Duchess Ariana's visit to Litora

Surprisingly, the city of Irigutus had accommodations for people coming from the sky- Skyports, they called them, for Maquida riders coming in from other places, to dock their maquida and let them rest while they continue their business in the city. The place was empty today, reserved for the guests. When they get out of the skyport, they’re escorted by a guide- a woman with a single blue flower through her hair. As she guided them to the castle, they were met to what the Belsedori would have described as a fair temperature- the humans, however, were all bundled up- it was bitingly cold. Speaking of the humans, they looked different than the Belsedori probably expected- while both sexes were generally taller than Rosalia by a foot or more, Ariana was close in height to the women. Men were usually above the women by about 4-5 inches. Their garments would have also been suprising- women wore dresses with the main motif of green, floral patterns and such, while men were typically wearing furs. Furthermore, the men were almost all armed with arming swords, and in some cases bastard swords or longswords. Women were armed less commonly, and when they were, it was typically not with swords, but large staves of winding wood that widened at their tops and contained some kind of metal-like substance in their center, that got to about 4 feet tall. It seemed like those weapons were for a magic of some sort, and conversely, while few boys carried weapons, young girls almost always carried a smaller stick made out of the same winding wood that the staves were made of.

Ariana and Rosalia also witnessed a variety of small events on their way to the castle- a girl pointed her stick at a wilting flower, and the flower perked up as if it had just received nutrients and water. A small wolf pup (If they had seen a regular wolf pup before, they would have thought the pup quite big, however) tried to approach them to play, but a boy put his hand out in a way in which there was no way for the pup to see, and yet it walked back. A man was riding a horse without directing it with reins, yet it moved just as smoothly as if it was being directed with perfection. It seemed that both Amisan men and women used magic of some sort. Men and women walking together typically had flowers of some sort in their hair- those walking alone did not.

When they got to the castle, they would have probably noticed two things:

  1. from what they could see, the gardens looked immaculate, flowers put in stunning patterns and vibrant colors.

  2. the guards posted outside the castle gates were men, two massive white wolves by their side, armed with longswords.

INSIDE THE CASTLE

Duchess Flora and Duke Caes were speaking.
“They should be here in a few minutes, so i suggest that we turn the Sunstone-”
A servant came into the room, panting as if he had just run a long way. “Ma’am, the Cloud Fae are getting agitated- they’re refusing to leave the castle.”
Duchess Flora looked surprised. “Why is that?”
“They’re saying something about ‘snow demons’- apparently one of them spotted these supposed creatures outside, and they all flew inside with their husbands and children. I know the fae are usually timid, but mass hysteria just because of an imaginary creature-”
Caes interjected. “They aren’t imaginary- the guests have arrived. Go with the other servants who aren’t currently doing anything to try and calm them down.”

Flora spoke. “While you’re out there, turn the Sunstone Eminator* off. Caes, Lucia, we should probably meet them outside while we let the castle cool down”
Caes looks surprised. “You want us out there too? We don’t want to pry in on your diplomatic meeting.”
“As it stands, even with all you’ve told me, you’re the most knowledgeable with Belsedori at the moment. Besides, from what i’ve heard, they’ll be happy to see a familiar face.”
Caes lets out a sigh. “I suppose so.”
Lucia laughs. “Caes, why do you seem so nervous? You went there and came back fine- it can’t be that bad.”
“Sorry, I just had a… fearful premonition.”
*Sunstone Eminators take advantage of the fact that sunstone lets off heat as energy naturally over time and use purposefully impure sunstone to “Eminate” heat out at a more controllable rate then a fireplace.

In a few minutes, the castle gates opened, and the party of 3 stepped out to greet the guests.

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Behind the castle gates stood two figures. The taller one was Duchess Ariana L’arakar of Larinata, who was the main representative of Belsegallia during the visit. She was wearing the usual outfit of a Belsedori duchess: a short, mid-thigh-length, full-sleeve dress dyed white pants, a belt and a cloak dyed bright blue (although, because Belsedori have wings, this was more like a set of two wide, separate strips of fabric that extended from the collar to approximately 2 feet below the belt. The strips were also tucked under the belt to prevent them from becoming entangled with a Belsedori’s wings) in the primary color of the Duchy of Larinata, cloth gloves, and Belsedori-compatible (Belsedori have feet somewhat resembling that of a bird of prey. Each foot has five toes, four facing forward and one facing backwards so as to be opposable, all ending in hardened, sharp, curved talons of about 10 centimeters in length) shoes. Duchess Ariana herself was about 180 centimeters tall, with snow-white skin, hair, and feathers and faintly luminescent lavender eyes. Her hair was cut to about mid-neck length and relatively plain in comparison to her husband’s. In contrast to when Duke Caes saw her last, Ariana is now wearing what would be described as webbing gear covered in pouches and cases of various sizes (Belsedori have few flying mounts, and generally have to carry everything themselves when they fly).

