Date written: 4/10/2012, 5/11/2012, 6/16/2012

Date typed: 10/1/2012, 10/27/12, 3/19/13

Date originally posted: 9/6/13

Date edited: N/A

Prepare to need to brush your teeth, and possibly floss your brain, after this chapter. Be warned, there is a lot of Marlene gushing over Allen ahead. *Gags*

Born of the Blood

Chapter 15: Girl's Love Blossoms

Part 1

[Pink, 15th – 30th Moon, Cemrota of Stahl, Year of Slate East] (April 1990)

The lounge couch in the parlor wasn't nearly as comfortable to spread out on as Mother's bed in her bedroom, but that room held too much history for Marlene to be comfortable in it. Besides, being the only person in the villa mean that Marlene was free to 'rearrange' all of the table and whatever chairs were light enough to move. Currently, she had no less than five different pieces of extra furniture pulled up to the lounge couch. Each piece of furniture held her various books, sketches, journals, inks and quills.

She was the only person in the villa; but not the only one at the villa.

Allen hadn't even been told to wait at the villa's entrance. He had followed a few feet behind her since she'd left her chambers in the castle. When they came to a door, he would slip past her and open it, ushering her through with a distant smile. Upon their arrival at the villa, he had opened the door, politely told her to have a good morning and that he would see her at lunch. His actions proved that someone, assumedly his mother, had taught him the honor code of chivalry. He had learned well.

A smile graced Marlene's lips at the thought of her handsome blond knight. She doubted he had moved from the villa's entrance. There was a bench nearby, but Marlene imagined that the only thought Allen had given it was to make sure it was of no threat to her safety. No, Allen was probably standing in the villa's doorway, eyes roving the courtyard. Every once in a while he would patrol the – what as the word she'd heard the military men use? – perimeter. She hadn't seen him through the parlor's window but she had been immersed in her writing.

The door opened and the object of her thoughts stepped into the doorway. His gorgeous head bowed and his lovely lips parted. "Princess," he paused as his eyes took in the rearranged room. His luscious mouth turned up with mirth. "It is time for lunch. Are you ready to return to the palace?"

Marlene heard the quite nudge in his voice; he was reminding her as he knew she usually lost track of time. A smile lit her face at his graciousness. A she rose, the eldest Aston princess made sure that all of her personal journals were closed. "I am," she answered him.

He bowed her out of the villa and followed her back to the palace. After only a few steps, he spoke. "Princess, would you appreciate assistance in returning the villa's parlor to proper order?"

Marlene's heart began to pound at his generous offer and the gentle courteousness of his voice. She turned to him and smiled. "Thank you very much for the offer, Allen. Yes, that would be lovely."

The smile he offered in return was filled with such radiance that the eldest Aston daughter nearly went weak in the knees. She barely missed tripping over a crack in the path. Marlene's mind was too busy etching Allen's radiance into her memory. His gallantry would keep a secret smile upon her lips for the rest of the week.

"Do tell me if you've heard this one before," Marlene gives him permission. Allen nods for her to continue, blue eyes flashing with curiosity and she begins. "A fisherman, a lawyer, and an advisor walk into an establishment. They proceed to order their meals and drinks and… Oh bother… Stop laughing!"

Allen puts a hand over his mouth but his laughter does not cease. Marlene tries to glare at him but fails spectacularly. "My dear Princess, I do believe you've gotten your jokes confused. But I'm sure your lovely head isn't thinking of such improper thoughts as bars. But I thank you very much for the bit of humor. You're quite amusing, highness."

Despite the blush staining her cheeks in embarrassment, heat rises to her face. He'd just called her lovely… And he'd enjoyed her attempt at humor. He'd laughed with her; her intent being his laughter all along. Marlene awkwardly brushes a strand of hair behind her ear as her laughter joins his.

The eldest Aston princess rarely spent the night at her mother's villa. First of all her father disapproved. He thought it was a sign of depression that she spent too much time there; more so if she slept there instead of her own bed. It wasn't proper, he would say. No handmaidens, no servants; her clothes were in her room.

Secondly, her mother's bed was the only comfortable place to sleep. Oh, the lounge couches were alright for a nap, but her mother's bed was best for an extended period of time. However, her mother's hidden secret was tucked away in the bedroom. It didn't particularly bother Marlene, but there were days that Merchant Fassa would speak of not having a son for the throne and Father would glance wistfully, just for a short moment, at Eries during dinner. Merchant Fassa's thinly veiled hints of the Aston curse of daughters led Marlene to believe that he knew. Though this didn't surprise her; Merchant Fassa was her father's closest advisor and friend; the father of the man that would marry Eries and became Asturia's king.

Thirdly, little Millerna simply hated it when her big sister was not within easy reach. She was barely nine years old and had finally begun to be forced into the lessons and training that would mold her to be the future queen and wife to some king of another country of her father's choosing. There is no doubt in Marlene's mind that Millerna's marriage will secure a political treaty or trade or land. Possibly arranged by Merchant Fassa. Neither does Marlene doubt that their father will choose a good man for the youngest Aston princess. But Millerna was not happy to be sitting in the stuffy lecture hall, flipping through yellowed, dusty pages of etiquettes, politics, and history.

Their father should have put his food down at Millerna's birthday last year, not a month afterward this year. Little Millerna's studies had barely started and yet over the past week she had thrown at least five fits worthy of a five-year-old. The youngest Aston daughter was very unhappy to be giving up her medical studies to focus on her queenship fate. Marlene had doused three of those five fires, Eries, one and Millerna's poor nurse the fifth.

Father wanted her at the palace to show she was alright. To be the lovely princess the people adored. Eries wanted her to share their spite of their princess lessons. To laugh at Dryden when he fumbled over their fathers' attempts to have them get along and court. (Secretly, Marlene was grateful she was too old for the eccentric young man… he was nice, but not her cup of vino.) Millerna wanted her big sister, her mother-figure. To coddle and argue with their father on her behalf; both of which could no longer be done anymore.

Couldn't they understand she needed to be alone sometimes? The castle, in all its vastness, was too crowded, too noisy sometimes. Once in a while she simply had to get away. To the quiet, solitude, the refuge of her mother's villa. Neither her sisters nor her father ever came to it. It was Marlene's and Marlene's alone.

A rap came at the door. 'Probably a servant. It is far past breakfast time.' Marlene threw on her robe and answered the door. The (lovely) smile of a Heavenly Knight met her sleepy eyes. Marlene briefly wished she'd known it was Allen; she could have run her fingers through her sleep-tossed hair. Or at least 'forgotten' to tie her robe…

"Good morning, Princess. You slept so long. I wanted to make sure you were alright."

Considering the lateness of the morning hour, the eldest Aston princess wondered why he hadn't checked up on her earlier. She mentally shrugged; at least she had gotten to sleep in. "I am well, Allen. And do call me Marlene." She flashed him a smile.

Allen nodded. He opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it. "May I speak openly, Prin – Marlene?"

Her curiosity piqued, Marlene allowed him.

"I would have you know that your natural beauty is absolutely lovely without make-up hiding it." A faint blush spread across his cheeks.

A shy smile graced the eldest Aston daughter's face. "Thank you very much, Allen."

He nodded again, bowed, and closed the door to allow her to dress for the day.

Even the rarely-visiting Dryden noticed her glowing smile later at dinner that day.