There is an unspoken rule between all five of the Major Kingdoms that one does not wear green to a ball in the winter.
Lorelai strode down the steps, her emerald gown spilling effortlessly on to the marble steps. Chin held high, she let her gaze rest straight ahead of her, confident of the effect she was having on the room. After all, when you're known in all five Kingdoms, you have to make a grand entrance. Layers of silk brushed past each other, a symphony of material dancing about her as she slowly descended the stairs. Finally allowing her gaze to drop to the bottom of the steps, she almost haltered in her step. Recovering her near-imperceptible pause, she let out a small huff of annoyance. She was just going to have to shock people for two reasons now, as her chaperone was nowhere to be seen. She forced a smile to curve her mouth into a more pleasant expression, and merged into the swelling group of wealth that swarmed the bottom of the stairs.
"Lorelai," A deep voice boomed across the hall. Lorelai turned, her gown swirled elegantly about her heels. "I see you are keeping with tradition, as always." The eyes of the speaker sparkled mischievously as he spoke. Lorelai's false smile warmed into a genuine one, and she beamed broadly.
"Well, I thought I'd better shock these crones into life. I don't believe it worked," She glanced over her shoulder, a faux pretence at seeing if anyone had suddenly burst into a lively character. "These balls are always so dreary, I was hoping a scandal might at least be moderately entertaining. Unfortunately, you appear to be the only person to notice the break from tradition, Gawain," She let out an exaggerated sigh, and gazed around the hall. "I had to ride four days on horseback for… this debacle." At her final word Gawain burst out into a laugh, that seemed to shake the very floor they stood on. Disapproving eyes had no effect on the Knight's raucous laughter. He continued to grin at Lorelai, before extending a hand to her.
"Well, if my lady is finding this fine ball unsatisfactory, perhaps I could introduce her to some finer company?" He raised an eyebrow, tauntingly handsome in his mockery. Lorelai smiled at him once more, and delicately placed her hand atop of his.
"Lead the way, good sir," She joked back.
Having sidled through the still-swelling crowd, Gawain and Lorelai found themselves taking to the host's son, a lady of the neighbouring kingdom and a rather bland looking academic. Whilst the academic may have looked bland, his knowledge of folklore and history was unchallenged. Lorelai probed him mercilessly, wishing to know every detail, of every tale of her own Kingdom.
"My Lady," interrupted the academic, a sly grin sneaking up on to the pale features, "I could tell you anything in answer to that and you would have no choice but to believe me, as what other source of information do you have?" Mimicking Gawain in the eyebrow raise, the academic smirked at Lorelai. She laughed, a musical, delicate laugh fitting of her title.
"Oh my dear Gregory," she teased, "These are my stories you are telling, I know all of the Great King Arthur," A frown started to pull at Gregory's eyebrows, furrowing them towards the pale grey orbs he called his eyes. Maintaining his good natured smiled, he responded;
"Surely one cannot know all the tales?" Though phrased as a question, he did not speak it as one. The phrase sounded more like a statement of fact than a question, with Gregory merely telling Lorelai she must be mistaken.
"That is the first incorrect statement you have spoken yet," Lorelai teased, "Do you not know who I am?" Her amused question was not met with an answer, merely a tilt of Gregory's head, inviting her to clarify. Lorelai indulged him with allowing him clarification, "I am Lorelai Pendragon, first of my name, great-granddaughter to the once and future King, Arthur." Gregory's eyes widened in surprise, the Lady stood to his right choked on her wine, and appeared to have an internal wrestle with her conscience over whether to curtsey, or whether she had already sealed her fate. Gawain smothered laughter, trying not to mock the bulging eyes of the host's son. Gawain slapped him on the back, a loud crack causing Lorelai to wince.
"Gawain, please do not break our Lord Cambrai," She chided. Gawain steadied the host's son, and apologised-surprisingly heartfelt. "And I would suggest you avoid Lady…" she trailed off, hoping for the elegant woman to fill in the blank she left,
"Bryon, Helena Bryon," she bowed her head respectfully. Lorelai smiled her thanks in return, and continued:
"Lady Bryon, for whilst she looks," she paused, seeking the words in the air, "beautiful, I do not understand how you are able to breathe in that corset." Helena Bryon smiled daintily, and returned the compliment. Gawain groaned, and turned to Cambrai,
"If they are going to discuss dresses, I think I will excuse myself, care to join me?" He asked Cambrai, forcing his tone into a light and polite one. Cambrai grinned at the bulk of Gawain.
