Ghosts of the Past
Sebastian had made it all the way to his room when his brother caught up with him. "Sebastian." Andreas said in an exasperated, if tolerant tone, "what in the world do you mean 'Sune's thunderbolts'?"
Sebastian turned and regarded his brother in confusion. Remembering that they were still in the hall and it would most likely be a private conversation he opened his door. "Why don't you come in and have a drink. Something tells me you could use it." The younger prince said wryly.
Andreas nodded emphatically and followed his brother inside. Noting a box with tissue spilling out of it he raised his eyebrows. Sebastian grinned and shrugged his shoulders. "Briar isn't in the habit of purchasing dozens of gowns at a time like our sisters." He explained. "So I have an arrangement with Marie."
His older brother shook his head. "Don't you ever do anything in a straightforward fashion?" He inquired taking a seat and gratefully accepting the glass of amber liquid his brother handed him.
"What and send everyone into palpitations of shock?" Sebastian quipped. "Dad had to do the same thing with Mother when he married her. For a while new clothing just appeared in her wardrobe."
Andreas nodded slowly. "That makes sense, neither one of them had much money growing up, or the time for a dressmaker." He said. Narrowing his eyes at Sebastian he asked. "Now tell me what you meant by that odd remark."
Sebastian seated himself on the couch and leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees. "Andreas, wasn't it the same way with Katrina?" He hesitated slightly before he spoke her name, not wanting to upset the peace they now had between them.
"Out of the blue?" Andreas shook his head slowly. "With Kat, we were friends first, and I wasn't all that conscious of how deep her affections were, not realizing either how deep my own went …and with all the events that surrounded my time in the Western Heart, all the confusion." He looked at Sebastian. "You know sometimes it feels like I went there, and stepped into a story, or one of Asrai's plays. Then I came back and it feels like it never really happened, as if it wasn't real. There's nothing to show I was ever there really. That's why I think I clung to the past for so long, there was nothing to show that our love ever existed. I know that she will always be in my heart, and I believe strongly that I am in hers, but it doesn't seem right that there is nothing to show the world how important she was to me."
Sebastian nodded his understanding carefully keeping his face expressionless as he remembered the green crystal in his desk and the baby boy slowly growing up with his mother unbeknownst to the man who'd sired him. "I know what you mean." He spread his hands slightly when Andreas looked at him. "If I'm successful with one of Raden's errands, if things go as they are supposed to, there's nothing to show I've ever been there. It's like I'm a ghost. Sometimes there's a body, sometimes not. But things go on as if nothing untoward occurred." He shrugged. "But that's the way it has to be." He looked at his brother. "So today was a new experience for you then." He commented.
Andreas blinked at him. "I've never been so immediately attracted to a woman. She could have been the most obnoxious noblewoman in Cormyr and I don't know if I would have cared." He shook his head. "Sune's Thunderbolt's huh?" He raised his eyebrows at his brother. "Is that what it was like for you and Briar?"
Sebastian smiled sweetly thinking of his betrothed. "She hasn't said specifically, but according to Dragon she actually saw me, looked at me, whereas she'd always ignored noblemen." He nodded. "But for me yes. A case of instantly needing to be with her." He shook his head. "Anakin found it hilarious that I was trying to make her my mistress, not that that intention lasted for more than a few days, he told me that I was smitten and he was right."
Andreas grinned. "Lucky for you it was returned." He teased.
Sebastian sobered a bit. "Lucky she decided to return it." He told his brother. "She was resisting with everything in her, being in love with me." He took a deep breath and shook his head. "According to Dragon, it's possible to destroy love, or let it die in your heart, like refusing to water a plant. She could have killed what she felt. Thanks to you going to talk to Dragon, and her strength of spirit, she did not."
Andreas smiled. "I'm glad for you." He told his brother. "I can't imagine you without Briar in your life now. She's changed you."
Sebastian smiled. "Yes. Or rather I've changed because of her." He said thoughtfully. Eyeing his brother his smile widened to a grin. "You are more like Grandfather than you realize you know." He said. "And he and Grandmother could give you a lot of sympathy for what you're feeling now."
"What do you mean?" Andreas sipped his drink and regarded his younger brother curiously.
