Zxalvia paced around the stone tower, examining every wall, furnishing, and stone. Talsun stood in the middle of her rampage, trying to recall the last time he had been held captive in a room by someone he didn't know, with someone whom he despised entirely. Almost as if she felt her cue, Zxalvia turned on her heel and gave Talsun a glare that would make any man in his right mind flee the situation. Unable to do so, Talsun looked up at the girl and gave her his most charming courtier grin, bearing gleaming teeth and all. Zxalvia thought she would throw up. This man was the most damned thing that God had put on this earth. In all of his "studies", he didn't know how to fight or get them out of this place. Loudly she pounded on the solid stonewall and sank heftily into one of the two beds taking up space in the room.
"I hope you know this is all your fault, Duke," Zxalvia fumed at the young man, still standing, examining the towers structure.
Unsurprised, Talsun gave her a look of almost shock and replied, "Why, my dear, how would you ever dream it be so? Was it not you who charged into this hopeless place in seek of eternal glory and honor?"
"Oh no, no, no. Don't start that "my dear" again Talsun. Was it not you, who led me here, obviously only to meet my doom. I am starting to actually think you planned all this!"
Talsun made a tsk, tsk, "The only reason I brought you here was to see you fall on your knees in a pitiful mess and accept that you are no more a warrior than I am. If I had known that something terrible would occur, being stuck in a tower with you for example, I never would have come."
By now Zxalvia's cheeks were burning with fury, and she could no longer control her anger. "Not a warrior? Not a warrior? I could send you and all your scholar friends off to the devil if I wanted to. What do you call a person who spends half their life training as a soldier, a pansy? You sickening dog, your no better than any of the other nobles, letting the poor fight their wars and staying safe with all their money," she spat at his feet, and turned around on the bed. Maybe I'm not a warrior a part of her said; maybe I'm just another girl. Pushing those thoughts aside, she lay on the bed and went into a dreamless, colorless sleep.
A tingly sensation came over Talsun as he watched Zxalvia slowing drifting into the emptiness of sleeping. Scorning to himself, he cast the feelings away and blamed it on the cool weather. Oddly bored by Zxalvia's sleeping, he took his turn to inspect their new living space. He saw that there were two beds, two desks, two side tables, two large, cushiony chairs, one large tub (though he hadn't the slightest idea how they might fill it with water), stacks upon stacks of parchment, numerous bottles of ink, and perhaps 20 top quality quills. Amazed, he stared at all the writing equipment in glee, and then realized his situation. Melancholy once again, he thought to sleep also, and then he saw it. A very large dresser, which Talsun was positive, had not been in that place before. Bewildered, he stepped closer to the thing, and opened one of its drawers.
The dresser was filled with wonderful clothes, like something a king might wear, trousers, shirts, leggings, and nightshirts. And not only did it have men's clothing, but women's also. There were beautiful gowns, petticoats, under dresses, everything a girl might wear. In the next drawer were shoes, and the next contained perfumes. Closing them all, Talsun saw a wooden box on the dresser, another item that just mysteriously appeared. Opening the box, he saw it contained jewelry, diamonds no less! The whole thing was overflowing with earrings, necklaces, brooches, pins, and bracelets. Taking a glance at Zxalvia, he wondered if she would ever wear any of this.
In his own head, Talsun heard a voice different from his own whispered, of course she will, or else, well, lets just say she will. Feeling dizzy and disorientated, Talsun opened the dresser and awkwardly grabbed a nightshirt and put it on, after removing his clothes. Suddenly feeling a wave of exhaustion, he decided that he would sleep now, and tell Zxalvia of the things that had occurred in the morning. Pulling the silk covers over his head, Talsun started his meditation that others might call sleep, and let his worried thoughts drift into the night.
Rays of light danced on Zxalvia's face, waking her from her silent slumber. Rubbing her eyes, she tried to see where the light was coming from, since there were no windows or doors in the tower. Her mouth was agape as she saw the room was filled with candles, all brightly lit and iridescent. Slowly she got out of the bed. Looking around, to her amazement she saw Talsun lounging in one of the large chairs, wearing well-made black trousers, dark green silken shirt, dress boots, and a matching jacket. He was deeply engrossed by some sort of note in his hand.
Without looking up from the piece of parchment, Talsun said, "There are clothes in the dresser for you also, the bath is full," he finally looked up at her. "Don't worry, I will turn around, I have no desire, well, you know. Well, hurry, and don't look at me like that, its not like I made this all appear," Giving her an exasperated look, he returned to the note, his eyes shifting to and fro. Zxalvia sighed, shaking her head. She peered over the edge of the steaming tub, the water smelled slightly of soap and lilacs. A hot bath and clean clothes did sound good, but…she looked over at Talsun. He stared right back at her.
