The sounds of steel striking continued.
As calculated as her opponent's movements may have been, she could always think one step further. She could anticipate when he was just about ready to strike; taking note of how he slowed down just before quickening his pace to cast her off. Each motion was precise, but her counters were evenly matched, ultimately always allowing her the victory. Now the tip of her blade nearly connected with his sternum.
Placing her sword in her scabbard, she walked away, giggling triumphantly. He let out a loud groan before falling to the grass defeatedly.
"One day Samuel, you'll earn the victory." She teased.
Sighing to himself, he chuckled.
"Maybe one day you'll pity me and just let me have it." He joked.
"Never Sam, earning it will be much more rewarding." She looked to him before seeing her father from a distance, clapping his hands together in approval. She rolled her eyes, taking a playful bow.
"It always pleases me to see that only my daughter shows the capability of defeating my own soldiers." He spoke pridefully, his burly figure sauntering over to place a kiss atop her head.
She sighed to herself as she walked away, noticing her sister standing in the doorway.
"Why don't you go speak to him Dela?"
"Mena, he's incapable of looking at me the way he does you. He always has such a look of pride watching you spar with Samuel. I swear I could see a little twinkling in his eyes this time." Her sister confessed.
Wrapping an arm around Delacroix's shoulder, they continued inside.
"Try not to forget tonight is the ball," Delacroix attempted to change the subject. "King Silas is traveling from Calyx as we speak."
"If you refuse to speak to him, maybe I should." Timena suggested.
"No please, that's alright. I'm going to find Mother, I will see you at supper." Delacroix pulled away, running down the corridor.
Timena felt pangs of guilt after encounters such as these with her sister. She could not help that her her interests often aligned with that of her father's. She knew that Delacroix only yearned for the same love their father had given to her.
Mounting their horses gracefully, Timena and three of her comrades began slowly on their trip into the city.
As one of her duties was to see to it that the city and its' people were in order, it all appeared to be ordinary. The four split up immediately and began to make their way through. The small island of Mororcin possessed a vast population, and the city of Gabaden accounted for at least half of that. Along the street corners and in shops, people sold their crops and crafts. Mororcin had been, for the most part, a peaceful island; her father, King Vassar had ensured it. Timena's grandfather and his predecessors held a less than amicable reign over the territory; greed for wealth and power had eventually earned their downfall. Unlike generations before, King Vassar was strict, but fair in his rule, demanding order in every detail over the island. Timena hoped she would be able to exemplify some of the values her father so desperately tried to instill in her and Delacroix.
Pouring stew into the wooden bowl, Timena smiled. Another usual task of hers was to volunteer in the city. Their mother saw to it that she and Delacroix were active in helping their people, attending council and oftentimes attending to the cooking or doing needlework. Timena never minded helping the island's people or attending council, but she'd rather wear a full dress and corset for the rest of her life than continue to cook and sew. Delacroix had been more suited for activities like that— if anyone was to be chosen to properly represent the royal family, it would have been her. They could leave sparring and jousting specifically for Timena, it would surely make her father proud.
Tonight would certainly be hectic Timena thought, royals from near and far lands were going to be attending the ball. As soon as the king of Calyx arrived, everything would be set in motion. He would be visiting Mororcin to possibly leave with a bride.
Timena leisurely made her way out of the church, exiting through the large wrought iron doors. Traveling along the cobbled streets, she waved to the local shopkeepers and vendors. Approaching her horse, she quickly placed her foot in the stirrup, propping herself up. Holding onto the reins and lightly squeezing her feet against the horse's sides, it began trotting away.
Entering the stable, Timena leapt off the large animal's back before handing the reins over to the young stable boy. The head cook, Eurina and the kitchen maids busied themselves, bustling about to ensure food was being properly prepared as Timena came in through the kitchen entrance.
"Ah perfect timing, you should wash up. The king's ship is approaching, as a matter of fact they might have already reached shore by now." Eurina spoke, diligently cutting into the vegetables in front of her.
Sighing to herself, Timena made her way out of the kitchen.
She stood analyzing her reflection— tendrils of curly black hair stuck out from a large single braid, her hazel eyes complemented her olive toned face that was slightly splotched with freckles. Deciding to undo the braid, a heap of kinky curls now fell just below her shoulders. Fingers tousled through the curls as best they could before she was eventually satisfied. On the bed laid a black doublet covered with an intricate gold pattern going down the front as well as a pair of black breeches.
The pieces of clothing fit exceptionally well as Timena pushed her feet into a pair of knee length black, leather boots. Twisting halfway, she looked back at herself, slightly admiring how form fitting the material was on her figure.
Striding down the hall, Timena approached her sister's closed door before knocking.
"Come in." Delacroix answered.
As she entered, the maids moved away, revealing the young girl in a lavender gown. A portion of Delacroix's hair was pulled into a long braid leaving the rest of the brown waves to cascade down her back. The low-cut neckline of the fabric accentuated her bare chest as the gold bodice of her dress brought her cleavage up significantly.
"You must have your sights set on becoming a wife tonight." Timena appeared shocked. "Will mother and father approve of all this cleavage?"
"I reckon mother mightn't be too pleased, and father only cares what you do."
Timena shook her head. "That isn't true Dela. But you do look beautiful." She attempted to change the topic.
Delacroix smiled. "You do as well, in your... breeches." Her eyes scanned her sister's attire.