”Ah, you must be Duchess Flora. And what a lovely surprise; if it isn’t my favorite Meyodori^ and what I can only assume to be his wife, here to see me and Rosalia as well. It’s so nice to see you again, and to be able to visit Ghratos. I must say, the weather here is so nice; I was told that terrestrial lands were almost uniformly uncomfortably hot, but this is quite a lovely climate that you have. It’s a shame that you humans don’t get to enjoy it like we do. Although, before I introduce myself to you, I did bring you a special gift as is customary for a married Belsedori staying in somebody else’s home; my consort Rosalia here has it.”

After saying this, Ariana makes a gesture to request Rosalia to present the gift.

For nearly the entire time that they’ve been in Amisa, the diminutive Duchescina Rosalia L’arakarie of Larinata has been timidly clinging to his wife’s arm with one hand and holding a collapsible parasol given to him in the other. Duchescina Rosalia was about 147 centimeters tall and aside from his chest was relatively slim in form compared to Ariana. He had very pale peach-colored skin and long, soft, honeydew-colored hair and feathers. His hair was kept very long and currently styled into a crown braid like High Princescina Yukari was wearing recently, and was also decorated with a white silk flower, a large white hair ribbon tied into a bow, and a butterfly-shaped hair clip made of silver. His bright magenta colored eyes glowed faintly from behind the translucent white face-obscuring veil that every married consort was expected to wear around women other than his wife and his mother.

Duchescina Rosalia was wearing a soft, pastel pink-colored dress decorated with abundant lace, flourishes, ribbons, bows, a large ribbon tied into a bow around his waist like a kind of belt, and a two-layer pleated skirt that reached down to about 10cm above the knee. Opaque white cloth stockings and colored cloth gloves, both decorated with a generous quantity of ribbons, bows, and lace margins, covered most of his limbs outside of about 5 centimeters of spacing each on his upper arms and thighs between his gloves & sleeves and his stockings & shorts. Rosalia also wore earrings and a necklace as well as a white wedding choker with a small bell on it. He was also wearing shoes, which unlike most of his outfit seemed to resemble Ariana’s. Perhaps the biggest change relative to his appearance when Duke Caes saw him last is the fact that he isn’t wearing his usual frilly apron, which is instead stored in one of the pouches that he was carrying. Rosalia too was wearing the webbing gear typical to Belsedori that have travelled by air, although his share of the luggage was barely under half that of what Ariana was carrying.

The most jarring quality about Rosalia for any human inexperienced with Belsedori would be his general appearance. Male Belsedori, in figure, facial features, voice, and in almost every other respect, were effectively identical in appearance to female Belsedori, and by extension female humans; in fact, in voice especially, they could even be considered to be more feminine (by common human standards, at least) than the women. The resemblance is so strong that some rumors say that male Belsedori don’t even exist. The easiest way for a non-Belsedori to tell the two Belsedori sexes apart was the fact that male Belsedori were almost always about 30-35 centimeters shorter and noticeably slimmer than their female counterparts, along with the fact that virtually adult male Belsedori are married and therefore wear white hair ribbons, veils, and wedding chokers.

After Duchess Ariana gestures, Rosalia slowly lets go of her arm and slots his parasol’s handle into a strap on his webbing gear to support it before letting go of it. He then reaches into one of the relatively few pouches that he’s carrying and pulls out a slightly shimmering glass bottle holding about a liter of an opaque white liquid before timidly approaching the Ghrateans with it, with the bell on his choker jingling faintly as he does so. As he approaches Duchess Flora, he makes a conscious effort to not make eye contact with her or with Duchess Lucia. After walking to within about 170cm of Duchess Flora, he does a tender curtsy before introducing himself. Even under the lacy and flowery but still relatively utilitarian “boys’” traveling gear that he was wearing, Duchescina Rosalia’s countenance is one defined by the ethereal, gentle, and paradoxically warm, yet delicate, frail, and timid beauty that Belsedori women like Ariana loved to cultivate in their consorts and in male Belsedori as a whole.

”Hello, Duchess Flora; my name is Duchescina Rosalia L’arakarie of Larinata. Thank you for welcoming us into your home; please accept this gift of milk from me as a gesture of friendship and generosity by our house towards you.”

After offering the bottle of milk to Duchess Flora, Rosalia retreats a few steps before standing and waiting rather awkwardly as if he’s expecting Duchess Flora to do something with him.

^Roughly translates to “sweetheart.” Diminutive term used by female Belsedori to refer to males.

