Not What Either of Us Expected, 9/14, Afternoon (Kivennah, Percy)
Breakfast had been strained, an agonizing push to lift forks and spoons that seemed to weigh a ton even though the pieces of silver were the same as they had always been. The food from the kitchens tasted more like parchment than the fresh fruits and pastries her eyes recognized, but the sight did not whet the appetites of those who gathered around the table. But they ate anyway, because they knew they must, or in KJ's case, because Kivennah had asked him to. Even the air tasted different. Not just from the slight chill hinting at the change from summer to fall that had already begun. Everything was lacking, from the swallow's song to the perfume of the rose garden. Taldorach seemed to have a life of its own, and every stone that stretched out over the river, and up towards the sky and every blossom on the grounds mourned with the castle's inhabitants.
Kivennah had thrown herself into trying to help manage things, organize things, push and prod her siblings to go about the motions of life even if they didn't feel like living. Someone had to. And she was the oldest now.
She had been the third born of the seven.
Zel and Percy had helped. Their presence alone helped, apart from the gestures of kindness they put in each day. Zel knew Taldorach well, even though the place felt empty and haunted. She knew that underneath it all it was the same place she used to enjoy each winter. She knew the same for each of the remaining Caldorans, that beneath the burden of grief, the hearts of her friends were still beating. Albeit quietly. Albeit to the rhythm of a dirge. But Percy was of Hebron. He'd just recently been separated from his father and even though he had been elevated to a knight of the Shield, with the title came the loss of his home, and of his close relationship with Sir Guy. He no longer saw the Knight of Dawn everyday. Instead he walked the halls of the unfamiliar castle in the Moors, which had been thrown into the shadow of tragedy. He hadn't had the opportunity to experience its warmth or its beauty. Or to get to know the family that had gathered for the coronation such a short time ago . . .
Kivennah had not been the best hostess to Sir Torgood, the new Shield of Heather's Moor, the new member of their household . . . the man who had saved her life at the melee. She couldn't go back in time. Gods knew she'd change so much if she could. No matter how much she internally berated herself for not being absolutely perfect, the fact remained that all she could do is try to make each step she took a bit better than the last.
To that end she had him summoned to meet her for afternoon tea in one of the salons overlooking the river flowing beneath the castle. It had been one of her mother's favorite haunts, and her grandmother had loved it, too. A lush circular carpet of purple with green vines was laid beneath an oval table and two plush purple chairs. The set up faced the window, and the view was framed by sheer green drapes tied off with purple ribbons.
Kivennah was standing before the window, peering out across the river to the trees beyond. when she heard the familiar creak of the door opening behind her. She didn't immediately turn around; instead, her eyes shifted to the rushing waters.
"Is it what you expected?" she asked, her eyes focused on the waving reflection of Taldorach that faded into blues and greens. "The river of the Moors?"
That part of her chocolate tresses that had not been gathered into a petite bun at the back of her head spilled down over her right shoulder, well past the conservative neckline of her gown, against smooth, black silk.
Steam rose from the polished silver tea pot in the center of the oval table, inviting the guest to take a seat. Milk and sugar were set a bit to the side, and delicate tea cups and saucers rimmed in gold contrasted from the silverware set on linen napkins. A tiered platter displayed neatly arranged afternoon pastries of varied flavors, none of which Kivennah intended to eat.
Last edited by Kivennah Caldoran; 04-06-2012 at 11:13 AM.
Percival navigated the halls of Taldorach with relative ease. There was a vision in his head of what a Knight of the Shield should be, and Percy wasn't it. He was young, fit, and most of all, lax. There wasn't too much that concerned the young knight, and the absence of interference from Hebron in his daily duties made him relatively well adjusted. Granted, he hadn't had nearly the oppurtunity to spend time with Kivennah like he had hoped, but he knew better than to intrude upon her grief, and he did have some responsibilities. They were civil, at meals and other family functions, but nothing resembling quality time.
So when Evie had informed him that Kivennah was looking for him, his heart leapt a little. As Shield, and a member of the household guard, Percy had access to everyone's schedule, and he knew well that the present fell within Kivi's free time. The steps to her room were lighter than those of the early morning, and he took them casually, lest his anticipation be recognized by the woman's maid. The conversation en route was pleasant, but insubstantial. He had little in common with the ladies of the Moor, but Kivi's friends even less.
The young woman smiled and withdrew after showing Percival inside. Percy nodded to her politely and smiled his goodbye.
