Arabesque Chapter 11.1


I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

About the book


Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.


Chapter 11.1

Anna

The king had required Tatania and I to attend nearly all of the Council meetings upon our return to Acacia City, after which we were usually summoned to the king's study to discuss the various intricacies of the Council of Magistrates. Tatania, as usual, did not seem to enjoy instruction in the field of politics; in fact, she nearly began to doze off.

"Tatania!" the king scolded.

She blinked her eyes sheepishly. "Yes, Father?"

He shook his head and threw his hands into the air. "I see you are as enthralled by this topic as ever you were. Go on, get to bed."

She danced over to him, smiled impishly, and kissed his forehead. He hugged her, then waved her off. "Bah! Away with you!... But do not forget that you will be expected to fulfill your duties tomorrow. Our guests expect a gracious hostess."

Her prancing stopped and she winced.

"I also expect you to be a gracious hostess," he added almost sternly. "Remember what you have been taught by Lady Elena."

The king moved adjacent to the door Tatania had exited so despondently. General Ashenhurst and his son, Henry, came inside the room.

The general and son had matching sandy blonde, curly hair and dark brown eyes. How long had it been since father towered over son? I had not noticed that Henry was, by several inches, the taller of the two.

They bowed first to the king, then to myself, then were seated.

It may have been weariness, the travels of the prior days had been exhausting, or the tedious strain of politics, but Henry gazed at me, in my formal finery, quite curiously. I say curiously but it was not a look of curiosity, rather his extended attention in such a setting as this was strange to me. His eyes studied me quite intently until the others' voices drew him away.

The king and the general both expressed their relief and happiness that we had returned safely to the capital. Then they proceeded to relate events that had occurred in our absence.

Most of these events appeared to be of small consequence, such knowledge was necessary to understand complexities of politics in Acacia City.

The Lady Thayne had apparently had dealings with Lord Willard. Sir Doyle and Lord Standish were as thick as ever they were. Lady Nedra's allegiances were currently unknown, but she may have been in agreement with Lord Chester's extremely vocal opinions. I had gleaned much from the long council meeting.

"The political climate feels normal, but an unconfirmed report from one of our agents was particularly concerning," General Ashenhurst frowned. "One of his informants admitted to hearing rumor of a plot to incite unrest and chaos in the kingdom. If this report is to be believed, it may be that we have a faction inside Acacia City itself bent on overthrowing the government."

The king turned to me, uncharacteristically wringing his hands. "That is why I was so relieved when you and Tatania arrived. The safest place for the heir to the throne is here, in the castle."

He turned to the general and his son, and in a tone I'd rarely heard, nearly shouted, "She must be protected!"

He paused for a moment, calming himself. "Your communiques from Lichthaven were indeed a relief when we first heard of this faction. Were there any events or intelligence of an unusual nature that you were unable to relay when we met less privately last night?"

"No, you majesty; all was truly as quiet as I have reported." Henry replied looking mildly shocked. "Is there any immediate danger to the princess?"

"We do not believe so, but caution is always prudent, " said his father. "This may all be revealed as folly, however His Majesty feels that...." He looked at the king, who looked again at Henry.

"How is her training progressing?" he asked abruptly.

"Very well, your majesty; Princess Anna is naturally talented and very skilled...." Henry broke off and glanced at me almost guiltily.

"What is it, boy? Out with it! The safety of the kingdom is at stake! This is no time to spare feelings! Are her skills adequate?" The king demanded.

My face felt hot and I held back the tears that threatened to come. Of course my training was not complete, it could never be enough...because I was not enough.

Henry's fists clenched, but he said calmly, "No, your majesty. She is very proficient in skill and technique, able to best me with almost any weapon, in any situation, but she lacks practical experience. I have not any solution for it that would maintain the secrecy that you require. She would either need to face scored of sparring partners or the heat of battle to gain what she needs."

We all remained silent as the problem plagued our minds.

I did, however, feel some relief. Henry had not judged me to be as incompetent as I felt. Was I truly as proficient as he claimed or was it a merciful attempt to spare me? I knew that he was compassionate enough to risk it, but as far as I knew, he was always honest.

After several minutes of heavy silence, Henry spoke. "There is one possibility, though I hesitate to mention it."

"Out with it, boy!" The king said irritably, then sighed. "Forgive my rudeness. My family and kingdom's safety weighs heavily on my mind, but that is no excuse for being impolite. Henry, you and your family have served the crown faithfully and most competently. I would greatly value ideas you may have."

"Your majesty, do you plan for me to continue as I did at Lichthaven Park?"

The king nodded.

