This is an in-character game thread from Changeling: In Love and War. (This page is not Creative Commons licenced.)

Storyteller

Ilandra and Cain slept well that night, their first night of relaxation
in quite some time. By the time they awoke, it was to the light
of dawn seeping through the eyes in the fabric of the tent and the
bustle of the camp outside.

The army had risen early, as they are wont to do, and already tents
were being pulled down as fires were smouldering away at cooking
breakfast.

Breakfast. Just how long had it been since Ilandra and Cain had eaten?


Ilandra

Ilandra stirred, opening her eyes and looking around. Cain was sitting
up in the camp bed. Jumping down from her perch on his feet, she
resized to fae shape and stretched. Smoothing her dress slightly she
decided that she looked perfectly fine.

"Morning!" she chirped. "I'm going to go investigate the possibility of breakfast... wanna come?"

She walked to the door bit of the tent and poked her head out. Then
remembering the previous night, left their tent in the direction of the
Baron's tent.


Storyteller

Cain followed in a half-asleep daze, his feet being repeatedly poked by
sticks and embers as he had forgotten to put his boots back on.

By the time they reached the Baron's marquee, the place was a hub of
activity. Soldiers with bags, and scrolls, and weapons rushed in
and out of various tents of what looked to be the higher-ranking
officers. From inside the Baron's tent, two raised voices could
be heard - his, and a girl's.

"I'm telling you," began the man's, "you are not ready to be on ze front-"

"Yes I am! What did I come here for?"

"I don't-"

"I came here to fight, cousin! I came here to help the House! So let me!"

"I-"

"Huh!"

And with that the girl stormed out of the tent. She wore a black
gown that reached the floor, somehow miraculously not muddy even after
at least one night in a field. Over it, red beaded jewellery set
off the cherry red of the hair that spilled in waves over her shoulders.

She looked around outside, and found herself uncomfortably close to someone she was not at all expecting to see.

"Ilandra."


Ilandra

Ilandra's eyes glowed a feline shade of green, she narrowed them.

"YOU!" she snarled. "What the hell are YOU doing here?"

By her sides, her hands were involuntarily clenching into fists as though she was preparing for a fight.

"Oh, by the way, it's Duchess Ilandra... show some respect." she added.

'Ugh just what I need, HER turning up and declaring that she would
look far better on Cain's arm... as if Cain is some accessory...'


Storyteller

"Duchess, eh? Well, it's still only House Honeysuckle, isn't it
-" there was a fraction of a pause, but a very deliberate one - "your
Grace? And there's still no Duke Honeysuckle..."


Ilandra

"So what if there's no Duke Honeysuckle?" Ilandra snapped. "Besides,
even being a peasant is better than being the nobody niece of a council
member! At least when I meet new people their first question isn't 'so
who exactly are you?'."


Storyteller

"I'll have you know I'm quite well regarded at court! Better than 'I'm sorry, what House was that again? Is there even one of those?'"


Ilandra

Ilandra had been trying to keep her temper at bay, but she was finding it was rapidly fraying.

"Give me one reason not to smack you in front of Cain. Just one." she said, between teeth. "No, actually on second thoughts..."

Ilandra rammed her fist into the other girl's face.


Storyteller

Ilandra rolls to punch Jasmine.
Dex (3) + Brawl (1) = 4, difficulty 6.
1 success to hit!
Strength (3), difficulty 6.
1 success!
1 Bashing wound inflicted.

"Ow! Why, you little..."

Jasmine rolls to grapple Ilandra.
Dex (3) + Brawl (0) = 3, difficulty 6.
0 successes.

Jasmine jumped for Ilandra, but the feline was too quick for her.
With a sullen thud, she ended up face down in the damp earth.


Ilandra

Ilandra looked down at Jasmine. A smile crossed her face, showing elongated eye teeth.
She faded slightly as she looked at the threads.

"Looks like you're still unlucky in love..." she said, tutting
slightly. "What's the matter? High status in court not attracting any
nice guys?"

She shook her hand out from the punch, then turned on her heel spraying Jasmine with more mud.

"Well, I'm going to go track down some breakfast..." she said, before turning back to the other girl. "Want a hand up?"

Mischief glinted in her eyes as she proffered her hand.


Storyteller

"Why thank you," said Jasmine, her voice heavy with sarcasm. She took Ilandra's proffered hand...

Jasmine rolls to grapple Ilandra.
Dex (3) + Brawl (0) = 3, difficulty 6.
2 successes!

...and pulled her down into the mud as she stood up!


Ilandra

Ilandra laughed manically.

Ilandra rolls to use ensnare (level 2 legerdemain) on Jasmine.
Rolls dex + politics
You rolled 4 successes using 5d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 6 ((1,10(+8),1,6,6))

A surprise gust of wind affecting only Jasmine sweeps her up, taking
her spinning into the air at high speed. She came crashing down face
first 5 feet away.

She picked herself up, dusting her dress down as she did so.

"You know, you never did say what you were doing out here..." she said,
cracking her knuckles and springing onto the other girl's back.

