Emily’s nose wrinkled as she stared at the invitation.
For a confusing few moments she had wondered how on earth Armand had convinced Penelope to invite her to her wedding - or even why he would see fit to do such a thing. Then her eyes had reached the names, curled in smooth ink, plain as day.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of
Francesco Antonio-Bartolomeo Graves the Arcane Arbiter
A small cough drew her eyes away from the offending paper as the delivery child held out her hand expectantly.
Emily dropped a few Riel into the girl’s hand and muttered a small amount of thanks, pretending not to see the way the girls face twisted with disgust. It was becoming frighteningly easy to shrug off the distaste for her undead state. The shiver of disgust at the invitation in hand, however? That was harder to remove.
It had been weeks since she had seen Armand, over a month even. Not long by any stretch of the imagination, but after spending so many nights sat on his floor, reading the discarded drafts of that damn traitor’s pamphlet, it felt like an age. She wondered what twisted version of events had led him to the invitation in her hand, imagined him furrowing his brow and tossing yet another perfectly reasonable draft over his shoulder because it wasn’t perfect.
She shoved the crisp paper into her bag not caring how it creased and the corner tore. She decided to think no more on the matter. Armand could marry whom he liked.
Emily’s brow furrowed as she looked up at the building before her.
This was not the adventurers guild. No, instead her feet had betrayed her and carried her to the warrior church, it doors adorned with the colours of black and blue and of green and grey in the gaudiest trail of ribbons and flowers Emily had ever set eyes on.
It was Armands wedding day and she found herself present despite her better judgement. She lingered, watching the masses of guests make their way into the holy building, weighing up her options. On the one hand she wasn’t nearly well enough dressed for the occasion, her one good dress hung up in her tiny room gathering dust ever since the Upheval and her mother was no longer around to force her to wear it. On the other hand, Francesco and Armand were sure to hate it. Before she could think any further her feet made the decision for her and continued to move her towards the church.
She was stopped by an overly large sword swinging down, just barely missing her.
“Invitation.” The demand was practically spat at her, causing her to raise an eyebrow.
“I thought nobles were meant to have manners? Oh, no, wait - Armand already disproved that.” Emily smirked, watching the guards jaw clench. She had no idea if he had any connection to the family or if he was very simply getting paid to be here but somehow she had hit a nerve and she felt nothing but smug about it.
“Invitation,” The guard repeated, through gritted teeth, “please.” Emily’s smirk fell a little as she reached for her bag. She hadn’t been intending to come, so of course her invitation remained caught in the gap between the glass and frame of her mirror where she had stuck it after carefully smoothing it out a week ago.
Or at least, that’s where it ought to have been, had she not subconsciously plucked it from its place as she walked out the door that morning. She mirrored the guards surprise as she handed it over.
“Second row from the back, Cargan side.”
Emily bit her tongue as they asked for any objections.
Her eyes were fixed on the man she hardly recognised, small with the distance between them but taller than she remembered him. Grown. Worn. Stronger. The finely tailored suit he wore - traditional in its cut and colours - didn’t drown him like all his others had seemed to, making him look like a child trying to play at being grown up. Instead it straightened his back, followed the sharp line of his shoulders, made him look every bit as regal and powerful as he did in the heat of battle.
Emily swallowed the tangy taste of iron.
Emily’s fork pushed the greens around her plate.
The awkward silence of the table is palpable, each member of the group as confused by Emily’s presence as the other. Her eyes glance to the left, the newly weds so close by, surrounded by close family and a line of well wishers waiting to have their one minute of faff.
She had only come out of a sense of obligation to tell him congratulations. To thank him for the thought of an invite. But the moment she was in the room she had found herself whisked away to a table, despite her protests. She couldn’t tell if this was some cruel joke or a misguided attempt at trying to make her feel included. Knowing Armand the former seemed more likely, but something nagged at her that said that wasn’t it.
Francesco caught her eye and the sneer on his face said it all.
She was Armand’s pay back.
“If you’ll excuse me,” she muttered, pushing back her chair and marching her way back out into the streets of Acryn.
Emily smiled as she looked around Armands drawing room.
She hadn’t been surprised to find it’s window unlocked, though it had warmed her to know he had left it so, despite the recent absence of her visits. The room had a chill to it that denoted an emptiness of a few days, but dust had yet to gather so Emily was confident her letter would be found.
She pulled the inkwell to the middle of the desk, trailing her fingers along the soft vane of his favourite quill for a second before leaning the roll of paper against it.
For a moment she considered taking it back, burning it in her fire place and letting the ash be swept away with the coal dust. But though she willed them to, her hands would not listen and so it remained there, even as she climbed back out the window and carried on back to the guild, her invite to the Cargan Estate clutched tightly in hand.