~Knowledge is Power~
"What is it Ilano?" Zarador said without looking up from his writing. The messenger stopped, a bit startled. He was absolutely certain he was quiet enough to not disturb the lord. But, then again, the lord WAS known for acute senses...
"Well?" Zarador said, scratching something out with his quill pen.
"Um, Sir, a Missus Mirin Mary-Gina is here requesting an audience."
"I have not heard of her. What is her reason, and why did she not schedule ahead of time?"
"She refused to say. She said it was absolutely necessary to see you in private, Sir..." The messenger bit his lip. He knew His Lordship hated when strangers randomly asked to see him (it happened more often than one might think).
"Of course not. One with as many enemies as I isn't foolish enough to go anywhere without guard, and it is insulting she thinks otherwise. Send her away."
"I tried, Sir. She says if you don't agree to see her on her terms, she'll say something awful about you. And I'm afraid she didn't say what that was, Sir..."
Zarador set his quill down and looked up at the messenger, midnight eyes blank. But Ilano had spent long enough serving His Lordship to know that when given that seemingly emotionless stare, you were being scanned for signs of lying. Ilano gulped, wondering if 'don't kill the messenger' was an ideal known to Zarador.
"Very well. But make sure she has no weapons, and keep guards at the door as always," Zarador said with a dismissive wave of his hand, then picked up his pen and continued writing. Ilano nodded, giving a little bow before going back out the door.
In a moment, an elegant woman strode in confidently, a smirk plastered on her semi-dark skin, honey-hued curls wrapped around her neck like a necklace. Her eyes were teal, her lashes were thick and mysterious. In whole her eyes showed a very mischievious look when paired with her smirk. She wore a scarlet dress that dragged on the floor as she walked, and white crochet gloves.
Zarador looked up at her, trying to hide his interest. She did not appear like any of the peasants who usually begged for audience. He managed to only quirk an eyebrow at her, then nonchalantly began writing again while waiting for her to get up to his desk. She was walking ridiculously slowly, though with each step her hips swayed hypnotically.
She sat right down in the chair in front of his desk and leaned forward, speaking in a smooth, purr-like voice.
"I want you to wed my daughter."
He looked up, startled. He'd never heard THAT before.
"Excuse me?" he said.
"My daughter. You. Marriage. Understand?" she said, smiling broader.
"No thank you. I have no interest in that," he said, shaking his head.
"'That'...You make it sound so crude," she said.
He ignored the comment. "If you have nothing else to ask, then escort yourself out."
She gave a rich, deep laugh, then stopped and looked him straight in the eye. "If you do not agree to marry her, then I shall tell everyone possible of your past."
"And what past is that?"
"You know what I mean, don't play stupid." she said, "You know - all of the various different girls, and being beat up in school-"
"Enough!" he snapped, "I do not know how you know all of that, but...If you leave here saying you're going to blackmail me with that information, then I may as well-"
"Kill me?" she cut in, "Wouldn't someone find that suspicious? And you DO know how well gossip spreads throughout the palace...and then leaking down into the colonies..."
"What's the catch?" he interrupted.
"Of...of marrying her." He looked very reluctant to even speak the word, and very angry she'd found a way to get the better of him. His arms were crossed and he made no effort to keep from glaring darkly.
"Oh," she said. "Well, of course, if you die, she must be able to inherit...well...everything."
"What? I don't even know her. I cannot simply leave all power and wealth to-"
"There are citizens who would DIE to hear about Lathan's treatment of you..." she said. He considered having her arrested for some made-up crimes. But then again, prison wouldn't silence her gossipy mouth...And having her voice box removed would only make him seem suspicious. And execution was simply out of the question; the dreadful act had not been practiced for decades.
He had not loathed anyone so much before, except of course the Tuketu family.
"Very well," he said sharply, "Of course, I would like to meet her first."
"Lucky you. I brought her with me. I'll be right back." She stood and walked out, quicker than as she had come in. In ten minutes, she was back with a girl who looked barely sixteen. The girl resembled her mother in a way - curly hair (though hers was raven black) and teal eyes that were cast downwards at the marble floor. Her skin was fair and her hair was up in a ponytail, held by a small red bow. She wore an elegant dress that really did not suit her. It was dark magenta with lighter pink trim and sunny yellow lace, and she wore pink gloves that extended up to her elbows. She walked a bit awkwardly on pointy-toed lady's boots, obviously not accustomed to such fancy wear.
"This, Lord Zarador, is my dear and only daughter, Phinelli. Don't be fooled by her looks - she is really twenty years old," Mirin said.
