Tag Archives: Why Polly?

Haven’t You Heard of Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog?

Haven’t you heard of Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog? It is the world’s biggest bestseller, or it should be, if this old saying from the publishing industry was true. Apparently book about Lincoln, books about doctors, and books about dogs all sell extremely well (at least before the internet came along, and fell in love with cats instead…) So clearly a book about all three of those things should be amazing.

Everyone knows this is a kind of silly way to look at manufacturing a bestseller. I agree, and so does the Amrah Publishing House – their latest post, Manufacturing a Bestseller, pokes several holes in this theory. Clearly I, along with several thousand other authors, would’ve written a highschool vampire love story if we’d known beforehand what a big hit Twilight was going to be. But that’s the way of these things, they’re somewhat unpredictable.

All the same, I know many of you reading this blog did enjoy Why Polly? when I posted it chapter-by-chapter here. Well, I’ve been busy editing and polishing it some more, another part will be available on Kindle on Friday. It doesn’t contain a doctor, a dog, or anything about Lincoln, but I think it’s a pretty entertaining story all the same.

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Court Rivalry: Chapter 14A (Why Polly?)

This chapter finds Polly continuing in her attempts to foil the jadess’s plans at the Palace.

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 14A: Court Rivalry

Maria came over the next morning, with three boxes of new dresses. I slept hard that night after my day at court, and I woke up reluctantly when she knocked on my door. “Come in,” I groaned.

“Good morning,” she told me, sweeping into the room. She dumped three boxes on the floor beside me. “Get up and decide which dress you’re going to wear.”

She had brought three dresses, the first a dark, golden apricot with a V-neck and a golden circlet of ivy for the waist. The second was raspberry edged in gold, with embroidered roses growing up from the skirt to the neckline. But the third one was the one I chose to wear: an azure blue, without seams and without decorations, with a square neck and trailing sleeves. Maria helped me lace up my girdle and pull the dress over that again, and my stomach protested at being constricted for the third day in a row. Around my neck and arms I wore jewellery like woven silver.

“Are you going to court today?” I asked her. She shook her head.

“I do not feel so much like it lately,” she said. “You get tired of it after awhile. So I’m taking the time to re-order my estate again.”

“But you will come to help me every morning?” I looked at her. “Please? I need you for moral support, and I don’t think I’ll ever manage to do this by myself.”

“I’ll come as much as I can,” she promised, combing out my hair. “How did it go yesterday?”

So I told her all about my day at court, and my many mistakes, and she laughed.

“You did very well for your first day,” she said. “I know many who would not think someone not born to nobility could perform half so well. You did not even know what a court was like before.”

She left just before breakfast again, avoiding Casper and leaving me to swallow as much food as I could manage and climb into the carriage to set off. Casper came with me again, he had business with the Rajah.

“So long as the jadess doesn’t get you,” I told him with a laugh. He pulled a face.

“I try not to put myself in a place where she can get at me,” he said.

“You know,” I said, “I feel sorry for Paulina. I mean, being left behind.”

“I gave her a protection charm too, you know,” he told me. “So she can get out of the house now.”

“I know,” I sighed. “But she’d be so much better at this court stuff than me.”

The carriage reached the Palace. Casper led me through the Palace again, since I didn’t know the way, this time to a different throne room, with different heralds at the door. But one we went in I found all the same nobles as the day before.

“Hello,” Janeira said to me, once I had given my greetings to the Rajah.

“Hello,” I replied. The other ladies all looked at me, but didn’t say anything. I nodded to them.

It was much like last time. I sat down on a chair, spreading my azure skirts out around me, and listened to them talk. Janeira explained some of the names they were talking about, reminding me of people I’d met yesterday. But still I couldn’t contribute much to the conversation, and I kept getting everyone mixed up.

“That Lord Hamptys thinks too much of himself, doesn’t he?” Carmen was saying, fanning herself slowly with a large, gilded fan. It was hot and stuffy in the throne room. Mandarine looked sharply at her.

“Lord Hamptys is my father’s brother,” she told Carmen coldly. The others were all watching them with avid interest.

“So?” Carmen asked, raising one eyebrow archly.

