A tale of artists, intrigue, and the magical renaissance

1.4 – Princeps {The Prince}

“Not many people even know you’re in the courts yet, you haven’t been introduced! Why did they even think it was necessary to grab you like that? You aren’t exactly a big player in the court scene.” Belloza sounded more indignant at the timing than at the kidnapping itself, as the group of garzoni and Echoes followed the servant who had been sent to fetch them.

“Maybe it’s some kind of initiation,” Arturo suggested, “maybe they do this to all newcomers to the court, to see where their opinions lay.” Even among the chaos that had been her day so far, Elena frowned at his interjection. She had brought him to the court with her for the sole purpose of having Arta around, and she wished she could avoid him without having to also lose the Echo who had been a good friend to her.

“The Masters of Milia who are invited here would absolutely not put up with those kinds of goings on,” Frederica said dismissively, “no, this was targeted towards Elena and Elena alone.” The Caelator seemed to have no problem keeping up with the conversation while both walking and re-adjusting Elena’s hair, and Elena couldn’t help but be impressed, although she was a little nervous about what Frederica’s handiwork would end up looking like.

“I can’t believe I wasn’t there to run for help,” Ele grumbled, tugging awkwardly at the new ivory vest he wore.

Owl had been quiet up until this point, staring at the ground as the group moved, and he spoke without looking up. “It probably wouldn’t have mattered. It sounds like they chose the perfect moment to take her, an empty hallway where no one would see, and they knew of had an empty room set up nearby to talk to her in. They knew her name and that she was a Fabera. They would’ve had a plan to deal with you.”

It sounded ominous, but Elena kept getting distracted by the grandiose of the halls they were walking through. The servant had said she would take them through the back ways, but Elena couldn’t imagine what the main halls looked like if these huge arches and giant windows were the back halls.

“You’ll probably know more when you talk to the Prince about it,” Arta said.

“What are you talking to the Prince about?” Lord Waldren emerged from a doorway just as the group was about to enter it, and Elena jumped in spite of herself. “You may leave us,” he added to the servant as if he were an afterthought. It still took Elena’s mind a moment to catch up with Black Furs’ familiar voice and the thin stranger that it belonged to, but Elena was grateful to have someone more familiar with the courts to talk to. He listened gravely to the entire story, rubbing his chin and every now and then exchanging a glance with his Echo who stood beside him.

“…and they left before I could get back on my feet,” Elena finished. “I was never able to get a good look at them.”

“I am glad you’ve brought this to my attention,” Lord Waldren said thoughtfully. “However…I wouldn’t bring it up to the Prince’s attention just yet.”

“You want her to just ignore that she’s been attacked in the Prince’s castle?” Beloza asked.

“Oh this is certainly something we won’t ‘ignore’,” Lord Waldren smiled, but Elena couldn’t help but notice a certain coldness in his eyes, “but it does sound as if there are greater things in motion, things that we should perhaps get a good grasp on before we take any actions of our own.”

“With all due respect, Lord Waldren,” Owl seemed to be much more careful about the words he chose, “the questions that the kidnappers asked Elena…didn’t it seem as if they could be considered…traitorous? Isn’t it our duty to bring the matter to the Prince?”

“I suppose you’re right,” Lord Waldren sighed, “I’ll tell you what, to avoid the possibility of alerting would-be conspirators in open court, I will bring this matter up with the Prince, personally, in a private audience. Will that satisfy you?”

“Absolutely, sir. Thank you.” Owl seemed satisfied, but watching Lord Waldren’s face, Elena was suddenly quite sure that the man had no intention of bringing the matter up to the Prince. Lord Waldren glanced in her direction, and seeming to read the disapproval on her face, spoke again to the group at large.

“The problem is, there are a hundred little people who might be behind this, although I’m a bit suspicious about a certain little one person in particular.” He made no sign towards Elena, but Lord Waldren couldn’t have been more clear about his suspicions. Elena furrowed her brow.