"Just that Grandmother's first love, Deirdriu and Agnoman's father, wasn't exactly who she expected to fall in love with." Sebastian grinned. "They were friends, and they gradually realized they were in love too." He tilted his head. "Like you and Katrina. She truly loved him. But when she met Grandfather she said she'd never felt anything like that in her life. It was like something ignited between the two of them."
"What about Grandfather?" Andreas inquired with a tilt of his head. "Did he feel the same way?"
Sebastian's grin turned positively wicked. "I'm told it was as much a shock to him as it was to Grandmother." He smiled. "And Dad and Mother were the same for all their cavorting with various Lords" He stopped and looked at his brother. "You know about our parents and Lady Kristin right?"
Andreas groaned. "Oh yeah, I've been told." He rolled his eyes. "I don't think anyone hasn't heard the stories about Mother and Dad and their… adventures. Thank the gods they've settled down."
Sebastian regarded him as if he'd lost his mind. "Where did you get that idea?"
Andreas looked at him and then just shook his head. "Never mind, I don't want to know." He groaned again. "Some things a child doesn't need to hear about his parents." His gaze sharpened suddenly and he asked. "How did you learn all of this? Not just Mother and Dad, but about Grandmother too?"
Sebastian's smile was faintly self mocking and a little sad. "You'd be amazed Andreas, how little folk notice you, if you are the second son." He said quietly. "I listen. I hear things. And sometimes I ask questions because I'm interested in folk. I talked to Grandmother."
"I'm sorry Sebastian." Andreas said quietly. "I know how I'd feel in your place." His mouth jerked into a rueful grin. "Like smacking some sense into the heir most likely."
Sebastian grinned. "I've been tempted." He told his older brother. "But I wouldn't trade places for the world." He tilted his head and slyly changed the subject. "So, what are you going to do about this thunderbolt, hmm?"
Andreas shook his head and shrugged. "Hope I can get to know her during the time she's here for the wedding I guess." He considered for a minute. "You're right though, she is familiar to me." His eyes grew softer and unfocused as he tried to think of why she was familiar, in his mind gazing into a pair of beautiful hazel eyes once again.
Sebastian grinned shaking his head when Andreas looked at him, coming out of his delightful contemplation. He couldn't wait for those two to be introduced.
"Anakin, do strive for a bit of decorum." Sebastian drawled. "It is the rehearsal for a wedding." He leaned against a pillar and rolled his eyes.
"That's it precisely Sebastian!" Anakin laughed. "A wedding, not a funeral!" The young elf had continually cracked jokes and played more than one prank on those in the wedding party, including his sister. Everyone had been good humored about Anakin and his sense of humor but nothing was being accomplished.
"Anakin." His stepmother said finally. "Be silent, do." Anakin looked from her emerald eyes to his father's amber orbs and simply grinned impishly.
"But how will Sebastian remember me on his honeymoon if I don't make him laugh now?" The elf returned. He spread his hands and turned inviting the rest of the wedding party to support him. "This is a royal wedding, practicing is boring, I'm the comic relief."
"Yes but that phrase implies that the comedy is intermittent, not constant." His father informed him dryly. "We are accomplishing nothing. If we wish to be able to feast later, we must at least know our places and the order in which we take them."
Amon sat down on one of the chairs, pulling his wife into his lap. "Thinking what I'm thinking?" He murmured into her ear.
Sabine nodded and kissed his cheek lightly. "Yes. We could have used Anakin and his antics at our wedding rehearsal." She smiled.
"Alusair would have killed him." Amon chuckled. "But it would have been funny." His wife agreed with a smile, watching as her stepmother began to draw her ever-present scimitar, with the obvious intention of using it on her stepson.
"Anakin, now is not the time." Lorelei warned him, watching her grandmother with slightly nervous eyes. "At this rate it will be tomorrow before the rehearsal is done and we won't be able to get married until the next day."
"Oh no." Dragon said rising from his seat. "We're getting married tomorrow if I have to bind and gag your uncle." He began to stalk towards the young elf with an extremely menacing air about him. Sebastian, equally alarmed at the thought of waiting even one more day for Briar also began to move forward.