“I would appreciate it if you did not insult my kinsmen,” Mandarine replied.

“Not again,” Janeira sighed from beside me.

“Why not?” Carmen said. “They’re all pompous asses, and you’re one of them.”

“Nice words coming from someone who can’t even get the Rajah to look at her,” Mandarine sneered, her face white with fury.

“Oh yeah?” Carmen hissed back. “Does he look at you any more often?”

“He does,” Mandarine asserted.

“Does not!”

“Does too!”

“You shrieking fool!”

Thwack! Mandarine’s hand shot out and slapped Carmen across the face. Carmen rose up, raised her arms, and hit back. Then Mandarine grabbed a hunk of shiny black hair, and they both fell to the ground in a screaming, kicking, biting, yowling pile. I stared, aghast.

“Cat fight,” an earl standing two feet away remarked.

The other ladies weren’t helping much. The ones on Mandarine’s side were facing the ones on Carmen’s side, circling the fight, hissing at each other and encouraging Carmen and Mandarine on. There was quite a lot of hair-pulling and elbowing in the crowd, and multitudes of dirty looks, though Carmen and Mandarine were the only ones who were actually fighting.

I stood up nervously. “Um, why don’t we take this outside?”

They all stared at me, and even Carmen paused, though Mandarine did not.

“Whatever for?” Daina asked.

“We’re in a palace!” I protested. Maria must’ve been crazy – meek-tempered women at court, my foot! Janeira came up beside me.

“The Rajah’s learned not to keep valuables in his throne room by now,” she told me. “Don’t worry.”

I stared at them all. Didn’t they see? How uncourtly and unladylike!

Chaldean women have tempers like cats,” I remembered hearing Casper say. “And once they start there’s no stopping them.” I think he’d been talking about the women who’d been furious at him for jilting them, but I thought I understood what he meant now.

The brawl was still raging. A couple of palace guards and some earls were trying to drag them apart, but they seemed afraid to get too close. I was about to try and extricate them myself, when a piercing whistle tore through the hall.

“Stop it this instant,” the Rajah commanded. He stood, regal, his noble eyes flashing, his strong profile hard, his muscle tense under his robes as his darkish hair fell down around his forehead. He made a motion with his scepter, and amazingly both women stopped. I made a mental note to correct Casper. Chaldean women could be stopped if they lost their tempers, but only by a young, handsome, unmarried Rajah’s command.

Both Carmen and Mandarine looked decidedly worse for the wear. Their hair was yanked out of its combs and tangled around their shoulders, their make-up was smeared, their expensive dresses were torn and rumpled. Jewels that had fallen off were strewn around the floor.

“I have tolerated your childishness long enough,” the Rajah told them sternly. “I will no longer. I will not have this unseemly behaviour in my court. From now on you will get along.”

I thought he was asking rather much, but both Carmen and Mandarine looked penitent, at least for now. The Rajah gave them one last look, before sitting down and continuing his conversation with the officer beside him. He already looked as if he’d forgotten the incident.

“Well, they certainly both got the Rajah to look at them that time,” I muttered.

“Sharp tongues get you in a world of trouble at court,” Janeira said, rolling her eyes. “Especially theirs.”

Without looking at each other Carmen and Mandarine picked up their things off the floor and stormed away, presumably to fix themselves up. The other ladies separated into two groups, Carmen’s group and Mandarine’s group, and began whispering excitedly.

“Does this happen a lot?” I asked Janeira.

“About every couple of weeks,” she replied.

Carmen and Mandarine came back looking as good as new, and my day after that was pretty much the same as yesterday. I though I was finally getting the hang of manners at lunch. At least I didn’t make everybody stare at me so often.

Court days fell mostly in a pattern. First was the morning, when everyone arrived one by one, to be announced by the heralds, and to give their greeting to the Rajah. Then, while the Rajah took care of business, the court ladies were left to gossip and amuse themselves together. After that it was our ‘daily promenade’ around the garden. Officially it was to get some fresh air, but both we and the Rajah knew better. The earls seemed to know better too, and often they would show up and watch us during this time, talking among themselves. Probably discussing our beauty and rating us, I thought. Most of the earls seemed to be of marriageable age, perhaps that explained it.

