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Marielle woke early the next morning, with a faint smile on her face. The coupling with Augustus, last night, greatly improved from the day of their wedding. Rather than the awkward and quick bedding with people watching, it was a wholly enjoyable experience for Marielle. Once alone in their room, Augustus’s demeanour changed. His voice became soft, his hands sweeping the hair in front of her face as he looked longingly at her.

She couldn’t help but have her face get flushed. It didn’t help that he would say things she thought he had no inclination of saying previously. “You look incredibly beautiful,” he had said with a wry smile as he leaned in, bringing himself close.

They collapsed together into the bed, groping each other with wild abandon. Before the night activity was over, she felt an immense pleasurable sensation within her that left her panting. Then in the darkness of night, while lying next to each other, he spoke again about how glad he was that she was there with him and how much he trusted in her abilities.

She reminisced of that last night as she got up from her bed, her worries seemed to slip away from her, toppled over by a new belief that they could surmount any obstacle that Giovannus could put in their way.

Through the morning she prepared herself in the usual way. Getting into her nice red white and yellow dress, the same dress she wore to the dinner party, the dress she knew Revenica had already seen her in. She inspected it thoroughly, making sure it was still in a presentable condition, even though she had no real alternative. Nevertheless, it passed her close inspection and she put the dress on with Sara’s help.

With a knock at the door, Augustus came to get her. So that she could do a host’s duty and introduce herself and welcome their guest warmly. Sara served as her attendant at her side in the reception room as they waited for the guest. The man Gillivan brought from the door was a large and fat man, a size that reminded Marielle of the priest of Cyril that her father hated.

“Marielle, this is our cousin Mallius,” said Augustus, gesturing to the large man.

“Auggy!” Mallius gave her husband a big, aggressive hug. She could see the pull of the hug causing Augustus to lose his balance, and with the release, he had to take a moment to steady himself. Despite this, Augustus smiled, carefully making sure not to anger the giant. She took his lead, attempting the same smile as her husband, even as she looked upon his deformed face. He had strange soft features, that she found ugly and frightful.

“Greetings Mallius, I am Marielle, Augustus’ wife and your new cousin. It’s unfortunate I didn’t get to meet you at the dinner party.” Mallius let out a laugh then went in for a hug that Marielle backed away from instinctively, she quickly took three steps back in an instant.

“Mallius!” Said Augustus sternly. “Mallius, let’s go to the study. You have a book I can read to him right?” He asked the attendant with him, an older woman in moderately nice clothing. Mallius also had the two guards as promised, who they hoped in protecting Mallius, would protect their home as well. They were dressed in leather armour. They would have been intimidating if they didn’t look so small in comparison to the one they guarded.

Augustus led the visiting group away into the study, all while bravely maintaining his calm and pleasant attitude. Marielle, at that moment, marvelled at that ability of his to completely mask his true feelings. Perhaps it was a subtle way for him to show her what he expected of her today. To act the part, with unnoticeable skill. It was a high standard to meet, but she knew she needed to achieve it, regardless.

 

When she looked to her side, at Sara, she saw a distressed face. Sara’s hands were shaking, with an even worse posture than her normal hunch-over self. Marielle realized she hadn’t even thought about how her attendants would feel about having Mallius in the house. And she and Augustus weren’t going to be there to protect them. It would b a frightening thought as it wouldn’t be their place to stop him if he did something wrong. Mallius could attack one of them without recourse. Everyone knew that the cursed ones could be unpredictable and violent.

“Sara, it’ll be fine,” said Marielle. She could see Sara’s shaking subside at her reassuring words. “Just keep yourself in a locked room when we are gone, as my father would tell you to do whenever the priest would visit.”

Sara nodded in agreement. Like Marielle, Sara had no experience with the cursed. In religious texts, it taught that at birth they should be given back to the void from which life sprung. In Jorland, her father would give any born in his lands to the priest of Cyril. So that they could be placed under mossy earth. Then Cyril would guide them through their return. Still, Marielle didn’t expect such a dramatic reaction from Sara.

Apart from Augustus, Marielle waited in the reception room, sipping on tea served by Sara. Until another knock at the door. This time, rather than bring the guest in, Gillivan came from the door and said, “My Lady, Revenica waits for you in a carriage out front.”

