The Girl from Rippled Mirror
1 ) Parallel Universes and Fairy Tales (Ariel/ The Little Mermaid)
"Oops." Gemma Broughton shifted her skirt to avoid her skipping cousin. She watched as six year old Loreli flitted around the garden. Lori's new dress shone in the morning sun. The pink satin was pretty on her cousin as she twirled on the brick path. There would be no chance of enjoying the garden's flowers while watching Lori. She skipped nearer, Gemma smiled as she could hear the child singing some made up tune, happily enjoying the outing. Gemma was so entranced by the girl, she barely heard her Aunt Sara arrive.
"Gemma, I can take Lori off your hands for a bit. I know you want to really explore the grounds, just be careful not to ruin your new skirt."
"Don't worry about me, watch for Lori."
Her Aunt smiled. "I know you've seen a bunch of ceremonies but each one's different…"
"Honestly, I'd rather stay here, now that I can."
"Yeah, yeah, you're so old at 17. Just remember to be sneaky if you do get bored and decide to come in. And be careful out here." Gemma nodded complacently as she was supposed to but inside she was impatiently hopping from one foot to the other. While she loved weddings, as several girls did, Gemma had seen hundreds while working with her aunt. As soon as her relatives disappeared into the lawn maze, Gemma took a twirling leap onto the brick wall of the flower bed. So what if she'd never gotten over her imagination. You know, the age when, in every garden, young girls become fairy princesses or country maidens promenading down the walk to a tea picnic, swinging their parasols. It was part of the reason she had worn her new, long skirt. The swishiness was perfect for sashaying along the brick wall; the layers made her every move feel light, flowing and graceful.
Gemma turned on the stone ledge around the garden's pond. Exhausted from her skipping she hopped down the path and gracefully sat (or so she hoped) where she had been standing. She plucked at a petal askew on her daisy, the imperfection removed from the flower. She loved everything around her: the color, the life, the buzzing bees, the sparkle of water. She looked deep into the pond, wondering how the bottom could be so dark when the top glittered clear as glass. Entranced by the shadows moving below, Gemma trailed a finger as lightly as she could. A smile appeared as she leaned closer to see what the shadows were.
There! A frog! Gemma saw the small blue green amphibian dart into the center of the pond. With a child's knowledge of naughtiness she glanced around the garden, making sure she was alone. Slowly she lowered her cupped hands into the still water; she shivered with a combination of excitement and chill from the water. Last summer, she and Lori had caught all kinds of lizards and frogs at the creek behind the house. They were quite good at it so Gemma was determined to catch this one. As the frog came closer, she stayed still, trying not to scare it away. Yet something spooked the small creature and he went frantically into nearby algae. Having already secured her sleeves and set on her goal, Gemma stretched to reach in the algae. For a minute her fingers grasped around the slimy green stuff then she felt contact with something non algae like. With an excited grin, she stretched farther than before, taking care not to wet her skirt. Her fingers patiently sifted the algae and there it was! Smiling with success so close, Gemma snatched through the water. Then she was falling towards it.
Her eyes had shut automatically prior to entry and due to pond water being disgusting, she wasn't opening them now. So Gemma fought blind against the strong force. She realized all of this simultaneously with the fact that she couldn't hold her breath for very long. She fought more, kicking in the direction she had come and flailing about. The force tugged sharply and suddenly she felt an arm wrap around her waist and the presence of a swimming human behind her. As her wrist was now free, she tried to swing at the captor but this didn't really work because it never does when one is under water. But then they weren't.
This fact was obvious as Gemma took huge gasping breaths of air. Her eyes saw a bright sky and a green forest. And a boy. Well, not a boy so much as a young man, about her age or (more possibly) a bit older than herself. He guided her closer to the shore and soon she was able to stand on the pond floor. They were in a pond, but it was a completely new area, with cleaner (and warmer) water that had less algae (and more striking young men) than her previous location.
"Are you feeling well?" The young man asked. In response, Gemma tilted her head, for she had just noticed his shirtlessness and was taking the time to admire the gently carved abs. "Excuse me, are you in good health?" Her eyes quickly darted up to meet his.
"Well, I'm rather wet, rather confused and slightly mad." The other nodded at 'confused'.
"Yes, you must've hit your head when you fell in. That would explain why you were trying to swim to the bottom. Although I would think that anyone who was experienced enough to swim would know the top from the bottom."