Roll to grapple her.
You rolled 2 successes using 4d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 6 ((9,1,5,6)).

Ilandra twisted Jasmine's arm painfully behind her back.


Storyteller

Opposed Strength Rolls
Jasmine: Str (2), difficulty 6: 1 success.
Ilandra: Str (3), difficulty 6: 2 successes.

Jasmine struggled, but remained pinned.

"Nor-" she gasped. "Nor did you. You're a... long way from... your friends, out here."


Ilandra

"My friends, with the notable exception of two of them appear to be
mostly deceased..." Ilandra replied, putting extra pressure on the arm.

Roll opposed strength.
You rolled 6 successes using 3d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 6 ((9,10(+10,9),10(+7)))
Jasmine rolls opposed strength.
You botched using 2d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 6 ((5,1)).

You can't make this shit up!

And now for the breakage...
Dex + Brawl
You rolled 1 success using 4d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 6 ((5,5,10(+4),2)).

Str
You rolled 2 successes using 3d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 6 ((2,9,6)).
Jasmine's arm gave out a sickening snap as Ilandra twisted it.


Storyteller

As Jasmine screamed loud enough to waken the dead, a much quieter but much more sinister sound rang out. Metal on metal.

And, a few seconds that would have been silent later, a sharp cold feeling on the back of Ilandra's neck.


Ilandra

Ilandra froze. Her anger vanishing to be rapidly replaced by concern.

She let go of Jasmine's arm.


Storyteller

"Stand up slowly, and turn avound," said Baron von Richtoven. "Jasmine, get up too."

The Red Rose girl's screams turned to whimpers as she stood.


Ilandra

Ilandra stood, her eyes downcast.

"She started it..." she mumbled.


Storyteller

"You," he said to Jasmine. "Medical tent, now. If it's down already, find the First Regiment field surgeons."

"You." Ilandra. "Back to your tent, clean up, get ready to
leave. Help the soldiers put your tent down, that's your
punishment."

"Prince Cain. My tent, now, if you please."


Ilandra

"Don't let him have the box." she told Cain as she turned to go back to
her tent. "Oh, erm... have a medical tent. Fully kitted out. Just
please don't punish Cain for my behaviour."

She pulled a small yellow fabric from her bag and threw it to the ground where it expanded into a tent.

"It'll be fine for any medics to use." she called as she walked back to their tent.

Upon reaching the tent she rolled her sleeves up. Looking over at the
other soldiers with tears running down her face, she straightened up.

"Please, just let me do this on my own. OK? I'll even fold it up." she wiped a tear from the tip of her nose. "Just go!"

That said, she went in and retrieved their belongings before dismantling the tent.


Storyteller

Time passed, and eventually - somewhat later than intended - the Third
Division of the Red Rose forces began their half day's march northwards
to rendezvous with their allies.

Ilandra and Cain rode Hawthorn to one side of the army, whilst Jasmine
rode about as far away from them as possible. Cain was even
quieter than usual, refusing to be drawn out into any discussion of
what he and the Baron talked about.


Ilandra

After a short while of Cain's silence, Ilandra's lip began to wobble.
She fidgeted in the saddle for a little bit before jumping down and
walking behind Hawthorn, hoping the sound of the other horses would
drown out her tears.
As she hit the ground, she dimly noticed Cain looking concerned.

"Sorry, I haven't had a chance to eat and I'm just highly strung..."
she offered in explanation. "but I didn't want to worry you too much...
it's ok, I'll get back on Hawthorn if you like."

She accepted his proffered hand to get back on the horse, choosing to
snuggle into his chest instead of looking at where they were going.

"I got you in trouble, didn't I?" she sobbed. "And that's why you're
upset with me... is... do I..." a sob punctuated the sentence. "...am I
still asking the two roses for a favour? I'd... I'd understand if
you... need more time to think"

She gave up on speaking and buried her face in Cain's chest, holding
onto him like as though he were a life raft in a sea of dangerous
creatures.


Storyteller

Cain fidgeted in Hawthorn's saddlebags, and pulled out some trail
rations that had probably seen better days. He prised one of
Ilandra's hands free for just long enough to put a thoroughly
inedible-looking piece of meat into it.

"This is all I've got, I'm afraid. I guess we won't get chance to stop for food until lunch, now."

Cain thought for a while.

"Anyway, I'm not upset with you. And how could I be in
trouble? He's just a Baron. Were we at war, I could see how
his Barony being twenty times the size of Poppy could be a
problem. But we're allies, and while we're allies, protocol is
still observed."


Ilandra

Ilandra handed the piece of meat back.

"It's OK, I think I still have some biscuits somewhere." she mumbled.
She pulled a bundle of biscuits out of her bag though she didn't make
any move to eat them. Instead, she stayed snuggled into Cain.

"Can I just stay like this for a little while longer?" she asked, her
eyelids fluttering closed. "I shouldn't have lost my temper like that,
she makes my blood boil but that's no excuse. I suppose in a way, it's
a good thing I didn't react the way I did with Duke Hyacinth..."

Ilandra dropped the biscuits, preferring instead to cling to Cain.


