Chapter 4: The Blue and Gold in Her Eyes

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~The Blue and Gold in Her Eyes~

“I miss the songbirds that use to wake me at dawn. Perching on my windowsill, they would sing a frivolous tune that would bring a smile to my lips. As the days have shortened and the sky is heavy with the foreshadowing of snow, I am once again struck with the awareness of my mortally. When I am gone, the songbirds will continue on and sing their tunes without me to hear. Will they compose a song in ode to me or am I just an another faceless being that their untouched minds cannot hope to remember?” –Anayissa, from her personal diary  

“The battle has long ago passed yet the tragedy of war has continued to fester my mind with images of the deceased. A warn cape graces my shoulders; the fabric woven is from the skins of men I have slain and ridden with guilt the size of gaping holes. The Dead whisper their taunts to me and I cannot escape the horror of my damned, demonic dreams. But in the middest of this agony, the blessing of my goddess keeps the misery momentarily at bay”–Torien, from his personal journal 

 

Ana’s dressing room is humming with one-sided excitement. Heavy perfume clods the air with a dense mist that elicits a sneeze from her–frustrating one of the seamstresses who kneels at Ana’s feet with pins in her teeth and a tape measure wrapped around her neck like a noose. Like a pig about to be sold, Ana obediently lifts her arms and turns as she is measured and poked at.

Blue–she must be in blue,” one faceless voice commands.

Time idly ticks on as the bright, beautiful sunlight starts to fade from her window and the room begins to blur as Ana’s tired eyes ache. The mornings are especially cold in her dressing rooms and today is no expectation.

If the throbbing in her back and neck are any indication of time, it must have been hours she had been standing on the platform. Wanting to take a moment to stretch–maybe touch the pure, yellow rays of the sunlight before it gave into the persuasion of dusk–Ana would have moved to lift the skirts to take a step but the blurred faces hissed anytime she moved, effortlessly keeping her in place.

Ana keeps silent like a doll; pretty with vacant and lifeless eyes, the groundwork of an impeccable dress becomes to form before her eyes, yet she can muster any excitement. On the other side of the room, crushed betrixoa leaves and vinegar are being hastily mixed into a pot at the Head seamstress’s orders. The poignant scent of the dye makes Ana wrinkle her nose as she watches in dismay as Mycea’s famed blue leaves dilute underneath the goopy surface.

Like the leaves, she is crushed and grinded, drowning in the thick slime of responsibility until she becomes this bendable and malleable object.

Ana could have told them to stop– “I am your Princess, I command you to–” but she could only stare into oblivion as she watches her dreams slowly fade away, unhurriedly closing like a tomb.

Blue!

“Blue?”

Blue!

Queen Suzette sits off to the side nibbling on her favorite almonds as she overlooks this transpire without a flicker of emotion in her distinctive eyes. Ringa rests loyally on the Queen’s lap, rubbing the top of her head against the older woman’s bosom as she stares up with total adoration.

“Hmm blue? I am not sure if it is appropriate.” Suzette comments as she runs a cursory, clinical look over her daughter. Taking another almond from a crystal dish set to the side on the end table, she continues, “A bride must wear white, it is Mycean tradition. But this is a special occurrence, I suppose. It does make sense for Ana to wear blue now that I think of it.” The nut cracks beneath the Queen’s white teeth, her sharp canines almost hidden underneath her full, red lips.

Suzette looks like a true Queen as she sits so elegantly in the royal blue settee. Her dark jade gown compliments her flawlessly snow-brushed skin and her diamond necklace–the size of a baby’s fist– is surrounded by lapis lazuli stones, a wedding gift from her brother Bror in Aestha–reveals the silver flecks in her crystalline eyes.

Pushing down the urge to scream, Ana glares at her Namieé as her words further excite the seamstresses. “Yes, your Highness is always right.”

