08.19.3013: Betrothal Trickery
Summary: Declan sets up a 'trap' to ensure that Ariana pays him a visit.
Date: 19 August 2013
Related: Jewel in the Rough, Love and Marriage and My Shadow's Shedding Skin
Ariana Declan 

Grand Rotunda — Elder Seat, Arborenin
The edifice of the Elder Seat has been built around the tall, old, and stalwart tree known as the Wise Wood. It has been nurtured for millennia, and unique advances in botany have allowed the Paramount House of Arboren to shape the tree to their needs without fully interrupting its natural processes. The most evident of this is the Grand Rotunda — the main entrance hall of the Elder Seat. The cavernous antechamber literally bisects the tree's thick body, allowing for the room to be completely open without the interference of the trunk. Grand columns have been erected from floor to ceiling along the outer circumference of the room, however, to allow nutrients to continue to flow from the roots far below to the topmost leaves high above.

Everything about this room is natural and earthy from the oiled wood floors that integrate the Wise Wood's rings at its center, to the petrified wood that is used to construct the walls. Soft light glows from the ceilings, dimming and brightening based on the levels of natural light. The curved walls are almost entirely accented by large windows that provide breathtaking views of the Arborenin Woods, save for the wall that is directly across from the enormous entrance doors. This wide section of wall is occupied by a enormous staircase that leads up to the first exterior terrace of the Elder Seat, and thus to the rest of the Arboren's noble lodgings.

This room is almost never empty, looked after by patrolling guards when there is not a celebration taking up the expansive area of the rotunda.

19 August 3013

It's true that Declan has not seen much of Ariana in the last few days, or at least that he has not seen as much of her as has been common in their courtship, with the many visits to one another's homes and lands. Though he may have had a few words with her at the Peake fortress after capturing the hostile, and had her see to his hand, that was the last contact between them. And so she receives a message conveying the Young Lord's displeasure at this fact, and how he hoped to see her again shortly… if only so she could remove his bandages and make sure his hand had healed properly. Or at least, that was the excuse he put to the end of the message. Naturally, when she does arrive, the Larent Lady is met graciously and escorted in by some of the staff, just as Declan descends the winding great staircase that leads up further into the giant tree and his family's residences. "Ah, my lady, I am so glad you have come," is enthused as he moves to greet her. "And not only because it is getting tedious to practice with my hand banaged." One of his usual disarming smiles accompanies the latter jest.

The young Larent Lady has definitely been kept busy between shifts at the triage at Khar-Mordune and then the research being done on the Peake's guest. This has been good for her, despite the tragedy surrounding it all. It meant that she could keep her mind off of other unpleasantness that has gotten her a little annoyed as of late, especially this one particular gift which she had recently received. Today is no exception and she is still dressed in her science whites with her long hair pulled up into a severe bun. Just arriving through the Ways from Khar-Mordune, she carries with her a medical pack though from what she knows of the young Heir's wounds, she doesn't expect to do much work on it. Despite this reprieve from spending more time with the gifter, her busy schedule and the fact that one of their patients, the Heir of House Peake, was dead does set a grim cast to her face when she first enters. It's not difficult to see that she has been working for several hours before this house call. Still, out of politeness and etiquette, she graces Declan with a smile of greeting before lowering herself into a gentle bow. "My apologies for not coming to see you sooner My Lord. I was swamped with work and research. I do hope that your hand has not been giving you any more trouble?"

"Oh, there's no need to apologize. We are at war and the rules of triage very much apply. Your duties must come first, and among those, to the most sorely injured and the most important projects. This," and Declan lifts his bandaged hand, "should rightly be an afterthought. Truthfully, I could have had someone here look at it, but we have other things to discuss. And, I admit, I've wanted to see you." He favors her with a fond look and then turns slightly, gesturing for her to accompany him within. "Let us go up to the balcony." Just beyond the main staircase, there is a large terrace on the far side of the tree, with a few tables suitable for tea or other gatherings. It seems that someone has already gone to the trouble of setting out refreshments, as well. Imagine that. Tea, pastries, and fresh fruit. "How have things been proceeding with the hostile? I've seen some preliminary reports, but I would love to hear your first-person impressions. It is why I was so eager to have you on the project."

