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[url=http://otakuboards.com/showthread.php?t=58334][size=4][font=garamond][b]Family Portraits[/url] :: [url=http://otakuboards.com/showthread.php?t=58301]Backstage[/url]
[url=http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c323/SamSandy/almagest-familytree.png]Family Tree - 580 YOD to Present[/url][/size][/b][/font]
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[size=4][font=garamond][b]Cast of Characters[/b][/size][/font][/center]
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[right][size=4][font=garamond][b]The Birthday Party[/b][/size][/font][/right]

[size=1]Fauntleroy Almagest approached the gates of Rosengard with a smile on his face. After spending his day writing about the plight of factory workers in New Czenoble, the young man was more than ready to return to his life of luxury. To some the lush gardens and extravagant lifestyle of the Almagests seemed excessive, but for Leonhart’s four children it was the only life they had ever known.

“[b]Being a photog is exhausting![/b]” Fauntleroy exclaimed as he motioned for a garden worker to carry his camera bag, “[b]I certainly hope The Chronicle doesn’t bury my article in the back like the rest of my work...[/b]”

“[b]Uncle Fonty![/b]” a familiar voice called out excitedly. A young girl with dark pigtails rolled out from behind a large rose bush and quickly embraced Fauntleroy. With her white sleeveless shirt and red gloves she looked as if she was an airship pilot.

“[b]Hello Victoria,[/b]” he said with a smile, “[b]It looks like your mother bought you another delightful costume.[/b]”

“[b]It’s not a costume, it’s a uniform![/b]” the girl huffed, “[b]I’ve decided that I’m going to work for Artemis Air Transports when I get older.[/b]”

“[b]So you’re going to be an airship pilot? Didn’t you want to be a professor like Aunt Catherine last time I saw you?[/b]”

Victoria Ann rolled her eyes, “[b]Oh please, that was ages ago! Now I’d much rather be a pilot than a boring old professor, or a dorky photog…[/b]”

“[b]Watch your language, young girl![/b]” a shrill voice commanded from behind Victoria Ann, startling her. The girl turned around to discover Lady Anna Grimalkin, house matron of Rosengard, staring down at her with an annoyed look on her face.

“[b]Dame Anna![/b]” Victoria Ann shrieked, “[b]I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t know you were there![/b]”

Anna pointed her finger towards the house, “[b]Go inside see and if your mother or Catherine need any help preparing for the party. And try to be more respectful to your elders, missy![/b]”

Victoria Ann nodded, and quietly walked into the house.

Fauntleroy laughed. “[b]You’re still running this house like an army base, aren’t you Anna?[/b]”

“[b]It’s because we have an army living here![/b]” she replied, “[b]We have more Almagests running around the estate than ever, and tonight is going to be no different with the party.[/b]”

“[b]Lady Bavaria isn’t coming, is she?[/b]”

Dame Anna grimaced at the mention of Lady Bavaria’s name.

“[b]Thankfully not, but the rest of the Deacons were invited. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them in case that brother of Lady Bavaria’s plans on stealing any more priceless heirlooms..[/b]”

“[b]Maybe I should pass,[/b]” Fauntleroy said, “[b]I am falling behind with work, and it’s not as if father would miss my presence.[/b]”

The old woman placed her hand on Fauntleroy’s shoulder, “[b]Although he might not show it, Fonty, your father cares very deeply about each and every one of you. Besides, Leonhart wants Vincent to attend. I‘ll need you to take care of Macey Ellen.[/b]”

Fauntleroy‘s eyes lit up, “[b]You didn’t tell me there would be fireworks, Anna. Just point me in the direction of the champagne and let’s get this evening underway![/b]”

“[b]What about your article for The Chronicle?[/b]”

“[b]My deadline can wait,[/b]” Fauntleroy replied dismissively, “[b]After all, the unwashed masses will still be poor when they publish the late edition.[/b]”[/size][center]
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[size=4][font=garamond][b]Landmark 01[/b][/size][/font][/center][/indent]
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[left][COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]Macey Ellen Almagest, formerly Archard-Almagest continued to breathe normally, even as one of her personal servants laced her up into the black corset that had become the mainstay of her wardrobe. Granted, this one was accentuated with more silk thread lace than usual, and decorated with particularly fine black satin ribbons. With each tug, any normal girl would've gasped for breath, but such were the results of Macey Ellen's long years of wearing corsets that she didn't even flinch. With a few well placed twists, and the clever placement of about six silver hairpins, her long black hair was swept up and back into an elegant knot. Finally the servant finished with the smaller details, such as the placement of small silver combs and hair ornaments, and departed, allowing Macey to observe her image in the silvered mirror above her dressing table.

Impartially, Macey decided that she was desperately pale. Her skin the color of brushed porcelain, with nothing to bring warmth to near translucence of her flesh. Of course, it probably didn't help that she hadn't appeared in public for months. Perhaps some makeup really was in order, even though she hadn't worn it in years. She applied a light blush to her cheeks with one of the smaller brushes that she and her sister had collected over the years. Speaking of which, just as she was about to dip one of the tinest brushes into a light blue dye, Eva herself descended upon her twin like a miniature bolt from Mount Olympus,[/i]

"Not that color Ella, you want this one. It brings out the color of your eyes."

[i]Moving with all the deftness of an accomplished painter, Marie Evangeline herself applied a sparkle of pink and purple across her sister's eyelids, faint, yet visible, when she blinked. Macey frowned inwardly, but didn't protest. Her sister had always had a way with makeup, potions, anything cosmetic. Macey f ound it odd that everyone thought it necessary for her to dress in whatever would bring out the color of her eyes, when they were black; the absence of all color. Five minutes later, she prounced the poor mourning divorcee complete and flounced out of the room in a whirl of blue and silver.

Sighing with resignation, Macey shrugged her bare shoulders, and opened her jewelry box. She reached down and contemplated.[/i]

"Opals or sapphires?"

"You should always go with the opals dear sister. They bring out the color of your eyes."

[i]Macey frowned slightly, and resigned herself. Her elder brother, a mincing fop at times but usually concerned for her general well-being picked up the elaborate chain of opals set in silver. He fumbled with the clasp at her throat, and she rolled her eyes.[/i]

"You can't possibly be intoxicated already Fonty. The party hasn't even started yet."

"It is never too early to be intoxicated."

[i]He held out his arm to her like a proper gentleman, albeit with a mild sway to his stance. His younger sister frowned and then smiled briefly. Might as well. She stood, the folds of her black skirt falling down around her thighs, and let him take her arm and lead her downstairs.[/i][/FONT][/COLOR][/left]
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Vincent?s legs ached as he passed through a seemingly endless field of tall grass. The blades were unnaturally high, sweeping past his knees as he walked. It was as though he had been walking for days in an endless circle; there was nothing on the horizon and he felt lost.

For a moment, he paused to take a breath. He wiped his brow with the sleeve of his shirt, as sweat beaded down his neck and over his chest. The sun penetrated his clothes and burned his muscles.

If only he had a map or a guide; if only Audrey was here! His ever-loyal, eerily-savvy secretary might know a way home. Now, more than ever, he appreciated her. He was sure she?d somehow have some solution to his problem.

He raised his eyes and looked out over the undulating green that stretched well beyond the horizon. And now, he noticed what he thought was a figure approaching from the distance. The heat made things hazy and perhaps it was an illusion or maybe he had been so concerned with his own tiredness that he simply hadn?t noticed the stranger.

As the figure came closer, Vincent noticed that it was a young man. His sleeves were rolled up, but other than that, the oppressive heat did not seem to bother him. As he came closer, his features became clearer. The man was certainly young, but he was not a boy. His light blonde hair fluttered around his eyes as the wind ran through it. There was something about him that was odd, but not in a frightening or negative way; more than anything, it brought about an intense curiosity in Vincent.

?What are you doing out here, young man? Are you lost too??

It was Vincent?s vague attempt at sounding authoritative, when he was clearly just as vulnerable as the stranger. As Vincent was older, he half thought that perhaps he may be able to comfort the man.

The man stopped and held out his hand. ?I?m here to take you home,? he whispered.

Vincent felt the overwhelming urge to take his hand, as though the earth underneath his feet were about to give way. He reached out and then, suddenly, the stranger?s hand was gone. And Vincent felt urgently sick, as the ground crumbled under his feet. Now he would never find his way home.




The thick curtains in Vincent?s bedroom opened automatically, as a series of pulleys in the corners squeaked on their gears. Light streamed into the room, which sat at the apex of a luxurious penthouse apartment in High Czenoble?s western district.

Vincent stared up at the ceiling as the morning unfolded before him. He lay above the covers of his King Size bed, dressed in a pair of thick cotton shorts. He was dressed for summer, even though the penthouse was notably chilly.

The dream he?d had was not new. Vincent had been experiencing the same dream for several nights and he was beginning to tire of it. Despite this, he could offer no explanation for it; it made no sense to him, even in a vague symbolic way.

But before he could collect his thoughts, the double doors to his bedroom swung open and the [i]click-clack[/i] of high-heels announced the entrance of his secretary, Audrey.

As soon as she rounded the corner, she gasped and covered her eyes with a gloved hand. ?Oh! I?m sorry, Mr. Achard! I thought you would be dressed by now!?

Vincent didn?t mind Audrey being in his penthouse. In fact, she was an Anovan and she had been selected by Vincent in a rare act of nepotism. The Royal Police Guard had cleared her and appointed her nonetheless and her presence reminded Vincent of home, which was possibly why he liked having her around.

Audrey was organized and always dressed in a minimal fashion. She had a particular fondness for grey, which adorned just about every garment Vincent had seen her in. On this day she wore a neat grey skirt and coat, with a ruffled white shirt underneath. She wore a small, inconspicuous hat tilted to one side, which carried a small tuft of feathers on it. Her hair was wrapped in a tight bun and her make-up was simple and neat.

Vincent smiled and waved his hand dismissively. ?You can uncover your eyes, Audrey. I [i]am[/i] wearing pants, you know.?

Audrey reluctantly did as she was told. Now her face was slightly flushed.

As if to shake off her initial embarrassment, Audrey reached into her briefcase and produced a small card.

?What?s that?? asked Vincent as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled a robe from the back of a nearby chair.

?This is an invitation, Sir. You?ve been asked to attend Leonhart Almagest?s sixty-fifth birthday. I?m sorry to notify you so late; it only arrived in the office today.?

Vincent tied the waist of his robe and took the invitation from Audrey. It could be none other than a message from the Almagest family, given the exquisite stationery (and of course, it carried the famous Almagest Family Seal).

Despite the late notice, Vincent knew that it would be highly inappropriate to reject an invitation from none other than Leonhart himself. If nothing else, Leonhart and Vincent?s father, Olivier, were still great friends. Olivier couldn?t make it to Czenovia as he had urgent business to attend to at home. And so, it was left to Vincent to represent the Achard family.

?You don?t look pleased with the news,? said Audrey with a tone of genuine surprise in her voice.

?Macey Ellen will likely be there,? sighed Vincent.

Audrey mentally reprimanded herself; how could she forget such a well-publicised divorce?

?I-I?m sorry?I forgot??

