The days after her guard Ceilaf dragged her home through the streets of Rheran were lost to Lauresa. There were memories of her chamber: never alone, always a mage or healer present. Most often it was her stepmother’s mage Nanein, her full lips pursed in faint approval, looking down on Lauresa cocooned in the thick prison of her bed. Moments of clarity pierced the fog whenever her father entered the room. His ire was a dose of smelling salts that cleared her mind until her stepmother Gwannyn herded him out, kissing Lauresa gently on the cheek, a concerned smile adorning her face.
When Lauresa arose she was again herself, or at least the self she seemed to remember. The prior three months were half-forgotten, dreamlike, and she couldn’t recall the anger that had fuelled her.
But now, in the sunlit audience chamber, with Gwannyn at her most hospitable and charming, her father’s eyes cloudy and moist behind his diplomatic mien, and the aging duke to whom she has been promised mouthing courtly platitudes, the anger rekindles. The spark is muffled, starved for air beneath layer after layer of decorous, obedient insulation, and it cannot break free. But it smoulders.
The wedding will be held in Teillai, where her husband-to-be and centuries of Andregs before him have governed. Lauresa would be hurt at not having a state wedding in the Great Hall of the Bastion, were she the sort of girl to care at all for weddings. Her half-sister Perran, just turned eleven, is romantic about these things and greatly put out she will not be a bridesmaid. Nine-year-old Miani and their brother Phelan couldn’t care less, but Miani is fiercely jealous that Lauresa will ride the many leagues overland along the Clearwater way. There may be rogue Ilvani raiders and near-mythical beasts: griffons, perhaps, or even dragons!
The Clearwater way, Lauresa informs Miani with dull patience, is heavily patrolled by Brandishear and Aerach forces, and the worst danger she is likely to face is being stuck behind a slow-moving wagon train. Dragons are imaginary and griffons extinct, if indeed they ever did exist. Still, the ember in her chest glows and flickers with something other than anger at the thought of two weeks riding free across the countryside, and Lauresa silently thanks the calendar. Were it any other time of the year she would be making the journey by ship. But in the month of Natriss, while the Wolf Winds blow, few sailors will set forth on the usually benign Clearwater Sea.
She walks the circumference of her sleeping chamber, fingers trailing the mouldings of the painted wall panels, caressing worn stone and tattered velvet, lingering on cold wrought iron and leaded glass, as if touch can draw some emotion her mind cannot. She has lived in this room all her life. Or at least as long as she can remember, which is less far back than she feels it ought to be.
read the entire story in Pulp Literature Issue No. 2, Spring 2014.