"Did you ever recieve her consent to wed her off to someone she does know?" Zarador said.
"Consent of a female? That phrase does not exist in our house-hold," Mirin said.
"You could have fooled me," he said. She laughed lightly, then sobered a bit.
"I'll leave you two to make your own conversation. Farewell until later," she said and departed.
Zarador sighed. "Miss, do take a seat. You don't have to stand this entire time," he said, gesturing to the chair Mirin had sat in not too long ago. The girl walked up and plopped down on the seat, folding her hands on her lap, still looking down. Neither of them said anything for a while. Obviously, Zarador was going to have to say something - anything - to break the awkward silence.
"So where do you - "
"I'm so sorry it's not my fault I didn't agree to anything I'm sorry if my mother was rude to you she's just like that she always finds out bad things about people and uses the information to get her way I'm sorry you probably wouldn't want to marry anyone but I have no choice and..." she blurted out suddenly.
"Calm down, don't apologize, it's not your fault..." he said while she paused to inhale. But she ignored him and kept talking.
"...And you're just the most powerful and wealthiest person in Wherrem and she just wants to use me to get that from you for herself even though she's rich already and..."
"Miss!" Zarador said loudly, and she shut up, looking up at him with her innocent eyes (which had now become more green than blue). She looked almost ready to cry, and even maybe a bit terrified. She looked down again as if ashamed for speaking in the first place. He sighed exhasperatingly.
"I'm sorry." he said, "Listen, I...should give you a tour of the palace..."
She looked up, sniffling, and nodded. "Alright..." she said.
And so he led her through the palace, showing her the many rooms and halls and the gigantic dining room, which was large enough to seat every person working and living in the building. He introduced her to some of the more friendly maids, butlers, accountants, and advisors. They were mostly Sanguian, though not restricted to just that species. In fact, most of the advisors were foreign, and the chief accountant was a centaur. Phinelli was absolutely fascinated, all apprehension disappearing as her eyes lit up and returned to their natural bright turquoise color. Finally, by the time the sun had set, he led her to an ininhabited bedroom.
"You may sleep in here if you wish, or with one of the maids if they have room." he said, "Meanwhile, I need to speak to your mother."
She walked into the room, which was a bit dusty. She pulled from thin air a black cane, its top curved and its bottom bearing a single white band. She pranced throughout the room, tapping the head of the cane on various furniture, the dust disappearing as she did so. In seconds, the room was spotless.
"You're a sorceress?" he asked. She nodded, glowing with pride.
"I have been for a year now." she said, "What about you?"
"Yes...But for much longer." he said, "Anyway, I must go now, given the hope that Madame Mirin hasn't left already. Good night, Miss."
"Good night..." she said, and he shut the door gently and walked away.
"I figured you would be here by now." Mirin said from her seat in the main hall, enjoying a glass of water, "What is it you want to ask me?"
"For a schedule of course," he said.
"Schedule of what?" she said sweetly, though she was grinning at him. He frowned; there were many people near, and he didn't want folk to know about the matrimony so soon.
"Of...the wedding," he said in a low voice.
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. Could you speak up?" she said. He glared.
"Schedule of the wedding," he said. A few people nearby glanced briefly at him.
"What wedding?" Mirin said.
"Mine," he growled. The people who had only glanced before now stared, freezing in whatever they were doing. Luckily, not too many others had seemed to notice...except the people who HAD noticed were now whispering to their fellows and pointing.
"OHHH! THAT wedding!" Mirin said, and laughed, "Oh, I don't care. Tomorrow a good time? First thing in the morning. The sooner, the better."
"I don't have time tomorrow - "
"Didn't Lathan once say some disparaging things about your mundane, bankrupt parents?" she cut in. More people stared, a few jaws dropping.
"Very well!" Zarador snapped, "Whenever you want! Smoothing the blood-feud between the elves and the minotaurs can just be put off, I suppose. It doesn't really matter if the elf chief gets assassinated during the night, or if the whole tribe gets caught in an ambush and massacred, does it?!"
A third of the room (the people near enough to hear his raised voice) hushed completely, looking back and forth between Mirin and Zarador expectantly. There was a heavy silence in the air, and more people, noticing the sudden quietness of the others, stopped what they were doing also. Eventually everyone in the room was silent, except a few in the back whispering to others, asking what was going on.
Mirin broke the silence with her rich laugh. "MY! What a temper! No, of COURSE that matters, why would you say such a thing, Your Highness? Your wedding can be put off another week if need be."
