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Six Years Earlier, OmashuEdit
The crown princess of the Vampiri was a very beautiful young woman. Her hair was a pristine white despite her young age, not an uncommon color among Death Bringers, but still rather unusual in a pleasant way. She had been trained from a young age in all the things a future ruler might need to know, and like all Death Bringers, she had been taught combat from an early age, resulting in her lithe figure, which was currently as tight as a bundle of steel cords with indignation.
Her eyes had gone from their usual pale shade of lilac to a deep vivid purple, warning everyone who knew her of her immense outrage at what she had just been told. "I won't do it!" she exclaimed. "I don't care if the treaty does hinge on my marriage, I will not be forced into a marriage to someone I don't even know." Her advisors, the ambassador and most of her entourage flinched. The young Bone-Monger who had saved her entourage earlier that day and was currently standing behind her turned to one of her aids, "She wasn't told about the engagement?"
The aid shrugged helplessly, "I thought she knew!" Old King Bumi up on his throne scratched the metal plate on his head with his huge mechanical arm, "Won't do it eh? Well, that's acceptable." He sat back, smiling broadly as Iarna's expression went from outraged to confused. She raised an eyebrow, "What?" Bumi smiled, "You certainly don't have to marry my grandson. You do have a sister don't you?" Iarna's eyes widened as she realized Yue could very easily take her place, "You wouldn't..."
The young bone-monger leaned forward and tapped her on the shoulder, "He would." Iarna's spine was rigid with horror, she could get out of this arranged marriage, but to do so would be to shove it off onto her beloved little sister! Bumi smiled and tinkered idly with an odd little knick knack, "Life's full of tough choices isn't it? You can stay and do something you don't much want to right now, and take a chance that it'll work out, or you can shuffle it off onto your sister and risk it going terribly for her."
The young bone-monger spoke, "You know Princess, I'm sure Prince Graveren would be open to the idea of a long engagement so you could get to know each other. He's had months to familiarize himself with you and adjust to the idea, but you have had no time at all. I am certain he would be willing to give you some time to think about it." Iarna bit her lip, and then nodded, "Yes, I think a little bit of time would be good. I need to gather my thoughts."
The young bone-monger and King Bumi nodded and the young Bone-Monger gestured to the servants, "Show the princess's entourage to their rooms." The servants quickly scurried into motion herding Iarna's servants away through the high halls of the royal palace. Iarna found the young Bone-Monger's elbow extended to her, "If I may show you to your room princess?" Iarna gave a short snort of laughter and accepted the elbow, allowing him to lead her away.
As he led her down the hallway her servants had been herded down, he looked at her and she noticed that he was actually roughly her height, perhaps even a little bit shorter, a bizarre oddity among Bone-Mongers who were typically giants, "Would you like a tour Princess? I would be delighted to show you around." Iarna raised an eyebrow at him with a smile, "Won't you get in trouble with the Prince for escorting his future bride about on your arm?" The young man smiled, "Oh the Prince's fury is indeed terrible when roused, thankfully though, it is very difficult to make him angry."
Iarna smiled and looked out the window at the gleaming steel and tangled wires of Omashu, "What's he like, this Prince? You said he'd had time to familiarize himself with me, how did that happen?" The young Bone-Monger smiled, "Well Princess, you know of course that there is an ambassadorial party from Omashu at your father's court, what you might not have known is that every member of that ambassadorial party is a skilled reconnaissance agent and spy. They are also in large part very skilled artists, allowing them to send home detailed renderings of everything they see.
"Our agents probably know Etake Vale better than half the people living there, and Prince Graveren has familiarized himself so thoroughly with its customs and culture that he could probably be an ambassador himself. Assuming he could be spared here of course. If we could spare him here then he'd have gone up to Etake Vale in person to meet and escort you here in person. He's quite taken with you." "Hmm, so he's seen pictures of me then?" "Yes Princess, and I imagine he shall give a hearty thumping to the artist when he sees them for so inadequately representing your beauty. He was prepared for a beautiful young woman, not a goddess made flesh."
