Private Quarters A spiral staircase descends toward the receiving hall from this arched corridor, where the inhabitants and guests of the West Twin rest their heads in lavishly appointed lodgings. The walls are adorned with portraits of famous Mikins through the ages, rendered by artisans in Light's Reach.

If you think nothing can get to you, you're lying to yourself. At best you're temporarily dead; A lightning bolt can reanimate you without a warning. Can bring back feelings you thought you'd buried a long time ago. Some good, some bad...

For Serath Kahar, a man who once thought that - having died - nothing could get to him anymore, the events of the past few weeks soon taught him otherwise. Taught him of lies that had become the truth. Of truths that were hidden behind lies. He stands now at the top of the spiral staircase, his gaze remaining somewhat distant as he evidently thinks certain things over, ice-blue gaze looking town upon the marble statue far below. He is, for once, out of armor (though his description and +inventory state otherwise); clad instead in a regal yet casual black tunic that flows down over equally regal trousers of the same colour. Sabatons of bronze still remain upon his feet, however, though don't look too out of place. As always, resting against his hips, two scabbards maintain a silent guard.

But if you think that there is no remedy for even the worse of situations, you are also wrong. After stretching her healing prowess beyond the boundaries of bodily care, Rowena has had the same offered to her in the most needy of times. Such blessings passed between humanity enable one to take yet another step forward.

The heavy door creaks open, releasing faint wafts of oils or incense from the master chamber, and one foot protrudes forth. Slipping through the opened crack, Rowena steps into the hallway. Guided by the candlelight and flickering chandelier far below, she glides slowly to the figure overlooking the main hall. "'ve been rather soft-spoken this visit." She murmurs after watching his silence for a few moments.

"Dining on ashes." Serath finally answers in return after a few moments of silence have passed. Pure silence, devoid of any other sound but the light breathing of two friends. Finally, the Prince offers a solemn smile to the Duchess, shifting his gaze to fall softly upon her form, taking in the warmth of her presence more than that of the candle. "It's been a rough few weeks."

Rowena's head tips in gentle concern, candle lifted now to ignite a deadened sconce upon the wall. Steadying the flame there until it accomplishes the mission, she breathes away from the newborn flickering. "Perhaps you'd shed some of the burden by sharing the trouble? I do see you've managed to shed the bronze." Her lips upturn in attempts of adding a lighter mood to the gloomy silence. Now that the flame flourishes, she lowers the candle and snuffs out the heat with a pinch of her fingers.

The attempt is lost in the storm of silent thought that rages on inside Serath's spirit as he again casts his gaze outwards, looking over the edge of the staircase. He sighs a little, not wishing to feel like this right now, not while /here/, with /her/. Yet... "I've shared it three times now." he offers, speaking into the void, "To Talus, to a young Knight, and to the new Surrector. It doesn't bother me as much anymore, but there's a resolution... a final request that someone made of me... that still hasn't been accomplished. It's like a story without an ending; you get to the last chapter and find nothing there but blank pages. You know?" Another sigh, then an elaboration, "Do you remember a woman named Althea Weaver?"

Rowena's lower lip becomes all but swallowed as she clamps upon it in serious contemplation. But a sage-like nod of her head indicates she perhaps knows more. "Aye...The Contessa Aylora Zahir." Another moment of silence lingers while she paces in a brief circle, candle held tightly between her palms. When her feet come to a standstill, she glances his way with twinge of guilt shining in her shy eyes, shielded by a drooping curl. "I spoke with her not long ago...a few weeks, perhaps, in this town's tavern. We spoke, and...I hope I did not upset her. We left in friendly terms, I offering her stay here and she offering me a place at her table." Another pause lingers, waiting for him to elaborate.

"She's dead." Is the blunt elaboration; spoken in a casual tone that dictates a tale told to more than a few people already. He sighs again, still looking forward. "She was Shadow Touched after all. I didn't believe her at first. I told her to prove it. She did by walking on water. She wanted me to kill her there and then..." he trails off, and then continues, "I wouldn't. I told her that if demanded death so much, she could take it with her own hand. I found her body the next morning. Poison."

