- No ! This one is ugly ! Get it off immediately! the Conflagration Rathian roared again.
- Yes mistress ... The chamberlains sighted as they did so, exasperated by the perfectionism of the eldest princess.
- Is there anything else you can show me ?! The princess growled, irritated.
"I'm afraid we're out of ideas," one of the Felynes meowed.
- WHAT ?! I can't introduce myself to guests like that! That's unthinkable!
- But ... We've already done your entire wardrobe, my lady! another servant moaned.
- It's not my problem ! Find me something beautiful to wear, sweet Teostra! Check out Blister's one ! the wyvern scolded.
- We're on it, Lady Tourmaline ! the Felynes obeyed, frightened.
The vermilion-pointed Rathian glared at her servants while they hurried to Blister's room.
"Grrr ... I hope they will find me an outfit! Gosh, it's my wedding ! » Tourmaline thought.
She lowered her head, suddenly thoughtful.
"My marriage ... I wanted it, I was looking for it so much, but I'm not
really sure I want to bound with Rakurai...Ngh. As if I ever had the choice
anyway ... "
She was anxious. Since she was 17, her majority, she dreamed of marrying one of these foreign princes, gallant and courteous, as they were described in tales for hatchlings. When she was told about her future wedding, she was first overjoyed, then skeptical when she had learned that her lover was none other than Rakurai II, from the Empire of same name. She knew the kingdom was at war with them for ten years, but that they had recently signed an armistice, much to the surprise of all, because no territorial agreement had been concluded yet. Later, she learned from Zenith, secretly, that her marriage was only a disguise for hide the delivery of the elder princess as a war tribute to the Thunderlord Emperor. She wanted to rebel at first, but then realized it was too late. Besides, she understood that it was the only way to end this war that has been exhausting the Rathlands for now a decade.
Tourmaline had therefore accepted her role in the project of a new peace.
That didn't stop the Rathian from feeling downhearted when meditating on
her future life in Voltarr, the capital of the Rakurai Empire, far from her brothers and sisters she loved so much ...
- Mistress ! We may have what you need! the Felynes said, hopeful, bringing a chest full of ornaments.
The flying wyverne snapped out of her thoughts.
- Ah? Show me that, she replied, exploring the contents of the said chest with her wing claws.
She then noticed a silver flame shaped pendant. The one she gave Blister for her eighth birthday.
This one is perfect! the red spikes Rathian said, delighted, giving it to one of the Felynes so he could tie it around her neck. And now, a tail cover ... Let's see, a silver one to match would be perfect ... Ah, there it is ! Hey, if I were told I would find my clothing in Blister's stuff, I wouldn't believe it !
She strutted for a few minutes in front of the mirror before checking the time.
- OH NO ! It's already time! Tourmaline exclaimed before hurrying to the reception hall.
Her parents, the king and the queen Khryselios and Chryselene, were waiting for her in front of the front door. The two royal Raths were wearing ornaments of the same color and luster as their robes, silver for the Silver Rathalos and gold for the Golden Rathian. They welcomed their promised daughter with kindness.
- How beautiful you are, the queen said gently.
- Yes, you are splendid, the king added.
- Thanks Mother ! Thanks you too Father! I hope it'll be the best day of my life, the Rathian said sincerely, hiding her apprehension.
- It will be, I promise, her noble father smiles.
- The guests are all there now, how about you presenting yourself to Lord Rakurai before the feast begins? his tender mother proposed.
- Okay, Tourmaline accepted with slight bitterness.
At these words, the mother and the daughter entered the room.
The young Rathian was amazed to see so many people and animation. There were countless tables of appetizers, crystal decorations, garlands of rubies and emeralds, as well as countless guests.
- I've never seen so many people before, the older princess said in amazement, how many are them ?
- 300 guests. Including 120 Rakurian aristocrats, 170 Rathiens, and some Foamian courtiers, Chryselene replied.
- I must admit I'm feeling intimidated in front of so many people... the Rathian said.
- Don't worry, they're not going to eat you !
- I doubt it... Tourmaline murmured.
They crossed the crowd performing a dozen curtsies, as well as many presentations of the bride to the Rakurians, who observed her as if she was a living treasure.
"They have piercing and calculating eyes. It seems like they already consider me as their thing ... " the princess sighted inside her mind, shivering at each look intended.
- Here is Her Excellency Rakurai II, the Queen of the Rathlands announced, discreetly pointing to a large Zinogre with unusual colors.
The young green wyvern froze in front of the almost menacing build of the Thunderlord Zinogre.
- He is ...
- Imposing, yes. No one knows where he got his peculiar emerald color. As well as its amber fur. And his over developed right horn ... Let's introduce yourself to him, the Golden Rathian added.
- Yes... agreed the princess, intimidated.
