For the Iande Contest/RP
Big shout out and thank you to NeonPaint for the use of Tanaris!
I slept well, truly happy after the events of the previous night. My bouquet was upon my nightstand, as I had requested. It brought a little life to the room, and much more to me. I would be saddened when my flowers finally would choose to die, but for now, I was contentedly pleased with my odd little collection of flowers. Perhaps I could press them.
I hummed to myself as I dressed, wondering at the day’s events to come. A sharp rap on the door sent me out of my thoughts as curiosity took over.
A servant gave a little courtesy, before handing me a letter and scurrying off. I smirked at the fleeing maid and closed my door, reading the note.
My face blanched, and my eyes skimmed the letter over again and again. Hunting. Prince Delt wished to take us all hunting. I sighed, leaning against the wall. The gods were not on my side, it seemed. I hadn’t even ridden a horse with my father since I was ten and Mother told me it was distasteful and a sport meant for men. I didn’t even own a riding habit!
I could not possibly ride in one of my usual gowns. At best, it would get worn and dirty, and at worst I would catch it on something, fall off the horse, and utterly humiliate myself and proceed to be trampled thoroughly. At the rate I was going, it seemed I would have just as much a chance if I determined to marry the emperor. Which would be none.
I rubbed my temples. If I did not wish to reach an untimely end due to a wardrobe malfunction, I would have to find a riding habit somewhere. Someone had to have one. I couldn’t ask any of the royal staff. That simply wouldn’t do. Servant gossip always warped such situations and the worst of things could reach the wrong ears. Besides which, I did not want to show such a rude dependency upon my host.
So that left the other ladies. I bit my lip. How many of them would actually own a riding habit? Certainly other regions had horses, but many of them were not so…civilized…as to wear anything but pants when riding. Such a thing was simply scandalous. Well, maybe not for those from lower stock, but certainly for me.
Rixier would certainly have their women wear dresses, I was sure, but I somehow doubted that the girl, who was impossible to see under all her cloth, would have a proper riding dress for herself, let alone me.
Most of the girls seemed unapproachable to me as it were. I frowned. Perhaps Rixier would be my best bet. Maybe I could simply offer her something in turn and repay the debt. I just knew that I needed riding clothes and quickly.
Resolving myself, I stepped into the hall, inadvertently walking directly into the girl from Prendit. Tanaris, I believe her name was.
“Ow!” The girl’s outcry seemed to be born out of her shock, more so than actual pain. She fixed an appraising eye upon me, seemingly unimpressed. This surprised me slightly. I had a tendency to intimidate people.
“I apologize. Are you alright?” I bit my lip. I had not accounted for interacting with these others anymore then I had to.
“Surprised is all. You caught me thinking,” she shrugged, “Simply unfortunate timing, I’d say.”
I nodded in agreement, a signal of sorts that our conversation was over, and began to make my way to the dining hall.
An awkward silence pervaded as Tanaris met me step for step. I had forgotten that we were headed to the same place.
This Tanaris…I did not know her, but I certainly respected what I had witnessed of her thus far. My mind drifted back to the day when we had been presented to the Emperor. “I want to prove to you, my region, to everyone, that I can make myself useful. I wish for everyone to see me for who I am, for what I can do,” she had said. There was a sureness to her, a strength. And…well…she wished to make herself useful, and she didn’t seem the sort to hold debts with a grudge. Perhaps…
“I…” I turned to her, feeling somewhat uncomfortable, “I am afraid I am not terribly well acquainted with you, and so I hope I don’t seem to assuming to ask this, but… I don’t honestly have clothes that are meant for riding. Is it…I mean, would it be possible-may I ask you if you would be so kind as to loan me an outfit proper for such an occasion?” My cheeks flamed crimson. That was easily the most ineloquent speech I had ever given.
Raising one amused eyebrow, she smirked slightly, “You’re not used to asking for things, are you?”
My eyes widened at her forthright response. “And you’re not horribly soft-spoken, are you?” I retorted, covering my mouth immediately. “I apologize.” I admonished myself. I realized just how brilliant an idea avoiding the other girls had been. I was certainly not used to being around women around my own age.
Tanaris actually laughed, “You’re not wrong, though I certainly didn’t expect-”
I returned her smile ruefully, “Truly, I am sorry. It has been a difficult morning.”
“You sound as though you had insulted my mother and spoken blasphemy against my gods.”
I nodded in relief, somewhat pacified that she took humor at my response instead of offense.
“As for an outfit…I think I may have something to lend you.”
“Do you have anything that actually has sleeves?” I palmed through her almost entirely blue wardrobe in disbelief. Almost every article she owned had either a complete lack of sleeves or the sleeves were sheer.
Tanaris simply laughed, “You’re the one who has nothing suitable to wear. Here, I think I might have something…”
I found a tunic in my hands. I looked back and forth between her and the outfit dumbly, “And I don’t suppose you have a riding habit?” A pit of dread fell in my stomach.
Tanaris did not take any note of my request. “Of course, you probably don’t have any pants either,” Tanaris was murmuring to herself, looking for a pair.
“Pants.” I repeated, “You…expect me…to wear pants.”