A whisper of cotton against flooring rustles further down the corridor as a servant ducks her peeped head back into the Parlor. Rowena pays it no heed, for her eyes are now locked on Serath's dismal expression in a twisted mixture of sorrow and shock. Her lips numbly try to form words that die before they can be breathed forth. Her lungs remind her with a shaking cough that she needs to inhale again. Unable to make sense of this information, Rowena moves closer to him with an outstretched hand. "Dead? The Shadow? But...But I so soon did speak to her! Her heart was far from that tainted with..." Dumbfounded, she ceases to dwell on that fact and hesitantly places her hand over his arm. "I know she was dear to fair you now?"

"Althea Weaver was." Serath states, looking back upon Rowena now with a saddened smile, his voice as soft as the whispers of cotton that echo from a distance away. "The Shadow took her. Aylora Zahir was just a ghost of that person, I think. Haunting the living in flesh and blood, attempting to latch on to a life that wasn't hers. But Aylora's death brought home the fact that Althea was Shadow Touched after all... and that losing people hurts. Especially when you're there, witnessing it in person. I came to realize that that's how you must have felt, back when I..." He chokes on his words there, and just looks away once more, shaking his head a little. "I thought I understood what you meant when we were alone in the Temple. In truth, I had no idea. I'm sorry Rowena."

Rowena's fingers curl to form a gentle squeeze of reassurance on his forearm while her other hand lifts to turn his eyes back to her. "Then you have gained wisdom through that. The pain doesn't fully heal...but it does grow better with time. But I have had fortune in that your grave was not eternal." She lapses into silence again, sending a glance over her shoulder towards the Parlor at last.

Serath can only offer a small smile of warmth as he feels the squeeze of his arm, Rowena's touch comforting him more than the actual motion itself. "It made me realise something else as well, Rowena." he softly offers, catching her gaze with his own. To shadow with care for who may be watching from the darkness; there's affection in that smile, and he's not afraid of it anymore. "That last chapter I told you about? It's been blank for too long, and there was a request made from a spirit that I finally write it..." He takes a deep breath, lowers his gaze for a moment as he considers his next words, then finds the courage to look Rowena in the eyes once more. "So, Rowena, I... know this isn't the most romantic of places to be asking things like this but with you, here, now, with that look on your face... it just seems perfect, and so..."

He trails off again, only this time to look for something hidden in a pocket; a small box, it would seem, which he opens, revealing a ring quite unlike any others. In the twilight of the hallways, the ring seems to glow as of its own accord, drinking in whatever light is careless enough to fall upon it. "You've been my best friend for as long as I can remember; but you're more than just a friend, Rowena Mikin. You're something special. Something that the Shadow could never take, and I *never* want to lose this bond we have. So, here, on this night, I want to ask you if..." He offers the ring; the dozens of gemstones embedded within it's seraphic surface twinkling light stars upon a velvet sky. " might... like... to..."

It takes a moment or two, because Serath has never had to do something like this before, as much as he's dreamed about it. Besides which, finding just the right things to say, just to make it sound a little more special, is more difficult than it sounds. "...make sure we don't lose each other to other people. Ever."

From death to proposal, Rowena's mind is sent for a second rattling in the form of this sparkling ring and startling words. After a long delay, sensation returns to her limbs and she slowly retracts her hand from his arm. One motion at a time...and that breathing thing. Inhaling shakily, Rowena takes her somewhat fearful gaze away from the ring and turns it to his eyes in wonderment. Her hands entwine nervously over her middle before reaching to accept the ring.

Rowena's voice is hardly audible over the hissing wisps of smoke that dance from the walls. "I...can't say this was expected and of all times..." A short, teary-eyed laugh forces itself from her throat and she lets the dead candle drop to the floor. Carefully, she slides the ring onto her own finger and then shyly seizes his hand in hers. "But I would be a fool to risk allowing you to escape

Rowena MikinForged in 624, the Ring of the Stars is a very unique ring indeed. Fashioned from a pebble of a rare radiant bluish-white metal that was discovered by Serath Kahar in 623, the ring remains at once both immaculate in quality and priceless in cost. Crafted for the Prince-of-the-Blood by Master Blacksmith Alesia Stormclaw, the ring seems to shimmer and refract light seemingly of its own accord, glimmering with a seraphic hue unlike that of any other element.

However, this is not where the name of the ring stems from, the namesake of this band comes from the dozens of tiny studs of gemstone - from wildstone to waterstone - that have been inset upon the rings surface; each fleck glittering as if they had once belonged to the twilight heavens, and then captured within this ring.

