The will had laid out 125 acres of land, a grand sum of money, and the massive mansion with its entire staff. All of it was to go to Lord Kian, the eldest son of Lord Cadeyrn Regalis. As by tradition, Kian was granted the largest portion of his father's belongings, including his high reputation and heavy duties. It was the obligation of the first-born male to continue his father's legacy.
To Duke Eduart Lothar, it gave the hand of Regalis' beloved daughter, Lady Svana – a gift for them both. The subtlety of their courtship had not surpassed her father's eye.
Among Kian's remaining five brothers, the leftover 50-acre land was equally split, 10 acres to each of them, and they received only enough money to allow comfortable living for the first year on their own. With little left for them at home, they all found their calling on the battlefront, carrying on their father's strong military repute. Either through the brilliance of their tactics or their gift with the weapon, they rose quickly in name and for a variety of talents.
Several other close friends and relatives also appeared in the will, but what they received were of comparably little worth. It was evident that Lord Regalis had cleverly plotted to ensure that each of his progeny achieved at least a certain level of attainment after his death.
The success of Regalis' children became apparent almost immediately and brought a wave of astonishment and awe. This exaltation quickly turned to envy, but even the jealousy could not stop both nobles and peasants from passionately respecting the aristocratic family. Although Lord Cadeyrn Regalis himself had been a great man with even greater accomplishments, his offspring exceeded him – but that was probably exactly what the deceased lord had planned all along. For the past few generations, the Regalis family had created some of the most exceptional nobles the land had seen for some time, each growing increasingly more talented.
Certainly, the previous lord had expected nothing less from his children.
A finely crafted teacup was set down in its equally garnished saucer, their white porcelain elegantly embellished with patterns of gold. Behind stood a complementary teapot, the family crest engraved on its sides, and a pearl-white vase full of freshly picked flowers; in front was a matching porcelain plate with a half-eaten croissant. The arrangement rested on a small marble table, ivory-colored with pale yellow swirls – it had been requested that a tablecloth not be added. In the rococo chair, a man sat reading a series of papers, his umber eyes absorbed in the text. His hand, stationary and slightly curled, had been placed on the table next to a quill and an ink well with a small tray behind them. The other hand held the set of papers to the late morning light that streamed through the windows.
Despite the man's youth, his face held a sense of experience beyond that of his age, and even his unkempt brown hair failed to detract from his stately appearance. Light bags were beginning to form under his eyes from a lack of sleep. His energy and determination to keep the atmosphere light made his stress far less apparent, but they did not make the heavy air of fatigue feel any less real. He paid no attention to his rumpled dark green tunic nor creased black pants, both of which he had not bothered to change out of the night before. The sleeveless, gold-embroidered sapphire vest draped over the back of the chair to his side while the forest green cape covered its seat. Plainly, the disarray of his clothing was the last thing on his mind.
There was a knock. The man looked up momentarily from his papers. "Come in," he called half-heartedly, returning to his documents as the door opened. A maid stepped in, a listless expression on her face. A small purple vest covered her shoulders and two elongated pieces of violet cloth fell down the sides of her long, white dress; a red tassel served as a belt decoration at the waist, and a patterned crimson ribbon kept her blond hair in a bun, a few strands still escaping its grasp. The man glanced at her briefly before he set the papers on the table, picked up his quill, and began writing. "Oh, it is you," he muttered, inscribing a few more words before bringing the papers back up to read. A scoff made its way out of the maid's mouth.
"Milord Regalis, don't you seem pleased to see me," she remarked dryly, pulling out a damp rag and making her way to a window beside him. He scanned her again from over his reading, wanting to challenge her audacity. She was young – no doubt at least a few years younger than he was – and still very spirited. A twinge of jealousy surfaced, but he quickly repressed the feeling.
"Only two days you have been here, and you already walk the halls as if you own the place," the lord returned equally as mocking. The maid finished cleaning the window and then turned around to face the noble only to find that he had returned to his papers once again. She gave a huff, walked to where he sat, and began cleaning the table, delicately picking up the items as she made her way from one end of the table to the other.