For the most part, Ariana's attention is fully focused on Declan's hand, even as he gestures with it or moves it around, here and there. She can see that he shows no signs of pain at all by any of his movements, but this is what she had expected. And then the truth comes out and her eyes quickly leave the bandaged hand to look up and directly into the young Heir's eyes. There is only the tiniest moment of hesitation, the tensing of her jaw when this is revealed, but soon enough a hint of smile forms on her lips. So now she follows him out to the terrace, taking in the lovely table that has been set up with refreshments and light delicacies. It is more than obvious to her that this has been all perfectly planned out. "Your guests must all be treated with such lavish generosity, My Lord. These all look wonderful." She speaks of the refreshments. Turning slowly now, she looks out from the terrace to quietly view the surrounding trees and their abodes. "The Hostile's name is Sarah One-One-Three of One-Five-Eight. A soldier. From our findings so far… this particular Hostile is 75% organic." While the news may be somewhat surprising, Ariana has been dealing with this fact for the past few days as it is, so her words come out in a level tone. "It has been mildly cooperative when it comes to answering questions, though…." She says this in a thoughtful tone, "I've been observing some of the video feed of the questions asked by some of Sarah One-One-Three's guests…"

Even though his ambush may be a little obvious, Declan seems pleased with it, and pleased to have 'caught' the lady up in it. "Maybe not -all- our guests. But I recalled how you seemed to enjoy the fruit from our picnic. You'll see all your favorites set out, along with a few new things that you might try if you care to. The variety our land offer is incredible." When they reach the table, he moves to pull a seat out for the lady and then takes one up himself, arranging his bandaged hand on the table so that she can examine it there. "It… She? Called herself Sarah, or just the number? The latter sounds like some sort of numeric military designation, like a serial or identification number, but having a personal name does suggest a little more personality. Beneath the cybernetics, she's human, then, as most seemed to suspect? What sort of questions? Has she given any useful answers? I admit I'm surprised she has not gone on some immediate violent rampage, trying to kill us all or herself in the process."

From the views from high atop the Arborenin forest, Ariana's gaze is drawn back to the lush fruits on display and she gracefully takes a seat once Declan pulls out her chair for her. She immediately goes to work when he sets his arm on the table and quickly cuts through the bandage upon his hand, letting the thin strips slip away, but ensuring that they do not fly about and are kept neatly on the table. Once his hand is in full view, she holds it within her own, those piercing eyes looking it over as she presses, first, his palm and then along each finger. "Does this hurt, My Lord? This?" She will ask as she goes through the sections of his entire hand. "And … I suppose, if you wish to call it a she, but I still think of it as an it, the Hostile's name /is/ Sarah One-One-Three and yes, she has female reproductive organs, so if you wish to address her as a she, I cannot fault you." A serious gaze then lifts to meet with Declan's eyes after her examination of his hand, "She was not supposed to be human. And yet she is. Or so says the results of our scans and our tests. And her limbs have been deactivated and she is stuck in her chair, which makes me feel just a little more relieved." Just a little. To the inquiry of questions, she then thinks on her response, before stating, "Perhaps you would like to see the video recordings for yourself."

Once she's cut the bandage away, the young lord holds still as she continues to prod him. There is a slight wince as she finds a tender spot, but otherwise it doesn't seem to bother him much. "A little tender there still, and maybe it's a little stiff? But it feels like it has healed very well, on the whole. You have a gentle touch." Declan does make a face when she reveals that last bit of information about the hostile's anatomy. "Well, one might almost say the name is more significant than anything. A name at all, a female name. Those are remnants of their past, proof enough I think that they were once like we are, that they began their history as people and somehow along the way became otherwise." There's a slight pause before he concedes, "but I suppose it -is- important to know if they still reproduce as we do, as well. Somehow the name just struck me. What do you mean she wasn't supposed to be human? You mean, the doctor's prediction you told me about?" Then, seeming interested, he quickly nods. "If there is video, I would be interested in reviewing it."

