A lady of noble stature is to be demure, obedient and rely on others to do her biddings. Victoria Conners, the youngest daughter of the famous merchant Thomas Conners is not.
Fascinated by weaponry forged from the forbidden Southern Isles and wanting to make her own choices, Victoria becomes troubled when she is forced to attend the Crowned Prince's coming of age celebration in which she meets a man named Thegar Leonhart, the one person who has more negative rumors than she herself. To her surprise, a part of her believes that he is different than the other noblemen she has met, but is it what he truly is or is it a facade to hide his true intentions?
However, Victoria's fate is turned for the worst when the next day she meets the remainder of Thegar's family and finds out that her father had more intended than just her obtaining the family business. Between duty and heart, what is morally right and wrong and the difference between a future set in stone or changing with every choice, Victoria must be certain of what she wants otherwise it would be the end of freedom until the ends of her day.
Victoria hated petticoats. No, she hated more than that.
The young woman loathed the finer things in life including the emerald and golden trimmed dress she was forced to wear to the festivity she had to attend on her father's behalf. As the daughter of a wealthy merchant, she did not have much of a choice when it came to certain manners and this was no exception. However, that did not mean that she was going to obey every request that the stern man asked of her.
It was about a week ago that her father received an invitation to the northern kingdom of Draltus to celebrate the Crowned Prince's coming of age. The merchant was zealous for the festivity, but soon realized he had business with the western guilds of Gyrell and he would not make it in time for the celebration. Distraught by this, he asked of Victoria to take his place and soon it lead to an ultimatum that if she did not go, he would confiscate all her weaponry and have a personal guard with her at all times.
Reluctantly, Victoria agreed to the threat and hence stood in the grand ballroom of Draltus away from most of the guests. It was a rather beautiful sight with its ivory walls blending flawlessly into the marble floors, the room decorated with the finest silks and other expensive decorations. The scents of rare delicacies that people would kill for did not go unnoticed by the young woman, but she was not hungry. She was more annoyed than anything else and the orchestra that played a lively waltz did nothing to ease that.
Then again, what probably bothered her most was the fact that beneath the disarming smiles that the noble guests have, they were no better than the outlaws that she founds better company with. Victoria knew that they were not to be trusted with well kept secrets and she was not going to conform to their ways in order to fit it. Perhaps one or two were genuine, but the merchant's daughter would not risk conversing with several to find that diamond in the rough. That would probably be the reason why she overheard some noblewomen and even some of the men call her an eyesore or a peasant in rich clothes.
Despite wearing the elegant gown and the finishing touches that included a set of matching earring and necklace, Victoria made no attempt to hide the countless freckles with a thick layer of makeup. She also did not have her unruly chestnut curls pinned up in the latest kingdom's fashion, but rather pulled back in a simple messy bun with some strands casually framing her face. It was not like the merchant's daughter was an unattractive woman, but she was just an oddity in the sea of overly done people and honestly, she preferred to keep her natural appearance any day.
Victoria sighed before she grabbed a wine glass from an oncoming servant and swirled the contents with a stoic expression. She did not know why she suddenly took the goblet, but if she was going to be here for a couple of hours, she might have enjoyed what little there was. Shrugging her shoulders, she drained half the glass in one motion then paused when someone sauntered their way to her.
"Are you Victoria Conners?" he questioned, the slightest of smirks on his lips.
Victoria frowned; she could immediately tell that he was here to prove something and just from first impressions, she was not pleased. Possibly the only thing the man had for him was the fact that he was handsome with his golden hair sleeked back and outfit tailored to his tall yet toned form. She would have not hesitated to leave the stranger, but a certain amount of eyes prevented her from doing so without causing some sort of scene.
"Not a very talkative person, are you?" he continued. "You know, for a Crowned Prince's birthday party, you would expect to see him, but it seems like he's averting the audience."
"Possibly because he prefers solitude over an audience of deceivers?" Victoria interrogated, emptying the rest of the glass.
The man chuckled. "My, you got quite the sharp tongue. Perhaps after this festivity is over, you wouldn't mind entertaining me with that wit of yours?"
The merchant's daughter scoffed; if this was his way of wooing her, he was doing terrible. The sound did not go unnoticed by the stranger and he moved in a way that prevented her from dismissing herself from the conversation.
"Care to dance?" he suavely pressured.
"I prefer not to," Victoria swiftly answered, sidestepping him. "Now, if you'll excuse me."
Tension rose in the room the moment that the man took hold of Victoria's upper arm. The redhead stopped in her tracks, but did not face the stranger as a steady rage began to swell within.
"I was not finish with the conversation Lady Conners and I would like to share a dance with the fiery woman who most find disgustingly absurd," he sternly stated.
