(If you have not read my prologue or previous chapters, please do so now.)
Tales of Tanjia, Chapter 10 - The Dai'rou
An Imperial tour with Taj'erii's Dai'rou. That's exactly what I wanted to do with my day. I roll my eyes a bit and rub my temples. Why today? Why with this headache? I sigh audibly and stand. "Let's see if I have a suitable overcoat for today's outing." Walking back to my ivory wardrobe, I fling the doors open, only to have them swing back shut in defiance. "Wonderful..." I said with a growl in my voice as I slowly reopen the doors.
"M'lady? Are you all right?" Rii'ei touches my forearm and looks toward me with concern.
"Yes, I'm fine. I just happen to be in a foul mood this morning. I hope it's not my father showing through in me..." Rii'ei seems to cringe at the thought of that. I can only imagine what abuse my father's menservants go through in the mornings. I have to be a better ruler than he is. I have to. For everyone's sake. Rii'ei pulls out a white sleeveless overcoat for me. I nod and she puts it on for me. "Thank you. I think if we do an embellished plait today it should be fine." I sit back at the vanity and silently lament the fact that my tea is gone. A silly thing to be upset about, but on a morning like this, every little thing can have an impact.
Rii'ei starts plaiting my hair, her slender fingers gliding through my hair with ease. She works wonders with my hair, it's astonishing. Weaving my hair in and out, placing silver gilt ribbons and pearl pins wherever she deemed appropriate in the plait. In no more than an hour, she had completely finished plaiting my entire head of hair. I turn to her and shake my head in amazement. "Were you taught to dress hair by the Celestials?" Rii'ei blushes and laughs.
"No, I was taught by my older sister. Every day I begged her to teach me something new to do with her pretty hair, and she would always show me something. I was young, so it wasn't always very pretty, but she let me practice on her every time." She looks away and clears her throat.
"She sounds wonderful." I take Rii'ei's hand. "Are you ok?" She nods and wipes away a tear.
"Yes. It's just that fond memories are coming back to me. She went to study in Kei-Larr around 1,200 years ago, before my family was chosen for Imperial service, but I haven't heard from her in a long time."
"I'll put out an Imperial notice for her when we're done here in Taj'erii." I walk to the full-length mirror next to my wardrobe and admire Rii'ei's work. "I absolutely must meet your brilliant sister. Now, what jewelry should I do today? The Dai'rou will think something is wrong if I'm not dripping in jewels." I roll my eyes again. The nobles can be ridiculous. Rii'ei presents my jewelry box to me. Emeralds, sapphires, amethysts, pearls, and all manners of precious metals abounded in this three-tier box. I pick pick dropped pearl earrings, and two intricate metal bracelets. "Do you think this is enough? My gown all ready has a jeweled collar."
"I think you look lovely, miss." I give her a hug.
"Thank you, Rii'ei. Without you, I'd still be in bed." I release her and glance at the clock. I have thirty minutes to get down to the palace square! If I walk briskly I should be able to make it. "Thank you again, Rii'ei. I have to go now, though. I'll see you tonight. Only four days left until the festival." She nods happily and I walk out the door only to bump into a guard. I wince and rub my brow. The guard is much taller than me and he's dressed in his splendid armor.
"Are you all right Your Excellency?" His deep voice matched his strong physique.
"Yes, fine, but I must be off." My voice was rushed and I most likely sounded a bit irritated, but I really have to go.
"Your Excellency, the Dai'rou sent me to escort you to the palace square." I stopped.
"Oh." I laugh a bit to myself. "Well then, after you." He began leading me down the various hallways and stairwells, each gloriously decorated for the festival. Strings of colored crystals and floral arrangements in every corner they could find. Servants were cleaning the windows and chandeliers, polishing the marbled floors, the metal crests, and even the door hinges. Everything was spotless or just about.
Eventually we reach the palace square garden. I thank the guard and he returns to his original post. It's a nice day out, but what else would you expect from a city that choses it's own temperature and air quality. I take deep breath and pray that my headache lessens while I'm with the Dai'rou. A voice chimes out from behind me.
"Your Excellency, the Imperial Heiress!" The Dai'rou of Taj'erii comes up to me and bows, but does not get on his knees. Though the difference in our status would demand he be on his knees to greet me, I choose to ignore it for now. Perhaps he didn't want to dirty his new indigo robes. "It is wonderful that you could join me today!" He kisses my hand and it takes all my strength not to draw it back from his repulsive lips. "I greatly look forward to your approval of the decorations and entertainment. The Emperor and his wife were otherwise occupied today, so I appreciated your accepting my offer to tour the city."