Iarna laughed slightly and blushed a little, "Oh stop that, you're going to get yourself in trouble." The young man smiled and shrugged, "Seeing you happy is worth any amount of trouble I might get in and considerably more." Iarna laughed again, her smile growing, "If I didn't know better I'd say you were the-" She stopped suddenly and the young man stopped too. She looked at him and her brow furrowed, her eyes, which had been fading back to their usual pale shade as her indignation faded began coloring back up rapidly, "You're Prince Graveren aren't you?"
Graveren, for of course it was he, shrugged, "You wouldn't have deigned to speak with me had I introduced myself right off, and I very badly wanted to speak with you." She went to jerk her arm away and storm off, only to find that her body wouldn't do what she wanted it to. As she realized he had taken control of her body, he casually released that control and took her hand, bowing to kiss it gently, "I apologize for my rudeness in not introducing myself, and for the failure of everyone involved in this to inform you of what was happening. I assumed from the beginning that you were being kept as informed as I was. I am sorry that this was so sprung upon you Princess."
He straightened up and she saw that he had a sad look in his eye, "I am sorry that this was done without your approval, and I am extremely sorry to have let myself become so delighted at the prospect of your affection that our engagement was made a part of the treaty. If it is your wish I can go to my grandfather and have it struck from the agreement immediately." Iarna stared in open mouthed shock, the last thing she had expected was an apology, let alone a sincere and thorough one!
Still though, "Do it." Graveren bowed his head, "Of course Princess." He turned and gestured back towards the throne room, "Shall we?" Iarna nodded. They returned to the throne room and found King Bumi laughing with Graveren's younger siblings, the twins Toph and Achilles. While Achilles was tall and heavily muscled, Toph was small and petite. They were all three stunned when Graveren said without any warning, "Cancel the marriage."
The words were so unexpected that Achilles actually fell out of the chair he was sitting in. Bumi blinked, "What?" Graveren's face was stone, "Cancel. The marriage. The treaty is to go ahead without it." Bumi and the twins were so shocked that they couldn't even protest properly as Graveren cut across their stammers, "This is our decision. Nobody else's, and it will stand. I am not going to force the Princess into something so monumental that she does not want." Bumi closed his mouth, which had dropped open in shock and nodded, "Alright. We'll strike the marriage from the treaty and just go ahead without it."
Graveren nodded, "Good." He looked at Iarna, "Princess, I do hope you will allow us an opportunity to make up this most egregious oversight to you and stay with us a while longer. I would hate for this unpleasantness to be your only memory of Omashu." Iarna smiled, "Well, I suppose the passes will be snowed over soon. Better to winter here than out in the mountains, yes?" Graveren smiled, "Most emphatically Princess. Now that that's settled, would you like to continue the tour?" She smiled and looped her arm back through his, "I think I would actually."
Achilles found Graveren leaned on the rail of the balcony of his rooms at the top of the eastern most tower, staring out sourly at the cheerful lights of the city with a mug of cider in his hand as little flakes of snow drifted through the frigid air, heralding the grip of a long deep winter just around the corner. Graveren didn't turn around, he could tell who it was immediately, "What brings you up?"
Achilles snorted, "I think you and I both know." Graveren's scowl deepened, "Toph asked already, why don't you go ask her?" Achilles propped against the door frame, "I wanted to hear it from you." Graveren's fist slammed into the railing, leaving a six inch deep crater in it, "They didn't tell her?" He was very obviously making an effort not to bellow at the top of his lungs because he knew that would shake the entire palace, and Achilles actually flinched a little at the fury in his elder brother's voice.
Graveren's head hit the railing next before he raised it back up unscathed despite having left yet another crater in the railing and kneaded his brows, "Those idiots. I'm going to have to spend the entire winter undoing their little screw up and doing what should have been being done this entire time." Achilles grinned slightly, "You haven't given up on her have you?" Graveren looked over his shoulder at his brother, "You know I haven't. I'll win her over. You wait and see." Achilles smiled.