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She walked that night through the royal gardens, her arms stretched out from her sides as she brushed her fingertips along the frosted shrubbery along the garden trail. A light snow sprinkled the misty air around her as she walked, an emerald colored cloak blowing softly in the wind behind her. The time was around midnight; the festivities of the debutante jubilee had ended hours before, so she took a midnight stroll to collect herself. She was dressed in an ivory silk nightgown, her hair cascading in dark curls that flowed down to the small of her back.

The palace stood elegantly behind her. The royal palace at night was the most beautiful thing she'd ever laid eyes on. She wondered why she'd never thought to take a stroll in the dark, for there weren't any people at this time of night, and she'd have a much better view of the gardens.

Maybe she'd find a place to sit further along, seeing as she didn't have a set destination. She'd brought a book along with her to occupy her time. Everything that'd happened that night had made her come to an unsettling realization: this was the beginning of her ruin.

Ariella had always been despising the day that she'd become a debutante. She thought it unjust and completely absurd to have noble women flaunt themselves about the noble men in the hopes of them finding them 'suitable' for marriage. She would always hate the ways of court, the traditions and the politics, for she grew up with them. But finally when her turn came, her parents didn't think it at all backwards to send their own daughter in for the season.

After she'd resurfaced from her reverie, she stopped dead in her tracks. There was someone watching her.

She knew better than to look behind her, so she kept on with her walk, until she spotted a little bench along the path where she took a seat in attempts to lure out her stalker. She crossed her legs and lifted off the hood of her cloak, pulling out the novel she'd brought along with her.

"Whoever's there might consider revealing themselves before I call the royal guard," she called, in a stern and demanding voice, all the while keeping her eyes trained on the novel in front of her.

"And does the Lady have authorization to do that?" Called someone from the pathway, still out of sight.

She stood up, dropping her novel while peaking around the corner of the nook in the tall shrubbery, "I'll assure you Sir-" she gasped suddenly in surprise, "Louis!"

She ran out to her friend, falling into him as he pulled her tightly into an embrace, "Oh, Louis, you scared me half to death!"

He laughed softly against her hair, "Well you seemed to have the situation under control," he paused, pulling away from her slightly, "Speaking of which, why were you out here so late at night without a chaperone?"

"Oh I assure you, my dear friend, I can take care of myself," she said sternly, her lips curving up into a smirk.

"Oh how I've missed you, Ariella!" He laughed, gaining her laughter as he hugged her tightly, "Where have you been all week? You haven't written at all, and court has been so dull without my trouble making friend around."

She pulled away from him, taking his hand and leading him to the bench, "I left court about a week ago to gather a few things from home before the season started, and I'm sure you did just fine in the trouble making department while I was away," she snickered.

"A man has to keep up with his obligations, never was a gentlemen without his craft," he raised his brow playfully.

She giggled, pushing a few strands of her dark hair behind her ear, "And any new women on the agenda for heartbreak?"

"Aren't there always?" He laughed, taking her hand jokingly, "But, my love, none of them are as fair as thee."

She rested her hand against his chest, playing along, "Oh my sweet Count de Morcef, however will I repay your love." 

"Dearest, there's no need, as long as I may have your hand in marriage."

They both fell into a pit of laughter, leaning against the back of the bench. After a few moments they had settled down, her head against his shoulder, both looking up to the stars.

"Tell me again Louis," she said after a moment, "Tell me her name."

"Gabrielle?" He said, coming back to reality.

"No, tell me her full name, I find it absolutely hilarious."

He smirked, still gazing upon the stars above them, "Mademoiselle Gabrielle de Gall," he murmured, making sure to pronounce every vowel with an even heavier French accent. 

"And her arse of a brother, what's his name again Louis?" She giggled.

"You mean the one and only Count Bastien de Gall?" They both laughed at hearing the name, a man who saw no one save the upper most of nobility, for he discarded anyone below such a status.

Louis and Ariella had made a habit out of joking about their names, commenting on how 'at least they'll always have one burden in their lives' (hence the unfortunate and arrogant titles).

She smiled softly; hearing the names made her even more aware of her future. If her pretentious fool of a best friend had found himself a fiancé, she was sure to find one sooner than later.

They walked back to the palace in almost complete silence. The snow had stopped but the chill in the air still lingered, Ariella clung to her friend as they walked, humming a little tune they had heard as children.

She made it back to her room around fifteen minutes later, a ladies maid that she hadn't bothered learning the name of sat in the corner of the room working on needlepoint, "Ah! Mademoiselle! You've returned!" She said, hopping up from her seat.

"Oh miss, there's no need to wait up for me. I was only taking a stroll in the gardens, something I do on nights I can't sleep," she murmured, laying her cloak on a chair as she walked towards her chambers.

The maid followed her in, "Well, Mademoiselle, if you ever need anything just call for Mae."

She smiled, slipping off her shoes and climbing into bed, "Thank you, Mae," she whispered, as the maid blew out the candle on her bedside table.

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