Ilandra

After a while, Ilandra stirred. Mischief once again flashed in her
eyes. She looked over at the Rose Viscountess, a mischievous smile
playing on her lips. Making sure she didn't move her head too far from
Cain's chest, she concentrated on one of the crossbow bolts on the
saddle.

Using Gimmix.
Dex + Melee difficulty 7
You rolled 2 successes using 5d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 7 ((1,9,3,9,1)).

The bolt lifted, flew a couple of feet into the air and then dropped
onto Jasmine's head. Having achieved her act of mischief, Ilandra
snuggled into Cain.


Storyteller

"Ow!" Jasmine said, by luck catching the bolt as it fell. She
looked at it curiously as she rubbed her head, then counted the number
of bolts in her quiver as she put the strange one back. She
looked around for anyone who might have had a hand in the strangeness -
particularly that nuisance Ilandra. But the cat-girl, like
everyone else with whom she travelled, seemed to be paying her no
attention. Jasmine scowled, unimpressed by the aching head to
accompany her aching arm.


Ilandra

From Cain's chest came a low giggle. Ilandra looked up at him.

"So... what did you talk with the baron about?" she asked, casually keeping half an eye on Jasmine.

As he thought of his reply, Ilandra decided to try lifting the pouch.

Gimmix for great mischief.
You rolled 2 successes using 5d10 with the World of Darkness 1st ed system with a target of 7 ((4,6,6,7,10(+3)))

The pouch lifted up into the air then dropped onto Jasmine's head.


Storyteller

"Various things," said Cain dismissively. "The war, and what happened outside the tent this morning, and... stuff."

Across the other side of the marching column, Jasmine had to wheel her
horse around and dismount to pick up the quiver. Once mounted
again she snarled at no-one in particular, dug her knees in, and
cantered up to the front of the column to ride alongside her cousin.


Ilandra

Ilandra giggled again as she watched Jasmine ride off in irritation. Then fixed her gaze on Cain.

"What kind of stuff?" she asked. "I mean, about this morning..."


Storyteller

"Well, you know, he... He wasn't expecting something like that
when he woke up in the morning. He didn't even remember that you
and Jasmine knew each other, let alone that you had some inexplicable
vendetta going on."


Ilandra

"It's not inexplicable, there's a perfectly good reason!" she replied.
"It's just... it'll seem silly to you because... well, it's about
you..."

She looked up at him imploringly.

"I'm sorry, just... I can't help being slightly territorial... besides,
she talked about you like you were just chattel. I hate that!"


Storyteller

"Look, this was... how long ago? Couldn't you just not try to
tear each other's throats out for a while? Annoying Baron von
Richtoven isn't going to help your goal very much..."


Ilandra

"Seven years..." she said, pouting. Then did a quick double-take. "Hold
on, two days ago you said we should refer to stuff as OURS! What
happened to ours? It's our goal... the whole checking satisfaction
thing is a cover story... and the Duke Pansy plan can be dropped at any
stage that you decide to veto it..." she paused for a second to think.
"Actually, yeah it pretty much is my goal isn't it? I mean, you're just
making sure I don't get killed... I'm sorry."

Deciding that she was getting too longwinded, she pulled Cain down to
her level and kissed him, letting him go before he unbalanced.

"How can I make it up to you?" she asked, looking up at him earnestly.


Storyteller

"Don't worry about it," said Cain with a sigh. "Just... let's get
this bit over with and move on, without getting into any fights.
Especially the big one. How are we going to avoid that, if we're spending the whole time with the leaders of the army?"


Ilandra

"I hadn't thought that far ahead..." Ilandra admitted, biting her lower
lip. "Maybe I could arrange another pick-up by my house but I don't
know how or where... Or we could try riding back the way we came..."

She looked thoughtfully at the clouds while she tried to come up with a plan.

"Or we could ask if there's anyone who could help us get away..." she finished. "With glamour or something..."


Storyteller

"I suppose there might be," said Cain. "I'm not sure about riding
back the way we've come, though... Actually, I'm a bit worried
about this. This is Birch duchy, right? So where are all
the members of House Birch? Where's the roads, and the
villages? The peasants? For all the ground we've covered in
the last day or so, I've not seen any evidence that there's anyone by
us here..."


Ilandra

"Perhaps they decided to go stay with allies like your house did..."
Ilandra told him. "Or maybe these are the outskirts and there's nobody
living here because it doesn't make for good farming land... Or maybe
this battle was arranged months in advance and the duke was able to
evacuate the area so as to minimise the carnage on his own people... I
don't know... Perhaps we could ask..."
She stroked his hand absentmindedly as she thought.


Storyteller

"I suppose we could," said Cain. "Though you're probably right, I
expect it's just that nobody really wants to live in this bit of the
kingdom."

They rode on, the sun reaching its zenith and then beginning to descend
slowly into the west. Before too long, the word spread through
the soldiers and eventually to Ilandra that they were reaching the
rendezvous point. Sure enough, at around two in the afternoon,
the army's course veered to the east as other marching men and cavalry
appeared in the distance.