Vincent looked up at her and smiled warmly. ?No need to apologize, Audrey. I don?t expect you to be a mind reader. Macey Ellen and I can still get along; I just do not want to make things awkward for her family. I am in a difficult position, with my father being so close to Leonhart despite everything.?

Audrey nodded. ?The party is in a matter of hours. Perhaps we should look for a present??

?A grand idea,? said Vincent cheerfully, ?have my car ready and I will be there in a moment. I need to choose the right suit??

?Oh, your car is already sitting on the street. I will go down now and wait for you.? And with that, Audrey disappeared around the corner.

Vincent looked out the large window near his bed and sure enough, he saw the limousine sitting on the street. It was a brand new model, with a powerful steam-crank design. As it idled, sheets of steam billowed from the enormous engine at the front.

Tonight, he thought, would be a most interesting night.
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[SIZE="1"][CENTER][IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/jackavatar.jpg[/IMG]
[/CENTER]
[COLOR="Olive"][I]"Cap'n, she's breaking up! The hull can't take much more of a beatin'!"[/I]

Jack looked out onto the hanger. There she was, broken and and struggling to maintain her hover as men moved in and out carrying half their weight in supplies. She was his first love, his freedom, his Lyra. To his left was non other than Meredyne Artemis, who'd taken the time to come down and survey the damages to his ship. He was one of the few men in the world that she took care of personally, if not the only one.

[B]" Jonathan, let me assess this correctly. You flew headfirst into a sea storm?"[/B] Meredyne asked, pen ready to scribble in his answer.

[B]"Something like that,"[/B] Jack corrected, [B]"It was a cloudy day at first."[/B]

[I]"Keep her steady, gents! She's a hard bird to fell, and a little rain won't knock 'er out of the air. Mr. Covey! Maintain our course and stand fast for orders!"[/I]

[B]"Oh, that makes a world of difference, doesn't it Jonathan?"[/B] she replied, almost laughing at her on joke. [B]"Come, I need to see its insides before I can give you a proper estimate."[/B]

They walked out of the observation deck overlooking the hangar where the Lyra was docked, Jack opening all of the doors for Meredyne as they went down. Re-entering the Hangar, they could see just how bad the shape of the Lyra was. It's once polished wooden frame was now chipped and dull. The brass exhaust pipes were bent, some rusting. The poor bird looked old, beat up, and ready to die. Upon entering it, one of the rafters gave way and came crashing down, barely missing Meredyne. She stopped and took a long examining look inside, not daring to take another step forward.

[B]"Jonathan, I won't argue with you. The storm was the killing blow, but this ship has long been overdue for retirement."[/B] she walked down onto the hangar floor before speaking again, [B]"If I weren't sure that you knew better, I would say you let the Lyra fall into disrepair on purpose. By all means it should've been decommissioned a long time ago."[/B]

[I]"Bah! She's gonna make it. Pull up! We're going to take the storm head first. Put her above the clouds!"[/I]

Jack looked into Meredyne's eyes for a moment, saying nothing, sure she would pick-up on what was going through his mind.

[B]"My God, Jonathan. You're building another ship, aren't you?"[/B] she said as it dawned on her. [B]"I remember when you built this one. You love this ship. How can you just crash it and make a new one?"[/B]

[B]"I'm a little low on chips right now. I'm sure the insurance off of her'll give me a pretty penny."[/B] Jonathan put his hand on the Lyra's hull, feeling its hum for a moment. Closing his eyes, he remembered the years of service the ship had given him and the many adventures he had aboard her. [B]"Anyways, how much can you give me for her?"[/B]

Meredyne tore out her paper and showed him the estimate, [B]"You know, Jonathan, I could buy it from you. I'll give you more than the company will." [/B]

Jack laughed, [B]"Why? So that in a year or two after you reverse engineer her engine I can see a thousand more like her in the skies of Czenoble. I'll take the insurance."[/B]

With some animosity Meredyne took back the statement. [B]"I'll make sure the money's delivered to the bank. And honestly, Jonathan, I have no idea why you put yourself against my company. You know you would do great here."[/B]

[B]"That's why I make you suffer, Meredyne. Artemis Air doesn't need two geniuses running it."[/B] They walked a little away from the ship, Jack refusing to turn around and look at her.

[B]"Who said anything about you running it?"[/B]

[B]"I did."[/B] With that, Jack began walking out of the hangar, [B]"The crew will be leaving once they're done cleaning her out. Put the rental fee on that favor you owe, I'm going to be here for a while."[/B]

[I]"Land Ho! I told you scalawags my gut wouldn't lead us wrong. Mr. Covey set a course for New Czenoble. Oh, and gents, welcome to Czenovia!"[/I]

Jack walked through the entrance of Artemis Air Transports and looked around. He had not set foot in this city in a long time, and it didn't feel like home anymore. The streets were indeed familiar, as were the buildings and landmarks, give or take an addition or two. It was the city he grew up in, but still it was so unfamiliar. Jack took a look at his watch, thinking to himself that he could walk to the tracks and surprise a certain someone who didn't expect him. He set out from the station, thinking about his ship and how he didn't say goodbye. [B]"Well, she's not the first lady I've ever walked out on."[/B]

His mind shifted to his younger sister, Morphia, whom he hadn't seen in years despite his frequent visits to Czenoble. From what he'd heard from Bavaria, she'd become quite the young lady, and a jock to boot. This was wonderful, because from the sounds of things she wasn't as much of a tool as the rest of his siblings and dear old dad. Jack dawned his sunglasses and resting his hands in the pockets of his bomber jacket continued his journey.
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[RIGHT][LEFT][FONT=Lucida Sans Unicode] Dawlish sat hunched over his workbench, the only light coming from the tiny oil lamp that hung over it, softly glowing as he worked. His metal leg creaked occasionally as he shifted position, something that had become the bane of his life over the past few years. He pushed his goggles up with one hand, in the same motion smearing oil across his sweaty face. He sighed, and placed the object he was working on down on the bench, leaning back in his tall chair and pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
[/FONT] [/LEFT]
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There was a knock at the door, and even though Dawlish did not respond, the door creaked open a few seconds later, and the head of his sister poked through.

[B]"Dawlish?" [/B]she said, squnting into the gloom of his workshop, [B]"Are you in there?"

"I'm here, Nellie," [/B]he mumbled, and his sister picked her way through the various pieces of metal and clockwork that lay strewn around the floor, until she was standing next to his workbench.

[B]"My God, Dawlish, what do you look like?" [/B]she said, [B]"There's only a couple of hours till the party - you'd better get yourself cleaned up."

"I'm not going, Nellie," [/B]said Dawlish, reaching up to pull his goggles back down, when his sister's hand grabbed his wrist, stopping him from moving. She had an alarmingly strong grip - probably down to her working as a personal guard to Augustine Beauteous.

[B]"Dawlish, this is Uncle Leonhart's 65th birthday. Events like this don't come along all that often - you'd do well to forget your moody demeanour for the night and come to the party."

"They don't happen all that often? There's so many people in this family now barely a day goes by without someone celebrating something - a birthday here, an anniversary there, a divorce in the case of Macey Ellen and Vincent."

"Don't joke about that, brother," [/B]said Nellie firmly, [B]"That was a serious thing - they were both heartbroken that it didn't work out, and all that press coverage didn't really help."

"Sorry - anyway, the point I'm making is that I don't see why we have to celebrate every major event in the lives of every one of the Almagest clan."

"This one is important. You know how important Uncle Leonhart is to this family - if his family don't turn out for the party, the press will be all over it, and you know that."

"I attended your birthday party this year, Nellie, and father's. Isn't that enough for these people?"

"Dawlish, you are going to get out of those filthy clothes, wash your face and put on something smart. Then you are going to come to the party, and pretend you are having a good time. Otherwise I may lose all respect I ever had for my big brother and punch you."

"Fine," [/B]said Dawlish, throwing his goggles down on the bench, [B]"But I'm doing this under duress - I'm not doing it for the family."

"It's the only way I can ever get you to come to these things," [/B]said Nellie with a smile, escorting Dawlish out of the workshop and extinguishing the light as she went.
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[center][IMG]http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c135/Minneymin/morphiaavatar.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c135/Minneymin/jackavatar.jpg[/IMG][/center]
[FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][COLOR="Indigo"][b]?Come on, Fervus,?[/b] she whispered to the reptilian chimaera, kneading its neck again as she felt the replying increase in speed. The roar of the crowd filled Morphia's ears, and she felt the pounding vibrations of creatures in pursuit. Her pulse quickened, and she could feel Fervus?s eagerness to get to the finish line. There was only one thing in the way?that arrogant idiot of a jockey Artür Drachheim. Morphia?s eyes narrowed as she set her sights on her target.

[i]If we slow down at the corner there?ll be no way we?ll catch up. The only chance I have to pass Artür?[/i] She would have to take it ? there was no way she would surrender a victory. She urged Fervus on, the corner coming up in two bounds. Morphia yanked the reins and dug in her spurs, and the beast flew horizontally, shoving off the wall of the corner; she heard the talons of her chimaera screech on the stones. Her heart wound up in her throat as they literally flew past a shocked Artür. The look on his face was unforgettable, and she smiled through her visor again. Suddenly she felt Fervus jerk beneath her; she immediately turned to look behind her, barely in time to duck the claws of Artür?s beast.

The rush of anger was immediate and uninhibited, and she felt the sweet release of control as rage began to flood her system. Morphia unwound her whip with a quick slip of her wrist, and it slid off from around her waist. By this time Artür had drawn up along beside her; Fervus hissed as he tried to swipe at their opponent.
Although she couldn?t hear him, Morphia could read Artür?s lips perfectly as his eyes narrowed, [b]?You wouldn?t??[/b]
She smiled grimly, and then flicked her wrist over her head again. The whip lashed out like lightning, snapping against the side of Artür?s head. She didn?t look back as she and Fervus crossed the finish line.
[center]~~~~~~~[/center]
[b]?[i]Disqualified?[/i] You cannot be serious!?[/b] Morphia threw her visor aside violently, stepping threateningly towards the official.

[b]?Morphia!?[/b] the familiar voice came echoing off the walls.

For a moment she froze, and then slowly turned, almost afraid to think of who it might be. At first Morphia couldn?t recognize who it was, but there was something strangely familiar about him. She would have thought about it a little more before turning back to the judging official, but she was still feeling much too heated. Lifting a threatening hand again, she was shocked when she felt a steel grip around her wrist. Now this stranger had her full attention; her temper reared up inside of her. [i]Who is this insolent person?[/i]

His voice was calm and quiet, [b]?Morphia, behave.?[/b]

Those two words, and her anger broke immediately, [b]??Jack? You've returned??[/b] Seeing him now, she couldn?t believe that she hadn?t recognized him before; but it had been years since she had last seen him. Her hand fell back to her side, the whip slipping from her grip.

