Kian rounded the corner into the open, sunny piano room. A warm smile graced his face as he saw the feminine figure facing the large, framed windows, her back turned towards him. She wore an extravagant carmine sundress and held a folded lilac fan between her hands. Her auburn hair was pulled into an elaborate bun, kept together by a tortoise shell comb, and tumbled down her neck in large, grand curls. "Dear sister, you are as beautiful as ever," he stated affectionately, spreading his arms out to greet her. Svana turned around at the sound of his voice, happiness written over her face. Her blue eyes lit up as she saw him; she advanced and they embraced perfunctorily.

"Dear brother, you are still as charming as always, I see," she responded lightheartedly, her melodious voice filling the room. The sharp morning rays accentuated her coiled locks, her flawless figure, her dazzling beauty. She extended her hand, as was custom, and he accepted it, taking a bow, and led her to the lavish couch, allowing her to sit before doing so himself. "How are you faring?" she asked lightly, setting her fan aside.

"Fine, of course," he replied nonchalantly. Not keen on elaborating, especially when he doubted his sister would have cared, he quickly directed the conversation back towards her. "And what of you, our father's pride and joy?"

Svana laughed, freely and sweetly. "Pride and joy? Oh, Kian, what nonsense do you speak? You know that you were father's pride and joy, his one and only." Kian quickly shook his head in protest.

"But, Svana, his favoritism was obvious!" he insisted, the mischievous sparkle glimmered in his eyes. "He esteemed your beauty, your practicality, your wisdom! Who am I in front of the perfection that is you?" She laughed in profuse giggles this time.

"Fine, brother, you prevail this time!" she proclaimed, playfully sighing in defeat. "But I shall stand victorious in the next!" A soothing, beatific stillness passed between them as they simply enjoyed each other's presence. "It is such a wondrous thing to see you again," Svana stated blissfully. There was a more serious tone in her voice now; their small game of shameless praise was over. "How long has passed since our last reunion? I seem to forget."

"Only a few years," Kian replied, amused.

"Only!" she exclaimed dramatically. "Why, you act as if you could do without me altogether!"

Kian did not respond, only imparting a sly grin before moving on. "Earnestly, Svana, how have you been? How is Neil? Duke Lothar?" Her face lit up at the mention.

"Everything is splendid, really," she answered, pleased. "Eduart has received a bit more paperwork than usual, but overall we are still doing wonderfully. And Neil – Neil is delightful. He is already nine, and his skills greatly surpass those of his age by far; he is significantly ahead in his studies compared to the rest of the noble children at court. You know, his tutor is astounded with how quickly he learns, and his intellect coupled with his gregariousness makes him just the life of our parties. Oh, how much of a true Regalis he is!" Kian smiled and clapped his hands.

"That is wonderful to hear." At that moment, Svana leaned forward, hesitation on her lips – as if she were to divulge a great secret.

"In fact, Neil is why I am here today," she articulated in hushed tones, a subtle flush growing in her cheeks. The atmosphere turned calm, and there was more gravity in her voice. Kian noticed the sudden shift in his sister's disposition but spoke nothing of it.

"Oh? And on what matters would you be speaking of, sister?" he questioned politely, effortlessly transitioning into the new solemnity. He stared at her, his hand resting on one knee, as he waited for her to continue. By now, he was used to his sister's dramatic comportment. Svana shifted in her place momentarily, attempting to find a way to graciously introduce the subject.

"Well," she began but instantly faltered. She opened the fan beside her with a flick of her wrist and began wafting the cool air towards her face, partially due to heat and partially due to indecision. Her auburn locks followed the air currents in a back and forth pattern. Finally, she spoke again, a firm resolution in her azure eyes. Her fanning came to a halt. "Neil has exhibited such distinction in all aspects of his character," she stated steadily, inspecting every contour of her brother's face for a reaction. "I want him to inherit this land." Kian did not say anything – there were no shouts of disbelief nor bellows of anger like Svana had expected. He had only a calm look of surprise on his visage and made no movement at all. Svana immediately became defensive. "I am not implying that you will not produce an heir yourself, but you are in your late twenties now and I have not even heard of you courting other women. I just thought…" she trailed off, her unease evident. The fan in her hand began moving again, swifter in pace this time. "Kian, it would mean so much to me – because he has such potential – that if he could—"

"Stop," Kian commanded, interrupting her frantic stuttering. Svana obeyed without delay; her words caught in her throat and her hand fell still. The low rise and fall of her chest showed that she barely even dared to breathe. Kian gave a weary sigh, a hand brushing through his chestnut hair. He understood why she had come – to ensure she acquired what she wanted before other people could ask it from him. For a while, he just watched her, noticing her paled face and anxious eyes. The grandfather clock ticked loudly. He rested a hand on hers in comfort. "Do not worry, Svana. Neil will acquire part of the land. I give you my word." The clock chimed twelve, its low, thunderous peal interrupting the quiet. It took Svana a few minutes after for all the words to register.