"Dear Lunastra, he's huge ! He must be able to slay a dozen of Aponoths with a single claw. I hope he's not as scary as he looks, "she thought worriedly.
- Sir Rakurai, the queen bowed.
The huge Zinogre Feu-du-Ciel turned to face his interlocutor, a Popo appetizer skewered on one of his claws.
- Oh, good evening, Queen Chryselene, the emperor said in a pleasant voice. And ... Could it be my promise, Lady Tourmaline ?
The girl swung from one foot to the other with an awkward look.
- Yes, it's me, Your Excellence ...
The emerald fanged wyvern smirked.
- You are very shy, it seems ...
- Let's say that ... I'm not really used to being so surrounded, the red-tipped Rathian replied, looking away for a moment, blushing.
- Oh ! You will get used to it, my dear. I will organize sumptuous parties in your honor, there, in Voltarr, the Zinogre articulated honeyingly, you will enjoy living there even more than here, in Ignis.
The older princess shivered.
- I ... It must be beautiful over there ... she lied.
It is. My palace is one of the most majestic in all Solhatar, you know ... the emperor wolf boasted, swallowing his appetizer.
- Oh yes. You will see for yourself, darling, Messire Rakurai's palace is impressive, you will feel at home there, Chryselene approved.
She looked for a moment at her own mother like she was a traitor.
"She's just respecting usage ... But it's so frustrating to see her behaving like that ..." the red spiked Rathian gritted her teeth mentally.
She no longer knew what to say. Suddenly there was silence in the room, and Trumpet spoke to the guests, who turned to listen to him.
- Dear guests, thank you for honoring us with your presence tonight at this grand banquet, in honor of the marriage between Lady Tourmaline, the eldest daughter of Her Majesty Khryselios, and His Excellence Rakurai II, emperor of the Rakurai empire. You can now head to the reception hall, because the meal will be starting, the Qurupeco announced.
The assembly then began to disperse in order to get to the mentioned room.
- Finally ! I was starting to get damn hungry ... ! Would you mind to accompany me, Lady Tourmaline? the emperor wolf inquired, touching the throat and chin of the green wyvern with his claw.
Tourmaline swallowed, shivering again.
"By Teostra, this man is indecent and terrifying! What have I gotten myself into ? » She thought in horror.
- O-yes ... With joy, she released in a strangled voice, before following him.
- See you later, my dear ! her mother greeted, already returning to find her husband.
- See you later, Mother ... she said, in a voice so weak that she doubted she had even heard it.
When the future couple entered the reception hall, the majority of the guests had already sat around the various tables. She and Rakurai walked past many Rakurian aristocrats whom she forced herself to greet politely after the Emperor introduced her. He spoke of her in such a strange sweet way that he smelled of hypocrisy, but she let him do so, not having the right to speak in this type of situation. She contented herself with mimicking shy embarrassment in response to this sudden and unwanted praise. The Rakurians were even more picky than the Rathiens when it came to the role of women, docile and submissive, and it was better to not upset them. Even less the emperor.
Then she saw one of her brothers, Zenith, whom she discreetly nodded. He replied with a similar sign, and added a slight grimace, pointing to Rakurai with his chin. She smiles absently.
"He was right from the start. He seems to be a dirty guy. But it's too late now ... " she thought with a twinge of heart.
- You seem very pensive, Lady Tourmaline, what were you thinking about right now ? Rakurai asked, in a tone that cleverly concealed his curiosity.
- Oh, nothing, she said, blushing, seeing so many people reminds me of my 17th birthday, that's all ...
The Thunderlord Zinogre pretended to accept this justification, but the princess felt he had been alerted by her somewhat abnormal behavior. She had to be more discreet if she wanted to communicate with her brothers and sisters in his presence, so as not to arouse any more suspicion.
He had obviously lied about the fact that he was hungry, because the presentation session dragged on, and she was greatly relieved when her lover decided to join the royal table alongside his father and mother, as well as of the emperor's three sons, to let the meal begin.
- My friends, let the feast begin! Rakurai declared, toasting, addressing his people.
After a noisy approval typical of the Nordics, everyone drank their cup of fermented Mandrake, and the cooks began to bring the appetizers, a carpaccio of Popo decorated with spices from cold regions such as Mistentoe, Snow herbs, or dusk roots. This was giving a light and fresh taste, which the Rakurians truly enjoyed.
- This dish is exquisite. Your people really know how to receive, the emperor wolf said to the bride.
- It's thanks to Knart, Tourmaline explained timidly. He does a great job. He's been the king's chef for twelve years now.
- Very good work, he adds. What do you think, my sons? he asked, turning to his heirs, three Zinogres with unusual shades.
- Perfect, the first said, almost entirely white, except for his bright green horns and sapphire claws.
- They have the merit of having adapted their menu to their guests, the second continued, with ebony breastplate and white fur.