Anakin saw himself suddenly surrounded by very seriously annoyed people and shrugged in resignation. "All right, all right. I'll behave." He surrendered with a gleam in his eye that did not bode well for later on that evening.
"Thank you Anakin, from the bottom of my heart." Sebastian grabbed his uncle in a rough hug. "If I'm still alive when you finally marry, I promise I'll do the same for you."
"What?" Anakin asked wryly. "Behave yourself or play jokes?"
Sebastian grinned. "Get married and find out."
Andreas shook his head with a grin as his younger brother paced. "Why are you so nervous?" He teased. "Do you think she might change her mind?" Sebastian shot him a look of pure annoyance and settled down into a chair. Andreas gestured towards Dragon who stood talking with his cousin. The dark haired elf was undoubtedly a hundred years older than the warrior mage but his earnest expression made an observer think he was the younger of the two. "Why can't you be more like Dragon?"
Sebastian rolled his eyes. "He's just as nervous as I am, Dragon just has his cousin to distract him. They haven't seen each other in a while but they're good friends, which is why Dragon wanted him in the wedding."
Andreas grinned. "It is time nearly to go over to Court. I can't wait to see how the Hall turned out with Briar and Lorelei's decorations." His brother nodded and rose, tugging at his doublet and examining his image in the mirror once more. Dragon came and stood beside the prince.
"I don't think they'll run screaming at the look of us." Dragon smiled slightly. "Though how I let you talk me into having this lace on my shirt I'll never know."
Sebastian's mouth jerked into a nervous parody of his customary grin. "Black velvet, black silk, cream colored white shirt with ruffles and lace. You don't see Andreas or Anakin or your Cousin complaining do you?"
Dragon sighed. "They weren't given a choice and then persuaded that lace was the perfect compliment to Lorelei's gown." He said darkly.
"Well it is." Sebastian argued. He turned and looked at his grandfather who was simply watching them with a slight smile on his face. "Were you this nervous?"
Elaith smiled slowly and his amber eyes danced. "You forget Sebastian, I can, could, feel my lady's absolute joy to be marrying me. I felt the same way about her. It tends to quell one's agitation." His gaze snapped to Anakin who was tugging in irritation at his charcoal gray doublet and regarding the antique gold cord trim doubtfully. "Anakin, you remember, you are escorting Lady Faith out of the church and you are not to let her bolt off to her room to remove her gown." His son nodded and rolled his eyes and Elaith looked back at Sebastian. "When you see your Black Rose walking towards you, you will not feel nervous anymore."
He opened the door. "Now, lest you be late to your wedding and make your brides nervous, I suggest we go with all haste."
"Andreas you have…" Sebastian began and his brother took him by the arm and hustled him out the door.
"Yes Sebastian, I have the rings. They are in my doublet pocket. I won't forget." He straightened the short cape that hung fashionably from his shoulder and surreptitiously felt for the four circles in his pocket.
"I thought brides were supposed to be nervous." Asrai remarked curiously as she watched Lorelei and Briar get dressed. The younger girl was sitting cross-legged on Lorelei's bed her own gown hung from the wardrobe door.
"I suppose if we weren't a little nervous something would be wrong." Briar said dryly. "And I am a little, mostly about tripping." She grinned. "It would make an interesting entrance."
Lorelei smiled and smoothed the sleeves of her gown. "I think we had so much happen to us in the time we were preparing for the wedding that we're beyond being that nervous." She motioned for Briar to turn around and began to lace up the back of the gown. Briar took a deep breath and Lorelei pulled the laces tightly.
"Ohh!" The bard squeaked suddenly. "Lorelei not that tight please." The laces loosened slightly and Briar sighed. "Oh much better thank you." She turned and began to do the same for the princess.
"Why don't you have a maid to do that?" Asrai asked. "Wouldn't it be faster?"
Briar smiled at the girl. "We're friends, and we're going to be sisters twice over." She told the princess, her green eyes sparkling. "So we like to help. Besides Asrai, you only get dressed for your wedding once in your life. It's something to share with friends, and savor, not get over with as quickly as possible."
