Reynold frowned, looking past Ophelia to see who was there. Sure enough, standing right in the doorway was none other than his older brother, Lord Joffery. What was he doing here? Wasn't he busy with his new wife? As if his first attempt at diplomacy hadn't gone badly enough already...
"I didn't want to interrupt—I was waiting for you to finish," Joffery explained, stepping aside to let Ophelia by.
"What are you doing here, Joffery?" Reynold asked, trying not to sound annoyed.
"I wanted to speak with you, actually!" Joffery replied. "But I didn't want to interrupt your important diplomatic meeting."
Yeah, THAT would be a shame, Reynold thought sarcastically.
"That can wait, though. Forgive my manners!" Joffery smiled, turning to Ophelia. "I trust the meeting went well?"
Joffery? Ophelia thought. I've heard that name before, I know I have...
The newcomer seemed a good bit more personable than Reynold, though it was fairly obvious Reynold hadn't expected to see him. The half-elf stepped out into the hallway to allow Reynold access to Joffery, but hesitated to leave immediately. It bothered her that she couldn't remember where she'd heard this boy's name before.
Fortunately, he gave her an excellent excuse to linger, asking how the meeting with his relative went. Ophelia glanced at Reynold with a smile, her eyes glittering as she replied, "It went quite well, thank you Lord Joffery. Lord Reynold heard out the issues we've been having, and agreed to lend the aid of House Jade to Nid'aigle. I have every confidence in his ability to resolve the problem."
As she spoke, she continued to examine Joffery, trying to place him. Where... where...
"Forgive me if I seem rude, my lord, but I must ask," she said. "Where you present last summer at the Bloody Coronation? My older brother fought in it, and I believe he mentioned meeting someone of House Jade there who went by the name Joffery. An incident involving a man with a crossbow?"
"I'm glad to hear it! I knew my little brother would do an excellent job," Joffery remarked with a pleased smile. Reynold didn't comment, seeming a little conflicted to hear this.
At Ophelia's mention of the Bloody Coronation, Joffery frowned. It was a time of chaos and confusion, to the point that many of his memories of it were a blur. But the elf was asking about her brother, who was a knight... and something about a crossbow... oh!
"Ah! Yes, I remember." Joffery nodded. "Yes, I got into a bit of a tussle with the Courdonians, and your brother and Master Leif fended them off. In fact, I suppose he probably saved my life!"
Reynold blinked. "...Wait. Are you serious?"
"He tackled me to the ground so I wouldn't be hit by a crossbow bolt," Joffery explained. "I'd nearly forgotten about that."
"You nearly died and didn't even remember?" Reynold questioned. "How could you forget something like that?"
Suddenly, Joffery frowned, his gaze becoming distant. "I only nearly died."
Reynold fell silent, noticing the sudden solemnity in his brother's voice. Joffery was a carefree sort of fellow, much to Reynold's chagrin, so whenever he actually became serious... Reynold knew better than to press the topic further.
"...At any rate, I am grateful," Joffery said, reverting to his usual cheerful smile. "If you see your brother, please offer him my thanks."
Joffery recalls that oh yes, Sieg saved his life, fancy that! Reynold is baffled that the incident in question doesn't stick out more in Joffery's brain, but it's clear poor Joff has some other unpleasant memories of that day. Either way, Joffery asks Ophelia to tell Sieg he's grateful.
So her guess had been right; the young man was the selfsame fellow her brother had helped defend at the coronation. And apparently he too was a son of Lord Everett. Older than Reynold by his own admission-Everett’s heir perhaps?
When he became solemn at the memory of the coronation, Ophelia smiled sympathetically. She hadn’t lived twenty-seven years with first a father, then a brother who were both knights without learning how profoundly battle could affect people. Especially people who were unaccustomed to seeing fighting and dying.
“If I see him, I’ll be sure to pass along your regards. That isn’t liable to happen for a while though. He is in the north riding errant presently, with a knight he met and befriended last summer.” She opted not to specify that he was riding in Bern- there was no telling how two young Jades would react to that.
Opting to change the subject she said, "So you two are brothers? Certainly an interesting coincidence that you met my older sibling last summer and I'm meeting your younger sibling now. The Woo works in strange ways."
"It's alright, I'm sure the both of you are quite busy," Joffery replied. "But if you do get the chance, I would appreciate it."
"He's my brother, yes," Reynold said in response to her question. Regrettably, he added silently.
"Oh yes, I don't believe we've been properly introduced! As you know, I am Lord Joffery, eldest son of Lord Everett." Joffery refrained from flashing his signature dazzling smile—Hope would be none too pleased if she thought he was trying to charm other women—though hints of it still showed through out of habit. "And you are?"
