A Silent Waging of War
White, wooden walls, loomed over two tiny girls, and their escorts – the Queen Nreid and some twenty-five guards. They intimidated them a little at first, but no more so than the long, inter-spherical journey that had lain before them some three years ago. One small face framed by straight, blue hair quivered from both excitement and the chill of the north, while another filled with already-cynical chestnut eyes, took in their surroundings with an air of boredom and mistrust.
As they entered the grand hall of the castle, a cold blast of wind slammed shut the mahogany doors, sending the blue-haired child into a hushed squeak of alarm. At the far end of the long hall, Prince Dmitri, the son – a young boy of thirteen years – rolled his eyes.
Queen Nreid guided her charges towards the throne.
“Now, I want you on your best manners; curtsy, don’t speak unless you are spoken to and, above all,” she cast a warning glance towards the brown-haired child, “no mischief.”
The little girl’s eyes widened with feigned innocence, but not before a devilish smirk formed on her tiny mouth, making the Queen dread the approaching introduction. “Um, whatever you say.”
As they arrived at the throne, the King and Prince took in the trio. The Queen stepped forward and curtsied to the King, then motioned the girls to do the same.
“This is Zelphinae Morkaze, Princess of the sphere Chloséi, and my niece.”
The little girl with the straight blue tresses edged forward, gave a deep curtsy to both the King and Prince, and scooted backwards behind the Queen as fast as she could.
“And this is Driana Devane, her friend, and my new ward.”
The other child, with the brown, tousled curls, stepped to the front, met the eyes of the Prince with her own unwavering glare, and gave a mocking bow from the hips to the King. Her eyes never once left the Prince’s. She could hear her ward’s sigh of exasperation and she smirked. Like hell she was going to curtsy. She took a step back, pleased with herself.
“Young ladies, it is quite a pleasure making your acquaintance.” King Neotar’s voice echoed throughout the silent hall.
“Same here, Sir,” quipped Driana. Nreid’s grip on the girl’s shoulder tightened.
“The girls are tired my Liege; they have travelled from very far away and I would like to see them to bed now … if that is alright.”
“Yes, of course it is. See them in at once.”
“Sire,” she nodded in respect, before escorting the girls to their chambers.
Prince Dmitri’s eyes followed the girl, Driana. What kind of little girl bowed like a man and spoke to Neotar of her own free will? She meant trouble, and he did not like it at all. His father seemed rather amused but his mother seemed … like she could use a little help. Maybe he should keep an eye on that girl, make sure she stayed in line. Somebody had to do it, and as Prince and heir to the throne of Lasan, who better for the job than him?
“But you said to speak if you are spoken to and that is what I did!” Driana’s high-pitched voice reached a deafening crescendo belying the agitation she felt at being bombarded with yet another lecture on social graces and etiquette. The girls were now in their room, where Nreid was helping them to get settled for the night.
“Driana, will you please lower your voice!” Nreid reprimanded. “I know what I said, and the problem is not that you spoke to the King, the problem is the casual informality with which you chose to do so!”
“Well I said ‘Sir’! So sorry I’m not the uptight culo you would have me be!”
“Young lady, you had better watch your language or else!”
“You know what? I’m not a lady. I’m an obvious problem for you, and maybe it would be best if I just went back to the ship! Didn’t want to come here anyway.”
Nreid crossed the room towards the defiant little girl and raised her chin with a gentle hand. It was difficult to believe that she was only six years old sometimes. She would have to speak to the guards again about the language they used when she was around.
“Driana, I don’t want you to leave unless you want to leave. What I want you to do is behave.”
“Don’t know how,” came the sullen reply.
“Aunt Nreid?” a soft voice followed from the corner.
“Isn’t telling Driana to behave telling her to not be true to herself?”
Nreid sighed. She could see she was getting nowhere, and it was getting late.
“Okay you two. Let’s agree to disagree for tonight, alright?”