Asrai stored that bit of information in her mind and turned as the door opened. Faith entered, her expression dour though her dark hair and eyes were set off to perfection by the deep rose gown she wore. Her hair fell to her shoulders in a tumble of curls and a tiny pink butterfly clung to one of the locks. "Well?" The Watcher asked in an annoyed tone. "I look ridiculous don't I?"
Briar smiled radiantly. "Faith you look beautiful. And just think of how shocked everyone will be to see you in a dress." She teased. Looking at Asrai she tilted her head. "Shouldn't you be getting dressed too?"
Asrai nodded and stood, her shift's skirts floating around her legs. With no unnecessary movement she pulled her gown over her head and smoothed the skirts down. The golden color was just a shade darker than her hair. "Faith I don't know how you managed to lace yours up but would you help me with mine?" The girl asked pleadingly.
Faith looked at her curiously. "Laced?" She grinned and shook her head. "I grabbed Andreas and made him help me outside."
Asrai rolled her eyes. "That figures." She held her breath as Faith laced her up and then turned around. "Let me redo yours." She said with a little shake of her head. "Men don't know anything about dressing women." She tightened her girlfriend's laces and then turned her around, fluffing the skirts and tugging here and there on the shift. "There, you look stunning."
"I hate skirts." Faith groused. "They're harder to move around in."
Asrai smiled at the dark haired girl. "Really?" She asked moving closer to Faith. "I like skirts." Her hand slid over Faith's waist and she kissed her cheek.
"Oh do you?" Faith smiled watching the violet-eyed girl with interest.
"Uh huh," Asrai murmured. "Because it's so easy to get at what I want." She moved a bit closer and her hand reached for Faith's skirt, intending to pull it up and slid her hand over Faith's legs.
"Asrai, so help me if you crush those gowns…" Lorelei hissed out turning around suddenly as she caught her baby sister in the mirror's reflection.
"What?" Asrai regarded her with wide eyes.
"I'll turn you over to Marie, since she's the one who worked so hard to have them made in time." Lorelei retorted with ill-concealed satisfaction at the appalled look on her sisters face.
"That's all right babe, I get the point." Faith whispered kissed the other girl on the lips briefly. "You can show me later exactly what you want, and how you'll get at it." She pressed another kiss to Asrai's collarbone and whistled at how low the cleavage on the gown was. "Damn."
"Yours is just as revealing." Asrai told her. She looked at her sister. "Now you really do need to hurry." She said. "You still have to put on your veil."
"Way ahead of you Asrai." Briar grinned. "Lorelei's is easy. It's mine that is difficult." She'd wound the bulk of her hair up in a lustrous crown of braids, with three long curls resting on her shoulder. Now Lorelei carefully wound a stiff riband of silk and tiny pearls around the braids and attached the veil to the riband.
With a smile Briar watched as Lorelei picked up a headband and attached her veil, sliding it back on her hair until it was centered on her head. Silver blonde hair flowed freely over her shoulders under the veil.
"Something old." Asrai reminded them and Briar smiled.
"Sebastian gave me a beautiful pearl necklace and earrings with pink quartz for my birthing day a year ago. I know Dragon gave you pearls and amber. Is that what you're going to wear?" She asked Lorelei.
Lorelei nodded and looked at Asrai curiously. "Something new, right?" When her sister nodded. Lorelei touched her gown and Briar nodded.
"All right so your gowns are new." Asrai grinned. "Something borrowed?" She looked at them curiously. "Why are you giggling?"
"I borrowed a lace handkerchief from Grandmother." Lorelei smiled. "But Briar went to Mother and Mother gave her…"
"Sabine gave me a tiny silver chain, with a bell on it, to wear around my waist, beneath my clothing." Briar giggled. "I can't wait to see Sebastian's face."
Asrai looked at Faith and the Watcher grinned shaking her head. "Okay, so something blue." Faith finished up the rhyme.
Briar picked up her garter and showed them. "Lorelei has hers on all ready, but it has little blue flowers too." She slid the garter on her leg, revealing the white silk stockings and her satin shoes.
"All right, your bouquets are ready, and Vidan and Dad are going to pull your veils forward, so let's go." Asrai ticked off items on her fingers. "You don't want to be late for your own wedding!"