Out front, Marielle entered the carriage while Gillivan hopped on the perch to ride with Revenica’s chauffeur. Inside waited Revenica, dressed in a different dress from the party, a purple and blue dress as delicately made as the white, red, and yellow dress she wore to the party. For a moment, Marielle felt the need to apologize for her lack of a wardrobe. But, she knew she couldn’t. Instead, she concentrated her attention on her posture, forcing her head up and her chest out.

“Good morn’, Revenica,” she said, holding out her hand expectantly. Revenica gripped it gracefully and made sure to show a smile before releasing it.

“Good morn’, Marielle.” Marielle kept her head high so that she could look down upon Revenica, and in the silence Marielle allowed, Revenica uncomfortably lowered her head submissively.

“I must thank you for acting as my guide today. I’ll be sure to remember how kind you were to me, in the future. Where are we headed today?” The carriage began rolling forward.

“We are going to an eatery that specializes in classic Venocian dishes. The Venotii Restaurant. It’s a beautiful place too, you get to eat with a view of the sheer Typer cliffs.”

“Is that all they have, a good view?” Asked Marielle with a snark. She looked out the window.

“The food is amazing too. Trust me, you’ll love it.”

Marielle gave a brief smile before looking again out the window in silence. She knew she needed to establish her position, despite how uncomfortable she felt these actions were at the moment.

“Were you not expecting classic Venocian food?” Asked Revenica into the uncomfortable silence.

“It’s fine…” said Marielle, as if he intended to continue, but she didn’t, she just let the word hang before she returned to the passing view through the window.

“Did you hear about the events at Giovannus’ estate? I’ve heard that all the servants he had there were killed.”

“Oh. That’s terrible.” She didn’t know what else to say. It was a touchy subject to talk about, for sure. Maybe her tactic was working, Marielle thought. Revenica felt the need to fill the silence and did so desperately with that delicate subject, surely that was a good sign. “Let’s save our conversation for when we eat. I do enjoy looking out at the city. It is a bit of a wonder to me, as I’m sure you understand, considering where I’m from.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll allow you to enjoy the carriage ride then. Would you like me to tell you about certain buildings as we pass them?”

“I would like that very much.”

The carriage travelled along a path that headed uphill from the Castellian estate. Outside she could view the slope of the city dropping away, revealing the rows and rows of houses and their red clay roofs. At one point she could see all the way down to the bay, filled with a myriad of boats. “I don’t think I’ve been this way before.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t be leaving the good part of Venocia. See that?” Revenica asked, pointing at a gated area. The inside of the gate looked filled with trees, which contrasted with the dense construction that surrounded the area. “That’s the Marco estate. They’re a powerful family, about on par with our own.”

Marielle pointed to another gated estate as they passed it. “And who’s estate is that?”

“That’s the Sentellius family. They’re a lesser family, in comparison to the Castellians. My husband has been working with them lately and they’ve built up a good rapport.”

“Have you been inside their estate? Since your husband has been working with them, have they invited you over for a meal?”

“No. Their relationship, although good, is a minor one. It’s mainly just logistical meetings. You know, they just discuss some numbers for a bit.” Revenica turned to point at a large imposing building. It was tall, standing above the surrounding buildings, which were now storefronts rather than houses. As they got closer, the area around the building was a large courtyard populated with statues arranged in a grid, and through the courtyard, men walked wearing clothing of high quality. “That’s the Senate. Carriages aren’t allowed to get too close, barring a couple of exceptions, so we won’t go for a closer look. But even from here, you can see it’s an impressive construction.”

“Yes, I can see that. Very impressive.” Marble steps led up to a giant arched doorway fitted with two solid oak wood doors. The steps and walls of the building were decorated with stone statues and carvings. The building rivalled the temple of Aurelia in both size and craftsmanship.

The carriage pulled away down a new street, now heading down a slight gradient, and the Senate slowly retreated from view.

"I would very much like to visit the Senate sometime. After all, I've heard so much about it," said Marielle as the building disappeared completely under the horizon.

"If you want we can park the carriage somewhere nearby and visit that courtyard, after our lunch. But, we can't enter the building without an invitation from a senator. Maybe some other day. We would just need to ask Giovannus, Pascal, or Cladius first."

"I didn't know that."

"Yeah, they don't want the riff-raff off the streets just wandering their halls. In addition to needing an invitation, entering the building itself is a hassle."

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