“I’m not sure what else you would expect me to have.” Her lips quirked as she spared me a glance.
I took a deep breath. Of course. But it seemed I had no choice. I could…dress it up perhaps. It wouldn’t make it any less inappropriate, but maybe I would feel better.
I thanked her with tight lips and wished her luck on the hunt.
I sat on the dark mare gingerly, sitting like a man, not a proper woman. But it had been so long since I had ridden sidesaddle, and, honestly, sidesaddle wasn’t terribly comfortable, and I was a spectacle enough as it was, that the benefits had somehow managed to outweigh the detriments in this particular situation.
The servant that had assisted me onto the beautiful beast was giving me an odd look that I pretended not to notice. So much for avoiding the gossip of servants, I thought, discomfited. The same servant asked me if I would participate in the hunt, to which I answered no.
Even if I was making my ancestors roll in their graves with my state of dress, I had no intention of further embarrassing myself. Nor was I willing to kill in the name of sport.
At least I could remember how to handle a horse, not that my mare, Blackstar, was going to prove any trouble. She had a sweet temper, for which I was grateful. We set off at a slow trot, alongside the other ladies that chose not to participate in the hunt. I was relieved to see that many did not.
I actually began to enjoy the ride. The breeze was just brisk enough to bring a bit of me to life without chilling me to the bone. This was freedom.
I giggled a bit, surprising myself. I didn’t think I had giggled since I was under my Ayah’s care. Still, I leaned forward on my horse, content. “Let’s go a bit faster girl,” I encouraged the mare, petting the star on her nose before going into a steady canter. I wouldn’t dare go into a full gallop, though I had a mad desire to. I’m sure I’d manage to interrupt the hunt and scare off the game.
I closed my eyes and breathed out, a smile on my face. The air tasted fresh and my blood felt alive for the first time in forever.
I was startled out of my reverie by a horse galloping to catch up, and looked back to see Prince Delt. He must have been taking a break from his hunt.
I flushed, feeling rather inappropriate in my current state of dress. I tried to remind myself that I looked no different than most the girls currently riding. But you aren’t most girls, a small chiding voice in the back of my head reminded me.
“My lady,” Prince Delt said with a small smirk. He was definitely looking at my pants. His choice of words was not accidental.
“My lord,” I replied politely, inclining my head and slowing back down to a trot.
“You ride fairly comfortably,” he said. “Although I saw you when we started the ride, and I feel compelled to add that you did not look as comfortable with your outfit as you do with your horse.” He didn’t give me a chance to respond, sweeping quickly into the next sentence and leaving me flabbergasted. “From your introduction, I did not expect that you had spent more time at parties than on a horse.”
“I’ll admit I haven’t ridden since I was young,” I smiled, almost wistfully, but kept myself in check, “My father taught me, but unfortunately business and strong opinions got in the way.”
It might have been my imagination, but the prince’s smile seemed to sour ever so slightly. “Ah, opinions. They certainly do get in the way, don’t they? But you seem to remember well from your youth.”
I gave a small nod in agreement, “I do not have such skills to participate in the hunt, of course.”
This startled a slight laugh from Prince Delt. “But of course,” he agreed. “I would not have expected that you were denied the liberty to ride, but not to hunt. Now tell me: if you haven’t ridden since you were young and—I imagine—done little else to warrant the wearing of pants, how did you acquire such a striking outfit?”
I blushed horribly. “Alas, my lord, I hadn’t such an outfit suited for the occasion. My mother would have been just as pleased if I never rode again.” I shrugged slightly, as if it would excuse everything, “I had to make do with what I had.”
“Ah. So, madam, if I may ask, if you do not ride, what is it that you do with your time? When you aren’t constantly entertaining the other nobles, that is.” There was an almost understanding, conspirational tone in his voice.
“Music,” I said simply and honestly. No matter what warnings Mother had given me about men, I saw no benefit for me to not disclose the truth.
“A beautiful hobby,” he said. “I assume you must be proficient in some instrument or other?”
“harpsichord,” I smiled.
He looked at me quizzically for a moment before returning to his normal smile. “I would love to hear you play some time. That is,” he added hastily, “if you would be so inclined to do so. If I could be so bold as to ask.”
“I would like that very much, my lord.”
“Is that your favorite place then, the music room?”
I thought of the room, grand, but cold. “No, sir. The room I play in has nothing to boast about. It is lifeless and cold without the music. Most everything is. If I may be so bold sir, my favorite place is here, right now, under the sky with no walls to shut anyone in. There is no silent, unfriendly cold in nature, my lord. There is peace.” I closed my eyes again, breathing the air in. This fresh air must have been meddling with my head. I had spoken altogether too much all day.
Prince Delt’s smile, when I opened my eyes, was almost…affectionate? Could that really be it? “You may certainly be so bold. I agree. It is hard to find anywhere in Bascalin without walls, isn’t it? The city can be so stifling.” A hound bounded by loudly, and Prince Delt sighed. “Well, I suppose I must rejoin the hunt. I will leave you to enjoy your freedom, my lady.” He nodded and rode off, leaving me in my new haven.