Then there was the mid-day meal. The Rajah’s lunch was the finest in the land, slices of cold venison, fresh salad, platters of fruit, bowls of jelly, pitchers of cream, and frozen ices to go between each course. Too bad the laces on my girdle were too tight for me to enjoy much of it.

And in the afternoon the court enjoyed leisure time. We did all sorts of courtly things: boating on the river, displaying ourselves to the common folk, viewing plantations, hawking (for those with hawks to show off), competitions in which the lords and earls would show off their skills for us. The earls and the court ladies all seemed to know each other, and be friends, and sometimes I wondered why the ladies didn’t just quit chasing the Rajah and marry one of them. They were extremely kind and courtly; I met some of them because they who showed open interest in the only woman with blond hair there, though obviously not because of my beauty. I got to know some of the ladies too, and they could’ve been worse, but it seemed it was hard to really fit in here if you weren’t on anybody’s side. So I stood around by Janeira.

The Rajah came too, in the afternoon, if he wasn’t wrapped out in something else. When he did, the ladies would all jostle in a crowd around him, enough to make me green and wish they’d give the poor man a break. If he disappeared even for a moment, though, I worried, wondering if the jadess was getting her hands into him, but at least I had all the ladies under my eye. Though Casper would probably skin me alive if he knew.

“I thought you said Chaldeans like their women meek,” I said to Maria, first moment I could – one morning when she brought over new dresses. “The two leading women at court are spitting cats.”

“I said you would have to be meek and mild, to get close to the Rajah,” Maria retorted. “Carmen and Mandarine are leaders at court, very true – but are either married to the Rajah yet? Is that the sort of woman he prefers, or merely the sort that wearies him? You decide.”

Slowly I hooked a pair of jewelled earrings into my ears. “He seems – pretty sick of court in general. Don’t tell me, he’ll offend some important family if he doesn’t show up.”

“You are quick.” Maria grinned.

Casper’s plan was genius, then – there was no way the Rajah would meet a strange woman outside of court, and if he was always at court it would be difficult for the jadess to make a move. Even more difficult if I was there to keep an eye on things.

“You are a foreigner,” Maria went on. “You have to be very careful about your place in court. And I know the Rajah prefers the sort of woman – that I can never be.”

She glanced away quickly. It was the first sign of emotion (other than anger) that I had ever seen in her.

I wouldn’t go to court anymore, either, if I had to watch all those women fight over the man I loved.

“Look here, the Rajah’s got to open his eyes someday,” I told her.

She let out a long sigh. “I do keep telling myself that.”

 

Go to Chapter 14B

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Fish Out Of Water: Chapter 13C (Why Polly?)

This chapter finds Polly continuing in her attempts to foil the jadess’s plans at the Palace.

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 13C: Fish Out Of Water

“Yes?” the Lady Janeira said. “I’m new here too. My family lives on the eastern borders of the land, and today I’m allowed to go to court this time for the first time ever. What do you think of the Rajah?”

“Fascinating,” I replied.

“Yes, we all think so,” she answered. She leant a little closer. “I’d watch out for those two, you know,” she indicated Lady Carmen and Lady Mandarine. “They’re the rival groups here, and you’ve got the pick sides. I haven’t yet,” she giggled, “because I’m new. But they’re both chosen me. What I mean is, they both want the best on their sides, because they’d rather have the Rajah pay attention to a member of their group, if not themselves, rather than the other side. Strange, isn’t it?”

I could honestly say yes. Everything so far had been strange.

There were lots of people to see the Rajah, and the Rajah dealt with them all. We sat by the edge and gossiped. At least, everyone else did. I didn’t know half the people they were talking about, and they didn’t tell me. They didn’t seem to know what to make of me, a pale Angarian sitting in the midst of them.

“So you’re Casper’s cousin,” Lady Aurelia said to me finally. I nodded.

“That Enchanter!” Lady Daina spat. They all exchanged looks at this, then turned back to me.

“You do know what he’s like, don’t you?” Lady Aurelia asked.

“Yes,” I replied coolly. “Fortunately, I happen to be his cousin.”

