Rhisoka, the heart of the Empire, and the birthplace of civilization--at least that's what the members of the Court would tell you. But, Atticus seemed to wonder this fact, he had traveled to the far reaches of Avsolom and had seen many strange civilizations, cultures and ideas. The world was large and quite strange, but at the same time it all was familiar.
Men fought over small plots of lands, vying for the control of resources and people. Distant wars and strange battles between feuding families seemed to be a trait that was coming among all men and even elves it seemed, and Atticus was being pulled right into one.
The Myst Surge had left the world in an uproar, and strangeness was abound in the distant lands of the Empire and it seemed that Emperor was more interested in protecting his own assets inside of their territory than keeping tabs on strange distant lands. His mission was a simple one, but it wasn't one that he expected--to court the Emperor's daughter.
There are far worse things, but rumor has it that her last two lovers died.. Some of the agents in distant houses claim that she's a black widow, striking fangs in men and taking their power. He huffed at the thought, as he shifted his little toddler, Yuka, who clung to him as she slept in her father's arms.
At least she was here with him, that much brought him some comfort. Maybe she would be nice, or maybe she would be pompous and arrogant. Regardless, he would carry out the mission as commanded by his liege, and he would do his best to see that it was agreeable--and so he waited for her to arrive, the pair stood along a small balcony that overlooked the dock. Gods, I hate politics..
Lilith was in one of her finer dressers, gold and with white lace. Her hair was loose, but throughout it braids with flowers weaved in that matched her dress. She loved to braid flowers in her hair. It always made her remember her time with Tybalt, and while the reminder was bittersweet and often brought her to tears, she didn't care how painful it was. She didn't care how many times she'd cry, she would never allow herself to forget him.
Even though she'd dressed up appropriately, she didn't follow her fathers commands. He had told her that Theo must be sent away before Lord Valerius arrived, but she refused to part with her son. She knew if it backfired, she'd likely face backlash but out of all of her siblings, it seemed her father allowed her to get away with the most.
Deep down she wondered if it was because he cared less about her, or if it was actually possible for him to have a soft spot. It'd be impossible to ever know, at least she assumed. All she knew was when she was a child and they weren't sure she'd survive, he acted like she didn't exist at all. It wasn't until she showed great potential in magic that he even acknowledged her existence.
One of her three servants cradled Theo who was nearly old enough to not be considered a baby, but not quiet yet. The servants stayed a good amount of steps behind Lilith. When Lilith stepped on the balcony however she noticed a child in the lords arms, and as she approached closer discovered it was a young girl. It suddenly gave her hope that he might accept Theo and even brought a smile to her face. She had always wanted to have a daughter, so she could teach her things her son wouldn't be interested in, but then a pang of doubt struck Lilith.
He had a daughter, and it was his daughter. Theo was hers, and most of all Theo was male. If she angered the lord by bringing her son and it made him leave, she could live with herself and would even feel better. But if he stayed and felt threatened by Theo, there was a great possibility that Theo would be in danger.
But Lilith would protect her son with her life, without a single second hesitation or thought, and knew he'd be safer with her than sent away where assassins could get to him without her around. She'd grown up in the midst of the political world and was no novice despite her age.
When she arrived in front of the lord she curtsied. "Lord Valerius," she addressed him formally, adding after a moments hesitation, "I'm Lilith, and this is my son, Theo Monteaux, the Duke of Leore." It was probably expected that the servant brought Theo up beside Lilith, but she didn't. She stayed back and even cradled Theo closer. Lilith didn't say anything more.
A gentle breeze seemed to sweep across the little walkway as the sound of seagulls seemed to fill the air. It was peaceful, but that peace would be shattered in an instant. He heard words, soft and feminine, but firm--and it was time he turned to finally catch her glance.
He wore a fine, teal in color, with a black cape that was pinned behind his back. His flowing white hair was parted down the middle, and tucked neatly behind a golden wreath crown which had been customized to include a gold plating which extended down to cover his right eye.
"Lady Magnus," his words would come ooze from his lips, his accent was a blend between Konzu and Southern Rhisokan. He would gently bounce his daughter as he gave a slight bow. "Atticus of Meriport, and this is.." the words seemed to trail away for a moment.
