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Chapter One - 07/17/11
So much seems to have changed since I took my leave of Rhealliticzk four years ago. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it’s different. And not in a good way.
The shuttle that brought me down from the spaceliner was cramped and vile and it stank to the heavens of something very earthy and very offensive. The gods alone know what was last crammed into that tight space before I was. I’m not even sure I want to know. I would hardly even deign to allow that thing the designation of shuttle—it was more like a capsule of doom. I’m grateful that it didn’t burn up on entry into the planet’s atmosphere.
And talk about a faulty guidance system! Instead of taking me to the royal reception area, where my loved ones awaited my arrival, I found myself outside of the very city limits of New Harmony itself. I would have commandeered a horse and carriage to take me home, was I able to find one. But these natives have a propensity for making themselves scarce just when you find a use for them. Terribly inconvenient of them, to say the least.
So we walked! I can scare believe it, but I actually had to walk the vast distance into the city, miles and miles and miles of hard road, all the way to the Palace. Swyddogh offered to carry me part of the way, and I actually considered his offer, but decided it would not do. No dignity in the crown prince being carried like an infant, or a sack of rotten grindershoots being taken out for disposal. Definite lack of dignity and all that.
I am so happy to be back in my own room. That, at least, has remained the same. On my entry to the palace, I hasten there, deciding that I have to take care of my needs first, I can meet my parents later, and for that purpose I send for a basin of warm water, instructing that it be infused with specific scented oils. My feet are soaking in it now. I’m sitting at the end of my bed, wiggling my toes, as blessed relief steals through me.
A rustle of fabric, a slight scent of wildflowers, the sound of a hurried step. All my senses are now attuned toward the door and the figure that has so blithely entered my room without bothering to knock, or even allowing me the chance to give permission to enter my sanctuary, which is most unmannerly. Swyddogh’s hand goes to his weapon automatically—even here in the palace, one must be careful. Four years abroad has definitely taught me that much. But when I see who my visitor is, I wave to him to stand down as she is definitely not a threat.
“Liusaidh!” I cry out in delight, careful not to use the abhorred form of Lulu and mentally patting my back at my ability to remember that. I hold my arms out in welcome. I can’t move to greet her for obvious reasons, so naturally she must come to me. “How is my darling little sister?”
Little is what she isn’t, I discover, as she glides toward the bed—my goodness, where did she learn to move like that, it’s so… so adult. Yes, she’s in full length skirts now, the short skirts of childhood gone forever. Her hair is a lot longer than I remember, and it’s done in some intricate fashion, a flower tucked behind each ear. While her dark purple skirt is loose and flowing, her jacket fits her more closely, as is the custom among the women of our society. Not the native population, of course, they are practically heathens.
What’s this I see in her ear? Is that an earring? She’s gotten a piercing? My goodness, things have certainly changed. Not that I’m surprised that our parents have allowed that. They are very liberal spirits, I know. I got my first one when I was younger than she. I’ve been debating getting one in my private regions, but so far I haven’t managed to come to a decision regarding that.
She hikes up her skirts when she reaches me and before I can say yea or nay, she clambers over my footbath and straddles my lap, and then she throws her arms around me and begins to wail. Right beside my ear, no less! She has quite the pair of lungs for a young lady. I wince as I attempt to hold her to a more tolerable decibel level.
“What on earth is wrong?” I attempt to soothe her, rubbing her back in small circles, making clucking noises, murmuring her name—everything I can think of to do to calm a lady in distress. Something I have little experience with, I might add, other than with the members of my own family. She presses her forehead against mine, her blue eyes looking deeply disturbed and dangerously dewy.
“They want to marry me off, Kay! They’re deciding on my Fate even as we speak, brother!”
“They? Who are they?” I’m only asking to get her to focus, because the answer to the question is obvious.
Our parents, who else?
She doesn’t dignify my stupidity with an answer.
“Tonight there will be men who will be looking at me like I’m some sort of a prize to compete for. You know the look I mean.”
Not really, but I let that pass.
