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Where a Ward is Unwelcome and a Conversation Goes Poorly

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The month of the red flowers, in the dead of the winter season, was a time of both great sorrow and great celebration.

The king and queen of Dasos were dead. The fever plague, as it was called, took them from the land of the living swiftly, the king's final breath puffing from his lips in the lull of the afternoon as he followed his wife mere hours after she had died. There was a funeral, there was mourning by the masses, and tributes and memorials erected to honor the monarchs. 

But barely two weeks passed before the announcement by acting King Richard threw the kingdom of Dasos into an ecstatic frenzy. 

This particular winter day, a lone figure traversed down from the site designated for royals and those deemed worthy enough to lie there. With her plain dress and simple cloak thrown over her shoulder, it did little to draw attention to the ward, which was what she preferred. Crimson hair, as red as the dying fire, brushed down the middle of her back as she walked. She hadn't bothered to put it up this morning, even though, many times, she had regretted not having the foresight to do so. Her mind was somewhere else, far from the meandering mass in the town she was currently heading towards. 

I can't believe it. It's been two weeks! They have to know it's too soon for something like that...

Sahara took a deep breath, stopping her thoughts from spiraling into a mess. Visiting her grandmother's grave had done little to help soothe her anxiety; if anything, it had made it worse. She had thought the quiet up there would have calmed her somewhat, but she had been wrong. Although, to be fair, she didn't know what could allay her nerves at the moment. Speaking her mind was not something she liked to do, and to do such a thing in company that she knew would most likely not take it very well...

Sahara sighed, picking up her pace as she walked down the road, towards town. If anything, at least she had bought enough time for herself to organize her thoughts. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad as she imagined it would be. 

The town was buzzing, something very apparent to Sahara once she had reached it. There were more travelers from the neighboring kingdoms in the inns now, and she knew that the last few royal processions were scheduled to arrive in two days' time; it would only get busier then. She grimaced to herself as she weaved her way through the quiet alleys and side streets, taking care to avoid the large crowds. Ever since Richard had made his announcement, it had energized the entire community, especially the young women of marriageable age. Everyone was looking forward to the ball, if the excited chatter that wafted over to her as she walked was anything to go back. 

In Sahara's personal opinion, though, she thought balls were a grand waste of time, even disregarding her current thoughts on this particular one. 

There were multiple stands set up by merchants and peddlers this afternoon day, to take advantage of the bustling activity. Sahara tried to avoid this section as much as she could; there were too many people and she didn't want to be recognized and have a scene be made. However, she paused when she noticed someone she actually knew. Someone who wouldn't spit at her or slap her or try to curse away her 'demonic' heritage. 

The someone she recognized was a kindly old woman named Claudia,  the wife of the local doctor. At this moment, she was attempting to wave over potential customers to her stall of hardy, wool fabrics, but wasn't having much luck, as Sahara could see. Even with the cold temperatures, more were intrigued by vanity items such as rouge, fine dresses of gossamer, and foreign knives. Claudia, however, kept the genuine smile on her face as she shouted out to the passing crowd. 

"Fine wool items here! Locally made in Dasos!"

No one paid her any mind. Relieved that there wasn't anyone around her stall (and that it was the closest to her current position), Sahara picked her way over to her as quickly and quietly as she could; she resisted exhaling in relief when she reached the stall without any fuss. Claudia, as if sensing a potential customer, turned towards her with a warm smile. 

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