By Faldrun’s fiery balls, she’d begged him incessantly for trials until he finally gave in, until he caved and agreed to go to some sarding social event because he was nobility, because he could get her in with his name alone. The diminutive gossip columnist would nightly lean on his worktable with the coyest of needy expressions, Fern admittedly far from inexperienced in the print room of the Rynmere Gazette having started her career where Caius now willingly worked the breaks of his night away. Only she had the gift of gab and social abilities the northern noble had never been arsed to perfect and as the blonde fluttered her eyelashes and promised him a good time if he would just please take her with him to a Venora’s art show—please—he finally acquiesced.
As a student of the Arts himself, he was somewhat obligated not only by station as nobility in Andaris but also by at least one of his professors. While he’d never taken a sculpture class, he’d heard a variety of opinions on Tristan Venora’s work, none of which he’d been able to quite verify with his own. So, if nothing else, it was about time he saw what all the talk was about, especially considering it wasn’t just another game of smearing the Venora name in the mud.
Fern Llewellyn knew how to dress the part, her expensive and achingly complimentary dress clearly a splurge from her salary just so she could rub shoulders with high society. The young Gawyne couldn’t complain—it wasn’t as if he hadn’t flirted with the gossip columnist over metal type with ink smudged on his sarding stupid face before. She’d put up with it, but his work kept his nights and his studies kept his days. Most of that was on purpose, perhaps, for Caius wasn’t a socialite. This was a rare outing and when the young writer slipped her arm in his with a chuckle, he felt an uncanny rush of bravado that compelled him to make the effort, even if it meant enduring the presence of his own kind, of noble kind.
Bogs, it was exhausting, too, and while they weren’t at all early by any means, the young Gawyne looked forward to a few drinks while the pair wandered the art exhibits—some new and some old—with Fern asking questions of her tall, familiar escort. She asked about types of paint and styles, she asked about his interpretations, and she wondered things out loud with him as only a gossip columnist could do, quizzing him on the faces he saw, their Houses, their habits, their scandals. Caius kept up as best he could, feeding her curiosities while he pretended to enjoy himself, Fern more than happy to keep her hands on him in a way that would have otherwise been inappropriate in the Gazette.
By the time they made their way toward the main exhibit, he’d found himself to the end of just enough alcohol to feel witty and loose, his normal sarcasm softening at the edges into the kind of conversation that made his coworker giggle and roll her eyes instead of blink at him blankly. The works of Tristan were large, larger than Caius had expected, and while Fern was careful not to name names, she was clearly glancing around the room to see who’d come out to support the young Venoran Duke of Oakleigh.
Contemporaries, it was the northern Lord who sought the Duke out by his face, offering a smile before Fern curled fingers into the deep violet velvet of his dress jacket,
"Look at that, printer’s diri."
She teased him with Basilius’ term of printmaking endearment, and in her dress, she could call him whatever the Fates she wanted. The gossip columnist pointed toward the large head that dominated the room, momentarily ignoring all of the other interesting things that caught the mixed blood’s gaze, "Come on, I’ve got to see the face—"
Sard it all.
Fern dragged the taller Gawyne around in time with another handful of visitors, and as they approached, the whole sculpture moved! Not only did the soapstone head slowly roll toward them, but it’s eyes seemed to wash over them with hideously cruel judgement and it screamed! Everyone made noises of horror and surprise, and even Caius couldn’t help himself, the whole experience way more than he’d been expecting. His coworker practically crawled into his jacket—again, not a bad thing in his warmly buzzed mind—before she began to laugh.
It was, unfortunately, the kind of laugh that broke all illusions of attractiveness.
She was pretty, she bordered on the perfect with her use of print terms and her wit, but then, honestly, her laugh was horrible. The printmaker’s apprentice swallowed a frown and laughed with her as if to make to hide it in embarrassment from the small crowd, the others with them clapping and audibly admiring the terrifying experience.
"Alright, let’s introduce me. I have to ask about that thing."
Fern giggled, her hands all over him in a way that somewhat assuaged the horror of the sculpture and her laugh, dragging him toward Tristan once the Venora appeared to break away from another admirer.
Caius inhaled sharply, exhaling his awkwardness, and offered the Duke another broader, more genuine smile and a respectful bob of his body, "Well met, Duke of Oakleigh. I don’t recall if we’ve actually been formally introduced,"
Maybe arcs ago, but certainly not as adults, not since the second born had been away from Fort Gawyne as a student, as a refugee from noble expectations. He clearly didn’t enjoy introducing himself as Lord, but that’s what he was, "I’m Lord Caius Gawyne, second son of Baron Frederick Gawyne and fellow student of creative pursuits. This is Fern—"
The gossip columnist grinned and curtseyed, far from shy, "Fern Llewellyn, columnist with the Rynmere Gazette. It’s my pleasure, Duke. Would you do us the honor of a guided tour through your work?"
Caius’ smile faltered a little and while he wanted to apologize for his date’s forwardness and her unveiled motive, he couldn’t. She’d promised to make the evening worth his trouble.
Ledger placeholder for jacket
House Colors (Violet) Velvet Jacket
3 gn x .25 (size) x 8 (velvet) x 4 (purple) = 120gn