- Not bad, not bad, the last agreed, the scariest of the three. But our cooks have more experience in cutting meat, the lunar gray Zinogre with prominent horns and claws argued.
The emperor turned to face the princess again.
- See ? Even my honorable descendants support my opinion.
- Indeed. Thank you, she said, bowing slightly, still as uneasy from the mere presence of the Thunderlord.
Half an hour later, the main dishes arrived, and Knart came to greet the guests in person, after all the plates were brought to the thirty tables. The main dish was a piece of grilled Aptonoth meat with some spicy herbs, with a slice of Bullfango ham - also grilled- . It tooks the guests more than an hour this time to finish it. Time that Rakuraï filled by talking with his bride about her future life in the Nordic lands, of all the gifts he would give her, while she listened to him with a distracted ear.
- I will make paint a portrait of you, the emperor's thick voice whispered in Tourmaline's ear, who did not dare to reject him for fear of upsetting the Zinogre, and contented herself with ignoring him and his breath blooming alcohol.
« He's disgusting. Really disgusting. And more and more drunk. » the princess thought, seeing the emperor's full again glass of Mandrake with concern.
- Did I told you you were strikingly beautiful ? the electric wolf whispered.
- Yes, many times already ... Tourmaline replied, as politely as possible.
- I don't think I've said it enough yet. I must say your grace only matchs your tender mother's one ... Our Nordic courtesans cannot boast of such a ravishing size, you know ...
He almost said these words while drooling.
- I think you're praising me too much, sir.
- I'm not lying ! Kirin strikes me if I do ! the Thunderlord falsely rebelled.
" Lunastra burns me to ashes if this Zinogre is not the most hypocritical man I have ever seen in my whole life » the Rathian sighted mentally.
- I see you're worried, but do not fear me, I'll be the most respectable of husbands, Rakuraï smiles, his exposed fangs expressing way more fear than comfort.
"Oh my god, why do I have to suffer such a punishment, although I've never offended Our Lord in my life? I must be cursed ... " Tourmaline thought.
The rest of the meal went more calmly. Knart did indeed come to the royal table, and after receiving the congratulations of the Rathien royal couple, he conversed for a long time with the Rakurian Emperor on the best ways to season meat. The discussion then drifted on the best possible cooking for a round of Popo, then on the ideal temperature for forging a copper breastplate, as Rakuraï requested. The Agnaktor, on the other hand, was delighted to find someone sharing his passion for gustatory and warlike craftsmanship, and was enjoying his chat with the Zinogre for hours. Tourmaline took advantage of these hours of respite to discreetly leave the table, in order to find her brothers and sisters, the Thunderlord having temporarily forgotten her. The elder princess joined them at their table, reserved for the Rathien heirs.
- Hey, isn't that Tourmaline! Blister exclaimed.
- I hope this Rakurai-guy isn't too clingy, Phoenix quipped.
- From afar, he looked even more drunk, Zenith laughed.
- This guy have gobbled up all the popo appetizers ... Blast grunted.
Seeing them all like this, teasing her, comforted her a little after this meal spent in the company of the emperor. She sat down next to them and told them of her dismay about this Zinogre, while answering their questions. Only Arsenic remained silent, but she had a smile on her face, betraying her contentment.
- Is it true that he's a little weird? Phoenix asked discreetly.
- Kind of, yes. He spent the meal complimenting me while drinking. A perfect hypocrite.
- Nordic people sure are peculiar ... Always talking loudly and getting drunk as soon as possible ... Blast meditated, scratching his chin.
- And vulgar, Zenith spat.
- Don't say that, Zenith. They just have different customs, Arsenic noted, speaking for the first time since the banquet began.
The conversation continued for a while, then Tourmaline thought reasonable to return to her lover.
- Okay ... I'll have to go. I'll return and say goodbye to you later, the red-tipped Rathian said sadly.
- Oh no, don't leave yet ! the younger brother said, pouting.
- Come back quickly, sis', Zenith spoke.
- Yes, Blister and Blast nodded.
Arsenic just nodded in understanding.
Tourmaline therefore left the heirs' table to come back to the royal guests.
- Oh, Lady Tourmaline! I must tell you something, Rakurai hailed.
- Pardon ? she asked, not knowing what he wanted to say.
- I have just been told about a very important affair in Puolorag ... I fear it cannot wait until tomorrow ... I'm going to leave tonight to get there as soon as possible. Therefore, you will join me in Voltarr tomorrow morning ... Your father told me that he could send a carriage to make the journey, so everything is settled, the Zinogre announced. You can stay at the castle until tomorrow morning. I think you can take this opportunity to rest, my dear.
- Oh, that's nice, I was afraid I would run out of time preparing my things... Nothing serious, I hope? She politely inquired.
- Let's say that this requires my presence as soon as possible. But nothing that jeopardizes peace between our two nations, I guarantee, the emperor said.
