A carriage strolled slowly along the trail. Horses of the human domain trotted along at their casual pace, as the stately carriage departed from Elsgarde Keep proper towards the Castle Town situated at the base of the Empire. And though it was situated at the base, it was still a walled town, with strong and sturdy fortifications protecting the largest of the human settlements from the enemies of the Elsgarde Empire.
Riding atop the carriage were the Flame Prince's escort, guards cloaked and disguised as sellswords to accompany their liege on this errand. Within the carriage, the Crown Princes of Elsgarde and Kasairona sat once again in an awkward silence, the tension in the air emanating entirely from the Flame Prince, who, even though he had agreed with Evan's request, still radiated a smoldering disinterest.
The human Prince gulped uneasily, fingers tugging at his shirt-collar meekly. "A-Again, Your Majesty, if you do not wish to carry through with this undertaking, I would not be--"
"Prince Evan." Rowan's words silenced him immediately, as a searing glare seemed to pierce the Prince through the carriage. "I had already committed myself to your request; why haven't you, yourself? Now speak no further of it, before I decide to take to your 'advice'. Now, where is a good parlor, Prince?"
The human prince peered out the carriage, seeing that after traveling down a few streets they were approaching what appeared to be a tailor's, with many lovely gowns on the storefront display, and a wooden placard representing the profession.
"Fine..." Rowan banged the carriage door for them to stop.
When they had, one guard poked his head into the carriage. "Yes, sire?"
"Settle the carriage here. I will only be a few minutes, whilst I buy myself some... gowns." A bored frown appeared on the Flame Prince's face.
The guard gave a small chuckle but also a look of understanding. "Aye, Your Majesty." he winked and went to inform the others.
He--Rowan had to stop thinking that about himself for this moment. She looked to the delicately dressed Prince before her. "I'll only be a few moments, Prince." Rabekah left the carriage.
Entering the shop, she was greeted with bright colors and dresses of the current fashion.
"Oh greetings!" A humble shopkeep and his wife came forward, bowing politely at the sight of Rabekah and her regal attire. "What an honor to be visited upon by an invested nobleman! To what do we owe this stately visit?"
"Forgive me, sir." She said in a more feminine voice and gave a small bow, "But I am in need of some gowns. Enough for... a fort night, roughly. A month, at most." She straightened up, a kind and somewhat forced smile to her face. "I'm sorry for the short notice, but seeing as I am a guest of Their Imperial Majesties, I need dresses by this evening at the very least."
"OH??" The shopkeep's wife immediately pushed her husband to the side, looking up to the taller woman, seeing the glinting embers in her eyes. "I can see it! A Fire at our humble store? Dear, shod off! Let a lady tend to a lady's need! We wouldn't want to upset her to the point of burnin' our home to kindling! Shoo! SHOO!" She harried her husband out of the room, before paying her attention back onto Rabekah. "Now, come this way so that I can take your measurements, dear!"
Rabekah followed the shopkeeper's wife to the back room. This mature woman seemed so happy to be tending to her, and the Flame Princess had to admit that the feeling was contagious, as a tiny and now genuine smile formed atop the foundation of her formerly forced grin. Once in the back room, she had to strip down to her undergarments, which were a very simple red brassier and miniscule red shorts.
Her measurements were far more masculine, with wider shoulders and a slim waist and hips, but given the dresses on display in the front, Rabekah was certain this woman would give her some delightful and worthy clothes.
"I need them to be in the royal colors of Elsgarde." Rabekah informed. "And one or two in the colors of the Fire Kingdom of Kasairona."
"Oh?? The Royal Family--oh!! You mean, you're trying to get closer to Their Highness's son?? That's so amazing--I never saw a lot of the Crown Prince myself, Your Highness." She shifted her eyes side to side as she continued sizing up the Flame Princess, getting a wrap-around on her firm stomach. "But between you and me, I always thought that a boy in robes and healer's garbs would be one who preferred the cockerel over the muff--but of course, what do I know of royal politics?! Ahahaha~ now I believe I have just the sort of deals just for you, dear."
