"Now you hear me, missy, you can't be romping around the countryside with only those men for company! Why, you'll be scandalized," the bustling middle-aged woman protested as she hurried after Lhurriel, indignation all over her face. The mage only laughed, deftly balancing the tray she held in her left while lifting a portion of her skirt up with her right. Just in time, for two little kittens raced right beneath her skirts, mewling playfully as they skittered out of sight behind a counter. Seconds later, two surprised shouts and a shriek signalled where they had gone, making Lhurriel laugh again.
"Oh, come now, Mrs. Bertram. As a lady mage, I have long been seen as a scandalized and fallen woman..." Lhurriel commented as she gathered together a collection of cups and saucers.
"But my lady-"
"I'm no lady, Mrs. Bertram, and you well know it. And-" Lhurriel continued calmly, when she saw that the housekeeper was about to interrupt her again, "You also know that I will never marry Lord Atadel. We are not suited."
"On the contrary, Miss Lhurriel!" Mrs. Bertram shuffled over and efficiently handed off two more trays to the young maids waiting for them. Normally the housekeeper would be the one serving Eversleigh's exalted guests, but she had twisted an ankle just two days before Lhurriel and present company had arrived. Thus the two maids, with Lhurriel's assistance. "You're young, you're quite beautiful, and you and the young master get along splendidly!"
A nostalgic expression passed through the young mage's face, the briefest of shadows before her usual bright smile replaced it. Mrs. Bertram blinked, wondering if she'd merely been imagining things, but forgot about the incident when Lhurriel began speaking again. "Lord Atadel is to marry a young lady of noble birth when he chooses to do so. One who is not out of the country constantly on business, and one whose beauty will do his kindness and looks justice. As a young woman born of the nomadic clans, I cannot be his bride, even were I to wish it. My status as master mage makes it all the more imperative that I not wed a peer of the realm," she said blandly.
"Miss Lhurriel, you are a princess in your own right-!"
"That has no bearing on anything whatsoever," Lhurriel said sharply, turning her piercing gaze on the housekeeper. The woman silenced herself, still indignant that the pretty young mage couldn't see how perfectly she and the young master were suited. Couldn't the young lady see that she was the only one who made him laugh and smile freely? That, and the young mage, who had found a second home at the Eversleigh estate, had no business pulling her rank on the house's servants.
"I'll be taking these tea trays up now," Lhurriel said gently to the housekeeper, to soften her earlier rebuke. She waved at the two maids, who eagerly came at her request. Mrs. Bertram merely shook her head at the mage, wishing that perhaps things had been a different, as the younger girl disappeared up the stairs, maids following at her heels.
"How has your magicycle business been going?" Lady Randolph purred, scooting closer to Corsair until her thigh was pressed up against his leg. Giving her a bland, blank look, the young lord stood up smoothly, making her almost tumble ungracefully across the couch. The woman managed to catch herself in time before she made a spectacle of herself, but she glared at Corsair, who was currently replacing several books on a shelf. The sitting room was actually rather spacious, and after some manipulative shuffling Corsair managed to get himself the lounge chair that could seat three. The others were spaced around the room, with Kae and Miss Sandoval seated in the window seat across from the chair he and Lady Randolph were using.
"It's been going perfectly well, Lady Randolph," Corsair replied, sitting himself down again, only this time with the perfect amount of proprietary distance between himself and the other woman. Despite his best efforts, however, after several minutes Corsair found the lascivious woman once again plastered to his side, her bounteous chest pressed rather firmly against his arm. Even for her, this was a bit strong-
"Why, it's wonderful to see you again, Lady Randolph," cooed a familiar voice from right behind them. Corsair didn't have to turn around to know that his savior had just come; he rose leisurely, a warm, affectionate smile coming to his lips as he turned to face Lhurriel. Apparently she had already served the others in the room; only he and Kaeden (as well as their companions) had yet to have their drink.
"Lhurriel. We missed you for dessert. How was the souffle?" He asked, winking slyly to show his thanks. Lhurriel couldn't stop the mysterious, small smile from stealing across her lips -- and at this, Lady Randolph seethed with jealousy, for the smile transformed the mage from a pretty girl to a lovely young woman. And, when she quickly glanced over the dress the mage wore, Lady Randolph neerly hissed in another silent fit of envy.
