Arabesque,

Arabesque Chapter 9

12/19/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments


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 9
Tatania

We caught our first glimpse of Acacia City in the late evening. We rode through the mountain pass, northwest of the city, and emerged to see familiar specs of civilization in the distance.

By sunset, we traveled the north road which bypassed most of the city and lead more directly to the castle.

As we drew near, the setting sun sank behind our backs, bathing the white stone of Acacia City, and the spire of Acacia Castle in ethereal tones of orange and pink.

Home. I folded my arms on the pane of the carriage window, rested my head of them, watched the colors disperse as dusk descended and dots of lantern lights appeared.

The closer we got to home, the less I felt the chill of the night. I was almost able to forget the dread of having to tell my family why I was back so early.

A soldier had ridden ahead to announce us, so we were expected when we crossed the drawbridge, the grounds, and finally exited the carriage.

Since there were dignitaries in our party, we met formally in the throne room. Hugs and such would have to wait until our guests were greeted with due respect.

Our escort stopped before entering the throne room, bowing as we passed. King Nicholas stood and welcomed us. My father had dark brown hair and blue eyes like my own, but while he was moderately tall, he always seemed much larger than he really was. He radiated serene confidence and authority, born from years of experience as king. Gray hair barely touched his head, yet having been crowned as a child, he had gained age and experience much more quickly than others.

"I will not keep you any longer," he said after greeting us. "You must be tired from your journey. You will be shown to your quarters, where hot fare and warm baths await you."

Servants lead our guests away, leaving the cavernous throne room feeling even more daunting. I shifted nervously.

As soon as they were out of hearing range, my father smiled and held his arms out to us. We ran to him. All fears drained away; I'd missed him so much! He held us just as he did when we were little.

Eloise was next, and we were locked in a vice grip that wasn't her usual polite, but motherly embrace.

We stepped back after a few more hugs all around, and Father said, "Now, tell us why you have arrived so soon when you were not anticipated for weeks to come."

Fear and shame crashed down on me as I reluctantly handed him Lady Elena's letter. His brow furrowed; his smile hardened as he read.

"I see," he said. "Lady Elena was wise in your discipline."

Although I wanted to protest, I managed to keep my mouth shut and save a little face.

He handed the letter to Eloise. She tsked as she read and murmured what sounded like, "Honestly Tatania, what were you thinking..."

My eyes lowered naturally, threatening tears that would inevitably come once the lecture started.

Father merely shook his head, and took my hand. "I doubt this experience will be an isolated incident. My daughter is as willful and headstrong as ever."

I peeked up at him and thought I saw a gleam in his eyes.

His face stern once more, he said, "I trust that my daughter will perform her duties as liaison with diligence."

I curtsied, "Yes, your majesty."

"In that case, let's have another hug and be done with this. It is not well to worry on such things and ruin such a merry reunion."

He took us under his arms, and we walked to our family's sitting room. Servants brought food and we feasted, talking and laughing well into the night.

I woke up in my own bed. I felt so good! I yawned and stretched. My soft blankets were so warm... It would've taken a lot to drag me out of there. I picked up my book from my night table and settled in comfortably.

It had been such a good night! We told Eloise and Father about some of our experiences at Lichthaven, and they caught us up on affairs in the rest of the kingdom.

Nora brought in a breakfast tray after it was obvious that I had no plans to leave my room.

It must have been almost noon when Anna knocked softly on my door. She smiled at my book and held up one of her own.

"Will you come join me in the library before you sprout permanent roots in that bed?"

I frowned. Bed...so warm and soft...didn't want to move. But, the library... I'd missed our beautiful library. Licht Haven's library was elegant by any standard, but our library was...well, it was home.

I've never considered visiting guests an imposition. I may not be as patient as Anna, but our family had certain obligations that I was used to. Catering to the needs of Alec's family was beyond my capacity. Anna chided me for my lack of hospitality, but hey, I was trying!

My sister and I sat on a couch together, absorbed into the pages of the current books we had each been sucked into.

The library was another favorite sanctuary. Thousands of volumes of every color and size consumed the grand room. Although the library was massive, the rich tones of the books imparted comforting warmth that reduced the glow of the hearth to that of a candle stick. The books chanted seductively of the adventures and knowledge they longed to share with me. My sister and I spent innumerable hours basking in the paradise of other worlds.

I had retreated into just such a fantasy when I was yanked back into reality by a very irritated and booming voice.

