For the Iande Contest/RP
Also, YAY just a bit over three pages! Thats like, an entire page shorter than the last two installments! *pats self on back*
The next morning met me with the horrible call of a mourning dove that had decided to take up perch in my window. After several vain minutes spent with my pillow over my head attempting to achieve a little more rest, I gave up and threw a decorative rock from my floral arrangement at it. I was not a very gracious person in the morning, as the infuriating bird found out, giving an annoyed call as it flew off.
I stretched, now fully awake. Unfortunately, without my grogginess or an obnoxious and unmusical bird call ringing in my ears, I was all too aware of my memories from the previous day. I glared at the discarded outfit on the chair near the fireplace with conviction, and then sighed. I would have to return the outfit to Tanaris.
I dressed as perfectly proper as possible this morning, heat flooding my cheeks as I thought of Prince Delt’s response to my attire from the previous day. I even pinned my hair in the tightest most conservative bun I could possibly achieve to leave no doubt that I was a proper lady.
I sighed, looking at my reflection in the mirror. Any damage I may have made to my reputation was not going to change if I simply willed it. I was being childish. Still, I powdered my face in imitation of my mother. At the very least, I would feel safely hidden behind the makeup.
After requesting a passing maid to return Tanaris’s garments to her room in the most cool and dignified manner I could possibly achieve, I strode towards the dining hall with my head held high. I was both rather mystified and grateful that I did not get stares as I ate. I had been so concerned about my apparel from yesterday, that I had simply assumed that everyone was judging me. No, I reminded myself, these girls would not. They have concerns of their own. It is my own people I must worry about.
Midway through the meal, a servant of higher standing entered the room and announced the day’s activity. We would be going to see the Royal Menagerie, the emperor’s collection of exotic animals, rumored to hold every animal in the continent.
A murmur of excitement spread amongst the ladies. The feeling was contagious. I could only wonder at what animals were in this collection.
The sense of anticipation did not waver as we journeyed to the Menagerie, and there was great chatter amongst some of the ladies who had befriended one another.
Indeed we were not disappointed. We were presented to a building that resembled an enormous greenhouse, a botanical garden of sorts that was filled with as many exotic plants as it were with animals. Light streamed from the glass ceiling and ( )ought a comfortable warmth to the room.
I looked about in awe. Exotic and colorful creatures were all about me, each unique and beautiful in their own absolutely distinctive and spectacular way. Even their cages glittered in the sunlight filtered through the skylights. Even gilded, a cage is still a cage. A few of the smaller birds, it seemed, were allowed to fly freely in the room, though, truly, that simply meant their cage was a larger one.
A few of the other ladies gave small exclamations as they found particularly interesting animals, or perhaps familiar ones, I was unsure. My attention was otherwise occupied on all the different animals, and I wandered from one to the next, studying them with wide eyes.
They were so magnificent. There were creatures so tiny and delicate they could fit on a small coin, and others much larger than my bed, even. A delicate melody arose from a creature that resembled a miniature butterfly spun from silver, and a terrible sound that was loud and soft at once came from a creature with so many heads it was a wonder that it could balance properly.
I could easily have spent hours in the menagerie, the animals intrigued me so. I could hardly imagine a world where such creatures were commonplace. Having lived in a city my whole life, I supposed that my experience with creatures was rather mundane, limited to animals that could adapt to city life. It would be rather humorous, I thought, if they kept a horse in the menagerie instead of the stables, so as to complete the collection and truly have every animal in the empire.
Of course, I found no evidence to suggest this were true amid my wanderings, though several docile rabbits and even some ( )eeds of squirrel took their residence in the menagerie.
Suddenly, a sweet and familiar trill sounded behind me, and my face lit up immediately in absolute joy. There before me sat a silvery bird with a long plumed tail trailing majestically behind it. It wasn’t a terribly extravagant animal, but it was my favorite in the world.
“Sigi?” I whispered softly, walking toward the animal. Of course the bird was not mine, but it was so familiar…
The bird began to sing again in a joyful response, a sound more beautiful than anything that I had ever heard before. It was the song that Sigi had always sung.
I laughed from sheer wonderment and in desperate longing for my pet, my Sigi. “How can you sound so blissful?” I asked the bird, “You are condemned to live this dreary life, to be admired for being in a cage.” But still the bird sang on, its song more beautiful and free than the bird could ever be.