Engraved upon the face of the ring, amidst the gemstone stars, rest two symbols - one to represent fire, the other to represent ice. They are symbolic of the fact that when two opposing forces work together, a harmony is accomplished even though the threat of a great uprising may always loom. What such symbolism represents is unclear, yet this ring was evidently destined to be given to one Rowena Mikin, and remains graceful and resilient; elegant, but with a hidden strength all the same.Rowena Mikin

"I don't want to escape anymore." Serath whispers, watching intently as the various flickers of equally various emotions cascade over Rowena's features; each one prompting the tender smile upon his face to gain strength, fending off the worried expression from only a few moments ago. "...and I didn't really expect that now would be the time to ask." he laughs a little, "I mean, I have no idea how people go about doing these things, and we don't have to get -" he thinks of the less traditional word to say, "- bonded right away. Just as long as I know I'm not going to lose my best friend to Lord Swingsalot, I think... I'll be happy."

"I would never be *lost*, Serath..." Rowena murmurs softly as she feels the heat begin to rise in her face, knowing the staff was indeed watching from down the hall. "For friendship would survive even if I were to be married to such a fanciful fiend. Of course we are both aware of my feelings on such 'forced' transactions and you may be comforted in knowing that such a thing was never at risk." She pauses, stealing a glance to the muffled giggles from the parlor. "However..." She looks back to him with warmth and love seeping as greatly through her eyes as it drips from her voice. "Your heart may rest peacefully knowing I shall preserve all of myself for you...when you are ready." Just as she had for these past years....

A familiar chirrup and chitter dances about her feet and she looks down to spy an overly playful Zareef with someone's hair ribbon in his teeth. "It seems the thief is at it again to steal the glory." Her hand gives his a little tug and she steps away towards the stairs. "Perhaps we may escape to the balcony."

A gray stone wall, about six feet tall, encloses this balcony just off the West Twin ballroom. The balcony itself is at least as large as the crossroads at the center of Light's Reach, with a stone path that winds through a garden of colorful shrubs, aromatic flowering plants, and shardwood trees. The higher walls of the outer keep can be seen from here, to the east and west, and at night the glow from the great torch towers is enough to dim the glimmering stars above. At the middle of the garden stands a white marble statue of a young man in the armor of the Emperor's Blades, striking a martial pose with shield and sword raised: Allal Mikin, the youngest son of Fahral Mikin, who died in the battle of the Valley of Blades during the first Wildling War.

"You realize, of course, that this will eventually make you a Princess?" The silky purr of Serath Kahar's regal - yet casual - voice rises above the ambiance that flows through the garden below, his attire remaining dark regardless of the serene mood he seems to be in as he stands beside his friend - and now, it would seem, fiancé - upon the grand balcony of West Bluff; his ice-blue gaze, clear once more now that Rowena has managed to remove the dull sheen of loss, remaining set upon the statue of Allal Mikin as the marble Blade stands immortal against the passage of time. He smiles warmly, finally looking back upon the Duchess with an affectionate glance. "Which is fitting, when you think about it."

Rowena's hands absently toy with the foreign object that encircles her finger, eyes squinting into the sun's descent over the garden's protective wall. The lack of breeze has left her hair to frame her face without disturbance. "For a child's tale, perhaps." She replies in a hushed tone, purposefully leaving the strained ears within the keep writhing in torture. "Most of my years have held habits of those far lesser." A sly smile curls in her lips' corner, dwelling on such things her mother had nearly sworn at her for. "Tis a pity Father and Mother are unable to see the change."

"You haven't changed all that much, you know." Serath teases, casting his gaze back out towards the garden and up along the outer battlements, watching the guards that patrol up and down the same lengths of walkway over and over again with a level of amused interest. "I think I did... for a while. Only to find out who I was again." He pauses, then sighs a little at himself, adding an annendum: "I mean in more ways than just the Ranger guise. Besides, I'm not exactly the very model of a textbook Prince, am I?"

They could run, but they couldn't hide. Chitter, chitter, chitter. Zareef has abandoned his ribbon in favor of following the velvet hem of his mistress' gown. Now outside, he wiggles between their feet, nose to the ground. It was time to hunt insects.

Rowena's smile widens, continuing to stare forward at the rosy glow. "Perhaps not as swelled with your own pride. But you did come to my rescue once...saved me from that awful tree." Voice edged with a mock tone of helplessness, she concedes to the mongoose's pestering and stoops low to scoop him up.

