James: "No the kingdom will not, but we as the loyal Duchy should rise to the occasion. Unite, and teach Elliot to surpass his father as ruler once he does come of age". "Perhaps.... we should spur one last search for the Princess?"
"Loyal? Loyal to what?" Francesca sneered, and she rolled her eyes in an expression that was frankly nothing short of juvenile. James basically bled green - or so he claimed - but Francesca had her position out of sheer bad luck... and it was uncomfortable to consider that honestly, she might have been more comfortable being there, in another timeline, as James' wife. Let him do the heavy lifting. Her own sneer was undignified, and it was only the decade of ruling that kept her from literally sticking her tongue out to express her disgust with the idea. Land was just dirt and plants. Castles were stone. What the hell was she going to be loyal to, with Philip gone? Maybe she was just mourning…
"The Princess," Francesca repeated with a scoff. The kingdom had been subjected to a standstill for years - little entertainment, less travel, the senseless deaths of Eventyr's best young men as they went to kill dragons they had no business tussling with - but James wanted to go down that route again?
No doubt, if he suggested it, though, countless men would flock to join him - not just from the East, but all over. It would be years and years of chaos, and frankly the truth was that it was most likely James would be killed in his endeavors…
A smile false enough to rival James' own crossed Francesca's face and her tone ventured on the disingenuous. "An inspired idea, Duke Casile." The Duchess gave his substantial arm a playful slap, and she tried not to remember the way this same arm had once wrapped around her and made the maid she once was weak and willing. "Get yourself an entourage and go find the Princess. If anyone can do it, you can, no? Kill every single dragon in Eventyr until you find her…"
Francesca's lady in waiting finally brought the Duchess a plate, sparse with cheese and fruit, and the girl withdrew quickly when Francesca shot her an angry glare.
"I have no dragons," a lie, "but I'm sure Duchess Von Oehsen will welcome your prancing all over her… duchy," Francesca said, biting down hard enough on a grape that the snap of breaking skin was audible, and she didn't fail to notice the Duke's glance toward the throne room and the figure within.
Then, with a tone too quiet to be joking but too serious to be legitimately in jest, the Duchess went on. "Make sure you check her bedchamber as closely as her mountains - who knows?" Rumors about any powerful woman were plentiful, Francesca knew that well, but Malia's usually included two things: witchcraft and foresight. So Francesca tossed out an outrageous theory. "For all we know, she could be sucking wine from the Princess's still-beating heart every night to catch our most secret dreams…"