to be out on their own.
Rumors would spread.

   The Hardy’s were rife with scandal these days.
It was so loud it became impossible to ignore and he started to wonder how she had been faring in the quagmire.

   As if thinking about her made her suddenly aware of him, she looked up at him.
Despite the darkness, and the distance, Bjorn felt like their eyes met.
Erna froze in place and a long moment seemed to pass between them, before Erna looked back at her toes.

   Without warning, Erna turned and hurridly walked the other way.
Bjorn didn’t take insult from it and simply laughed it off.
The woman was the centre of much gossip, he doubted she wanted to add to that pyre.
What would the snobs make of her meeting the Prince in the dead of night?

   It might also be because he was the Prince.
It must be a lot to take in for a simple country girl, who grew up in a village where the biggest celebrity was probably a problematic goose on the village green.

   Bjorn watched Erna dissapear into the night before turing to head back inside the club.
It was its busy period, but even still, Heinz was stood all alone.
Being the editor for the newspaper responsible for a lot of the gossip around the Erna girl, its no wonder people don’t want to talk to him and have their laundry aired the next morning.

   “Come on, we’re waiting on you.” Peter said, noticing Bjorn come in from the terrace, he was loading up for a new game of cards.

  Bjorn took his seat and knocke off the ash build up.
The group loved to pass jibes between themselves, scratching at each other with blunt barbs and casual insults.
They could not touch him though, not that Bjorn would have minded, but it was kind of an unwritten rule amoungst them.

   He moistened his lips with a sip of brandy and looked at his cards.
They were difficult to read, their numbers and pictures slid from his mind as he considered them.
All thoughts were turned to Erna as she walked away, but not toward the Hardy family mansion.



  Pavel was not able to get out of Lehman Street until late.
He refused a lift home and opted to walk the streets.
He liked walking the streets when they were like this.
Quiet and with a fresh wind blowing in.
He liked to use this time to order his thoughts and make sense of the world.

   The second daughter of Count Lehman was an avid appreciator of art.
She was well known for endorsing artists and thanks to Pavel’s recent victory at the Royal Academy of Art, her attention was firmly fixed on him.

   He had been invite to a very special dinner, accompanied by some very wealthy sponsors and he was able to sell some of his work for a very high price.
It was the right time to be happy, in many ways, but it wasnt just selling his work, but deep down his heart was heavy.
Erna’s name had been thrown around a lot lately, but not on good terms.

   She was pretty much the topic of discussion at the dinner, the scandal between her and the Grand Duke.
The nobels all sympathised with Princess Gladys and were heavil critical of Erna.
Not so much the Duke Lehman, who was constantly ourtaged about his future wife being spoken about like that.

   Lehmans daughters were the worst culprits for the gossip, they hoped that providing harsh criticisim of the women, the Count would change his mind about marrying her.

   Every time he saw Count Lehman that evening, he couldn’t help but think of Erna.
It was hard for him to understand how Erna had been promised to the dusty, grey haired old man.
The thought of his shrivelled up hands touching her rankled at Pavel’s heart, but there was no point in feeding that fire, there was nothing he could do to help his long time friend.

   It was a difficult battle, to stay in control and not let a random outburst of anger in Erna’s defence boil over.
He would het his own back on them, for Erna, by taking their money and thats what he focused on.
No matter how many times Erna, the Poison Mushroom Prince, or scandal was mentioned in the same breath, he couldn’t let it boil his blood.

   He should have paid more attention to Erna.
He knew filling himself up with regret was pointless, but he couldn’t help himself, the girl had a hold of him and with her talk of going back to Burford at the end of the year, filled him with hope.

   He loosened his tie and stuffed it into his pocket.
He hated the thing, it always felt like it was choking him, but it was necessary if you wanted to be taken seriously.
Now, able to breath, he felt like he needed to talk to Erna.

   He had to be careful, one careless act and he could lose Erna.
Viscount Hardy had brought his daughter to the city to sell her off in marriage.
In a few days he would get the money for the paintings and so he would be able to help, if only a little.

   He hoped that if she could get back to Burford, she might be able to have a more peaceful life and that was how he was going to help.
He was going to raise the money to buy her out of this arranged marriage.
If only Viscount Hardy would let Erna go.

   Pavel arrived at his house and made to head up the steps that lead to the front door.
Coming home, his self contemplation flittered away and he felt all the stress and worry melt away for a moment.
Just in time to notice a shadowy form sat on the top step.
Huddled within themselves.

   Pavel was inteding to pass them by, desperate to get in and get something to eat, but his good nature niggle at him and he stopped in front of the shadow.

   “Are you okay?” Pavel asked nervousely, hoping he wasnt about to get stabbed.

   The figure looked up at him.


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