Seven years later...
I sat as still as humanely possible in the chair I was asked to. My electricity purple gown was made to fall gracefully down to the floor and I stared out of the balacany to my future dukedom with a blank face as the painter a few feet from me brushed away in his convas.
Honestly, I had been sitting here for almost two hours now and with nothing better to do but endure this torture, I was bored out of my mind.
I hadn't uttered so much as a word to the painter as he worked away at my portrait. This wasn't very nice of me, but I just wasn't in the mood to act very lady-like at this moment.
As a fact, I had been neglecting my duties to the dukedom for amlost a fortnight. This was on account of the upcoming birthday ball my parents - dad and my stepmother - were throwing in honor of my turning Eighteen tomorrow. I had been helping aunt Imogen out with preparations and didn't have time for much else.
"Lady Zigra, Lady Harriette's gone missing again." Mitchell burst through the balcany doors to inform me.
She looked really worked out and out of breath, haggered look. She must've been running all over the Castle looking for my little sister.
I slowly looked away from the scean I was staring at and turned my head to look at the servant. I blinked at her emotionleesly. She wasn't kidding. Harriette had disappeared from th Castle again. Surely she must've bribed some guard to hold his tongue, and help her sneek out.
Holding up my hand for the painter to pause, which he almost immediatly did, I slowly, gracefully, got to my feet. Grabbing my black, lace fan from the table by the glass door, I headed outside without a single word to anyone. It's been seven years since mom died, by now everyone was mostly used to my indifference towards everyone and my lack of emotion towards everything and everyone.
I glided past Mitchell and the painter without a single word and headed downstairs.
"Wasn't aunt Imogen going to attend the openning if the new bakery in the eastern corner?" I asked once we had reached the stairs. Mitchell followed after me in haste. I guess she was incharge of Harriette today.
At Twelve years old, she was quite a handful, to both me and Imogen. Dad was never there ever since mom passed away. He always buried himself in state matters and was barely ever there. Sure we saw him always during dinner and other important events that require all of our presence. I'm not saying that is the only time we see him.
"She has already left, my Lady." Mitchell answered me as she stumbled over her dress to keep up with my stiff but hurried strides.
"And where would be Felan?" I questioned her not breaking stride.
Felan Radoslaw, at the age of nineteen was the Lord Of Kehallanspike Hall - the home they had left behind them. He was the son of Lord Radoslaw and my aunt. Surprisingly enough, Felan and Harriette had gotten along almost immediately since they met - despite Imogen's and Harriette's spite towards each other.
As for me, I and Imogen had a don't-get-in-each-others-way policy. She does whatever she wants and I do whatever I want.
The only real time our paths really cross is when I stand up to my sister and take blame for all the trouble she causes. Harriette is usually oblivious to this, hence her continiuing to behave in her brash, tomboyish way. I didn't mind, if being a Lady knight was what was going to keep her happy then I'll be fine with it. The only real time I had forced her into wearing gowns is for dinner when we have Kings and Queens stay over.
"Lady Wenceslava requested he accompany her to the openning of the new bakery." Mitchell replied.
I merely nodded my head in consent to what she had said.
"Mr. Codnan, please ready my horse, there is something I need to take care of." I ordered when I saw the elderly butler who's been working in the Castle since I was a little girl. I had used to see him as a second father to me - before I got so closed off and indifferent towards everything and everyone.
"Where would you be off to, my Lady. Would you be needing any guards?" The elderly butler asked me with an adouring smile on his lips as he looked at me. He was the only person in the whole Castle who would never bow to me like everyone of lower status is bound to. Don't get me wroing, I didn't care whether they bowed down to me or not. But he is the only one who could do it and actually get away with it.
"That will not be necessary.' I told the man before turning to Mitchell. "Fetch my cloak and tell the painter that I apologise for having to leave so suddenly, but if he wanta to finish his painting he'll have to wait until I'm back." I told her and swept outside while Mitchell hurried off to do my bidding.
