When: June 15, 873 ROK
Where: Castle of the North
Today, Malia Von Oehsen would become a queen.
It should have been monumental, considering how many decades she had spent with this dream in mind…
But being "a" queen was not the same as being "the" queen.
This small distinction, though, had not hindered the grandiosity of the event. Malia would not be the only queen in Eventyr, but she would be the wealthiest, the most powerful, and her lands would be the safest and most prosperous…
None of which made up for the fact that more than half of Eventyr was still to be conquered. The queen-to-be drew in a deep steadying breath as she tried to remind herself: her husband-to-be would conquer all in good time...
If, of course, he returned for the wedding in good time.
The Marauders had been causing trouble near the now-dissolved border of the North and the East, and James had departed to combat them a week ago. When he departed, there had been plenty of time to put down their little disturbance and be home for the wedding. But now, the ceremony crept closer and closer by the minute…
Malia stared at herself in the mirror as her ladies styled her hair, painted her face, even her fingernails, until - finally, before the awkward question had to be asked as to whether she ought to don her snow-white wedding gown or not - the commotion outside her chambers finally reached a din that implied her king-to-be had returned.
"Tell me you brought me Marcus's head to make the centerpiece of our wedding feast," Malia said, a certain gravely quality to her voice as she rose to her feet.
“Unfortunately, no…” replied the hollow voice from within the infamous helmet. Green was discolored by dirt and a reddish tint that could only be blood. Gloved hands removed the crested helm revealing the bearded face of Duke Castile, self proclaimed King of the Northeastern realm. “...Although there will be a new werewolf pelt on your chair” he finished in dry, flat amusement.
Chasing the Marauders into the deepest reaches of the green forest was only satisfying in that Marcus was as vulnerable as his own men. Stalking the invaders alone was not logical, and he would have to be satisfied until after the ceremony. Then perhaps he could return to the hunt.
“All has been within reason in my absence?” James asked casually, as he shedded armor as easily as a snake peeled a skin. His people had taken to Malia, and not just because he had insisted upon it. She had the ability to say what needed to be said and make others want what she wanted.
Her reply really wasn’t important because if anyone raised her ire they would watch the wedding from his dungeons. An internal nudge as if someone were trying to remind him of something, and his brow furrowed briefly. “You look lovely as always” James said finally as if he remembered such things were important to normal people.
The promise had, immediately, the effect that James intended. Werewolf pelts were rare and valuable because of how dangerous they were to procure, and the promise of a fresh one caused Malia's head to swivel curiously, like a bird. Piqued though she obviously was, her focus returned within the space of a breath or two.
"All had been well in your absence," Malia echoed, at first her tone seeming to affirm as much but her voice twisting the words into sarcasm at the last second, as she rose from her seat and turned swiftly and sharply to face him. He was perhaps twice her size and clad in armor that would easily equal her body weight, its magic aside, but she advanced on him aggressively still. "I can and will rule this kingdom as its Queen…"
At first, Malia's words seemed a defiant and resolute statement. The men had followed her orders. She hadn't worried that they wouldn't. And when a vampire had been found in the town, it had been killed without incident, whether or not Malia had spent a sleepless night worrying it was a succubus sent from the West to kill James' chosen bride…
She ignored his compliments with a savage shake of her head. "Spare me," she griped, tone sharp and bitter, "I have been getting ready since yesterday..." The baths and creams and massages had been endless - and she had endured them all worryingly alone.
Her tight, set jaw released for barely a breath and even as her hand shot up to her hip, the defensive gesture only lasted a heartbeat before her hands were wringing her wrists again. "You worried me, James. You weren't here."
At first he paused, eyes narrowing at her. “We do not doubt your ability to rule, my lady” James said in a dull tone. There were very few emotions he could tap into, but ire was always easy and it was easy to show. “Just as you should not doubt my abilities either”.
He didn’t need to speak of how his other half had flourished with so much warfare. And James didn’t particularly care anymore if he had ever. He simply did what Eventyr, and Malia, demanded of him. His humanity clung on however, reluctant to be completely erased like an old worn tapestry that still held an image.
A large hand caressed Malia’s cheek firm, but with no real gentleness. “I am here now, my lady. I always return”. Much to the chagrin of many he was sure.
One of Malia's ladies in waiting let out a little gasp that she squelched too late, horrified to see the Green Duke's gloved hand - undoubtedly covered not just in the dirt or horse hair from his journey but also the blood of the dead - smudge against the perfect mocha canvas of her lady's cheek.
That amused Malia, who found a smirk tugging at her lips and she felt a sudden playful urge to toss it all to the wind and indulge her relief that James was back safe with a carnal romp…
But they weren't teenage lovers. They were monarchs now, and their prime responsibility was to provide stable leadership to their people. The populace was watching the world crumble around them - vampires legitimized to the East, a witch claiming a throne to the South, commoners trying to rule a city in Eventyr's center - and it was the marriage of the Duchess of the North to the Duke of the East that would ensure reliability, safety. A hitch in this wedding could tarnish their desired reputation as the only stable region left in Eventyr.
A dirty suit of armor or a smudge on her cheek would undercut it all. So Malia's smile faded as she jerked her chin up and her jaw set tight.
"Clean up, James," Malia hissed, under her breath, as she turned away and jerked her head in an authoritative enough manner that all but the two handmaids she forcibly grabbed by the arms approached their king-to-be with every intent to help.
