend to be? How would that have gone over?" Asrai retorted sweetly. Beside her, Faith curled up in a deceptively relaxed position, maintaining her watchful silence.
"Touché," Sebastian conceded. "But why make my Rose look so very…" Words failed him and he shrugged.
"Who else would be attracted to someone as mawkish and youthful as Claudio?" Asrai rolled her eyes. "In truth, Tredorian knew of The Black Rose, but he didn't want to complicate everything so much explaining something he didn't really understand himself."
Briar's laugh rippled from her throat. "How The Black Rose could truly love a courtier's courtier?" She asked.
"To be blunt yes." Asrai told her.
That startled a laugh from Sebastian and he shook his head. "I am undone." He said mournfully. A knock at the door had them all looking up and the footman who stood there bowed respectfully before crossing the room to hand a roll of parchment to Sebastian. "Thank you Brian." The second son murmured and unrolled it as the servant retreated a few paces. Reading it Sebastian looked up. "I don't think there will be an immediate reply thank you." He told the footman courteously and the man took this as his cue to exit.
"What is it love?" Briar queried curiously, asking the question that was on the tip of his siblings tongues.
"It seems that an elven gentleman has arrived at the embassy. He gives his name as Vidanalas Dhulouragne. The ambassador wonders if this is the elf we have been searching for since the man claims they sent word of a daughter he left in Cormyr."
In his lap he felt Briar stiffen and shift as if to rise. Gently he set her on her feet and rose. "Would you like to go and see him now?" He asked quietly. "I can arrange to have him brought to the palace if you would rather."
Dragon who had wrapped an arm around Lorelei and ignored all conversation around him for the moment tore his dark gaze from his beloved and looked up at his sister and Sebastian. "You might prefer that Briar. You are uncertain enough. Meet with him on familiar ground."
Briar nodded absently. "Perhaps toward mid-afternoon?" She asked. "Several of your rather frivolous 'allies' in court had been asking for a private concert. I agreed to grant them one after luncheon, but after that I would be free to meet with him."
"And the music will help to calm your nerves as well." Andreas pointed out. "If you will all excuse me, I'll go tell Mother and Dad, that way they won't be surprised by any turn of events." He rose to put his words to action, leaving the room.
Briar looked at Sebastian and then at Dragon and Lorelei in confusion. "What did he mean about your parents being surprised?" She asked.
Asrai grinned and looked at her older sister who sighed. "It is a family legend how our grandfather first met our parents." She said.
Lorelei groaned and buried her head in Dragon's shoulder. "Please…not this again." She muttered, her cheeks flaming red.
Sebastian's wicked grin fueled Briar's curiosity and she tilted her head inquiringly. The prince brought her hand to his lips and held it within his grasp, his fingers stroking her knuckles as he told her. "Grandfather used an elven tapestry portal to enter the inn where our parents secretly married. He emerged in our Father's room and had hidden himself there. When he heard Dad come in with a lady, some wench he assumed Dad was planning to bed he remained hidden. Dad had apparently gotten Mother partially undressed and was raising her skirts with lustful intentions when she realized someone else was watching them. She drew a dagger she'd hidden and demanded whoever it was emerge. Grandfather hadn't realized his very young daughter was romantically involved with the 'human princeling'."
Briar groaned her appreciation of the embarrassment all three parties must have suffered and Asrai laughed continuing the story. "Mother apparently was half naked and holding a dagger in her hand when her father emerged from the shadows. To hear him tell it, she looked just as regal with her bodice undone as she does in full court attire. Dad recovered fairly quickly but Grandfather had gotten a good shock at how adult his daughter actually was. He'd last seen her when she was only a baby."
"And Andreas thinks something similar will happen now?" Briar asked incredulously.
Lorelei rolled her eyes again. "Lets just say that our family as an embarrassing history of getting into situations that can be interpreted in the worst possible light especially when it comes to first impressions." She said dryly, her cheeks a bright pink.
"Really?" Faith drawled. "I can't imagine why." She looked at Asrai and smiled slowly, enjoying the girls sudden blush and making the other four wonder what was causing it.
Briar smiled and nervousness tinted her expression. "I think I had better do some practicing." She told them. "Something tells me this will be a chaotic day."
A small boy wearing the livery of a royal page entered the room where the elven male stood. "I have a message for Lord Vidanalas Dhulouragne." He said making an effort to pronounce the name correctly.
"I am he." The dark green eyes of the elf regarded the boy.
"His Highness Prince Sebastian Obarskyr requests that if it is at your convenience attend him at the palace this afternoon at the third hour. He can offer information as to your daughter's whereabouts."
The elf considered the notion and then nodded. "You may tell Prince Sebastian that I will be prompt." He said.
The page bobbed a bow and with the repressed energy of most small boys turned and hurried from the room leaving a black haired elf with cold chiseled features regarding the fire burning in the hearth.
The thought was strange to contemplate, that he had a daughter he knew nothing about, not even her mother's name. He might never have known had an enthusiastic and enterprising moon elf junior attaché to the ambassador not thought to inquire of him if he had ever visited Cormyr in his younger days. Though the names were not the same the very naïve elf had felt them like enough to risk offending with the inquiry.
At the same time, another had sent him a message saying that he fit a description in resemblance, religion and profession, as well as having been known to have traveled through Cormyr almost twenty years ago, might he once have been known as Vidan Dhu?
Vidan could dismiss the first inquiry as coincidence, the second, coming as it did from an etrielle whose name was respected among the moon elf followers of the Dark Maiden, could not be easily ignored.
A simplistically gilt edged mirror was hung on the wall of the sitting room. It was a lovely piece of art, delicately etched with a flowering vine around the edge. For the moment the elf disregarded the beauty of the piece and gazed at his reflection. Among the elves, he was considered handsome, though not as much as some. Certainly he had none of the Moonflower clan's coloration, sapphire hair and cornflower eyes. But he was still an elf and no elf could be considered unattractive.
From the mirror a pale skinned male regarded him with a frown. The features were chiseled and elegant, the skin so white the entire visage might have been carved from marble. Until he smiled, or until his face moved with the animation of speech he could almost be considered cruel looking. Black hair contrasted starkly with his skin, and his eyes were nearly as dark, a deep green, darker than forest depths.
He was tall for an elf, by human standards, nearly reaching six feet in height. His form was wiry and graceful, in his profession he could be no less. Elegantly clothed in a dark green tunic and black green hose he could be mistaken for no other than he was. On his right arm, the tattoo of his guild stretched over his skin; the panther, an elegant dangerous great cat. The rapier he fought with was exquisite and hung from his belt as if part of him.
He turned from his reflection, wondering if his child resembled him at all, or if she had only the old name he'd used in wandering to offer as proof of her blood. Vidan caught sight of the flute that he'd laid on the table and smiled in spite of himself. Though no bladesinger could ever truly give up their chosen blade or profession, he had forged another path, traveling one road on top of another. The music of the goddess he followed was so strong and he felt the call of it so intensely that he had sought training from every elven minstrel he knew and a few he approached knowing them only by reputation.
In the end, after many years, he was not only a bladesinger, he was a bard. Vidan smiled again. Many of the minstrels who'd taught him had felt he must be disappointed at learning he had no talent for spellsong, or whatever talent he had was turned another way. For so long he had been a bladesinger, one with blade and magic, he could not channel the weave differently. Vidan had never cared for that, never sought it in fact. For him, there was only joy in music, the only magic in it the beauty it created, and the sweetness of the sound.
Taking up the flute he breathed into it and felt his heart soar with the sound. His face transformed from cold marble to warm flesh as he gave himself over to the joy of the music.