"Only if you swear not to hit me again," He smirked, laughter bubbling out of him as Gawain's face dropped, the apology already re-rising in him. "I am joking, Gawain," He teased at the sight of the crestfallen knight. "Though saying that if you do hit me again, I doubt this castle will have an heir for much longer."
Lorelai collapsed on to the ridiculously large bed, coated in furs and blankets. A fire was already burning across the room from her. Her deep green dress pooled around her, sinking slowly into the bed, settling in to rest. Lorelai then propped herself up on to her elbows and stared at the door. Then looked to the other side of the room. Then back to the door.
"No maid?" She murmured to herself, before getting up off the bed and walking to the window. The cold seeped through thin glass, as Lorelai pressed her face up to the thin pane. Below her stood the stables, with the horses braying angrily at the gate. Servants hurried around the courtyard, even in this hour of night, with torches held aloft in their hands. Lorelai's curiosity stole her down to the courtyard, sneaking out of the heavy wooden door. Her dress glinted in the candle light and she crept down the corridors, her feet lightly brushing each step, delicate, soundless.
When she strode into the courtyard, no one turned to look at her. Not one of the servants glanced at this highborn, young woman who had hitched her skirts high to avoid muddying her dress. It was not until she spoke to one of them that she was even given the slightest hint of attention.
"What's happening?" She asked, glee seeping into her voice. Her heart pounded to the slightly faster rhythm of the serving boy's next to her.
"It's nothin to worry about milady," he spoke quietly, blurring his words together as he bowed his head. Lorelai laughed under her breath, and pushed the young man's chin back up to look at her.
"That wasn't what I asked," she smothered her grin, "Now, really, what's happening?" The young man looked at her, wide-eyed. He opened his mouth, hesitating. His fingers unfurled themselves from the torch, then quickly replaced themselves, and his mouth formed silent, half-formed words without ever being confirmed with speech. He closed his mouth. Glancing to a man stood towards the gate, holding aloft a torch, and shouting various instructions to the others, the young man spoke even faster than before.
"Milady I don't want no trouble, I jus want to do my job. Please," his dark eyes pleaded with her. Lorelai dropped her gaze to the ground.
"Of course," she said, softly. She looked up from the ground, seeing the relief in the young man's eyes, and dismissed him. She glanced around the courtyard, and stepped back into the shadows, and merely watched. The man shouting, twisted and pointed at various men, calling instructions- no. Not instructions, places.
"You, west wing. You, and you, dungeons. Where's Adam! Adam- take the boy and go search the lower town for others-" The boy Lorelai had been speaking to was roughly grabbed by the arm, and guided out of the castle gates. Lorelai watched them from her post by the stables, and barely smothered her gasp when she finally noted the crumbling hole that had been knocked in just to the left of the gate. Red spilled over the rumble of the stone walls, a deep, rich colour, draped almost artfully over the stone. She shifted her position slightly, and the blonde hair glinted in the light of the shouting man's torch. Metal armour shone like a beacon to her. The red cape. It was the guards capes- not just any guard, a Knight of the Table's cape. Her guards. Lorelai tried to suppress her intake of breath, and hurried back into the castle.
When she returned to her room, she found it in disarray. Her clothes were thrown about the room, her jewellery box had been upended and tipped upon the floor. As Lorelai walked through the destruction her gaze fell upon the trunk which had barely been touched. Kneeling before it, she slowly flicked the latches up. Her hands shook as she grasped the lid, and she attempted to steady herself with a long breath in. The door slammed open, crashing into the wall, and Lorelai flung herself upright, grabbing the first thing to her right. Gawain stared at the over-turned room, and then rushed to Lorelai's side. He grasped her face, and inspected it.
"Are you alright? Are you hurt?" He demanded. He barely gave her a chance to choke out;
"I'm fine," before he continued hurriedly.
"Were you here? What happened, did you see them- how are you not hurt? What did they do to you?" Gawain's words burst from him in a tumble of concern and fear. Lorelai didn't answer him. Instead she stepped away from him, staring at what used to be her possessions. The torn red dress draped over the bedpost, the shattered glass on the floor around her jewellery, the deep slash in the bedpost. Lorelai brushed her fingers over the gash, and then moved up to her red gown. The silk dress felt soft beneath her fingers, yet the jagged tear down her gown left a hideous scar.
"This was no accident," she murmured. Gawain's head jerked up. Lorelai turned to him, and held the dress out. "This is the dress made for me on my last name-day. It holds the crest of Arthur Pendragon, and heralds that I am his last remaining true-born heir," Lorelai looked up to Gawain. "I cannot stay in this castle. Someone has come to destroy me."