"My daughter, Yuka of Irushi-ben." He'd smile as his free hand plucked at the chubby baby's cheeks. Though that smile would fade as he thought about the implications this could put on the two of them. "Please forgive me, but I swore an oath to raise her...and I can't leave her."
Whether it was the heat of the summer or his nerves, he could feel a bit of sweat build along his forehead, showing that he was clearly nervous about the situation. "I hope to not offend you and your son, it is not my intention." Hopefully she wouldn't be too cruel.
Lilith blinked a few times, surprised by the lords reaction. He was worried that she was offended? After the confusion passed, she felt her heart soften somewhat. It was sweet that he worried, though it was hard for her to let her guard down completely. He could be a good man, but she couldn't do that yet, maybe never, in order to protect her child.
But maybe Atticus felt the same about his own? Either way, Lilith stepped forward and looked down at the girl. "She looks very sweet sleeping like that, in your arms so soundly," she said at first, not able to stop herself from commenting on it. She smiled as she gazed down at the young girl before looking back up at the lord.
"I take no offense, I cannot even if I for some reason wanted to," she added, looking at her son then back. She wasn't sure if he'd understand but, she didn't want to go too much into it. "Did you wish to go for a walk?" she asked.
If he agreed, she'd turn to walk down the palace halls, towards the gardens. "Atticus, forgive me for prying, but is it true that you worked as one of daddys guards?" she asked, tipping her head somewhat. She knew how cruel and cold her father could be, or rather, seemed to almost always be. The Emperors Guards had the reputation of being the most ruthless and feared agents in the Empire, but the man before her seemed to be the opposite, at least, so far.
It seemed that his feelings of worry were misguided, for Lilith didn't scold him nor shoo his child away, and the brought some hope to the situation. Atticus smiled as he adjusted his daughter in his arms, turning her slightly so she could face the princess a bit.
"She war born in war torn lands, with yelling and fighting. To the two of us, this appears to be a paradise!" His free hand would move reach out to point all around them. "They said that this was greatest city in the world, the capital of Avsolom."
He doubted that, but it was sentiment to have, and it was one that all Frumentarii had drilled into their minds. The Empire's agents lingered in all parts of the world, watching and documenting. The common man nor the nobles may never know what it was, or what they did--but they often sought to protect the world from greater threats. Husan was one of those threats, but it seemed the world was slowly coming undone and magic was filling the world again. Atticus was nervous about it all, but he couldn't let his new wife to be know that.
He would give her a nod and the two of them would begin to walk down the marbled halls and grand archways that filled that palace. Servitors walked along the path, nodding and smiling towards the group--was this how she always had lived?
But, he did not have time to think on such things, for she had asked the one question that he dreaded to answer. It was true that he had taken orders from her father, and the Emperor seemed to trust him, as much as a man such as the Emperor could.
"No," he'd say plainly as they walked--Yuka in hand.
"I was an agent of the Frumentarii," he'd let the words linger for a moment, his lone eye watching her and studying to see what clues her face would give on the subject. Was she familiar with who they were, and if so would she run in disgust?
Born in a war torn land? It took a moment, but she was able to recall that he was a legatus, at least now. Tybalt had also been a solider and been through rough times. Lilith suppose she had experience with the siege of Leore, but it often felt small against tales she'd heard from the more seasoned.
As they walked, he admitted to being a Frumentarii agent. Lilith blinked a few times and even caught herself pausing for a heartbeat. She was not expecting that answer, but when her mind had a few more moments to think on it, it made sense.
Her father had forbidden her from choosing her next husband, threatening to execute any man that got close without his permission. Obviously he was not thrilled when she'd ran off with Tybalt, and picking someone seemingly, or expected to be, zealously loyal to the Empire made sense.
"Well, I do hope you wont ever turn your knife to me," she said after the long pause, though smiling. "I don't always listen to daddy, in fact at times I go out of my way not to." In the past, Lilith wondered if she only did so because he let her get away with it; a not very secret secret known throughout the nobility who stayed closer to the throne. If she ever really faced consequences like her brothers had, would she risk it? Either way, she liked to pretend she was rebellious.
"Will we be living in Meriport after the wedding?" she asked with a wavering smile. It was something she had mixed feelings about. "I've never been there before, I am curious about it but... I do like to visit and stay in Leore every few months."