"Fell in?" She chose to ignore the hint at her intelligence. "I did not fall, I was dragged in." Apprehensively he offered a hand to help her out of the shallow water.
"My name is Griffin." He pronounced it clearly and she immediately thought of the mystical creature, full of pride that could see through lies. It suited him.
"Gemma." She replied. "Was it you who grabbed my wrist?"
"Well yes, to pull you out." His language was accented and refined and it influenced her own speech as Gemma subconsciously dropped her contractions and slang.
"You mean to pull me in! I was only trying to catch a frog! I was close too, and then someone grabbed my wrist and yanked." She fumed while twisting the water out of her new skirt. "And see this? You got me all wet and possibly ruined my new skirt. Oh God!" For she had finally realized the color of her top, the white eyelet that was so cute with the blue skirt was also fairly transparent when wet. And so Gemma collapsed upon a nearby rock and to her embarrassment, began to cry. Frustrated with herself, the boy and her predicament, she furiously wiped away the tears. Why was it that the tear glands reacted to anger?
"Are you good for anything?" she asked Griffin. "Do you have a towel I could borrow or an extra set of pants?" He scrambled through a pile of clothes on the ground and came up with only a towel. He was still a bit stunned with the funny talking, mood swinging female.
"Can you turn around now?" Griffin did as he was asked. "So, how far are we from Madison Plantation?" she asked conversationally as she toweled her hair. "Um, I do not know it. We are about two miles from Castle Rosietta. The kingdom ends at the border to the Desert about fifty miles out and I know most of the land around here but I might not be acquainted with a Madison Plantation." Gemma stopped toweling and wrapped it around her body while processing his words.
"Two miles to the castle and two miles to the castle?" She froze with her shirt half off. "I'm dreaming, I'm in a dream, that's all." And she removed the shirt, making sure the towel was firmly wound around her. Carefully, she tugged the skirt from underneath, leaving her in a promiscuous towel dress but much dryer. She spread her wet clothes on the bushes in the sun and asked Griffin more questions. She could now see him as he politely stood (facing away from her) in a relaxed stance of one who was used to military attention and expected to be called there at any moment.
Griffin was handsome and she now had ample time to survey him as they exchanged information. His hair was dark brown and curly and she could only imagine how long it would be straight. As it was, he resembled some actor or other person she had seen, but that might have just been a side effect of his appearance. No one normal could look that confident without being cocky. Over all his appearance was one of an experienced and educated person with intelligent eyes and impeccable speech. If only he would grasp the fact that she did not fall into the water. His face was strong, set with brown eyes that seemed to convey his feelings, which were never in extremes and he was tall with strong shoulders but again, no feature was very enhanced or prominent. Perhaps it was even this understated sense of confidence and power that elevated his appearance from pleasing to desirable.
He was headed back to the Castle Rosietta for his cousin's wedding where he was the best man. His cousin was important, incidentally the Prince and heir to the throne and would not disclose his own royal status. This made his concern for her that much more surprising as he still firmly believed her to be a simple villager. He was taking Gemma back to the castle because he thought she was still crazy from almost drowning, unless he could find her home in the village first. She was going back without a fight because that's what you do in dreams, you follow the hot, young prince or knight or whatever he was and have a romantic adventure. Before they could go, a man on a horse rode up, it was a rather fantastic entrance actually. His clothes were obviously expensive (compared to Griffin's being simply well made) despite Gemma not knowing local fashion but he had an open face and it was happy. His hair was short, more like modern cuts that she was used to and it was positively black. He was related to her companion in some way, by physical appearance at least and had an odd resemblance to a cartoon she had seen once. Farther back, she could see a whole brigade of horsemen and carriages following the stranger.
"What delayed you Griffin? I thought you were returning to town with us after a quick swim?" Griffin bowed his head slightly as if to apologize for not returning. "Will you come up to the castle with us?"
"Go on without me. I've got to help this maiden find her house and then I'll follow." The other man examined Gemma and her wet hair. She was not so happy to still be in the towel but her clothes were still wet.
"Found her in the lake, dear cousin? And here I was thinking you didn't like fishing for sport."
"Marriage makes you happy." Griffin accused with playful tones underneath. "It's very strange for those of us who have seen you sulking around for years." The other laughed and turned his horse.