“Don’t you want to get married?” I’m trying to be diplomatic and help her to see the practicality of the matter. Mostly I want her to calm down and quit bouncing on me. It’s not very pleasant.
“I do, Kay, I do! But only after I fall in love. You do believe in love, don’t you, brother?” Her sniffling lessens a bit, which is a good sign. She takes my face in her hands and continues the ocular exploration. “Don’t you want to find the perfect man for you? And not settle for anyone less?”
Well, of course. But it isn’t that easy, not when you’re a prince. I’m actually lucky that I haven’t been married off already, seeing as I’m the heir to the throne and all that. I’m also pretty damn lucky that my parents aren’t the pushy sort or I would be by now.
“You know they love you, right?”
“Yes,” she whimpers, rubbing her cheek against mine. I shift my feet in the tub; damn water’s getting cold.
“Then trust them. Besides, it takes a while for those negotiations to take place. It doesn’t happen overnight. So, let’s just enjoy the reception and have some fun, Luci?” The new nickname has slipped out, but she doesn’t object. So Luci it is. “I tell you what, you point out the suitors that offend you and I’ll make them feel so ridiculous they’ll never dare to bring up the subject of marriage with you ever again!”
Liusaidh giggles and I relax. The crisis is over. At least for now. I hold her a little longer, but I’m already thinking ahead to the reception, and what I intend to wear.
After my sister leaves to attend to her toilette, I begin my own. I look through every item in my wardrobe twice. My bed is piled high with the discards that I have deemed not good enough and I’m getting damned aggravated. If I had time, I’d go shopping, but I don’t. Good thing I picked up a few things off-planet, even if I didn’t get the chance to wear them there. I’ll make up for that now.
I finally settle on white, because I look good in it. Okay, I look good in every color, but I have to choose something, so white it is tonight. A satin skirt, with a royal blue lining. The skirt is longer in back than in front, which becomes a showcase for my legs. Did I mention that I have nice legs? I select a lovely pair of silver sandals for my poor sore feet, which I lace up my legs.
I choose my jacket to match the lining—double breasted with silver buttons. However, I leave it unbuttoned, the better to show off my gold belt, from which my ruby encrusted dagger hangs. I have no idea how to use it, but it flashes prettily in the sun. And it makes me look good.
Okay, now for the adornment. I sort through my jewelry critically—if I wear too much, I’ll come off as some sort of cheap doxy, too little and I’ll appear to be poor and that won’t do at all. I settle on two bracelets on each arm, of assorted jewels. One ring on each hand. A sapphire stud in my ear. And a matching sapphire necklace with the royal emblem emblazoned on it.
Makeup for tonight consists of midnight blue eyeliner, and I outline my lips in pale coral. Just enough to whet the appetite. Atop my head, I wear a black beret. I cock it at a jaunty angle, admiring myself in the mirror which Swyddogh holds. I am so very beautiful and I know it.
Time to meet my adoring public! Though the heavens alone know whom my parents have put on the guest list. They have a propensity to be strange sometimes. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some of the locals there. The wealthier ones, anyway. For balance or something. And because some of them work for us.
I have to make a grand entrance, of course. The reception is being held in the palace, for convenience sake. Where else? I decide to arrive fashionably late, ignoring the dozen or so times my sister knocks at my door demanding to know if I am ready or not. I tell her to go on ahead, I’ll be there.
I know what I’m doing.
Finally, when I’ve decided that I’ve pushed the outer limits of etiquette and propriety to the limit, I nod to Swyddogh. He goes ahead of me to tell the royal hooterers to do their thing. And as they trumpet the news to the assemblage, I begin my descent down the long curved staircase which will take me into the Grand
Foyer, and thence to the Grand Ballroom.
I smile to myself at the knowledge that I am indeed the fairest one of them all.