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            Mycean tradition? When has her Namieé ever preached about the righteousness of Mycea? A foreign bride, Queen Suzette has always stuck out with her pale skin and white-blond hair but she never cowered beneath mocking glares. Ana remembers when she was a little girl and after reading one of her favorite children’s books, telling her Namieé about her future wedding, the white dress she would wear and how pretty she would look. Ana had been surprised when her statuesque Namieé frowned. She had been sitting on Ana’s bed, bending down to kiss her forehead but at her words, she had sprung up.

“No, snow cub,” she whispered passionately, leaning down again but there was a fire in her eyes that as a little girl, frightened Ana. “You will wear silver and ice blue at your wedding, not white.”

“But Namieé, in Mycea, a bride wears white. In my book, Princess Gracealine wore white.”

“No, snow cub.” She repeated once more, but this time, with more passion. Taking her daughter’s shoulders, Queen Suzette shook the tiny girls’ shoulder, nightmares darkening her eyes until it dyed black and cold like a starless night.

“My Ana, you have the great blood of the North in your veins. You may have Mycean skin but you have an Aesthan heart–strong as the bitterest snowstorm and durable as a snow cat protecting her cubs. I may have lost my claws but you will sharpen yours. Promise me, my snow cub, that you will wear silver and ice blue on your wedding. Promise me, Ana.”

Ana loved her Namieé more than anything, even when she was fierce and her snow cat shone through her eyes. Taking her Queen Suzette’s hands from her shoulders, Princess Ana leveled a very mature look at her Namieé. “I promise, Namieé.”

Looking at the swelling mound almost undetected in Queen Suzette’s loose emerald gown, Ana remembers with clarity, that her Namieé had been pregnant then too.

As her Namieé now nods placidity and breaks her decade long promise, Ana’s voice scratchily surfaces, “Namieé.”

Queen Suzette continues to speak with the seamstress, laughing slightly from behind her raised, gloved hands. Her tinkling and practiced laugh ignites further Ana’s courage.

“Blue and gold!”

“Gold?”

Gold for Mycea’s prosperity.”

“Yes, but where?”

Bony but dexterous fingers, dig into Ana’s flesh, her nails thin and sharp like a blade. Raising Ana’s arms without consent, the seamstress ducks her head as wraps the tape measure around Ana’s bosom, tightening the tape like a vise.

Olliah’s balls, Namieé!”

Ana’s burst of frustration does not shock the women muttering and measuring her prone form but Queen Suzette– who has to date, never heard her perfect and obedient daughter ever say her god’s name in vain or use such coarse language–swivels her head in disbelief.

Ana does feel guilty for using Olliah’s name but Ana does feel a smudge of triumph as she finally got the Queen’s full attention. Silently thanking the passing solider who muttered that curse under his breath earlier that day, Ana feels a spark of energy within her as she faces her Namieé with a challenge in her eyes. Beneath Ana’s feeling of accomplishment, there is a deep-seeped fear that has been growing ever since the ill-fated day of the announcement of her nuptials. Could Ana acknowledge the fetid whispers of doubt or by giving it a name–does it give a power over her?

“Ana! Speaking the benevolent and resilient Olliah’s name in vain? What has gotten into you?

“A gold sash!”

“Yes, it will help show off the princess’s figure!”

“Hide her stomach, you mean!”

“I need–I need…”

“Yes, my snow cub?” The gleam of emotion in the Queen’s eyes, the slight traces of the snow cat that lives dormant within the Mycea Queen, has subsided again, lost within the blizzard of her desolate eyes. Sitting back and petting the terriers’ fuzzy head, Suzette takes another almond from the dish as she looks expectantly at her daughter and absently rubs her pregnant belly.

What does Ana need? It was obvious that if she could beg, borrow, and steal, find a djinn’s lamp from legend, hunt down a Fey from Death Island, flee without fear of consequence–that she could take her and Namieé (and maybe Ringa) away from any of the passionless and overpowering countries in the Four Kingdoms–Ana would do it in a heartbeat.

