Trials of the Prey – Chapter 7

Posted by Akira | Posted in Author Platform, General Writing, Serial Fiction, Trials, Writing Projects | Posted on 14-10-2016


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It had been three days since Turi relieved Tallis’s ladies-in-waiting from their duty. It was a difficult task. He had watched several of them grow with his sister and he knew she would miss them. She would miss their company, companionship and, more importantly, their service.

Turi tapped lightly on the door to his sister’s abode and waited. Normally, one of her ladies-in-waiting would come to let him in immediately, but she was newly without maids and maidens at her beck and call. He could hear movement beyond the door, so he continued to wait. The leopard sat to the side of the door next to the guard until the door opened.

Turi led the leopard into the abode, his sister sheepishly hiding behind the open door.

“Oh, it’s you dear brother,” she whispered, peering from the shadows.

It was clear to Turi that she was struggling without her house full of staff. No one to help her dress, or style her hair. She looked presentable, but not nearly as stylish as she did when her ladies tended her needs.

She closed the door behind him and he sat on the plush couch, his leopard beside his feet. “It’s finished, Tallis. House Emberiz is officially dissolved, our debts paid in full. I just came from the auditor.”

“And Uncle Levin?”

Their Uncle Levin had endured great embarrassment through the dissolution of House Emberiz. He was their elder in charge of maintaining the noble charter and by all accounts he had failed.

“He left for questing as soon as his barrister declared him insolvent.”

She stood by the door and looked at the floor. “I wonder if you might see your way to securing a handmaiden for my personal employ?”

“Did you hear what I… a handmaiden?”  

“Or a young girl to mentor from Plover. I hear they’re affordable if you get them just before they’re to enter finishing school.”

“For what?”

“I have a ceremony to plan, a kinship jaunt to prepare for, and I have my personal needs to think about. I’ve always been surrounded by at least three ladies. I don’t see any reason why that needs to change so drastically now.“

Turi inhaled deeply and sighed loudly. She was exhausting. “Things have changed drastically, or have you forgotten. We are on the brink of revolution, some say even civil war. We cannot be frivolous in our expenditures. You cannot go off galavanting across the Grasslands while the people live under sidhe rule. ”

She scoffed and shrugged her shoulders.

“I see where this is heading and I will stop it now. No, I will not add to your household. Because of you my accounts were frozen a fortnight. You are betrothed to the heir to the throne. Entreaty yourself to him. He seems enamoured with you, he may go for it. Perhaps he will place you on his personal accounts once he has completed his rituals, once it is proper to celebrate your betrothal publicly.”

She didn’t say anything. Tallis looked at the floor and paced over to the darkened windows.

“This is your own fault, you know. This business stalling with Gannon’s proposal; stringing along the royal purse while you were living it up with all your maids. If you had accepted Gannon’s proposal, as instructed, the first time he presented himself, none of this would be happening. You have to wait now, until the rest of Taladae deems it appropriate to celebrate this union between you and the prince.”

She sighed loudly, “It will take months before I can even approach him for a request such as this. He shut himself off last night to prepare for his latest ritual.”

Turi ran his fingers along the leather leash. “Make a request of the queen, then. She is to be your kin through this union. Use this time to make amends with her. Make no mistake, dear sister, you do have amends to make if you intend to make this your home.”

Tallis scoffed, slumping her shoulders. “She won’t even see me. To say that she is angry with me is quite the understatement.”

“Then try House Lupuna. Lord Sloane is level-headed and reasonable. Perhaps his wife can stand to confer upon you one of her ladies. You know, as a gift upon your betrothal to her nephew.”

She chuckled, but it was without glee. “No member of House Lupuna will receive me. Not unless I appear with my betrothed. Months, dear brother, months. Any other ideas?”

Turi wrapped the leash around his hands in a nervous motion before he made this next suggestion. “Try the counsel. In private, of course.”

“Why would they help me? They’re the very ones who took my household from me in the first place.”

Turi cleared his throat and wrapped the leash around his hand one more time. “You may find some kinship with Lady Kunai if you approach her kindly and with humility.”

She walked over to the couch and knelt before him, her hands on his knees. She looked deep into his eyes and he glanced away. “You know something, brother. Why would any member of counsel lend me aid?”

“I didn’t say they would lend aid, only that if you present yourself in just the right way, you may find understanding among them.”

“I’m not a duchess anymore, they don’t have to hear me.” Knowing you were no longer a duchess was one thing. Saying it hurt almost as much as dressing herself, dining alone, drawing her own bath.

“You’re no longer lady of a house, but you are the prince’s betrothed. That gives you access to them that a commoner would not have.”

A slow smile crept across her face. “You didn’t say them, you said Lady Kunai. Why her?”

He raised his eyebrows slowly. Tallis had revealed herself to be a bit of a manipulator. He needed to tread carefully with her. “I only suggest Lady Kunai because of her affinity with House Lupuna, your future kin.”

Tallis rose to her feet and turned her back to her brother.

“It’s time for you to understand your place here, Tallis. You need to start aligning yourself with House Lupuna’s allies. Familiarize yourself with House Lupuna’s agendas. You have signed your fate to them, now you must become one of them. That is what it means to be the prince’s betrothed. When you are joined and he takes the throne you may be his queen. Now is when you need to solidify your interests.”

“You make a good point, brother. Just look at Aurora rule in her husband’s stead. No transition needed, she just took the throne. No meetings, no counsel approval. He left the kingdom and the nobles immediately turned to their queen for guidance.”

She hated to admit it, but he had a point. She had political anonymity on her side. No one had public dealings with her except her statement made during the council meeting, where she had done her best to appear humble and apologetic. She had failed, but this was Taladae. The public and the counsel had forgiven many a political misstep from far more powerful people. It had to be worth a try.


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