Esther reached out and softly trailed a finger down the satin bodice of the black gown, its sleek feel occasionally interrupted by golden sequins and small red gems that the fire glinted off of in a warm, orange way. She rubbed the black lace of the mourning veil that would cover her face tomorrow between her thumb and forefinger, taking a sip of absinthe as she did so, her eyes falling of their own accord to the other gown that took up space in her royal chambers, set upon a mannequin to the right.
A disgusted hiss left her lips and she quickly turned from both gowns to face the fire, allowing herself the chance to revel in her grief privately, and in near silence. The only sounds were the drops of rain hitting the many panes of glass surrounding her, and the crackling of burning wood.
Grief felt good right now. It was a bittersweet feeling to be entirely alone and able to properly feel the emotions she felt at the loss of Walter. She briefly wondered if Ben had chosen to stay in the castle tonight. Only for a moment did she entertain the notion of going to find out.
She could go.
Just to see.
Just to say hello.
Just to spend another night with him before she was married off to the deviant.
As if she wouldn't spend many more nights with him despite all that business...
"Oh my, a brooding bride. I can't help but wonder what I've gotten myself into."
She couldn't see his face, but she didn't need visual confirmation to pick up on the smugness his voice carried: Reaver wasn't excited to marry her. He was excited to be able to say he owned a castle.
Thankful he couldn't see her face, she stared at the fire, absinthe glass held in two slightly shaking hands, lest she lose her grip in more ways than one and shatter the fine crystal. The milky green fluid sloshed in the glass, and she forced herself to relax her tense muscles, though she wanted nothing more than to order Reaver away.
Instead, she forced a delicate, womanly smile and turned to face her fiancee. "My dearest love," she said in a light tone, "Tomorrow is the day my darling friend is given back to the earth. Is it entirely out of the question for one to spend some time alone to consider one's own... mortality?" She spoke with grace, sincerity and all of the bearing of a queen, although she had chosen her words carefully, fully aware of the subtly placed barb that Reaver would be certain not to miss.
She knew he made note of it, but he made no show of it. "A load of tosh, my dear lady." He said, waving his cigar dismissively through the air, a halo of smoke collecting around his head. "It does one no good to dwell on those who have already embarked on their sole journey upon leaving the land of the living; by which I mean, rotting into fluid in the ground. Honestly, darling, how macabre can you get?" He sauntered over to the white wedding gown Esther had previously been trying to ignore. "Let us instead look towards the new and exciting opportunities that have presented themselves to us, shall we?"
The gown was offensive, standing there in the corner, gleaming white at a time when she felt mired up to her eyes in darkness; an obnoxious bit of finery that to her represented nothing but a cheap lie. Her own bitterness shocked her as Reaver's eyes swept over the bridal clothing.
"You will look ravishing in this." He whispered.
A throaty laugh escaped the queen as she lit from her place from the fire and crossed the maroon carpet, skirts swirling around her ankles. She drained the remaining absinthe in her glass and set the empty vessel on the table, measuring out a new portion of the drink, busying her hands with the ritual of properly preparing absinthe.
"You doubt me?" He continued in his hushed tone, eyes gleaming in the firelight.
"I don't." She admitted, truthfully unafraid of the activities that would occur on their wedding night; a shameful prude Esther was not. "I'm nervous." She said sullenly.
"My dear..." He said, sweeping behind her and plucking the freshly poured absinthe from her pale fingers. "The secret of remaining young is to never have an emotion that is unbecoming."
She certainly didn't want to marry him; her very life was at stake in doing so. But the pair did have a certain history, a sort of understanding, a strange and skewed friendship and now that he was standing behind her with his hands resting on her gray-clad hips, she began to wonder if perhaps it wouldn't be that bad. She didn't hate Reaver; she pitied him, and what is love if it is forced?
"Unbecoming?" She repeated, making no move to remove his hands, despite Ben's face running through her mind, for pleasure was a fleeting thing and one may as well enjoy it while they can. "How in the name of Avo are you standing here, calm as a sea breeze? I don't want to marry. Not you, not anyone. I just finished saving a country. I don't want to spend the rest of my days fat with child, boring and bossy."
"C'est la vie, dear woman." Reaver sighed, drinking from her glass and handing it back to her. "But the people want for romance. They crave it. Their own silly little lives are not enough, they must be able to look from the outside, inwards on something they can fantasize and dream about 'ohhhh how sickeningly sweet, mayhaps one day that'll be me,'" He stroked her hip with his thumb. "Of course that's all it is... dreaming. We must give the people what they want."
How she wanted to trust him. How she wanted to take comfort in his words and feel peace quell the turmoil within her, but Reaver was an actor, and an actor who had many years to perfect his craft. Everything he said was to be taken at the most, at face value for there was still a chilling warning in her subconscious to be very careful around this man.
"I think you're missing the true perils of our situation." Reaver mused, playing with her hair. "The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish... unselfish people are colourless, and lack individuality." He made a mock shudder. "Rest assured, my Queen, although I have done well for myself in obtaining betrothal to royalty so strikingly dark and beautiful as yourself, my dearest wish is that our most core selfish qualities and ruthless individualities remain un-tainted by the golden bands fastened to our fingers."
She knew had said it in a flippant attempt to make her feel better about everything, but it did nothing more than impress that she was marrying for all the wrong reasons. Marrying to repay a debt, marrying to make more heroes, marrying to... entertain her subjects?
Her stomach lurched unpleasantly and she pulled away from Reaver's grasp. The absinthe was making her head spin and making her thoughts blurry. Mostly she felt angry and trapped. In all truth, Reaver was being splendid about the entire thing to her face, but that's because it was purely to his advantage to do so: He was gaining more than he was losing, whereas she was losing everything she cared about. Her entire future was being handed off to someone else. The only reality that gave her solace was that should anything happen to her, Logan would once again be put on the throne... royal succession and all.
She pulled her gold pocket-watch from her pocket and glanced at the time. "It's late." She said. "I should be going to bed soon."
Reaver's smirk told her he saw through the lie, but rather than call her on it he simply swept her hand into his own, keeping his eyes locked on hers as he gently pressed his lips to her knuckles. "In that case, fais de beus reves, dahling."
Despite the kind wishes, she felt more threatened than ever by the murder in his eyes.