Welcome back to Tuesday Tales! This weeks prompt is Nasty.
And I’m back with my little short story fantasy series. This week I’m going to introduce a new character. Desta is the apprentice to the matchmaker. This is her year to take over the position as the former matchmaker is in her last eligible year and is to be released to be matched.
Today she gets to meet the queen for the first time. She has not yet met the princess, at least not that she knows:
Desta dropped the basic silk sheath over her head. The cape that adorned her Mistress and shielded her from view of the world would not be Desta’s until the night of the masquerade. The night of Desta’s unveiling would also be the night she would become shrouded for twelve years until her own last eligible year as a maiden.
For now Desta would greet the queen in the simplest frock possible without being naked. She squared her shoulders and practiced a low curtsy.
“Remember,” the melodic voice of her mistress carried through the dimly lit room. “From this point on you have no name.”
“I am aware, Mistress.” Head still bowed, Desta rose slowly to her feet. “I am curious if you still remember the one you carried before your turn as matchmaker. Will I remember mine?”
“I do, but I will choose another. I am no longer who I was. I do not recognize myself outside of my cape.” Warm hands clasped onto Desta’s shoulders. Throughout years of training, the woman had cared for her more as a mother would than a taskmaster. “You are ready, Desta. Do not worry. In a few weeks when you assume my mantle, you will become more than you are.”
“I know, Mistress. I only wish I did not have to lose myself to do so, as well as losing you.”
“Ah, but you will take on the next in line for taskmaster. You will find a young one to raise into the role. You won’t be alone, Desta.”
“I will miss you, Mistress.”
“You warm an old woman’s heart.”
“You are thirty and therefore not old, you are still of matching age.” Desta chuckled and turned to face the hidden features of her mistress. “I look forward to matching you, though I’ll know not who you are.”
Her mistress kissed her forehead. “I knew my first match was a success when I discovered you, Desta. Now let us hurry. The queen does not like to be kept waiting.”
“Of course.” Desta turned for the door and for the first time in twelve years strode ahead of her mistress. She wound through the twisted corridors and up several stairwells before arriving on the royal floor.
At the queen’s door she hesitated only a moment before entering. Three steps in the room she stopped and dropped into her lowest bow, and her mistress adopted a similar position beside her. The queen ignored them both as she barked orders to a manservant.
The magic in the room surprised Desta and she twitched her nose against the tingle. She would have to ask her mistress about the need for such heavy duty charms in the queen’s quarters. It seemed counter-intuitive when the queen herself was so powerful.
Queen Fossette turned her attention to them finally. “What is it, Matchmaker? I have little time, Ani has chosen the date for the masquerade. As she has given the kingdom less than a week, I have much to do.”
The Matchmaker did not react to the nasty tone, did not cower or flinch away as Desta was tempted to do. Rather, she rose elegantly from her bow. “I had heard, my queen. That is why I thought it time you met my replacement, your new matchmaker.”
Desta took her cue and rose despite the nervous flip-flop of her stomach. She kept her head bowed as a sign of respect until spoken to.
“Well, then. It hardly seems as though it is time.” The queen turned her attention to Desta, and a sharp sprinkle of magic sprang across her flesh like pinpricks. “She seems acceptable enough. She knows the rules?”
“Yes, I have trained her carefully.”
“Then it is good to meet you, child.”
Desta curtsied out of respect before she lifted her head. “Thank you, your highness. I look forward to serving my kingdom.”
“Of course you do.” The perfect smile that crossed the queen’s features did not reach her eyes. A blanket of mistrust and something else guarded those windows to her true emotions.
Desta maintained her smile and bowed her head again. On instinct, she turned when her mistress did and left the royal quarters at her side. It wasn’t until they were back in Desta’s room that she released the breath she’d been holding. “Oh my.”
“I never realized how alone the queen is,” Desta whispered though they were alone.
“No one does, no one sees it.”
“She does not trust me.”
“She trusts no one, Desta.”
“Like I said, she is terribly lonely.”
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