Arabesque,

Arabesque Chapter 5

10/07/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

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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 5
Tatania

            “Lord Gerald and his family will be paying us a visit,” Elena announced.  “They are bound for Acacia City and shall break their journey with us at Licht Haven Park.  They will be met here by a party of gentlemen from the capital who will escort them the remainder of their journey.”
           Escorts were needed to pass through Lagoon Valley.  It was once a beautiful, mysterious place, rumored to be the home of creatures such as mermaids, nymphs, gnomes, and faeries, but it had been infested with gangs of bandits.  A range of mountains on the eastern side of the valley made passage impassible for more than a hundred leagues, unless you traveled by ship along the peaked western coast (which wasn’t really possible in the icy winter). 
            Any gentlemen at the estate always meant that Elena would throw a ball.  That woman consistently snatched up every opportunity, as she put it, “to apply the social education I have strived to engrain in each young lady.”  Ugh!  Elena was determined to again teach us all the same stuff she’d already shoved down our throats, sure that we hadn’t learned it well enough.  In my case that was probably true.
            I couldn’t find peace those next few days. My head hurt from the giggles of silly girls going on about all the boys they would flirt with. I got bruised when I almost collided with servants who frantically ran all over trying to get everyone and everything up to Elena’s ridiculous standards.  I felt almost as sorry for them as I did for myself, but at least they didn’t have to actually go to the ball!
Lord Gerald’s family arrived, but I was much more interested in the protection detail from Acacia City.  They had several knights and army officers, and gentlemen my age, but I was most excited that   
         Dorian was with them.  He wasn’t exactly in my league, but…
         I actually made an effort to look nice that night. Nora’s shocked expression was priceless and got even more pronounced when I asked for a more elaborate hair style. 
I had trouble holding still as Nora twisted, curled, pinned my brown locks, then painted and powdered my face. I learned my lesson quickly enough, though. It’s not too smart to bounce up and down when someone is holding a hot iron that close to your head.  It’s even less smart to do so when they’re painting your eyelids.    Thankfully, my hairstyle covered up the burned part of my ear, and my eyes stopped watering soon enough that they wouldn’t be too red and puffy at the ball. 
I arrived at the ballroom, a crazy mix of excited and terrified.  It’s not that I didn’t like to dance, it’s just that I’ve never been the most graceful thing on two legs.  Unfortunately, announcing that fact in public was inevitable.  Whether at home or at Licht Haven, there was always some awful social event at which I, Tatania, Queen of the Unbalanced, was forced to attend.  Not only was I expected to make an appearance, but both Daddy and Elena insisted that Anna and I participate and “enjoy” the company of others our age.
            Dancing really wouldn’t have been that bad if not for a few things.  First, I was terrified of people seeing me dance.  Second, generally all the guys at these functions had seen me go through the most awkward phases of my life.  The years when I was plump and clumsy—a shy social reject.  I got so nervous each time a boy (especially a cute one) actually spoke to me that all traces of common sense, or social decorum was drown out by the thunderous pounding of my frantic heart.
            My scattered thoughts and lumbering feet were a dangerous pair.  The few times I had managed to not knock anything over I was told that I danced as elegantly as a waddling goose.  Between many embarrassing accidents and painful conversations, I was branded as “undesirably weird—avoid at all costs.”
            I had higher hopes for this evening.  Even if I Dorian didn’t notice me, there were at least ten gentlemen from Lord Gerald’s party that hadn’t met me yet. 
            It’s silly, but even though I was considered an adult, I still dreamt of someone being struck by my beauty.  Searching for a partner, he would circle the room and be unable to pass me by. 
Every minute of each ball, my shoulders would tingle in anticipation—perhaps they would feel a hand tapping to get my attention at any moment!  I would gently turn around, my cheeks blushing attractively, my eyes sparkling as I accepted the invitation.
            We’d match our steps perfectly, complimenting each other in exquisite harmony.  I’d manage not to trip anyone, he’d genuinely laugh at my jokes.  Complete bliss.
            Apparently that was too much to expect.  Although I tripped less frequently and had lost my baby fat, gaining a decent figure, it had been made clear long ago that dancing with me was not a voluntary task. Tonight had to be different!
            Anna and I sat in a quiet corner of the room, watching the festivities.  We talked quietly and listened to the small orchestra that Elena always seemed to have on retainer.                       
            All too soon, Anna was whisked away to dance.  I tried not to notice how they all looked at her, how almost before each song had ended she’d started dancing with another partner.  Anna always tried to stay with me as long as she could, but these balls were always lonely events for me, another reminder of how truly alone I was.
That’s enough whining, Tat. Who cares if none of these jerks are think you’re good enough for them. They’re not good enough for you!   I told myself, getting up.  I needed some air. 