“Okay.” Driana scooted backwards onto the mountain of pillows at the head of her bed. “G’night.”
Zelphinae snuggled under her covers in the twin cot opposite Driana’s. “Goodnight.”
“And a fair goodnight to you, my loves,” Nreid replied as she swept out the door, closing it with a quiet thud behind her.
“It’s nothing … Ow!” Zelphinae muffled her cry with her blanket, assessing in the semidarkness the huge pillow that had assailed her. Driana’s own muffled laughter erupted from across the room.
Zelphinae sighed as she leaned down and grabbed the pillow off the floor.
“I guess that’s one more pillow for me then. Goodnight, Dri.”
The girls awoke to sharp, persistent knocking on their chamber door.
“Come in please,” Zelphinae called, sitting up in bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. She was the picture of propriety. Her mother would be proud.
Driana groaned and rolled over onto her stomach, falling right back to sleep. If she were in charge, early rising would be a felony.
The young Prince swaggered into the room. Zelphinae’s mouth dropped open.
“I am here to summon you to first meal. Be ready as soon as possible. I will be escorting you to the dining hall and I shall not be kept waiting.”
Driana flew up at the sound of the voice. Refraining from making a face at the haughty boy, she asked with forced politeness, “Excuse me, but where is Aunt Nreid?”
“In future,” he said with deliberation, taking her in with cold eyes, “you will address me as my Prince, your Highness or your Majesty, and where my mother is, is none of your business.”
Driana bit the inside of her lip so as not to curse. “Damn brat has issues,” she muttered under her breath as she slid out of bed.
“Excuse me?” Dmitri asked.
“Yes?” Driana asked.
Zelphinae watched the two stand-off.
“Cousin Dmitri, may we be excused so that we may be ready on time for first meal?”
He turned his gaze on Zelphinae, “What did you call me?”
Driana erupted. “Your mother gave her permission to call you that! What’s your problem? … Your Highness,” she finished with sweetest sarcasm.
“How dare you speak to me with such disrespect!” he demanded.
“How dare you treat her that way? She is your cousin and a princess and --”
“And you are nothing but trash my mother picked up off-course. What’s your point?”
Driana flew at him and dealt him a hard slap across the face. Dmitri’s eyes widened before they narrowed in silent threat.
“You are going to regret that,” he said.
“And you are obnoxious. What’s your point?” Driana countered.
Zelphinae stood by at a complete loss. She hated it when Driana got upset. It always made her rash and irresponsible.
“Prince Dmitri we are all going to be late if we don’t get moving now,” she reminded them again, in an attempt to divert their attention away from fighting each other.
Again he turned his gaze to her. “I’ll be outside.” Glancing back towards Driana, he turned and walked out.
“What a cunt,” Driana grounded out, before turning around and heading for her personal bathing cell to refresh herself. “It’s obvious he has esteem problems.”
“You shouldn’t have hit him. He could make life here hard for both of us if he wants.”
“For you maybe, but I’d pummel him into the ground before he could …”
“No! He is the Prince. We must show him the same level of respect we show to the King.”
“Dri … stop swearing.”
“Whatever priss, it’s time to get ready. We’re already late.”
Zelphinae sighed and slipped from her bed to walk into her own bathing cell. It was going to be a long, interesting stay here at the House of Neotar. She only hoped she could survive it.
“Ah … here they are.” Nreid’s relief was obvious as she motioned the girls to sit by her side. “Where were you? I was about to send someone looking.”
“Um … we are very sorry to be late,” Zelphinae said. “I couldn’t decide what to wear.”
It was then Nreid looked up and saw her son sitting on the right hand of his father and noticed the bruise on his cheek. Looking back towards the girls, she noticed Zelphinae’s own reddening cheeks and Driana’s stealthy avoidance in meeting her gaze.
“I see. We will talk later.”Aware of Nreid’s disappointment, the girls nodded and so the first meal began: an uneventful meal, abound with Driana and Dmitri shooting daggers at each other in a silent waging of war.