"Does his majesty also mean for me to continue gathering intelligence in Acacia City and the palace as well?" Henry asked.

General Ashenhurst burst in, "What do you?... No! I'll not have it! We'll not risk her safety in this manner!"

The king paled slightly, then folded his arms, sitting a bit straighter. "Yes, I do. Our operatives are stretched to their limit. We need more reliable eyes and ears. Hmm... I understand your meaning, but is she truly ready for such an undertaking? Very well, however, Anna's safety must be your priority."

Belatedly, the king turned to me. "Anna, do you understand what is being asked of you?"

My palms sweated and I tried not to shake. "Yes, your majesty."

He took my hand. "Are you sure, my dear? I'll not ask this of you if you have any doubts."

"Yes, your highness, I am sure." Each word sounded as a hammer to my temple. What had I agreed to?

My feet shifted, my eyes flit about. I pulled my hooded cloak closer. The rough, thread-bare cloth was foreign to my pampered skin.

I was to rendezvous with Henry just outside the palace wall, just after dusk, at the beginning of true night. I willed myself to stillness. Henry would come, and I was hardly in any danger so near the castle.

A muted footstep stirred the pebbles behind me. I swung my stave into a defensive stance and faced the shadowed figure.

"Easy, your highness, it's just me." Henry held up his hands, palms out.

I breathed deeply and tried to relax. "Henry," I nodded.

"Forgive me, Princess, I did not mean to startle you." His shadowed face became clearer as he moved closer, it was lined with concern.

"I was simply being cautious," I said stiffly.

"Your highness, if you feel uncomfortable with this assignment...if you have any hesitations at all..."

I squared my shoulders. "Not at all, let us proceed."

In the waning light, it was not difficult to travel unnoticed to our destination. We entered the Raleran district, the former center of Acacia City. This area had once been known for beautiful gardens and lavish estates. Drought and famine several years before my birth had dried the wells, and the Raleran was abandoned to rot.

We entered what must once have been a cathedral, but through age and neglect, it was hardly recognizable as such. Henry informed me that if ever we were separated, that I was to return here and he would find me.

He led me through the dusty chapel to a small room. Neatly stacked crates lined the wall beside a large barrel. "Supplies," he explained. "Water, bandages, salves, clothing, food...There has been more than one time that a place like this has saved my life. I hope we're being a bit over prepared, but I'll take no chances with your life."

We entered a courtyard surrounded on all sides by the church, a perfect and private place to spar. I caught a grin creep onto my face. I might enjoy this freedom. The church was larger and much nicer than any location we'd trained in before, and while it was in the heart of the city, its size made it vastly more secluded. Perhaps this would be one place where I could try to be myself and begin to create my own happiness.

I turned to speak to Henry, not realizing he was close behind me. I crashed into him with a thud and would have fallen if He hadn't grasped my shoulders, steadying me.

"Have a care, princess. Would you have me fail before the task is even started?"

"Oh! Please forgive my clumsiness. I am not at all myself at the moment."

"Not at all," he said, his strong hands still held me firmly. "Of late, I've been out of sorts as well, but only when I am with you, it seems. Indeed, I hardly know what to do. Most of the time, I'm afraid I'll trip over my own bootlaces or tangle my sword in my cloak..." He trailed off with a laugh, his eyes searched mine.

What could I tell him? My heart pounded wildly, yet I felt at home in his arms. Besides Tatania, Henry was my dearest friend. In many ways, he knew me better than she did. I felt my heart long for him, but I knew it was not to be freely given. The crown princess was not free to do as she wished. Her heart was subject to the whims of the state. Duty demanded that I remained aloof and separate until my future was decided for me.

His warm hand brushed my cheek. My eyes closed. It was a quiet, yet feverish warmth that threatened to consume me. The deep breath that I took was not calming in the way I had hoped. I had inhaled his scent, the aroma of horses, well-oiled leather, and liniment. It was intoxicating. I fought for coherence.

"Henry," I begged, moving back slightly. "My obligations...I cannot..." I muttered helplessly.

In truth, a single word, one more soft touch, and I would be lost beyond redemption. I yearned for it and pleaded for release from it concurrently.

His hands dropped to his side and he stepped back as if he'd been struck. "I understand, your highness," he said standing stiffly. "I apologize for my misconduct. It was terribly inappropriate, and not my place to behave in such a manner... I don't know how such a ridiculous notion entered my head. A soldier and a princess... You're right, you deserve better."

"Henry," I started, shocked at his misinterpretation. "My duty...my... I have no choice...It's not...I am bound..." I stuttered, fumbling as I sought to explain.

