Friday, September 30, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 78

     Rudolph did not turn around when he heard light footsteps on the stairs behind him. He ate his bread and butter in silence, letting Arin chatter away. He had thought he'd be talking until his lips turned blue when he'd first gotten out of the cave and back into the world, but he did not want to share his thoughts of the present with Arin, nor stories of his past.
     A hand touched his shoulder and a voice said, "Good morning, Rudolph." It was Alisen, as he'd expected. He's known her for a few months now, and he could easily recognize the sound of her walk. He bit into his bread, hard, without responding to his friend. "Rudolph." Alisen grabbed his arm, frustrated with his lack of response. He could tell she was trying not to lose her temper. "Come on," she said. "We need to talk."
     He jerked his arm away and nearly shouted, far louder than he'd meant, "No, Alisen! We do not need to talk." Everyone fell silent. Rudolph blushed, but did not back down. Alisen recoiled at his violent tone, and stepped backward.
     "I don't know what's wrong with you, Rudolph, but I am going to find out. I won't let you just dismiss me like that." She turned on her heel and strode out of the room.
     Rudolph threw his bit of bread back on the table. "Great," he muttered. "Just wonderful." He thanked Arin for breakfast, pushed back his chair, and followed Alisen out.
     The door had scarcely closed behind him when a hand reached out a grabbed his shirtfront. He yelped, then relaxed when he realized it was just Alisen. She dragged him around the corner, and said in a fierce whisper, "Rudolph, you are going to tell me what is going on, and you are going to tell me right now."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Part 77

(8 day break in story due to my being on a backpacking trip in mammoth, rawr)

Isadora was uncomfortable as the carriage neared the large estate. It was not the estate itself that bothered her, in fact it was embarrassingly comforting for her to be once again in luxury. No, it was Julien who caused the discomfort. He would not stop looking at her.
Isadora tried to keep her eyes on the gravel road to the house, but every so often she glanced his way, hoping in vain that he had turned his own eyes to the trees passing outside. But every time he was looking at her just the same.
Isadora panicked a bit after glancing his way a couple times. She fretted that he thought she was interested in him, since she looked over so often. For she was caught on the realization that she only knew he was looking at her because she herself was looking at him.
From what Isadora had gathered, Julien was nice-looking. For a man. She didn't know his age, but assumed it to be around twenty. She herself being sixteen, was vaguely repulsed by the age difference. Four years happened to be the difference in age she shared with her cousin Breta, a tall blonde Duchess with a personality like horse manure.
Isadora's thoughts traveled to Quin, then. The handsome boy of seventeen for whom her heart fluttered. And then thoughts of Rudolph, thoughts of confusion overlapped with guilt and worry. Had he ever escaped the dragon?

She jumped when Julien leaned close and tapped her shoulder.
"We are here, princess." His voice was elegant. Again, Isadora looked him over, taking in the short wavy brown hair, strong shoulders, alabaster tunic and dark eyes. He was extraordinarily handsome and she did not know why she had not noticed before.
Stepping out of the carriage, assisted by an elderly footman, she gasped at the grandeur of the estate. It was almost the size of the palace, with cream trim frosted over low hanging balconies painted light shades of rose, and a large marble fountain with an even stream of water pouring from the wing-tips of a masterfully carved swan.
Everything was beautiful, mesmerizing. And with a sharp intake of breath, Isadora understood why all this beauty had invaded her mind so suddenly.
She was homesick and only now, with the cleanliness and perfection of man and house around her could she grasp the idea.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 76

"Well, the friend I need to find... I'm here because of him. He got captured by a dragon, you see - I know it sounds a little bit strange - and I had to go find him. My family... doesn't know I'm here. I'm staying in Tennur, just for a few days."
     Julien nodded, and Isadora rushed on.
     "And my name... I just don't want to be taken home before I find him. So I'm Carolina for now."
     "I see. Lady Carolina of Tennur, perhaps I could escort you to the carriage, where we might make some arrangements for traveling to Tennur. Under the condition that I accompany you, of course. One as naive as you should not be traveling alone. And when we find this friend of yours, I shall take you back to the Capital." Julien shook his head. "I'd heard the stories about you, but I'd never quite believed you were as headstrong as people said. You always seemed so delicate between the guards always by your side." He took her arm as if they were in the grandeur of the Capital rather than on a side road in this tiny town. When the reached the carriage, around the back of The Drinking Bear, he helped her in, gestured to the footman, and clambered in himself.
     "Your Majesty," he said as they began to clatter down the road, "how would to like to stop off for a bite to eat and a wash first?"
     When Isadora did not reply, he said, "Lovely," and rapped on the roof twice. Isadora felt the carriage turn down the road, away from Tennur, and looked out the window to find a tree-lined avenue leading to a distant manor. Julien's estate.
     "Welcome, Your Majesty."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Part 75