Ophelia grinned in reply. So he was Everett's heir. Regardless, she found herself warming to the young man. He was certainly an affable fellow.
"I am Ophelia Braham, translator and representative of the elves of Nid'aigle- though my brother and I are actually only half elven." She pulled her long, black braid over her shoulder with a wry smile. "As evidenced by these ebony locks. You'll seldom see Nid'aigle elves with black hair- mostly just blonde, brown, and occasionally red."
She let the braid fall into it's original place behind her back, adding, "I understand congratulations are in order, Lord Joffery? I heard you were recently wed to one of the late Starmey's daughters." She glanced at Reynold with a wry grin. "Looking forward to becoming an uncle, my lord?"
"It's nice to meet you, Miss Braham." Joffery smiled. "And yes, I was recently married, thank you!" At the mention of it, Joffery decided to break into a short song. "Hope, my only shining star, what a lovely sight you are..."
This was supposed to be my meeting, Reynold thought glumly, burying his face in his hand from embarrassment. Why, why did Joffery have to ruin everything?
"Looking forward to becoming an uncle, my lord?"
"Uhhh..." was Reynold's only response. Dear 'Woo, now that Joffery was married, that was just around the corner, wasn't it? They had plenty of younger siblings, and plenty of cousins, but it had been years since any of them were born. Did Reynold know how to deal with babies? For that matter, did Joffery?
"Oh, er, we've not... I mean, Hope isn't... at least I don't think..." Joffery stammered, looking at least as blindsided by the question as Reynold. Clearing his throat awkwardly, he continued, "W-well, brother, you won't have to worry about that for a while yet. Several months, at least."
"I, uh, I guess that will give me time to prepare, then," Reynold said, groaning inwardly at how stupid it sounded. For that matter, it was only a matter of time before his marriage would come... he wasn't especially looking forward to that. "...And you too, for that matter."
"Yes, I suppose so," Joffery replied distantly, thinking on this. Clearly he had mixed feelings on his eventual fatherhood, judging from his expression. But he quickly snapped out of his thoughts, returning to his usual smile once again. "But yes! That day will come when it comes. And what of you, Miss Braham? Any family—besides your brother, of course?"
Joffery and Reynold go deer in headlights at the thought of babies! Joffery admits he won't be having any kids for at least several months, unclear on whether or not Hope is already pregnant. He then asks about Ophelia's family, which is totally not an awkward question at all!
Ophelia was incredibly amused by how thoroughly discomfited both of Everett's sons were by the prospect of children. But well, that was the point of a noble marriage after all. Nobles treated themselves not unlike a farmer treated his livestock- breed early and often to maximize the number of useful offspring that would carry on the family name. At least it seemed Lord Joffery had managed to wed someone he sincerely cared about, which didn't always happen in the political world of the bluebloods.
When Joffery asked about Ophelia's family, however, her lips tightened. This was not a topic she wanted to discuss right now.
"I'm unwed, if that's what you mean," she replied evasively. "Living among the elves, who's lifespans can go on for centuries, one will find there no particular rush to pair off. Elves can and do court for decades before finally deciding they are truely compatible and marrying."
The woman shrugged. "Being half-elf my longevity isn't necessarily assured, though the fact that I'm nearly thirty and have the looks of a nineteen year old seem to imply I err on the elven side of my heritage. All the same, I am in no rush. It will come, or not, when it comes. Although," she added with an eyeroll, "If some of the priests I've met in the past are correct in their estimations, as a half-blood I am a sin against nature and no sane man would court me."
Ophelia completely deflects the question about her family by taking it at face-value and pretending Joff was specifically asking about marriage and children, since that's what she was talking to him about. He can still press her if you want him too, thought. ;3
Joffery nodded in understanding at her answer. He supposed it made sense, with a lifespan as long as an elf's was. At her mention of the priests, however, he frowned. What a terrible thing to say to a person! As far as he was concerned, one's circumstances of birth didn't make them any less of a person. That's what he'd always been taught, and the thought of priests saying otherwise was... well, maybe not all that baffling, considering some of their own priests, but it was still troubling.
"I wouldn't listen to those priests," Joffery spoke firmly. "Half-blood or not, you're a lovely lady and I'm sure you'll find a wonderful mate someday."
A pause. And then, Reynold gave a teasing smile. "...She's what now? You're married, Joffery."
Joffery's eyes went wide, his face turning red. "I-I mean, that's not what I meant! All I was saying is, um... you know..."