"Try not to be too late; you wouldn't want Ariel to think less of you when you turn up disheveled to the breakfast party tomorrow." Griffin tinged a man's blush as his friend rode away. His explanation to Gemma was stuttered but casual.
"My cousin, Eric, he's normally moody and quiet but this wedding's made him cheerful again. Stupid prat had to tell his girl every embarrassing thing from our childhood." Gemma smiled softly, her brain clicking away.
"Well, that's not too terrible…"
"He let his little sister dress me up as a girl when her friend got sick." She couldn't hold in the peal of laughter at his last words and the grudging resentment in his voice.
"Mmmhmm, so his name is Eric? And her name, the girl he's marrying, what's she called again?"
After a trip to the village near the pond (which required dressing back in her soggy clothes) Gemma was finally able to convince Griffin that she was not a resident of any local area. When they left the third pub and no one had recognized her, he finally relented to the fact that she was a foreigner. This issue couldn't be resolved further as Gemma wasn't exactly sure where this country was in comparison to The Real World that she knew.
For the last hour as they traveled from public place to meeting ground she had tried to explain her theories to Griffin. He wasn't flattered by her suggestion that it was all a dream, if anything, he was insulted. When she attempted to explain parallel universes to him, he laughed but believed it a bit more than the Dream Theory. His final decision was that Gemma was visiting from another kingdom, hit her head in the water and now had amnesia (not that he called it that) and delusions…at the same time. But she still protested that she had been pulled in, not fallen. He still felt responsible for her as she was A Girl and A Foreigner (conveniently forgetting that he was also visiting the area) and Injured, all things that would deem her 'rescuable' to a prince or knight of fairy tale proportions. Gemma found it interesting that while Griffin would not let her travel to an inn alone, she had been left by herself at a well while he went to get food.
As is normal for her, Gemma became curious and playful. She pulled up the bucket, full of water then tipped it into the well, creating a glittering waterfall for a few seconds. The group of dirty children, who had been playing close by, suddenly stopped to watch her. Bored with her waterfall, Gemma drew a castle in the dirt. With a stick, she trailed a groove for a moat. The water bucket was hoisted up and she cupped water to fill her moat. The result was fantastic: mud. If there is one thing dirty children like to do, it is to get dirtier and this usually required mud so when they saw her castle-turned-mud-puddle they inched closer. It was minutes before they built their own castles and asked her to fill the moat.
Gemma was careful not to get any of the glorious concoction on her clothes as she still wore her skirt and shirt (slightly damp but no longer transparent) and didn't know when she'd be able to change. Carefully, she scooped up a handful of particularly watery mud, letting it trail from her fingers to the well wall. With a few more handfuls of mud she had a spectacularly evil looking drip castle. The children were copying her movements but they lacked the precision and many a castle was destroyed by a misplaced drop of mud.
Griffin returned to find an army of urchins surrounding the girl, all with muddy hands. His sack of food reminded them of their own hungry bellies. So Gemma hauled up bucket after bucket of water (after declining help from Griffin) and washed the dirty children of as much dirt as possible, which was truly an impossible task and often ended up with doused children instead of clean. As the last child scampered home (wet to the bone but utterly happy) an older woman walked to the well with a jug.
"Could you pull me up a bucket more?" She asked in a feeble voice. Gemma nodded agreeingly and hoisted the bucket for the hundredth time that afternoon.
"Is your house far? I can carry it if you like." The girl suggested, even as Griffin looked up from the food he was setting out for both of them. The old woman straightened and wings sprouted from her back and the hooded cape fell to reveal a glowing head with dazzling gold hair and jewel eyes.
"No thank you dearest, I'm just glad I found you." And with a soft hand she shut Gemma's gaping mouth. "Good luck darlings. Keep with her my boy." And then she disappeared. Gemma sat in shock (for it is not every day you see a person sprout wings and disappear) and in her shock failed to realize she sat on a drip castle. Her head dropped to her hands and she blinked. Griffin, who (although he hadn't seen one) had heard of fairy godmothers and guardians and lovers and what not, was reacting a bit better so he left the roasted fish and knelt beside the girl.
"Gemma, are you feeling well? Did she spell you? Do you remember where you live now?"
"Was that a fairy?"
"Well, yes, I imagine so; they're very odd clan, the fairies." But Gemma wasn't listening instead she put a finger in her mouth and pulled out an emerald. Both looked at the gem then at each other. Griffin recognized the significance as well but in a different way.