"Delicious, as I knew it would be, Corsair. You're so mean-spirited to deny me my dessert," Lhurriel chuckled, her throaty laugh well-refined into a seductive purr. Gorgeous navy silk, a high neckline (at least compared to the current fashion), and few petticoats, and still the girl looked presentable. Beyond presentable! Lady Randolph's eyes narrowed as she watched Lord Atadel kiss the girl's knuckles, and narrowed a sliver more when the Captain did the same, though with less familiarity. I KNOW my bosom is much larger than hers, and yet in that dress she ends up showing herself to advantage while looking like a complete lady! For the dress transformed a boyish, serious mage into a rather attractive little baggage, one who caught the light in Lord Atadel's gaze and took his attention off her.
"Lord Atadel, don't you think MISS Keladar is being a bit familiar with you and the guards?" Lady Randolph asked dubiously, her eyes glaring daggers at the other girl (who at the moment was chatting amiably with Miss Sandoval and the Captain of the guard).
"No. This is an intimate little party, and I've known the lady mage for quite a few years," Corsair answered smoothly, knowing that Lady Randolph was jealous and irked that his behavior towards Lhurriel was so much warmer. Displeased, Lady Lissa Randolph waited until Corsair had been summoned by his butler and Lhurriel was speaking to Miss Sandoval to pounce.
"So, Miss Keladar, how long are you to be visiting again? Last time you stayed for quite some time with Lord Atadel," Lissa mentioned coolly, her tone suggestive and a bit arrogant.
"Truly. And without a chaperone," Miss Sandoval added, moving just the slightest bit closer to Kae. Without even meaning to, Lhurriel found her jaw gritting at the sight - Miss Sandoval was the most grasping, selfish female the mage had ever had the displeasure to meet, and she felt a bit sorry for Kae, who looked quite uncomfortable having his arm clung to by the young chit.
"Good friends have no need of chaperones, and I would never dream of behaving improperly while in Lord Atadel's home," Lhurriel replied, her voice dry with badly-disguised humor. Lady Randolph's face flushed at the insinuation - cuddling up to the lord of the house in his own sitting room was improper indeed.
"Still, you are unmarried, and of but twenty years of age. You shouldn't be alone with an established bachelor like Lord Atadel," Miss Sandoval accused. Lhurriel smirked, drinking her glass of sherry before taking her time to answer.
"I am an accomplished master mage of this kingdom, proven to be responsible and proper even under the most rigorous and diplomatically strained of situations. I'm sure nobody could find fault with my visiting Lord Atadel to test his magicycles, and work them," Lhurriel replied, her voice chilly. She hated catty females. She could almost feel the invisible smirk Lady Randolph was sporting in her eyes. And when the older lady leaned closer to Miss Sandoval to whisper something, Lhurriel knew she'd misstepped, at least with her words.
"Probably to test his sexual prowess and work as his personal whore, no doubt," the woman whispered just loudly enough for present company to hear, eyes gleaming deviously. Miss Sandoval, though she set herself up Lhurriel's rival, was an innocent and jumped up with a shocked gasp, eyes wide.
For the first time that night, Lhurriel felt like slapping the other woman.
"IF I am Lord Atadel's personal whore, as you so bluntly put it, at least I know I'm suitably feminine and to his taste - unlike the hussies that reside in his district, panting like bitches in heat for his favor," she snapped furiously. Dignity wrapped around her like a scarf, Lhurriel rose, extreme dislike apparent in her eyes. "Captain Kaeden, I'll be taking my leave. Please express my sincere apologies to Lord Atadel when he returns," Lhurriel bit out icily.
"No need. I'll escort you to the stairs," Corsair said, the crystal mage Alasdair walking beside him. His pale gaze was condemning and narrowed at the attack of the other mage, though evidently he managed to find some amusement in their blatant jealousy. The two ladies rose when they saw him, a bit perturbed at the crystal mage's sudden appearance and guiltily looking away when Corsair gave them hard stares. Corsair may have looked magnificent, but Alasdair dressed to impress in elaborate mage's robes. The crystal mage bowed slightly, earning him two hurried curtsies in return, as well as one bow. In this country, crystal mages were revered for their skill and craftmanship; enviously, Miss Sandoval and Lady Randolph stared as Alasdair shook Lhurriel's hand firmly before smiling at her - an open, friendly smile that acknowledged mutual respect between them, as well as friendship. Similarly, Corsair, gave Lhurriel a silent nod before turning without a word and exiting the room, clearly expecting both mages to follow.
"I'll see you tomorrow morning, Sir Kaeden," Lhurriel said, giving him an exasperated, frustrated smile before turning to leave.