(WP) The Dark Wallflower

(WP) The Dark Wallflower

               Celebrations
in the kingdom of Karthisia were among the most exciting and anticipated
throughout the Empire; beings of all stations, ranks, and trades came from all
over to feast, to intermingle, to dance and gossip and trade in secrets, or
even flesh. The Crown often turned a blind eye during these festivals; if the
lawmen were to look into every incident that happened during the course of
them, they could not be given their promised days of rest.

               The
dark elf king and queen had arrived with a fleet of ships, flying their
signature colors, sapphire blue and royal purple, and their only daughter stood
on deck, eyes fixed on the stately castles that stood proud on the shoreline,
their windows gleaming gold like winking eyes.

               The
princess was unspeakably lovely, with long, lush chestnut hair, adorned with
jewels and feathers, large green eyes that were as bright as freshly cut
emeralds, a thin, expressive mouth, and a sharp nose and chin, but the
expression was severe, displeased, arms crossed, eyes scrunching up at the
corners and the corners of her mouth turned down. Every knot brought them
closer to Karthisia, and her stomach lurched, threatening to vacate itself of
the spiced wine she partook of to steady her nerves. The warm golden tone of
her skin paled slightly in the weak lantern light that she stood under; Elenwe
hoped that it made her look sick, sallow, unwell; the only reason that she had
accompanied her parents on this journey was to save face for the family.

               There
simply were not enough words, in any language, to express just how much she
despised these parties. She was more comfortable in her chambers, laying in her
bed with a stack of books from the royal library, or in the gardens, tending to
the fruits and vegetables that she gave to the villages across the country.

               But her
parents had insisted that she come; it would not bode well for their only
child, who was fast approaching marrying age, were to stay home.

               “Do you
wish to start a war, child?” Her mother chided that night as she observed her
handmaiden, Dakat, arrange her hair and smooth her skirts. “That is what will
happen if you continue to refuse the demands of your station. You will end up a
spinster, and we cannot afford that. You are the only way that this family will
continue.” With those ominous words, her mother left her chambers, and an hour
later, they were on the ship, expecting to be in the kingdom by the time the
party started.

               When
the ship docked, Elenwe was seriously considering stealing down below and
hiding until the festivities were over, but her mother seemed to be reading her
mind; she moved quickly and clamped down a hand on Elenwe’s shoulder, steering
her down the gangplank to the pebbled shore.

               The
castle loomed above the three Dark Elves, washing them in golden light. Elenwe
could hear faint music coming from inside, and her scowl deepened.

               “Please,
Elenwe, get that unbecoming look off of your face. You look as though you’ve
bitten into a lemon. Do you want wrinkles?” Her mother hissed in her ear, and
her daughter resisted the urge to growl back in kind. To the gods with being a
princess; she would have much preferred to not have been born royal.

The gods truly seemed to have a
twisted sense of humor indeed.

But nonetheless, she smiled, trying
to fix her features in a soft, pleasing expression, and when the queen’s grip
loosened, Elenwe knew that she’d pleased her lady mother.

The noise seemed to assault her
when they finally were announced to the court; people laughing, talking, whispering
behind their hands and fans, loud, raucous music that made Elenwe want to dance
against her will. Her people were not strangers to revelry, but she did not
enjoy this sort of thing, especially not when the room was crowded with unknowns
that she had no choice but to play nice with.

Why had she agreed to this,
exactly?

**