Serath falls silent for a moment or two, recalling that particular event into memory. "If I remember correctly, I was jealous of that tree." He lets that stand for a few moments, then adds: "Well, at least for a few minutes. Then I just about fell in love with you, you know. I don't think I realized it at the time, but..." He smiles warmly, letting his gaze fall back upon his friend, starting at her waist, flowing over her belly and chest, and moving up to meet her eyes; noting the addition of a fuzzy bandit along the way. "I never really admitted it to myself until a few days ago. I mean, I always *knew*, but... I guess even Horsemasters get scared sometimes. Wildlings be damned."

"Well of course they do." Rowena states matter-of-factly while draping the squirming creature over her shoulder. "Only cowards refuse to admit such." She turns her back to the sun and settles a studious gaze over his facial features. Zareef dangles from his perch, beady eyes fixed upwards on the pendant. "Such a thing as love is difficult to admit for most anyone. Even I am not immune. Did you truly believe that my mood was fouled that day only by my departure to another district? I had traveled the same distance to see you as it would take to venture home from the herbalist." The bridge of her nose wrinkles lightly with a silent laugh that dances through her eyes.

Behind them, her assistant and chamber maid shoulder each other persistently for a better view in the slender window.

"I guess not..." Serath concedes in regards to the latter question, his voice but a soft murmer as he considers the full meaning of Rowena's words. "Though, did *you* truly believe," he starts, echoing the exact words that the Duchess just used, only in a lighter, more teasing tone, "that I hated Tash Vozhd-Kahar *just* because he brought shame to the Imperial House?" Regardless of the warmth in upon his features, he can't help but adopt a look of disdain as /that/ name is spoken again. Though only for a moment. Taking a breath, he adjusts the lustrous metallic-blue sword-tip pendant that dangles from his neck into a more comfortable position.

"...Yes." Rowena admits after a moment of deep thought, a bashful hue turning her cheeks to the dying sun. Searching for a way to draw attention away from that mistake, she clears her throat softly and looks to the statue. "Well I suppose we've both behaved rather ridiculously over the matter at a time. Oh, how I preened to make myself appear older, pretended to be too shy to swim. To snag your attention. And your reply to my efforts? 'Hardly'. Hardly any older! Oh, I was so disappointed I would have run home crying to mother would it have not contradicted the very point I was desperate to make."

Zareef is spurred to life by the movement of Serath's pendant and he rolls, belly up over her shoulder to swipe his little paws eagerly in its direction, as far from course as his reach may be.

"/Only/ because I loved you just the way you were, Rowena." The Prince states in warm protest; the antics of the mongoose holding his attention enough for him to not notice his admittance within that protest. He blinks once or twice, and then catches Rowena's gaze again, offering a tender smile, voice softening. "Only because I love you just the way you are, Rowena." There's no past tense anymore. This is all here. All now. No choices. Nothing but a straight line. Quell would be proud.

An answer without riddle. Pleasantly stunned by the nature of the statement, Rowena sheds the accusing tone for one of gentle tease. "And that, Serath Kahar, is perhaps the first time you've been able to forwardly say so." Holding his stare for a moment longer, she lets Zareef leap away to the ground, then steps forward and rewards him with a kiss...planted square on the nose.

Voices made silent by the barrier, the maids both burst into gasps and hysterics, each falling away from the window.

As Rowena's lips move away from his nose, Serath can't help but sigh in a somewhat serene manner, blinking once or twice at the unexpected kiss. He watches his fiancé's expressions and movements for a few moments in silence, just taking everything about her in, before finally offering her a loving smile. "Well," he whispers, "If you really want me to say so, then I may as well do it right..."

If the maids found the kiss on the nose amusing, they'll love what comes next. Without warning, the Prince retaliates; taking a quick step forward, then another, wrapping his arms around her waist before allowing his lips to meet hers, sealing his love for her what she might consider to be a better way than just forwardly saying so.

Zareef ignores the pair and scuttles away to find his own amusement, but the servants' eyes are now as wide as serving platters as one shoves the other out of the way to watch, mouth agape. Rowena's hands fly upwards in instinctive defense, but her resistance fails terribly once she's trapped in the embrace. Wedged rather closely, she has no choice but to submit...or so she tells herself to excuse the behavior. Her palms gingerly lower in surrender to hook over his shoulders while her mouth configures a suitable response. Quite happily. In the act, she peeps open one eye to watch the window and catches sight of the delightful quarreling.