So my parents did reject his offer before he came to me. "Yes. I look forward to seeing it all." I try to maintain a calm, sweet voice. A Dai'rou is an important politican to please, but this one is not one of my favorites. He is a stout man of average height, with greased black hair tied at the nape of his neck. His eyes are small and blue, while his lips are thin and chapped. It makes me wonder how such dry lips could offer up such a slimy kiss. "Have preparations been going well?"
"Oh, splendidly! The visit of the Imperial Family has provided a wonderful boost in productivity." He leans in closer to me. I'm not sure if he understands the proper distance to be maintained, or he's simply forgotten. He speaks in a slightly hushed tone now. "Not to mention an excellent excuse for importing the finest of food, drink, and performers." His breath is repulsive! What could this man possibly have eaten this morning? He knew he was meeting with me, why didn't he freshen his breath? I struggle to main composure, but somehow I am able keep it.
"I'm sure the festivities will be first rate, then." I casually brush the hand he had kissed, making sure no residue was left.
"No doubt!" His voice returns to it's usual gusto, and he gestures towards a transport. "If we hope to see the entire city today, we'll need to take a transport." He flicks is wrist and an attendant opens the doors for us to enter. The whole city in one day? This will either be the most rushed tour, or the longest tour in history.
"Of course. How else would we see all that your marvelous city has to offer?" I step inside the transport, the transition from warmed stone to cold metal is as jarring as it was getting out of bed this morning. "This is a lovely transport. The seats are very comfortable."
"They should be! This is one of our finest transports." He sits directly across from me and claps his hands. The driver lowers the cover of the transport and starts driving. "So, where should we begin?"
"I thought you had planned the tour before we started." A bit of irritation slipped through my voice just then. I make an effort to smile so I don't come off as ungrateful.
"What? Oh, yes, yes. I have every stop planned. I only wanted to see where you'd like to start, Your Excellency." He fidgets with a ring on his finger. I wonder how much of what he said is truth. It is a crime to lie, but I won't address it right now. He must be under a lot of pressure.
"I see. Wonderful, then." I look to the side of the transports and see dozen or so Vitki'i-nyaxixi trainers just outside the energy field of the city. Most of them are men, as the job can be taxing on the trainer's physical strength, but there are a few female trainers as well. One is particularly skilled and is handling her Vitki'i and the other trainers very well. "What is going on out there? It's intriguing."
"Ah, yes. The Vitki'i-nyaxixi trainers are preparing the beasts for the performance tomorrow night, before the tides start falling. The tides will get so low by the alignment that we can take the shields down! Taj'erii with breathe natural air for the first time in 100,000 years!"
"A fantastic phenomenon. We will see the light of the alignment without interference. Who that female trainer that seems to be leading the others?"
"Who, Kari'iya? She's one of the specialists we brought in. She's been training the beasts her entire life. The best in her field. With her leading, the perfornace should be magnificent!"
"I look forward to it." I rest my face in my palm, looking at him and trying to seem interested. My headache has only worsened through this first part of the tour. I will need divine help to get through this day. The Dai'rou continues on his explanation of the decorations, how much they cost, who he hired to put them up, and on and on. I paid what attention I could spare, but it was getting difficult to listen to his prattle. Eventually we reached the secondary palace.
"I imagine you're hungry by now. Shall we sample the banquet food?"
I look up toward him and put on a good smile. "Absolutely. I'm famished." He helps me step out of the transport and we head indoors. As soon as we set foot inside I can smell all sorts of dishes being prepared. "Something smells delicious."
"Indeed. The food prepared in Taj'erii is well known for it's quality, and with the festival four days away, our chefs have been perfecting everything. Sauces, salts, dozens upon dozens of fruits, vegetables, and meats. I am most thankful to the gods for providing us with such a variety." I can tell by the size of your gut. I chuckle a bit to myself and we continue walking toward the main dining room. Just before we reach our destination a child come running through the hall way and straight in to me. She falls right onto her backside and drops her toy that she playing with.
The Dai'rou looks furious and embarrassed. "Child! What in the name of I'Ono are you doing?! Don't you know that-" I hold my hand up to stop him and I kneel down to the child's level.
"Are you ok?" I brush her bangs out of her face and she nods rapidly before bowing on her knees with her face to the ground. A child showed more respect to me than the city's leader.
"I'm really sorry!" Her voice was small and she was close to tears.
"You're fine." I lift her head up and hand her her toy. "Be on your way, but don't run in the halls. Wait until you're outside." She bowed again and was off just as quickly as she came.
"How did you tolerate that? The child should have been punished somehow." He was still fuming. You'd think the child bumped into him instead.
"It wasn't a big deal, and I still corrected her. If I blew up at a child over something that small, what kind of a leader would I be?" He cleared his throat in embarrassment.
"Yes, well..." He cleared his throat again, opened the door and gestured inside. "Shall we eat, Your Excellency?"