Jonathan smiled wryly, [b]?It seems so, only to find a beautiful young lady about to take out her temper on some poor circuit judge.?[/b] She really had grown lovely ? even under the dust and smudges that covered her, Jonathan could see that his younger sister wasn?t little anymore, although he still towered over her. Despite the height difference, he could tell she wasn?t a girl to be trifled with, especially not with that impetuous will of hers. [b]?You haven?t changed at all.?[/b]

Morphia?s lip trembled for a moment, [b]?You didn?t even say goodbye.?[/b] Looking up Jonathan, her gaze betrayed the grudge that she still held. Even so, a second later she rushed into his arms, feeling a warm comfort as he folded her into his safe embrace. Her waves of hair hid any emotion that she felt, and for that she was thankful. [b]?I?m glad you?re here.?[/b] Then Morphia tipped her head to look up at him, [b]?You smell kind of funny.?[/b]

Jonathan chuckled and shook his head, [b]?So do you. Lets go get cleaned up so we won?t be too late to Leonhart?s party.?[/b]

Morphia nodded, smiling up at him as he led the way through the passage, away from the dust of the track. She had lied to Jack: he didn?t smell bad at all ? he smelled?like home.
[center]_____________________________________________[/center]
The servant checked the back of her dress, as Morphia carefully wrapped Leonhart?s present in layers of delicate tissue before placing it into an ornate wooden container. A knock at the door alerted Morphia to Jonathan?s presence, and she whirled around, eager for her brother?s opinion, [b]?What do you think??[/b]

[b]?About the gift or the dress??[/b] he said, standing in the doorframe.

She sighed, [b]?The dress of course!?[/b]

Jonathan studied her for a moment; he couldn?t deny that she looked stunning, and then he saw the slit traveling up the length of her leg. He began coughing in surprise, with laughter mixed in, [b]?Are you trying to seduce the man on his 65th birthday? Bavaria would never forgive you.?[/b]

[b]?Jack! Get out!?[/b] Morphia yelled in mock anger, shoving him out of her room so that she could change outfits. Eventually she came out wearing a light plum-colored gown, ruches gathered to show off her graceful waist and slender hips. The layers of organza loosened and flowed around her legs until the material pooled around her feet like a cloud, giving an image of the colors of the sky during sunset. Magnificent showers of long gold chains and amethysts hung from her ears, reaching a little past her bare shoulders. Her hair, also wound with a few smaller jewels, was like flowing waves of spun silk.

[b]?May I escort you??[/b] Jonathan said, offering his sister his arm.
The childish grin that lighted Morphia?s face was the only answer necessary.
[/COLOR][/FONT]
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[FONT="Georgia"][I]"...Specimen 071, status still stable..."

"...We lost 124... 045 and..."

"...Increase the dosage..."[/I]

He heard the voices through his restless slumber. Mostly he didn't grasp what they were saying, sometimes he just didn't understand the gibberish they spoke, but there were times when he heard full words and bits of sentences. There was one voice in particular that he heard clearly often.

[I]"...This will hurt a bit, treasure, but I'm sure... accustomed to that by now..."[/I]

But when that voice spoke, a bright flash of pain sheared through his body and mind, and he fell back to darkness. But the voice always came back. Although he had no idea where he was or how long he had been there, the voice had become comforting and familiar to him.
[I]
"...You're a miracle, my treasure.... Six more were... but you still keep on going..."

"...Callisto... be proud... Father... "[/I]

Between the black-outs, he dreamt of that night of terror. It had happened quickly, but the dark figures suddenly appearing to the attic he shared with the other young men had shocked him. He had seen in the moonlight as the figures had violently seized the others, but then one had finally caught him, and he had fallen into sleep, only to wake up in this place full of strange voices, unable to move his body or even open his eyes.

Amidst all that chaos, there was the voice that called him a "treasure". The voice belonged to a woman, for that he was sure. She spoke to him so softly...

[I]"...Treasure, I have to go... tonight there is a banquet... My father will... We will come... you tomorrow... Make me proud, my treasure..."[/I]

Then another jolt of colorful pain hit him, and the voice was gone.[/FONT]
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Alexander was standing in front of the large silvered mirror attached to the wall above the equally impressive dresser made of fine wood, a type he did not recognize. Something that though Alecia claimed was simple was still far beyond anything he or his family had ever owned. Much in the same way their [I]small[/I] home they had been given as a wedding present was also more than what he was use to. It was small, compared to the Almagest estate that is, but for one such as Alexander who had grown up in a home in New Czenoble that was barely big enough for his own parents himself and two older siblings... It was anything but small.

His parents had been pleased when he had been appointed to work in High Czenoble as it had resulted in him being assigned a room in the main dorms built close to the Headquarters of the Royal Police Guard just for members like himself who did not have family living in High Czenoble. Though the rooms were tiny, all members were required to present themselves in a fashion befitting where they were stationed, and that had included well maintained facilities for their needs. And incidentally had freed up his room for his family to use, something that his brothers had been quick to take advantage of.

Alexander resisted the urge to fuss over his dress uniform, no matter how many times he straightened it, it wouldn't make him any less nervous about attending a party that was so beyond what he was use to socially. He turned around to check briefly to make sure there were no threads hanging lose and then turned at the sound of Alecia entering the bedroom, already wearing a dress of the softest silks with with patterns of vines running through the skirt in various shades of green.

Alecia did not wear corsets as they interfered with free movement, instead she wore a type of flat wrap that was about six inches wide and went from her waist up. It's darker green complimenting the similar dark trim along the bottom her her dress, the collarless top and sleeves that from the elbows down flared out much like the skirt did. With her soft blonde hair teased into curls and a green silk ribbon holding it back a bit from her face, she was as lovely as always.

"[B]You look lovely,[/B]" He smiled as she came over and fussed a bit with his uniform, straightening out a few creases.

Finished she looked up at him and smiled in return. "[B]We should get going or we'll be late.[/B]"

Alexander followed her to the main room and then helped her into the green cloak that went with the dress, draping it over her shoulders and then once she fastened the clasp at the base of her neck he opened the front door and then shut it once she was outside. He offered her his left arm and then once she wrapped her right arm around his, they left for the short walk to the Almagest Estate.
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Harrison was in his bedroom laying flat on his back on the huge bed while staring at the card detailing the information about the birthday festivities being held in honor of Leonhart, his uncle. With a snort of disdain he tossed the card aside with a flick of his wrist and rolled out of bed. If he stayed in his room the servants would find him, leaving him with no excuse but to attend the stupid party.

"[B]As if that would be fun.[/B]" He remarked sarcastically as he snatched up his sword and strapped it on. "[B]Watching everyone fawn over Uncle Leonhart while getting plastered is about as exciting as watching paint dry.[/B]"

The sound of servants moving along the corridor outside his room prompted him to hastily grab his maroon cloak and duck into the walk in closet out of sight. Harrison kept himself perfectly still as the servant in question knocked a few times before finally giving up and moving on, muttering under his breath that the young master must have already left for the party.

Harrison just smirked once they were gone, taking a moment to toss his cloak on. There was no need to change out of his sturdy brown cotton shirt and heavy linen trousers that he wore for both school and practice. Real men did not wear fancy silk or other useless materials that couldn't protect you from the most simple of weapons.

Taking care to not step too firmly and be heard coming down the hallway, Harrison slipped out of his room after carefully looking both ways. With each step he cautiously avoided making any dragging noises with his boots. It didn't take him long to find the door leading out into the main yard. It wasn't easy, but Harrison kept to the shadows as much as possible he didn't want...

"[B]Harrison![/B]" A stern voice rang out, causing him to freeze in place and then cringe when he realized that Lady Anna Grimalkin the house matron of Rosengard had spotted him and was quickly approaching him from across the yard.[I] Damn![/I]

"[B]And just where do you think you're going young man?[/B]" Anna demanded as she glared at him sternly.

Harrison opened his mouth to speak and then changed his mind, matching her stare with his own equally stubborn one. He wasn't about to actually say that he was going to the party when both of them would know he was lying.

Anna just sighed, "[B]I'll tell you where you're going and that's to get to the main hall before you're late for the party.[/B]" She shook her head and held out her hand to which Harrison reluctantly handed his sword.

"[B]Now get moving![/B]" She barked, watching only long enough to make sure he had done as she ordered him to. With yet another sigh she handed his sword over to one of the other servants. No explanation was necessary, it wasn't the first time she had caught him sneaking out, they knew to simply put it back in Harrison's room.

After handing over his sword to Dame Anna, Harrison had stalked off without saying a word. Nor did he look back as he already knew she would be watching to make sure he actually went inside. He resisted the urge to hit something, anything as he walked through the doors and headed down the hall towards where the party would be held.

As he approached the double doors leading into the grand hall where the party would be a servant approached to take his cloak but Harrison motioned for them to leave it be and stormed into the hall, moving so quickly that the other servants barely had time to get the doors open for him. [/SIZE][/COLOR]
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[size=1]
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In a remote corner of Rosengard, in an even more remote room, Henry Grimalkin was sprawled across a dusty red, warm old couch. One arm hung loosely over the edge, thin hand curled gently against the floor boards. One leg was literally thrown up and over the couch's back, dangling in the air ever so elegantly. The unmistakable sounds of a grand party's setting up could be heard even through the closed door, but Henry was completely oblivious, deep in sleep.

Even in sleep, the corners of his mouth were twitched upwards into a slight smile, a shadow of his trademark grin that didn't leave his face in his waking hours. He was still dressed in his Jockey Uniform - high boots, stained black trousers, long sleeved shirt rolled up past his elbows, and his sleeveless orange coat-tailed jacket, a symbol of status amongst the other jockeys.

[B]"Henry Grimalkin, if I find you sleeping in, on a day like this, so help me..."[/b]

The door flew open with a mighty crack, Dame Anna's booming voice only adding to the shocking noise. So shocking, in fact, that a now wide-awake Henry literally rolled off the couch in surprise, landing, rather bemusedly, on his bottom on the dirty floor. Henry grinned up at his long-suffering mother, her gray hair pulled back in a strict bun, glaring at him with an intensity only she could give.

[b]"Hello, mum. I don't... [i]quite[/i] remember asking for the wake up call, but the thought is well appreciated."[/b]

[B]"You wouldn't remember anyways, would you, you great oaf? What did I do to to be cursed with you?"[/b] Dame Anna muttered, moving forwards and grabbing her son by his lapel and lifting him up, all under her own power.

[B]"Wouldn't remember anyways...? What on earth could you be implying, mother dear?"[/b] Henry winked as he mockingly dusted himself off, one hand running through his platinum blonde hair.

[b]"You know very well what I'm implying. Out until lord knows when, drinking with your [i]jockey[/i] friends."[/b] The strong emphasis on "jockey" nearly made Henry wince. He put his hands good naturedly on his mother's shoulders, looking her in the eye.

[b]"Yes, yes. I know. I apologize. But, you know, I did win, mum. It's hardly my fault if my peers wish to go out and... er... celebrate a victory."[/b]

Dame Anna sighed, grabbing her son's wrists in a vice like grip and lowering his hands sternly, turning to leave.

[B]"Of course it isn't your fault, Henry [i]dear[/i]."[/b] The sarcasm was nearly tangible. [b]"Now clean this room, clean [i]yourself[/i], and get dressed. You need to be [i]presentable[/i] at the party tonight."[/b]

Henry's grin didn't falter as the door slammed shut, stretching his arms above his head lazily. He could be presentable if he needed to - the telltale redness in his eyes would be a bit tougher to get around.[/size]
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It wasn't truly cold out yet, but Mount Grail was often home to chilly breezes and this evening was no exception. Even in the fairest of weather the higher elevation always made things unpredictable. So though there was a breeze, it was not quite strong enough to mess up her hair. It was still just cold enough to make Alecia glad for the cloak she was wearing. Though even if it was colder, it would not have mattered since the walk to the Almagest Estate wasn't all that far. The neighborhood was a pleasant place to walk through with all the neatly kept homes and before long the main gates to the Estate came into view.