With his hand still in hers, Ariana tests that tender section once more, but doing so more gently this time. "This should heal up soon enough. Though, if you wish for something for the pain, I do have some medication that you may take." She then places his hand back on the table, withdrawing her own so that she may sort through the compartments of her medkit. Listening to the rest of what he says, she pauses for a moment from her rummaging and half-turns to regard the heir with a blank look, "It wasn't supposed to be human. It was supposed to be a beast that we were fighting against." Her gaze then lowers again and she finds a little bottle of painkillers which she places on the table right before Declan. "The other previously captured units were unlike this one."

"I only really worried that it was healing properly," Declan assures her, not giving a hint that he might place any sort of doubt in the woman's skills. She is spared a grateful sort of look when she retrieves the medicine on his behalf, and nods idly at her explanation. "Ah. Yes. Well, I do understand that the idea itself could be very unsettling. Even if these things were once human, they have grown far from those roots now. We may squabble among ourselves sometimes, but these creatures do something much different than that. Their single-mindedness is disturbing, as much as it is terrifying to watch where it actually leads them."

Closing her medkit, Ariana sets it down beside her chair and as far as she can tell, her work here is done. So from where she had been examining Declan's hand, her gaze once more drifts off into the distance; her back straightening as she remains seated. "So there are various 'models' of Hostile and as I've mentioned, the one currently in captivity is nothing like the others we've studied just earlier. Those which were far less organic and had more cybernetics installed into them." Turning, to give Declan a curious look, she then asks, "Was there anything that you wanted to ask the prisoner specifically, My Lord?"

"We've witnessed a fair variety on the battlefield, though I would be hard-pressed to identify any pattern in their appearances," Declan offers in some sort of agreement, nodding along as she continues to speak of the hostiles. "There are some that are decidedly more heavily armed, armored and dangerous, the faster scouts that we have observed being used against us here in the Spine, and of course a variety of weaponry among the normal soldiers. And then there are those which deploy the sonic weapons. But among those general classes of armament, I am not sure that there seems to be much consistency. But with their cybernetics, maybe that isn't much of a surprise." Stopping to think for a moment, he eventually shakes his head in the negative. "I doubt she will reveal tactical information, nor has she or any of the rest of her kind expressed any interest in negotiated peace. Some might be curious of their culture, but I think I have more pressing things to concern my with than the social nuances of my foes."

"I do wonder how many are out there like Sarah One-One-Three." Ariana speaks as she returns her attention back to Declan. "Are all of those deemed as soldiers or is their a mix? I mean, have we not come across enough soldier corpses as it is? Not that I know very much about what each Hostile corpse I've come across was or what rank or position in their military…. even though I am learning more about them with each passing day. So it would seem." Out of politeness, she does lean forward to make herself a small little plate of various fruits and a pastry to go with it. "..Will you be having some of these delicacies yourself, My Lord?" Her serving size is quite small as she does not plan to stay long, it would seem.

Declan continues shaking his head, no clear certainty evident in his expression. "I don't know. They're all soldiers, in the sense that they are all here to fight a war against us. Nor have we seen any of their number acting in non-military roles or as support. But how one soldier is classified among them, or how they are divided or categorized, I could make little guess, aside from those broad roles I have already mentioned. Clearly, the very heavily armed and armored ones do act as champions of a sort and perhaps as leaders. The scouts skirmish much as we do. The rest simply fight, with various weapons." Once Ariana has taken a few things to eat, and at her prompting, Declan will indeed do likewise, making a plate as well. "Of course. I am most pleased to share a meal with you, as always."