A slight frown formed across his face as the two of them walked along the halls that lead into the gardens of the grand palace. Once they were outside, he would pause--shifting the kicking child in his arms. He knew their reputation, most Centurions hated the agents of the Emperor and helped propagate the notion that they were mindless killers, who had been programmed through dark magic and trickery of the Citadel itself.
The anxiety about the situation seemed to drip with his words, did she really think he was going to kill her while she slept? "Well...I..." He fell for a loss of words, this princess seemed to be out of his field of depth. "..wouldn't think of killing you, and you should listen to listen to your father, not for you, but your son's safety..."
He knew what happened to those who turned their backs against the Emperor, those who threatened the peace of Rhisoka. The consequences varied, and those who did survive often were left completely changed. "If we're to be married, I want to make sure that my children and my wife are safe, and being on your father's side would ensure that."
He thought about his late wife and the tragedy that surrounded her death. Truth be told he still missed her and yearned for her desperately. But, it seemed that Princess had faced similar circumstances in her life--so maybe there would be a connection there. "Your father asked me to take up the Lordship of the Southern Region once my father and brother died in this strange comet." He noted her the uneasiness in her words and the mention of Leore.
It made sense, she had a life there, her son was the future ruler of that land and most likely still had family living in the distant province. Was the boy's son still alive, or was there perhaps a lover there that she truly cared about, he contemplated on these thoughts and pushed them aside. "You and your son will always be allowed to return to his home."
She was joking about him stabbing her, though not so much about being rebellious. And his answer surprised her, prompting her look away from him. A frown of her own formed on her lips, although one of thought and worry.
"I do not think daddy would have me or Theo harmed," she said, though she paused and even doubted her own words. Just because he hadn't yet, didn't mean he wouldn't in the future, and she had seen first hand the depths of his cruelty. It was hard not to understand Atticus' worry, even if he didn't understand her relationship with her father.
"It's difficult when your father is the Emperor, but I will be better as you wish," she said. Lilith had always listened to Tybalt, but it had been harder to listen to her father than to her husband. She paused again, unsure if she should say anything about Theo. Her body tensed, but ultimately she decided that it'd be better to be honest now, "He...he told me that I had to send Theo away before you arrived, but I couldn't bare it."
At least she and Theo could visit Leore, she thought. Atticus would probably be too busy to leave his duchy, though she would still ask him to go. She wondered if he'd be interested.
But they finally made it to the gardens, and even though there was more she wanted to say and ask him she stayed quiet. Maybe he had his own questions, maybe he would be upset that she defied her father over Theo. It was hard to tell, they had only met.
The row of flowers that lined the neatly placed stone walk ways were a delight to see, full of vibrant blues and reds, and plants from distant lands--it was a symbol of Imperial wealth and might. They reminded Atticus of the delicacy of the Empire, their people, his daughter, and Lilith herself. He caught her frown and knew that his words may have filled her with some doubt.
"I didn't mean it like that, I know your father wouldn't hurt you." He'd say quietly as he took a seat along a marbled bench. Yuka stirred in his lap and her little arms seemed to squeeze around his sides as her eyes began to blink open. "Your father has a lot on his plate, there is so much happening in this world, it can be hard for him to focus on everything. As for your son, he assumed that I was like my brother or most other Lords. They would be afraid that your son would take a higher position towards the throne."
He paused for a moment, as he turned his bright blue eye towards her, taking in her shape and pale narrow face. "I never wanted to be a lord, it was never something that was expected of me. I would prefer my children to take a path they want, and that includes Theo."
It was strange, he had chosen his first love, and now his second was arranged. Looking at her felt strange, she was beautiful, but his body didn't ache with lust or desire. He saw a stranger, a blank slate, but inklings of a partner. Whether they liked it or not they would be partners, and that meant raising their children and tending to the duties that the Empire requested. "You and your son are my family now..the four of us. We'll learn together, and hopefully, I can provide a better life for our children than the one that was given to me." There was a hint of hurt to his words, but even if Lilith looked to him, she most likely just see a man that was cool, calm, and collected. Atticus had always done well to hide his feelings, his insecurities and his doubt--for they had no purpose to an Agent of the Emperor.