"Turn around, now!" Zxalvia said hotly to Talsun, who put up his arms in defeat, turned the large chair in the opposite direction and sat down. Slowly Zxalvia took off her very dirty clothing and slipped into the hot water. A table next to the tub held a bar of lilac soap, scrubbing brush, and washcloth. Taking the soap and cloth, she began the task of scrubbing all the dirt off her body. By the time she was halfway done, her skin was pink and raw. As the washing came to an end, Zxalvia stepped out of the bathtub and wrapped a towel around her clean body.
As she walked over to the dresser, she checked over her shoulder to make sure that Talsun was still turned around, and then opened the top drawer, which was full of men's clothing.
"Your clothes are in the second drawer, mind you," Zxalvia heard a voice say from the general direction of the chair. Sighing deeply, she opened the second drawer and gasped.
"It's full of dresses!" she exclaimed in dismay. She hadn't worn a dress since she was ten, which was eight years ago, and she didn't plan to now.
"Yes, it is, and you will wear one, the crimson and gold one, it will match your auburn hair perfectly," Zxalvia could hear the smile in Talsun's voice.
"Why?" she nearly yelled.
"Because, of this note," Talsun, still in the chair, put out his hand to show Zxalvia the note. He then said, "This is what it reads:
To Lady Zxalvia Mersduaghter and Duke Talsun of Candirth
You are bid to dine with me at 5:30 this evening.
I have provided you with the proper clothing
Dresses for the lady, Breaches for the gentleman
Refusal is prohibited
Thank you and I hope you are enjoying your stay
"So you see, you must wear a dress," Talsun concluded with shear delight. Zxalvia's face burned in anger. A chuckle came from behind the chair. Grabbing the first dress she saw, she threw it on and marched out to confront the odious Talsun.
"Happy now Talsun? You got your wish, I have now stooped down to the level of wearing a dress!" Zxalvia saw that laughter and something else played in Talsun's eyes. Looking down, she saw not only was the dress terribly askew, it was also the very one Talsun had recommended. Rage overcame her and she stomped back over to the dresser. Being more careful this time, she pulled on the under dress, petticoats, and stockings as best she could. To her disappointment, there was no other dress and she was forced to wear the crimson one. Next came boots and she once again stood in front of her detestable companion.
"Yes, yes that will do nicely. Oh, but your missing one thing…" He got up and walked over to the box lying on the dresser. From it he drew out a beautiful diamond and ruby necklace. Signaling for her to turn around, she did so and felt him attach the hooks of the necklace around her neck. As his fingers brushed against her skin a tingling sensation went down her spine, and she had a very sudden urge to get away from him. Zxalvia felt him hold her earlobe and examine it like a jeweler would a gem. "No, no piercing. What a pity, there are some lovely matching earrings in there."
Quickly she pulled away from him and wrapped her arms around herself. Suddenly she felt very cold and alone in that tower. Talsun made no move to comfort her, and both anguish and relief welled up inside her. In slow steps she placed herself in front of a mirror that was hanging on one of the walls. The reflection was a stranger to her, a clean young lady but for her cropped hair that dangled about her chin.
As Zxalvia looked at herself, Talsun stood to the side observing how the dress gave her a figure he had not known she had. He then scorned himself for thinking such thoughts. She saw him staring at her and snapped, "What are you looking at?"
Suddenly very angry, he said, "Well, there isn't much to look at, is there?" Zxalvia breathed in tight, and he immediately knew that was the wrong thing to say. But there was no taking it back, and he knew it. Something odd happened after that, Talsun looked into the mirror, and saw something odd on the opposite wall.
Seeing his odd stare, Zxalvia turned around. Her eyes grew wide as she saw what he was looking at. "Is that what I think it is?" They both seemed frozen for hours, but when they came out of shock, they both sprinted to the door. Pulling on the handle, they both fell backwards and landed on top of each other.
Talsun blushed and Zxalvia's eyes got wide, and somehow they forgot how to get up. Every movement was awkward, but they finally managed to pull apart. Realizing the door was open, they turned to rush out, only to find a surprising presence. A tall man stood in the doorway, dressed entirely in black, with a pale complexion and dark hair and eyes. What was even more surprising was what he said, "Hello, Zxalvia, I am Count Rytvaire."