Chapter VI

Chapter VI

A Chapter by WisbyWrites
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Characters across the sea in the capital city of Wassentia are introduced. A royal wedding ensures a new King and Queen whose purpose is to reshape Tavaun in the Wassentian image.

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Plessis was the most boring city in the Empire, Estrella decided. There was a rule for everything under the moons, God was all anyone ever spoke of, and they hadn't had a good old-fashioned execution in far too long (there was a new rule against killing people in the capital), so there was nothing to do for fun. Estrella knew how to read because she was royalty, but she wasn't supposed to read because she was a girl. She detested needlepoint, dancing, chess, and the harp. She detested smiling and pleasantries and formality. She detested heretics and witches and sinners. Most of all, she detested being told what to do.

Estrella Halcyon, crown princess of the Wassentian Empire, was being married to her cousin, Finnegan Minthe, to be the face of Wassentia in Tavaun. The barbarians are tired of being ruled from across the sea, so I am to uproot my life. Hardly seems fair. She stood on the balcony, watching the tide rushing in under the sunrise. Below her was the ship, and though she refused to watch, she could still see her betrothed approaching the palace from the sand. The skirt of her dress, with its layers of pale satin, blew and billowed in the breeze. It was a feeling she could get used to, on that ship to Tavaun, especially if it kept her from embroidery. The sea is the best listener I have, Estrella mused, sullenly, and we'll become very familiar in the weeks to come. 

"Your Royal Highness," said a meek voice from the hall. "they're ready for you."
Estrella took one last deep breath, dropped her shoulders, and raised her chin before she tore her gaze from the ocean. She walked sharply to the foyer of the palace, where her father waited. She took his arm, her eyes never looking up at his, and they marched to the temple as the onlooking smallfolk crowded and stared. It was now that she looked at her father, as he grinned at his people, parading his daughter through the city like a prized goat. He dressed ornately, as though it were his own wedding day. He was too happy for this day. Estrella was grieving; grieving the loss of her power, her individuality, her life as she knew it. 

As they walked into the temple, Estrella had to stop herself from thrashing and screaming and clawing her way out. She continued her forward march, her eyes glazed over and her jaw tight, and she looked at her father once more before she let go. This is a man, thought Estrella, this is what a leader looks like. He was tall and strong and black-bearded, his smile reaching his bright, bright blue eyes as he nodded to her. Estrella walked to stand beside Finnegan. How could the people ever fear a boy such as he? 
When time came for Estrella to say her vows, she wasn't at all focused on the words themselves. Her mind and her mouth here on separate planes. Her mouth said the vows. Her mind burned with the stares of every eye in the citadel. She was a spectacle; a costumed figure to inspire songs about this day. Her hair, the color of dead grass, had been twisted and tied up above her head, covered in a veil with strings of pearls. Her lips and cheeks painted to match the fabric flowers that embellished her dress. Her eyes, that matched the sea, were framed lightly with powders of gold and lilac. And as she swore herself to this boy, til their lives' end, she wasn't thinking of him at all, but rather the pitch of her voice, her posture, her smile. 



The wedding wasn't altogether unpleasant, Estrella decided, after her third cup of wine. Only music that she cared for was played, and only food that she cared for was served, and poor Finnegan was so enthralled by her it was like being married to a puppy. A puppy who had been handed the daughter of the Emperor and a country with her, but a puppy still. She danced with her puppy, and drank, and danced more, and drank more. Soon, she was falling asleep in a chair, plum pudding and cherries in front of her. She looked up, and found her father where he always was at the end of an eventful night; pressed against a shadowed wall, speaking extremely conspicuously with Aelfreda, the court evangelist, the second chair of the Council of Nine, governess of the Saint District, who had Emperor Armand Halcyon wrapped around her finger. If Aelfreda could poison him and take the Empire for herself, she would, but it wasn't an option, so she disgraced herself and flirted.

For all of his courage and piety and love, Estrella mused, her father was undoubtedly a fool with women. Aelfreda's painted porcelain face and sky-high knife ears (decorated in strings of jewels, of course) weakened him to a point that embarrassed Estrella. What embarrassed her further was how he groveled at the feet of a woman so opposite from Estrella's mother, God rest her soul. 

Finnegan sat beside Estrella then, surprising her. She'd almost forgotten he was even there, at their wedding, the day before they journeyed to a new country. 

"Are you feeling well?" He asked her, his voice gentler than any she'd heard. He rested a palm on the back of her shoulder. Do not touch me. Do not touch me. You have not earned that right. 

"I'm quite drunk." She whispered.

"Then we'll have to refuse these voyeurs their bedding ceremony. Brilliantly done," He flashed her a smile, which managed to calm and insult her. You are lucky to be wed to me. My name is worth a hundred kings, my bed worth the world's ships, my dress alone worth more than, worth even more than... Even in thought, she stammered, flooded by wine and rage.

"I think my reputation has taken enough damage this night." She slurred, biting into a cherry.

Finnegan only smiled, "Of course."

Estrella did not dance with her husband after their first, but watched the people around her, drinking in the sight of the royals and courtiers she would never again see, in the grand hall she would dearly miss. She watched Aelfreda with intent, etching every calculated movement into her mind. She wanted to remember what cunning looked like in a woman.

"Are you watching her?" Finnegan asked. Estrella had forgotten he was there. She nodded. "Do you want to know what they're talking about? Or rather, what favor she has asked of him?"

"You couldn't possibly know what the Emperor discusses with his second chair," Estrella huffed.

"Your ladies-in-waiting," Finnegan whispered. "Her niece is sailing with us."

