Friend asked for this:Princess falls in love with someone she shouldn't and risks it all.
I walk to the French doors leading to my giant balcony and pause. The announcement I am about to make may condemn a man to death by his own acquaintances. I run my hands through my blonde hair down to my waist then straighten my velvet sapphire blue skirts trying to calm my nerves. I stroke the pendant on my necklace; the national symbol of our country, an intricate snowflake of diamonds with a sword lying on top made of silver and a sapphire on the hilt.
"Am I doing the right thing?" I whisper, thinking aloud. I remember what he told me when I gave him my answer and I smile weakly, pushing through the double doors to face my people.
"We must find you a suitor soon, Cara!" my mother calls upstairs to me after I had left the breakfast table. I roll my eyes but smile at her concern.
"There are plenty of wealthy, handsome men that would love to have your hand. Why not go to the market today? Dance, sing, shop? It would do you good!" it would do the people good she means. That's all they ask of me when I leave the castle; Will you dance for us Princess? Will you sing us a song? Will you buy my wares? I do enjoy dancing and singing and I have nothing else to do with my money than supply business, so it isn't too brutal.
"Yes, Mother! What shall I wear?" Mother always knows which dress is suitable for the season, style, and weather so she usually chooses my clothes.
"The green and brown would suffice, I believe, darling." she had come up the stairs to smile at me in my doorway. I smile back and go sit at my wash basin in front of a giant mirror. As I wash my face quickly she comes in and picks up my sterling silver plated brush and begins brushing my long white-blonde hair, just like hers. I glance at her in the mirror seeing how similar we are; the blonde straight hair, high cheekbones, flawless pale complexion, long thick white eyelashes, long legs, petite bodice, but our eyes are very different. My mothers being a dark hazel and mine a bright sapphire like my father's, and Adamavin's national color.
"Mother, what am I really doing in the marketplace today?" I ask as politely as I am able, seeing my mother hesitate I know she has an ulterior motive and I sigh.
"Jacar will be speaking today about his recent training and what not. I thought it might be interesting and you would like to hear it." She tries to say this nonchalantly but there's no way to accomplish it. I sigh again and get up on my dressing stand to wait for my maids. Mother is left with brush still in hand shaking her head. She quickly snaps to the young maids what I will be wearing, my hairstyle, and makeup for today's outing. The girls hasten to my enormous closet to find what Mother ordered.
My dress is found and brought to hang on the mirrored panel around me while my maids undress me. My brown leotard is put on and then the thick, soft evergreen dress that reaches inches above the ground. The sleeves are long and tight as is the bodice to keep me as warm as possible and the wrists are surrounded by brown fur. From my waist the skirts flow out and down but only slightly with just a few layers of tulle underneath. Over this a cape type coat, that is made of dark green velvet and completely lined with brown fur inside, is placed and tied at my neck with a brown drawstring. I slip on my brown tight boots and then sit back down at my vanity.
All of my powders and dyes are lying out ready to be applied to my eyes, cheeks, and lips. I despise this daily routine, I like my face the way it is and I think the powders just hide that, but Mother insists it enhances it. I keep my mouth shut though because as soon as I leave her I just go wash it all off and she usually doesn't notice. The maids begin by applying a thin layer of very light skin colored powder to my entire face, then just enough green shadow for the color to show up on my eyelids. A large soft brush is used to make my cheeks slightly pink and sparkle with more powder, my eyelashes are painted completely white with some kind of sticky liquid, and finally my lips are stained light pink with dye. My hair must be done next, Mother has decided on a simple braided crown starting at my temples then coming together in back and the rest straight and down. I glance at Mother and she nods signaling her approval and allowing me to leave. I hop up from my chair and run to my maid waiting downstairs at our front door with my brown short gloves and my dancing bag. I pull them on hastily and sling my pack over my shoulder wondering which dancing gown Mother has chosen.
"Wren and Kellen are waiting, dear. I will join you later today after I've finished some papers. Have fun and please be nice to Captain Jacar." Mother says as she hugs me quickly and I frown at the thought of making polite conversation with the military man, but smile when I remember my guard for today, Kellen, a huge man with large muscles and armor all over him all the time and usually a handful of weapons but despite his terrifying appearance he is very carefree and jovial. My carriage driver, Wren, causes me to smile more though, his body is not near as muscular as Kellen but he is very easy to look at and kind. He has always been so sweet to me, cheering me up or comforting me whenever I need it. With thoughts of Wren I swiftly walk to our carriage where I find him, in all his rugged handsomeness, leaning against the large wooden front wheel polishing his knife. He hears my approach and, thinking it to be my mother, shoves his knife in his coat and stands up straight. I stifle a giggle and pick up my skirts so I can move faster when he realizes it's me and laughs too.