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Both Duchess Flora and Lucia were quite surprised at the appearance of Ariana and Rosalia, despite Caes explaining it quite well- they were mainly caught off-guard by the sheer difference of dress and styling. Still, being nobles, they didn’t visually let this off very much, and Flora accepted the gift from Rosalia.

“Thank you for the gift, sir. We welcome you both to our home, the city of Irigutus, and the entire Duchy of Litora.”

With that, as if on cue, the two duchesses curtsy and Caes bows.
Caes speaks. “We are sorry to keep you outside for long, but we were not expecting you to arrive so early- I’m afraid the castle would be too warm for you two at the moment.”

Duchess Flora was wearing a more elegant version of the green dresses Amisan women wore- it was covered in a myriad of flower patterns in neat rows on it, and the symbol of Amisa- a tall green tree- on it. She was notably wearing a laurel wreath on her head rather then a flower in her hair. Xhaasan wear was less designed then that of the Amisans, but it was still elegant. Lucia was wearing a heavy dress for the cold, with yellow waves on it. Caes himself was wearing layers, with a yellow surcoat on top. Both of them wore a pin of the sun over their hearts- the symbol of Xhaasa.

Flora speaks once more. “Although it would be wise to wait on the inside of the castle, we would be pleased to show you around the gardens, or the city itself.”

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Duchess Ariana nods at Duchess Flora’s suggestion.

”I’m sure that Rosalia would love to see the castle gardens while we wait; he enjoys doing a lot of gardening himself, and seeing all of the terrestrial plant life sounds like something that he would enjoy quite a lot. Well, it’s actually me that does all of the gardening outside of picking the plants and where they’ll go; Rosalia’s a bit of a delicate flower himself, and I could never let him do so much strenuous, manual labor outside like that. But he loves looking at all of the flowers and other plants in our courtyard; I even had a few silk flowers made for him that mimic his favorite varieties. They look very different from the plants that you have in Amisa.”

Indeed, the ornament in Duchescina Rosalia’s hair looked quite unlike a normal flower. It superficially resembled a white water lily, but the leaves at the base and the its petals’ margins and tips both looked almost crystalline in appearance, as if covered in a light frost. The crystals themselves were fine and highly reflective.

Ariana finishes addressing Duchess Flora and turns to briefly speak with her husband, who has by now returned to quietly clinging to her right arm as closely as he can.

”Speaking of which, how have you been feeling about being away from home, honey? I know that you don’t get out much, and I wouldn’t want my poor little Ayashirie^ to get anxious about being in an unfamiliar environment like this.”

”I think I’m fine for now. It’s scary to not be at home, but I think that I’ll have fun on our visit. I can go play with Duke Caes while you and Duchess Flora conduct all of your diplomatic affairs, too.”

Duchess Ariana nods before speaking to Duchess Flora again.

”We’re ready to go to the castle gardens if that is acceptable to you.”

^Term of endearment interpreted as “honey” or “dear”; has a literal meaning of “toy”, “doll”, “plaything”. Based on the Belsedori word for “doll”, “stuffed animal”, or a similar object.

Flora nods, “The castle gardens are wonderful- They are a tradition upkept by Litoran dukes and duchesses since even before the Dark Ages. I, of course, may be biased, but I think our garden surpasses that of any other in Ghratos.”

Caes interjects. “I’ve been all over the nation, and I have to say, the Litoran gardens are perhaps the most well kept in all of the cities and castles i’ve been to. Perhaps there’s a reason that Litora almost always produces the strongest Satopotates.*”
*Amisan word for user of Satopotes, a magic used to grow and manipulate plants. Literally means “Plant Controller.”

The trio led the Belsedori to the castle gardens- and they were immaculate. Flowers grew in amazing patterns that seemed almost impossible to grow naturally. Despite the patterns, however, the focus of the garden seemed to be on the plants themselves- flowers of many colors grew in ways that complemented the looks of each other. Hanging vines swept overhead and gave the garden a sense of ambiance. small birds could be seen hovering above the vines. It was an incredibly peaceful place. Servants could be seen uprooting the few weeds there were, watering some places, and generally keeping the garden from decline.

Lucia sighed. “Caes, I wish you would bring me on your diplomatic missions more often. You described this place after the…” She trailed off for a second, seemingly trying to come up with a word. “incident came to a close and discussions were held in this city, but even your descriptions couldn’t do them justice. This is no mere work of magic, Duchess Flora. This is a work of pure art.”

“Thank you, Lucia. It was no small feat getting this garden back to its former glory after my woeful predecessor neglected it- and his people- in favor of growing our family’s own power. It’s such a shame when the actions of a tyrant destroy centuries of culture and tradition. Ah- but that is not why we are here, is it? Sorry, but whenever I come here, i cannot help but think about the history involved in these plants. Duchess, Duchescina, what do you two think of our gardens?”