I followed Mr. Codnan down to the stables and helped him get my black stallion saddled up. Mitchell was skin at my side with my cloak and help me put it on. Then I got on the back of Frivour, not sitting side saddle as I wanted to be back in the Castle before Imogen gets home. I had a feeling she'd be in a foul mood when she gets back.
Good thing I always wore tights underneath my gowns so saddling up like a man was easy done without showing off any skin.
Nodding my head at Mitchell and Mr. Codnan I was off, headed straight towards Felan's and Harriette's secret clearing out by the woods that surrounded Mangandaall. I'm sure I'd be the only one able to find the two when they go their. It's called their secret hide out for a reason.
The clearing was a full mile away from the Castle and the chances of them getting were nil to none. This however, didn't meant it was safe out there in the woods. It might not be a forest with deadly animals, but their were enough rouges about these days to redeem anywhere in the woods unsafe - no matter how close to the Castle or kingdom they were in.
It took at least 15 miniutes of riding for me to find the clearing my step-brother and sister used. I didn't come hear much though I knew this was where I would find the pair, so I wasn't very familliar with the place and had to look for a bit before I found y way to the clearing. Just as I had expected, Harriette and Felan were parrying swords, banishing them at each other.
And when I say swords I don't exactly mean wooden ones nor blunt ones. No, the swords the two used were the kind any guard of soilder would hold. Sharp too the point.
I watched the two until they were not lunging for each other like lions in a den, I cleared my throat.
Both whirled around to me, swords held at the ready. When they saw it was only me, both sighed in reliefe simultaniously.
"Zee, you coming to practice with us?" Harriette asked happily as she did a somewhat complicated move with her sword.
I shook my head, looking at Felan.
"Rion is with mom, attending the openning, so it isn't like we all need to be their." Felan told with a chatming smile that had most court ladies and even the servants doing anything he asks. Unlike Harriette - who never acts like a lady - I knew Felan was going to be quite the heartbreaker when he's all grown up, if he already isn't.
With his warm chocolate brown eyes and midnight black hair, he was quite the handsome fellow.
I only nodded my head. He should know by now all his charming wasn't going to charm me. I was as indifferent to charm as I was to everything else. I now looked at Harriette, waiting for her explanation.
"I was bored. There is nothing to do in the Castle and madame Brouchè was trying to give me embroidery lessons." The last was said with a scowl. "You know I suck at anything related to stitching. Besides, madame Brouchè was being a nuisance... as always."
I rubbed my forehead with my pointer finger. Scolding the two of them would get us nowhere, so I didn't bother to. "Just get to the Castle, Lady Imogen will be coming back soon." I told them monotonouesly and turned around to leave.
I heard the rustling and crunching of leaves as both my siblings hurried to leave with me.
"Did you two walk all the way here?" I asked, noticing that Nutty - Harriette's creamy white mare - and Speed - Felan's chestnut stallion - were nowhere to be seen,
Harriette and Felan both had sheepish expressions on their faces than was answer enough for me. I hummed in responce and got up in the back of Frivour. I had the horse trot in a walking pace, not wanting to leave the two behind. Who knows what kind of trouble the two of them would get into if I left them. Sure they can take care of themselves - why else would I let them continue coming to their little clearing knowing things could get dangerous?
It took much longer than the fifteen miniutes it had taken me to find them, to get back to the Castle. We used the back entrance to enter the Castle and I instant spotted Mitchell pacing by the side entrance, looking ruffled and worried.
"Lady Zigra, Thank God you are back!" She exclaimed upon seeing us. She even threw her hands up in obvious reliefe.
"Mitchell, what's wrong?" Felan asked, noticing the obvious distress the woman was in. He hurried forward to take the womans hands in his, in an attempt to calm her down.
I got got down from Frivour and hurried to the two, with Harriette right beside me.
"Dutchess Imogen is back from the bakery openning. She is none too pleased with you mi lady." She gushed as all three of us were huddled by her. "And Queen Magdrif has arrived with the Dutchess." She went on, looking on the verge of panicing.