Having merged to the officers' satisfaction, the now much larger
combined army - perhaps five times the total size of Baron Richtoven's
force alone - stopped and set about distributing rations.


Ilandra

As the rations were handed to Ilandra, she thanked the soldier and asked

"Any idea when we'll be able to see Duke Rose?"


Storyteller

"I'd imagine pretty much any time, your Grace," replied the
soldier. "He'll be up in front, I'm sure. Just look for the
most impressive tent!"


Ilandra

"Awesome, thanks!" she said, grabbing her bag and shoving the sandwich
in her mouth and running towards the front of the gathering.

Upon reaching the front she located the most impressive tent, brushed her dress down and approached.

"Excuse me, I was wondering if it'd be possible to see Duke Rose at
all?" she asked a likely looking guard. "I mean, if it's not too much
of a bother..."


Storyteller

"And you are?" asked the guard, as Cain breathlessly ran up behind Ilandra.


Ilandra

"Oh yeah, I'm Duchess Honeysuckle..." she said. "And before you ask,
yes there is still one of those and no, I'm not married yet but I will
be eventually. How are you?"

damned Jasmine has me on the defensive now...


Storyteller

"How am... How am I?" asked the guard. "I'm... not bad, I
suppose, your Grace. Considering tomorrow, anyway. But I,
er... I wasn't planning on marrying you. So you're, erm,
safe there. Shall I let the Duke know you're here?"


Ilandra

"I didn't suggest you were planning on marrying me..." Ilandra said,
not unkindly. "Yes, I would like to see the Duke please. Also, good
luck tomorrow..."


Storyteller

"Your House isn't...? Ah, I see. Well, I'll let His Grace know you're here."

The guard disappeared inside the tent, and emerged a few minutes later.

"The Duke will see you, but he says you'll have to be quick. We resume marching in fifteen minutes."


Ilandra

"Thankyou!" she said. "Well, I'll probably be seeing you soon unless
you don't get wounded... or you get killed. Do please take care!"

She entered the tent, fidgeting with her sleeves.

"Good Afternoon, Your Grace. How are you?" she asked, nervously.


Storyteller

Inside the tent, the opulence of the decorations quite put the Baron's
tent to shame - and all this for only a half-hour lunch break!
Duke David of the House of the Red Rose was quite clearly a man who Got
Things Done. Or, rather, Got People to Do Things For Him.

Duke Red Rose was a fairly portly chap, clearly no stranger to the
banquet table, and as his current activities demonstrated well, no
stranger to the cigars and the port decanter, either. He smiled
as Ilandra entered.

"Ah, the Duchess Honeysuckle. Ilandra, isn't it? How can I help you?"


Ilandra

Ilandra nodded, fidgeting even more with her sleeve not noticing the fabric beginning to tear.

"Well... thing is... er..." she said, her voice rebelling against her.
"That is..." She looked up at him, blushing furiously. "I wanted to get
married and I can't remember who's on which side and I wanted to retain
neutrality and I would be really honoured if you could be there to
officiate... please!" she blurted out, only then realising that in her
nerves she'd managed to destroy a sleeve.


Storyteller

"Officiate? At a wedding?" he said. "Why, I'd be delighted!"

He considered for a moment.

"Is this an 'I want to marry my fiancÈ before he goes off to battle
tomorrow' sort of thing, or could it wait a few days? As you can
probably imagine, I'm not especially well-endowed with free time at
present."


Ilandra

Ilandra panicked. Tears formed in her eyes.

"HE'S GOING TO BATTLE?!?" she demanded, clutching the Duke's sleeve and
beginning to cry. "Please don't let him go to battle! He said he
wouldn't!"

Before the duke she melted into tears hugging herself and rocking slightly backwards and forwards.

"He can't go to battle..." she burbled. "...he mustn't go..."


Storyteller

"Pull yourself together, girl! Who is this man, anyway? One of mine, I assume?"


Ilandra

She nodded, wiping her tears away with the fragment of her sleeve she'd torn off in her nerves.

"I'm sorry... I just... Haven't got over the loss of everybody else
yet." she murmured, her cheeks colouring again. She wiped the last of
the tears away and looked up at the man. "Sorry. I wanted... well,
still want... to marry Prince Poppy. I know right now isn't convenient,
so I was wondering when would be convenient... bearing in mind that in
the interest of preserving neutrality I have to ask the White Rose duke
also."


Storyteller

"Poppy? Well, he's not one of mine then, dear." He looked
her up and down. "The elder one, I take it? What's his
name, now... Cain, is it?"

Ilandra nodded.

"None of my business whether he fights or not, any more. Not that
I don't value the Poppies as allies, but they don't have much of an
army. I'm still counting on the political support of the Duchess
Poppy, but even if it were my place to, I wouldn't order them to
battle."

He took a deep swig of port as Ilandra's last sentence sunk in.

"You're going to ask Richard as well, eh? That would make the
ceremony a little... awkward, now, wouldn't it? Obviously my
behaviour, and I'd vouch White Rose's too, would be exemplary.
But there would be a lot of people from both sides there. How
could you be sure that nobody would try anything... unfortunate?"