"You keep telling me to hurry, but we are here and now the brides aren't." Sebastian grumbled. His hands twitched at his sides as if he'd like to check his daggers and Andreas glanced at him sharply. "Sebastian, you're fidgeting." He muttered.
Dragon shook his head and watched as the groomsmen busily attended their extra duty of seating the guests. Along with several nattily dressed footmen they were acting as ushers. "He needs a distraction." He told the Crown Prince. "Sebastian is too used to having a lot to think about."
Andreas caught sight of the beautiful girl with hazel eyes moving in the back of the hall. "All right." He grinned in anticipation. "What's her name?"
Sebastian looked at him in surprise. "Who?"
His brother smiled. "The lady who inspires thunderbolts." He said with a tilt of his head to the back of the hall. "You are right that she seems hauntingly familiar, but I don't know her."
Sebastian's face spread into his familiar wicked grin. "What makes you think I know who she is?" He drawled teasingly.
"Because you know nearly everyone." Andreas retorted. He turned and looked at the lady again. "And since every time I look at her I feel like I've been hit with a 'shocking grasp' spell, I'd like to know."
"You do?" Sebastian smiled. "That's good. Good sign." He looked at the lady. "But I'm not going to tell you who she is."
"Why not?" Andreas nearly ground his teeth.
"Because there isn't time right now." Sebastian returned. "You'll have to wait until the reception for someone to introduce you properly to her." He nodded towards the back of the hall. "She's been seated and I can see that we're about to begin."
Andreas found himself wanting to smack the smugly teasing look off his brother's face and restrained himself. "At the reception then." He muttered. "Promise you'll introduce me."
Sebastian shook his head. "Lorelei will want to do it. She considers the lady a friend."
"Lorelei knows her? Why didn't you tell me that?" Andreas whispered as the music began.
"You didn't ask." Was all the reply he got before everyone went silent with anticipation.
Andreas had to admit, the wedding itself was enough to distract him from his irritation with his brother. His twin was radiant and Briar luminous with joy. All the preparations the girls had gone through seemed to be worth it to them. He still found himself wondering who the lady was though, even as he turned to escort Asrai out of the Hall.
His baby sister squeezed his arm and whispered on their way out. "Don't worry big brother. The dinner will go by quickly, and the little ceremonies, then there will be dancing and Lorelei will introduce you to her. She's very nice. You'll like her."
Andreas looked at Asrai in shock. "You know her? Does everyone?" He asked softly. "Will you introduce me, properly I mean?"
Asrai shook her head and stifled a laugh. "Lorelei will never forgive me if I did." She grinned up at him. "She wants to do it."
Andreas seated her in the open coach and climbed up beside her, grinning as Anakin and Faith did the same in the seat opposite them. "Does everyone know?" He asked with a shake of his head.
"Not everyone, just your family." Asrai grinned. "And Maggie, but she promised she wouldn't tell."
Andreas found himself smiling reluctantly at her infectious good humor. "Far be it for me to spoil everyone's fun." He said with a roll of his eyes. "So long as I get an introduction eventually."
"Oh you will." Asrai smiled.
Briar watched as a tall dark haired young man with a serious expression walked up to Faith. "Sebastian, who is that?" She murmured curiously. Sebastian drew her face down to his for a sweet kiss before he answered.
"That my lovely wife, is my cousin William." He smiled. "Uther and Sylvan's son." Her expression cleared as she recognized the name from one of their talks. "His twin is about somewhere, most likely talking with Asrai. They're only a year older than she is." Sebastian's gaze followed William. "He seems quite taken by Faith doesn't he."
Briar smiled. "Fascinated." A tiny giggle escaped her. "And she doesn't seem to know what to do with him."
"Oh boy…" Sebastian's gaze was fixed to his brother who was being approached by Lorelei and another lady. "Watch love, this should be fun." He gestured towards the Crown Prince.
"Andreas." The prince turned at the sound of his twin's voice and smiled automatically, then with genuine delight as he saw who accompanied her.
The lady whom he had found so fascinating a few days before stood beside his sister, gowned in sheer silvery gray lace. The gown was beautifully cut to her form and more than hinted at the creaminess of the skin to which it clung. The prince forced his gaze up to her face, meeting her eyes with a smile. She seemed slightly amused and flattered that he'd looked at her with such admiration.
