Sage entered the castle of Sandstone in a state of awe. The grandeur of it all, was doing little to ease her nerves. A fire was lit in a large hearth. Men playing violins and flutes were stationed at the far wall. A chandelier constructed of crystal, hung on the high ceiling, the length of it was taller than her.
Men and women, royal and elite had donned elegant dress suits and elaborate dresses to illustrate their rank and richness. Sage's dress was far more simple than the others though she carried herself in a confident demeanor that demanded respect. Nobody would truly no how unsure she was of herself in the moment.
At a long, endless table, her name was etched on a piece of parchment instructing her on where she should sit. She sat between a round, ruddy faced duke, and a skinny bony faced women who wore a lavender dress, covered in jewels and amethysts. Her red hair was piled high on top of her head. Like everyone else the people next to her were far older and much more experienced with their titles. She was a rookie and everybody seemed to glance at her skeptically. How much about her fallen empire did they know, if anything? When she arrived, with Saffron in his dragon form, she had received envious looks. Everyone stared at the dragon with shocked or surprised expressions. Though nobody had questioned her for it, she was sure it made an impression.
The crowd of royals, remained quiet throughout the feast, but as the servants cleared away the last course of dessert, chatter and questions began to build up amongst them. Sage didn't speak until questions began to come directly at her at a pace that didn't allow for answers.
“Tell me now, what happened to your fascist father?”
“How do you intend to make amends with your people?”
“How's trade going in Galvenston?”
The last question seemed to grab everyone's attention. She smiled and hoped it appeared polite, before finishing the last of her aged wine. “Actually, no. I do not wish to marry. I'd much rather devote my life to my people, that is how I will make amends,” She said staring back at the stuffy old Empress who had asked the question.
Much to her horror, the table broke out in bitter laughter. Under the table her hands coiled into fists.
“ If you don't intend to marry how do you plan on giving your empire an heir?” An older Duke asked.
She hadn't thought about it. She knew in some cases heir's had been appointed, when an empress was able to conceive. She wouldn't give them the satisfaction of that answer, this was none of their business. She smiled in jest.“Well bastard children are becoming less of a thing of the past and more of a thing of a now.”
Everyone's eyes grew wide, in their own horror induced expressions. Clearly the joke hadn't been received as such. Sage wanted to hide. These people would soon think that she was incompetent.
A hand tapped her on the shoulder. She looked up over her shoulder, grateful for an excuse to divert her attention.
“Care to dance?”
Briefly she studied the man. Dark, everything about him was dark. He wore black leather, odd attire for a marquis. His black hair was gathered into a pony tail and his eyes were deep brown bottomless holes. She took the man's hand and let him lead her out onto the floor. She didn't dance to often. The proximity to strangers amidst music was not appealing to her.
“Were you saving me from those people back there?” She asked out of curiosity.
The man met leveled his gaze with hers. “I believe I should be asking the question and the question is what can you offer me?"
Sage blinked confused.
-“That's right empress I know just who you are, and I'd like to join your ranks.”
“No.” She said immediately. This man was a stranger, not to be trusted.
His eyes seemed to squint with laughter or amusement. “You haven't even heard my offer.”
-“I don't know or trust you.”
They spun in time to the music.“Your in no position to turn down help.”
- “What makes you think that?”
The man pulled her closer. “Well for one your dragon is not sired to you, which means you didn't purchase it. Why it's hanging around you with it's free will still intact is beyond me, also...” He paused skimming his thumb daringly close to her breast. “Your corset is constructed of simple deer bone and not the desired Ivory.You are not rich like you would lead all us of into believing.”
Sage glared at the main. Immediately he placed he pulled his hand back. “ I can not except help from you,” she stated bluntly.
- “Why is that?'
“You don't seem like an honorable gentlemen,” she noted.
“Honor and survival are world's apart."
Sage rolled her eyes. Only a fool could be sold so easily.
“I have vital information,” the man said.
“I doubt you do sir, and even so you would be expectant of me to return the favor.”
The man nodded. “Yes, I can help you restore Galvenston ,bring it back to life in greatness. In return I would like a title of my own, and a hefty allowance, but with all the riches I'd be supplying the Empire you wouldn't notice the absence of the money. I suppose it would be worth it for you.”
“So are you telling me you are not a marquis already?”
The sly smile returned to his face. “Not even.”
- “Who are you then?”
“ As I said before a man with vital information, I happen to know that there are six assassins stationed on the roof.”
Sage grew rigid with shock and worry. “Who's assassins?”
- “Not mine if that's what you are insinuating. If I had to guess they I'd say they were belonging to the one Empire that didn't get an invite.”
“Syria? There here targeting the royalists,” Sage pieced together.
“What will happen next?”
“I can't be sure but I do know that nobody ever starts at the top and makes their way to the bottom?
“They are overtaking the weakest Empires over anyone else....Your first. If you agree to my propaganda, I promise I can get you out of here alive.”