Ariana nods slowly and considers the young heir's words. "I will need to do further research on the topic, perhaps speaking to various knights and soldiers on their findings. I have very little insight on what goes on in the battlefield, after all." Placing several small berries over the length of a flaky pastry, she leans forward and bites carefully into the treat before politely dabbing at the side of her lips to brush away crumbs or pastry flakes. "There was a discussion on religion in one of the video feeds. You may find that of interest. I've noticed that many of Sarah One-One-Three's visitors have all tried to relate to her in one form or other."

"There are probably some better versed than I," Declan admits. "After all, if anything I try and keep my distance from them, rather than study them up close." Up close is not a desirable place for an archer to find his enemies. "And I suspect, given the immediate interest and authority which they exercised in the matter, that the Crown Council has its own plans for her, both in terms of investigation and whatever her eventual fate may be." He pauses briefly in surprise, but then continues on more evenly. "Relate to her? Well, maybe that is not so strange. It must be very disconcerting for some, to face such a heartless, alien and implacable enemy. Relating to it might grant them some comfort, some sense that the conflict - and those that die in it - has some meaning, at least."

"And what do you think of people giving these Hostiles some sympathy?" Ariana asks just before she takes another small bite from her fruit pastry, then setting the half-eaten tart down for the moment as she once more dabs at her lips with a cloth napkin. "Sarah One-One-Three's time in Khar-Mordune is coming to an end. As long as we are still able to continue with some research, then I do not mind." A pause now, her eyes peering off into the distance mostly idly, and all she can see are trees everywhere. "I'm doing some research on my own to figure out what type of poison was used to kill Young Lady Peake on the evening of your ambush. We were unable to save her life then, but I am hoping to have an antidote created and kept on hand in the case that this ever happens again."

Declan gives a rather ambivalent sort of shrug at Ariana's question. "People's emotions are their own business, I suppose. I cannot see much cause for sympathy, myself. They are enemies, and they show us little care themselves. I suspect that the people with such feelings… they are experiencing them due to her human appearance, and maybe even her sex, seeing her as a victim due to her place as a cybernetic construct, assuming that she could have once been 'like them', once been a normal - or they might even imagine, pretty - girl. But we have no idea that such things are true. The opposite seems likely. They probably grow up thinking of us in the most terrible terms, if they are even taught to think of us as anything more than targets. A human shape does not give her a human heart or mind, I suspect." All this said, he quickly adds, "Hopefully no one will let such foolish sympathies override their common sense in how she might be of use to us." Taking a nibble of one of the items from his plate, an encouraged sort of nod follows. "That seems prudent. I do not believe we have witnessed them using such poisons before, or at least not in any of the engagements I have participated in. But if it is part of their arsenal, we should be prepared to deal with it."

In a subtle motion, Ariana withdraws her tablet from where it connects to her belt, placing it on the table. The glow of her screen lights up once she waves a hand over it scanner and she begins to sift through folders and documents which appear on her screen. "Ah, here it is. During Lord Aidan Peake's questioning of Sarah One-One-Three of One-Five-Eight, we were called the Children of the Abandoner and she…" Since Declan is calling the Hostile a she, Ariana follows suit, "relayed her own Hostile history where over the course of 25 Imperius years after the Fifth World first had gone out of range for… 40 years, the people of Cantos have sent out distress transmissions for help and in those 25 years, no help had arrived. A third of them died of starvation. Thus, we are called the Abandoners." Looking up from her tablet, she nods slowly to what he says, "Sympathy and kindness may very well have been some of the tactics of Sarah One-One-three's visitors." Or she can only hope.

Declan's expression does display a great measure of interest when she begins discussing the history relayed to them through the hostile prisoner. "Interesting. Well, I suppose it's possible, and perhaps we were simply out of range of their distress calls? Or out of range of lending meaningful aid. That alone seems a strange cause for devoting themselves entirely to our destruction, even if our lack of aid was somehow intentional and not simply a product of the situation." He shrugs. "Not that their justifications, true or mistaken, matter a great deal. An event thousands of years ago is little reason to continue wars to this day, nor are those ancient losses reasons to doom so many to die in the present, on their side as well as ours. It is a twisted sort of logic, to think that any of this is sensible." He gives a smaller nod at the latter. "Well, yes. As interrogation techniques they may be effective, assuming our… sympathy matters to the creatures they have become. I suspect they may not, if they think this generational slaughter makes any sense at all."