With that, she excitedly brought out a few gowns, some indeed holding onto the Elsgarde royal colors, and some more noblewoman-like gowns that coincidentally had such fiery tones of crimson and golden. The initial measurements looked as if it would fit a more wide-set noblewoman, even when it was fitted atop of her, which led to her beginning to adjust the gown to fit the flame more appropriately.
She tried them all on, all fourteen of them, and each one looked amazing on her body. Even if she despised being dressed in that which she denied for so many years, deep down, she could not deny that she looked amazing.
"Now, I have one more dress that needs extra special attention and MUST be done within the end of the month." She leaned in to whisper to the woman, telling her about a fiery red wedding dress befitting a queen.
When all was said and done, Rabekah paid the kind woman with a hefty sack of gold and silver, far more then the dresses were worth. But when one had the money of two nations, one could dish out what they please to whom they pleased.
"So, have you heard? The wisps have been getting awful restless..."
"You don't need to tell me twice. I've heard those rumors. The Airs are getting restless, and they've been getting very aggressive from what I've heard."
"I heard they can make lightning as well--"
"Wisps are our kin; they cannot lie. They have learned how to conjure lightning, and how to suffocate us--"
"Impossible! We are flames! We consume the air--"
"Not the way they're doing it from what I've heard; killing fire without even touching them, cutting them off... They've gone far from being target practice."
Evan sat patiently in the caravan while he waited for the Princess to return. When he heard Rabekah bark at her escorts to begin loading all of the gowns onto the carriage, he leaned back into his seat, before casting a curious glance back on the Princess.
"So, I-I see you've ascertained what you have required, yes?" Evan noted simply.
"Yes, I have." She said curtly. "I'm rather... amused about how some of your people regard their 'cockerel-craving prince'." She said this with a slightly amused look, doubled with Evan's immediate tomato-red tint upon his cheeks. She tapped the door, letting them know they could be on their way back to the Keep.
She would dread the notion of having to get her feminine attire on as well as have her face painted as a noblewoman would one day. Something she had not done in many centuries.
"W-w-well, perhaps it was due to my lack of interest in pursuing a suitor or a c-consort prior to our arrangement. My people are my first priority."
A dark glare met his eyes immediately. "Well, if you're not into females, now would be a fantastic time to tell me." She tried being polite. The princess being a prince was a small shock to her already, but if he had no interest in furthering the royal line, then that was a problem. "Do not lead me on anymore then you already have, please."
"Oh no no no! It's not that at all!! I show no desire for lusting after men!!" Evan reassured her, blushing deeply from his choice of words, as if unintentionally insulting Rabekah's masculine choice of dress. "I-I have always wanted a-a woman--someone who I could bare myself to... but because of the constant fighting, how can I allow myself to feel happiness when there are others who suffer all around me?" He looked to the flame again, a small, boyish smirk across his dainty features. "Though, admittedly, when you proclaimed yourself as a woman, it did ease my anxieties about our arrangement."
"I was fine either way with this arrangement, to be honest. Though if you had been a true woman, I would have never shared my bed." She recrossed her arms and legs, the same blank face beginning to take the place of any sort of emotion.
"Ah... I-I see." Eva glanced to the side, always finding the 'neutral' disposition of Rabekah--Rowan--the Flame Prince to be a slight jarring, as if he had done something wrong, as always.
"Is something about me bothering you, 'Prince'?" She asked him, her eyes still on his being.
"N-no! Of course not--"
"Then stop looking away from my merely being myself, understand?! Even as I bow down to your request, I will NEVER compromise this facet of myself!!" She let out an irritable sigh afterwards, before letting her eyes glance out the carriage windows. It seems that the closer they got to the castle, the slower they moved, with the driver yelling at commoners to get out of their way.
A week's time had gone by after the Flame Heir's arrival at the Elsgarde Empire.