A collective of warmongers and greedy, sticky hands that fed off the suffering of others and refused to help the destitute and pathetic, Ana is sick of constant and meaningless wars of the connected countries and nor can she ever forget the atrocities she had seen and the heartbreak she experienced during the war with Rhageon. It is not only the recent wars that have disgusted her, but the history of violence that followed and lingered. The Fey were slaughtered and exiled as their secrets were exposed, the natives of Mycea were defenseless nomads who fell under the swords of her ancestors, and in Aestha, the pride and joy of her Namieé, steal the children from small villages and force them to work in the diamond mines. Tiny, dirty fingers helped create the jewels in tiara and it constantly pains Ana to be reminded of the lost and forgotten souls who are used and abused for luxuries that they will never own. No, Ana would flee to Rijoku–an archipelago consisting of small, rumored islands where the trees are tall and bear golden fruit and beaches with sand that twinkles like starlight. The people there were lovely with deep bronze skin and enigmatic eyes. Kindness was law and all types of violence and war were non-existence.

It almost sounds fantastical to Ana–a concept that is impossible for her who has only seen the festering wound of deceit and avarice grow with vengeance. But unfortunately for Ana, djinn do not exist and Olliah must love to watch her suffer because a Princess like Ana will never have a choice as her tiara continuously sits formally on her head.

“Ana, what do you need?” the Queen says, a thread of impatience in her voice.

Ana cannot hold back her hesitation any longer; the tone in Suzette’s voice had grated at Ana’s finely tucked away nerves until only steely resolve remained.

“Oh, nothing of grave importance Namieé. Though I must inquiry, how do you feel about the color of my dress?”

Oblivious to the menace in her daughter’s eyes, Suzette replies nonchalantly, gracelessly gesturing to her form with a flick of her wrist, “It is a charming blue–it will look lovely with your dark hair, snow cub.”

Ana reaches down and takes a handful of the midnight blue material pooled at her feet. “You mean this shade of blue? Don’t you think it too dark?” Though Ana smiles, one would have been blind to not see the lethal fury blazing within her brown eyes.

The seamstresses gasp as their mannequin becomes mobile. “Princess, don’t wrinkle the fabric!” Both Queen Suzette and Ana ignore their hysterics.

“Too dark?” As if sensing the rising tension flowing freely from Ana, Ringa lifts her head from Queen Suzette’s lap and glares at Ana.

Yi yi, Namieé! Too dark–not like ice blue, which would look even better on me, right?”

Without any warning, Queen Suzette springs off the plush settee, startling the glowering Ringa as she yips as she tumbles to the floor. As the small dog looks up with a wounded look as she ambles back to the adjoining room, the foreign Queen of Mycea stares at her daughter as if she has become a stranger. Without saying a word or looking at the seamstress who had paused scolding their princess to gawk at their’ Queen’s show of uncharacteristic behavior, Suzette turns and leaves her only daughter to the wolves–clutching her middle desperately with both pale, trembling hands.

As the rooms becomes stagnant with unsaid declarations and unshed tears, the light from her window becomes dim, leaving only shadows in its wake.

 

As a rule, Ana is normally non-argumentative, forgiving those who have hurt her and refusing to hold on to grudges, but Ana has to ungenerously admit when it comes to her Namieé, she is as stubborn as a mule. Though Ana loves Queen Suzette with every fiber of her being, she refuses to apologize for her behavior!

            The Queen claims that when Ana was a baby, Ana refused to sleep without her favorite purple blanket, fussing and crying until the blanket was returned to her. It was the only time, her Namieé claims, that her Papiee openly showed affection towards his daughter.

Papiee had given the blanket to Ana and had beamed with pleasure, “Not backing down until she gets what she wants, she truly is a de Cliousa.”

“I refuse to apologize!” Ana cries out. Walking over to her vanity, Ana sits at on delicately crafted stool, angrily grabbing for her pearl-handled brush. “I did nothing wrong! She was the one who broke her promise, not me!” Ana shouts to her reflected image in her mirror, brushing her hair with vehement strokes.

Her scalp smarting, Ana continues until the crown of her head begins to protest. Slamming the brush on the surface of the vanity, Ana jumps off the stool in a rush–her anger giving her a reckless energy. Stalking to her bed, Ana sits at the end, her fingers digging and curling into the thick cover–her body still trembling. “She is the one who is making me break my promise–It is not fair…” Ana whispers, tears collecting at the corner of her eyes.