And it became apparent to me the reason of Mitchell's panic. Imogen must be pretty mad at me... for not being there to greet our guests, and for ditching the painter to go riding - which I'm sure was how everyone informed her.
"Where is everyone?" I asked Mitchell, looking past her into the Castle - where I could see servants bustling around.
"They are all in the sitting room having tea after their long ride.' Mitchell answered, looking at me worriedly.
Pausing only to nod at her in acknowledgement, I hurried last them to the sitting room. I brushed out all the wrinkles in my electricity purple gown as best as I could and had a passing maid to brush off any dirt that clung to the back of my gown, where I couldn't reach, on my way.
Taking a deep breath and adjusting my hair just right - without the help of a mirror - I gracefully floated into the sitting room.
"Zigra, nice of you to join us." My stepmother said pleasently with a forced smile on her lips the moment I entered the sitting room.
I curtesied to the Queen and Imogen, with a court nod at the princess. "I apologise that I wasn't here to greet you your highness, I was out riding and lost track of time." I told the Queen in a monotone. My face a mask of indifference and completely blank.
'"That is white alright Lady Zigra. You are here now." The Queen laughed good-naturedly and patted the seat beside her, inviting me to sit with her. Resigning me for an afternoon spent in the company of royals and pointless chatter, I took a graceful seat beside Queen Evanesca Magridrif. I knew that we were in the brink of war with Leselania and pleasing the Queen might save us from going into war with a kingdom we won't be able to hold our own on.
"How was you ride, your highness? I hope it wasn't too tiring." I said, looking at the princess and the quuen as I sat ramrod straight next to the Queen.
And so was my afternoon spent in the presence of the Queen and princess.
It wasn't until after the Queen and princess retired to their rooms to rest that I had to face Imogen's wrath.
She waited patiently until we were the only ones in the room, waiting until the queen's princesses and the servants - who were showing them to their rooms - footsteps garden away that she turned to me with further written all over her beautiful face. Rasing a smooth, creamy white hand, she back-handed me across the cheek.
She back-handed me so hard that I actually stumbled back and loosing my footing I landed on my hurt on the floor. I caught my stinging cheek, but still no emotion crossed my face. I looked at Imogen as apathically as ever. Thankfully, her ring hadn't cut through the skin and drawn blood like the last time she had slapped me, so I wouldn't have to make any excuses for the Queen.
"Mother." Ilarion's voice cried in a low voice before Imogen could yell at me. I felt gentle hands hold my arms and looked up to see the warm chocolate brown eyes of Ilarion crouching next to me. A worried look in his eyes as he gazed down at me.
"Ilarion please, this is none of your concern. I and Zigra will take care of this on our own. If you would please leave..." Imogen said, motioning at the door. Her voice strained with holding back from shouting at her son too.
Patting the tan hand still on my arm, I nodded at Ilarion that it was fine. Looking disbelieving, he got to his feet. He helped me up to my feet as well and without a word he stormed out of the sitting room. He knew that I wouldn't appreciate him getting tangled in my mess with his mother. He also knew that him trying to save me might end up increassing my punishment than reducing it.
"I expected this kind of behaviour from Harriette not from you Zigra. I'm very disapponted in you." Imogen sighed, shaking her head. "You left your painter half-way through and went off riding? How could you be so irresponsible. You aren't the little girl I took care of Seven years ago Zigra, you need to stop acting so childish."
I stayed silent as she went on and on about responsibility, not even bothering to correct everything she got wrong. Once she finally was done scolding me she demanded that I finish sitting for my painting even if it took the whole day and I wasn't allowed to step out of the Castle for the next week without her permission.
This wasn't going to go very well, not with the Queen here and all that.
But there was nothing I was willing to say to Imogen about that. Queen Evanesca wasn't an idiot, she had already started realising that Imogen wasn't Stavita - my mother. This visit could end up in disater if Imogen doesn't get her act together soon.