“Orlov, it really was as you predicted!” Ivan cheered, raising his glass full of beer. Orlov rolled his eyes but toasted alongside his friend.
“Was there any doubt, Your Highness?” he replied sarcastically. “The intelligence we received was from a source high up. Of course I had my doubts, but to think-”
“No need to dwell on it Kassio, just enjoy the night before we have to do the dreaded peace talks,” Ivan chastised his uptight friend. They sat around a large fire with the other soldiers, who were all celebrating for their own reasons. For victory, for the end of the campaign, for the good food that was to come. “I heard Romanov’s princess is quite the beauty, I can’t wait to see her!”
“I heard she was as learned as the top scholar in all of the Westlands,” a soldier added. Orlov blushed a little, and Ivan clapped his back.
“Afraid she’ll take your spot, Kassio?”
“Eh? Lord Orlov can’t be worried about something like that!” The soldiers roared in laughter at poor Orlov’s expense.
“No, that’s not it. I would be honored to be bested by a woman of such caliber. However the Romanov culture is very male-oriented. Her culture would refuse to have her in an official position.” Ivan pondered over about his friend’s statement for a bit before turning back to his soldiers.
The next morning, Cecily and Emery brought news of the impending surrender and the banquet that was to take place in the evening.
“Father actually listened to me, then? That’s good! Quickly, help me get dressed.” Ursa felt giddy knowing her father was finally starting to see reason, and more importantly, was starting to listen to her. After Cecily and Emery were done dressing her, the three raised to the king’s study to hear the news. “Stay at the door, I will go in alone.” the two nodded and stayed put as Ursa entered on her own.
“Father?” Ursa called out.
“Ah, Ursa, my daughter. It’s good that you’re here.” Ursa went in to do the proper greeting, but King Romanov stopped her. “Don’t stand on formality. Come, I have something to tell you.” Ursa straightened up, following her father to sit down on the sofas.
“I have already heard the news of the surrender and the banquet, Father,” Ursa informed him. King Romanov’s smile faltered a bit, but it came back immediately at full force. He took her hand in his, squeezing it softly.
“This is good. Then the only thing I can say is to make sure to look your best, and to be amiable to our visitors.” Ursa nodded. “And you are to come down to greet the Vasils with myself and the other ministers.”
Ursa was a bit taken aback by this request, but did not show it. She kept a cool, indifferent face on. Any change will be picked apart by her father. “Of course, Father. Will that be all?”
“Yes, yes. You are dismissed.” Ursa stood up and with a bow of her head, left the room. Her two handmaidens immediately started asking questions at rapid speed. Ursa immediately silenced them. Her good mood from earlier seemed to all but vanish.
“What is it, My Lady?” Emery asked.
“There was something off about my father.” Ursa couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps it was the forced behavior, or how he seemed much more intimate than usual. Nothing he said was out of place, though.
“Perhaps His Highness was really happy that Your Ladyship’s idea was a success,” Cecily suggested.
“We don’t know that yet. The peace talks don’t start until this afternoon. Things can still change over the course of the day,” Ursa explained.
“Eh, My Lady, do you think the King of the Vasils is as handsome as the rumors say?” Emery asked, trying to change the subject. Cecily whacked her arm.
“Are looks the only thing you care about? There are some awful rumors about him,” Cecily argued.
“Now, now. It’s not all bad to admire from afar,” Ursa answered cheekily. Emery giggled as the three girls continued down the hall. The Vasils would be arriving sometime around noon, and Ursa was expected to greet them at the entrance of the palace. Usually women were not allowed to greet foreign dignitaries, it went against their customs, yet her father had insisted. Ursa dreaded what her father had planned, but she was powerless to stop it.
Two men sat high and proud on their steed as they trotted down the streets of their conquest. They were flanked by a group of guards, although they were merely decorations for these two highly accomplished men. The citizens of the Romanov capital were a bit perplexed. The one wearing the elaborate armor should be the king, and yet the young man in the lax armor led the group. The people couldn’t help but admire the bravado the man had, whose head was held high as he reached the palace gates. At the very entrance stood an entourage of ministers headed by the king, the prime minister and a hooded figure.