"I understand, you highness. I will respect your station and your wishes. You will never hear another word of this." He said with a shocking tone of finality.

I sat on a splintering bench, attempting to settle myself. I tried to lock my heart as tightly as he had just closed the subject. Henry was right. It was time for duty, not self-indulgence.

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          Image source
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          Image Source
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            Arabesque Chapter 10


            I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

            About the book


            Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
            Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

            Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.


            Chapter 10
            Tatania


            As liaison, I had to make myself available to Sir Gerald's family whenever they asked for me, so I didn't get to leave the palace walls unless they were with me. That in itself would have been irritating enough, but it also kept me from seeing Dorian. We hardly ever got to sneak away, so when he showed up with a picnic basket and that gorgeous smile of his, nothing was going to keep me away.

            Barely containing giggles, we crept through the halls, hand in hand. Footsteps sounded before us and we ducked into a dark alcove. Dorian grinned wickedly at our closeness and stole a kiss. I probably would have stood there frozen and giddy if he hadn't pulled me away.

            We sat beneath the shade of a great oak tree, our picnic spread before us. Although we'd been sitting, my heart still raced. It was amazing how quickly barriers melted away after a few kisses. Before I knew it, Dorian's head laid on my lap as we shared sweet, red strawberries.

            We talked as though we'd always been best friends. Laughing and joking, we told each other ridiculous stories, each of us trying to top the last. At times, I could barely talk through the laughter.

            I stroked his blonde hair while he told me about pranks he'd pulled on his brothers.

            "I can't believe some of the stuff you get away with!" I giggled. "I may have to borrow a few of those ideas. Do you mind?"

            "No, but you must tell me who you intent to torment, you naughty thing." He kissed my hand.

            "That should be obvious."

            "Oh yes, Genevieve. I take it then that burying her in an avalanche of snow was not enough to sate your bloodlust?"

            "Hardly, if I could, I would hang her up by her toe nails every Tuesday. Oh I'd love to hear her screams as she dangled from the ramparts...it would be such sweet music."

            "I doubt even the daughter of the king could pull that one off."

            "Oh, I know, but I can dream," I sighed, running my fingers along the smooth skin of his face.

            "That is what I love about you." He sat up and touched my cheek. The kiss that followed left me breathless. "So what do you have planned for our dear, sweet Genevieve?"

            "I thought, perhaps, something to add to her beauty. Maybe slip her a tonic and give her some nice big warts."

            He chuckled darkly and pulled my face to his. "Oh, you wicked little devil."

            "Ahem!"

            The sound came from behind us. I pulled my lips away and we leapt to our feet. Well, he leapt, I stepped on my skirt and nearly fell flat on my face. Dorian gave me a hand up. My eyes widened. Alec!

            "I was just, uh," Dorian stammered. "I thank you for the honor of this meal, my lady, it was most kind of you, but now I must beg my leave." And he was gone.

            It took a moment to realize that I still held my hand toward the way Dorian had left. I folded my arms, glaring at Alec.

            "You will forgive me, Lady Tatania, but my father requires your aid in a matter he deems to be of the utmost importance." He bowed and retreated to the palace.

            I seethed, taking in the remains of our ruined day. So much for time with Dorian... This had better be important, I thought.

            It really wasn't. Gerald's idea of "important" would be most people's exact definition of "trivial". But since I was supposed to cater to his every whim, I was stuck listening to his bellowing complaints for hours before I managed to escape.

            I knew exactly where to hide. I rushed to the stables and was riding away before anyone could stop me.

            I loved to go there to think. Rich, green meadow stretched on in every direction. My retreat was hardly noticeable from the palace. The large willow tree's overgrown branches swept the ground, its green leaves hung lazily from the protective dome.

            I didn't always even think really. I just stared up at the sky and watched the patterns the sun marked as it shined through the leaves.

            I closed my eyes. Bella grazed nearby. I could hear him munching happily on clover clumps, periodically sighing in contentment. A gentle breeze rustled leaves and grasses as it slowly feathered my dark hair. The scent of leaves and heather mixed with grasses made my body feel weighted. The air was wonderfully sweet.

            I succumbed and softly laid my head on a pillow of ferns. Afraid of drifting to sleep, I reluctantly forced my eyes open. The willow's boughs hid me well, the sun could barely reach me there. Sparkling slivers of light glistened through the viney branches as they softly danced their whispered ballet.

            The protective canopy that surrounded me was impregnable. No worldly care could penetrate it, no earthly imperfection could taint its sanctuary. Secure in my comfort, I slowly closed my eyes...