It makes sense, then, why he won’t bring it up to the Prince. Black Furs believes in dealing with Twisted problems among the Twisted. But why would Little One kidnap me in real life to ask me inane questions? And why would she care what I think makes a good friend or a good king?

“The unfortunate matter of your purloining aside, Miss Lucc-i-a-no, I am quite happy you came through it unscathed,” Lord Waldren said kindly, “and now, if you are all quite ready?”

Elena’s heart suddenly leapt in her throat. She wasn’t ready, she hadn’t had time to think about meeting the Prince of Milia himself, about what she’d say, about what she’d do. Everything was moving too fast, and the group was moving again, and she wasn’t ready. The adjoining passage was dark, too dark for her eyes to adjust, but she could see the brightness on the other side and hear the bustle of voices.

Lord Waldren was speaking in lowered tones to the man who stood at the passage’s exit, and Elena thought she would burst out of her skin at the sudden overwhelming anxiety and nerves that overwhelmed her. Beside her, Frederica looked so calm that it was enraging, carefully raking the braids out of her brown hair.

“What are you doing?” Elena hissed.

“I had to do your hair up in braids, it’s the only one I can do while walking,” Frederica said matter-of-factly, “it will look bad if we’re both wearing the same style.”

“You didn’t have to do that, you were wearing it first!”

“You were invited, Elena. I’m in your retinue, and thanks to you I have a shot at being noticed in court, but this is about you.”

“But…but you…ugh, how can you be so calm right now?”

“Are you not calm?”

“No! I’m a bouncing ball of nervous!”

“Oh.” Frederica looked surprised, and vaguely annoyed by this. “Well…stop being that.”

Elena choked back an incredulous laugh, but as ludicrous as it was, her friends lack of concern did help.

“Majesty,” the man at the end of the passage announced loudly enough that Elena jumped, “may I present Lord Waldren of Florenzia, and Elena Lucciano of Carpi.”

Elena wanted nothing more than to stay hidden away in this dark passage forever, safe and un-known, but her feet were moving, she was walking in time next to Lord Waldren, her arm in his, and it seemed like only her friends walking behind her was keeping her from bolting back into the safety of the dark.

What a naive country girl she had been to be impressed by the back halls. Elena couldn’t take in any detail of the court around her as she emerged from the side-passage and into the throne room of Milia, but the impressions of gold and silver seemed burned into her eyes. There was a crowd around her, carefully separated to give her and Lord Waldren a path as if they stood behind an invisible rope.

Do they practise this? Elena thought as they passed the men and women who stood courteously and quietly behind their invisible line, their curious eyes trained on her. Are they only allowed to be in the front of the crowd if they can show where they have to stand when someone comes through this side passage? Do they pick their outfits to coordinate with all the gold in this room?

“You’re doing quite well, little Cog,” Lord Waldren murmured without moving his lips, softly enough that only she could hear, “an excellent first impression.”

For the barest hint of a second, Elena forgot how to walk. She hadn’t been thinking of what impression she had been making, but in a few scant seconds they would be out of the crowd and in front of the Prince, they would be standing in that huge empty space in the center of the throne room, every eye on her, and corpo de dia bellchano what if she tripped and fell in front of everyone?

They emerged from the crowd, and Elena laid her eyes on the Prince of Milia for the first time.

He wasn’t particularly attractive or intimidating by himself, Elena thought, but every line and curve of the room had been arranged to make him moreso. The throne itself was imposing, but not so large that it overshadowed the Prince. Its silver contrasted with his dark brown skin, making him look as if he was radiating light. On the Prince’s right stood his husband, the regal air adding a sense of severity to the dais on which the throne stood. The simple crowns they wore matched, the Prince’s in silver and his husband’s in gold.

Elena was very aware of the Prince’s eyes following her from the edge of the crowd and across the empty middle of the throne room, only leaving her when they flicked to her friends behind her. Elena and Lord Waldren came to a halt in front of the throne, her friends arrayed behind the pair, and after the slightest of pauses Lord Waldren bowed, and Elena hastily curtsied. Only a second passed, but with the entirety of the crowd watching them, and the Prince of Milia looking down at them from the dais, it felt like a year’s time to Elena.

