12 XII. The Cousin

Magnus was looking at the looming castle before the footman was opening the door to his carriage. He stepped down from the carriage before the footman moved to get his traveling trunk to get it to his bedchambers.

He was still getting used to the hustle and bustle of the Red Cast as he was used to the quiet and serene life of Fiktown. Well, there was no more of that here. He was tugging at his gloves as the butler came to meet him and bowed to him.

"My lord, the king, and the queen are waiting for you in the drawing-room later in the evening. They wished that you have a pleasant journey today?" the butler said as Magnus was looking at the butler. He nodded before he was looking around and spotted someone that was leaning against the entrance of the castle.

The gentleman was smirking in his direction. Magnus narrowed his eyes.

"Thank you. I assume that one of my valets will know where my chambers are?" he asked the butler before he nodded. Magnus was still tugging at his gloves before he handed them over to the butler along with his hat and coat.

"I will draw the bath for you then, my lord,"

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"Thank you very much. That would be most welcome," he said, still looking at the gentleman that was leaning at the wall, inspecting his fingernails. As the butler was making his way into the castle, Magnus went to meet the man that was smirking as if he was challenging Magnus to come and fight him.

Well, maybe he will.

"So, you're the person that will be marrying Christy later," the gentleman said as he was looking up and down as Magnus was crossing his arms in front of his chest. The gentleman smirked as he was nodding at him.

"I can't see why my aunt and uncle approved of you. You're not the right person for Christy," he added before Magnus was looking at him. he wore the best waistcoat that was embroiled with silver. Then, he saw the crest that was at the edge of his waistcoat.

It was a griffin.

The royalty has their own crest to symbolize their importance in polite society. The Donavan, which was the King and Queen, and Her Royal Highness the princess, would wear the dragon on their crest for it was the symbol for their family.

Then, the griffin in silver would mean someone that has a connection to royalty. Someone like the royal relative of the King and Queen. The cousins of the princess.

So, this gentleman was a Quinnston then.

"Then, you would know that you are talking to your future cousin-in-law then, Quinnston," Magnus said before the gentleman was looking at him. Then, he smirked.

"Not even married and he is being bossy as ever," he mumbled before Magnus was narrowing his eyes to slit at the stranger.

"We'll have to see what will happen when you did marry the princess but of course, that would still be on the debate for you never met her yet," the gentleman said before he was walking away. Magnus was starting to get irritated by this audacious attitude from this man.

Let alone a stranger to him, even when he was related to his betrothed.

"And may I know the name of the gentleman that was betting against me for my own wedding?" Magnus asked as the gentleman glanced over his shoulder and smirked. Then, he turned and bowed at him.

"Vincent Quinnston, at your service. Though, I would not suggest you ask for mine if you know what the price will be," he said before he left Magnus alone as he stood there under the archway as he looked at the retreating figure of Lord Vincent Quinnston.

*****

After that awkward encounter with one of the cousins—for Magnus heard that there were six of them altogether—Magnus made his way to the new bedchambers that he will be staying in during his stay at the castle. It was located in the east wing while the princess' tower was on the other side of the castle, on the west wing.

He can see that they were trying to keep him out of her reach than before their introduction to each other.

Magnus was led by his valet to the chambers before he helped to get the traveling clothes off his body. Magnus was sweating and thankfully, the butler has prepared the bath for him. After he removed all his clothes, the valet left him alone as Magnus was bathing inside the copper bathtub.

He turned to look at the city from the window of his bathing chamber. They were overlooking the crowded place and the busy streets of Red Cast. He was taking a rag and a soap that smelled like evergreen before he lathered it and washed his body. After he was done, he got out of the bathtub and the valet dressed him p.

He was wearing a Ditto suit tonight in the color of black, it was a formal set up with the matching breeches, waistcoat, and coat in black. The only thing that was not black was his shirt underneath his waistcoat. Even his boots were black leather.