Ending the kiss with a sudden break, she twists her neck aside and is content to breathe for a moment before murmuring "Scoundrel. Our audience grows. Perhaps the trees would provide better company..." Arching a brow coyly, she slides her hands to his in attempts to free herself.

"Scoundrel?" Serath repeats curiously, the warmth of affection resting upon the serene sorrow of his regal purr of voice. "The Duchess of Light's Reach believes the Scion of the Imperial Line to be a Scoundrel, does she?" He makes no attempt to prevent Rowena from slipping out of their embrace, though does keep his hands placed upon the smooth curves of her waist for as long as permissible all the same, savouring the touch. "Well then, if the Scion is a Scoundrel..." He moves his left hand from her side, lightly pressing a finger to Rowena's neck, just above the rise of her chest in a teasing, but loving, manner. "Then he's a Scoundrel who was snared by the most beautiful Tavernmaid in all of Fastheld."

Rowena's eyes glance downwards briefly before she swats the finger aside with a playful scold. "I'm hardly such a thing! I care not for the smell of fresh brewery, let alone after it's served back to me on wafts of foul breath." Her mouth sets into a patient line, bordering between smile and the attempted frown. Leaving the maids to now watch cheek-to-cheek in compromise through the window, she slips further from his remaining hand and in a little skip, hops down a step to the balcony's massive garden. The shardwood trees easily surpass the six-foot walls' height, and gnarled bushes crowd the ground beneath. Bursts of color rise from the ground in the form of blossums, and one may catch the faint whiff of mint wafting through the air. "Well?" She glances over her shoulder, hand extended for him to follow.

The glance that is thrown over Rowena's shoulder no doubt finds the Prince-of-the-Blood already following in her wake, trailing her into the garden shrouded in twilight. The bronze sabatons glimmer in what little light falls upon their reddish-gold surface, remaining the only glimmer of the Scion in the darkner shadows as black velvet of tunic and pants become one with the darkness, save for the glimmer that refracts upon the reflective blue of the sword-tip pendant around his neck. "Rowena," he softly calls behind her, following the path she walks, "Do you feel as if this is all so..." he trails off, finding the word, "Natural? As if we've been destined for what we are now all our lives, and only just realized it?" Deep, but Serath is prone to these musings every now and then. Love can do that.

Rowena's wildstone earrings and waterstone pendant wink in constant shine while her deep, blue gown likewise disappears against the darkened sky. The light of her eyes crane back to him, hands folding against her belly in thought while they stroll. "If what is natural is what was intended, and if what is intended is right...feels right, then I suppose yes. Perhaps there was more than faulty design that caused my father's carriage to stumble and fail the day we first met. Had I not escaped boredom in favor of the feathery grasses, we may never have met before another 'tavernmaid' discovered you first." A pause as she moves off the path to investigate a patch of underfoot leafy green. "And what a shame that would have been."

"I can't imagine such a cruel fate, as to have not met and fallen in love with you, Rowena Mikin." The words flow like a gentle summer breeze as Serath quickens to make up the ground lost between them, slowing his pace once more as he falls into step by her side, ice-blue gaze locked upon her features, forsaking the elegance of the night, and the beauty of the garden. "Though, as you already know, I may be a tricky Fiance to keep track of."

"Aye..." Rowena agrees with a sad sigh, hands rustling through a plant. Tearing free what she desires, she twists around and extends a handful of mint leaves in his direction. "Though I know of one place I shall never find you, and thus need not fret, so. I often travel as well..." Offering made, she snips a bit off with her fingernails and pops it between her teeth to chew. Life's simplest pleasures never fade.

Serath can't help but smile at something that Rowena states, even though the tone of her voice is somber as she speaks it. His own hands fall to his sides; one to rest upon the hilt of the Lawgiver that sleeps within its scabbard, waiting for blood, while the other just falls to its side, deeply missing the other longsword that use to take up sentry there, but has yet to be replaced. "Yes," he purrs, "You'll be a tricky princess to keep track of, too. But, I shouldn't think that duty will get in the way of my love for you, Rowena. It has yet to do so in the past, after all... even if I was scared to admit it."