Crown Prince Evan, after a rigorous morning of mental exercises for his healing training, and followed with a grand time perusing Elsgardian literature in the library, was heading towards the Royal's Wing. It was very spacious and quite elite indeed, with one chamber currently housing Princess Rabekah--or rather, Prince Rowan; her rule was harshly enforced that when she was not in her gowns, she was always Prince Rowan. And she had not stepped out of her cold, harsh, 'male' persona or threads for the chance moments he saw her.
He knocked on his door, wondering if he would actually get to see him at all today.
On the other end, Rowan snapped out of a warm trance to the sounds of rapping on his door.
He got up and approached the door, opening it fast and firmly. Of course it was his human bride and fiance, Evan.
"What, is it, Evan?!" He barked lowly at the Prince before him.
"Ah..." He looked into the Flame 'Prince's' eyes. There was always that hateful sort of spark that seemed to always be directed squarely at him. And yet, Evan could feel that there was something off. "Y-you've sequestered yourself in your chambers the last few days, Your Majesty. Are you not feeling well?"
Rowan almost started to apologize, but stopped short of doing so. He felt he shouldn't have to. "I-I... I'm," he placed a long index finger between his brows and shut his eyes. "Your air quality in the castle... it is terrible for me, Prince."
He had been avoiding him on purpose. The air in the human lands was different, less oxygen due to so many people and not enough trees in the immediate area for air production. So he was feeling slightly ill and irritable.
"AH, the a-a-air's unsuitable??" He glanced down, feeling like it was his own fault in some way. "I-I'll see if I can--"
"Evan, stop. Just..." Opening his eyes, Rowan stepped out of his chambers, shut it behind him, and gave the Crown Prince a semblance of selflessness. "You were right to pursue me; I need to be less negligent towards you. So... let us spend some time together, yes?"
He looked at him blankly for a moment, before giving him his own sign of jubilation, glad to see some forwardness to finally socialize at last from Rowan. And as for his problem with the air...
"Past the Keep, it leads on down to the Lowlands. Nothing but green fields, farmlands and forests; perhaps it would suit your current needs more appropriately." He suggested. "T-t-to give you a proper breather, as it were."
"S-sure." Rowan said, a more genuine smile to his face. The thought of fresher air really seemed like a wonderful idea. "Won't you lead the way?" Rowan gave a tiny bow, his eyes burning a little brighter with happiness.
"But of course." His lips took to a relieved tone, before leading the way.
Mentally, Evan beamed happily, for his 'husband' had finally smiled to him.
Evan firstly informed Iliya that he was showing His Majesty around the Lowlands, in case the Emperor and Empress would ask for their whereabouts. Rowan giving a venomous glare towards the attendant behind Evan's back was another step of the plan, according to the Flame Prince.
Then from the south end of the Keep, it was a firm but smooth and straightforward walk towards the Lowlands. True to Evan's words, there awaited lush fields of green, of farmlands and animals on one side, bordering forests on the other side, all of it so green and vibrant and alive.
Heading downwards from the fields, the Lowlands ended within a valley area, small rolling hills with tall grass that swayed in the wind. One could smell hay and wheat as the breeze blew. Rowan stopped to admire the scenery. This was so unlike his desert home, all green and forested.
Taking in a deep breath, he closed his eyes, spread his arms, and fell backwards into the tall grass. His hair, which had seemed to have dulled into a darker red, lightened very quickly, becoming vibrant once again. Prince Evan even noticed that definite color was returning to Rowan's hair and pale skin regaining its naturally tanned color. Opening his eyes and looking to the sky, Rowan's eyes burned brightly with an inner fire. His orbs practically shimmered in the daylight, watching the clouds simply race by.
"You were not exaggerating when you said the air at the Keep was not to your liking." He nodded to him. "You appear to be in more definite spirits, Princess Rabe--" He caught himself before he could finish, glancing towards the dip of the valley. "I-I mean, Prince Rowan..."
He loosed a quiet sigh, his smile fading somewhat. Was it really straining the human Prince so much to identify him as he deserved? "Fix your tone, Prince. I had thought you'd have known better." A glance towards the human showed him with his head down, eyes paying more notice to the surroundings than to himself.