Ilandra

"Just the fact that if any fights break out I'll have the medics out
sedating them before they can do any harm to anybody. That and the fact
that nobody ever fights at weddings." she said, confidently. "Anyway,
if it causes any problems then I'll just invite you and the other duke
and nobody else from either side... just I didn't fancy having to join
the black roses to get a neutral wedding."


Storyteller

"I'm afraid, my dear, one can't just invite the two most powerful men
in all the land and them alone. There's the retinue, the
bodyguards... Plenty of people who might have uncivil
ideas. Unless you want to be married right in the middle of a
battlefield before the battle starts - hah! - but that's the moment the
two of us would have the least people around us.

"If you really insist on keeping things neutral at the wedding, is
there no-one in your own house that could perform the ceremony?
Or if not, what about one of the Trees?"


Ilandra

Ilandra gave him a look that almost said 'are you mentally deficient?' at his last question.

"There's nobody left in my house... the battle at house Poppy wiped
them out... I believe, they were trying out an ambulance system." she
said. "Though I suppose we could do a battlefield wedding... if we
absolutely must. Can I get back to you on that one in a little bit? I
have to run it past Cain."


Storyteller

"Certainly," he said, waving Ilandra from the tent and wondering how he could have made his point any clearer.


Ilandra

Ilandra left the tent in a state of mild confusion. As she came out, she bumped into Cain.

"Hey," she said, "I have a question... how do you feel about a
battlefield wedding?" She thought for a second. "Actually, scratch
that, I have a better idea. Next Wednesday is good for you, right?"

She didn't wait for an answer before re-entering the tent.

"I thought about it further and seeing as the Poppies are red it makes
sense for you to be there... so how's next Wednesday? We'll hold it at
my castle so that we can get the whole coronation nonsense out of the
way too..."


Storyteller

"Wednesday, eh?" asked the Duke. "Ah, the young, always in a hurry. Lieutenant Jenkins!"

"Sir?" A scrawny-looking man in disarrayed uniform appeared from the back of the tent, clutching at a notepad.

"Are we free next Wednesday?"

"Right, oh, um, let me see..." said Jenkins. "This engagement
should be wrapped up by Friday morning, then they march north...
Another two days to the Ivy border. Probably a light engagement
there, that'll bring us to Monday. Then it's further north to
Valentine City, that'll be three to four days of skirmishes to get
there, making it Thursday... On the assumption that the force
remains strong enough to deal with skirmishers, sir, I'd say Wednesday
next will be relatively uneventful."

"Jolly good. Well then, your Grace, assuming you've come to your
senses and won't be requiring myself to make any undue preparations in
the way of bodyguards and whatnot, I shall see be there to officiate on
Wednesday. Honeysuckle, correct?"


Ilandra

"Yup!" she said. "Honeysuckle. Thank you!!!"

She flashed the Duke a winning smile and popped back out the tent.

"Will you tell your mother?" she asked Cain. "It's Wednesday next week
and it'll be at my place rather than yours. Also, could she not invite
too many people... I don't have enough time to prepare for more than
150 people."

She looked around for a few seconds.

"Now... shall we go look for the beardy man?" she asked, rubbing her
hands together. Noticing the guard again she asked him. "Where would I
find Duke Pansy?"


Storyteller

"I'm not completely sure, your Grace," said the Guard. He turned,
and looked out across the camp. "There's a group of tents over
there," he said, pointing. "They're not Red Roses', and since I'm
guessing only the top brass would have tents up for a lunch stop,
that's probably the Pansy command group."

The guard turned back, and glanced in the direction of Cain, who was
still standing as if the pace of decision-making in the last few
minutes had frozen him to the spot.

"Is he okay?"


Ilandra

Ilandra poked Cain in the side. He swayed slightly from side to side. She poked again and achieved about the same result.

"I think I broke him..." she mused. "Or in five minutes he'll explode
into life like he did last time... I'd best move him before anyone
trips over him."

She picked him up, holding him by the legs facing away from her. To a
casual observer, Cain appeared to be bobbing through the crowd.
Carrying him, she wandered towards the Pansy camp where she walked up
to a large tent and asked the guard.

"Excuse me, would it be possible to have a minute with Duke Pansy. I'm duchess Honeysuckle." she said.


Storyteller

"And I'm Prince Cain Poppy," said Cain. "And you can put me down now."

The guard looked from one to the other and back again, nodded, and stepped inside the tent.

He emerged a minute or so later.

"You can go in," he said simply.


Ilandra

"You were broken, like when I gave you moonshine..." she explained as
they entered the tent. Inside the tent Ilandra turned to Duke Pansy and
bowed. "Hello, I have a massive favour to ask of you... and before you
worry, no I'm not concerned with how many people you wound. Basically,
we're getting married next Wednesday and I want to personally invite
you...."


Storyteller

"Married, eh?" said Duke Pansy, winking at the two of them. "Well
well well. I'll come if I'm not on a battlefield at the
time!" He laughed uproariously. "So what're you doing all
the way out here?"