"Claire!" bang, bang, bang. "Claire!"
"What?" A small girl of 19 wrenched open the thick wood door and glared fiercely at Griffin. "And yes, dear cousin, you were interrupting something." Her voice dripped sarcasm in a way that Gemma's never did…and she envied that.
"Please don't act like that Claire; I need your help, and your suitor." Claire eyeballed her cousin suspiciously as well as the cloaked girl behind him.
"Well, I know you don't like boys because Eric still owes me half an hour and you'd better not change your mind on me so out with it, why do you need Luke?" He ignored her question and weaseled his way in, dragging Gemma with him. "And who is this?"
"Hi, I'm Gemma." she supplied and spat out a sapphire which she handed to Griffin who put it in his pocket. "It's pretty and it's making me rather rich but it's truly annoying." She managed to form the words, despite the two new gems. A pearl and a ruby fell into Griffin's waiting hands. Claire frowned at the jewels and knocked on a door leading out of the ante chamber.
"Luke?" She disappeared through the door and Gemma could faintly hear her talking to someone, it was hard because Griffin was muttering loudly next to her. She caught snippets of words from both ends. "…needs your help."
"Betting on me….free time away from the castle." One of the most handsome men followed Claire through the door while slipping a tunic over his head. Claire ignored her cousin's glare and handed the young man a pair of small glasses.
"What kind of problem?" Gemma immediately noted the different speech, the accents and use of words were something she recognized. Also noticed was the fact that Luke, the sex idol young man had an equally sexy voice. Griffin began to speak but Gemma cut him off, the whole thing was about her anyway.
"Actually, it's several problems. The first being that" (here she spit out an amethyst and two emeralds) "I was pulled into a pond then dragged out of a lake where Griffin was." (two sapphires dropped into her hands) "The lake and hell, this whole area is completely foreign. You people are like Middle Ages to me, he doesn't believe me and I think it's all a dream." (an emerald and a third sapphire) "And to top it off, I keep regurgitating gems!" (ruby) "Oh HELL!" She stomped her foot and pulled out the last ruby and shoved all the stones into Griffin's pocket. Luke studied the near hysterical girl and whispered to Claire who disappeared through the door again and returned with a massive book. Two sofas appeared in the ante chamber, the cousins sat on one and Gemma collapsed on the other.
"You keep his books now?"
"His study is right next to mine, don't test me."
"He opened the door half dressed!" Luke ignored the bickering relatives, even though they were talking about him and he focused on the large book. Upon discovering what he was looking for, the wizard stood in front of Griffin and cleared his throat.
"That's his seat buffoon!" Claire whispered sharply, pinching her cousin who moved to sit near Gemma.
"Now Gemma, have you ever thought of magically linked worlds?" If it weren't for the honest sincerity in Luke's eyes and the fact that it wasn't too far from parallel universes the strange girl would've laughed. Instead she cursed, shocking only Griffin.
"I'd still prefer the I'm-in-a-dream theory." She said, gaining a pearl. The wizard smiled.
"I do not. I would prefer not to be simply a figment of your imagination. Besides," here his dignified voice faltered. "Have you experienced an um, bowel movement since you entered this world?"
Claire half laughed, half snorted. "Everyone knows you don't crap in your dreams."
"I can't believe he couldn't get rid of it." Griffin grumbled as he led Gemma through the castle. His coat pockets were heavy with gems from all the girl talk between Gemma and Claire. After convincing the strange girl she was not dreaming, the debutante cousin had started in on wedding plans and sleeping arrangements and housing and clothing. Claire couldn't wait to tell the story to her future sister in law and the prince. Claire couldn't really wait for anything as she lacked patience.
"Griffin, do you constantly complain?" Gemma smiled to the wall, happy to have mastered the disdainful tone. He simply opened a door and ushered her in. While Gemma stood in awe at all the stuff in the room, the prince tiredly shucked his shoes and shirt. With a careful hand he emptied his pockets of all the precious stones. Face down on a silk covered mass that she assumed was a bed, Griffin waved his wrist.
"Shut the door and got to sleep. It's just royal hospitality in all its glory." Seeing how tired he was, Gemma quietly closed the door and snuffed out the candles that lit the room. In the dark she changed into the silk night gown Claire had given her with the promise of a fit. It was a tight fit but the delicate cloth against her skin more than made up for it.