"I do agree. Their thinking is irrational and they seemed to have harbored such a strong hatred towards us for each passing generation." Ariana says with a gentle shake of her head, her eyes lowering very briefly on her notes once more, before she adds in, "In order to survive, they took to cybernetics with the replacing of body parts and organs. Quite impressive and yet frightening all the same." Reaching for a cup of tea to wash away the flakes of pastry within her throat, she takes a much needed sip. Though before setting her cup down, her gaze once more is directed to Declan from over the rim of the teacup, "I do not believe that this one has the capabilities to feel the way in which we do." … Or the way in which a normal person would. "She comes off as cold and robotic, in a sense. Of course, this could all be an act as well."

"Perhaps their excessive use of cybernetics could be the cause of their irrational behavior?" the young lord speculates. "I am not very familiar with such things- without my brother's accident, I don't think I would know anything about them at all. But most medical treatments can come with side-effects, and given their scale, how much they change the body, I would not be surprised if cybernetics carried the same sorts of difficulties and issues." Declan does seem somewhat taken with this particular thought, perhaps because of his brother. "And I know at least that they need to wire them into your nervous system to work, yes? So maybe that could affect your thinking somehow." This line of thought seems to dovetail with Ariana's own. "Exactly. Perhaps, if you are enough machine, you stop being human, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally?"

Quietly, she sets her cup down. Ariana has several many things on her mind right now, though she does continue with the conversation, "Cybernetics isn't my particular expertise, but I may be able to inquire with a few doctors and scientists who have dealt more thoroughly with it. Saying this, Sarah One-One-Three," The Larent continues to say most of the Hostile's full designation, as she continues to treat Sarah as if she were a thing instead of a person, with a human's name. "Is more human than cybernetic. Yes, she does have cybernetic implants on her, but there are some of our soldiers who may have a similar amount of cybernetics. Or at least close enough, but I suppose we shall see."

"That's true," Declan admits. "Again, its not my area of specialty so I'm limited in my speculations. It could have been a problem that cropped up early on, maybe when they used too much cybernetic enhancement, too quickly, to save themselves from whatever hardship? And that early… instability, the madness of their founders, has perhaps carried on in their culture even past that point? Or maybe their cybernetic devices are more powerful, or at least 'harsher' in effect than our own? Clearly, we've seen them deploy some fairly advanced equipment, sometimes as part of their own bodies. She had her own weapon systems removed, or so I'm to understand, but that sort of enhancement might be more taxing than our own?" The young lord shakes his head. "It is a question for an expert on the subject, to be sure. Comparisons should be made with our own cybernetics science and what side effects we are aware of, and the nature of their devices compared to our own."

"That is correct, My Lord. Sarah One-One-Three was dearmored and disarmed." Ariana taps gently at the remainder of her pastry as if toying with it for a few moments before taking one more small nibble of the sweet delicacy. "Doctor Hadrian Orelle has taken control over the research on Sarah One-One-Three and… Lord Brigham Peake has been too distraught to continue with it. He has embarked on a few projects of his own regarding the Hostile. Just not with our prisoner. Which is to be expected after suffering such a loss."

Declan's expression turns somewhat grim as the subject verges to some of the Peake reactions. "I am dubious if the cost of the operation was worth the gain. This hostile woman, if we do indeed term her as such, seems to be more of a curiousity than a strategic asset. Unless we can determine some weakness in their cybernetics, or gain some other information from her that might have a useful application in fighting the war or ending it… Well, then she is only something for scientists to poke at and others to speculate over. I was hopeful that something more substantive might come from all of this, especially with the Lady's death."