“By which you mean?” Lady Mandarine inquired sharply, staring at me in a way that got my back up.

“He doesn’t jilt me,” I told her sweetly. Beside me Janeira gave a quick gasp. I sighed to myself and cursed my mouth. If I wasn’t careful I’d get myself in trouble.

Lady Mandarine’s gaze had hardened, and she got up and swept to the other side of the throne room, but Lady Carmen was studying me appreciatively. I flushed under all of their gazes. At the edge of the group I noticed Lady Cassandra and Lady Clio had joined us. Lady Cassandra was looking at me especially hatefully.

“Well, well, the Enchanter’s cousin,” she said.

I did not trust myself to reply, and remained silent. They continued staring at me for a while longer, then began talking again. I let out the breath I had been holding.

“I told you to be careful,” Janeira told me. I shrugged and sighed. Looking up I saw the Rajah get up from his ornate chair and stride out of the room. For a moment I panicked. Casper had said never to let my eyes off him! Then I quickly made up my mind and hurried out after him.

When I got out into the hall it was empty. Looking back I realised I was now in a different part of the Palace, and I hoped I wouldn’t get lost. Picking up my skirts I hurried down the passageway. Where had the Rajah disappeared to?

I wandered around for a few minutes, getting worried. I knew I wasn’t cut out for this, I thought. But I could get out of it now.

Turning a corner I almost ran into the person I was looking for, the Rajah with a couple dusty volumes in his hands, which fell the to the floor as I knocked them.

“Oh – I’m sorry,” I gasped, almost sheepishly. What would he think of me, wandering around the Palace like some aimless fool?

“Lady Penelope,” he said, “What are you doing here?’

“Looking around, your majesty,” I replied. “I mean, er, Most Exalted Rajah…” I was making even more of a fool of myself. I bit my tongue and looked at him. Politely he offered me his arm and said courteously,

“Shall I show you back to the court, Lady Penelope?”

“Sure – I mean, yes,” I replied, flustered. But I did not take his arm, so after a while he dropped it.

Forgive me, Casper, if he kicks me out of the Palace, I thought. Luckily the Rajah did not seem about to do so. I followed him back down the halls to the throne room.

The ladies of the court all turned to look at me again as I re-entered. I was already red, but I’m sure I flushed three shades darker.

I’m never doing that again, I vowed silently to myself. Next time I would wait a while before I started worrying.

Just before noon the court ladies went to ‘stroll around the garden’, though their real intention seemed to be to promenade where all could admire them, and mostly for the Rajah. I went too, not really knowing what else to do, feeling like an idiot and making casual small talk with Janeira. The Rajah stood on his balcony and smiled with an arrogant amusement that was similar to Casper’s, only somehow more dark and regal. He knew this was put on for his benefit.

I looked around the garden at all the strolling silks and laces, and realised why Maria had said my other robes were completely unsuitable. They were simple compared to these, decorated only with embroidery. I decided they must be the kind of robe the common people wore, and that was why Casper could buy them in the market, but the dresses here at court were made professionally be seamstresses especially for the woman who bought them. I wondered how much all these dresses here put together would cost, and how Casper could afford to get such dresses for me.

I realised then Casper must be quite wealthy. Funny I had never thought of it before. But of course the only Enchanter in the land would be rich.

“You said both Mandarine and Carmen asked you to join their sides?” I said to Janeira as we strolled.

“Asked me if I was for them, or against them, more like,” she replied. “But yes, they did.”

“Neither has asked me,” I said, “And I do not wonder why.”

“Come, it is only your first day here,” Janeira told me. “They are not sure about you yet. And they do not really know if you’re competing for the attentions of the Rajah, or if you’re only visiting the court. Are you competing?”

I sighed as I walked. “Yes.”

The court ate the noon meal on the terrace, on a long white table set with gleaming silver and served by servants in blue. Besides the ladies of the court there were also many lords, earls, and officers, some with their wives. The meal was lavish, with course after course, but following the example of the ladies I ate little. I did not think I could fit much down anyway, with my girdle. The only trouble I had was remembering the procedures Maria had taught me: do not start your course before the Rajah does, follow the Rajah in his choice of utensils for each course, and do not talk loudly, lest you interrupt another conversation. More than once I found the whole table staring at me with shock and horror. It did not help when Mandarine hissed loudly in explanation to the earl beside her, “She’s Angarian.”