His hostess was standing at the window, peering out of it with what he assumed was feigned interest. It didn't really matter though, because the knight had committed the girl's visage to memory, and saw her face even though she didn't turn to greet him right away. "It is," he answered her, hoping that she would not be hurt that he wasn't pleasantly surprised. "I've read everything there was to read about your home, as soon as I learned that I would be joining you." That was a lie of course. He had read it the afternoon after he had met her in the gardens, but she didn't need to know that. Yet.
The silence that fell between them was deafening for a moment, even with the sound of the rushing water beneath. "I've missed you Kivennah," he told her, even though he saw her at most meals, and on other occasions throughout his days in Taldorach. "How are you?"
The voice she had come to recognize gave answer, but the tone of his voice was a touch different than it had been since he'd arrived at Taldorach and circumstances dashed any thoughts of more intimate conversation over formalities and common courtesies. There was a note of something else, and given the emotional stress each member of the household was going through, it wasn't hard to imagine a drop of feeling getting through one's defenses. The river, at least, was what he had expected; he couldn't have expected the rest. None of them had. She turned to face him, and offered him a weak smile at his explanation that he had done his research on her home.
"You are quite thorough, Knight of the Shield," she said quietly, before falling silent. She wondered at what he had read, exactly. If the books spoke of her brother, of the mood of the Moors, at how it had formerly been an inviting place . . .
He said he had missed her then, and she could only interpret that to mean that he missed the lady he first met in the royal gardens. He'd seen more of her in Heather's Moor than he had in Hebron, but he'd seen Kivennah in her blacks, Kivennah in mourning. She tried to be like her normal self, but a part of her heart was missing, and the hole was easy to see, despite her efforts to hide it. He asked how she was, and she did think he cared to know, even though people usually just asked that question out of courtesy, not because they cared to know. What most people wanted was a positive response, not the truth.
She'd asked him here to ask after him, to celebrate him, but he wasn't one to put himself first. He had made that clear that same day they'd met, when he put himself in danger for the sake of others, and injured himself in the process.
"I am as well as could be expected," she answered calmly. She did not fall to pieces at the question, it was one of those she'd been preparing herself for, not just from him, from anyone and everyone.
"I'm sorry I've given you reason to miss me . . . I've been a terrible hostess," she said softly, moving to take a chair, she gestured to the other before sitting down.
"That's part of why I asked you here, Percy. To apologize . . . this wasn't how I wanted to introduce you to Taldorach. How has your transition been so far? Is there anything I can do to help?"
She took a cloth napkin and held it so she might lift the handle of the teapot without burning herself. She carefully filled their cups before placing the napkin on her lap and turning her attention back to the young knight.
"Silly girl," he had thought he had said to himself, before he realized that it was out loud, even if it was softer than his normal tone. She was always apologizing, and mostly for nothing. Or at the least, for things she had no control over. He made his way to the place she had prepared for him and settled himself, unfastening his two short swords and setting them on the floor. His red and white cloak soon followed, an action he was glad for. The garment was heavy, and unnecessarily ornate. It didn't suit him at all.
Folding his hands in front of him, he shook his head softly. "You have naught to be sorry for, Kivi." He addressed her informally, not feeling the need to stand on pretense. She was his only friend after all. "It's not like I don't have duties. And you certainly have more of your own than you had anticipated. You owe me nothing." The girl had this notion that he had saved her life. She might be right, in the end, but it was nothing he had control over. Adrenaline and instinct had carried him that night.
"My transition has been smooth. Everyone here is very nice." And he had made sure to give them no reason to question him. His standoff with Guy's men had won him a little favor he was sure, since the general mood in the city was one of exhaustion and sadness. Any sympathy he showed the citizens was sure to be well received.
As he lifted the tea cup before him and blew lightly at the hot contents, he shrugged lightly. "If you gave me cause to miss you, it was not by spending time with your family in mourning. It results from our very first meeting." He wasn't sure that the girl would understand. He certainly wasn't sure that he should say anything more. But they were alone, and when would be the next occasion for that. "I'm afraid that if we spent all but an hour everyday together, that I would miss you for the one that we were apart, Kivennah."
She quirked an eyebrow at the first words that left his lips. They weren't spoken as an insult, she could tell that from the soft sound of his voice as he said them. No, they were spoken like one who wanted no apology, who needed no apology, who didn't see things at all the way she did. She couldn't get mad at that. Even if they didn't see eye to eye. She dropped her eyes to the napkin in her lap, as he took a seat and made himself more comfortable. The weapons and cloak of his office were set aside, leaving the man behind.