"Then I needn't worry." Rowena murmurs and discretely spits the pulpy remains aside. The rest of the stalk remains in her left hand, so she waves it tantalizingly beneath his nose. "And neither need you. I have, after all, been patient these past years. More time's passing shan't stricken me too terribly."

"No, you need not." Flows the sincere answer from the Scion, moments after silence has followed Rowena's statement, and seconds after the breeze offered little in the way of suggestion. "I know, that with the Light's blessing, we will spend more time together *now* than we have ever done before; and if friendship can become love within that shorter span of time, then I'm sure we have nothing to fear."

Rowena chuckles lightly, letting the mint drop as it seems he has no interest. "Not of that nature, of course." She confirms and lays an assuring touch on his arm. "I cannot say the same for the reaction Alieron will suffer. I predict a wild cross between shock and pride." Musing on that scenario, she brushes past him and back onto the path.

Serath watches the mint leaf flutter to the ground, distracted for the moment by the small thing that was under his nose a moment ago without him noticing, though seemingly showing to regret for the lost leaf. "Alieron." He muses, casting an affectionate glance back upon Rowena once more, "Light knows I hold little love for him." This is spoken not as an insult, but merely as a feeling so long standing that it's become a neutral matter-of-fact; as known as the grass is green. "He'll no doubt try and exploit it as if he's been handed the deed to Fastheld Keep, and is now third-in line to the throne. Then I'll have to shout at him some more, until he does that puppy impression he's perfected so well over the years. I can only imagine how much it's annoyed him watching his little sister become best friends of the Emperor's brother, and then..." He shrugs in a warm 'what can you do' gesture, warm smile faltering little. "...this."

"He'll manage once he begins to breathe again." Rowena smirks and then twitches her cheek in response to a pat of rain. A second drop lands atop her scalp, and a third bursts against a leaf that tickles past her ear. Oh dear. An accusing eye lifts to study the sky while she takes a step back towards him. "And what of *Your* brother?" Her voice questions softly, tipping her chin around to look him in the eye. "I can only imagine his thoughts on my house after some past events."

Zareef crunches noisly along the path, bursting a beetle shell between his teeth. Dinner to go. His beady eyes dance about as he scuttles around the pair, then into a bed of flowers.

"Talus?" Serath elaborates, remaining one of the few people who can call him that without preamble, the name flowing with a touch of affection befitting of close brothers, regardless of their stations in life. Still, thinking about it causes Serath to slow to a stop and, once he's sure that Rowena has also come to a halt, continues in a soft tone of voice. "Well, I think his feelings for you are akin to mine for Freia, in regards to the friendships and relations that we both keep." He considers that for a moment, then offers a sigh of resignation. "Of course, Freia's marriage to Talus was arranged, so he didn't have much choice in the matter. Light knows that /I/ probably knew her better than he did back then. Which is strange, really; that two brothers can be so close, yet live in very different worlds." He sighs again, the sound evidently one of regret; not for himself, but for the brother he speaks of. "Still," his voice perks up, "As for you, Rowena Mikin, I'm sure he didn't make you Royal Healer just because of our relationship, and I know that he spoke highly of you after the trouble with Zolor, so I don't think you need to worry." He pauses, then adds, "He knows as well as I do that, siblings or not, you and Alieron are also living in different worlds."

"I suppose that's what occurs when siblings are born so very far apart." Rowena mutters, tone sombering a notch with a rather fearful thought. "Many births failed in the span between he and Orell's birth. Mine was thought to be inconceivable those few years after Orell. Thus, Alieron was grown long before I ran through the fields." She turns a glassy-eyed stare to the heavens, another lonely drop plummeting into her eye lashes with wicked accuracy. "In Light's name!" She exclaims, jarred from her memory, and swipes her sleeve over her eye. "It seems the skies are indecisive this eve."

"Let them be." Serath warmly states, looking towards the clouded heavens of the night to greet the first droplets of rain with a smile, as if meeting an old friend. The Scion's affinity with weather needs not be elaborated on, for it seems that nothing wet bothers him. Though complaints about blazing heat and humidity have surfaced in the past, while torrential downpours and deadly blizzards do little to dent his spirit. He seems to relish bad weather as much as he does clear skies. "Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain." he quotes with a knowing glance to Rowena. Probably another Quellism. "Besides," he adds with a playful smirk, "There's something very alluring about a wet Rowena."

