Story Time!

20 07 2010

To my mind there is nothing more useless than riding with my father’s trade caravan. I am the youngest daughter and, while I am by no means unintelligent, I am of no help on these trips. Father brought me only to sweeten up the buyers with my beauty and tea-pouring skills. To make a five week journey on the back of a recalcitrant horse only to pour tea for fat old men is demeaning. Especially this year, as I am forced to leave at the height of the Season.

More importantly, though, I leave mere weeks after becoming engaged to His Lordship Sir Delmonte. Sir Delmonte is the most handsome and most influential young man at Court. Some think that he will be the next King and he will if the Council is not a gaggle of idiot geese.

My father is smart. He knew my two half-sisters would never catch His Lordship’s eye. They are overtall and not blessed with surplus intelligence. Moreover, it is well known that Sir Delmonte favors fair complexions and green eyes. My stepmother is dark complexioned in the tradition of our people and her daughters take after her. My skin is white and my eyes are jade and, as I have said, my father is no fool.

I was introduced at court in a way carefully crafted to draw His Lordship’s notice. There was no fanfare and I had no escort guard, though such things are traditional. Instead we waited for a hush in the courtroom and I entered wearing a purple dress and white sash instead of the young woman’s usual gray. There was no sense affecting peasant humility like the other ladies being introduced that day. Standing among them the effect was of a rose amongst stone.

There was no sense in taking notice of His Lordship. He had ceremonial duties to perform and would be intrigued by a woman who paid him no heed.

Think not that I schemed this out in my own mind. My father’s business was beginning to flounder and a noble marriage was the only sure anchor for our family. He knew what must be done and I acquiesced because I feared poverty. A threat he held over my head without pity. Also I am no more a fool than he is; to be wife to a handsome husband is infinitely preferable to being the youngest daughter of a failing merchant.

My father’s machinations worked perfectly. I was engaged to His Lordship within six months. The marriage would take place at New Years with a grand masquerade the night before and our entire city in attendance.

The duties of an engaged woman are slight and made even more slight by my fiancé’s absence from the capitol for all of the summer Season. With no wedding to prepare (the groom’s family is in charge of all ceremonies and parties) my father thought it best to take me with him on his yearly trade circuit.

So here I sit. We have been three weeks on the road. We followed the coast for the first ten days. After Albion we turned inland and began to cross the Cimmerian forest. It’s a hellish place- full of hanging moss and creeping insects that drop down upon you from the trees. Moreover, the entire expanse of forest is crisscrossed by streams and rivers and ponds and lakes, all of which are dark and unhealthy-looking. We carry our own water. Or rather, the pack animals carry it.

Apparently the cities on the other side of the forest are made of solid gold and lapis lazuli. At least, they must be for I can think of no other reason to make such a journey.

The rain began midway through yesterday and has yet to let up. For the first few hours I appreciated the trees for keeping some of the rain off but they failed me before supper and I went back to hating them. The  hatred blossomed into cold rage. Very cold.

I rode at the back of the line and the rain turned our path into slick muck that pulled at our horses feet. My horse was as sullen as I and while my mind dwelt idly on my upcoming wedding my horse fell farther and farther back. The light was almost completely gone before I realized that our caravan was nowhere in sight.

I was alone in dark.

To be continued

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