            I dreamt of satin caressing my hand. The smooth, cool, fabric gently glided across my finger and forearm.

            Satin turned to warm velvet, smoothly caressing my cheek. It radiated glowing warmth that permeated my skin. Tingling blood rushed to my face. The velvet facade burned away as blazing fire consumed my lips. Of their own accord, my hands rushed to greet the flames.

            My eyelids shot open as my fingers betrayed the dream, contacting flesh instead of molten fire.

            Holy crud! What does he think he's doing! A string of murderous thoughts rushed through my head as I jumped to my feet. I almost fell right back down as my head spun in nauseating circles. Firm arms steadied me, but I pulled away.

            "Woah, are you alright?"

            Of course I wasn't alright! Alec had just walked into my private space and kissed me while I slept! Again, my body acted on its own.

            "Ouch! Hey, you punched me!"

            "Of course I punched you, you moron! You kissed me!" My hand, still balled into a fist, throbbed at my side. His stomach was harder than I'd thought it would be. Dang, I wanted to do some real damage, but he barely even flinched! Maybe that perfect nose was more vulnerable. . . .

            I swung my arm back again, coiled and ready to snap. This might turn out to be a fun experience after all.

            Alec's arms reacted quickly and wrapped around me in a vice grip. Trapped, with my back to him, I instantly regretted giving up the wrestling matches that the stable boys and I were so often punished for years ago. Why did I ever agree to behave more lady-like? Now I couldn't break free of what was starting to feel like an embrace.

            Fury rushed through me as I blindly tried to jab with my elbows, and stomp on his feet. "Let go of me!" I screamed as I flailed in every direction possible.

            "Calm down, would you!"

            His warm breath prickled the back on my neck. "Let me go!"

            "Stop trying to hit me!"

            I struggled even harder, knocking us to the ground. He had me pinned before I could blink. Dang he was fast! Honestly, if I didn't want to kill him right now I might have actually admired his agility.

            "Get off me! What are you doing?!" I managed to gasp as his weight crushed me. "I can't breathe, you idiot!"

            He eyed me warily. "If I let you up, will you promise to stop trying to beat me to a pulp?"

            "Yes!" I bellowed. My face twisted into a scowl.

            He raised one eyebrow suspiciously. Grr! Another reason to hate him, I've never been able to do that! He cautiously backed away, resting on one knee, ready to jump on me again if I didn't keep my word.

            I gasped, relieved by the ability to once again inhale. As I coughed and sputtered, I slowly raised myself to sitting. Able to breathe more normally, I started to remember why I wanted to dismember this man.

            My murderous glare made him jump, and he started laughing at me! I tell you, a girl can only take so much before she completely snaps! I reached down, searching, then jumped to my feet, ready to throw the rock in my hand. I hoped it would at least take out an eye.

            "Hey, you promised to stop!" He hurried to his feet, hands ready to block the incoming missile.

            "I never promised 'no rocks!'" I pelted him as hard as I could, grabbing stone after stone off the ground, wishing they were bigger than mere pebbles. He pushed his way forward, protecting his face, until the space between us, and my limited supply of ammunition were both gone. He grabbed my hands as I frantically searched for more ammo, then he jerked me back to my feet.

            "Can you please behave for a moment so that I can apologize?"

            The intensity of his eyes and the strength of his tone dazed me for a moment. He couldn't really be sorry, could he? . . . I rigidly held my body still and waited. "Well? . . ." No answer. "Are you going to tell me you're sorry for assaulting me or not?"

            "Assaulting you? It was one little kiss!"

            "I never asked you to kiss me! What are you doing here anyway?"

            He looked at the ground for a second, slowly shifting his weight from side to side. Dang it! Was he ever going to let my hands go? He really wasn't hurting me or anything, it was just a bit . . . . uncomfortable. I had no desire for him to touch me.

            "Well? . . . Are you going to answer me, or do I have to beat it out of you? . . ." He smirked then looked into my eyes again. "Actually, you know what? Keep your mouth shut, I think I'd prefer to beat you up!"

            He held me tighter. I started to pull my hands free. My eyes scoured the ground again. I wanted to inflict as much pain as possible. Maybe aim for a more delicate area this time. . . He pulled my hand up along with his, under my chin raising my face to look at him. "I saw your horse wandering alone and was worried about you."

            My mouth must have fallen open because his hand, still at my chin, gently closed it for me. Grinning he continued, "I searched for a few minutes, then I found you sleeping under this tree. . . I'd never seen you look so. . . peaceful, it intrigued me. Could this harpy have a soft side? Is she under a sinister spell? I wonder if she talks in her sleep." The daggers I shot through my eyes only made his smile bigger.