Victoria stiffened then she released a calm yet deadly breath."I will only say this once and I will not repeat myself. Let go."
"Let go? So you can continue to do whatever it is you like? Wake up and realize that this is not your home you-"
Before the stranger could finish his statement, the merchant's daughter whirled around and connected a hard fist into his face. The man instinctively released his grip on Victoria as he stumbled back then felt his nose, feeling warm blood gush out. A few of the closest guests paused their activities to see the scene unfold then nearly jumped when an unpleasant wail escaped from the man.
"You vile wench! How dare you-!" he started.
"How dare I?" Victoria interrupted, a stone glare on her face. "Let me make it perfectly clear to you that I am not a demure dame you can take advantage of and you should be ashamed of your behavior. It's people like you that sicken me. Be fair that I was in a decent mood before you ruined it."
The man would have continued his argument with the maiden, but decided against it when one of the guests was near a guard. The last thing that he wanted was an audience with the High King and out of angering fear, the stranger dipped away into the crowd.
Victoria shifted her attention from the fleeing stranger towards the startled guests, the cold expression she had changing into anger. The young woman wasted no time storming from the crowded room toward the balcony, snatching whatever glasses of alcohol the servants were bustling about. No doubt there were going to be rumors about her being violent towards a supposedly harmless man, but that was a situation she knew nobody would side with her on.
After a minute of silently fuming, Victoria released a tense breath and glanced at her environment. Unlike the grand ballroom that a majority of guests entertained themselves in, the balcony was filled with a few lovebirds who were wooing one another or had each other's lips planted together. Though it was not a scene she wanted to witness, at least there was some empty space that she could enjoy for a short while before something or someone would interrupt it.
Relieved to be in a quieter place, Victoria glanced at the goblet and what was inside. A frown crossed her lips when she noticed that she grabbed a weaker wine just from the scent alone, but it was better than nothing. The young woman attempted to down the glass in one swoop, but found that the contents were too sweet and threw the cup over the ledge in disdain.
"What did that glass do to deserve that?" a voice chimed.
Victoria snapped her attention towards the direction of the voice and her expression hardened. Leaning against the balcony just a few feet from her left was a man about her age staring skyward. He looked every bit of noble from the finely tailored navy and silver trimmed suit, the polished shoes and his dark wavy hair tied back with a matching ribbon. However, he somewhat blended into the night and the only way she knew he was there was with the lightness of his eyes contrasting to what she believed was rich olive skin.
The merchant daughter scoffed and finished the rest of her wine before she slammed the goblet against the balcony railing. She was a little disappointed that it did not make a satisfying sound, but that was quickly replaced with prejudice rage that she made no attempt of hiding. She noticed this caught the stranger's attention and he faced her with one eyebrow arched, most likely in curiosity.
"I see. Not a fan of parties then?" he questioned.
"And people who believe that they can spark up a conversation for an ulterior motive," Victoria commented, rolling her eyes.
The young woman expected the stranger to scoff or begin lecturing her, but instead he chuckled. Did he find her comment humorous or was he being a cynical bastard?
"Good to know not everyone is pretending to be nice and would rather be honest about how they feel," he stated.
"Charming. Now, why don't you go and find someone else to bother?" she spat.
The man took a step towards Victoria, but kept a fair distance from the young lady. "You got a bloody good punch from the way pompous Lord Faron reeled back."
Faron. Victoria knew the name and what business the family did, but after seeing how that man behaved, she would not want to contribute anything towards him.
"The bastard deserved it. A womanizing piece of shit - I mean manure who thinks because he has a title, he gets whatever he wants," the man admitted.
"No, shit perfectly states what he is."
The dark haired stranger stared for a moment then burst into laughter. "A lady with a foul tongue? Now you have peaked my interest. I can only guess you're the infamous Lady Victoria?"
The woman darted a menacing glare at the stranger. "Call me lady again and I'll bash your teeth in Sir-"
"Leonhart. Thegar Leonhart."
Victoria's deadly glare turned into one of surprise. If there was someone that was discussed more than herself, it would have been the sole heir to the noble Leonhart house. There were countless rumors about the man standing in front of her from him nearly being disowned by his family, causing a feud between several guilds and houses as well as several of crimes in which he was pardoned because of his power. In all honesty, she expected someone who appeared harsher and acted more primitive, but this man was mostly tamed and was not too hard on the eye.
Thegar grinned at the expression that Victoria gave. "You were expecting something else?"
The shock turned into suspicion. "If you are truly Thegar Leonhart, prove it. How do I know that you're not someone who is testing me?"