“Well well, none other than Wandering Waldren himself,” the Prince’s voice seemed as if it should be quiet, but Elena had no trouble hearing it, “it’s been some time.”

“Prince Langone, it’s always a pleasure when my travels take me to Milia,” Lord Waldren smiled, “say what you will of other towns, your court is certainly one of the most unique.”

“Don’t think I missed that your words could be either insult or compliment,” Prince Langone chuckled. Though he talked to Waldren, his gaze was locked once again on Elena, and she felt as though she might wither under the intensity of that stare. “Lord Waldren, I wasn’t aware that you had ties to our little system of studios. I didn’t expect my audience with both you and with Garzona Lucciano at the same time.”

“Ah, you know me, Prince Langone, I have ties in the most unexpected places,” Lord Waldren smiled, and the Prince smiled back. “If I might officially introduce Elena Lucciano, a dear friend of mine, one of the most talented Fabera I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

Elena tried very hard to breathe.

Her legs were weak. The exchange seemed so casual, but she could almost feel the information fly back and forth between the two powerful men, as if every sentence had seven meanings while she was barely able to follow one. Were they being friendly with each other, or was each statement a veiled threat? Were they maneuvering pieces on a chessboard, or were their words as innocuous as they sounded? She would have to remember to ask her smarter friends like Owl or Arta afterwards.

“Welcome to my court, Garzona Lucciano and retinue,” the Prince said, his voice pinning her in place with its confidence and gravity.

Elena tried very hard to breathe.

“Thank you, Prince Langone,” she said, and was proud that her voice only wavered a slight amount.

“Though I unfortunately am unable to see or hear you, I also extend welcome to your Echoes, Ele and retinue.”

“It is an honor to be here, your majesty,” Ele said, looking out-of-character as he shuffled awkwardly from one foot to the other.

“The Echo says it’s an honor to be here,” the Prince’s husband murmured.

“It is indeed,” Prince Langone nodded, not taking his eyes off of his guests, “it is not very often that we extend an invitation to a Fabera.”

Elena wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to that without sounding defensive or pathetic, but before she could say anything Lord Waldren spoke for her.

“It’s not often that one encounters a Fabera like Lucciano, Prince Langone.”

Whatever nuance beneath subtext beneath implication was conveyed in the words, the Prince and Lord Waldren mused silently for long moments, the whole giant room so quiet Elena was sure everyone could hear her heart beating a loud rhythm in her chest.

“Vindonio,” the Prince said, tilting his head without looking away from the group in front of him. An advisor materialized next to the throne, as if he had been waiting at the ready to spring forward the second his name had been called.

“My lord?”

“Clear out the throne room, if you please. I would like to speak to Elena Lucciano and her friends. Alone.”

Elena forgot how to breathe.

 

***

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***

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25 responses

  1. You see, not breathing is referred to as “bad” in the medical community.

    Like

    2015-06-03 at 10:15 pm

  2. “Knew of of had” – extra words here.

    Like

    2015-06-03 at 10:44 pm

    • Oh and also, I’m curious if the prince expects to have an heir at some point to continue the lineage. Will he get a concubine or adopt or what?
      Also, are there three people up there, or are the prince husband and the princess the same person?

      Like

      2015-06-03 at 10:49 pm

      • The official title of the Prince’s husband is the Princess, yes, but I agree it is a little confusing in that context. Fixed here

        Like

        2015-06-04 at 12:48 am

    • Thanks for the catch, fixed!

      Like

      2015-06-04 at 12:48 am

  3. Stormblessed

    Hahahahaha! An excellent chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

    2015-06-03 at 10:50 pm

  4. Fhoenix

    typo
    “I have a shot and being noticed”
    Should be “have a shot at”

    Like

    2015-06-03 at 10:55 pm

  5. Zim the Fox

    You probably mean the grandeur (noun) of the halls and not the grandiose of the halls (adjective). I’m paraphrasing because I’m on my phone and I don’t wanna look up the exact phrase. Just look for grandiose.