Gemma slipped into the outrageously large bed without hesitation. She didn't really have a problem with sleeping with Griffin but she thought the other girl would've. Instead, Claire had suggested the foreigner stay with her cousin, mentioning something about how chivalrous Griffin was. The mattress was the softest she had ever felt and the pure richness of her surroundings quickly lulled Gemma into an almost slumber. In an instant she had been drawn against Griffin, his arm firmly hooked around her midsection, heart thumping from the sudden movement.
"If you mimic Claire I will shut you in the hall passage." he paused slightly, his warmth radiating into her. "If you need anything during the night, wake me. Pleasant dreams." Then his arm released from its hold and Griffin rolled over and away.
The morning was filled with appointments. At Claire's orders, Gemma was measured and fitted for everyday skirts and dresses to a wonderful gown. She was shown the brides maids' dresses in varying blues and purples because Claire had to show off her maid of honor dress.
"I'm so happy she asked me. She had six sisters to choose from." Gemma smiled as the small princess twirled in her dress.
"Yes but if one of her sisters was maid of honor the gown would be a bit different…"she replied absently. Claire quit twirling and sat on the pedestal.
"So Griffin told you then? It's such a better story than mine."
"Your story? What's your story?" A beautiful laugh filled the room as Claire blushed. An auburn woman dressed in cream and white stood in the doorway.
"Oh she hates telling her own romantic tale." Gemma could only stare at the living fairy tale instead of reply. Aerial (if the emerald adorned crown was any clue) slid into the room and shut the door, ready for gossip. "I'll simply have to tell you since Griffin would butcher it, like all men."
"Arry, please don't," Claire protested weakly but the bride to be began to tell.
"As I hear it, when Claire was little, she made some rather mean remarks about her aunt. This aunt happened to have some magical abilities and put Claire in a glass pyramid."
Claire grinned slightly. "That thing ruined mother's garden, she hated Aunt Truny for years."
"Anyway…The Queen and King put up a remarkable prize for whoever could get Claire down."
"They promised to marry you off to the rescuer?" Gemma interrupted, trying to remember this fairy tale from the millions she knew.
"Oh Lord no! Mother and Father would never promise that. I was only six when I was put up there." Aerial nodded sweetly to affirm the kindness of the regents.
"So one day, some country knight was going to attempt to break her glass pyramid to get her out and this boy shows up and stops the knight (you were about 14 right?) which is incredibly fortunate for Claire who would've died if the pyramid was smashed. I can't believe Eric was going to let him try that." The bride rolled her eyes and Gemma stifled her laughter.
"Eric was away visiting Griffin and Mark; otherwise that simpleton would've never been let near me and my pyramid." Claire pouted. "This part isn't really important."
"Yes it is. So Luke stops her 'rescuer' from accidentally killing her then he tells the King and Queen how stupid they were to let that man near Claire's tower. He draws out this wood tower, has it built, (by himself mind you because their majesties were rather mad at him) and this tower he built stood next to the pyramid and went to the top of it. Luke just climbed right up and across and helped her down. Well, he didn't want the money, he wanted Claire." The princess mentioned began to blush deeply. "When Luke asked what he could do to make him worthy of her hand, the King said 'only magic'."
"So Luke went home and learned about magic, came back and we're together. Yay!" Aerial swatted at her almost sister.
"Hush. Luke didn't just 'learn' magic; he became the best magician in the area, (took him about three years). He was so powerful when he came back that no one would go meet with him. Eric and Griffin finally went out to see him and worked out a deal. If Claire did like Luke, they could marry after her twenty first birthday. Luke agreed willingly even though he could've blackmailed the royal family simply because of his power. He grew a flower garden for their first meeting. Now they're just waiting for Claire's birthday." Gemma was amazed; she never would've pegged the magician for a love driven suitor.
"Why doesn't Griffin like him?" Both girls snorted but Claire answered.
"I found a loop hole to my brother's dead. I have to be twenty one to get married, so until then, Luke just lives with me. It only irks Annie because he's so chaste and pure and because the one thing Luke can't do is reverse or break blessings. That's why you have those." She pointed to the small rocks Gemma was rolling between her fingers. But even Aerial was confused by this new secret.