"Always working with that knife aren't we, Wren?" my giggles slip out despite myself, as does the booming barely contained laughter of Kellen preparing his horse behind us, Wren smiles and runs a hand slowly through his black shaggy hair. I've always loved the way his whole face seems to crinkle up and smile as his lips do.
"Well, Princess, it is my proudest possession. I want to keep it looking nice, as nice as you always look." Wren says this in his slightly slow accented way of speaking and half smiles. I think of the reason he is so proud of this as I duck my head and tell him thank you with butterflies filling my stomach from his heartfelt compliment. That knife with its medium length blade, dark wood handle, and snow flakes and swirls carved in both, has been in his family for generations, passed from father to son when the son turns 16. Wren is now 18 and an orphan, his mother died when he was very young and his father fell from one of the mountains just a few years ago. I shake these gloomy thoughts away as he takes my hand and helps me into the carriage, my cheeks still blushing. As soon as I am settled in my seat and fur covers I open the small window that allows me to talk to Wren while we drive and hear Kellen galloping behind us as we start off. I reach my hand through the open window and tap him on the shoulder signaling I would like to talk to him.
"Yes, Princess? You would like to speak to me?" I hear the smile in Wren's voice even though I can't see his face, but my brows knit together at the formal address.
"Wren please call me Caralina! I do not know how many times I must tell you this but if we are alone you may use my name." I say this jokingly as I always do and he complies with much fuss as usual.
"Miss Caralina, what are you to do in the marketplace today?" he says this nonchalantly knowing already whatever I am doing is bothering me and he only wishes to help by letting me explain.
"Mother would like me to meet a Captain Jacar who will be speaking of the training of his soldiers today in hopes he will find me agreeable and perhaps ask my hand in marriage soon." I pause waiting to see his reaction and when it comes it is just a flicker of confusion, maybe jealousy and sadness, but only for an instant and all I see is the side of his face since he his guiding the horses. I want to reassure him that I feel nothing for this wayward sea voyager, so I continue;
"I don't wish to meet him though. The stories of the men are so boring to me and my mother should not choose my husband for me I can find a man on my own." I feel my face scrunch wanting Wren to know that I could never marry another, it would hurt him too badly and myself. He stifles a laugh at my easy tone then turns serious again.
"You know, Miss Caralina, if I may be so bold as to say, I am always at your disposal if you need an escape, comfort, to speak, if you need anything, anything at all." He emphasizes the last few words, his voice dropping and slowing just a bit. These small words of help, implying so much more than is said, sends heat through my body and a tingling sensation that I have only ever felt when I am with Wren. My eyes widen at his obvious implications and I try to swallow but my throat has dried from nerves. I hesitate too long and Wren coughs apologizing for his forward manner but I interrupt him.
"Do not apologize my dear. I thank you for all the help you can provide in every way possible. And please feel free to say whatever you wish to me, do not be afraid of being too forward. You could never be too forward with me, Wren." my courage swells with every word I utter until the last I punctuate like he did by lowering and slowing my voice and even touching the tips of his soft black hair through the open window. I see his back stiffen then relax and I think I hear him almost sigh and I grin believing the cause of it to be me. Wren then opens his mouth like he would speak again, but quickly closes it seeing where we are he mumbles that we have reached the marketplace. I gasp quietly, Where had the ride gone? My face falls as we stop just before the gate and park the carriage in the royal families place and Kellen and his horse halt next to us. Turning around Wren looks at me with a happy face but sad eyes and speaks quietly.
"I wish to comfort you, Miss Caralina, if you will allow it." He leans closer to me through the window and I lean in too, unconsciously. I can see his chest rising and falling heavily and I watch him lick his perfectly shaped lips as his beautiful dark brown eyes scan my face. I, believing him wishing to kiss me, lean farther while I begin to lower my eyelids and I place my hands on the sill of the window. Everything is silent but our breathing and my heartbeat as it races faster, and faster, anticipating his lips on mine. Just before our lips meet we hear another carriage pull in near us and the moment is ruined! Wren lowers his eyes respectfully and leans away then in some effort to still be of some comfort he takes my hand in his. It is rough, warm and covers mine soothingly, there also seems to be something else there, something smooth and cool.