Ivan and Orlov approached steadily, towering over the current administration. King Romanov didn’t like this one bit. He wanted to shove them off their high horses- literally, but he held back. His daughter was on his left, covered in a traditional Romanov headdress with a veil covering her face. The veil slowly blew with the breeze, hitting Ursa’s face and making her want to sneeze.
She heard the clopping of the horse’s hooves come to a halt, but didn’t actually see it. Ursa could hardly see anything with this wretched thing on. She had half a mind to just rip it off, but risked her father’s wrath.
“Greetings, King Vasil,” her father said, bowing deeply. Ivan jumped from his horse and bowed as well.
“Greetings, King Romanov,” he replied in his most diplomatic tone. Orlov dismounted behind him and offered a greeting as well.
“It is good to see that our two peoples can meet on such peaceful terms,” he said. King Romanov had to bite his tongue from yelling at the other side’s Prime Minister. It was said that Lord Kassio Orlov was King Vasil’s closest ally, the closest thing to a brother without actually being blood-related. He would be a fool to offend someone as close to that savage King Vasil when they were so close to negotiating a favorable treaty.
“You are quite right, Lord Orlov,” replied King Romanov. “May I introduce my own Prime Minister, Lord Grigori Volkov,” a bow came from Volkov, “and my only daughter, Princess Ursa Romanova.”
Ursa was surprised to hear her name being called, much less introduced to King Vasil, but still elegantly curtsied.
“It is an honor, My Lord,” she said respectfully. He had a nice voice, if only she could see the face of the War God who won against her warmonger of a father. Despite all the terrible rumors about this man, Ursa would be lying if she said she wasn’t intrigued by him.
Ivan was shocked at how pretty she sounded. Her voice was willowy and sweet, making any man swoon. He only wished he could see her face and speak to her. All those rumors the soldiers spoke of really poked at his curiosity.
“The honor is all mine, My Lady,” he replied, bowing in her direction. His lingering glance did not go unnoticed by the two scheming men present, and King Romanov had a small smile displayed.
“Well then, shall we head inside and discuss the terms of your surrender?” Lord Orlov asked, interrupting the moment. King Romanov again held down his urges to kill this Orlov character.
“Yes, right this way, My Lords,” Volkov said, saving Romanov the trouble.
“Daughter, go oversee the banquet,” King Romanov ordered. Ursa was a bit hesitant to follow this command. She was under the impression that she would be allowed to attend the peace talks, perhaps even come up with some suggestions. And yet it was all her wishful thinking.
“Kassio, what do you think she looks like?” he whispered to his friend. They had yet to reach the conference room where they would discuss the Romanovs’ terms of surrender, and Ivan had already successfully annoyed Orlov for the rest of the day with his incessant questions about the mysterious Romanov princess.“I’m sure she’s lovely,” he replied with a monotone voice.“What do you think she thought of me?”“Probably not well, considering you just conquered her lands. The Romanovs are prideful and loyal to a fault.” That seemed to make Ivan’s mood droop. It was as if one moment he was a bright ray of sun, and the next he was a dark storm cloud ready to lay waste. “Come, don’t worry too much about it. Perhaps you left a go
The much talked about princess had thrown off the veil as soon as she was out of their line of sight. Her handmaidens had met up with her and followed her to the kitchens.“How did it go, My Lady?” Cecily asked. They were far away from prying eyes now. Emery linked her arm with Ursa’s, giggling.“Was he handsome?” she teased. Ursa smiled coyly.“I can’t say~ you know how heavy those veils can be.” Indeed they did. Those veils were customary for noblewomen when meeting strangers. Although Cecily and Emery were Ursa’s handmaidens, they also came from noble families. To be the handmaiden of the princess was a great honor, it meant that the princess thought highly of an individual and got along well with them. The next morning, the Vasils were to return to their capital with their new prize in tow. Hundreds of troops were to be left behind in order to make the transition smoother. Ursa was stunned by how fast things were moving, she could barely pay attention whilst her handmaidens packed her things.“Ursa! Do you want to take this with you or not?” Cecily had been trying to get Ursa’s attention for the past minute or so. Only when Ursa finally started to give signs she was paying attention did she sigh and sit down next to her friend. “What’s bothering you?”It was hard to explain to anyone, even herself. One moment she was the Princess of the Romanovs, heir apparent to her father, and the next she was the soon to be Empress of the Westlands, wife of King Vasil. “If I were to list all of my problems, we’d probabl
