The sun shot through the small window in my room hitting my face with such a force that I shot up from where I had been sleeping. It seemed impossible to get those final words of the beautiful Farah out of my head. “Come for me now or not at all.” Those eyes. So pleading. How pathetic she had looked up at me. If only circumstances were different. How could I leave Ma and sis… but how could I leave Farah. I was convinced that if anyone had to leave it should be this nightmare, recurring night after night reminding me of the uncourteous bastard I must have seemed. Why did she not understand? Could she not acknowledge and respect the loyalty that I held for my family?
What little I could do about and understood of women had no matter now. It had been six months since I last saw Farah and dwelling on it would not bring her back. There were more important matters at hand. It may not be of great interest to me but today was an important day for Glanderxe. Sir Reuben was to arrive today and God only knows what profits his arrival. The Duke of Dete Plych travelled to Glanderxe often as of late, and always on business of a political sort. I suppose as a sworn servant of Her Majesty I should be more enthusiastic about those things that relate to her kingdom but I have never been much of a political man. It profits irony that I now serve as a knight in the great city. As the capital of Glanderxe Coessarde all that is important as it relates to politics happens within the confines of these walls. I suppose, if nothing else, Sir Reuben is a respected member of the counsel, and as a knight of Glanderxe I embrace his arrival. It would profit me if his news were pleasant, for memories of Farah have commenced my day in such a glorious fashion that I dare not endure any news of criminality.
I finished my morning preparations and proceeded to the kitchen adjacent the great hall as was my customary routine. Among the many women scurrying about the room was my dearest mother, whose garb by this point was dotted with the remanence of preparation. Spotting me she excused herself from her duties and came to me, kissing me on the forehead. “Her Majesty has us working harder than ten-score oxen on a blistering day getting the preparations set for the Duke. Why in the name of all that is holy should we continue to greet him as a favoured guest of the crown. He has been here time enough to be considered for a regular setting in the grand hall.”
“Now, now, mother. Despite his frequency, a guest he still be and it would not profit pleasantries to treat him as anything else.”
My words brought little comfort to her. “Still, it must be understood the great work that he has caused us here in the kitchen since much pleasantries be desirous.” She was not a hard woman but had no fear of speaking her mind. If something was amiss, no guess work should ever be needed, for mother would be sure to let everyone know who had two ears to listen.
“I am sure that such need for pleasantries will subside in due time. For now we must suffer politics with the greatest level of eloquence allowed our nature.”
“My nature allows for not much more, but suffer I shall.” Grumbling, she bade me farewell with a wave of her hand and returned to the tasks of preparation.
Leaving her to her business I made my way toward the great hall to see how the preparations were coming when I was caught by Sir Yoyde. “Mert, my dear boy! How was your night?”
“I cannot say it was grand but no matter, the day awaits.” I brushed him aside as I continued down the hall.
“The day awaits!” Sir Yoyde repeated in disgust. “Certainly it does but how can the day seem so fair it being a mere shadow of the night previous?”
“The night is an unavoidable casualty in the day as one’s duties are set aside in wait til the sun bids service once again.”
“Ay, there be much you have still to learn about the great city. Perhaps in Coere Ghante it was as you say, but here the twilight lacks no indulgences.”
“I have no desire for indulgence. What can the night offer but distractions from my duties.”
“Duties! As men whose blood runs red indulgence is our duty. If it were not for such, life would be understandably unpleasant. If I were but an ox, perhaps indulgence would pass me by, but as a gentleman I have a certain duty to the fairer of the race that cannot be denied.”
“And do the women consider you a gentleman or an ox for engaging so oft in indulgence?” His constant nagging quickly got on my nerves. He was but a twelve-year-old lad in gentlemen’s garments.
“Ah!” He let out a short laugh. “You jest!”
Satisfied that our conversation was finished we parted ways as I entered the great hall. Woman scurried about setting tables and preparing the decorations for the soon to arrive Duke of Dete Plych. Candles were being lit and placed on tables amidst an elaborate array of fruit platters and other various decorative delicacies. The great table was covered with a majestic red cloth which showed underneath the golden place settings complete with jewelled goblets that, later that day, would be filled continually with that scarlette drink that holds the power to turn the most proper of gentlemen into something of a scoundrel.
