She is Known

She is Known

This is my final (for now) attempt at a describe your character twice (once to fall in love and once to be repelled). I went back to writing from a different character’s perspective because I thought it worked better. I actually think this might be the weakest of the three (odd since you’d think I’d get better at this sort of stuff). But overall it was a fun scene to write even if it didn’t do exactly what I wanted it to.
. . .

Look up the word regal in a dictionary, and you’ll probably find a picture of my mother’s face. Throughout her kingdom, and all the lands surrounding it, she is known as the very incarnation of elegance and poise. It isn’t just how she walks or dresses either. There’s something about her, some air that follows her, which instantly makes people who meet her respect her. I have spent most of my life trying to figure out what it is and, to this day, I’m still stumped.

I’ve been in awe of my mother for as long as I can remember. She seemed like a giant when I was small, like an angel descended from the far away heavens to bend people to her will. Sometimes, I’m still not sure it isn’t true. I have seen hardened warriors tremble when she turns her gaze upon them. I have seen the broken weep with joy when she heals their hearts. And I have seen the poor bow down to give her more than they have out of gratitude for her protection – though she has never once accepted such an offer, of course.

My mother always taught me that giving is far more important than receiving. Find the perfect gift to give a person, she used to say. Find the thing that will make them laugh with unadulterated joy or cry because they realize someone understands them on a level they never thought possible. Find that thing, whatever it is, and give it to them. Give it without strings attached and expecting nothing in return. I have followed that advice on several occasions and it is one of the purest forms of love I have ever experienced.

This is the image of my mother I carry with me, superimposed over all the masks she must wear for the public – and as queen there are many. There are times she must be cruel and cutting to the members of her advisory council, so that they will see a point she is trying to make. Kindness often flies over the heads of bureaucrats. I have watched my mother speak harshly, and even wield her magic in a flashy and unbecoming manner to make military men respect and obey her. Warriors see too much, she often says, but sometimes you must show them a little more to get their attention. And it is her clever ability to see through the masks of others, to know exactly what will make them bow to her will that makes her so shrewd. But it is not, I think, the key to her spectacular aura.

Because everywhere I look, I can see my mother’s touch. Even in a grand ballroom full of nobility and foreign dignitaries, the marks of her reign are noticeable for those who know where to look. It’s in the prosperity of the common folk, who have gathered for their own celebrations of the winter solstice throughout the kingdom. It’s in the joyful, relaxed atmosphere that permeates the palace this evening as a result of that prosperity. It’s in the orphaned girl the queen rescued from the streets of her own capital, a woman who now organizes many palace functions. She’s lurking in the shadows just beyond the refreshment table when I turn my eyes in that direction. When she catches my gaze, she offers me a small grin.

It’s even in the face of my second-father – a warrior who has seen more than most – in his smiles and his laughter as he follows my mother from crowd to crowd within the hall, never having to lay a hand on the hilt of his sword. It’s his eyes that find me through the throng. It’s his height that gives him the advantage. That, and the fact that no one will notice if a guard’s eyes wander. They’re too busy trying to keep the queen’s attention to look away.

Domerin jerks his head in my mother’s direction; a subtle gesture, but obvious enough. Mother must be looking for me. I grin and nod, though I don’t instantly cross the floor to join them. I have been cultivating my mother’s court behavior since I turned fourteen. The way she makes everyone feel of equal interest to her during conversation – unless she’s displeased and wants someone to know it. The way she ghosts from group to group without anyone ever noticing she’s disengaged until she’s gone. But most of all, I’ve been trying to master her enigmatic air of knowing all but refusing to give a straight answer without winding the seeker down a twisting path of vague suggestion.

While it would please me greatly to be considered as adept at the court game as my mother is, she wasn’t my only teacher. My approach is a blend between hers and my father’s; and Crescent is a great player of the game. Even mother often admires his prowess. He’s far less subtle than my mother when it comes to playing with attention, making himself the spotlight of every conversation he joins, but never in a way that makes him seem arrogant or needy.

It’s with one of his characteristic tactics that I make my exit from my current conversation. I haven’t really been paying attention anyway; I’ve never been interested in the list of estates Lord Weid has acquired over the years. The joke makes everyone laugh, even Weid, though his chuckles sound somewhat forced. His eyes follow me as I turn and swish my skirts in my wake. I feel them on my shoulders all the way to my mother’s side. Though when I glance around the group she’s speaking with, I don’t see Domerin anymore.

“Ah, Silverbell!” my mother squeals with genuine delight, wrapping an arm around my waist to draw me to her side. “You simply must make the rounds with me. Everyone has been asking where I got this dress and I keep telling them they should see its twin.”

My mother is dressed in moonlight tonight, courtesy of my own sewing machine. It took weeks of heavy focus and reaction headaches to weave the illusions into the fabric so that she would glow with just the same vibrancy as a full moon in deep winter. And beside her, I glimmer with starlight, the field of constellations through which she dances her dance, rising to the peak of glory before she descends out of sight and beyond the court’s reach.

“And don’t look now,” she whispers, her voice barely more than a breath next to my ear, “But I think Lord Weid is giving you the eye.” The way she says the eye indicates the invisible lord has romance on his mind – or at least an expansion of his estate.

I can’t help making a soft sound and sticking out my tongue to express my disgust. This is why I’ll never be as regal as my mother; I can’t quite hold it in the way she does. “Someone should tell him I’m not interested in older men.”

“Ah, darling, when you tend to measure your years in thousands, you stop worrying about age differences when it comes to matters of marriage.”

“Fine,” I acquiesce, with a roll of my eyes. After all, Domerin and Crescent have quite a span of years between them and it’s never seemed to affect their bond. “The truth is, he’s boring.”

This draws a laugh from my mother’s throat, a sound like birdsong. It also draws several eyes in our direction, but mother ignores them and so do I.

“If he can’t keep his eyes to himself,” I continue in an undertone, “perhaps Domerin will help me get the message across. I don’t think he’d hesitate to break old Weid’s wrist.”

“He would never,” mother replies with a hint of mirth shining in her eyes. “Not while he’s on duty.” She doesn’t need to wink; her tone says it all.

We descend into hopeless giggles, like two teenaged girls who have just stumbled into the school dance, arm in arm. I wonder, briefly, what the other party guests see when they look at us, what judgments they pass on our behavior and whether or not it suits their vision of a queen and her princess daughter.

Then I remember I don’t give a damn.

There’s food and company to be enjoyed, a game to be played – even if it can never be won, and hearts to inevitably break. Later, Domerin might dance with me, if I ask. Crescent certainly will. And perhaps mother and I can even get away with a spin across the dance floor together.

. . .
Thanks for reading! This is just a quick heads up to let you know that I’ve got company coming next week so the blog will be on a short hiatus while we taste wine and generally enjoy the summer weather. Tune in July 2nd for more regularly scheduled musings!

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