I keep meaning to get back to drawing again, but I haven’t had a chance yet. Hope the chapters are enjoyable on their own as well. 🙂
Polly, while impersonating the princess, has been kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee, and taken far, far away from her home… where she meets the very princess she was impersonating. It is revealed they all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here
Chapter 12A: The Costume of the Court
I woke up the next morning, put on my light blue dress, and pinned up my hair, wanting to look slightly dressier than normal. Today Casper had said I would be given a crash course in Chaldean court behaviour. I wondered who he had got to teach me. His woman of the moment?
I went downstairs and found Paulina already making breakfast. Bacon and pancakes sizzled on the stove. I started to join her, but she waved me away.
“I don’t want to get grease spots on your dress,” she explained.
I couldn’t eat much. It was not that I was exactly nervous, but I wasn’t sure what things would be like now. At least Paulina would be staying.
Stefan was saying he didn’t like to go to market anymore and leave the Enchanter ‘defenceless’ at home, but Casper waved him off with a laugh.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll be safe from the jadess as long as I stay in the Peak.”
After breakfast Casper came over to me and handed me a little box.
“Your protection charm,” he said. I opened the box. In it was an odd-shaped charm that could clip behind the neckline of any of my dresses, and remain out of sight. I put it on.
“You’ll have to wear it whenever you leave the Peak,” he told me, “And it’ll only keep the jadess from touching you, not keep her away completely.” He looked up again and grinned. “Hope you have better luck with her than I did.”
Just then the door went rat-tat, and Stefan went out to get it. I followed behind him into the entrance hall. There was a rat-tat again at the door, and he opened it.
“Maria DeAballah!” I exclaimed. She saw me and smiled.
“Why, hello,” she said. “Casper said you would be here. I’ve come to teach you.”
“You?” I laughed. Of all things… well, at least our last meeting had been friendlier than the first. “Well, come in. What are we doing first?”
She studied me intently. “Well, first of all clothes. What else have you got?”
Behind me I could hear the Enchanter come up. Maria’s eyes narrowed slightly when she saw him.
“Ah, Maria,” he said, with a smooth and courtly smile. “I’m glad you could manage to do this for me.” He looked amused at the way Maria carefully held back her rage.
“Come,” she said tightly to me. “Why don’t you show me sort of wardrobe you possess for court?”
“Why’d you agree to do this for him if you’re mad at him?” I asked her, while I was leading her up to my room.
“Because I like you,” she replied. “I heard Casper making inquiries for someone to teach you Chaldean manners, and I agreed to do it because I wanted to know you better. Certainly not because Casper asked me!”
“He’s exasperating, isn’t he,” I said.
“Undoubtedly,” she replied. “I was wondering, though, why are you here at the Magician’s Peak?”
I remembered the story we’d agreed to tell everyone. “He’s my cousin.”
Maria looked at me, those wonderfully wide and deep brown eyes of hers flashing dangerously. “Nonsense. Whatever anyone else believes, I don’t fall for it. How come you’ve never come out of the Peak before, then? I want to know really.”
“He rescued me,” I admitted. We’d reached my door to my room, and, fortunately, Maria didn’t press for more details. I opened the door. Maria walked in, nodding approvingly.
“Not bad,” she said. “Now, where are your clothes? I need to see if you possess anything suitably Chaldean.”
“I do,” I answered, going over to my chest. “This is just one of the dress I made. But I do have a whole bunch of Chaldean robes Casper got for me.”
I opened it and began laying the silky garments out in a row. Maria walked along them, studying them with an odd look on her face.
“These won’t do at all,” she said. “You can tell he bought them from the same booth. Look at them, they’re all the same except for colour and embroidery. It won’t do at all for the court.” She threw up her hands. “La, men have no taste!”
I could not quite see what she was getting at, but as I had never liked them much in the first place I did not complain. She bent down and search through the chest.
“Yes, nothing,” she said. Then she looked around the room. “Do you have a charcoal and paper? I’ll draw a quick sketch and sent it to my seamstress, and hopefully she can get it whipped up for when you go to court tomorrow. She really is a genius with a needle.”
“I do,” I replied, pointing to a piece of charcoal and paper on the table. ”If you do it quickly Stefan can probably drop it off when he goes to market.”