Ana understands that her love for her Namieé will always be eternal, growing even when they quarrel. Frustrating her with her inability and refusal to see the errors of Aestha, her beloved homeland, but even when Ana feels the most animosity towards Suzette, there is such love, deep and glowing, that erases away the fury. Her Namieé, who sang her to sleep as a child in her Northerner, heavily vowelled tongue, the kisses she placed upon Ana’s springy curls, the laughs they shared, the tears they shed as they hugged, the howls of pain as Ana held her Namieé after catching her as she fell from under the King’s fists. Both good and dark memories blend together, more beautiful and vivid than the other. Even when she will be thousands of miles away from her Namieé, a grand, expansive desert between them, she will feel the impact of her Naimee’s indomitable love.

But even with this overflowing well of love for, Ana cannot help but be stung by Suzette’s betrayal.

Hearing a soft knock, Ana’s head whips to the door, her fingers gripping her bedcover tighter. Not needing mystical powers to know whom stands behind her bedroom door, Ana sighs, “Yi, Namieé?”

“Ana–snow cub, may I enter?” Not waiting for a response, Ringa pushes her tiny, boxy head through the parted door. The small dog ignores Ana as she launches herself on her favorite chaise in the corner of Ana’s room and makes herself comfortable as she settles herself.

Smiling ironically and silently cursing Olliah for burdening her with a dog with too much personality, Ana unfurls the death grip on her comforter as she sighs, “Yi, come in Namieé.

Queen Suzette enters the room with all grace, her perfume a familiar scent of delicate vanilla and crushed ice. Having changed into her evening gown, the slimming plum purple dress sweeps the floor, the collected fabric bunched elegantly at her shoulder, and the hem swishing with each of her light, measured steps in her matching purple slippers.

As if preparing for a battle, Queen Suzette does not approach her daughter, instead, taking in her daughter’s features and measures the depths of her visible ire.        Stopping a few feet from Ana, Suzette rests her hands on her hips as she announces, “I know why you were so angry with me earlier, but I cannot apologize.”

Refusing to look at her Namieé, who stands so graceful and unruffled, Ana releases the death grip on her bed covers and places her hands in her lap. Looking down at her intertwined fingers, Ana responds with indignation, “Cannot or will not?”

The sharp tang of anger races through Ana, but in contrast to her Naimee’s cool exterior, she feels childish–which in turn, angers her more.

Queen Suzette does not rise to the bait, her voice calm and smooth as she responds to her pouting daughter, “Cannot, snow cub. I am not only telling you this as your Namieé but as a wife.”

Snapping her head up and finally meeting the Queen’s eyes, Ana voices her confusion, “What do you mean? Why must you separate the two?”

Uncertain why Suzette mentions the two titles as if they are entirely different instead of similar, Ana believes that both titles are equated with selflessness and caregiving. To be a mother was to also be wife, unless you were one of those illicit girls who did not possess any morals–a princess like Ana is suppose to be unaware of.

Ana considers herself mature but as her Namieé continues, she realizes she has much to learn about how to be a woman. Being a woman does not solely mean conserving your beauty and successfully appealing to her suitors, but to possess an inner strength that can outstand any level of pain.

“When a woman marries a man, she is giving herself to him, becoming his property in a sense. No longer a girl dependent on her Papiee, she must place all her energy and desires towards her husband and fulfilling her role as wife.”

Though the upcoming events have been constantly on her mind, Ana is struck again with the realization that she will soon be married to a stranger, a man who has a reputation for cruelty. Losing her attitude, Ana collects all her energy as she forces herself not to cry. Her eyes aching as she forces back the tears, Ana blinks, her hands now shaking and her chest beginning to tighten, Ana whines, “Namieé, I do not want to hear this–I hear this plenty enough from Papiee.”

Ana’s vision becomes to dim from her peripherals as panic begins to settle within her.