Ilandra

"You're gonna laugh..." Ilandra said. "Basically, his mother is not
only single but enjoys doing paperwork and you're a nice man so I
wondered if you wouldn't mind being her date for the wedding... only
she will insist on spending all her time with me otherwise and you can
appreciate that that's not a particularly appealing prospect on one's
wedding day..."


Storyteller

Duke Pansy bellowed heartily. "Damn right I'll laugh! You want me
to be your mother-in-law's date to your own wedding?" He
grinned. "Well, it's crazy enough, it might just work! I'm sure I
can bore her with tales of battle and she can bore me with tales of
paperwork, and between 'em we'll have her off your hands!"


Ilandra

"Thank you!!!" Ilandra cried, leaping up and hugging the other Duke. "I
knew you were awesome! As for boring her with tales of battle, well
from what I hear they'll be totally fascinating! I mean, just a few
months ago you single-handedly filled up one of our wards..."

She let go of the Duke, smiling.

"Anyway, now I have to find someone to pretend to be my father..." she
said, mostly to herself thoughtfully. "and perhaps a few bridesmaids...
though am I sure I really want bridesmaids? Hmm..."

Turning back to the Duke she put on puppy dog eyes.

"You wouldn't mind doing the whole walking down the aisle to give the
girl away thing as well would you?" she asked. "Only that otherwise I
have a week to find another Duke willing to do so..."


Storyteller

"What about your own- oh," said Pansy, realising he'd just put his foot
in it. "Right, well. I suppose so, if there's no-one you'd
rather have. At least no-one will try to steal you! Hahaha!"


Ilandra

"Thanks!" she said. "If there's anything I can do for you in return,
just let me know... otherwise, I'll be seeing you soon! Oh and do try
to not get hurt, I'll be worrying about you if you do..."

She turned to leave the tent, grabbing Cain's hand.


Storyteller

Pansy laughed again. "Hurt? Hah. I don't think you
need to worry, somehow! Enjoy the rest of being single, and I'll
be seeing you in a week!"


Ilandra

"Yup, see you then. Though I'll still worry..." she replied. "You look like you need somebody to worry over you occasionally..."

She left the tent, dragging Cain behind her.

"I can't think of any sensible places nearby that might be weak enough
for a pick up..." she said. "We could just stick with the troops for
now, I guess. What do you think?"

She fixed Cain with a concerned look.


Storyteller

"I suppose so," said Cain, his tone of voice betraying how un-keen he
really was. "But they're going to be fighting tomorrow. I'd
rather not... Well, you know. I'd rather not get any more
involved than I need to."


Ilandra

"No, it's OK... Let's go find Hawthorn, the nearest weak spot is over
that crest..." she said pointing in the general direction they'd been
marching in. "Are we going to stay in my house or do you want to brave
your mother today?"


Storyteller

"Yours, I think. Um, if that's okay. The last half hour has
been a bit... crazy. I think I'd like to sleep on things before I
have to explain them to my mother."


Ilandra

"Right. Well, in that case we'd best get moving." she said, her mind
trying to work out how to get to the white camp on her own. They walked
towards Hawthorn as the troops readied themselves for the afternoon's
march. Once mounted, they followed the other troops. "Looks like
they're going our way after all..." Ilandra commented.
Sensing Cain's mood, she turned slightly to hug him and snuggle into his arms.


Ilandra

Ilandra looked pensive as they rode, then turned to Cain and asked for
a candle. He rummaged in Hawthorn's saddlebags and handed her one.
She dredged in her bag and pulled out a pencil and some paper and wrote
a quick note which she sealed up using her ring and the wax. Satisfied
at this, she pointed out the fork in the road where they'd be
separating from the rest of the troops. The feeling they had when they
entered returned as they reached the edge of Birch land and as they
entered the crisp spring sunshine of Honeysuckle it dispersed. Ilandra
made a mental note of this entry, deciding that she'd be re-entering
Birch on her own later on.
"Well, we're home... sort of." she said, gesturing at the cottage. "I'm
just going to put Hawthorn in the stables, so if you go in and ask
Catkin to put you up in the guest chamber..."
She handed him the letter to give to Catkin, explaining that it had
some instructions about her wedding dress. Then watched him go into the
cottage. Once he was inside she turned to Hawthorn.
"Right, I have a plan... I need you to carry me back to Birch lands...
And I'm sorry to say, but the quicker the better." she said. "You see,
I never asked the white duke and I need to but I can't let Cain come
along because he'll get killed. I'm sure he wouldn't mind..."
Inside the cottage, Catkin opened the letter which merely said:
Don't let him leave the cottage until I come back, keep him inside by any means necessary.
I'll be back as soon as I can...
Ilandra


Storyteller

"You're going to what?"
asked Hawthorn incredulously. "This is quite a risk.
Granted, Cain's life would be in more danger, but you and I are by no
means guaranteed to be treated in a friendly manner by the Whites."


Ilandra

"That's true, however you run faster than I do and if they attack me on
my own I'd find it hard to get away." she said. "Besides, you're a
warhorse... you know more about battlefields than I ever will... So I'd
totally appreciate your help... please? I'll give you all the apples
and carrots you can eat when we get back!"