"Quite obviously you haven't met her tempted temper." Rowena refutes, lifting a hand as if to bat away another splash of rain that plays in her pinned curls, threatening to spoil the style. Yet more fall against her throat, her hands...a losing battle. Defeated by the gentle shower, she steps aside beneath the sprawling branches of a young tree. A vain attempt, for the rain drops seek her still. "I'm wondering if you conspired with the skies before your arrival." Yet through the accusation, a sly smile glows.

"You haven't been to Vozhdya recently, have you?" The Prince of the Blood offers in a tone of voice as sly and as knowing as Rowena's own smile. More droplets fall, but none seem to have quite the effect that they have on Rowena; Serath quite content to let them moisten where they land, be that upon him, or upon Rowena's form.

"Have you cast upon them a flood?" Rowena inquires dryly, folding her arms over her middle as a sneaky droplet pelts into her exposed nape. Let that be a lesson to let her mane flow freely before entering the outdoors in evening hours. "I shall be forced to remain awake if that is so, so as to not give you such opportunity here." Zareef, like Serath, could care less about the sprinkle. He weaves beneath a bush, shielded while he noses out another snack. It was no wonder the animal was beginning to grow a belly.

"No." Serath admits, shaking his head a little as he moves to Rowena's side, content to let the rain fall around the tree as he stands under it with his fiance, "Though if you travel there soon, visit the Square of Vozhdya. Look for a Longsword, fused into the ground. It was there that I met the furious tempest of the weather, manipulated by Shadow." He doesn't elaborate on that; the hints tell their own story, and the sword itself - if visited - will explain all that Rowena would need to know. "But I welcome the weather as a companion all the same, Rowena. I know it intimately, and I respect it. As a Ranger, I've hunted Wildlings across snow-blanketed plains, stalked them across blizzard-swept vistas, and done battle under walls of water. I know the weather all too well, and she knows me."

"It sounds as though you have yourself a fine companion then, for all travels." Rowena sighs, then adds "And you needn't remind me of the 'kiss' lady weather bestowed upon you and your sword. Your burns remained on your cloak when we found each other in the temple. I haven't forgotten the story." No longer happy with the shelter of the tree, she takes a step outward to move yet again. "I have had no such luck. Perhaps she is jealous." A wary glance upwards checks for any poised bolts that may exist while her hand blindly searches for his. "Let us retreat just this once, then, inside? Lest you be forced to keep me warm to the night's end."

"I have no regrets." The Scion of the Imperial Line offers in affection answer, moving to follow Rowena's lead without question or complain, finding the offered hand and taking it within his own. "Let her be jealous. There is but one Lady in this realm that I love, and I've finally told her so."

"And not a moment too soon, at that." Rowena adds beneath her breath, but intentionally at an audible level. Leading him along, she walks in silence then, to listen to the symphonic rain playing her melody upon leaves and branch. The window is abandoned now, viewers perhaps losing interest, or perhaps busy in the kitchens where they may spread the word. Before she ventures back into the warmth of the keep, however, the Duchess engages in a final 'natural' act amidst nature's pseudo-romantic setting. Her hand abandons his in order to brush aside a dampened lock of his hair, then steal a second kiss from his lips before the boldness has a chance to fade.

The boldness, though unexpected, is well received. Though the kiss initially takes him by surprise, it only takes a moment or two for him to adapt; his hands again finding her slender waist, drawing his lips firmer to her sensual own, eyes closed as he savours every moment of the embrace; adores every emotion and sensation, maintaining it for as long as he can until gently parting once more. "Scoundrel." he teases with a smile, her taste still upon his mouth.

Rowena's tongue flits over her lower lip with a devilish pout at the name calling. "I can hardly call you a tavern maid." She cautiously slips her right arm beneath him, hand resting lightly upon his back. The rain has become momentarily forgotten. "So perhaps stable boy is more befitting?" Her free hand reaches now to open the great door that leads into the ballroom.

"Don't push it." Serath states in mock warning; the tender smile resting firmly upon his features indicating nothing but playful affection in his words as a slender arm slips under his, the motion and presence of the woman beside him seeming perfectly natural. "Though Ranger might work. I'd settle for Courier, too."

The door gives way beneath her gentle shove. Rowena's features shift as they pass between the torch light within and the darkness outside. "Very well, Prince. I shall scribe a list." Zareef realizes that boots no longer linger near his wanderings. Chittering curiously, he peeps his head from beneath a bush, then scrambles to catch up.

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