Julien abruptly turned back to face Isadora. He leaned in close. Recognition widened his eyes and sent tremors of fear to whizz down Isadora's back.
"Hello your majesty." Julien bowed, and when his face was back in view he wore a tight frown.
"Carolina? Why did you say Carolina? Isadora is so much prettier. Unique. And for lie about living in the woods? Why aren't you at home? Or is your family having a vacation here?"
Isadora was stunned and elated with Julien. He had been traveling! He had to have been to not notice that she was missing. This meant he could not turn her in. She felt safe once more in his cloak.
Looking over at Julien's face and seeing a confused expression, she remembered she had not answered his questions.
"Well..." She began.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 74

     "Okay," said Julien softly. "Where do you need to go? I'll take you there."
     "My friend is staying in the town of Tennur. I have to reach him as quickly as possible." Well, no going back now, she thought. I will find Quin and figure out what to do from there. She shook out her golden curls and stood up. Do you have a horse?
     "Better," he replied. "I have a carriage. It's waiting in town." He took her hand and gently led her back toward the center of town. "Will you at least tell me your name?"
     "Carolina," she said, looking up at him.
     "Such a pretty name. I feel like I recognize your voice. Where are you from?"
     "I... um... The woods around Tennur. I live there with... my sister. Jodra." She blushed at her answer. She had not thought to prepare for the question, although she realized she should have.
     "How nice. I'm not quite as familiar with Tennur. Is it nice there?" At this point, Isadora could tell, he was just chatting rather than being truly interested.
     "Oh yes. It's very nice. How about yourself?"
     "I live outside of town a bit. My name is Julien Bellon."
     Isadora bit back a gasp. "Would that be... Lord Julien Bellon?" No wonder he had recognized her!
     "Why, yes. But I just go by Julien. Ah, look! We're almost there."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Part 73

"You look familiar", Julien murmured as he led Isadora towards a low boulder with a deep indentation that appeared bench-like. They sat, and Isadora absorbed his comment, wondering how she should answer. She looked down at her hands and was surprised to see that Julien and her right hand were still locked. She withdrew quickly, causing Julien to cough and force an awkward smile onto his face.
"Sorry." He said offhand.
"No it's alright. I must thank you, though. For...wanting to help." Isadora hugged her knees to her chest and looked at Julien. He was very pale, so that the soft light that shone through the canopy of thick leaves made his face glow. And his bright blue eyes contrasted well. Altogether, he was extremely handsome in Isadora's opinion.
"Again" Julien began, "You look very familiar. Have I seen you before?"
Isadora guessed that the way she looked now was very good camouflage for her true identity. And she was glad of it for the first time since she had looked in that mirror in the Drinking Bear. For she did not yet know if this man could be trusted, for all she knew he would be very interested in her identity if she were to reveal it, as to receive the heavy reward the crown was offering.
She buried her face deeper into the borrowed clock and shook her head.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 72

     Julien sat down next to Isadora on the grass, dewey from the early morning. He wrapped his velvet cloak around her shivering shoulders, and saw her draw the fabric closely around her. The rich cloak seemed to change her bearing. She drew her shoulders back, composed her face, and looked up at him for the first time.
     He smiled at her. His wavy golden hair shone in the sunlight, and his face was that of one who had never felt hardship. But his smile was what drew Isadora in. "Are you alright?" he asked.
     Isadora nodded. She couldn't speak. Her throat was tight with tears.
     Julien cocked an eyebrow.
     She shook her head. "No, I'm -- I'm not alright."
     "Would you like to tell me about it?" She shook her head again. "It's okay. I won't hurt you, I promise." He stood, brushed his damp hands off on his power-blue jacket, and offered a hand to her.
    She hesitated.
    "Honestly, I only want to help you," he said, lips twitching upward into his dazzling smile once more.
    "There is... something you can do for me," she said slowly. "I need to find a friend."
     She took his hand in hers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Part 71