Estrella turned to Finnegan, wide-eyed. "I wasn't made aware there was a niece." She released an exasperated sigh. "Have you met her?"

"I can't say I've had the pleasure. Though, I hear she's tall." There was a constant glimmer of amusement in Finnegan's eyes. It was without malice; that was the look had by men, who laughed politely in public and lashed out in private. This was the look held only by boys who knew a joke you did not. Estrella had the feeling she was the butt of it.



Estrella was joined in bed by Finnegan that night, but he dared not touch her. She wondered if he had wanted to. He had aided her, in her drunken state, to prepare for bed. He had untied the complicated fastenings and laid the discarded clothing flat on the dressing table, and then he had tucked her under the blanket and coverlet, before retiring to the bed himself, facing opposite Estrella, and a good distance away.



He was already dressed and standing by the door when she woke up, still bordering on delirious from the drink the night before and the tiredness. The bedding seemed to hold her down against the mattress. 

"Good morning, my dearling." Finnegan said, and swiftly walked to her side, placing a kiss on her forehead, before returning to his place by the door.

"Did I sleep very late?" Estrella asked, throwing aside the quilts and stepping out of bed.

"You're the crown princess; our ship can wait in the harbor for as long as you like." Finnegan delicately donned his gloves. "Shall I call in the Women of the Bedchamber?"

Estrella had not felt so naked in front of him until then. She coiled her arms around her shift. "Yes, thank you."

They dressed her in finery that was second only to her wedding gown. Estrella had seen this dress, she had approved it, but she had imagined herself wearing it to a much happier occasion than her sendoff. Is it so joyous for them? For my father, for my court? She wanted to cry. Her chin quivered as she raised her arms into her sleeves. I wish I had been a son. I wish I had. I could stay if I were a man.
 
Dressed, she studied herself in the looking glass. She stared as her tangled straw hair was made curly and neat, and as they powdered her cheeks, painted her lips, and inked her lashes. She felt she had witnessed a transformation from one person to another. I'm going to be on a ship. Why must I look so preened to be sequestered at sea? 

Her attendees let Finnegan in before they left. They did not say goodbye. They were not friends, they would not miss her. No one in Plessis would.

"Every member of court is awaiting your presence at the royal docks." His attempts at composure betrayed him; Estrella could tell he was excited. 

He's as much a stranger to Tavaun as I am, what does he have to be happy for? The tears poured. Finnegan rushed to her side as she doubled over in the middle of her bedchamber. He hesitated, his arms reaching for her, before he placed them on the sides of her shoulders. Estrella's face heated with shame. This is not how a ruler behaves. She covered her mouth and held her stomach in the way she had sobbed at the death of her mother, and as she was sobbing at the death of herself. A king would not cry. A king would walk out of this palace with his chin up, waving and smiling, welcoming the adventure. She realized, Finnegan is doing exactly that; welcoming the adventure and the power with a smile and a wave.

She looked up at him. Before she could decide on what she wanted to say, he knelt in front of her. "I am your husband and your king. I promise that I will do all that is in my power to keep you happy, and to uphold your reputation. We can have many children together, if you wish it, and if you never want me to touch you, I never will. You can visit with your family as often as you like." This stilled Estrella and halted her tears. She looked at him, thoughtless from surprise. He continued, "To be your husband is an honor; one I shall not soon forget." He placed his hand on hers. "My sword is yours. My heart is yours." 

Seven seconds of silence passed before Finnegan stood and offered Estrella his hand. She accepted it and stood. She wanted to say something to him, but she could not think of what. 'And mine is yours as well,' No. It is a lie, and he deserves honesty. 'Thank you' is inadequate; he has pledged himself to me, reversed the traditional roles of marriage and royalty. I am his ruler in both court and marriage. There is no adequate thanks. Estrella said nothing. She cleaned her face of tears and smudges and left for the docks with her husband, her hand atop his bent arm, her chin up.



Estrella had been reassured in the palace, but on the shore, her panic resurfaced. Everyone she knew was waiting on the sand. Her father, with Aelfreda at his side, the seven other members of the Council of Nine standing behind them; all of her friends and attendees, and that of her father; the court physicians and scribes and several of the court pets. And, of course, separate from everyone else, were the prominent members of House Minthe--three women, whose joy was far too pronounced, and whose ivory hair blew in the sea breeze. 

Estrella wanted to run out to the ship and climb aboard before any goodbyes could be said. She also wanted to run back upstairs and climb into her bed. She also wanted her father to hold her. Instead, she walked slowly, and her father put his hand on her shoulder.

"Make me proud," said the Emperor. "you're representing the Empire." He smiled at his daughter. Estrella curtsied and boarded the ship.

She did not look back. She entered her cabin and stayed there until her home had long disappeared into the horizon. Only then did she come out, finding her place against the rail of the ship, to stare out at the ocean under the sunshine, and to feel her dress billowing in the wind. 



Words: 2240  Pages: 4


© 2020 WisbyWrites


Author's Note

WisbyWrites
This chapter is now complete!
Pronunciations: Wassentia (Va-sen-she-uh)
Plessis (like Plessy)
Estrella (Ess-stray-uh)
Halcyon (hal-see-uhn)

Photo by Nives B. on flickr

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Added on November 9, 2018
Last Updated on April 15, 2020
Tags: fantasy, high fantasy, royalty


Author

WisbyWrites
WisbyWrites

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About
Saige / 18 / Artist and writer for fun. In the process of writing my fantasy novel. Stay tuned for updates! more..

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Chapter II Chapter II

A Chapter by WisbyWrites