The guardian is well past zenith when I decide I’ve basked in the glory long enough to put some color into my hair. It will have to be enough because I’ve certainly preened enough for one day. My father appears with a mirror as I begin to get ready to leave the gardens. I push past him without even glancing at the glass. As if I really care what I look like. This is all in preparation for a girl of all things! I’m being made to preen for a female! I can’t believe this horrendous turn of events. My only consolation will be that where there are eligible females, there will most certainly be males, and maybe some in similar circumstances to my own. Which will mean as long as the Princess doesn’t find me acceptable, there might be a male who will.
Those thoughts improve my spirits markedly. Now I have to come up with a way to put off the little poppet without being too obvious and getting my mother insulted. Not an easy thing to do. My first thought is to dress as casually as possible, but as I enter my room, I find that clothes have already been laid out for me. It’s a rather complicated mess of material and cinches in the human style, very fashionable from what I’ve seen of late at the castle. If it were any other occasion, I’d be thrilled to receive such a garment. I sigh, looking down at it in complete resignation. I’ll have to think of something else.
I head for the bathing rooms. The cool scented waters will soothe my mood at the very least. As I enter, I see Jaou relaxing in his recuperative bath and I smile. The guardian was kind and his color is good and strong. There are even a few streaks of gold and red in his hair, Jaou would be in good form to attend the reception if I can convince him to come with me.
“Jaou, I am happy to see you, brother.” I walk over and give him a warm hug. Even if he is denied the chance to attend at my side, I am still very fond of Jaou. It has upset me more than I care to think that he’s gotten ill in the wastes. People don’t always recover from visits to the wastes. “How are you feeling?”
“Much better. The waste is growing at a phenomenal rate. I truly fear for the sentinel trees. So many of them are sickening.” Jaou’s eyes are clearly troubled with what he has seen.
“I must admit I’m concerned greatly, brother. But I’m more concerned for your health. I was very worried when Father told me you’d gone to check on the trees. The waste is no place for any Rhealliticzkian to be. You are lucky the guardian has been able to restore your health.”
“Please, Reno. I know my limits. I’m fine. Just a bit tired, and the guardian has fed my spirit. Heck, there are more colors in my hair today than I’ve carried since my blooming ceremony on my fifteenth birthday.” Jaou chuckles and watches as I add scented oils to the water and then pour some of the scented oils into Jaou’s recuperative bath.
“You do look quite attractive, my brother. You should come with me to the reception tonight, we’d make quite a sight. Besides, I haven’t gotten to spend any time with you lately and a party would be enjoyable with you at my side.” I ease into the bath. The cool soothing waters feel very refreshing after sunbathing in the guardian’s light for most of the day.
“I don’t know. I think you’ll be outshining all tonight my brother. You look… radiantly beautiful.” Jaou grins at me, rather smugly. “You’re sure to be able to have whatever belle you want tonight.”
“You know I’m not interested in any of the belles. I’m much more into beaus.” I laugh and splash water from my pool at my brother, who returns the favor and splashes back.
“Well, from what Mother has planned, you’d better be ready to entertain at least one belle at that party,” Jaou teases.
“Ugh… don’t remind me. The Princess of all people. I’m not even sure my pheromones will attract a female.”
“Well, if your pheromones don’t, you definitely look pretty enough, brother. Have you looked into the mirror? Your hair is full of blooming colors. The emerald green under-layer is there, but brother, I’ve never seen anyone with royal blue tones amongst the reds and golds. Your entire countenance is one of jewel tones. Mother will be pleased.”
“At least someone will.”
“Fine, I’ll go with you. Just quit pouting.” My brother laughs. “You’ll need a bodyguard with those colors proclaiming your intention to attract a companion.” Jaou steps out of the bathing pool. “The guardian hasn’t set yet. I’ll go sit in the gardens for a while and then join you in your rooms. The extra time I spend in basking will give me a bit more color and then you can help me choose an outfit for this party.”
“Thank you so much Jaou, you won’t regret this.”
“Then why am I already regretting it?” Jaou leaves the bathing room chuckling, leaving me to my musings and soaking.
Father enters the bathing room some time after Jaou has gone; he sits at the door.
“I don’t know if I can do this, Father.”