My observations complete I found my way outside into the courtyard, hoping to enjoy some fresh air before being held within the castle for hours as the business of the Duke was attended too. Lingering but a moment, I walked out into the streets of the city. Men and women went this way and that hurrying to accomplish the business of the day while children dodged between their legs doing nothing of grave importance and holding the attention of no one except when getting in the way of those around. I had not been mingling long when I heard the voice of one who I am embarrassed to say was so familiar to me. Finding the darkest corner of the nearest alley-way I detected the source of the noise. An argument had risen between a rough looking man and a woman whose delicate figure made the man look as if a giant in comparison. Such a scene had become common to my eyes as of late but it did not get any easier to see. This woman was my sister. “Why do you bother me so? Go away, Clive.”
“I will not leave until you give me what is rightfully mine.” The rough-looking man, whose name had been revealed as Clive, was agitated to the point of rage.
“I gave you all that I wish to. Now leave me be!”
“It is not wish that I come for, but the right of a man. Why do you flirt with me so and then leave expecting me not to follow you. Were the inventor of seduction called to court you would be found guilty of misuse. Why tease if you have no intimate desire?” Clive reached for her, pulling her in for a kiss while she wriggled from his grasp.
I had seen more than enough to know the nature of such a disturbance. I rested a heavy hand on the man’s shoulder and he whirled around to witness me staring him down looking more menacing than he in my knightly garb that luck had so favoured me with the opportunity to attain. “I am afraid, sir, that you have picked the wrong lady to pursue this day.”
“Sending your brother to save you, eh Miranda.” Turning back to her he shook his fist. “This isn’t over!” With that less than menacing promise he withdrew leaving my sister rattled, yet no worse for ware.
“Why do you persist in getting yourself into such trouble, sis?” I addressed her with a look of pity in my eyes.
“It was nothing uncomely for a woman as I am. Just some harmless flirting, nothing more.”
“I see how harmless it must have been,” I said with a hint of belittlement.
“I am not a child anymore, Mert! You do not have to treat me as such! Other men in this city see me as a woman. Why can you not do the same?”
“I fear that too many men see you as such, and if it were not so your trouble would be lessened.”
She stormed off in disgust, hopefully to wash off the stench of that Clive character which unfortunately continued to permeate the air. No sooner had she left that the report of instruments of brass could be heard from the watchtower far above the grand city. This signal of the arrival of the Duke hastened my steps to the front gate where I joined my fellow knights in welcoming Sir Reuben. He was the first of the procession through the grand gate of the city, the chestnut mane of his steed blowing in the warm breeze of late morning. He was rugged in feature his face hardened by many a battle fought. Why such a decorated man of arms would get himself so heavily in politics baffled me.
The stable-boys were summoned and with good speed gathered the horses of the Duke and his company. Sir Kherine, head of the guard, addressed the Duke and directed him to follow. As we reached the throne room, Sir Kherine spoke briefly with the two guards at the door who motioned for us to proceed. Bright light streamed in between the red draperies that decorated the great windows of the room. A carpet on the floor of a similar colour led us to the throne ahead. As we continued into the room we passed under the most elaborate chandelier in the whole castle. Great chords of crystal stretched down from the ceiling, spreading out at the base where the lights were mounted. The sun reflected off of the series of decorative prisms causing them to glisten like the sea under a setting sun.
We stopped in front of the throne where the queen sat with an advisor to each side of her. The satin of her dress flowed down from her shoulders shaping her body as it went and gathered in as a pool of freshly squeezed grapes at her feet. The gold filigree danced upon her chest slowly fading out as it spiralled downward. Such majesty and beauty was unparallelled in the whole of the great city. It is to this angelic goddess that Sir Kherine addressed his greeting. “Lady Calwen, Sir Reuben Duke of Dete Plych here to see you.” No sooner had the introduction been given that she motioned for everyone to leave the room. I followed Sir Kherine and the others in company out of the room leaving only the Duke with my Lady.