March 16, 2012 by greenhouse04
For a change of pace I’ll put my comments at the end…enjoy!
Even though cool and composed on the inside, you can’t help beaming at the news. Deep down you’ve always known you were a cut above the rest, destined for something great. Your two older sisters are yet to be married, unsurprisingly, and yet you, at 15 were not only going to be married before them, but to Johann Falkner, the most dashing knight in the realm!
“When shall I depart Father?” You ask in a crystalline voice.
Your Father doesn’t answer right away. He just watches you with concern on his face. His black grey-streaked hair makes his blue eyes look all the more piercing, even if his face is etched with wrinkles. It’s all too obvious that being a king is wearing at him, especially during a time of war. Still, the crown of Milandar does sparkle magnificently above that tired face.
His voice matches the look in his eyes as he finally speaks. “Look, Soofi, I know you’re excited by this. By all rights it should be one of your older sisters going. But I want you to focus on your duty. This isn’t about you being prettier or better than Looli or Tooli. I need to be able to count on Falkner troops. Your hand was his request. I need you to focus on your duty and make your father proud.”
You know chastening when you hear it. You immediately drop your eyes, putting a shy, slightly injured expression on your face. Appeasing father always came so naturally. You speak out with the essence of meekness. “I will do my best to make you proud father. I only want to please.”
King Strafholm, defender of the realm, victor of the Everwar, bearer of the blade of light, wilts. He lets out a loud sigh and says, “I don’t mean to be so hard on you, but you are young. Too young yet to realize that life isn’t always what you would have it.”
What more does he think you want out of life? Johann is amazing! At 18 he was already acknowledged as a master swordsman. Veterans feared to meet him on the field of battle…and he is handsome! So incredibly handsome! Thinking about him made it impossible not to think about when his eyes had met yours last spring. That moment seemed to stretch on forever. It still seemed like an eternity in your heart. You had felt yourself melting at his gaze, and he had smiled at you! …Oh, wait, your father’s still talking. He’s always endlessly lecturing. Will he hurry up and tell you when you’re supposed to leave already!
“…must be taken. No matter what life deals you, you are the one who decides how you will take it and what you will make of it. Remember my words! You leave at first light.” He waves you away.
Dismissed, you turn around and immediately begin beaming again! First light! Just long enough to rub your good fortune in Looli and Tooli’s faces! Your silk dress swishes softly as you leave the courtroom and to go looking for them. It’s cool outside and fall is approaching; as always, your apparel perfectly matches the day. You really are a marvel. The only question is whether even Johann deserves you?
You find Looli first, in the kitchens, eating sweets, like usual. You can’t help sneering at her. “I see your preparing for the leaner times of a harsh winter. Pity that harsh winter never comes. You should try to convince father to marry you off to a baker.” The immediate flash of anger in her eyes shows that you hit a nerve. Now for the kill. “Obviously nobody else wants you, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting married first.” The shock on her face is obvious. You almost giggle. “…to Johann Falkner no less.” Now to soften the blow. “I leave tomorrow. I’ll remember you with fondness.”
With that you pointedly look at the sweets in front of her, sniff, turn, and promptly go looking for Tooli. You find her in the west tower, painting, as usual. She looks up as you come up the steps. At 19 years of age, she is the eldest, of prime marrying age…well, a little past prime, and quite “charming” in her looks. Your eldest will certainly make a handsome old lady some day. However, she has no social courtesies. Ignorant is the word.
You walk up to her, pointedly sniff at her painting and then turn your back on her to gaze out on the landscape. The rolling hills of the Milandar are stunningly beautiful, especially this time of year, but not worth the risk of getting paint on your clothes just so you can try to impress people with your cheap imitation of them. Honestly, what’s the point of a painting when you can look at the real thing? You turn to your sister. “Still hiding up here I see. Perhaps I’ll come visit you in a decade or so. I’m sure you’ll still be in the same spot…and still single.” In answer to her glare you fain mock surprise. “Oh, you didn’t get the news. The whole castle’s talking about it. I’m to be married to Johann Falkner. I leave at first light. You may see me off if you like, but you might want to wear something you didn’t try to mix colors on.” You wiggle your finger at her dress for added effect.