- Okay, the princess smiles. See you tomorrow, Your Excellence.
She curtsied, then left the reception hall, and retired to her room some time later.
"Tomorrow will be a long day," she thought as her servants took off her ornaments.
The next day, the princess hurried to gather her things in order to leave shortly after dawn. Before leaving, she went to greet the servants, Knart, as well as each member of her family, who were waiting for her in the main hall.
- Goodbye, big sister, her watery brothers and sisters said, while embracing her.
- I will miss you terribly... The red-spiked Rathian said.
- Bon voyage, Zenith breathed out.
- I hope you'll be happy there, Arsenic added.
- You will come back one day, aren't you ? Phoenix asked.
She tried to reassure them. She did not know herself when Rakurai would give her the opportunity to return to see her family, if he did. Her parents then came to give her their blessing.
- May Teostra protect you, my daughter, Khryselios wished.
- May Lunastra protect you from misfortunes, Chryselene said gently, touching her shoulders with her wings in a protective gesture.
After saying goodbye, the carriage pulled by Aptonoths left the castle and headed for Voltarr. The accompanying convoy was made up of four Rathalos guards, in case they was attacked by outcasts, still present in the aftermath of the war in which the states found themselves.
By the middle of the day, the convoy had already made half of the distance, and the Rakur border was close. Tourmaline, already starting to tire, looked at the forest landscape with reduced interest.
« Brrr ... It must be freezing, over there in Voltarr, she whispered to herself. I hope i'll not freeze on the spot... »
She dreamed for a moment.
"I wonder what the "majestic" palace of Messire Rakurai looks like ..." she thought.
Suddenly, the voice of one of the Rathalos guard rose before being silenced.
- ALERT! WE ARE ATT...
It sounded like it had been hit by a projectile.
- What's going on ? she asked the coachman.
- I have no idea, but it doesn't sounds good, he replied with masked anguish.
Suddenly, the body of the Rathalos guard crashed like a stone on the ground. Dead.
- BY TEOSTRA! He is dead ! the Rathian roared in horror.
- Don't panic my lady, the others will take care of this ... AAAAARGHH!
The Felyne coachman had just been grabbed by a huge talon and thrown out of the vehicle.
- Sir! Are you fine ?! she cried.
"By Lunastra, but what's going on ?! "
She then got out of the carriage, only to find that the driver had just been beheaded on the spot. The princess roars in terror when she notices the lifeless bodies of the three other guards, also lacerated.
- But .. B-but ... W-Why ... she stammered, in tears.
- Sorry, lady. Nothing personal, but I'm afraid you have to die, a threatening voice hissed.
The Rathian turned around, ready to fight.
- WHO ARE YOU ? WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL ME?
" It's impossible. It must be an outcast... No one can want me dead ! " she thought quickly, overwhelmed by events.
- Ah, sorry, I can't say. But enough, I have to make sure you're dead as soon as the sun rise.
Suddenly, the attacker emerged from the forest. Fast as lightning, he swooped down on the green wyvern who could not block him with her wings, barely managing to escape his grip.
- You can't kill me! I represent the hope of peace between the Rakurai Empire and the Rathlands Kindom ! Why ?! she choked.
The assassin laughed sardonically.
- Because some need the war to keep going.
"But who can want such a thing ?! » Panicked the older princess.
- I'm not going to die ! I won't not let you compromise this peace ! The Conflagration Rathian growled.
- Sorry, but I think you've misunderstood. You are going to die.
- Not while I can fight ! Tourmaline roared, making her tail scrape against the ground, causing embers to scratch her adversary, who did not even blink.
Without answering, the murderer lunged at her, trying to imprison her between his claws. She narrowly avoided him, flew away and took the opportunity to spit a fireball at close range. His attacker countered the projectile with one of his wings, then replied with a tail blow, taking off too.
"Ouch ... I could never defeat him! Am I really going to die ... Like that? The Rathian thought, recovering from the shock.
Without warning, the unknown flying wyverne swooped down on her again, and lacerated her left flank with his wing claw, unbalancing her. Furious, she wanted to seize him in order to throw him away, but the assassin took the opportunity to overthrow her, causing her to fall instead.
The princess roared in pain, breaking her right wing when she crashed on the ground. She tried to get up, but collapsed.
- It's over, the murderer hissed, landing and immobilizing her with one talon on her valid wing, and the other on her throat.
Tourmaline struggled to get rid of the grip on her chin strap, in vain.
"This is the end. The peace to which all Rathiens aspired is going to be assassinated. "
- One last word ? The flying wyverne sarcastically asked.
The Rathian was overcome with desperate rage.
- What my parents have been trying to achieve for two years, you're going to ruin it in two seconds, she spat in his face with all the hatred she could express.
And the assassin cut her throat.