    So! Banner! New banner! Different banner. Why? I remember that Madi said the curly letters were meaningful, but now they are gone.

    Cute introduction of the prince and his husband. It has my gay seal of approval :P A very small detail I found curios is that the prince is wearing silver and his husband gold. Of course, they rule, they get to wear whatever they want,

    and i guess that this has changed many times throughout history, but I am under the impression gold is more valuable than silver.

    Thanks for the chapter!

    Like

    2015-06-04 at 5:44 am

    • On the note of the banner, I am very much bothered by the keening of th I. xP

      And I am a bit relieved for Elena. I thought the courts would be… Wel, small? Not more than a few dozen people, maybe seventy. But I get the impression the courts are far bigger. Which means she won’t be nearly as prominent, for the same of her poor little lungs.

      Like

      2015-06-04 at 5:48 am

      • *the kerning of the I

        (I’m on a phone. It autocorrects. )

        Like

        2015-06-04 at 5:49 am

        • Shh shh shh Zim…do you not hear that sweet but sad song? The mourning cry of a letter nastily kerned before its time? There is no sound more dreadful or more heartwrenching than this, the keening of the “I”

          Liked by 1 person

          2015-06-04 at 6:38 am

          • DeNarr

            Now that it’s been pointed out, I do see that some of the letters are left-aligned, some center, and some even right-aligned. Though it is most notable with the ‘I’ being left aligned, since it leaves a large gap.

            Like

            2015-06-04 at 10:44 am

            • Yes indeed! If you’ll notice, each of the binding boxes is centered and kerned, but the designs for the letters themselves are all just a little bit off (though as you say, the I is the most noticeable)

              Like

              2015-06-04 at 10:53 am

          • I think it’s supremely cute how you try to reply to most messages with something funny or playful. Now I feel bad for the “I” :'<

            Like

            2015-06-05 at 4:30 am

            • *Tries to think of the least funny and playful thing she could possibly say*

              Baby foxes play-fighting inside giant bubbles

              *Dang I’m not very good at that*

              Like

              2015-06-07 at 10:26 pm

          • Oh my gods, I had to create a WordPress account, promise to write a blog, and scroll through five minutes of surveys, just to “like” this brilliant comment.

            Like

            2015-06-11 at 1:08 am

      • *the sake. (Bloody phone :/)

        Like

        2015-06-04 at 5:51 am

  6. AvidFan

    Husband? Wait… The Prince is gay? Well… This puts a hole in our plan for Elena to become Queen… What other major governments are there that she can make hers? WE MUST MAKE SURE SHE CAN AT SOME POINT SAY, THE WORLD IS MINE!

    Like

    2015-06-04 at 7:31 pm

  7. I’m going to jump in now and say… I don’t think it was Little One. No reason, beyond the Red Herring Principle (and, her not being an idiot).

    Like

    2015-06-04 at 10:26 pm

  8. Isa Lumitus

    The Prince has a husband? I’m kind of surprised that’s tolerated, what with the need to secure the succession and all. Perhaps the king has another child who will provide the next generation of rulers?

    On another note, the husband is Stormtouched, and wears a golden crown, while the Prince wears silver. And someone rather ruthless was asking if Elena would prefer a Stormtouched king.

    Intrigue is the story’s hat, and I think we’re seeing the lines get drawn up.

    Like

    2015-07-25 at 2:50 pm

    • I’ve got this theory that the Prince’s blood is so important, they pick a dozen perfect women for him to have a child with and pit those kids against each other to be the smartest/most just/best suited heir – which frees up the Prince to marry whoever he wants as the ultimate confidante, no pressure on accidentally marrying someone who can’t give him a fantastic heir on the first try.

      I base this theory on absolutely nothing.

      Like

      2015-08-31 at 9:29 am

  9. “Well… stop being that.”

    I freaking love Frederica. She’s always so close to being friendly – like, perfectly on the line – and always juuuust misses in by that much. And I love that she ‘gave up’ her braids for Elena.

    DREAM TEAM!

    Like

    2015-08-31 at 9:26 am

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