Once again, Ariana activates her tablet and brings up a schedule of sorts. "Sarah One-One-Three still has a few visits already approved before her move from Khar-Mordune. Maybe we shall find out more from these interactions. It is all in asking the right questions. We scientists have our own work cut out for us. There are more military minded individuals who have studied up on the Hostiles for their whole lives who may be able to present our guest with inquiries of great importance." Waving another hand over the tablet's sensor, the screen darkens once again. "Was there anything more that you wished to speak of with me, My Lord? I've relayed as much as I can recall of our findings from our guest. Though, I am still awaiting the results of some of Doctor Hadrian's tests."

"I hope one of these various visitors will be more successful," is Declan's simple wish. "For all our sakes, but also for the satisfaction of our Peake vassals, that they shall not feel they have sacrificed in vain." With this said, he seems happy to put aside the subject, which is obviously rather heavy compared to the usual topics between the two of them. "Nothing more regarding the hostiles. I have, of course, wondered after your general well-being as I have seen less of you of late. Have you been doing anything interesting not related to the Peake's project? Duty rightfully takes priority, and I know that it is not personal distance that keeps us apart, but I nonetheless feel displeasure at the time we are not able to be together and continue our many travels and discussions."

A look of very light surprise comes over Ariana's fair features at this sudden change of topic to one of a more personal nature, but perhaps this is exactly what she had expected. "I have been fine, thank you for your concern, My Lord. And I hope that, your injury aside, that you, too, have been well. Has your Lady Sister been looked after? I thought I had seen her name in our patient files, so I am hoping that she is being tended to after the ambush." The young Larent returns to topic back to her work once more, it would seem.

"I believe she is well," Declan says of his sister, smiling in a slightly more encouraged way. "We have been fortunate, to pass through our various engagements without any permanent or life-threatening injuries among myself and my immediate family. I can only pray that our good fortune continues in that fashion. And your brother? I was quite impressed with his boldness in volunteering for the first part of our strategy, and likewise with his vigor in carrying it out. I did see him under attack, though I was able to give him a bit of covering fire and at the last I saw of him, he did not seem gravely injured, for all that he went through."

"My Lord Brother is doing fine as well, actually. He did not tell me exactly what his part in this plan was so I am a little curious." Ariana asks of her betrothed when he mentions the first part of the strategy which Antaeus had volunteered for. "He was deeply wounded when he came in, but he is far better now. There are still some patients who I am helping to treat, like Lady Viannea Peake. It will still be a few days before she will be comfortable enough to move around." Listening to the rest of his words, her eyes now shift once again to avoid the heir's gaze, before she lowers her head in a light gesture of deference or perhaps gratitude, as she says, "Thank you for looking after my brother, My Lord."

"We had a detachment on the ground that was meant to lure the hostiles into the ambush area," Declan explains, evidently not seeing much reason to keep this detail from her. "Your lord brother volunteered to be part of that. My sister was with him as well. Obviously, their role was the most dangerous, as the rest of us were able to take up relatively safe positions around the pits, concealed in the trees. They had to outpace the hostiles and also had to avoid the pits themselves as they moved back in, and then faced them face-to-face on the ground while we fired from the trees. It was an altogether heroic effort on their part, and you should be very proud of him. It was only the very least I could do to support him and the others down there as best as I could." It seems like high and genuine praise from the Young Lord, who des seem to be getting along well with his future brother-in-law. Possibly better than with Ariana, truth be told! When she looks off, though, Declan does seem to sense something amiss, and here presses, "Is there something wrong, my Lady? You seem somewhat distant from me."