"Part?" she asked rather meekly, confusion written clearly on her features. Kian gave a half-hearted smile, but Svana interposed before he could explain himself. "No, Kian, you cannot do that," she protested softly, her voice growing in strength as she went on. "Father already split up the land enough as it is; you cannot possibly be thinking of dividing it further!" He shook his head in disagreement.

"Svana, father had the right idea. In fact, I expanded on the notion; everything will be separated in a more even distribution."

"But our family's legacy!"

"It will live in the actions and achievements of all the generations to come."

"But our home, our things, our land!"

"They will be shared among all of whom we love."

"But our heritage!" Kian gave an exasperated sigh, not showing any other signs of retaliation. The doorbell rang and the sound of the front door being opened immediately followed. Svana stared at her brother restlessly, tightly clutching the fan in her lap, while they both sat in silence.

"Ah, Lady Chrysanthos. Of course. Lord Regalis has been expecting you," a servant welcomed, his voice drifting into the piano room. There was a shuffling of things and then a woman's voice interrupted.

"Oh, no, no, I will get that. Oh, do not worry about that. No, it is fine, really." The woman entered the room where Kian and Svana sat, laughing cheerfully as she bid goodbye to the servant behind her. She wore a burgundy day dress with a matching pair of long gloves, ones which she had already begun pulling off now that she was inside. A heliotrope sunhat covered her two dark blonde braids that rested in front of her shoulders, and an elegant gold necklace hung around her neck, a ruby attached at the bottom. She turned around with a smile, but her joyous expression fell slightly when she saw the disgruntled siblings. "Lord Kian," she addressed after a pause. "I had thought I was late, but I did not know you were expecting someone else. If you wish, I could return at a later time." Kian looked at her warmly, clearly happy to see her.

"No, Andria, come here," he replied, reaching out a hand. She stepped forward and courteously accepted it, allowing him to lead her to sit by his side. "Please, join us." Kian turned toward his sister. "Svana, this is Andria; Andria, this is Svana," he introduced merrily. Andria extended her ungloved hand, and Svana sulkily received it, unenthusiastically giving a shake before letting go and having it retreat back to her lap. Andria stared curiously for a moment, her head tilted to the side, and then looked back at Kian inquisitively.

"I see you have told her," she noted calmly, taking off her hat. One hand now held her pair of gloves and her sunhat; in the other, she took hold of his strong chin and turned his face toward hers. She noticed the exhaustion in his posture, the sleep deprivation in his face, and the restlessness in his eyes. "You have been working on that contract again," she stated straightforwardly, not even needing to ask. She gave a frustrated sigh and released him. "Kian, how many times do I have to tell you that your health comes first?" Kian's attempt to protest was quickly hushed by a delicate finger on his lips. "You do not have to defend yourself. Just try to get some rest tonight, agreed? The work will get done, whether or not you obsess over it." Acrimony slowly fell over Svana's face as she watched the two.

"Chrysanthos," she interjected precipitously, "as in Lord Chrysanthos of the Royal Court?"

"My father," Andria answered charily, clearly thrown by the question.

"I did not know he had a daughter."

"He does not talk about me much." There was a pause. "My older brother holds top priority – I am sure you know this," Andria elaborated.

"Of course. It is heritage," Svana emphasized, giving a glance to Kian to stress her earlier argument. Andria sighed again, understanding Svana's intentions.

"It is our heritage that drives future generations into the ground," she muttered bitterly, turning back to Kian to continue their earlier conversation.

"Pardon?" Svana exclaimed loudly, taken aback by the brash statement.

"You heard me," Andria retorted brazenly, scowling at Svana. "Our heritage calls for the first-born son to overshadow all others, but what of everyone else? The daughters are nothing more than a status object to marry to a higher power, and the sons are left to their own devices, to create their own name while the first-born gains everything! How can you value so highly a heritage such as that? Do you understand how many lives it has brought to ruin? Do you understand the perils and pressure it puts on all those who come after us?"

"So you are where Kian is getting his ridiculous ideas! What do you know? You are just a woman!" Svana shouted, practically jumping from her seat in fury. An expression of apparent offense crossed Andria's features, but Kian raised his hand to her, a sign to stop, and she fell silent. Svana beamed in triumph, but her victory did not last long. Kian turned towards her.