Alecia gave Alexander's arm a gentle squeeze as she could tell that he was a bit tense, "[B]There's no need to be so nervous.[/B]" She looked up and smiled up at him. "[B]You'll do just fine.[/B]"

Alexander just laughed a bit anxiously, "[B]That obvious is it?[/B]" He pulled her arm closer to his side, clasping her right hand in his. "[B]I'm sure you're right.[/B]"

"[B]Of course I am.[/B]" Alecia teased as they approached the massive gates that lead into the Estate, heading for the side door where someone was there, waiting to let guests through the side door meant for those who were arriving at the party on foot.

"[B]Lady Alecia,[/B]" one of the servants inclined his head ever so slightly. "[B]Tonight's festivities will be held in the grand hall.[/B]"

"[B]Thank you.[/B]" Alecia replied before her and Alexander walked through the small side gate and into the grounds. It was clear that others were arriving with all the hustle going on and even without being told where to go, it was easy for her to tell just where the party would be. After all she had attended so many over the years while living at the Almagest Estate as a child.

"[B]Did you remember the present?[/B]" She asked, only just remembering that she and Alexander had picked something up to give her grandfather earlier that week.

He patted his right pocket. "[B]I have it right here. Though I still think you should be the one to give it to Leonhart.[/B]"

Alecia just smiled as they entered the doors leading into the home and then took the various corridors to get to the entrance to the Grand Hall. The soft sound of music being played could be heard and though she didn't recognize them, voices could be heard as well, indicating that others were already in the Grand Hall.

She paused to take off her cloak and hand it to one of the servants who was waiting to take it and then turned back to Alexander who was waiting patiently for her. Alecia stepped forward and reached up, placing her right hand on his cheek and leaned forward to give him a quick kiss.

"[B]Alecia,[/B]" He said in a pained voice, "[B]Not in public.[/B]"

With a soft laugh she took his left arm and steered him towards the doors which had been opened to admit those who were coming. [/FONT][/COLOR]
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[center][img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/vincentavatar.jpg[/img][img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/fauntleroy-chronicle.jpg[/img][/center]

Vincent and Audrey sat together in silence as the steam car weaved its way between High Czenoble's wide boulevards and narrow laneways.

As evening crept over the horizon, the city quietly slipped under a blanket of golden light; elaborate lanterns hung out the front of the city's many boutiques, restaurants and hotels. Men and women emerged by the hundred from the latest stage performances and headed towards their favourite restaurants and bars.

Audrey awkwardly balanced a large present on her lap. Vincent had happened upon an antique store and found a globe of the Old World. It wasn't as large as typical globes, but it was sizeable enough to make Audrey sufficiently uncomfortable as she tried to avoid dropping it. The globe was made from the finest gold and featured elaborate diamond markers across its surface. Vincent thought it to be a suitable gift for a man like Leonhart Almgaest.

However, Vincent did wonder if Leonhart already owned something similar; after all, what does one buy a man who seemingly has everything? Nevertheless, Vincent knew that Leonhart would respect the gesture.

After almost half an hour of uninterrupted silence, Audrey finally spoke.

'When shall we collect you, Mr. Achard?'

Vincent waved his hand dismissively. 'Pick me up? Audrey, did you really think I was going to have you shop with me all day only to leave on your own? You are accompanying me to this little event tonight.'

Audrey gasped and almost dropped the globe. 'Accompany you? But I'm not dressed! I look like a pauper!'

Vincent laughed and looked Audrey up and down. 'Audrey, you are lovely. Would I invite you if I thought you weren't going to impress the hosts? You know me better than that!'

Audrey's nerves seemed to calm as she heard this. 'I never thought I'd see the inside of Rosengard.'

'Few outside the Almagest family have,' Vincent replied. 'If I weren't the Assistant Commander of the Royal Police Guard, I wonder if I would have been invited at all. I believe Mr. Rosier is unable to attend tonight, which leaves me as the only senior representative.'

Audrey raised an eyebrow. 'I thought they had invited you because of your father?'

'Well, Leonhart is still good friends with my father,' said Vincent, 'but he was unable to attend and I don't think anyone is too fussed about that. After the divorce, everything changed...'

Vincent rolled down his window and the cool night air caressed his face.

'I'm not sure how Leonhart feels about me now.'

Both Audrey and Vincent were silent for the remainder of the trip to Rosengard.




Rosengard Estate was a sprawling residence that very much resembled a palace. The gardens surrounding the estate were almost grander than the buildings themselves.

As Vincent's steam car approached the estate, the landscape began to change. They were leaving behind the busy city streets and heading toward High Czenoble's vast green countryside.

Although many stately homes dotted the rolling hills, everything was dominated by Rosengard. From where Vincent was sitting, Rosengard looked as though it sat on the direct center of the horizon, overlooking everything else. And as the air cooled further and the sky darkened, Rosengard took on an imposing air; it looked impenetrable and powerful.

Finally, after passing through the front gates and driving up the lengthy stone driveway, the steam car came to a stop and the rear door opened.

Audrey, still clutching the globe, stepped out of the car as Vincent followed.

Much to Vincent's surprise, none other than Fauntleroy Almagest was standing at the front door, with a rather tall glass of champaigne in his hand. He grinned widely and tipped his hat. He looked as though he'd been waiting for Vincent.

Audrey ascended the stairs to the front door first and handed her gift to one of Leonhart's servants. Vincent couldn't hear what she was saying, but she seemed to be pointing out, in no uncertain terms, that the package should not be dropped.

As Vincent reached the top stair, Fauntleroy extended a hand. Vincent shook it vigorously and smiled.

'Long time no see,' said Vincent. 'You have grown since I last saw you.'

Fauntleroy winked. 'In stature as well as age,' he said confidently. 'Although father would not say so.'

Vincent nodded knowingly. 'Your father is a man of the Old World. One day he will see how much The Chronicle influences our fair city. But for what it's worth, I am very proud of you. You are becoming quite the celebrity these days.'

'Thank you,' said Fauntleroy. His manner seemed somehow awkard, as though he were holding something back. Vincent knew that Fauntleroy was close to Macey Ellen, which possibly made it difficult for him to easily accept Vincent's kind words.

After a brief silence, Vincent spoke with a slightly cautious tone. 'I assume Macey is here,' he said. 'I hope she is well.'

Fauntleroy nodded and looked at his feet momentarily. 'Er, yes, she is well.'

Then he looked up at Vincent and grinned again. 'I am here to keep the peace.'

'Oh,' Vincent nodded and smiled as warmly as he could, 'that's a good idea, young man. Speaking of which, I have not been to Rosengard in years. I read that Leonhart has acquired several new pieces of foreign art for his gallery. Perhaps you could give me a quick tour before we hand the presents out?'

Fauntleroy seemed somewhat relieved, as though he'd been struggling to find a way to keep Vincent away from Macey.

As the pair entered the Grand Foyer and headed for the Gallery, Vincent knew that he would not be able to avoid Macey all night. In the back of his mind he wondered if it would be better to simply go straight to her room and greet her in private before the celebrations began. He would need to slip away from Fauntleroy to do that, though.

And, perhaps just as importantly, he wasn't entirely sure how the reunion would go. It would no doubt be surprising, but in what way Vincent could not predict.

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Victoria had done as Dame Anna had told her and found Catherine, but there hadn't been anything that really needed to be done. The colorful banners and swags had already been hung, the beautifully crafted lanterns along all the walls were alight and bathing the room in a gentle light. And though very few family members had arrived yet, the performers off in an alcove designed to carry the music across the room were already in place. Servers were also in place, ready to cater to everyone once they arrived. And though the music playing wasn't for dancing, Victoria still found a means to dance a bit as she moved about from place to place as she checked everything out.

"[B]Aren't we energetic this evening.[/B]" Catherine Sara remarked kindly as Victoria Ann approached.

"[B]Of course![/B]" Victoria Ann laughed as she came to a halt right before her great Aunt Catherine. "[B]I've been practicing the dance steps my teacher taught me.[/B]"

Victoria looked around a bit, "[B]So where's Grandpa Leonhart?[/B]"

"[B]He'll be here shortly,[/B]" Catherine motioned towards the doors where Harrison had just entered, clearly annoyed as he stalked off to an out of the way spot and flopped down, crossing his arms and sulking. "[B]Why don't you go and remind Harrison to change into something more appropriate for me?[/B]"

With a mock salute and a[I] will do[/I], Victoria was off heading for Harrison who was glaring at her as she approached. Undaunted Victoria came to halt in front of where it was sitting and putting her hands on her hips she glared back.

"[B]Auntie Catherine says you need to go and change into something better.[/B]"

"[B]Forget it.[/B]" Harrison barked, refusing to budge.

Victoria Ann just narrowed her eyes and then reached out and snatched his cloak, swiftly pulling it free and then laughing at his protest she ran out the door with it, heading for the bin for trash in the kitchen before he could stop her.

"[B]Give that back you little twit![/B]" He chased after her, finally catching her just as she was about to toss it in with the other refuse. But when he tried to wrest it from her Victoria Ann hung onto it fiercely.

"[B]I'll let go if you do as Auntie Catherine says and get changed.[/B]" Victoria smirked, "[B]Otherwise I'll snatch it again when you least expect it and burn it![/B]"

"[B]Fine![/B]" Harrison snapped ignoring her smug grin since he knew she was aware of how much he liked his plainer clothing as well as how much grief he was given over being expected to dress more like a member of the Almagest clan. Victoria Ann let go and then followed along as Harrison left the kitchen to head for his bedroom.

"[B]You can get lost now pest.[/B]" He told her curtly.

"[B]No.[/B]" Victoria said stubbornly as she continued to follow along.

"[B]Fine, be that way.[/B]" He said as continued down the hallway. They traveled in silence a bit until his curosity got the better of him and he finally asked her a question.

"[B]What's in the bag?[/B]" He indicated the gold colored silk pouch that Victoria Ann had fastened to her waist.

"[B]Grandpa's present of course.[/B]" She answered if it was obvious.

"[B]I know that![/B]" Harrison snapped. "[B]I mean what are you giving the old man?[/B]"

"[B]An airship model that I made.[/B]" Victoria said proudly. "[B]Want to see it?[/B]" She moved to open the pouch to show it to him.

"[B]No. Who cares about a boring model? I'm sure he already has one of every ship ever made[/B]." He said dismissively.

"[B]He does not! This is my own design! Once I finish school I'm going to build it and travel all around the world![/B]"

"[B]It's still boring.[/B]" Harrison said snidely.

