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This is the story based on the short work "Tender Wildflower." The scene shown specifically in that short work will appear later in the story in a slightly edited version.


Her heart belonged somewhere beyond the vain conceit and arrogance of the high society. She remembered how it was when she was a little girl: her hair flowing freely, loose dresses, and the joyful companionship of the neighborhood children. She remembered their adventures, how both boys and girls joined for a variety of quests: whether they be valiant rescues or evil plots. As she aged and found herself with more responsibility, however, her smiles were always reserved for the memory of those wonderful times. As she was introduced to formal society and forced to don the restricting corsets and thick skirts, her heart still resided in those days when all those concerns escaped her. Even beneath the rich fineries of silk, velvet, diamonds, and fragrance, she still longed for the rough feeling of bark and grass, the shining of the morning dew, and the scent of the morning air.

Her parents were always unsure as to what they should ascribe their daughter's unusual rebellion. They could not miss the sad look in her eyes as she met all her early courtiers; they could not ignore the brilliant smile that always flashed across her face when she went out for a brief ride. They thought, perhaps, that if she were to be introduced to the joys of fine society and removed from the country, she might finally come around and see how wonderful life could be for a young woman as well-off as she.

The move from the country to the city, they found, only aggravated their daughter's derision for society. She withdrew from the social scene, retreated from her callers, and sought refuge in books. They were at a loss as to what to do about her curious actions. Their daughter was not a shy girl or unconfident; instead, she had always met their attempts to correct her behavior with astounding stubbornness. Thus, they could only assume that her most recent actions were also deliberate. Their resources exhausted, they began to feel their only alternative was a foreign boarding school.

Until she disappeared.

For months, she remained so. Despite widespread concern and assistance, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Vilonia could not be found. When she finally did return to her family, she returned of her own volition. She hailed a carriage to her family's home and entered her home, wearing a gown of the finest materials with jewelry to match. After the initial shock of her safe return, her parents noted a new difference in their daughter: she was not the same girl who had left a mere eight months before. She was no longer so wistful, so rugged. Her eyes spoke of a soft confidence, but one that was hidden beneath understanding. Her words spoke of restraint and conflict; she now embodied the perfect woman. Mere speculation surrounded what could have led the once rebellious young woman to become the elegant beauty.

Now, too though, her return was shrouded by gossip and rumor. Her lengthy disappearance produced questions and inquiries by her formerly persistent suitors and questions of her dignity now plagued her family. Many witnessed the uncustomary behavior of the duke's daughter, but her continued silence only reaped rejection. Even her parent's persistent attempts to discover where exactly their daughter had resided through her absence returned naught. Her once bright future was now shadowed by perhaps her most grievous infraction: her continued rebellion, now hidden by a mask of propriety.

His heart belonged amongst the vain conceit and arrogance of high society. He spent his childhood immersed in the protocol and rigors of society. He studied law, he pursued language, he traveled the world, and he studied numbers as he prepared himself for one day inheriting the title of Duke. He had no time for fun and games and, most certainly, no time for women. As he grew, he gained respect and a reputation amongst his peers and his elders as a fine young man sure to accomplish great things.

He was always the apple of his father's eye; he never knew it, though. His father pressed him to succeed, drove him, and worked him to perfection. Whenever his attention strayed and his mind flitted to any other pursuit, he met his father's strict discipline. Thus, in pursuit of his approval, he put his heart and soul into becoming the perfect Duke.

What his father failed to prepare him for, though, was the necessity of a wife. He had ignored the pursuits of many of society's most elite and gorgeous women, and he had turned them all away. Finally when he found himself turning to them again, they all began their efforts—redoubled. Insulted by their forward and embarrassing attempts to please him or seduce him he decided that he would find a bride amongst those who did not worship him. He knew that he could not marry a commoner; that would negate all of his efforts to distinguish himself from the other ill-bred and inadequate gentry.

He would turn to the unwanted.

He had heard the tale of the Duke of Vilonia's wayward daughter and her inability to find a well-reputed husband. Upon hearing the otherwise pleasant descriptions and finally making his own visit to Vilonia, he was very impressed by the otherwise exceptional woman. She was extremely attractive, well-mannered, and intelligent. Also, he found that she was extremely malleable to any instruction. He decided only after a month of knowing her that he would request of her father to marry her. It was his first and only rebellion against the society his father so prized.

The two were complete opposites in every way except their own silent rebellions. And it was that small commonality that bound them with the strong vows of marriage for the remainder of their lives, until death part them.