"I wish you did not have to meet this man today that you do not wish to even see. I will listen and comfort you as much as I am able. All I may give you now is this trinket and a parting kiss." he leans his head over my hand and kisses it sweetly then closes my hand around whatever the trinket is. With this he turns and steps down to become just my servant again and nothing more. I shut the window roughly and slowly open my still warm hand to find a beautiful silver heart locket with intricate swirls of snow slipped on a piece of deep blue ribbon. I gasp in delight and clumsily wrap it around my wrist in full view over my gloves. My smile spreads across my entire face as I step from the carriage and put the hand with the locket in Wren's, making sure he sees I am wearing it already. Kellen dismounts his steed and comes to stand next to us, spying the locket he smiles and shakes his head then laughs gently. We walk side by side, Kellen behind us as always, toward the noisy market where we will pretend nothing has happened and we are only servant and master, though inside I am glowing from pure joy.
I enter the marketplace in the town of Trekut, province Quendra, which means "center", I am greeted by nearly every person I pass. Most do the same traditional Hello of a hand on my shoulder, a hand on their heart, and a bowed head. A few gibe me a more intimate greeting though, a grasp of my hand, the other on my cheek and a kiss for the other cheek, but that is reserved for close friends.
"Oh Princess Caralina! If you are looking for Enisa I believe she is buying breads near the stage!" a short women with light brown hair and a smiling face yells over the din of so many people after raising her bowed head. I thank her and start making my way toward the food section of the shops. Wren and Kellen try to push through the writhing crowd, but even Kellen's massive strength is no match for my peoples overwhelming need to talk to me. The royal family though is known for being loving, open, and personable with our subjects so I at least know the name of everyone we see and it is my duty to speak to them. In Adamavin culture personal contact is mandatory and if someone doesn't touch you while speaking it is considered a vile insult. This is part of the reason none of our buildings are very large, are completely comfortable with being close to one another so we don't need much room.
When we are born we have many playmates and we all sleep together practically piled atop each other and are taught very young that we should love our neighbors, and do anything to protect our families which includes our friends. Many things are acceptable that other lands might think are less than respectable, such as romances, we all have many flings when we are teenagers but once we find love and wish to marry we stay faithful to the end. I, in fact, have had a myriad of lovers from when I turned 13 years old to now when I am 17. Another difference in Adamavin culture is our dancing; we use knives, scarves, fire, practically anything to make the routines more challenging, beautiful, and interesting. Since Adamavin is an island in the bitter cold and has many mountains on it's northern reaches we are secluded from the outside world of technology and hatred, allowing us to grow and become a country and race with a rich, unique culture. This seclusion has made the animals different as well, like the diverse wildlife of the island Madagascar we have flourished alone. Adamavin has many kinds of leopards, wolves, elk, bears, fish, seals, birds, and many others that are all gorgeous just like the snowy gray mountains, icy coasts and wooded valleys.
I think of my beautiful Adamavin all the way to the bread shops near the center of the oval marketplace where I do not find my best friend, Enisa. I slow down so I have more time to recall the bakers name and finally remember just before I reach her.
"Jemna, have you seen Enisa?" I take her flour covered hand and smile.
"Ah, yes, Princess! I believe she went straight to the Brasla, after buying some of my bread. she answers energetically, I brighten tremendously at the mention of where the dancers go to learn, practice, teach, and sleep even.
"Oh thank you so much! May I have a few slices of your delicious bread before I go?" I squeeze her hand, take my bread wrapped in brown paper, and hurry off toward the Brasla while Kellen gives her my payment.
The Brasla is a giant building (it is large compared to most of our buildings, that is) shaped like a triangle with the point connecting to the back of the stage so performers may head straight there after a recital. The roof is golden and post coming down from it are stained red wood. Through the double doors is a hallway with doors on either side where dancers may change clothes and store bags, then on the other end is the common room where a raised stage is set in the middle with couches, pillows, and chairs all around and lit fire pits at the corners. This is where most of the dancers can be found lounging, practicing, and at night all sleeping together. On the walls are doors leading to bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, hung up on them are equipment we use when dancing.
I skip down the steps to the den-like room and find Enisa lying with others on lots of pillows near a fire pit. I toss my cape and bag on a chair and flop down next to someone who's face I cannnot see but once they reach out and pull me into the warm mass I realize, by the clean lemony scent, it is Raylee, a young girl just beginning to learn at the Brasla. Wren and Kellen saunter in and my body guard goes to stand against the wall near me as protocol mandates. Wren, on the other hand, stands awkwardly on the top step wondering where to go, but as soon as I wave him over he comes to lay with the rest of us pressed against my back. We stay huddled together for a long while just enjoying each others warmth and comfort until Enisa finally sees my cape and realizes I am there.
"Oh, Cara! Your here! Hey, let me up, please." she wriggles out of the half asleep heap of bodies leaving a hole that is quickly filled by the others. Wren and I get up as well, reluctantly, and I embrace her. Enisa has been my best friend since her mother taught me to dance and we became playmates when we were both infants. Her loud, energetic, fun, and tough personality balances out my more reserved nature.