Malia knew her husband could be testy, and so even as she settled in the plush seat in front of her mirror, and even as her ladies went about fixing her make-up and adjusting the pins in her hair, Malia met James' cool emerald gaze through the mirror, resolute.
A low, almost reptilian sound escaped the infamous green Duke for a moment. He had clearly half a mind to physically throw her handmaidens out of the chamber, and rut her right up against that damnable mirror. Perhaps after the ceremony… since the bastard king that shared his form was opposed to the idea. Ever the squeamish, moral rabbit.
He’d wear entrails for necklaces and paint this wedding red if he so chose, and part of him dearly wanted to. But the logical part that was still James Castile formed a tight smile, and reined in his other half. Placating the green devil’s ego with thoughts of battling enemies later.
Eventyr needed stability, it was for the good of the East and the ancient forest within its borders as well as the North. “My queen” he said in a low tone, tilting his head as he moved away to do as she bade. Malia would do well not to poke the beast within him to see how tight she thought the leash she had ensnared it with was…
Her handmaidens were not graced with any such power and had best stay out of his way less he’d break their little necks. “What nobles are we entertaining tonight?” he asked dryly. He had no interest other than to know who made it to the castle alive and who to add to his growing list of enemies… Which Francesca Rossi sat at the top like the supposed queen she claimed to be.
The extra servants all took the obvious hint - threat - and made a quick bow or curtsy on their way from the room, not wanting to incur any type of wrath. The attendants who stayed at Malia's side made an extravagant show of being too busy to pay attention to the conversation of their betters.
Malia returned her bethrothed's address with her own, "Majesty," and the expression on her face visibly lightened. Now that the anxiety of waiting for his return had evaporated, Malia was quickly returning to a comfortable rapport between them, especially with few servants. They were going to be monarchs, and it was a beautiful thing a long time coming.
"Lord and Lady Janssen and Berntsen," Malia shot off, naming the largest families in the North. Then, the East: "The Schröder family…." Malia lifted her chin as her lady rubbed a lotion into her jawline, "Did you know they keep bees?" It was a fascinating bit Malia fully intended on bringing up should they see the powerful Eastern lord at the reception.
"And… oh, there is someone from King's City?" Malia added, almost as an afterthought, as she stood up and her ladies began stripping clothing off to make room for the opulent wedding gown. "The lady seemed… well-bred," Malia admitted, hedging her description because the representative had no particular family tie, but she had arrived with an equal fanfare with the other lords and ladies. Malia had heard out their whole proposition, but hadn't decided what she thought of it without consulting James on the matter. "Have you heard yet of this business? I thought the whole city was a ruin by now."
While he preferred to clean himself James did allow a girl to shear his curls down to a more presentable nature. His brow arched upward at the news of a delegate from King’s city, “The men speak of it… they are neither enemy nor ally…?” he glanced over his shoulder.
His expression was a mix of the two creatures living in one skin, one human the other not so much. A broad shoulder came upward in an indifferent shrug finally, “They mean nothing at the moment”. Castile wasn’t about to let anything take away from this affair, including himself.
This union between the North and East needed to be a public event for numerous reasons, and nothing short of a dragon would alter its course. He stared at the armor set aside to be cleaned and polished. The West was an enemy, but the coastal region he heard had broken off on its own. Perhaps Francesca’s hold on her realm was not so firm as to be believed.
The Green Duke, who was already relishing it’s new title of the Green King eased into a kind of slumber. Weary from the hunting of Marcus and his band of marauders, as well as rogue vampires and werewolves in the territory.
So the beaming smile that was aimed at Malia a moment later as he was fitted with a tunic and overcoat in both their countries colors was purely James. “Have you never seen a bee farm, my queen?” he asked, rubbing his hands over the material in approval. It wasn’t too extravagant which King or Duke, he had never been. He picked up the scabbard and green sword to cinch around his waist.
He turned to seek her opinion on his attire, but ended up staring at Malia. “You are so lovely” he said again although this time the inflection was not one of polite formality. Being heartless didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate such things, he just didn’t have the passion to understand its nuances.
"Never," Malia said, swiveling about in her chair, both hands on one arm of it, her eyes heavy-lidded and mouth a smirk as conspiring in some secret. A bee farm! Surely this was a dangerous and exclusive place - who would roam around where they could be stung at the bat of an eye? The thought of such novelty blossomed in the queen-to-be in the best way; with her king-to-be home safely, the world was their oyster, and she was delighted at everything that the chaos in Eventyr had laid at their feet.
If only they could claim it.
Malia stood, and this time, she noticed the authenticity of his compliment and responded with a quaint tilt of her head that best displayed the light on her features, the angle of her jaw, the way her hair fell down her shoulders, as she moved closer to him and ran the pad of her thumb over the apple of his cheek. He was still somehow so boyish, despite his age, despite his reputation. And yet somehow, he wore authority as easily as he wore his green armor.
"You were born to wear a crown, James."
He laughed, a mirthless sound. “No, not born to wear it. My father had decreed as much… but I will wear one nonetheless” James replied. Part of him gloried in defying his father’s wishes that his bastard would never sit upon a throne. Always the defiant teenager, even in a body twice that age.
“You are a far better ruler, Malia. A true queen of the people… We are merely territorial”. His mouth twisted lazily into a smile as his other half practically purred at her touch and they leaned into it. “Come my lovely queen, let us commence the ceremonies”.
Castile offered his elbow to her.