Storyteller

"It sounds," said Hawthorn, slowly, "distressingly like you were planning on going on your own if I said no."

He thought for a moment. "That being the case, I will carry
you. But we must be very quick. It would be dangerous to
remain in the Whites' camp for too long, and it also unnerves me to be
too far from the Prince. Furthermore, I recommend you change my
tack for some belonging to your house, or at least some that is
undecorated."


Ilandra

"I don't know how to..." she admitted. "How about I just add some honeysuckle details to your current er... tack...?"

She pulled out her scissors and cut a medic tabard in half, attaching it to the saddle as if it were a blanket.

"Right, well I covered all the pictures of poppies..." she said. Then
she looked over at the cottage, the door was still closed. "Can we get
going yet? I don't know how long it'll be before Cain figures that I'm
not going in...."


Storyteller

"Right. Let's get going. Plenty of time on the road ahead
for you to think up ways of explaining this to the Prince..."

With that, Hawthorn cantered off down the path away from Honeysuckle Cottage, out into wherever the border took them.

Before too long they passed through the unnerving, shimmering barrier
of Honeysuckle's border, and out into Birch land again. This
time, as before, they stared down a slight incline towards an army at
camp. There was no mistaking that these were Whites,
however. None of the red and gold adornment that characterised
Red Rose and Pansy's camps was present here. Their army was
smaller than the approaching reds', that was for certain, but they
seemed... grittier. Nothing was wasted here, there was no
luxury. It looked for all the world like the officers camped no
better than the ordinary men.


Ilandra

"Well, this is a lot different to what I expected..." Ilandra said. "How long before we get there?"

She looked up at the sky, trying to figure out the time, idly noting by the setting sun that it was early evening.

"It looks like it'll only really be a meal we'll be interrupting and
not waking anyone up if we get there in the next hour so... at least we
won't get into too much trouble..." she said.

They rode on for a little while, Ilandra pulling on a medic tabard over
her jacket to emphasise the fact that she wasn't a red. As they
approached, she fretted slightly over her clothing... checking and
double checking that she was wearing no red or white. She wasn't, after
becoming fully satisfied that her yellow dress and pale pink jacket
were neither red nor white she adjusted her signet ring.

"Do you think they'll accept my neutrality?" she asked Hawthorn, after
fretting for a while. "I'm not sure, cause Cain's red and they might
think I'm on his side when I'm clearly not on any side..."


Storyteller

"I doubt that they even know about your relationship with the Prince,"
said Hawthorn. "So long as you introduce yourself properly, you
will likely come to no harm."


Ilandra

They were nearing the front of the camp by that stage and Ilandra straightened herself up.

"Good evening," she said to a guard that was eyeing her up
suspiciously. "I'm Duchess Honeysuckle and I was wondering if I'd be
able to see Duke Rose please."

She thought for a split second before adding.

"Sorry, I mean Duke White Rose..."


Storyteller

"Hah," said the guard, "well, I didn't think you'd mean Red Rose..." He turned. "Sergeant Major, Sir! A visitor, sir!"

A stout fellow appeared from a nearby tent, and made his way to the guards' position.

"The Duchess Honeysuckle, sir!" said the guard.

"Well, well," said the Sergeant Major, waddling toward Ilandra.
"If I may see your ring, your Grace? No offence, you understand,
but security's pretty tight around here."


Ilandra

"Sure." she said, holding her hand out to show the man. Being sure to keep it just out of his reach as he looked.


Storyteller

The Sergeant Major examined it as best he could, then nodded and stepped out of her and Hawthorn's way.

"Who are you here to see, your Grace?"


Ilandra

"Well, as I said to your guard here, I'm here to see Duke Rose. If I
may." she said, keeping her voice level. "I won't keep him long, I'm
aware that you have an early start and all that..."


Storyteller

"Thank you, your Grace. If you ride in that direction," he said,
pointing into the camp, "about four hundred yards, you should find the
command tents. His will be the most heavily guarded, I'm
sure. Just ask someone if you get lost."


Ilandra

"Thank you!" she said, as Hawthorn began walking in the direction that
the soldier had pointed. Upon reaching a heavily guarded tent she
dismounted and walked up to a guard.

"Excuse me, would this be Duke Rose's tent?" she asked. "And if so, may I just pop in and see him? I'm Duchess Honeysuckle..."

She flashed her signet ring at the guard, watching as he ducked inside
the tent to check with his superiors. After a few seconds he popped
back out and waved her in. She thanked him before entering the tent.

"Good evening, Your Grace." she said, bowing to the Duke. "I was
wondering if I could ask you a favour... See, I'm getting married next
Wednesday and I wanted you to be there officiating..."


Storyteller

Duke White Rose looked up from a map, at least six feet in each
direction, spread out on a table before him. "Honeysuckle,
hmm? Well, in principle I have no objections. However, I
must ask - why me? I would seem rather an odd choice, wouldn't
you agree?"


Ilandra

"I know..." she said. "But seeing as he's technically a red, having a
white do the whole thing would make people believe he's serious about
the whole neutrality thing. Besides, there's nobody from my house to do
it... Please?"