"Are you sure Alec said he would meet us in this room? Whatever would possess my son to enter such a place willingly!" Gerald's nose was scrunched up flatter than a piglet's. The large balding man began to wander throughout the room, criticizing everything in his view.

My head shot up as I prepared to defend my haven from its unwelcome intruder. Sensing my immanent protest, Anny gently pinched my arm and motioned with her eyes that I should continue reading. She's probably right, I thought. No need to cause any trouble with the rest of that family too, especially when I was trying so hard to behave.

I forced my eyes back to the pages of my book before anything was noticed by our guests. My mind tripped clumsily over each word. The book refused to speak to me, to draw my heart into its pages. I angrily plowed on, each sentence became a leaded burden.

I was so focused on my task that I didn't notice Alec's father until he'd been standing over me for some time. My eyes burned craters into the pages of my book. I awkwardly tried to ignore that his knees nearly touched mine. I've never been comfortable in close quarters. I like my personal space to be respected. Gerald did not share my uneasiness.

As I fumed in silent discomfort, he leaned over me to examine the painting that hung above my head. "Bah!" He exclaimed as he walked to the chair across from us. He shuffled noisily as he sat down, huffing a bit as he fell into the winged back chair. His wife joined him in an identical seat a foot away. "It looks like someone threw up on that couch! Isn't it ugly? This chair is much more comfortable than that couch could be. Don't you think so dear?"

Although I kept my head down, I couldn't help but imagine the spiteful look he was directing at us on our favorite sofa. I'd never really noticed the d├ęcor in this room. If asked to describe the furniture I would say that it was comfortable. But was it really hideous? I slowly raised my eyes to check. No, it wasn't bad. It wasn't the prettiest pattern, but it was definitely not sickening.

I carefully glanced at Mildred and Gerald. While Gerald was still glaring at different aspects of the room, his wife had settled quietly into her chair with a book. She must have been used to his personality. Poor woman...I wonder how long that took. I could never get used to a husband who was so awful!

Speaking of awful...Just then, between the shelves we sat next to, I spotted Gerald's annoying son walk into the library.

"Father, Mother," Alec nodded to them as he strolled carelessly into my library.

Geesh! Won't we ever get some peace? I thought, rolling my eyes. I was seriously beginning to consider staying in my rooms until they left Acacia.

"Alec! How are you this fine day, my son?" Mildred smiled sweetly.

"About time you got here boy," his father grumbled, not bothering to look up from the book he'd found. "We've been cooped up in this old, musty place for hours."

"It has hardly been hours, my dear. We can't have been waiting more than five minutes at the most, and in such splendid surroundings! Why, I doubt that our great library at Cloverfield Park contains even half so vast a collection of tomes and volumes."

This lady might actually be starting to grow on me. I thought.

Alec smiled and took her hand as she got up, then kissed her forehead. "Since Father is not complaining nearly as much as usual, I take it he actually approves of this library nearly as much as you do, Mother. Will you show it to me?"

"Of course, I would love to, Alec," she said. "Princess Anna and the Lady Tatania are reading over that way, around that shelf, and I fear that we have quite rudely interrupted them. It may be impolite to trespass further." She finished nearly in a whisper.

My eyes left the peek hole between the shelves and darted back to my book. Please leave us alone! Don't come back here! I thought desperately.

The possibility of one person in that family actually being halfway decent didn't make me any more likely to enjoy being around Alec...not to mention that I wanted to hit Gerald for insulting my library.

"Princess Anna, Lady Tatania," Alec said, bowing gallantly before us with his mother.

Nooooooooooooooo!

Anna got up and curtsied; I reluctantly set my book down and did the same, trying to put on a civil front.

"I apologize for disturbing you, my ladies. Lady Eloise mentioned that you are both great lovers of literature. I, myself, have been known to pick up a book or two when it suits me..." Alec started.

I snorted in contempt. I really didn't mean to do it out loud, but honestly, his type always said they loved what everyone else did, but it always turned out that they didn't really have a clue!

Anna, as always, was quick to cover my rudeness. "How are you enjoying Acacia City thus far? Are you well rested from your journey?" She asked quickly. "I hope that your rooms are adequate."

"The rooms are beautiful and quite comfortable! I hardly know when I've slept so well away from home." Mildred said cheerfully.

"I am quite glad to hear it, Lady Mildred." Anna replied.

"Oh, there is no need for such formality with me, my dear. Please, call me Millie."