Quin stood with the silver hairbrush in his trembling hands as he was overcome by a sudden and forceful wave of emotion. He sank onto Alisen's bed and soon her quilt was studded with his tears. He did not understand why he had come into her room to talk to her, nor why he had suddenly gotten the peculiar urge to brush her hair. It was a habit of his around his sister, for she often ran around with her friends in the woods until his mother called her inside for supper. At home Quin did not have many chores under his mother, save helping to prepare and clean up the meals. And so, when Ros gave him the duty of tackling his sister's tangle of hair after each playful day out with her friends, he was happy to oblige. He would sit beside her on her bed and begin by patiently pulling all the crackling orange leaves from the fall seasons from her hair, or the tender green ones, as she babbled on about her day to him. He would nod and make small little noises of agreement at her words, as he reached for their mother's hand-made wooden brush and began to pull it through the windswept hair before him. He would work gingerly, using his fingers to ease out the most stubborn knots. It became almost a sort of therapy for him, those nights spent in his sister's room with the wooden hairbrush and the even stream of his sister's voice.
Quin sat on Alisen's bed now, face-down, remembering. He had reached for the brush on auto-pilot, his body trying to get him to relax, sensing the exhaustion of his mind.
Quin certainly felt exhausted. He shifted his head so that only his cheek was pressed to the wet quilt. His eyes focused on the blue walls of the bedroom, then unfocused. Closed. Sleep came easily.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 70

Morning found Alisen curled under a thin sheet, having tossed and turned until all other blankets had ended  strewn about the room. She awoke with tears gluing her eyes together. As she struggled to raise herself onto one arm, she recalled the events of the previous night. She collapsed again onto the floor, reluctant to get up and face the others. How awful she'd been! Everything was a mess now. She put her hands over her head, willing herself to block out all the thoughts swirling around her head and poking their way into her consciousness.
     "Having a little trouble?" Alisen jumped at the voice behind her. Quin.
     "How long have you been there?" she managed to croak out.
     "Not long. I thought I woke you, but apparently I was mistaken." He was sitting on Lilia's bed, fiddling with the lacy curtains that framed the small window. "Are you okay?"
     "Yeah. I'm fine," Alisen muttered. She pulled herself upright. "What did you want?"
     Quin moved off the bed and started pacing around the room. He picked up a silver hairbrush from Lilia's dresser, not seeming to know what to do with his hands. "I- I just wanted to let you know I talked things over with Rudolph. And I didn't want you to blame yourself for... anything. It was the right thing to tell us." He moved behind Alisen and started brushing her ebony hair with the brush.
     "Whose fault is it then?" Alisen demanded, snatching the brush. "That Isadora?"
     "No... not Isa. I–"
     "This is ridiculous. Sorry, Quin. Thanks for coming up to see me." She shoved the silver brush back into his hands and stormed out of the room to talk to Rudolph. She needed to find out what was going on. And she was going to get the truth this time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Part 69

Isadora washed and scrambled down to the main salon of the inn. She was desperate to get out of the Drinking Bear and get back to the house where Quin was so that she could tell him the truth about her. The truth about everything, including her love for Rudolph. This last part she was the most hesitant about, and she bit her lip as she slipped out into the chill morning air before the innkeepers could detain her.
She felt like she had a choice at this point. She could go back to the house and tell Quin everything, so that the immense feeling of guilt that had been pressing down on her could finally be lifted, or she could get passage straight to the palace.
If I tell Quin, then he may not want me anymore. I mean, to confess my love for Rudolph would be to tell Quin I had no love for him. But this is not true. I love both very much. Although the more time goes by the more I feel that my love for Quin is becoming great and stronger than my love for Rudolph ever was. Does this mean I should omit the part of my loving Rudolph? I could tell him about me being royalty, but convince him of my love for him... and then... what? Stay in the house in the woods and never return to my mother and father?
I could go to them. Right now, I could go home and get cleaned up and be well-fed and then I would look so regal again, so pretty in my silken dresses riding my white horses. Horses. WHo would be the new stable-boy?
Crushed by the weight of her decision between her heart and her craving for comfort and familiarity, Isadora sat on a rock by the stream that ran from the inn all the way to a small pond near the house.
And that is where Julien found her, curled up and sobbing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 68