Victoria Ann stuck her tongue out at Harrison as she skipped ahead to the door to his room. "[B]Just for that, you won't get to ride on my airship when it's built.[/B]"

Harrison just rolled his eyes and went into his room to change.[/FONT][/COLOR]
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[left][COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]Macey Ellen glided across the grand ballroom and accepted a flute of champagne from a beleaguered servant, lightening his load somewhat. Her eyes rolled as she took a sip, taking in the ever growing crowd, noting her ex husband in the crowd. He grip tightened on the stem of her glass so quickly that it snapped underneath her gloved fingers and she quietly deposited it in a large arrangement of begonias. The sound of wry chuckling caught her ear through the sounds of lively chamber music. She turned in a sparkle of opals and silver to see her own father, standing quietly in a corner with a mildly amused expression on his face. Quickly, she dropped him a light curtsy, ever graceful in the tulle and silk of her gown.[/i]

"Good evening father. Many happy returns of the day."

"Oh I hope so."

[i]He took her hand like the courtly gentleman he was and led her down to one of the balconies surrounding the grand hall. Once there, he turned to her with a serious expression on his face, and she gazed up at him through her extraordinarily long lashes like any obedient daughter.[/i]

"Now I know it may be difficult for you to face Vincent tonight, but you do understand that it may be politic for us to avoid any unpleasant scenes."

"Naturally father. But I can not promise anything."

"Just don't smash glasses into the fireplaces dramatically or call him names in a loud voice and we should be fine."

"Well, I can promise that I suppose. ......oh yes, your present is still in my office at the labs."

"That can wait until tomorrow of course. Lord knows I'll be getting a boatload of presents tonight from well wishers and attention seekers."

[i]Macey shrugged her shoulders eloquently and turned back to watch the now seething crowds of people. She bobbed her head in his direction once, then left the relative privacy of the alcove and began to mingle with the crowd, always mindful of the fact that at any moment, she could turn and bump into her once husband. Instead, she bumped into the charming couple, Alexander and Alecia. Not that she minded seeing happy couples together in wedded bliss, it just stung her a titch. They both fell back a tiny bit, probably because the sight of their Aunt Macey Ellen was probably not one that brought with it feelings of happiness and good cheer.

Be that as it may, she nodded to Alexander not unkindly, and proffered her hand to Alecia with all the good cheer she could muster in her non intoxicated state. Her niece shook it with some enthusiasm, while her husband gave her a rather formal bow for the occasion.[/i]

"Nephew Alexander and Niece Alecia. How good to see the two of you here."

"Hello Auntie, I hope you're well."

"As well as one can be these days. But I hope you two enjoy the party. And for goodness sake Alexander. Loosen up. Nobody is going to cook you."[/FONT][/COLOR][/left]
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[size=1][indent]Fauntleroy and Vincent had seen much of the gallery in silence before they stopped in front of an exquisite marble statue. It depicted a strong young man wrestling with a ferocious lion, clearly overpowered but nonetheless frozen in time forever, continuing his struggle for all eternity.

“[b]This is a beautiful piece,[/b]” Vincent said, “[b]I don’t know how familiar you are with my homeland of Anova, but the lion is often used to symbolize my great nation. The young man represents society, and the need to ‘tame the beast,‘ so to speak…[/b]”

“[b]It doesn’t look like they’re making very much progress.[/b]”

“[b]No, I suppose not,[/b]” he laughed, “[b]But that is the nature of things, isn‘t it? Neither is willing to submit, for that would almost certainly mean death.[/b]”

"[b]Almost certainly, yes,[/b]" Fauntleroy replied as eyed his champagne flute suspiciously, “[b]It appears that my glass is dry. We should be getting back to the party.[/b]”

Vincent nodded in agreement and they began heading towards the grand ballroom.

“[b]How is she?[/b]“ he asked timidly, “[b]I mean, is Macey doing alright these days? I haven‘t seen her in -- it must be--[/b]”

“[b]She’s dealing with it, I suppose. The entire family is. Fortunately, she can bury herself in her work...[/b]” Fauntleroy adjusted his hat, “[b]...As you no doubt know by now, your entire mess has brought a great deal of shame onto we Almagests. The funny thing is, most of them don‘t know the whole story.[/b]”

“[b]That’s not fair to pin so much blame on me,[/b]“ Vincent replied, “[b]My intention was never to hurt her.[/b]”

“[b]I didn’t mean to point blame, only to answer your question as best I could. You have nothing to apologize for, even if things did turn out a little messy. Pardon the cliché, but all is fair in love and war.[/b]”

Trembling slightly, Fauntleroy placed his champagne glass on the floor.

“[b]I’ve reached my limit, and before the party has even begun![/b]” he said with a laugh, “[b]It appears I find you intoxicating.[/b]”

“[b]And how are you doing these days, Fonty?[/b]”

Fauntleroy feigned a smile, “[b][I]I’m dealing with it.[/I] Being absurdly wealthy certainly seems to help.[/b]”

They entered the grand ballroom, quickly drawing the attention of Marie Evangeline from across the way. She glanced at Vincent curiously before ultimately turning her back to him altogether. Another familiar face, that of his beloved sister Beatriste Elyse welcomed the pair with a warm smile as they approached. The room was filling up quickly, and so was the large table designated to hold Leonhart’s gifts. Fortunately for Fauntleroy, his father was nowhere to be seen.

“[b]It’s so good to see you Vincent,[/b]” Beatriste said as she wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace, “[b]I’ve been meaning to visit you in Anova, but the children are keeping me busier than ever.[/b]”

“[b]And where are Bertram and Pearl? They must be keeping Rosengard on high alert.[/b]”

She rolled her eyes, “[b]Not to mention Victoria Ann, and she’s supposed to help me babysit! On more than one occasion I‘ve woken up in the middle of the night to find them playing in the hedge maze.[/b]”

Beatriste extended her gloved hand to Vincent and he kissed it softly, “[b]If you’ve done half the job with them as you have with Alecia Ann, I’ve no doubt they’ll grow up to be another fine member of the Almagest family.[/b]”

“[b]It’s so very good to see you again,[/b]” she said as she blushed, “[b]If only Macey had any sense she would have held onto a fine gentleman such as yourself.[/b]”

Fauntleroy and Vincent shared a glance, and Fauntleroy chuckled to himself.

“[b]Perhaps I should leave you two to catch up,[/b]” he said, “[b]We can chat later, Vincent.[/b]”

Vincent nodded as he escorted Beatriste to the dance floor. Dancing with his former sister-in-law wasn’t his idea of a great evening, but at least it would keep Macey Ellen away from the time being.

“[b]That reminds me, Fauntleroy,[/b]” Beatriste said, “[b]I found something of Mom’s you might find useful. It’s waiting for you in your bedroom.[/b]”

Fauntleroy‘s eyes widened, “[b]Sounds interesting. I’ll be sure to check it out when I stumble in at around sunrise.[/b]”

“[b]Oh please try to behave yourself![/b]” his sister snapped, “[b]Between the Deacons and Macey Ellen, father might be too distracted to remember that he disowned you.[/b]”

The young Almagest glared as he watched the two begin their Czenovian Waltz. Vincent struggled with the basic coordination required for the dance, but Beatriste moved as gracefully as she had twenty years before. Although she had taken on the role of mother and grandmother, Beatriste Elyse Almagest would always be a dancer at heart.

A servant walked by Fauntleroy, offering him a drink.

“[b]No more hard liquor tonight, but could you get me a glass of orange juice instead?[/b]” he asked.

Out of the corner of his eye Fauntleroy saw his father descent down the ballroom’s spiral staircase. A small wave of applause washed across the room, and Fauntleroy nervously tugged at his shirt collar.

“[B]Actually, maybe I should have stuck with the champagne after all.[/b]”[/size][/indent]
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[B]"...and by the time I came too, I was dressed in native clothes and proclaimed God!"[/B] the small crowd that had gathered around Jack shared a good hearty laugh as he told his story. This one was of his adventure to a remote island that had never seen magitechnology or airships for that matter before. Despite Jack's inward contempt of the aristrocracy, he couldn't deny that he knew how to make them love him. One among the crowd didn't laugh, although she smiled with a look of distant interest while juggling an empty flute in one hand. [B]"Morphia,"[/B] Jack began, [B]"is something wrong?"[/B]

[B]"Not at all."[/B] she replied, still smiling and almost immediately excused herself from Jack's fans. Jack watched her leave before continuing his story, letting his eyes occasionally follow her around the room.

[B]"So, Capt. Jack,"[/B] said one woman, Jack didn't bother correcting her, [B]"how ever did you escape from those dreadful savages?"[/B]

Jack gave a cocky grin and spoke in a suspensful tone, [B]"Well, after I was proclaimed unholy, they had me tied up to await my execution the next morning. So I waited until one of the native girls came to undress and clean me. Using only my eyes and...endowments, I persuaded the girl into setting me free. Then in the dead of night I freed my crew one by one and we set sail into the moonlight."[/B] he looked around at the slightly disappointed look on the crowd's face, and then smiled outright, [B]"But not before robbing their chief blind, and taking that native girl who turned out to be his daughter, with us! The bloody bloak never saw it coming!"[/B]

The crowd nontheless laughed at his conclusion, no matter how dubious. One thing was for certain, Aristocrats don't listen to what you say, only the inflection in which you say it. [B]"Charming,"[/B] came a voice from behind Jack, [B]"so tell me, Mr. Deacon. Do you seduce every young woman you set your sights on? Or was this a special case?" [/B]

Jack turned to face a thin and pale young woman who's red rimmed black eyes were focused squarely on him. He noticed the crowd which had gathered around him began breaking up. [B] "I would call this a special case. I wouldn't be standing here if I hadn't done that this once. A sin to live is better than a life of sin."[/B]

[B]"But isn't a life of sin the one you convey? Mr. Sky Pirate?"[/B] she said through pursed lips, the way she spoke down to Jack, you'd think she were taller than him. She reached arms out and with long slender fingers, adjusted Jack's suit jacket and straightened his lapel. [B]"Or am I mistaken?[/B]

[B]"You are, I'm afraid."[/B] replied Jack, his grin softening the sounds of his annoyance,[B]"I am a privateer. What I do outside of Czenovia is only what's needed to survive. I never caught your name, Miss. As you know, my name is Jonathan Deacon, my friends call me Jack."[/B]

[B]"Macey Ellen, daughter of Leonheart Almagest. And while I'm sure your friends call you Jack, I'm afraid my courtesies will have me calling you Mr. Deacon for quite some time yet."[/B] Macey held her hand our for Jack and he instinctively took it and kissed it, never taking his eyes off of the large gathering of opals at her throat. He released her hand slightly late for dramatic effect and reared back up to his full stature, his eyes locked. [B]"Why Mr. Deacon, judging from the way you're staring at my neck I'd say you've went from pirate to privateer to jewel thief in the length of this conversation. I must admit your life is headed in a dangerous direction."[/B]

[B]"If you're anywhere on the new path, I may just have another adventure ahead of me."[/B] Jack retorted, winking. Macey curtsied and walked away.

Feeling pretty comfortable now, Jack grabbed a flute and strutted around the room, smoking and joking with all of the faces he came across. The whole time he kept an eye on Morphia who caught his eye once and sneakily stuck her tongue out at him. Smiling, Jack went back to what he was doing. Right before he thought he'd seen everyone, he happened across Leonheart was doing as Jack was, except everyone was coming to him, instead of the other way around.

[B]"Leonheart!"[/B] Jack exclaimed to his brother-in-law, [B]"Good to see you!"[/B]

[B]"Jonathan, my boy! Back in town to stay I see."[/B] said Leonheart who took Jack's hand in his, for an old man, his grip was unusually solid.

