Oh, the castle. The glorious, majestic castle. How beautiful and bold it was, sitting atop a hill, overlooking the bustling city below, with the citizens preparing the buildings and streets for that night's procession for the princess.
And Orion Castille thought that every bit of it was absurd.
He sat atop his horse, near the stables, as he gazed at the city below, watching as the people hurried to decorate the buildings and light posts with gorgeous flowers and ribbons, scattering peony petals along the streets while minstrels and other musicians strummed their lutes and plucked their lyres. The young knight grimaced slightly. We're holding such a large party for a girl who was simply lucky to have been born a princess. She never accomplished anything, and yet we treat her as if she has granted the wish of world peace. Orion dismounted his horse before stroking her nose. "It's the servants, maids, and knights that do all the work to keep the royal courts running smoothly, isn't it, Artey?" Orion uncharacteristically cooed, receiving a quiet whinny from the Arabian mare. "Of course it is, but that's the way life works. It doesn't do much good to complain. At least I have a decent-paying job." As Orion handed Artemesia's reins to a stable servant, he quickly stroked her neck. "I'll come back here for ya after the ball. It's not mandatory for me to stick around during the evening city procession," he said, talking to the mare as if she could understand and speak his language. Orion's hazel-green eyes bore into the servant's eyes. "She is tame, but I advise you to give her nothing but the best food, water, and grooming. Carrots or apples at dinner time, clean water from the courtyard well, and hair brushing promptly at sunset. She acts no different than a human woman, and she will have nothing less." The servant did his best to keep a neutral expression, but his left eyebrow quirked slightly at the odd instructions. Orion quirked an eyebrow right back. "I'm telling you this for your own sake, not hers. You don't want to deal with a spoiled mare who isn't getting what she wants when she wants." Artemesia whinnied again, short and loud in protest, and Orion laughed. "What did I tell you? She's spoiled rotten and she knows it!" And with that, the knight waved to the stable servant, turned on his heel, and began walking towards one of the castle's back doors, leaving said servant shaking his head at the outgoing knight.
Josephine listened to Lachlan's and Stephania's talking, staying silent for the rest of the ride. After some time, the noble noticed how Stephania was always fidgeting to sit up straighter or adjust her sitting position, perhaps to appear a bit more lady-like. Josephine's serious face softened. "There's no need to try so hard," is what Josephine wanted to say, but she couldn't bring herself to say anything; she didn't want Stephania to know that she had noticed; after all, the woman wanted to appear that she was sitting naturally like that, right? Then it would do her self-esteem no good if Josephine were to state that she had noticed that she was trying. So Josephine said nothing and continued to observe the scenery as they passed the gates, resorting to sending quick, kind glances to Stephania once in a while.
During one of said glanced, however, Jospehine's eyebrows knitted together slightly. The woman's neck was bare. Hadn't Stephania been wearing some sort of necklace earlier that day, at the village? A pendant of some sort? Josephine opened her mouth slightly to address the question, when Stephania seemed to reach for the now-gone necklace, asking Lachlan if he had seen it fall anywhere.
"Perhaps it fell off at the village or city..." Josephine murmured, feeling sympathy for Stephania.