"Griffin is blessed? He doesn't look like it; Eric only said he was polite."
"Exactly," Claire spoke over her shoulder. "After aunt Truny saw how his older brother Mark was spoiled rotten, she blessed Annie to be polite, charming and chivalrous to all maidens until he finds his true love. Doesn't help that we call him Annie or that there are rumors he likes men." With Gemma's laughter came several azure and Safire stones. A passing stable boy shook his head at the three noble ladies rolling on the floor, giggling. Royalty couldn't change some things.
The wedding was stunning. The human half of the guests were seated aboard the most regal boat Gemma had ever seen. The wood was all polished and trimmed with a deep burgundy color. The mer people and creatures of the sea were all present to watch Triton's youngest daughter married off. The sea was calm, (most likely the work of the bride's father) and the air was cool but clear. Gemma sat next to Luke in the first group of guests as both of their escorts were in the wedding party. After the ceremony, she was surprised to be dragged into the court fray. Ariel happily introduced her to Sebastian and Flounder, the talking crab and fish (respectively) who were a far cry from their animated likenesses. Gemma bowed and blushed when the wedded princess pulled her toward the oceanic royalty.
"Papa, this is Princess Gemma of Broughton Gardens." she explained, using the back story created by Claire and Griffin but Gemma felt horribly guilty about lying to such important persons. "Gemma, these are my sisters; Jada, Leona, Eden, Alexia, Linnea and Licia." The foreigner then repeated each mermaid's name, producing her favorite jewel as she spoke. It was a talent Gemma had discovered while trying to remember the names of the maids appointed to her care. "Papa, the princess insisted upon providing all of my jewelry for today…" Ariel began her face mischievous. "And Eric and I were hoping you could perhaps help her on her trip to the Arabian Port." Gemma was amazed, asking the God of the Sea himself, she wasn't even sure if she was going to Arabia yet. In an impossibly deep voice, Triton laughed.
"Is that all? I thought you were going to introduce her to one of our cousins. Mustn't let anyone get too close to them." Ariel laughed and explained that her cousins were a group of particularly handsome mermen in the process of charming the bridesmaids. Gemma stayed with the bride and her father a little while longer but she was quiet. The amazement she had was quickly being overwhelmed by an urge to take it all in. A guest at a fairytale wedding! Griffin found her at the ship's railing, watching the glittery reflection of the sun on the waves and boat.
"Are you sailing to Agraba with me?" He asked, conversationally. Gemma avoided answering with her own question.
"Why are you going there anyway?"
Griffin replied with a change of subject, "I hear the gardens are beautiful there. The Arabians have a very complex irrigations system." She nodded but continued with the disjointed conversation.
"What do you do at home? What is your job?"
"I'm a prince. What do you think I do?" Griffin had broken the trend and actually responded to the previous statement. His companion only smirked at his relaxed state.
"Every prince I've ever heard of only exists for one reason: to marry a princess." A flash of emotion pulsed through Griffin who recovered quickly.
"Well, there you go. I'm simply an eternal wife examiner. What is your all important duty in your world?" This inquiry triggered memories of Lorelei and Aunt Sara and unrealized homesickness. Gemma thought about her role as a student and decided that watching Lori was more worthwhile.
"I, am a storyteller." This idea interested Griffin and he leaned a bit closer. "I could tell you the story of Prince Eric and his mermaid bride much better than you heard it." With his curious look as her encouragement and lots of help from Disney, Gemma wove words into an exciting tale. When she finished, Griffin was still under her spell of words. At some point in time they had moved to a deserted table and sat. Gemma's two cups were filled with water and a small food plate was overflowing with precious stones.
"Well, it was detailed. There was so much clarity and description." The teller blushed, Lori loved those things so they were always apparent but perhaps there was too much needless information on ball gowns when her audience was a prince. "Much better," Griffin continued. "Than any of my bards or singers when I was young." He was oblivious to her embarrassment as he continued to compliment her. "In fact, if Eric had told the story to his parents as you did, they would be much more inclined to believe him." Gemma shrugged and rolled and emerald around in her slender fingers.
"Do you want me to come with you to Agraba?" Griffin's eyes followed the emerald as it moved around her palm.
"Traveling with others is always better." Luke believed that Gemma was here for a purpose and she needed to travel to see what that purpose was and where she fit in. Claire agreed with him and had also confided that Griffin was an experienced traveler and would make a wonderful tour guide.