"Ah, my apologies, Your Highness." He supposed he had gotten his hopes up, only to have them dashed away.
Another inhale and he continued to speak. "But yes, this air is quite preferable."
He turned his head to Rowan, a faint smile on his lips. "Well, I am delighted that you are elated with your environs, Your Majesty." He looked around the valley surroundings, noting the peaceful air. "If you like, I could request His Majesty to erect a quaint manor within the Lowlands for us."
"Yes that would be... wait," he cut himself off, sitting up quickly. "What do you mean build a manor here?" He looked confused; was the prince wanting Rowan to move here? "I cannot stay here, Evan. I would not survive the winter!"
"Ah--I-I wouldn't ask you to stay the winters... but, just as 'Princess' Eva has come to accept staying in Kasairona, perhaps I can ask you to accept Elsgarde as a second home as well?" He looked around the sweeping valley. "And since you seem uncomfortable in the Keep proper, I could request the King to commission a manor here, suitable for you in mind."
"No." He looked very sternly at the prince. "I will live in nothing short of a castle, and I need to be among my people. We married in my lands first, so we will be living in the oasis."
Evan's eyes widened. "A-Are you suggesting that I-I may never see my home again??"
His face was in a scowl now. "YOU may live wherever you wish. But I will not be staying in these lands for long. Unless it's your purpose to kill me with lack of air."
His heart felt a slight ache as he looked out to the surrounding greenery. "I... I cannot force you to obey my words; if you wish to stay in Kasairona during your rule, I will not force the issue! But can you not set yourself down, even by a slight, to accept that Elsgarde could be another home for you, even if only for the warmer seasons--"
"NO, I WILL NOT." Rowan voiced firmly, his eyes showing off that molten energy. "How naive could you possibly be?! Just because we marry, it doesn't even mean we need to be in the same country."
"Well, how cruel of you to say such a thing!" He looked down at his feet, feeling very uncomfortable around 'Rowan' now. "Even though all of this started merely as a prevention of war, it may surprise you, Your Majesty, that I have developed a fondness towards you, both as Eva and Evan. And yet you seem most indifferent to whether our peoples see their future rulers split apart, barely seeing eye-to-eye, fostering only distance and contempt." He stood and looked down at him. "How good you must feel to ensure that your PRIDE remains intact, Prince Rowan."
The Flame Prince got up abruptly. "And here's where you're wrong; I don't care about any of this!! I DON'T love you, let alone like you very much!!" His inner flame danced angrily in his eyes, his pupils disappearing. "I said it once, and I will say this again: I would WIPE every one of you human vermin off these planes! This is OUR world!"
He could feel his hateful eyes smoldering onto him. He looked absolutely hot to the touch; as if Rowan's skin would buckle under and melt to its true form, as if laying a hand on him would melt flesh and bone off the human prince's body altogether.
"...Then show a better example for us 'vermin'. This whole ordeal is not just about your stubborn pride, about your being coupled with me, or even if you're scared of baring children in the future, Your Majesty..." He started to walk away, continuing to feel that intensely searing hatred behind him, trying to hide the fact his heart was both beating incessantly and sinking to despair at the same time. "If you wish to keep the 'facade' of our courtship up, there is a lavish gala tonight. They will expect us there, and in our finery. S-so... don't be late... Princess Rabekah."
Rowan's fists were clenched in pure, seething anger. How tempted he was to just send a gout of molten flame at him, merely to strike him down and end this 'farce' once and for all. He would be dead, their peoples would war everlasting, and...
The Flame Prince immediately stomped down towards the end of the valley in the opposite direction of the Prince. Upon reaching the bottom, he stopped and sat down heavily, letting out a huff.
"Stupid prince." he cursed in his mother tongue. Maybe he'd just spend the day out here; it would do him no good to go to the gala in a pissed off mood. Suddenly, burning all the gowns he had bought out of direct protest of Prince Evan's requests didn't seem like a bad idea now.