Teddy stared at himself hard in the looking glass, his brow furrowed at the reflection. Something was off, but he couldn't quite place it. The dark green doublet was exquisitely crafted, with apple red and gold filigree lining it, all culminating in a rose sewn onto the breast in a gorgeous green-red-gold threading. His breeches were soft and supple, bending and bulging in all the right places. Even his shoes were deliberately shined and chosen. This trial was an important one for Teddy, and he couldn't afford to mess it up.
Which is why the discomfort with his look disquieted him so much. His hair was expertly tousled to look as if he simultaneously just rolled out of bed and attended an upscale gala, and his piercing blue eyes shone with their usual mischief. His lips were fuller today, he decided arrogantly, but still something was amiss. Eyebrows? Flawless. Blemishes on his skin? None. Stubble? Shaved accordingly. But no matter what it was, he couldn't figure out what wasn't the visage of perfection. With a grunt and a sigh, he twirled away from the looking glass, contenting himself to his subpar appearance. Perhaps Lazuli wouldn't notice. Even if the Baroness did, perhaps she could give the attractive Venora the benefit of the doubt. Even the most beautiful rose wasn't perfect.
As he went about finishing up his preparations, he hummed and thought of his cousin, Alistair. A few trials past, a letter arrived from the future Duke of Venora, explaining to Theodore that it was his familial duty to go to this Warrick, to treat with her after rumor spread of her new nickname, 'The Lion's Lamb'. Teddy hadn't heard it before Alistair wrote it, but he could understand why it would embarrass the young baroness. Especially after Teddy heard the whispers of her torture, she would be in a fragile state. And with Zvezdana's attempt at a power grab, Alistair feared that Warrick would stray away from the Venoras should the coming war take a turn. Though it was his duty, Teddy relished the idea of visiting Lazuli.
What a way to break up the tedium. His grin was eternal. He remembered Lazuli, though the image in his head may have been one constructed from fancy rather than embossed by memory. She was a pretty girl, slight, but who wasn't? Well, the Warricks, usually, but it's better to be pretty and desired than ugly and strong. The strength of her arm didn't stop her from being cut, but the radiance of her smile might stop her from being cut again. And if not, at least The Lion's Lamb would be embraced by the Thorns of the Rose. If all went swimmingly.
As he entered the carriage toward Fort Warrick, his mind wandered. He still hummed the tune that had been floating around in his head, but he couldn't ascribe any words to it. It was a lilting melody, sad and powerful and slow. A few times he tried his voice to it, but the words were just placeholders, something to make sound to as to flesh out the tune more. The ride was long and tedious. He knew he'd have all the time in the world to come up with lyrics to the song.
As long and tedious as it was, though, Teddy's arrival in Fort Warrick was sooner than he'd thought. He stretched languidly as he stepped from the carriage, shunning the hand offered to help him down. He smoothed the velvety doublet, removing any pesky creases that could turn his appearance from stunning diplomat to stunned dipshit in seconds. This was a very serious matter, and one that he would not dare let a few wrinkles ruin. He turned and held a manicured hand out, awaiting the selected choice from the finest sommelier that Venora had to offer. He was given a dark green glass bottle, and when he sniffed at the cork in the top, he knew he'd made the right choice in not choosing himself.
The cork had a sweet smell to it, but not too much so. Hints of cherry and spice, likely nutmeg, wafted into his nose. He smiled in spite of himself. He rarely showed his pleasure to the servants, lest they get lazy in their duties. But he nodded and marched to the door of the large plantation house, stifling his rising apprehension with a deep breath. A loud knock from delicate knuckles rang through the parlor beyond the door, and it wasn't long before a servant shuffled down and opened the door.
"Theodore Venora for the baroness, please." His tone was light and pleasant, as smooth as a fine cream on a hot day. He offered the servant an innocent smile, holding the cherry wine in both hands and cradling it against his lithe form as if it were more precious than a child. And to Teddy, it might as well have been. Children were far less calming than a nice Venoran red. The thought returned the smile to his face.
As he was led to a large room with a fireplace, Teddy's mind wandered again. Warrick was nice, sophisticated... But he wished that Lazuli would have come to Venora. When his letter reached her, she was still in quite the predicament, and he supposed he understood. But the beauty of the Venoran countryside, the music and cuisine... What better to cheer a young woman up than oysters and lilting harps? The thought aroused Teddy slightly, and he shifted in his seat so that his tight trousers would give nothing away. He set the unopened bottle on a heavy desk, instead looking around and admiring the artwork and craftsmanship that undoubtedly always adorned such places. He knew he wouldn't wait long for the baroness, so he just contented himself with humming that tune. He would put lyrics to it.