With a sad, thoughtful smile on my face, I knelt by the bird, watching it. At some point, I began to sing softly with it, a quiet wordless melody that I had sung with Sigi some days. As though delighted to have a duet, the bird’s song became more extravagant and louder as we sang our senseless tune born out of nothing but a small understanding between it and I.
The bird stopped rather a( )uptly, cocking its head slightly, puffed its chest, and then proceeded to preen its feathers. I laughed at that. Damn arrogant birds.
I stood, gasping in surprise as I accidentally hit something.
“Oh!” A small startled gasp escaped my poor victim.
My face turned ( )ight scarlet-I really needed to work on that-as I saw that I had accidentally stumbled into the youngest prince when I had stood.
I ducked my head and gave a hurried courtesy, “My apologies, my lord. I was completely unaware of your presence.”
Prince Tamd ducked his head and…blushed? “No, I’m…” he started to mutter, but then quickly raised his head and finished in a stronger voice, “I’m sorry, my lady. It was my fault for standing so close.”
I smiled back, uncertainly. I observed this Prince Tamd. I had hardly gotten a proper look at him when I had arrived at the palace. All I discovered was his nervous attitude before. Now I saw a sweet, genuine smile and could not help but offer a good humored laugh.
“It was hardly your fault. It was…simply unfortunate timing.” I repeated the words that Tanaris had spoken to me the day before.
He gave a sweet smile and nodded. “Unfortunate timing, yes.” He turned to the silvery bird, a smile still in place. “You seem to…really like this bird. It is truly beautiful. And of course has such a lovely voice.” He kept his eyes on the bird as he said this, not turning to me.
“I have one just like it.” My response was automatic as I began to wonder just how long Prince Tamd had been behind me. My ears tinged pink, “He-my bird, that is, Sigi, he was a gift from my nursemaid several years ago.” I laughed slightly, “She said he reminded her of me, somehow. Of course, she spent the next several years regretting it. She hated to see the poor thing cooped up in a cage when it should fly free.”
Prince Tamd gave a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I feel the same, usually. It seems entirely unfair, keeping these proud animals here in cages for our amusement.” He sighed before continuing. “But then, I suppose they have been here so long, they might not even know how to survive in the outside world.” He continued to look at the bird for a long moment before turning back to me. “It was a thoughtful gift, from your nursemaid. I see what she meant, about the resemblance between the two of you. I am sure he is a good companion.”
I glanced at the bird, strutting about on the floor of his cage, and frowned slightly. The meaning my nursemaid had had always been lost on me.
The prince shook himself and laughed slightly, “Well, at any rate, I would miss it if it were gone.”
“I’m inclined to agree,” I admitted, “My bird was my chief companion over the years, and this one is such a happy reminder. But I suppose that is somewhat selfish of me.”
Prince Tamd furrowed his ( )ow for a moment in thought. “We are all selfish,” he said slowly. “Some of us much more than others.” He had a frown that lifted slightly as he turned back to me. “We all deserve friends. There is nothing selfish in that desire. And maybe you were the friend that your bird needed in his life, too. You never know. You would miss your friend, and he, I think, would miss you. What else do you miss from your home?”
“I’ll admit, I don’t miss much.” I smiled, ruefully, “Not that I’ve been gone for terribly long, nor am I terribly far from it.”
He cocked his head to the side slightly. “I suppose that Sherra is not so different from the rest of Bascalin.” But he looked around the menagerie, and an amused grin grew on his lips. “Well…” he laughed. Of course there was nothing like the menagerie in the rest of the city. His laughter left quickly though. “But surely there must be something you miss besides Sigi?”
I nodded, humoring him, “There were the usual comforts, which, of course, I experience here, and I’d be lying to say I would ever wish to give that up. My home though was a lonely place. Without those that you love, what comfort is there in a home?” I stared forward at the bird, completely lost in thought and memory.
Prince Tamd gave a soft sigh. “I was lucky in my ( )others,” he almost whispered. “I mean, Prar can be so distant, and Delt can be so…well,” he laughed lightly and shook his head. “I hope you have better luck in future, Lady Cyrilla.” He gave a slight bow, hesitated, and then walked away just a little more quickly than propriety dictated.