"It's hard not to be upset at daddy sometimes," she admitted. "But he is my daddy and I love him with all my heart, and will never not love him," she added with a sigh. She knew why her fathered wanted her to send Theo away, but didn't expect Atticus' answer.
She took a seat, turning to him with a curious look on her face. "Does that mean you do not want to preform your duty?" she asked. It wasn't said in a condescending way albiet it could be taken that way of one did not see her expression; it was simply said in a curious way, perhaps with a hint of worry.
"I know it was not your duty at first, but by blood it's fallen to you and your people need you now." Lilith looked back at Theo, who was playing with a carved horse toy while making happy babbling noises. It made her smile softly as she added, "Just like Theo's people will need him when he is of age."
Lilith nodded when he mentioned that they were family now, though she noted a hint of sadness in his voice. She wanted to pry, but she hesitated because it could be too private or raw. Yet, he didn't look upset, in fact he seemed stoic. It was hard to gauge, so she decided to wait.
"Atticus, do you have any questions for me? With the wedding scheduled for tomorrow, I wish to learn about each other as much as possible with the time we have," Lilith said. Her eyes drifted away from him after however, down to the girl in his arms once she noticed she was awake. "Hello Yuka," Lilith said in a soft voice, with an equally soft smile. "Would you like something to eat, or to play with other children? There are some here, playing in the fields nearby, one of my servants can take you to them."
Honor, Duty, Family. These were the words that bound all men of the Empire, and they were words that Atticus held dear to his heart. But, it was often harder to uphold than one would often realize. Theo and Yuka hadn't done anything wrong, nor did the countless citizens across the world. To be Centurion, it seemed one would often break one vow when upholding another.
The former agent contemplated this, and knew his heart struggled with what to do. "I will uphold your father's commands, but when comes to the realm and their protection, I will always put that first." His hand would move towards her own, and if she allowed it he would take hold. The weight of his hand was heavy and strong.
If he felt her hand, he wouldn't feel flashing sparks, but possibly a subtle bond that would begin to form between them--maybe things wouldn't be too bad in the end, but there was still so much unknown in front of them.
While her father was lost in thought, Yuka would turn her attention to the blond haired princess with a bright smile painted across her face--her little black curls bouncing as she giggled with hands stretched out towards Lilith, as if she was asking to be held by the woman.
Atticus couldn't help but smile at the little display, "The three of you are my world now, and it seems fate has bound us to that. Just know that I will protect you all with the best of my abilities, and that together we will navigate this world and find our place." He meant those words, even if they felt weird to say.
"Do you miss your Husband?" He'd ask after some time, it might have been a strange question to ask. But, he wanted to know--his own voice cracked slightly as he spoke. "I miss my wife..."
Lilith felt a heavy hand on hers, and for a split second she looked at him almost as if she was scared, but she was only caught off guard. It was an initial reaction, and she let out a breath after, covering her heart as if to steady it. She hadn't had a man lay a hand on her since her husbands death, even to hold hands. But she looked down at his hand, and couldn't deny the comfort she felt in being close to someone, even if they were still sitting apart.
Then her eyes softened when she saw that Yuka was smiling and holding out her arms. Without thinking she'd reach down and scooped her up. "You'd like to play, wouldn't you? There are three little girls here for the month that would be excited to meet you," she said happily, unable to ignore her motherly instincts.
Yuka seemed happy too, and so Lilith turned to one of her servants. "Bring her to the fields, and please watch over her with the governesses there." The servant nodded, and if Yuka didn't fuss, and Atticus didn't object, the servant would guide Yuka to the other children. "I'm afraid I wont be able to stop myself from spoiling her..." Lilith said almost in a mumble to herself, a weak smile forming on her face. She always wanted a daughter, and was already thinking of several dresses and toys that she could have made for the girl.
When Atticus spoke again however, she found herself with mixed feelings. It seemed he was a very kind man but a feeling of sorrow began to overwhelm her at the thought of Tybalt... "It feels almost as if I am betraying him right now," she admitted, looking down. "I miss him with all my heart, every part of my being. Part of me is still waiting for him to come home but I know..." she caught tears forming and reached up to wipe them away, unable to finish her sentence. Maybe one day she could think of him without crying, but it was too hard right now.