At His Lordship's Behest (introduction)index
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Title: At His Lordship's Behest
Pairing: Lord Henri Antoine Silvestre de Gravina/ Princess Beta Bonafilia de St. Aubyn
Author: Mina de Malfois
Princess Beta Bonafilia de St. Aubyn paced the balcony outside her bedroom, feeling caged. She was reluctant to join the others, although she had probably delayed as long as was possible; she expected, at any moment, one of the servants to appear, bearing her father's summons to the table. She knew he would be saddened, not angry, and it pained her to be such a constant source of worry and disappointment to him in so many little, unimportant things. 'If only,' she thought despairingly, 'I could be the good, obedient, contented daughter he wishes me to be.' Instead, she knew, she was ambitious, and restless, and willful. 'If only silk could smother sorrow, or absinthe drown it, or jewels conceal it. If only I could be calm, and tame, and learn not to chafe at our fallen condition. I wish I could forget our enslavement, and not feel the insult of being permitted to wear the crown.'
'Or else,' she thought, entering her lavishly appointed rooms and crossing to the oak-panelled hall, determined to be downstairs before she was sent for, 'I wish I had been trained to fight, and at least had the consolation afforded the men of this family.' Pierce, though her distant cousin, and so unlikely to ever inherit the throne, had at least been equipped and educated to defend the St. Aubyn name in honest combat. Even the commonplace friend Pierce had brought home with him, some mannerless peasant named Jab Ackerman, was probably better able to wield a sword than she was. Better to ride out and die, better to face the magnificent, powerful darkness and admit defeat, than to cling to safety here, shamefully sheltered and protected on these sweet, green, pretty, damnable islands.
But Pierce, she reflected bitterly, was too fond of fine things and beautiful surroundings to fret at any limits on their family's power. She would never criticize him in from of outsiders, not even the servants, but she was all too aware of his lack of ambition. Enough, for him, to have ample means to slake his various hungers. He would raise no blade until such time as battle-lust fired his veins--and thus far, the princess knew, there'd been no room for that among his other lusts.
At least I have one hidden strength, she consoled herself, hurrying down broad stairs past tapestry-shrouded walls. Wulfwyn, Beta's loyal servant, understood her despair. It was Wulfwyn who had slipped her the delicate glass bottle that now nestled among Beta's perfumes, hidden from prying eyes. 'One drop,' the princess consoled herself, 'buys me victory over any human enemy, or release for myself.' Her pales cheeks were stained with crimson anger when she remembered the one glorious enemy she could never kill, but she pushed him resolutely from her thoughts.
This life was stifling her with its cloying falseness and its pretence of graceful power. They had long since lost their control of the better portion of their lands. Her family didn't rule; even their reign of this constricted realm only continued because he permitted it. Everything they owned--the jewels and silks and even her beloved pet crow--were merely baubles, tossed carelessly to them by him like toys given to placid children. They had bought the continued security of some worthless peasants at too high a price, sacrificing their pride and high estate for a pointless, though ‘moral,’ treaty with an enemy who scorned their weakness. Her thoughts flew to the dark cliffs across the water, and the fiend infesting the old castle, and she shivered.
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