"Who would crazy enough to admit that they're me?" he countered.
Victoria did not need to answer the question; only a fool would dare to lie about their true identity and replace it with Thegar's. Then again, it would probably explain how someone near her age could have so many rumors. Was his name like a title people abused in order to get away with what they want?
"Why are you here?" she eventually inquired.
"Similar to you I suppose. You don't seem to be enjoying yourself, but someone gave you a message that if you didn't, you'll suffer the consequences," Thegar shrugged.
Victoria scoffed, turning her attention towards the sky. "I hate celebrations. They're only stating something that everyone else eventually goes through."
"Mostly everyone, but that's besides the point. We both hate them."
"What do you want?"
The harsh tone made Thegar face Victoria, his bewildered expression staring straight into her irritated one. The young woman must have still been angry about Lord Faron making lewd advancements on her that she probably assumed the dark haired man was going to as well.
"Excuse me?" Thegar asked.
"What is it that you want? Are you trying to test my patience?" Victoria threatened.
The smile on the man's face began to wane. "Why would I want to do that? It's already clear you haven't gained your patience back and you're still upset with what Faron did to you."
"It's not just Faron. It's everyone that comes to these sorts of things," she admitted.
"I don't blame you for that."
Victoria's face softened, more with surprise than anything else. The last thing she expected at this festivity was someone agreeing with her on something she truly believed in. She did not find it fair that those in power only found themselves important and whoever did not agree, they did not find worthy.
Thegar released a dramatic sigh and drew himself from the balcony to face the merchant's daughter. It was only now that Victoria got a good glance at him; he was about half a foot taller than her and there were a few scars on his face that she did not see earlier. Was that the reason he was out here? The scars were not that intimidating or ugly; on the contrary, she found them intriguing.
"You know, you're not as bad as the rumors make you out to be," she started. "One thing for certain, you don't seem to have a problem speaking your mind."
"Oh? Are you trying to be kind to me?" Thegar taunted.
Before Victoria could respond, the sound of a fanfare interrupted their conversation. The young woman faced the ballroom to see that a pudgy man garbed in fine attire was making an announcement about the Crowned Prince and soon another figure stepped onto the floor.
"We should probably at least go back inside and give him a round of applause for becoming of age," Thegar suggested. "Heaven knows how much more he dislikes these sort of things."
Victoria did not need to reply to that as she watched the Crowned Prince give an elaborate yet probably rehearsed speech. Just from his body gestures she could tell that they were not passionate, but they moved in a way where he seemed content with the people there. She secretly hoped the nobleman would never turn out to be like the others.
"To Crowned Prince Elian de Mathivus of Draltus!" the pudgy announcer cheered.
"To Crowned Prince Elian!" the audience repeated with glee.
The silent room erupted with cheer and music as the second part of the celebration. Victoria turned to face Thegar, but noticed that the moment the speech was over, he disappeared.
"Thegar?" she asked, looking around.
The merchant's daughter flinched when she heard a feminine voice sing her name then faced the direction it came from. Skipping her way over was Victoria's older sister, Dahlia, dressed in an ivory gown with countless jewels and trimming accentuating her figure. She was the epitome of a perfect merchant's daughter with her grace and elegance unlike her little sister that require several more lessons.
"Victoria, did you see the Crowned Prince?" she sang.
"I did," Victoria dryly commented. "Looked like he was about to pass out with how stiff he was."
Dahlia puffed out her cheeks. "Don't be like that. This is a once in a lifetime celebration. It's not everyday we're invited to see such a grand event."
"Yes and I think I'm going to retire early," the redhead stated.
This made her elder sister stop and gaze upon her sister with concern. "Is everything all right? You don't seem too thrilled about being here."
Not being thrilled was an understatement, but Victoria managed to keep that thought to herself. Dahlia's giddy expression softened to one of empathy; she knew her younger sister was not the celebratory type and she could understand that.
"Very well. I'll see you at home?"
"Yes." Victoria took a few steps pass her sister then paused. "You have a good night Dahlia."
"You as well, Victoria."
Victoria did not continue the conversation as she journeyed out from the ballroom towards the palace exterior where the Crowned Prince's father allowed some of his servants to give his fellow guests a carriage ride home should they need to retire early in the night. The young woman was grateful for this as she greeted the servants with simple words then climbed into the carriage, telling them to head toward the Conners' estate. The moment that the horse drawn carriage began moving, the maiden glanced out the window and watched the starry sky.
Thegar was an interesting fellow and as much as she did not want to admit it, Victoria did feel a bit more at ease with him. Perhaps their roads may cross again and she would ask him more questions about him. Who was he and what made him different than the remainder of the noblemen there?