Reynold chuckled to himself, before turning to Ophelia. "So, you're a half-elf. Was your mother the elf, or your father? Out of curiosity."
Joffery feels bad that priests would scorn Ophelia for being a half-elf, and assures her that she's sure to find someone eventually. Reynold teases his brother, then continues to toe the line by asking about Ophelia's parentage.
Ophelia grinned, a soft giggle escaping her at Reynold's joke. So the kid had a sense of humor after all. "Worry not, Lord Joffery, I know what you meant. Thank you, I do appreciate the sentiment."
She glanced aside at Reynold's question, a nostalgic look on her face. "My father was the elf. If it had been a human man and an elven woman likely there wouldn't have been any children, much less two. Elf women have a very hard time becoming with child, it's a consequence of their long lifespans." The half-elf shook her head. "At any rate, Belial Braham was my father's name- Sir Belial Braham. Like my brother he was a knight of the Nid'aigle company. He served in countless conflicts throughout Kyth's history, including the Second Langean War. And like me he worked as a translator, though mostly only for military purposes."
She sighed, rubbing her shoulder sadly. "However he lost his life thirteen years ago, battling an insane, man-eating dragon. You're both probably too young to remember that incident, though you might have heard about it after the fact since it was a pretty big issue."
"Oh... I-I'm sorry, I didn't realize," Reynold replied sympathetically. "It's not easy losing a parent."
The two brothers fell silent, remembering when their mother died. She was taken by an illness which the healers had regrettably been unable to treat, which left her weak and bedridden long before it ultimately took her life. It was only five years ago, something that neither of the boys liked to dwell on. It was still hard to accept sometimes that she was gone...
"...I'm sorry, perhaps this isn't the best topic," Joffery piped in. "So, er, how are things in Nid'aigle?"
"Other than the snake issue," Reynold added. Joffery was confused, but decided to ask another time.
Ophelia had forgotten that Lord Everett's wife had died, but when the two boys fell silent she felt oddly guilty for bringing up Belial's death. She was grateful for the change of topic, and laughed a bit at Reynold's remark about the snakes.
"Well aside from the eccentricities of our near neighbors, it's been fairly quiet. Remarkably so in fact. As I mentioned earlier, King Rafael's taking the throne of Courdon has done a very great deal to settle the border there. We've not seen a single slave raider oozing into our territory in months." She smirked a bit at that. "Funny isn't it, how they will insist they are not financing those mercenaries and yet a few months after a sympathetic man takes the crown the raids stop."
She glanced around, noticing a few servants passing them in the hall. "While I am enjoying this conversation and would be happy to continue trading news with you, perhaps it would be best to move it somewhere more comfortable than the doorway? I don't want to be in the way of your staff."
"Yeah." Reynold rolled his eyes. "Those Courdonians are... well, I should probably try to be the impartial third-party diplomat here." In a hushed tone, he added, "Don't want to get us in more trouble with Courdon than we already are."
"Oh! Yes, of course," Joffery said, realizing along with Ophelia that they were still standing in the doorway. He peered into the room curiously. "Is this meeting hall being used for anything?"
"Only our meeting. I don't think we have anything else scheduled," Reynold answered, moving to take a seat. "Might as well, if we're already here."
Joffery smiled, stepping into the room. "I'm glad to hear things have been well, incidentally. Things have been quite busy for us, what with my recent wedding and all!" After a brief pause, he added, "Oh, but don't worry, you're not interrupting anything important."
"I imagine they have been busy," Ophelia remarked, sitting down as well. "Such things usually are. Though from the way you talk about the princess it seems that at least you managed to secure a love match. Not many nobles have that luxury, what with the need to secure alliances and preserve a certain bloodline. I certainly congratulate you on finding someone who so clearly makes you happy."
She turned to Reynold, tilting her head inquisitively, "So what of you, if you don't mind my asking? Any matchmaking in the offing for you, my Lord?"
"Why, thank you! I do love my darling Hope." Joffery smiled, humming a happy tune to himself.
Reynold made a face, both at his brother's humming and Ophelia's question. "Father wants me to marry a lady from House Accipiter," Reynold told her, trying not to sound repulsed about it. "I haven't met her yet, so I don't know what she's like."
"Don't worry, brother, I bet she's very nice!" Joffery replied cheerily. "I'm sure you'll love her."
Reynold tried not to roll his eyes. "I guess. She's from a mage family, at least."
"Exactly!" Joffery said. "It will be wonderful."
"At any rate, that's not for... I don't know how long," Reynold pointed out. "After Hope gives birth or something." Another thing to look forward to, he added silently.