A Past. A Future. She was born of upstanding family but poor in comparison to the other lords of the lands. They had wished more for their daughter and finally managed to gain this by having her become one of the Court Ladies of Duke Dungstan of Meadowland Castle. It took a lot of talking, even bribing, but little did the Richards' know their daughter had been accepted in more on the beauty she would become. It was there already in the delicate bone structure of her face, her form, the fullness of her lips, the creamy tint of her skin, the lush lashes over pretty shaped colored eyes. At the tender age of fifteen she had to leave her family to live in the Duke's castle.

There her broad training began, literary wise just enough to carry on an intelligent conversation without becoming too independent in her thinking. To know when to speak and when not to. How to keep the conversation going on the other. How to always look interested in everything they had to say. In the arts, etiquette was a must along with an appreciation of paintings and music. Domestic included culinary skills, painting, embroidery, fashion and stitchery along with being a nanny.



 The idea was she would be well rounded to be taken anyplace the Duke wished her to go and with whom. There were a dozen or so girls trained just like her and they became close, least most. There were always the ones that would stab another in the back to get it all. Ria grew into that beauty under the care of the Duke.

At the age of eighteen the Duke felt she was ready. He was holding an event of horse racing at one of his country estates and felt this would be a good opportunity to test Ria out. He would be entertaining four upstanding, wealthy and titled men. One was a prince of neighboring lands. Four other ladies were also chosen that had experience. Ria was attired in a silken dress that day, a glossy, silvery moss-green color that was offset in an Irish tatted lace ruffle around the edge of the neckline. The three quarter length sleeves of the same hung down about four inches from the edging. White laced gloved hands managed the folds of silk as she moved. A lacy draw purse was made of the same material to match, hooked over the crock of an arm. Her hair done up in French curls to the back of her head was offset by a small hat tipped stylish, primly nestled in. High empire waist had the top with a mock jacket and the folds of her skirt then filled out with just the hint of lace at the bottom, about an inch. High heel boots were tooled of the finest black leather. She paused upon reacheing the race tracks as hazel, more green today, gaze swept over the area. Her eyes sparkled as much as her smile. A slight dip of her head to Duke Dungstan and his guests. Her steps were measured and with the fit of her new dress, held that elegant sway to her hips just so, not overly, as she took her place amongst the group that day. The soft scent of exotic orchids would be left in her wake and tease the senses of any close.

Dungstan watched with an appreciative eye as well noting the attention she gained from his guests. Little did Ria know the hunger he saw there in the others and so had her join him this day to bring him luck . The one that usually held this honor, barely controlled her seething anger. This was the start. Ria had changed the Duke's luck that day, or so he claimed. The betting had been high and he gained lands, deeds, between the other four along with money. The Prince whom had lost a holding in a far off country didn't seem to mind for he had gained the promise of Duke Dungstan to have the company of the lovely Ria for a few days before he needed to go back to his homeland. In the following years her favor only grew with the Duke and his friends but so also the disdain of some of the other women in competition. Still, this had not been the real threat that would bring her eventually to the lands called Rhydin. It was the marriage of Duke Dungstan to a money and status hungry woman that was arrange to dispel a dispute, that would set the stage. Gradually over the following year, three of the Ladies met with mysterious deaths. Freak accidents they were label but Dungstan had his suspicions. The last Lady to meet her demise was one close to Ria herself. The Duke had firm suspicion that Ria would be next, still, nothing could be proven it was his own wife behind these accidents.

Ria was quietly packed off under the ruse she was being sent to one of the friends of the Duke's lands but instead she was sent to Rhydin for her own safety. She had enough money to see her through a good year but not lavishly so and thus then need to be frugal. She was alone for the first time in her life in a land she wasn't sure of how to respond to. Few met her, few knew her and she kept that advantage. She gradually met one and being very selective in whom she dealt with, they gradually became friends. She found he was one she could talk to and trust, a quality lacking in so many. He helped her out, even saw to a better place for her to live. A flat picked out he even helped her furnish because he wanted to. Ria was use to having men spend money on her as such and didn't think twice of how it would seem to others. She had little regard for what others felt when she knew the truth, such thoughts were their problem. She spent most of her time fixing up her new home, things she bought and things that were given. It was hard starting over but this one man made all the difference in these new lands. A friend, a confidant and more.



The Flat resided at 427 Shady Tree Lane, in one of the better sections of the city. It was a studio flat that had one very large room that could be given the illusion of sections with Oriental folding partitions. The large oak door had ornately etched glass that stood at the end of a hallway on the third floor. Only two flats were on this upper level for the size of them. They were the only ones that had balconies that overlooked the park with a small lake. The first Oriental partition gave the illusion of a foyer as there were Oriental designed tiles in the flooring, the rest being a rich oak tongue and groove. Richly designed oriental rugs would cover some of the areas along with a thick fur rug near the hearth. Ria liked a variety and had a way of choosing various styles that would harmonize with each other. The furniture she chose was French Provincial. The elegant lines, sparse delicate carvings into the rich cherry wood appeased her eye. Large windows offered plenty of light and the drapes she used were of a sheer muted coral silk as to not block it off. The kitchen was one of the few separate rooms and she had it stocked with all the necessities.

She finally had her four trunks taken out of storage and delivered to her Flat. She gradually unpacked them of their contents. Mostly richly made gowns but there were brushed slacks and cashmere sweaters too. Thick woolen Irish sweaters for those cooler nights were also unpacked into a large dresser drawer of the set she had bought for the spare bedroom. Near done with the unpacking her hand touched upon a leather satchel. Curiously driven she opened it immediately to find two deeds to lands Duke Dungstan had won that very first time she made her debut. There was also found an account in her name of a local bank here with a good amount deposited. Ria just sat there staring, not knowing what to make of all of this nor what to do with it either. Such could connect her to a past that could lead to her death. The deeds themselves had not been looked into but one had been a bid of the Prince that time so long ago. Dungstan's wife would not know of these that he won in bets, at least she hoped. It was then she noticed the slip of paper tucked in with them. The satchel set aside as she read the short note.

My dearest Lady Ria,

My lucky lady. I regret things transpired as they did and the nessity to send you off on your own into a new life so you had a life to live. We will meet again one day, for I shall find you. Until then what I have given you as a parting gift will ensure a monitory security. The one deed also titles you as Baroness. It is my wish.

You had brought sunshine into my life with your smile,
Duke Dungstan Williams.

His royal seal set into wax just under his name. Ria would fret over this for days, weeks, unsure if she could even talk to her one and only friend here about this discovery. She distractedly realized the original moss green dress she had worn that lucky day was not with the others.

*Original character, original story, all (c) copyrighted to this writer. Picture excluded as a reference only.*

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