"Andreas, have you met Serenity, Faith's sister?" Lorelei said with a smile. "I know you've seen her, since you were the one who served her tea the other day, but I don't think you were reintroduced since you and Sebastian had to leave so quickly."
Andreas struggled to keep his utter shock from showing on his face. "Serenity. A…a pleasure to meet you." He nearly stuttered and was aware of his twin's amused smile. Finally he remembered his manners and managed to stop staring at her. "I'm very glad to see you again." A charming smile spread slowly over his face and he bowed over her hand. Her fingers were soft against his and the prince's expression shifted slightly, interest and desire gleaming from his eyes. Lifting her fingers to his lips, he brushed a gentle kiss over her knuckles and at the contact felt a tremor travel through her body and an answering shock through his.
"I'm sure the two of you have a great deal talk about." Lorelei said wryly, thinking that the two of them had completely forgotten her presence. "Andreas why don't you dance with Serenity? You can continue to hold her hand when you are waltzing." She threw her twin a mischievous smile as she swept away.
"My twin is very good at discerning what I would like even before I have determined it myself." Andreas commented. "Would you like to dance?"
Huge hazel eyes stared up into his for a long moment as if she was considering it and then she nodded, almost shyly. "I would, yes." Out of the corner of his eye Andreas saw Sebastian near the musicians and wasn't surprised when a waltz was struck up, a dreamy tune. 'I can show you the world…'
The prince led his cousin onto the marble floor and braced himself for that shock as he slid a hand around her waist and she put an arm around his shoulder in the oddly intimate position the dance required. "I'm glad to have a chance to talk with you Andreas." She said softly. "I wanted to thank you."
"Whatever for?" Andreas asked in surprise. "Not spilling tea all over you the other day?" He smiled wryly.
"No, though I am grateful you didn't." She chuckled and tilted her head up at him. "I wanted to thank you for helping to save my sisters life."
Andreas stiffened for a moment and regarded her intently. "I didn't do a great deal, Sebastian kept her from harm." He said slowly, keeping his voice low.
Katarina smiled up at him and her hand squeezed his shoulder gently. "Yes, but if you had not been there, willing to aid one of your subjects, my sister could have died."
Andreas had to fight to keep his breathing steady. "I was not the only one who helped her, and if not for my actions, perhaps her peril would have been noted earlier." He said quietly.
"I suppose no matter whose family it is, there are always problems." The girl smiled slightly. "You should hear some of the blow ups I've had with my father, or Faith with our mother. What counts is being there when family needs you. I couldn't be there for Faith, but you were."
"Thank you." Andreas said even more quietly, unconsciously moving closer, his hand snug around her waist. "For telling me that. It's good to hear."
"You're welcome." She said quietly, and looked down suddenly aware of how close they were dancing. A touch of pink darkened her cheeks slightly. She shook her head with a smile and then seemed to notice that while there were others on the dance floor, none of them belonged to his family. Looking around she asked suddenly in a strange voice. "Why is your family looking at us like that?"
Andreas glanced at his family and shrugged. "Probably because they've never seen me dancing with such a beautiful lady." He said smoothly.
Serenity looked up at him and rolled her eyes. "Andreas, you and I both know that your family is filled with beautiful women, and that there are many more beautiful women in Cormyr's court. I do not exceed any of them in looks. Why don't you try again." She suggested gazing up at him with her intense eyes. Something in her look suggested that this lady was no longer content with facile answers, she knew now, that she was worth the cost and the effort of the truth.
Andreas looked down at her and felt something within himself softening, as if a door were being opened by a gentle breeze. Like the waters of Aeliara in the spring, the ice within him was melting. The walls he had so carefully erected to lock himself away from his family and friends gave way before the warm direct gaze of her eyes. "Well maybe they've just never seen me looking so happy before." Andreas said softly, his gaze caught by hers. He smiled suddenly realizing it was the truth. He hadn't been ever really been this happy, or so content.
"We'll have to see what we can do to keep you this way." Serenity told him and smiled up into his eyes.