Anywho, I'm taking advantage of Katie's Snippets of Story to share with you some of what I've been writing on SotHT. I *think* these are all from February, but there could be some of January and March mixed in... *cough*
“Then why did ya shriek ta wake the dead, Miss Georgettica?”
Georgettica's face adopted a light flush. “You heard that?”
“Aye, and so did most 'o Iron.” Ahna threw her hands onto her hips.
The duchess was already annoyed with the world, and mostly Veroniscen, by the time the carriage rolled to a stop at the front door later that afternoon, and seeing Georgettica giving her a sly grin as she exited the carriage didn't help one bit.
“Silver skies, darlin'!” Ahna nearly fell over when the door thudded open. Her face went white when she caught Celesta's pained gaze. “What's it? Someone 'urt? Sick? 'Armed ya? The magpie? Do I need ta spit? On who? Tell me!” She leaped forward and dragged Celesta by the arm to a hard-backed chair. “Sit. Spill. Now.”
Celesta made certain her hands did not tremble as she scooped steaming vegetables on each plate. Georgettica made a face at the pile of green staring up at her, but apparently she'd heard enough of her mother's lectures on healthy eating and the benefits of such, and so said nothing. Veroniscen, however, parading on her status of favorite daughter, could not hold her tongue.
“Is this all, Mother? Peas and lentils?” She raked her fork across her plate, scattering peas in all directions. “I will wither away on this diet, and then the prince will never look at me.”
“That's because he was looking at me.”
Veroniscen snarled. “Hush, Jetta! No one cares about that!”
“But it is true!”
“Girls!” Duchess Nicolinabeth slapped her hand down on the tablecloth. “That will be enough. Georgettica, I do not want to hear such things from your mouth again, do you understand me?”
Georgettica understood and pouted.
“Didn't you make anything else?” The duchess directed her question towards Celesta as though she were to blame for the sour moods.
“O-oh, Ahna put together some gingerbread and a glazed nut cake.”
“Marvelous!” Veroniscen glowered her triumph down upon her lentils and pushed her plate away. “Fetch the cake, Cinderella.”
The bowl Veroniscen had thrown was evidently beyond repair, and the fragments of its former glory gleamed among the ashes and dusty spheres of vegetables. Celesta bit back a groan. The duchess knew as well as she that picking the peas and lentils from the heap would take sufficient time; the task had only been given as a deterrent. She really didn't want her lowly stepdaughter to accompany them to the ball. How could the prize of meeting the baron compare to the insult of bringing a servant to the prince's masquerade?
Celesta shook the thought from her head. “For Mother's sake,” she said softly.
As she reached for the first pea, thunder rumbled in the distance.
A storm was on its way.
Julien pushed himself out of the chair and crossed the room, with the motive of distracting himself from the upcoming festivities, to a large structure over which had been thrown a large but thinly woven blanket. He tugged the cloth from its place with gusto, revealing the golden gleam of parallel bars making up a fine cage, in which sat a hunched bundle of feathers. With the blanket gone, and light streaming freely into the cage, the feathers ruffled and rearranged themselves to their proper position, leaving in the place of the bundle a magnificent sparrow hawk.
“And shall your bird ever grace the royal aviary with his illustrious presence, Your Highness?”
Julien flashed a wry grin at the musketeer. “Only until my mother deems it necessary for him to be housed within my own chambers.”
“My prince is incorrigible.”
Denstan did not look the least perturbed at Julien's use of his personal favorite word, for it was not often that the prince found opportunity to toss it back at the musketeer.
The queen had insisted on several last-minute etiquette lessons for Julien, claiming that he was in desperate need of polishing himself up before presenting himself at the ball. Personally, Julien would have preferred to forfeit all polish and arrive at the masquerade in a wrinkled shirt and the dirt of the training yard plastered on his face, much to the horror of Sir Perradd and his own royal and particular delight, but he knew it was pointless to go against his mother.
Julien and Veroniscen had made a few turns about the room before more couples joined them. While the prince was determined to prove himself most disagreeable in any manner than might seem advantageous, his partner was settled in her own mind to make the most of this first dance.
“Your Highness is looking remarkably well this evening,” she began.
“Hardly,” Julien responded, keeping his face as stone-like as possible. He counted himself lucky to have learned so much from Denstan all these years.
“May I say that I was deeply grieved to hear of the loss Your Highness underwent this morning. How awful it must have been to loose your eagle.”
“Sparrow hawk,” he corrected blandly.
“I cannot imagine how hard it was for you, to loose such a friend, even one so...” she tittered, “inhuman, if I may say. You can be assured, however, that you will not a friend among this company, myself greatly included, and we shall all stand by your side. You shall never fear for a loss again, I am certain.”
“Provided I claim this company as friends.”
The remark was blunt, but Julien didn't regret it as a sudden shock passed over Veroniscen's face. But in a moment, she had recovered.
“My, Your Highness, do not think me a vain flatterer, but you certainly are a most wonderful dancer! I don't think I can claim to have ever had such a delightful partner whose grace and lightness of foot were so excelled. Indeed, it is a rare pleasure.”
Julien thought her a toady and resolved to drag his feet.