Timena huffed, annoyed. "Leave me be, at least I am comfortable, can you even breath?" She asked incredulously.
Putting her hands to her hips, Delacroix's mouth turned up in satisfaction. Rolling her eyes, Timena turned to leave the room as the women encircled Delacroix once again to finish getting her ready.
Tonight would be very important, King Silas was coming from Calyx in hopes of finding a bride. Timena knew her sister was hopeful he would take one glance and choose her. If it were so, it would mean a great deal of security and an overall alliance for their kingdom. King Silas came from a very affluent lineage, he had allies in high places as well being a commander with the highest standing.
The kings and queens of neighboring kingdoms were on their way as the grand hall was being prepared for their arrival. Young women would be wearing their best dresses and on their best behavior for the king... and for the sake of their parents...
"The king has arrived."
The castle doors began to open, revealing King Silas and his men walking along the drawbridge.
Timena's head peered out of a hidden doorway in the corridor as she surveyed the men coming in. She had only spoken to Silas a handful of times in the past but usually kept a distance at the request of her father. She was more acquainted with the two men beside him, his brother Aldus and his second in command, Miro. Behind them stood six rather large and well-built knights, all suited head to toe in heavy black armor, offering an eerie sensation as they entered the castle. She peered out a bit further.
The king's demeanor was reserved and polite as he greeted King Vassar and Queen Adelia, he was large in height with broad shoulders, sizing up her father. His hair appeared as black as a raven's feathers that stopped at the nape of his neck. The servants appeared, now quietly directing them upstairs to their chambers where they could rest till it was time for the ball.
Delacroix's room was crawling with young girls in their best dresses. The princesses all spoke amongst each other, anticipating seeing the king.
"Mena, did you see him? Is he still as handsome as ever?" Delacroix nearly fell over her dress as she ran over to her sister.
Timena laughed. "He's decent I would say."
The girls all looked at her with hopeful expressions.
"You have to give us more than that, some of us have never seen him." A young girl yelled from the corner of the room.
Timena rolled her eyes but began to describe King Silas as best she could.
A small, blonde haired girl came into Timena's view, offering a look of distaste towards her. It was Hanleigh, the princess of Enoberlyn. She was the least favorite of the princesses Timena knew, Hanleigh was beautiful but spoiled and arrogant. She had the making of a terrible princess, but hopefully never a queen.
"Timena wouldn't know a decent looking man if he stood right in front of her." She smirked, feeling victorious. Timena looked down at her before laughing.
"And I suppose that's why you figure to take every common man to bed while you cannot seem to get a king to take your hand in marriage." The gasps and giggles around the room came, Hanleigh stood in shock, clearly embarrassed.
It was Timena's turn to feel victorious. She proceeded to leave the room and make her way to the great hall, slipping through the large doors.
The enormous gold and white room was covered in few marble sculptures on the wall that went along with the gold fixtures. The decorated ceiling shown paintings of the original people of Mororcin and their island in a heavenly and angelic theme. All around the room hung crystal, gold candelabras that were heavily lit— the last of the sun's rays came in through the large glass windows and onto the black and white marble floor.
Timena's attention had turned to the long, white clothed tables. She had entered a food galore— from baked chicken, salted fish to roasted duck and pork, potatoes, corn, cabbage and carrots, a feast had been prepared. She could have been brought to tears, only imagining what desserts would eventually be served.
"We are just about ready to begin." Timena was startled, looking around to see Eurina urging her to get into place.
Timena and Delacroix stood in line with their mother and father, awaiting their introduction. At the sounds of instruments playing a melody of the island's anthem, Timena could feel her stomach begin to turn. She only tolerated attention on her when she was sparring— looking over to her sister, she could see Delacroix's excitement was brimming over as she adjusted her bodice.
King Vassar and Queen Adelia made their entrance into the large crowd first, applauding ensued immediately. Delacroix held her sister's shaky hand in hers as their names were announced. Walking in unison into the crowded room, the thunderous sounds of applause continued.
As the noise dissipated everyone was quickly seated. The king and queen began their speech, thanking and welcoming all the guests in the room who had come from near and somewhat far lands for the evening. Timena could see a number of eyes on her when she glanced up at the crowd, which didn't help quell the nerves in her stomach.
Before ending the speech, King Vassar introduced King Silas. Hushed squeals and murmurs of anticipation sounded in the room.
"He is a force among his people, a warrior and a comrade. Please welcome King Silas of Calyx." He finally ended.
The bellows of the crowd echoed around the room now— women, both young and old couldn't help but stare at the king in adoration. He strode in gracefully with Aldus and Miro before stopping short of King Vassar and Queen Adelia's throne. They bowed respectfully, making eye contact with each member of the family before moving to sit next to King Vassar at the table.
Timena had eaten a fair amount, feeling overly content as Delacroix frequently stole glimpses of King Silas— along with the rest of the women in the room. Timena couldn't find any fault in their actions, he was attractive and certainly very powerful, it only made sense women would be drawn to him. However, he had quite a hard face, in fact the only softness that appeared to his features were his dimples when he laughed at her father's jokes.
It was time to mingle. Timena had been smiling and greeting all the kings, queens, princesses, noblemen, vassals, religious figures and any other guests of the family. Her face had nearly begun to twitch having smiled at each person in passing, she wondered when it would end. Timena had begun to play a game with herself, seeing how many times a guest would say they hadn't seen her since she was a little girl, or asked if she had remembered them. So far, she had lost count.