The evening was fast approaching before the butler was asking Magnus to follow him to the grand dining hall. They were taking the stairs as Magnus' room was located on the third floor and the butler was making a twist and turned that got Magnus dizzy with the directions to get to the dining hall alone.

Perhaps I should have the valets memorize them all, he thought before the butler was opening the huge oak doors and he was looking at the long table that consisted of the King and his queen as well as the gentleman from earlier.

Vincent Quinnston.

Magnus bowed before the king stood up and ushered him inside the grand dining hall. It was enormous and the candle lights were illuminating the room as the chandeliers were hanging at the ceiling to brighten the room.

"Magnus, come here, lad," the king said as Magnus walked up to the king before he bowed. But the king will not have the formal setting as he hugged Magnus and he did not know what to do. Surely this was not the protocol for a king to hug his subject.

Perhaps he was the exception, being the future son in law and all.

"Come, lad, come. Have some dinner. I'm sure you are famished from your travel," the king said before the servant was helping him to get into the seat next to Vincent. He sat and the maids were busy serving him.

"Wine?" the king asked before Magnus nodded. Who would dare to refuse him after all? Vincent made a snort before he covered it with a cough as the king was looking at his nephew.

"I heard so much about you, my dear. I'm sure your grandmother was thrilled to have you here," the queen said as Magnus was sipping the wine before he was smiling at the queen.

"Yes, I am quite sure she will be thrilled," Magnus said before the king was talking about something that covered the state of affairs of Caga. He did not know if he should be hearing all this at the expanse of him being an outsider.

"A word of advice, Flemington. Do not make yourself looked like a fool or my aunt and uncle would surely dismiss you unfit for Christy," Vincent whispered as the king and the queen were talking to each other.

"I'm sure you will be happy of that prospect then," Magnus said before he was cutting the meat and stuffed it into his mouth. Vincent smirked as Magnus looked at him in the corner of his eyes.

"Oh, it will be my pleasure but I'm sure my cousin will make it as her statement to refuse you later," Vincent said confidently before Magnus resisted to roll his eyes.

Considering that he was in the polite company of the king and queen of the realm.

"Then I have an advice for you as well," Magnus whispered to Vincent before the bastard was leaning toward him.

"You should get a new hobby. Meddling in someone else's business is really for a scandalmonger, surely you are not one of them, Vincent," he said before the cousin was choking on his drink. Magnus smiled before he was sipping on his wine as the queen was concerned about Vincent.

"Are you alright, my dear?" his aunt asked before Vincent smiled as he was dabbing his mouth with a napkin.

"Never better, Aunt, never better," Vincent said as Magnus turned to look at him. Vincent was glaring at him before he continued to eat his dinner.

One for Flemington, zero for Quinnston.

*****

Casey was looking at the faint light of dusk as the bandits were moving northwest toward Norkins. She was tied to a horse in case that she got any idea to escape. And her knife that she took from the manor was not in her hands.

She needed to improvise if she wanted to make out of the forest alive. There's only one bargaining chip left for him.

"Hey!" she called after the leader before he turned as Casey was smiling at him.

"Can I use the bushes?" she said, hoping that the bandits will understand that she was trying to say that she was about to pee. She will not pee in front of these horrible people.

"Do ye hear that? She wants to use the bushes," one of them said before the others were laughing. But Casey was not focusing on others as she was looking at the leader. He was not laughing before he nodded at her guard.

"One minute," he said before Casey was led off to the bushes. She tried her best to make the sound of peeing before she was scanning the forest. She needed to make a sign so that people know that she was being kidnapped and on the way to Norkins. So, she dropped something precious as she pulled the signet ring and dumped it on the ground.

"Are you done?" the leader asked before Casey was cleaning up and got out of the bushes.

"All done,"

"Let's move it. I hope you will last longer than that," the leader said before Casey was tied again to the mare that she stole, and off they went to Norkins. Casey turned to look at the bushes that she put her signet ring, hoping that someone—anyone—would find it, and made its way to the castle.

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