Where Loyalties Lie The People's Thoughts I
The next morning, the Vasils were to return to their capital with their new prize in tow. Hundreds of troops were to be left behind in order to make the transition smoother. Ursa was stunned by how fast things were moving, she could barely pay attention whilst her handmaidens packed her things.“Ursa! Do you want to take this with you or not?” Cecily had been trying to get Ursa’s attention for the past minute or so. Only when Ursa finally started to give signs she was paying attention did she sigh and sit down next to her friend. “What’s bothering you?”It was hard to explain to anyone, even herself. One moment she was the Princess of the Romanovs, heir apparent to her father, and the next she was the soon to be Empress of the Westlands, wife of King Vasil. “If I were to list all of my problems, we’d probabl
The King. He had such a terrifying expression on his face as he cut down those who opposed him, as if they were nothing more than a tiny inconvenience to him. But then he turned to her, again his hand outstretched towards her with such unparalleled concern. “Are you okay?” She slowly nodded, accepting his goodwill. He pulled her up onto his horse, forcing her to wrap her arms around his waist. “You cannot kill them,” she said. He looked over at her. “Why not? They attacked us, they tried to kill you-” “No, they thought they were saving me. These people are probably just farmers who don’t agree with the change of leadership- pleas
The rest of the trip had been uneventful. Ursa, Cecily, and Emery ended up travelling with the soldiers instead of in a pretty little carriage. These men were enemy soldiers, and yet they were nothing like what she expected. While Ursa was sitting by the fire, waiting for Ivan to return with her portion for dinner, a young soldier in his mid-twenties approached her. He sat down on the stone next to her and greeted her with great respect. “I thought I would come by and greet the general’s wife myself,” he said. Ursa perked up. “Is he not your king as well?” the soldier looked a bit embarrassed at his slip up. “Yes, well- the boys and I have worked with the general- I mean, the king- since he was a prince. We know him more as our general than anything. He d
That night, Ursa got to experience her first Vasil banquet. Originally in honor of their king’s homecoming, it was adjusted to include the news of his impending marriage. Cecily briefly went out to speak with some of the Vasil maids while Emery kept Ursa company. A few moments later, Cecily returned and the Vasil maids trailed behind her.“My Lady, these are the handmaidens that were chosen to serve the future queen of the Vasils. We have come to an agreement that we will work together to dress you tonight,” Cecily explained. The two handmaidens bowed. They were both very different looking from Cecily and Emery. They were gorgeous, with dark skin and flowing black hair tied back into intricate braids. Their uniforms weren’t that of a usual servant, they were made with high class materials and put together by a skilled seamstress. Ursa deduced that these women were probably lik
As promised, the Vasils partied for three days and three nights, ending with the wedding. Solai and Erara returned Ursa’s wedding gown as promised- although in better condition. It wasn’t a surprise, it was a hastily put together dress. It was a traditional long red gown and matching veil. Solai and Erara had added the embroidery of the Vasils’ most famous flower, the Vlora flower, to the train of the dress as well as the veil, adding an ethereal sense of beauty. Ursa was now looking forward to the wedding, if only to wear the dress.Ursa found an interesting piece of mythology about Vasil weddings: They usually occur at noon, which is an auspicious time to the Vasils. Swearing on a never changing sun, so the marital bond is strong forever. The Romanovs tend to hold their weddings at dusk, just as the sun was setting, so the Goddess of Love Silenea could bless the union, as legends
“She doesn’t look happy.” Ivan had decided to go pout over by Orlov, giving his new wife some time to herself and her handmaidens. Orlov had been speaking to some noblemen when Ivan rushed over, saying he had urgent business to discuss with him.So it was this.“This is probably just overwhelming. Everything is probably moving too fast for her. Her homeland was taken over, she was betrothed and married, and she’s probably experiencing culture shock,” Orlov reasoned, taking a sip of his champagne.“But I wanted her to like our culture, so she’d feel right at home!”“That doesn’t change the fact that she