"I trust you slept well last night?" Claire asked as she dropped delicately into a chair. Gemma turned pink and Griffin straightened in his own chair. His cousin ignored their obvious body language to suggest something had happened.
"You simply seem vigorously awake, well rested, and alert. As opposed to me, languishing out here." Dramatist that Claire was, she even pulled a hand to her forehead.
"What were you doing last night?" Griffin grumbled.
"I like Luke alive, thank you very much." Claire responded, her eyes sparkling for now she could repeat the question. "Dear cousin, what did you do last night?" In an attempt to quickly end the conversation the foreigner jumped in with all her 'alertness'.
"He made sure I got to bed. I was ridiculously tired last night. Claire, do you think I should go to Arabia with Griffin?" The princess shrugged.
"I don't know, do they have large beds there?" If it were possible, Gemma turned even pinker. As she tried to dignifiedly arrange her skirts, she tipped sideways off the chair and onto Griffin. He caught and righted the embarrassed girl and Claire continued to pester the couple, remarking about Gemma drinking so early and Griffin being so stiff. The whole situation was so laughable that the stitching on Gemma's dress became quite interesting so that she would avoid giggling. The shallowness that seemed to have infected Claire was so sinfully one tracked that it reminded the storyteller of the other teenage girls at her high school. But really, how different could young girls be, even in parallel universes?
So when the dancing started, the young knight 'stiffly' asked the foreigner to dance, Gemma quickly agreed despite lacking in ballroom dancing skills. She soon discovered it wasn't all that necessary because Griffin was such a wonderful lead, counting the steps quietly in her ear and avoiding other couples. With her lovely new dress and the lilting waltz and her very own prince, Gemma once again thought she was dreaming. Although he was a courtly dancer, Griffin was mad, his grip on her small waist tightened until Gemma's modern world instincts kicked in and she hit him in the ribs.
"Gonna let me breathe now?" she asked quietly, but it wasn't harsh. She had a feeling that Claire's insinuation had pressed a few more of his doublet buttons than hers.
"Forgive me, Princess." He replied with a deep nod. Gemma hushed her 'hrumph' by burying her face in his elegantly covered chest.
"I'm not a princess, don't call me that. Besides, you're royalty too so you can drop the title."
He protested politely. "Gemma alone is too informal. I must have some other way of addressing you, mademoiselle." He slipped the last word in as a possible substitute for her pseudo crown but the small girl wouldn't have any of it.
"Oh, go choke on your tongue, that's what 'mademoiselle' sounds like." Carefully she emptied her handful of gems into his offered pocket. "Why can't you just say my name?" He could not respond because she had to pirouette away, in time with the music. By the time she had returned to his arms, Griffin had thought of a reasonable solution.
"Sarita, it means little storyteller in the High Language. The upper class use it as a name now. You shouldn't travel with a real name anyway." Gemma raised an eyebrow but did not protest.
"So I am going with you? I still don't see why you can't call me by my name…" The couple twirled among other dancers, Gemma's skirt flared out, enclosing both of them in a cloud of blue. A new style of sound floated across the deck as the musicians switched out. Without hesitation Gemma was drawn closer for a faster moving dance.
"I don't know…" she protested. But his eyes sparkled and his lips smiled and she felt compelled to leap about the giant boat snugly in his arms. Gemma was not a very forward girl in the modern world but she had been raised in a world of appearances. The minute she had seen Griffin, she had been attracted to him; the boy had been shirtless and soaking wet. After the initial shock, she had been too caught up in finding a solution to her time/space jump but now…But now that Gemma had a purpose (travel to the High Kingdom and hit every little city along the way) and knowledge of her surroundings Griffin was becoming very attractive again. That thought was odd to her; she shook her head and tried to shake out the thought itself. Maybe she was simply dizzy from all the spinning and dancing.
Claire watched from the deserted table. Luke appeared behind her chair and she smiled up at him. Together they watched the cousin and the foreigner, the Knight and the Storyteller, the prince and his princess.
"Was it right to rip her from her world?" Luke asked his fiancé quietly. Claire nodded simply;
"He needed her now and her world wasn't that great."
"She doesn't look too happy to be here though." But the small princess shook her head, delicate locks bouncing, eyes never leaving the dancers.
"She's beginning to fall in love with him and she knows it."