He said more directly that she had nothing to be sorry for, even though she knew she hadn't taken proper care of him, as the oldest of the Caldorans. He called her Kivi, without any fear or hesitation, as they were alone. She lifted her gaze to his face once more, as he continued on. She nodded lightly at his comment about everyone being nice. They were nice. Truly. But the shadow over Taldorach had made some less so. Not KJ, though he was so full of sadness and in need of much comfort. He was still kind and very easy to love. Karenna had become more quiet and withdrawn than usual, more ready to ignore something than give answer. And if she gave answer, it wasn't in carefully chosen tones. That voice would carry a passionate sadness, or angry heartache . . . or she'd sound flat and empty and forced as though she had died on the inside. She didn't come off so nice. Especially not to one who didn't know her.
He took hold of the hot teacup and attempted to cool the steaming liquid with his breath. He shrugged then, and spoke again about missing her . . . in answer to her apology for giving him a reason. His words took her back to their first meeting, how he'd flipped down expertly from that tree, like it was the most natural place in the world for him to be so early in the morning.
'I'm afraid that if we spent all but an hour everyday together, that I would miss you for the one that we were apart, Kivennah.
Her breath was heavier then, her eyes fell to her lap and she considered those words that had touched her heart. But she hadn't given him any reason to care for her so. She didn't deserve such affection. And he always seemed to know what to say. Was this another instance of that? Of his smooth tongue complimenting her? Or did he truly mean it? And then what, if he did? She was a woman in mourning. She could not think of courting anyone just now, and it would be improper to have a romantic relationship with her Shield . . . it would mean a conflict of interest. So many thoughts flew through her head. She was supposed to be the proper older sister, an example to the two siblings who remained to her.
"I am not deserving of such admiration, Percy . . ." she said quietly. Unsure of what to do, she walked to the window once more and watched the water flow past.
"I . . . your words have touched this broken heart . . . but I do not trust myself . . ."
Well, it certainly wasn't the outright rejection that he had naturally been expecting. There was something to be said for that. But there was something of an awkwardness that made it obvious that it could have been better. Percival knew that what he had said was probably not appropriate, but couldn't think of anything that could be worse than hiding how he felt. Perhaps it put Kivi in a bad situation, but even at that, he figured that it had to be better than living with the ache of having said nothing at all.
"If you are not deserving of admiration, Kivennah, than I don't know anyone who is." In retrospect, perhaps his father or Guy, but that was a different type of admiration he knew. Whereas his respect for those men was born out of prowess and honor, his feelings for the Caldoran girl were wrought from a different kind of strength and compassion.
Percy had sensed from their very first meeting that there was a chemistry between them. And for a pair of fortnights he had hoped that it was not just his imagination. The way he felt when they were together told him that if she felt even a fraction of it for him, then they were not like to ever be parted. Her final words confirmed his desires. But she was still so guarded. So hurt and overwhelmed by loss that there was little hope that the couple could ever have a normal relationship.
As he rose from his seat and went to stand behind her at the window, he attempted to perceive whether or not she was crying. Resting his hand on her shoulder, he squeezed it compassionately. "Then I hope you will learn to trust me, Kivi. And I will endeavor to do all that I can to help you heal."
He paused for a moment, unsure of what else to say. "I...have made you uncomfortable. I should probably go." He didn't move though. His head told his feet to turn, but for some reason, they hesitated.
He praised her still, despite her weakness, despite all the flaws he could see and the ones that were better hidden. The words he spoke were those of a man blinded. She heard him rise from the chair and move towards her. She bit her lip, knowing something else would be done or said . . .
And not knowing how she would react.
She wore black. Silken lengths of black should've been a cage that held back anything but grief. But in that tempest tossed heart that was still weathering the storm she felt more than just mourning. She felt determination to stay strong for the family that remained. She felt hope that she would see more of their healing with her own eyes each day. She felt thankfulness for all she still had and the people in her life . . . and for being live at all. And she felt something for this newly made knight, but she was unsure; her judgment was compromised for a selfish want of comfort and to feel a man's warm hands and his lips and how long had it been since she'd been kissed but she was a Lady and he was a Knight and surely she was meant to marry a great Lord one day but not any day soon, not when she was needed here, and she mustn't give him the wrong impression-
Her eyes closed at the feeling of his hand on her shoulder and the inner voice quieted. She heard the beating of her heart instead, underneath the welcome sound of his voice. He only ever wanted to help. He always seemed to put someone else above himself.