Tales of heroism regarding her brother! Of course, Ariana will tune into this. She never gets a chance to see her any of her family in combat, aside from Veryna and her tourneys, but she has never ever caught one glimpse of Antaeus or Percival out in the field even with video cameras sometimes observing the battlezone, individuals are always hard to capture on film through the chaos and distance. "Acting as the lure? That does sound incredibly dangerous. And to think that both of our siblings put themselves on the line so heroically." It is the latter question that truly catches her by surprise and soon enough her gaze returns to him as a show that 'nothing is wrong!', even if there is no warmth in her eyes. "Do not worry about me, My Lord. I have a million things on my mind right now." Despite the true reason for her awkwardness around her betrothed, this excuse is not entirely false. There is a brief hesitation now, as she ponders whether to bring up the unfortunate subject, but finally, she relents, "Where are my manners. I would like to thank you for your gift. I just never found the time to have done so earlier…"

"Indeed, they placed themselves at great risk. It is behavior to be commended, and you and your whole family should be proud," Declan repeats, firmly, before his expression softens and he offers the woman a somewhat more sympathetic look. "Well, it is so for all of us, I imagine. That many matters weigh upon our minds, distracting us from the simpler pleasures we might otherwise enjoy, the things we live for in our daily lives. It is unfortunate that the hostiles do so much to disrupt our way of life, that their actions spill out into so many other things, causing such concerns and distractions." Despite this somewhat melancholy sentiment, Declan smiles to see her bring up his gift - and to thank him. In fact, he grins a little bit. "I do hope you liked it? I know you have a taste for such beautiful things, and I can only imagine that it would compliment your own natural beauty quite strikingly. I lament of course that I cannot enjoy seeing you in it, but… well, it gives me something to look forward to."

Yes, the scandalous little gift is now the topic of conversation and while Ariana was hesitant to even make mention of it, here she is with her jaw tensing oh so gently and her eyes once more kept lowered as an attempt to hide the contempt that may be seen within them. "It was… interesting." Is her initial response, her eyes upon him once again now to look deeply into his own. She even forces a smile now, though that is soon done away with when she lifts a cup to her lips which to further hide her displeasure. "I was a little surprised," Shocked! Appalled! Mortified! "but it. Seeing as we are not yet wed. Still," Her words are lighter now as she continues with her charade, "it certainly was… pretty." That seems like a decent word for it. "Thank you again."

Declan chuckles a little as Ariana points out the obvious, that they are still but betrothed, and their union not yet formalized. "Well, I realize as much. Which is why I have not asked you to model it for me." Clearly, the young man is aware that he's put Ariana off her usual prim and precise foundation at least a little bit, although he seems to take some pleasure in lightly teasing her over the fact, and not find anything all that scandalous or terrible about it. "At least, not yet. But yes, it is, isn't it? Pretty that is. And somehow, I think, well-suited to you. Or at least, I imagine it to be so." Oh good, now he'll make her think he's sitting there imagining her wearing it. Maybe RIGHT NOW!

Actually, that is exactly what Ariana is thinking and for a mere second her brow furrows lightly at this very idea! While it may not be entirely clear upon her features, there is a passing look of displeasure that may be noted there by the keenest of eyes; a look which quickly drifts off to a far more polite one. "I don't think I've owned anything like it that is so sheer. I do hope that it is in my size. I've yet to try it on." There is a hollowness in her tone when those words are said. Perhaps, she will be able to return it, stating that it did not fit her! Compliments and most flattery do nothing to rogue the young lady's cheeks. Embarrassment and anger sometimes do and this comes into play now when here smooth fair cheeks burn gently at the Young Lord's words. This time, she doesn't say anything light or mirthful to joke around with the heir. No, she mainly sits there, her eyes partially focused on Declan as her cheeks continue to burn.

"Oh, you must try it on!" Declan insists, not lacking in enthusiasm as he does so. "Truly. If only to be certain that it fits you, in case you might need to have it replaced." But not returned! No, no, not that easy. Though he might be able to miss the subtler signs of her displeasure, his usual keen sense of people at least somewhat blunted by his betrothed's poise and beauty, it is hard to miss those red cheeks. Then again, it is probably not as hard to mistake their meaning. Embarrassment and anger indeed! And the former he might not mind overly much. "If you really must, you can wait to try it on, I suppose." Wait for him. Still not helping! "But I am sure you will look gorgeous in it, regardless."