            "I do not talk in my sleep!"

            "After I figured that out I tried to make you talk. I wanted to see why you looked so happy. Was there someone you were thinking of? Some puppy you maimed or cat you kicked, that made you so content? Simply holding your hand and stroking your arm and face didn't work. So, I kissed you, purely in the interest of science, you understand. My experiment went downhill from there. You know, I've seen starving dragons keep their temper longer than you!"

            "Harpy?! Science? Why you....." My insults were muffled as he put his hand over my mouth.

            "Not the nicest language for a lady. Yes, I know that you hate me, your actions have made that quite clear. I will let you go and leave you alone to scream your profanities. I hope your horse wasn't spooked when you unleashed that banshee wail. Although, I'm sure he's used to it by now. I will see you again soon, my lady. Please don't rouse any hibernating dragons before I see you again. I'd hate to miss out on any more chances to rescue you again. Although, perhaps it would be the dragon would need to be saved."

            Before I had the chance to recover from his tirade, he quickly kissed my hand. In one swift movement, he mounted his horse and was gone.





            "Sir Alec kissed you, and he's still breathing? Goodness, you must like him after all. Ouch! Tatania, that really does hurt!"

            I released Anna's ivory hair, the half formed braid unraveled. "No! I do not like him! Anna, how could you say that! After all these weeks you've seen how awful he is, how irritating, annoying, self-centered, stupid. . ."

            "He really is not as bad as you say. I've never heard a harsh word from him, except when he's arguing with you, of course. It seems to be only you who has trouble with him, everyone else finds him exceptionally charming. Have you considered that perhaps he is not the source of the true conflict, just the manifestation? You don't always control your temper very well after all. . . ."

            Normally I might have agreed with her. I did have trouble with a few certain people, but I hardly lost it unless I was well provoked. "You can't really mean that. Haven't you seen the way he swaggers aground like he owns the place? And he can't stop talking about how great he is! It's sickening! Someone needs to pop that big head of his! It will never deflate on its own, you know."

            Anna stood and I moved to take her place at my dressing table. "What is this?" I asked, noticing the letter that sat on there. Decorated with ribbons and gold leaf, it addressed to "The Lady Tatania Lianora Ballendin di Vaudrey." My full formal name, this was bad.

            I hesitantly opened it. It dropped to the floor before I had read more than a few key words: ball, costume, and masquerade.

            Anna giggled, "Tat, it's not a spider; it doesn't have the plague!"

            I grimaced as she handed the invitation back to me. I read through the formalities. This ball was going to be insane! The listed guidelines for attendance were quite specific. I was to completely disguise myself. To accomplish this, I was to disguise my voice and paint all skin that was even remotely visible! I would be wearing a hooded cloak along with a mask and a gown that I would probably hate. Not only would I be required to dance, but I would be dressed in an elaborate gown, masked, painted, and hooded? All that extra baggage plus no peripheral vision...yeah, great...guaranteed disaster. Even if I was disguised, everyone would know who I was after I started tripping all over the place!

            My head shot up, and I nearly shouted, "Wait! Anna, you knew about this? How? You didn't tell me?"

            Anna laughed lightly, her deft hands plaiting my hair. "Honestly, you have a rare talent for suppressing unwanted news. This ball was the talk for weeks before we left Lichthaven Park! The house was in an uproar waiting to receive their invitations from town." Anna stopped smiling. Her shoulders dropped slightly as she pinched her delicate eyebrows together. "You truly do not remember?"

            "No, I mean, I'd heard everyone talking about dancing...and costumes, but I thought they were going on about preparations for the next winter solstice, and ignored them as I usually do when they're being completely ridiculous...which is most of the time, now that I think of it..."

            "The winter solstice?"

            "Yes...Preparations for the winter solstice...just ten months early?...I'm completely ridiculous! There's really no way I can get out of this?"

            "Surely it will not be all that terrible..."

            "Um, let's see here...tripping, breaking someone's foot, public humiliation, having to put on a good fa├žade for all the diplomats' kids who will more than likely show up for this ludicrous thing...I could go on forever here, this ball will be the death of me."

            "Sir Alec again, is it?"

            "What! Ugh! Ew! No! That's not what I meant! I just don't do well at these things and I don't want to look like an idiot!"

            "This is a masquerade ball, Tatania. Nora and I will disguise you so well that no one will know who you are; you will even fool Father and Eloise. Perhaps anonymity will allow you to dance more comfortably."

            "I hope so, but I doubt it," I grumbled.



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