After lunch most of the court reclined for awhile, inside, in a dusky, brocade draped room infused with incense, because outside the heat of the day had reached its peak. Even the Rajah relaxed, discussing trivial matters with the other earls. Then, when most of the stodgier lords and officer had left, the younger set got up and gathered around.

“Afternoons are ours,” Janeira explained to me. “The Rajah usually has no business to attend to.”

A couple of earls were standing by Carmen and Cassandra, caped in maroon with sheathed swords at their waists. They turned when they saw me come up.

“Ah, it’s the Angarian,” one of them laughed. “I’ve heard about you. You’re the Enchanter’s cousin, right?”

I nodded.

“Funny,” he said. “You’re so much more charming than he is.”

They all laughed as I reddened. Carmen glanced at me edgily and moved as if to politely cut me out, and Cassandra positively glared.

“Pay the earls no mind,” Janeira whispered. “They’re always like that.”

“My dear Earl Rojah,” Carmen said to them, quite obviously cutting me out now. “I hope you have given thought to this afternoon?”

“I thought we might boat down the river,” he replied. “The weather being as it is.”

“But we always boat!” Carmen said. “And my dress…”

“Won’t be shown in its fullest glory on a boat,” the Earl finished. “Which would be a terrible thing, since it was made to pull in the Rajah.”

Carmen glared at him, but not in a way that said she was seriously angry. “Fine. We will boat.”

The earls began moving away, to tell the Rajah of their plans, and as they passed me they smiled.

“You are coming too, aren’t you?” one asked.

“I suppose so, if you wish me to,” I replied sweetly. Maria would have been proud.

And so for the rest of the afternoon we took the Rajah’s private yacht and sailed slowly down the river that ran through Araba. Here, more than anywhere else, I could see how out of place I was, because especially during this time, when the court was relaxing and having fun, I could see how well the ladies and the earls and the officers all knew each other. I spent the trip sitting near the bow and letting the cool river breezes blow over my face. Once, for politeness’ sake, the Rajah came to check on me, and for a while Janeira talked to me, but other than that I was alone. In a way I was glad, because I needed time to sort out my thoughts.

At the dock at the end of the voyage carriages were waiting for us, which took us up and carried us all the way back to the Palace. They day was almost over. Clio, Daina and Aurelia and the others in my carriage were discussing the dinner that night, but I had not been invited, and besides, Casper had said he would send a carriage to pick me up at the end of the afternoon. I realised suddenly I would be glad to see the Peak again.

“I hope you enjoyed your day here, Lady Penelope,” the Rajah said to me as I left, “And you are welcome back tomorrow.”

I curtsied smoothly, gave a little smile, and ascended into the carriage that would take me home. It started to rattle down the Palace hill to the city again. I leaned my head back tiredly against the seat and thought about my day, and the people of the court I’d met.

Janeira, who seemed to understand a bit what it was like to be new and out of place at the Rajah’s court; Carmen and Mandarine, the two rivals who completed for the Rajah’s attention and hated each other, and now probably hated me too; Cassandra, whose grudge against the Enchanter who’d jilted her seemed to extend to all of his family, including his ‘cousin’; Daina, Clio, Aurelia and the others who seemed to regard me with a sort of superior disdain. And then there was, of course, the Rajah himself. The young, dark, and handsome ruler of Chaldea.

“How was it?” Paulina asked me when I reached the Peak. She was making dinner since I was not there to do it, and Radagast was curled by her feet.

“Tiring and confusing,” I sighed. “I’m going up to change.”

Quickly I undressed and put on my light blue dress. It felt so good to get out of that girdle, and to wash all that make-up off my face. When I looked in the mirror and saw my familiar, natural face staring back I felt relieved.

“So, how’d you do?” Casper asked when I came down. I looked at him.

“Put it this way,” I told him, “I don’t know how you ever talked me into doing this.”

 

Go to Chapter 14A

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