[B]"Where would you ever get an idea like that?"[/B] replied Jack, honestly confused.

[B]"I received word through the old grapevine. Come on now' Jack', you know me better than that."[/B] Leonheart chuckled a bit before continuing. [B]"So I can expect to see this new project soon?"[/B]

Jack was unshaken, he knew that he was going to have a word with Meredyne about whom she told his exploits. [B]"Of course. I was hoping a date for the announcement would be in the chronicle real soon."[/B]

Leonheart leaned in close to Jack so that only he could hear what was about to be said. [B]"I know you, son. You're a man of business, unconventional business but business nontheless. Anything you've cooked up is well worth my time, I know this. But tell me this, son. Because I trust your word. Is it worth my money? This I'm not too sure of after you intentionally busted up my last investment in you."[/B]

[B]"Leonheart, come see for yourself. I'm sure you'll come to a decision then."[/B] They chatted for a moment, the whole time however, Jack couldn't help but feel that throughout this short conversation more eyes than he had wanted were on him.[/COLOR][/SIZE]
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[color=navy][size=1]Evangeline dressed and prepared for the celebrations by herself, pulling a blue-grey dress from her closet and laid it gently on the surface of her bed as she wrung droplets of her bath from damp silver strands. She carefully stepped into the dress, allowing it to hug in close at her curves and billow gracefully around her feet, daintily closing the zip, ensuring that none of the material creased or was snagged. The dress fit her well and remained on her body by holding tight above her bust as there were no straps.

Eva sat in front of the small mirror at her dressing table and ran a large toothed comb through her thick hair to remove the knots before styling it into her usual side part with a fine toothed comb. She automatically began to go through the steps it took for her regular hair style, but instead of putting it up, she left it down to fall around her shoulders, but with the two pins to hold back a long part of her fringe. Eva turned her head about to check it from different angles, adjusting it until she was satisfied. She recalled that Macey had the make up with her, so she would have to go to her in order to finish her preparations. She slipped her small feet into a black pair of heeled shoes and stood quickly as time was running out.

Before leaving she took in her appearance as she glanced into the full length mirror to the left of her dressing table. She twitched the skirt and was satisfied in the way it floated. Humming lightly she waltzed from her boudoir to her twin?s room. As she arrived inside the door she saw Macey about to dip a brush into a light blue dye.

[b]?Not that colour, Ella, you want this one. It brings out the colour of your eyes.?[/b] she announced as she pulled the brush from her sister?s grip and did her make up quickly and efficiently, knowing just what would fit her sibling.

Marie Evangeline alternated between doing Ella?s make up and her own, adding a light blush to her cheek bones and applying a pink gloss to her lips so they would shine in the light. She used the light blue dye Macey was about to use mixed with a darker shade of blue to put over her own eyelids. They conversed lightly as she went about the process.

[b]?Say, Ella. Vincent will be at the celebrations tonight. Will you be all right with that??[/b]

[b]?I?ll be able to manage somewhat, however I do know about your own temper, dear sister.?[/b] Her lips twitched with solemn humour.

Eva frowned, [b]?I can?t stand what he did to you, Ella, you know that, as does everyone else in our family. I really do hope he makes a wrong move when I?m present so I?ll have an excuse to smash one of Lady Bavaria?s vases over his head.?[/b]

[b]?You are very aware that father would not be impressed if you spoil our family?s reputation by doing so, Eva.?[/b]

[b]?I can?t make any promises if he does something wrong, especially against one of us.?[/b] Evangeline stuck her bottom lip out slightly.

Macey smiled softly and the twins shared a silent moment of understanding.

[b]?I announce you complete. I?ll see you at the celebrations, Ella!?[/b] Marie called as she whisked from the room.

She returned to her own bedroom briefly to put on her necklace that people often mistook as a talisman from its shape. After picking up the small box that contained her father?s present, she made sure everything was in order before descending the area that housed the living quarters, to the large ballroom where the celebrations were being held.

Evangeline sought after her father and spotted him talking to another man light-heartedly. She made her way over and waited silently a short distance away. When he glanced up and surveyed the area she was discovered and his smile made her approach. When she was closer she dropped herself into a moderately low curtsey, inclining her head as her left hand aided in spreading the skirts around her.

[b]?Good evening, father. I pray I am not interrupting.?[/b] she said softly as she straightened, looking to the other man and nodding her head slightly in recognition as he bowed to her.

[b]?No, no, not at all. If you will please excuse us for a time, Stephan.?[/b] The other man bowed gracefully with a short word of catching up later before he took his leave.

[b]?I just came over to grant you birthday wishes on this day, and may you have many more to come.?[/b] she smiled brightly, leaning forward to kiss him lightly on the cheek.

[b]?Thankyou, I hope so too.?[/b]

[b]?Here is your present, I hope you enjoy it.?[/b] she proffered the small box.

He opened it to reveal beautiful white gold cufflinks in the shape of coiled dragons with diamond studded eyes.

[b]?They?re beautiful, thankyou.?[/b] he smiled, putting them on in place of the ones he currently wore. [b]?Now, I must discuss the matter of Vincent.?[/b]

They spoke quietly, [b]?Worry not, father. I won?t do anything terrible to him unless his behaviour calls for it.?[/b] her eyes gleamed with the visible hope that he would.

He frowned and watched her for a few moments before smiling, [b]?All right, I have faith in you. But do know that it will cause problems if you do.?[/b]

[b]?I know, father. Enjoy yourself tonight, ?tis your special day.?[/b]

She smiled and lightly curtseyed this time, making her exit. By now the grand hall was busy with guests and she spotted Vincent relatively quickly. She watched him, her eyebrows creased before turning away and lifting a champagne flute from a servant as he bustled by. She sipped lightly, enjoying the bubbly liquid as it slid down her throat. As Eva looked elsewhere Vincent had come up beside her.

[b]?Good evening, Marie.?[/b] his voice greeted her, shocking her from her stupor.

Evangeline was genuinely surprised but slightly over-exaggerated it by spilling her mostly full glass of champagne down his front. She gasped, covering her mouth with a hand to hide a smile.

[b]?My apologies, Vincent, I didn?t see you come up beside me and I was shocked.?[/b]

[b]?Ah, no real harm done, Marie. Please accept my apologies for startling you, and if you?ll excuse me, I need to wash this shirt before it becomes too sticky.?[/b] he put a smile on his face but it was strained as he left the ballroom.

Evangeline spotted her twin across the floor and caught her eye, Macey had witnessed the entire scene, she smirked at her and winked before whirling away to absorb herself in conversations with the many other guests present.[/color][/size]
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[FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][COLOR="Indigo"]Morphia gave another small smile as she left Jonathan’s side, leaving him to tell his story. It wasn’t one she had heard yet, but for some reason she didn’t want to hear anymore. On the way to Rosengard her older brother had already told her of some the more exciting adventures he had had, and at first she had been just as eager to hear of them. Now though, she felt like she had to get away.

[i]If only he had taken me along as well. Why didn’t he let me come? I could have helped him…[/i] The memory of the day that Jonathan had left was still very clear in her memory, and still left a bitterness in her mouth. At times she had hated him for leaving her, especially since Bavaria had gone to the Old World. She sighed, setting her empty champagne flute onto a tray – more than a glass and she would probably start to get giddy, and that would be no way to behave at her mentor’s birthday party.

[b]“Morphia dear, have you been drinking? Your cheeks are a little flushed,”[/b] a familiar and unwelcome voice said beside her.

Morphia turned, gazing squarely into her mother’s haughty eyes, [b]“ What a pleasant surprise to see you here Lady Odilie, but your presence isn’t really necessary is it? One representative of the Markham family is enough, after all.”[/b]

Lady Odilie’s perfect smile never faltered, [b]“Well, dearest, our family could hardly be sure that you would show up at all. You weren’t even present at your grandparents’ anniversary. And it’s disagreeable to call your mother by her name.”[/b]

[b]“Please, [i]mother[/i], I would be ashamed if I wasn’t completely aware that Lord and Lady Markham’s anniversary wasn’t for three more months. What kind of mother attempts to trick her daughter into coming to a trap engagement party?”[/b]

[b]“Yes, thankfully Morphia was born with intelligence, which is more than some other women of the Markham family inherit,”[/b] Agron Deacon interrupted, joining the two women. He kissed his daughter on the cheek before turning to his ex-wife: [b]“I can’t believe you would show your face after last month’s antics. Did you really think I would let Morphia be trapped into an engagement of your making – and to the Sylvio’s, no less? You must have been hallucinating at the time.”[/b]

For the first time that night, Morphia saw a crack in her mother’s flawless mask of pleasantness. No doubt it was about to turn into nuclear war between her parents in a few minutes, and this evening she didn’t really have the heart to try and mediate. [b]“Father, mother, please at least give the façade that you’re getting along.”[/b] Taking the hint from their daughter, Agron Deacon offered Lady Odilie his arm and the couple walked out onto the ballroom floor, with neither parent halting in the verbal onslaught. They made a graceful couple, and any observer would never have guessed that the seemingly quiet conversation was in fact a confrontation between two individuals whom very much hated each other. Neither of the adults noticed when their daughter simply slipped away, grabbing another glass of champagne on her way.

Morphia took her champagne and escaped into one of the adjoining halls, leaning against one of the cool marble columns. She was just about to take a sip from the new glass when a hand snaked out and took it away. She looked up to see her aged mentor standing before her.

[b]“You’re already a little pink, dear,”[/b] Leonhart Almagest said, shaking his head.

Morphia sighed, [b]“I only had one glass! I shouldn’t have worn this dress – I think it makes me look more flushed than I actually am.”[/b]

[b]“You look breathtaking, Morphia, albeit a little upset. Do you want to tell me what’s wrong? Other than the fact that your parents are dancing together,”[/b] Leonhart said, a faint twinkle in his eye.

[b]“It’s nothing,”[/b] Morphia replied, closing her eyes briefly. Leonhart said nothing; he knew her family situation well enough since she often visited to ask his advice. Instead, he waited as she gathered her thoughts, leading her to small alcove in the hall where they seated themselves. Even with Leonhart’s gentle presence at her side, her mind was in a tumult from the encounter with her parents.

Her parents…how had they ever been together long enough to conceive a child? It wasn’t until recently that Morphia had realized that her parents were both afraid of her – afraid that she would favor the other’s side, and use her influence against them. After all, Morphia was going to gain her inheritance in less than a year on her 21st birthday, and the wealth of the Hyperion treasure wielded considerable authority. Her mother’s plan had always been to remarry and have another child so that the inheritance would be split, but that had never happened; thus the Markhams’ only back-up plan was to arrange a marriage for Morphia that would be favorable with their own clan. Her father on the other hand, was trying to keep Morphia firmly in his influence, attempting to go so far as to propose her as a possible match for one of the Dynasty heirs. While the Almagests had been included in his consideration, Agron Deacon had decided against it after Bavaria had left to the Old World.

[i]For some reason they think that I will side with one or the other, and that my inheritance will follow. Perhaps they are both too afraid to admit to themselves that I will never support either of them.[/i] Marriage was her only way out of the power struggle between her two families, and even then there were no good choices involved. Even so, she preferred the Dynasty to the Almagests – after all, she knew her parents would never have a hold on her then.