With that you swiftly turn back to the stairs, leaving Tooli hurriedly checking her clothes. You sigh. No more time can be wasted on the dead weight of your sisters. They are part of your old life. You have your new life to prepare for. Dawn will come all too quickly.
And it does. A carriage is to be your world for the journey, a maid your only companion, twenty mounted men your escort. The trip takes two endless weeks. The Falkner lands are on the other side of Milandar, past the fortress of Trokar, and down by the coast. You have made it a point to be familiar with all aspects of the realm so you would be more appealing to any potential suitor, and so you easily spot landmarks and tell how far you’ve come…and how far you have left to go. Your sisters were NOT there to see you off. Neither was your father, which was odd. But that was your old life, and your new life awaits you. Marvelous daydreams of it consume your thoughts for the duration of your ride…
Finally the Falkner castle comes into sight, draws closer, and then is here. You can’t stop the smile from claiming your face. Johan was to be yours! In excitement you almost fail to stifle a giggle! The carriage door opens and a young servant is waiting to help you down. You reach your hand out to him and speak in your most queenly voice, “Thank-you kind sir. You will take me to my rooms immediately so I can freshen up. I wish to be at my best when I see Johann.”
Rather than turning sharply to lead you off, the young man hesitates, seemingly confused. Well, servants weren’t known for their cunning. Finally he speaks. “Many pardons, princess, but I’m to take you immediately to the high court. The Falkners are to march on the marrow and His Lordship proclaimed that the wedding would happen on your arrival. Everyone is waiting there now.”
What! With no time to properly prepare! What will your new subjects say? You almost can’t bear the thought of maids talking about how you got married in a riding dress! Is this the nonsense that your father was driveling on about, life and it’s not giving you what you want? Well, if so, you will approach it like the princess you are. You calmly look at the man and say, “So be it, lead on.”
Taking you through several corridors, lavishly decorated in what could only be taken as wealth, he leads you by what is obviously the most direct route. No proper tour of the castle grounds, this. The discourtesy upsets you slightly, but what you see when you get to the high court causes you to pause in shock.
It is completely empty, except for Lord Falkner, a priest, and Johan’s younger, crippled brother Stephanos. Where is Johann? Where are all the crowds and people to adore you? What is going on?
Lord Falkner walks briskly up to you, abruptly waves the servant away, and takes your hand himself. He practically drags you towards the priest and Stephanos. His words echo in the deserted room. “I have more serious matters to see to so this is all the formality my time can afford.” He stops, turns to you and looks down with something of a sneer on his face. “Your father needs me, so I demanded one of his daughters. He gave me you, which was an unexpected and brilliant move.” He pauses as if pondering this. “You aren’t worthy of my firstborn, Johan, you’re too much of a sniveling brat, but should he fall in battle, Stephanos will be my heir and need a son.” He grabs your arm in a death grip, leaning in so close you can smell his horrid breathe, and whispers harshly, “When we come back from our campaign I expect you to be with child. I know he’s crippled, and I know the fire has made his face detestable to look upon, but if you don’t do your duty, well, accidents happen.” He slowly runs his other hand down the side of your face. It is not an affectionate touch. “Maybe I’ll give you a face to match his.”
The blood drains uncontrollably from your face. Your thoughts race. Where is Johann…this has to be wrong…wouldn’t he come and demand you for himself…his brother is known to have drool run out the corner of his twisted lips…the second born receives nothing unless the elder dies…this couldn’t be your fate!
Still gripping your arm, Lord Falkner drags you relentlessly towards the priest.
I tried to do two things with this one. First I wanted to write one from a first person perspective, which is notoriously difficult to do. Most writers stick with 3rd person limited. I had to rewrite portions of this one SO man times to get the wording right! 2nd I wanted to write one that showed the horrors of arranged marriages in a noble cast system. Aranged marriages in and of themselves aren’t bad. Historically it actually seems like a pretty good system…provided parents arrange the marriage for their child’s well-being. In this kind of a setting it’s done for the parent’s well-being. I can’t imagine the variety of feelings that would have gone through some of their minds at the prospect of being “sold” by your parents for the “good” of the realm. As always, comments are welcome.