A middle-aged woman walked into the Drinking Bear and collapsed into a rickety wooden chair placed near a blazing fireplace, kept going through the night to keep late diners and weary travelers protected from the night's chill. She closed her eyes briefly, welcoming the rest to her eyes and the warmth of the fire behind her. Her face, once well-rounded and jolly, was thin and worn. Her hands, once only lightly callused from the everyday tasks of living outside a city with her children, were scratched and dirty. Her entire body sagged with weariness.
     This was Ros.
     "Is there anything you need, Madam? A warm meal, perhaps?" She jumped at the voice of George, the innkeeper.
     "No, thank you. I'm afraid I can't pay for it."
     "Get her something to drink, Georgie," a young man shouted from several tables away. "She looks like she could use something to warm her up."
    "And you're paying for it I expect, Julien?" George asked the man. As much as I'd like to, I can't be giving food and drink to every poor traveler who comes in a little short of coin. The missus is bad enough."
    "Ah, George. You know I will. What'll you have, madam?"
    "I -- tea, please," stuttered Ros.
    "Tea it is, then. Put it on my tab, George." Without a second glance, the young man went back to his conversation.
     "You can afford it, that's for sure," muttered George. "I'll have your tea in just a moment."
     "Who is that man?" asked Ros. "It's rare one meets a person so free with their generosity."
     "That's Julien. Everyone in town knows him. Nicest person for miles, I'd say. He's got an estate outside the city, but he likes to come in and mingle with us commoners. He's a nobleman, you see. Heir to a fortune. You're very lucky to have come in when he was here." George trailed off, then mumbled, "Off you get your tea, then," and shuffled away.
     Julien and his companion rose from their table, and made to leave. He dropped a handful of coins into George's hand as he walked to the door. Ros saw the glint of sliver before George quickly pocketed them.
     "Thank you, sir!" Ros shouted after them. And she added more quietly, "Thank you. I was desperate for that bit of kindness."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Part 67

Rudolph remembered Isadora all night. He remembered the kiss, played it back in his mind so many times that he swore he could feel a faint pressure on his lips. He ached to hold her in his arms, and now he had made it a little too late. He knew though, that he could get her back.
I could find her, of course. But now that Quin and her...well. I owe it to her to find her, after leaving her for so long. I'll find her. Bring her back. And then...
Rudolph swore and bit his fist till he tasted blood. He was incredibly frustrated. Heartsick. Confused. Sad. Angry, too. Not at her. He could never be angry at Isadora. He didn't feel his anger stemmed from Quin either, for who could resist Isadora?
Then it had to be Alisen he was loathing. She who had brought this upon him.  She who had reminded him of his feelings for a girl he had been too long without.
The worst part is... I think I would have fallen for Alisen in another week or so. I think I already have fallen for me. I don't like her right now. She wasn't right in what she did. But all the same I feel sort of...happy when I think of her and how she likes me. I fell a sort of lightheadedness when she's near to me and I can feel her warmth...
Woah woah woah... Must concentrate on finding Isadora. Although...Quin can do that, I'm sure. I'm positive he is worried sick about her and wishes nothing more then to be reunited with her.
STOP! Stop being like this! I love Isadora! I have to remember this...
Oh, my head hurts, this is all so maddening.
Rudolph slept fitfully that night, becoming tangled in his sheets as his mind became more and more ensnared in his thoughts. The last one he had, one that rang out clear and sharp in his mind before he drifted off in a cocoon of weariness was:
If I have to remember to love someone...then do I truly love them...?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Map of the Capital, Draft 1

My backstory post for today is a little late, so I thought I'd post a map of the capital I sketched out for reference when working with the backstory posts. This is a quick sketch likely to change as more information comes up and the Politick and I work together on it. I colored in important places in Photoshop. The red/pink is the marketplace mentioned in Backstory part 2, and the blue is where Rudolph grew up. Also, to the right of the main road, the nobles live closer to the castle, and the wealthy non-nobles live farther away. On the other side of the main road, the farther left on the map, the less wealthy the people who live there. I tried to make the streets reflect that as well.

By the way, the Politick and I are planning on getting back to the main story soon. She'll post part 67 sometime this weekend or maybe Monday.  For a refresher, click here for Part 66.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora Backstory, Part 2