"So. . . .anybody ready to dance, or is this just a hotel to you people? I believe it's time we all get to work!" Enisa pokes and prods the mass, speaking sweetly but still forcefully. Gradually the dancers begin getting up and stretching. I grab my bag and start pulling Wren with me toward my favorite dressing room with it's sunset colored walls, black ceiling, and soft large couch. The Brasla is the only place me and him can be ourselves because what happens here never leaves here.
Wren and I giggle our way to the room and lock the door once inside. He lies down on the sofa while I dig through my bag to find a dancing gown I have never seen before. My face scrunches as I pull the dress out and hold it up for Wren to see. His eyes widen then he smiles and winks his approval, the dress is beautiful. This must be a bribe from Mother so I will behave with the captain. I must admit it is rather exquisite, this man is surely to be high ranking and wealthy for this kind of gift. It is golden and trimmed in silver with small silver straps attaching to a tight stretchy bodice. The neckline scoops at an appropriate place and the fabric shimmers from every angle. The skirt flows freely from the top of my hips to about four inches above my knees in front, a few inches below my knees in back, and then a ruffle of silver seems to sprout from the swirls of snowflakes covering the entire dress at the hem.
"It is unbelievably gorgeous. . . ." I whisper as I touch the garment and watch it sparkle. I hold it to my body and spin as it flows and shines with every move, then raise my eyes to meet Wren's appraising me and the gown. I smile, throw it to him playfully, then quickly begin peeling off my tight green dress and brown boots. Wren turns his blushing face away showing me the respect he always thinks he should.
"Wren. . . . Oh, Wren?" I whisper to him as my clothing slips off and drops to the carpeted floor leaving me in nothing but my thin brown leotard, which in Adamavin is the equivalent to under garments. I walk toward him slowly, swinging my hips sensually, but before I reach him he swiftly springs up and stands next to the wall facing away from me. I sigh and walk quietly on bare feet to stand just behind him where I place my hands gently on his shoulders and slide them around to the front where the buttons of his dark shirt start. I undo the first silver button easily, my heart racing and courage swelling, as Wren's breathing quickens and I rise up on my toes so I can reach his ear.
"Wren, just turn around, my dear. I know you want me, darling, and I feel the same." I whisper softly trying to seduce him the way I have other before him, but this does not feel the same; I'm nervous and scared that I will fail in my endeavors and he may reject me.
"Cara. . . I, I can't. I just can't. What if someone knew?" he murmurs breaking my heart more with each word that passes from his soft, smooth lips. I feel my eyes moisten and I let my head drop in shame. How could he not succumb? I know how he feels I can see it in his eyes and yet I am refused, even in the privacy of the Brasla.
"Please step back and put more clothing on, darling." Wren tells me, back still to my distraught countenance, while buttoning his shirt back up. How could he possibly do this to me, the Princess and heir to the throne of Adamavin?! My temper flares from such an embarrassment and I grab my new dress roughly then haphazardly throw it on my body.
"I'm decent." I spit the words at Wren's back like they were a curse. He turns and runs to me as soon as they are out of my mouth and wraps his arms around me, I cannot help but melt under his delicate touch. I lay my head on his strong chest and breath the smell of soap and hay that I have grown to associate with love and comfort. I lift my face to look at his dazzling one, as I slide my hand to the back of his neck and run my fingers through his soft black hair. I begin pushing up onto my toes and lowering my lids while he turns his head adn parts his lips. He looks into my blue eyes and leans down ever so slowly until finally our lips meet.
This is not the first time we have kissed but it feels the same, like a fire has been lit within me and is warming my entire body from the inside out. Where his hands touch me, on my face and small of my back, a tingling sensation starts like a small electrical current shooting between our close bodies. He is warm and his skin is coarse, but he holds and touches me as if I could break at any moment. On the contrary, I know that he likes when I am spontaneous and unafraid to be rough with him, so I tug on his hair some and then tentatively bite his lip. We go on like this, kissing in each others arms, for a long time, which most likely would've been longer, but a loud knock on the thick wooden door startles us apart.
"Ready, Cara? Raylee is anxious to practice with you!" Enisa shouts at us through the beautifully carved door. I stare into his eyes a few moments longer as we both smile and I think again how handsome and inconceivably sweet he is.
"Um. . . almost! Just, uh, tell her to go get any equipment we need ready!" I breathily stammer to her as Wren lets go of me completely. My face falls but he brushes his hand through my hair and down the side of my face causing my heart to beat faster and a smile to reappear. It stays there as I hurriedly straighten my dancing gown, wink to Wren, and rush out of the dressing room to dance!