Storyteller

"There will, then, inevitably be a number of Reds there, and a number
of Whites. You realise, I assume, that extra... security measures
would have to be taken?"


Ilandra

"That's perfectly fine by me. Put in whatever security measures you see
fit." she said. "After all, I wouldn't want you to get harmed at all
during the wedding or the celebrations."


Storyteller

"Indeed. Nor would I, nor would I. This wedding is to be at your... castle, yes?"


Ilandra

"Yup!" she said. "At my castle. Though it still looks like a cottage...
I can't quite work out how to reverse that... Will you be there?"


Storyteller

"I will," said Duke Richard with a slight bow. "Now then, if you will excuse me..."


Ilandra

"Thanks!" she called, ducking out of the tent and running towards
Hawthorn. "Right, Hawthorn... best return you before your master has
kittens!"

She waved goodbye to the guard as Hawthorn began to walk out of the
camp toward the spot where they'd entered. The weird feeling coming
over them once again as they went through the border between Birch and
Honeysuckle. Upon reaching the stables, Ilandra dismounted and keeping
a hand on Hawthorn asked him to talk her through the removal of the
tack.


Storyteller

Hawthorn did so, slowly, trying to build Ilandra's confidence.

"So," he said as Ilandra unhitched the saddle, "anything to put off having to explain this to Cain, eh?"


Ilandra

"No," she said. "If i don't take all this off you then you'll be really
uncomfortable and Cain'll shout because I haven't taken care of you...
that and I haven't yet worked out how to explain it to him..."

She put the saddle carefully down and returned to Hawthorn's side.

"Do I have to brush you down now or will you be ok?" she asked, anxious to do the right thing.


Storyteller

"Brushing would be appreciated," said Hawthorn, snorting. "It's
been a while since I've been in anything resembling a stable. I'm
sure the Prince will understand your reasons eventually. He just
might be a little annoyed to start with."


Ilandra

She grabbed up a brush and started brushing the horse down, paying particular attention to his instructions.

"So you think he'll understand?" she asked, eventually, as she finished
brushing him down. "Well, I suppose we've kept him waiting long
enough... Wish me luck!"

With a final pat on Hawthorn's neck, she left the stables and walked into the cottage.


Storyteller

Ilandra eventually found Cain in the library, staring out of the window
across the gardens of Honeysuckle cottage. He didn't turn around
as his fiancÈe entered the room.


Ilandra

"Hi..." she said, quietly. "Sorry for just disappearing like that..."

She fidgeted quietly with a sleeve, approaching him slowly.

"I had a couple of loose ends that needed sorting out... so I sorted
them out, I didn't think you'd mind that much..." she said, tentatively
reaching out for him. "I'm really sorry, and next time I'll tell you
before I go..."

She put her hand on his arm, gently as though to test the severity of his annoyance.

"And I had to remove Hawthorn's tack and brush him down." she said,
trying and failing to keep the pride out of her voice at her
achievement. "I'm still sorry for disappearing on you like that... I
really won't do it again."

She gripped his arm softly, pulling him towards her gently.


Storyteller

"You went to see the White Roses, didn't you?" asked Cain slowly,
resisting Ilandra's pull on his arm. "You could have just asked,
you know. Without any of this trying to keep me prisoner
here. I realise why I couldn't go, and... I'm quite
surprised you made it back alive too."


Ilandra

"I said I was sorry..." she said. "Besides, why would they kill me? I'm not on either side. And you're not prisoner..."

Ilandra idly wondered whether Catkin had shown Cain the note... then
decided to pretend she hadn't written it unless shown the note.

"I'd never keep you prisoner..." she lied. "You were perfectly free to leave..."


Storyteller

"That's not quite the way your butler put it," said Cain. "He was
most insistent that I needed to stay here, but wouldn't say why..."


Ilandra

"Well, I might have asked nicely for you to still be here when I
returned..." she said, looking down at the floor. "Besides, don't
prisoners get locked up in dungeons? You've not been locked up,
therefore you're not a prisoner..."


Storyteller

"Huh," said Cain, turning back to the window. He stood for a minute or more, looking out into the gardens.

"I take it White Rose accepted, then?"


Ilandra

"Sort of..." she said, neglecting to tell him details. "I think it best
we don't tell too many people though, he said something about not
wanting anyone to know they don't mind being seen together..."

She took a step forward and put her arms around Cain.

"Look, I'm sorry... I thought you'd follow me and I didn't want to risk
your life..." she said, holding him tightly enough that he couldn't
just wriggle away. "I know it was unfair and I promise you I'll never
do it again. I understand if you want to go back home tonight, but I'd
like you to stay and I'll give you my set of master keys so that you
can go anywhere you like..."

She reached into her bag and pulled out a bundle of keys, keeping one
arm around him. Then she put the keys into his hand, let go of him and
walked back towards the door.

"I'll be in the drawing room downstairs, let me know if you forgive
me." she said, deciding that perhaps the best way to solve the argument
is to acknowledge she's lost it.