"And what does that say of you, Svana?" he asked calmly, his disapproval clear. Svana stood there, face hot with embarrassment and eyes glowering. No words followed as she was unable to correct her blunder. Kian took his opportunity to continue. "Andria and I are agreed on this. Neither of us converted the other; we have had similar standpoints on these concepts from the very beginning." Svana stood up, affronted. Kian rose after her. Outside, Millicent had only taken a step past the open room's entrance when she noticed the increasing hostility emanating from within. She instantly drew back behind the wall to listen. "Svana, you are our father's beloved daughter. You would not understand the cross I have had to bear. Too long have I lived in his shadow; too long have I lost sight of myself. The more it stays like this, the darker the shadow becomes, and the less I can see past that darkness. Our father, I believe, had a similar burden and a similar want as I do, but he did not revise the system enough – I still feel the obligation, the one and only sense of character that has been held onto by all the first-born sons before me." Svana stared in disbelief, completely silenced. The quiet did not last long.

Kian spoke again, though softer this time. "The indenture I have been working on is one of which Lord Chrysanthos and I have been developing for a while now." At this point, Svana found her voice back, if only for a moment.

"So she is only here because you have business with her father," she stated bluntly.

"Incorrect," Andria snapped sharply, rising from her seat as well. "For a noble lady, I do not see how you can have such a significant lack of manners." Kian gave Svana a stern look to silence her next words. Kian continued as if the outburst never happened.

"I am still smoothing out the edges of the agreement and it has been passed between the two of us quite a few times now for revisions, but our intention is to rearrange the hierarchy within both our estates and send a proposition to the king in order to further our efforts to expand the idea across the land. We expect a strong opposition, but I am certain that we will stand even stronger." There was a transient silence.

"I did not know you and Lord Chrysanthos were so close," Svana replied icily.

"We were, and closer now – we have a surprisingly large amount in common. And after Andria and I marry, we will have even more so." Kian took hold of Andria's hand, and she squeezed back with a smile. Svana glared from one to the other.

"Well, if that is how you feel, I want to have no relation to you," she announced. Kian did not speak, but the composed expression on his face was all she needed to know. "Very well, brother. Goodbye," she articulated callously. Without another glance, she walked out of the room; a few moments later, the front door opened and then slammed shut. Kian gave a sigh.

"Kian, you knew this was going to happen. It just came about sooner than we expected," Andria asserted, concern in her voice. Kian looked at her and gave a small smile.

"I know, Andria, but she is my sister. No matter when it would have come, the pain would not have been any less." He paused. "However, I will not allow our familial relationship stand in the way of what I believe is best, so I must deal with the consequences." He lifted her chin upward to face him. "Do not worry. My unease will dissipate soon enough. Besides, I still have you, and you mean the world to me." He gave a small, reassuring kiss before letting her go. Andria blushed lightly, and her anxiety appeared to cease.

At this point, Millicent found it necessary to show herself. "Lord Kian, you are quite the character," she declared boldly, walking into the room from behind her hiding place. Kian smiled upon her approach, and his mood lightened.

"Ah, Miss Rhokea. It is a pleasure to see you again." Andria stared at him questioningly. "Andria, this is Miss Millicent Rhokea; Miss Rhokea, Lady Andria Chrysanthos." Without words, Millicent curtsied, and Andria, entertained, did so in turn.

"It is delightful to meet you," Andria addressed amiably.

"As it is to you," Millicent returned, smiling shyly. This was not customary procedure, but she understood now that they were not customary aristocrats.

"Miss Rhokea," Kian invited, extending a hand to her, "will you join us for lunch?" She hesitated only briefly.

"It would be my honor, Lord Kian." Millicent took his hand and gave another curtsy.

"Please, Miss Rhokea, there is no need for such formalities," he insisted with a shake of his head.

"Then it's Millicent," she stumbled in hastily, cutting off his next sentence. Andria and Kian gave each other a knowing smile before turning back to her.

"Certainly, Millicent," Andria answered, giving a nod in agreement. Although not explicitly spoken, their feelings of cordiality were mutual, and they were confident their friendship would not end there. Together, Kian, Andria, and Millicent walked into the dining room to have a relaxing meal with a satisfying conversation.

For them, it was the beginning of a new era. They had finally stepped out of the shadows.


Author's Note: I wonder if the lack of readers are because of my failure to make good summaries. e.e; Or maybe not many people read the General section. Oh well; that's okay. I just want to get my works out there. :)

This is the longest section and basically where the main plot comes in – and ends, since I have no more of this short story. xD I find the last paragraph a bit iffy. If anyone can tell me how to better it, do it. :D And tell me, of course.

So, please review (if you got this far, I'm assuming you've already read). :) It'll make me extremely happy. Thank you for reading, and I hope you liked it.