[b]"My dear, you should know that your mother spoke to me,"[/b] Leonhart's voice suddenly broke in.

[b]“What?”[/b] Morphia looked up in alarm.

Leonhart nodded, [b]“Lady Odilie asked me to consider you as a daughter-in-law. In reality, you’re already like a daughter to me, and I wouldn’t mind adding you to our family… I can think of a few young men whom I wouldn’t mind you setting straight, my dear.”[/b]

[b]“You’re talking about Fauntleroy again aren’t you?”[/b] Morphia asked, shaking her head. [b]“Please sir; you know how I feel about your children. And I would never marry if I thought I was simply exchanging one burden for another. I’m not settling for anything less than a partner, not even as a favor to you.”[/b] She smiled as she quoted his own words back to him.

Leonhart smiled and shook his head, [b]“If only you had been born as a son to me as well – you would be indispensable from our family. As for you parents, I trust you to outsmart both of their schemes. I saw Jack earlier in the evening. You’re aware he’s home?”[/b]

Morphia nodded, but changed the subject immediately, [b]“Oh, I almost forgot to give you your gift!”[/b] She took out the ornately carved box, handing it to the aged man. Leonhart opened it, revealing a pale green book and a small painting on a dainty canvas. [b]“Happy birthday, sir,”[/b] she said, kissing him lightly on both cheeks. The book held a collection of essays, poems, and other writings that both she and Bavaria enjoyed reading, printed in beautiful calligraphy. The painting was one that Morphia had done herself, showing a few children in New Czenoble playing beside a mechanical ruin in a field of early poppies.

He affectionately embraced her before placing the items back into the box, [b]“Thank you, Morphia. Come visit again soon, and we shall talk more.”[/b] She nodded, and he walked down the hall to return to the main gathering.

Pacing a bit, Morphia knew that she should return as well, before someone in her disjointed family noticed she was missing. [i]My parents, both fearful and in denial. Bavaria, gone to the Old World. Jack…[/i]
She didn’t even know when her brother was leaving this time around. Would he even say goodbye, or would he just abandon her again for a few years? Morphia sat back down in the alcove, rubbing her temples and wishing that Leonhart had left the glass of champagne behind.[/COLOR][/FONT]
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[SIZE="1"]Sorry about this being late, my PC broke down yesterday so I?m using my sister?s laptop.

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Daedalus leaned against the staircase nearest the exit to Dwalish?s room, sighing thoughtfully. It seemed after the accident, he had picked up even more of his father?s bad habits than even Daedalus suspected, it was disappointing in a way, but not something that overly concerned him. Harriet had always been the one to deal with the emotional welfare of the children, he loved her for it, because it was something he himself was completely incapable of doing.

Maybe that?s why he was more comfortable dealing with clockwork machines, there was no feeling with them, just logic and obedience. He was cold like that he supposed, he preferred an order to all things, routine, class, when things knew their place there was order, when they did not, chaos quickly followed. Daedalus was not a good parent, it was not his role, but he loved his family, this could never be doubted.

The thudding of his boot sounded down the marble hallway as he strode after his children. He readjusted his tunic as he walked, it was not something he enjoyed wearing, but the party tonight called for his best wear. Anyone who saw the dress uniform would immediately recognise it as that of a Czenovian military commander, an honorary rank given to him by the Mideus Prosperous himself, though many outside the Almagest family would remark it came in payment for what lay hidden within Mount Grail.

Such remarks had never really bothered Daedalus, it was true that was mainly concerned with creating technology for the Czenovian military, technologies which if used could wipe out cities in an instant, but his rank within the military was given to him years beforehand in the Mine Wars, and such titles were not uncommon among the social elite?

?[B]I absolutely refuse to wear that Nellie !![/B]?

Dwalish?s exclamation broke Daedalus out of his train of thought, evidently he did not approve of his sister?s sense of taste.

?[B]What?s wrong with it ?![/B]?

Helen?s retort was as heated as her brother?s. Shaking his head, Daedalus picked up his pace, until he was standing in the doorway observing. Dwalish was sitting on one of his rooms spacious, though regularly unused couches as his sister attempted to choose a garment from his equally unused closet. The pair were so busy glaring at one another, it took a few second for them to notice he was standing there.

?[B]Father ?[/B]?

?[B]Yes ?[/B]?

?[b]Why?re you here ?[/b]? There was a sharpness in Dwalish?s tone that Daedalus didn?t like, but for the sake of peace he ignored it.

?[B]I thought I?d investigate the cause of the disturbance.[/B]?

He waited for one of them to respond.[/SIZE]
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[CENTER][IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/leonhartavatar.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/catherinesaraavatar.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/vincentavatar.jpg[/IMG][/CENTER]
So far the party for Leonhart was going well and like any hostess, Catherine was keeping an eye on everyone even as she greeted and chatted with the various members of the Almagest family who had come to attend the gala. Adult or not, there would always be those who's relationship was strained and more than anything Catherine did not want Leonhart to have to deal with any unpleasantness on his special day. Thankfully so far, everyone was getting along or at the very least not making a fuss, perhaps other than Harrison's usual rebellious nature, but Catherine hardly considered that an issue, he was still young and given time she was certain he would settle down.

"[B]You've done a beautiful job as always sister.[/B]" Leonhart said politely to Catherine with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips as he came over to stand next to her.

But Catherine was not fooled, she knew what he truly felt. "[B]Even though you don't like such festivities right brother?[/B]"

Leonhart just chuckled a bit. "[B]You know me too well. I assure you though, I do appreciate the sentiment and the kindness behind those who truly do wish me well.[/B]" He turned to gaze back at those who were enjoying themselves. "[B]It is only those seeking favor and nothing more that I dislike.[/B]"

"[B]As do I Leonhart, as do I.[/B]" Catherine agreed and then she frowned when something caught her eye. "[B]If you'll excuse me, it seems I need to attend to something.[/B]"

Catherine did not wait for Leonhart to respond as she quickly moved to intercept someone who was leaving the Grand Hall. Leonheart would have seen what happened so there was no need for her to explain as she hurried after Vincent who was leaving the Grand Hall. As Catherine passed Marie Evangeline she gave her a disapproving look and when Marie's eyes met hers, Catherine noted how she at least had the good sense to look chagrined when she realized that Catherine had seen her antics towards Vincent.

Satisfied that she had gotten her point across she continued on her way and caught Vincent who was not that far down the hallway outside the main room. Upon seeing her he paused and waited since it was clear she was coming towards him.

"[B]Catherine Sara,[/B]" He inclined his head slightly. "[B]If you'll excuse me I need to...[/B]"

But Catherine motioned for him to be quiet and took up his left arm and steered him down one of the hallways before he could say much else.

"[B]I know exactly what you need to take care of dear. And I hope you'll not think unkindly of Marie for that shameful display. Her and Macey are quite close after all.[/B]"

"[B]Oh not at all.[/B]" Vincent assured her. "[B]I am only sorry that our troubles have pained her, that was never my intent.[/B]"

Catherine smiled warmly as they approached one of the washrooms meant for the servants to use for cleaning clothing. She ignored Vincent's confusion and headed for the tall dressers against one of the walls, she let go of his arm for a moment and opened one up to pull out a clean white shirt that though not quite as fine as what he was wearing, would easily do in a pinch.

"[B]Now go in the other room,[/B]" She indicated the other door leading out of the room. "[B]You'll find something to wash up with once you've gotten out of that sticky shirt.[/B]" She handed him the clean one and then waited while Vincent did as she ordered.

Vincent emerged shortly and then at Catherine's further instructions left his shirt in the washroom when she brushed aside his concerns about causing trouble for her. Catherine took the initiative and took his left arm in hers again as she headed back to where everyone else was.

"[B]Don't you worry over that dear, I'll make sure it's properly cleaned and sent to your home tomorrow.[/B]" With a smile she began to inquire how he had been what he was up to as they made their way back to the festivities.
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[size=1][RIGHT][img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/henryavatar.jpg[/img][img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/morphiaavatar.jpg[/img][/RIGHT]

Henry was careful to step into the hall, light blue eyes ever on the lookout for his mother. He was a bit shocked, however, to find the hall occupied.

[b]"Oh. Hello, there."[/b] He greeted congenially, looking down the hall towards the great hall. He could already see it was filled to the brim with people he was supposed to know. He turned his attention back to the woman sitting in the alcove. She looked familiar. [b]"Morphia? That [i]cannot[/i] be you."[/b]

Morphia looked Henry up and down with heavy-lidded disdain. [b]"Henry. It's a pleasure, I'm sure."[/b] Henry's grin widened as he took a seat next to his fellow jockey, regarding her coolly despite her obvious annoyance with him.

[b]"You look marvolous, Morphia."[/b] He said cheerfully, feeling not the slightest bit of guilt at his outfit - still the same, messy outfit from earlier.

[b]"Well, thank you, Henry. You look... charmingly messy. I see you were going for the 'just rolled out of bed, onto the dirt' look."[/b]

[b]"Now, Morphia. Is that sarcasm? I put a lot of thought into my appearance, you know."[/b]

[b]"I'm sure you do. I'm glad you put so much thought into it today, especially. For the man who practically raised you and all."[/b] She said, throwing him a look. Henry knew how important Leonhart was to Morphia. He coughed uneasily, smile breaking for a second, his calm facade breaking for just a moment - there was the guilt, just a tiny bit. He dismissed it with a wave of his hand, changing the subject.

[b]"You had a race this morning, didn't you? I tried to make it, but I was... a bit hindered, if you catch my meaning."[/b] He winked, easing back into the alcove. Morphia's mouth set into a grim line as she recalled the event.

[b]"I did, actually. And I won."[/b] She ended it, very finally, looking ahead grimly. There was something, obviously, she was refusing to tell Henry. But that was okay with him - this was a good distraction to keep him away from the actual party, and she hadn't told him to bugger off [i]yet.[/i]

He could remember Morphia's rather frequent visits, starting from just a few years ago, at Leonhart's marriage with Lady Bavaria. He knew all too well that Morphia felt little love towards his siblings, and those feelings had passed on, by simple means of association, to Henry. He figured this was only because she didn't know of his true origins, or she just didn't care.

[b]"I hear you're quite good. Making a name for yourself and all. I suppose soon we should be racing in the same circuit."[/b] Henry paused, remembering fondly his race from the night before - he had pulled in from second; Altheo, his feline-canine hybrid Chimaera, had slid in from the right at Henry's urging, all but tripping the first place holder on their faces, only to be trampled by those behind them. It had been naught but a breeze.

His opponents these days had no real urge, it seemed, to get down and dirty to get the job done. He knew Morphia played dirty. She could actually pose a challenge, which was exactly what Henry needed.[/size]
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[center][img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/leonhartavatar.jpg[/img] [img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/damegrimalkinavatar.jpg[/img] [img]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/fauntleroy-chronicle.jpg[/img][/center][size=1][indent]Leonhart moved his way through the large crowd effortlessly, stopping just long enough to accept the compliments and salutations befitting of a man on his 65th birthday. He had no interest in speaking with some of the family longer than he had to, but it was his duty as a gentleman to disguise that fact. Dame Anna stayed close to his side throughout much of the evening, wandering off periodically to scold a wayward servant.