Zarador stood still, rigid with anger. Not one person was speaking anymore, not even murmering. Mirin rose, setting her glass down on a table, and said, "I should be getting home now. I live all the way in Kinina. Good bye, Your Majesty." She bowed to Zarador and left through the main double-doors. Zarador turned to face the room of people, all eyes turned towards him.
"Well? Get back to work! You are not paid to stand around and do nothing! Nothing will get accomplished if all you do is gawk at me!" he shouted. Everyone immediately went back to what they were doing (mostly having diplomatic conversations or checking taxes or letters). A couple people glanced uneasily towards Zarador, but hastily turned away if they thought he noticed them looking. He then disappeared from the room as he teleported to his quarters for a night of what would probably be very restless sleep (he could never sleep well when angry).
The day of the wedding came, and it was being held on a large, flat branch of the Tree of Harmony. A bunch of monstrous leaves sheltered off the area where everyone (bride, groom, flower girls, ringbearer, ect) would come from to walk up the aisle. There were not many people attending, though quite a few folk tried to get in because of curiosity, or to be able to brag about 'witnessing a historical event'. The guests consisted of Phinelli's family (her mother Mirin and father Ormund, and some cousins and grandparents) and some of Zarador's friends (Ilano included). The priest was actually a cleric of the name Toreno, and there were no brides' maids or best man.
Phinelli stood against a vertical offshooting branch as thick as a tree, trembling as some ladies checked her gown and veil for any rips or stains and fussed about her lack of make-up. Not too far off, seperated by yet another incredibly large leaf, Zarador let one of his friends tie on his bowtie (which he actually inherited from his father, and it was literally ancient) while another anxiously peeked out at the seated guests.
"Wow, I've never been to a wedding before. Zarador, sir, you really should have invited more people..." the worrysome friend said.
"No. I really don't want it to be so public," Zarador replied. The other friend finished tying the tie and then brushed off some dust with a handkerchief.
"Why not? Besides, everyone probably knows by now anyway. Everybody knows your name in this country, Zarador, you're in HISTORY BOOKS for crying out loud," the tying-of-the-bow friend said.
Zarador sighed. "I just...I don't really even know her. And Madame Mirin practically forced the both of us to wed." He started muttering about something else entirely, "If Sierra'd lived, I would have proposed to her...then perhaps none of this would have happened..."
"What?" both friends asked at once.
"No, tell us."
"Yeah! Come on, tell us!"
Zarador sighed again. "Very well. I knew a woman, Sierra Lillieth, and...Every morning I kick myself for not getting the nerve up to ask her before she died."
"Sierra Lillieth? You mean...the original Umbrian?" bow-tier asked. Zarador nodded.
There was suddenly a chorus of surprised shouts from the bride's side of the leaf barrier. Zarador dashed over and saw Phinelli struggling to run as two men held her by the arms.
"She tried to escape!" one said. She kicked backwards at him, her high-heeled foot hitting his shin hard. He 'ah!'ed in pain, but kept a steady hold.
"Let her go," Zarador said.
"Do you question my authority?"
The men let her go tentatively, muttering "no, of course not" under their breaths. Phinelli tried to run again, but Zarador stepped in front of her and caught her by the shoulders. She struggled vainly to get away, but eventually gave up. She was shaking like a leaf from erratic weeping.
"I'm just...I'm just not...I'm not ready...I can't do this..." she cried.
"It's alright. There's nothing to worry about..." he tried to soothe her. She calmed down a bit, hiccoughing and sniffing.
He wondered why he hadn't let her escape. Neither of them really wanted to get married, and he really didn't like the idea of some strangers inheriting everything he ever earned. Not like he had any present beneficiaries anyway, but he would have liked to have written his own will instead of having Mirin practically steal the right away. And only because she knew parts of his shady past - who KNOWS what else she was keeping up her sleeve - and he could do nothing to silence her without drawing more suspicion to himself. Interesting what a meager piece of knowledge could do to flip lives upside-down.
If he wasn't so ridiculously self-conscious...
"Hey! It's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!" bow-tier's voice suddenly came from behind them. Zarador let go and turned from Phinelli immediately.
"I was just...Nevermind," he said. The friend laughed and drug him off again.
"It looked to ME..." the friend said, "Like you were about to make kissy-face. But of course, that is just me. Well, DO try to keep your hands off her until the honeymoon, will you? Even if she IS a cutie."
Zarador turned faintly red. "I...I was not - !"
"Don't worry about it," the friend said and winked before leaving.
Zarador sighed. How many more people were going to humiliate him before the month's end?