He blamed himself for her moving away from him, for her discomfort, he spoke of leaving, yet he did not. Maybe he was waiting for her to dismiss him. But she raised her hand, across her chest, and behind her shoulder, placing it over his.
"You are my Shield, Percy," she said quietly, more for her own benefit than his.
But her whispered reminder of his place in the household didn't make the dark material of her dress more of a prison, and didn't keep that selfish part of her from holding on to his hand even as she turned to face him. Without thinking, she just kissed him, seeking comfort for all her cares in the soft embrace of lips.
Percival could feel his eyes closing involuntarily, as though he dare not look at what was happening. Her lips were softer than he had imagined them to be, as they pressed against his own. Instinctively, his right hand came up to hold her cheek lightly, as his head turned into the kiss. His head began to swim a little as the thrill of the moment washed over him. He had pictured this moment since the first time he had met the girl, but had seen the dream slip away with the death of her brother and sisters. Even now, despite his desire, it seemed odd.
For a split second it occurred to him that he might have pushed her to this. The things he had said, the way he had looked at her. Percival wondered if the bond they had formed back in Hebron made Kivennah feel obligated now. Or worse, was she just too weak to do anything else. He wanted Kivi to love him the way he loved her, but now there was a fear that her actions were only based in the fact that she wanted to feel anything but sadness. The very moment he should be reeling in elation, he was wrought with insecurity.
When he finally pulled back from her, his hand slid to the back of her neck, and let her head just rest on his shoulder for a long moment, with no words between them. The silence was finally broken by a contented sigh he leaned back to look into her blue eyes. He wasn't exactly sure what to say, though he sensed that there was an immediate sense of awkwardness in the aftermath of their embrace. From the corner of his eye he saw the red and white cloak, and felt as though the garment were scolding him. As if it knew that he had crossed a line, and even though it were an inanimate object, it still somehow disapproved.
"Are you alright," was all Percival could manage when he had finally found his voice.
In the relatively dark confines of the lids that slipped over those blues, Kivennah's senses were filled only with the feel of those warm lips on hers, and then the gentle feel of his hand on her cheek. For the space of a few beautiful seconds, there was nothing wrong in the world. But precious few things were eternal, and Kivi's lapse of judgement and Percy's merciful indulgence of it, were not on the short list.
When the young Knight pulled away, the guilt that had been building up inside her broken heart spilled forth like so much blood, washing away the warmth and tingles that originated from his kiss and spread all over. Percy did not abandon her, he moved his hand from her face to the back of her neck, as he invited her without a single word to lean on him, to rest her head on his shoulder. She knew that had he not been who he was, he'd immediately put distance between them, yell at her for her cruelty and selfishness in using him. But he was true to those words spoken with love moments before, and it was with the understanding of one who cared deeply enough to look past the mistakes that he embraced her quietly, now. He didn't press her. He didn't accuse. He just let her breath against him, as tears pooled in those eyes and started sliding down her face.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. It was never supposed to be this way.
She had been so utterly weak. So utterly selfish. So absolutely wrong. And to this man who did nothing but help her, but put her before himself. She had stolen a kiss, a kiss she knew he wanted, and she had taken it for the wrong reasons. She had created something awkward, she had given him an incorrect impression, she had complicated his new position.
It would be easier say what she hadn't broken, than what she had. For she couldn't think of a single part of their relationship, their co-existence in Taldorach that wouldn't suffer for this. There was simply no scenario where Percy could be spared any negative affect of her folly. And it was all her fault.
The sound of his sigh broke her thoughts, and he leaned backward so he could look at her tear-streaked face, and he asked if she was all right. Always putting her first. Even now, when she had been so horrible. If every heart were so selfless, everyone's physiological and emotional needs would be met, and the world would be always be at peace, for everyone would take care of each other.
She shut her eyes tight, feeling all the more guilty with those caring greys fixed on her. She brought up her left hand to cover her mouth. Slowly she lifted her face a bit towards his, the lower part of her face re-merging from the cloak of her hand.
"I- Percy - I'm so sorry, I - I had no right."
She inhaled choppily though her mouth, the sound of her breath sad as she continued to cry quietly.
Shaking her head lightly, she moved a half step away from him, closer to the door.
"I should go. I'm just - I'm so sorry. I shouldn't . . ."
She swiftly made her way to the door. Biting her lip, tears still falling, she turned the knob and flew into the hall.
Last edited by Kivennah Caldoran; 05-03-2012 at 10:41 PM.