James seemed...surprised… or as surprised as his heartless form could be by Francesca’s reaction. His loyalty was to the land of the green realm, even the forest… But he thought that the Duchess of the West would have some loyalty to her land if only in memory to her late father and family.
His mind could fathom that she was reacting out of pain, because she was mourning. Perhaps not for his half-brother, the King, but the memory of what she had lost before…. Yes, his mind could understand the concepts, but emotionally it was as foreign to Castile as the deserts of the South. But Francesca had always been… passionate….
A sharp frown pulled at the Duke’s mouth as the Duchess all but mocked his suggestion for another quest to search for the princess. Slapping his arm almost playfully and suggesting he go forth and slay a dragon. Now it was his turn to scoff, surely she had not forgotten his affinity for animals… even the dangerous kind.
Rossi’s handmaiden and a plate of fruits and cheeses spared him from making a reply. And then…. Francesca spoke about the Duchess of the North… Spoke almost like a vindictive peasant girl, who had been passed up for a local dance.
Francesca: "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…"
A low growl escaped the towering Duke. “This is not a time for petty differences, Duchess” Castile sneered but with none of the life that Francesca could project into the expression. She had no idea that even if the Duchess of the North practiced sorcery it was far different than being anything close to the witches of Eventyr’s lore…
She behaved as a child in a woman’s body, and James Castile found a part of himself was sore disappointed with that realization. But he also supposed after the trauma she had suffered over the years he could not be surprised by it. Something small inside him sparked with a hope that her venom was more in thought of his safety than in jealousy of Malia.
Picking a beautiful red apple that had come from a village in his realm from the table, he drew a dagger and sliced it carefully into dainty wedges. James laid the pieces in an artful way on Duchess’ plate and tried a different tactic.
“What would you have us do, Francesca?” he asked in a low quiet tone.