She took it and sat down, scribbling busily. I looked over her shoulder, but her scrawled design confused me. She seemed to think her seamstress would understand it though. I took it from her when it was done and ran downstairs to give it to Stefan. Then I came back up.
Maria was standing over the robes, thinking.
“You will have to wear one of these for now,” she said. “Just to give you an idea of what it’ll feel like while I teach you all the other graces. I will make sure you get more proper dress later, for now we will just have to make do.” She looked at me.
I sighed and slipped my pretty yellow dress over my head and stood there in my under-dress. Maria stared at me in surprise.
“How many layers do you Angarians wear?” she asked.
“You don’t wear under-dresses?” I asked. I shrugged and slipped that off too. Now I was just standing there in my shirtwaist and under-drawers.
“This is crazy,” Maria said, still looking at me. “Do you even wear a girdle?”
“A girdle?” I asked.
“You know,” she gestured, “To cinch in your waist. A slim waist can be a lady’s greatest asset.”
I shook my head. She sighed and opened the bag she’d brought with her.
“Luckily I wasn’t sure if you did or not,” she said, “And brought one along. And proper under-drawers. My goodness, you Angarians.”
I changed into them. The under-drawers were shorter, and did not have ribbons at the bottom to pull them in at the calf. Beneath the girdle I wore a light, sleeveless shift, and the girdle, a curved black thing, laced over top. I looked rather helplessly at the laces.
But Maria didn’t seem to expect me to do them up myself. She pulled the ones on my back, hard, making me stagger backwards.
“Tight!” I gasped.
“A slim waist is a lady’s greatest asset,” Maria grunted, pulling harder. ”Remember that.”
Over it I put on one of the red robes. Maria did up the lacings tightly in the back of that too, which I’d only loosely tied before. It did look figure-flattering that way, but I felt almost naked without an under-dress underneath.
“Your hair should be a help too,” Maria continued, pulling out the ribbons I’d tied it back with. “Few possess such blond hair in Chaldea.”
She began pulling out the pins and yanking a comb through it. My scalp protested, but she seemed to have a certain skill because my hair did look shinier than before.
“Now, a lot of people leave their hair out loose,” she said. “Like me. But I think yours would look good in that new style they have started wearing.”
She gathered it together, then twisted it sharply and fanned it out, so it stood up at the crown of my head in a sort of loop. Then she took some of the tiny, discreet pins with marching red jewels and secured it down. Around my face she wisped out narrow strands of hair, twisting them around one finger so they didn’t hang lank. Then she stepped back to look at me.
“A good start,” she said.
I turned to face her, surprised. What more was there to do?
Then I saw her getting out tubes and tubs and pouches of what looked like pastes, and I understood.
The upper classes in Angaria sometimes wore face products. I wasn’t upper class, so I had never worn them. But in Angaria it was considered shameful if your cosmetics were noticeable. In Chaldea it seemed to be exactly the opposite. It was shameful if your cosmetics weren’t noticeable.
“Good long eyelashes,” she said to me. Then she pulled on them so hard it felt like they were coming out, and curled them on a narrow rack-thing. With a paintbrush she delicately painted them black. It made my eyes looks like a cat’s.
She rimmed them with a stick of dark kohl, saying that would make my blue eyes bigger and more noticeable. Then she fussed over my brows for a long time, brushing and trimming them, until they were neat lines. Thankfully she hadn’t made them into a pronounced arch like hers, but then she probably realised her face could pull that off. Mine couldn’t. The way she’d done them looked natural, if a bit darker than normal.
I looked into the mirror and was surprised at how wide my eyes looked. Maria laughed when I told her.
“That is certainly all the rage lately,” she said.
She dabbed pink on my cheeks and painted my lips cherry red. Even when I wasn’t looking in a mirror I could see my lips out of the bottom of my eyes, a bright, glowing red.
“Kissable,” Maria said, smiling.
“But I don’t want to be kissable!” I cried.
“If you’re chasing the Rajah, you do,” she told me.
Some day I’ll get you for this, Casper, I thought. It was positively degrading to have to chase a man like that. And it would only make the Rajah more sure of himself. Goodness! I thought when she gave me the mirror. My smoky eyes were certainly a contrast to my pale hair. Not that it looked bad. But I would certainly be kicked out of Angaria if I ventured anywhere near it like this.
What had I gotten myself into?