“[b]Are you enjoying yourself Leonhart?[/b]” Anna asked as she adjusted the lace on her white apron, “[b]The guests seem to be having a lovely time.[/b]”

“[b]Catherine and yourself should be proud. How the two of you can arrange such a large event with your busy schedules is beyond me.[/b]”

The two shared a glance. Anna blushed. “[b]We certainly try our best. There were so many potential guests that, to be perfectly honest, we had to push back several well-wishers at the gates, per your request.[/b]”

Across the room and past the dancing couples, Leonhart noticed his son slouching against a chair.

“[b]It would seem that a few of the riff-raff managed to make it through nonetheless.[/b]”

“[b]Please don’t speak so poorly of Fauntleroy. You should go over there and talk to the boy.[/b]”

Leonhart huffed, “[b]If he weren’t so childish, my son would have greeted me first.[/b]”

An older servant approached the two, and bowed his head as he greeted them.

“[b]Master Leonhart, Dame Grimalkin,[/b]” he said as he presented Leonhart with a small black box, wrapped in a single strand of yarn, “[b]There is a… situation with one of the gifts. It requires your immediate attention.[/b]”

Leonhart opened the package to discover a dead rat lying inside of the box, clearly poisoned. Anna covered her mouth in disgust as he removed a small note from the container and read it aloud.

[i]“[b]You are not a monster, but a mouse. Equal rights for all -- or fear the worst.[/b]”[/i]

“[b]This is very serious,[/b]” Anna said with a stern look across her face, “[b]I’ll tell our guests right--[/b]”

“[b]You will do no such thing, Anna! With so much turmoil in High Czenoble, it‘s only natural that the crisis would reach the walls of Rosengard eventually. I only wonder who delivered it.[/b]”

The servant nodded his head, “[b]The package was dropped off moments ago, sir. There was no card attached, which is why we opened it.[/b]”

“[b]You’ve done the right thing by showing me this,[/b]” Leonhart said as he placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, “[b]Now please dispose of it quickly. The last thing I want to do is ruin everyone’s evening by being alarmist.[/b]”

“[b]Alarmist? We’ve all read about the kidnappings in The Chronicle. You know someone is out there kidnapping prominent alchemists. What if you are the next target!?[/b]”

Anna’s raised voice began to draw attention from the party guests.

“[b]Watch your tone, Dame Anna. You know better than to behave like this.[/b]”

"[b]Hmpf![/b]" she snatched the box from Leonhart’s hands, “[b]I’ll handle the matter personally. If you won’t let me cancel the party I’m at least going to inform Alexander and Vincent about thiings. I’ll feel much safer if members of the Royal Police Guard are on alert…[/b]”

Fauntleroy noticed Dame Anna's grim demeanor as she walked past him and towards the kitchen.

"[b]Is everything alright, Anna?[/b]"

The old woman let out a heavy sigh. "[b]Nothing to bother yourself with, Fauntleroy. It's only a revolution.[/b]"[/size][/indent]
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[COLOR="DarkOrchid"][FONT="Times New Roman"][i]Macey excused herself from the meaningless conversation she was holding with one of the blood nobles of her extended family and turned around to bump directly into her ex husband. Vincent bowed to her by way of excuse and she curtsied back as deeply as she dared to. Regardless of her dearest sister's antics, she didn't feel that smashing a goblet over his skull would be the best way out of what was sure to be a deeply embarrassing conversation for the both of them.[/i]

"Macey Ellen. I do hope you're having a good time."

"About as good as one can expect Vincent. These parties are like coal mining. Hot and close and everyone's shoveling something."

[i]He chuckled with an easy smile, one all too familiar to her. As he muttered some nicety to her, she began to notice people all around them looking and whispering amongst themselves. As soon as she did take notice however, she felt the tingling behind her eyes that meant tears were only one smart remark away. A burning sensation traveled up her sinuses and lodged themselves permanently in her forehead, with only her willpower to keep it from advancing further. Her focus on Vincent returned just in time to hear him say.[/i]

"...my only regret is that we finally met after your sister poured champagne down my shirt."

"It's alright, nobody will remember in a few hours."

[i]Which was true after all. The doings of the noble born, while interesting, were always eclipsed by personal vanity. If they weren't directly involved, their attention quickly jumped to the next most exciting event. Unfortunately the conversation, with the pressure of quite literally dozens of people surrounding them, began to press down on Macey's sense of control. Vincent smiled at her in a conciliatory way, mistaking the near vacant look in her eyes for embarrassment instead of agony. It didn't help that her cheeks turned pale for lack of visible blush. All the blood had already drained from her face. He laid a gentle hand on her gloved one.[/i]

"I really do miss you Ella."

[i]The sound of him using her nickname in that old, familiar tone of voice sent shockwaves down her spine. As her mouth worked in honest pain, she breathed once, and then felt herself choking down a hysterical sob. Two thin trails of tears streaked down her face in an instant beyond her power to stop, and the only thing people noticed after that was her dashing for the exit while pressing a black lace kerchief to her face.

She dashed through a side door, her skirt held up just high enough to avoid her tripping and sprawling across marble steps. Servants watched her ascend a flight stairs as fast as any harried page, then leapt aside as she threw open the french doors to a secluded balcony and slammed them behind her with the sound of breaking glass. One maid noticed that Macey's skirt had torn on the jagged edges of the door, but felt it quite improper to mention it. Once quite alone, she sank down onto an elaborately carved stone bench and allowed herself the luxury of tears.[/i][/FONT][/COLOR]
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[FONT="Garamond"]Being the only female amongst the four children of Daedalus Almagest led to many aggravating moments for Nellie. The current one seemed to double her usual frustration in dealing with Almagest men. After almost two hours, she and Dawlish were still arguing about clothing choices. She knew that he would look stunning in the light green outfit she bought him for his last birthday, yet he refused to admit it. She was cursed to be surrounded by males who knew nothing of modern fashion.

In the middle of this argument, Nellie and Dawlish?s father, yet another example of poor fashion sense, came to the doorway of the room. Dawlish greeted Daedalus coldly, and Nellie resisted the urge to scold him for doing so. The amount of time Daedalus spent with his children would never match that which he spent with his machines. Nellie accepted this as truth since a young age, and she wondered how it was possible that her brother had not done the same. She touched her father?s arm.

?[B]We were just discussing possible outfits for tonight. Weren?t we, Dawlish?[/B]?

Dawlish nodded. She began to walk her father out of the room. They would already be late to the party, and she decided that celerity was the most important factor of the moment. She turned to her brother, one of the few people who could equal her in stubbornness.

?[B]Put on that navy monstrosity if you must, but be quick about it![/B]?

Closing the door behind her, she faced her father. She wondered if he had any nice looking clothes in his other than the military outfit he currently wore. Nellie imagined that there must have been, and with no other thoughts she was left to wait without anything in her mind. The silence that rested between them filled her lungs, nearly suffocating her.

?[B]How is work going?[/B]? she asked.

?[B]Good[/B],? Daedalus replied.

?[B]Good.[/B]?

The silence resumed its attempts to remove all of Nellie?s breath. She tapped her foot. What seemed like an eternity later, Dawlish left his room, victorious, wearing a navy blue suit and matching top hat. She looked at the ceiling and smiled.

?[B]What will I ever do with you?[/B]?[CENTER]

---------------------------------[/CENTER]

When they arrived at the birthday party, now already well underway, Nellie made sure that Dawlish?s hideous hat was checked at the door. She saw the desire to work on his machines in his eyes, an expression that reminded her of their father. Nellie smiled and touched his hand. He sighed.

?[B]I will be counting the minutes until this ends, Nellie.[/B]?

?[B]You do that. I, on the other hand, will be talking with people. Be good.[/B]?

With this last command she departed from her eldest brother?s side in search of her youngest. Harrison, with his overwhelming desire to become a member of the Royal Police Guard, never failed to amuse her. She had a feeling that this night she could use all the amusement she could get.
[/FONT]
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[COLOR="Indigo"][SIZE="1"][CENTER][IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/victoriaann-chronicle.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/harrison-chronicle.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/daedalusavatar.jpg[/IMG] [IMG]http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/Runaway511/almagest/helen-chronicle.jpg[/IMG][/CENTER]
It took him a while but Harrison finally got changed into a more formal outfit, one of dark blues that though probably as proper as Aunt Catherine would expect, still made him feel like a total idiot to wear. He positively hated it and only Victoria Ann's mocking insistence that she'd get him for not doing as he was told resulted in him actually following through. Because he knew from past experience, she'd do exactly as she threatened.

He remembered all to well the last time he agreed to go with her on a short shopping trip and then backed out at the last moment, making her furious with him for breaking his promise. Victoria Ann had vowed that she'd take his sword and hide it from him as punishment and sure enough she had, refusing to give it back for nearly a week! Any attempts to appeal to Dame Anna had been dismissed along the lines that he didn't need the sword anyway. Just as she had insisted that he be required to attend Chaos and learn more about different fields instead of going to the academy like he had wanted.

And his father, even though he had no real hatred for him, had no interest in interfering with Dame Anna or any other adult's decision as to what was best for him. It galled him to no end that even Catherine agreed, that he needed to broaden his horizons before making a choice. With a rough jerk to straighten the absurd outfit he stormed out the door and nearly ran over Victoria Ann who was still waiting for him.

"[B]What are you still doing here?[/B]" He growled as he pushed past her to head for the party.

"[B]Oh! So scary![/B]" Victoria Ann said with a mocking laugh. "[B]I told you, Auntie Catherine said you were to get dressed so I'm making sure you actually do instead of sneaking off.[/B]" She made a face at him as she caught up and walked along side Harrison.

"[B]Well as you can see I'm dressed, so get lost pest.[/B]"

Victoria Ann just laughed delightedly as they approached the doors to the Grand Hall and with a smirk she took off towards Leonhart, presumably to give him her present. Reminding Harrison that since he had originally planned on skipping the party altogether, he didn't have anything to give to his uncle. Though the excessive amount of gifts on the table in the room only proved his thought that it was hardly necessary. Leonhart probably had more junk than he knew what to do with.

With a sigh Harrison turned to look for some corner to hide in when he came face to face with his father, causing him to give him a glare as if he were responsible for how the evening had turned out, but as always, Daedalus was unruffled by his attitude.

"[B]Harrison, I trust you aren't giving Dame Anna or anyone any grief.[/B]"

"[B]Like you even care [I]Father[/I].[/B]" Harrison said through clenched teeth. "[B]After all, it seems to be perfectly fine for Helen to get to do what she wants but not me.[/B]"

"[B]Now is not the time for that.[/B]"

"[B]Yeah, yeah, spare me the few words you actually do bother to give me. After all, there never is a time when it comes to what I want to do.[/B]" Harrison turned his back on Daedalus and continued on his way to find an corner to get away from everyone. He was heading for one of the more secluded balcony's to make good his escape when a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"[B]There you are Harrison, I was beginning to wonder if you sneaked off again.[/B]" It was his older sister Helen and though Harrison had no grudge with her, he still hated talking to her since it only reminded him of how she got to do what she wanted while he did not. [/SIZE][/COLOR]
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