At fourteen, Isadora decided she wanted to have an adventure. It was summer, and she was tired of being cooped up in the castle while the fields outside seemed so inviting and the Capital seemed like so much fun. She had been to the Capital before, many times, but it had always been on specially panned visits, and she had never been able to explore, and she had always been accompanied. She knew no one would ever let her out by herself, so she decided that her adventure would be to sneak into town for a day and see what it was like to live as an ordinary person.
     So she borrowed a plain dress from her lady-in-waiting, Cara, and began making plans to slip out of the palace. A few days later, after dinner, she excused herself from the company of her cousin Lotti, retired to her room, and slipped on Cara's brown dress. It was a little bit long, which surprised Isadora, as her clothes were always tailored exactly to her size, but she wore it nevertheless. Cara had also provided a cloth the tie her hair back in the style of a palace servant and a pair of boots she'd borrowed from a palace hand. Isadora tied back her hair, put on the boots, and quickly left her rooms holding a handful of coins left over from her last trip to the Capital, when she'd wheedled them out of her tutor for an embroidered scarlet ribbon she'd seen at one of the stalls along the street.
     Knowing she'd never get past the guards in front of the palace, she made her way to the back. She stopped outside one of the palace's many parlors, near the back of the palace on the first floor. Putting her ear to the thick door, she made sure there was no one inside the parlor, and quickly entered, shutting the door behind her. She heard a noise behind her and whipped around, but relaxed when she realized it was only the crackling of the fire. She opened one of the parlor's large windows overlooking a garden and a gravel path, and climbed out.
     She made her way along the path toward the stables, breathing quickly with excitement and keeping an eye out for anyone else who could catch sight of her. She kept reminding herself that she was in a servant's garb, that no one would be able to tell she was the princess in the half-light of the evening. Finally reaching the stables, Isadora crouched behind a bale of hay as the stablehands left for the night. The moon rose slowly, and when she was satisfied that everyone had left, Isadora rose as well. She brushed herself off, and then cautiously left the stable and headed out to the village.
     From the stables to the outskirts of the village was a little less than a mile. Isadora had ridden up to the boundary on her horse many times, but never crossed it. She was determined to cross it now. She made plans in her head as she walked. She'd use a few of her coins to buy a room for the night, and spend all of tomorrow exploring the Capital. She'd seen  the parts closest to the castle grounds, and she'd been in the wealthier parts of the Capital many times, visiting various nobles and whatnot, but as this was her adventure, she planned on seeing the rest of the Capital, the part her tutors and chaperones tried to keep her from.
     Finally, she reached the outskirts of town. It had always seemed much closer when she was riding, but she had reached it nevertheless. Most of her coins bought her a room in an small inn just outside the wealthier part of town. The owner had obviously tried to create a place where people who came to visit the nobles but didn't want to pay for the high prices of lodging closer to the castle could stay. Although Isadora was full of energy, excited at the prospect of her adventure, she tried to sleep, wanting to be fully awake the next day.
     In the morning, she set off. She had a quick breakfast and began to wander the town. As she walked, the houses became less grand and the people were less wealthy. She eventually found herself in a marketplace, and gasped with delight. This is what she'd come looking for.
     The square was bustling with people rushing around buying goods. The air was thick with shouts from vendors and buyers both. Women chatted with their friends as they walked. Children ran in all directions. She strolled slowly through the square, taking in as much as she could.
     "Looking for something?" A boy stood in front of her. He looked to be about her age, with long, wavy black hair, and a smile that stretched across his face.
     "Oh. Um.... no. I'm just looking around." She smiled back at him. "I'm Isadora."
     "Josen. I haven't seen you around before. You here to see someone?"
     "No. I'm just visiting." She was a little flustered, but Josen didn't seem to notice.
     "Would you like to meet the rest of us? Your parents wouldn't mind you sneaking off for a few minutes, right?"
     Isadora laughed. "My parents would be furious. But they don't even know I'm here.
     "Ha! Now, that's the way to do it. I'd watch out for them when I got back though. Come on, I'll introduce you to everyone else." He took her hand in his own and pulled her through the crowd. At the outskirts of the market stood a group of others.
     "Who's that, Josen?" asked a girl with short brown braids, leaning against a tree.
     "This here's Isadora. She's just visiting town," Josen said, cracking a grin. "Isadora, this is Eva."
     "Nice to meet you," Isadora said to Eva. She was about to say more, but Josen continued.
     "And this is Rudolph," he said, gesturing to a sandy-haired boy. The boy smiled shyly, and Isadora couldn't help but grin back. She nearly curtsied, but stopped herself just in time, reminding herself that court manners had no place there. She pulled the cloth from her hair and turned back to Josen, waiting for the next introduction, but Eva interrupted before Josen had a chance to continue.
     "I know that ribbon!" she exclaimed, pointing at the scarlet cloth in Isadora's golden curls. "I made it myself. I remember it because Ana - my older sister - said she sold it to..." Her eyes widened. "You're–"
     "Princess Isadora!" Isadora spun to see a royal guard on horseback making his way through to market toward her. The others who she'd been talking to scattered.
     "Princess, you have no place here. You must come with me." The guard swept her up onto the horse and turned to leave the market. She looked back as she was leaving to see the sandy-haired boy – Rudolph – looking at her from behind a tree. His eyes were wide with disbelief.
     I'll never be the same as them, she thought. She turned away, eyes blurring, and let the guard take her home.