"Quite comfortable indeed," Gerald huffed loudly from where he still sat.

"Yes, the rooms were fine, thank you." Alec said hastily.

Fine? I thought furiously. Aside from the royal chambers themselves, there were no finer rooms in the castle! The spoiled brat! It's a wonder how he and his father survived the journey here, having to stay at inns if a palace isn't good enough!

I was about to say as so when Alec said, "While I always do take much pleasure in conversing with you and your charming sister," he gestured to me, "I admit that was not my true purpose in seeking you out."

Now there's a big surprise. I don't really feel like talking to you either.

"When your aunt mentioned your love for literature, it was because I had mentioned that I was to meet my parents here. She suspected that you would be here as well, and asked me to carry this message to you."

He handed a bit of folded parchment to Anna, their hands nearly brushing as he did so. I was suddenly grateful that decorum demanded the elder sister was spoken to and dealt with first, before the younger. I would never want to touch that slimy hand of his!

"I thank you, sir." Anna and I curtsied, and they left us to explore the room.

"What is it?" I asked, peaking at the note.

"Father has requested that we attend today's session of the Council of Magistrates," she said calmly. "We will find that luncheon is set out in our rooms. We have less than two hours to prepare. So we must hurry."

We returned to our rooms and ate a quick meal. Two hours wasn't much time to get ready for a formal session of the Council. We were expected to show up in full formal dress, hair, makeup and everything! And we still had to bathe before all of that happened!

We were rushed through our baths. Alec must have taken his time getting the not to us because they were icy cold when we got in (no doubt that was his plan). Then we were forced into uncomfortably stiff, but I had to admit, beautiful gowns, and powdered and painted like dolls. The worst part though, was the hair dressing. Two girls worked on my hair. They pulled, poked, curled, and forced my hair into an elaborate style more fit for a ball than a stuffy political meeting.

Poor Anna had it worse, though. As the princess, her appearance had to be even fancier.

When we were styled, painted, and dressed, we were bedecked with jewels and tiaras, and sent on our way.

I don't know if you've ever worn a tiara, but I promise you, they're sparkly but they are not built for comfort. Cold metal presses into your scalp while combs stab at you and yank out chunks of your hair if you bump the dumb thing even the tiniest bit! I've been told countless times that beauty is worth the pain. Yeah right.

We were taken by carriage to the Council's assembly hall, south of the castle, nearly on the other side of the city. The hall was a very imposing building, made of white marble like a lot of the older parts of the city. Its looming columns and arches easily dwarfed us as we entered.

The meeting was just as boring as I'd remembered. A hundred or two of the kingdom's noblemen and women were appointed to the council. Unless there was a critical vote or issue, it was usually attended by only half the members because of travel time and distance.

Five men and women presided over the Council of Magistrates. Sir Rupert, Lady Elena's husband (and Genevieve's father) was one of them.

Seating was arranged in a semi-circle, raised in tiers with the head of the Council above the rest and to the center, and royal seating just above them.

The council voted on matters, the king (or queen) voted in agreement or disagreement. If agreed, then the vote passed; when there was a royal vote against the matter, it was returned to the Council for reconsideration. If the Council voted in favor three times, then the royal vote was overruled.

There was, however, a balance to this. The king or queen (depending on who ruled at the time) could propose a vote themselves. As with council approved matters, if a vote passed, it was settled, if not, it was reconsidered three times before the denial was final.

What made it all so tedious was that each proposal was usually considered, or reconsidered, for anywhere from a week to several months before it could be voted on.

Thankfully, we'd been away from home long enough that they were actually arguing over a new topic this time, but it was still really boring and painful sitting there in a tight corset, uncomfortably fashionable shoes, and being stabbed all over my head with hair pins!

I tried really hard to pay attention because Father always talked to us about the meeting afterwards. Somehow, from just sitting and watching politicians squawk at each other, we were supposed to be able to pick up on all sorts of weird subtleties which were beyond me. How was I supposed to be able to tell that two magistrates were in league with each other just because of how one sent a quick look or gesture, facial expression, or even by how they sat in their chair???

I did a little bit better than usual, picking up the supposedly obvious time that Lord Fontaine shifted in his seat when Lady Olette said something.

Father didn't judge me too harshly since I was "out of practice" but he must not have realized that it would only get worse the more often I was forced to attend. The more familiar the people, topic, and surroundings, the more boring it got. Politics just wasn't my talent.


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