Locking eyes with Declan for a passing 30 seconds or so, Ariana finally speaks up, her gaze drifting from him as she does so though the bright red glow upon her cheeks remain for the moment, "I'm uncertain as if it actually suits my style. But is this the sort of thing that you like, My Lord? My curiosity is piqued now at this revelation." The unmentionable is certainly fancier than she expected Arborens to be familiar with. Finishing up the remainder of her beverage, she sets her cup down and pushes it to the side as a show that she is done.

Declan does not shy from the woman's gaze, although in time his expression may turn toward mild concern - a natural bit of worry over what she might be thinking or have to say when she finally does speak. But when she does, he relaxes a bit, evidently finding her words unsurprising. "Well, you said you have never had such a thing, so I can see that you would not be sure how well it suited you. And obviously, it is not meant as a day to day fashion." Her question stumps him momentarily, or at least, has him work to formulate an answer. "I wouldn't say that I like such things as a rule, or dislike them," he finally begins. "I'm not precisely a great connoisseur of women's fashion. But when the wmoan at the shop showed it to me I did think I would like it, or like seeing it on you?" A pause, and he wonders further, "Does my admitting such distress you, my lady? We are to be wed, and I do not feel any shame in admitting it."

"I do not particularly consider this to be woman's fashion, Lord Declan." Ariana says in as level a tone that she can, but this time a small smile is brought to her lips, the blush at her cheeks slowly fading away and she has her mask on once again. "It is not anything that I can wear out in public, nor anything that I can wear for you to show me off in." These words come out as a light reminder that she does expect to be shown off and in the most fabulous of clothing. "It was merely.." And here she cannot help but furrow her brow the more she thinks of the garment, "something that I did not expect to cross your mind. Especially, at this point in our relationship. We are only starting to get to know one another, My Lord, so please understand when I say that such gifts might actually… alarm a woman about a man's intentions." Or fantasies or any such vile ideas as that. There is no real response given about the fact that the young Lord feels no shame in his openness and instead, she shifts to turn in her seat and slowly begins to rise, "It was a pleasure, My Lord, truly, but my duties call."

"Well, I suppose not in the usual sense, although they are still most assuredly feminine garments of careful design, made to enhance the beauty of the wearer - all things that are also true of the more usual sorts of fashion," Declan points out. "I do take your point, but it is hardly as if you will ever lack for making public fashion statements. What could I really contribute to such, when you are the one picking out outfits for me already?" He does have a point, there! "You say that we are just starting out, but the courtship has already been a month. If I have offended, then you have my deepest apologies and my assurance that my intentions do not violate the boundaries of our courtship. But courtship ends in marriage, and I would also fear for us to go to the ceremony as… no more than polite friends. A stronger union is born of comparability and genuine affection, after all." He bows his head when she pleads her retreat. "Of course. Thank you again for coming, my Lady, for your kind touch and the information you were able to bring me, as well as the pleasure of your company."

While she doesn't looks as if she is frantically trying to gather her things up to hurry and depart from the conversation, there is an bit of urgency in some of her movements. Ariana takes up the tablet from the table and attaches it to the belt at her waist as she continues to listen to Declan talk. A nod is given here and there, though she makes no response whatsoever regarding his apology if his actions had offended her. She tries her best to not insult the heir to one of the Paramount Houses, so her mostly polite demeanor and forced smiles come to the forefront all the more often. Not that this is anything new, she wears the same mask when in most company. However, when Declan goes on about this stronger union and genuine affection… this makes her move just slightly quicker than she had before and very soon, she has risen to stand with the medkit in hand. "I am sure that such feelings will grow over time, My Lord. As I do expect happens in nearly every political match that is made. Over time, the bond between husband and wife is strengthened and they act in unity of sorts. This I have no doubts about even with our own marriage. You are also very welcome. If there is anything more that you need of me, do not hesitate to ask." Gracefully, she lowers herself into a bow once more and prepares to move out towards the Ways.

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