Mouse held the outrageously bright purple dress up to Arya's body.
"What about this one?" Mouse asked, looking at the reflection in the mirror. "Add a bit of powder on your face, redden your lips, darken your eyes, and no man would want to court you."
"Perfect!" Arya smiled wryly. "And use the darkest berries for my lips."
"As you wish," Mouse smiled, placing the dress on the bed as she walked over to the cupboard to retrieve one of the jars of berries. She opened the doors and regarded the jars carefully. "Hmmmm," she mused, her eyes trailing up and down the rows of jars. Finally, she selected one off the top shelf and brought it back over to the vanity where Arya sat waiting. She opened the jar and scooped out some of the berries and placed them into a bowl on the counter. She then picked up the bowl and began to crush the berries when there was a knock at the door.
"Enter!" Arya called out. The door opened and in walked Lord Penton, followed by a trail of servants. Mouse regarded Lord Penton disdainfully. The Royal Advisor was a straggly looking man, about into his early fifties. His hair had turned grey over the course of his years working at the palace, perhaps so quickly because of all the stress he had from being a Royal Advisor. His nose was short and crooked and he had a slightly pointed chin. His eyes were a murky grey colour that often flashed with anger as they did now as he glared scornfully at Mouse before they flickered to the bowl in her hands, then the dress on the bed.
"Oh, no!" he snapped. "You are not doing this again!" He snatched the bowl from Mouse's hands and passed it off to one of the servants behind him. "I will not present a Queen who looks like a fool!"
"Then do not present me at all!" Arya snapped back. "I do not wish to be courted in this manner!"
"Your father left me in charge of your care after his passing, meaning that I will decide what is best for you!" Lord Penton's voice rose. That hit a hard chord in Arya. Mouse knew how sensitive she was to her parents' deaths. They had been claimed by a dreadful plague known as the Unforgiving Plague just two years earlier, and Mouse knew that it hurt Arya to think of them. Before her father had passed away, he had named Arya the heir to the Throne, rather than her elder brother, Prince Marcus, which had caused tension between them. Mouse understood why King Terian had chosen Arya rather than Marcus though. The High Prince was a very unpredictable and unreliable man. He was always off galavanting throughout the Kingdom, flirting with young maidens and doing whatever he pleased, rather than focusing on his studies and preparing to be a ruler as Arya and her younger brother, Prince Donavin, had.
"Do you forget who you are talking to?" Arya's voice rose as well as she stood up, bring Mouse's attention back to the present day. "I am the Queen! You cannot tell me what I can or cannot do! As an Advisor, you advise me, not tell me what to do! Don't forget your place or you will soon no longer have a place to forget!"
"There are already hundreds of suitors here, Your Majesty," he grumbled through clenched teeth. "As Queen, it is your duty to entertain your guests... presentably."
"Fine!" Arya sighed exasperated as she sank back down into her chair.
"Good," Lord Penton smiled, glad to have gotten his way. "I have brought you a proper dress for the evening." He snapped his fingers and a pair of servants came forwards carrying a beautiful deep green dress between them. Mouse saw Arya's eyes flicker with excitement as she regarded the beautiful dress, though her face remained emotionless.
"Put it on the bed," she dismissed, turning back to look at her reflection in the mirror. "Then you may go."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Lord Penton replied, signaling to the servants to do as she said. They laid the dress gently on the bed, then slowly eased out of the room with the rest of the servants, leaving just Arya, Mouse, and Lord Penton. When Arya turned her back to them, Lord Penton grabbed Mouse's arm roughly and pulled her closer to him.
"You make sure that she looks beautiful or else you will live to regret it, pest!" he hissed in her ear. He released her with a shove, then stormed out of the room, shutting the door sharply behind him.
"I think he's starting to warm up to me," Mouse remarked sarcastically, making Arya laugh, as she rubbed her sore arm. Since the day Mouse had come to the Palace, Lord Penton had despised her, using every excuse he could to get her in trouble. His prejudice was mostly because she was an orphaned street urchin, who had only been granted admittance to the Palace because she had saved the then young Princess Arya's life.
To be completely honest, Mouse could not remember the incident at all. From what she had heard, there had been a runaway carriage that had almost run down Arya when she was out for a walk in the small village of Felentia, which the Palace sat just outside of. Apparently a little street urchin had pushed her out of the way just in time, saving Arya's life. The urchin had thankfully not been killed, though she was seriously hurt. Arya had brought her back to the Palace and had the Palace Physicians care for her. She was left with a long scar on the back of her left leg and was unconscious for many days. When she finally woke up, she could not remember who she was or what had happened. The Royal Family had sent out word looking for the girl's parents, but no one had ever come forth to reclaim her. So Arya took her in, naming her Mouse as she was quick, quiet, and sneaky like a mouse, and the name just stuck, so to this day she had been known as Mouse. She had become inseparable from Arya, each feeling that they owed their lives to one another, and they had soon become fast friends. King Terian had placed Mouse as Arya's personal servant as he knew that he could trust his daughter's safety to her.
Mouse smiled as she recalled what an honour that had been to be recognized like that by the King, but a frown soon replaced it. It had been almost seven years since then and her memory of her past had still not returned. The Palace Physicians had assured her that it would come back with time, but as the years passed, Mouse had given up hope of ever remembering her past.
"Mouse?" Arya was looking at her with concern. "Are you alright?"
"Yes," Mouse put on a smile for her. "Just thinking is all."
"Be careful doing that," Arya teased. "You might hurt yourself trying so hard!"
"Ha ha, funny," Mouse remarked sarcastically with a smile. "Now come on, we have to get you into this dress." She picked up the deep green dress.
"Why does it have to be so beautiful?" Arya sighed as she walked over and fingered the softness of the cloth.
"Well, who knows? Maybe you'll meet your future husband tonight," Mouse commented, trying to raise Arya's spirits. "You'd want to look beautiful for him, wouldn't you?"
"Yes," Arya sighed. "But I was hoping that I would meet him in a more natural setting, not a set up one."
"I know," Mouse laid a comforting hand gently on her shoulder. "I only said maybe. He may not be here tonight. He could be waiting to meet you at some random, natural moment. But for this moment, we need to focus on getting you ready or else you'll be late and Penton would have a hissy fit!"
"Oh well we can't have that now, can we," Arya smiled, taking up the dress and walking behind the changing curtain. "We mustn't anger the Penton!" Mouse joined in with her laughter as she was left standing alone in the middle of the room, left to ponder her thoughts again, especially the big one that never left her mind.
Who am I?