"My mother worked for you and her mother before that – and our lineage in this manor continues even further back – and all the reputations of all the generations before me are passed on to me, as I am the next generation here," she retorted after a brief silence, refusing to look him in the eyes as she felt his gaze linger on her once more. There was a pause.
"So, it is like an inheritance."
"Then that must mean—"
"Yes." The silence came again, both parties falling mute. After a moment, the maid stole a glance at the lord to find that the documents had seized his attention again.
"I am very sorry for your loss," he responded belatedly, taking his quill and dipping it in the ink well.
"Thank you for your sympathies, Lord Regalis," she replied softly but curtly. Although she dared not meet his eyes, she had no apparent fear in peeking at his work. As the quill scratched the bottom of the parchment, she noticed the many handwritten words and sentences crossed out and rewritten. "Milord, what are you working on?" she asked curiously, suddenly disregarding her caution. The lord, noticing her intruding eyes, instantly stopped his writing and yanked the papers to his side, the sheets of information coiled protectively in his hand. The quill had dropped on the table, its tip dripping black ink onto the creamy marble.
"Such a question is too out of line, Maid," he warned with a slight growl, his eyes watching hers warily. The maid flinched; intense, profound, and determined, his deep brown eyes had a power greater than any she had ever seen. It was difficult to challenge them, but her temper flared and so her poise remained.
"Maid has a name," she countered indignantly but not nearly as angrily as he had to her. The lord stared at her a while longer before rolling up the pieces of parchment and retying the red ribbon around its center, signifying the close of the topic. He capped the inkwell and put both it and the quill on the small black tray at the side of the table. It was readily implied that they were to be put away in his study for him to return to later. A silence passed, and the maid began shifting uncomfortably. She understood full well what was expected of maids and servants, but she was rarely able to follow the rules for very long. "I apologize, Lord Regalis. I was disrespectful," she atoned quietly, her gaze directed at the floor.
"Lord Kian," he corrected, raising the teacup to his lips and taking a sip. Her head shot up in shock, and a few stray locks fell from her bun.
"Pardon?" she exclaimed, eyes wide.
"Lord Kian – that is what you may call me. I would think it is custom for you to return the favor with your name."
"Millicent Rhokea," she mumbled after she had regained her composure, gazing at him half in suspicion and wholly in confusion. Another knock came at the door, and the voice of another maid entered the room.
"Milord, Lady Lothar is here. She's waiting for you in the piano room."
"Thank you," the noble returned kindly, giving a wave of dismissal. He stood and picked up his vest – he knew it would be discourteous of him to appear only in his current attire. The cape, however, he would leave. As he buttoned the garment, he tucked the scroll safely away into the pocket inside and took another glance at the maid. This time she could not meet his gaze for very long, promptly blushing and turning herself away from him.
"Excuse me, Miss Rhokea, but it seems I must be going," he addressed dutifully, a playful smile at the corners of his lips. "Until we meet again." The maid turned around in surprise, opening her mouth to reply only to see that he had already walked out the door. She stared at his half-eaten breakfast for a few quiet minutes before picking up the plate and reaching for the tray which held his writing materials.
"Indeed, Lord Kian. Until next time," she murmured to herself, knowing he was nowhere near. Still, even though he had gone off, she felt his presence linger. Giving a mild sigh, she continued on with her chores, attempting to put the exchange out of her mind.
Author's Note: I had intended this short story to be a one-shot, but it had ended up longer than I had expected. Therefore, I'm turning it into a "two-shot" on fictionpress, and it's not the kind you get at the bar. :)
Anyway, I have been working on this story for at least a month now in my (very little) spare time. Even though I finished only a couple days ago, I've been editing the sections since who-knows-when. It's come to the point where I'm tired of reading it, which probably means I need a break from it, but I dislike leaving a story for a long time.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: please review, comment, and critique. It would be greatly appreciated. I won't bite – I promise. :)
Thank you for reading; I hope you've enjoyed it so far. The next, and final, section will be up within a day or so.
Edit: And the eye color inconsistency has now been fixed. Thank you WhenceComethThisBoredom for point it out. :)