Found myself very busy today and gone for the afternoon, so instead I drug out the beginnings of a story I had started oooh like ten years ago… that sucked… and did some massive revisions to it instead. So not strictly speaking a new story, but very heavily edited. That’s close, right? I wouldn’t post this at all but for my self-challenge, so here we go:
A girl of no more than seventeen sat on the wide sill gazing down on the rooftops of the city. She watched the carts in the street, listened to the noise of city life rising from below, and felt glad their manor sat above the dust and smells of it.
“Manai, come away from the window,” her mother, the Lady Cynthari, said.
“But mother, the room is so very warm; let me have some air for a moment longer?”
“It is not fitting for young brides to be seen at the window,” her mother insisted. “Come away, child!”
She let out a deep sigh and slid from the sill, drawing the curtains closed. “Oh, Mama,” she said. “Why must I marry this man? He is so old.” She scowled, her lips pursed out in a pout. It was said by many that she possessed a rare beauty that caused men to desire her. It was a pity her manners were not so richly praised as her looks.
Her mother took no notice of her objection but went on about the business of preparing the bridal gowns. Manai walked to the table and ran her fingers across the surface of the fabric as she made her way around to where her mother sat. Finding a piece of unused cloth she picked it up and played with it in her hands.
“Besides, he’s ugly,” she continued, as if her arguments might serve some purpose.
Her mother briefly looked up at her with a flash of annoyance in her eyes. “Come now, put this on.”
Manai relented and stood still as her mother wrapped the half-finished gown about her, tucking and pinning here and there.
“No one will say you were a poorly dressed bride,” her mother continued. “Your father has brought the best cloth and fineries back from Northport for you. ‘All the way from Cronheim,’ he said. Can you imagine?” Her mother continued to pull at the gown and talk but Manai heard not a half of it. She was imagining sneaking away, riding through open fields far from the cares of the city and this hated marriage. No doubt the cloth was part of the wedding gift from her husband-to-be, which made her despise it.
Finally her mother removed the gown and went back to the table, continuing to sew. “Why, I was three years your junior when I married your father. It’s not right for a girl of good breeding to be left so long wild. It’s just not right.”
Manai slumped onto her bed. Her obstinance had already brought about the ruin of two previous matches; no doubt the reason her father, the Lord Dunyatai, had traveled so far to Northport to secure the latest. She did not want to go to Northport; she wanted to stay in Ayrn. The mountains and forests were her home, not the sea, with its miles of nothingness and cold winds.
Not that she had ever seen it, of course. She imagined it to be a very horrid place by all accounts she had invented in her mind, a place where any manner of mercenary and trader would conduct their questionable business. Surely not the place for such a fine lady as herself, from such a well respected family. Pulling her chin up and trying to look respectable, she smoothed back her wild hair and drew herself up very tall.
The sounds of children playing in the street nearby and the objections of a stubborn donkey being lead to the stable could be heard drifting on the air. Soon the Lighters would be about their task of lighting the great lamps that hung along many of the larger streets.
She stared back at the curtains covering the window. She enjoyed looking down over the city at the start of evening; the sun casting a fiery red glow over the white-washed walls and sparkling tile roofs. The bustle of women returning home from markets and men from shops and fields at the end of the day filled her with fascination; the little play of life performed every eve.
The door to the room creaked open and Tira, the old maid-servant, stepped just inside the door. “M’lady Cynthari, Miss Manai,” she said, addressing each with a slight bow. “Supper is on the table.”
“Thank you, Tira,” Cynthari said. Tira bowed again and turned out of the room.
“Do you suppose they have suppers in Northport?” Manai said.
“What an odd child you are,” her mother chided. “What kind of question is that?”
She shrugged. “I was just wondering.”
“Yes, and they have breakfasts and lunches and teas as well, and bread and water and linens – gracious child, you try my nerves! Think we are sending you off to wed a barbarian?”
“Honestly! He’s a wealthy man with a good reputation. You’re lucky we secured him for you.”
Manai sulked just a little. “Not so lucky.”