I walked along the wall, toward the door, avoiding eye contact as I passed by clusters of people chatting.  Although, I really didn’t need to…it’s not like anyone would notice me to begin with.
            A large group blocked my way to the door.  I couldn’t go around them. There was a wall on one side, and people dancing on the other.  Interrupting a dance was nearly a capital offense to Elena and I didn’t want that kind of attention tonight.  I’d have to push my way through the group instead. 
            “Excuse me,” I murmured several times, as I nudged my way into their circle.
            “Lady Tatania!” exclaimed a deep silken voice. 
            Startled, I looked up, finding myself just inches away from Dorian.
            “So, what do you think?” he asked.
            “Huh?” I answered intelligently, trying not to watch his dark lips move as he talked. 
            “Will you and Princess Anna join us in our venture tomorrow?”  He smiled and I knew I couldn’t say no, no matter what he was proposing.
            “Of course we will,” I replied, not even slightly worried about what I was agreeing to.
            “Marvelous!” he said, then turned his back to me as someone else grabbed his attention.
            I blinked slowly, trying to clear my head. It took a while to remember what I had been doing before.  I made my way to a balcony.  The cold air shocked my wits back to me.  What had just happened?
            I was still processing it when Anna found me.  She laid a hand on my arm and gently said, “I was certain that Dorian would have asked you for a dance.”
            I smiled weakly, pained by the reminder, but I couldn’t let Anna know that anything she’d said hurt me.  She was such a tender hearted person that she couldn’t bear the thought of hurting anyone. 
So I hid my grimace and said, “Dorian asked me if we were joining him tomorrow.  Do you have any idea what he meant?”
            Anna frowned.  “Yes, several people have asked me about it.  Apparently, Dorian is organizing a secret snowball fight, although it’s hardly secret since he’s invited everyone save Lady Elena herself.”
            “A snowball fight?  Hmm, that might be fun…Oooo! It will finally give me the chance to pummel Genevieve with slush!”
            “That is unlikely.  There are to be organized teams, gentlemen versus ladies.”   
            “Dang.  Still, there’s no way I’d miss the chance to see her dripping wet.” I grinned wickedly.  “I wonder if I could talk Dorian into adding rocks to a few snowballs…”  I broke off suddenly, a curious feeling making me turn around.
            Startling blue eyes seemed to bore into mine.  Possibly the most striking man I’d ever seen stood before us.  Men weren’t supposed to have dark eye lashes that long, or skin that perfect.  It wasn’t fair to us women. 
            My brain worked sluggishly.  Wasn’t I saying something?  I blushed.  How much had he heard?  Why hadn’t I ever seen him before?  My agitated hands smoothed out my skirts. 
            He bowed with a grin and said, “My ladies, I have not yet had the honor of meeting you.  My party arrived much too late to dine with the household.  I am Sir Alec of Cloverfield Park.”
            Anna nodded and I managed some semblance of a curtsy.  “I am Princess Anna, and this is my sister, the Lady Tatania.  I understand that you are staying at Licht Haven Park for a few days, from whence you will travel to Acacia City.  I hope it has been a pleasant journey thus far.”
            “It’s been as pleasant as a long journey through the snow in foreign country can be.  I can hardly bear the chill this far north.  I don’t know how anything pleasant can survive here.  The land I’ve seen has been far from agreeable.”
            That snapped me out of it.  The spell was broken.  This wasn’t a gentleman, it was an ogre!  What?! Did he really just say that he hates Acacia?  Who does he think he is?    
Rage burned inside me.  I wasn’t about to let him get away with insulting my home.  I tossed her hair haughtily and said, “We manage well enough to be more agreeable than you seem to be.”
From the corner of my eye, I could tell Anna was groaning inwardly. 
I didn’t care.  I leaned forward in a challenging stare.  Sir Alec’s shock was plain on his face.
“You must pardon my sister, Sir Alec.  She is unaccustomed to the blunt speech of other cultures.  I understand in your lands, people often speak quite informally, speaking their mind without fear of offense.”  She glanced at me, silently pleading for peace.  “As our guest, you are welcome, of course.  I am certain no offence was meant on your part.  I regret what you have seen of our lands and weather has been unpleasant.”
             Sir Alec studied us momentarily.  “I have, of course, heard Acacia City is a rare and beautiful gem.  I have not had the pleasure of visiting it since I was very young.  I only remember that journey vaguely…” He trailed off, seemingly distracted as he alternated between addressing each of us.  His gaze lingered on me uncertainly as he stopped speaking, his eye brows scrunched together. 
“Acacia is the most beautiful of cities,” I coldly replied, fearlessly returning his gaze.
“Or course.  I had no wish to offend.” He added amused, which only set me off again.
“If degrading the homeland of your host is how you intend to be inoffensive, you may want to consider other topics,” I said.
            He smirked, “Such as the weather?”
            I nearly laughed.  “My, but you have ruined the only safe fallback!  Whenever I have something unpleasant to say, I have always been told to speak of the weather instead.  You would not believe how proficient I should have been so far, but my ill manners have caused that topic to seldom be mentioned.  Since I can tell that my sister is absolutely mortified, she is always the perfect hostess, I will make the attempt.”  The gleam in my eyes grew brighter.  “Pray, Sir Alec, what offense did you find in our northern weather?”
