“You know, you don’t necessarily have to stick by my side every moment.”
“...That is precisely what I’m meant to do, Your Highness.”
Veran threw the woman beside him a tired look but gave up his attempt at a clever retort when he saw a tall man striding towards them. The chattering crowd parted with ease around him, the noise never dying down but few curious eyes and gossip ready ears followed his figure.
“I greet the Crown Prince.” The man spoke, bowing at the waist in a display of elegance and respect. The rich charcoal grey color of his suit shimmered every so often under the bright lights of the banquet hall, the thick cloth giving a hint of the solid build underneath despite the aging years reflecting in the streaks of grey in his dark hair. “I hope you’ve been enjoying yourself tonight.”
“Uncle, how many times must I tell you not to greet me like I’m some uptight royal and not your dear nephew.” Veran grimaced at the formal address, relaxing slightly at the mischievous twinkle in his Uncle’s eyes. “Should I go back to addressing you with your formal title every time we meet? I do remember mother despising such formalities between us, you know.”
“Ah you always seem to know my weaknesses, dear nephew.” Adras Ashforge’s laugh was loud yet contained, enough to gain a few curious glances but nothing that would disrupt the chatter around them. “I suppose I should ease up on the formalities seeing as you’re far from uptight. Perhaps too far.”
Veran ignored the subtle glance of agreement his personal knight gave at his Uncle’s last statement, eyes absently roving over the crowd of finely dressed nobels shuffling around them. There were barely any familiar faces, though that was to be expected with his father making his connections a higher priority than any actual socialization.
“I hope you’ve been fairing well too, Cirthe Strar.” Adras said, voice a touch softer now. He always did have a soft spot for the Prince’s personal guard, and childhood friend, ever since she first arrived at the palace, a young child but just as reserved.
“I have, Sir Adras.” replied Cirthe, with a smile that was quiet but genuine. “Yesterday’s sparring session still has me feeling a bit sore, but I never got the chance to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. I was called on for certain....duties I need to attend to.”
“No thanks necessary I assure you. You continue to impress me with your skills, Knight Cirthe. It was a good decision to appoint you as the Crown Prince’s personal guard.”
“As if I would accept anyone else.” Veran muttered with enough cheek to earn a not-so-subtle roll of the eyes from Cirthe and a quiet chuckle from his uncle. “Speaking of, how come I am never invited to these sparring sessions?”
“You have other, more important duties you need to attend to, Your Highness. I am the one who needs to further my skills in order to fulfill my duty as your personal knight.”
“Gods, can you be any more stern, Ciri? There is no one coming for my head right this second you know. You can be at ease sometimes. I could help with--“
“No need, Your Highness.”
Adras Ashforge watched the back and forth, amused yet nostalgic. The bickering reminded him of simpler times, when the Crown Prince was still allowed to be a carefree child and Cirthe had more trivial things to worry about than an ever present threat she needed to protect the prince from.
“It would seem that your father requests your presence now, nephew. I think you might finally be able to get some rest after this.” Adras said, head titled subtly towards where the King’s Counselor walking towards them from the side. “I shall see you later, Prince. Maybe you can accompany Knight Cirthe the next time we have a practice session.”
“Now see, that is an excellent suggestion, Uncle. I’ll have that arranged as soon as possible. Tomorrow perhaps.“
Excited at the prospect of spending time with Cirthe outside of the stifling court setting, the young Prince turned to the approaching man sent by his father with a little more enthusiasm. He made sure to fix the previously loosened collar of his pale blue jacket, not wanting to give his father a chance to nag his manners.
“We must go now, Your highness. His Majesty expects you.” The Counselor was ushering them towards the front of the hall where the King stood awaiting.
“Yes, yes. Can’t even have a simple conversation with my Uncle in peace, it seems.” The Prince took his leave with a parting nod towards his Uncle, nudging Cirthe closer to his side. A reassuring gesture, to remind himself he had something familiar within the band of supposed strangers he was about to be surrounded with.
He could not wait to head back to his chambers for some peace and quiet.