“We all do what we must. You will do no less, my son. I must say though, even if you are unsure, you look exceedingly beautiful.”
I stand and step from the pool; regardless of the task ahead, I do feel marvelous. I let the waters sluice down my body, the shiny deep viridian green of my skin surprises even me. My father hands me a towel and I pat myself dry. Glancing down, I notice the vibrant gold and royal blue of the petals that cover my sensitive pistils at the base of my cock. Even at rest with no others to attract, the colors practically thrum. Sorry buddy, you aren’t going to be getting the kind of attention you usually look for tonight, I think to myself and sigh, heading back to my room.
I begin to dress in the outfit my mother has procured for this event. I have to admit it’s quite exquisite, a caramel and red affair. Very dignified and pleasant, not ostentatious as much of the current fashion tends to be at the court. The shirt is a ruby red silk mesh that allows my skin to breathe and the viridian color to show through slightly. The kilt is a brushed linen pleated caramel with ruby threads embroidered throughout in the pattern of trees and leaves. It’s secured with onyx ties and buttons at my side. The jacket continues the theme, being brushed caramel with red embroidery and black buttons. If needed I can easily button the jacket if but I’ve decided to leave it open, as the evening is quite warm.
I eye my reflection critically in the mirror, pulling on the ruffled sleeves of my ruby shirt so they puff about my wrists. I secure the tight jacket cuffs with the onyx buttons, making the jacket swell a bit about my biceps. I look over at my dresser and choose a simple choker of amber, onyx and ruby beads for around my throat, while adding golden caps to my pointed ears, letting the onyx and amber beads dangling on golden threads cascade to the lobes. The kilt was a bit short for my taste, barely reaching halfway down my thighs in front but more than making up for it by hanging below my knees in the back. I secure a black leather belt with a black pouch with a golden clasp at my waist. I feel naked without my knife but as I am dressed to attract a companion, a weapon at my waist would be considered improper and could offend the royal household. Lastly I step into the offensive footwear mother has set out with the outfit. Usually I don’t have to wear shoes, not even at work, but for this formal reception they’ll be mandatory. Luckily they are just a light tan pair of sandals. I slide my foot into the leather and a ring wraps around my first toe. I tie the leather stays about my ankles to keep them from falling off.
I admire my reflection for a moment. I have to admit, I do look good. I pull my long hair back from my face and secure the long straight locks with a black band in what the humans call a ponytail. Having seen an actual pony’s tail, the reference is rather absurd in comparison to my multicolored hair in blues, reds, golds and emerald green, cascading from the top of my head to midway down my back. I can’t prevent my sigh of frustration as Jaou walks into my room. He’s dressed similarly, but his outfit of black and green only makes him appear pale.
“Are you sure you feel well enough to attend this farce?”
“Yes and knock it off, anyone would appear pale standing next to you tonight, my brother.”
“Mother got you a new outfit as well I see.” I mumble, stalling of course.
“Yes, it seems she assumed I would be the one to accompany you. Come on. Mother has had the horses called for and we need to go lest we be late.”
“Fine, let’s get this show on the road,” I grumble. Jaou pats me on the back and we walk out to face Mother’s inspection.
“You both look stunning. Reno, you will be the most beautiful man at the feast. Just remember why you are there. Attract the Princess and sweep her off her feet. I know you can do it, my beautiful son.”
“Yes, Mother,” I agree, even while my heart sinks.
She reaches up to my hair and pulls some of the emerald and blue strands loose to hang about my face. “Blue, I’d never have guessed you would bloom in royal blue,” she whispers, then turns to eye my brother critically.
“Come on Reno, let’s go.” Jaou grabs my bicep and pulls me out of the house to the black horses waiting for us. Sighing, I pull the back of the kilt between my legs and climb onto the rough woven cloth of the saddle. The two of us chirrup softly to the horses, turning their heads towards the palace.
The ride to the palace is thankfully short. Much longer and I’d have been wishing Mother would’ve called us a carriage. We enter the foyer and the footman announces our arrival to the throng of revelers as we enter.
Let the charade begin.
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