“I am not used to the temperature of the north.  I heard tales of it, of course, but I had always thought they had been exaggerated.  This bitter cold feels…unnatural.”  He finished with his face distorted in distaste.
“Surely it is not wholly unexpected, as you’ve been here once before,” I said.
“It was a much greener season the previous occasion.  Embarking on this journey, I have judged it against expectations drawn from the wondering eyes of childhood, which is hardly fair.”
“That is a much more reasonable assessment,” I said flatly.
"I must admit, this is the first time I have seen snow that’s not topping a mountain.  It makes our journey much more tedious.  I cannot say I like it.”
“You’ll like the snow even less tomorrow when I…” I started.
Anna broke in quickly to avert further disaster.  “Snow does have the unfortunate habit of making traveling more difficult.”
I supposed it would not do to have her sister shame our host by threatening to assault a guest, even if it looked like he could use it... 
Knowing me all too well, Anna tried to change the tone of the conversation.  “Why, even my sister does not truly enjoy this weather.” 
            My head whipped to the side as I nearly glared at her, but she continued.  “I believe it to be her least favorite season.  I have often heard her remark that she wished to skip the season entirely and leave the cold to higher elevations.”
            Alec smiled triumphantly.  “It seems the Lady Tatania and I have something in common after all then!”
            I frowned and started to speak, but it seemed Anna was determined to make it clear that I needed to behave properly, even though she hated reminding me of my role in the royal family, such as it was.
            She spoke quickly, “Yes, it seems you do.  I apologize on behalf of my sister, Sir Alec.  Please excuse her behavior; this season often leaves her in an uncommonly foul temper.”
            I was too stunned to spit any words out. Uncommonly foul temper? Anna never criticized me in front of other people. How could she side with him?
            “I regret that I am in a foul mood myself.  I fully accept the Lady Tatania’s apologies, and most humbly add my own.”
            All I could see was the smug smile on Alec’s irritatingly perfect lips. All I could hear was his voice echoing, “I fully accept the Lady Tatania’s apologies.” I felt the blood roar in my ears as I snapped.
             “I never apologized, you pathetic excuse for a man, nor do I intend to!  My temper is just as it should be.” I seethed.  “It is not my fault that you’re as thin skinned as an old woman.  If you’re too cold, go sit beside a hot fire, under a thick stack of blankets, and leave us Acacians be!”
            Anna wouldn’t look up from the floor.  Sir Alec’s mouth practically stood agape.  He clamped it shut, muttered a quick “Please forgive me,” then bowed sharply, and walked away.
Anna roughly grabbed my arm and nearly dragged me from the spot I stood staring a hole through the back of Sir Alec’s head.
            Once he was out of sight, we walked as quickly as prudence would allow, and managed to not be noticed by anyone.
            “Insufferable man!” I huffed as we reached my rooms.
            “I recall hearing you say that he was less than a man, dear sister.”
            I threw my arms up exasperatedly.  “Well, he sure acted that way, whining like a baby.  I’d be surprised to hear if his mommy didn’t hold his hand to guide him through our treacherous snow!”
            “I admit that I, myself, was a bit taken aback by his behavior, but we must account for his upbringing.  He has lived in a much milder climate, and his culture is much more out spoken than ours.”
            “His upbringing, ha!  Whoever brought him up apparently forgot to teach him basic social skills.  I’ve never heard such complaining!”  I blushed and filled two cups from the pitcher on the small stand.  “Well, at least not in public, and to complete strangers!”
            “And what of your behavior, Tatania?  Surely you do not think yourself beyond reproach.”
            “Well, of course I don’t, but he was so awful! I couldn’t just let him speak of our home like that…and then such mocking sincerity!  That we should accept his ‘most humble apologies’!  I couldn’t just let it go!”
            “Tat…I know how upset you were, it bothered me as well, but we must school our emotions and be good ambassadors for our country. We are of the royal family; it is our duty…Father expects it.” 
            I winced at the mention of Father, and my shoulders slumped in defeat.  I never wanted to disappoint him. 
            She must have known that I wouldn’t sleep that night if we ended our conversation like that.
She grinned and said, “Your eyes seemed to enjoy the sight of Sir Alec, even if your tongue claims otherwise.  They lingered on him more than absolutely necessary for your argument.”
            I froze; both cups in hand, one partially extended to Anna.  “My eyes did no such thing!”
            She smiled indulgently.
            “Honestly!  I’ll admit he’s far more handsome than anyone else here, too much for his own good, it seems, but that’s it.  He’s not my type, you know that…
            “Ah yes, Dorian.  You prefer roguishly handsome to tall, dark, and handsome; how could I forget?”
            “Dorian is muscular…”
            “Yes, he thinks so as well.”
            I rolled my eyes, and shrugged my shoulders.  “What’s wrong with a little self-confidence?”
            “There is a fine line between self-confidence and conceit…”  she sighed. 


More coming soon! Read Chapter 6 here or more about my projects here.

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