The Stars Are Fire- NaNoWriMo 2016
The king (the word tasted stale on the back of her tongue and she took another swallow from her glass) was speaking to a pair of well dressed men, smiling at them pleasantly enough but she could see her uncle’s jaw flexing beneath his pale skin. It was a common tell that meant something was upsetting him. And whatever that was, Henley felt she wanted to be a part of it, she moved a bit closer and touched a string of gems that was nestled around the crest of her ear. The sound amplified and she could hear what was being said without looking particularly interested. She crossed her arms over the tasteful and unadorned bodice of her black gown and sipped at her drink.
“…miner’s guild is becoming increasingly concerned, my lord,” one of the simpering little weasels whined in her ear, “This business with the Lady Fortuna is getting… unreasonable.”
“They’re pirates, my lord,” his equally disgusting partner said, “Highwaymen. No matter their captain, no matter their position, they are still thieves! And they are harassing our shipping lanes with undue prejudice!”
“Gentlemen,” the king said, in his soft voice that used to soothe Henley and now only grated on her ear, “Do not misunderstand me. I understand that the problem must be dealt with. But we must address these things through the proper channels. No,” Henley could almost hear him raising his hand in a conciliatory gesture, though she had her back to him and she bit her cheek in an effort not to roll her eyes, “No, I hear what you are saying, Basil, but if you think the boy’s position is of no matter or consequence than you are more naive than I thought. We must speak to the Chancellor of Njor before we take any further action. I will not run hot-headed into this situation like…”
…like my brother Henley…
“…like we have done before,” he finished prudently (cowardly Henley thought in the darkest corner of her mind, but threw back the last of her champagne to stifle it), “We must be firm, but we must also be diplomatic. That is the only way to get the inner worlds to take us seriously, to see us as more than just a fueling station. I will write up a letter to the Chancellor in the morning and send you off with your complaints as soon as transport can be acquired and your protection assured, if that is…?”
“Your most gracious majesty!”
Henley winced and touched the gems in her ear, cancelling the audio enhancement to prevent feedback. Lady Persephone did not require any enhancement to be heard. Henley suspected that her high-pitched, fawning voice was on a different wavelength from most mammalian species. Henley could not help but turn toward that voice though, as much as it irked her. For if Lady Persephone had made an appearance it was likely that her children were not too far behind. And Henley never could resist Laersa’s pull.
The trio of red-headed nobles were standing in an almost pyramidic stance before the current royal couple (not new, neither of them were new to this, though everyone was acting as if they’d never seen Henley’s mother in a crown before), Lady Persephone at the head, giggling and twittering and flipping her luxuriously dark red curls back and forth over her pale neck, her two children standing at either of her shoulders, both with hair as red as their mother’s and looking like they were both trying desperately not to look uncomfortable. Henley caught the bright green eye of Ophestes, the younger of the two, and gave him a quick, but sympathetic smile. He smiled back, but it tensed up his round face and Henley could see his fingers bunching at his sides. Fez didn’t so well with… well, people. He was a sweet boy (and despite his seventeen years, he was most definitely still a boy), but he would much prefer it if no one knew that he existed, even the few people that he liked. He didn’t do well in social situations and his mother was a walking, talking social situation, everywhere she went.
Henley’s eyes drifted to the woman standing on the other side of Fez, never quite making eye contact, not daring, not here, it wasn’t safe, but still her gaze was drawn to her. Laersa stood straight and prim, her hands clasped behind her in a crisp parade rest sort of stance, her long, wispy strands of hair tied back in a long tail that hung down her lithe back. Her green and silver uniform looked good on her, clung in all the right places, but not enough to take away from the stiff regulation that came with Academy Officers’ training. Her eyes never left the face of the king as her mother droned on, but Henley still felt as if she could see her, just out of the corner of her eye, watching Henley watching her…
“Well, you know my Laersa, she is so used to getting her way…”
Henley’s attention went shrieking back to Lady Persephone. The Academy was the only thing Laersa had ever set her mind to in her life that she had gotten her way with her mother, and that was only because the silly bitch had somehow convinced herself that her daughter would come home in six months on the arm of a military man, possibly already married and expecting her first child. Henley regretted that her glass was already empty, and snagged another from the closest hover-butler.
“…but she really would like to be heading back to school as soon as possible,” Lady Persephone said, tossing her hair again while Henley choked on her fresh champagne, “Exams are on the horizon and there is so much studying involved, all those books, and lectures, and things…”
The woman twirled a bejeweled hand absently and Henley jerked her eyes back to Laersa. Back to Academy? Already? But… they hadn’t even… she hadn’t been able to… Laersa’s sharp green gaze left its trained spot in the middle distance, just briefly, but in that glance Henley read all that she needed to. This wasn’t Laersa’s idea. Persephone was behind this, the way she was behind everything, with her social climbing machinations, and arrogant assumptions. Henley clenched her glass so tightly that she could feel her fingers cramping and forced them to relax, taking another gulp. Her eyes were burning and she tried to relax her jaw the way she’d relaxed her fingers. It wasn’t safe. They were never safe. She hated it.
So, there you go 🙂 I’m trying not to stress too much about whether it sucks or not before the first draft (and second… and probably third ;P) is finished 🙂 I hope you enjoyed it!