Ana suddenly jumps as her Naimee’s form comes into her vision. Taking her hands into her pale ones, Suzette leans down to press a gentle kiss on the back of her hand before gripping it tight in her grasp.

“No, Ana it is not enough. You do not truly understand.” As if to make emphasis, Queen Suzette sits next to Ana on her bed, releasing Ana’s hands to shake her shoulders. “It is breaking my heart snow cub but you are too unique, too vibrant–like a butterfly. One touch to your wings could send you plummeting to the earth.”

Turning her cheek into her Naimee’s chest, Ana feels as if she lost a battle she was unaware of starting. The image of a bright-winged butterfly, untouched by the cruelties of man, the terribly beautiful image haunting her as she imagines it spiraling down, its shrill screams silenced without plausible reasoning.

Deeming herself defeated, Ana whispers, “Why are you saying that like being those things are a deaths sentence?”

“Because it is Ana. I worry about you…especially with your upcoming wedding. I use to be like you my snow cub, full of life, independent, intelligent, beautiful– but a woman cannot be those things when she is married, her husband and her children are before her–and she remains form the sidelines, until she dies.” Suzette wraps her right hand around her daughter as she returns the embrace, brushing Ana’s curly hair with the other.

The calming and repetitive gesture should have been relaxing for Ana, as it had been when she was young girl. But with the finality and doom heavily evident in her Naimee’s tone, Ana’s body refuses to unclench from its tense position.

Namieé, I don’t want this. I never wanted this. Please… I cannot. I refuse to do it–” Such hopelessness shadows Ana’s words until they are almost muffled with tears that threaten to spill.

“I wish I could have saved you from this fate. But I will pray to Olliah–”

With the mentioning of the Aesthan god, Ana springs up with a newfound spout of rage. “What could your God possibly do for me Namieé? How can He prevent my marriage with the War–” the title is stuck on her tongue. If Ana were to say his name, it would finalize it–finalize her defeat.

“Your God has done nothing, Namieé!” Ana continues, “How can you still have faith when you have gone through so much in your life? Papiee beats you Namieé! Olliah has idly watched by and will always do so!”

Her breath loud in the quiet aftermath of her outburst, Ana looks to her Queen to repel her words, add to the thunderstorm of her fury. But when Queen Suzette does respond, it lacks the zealous fire Ana expected. A true snow cat, fierce and ferocious with a power that causes the strongest of men to tremble, the Queen is undeniable force that can crush her many enemies under the swift strike of claws and sharp teeth.

Ana has vivid memories of her Namieé praying to Olliah each night, her bent form whispering, and the lit vanilla candles making naimee’s white hair orange. Queen Suzette is a devout and will not hesitate to educate an “ignorant Mycean” of the righteous ways of her god.

But at this moment, Ana is struck in awe as her Namieé does not respond with rage to the direct blasphemy spoken about her god but instead, take her daughter’s hands again as she continues as if the words were never uttered.

“When I was first brought to your Papiee, I was excited.

I had heard rumors of the King of Mycea being fierce and wise and the opportunity to explore the jewel of the Four Kingdoms drew me like a moth to a flame. I was treated with adoration in Aestha, my parents were loving, the people adored me for my perfect Aesthan beauty and obstinate wildness, and my brother Bror was my everything. We used to climb and practice fighting together–it frustrated him to no end that I was the better fighter. But with all my talents and charisma, I was a fool; believing that there were was a place far better than the wealth of Aestha.

“You are well-versed in the tale I told you about me being forced to marry to your Papiee, but that is a lie–a lie that I have even convinced myself at most times. I wanted to get away to experience more than snow and ice. I dreaded living a life dressed in nothing but finery and trunks filled with diamonds–so I went to Mycea–which also helped ease the tension between the two countries.

“I foolishly belived I could handle any challenge that was thrown my way but I did not think that my downfall would be your Papiee. After dealing with my brother Bror as I defeated him in mock battles, I considered that I could fight off any unwarranted advances by the new King of Mycea. But it did not take long to realize the King was a monster I could not hope to defeat.

On our wedding night, he forced himself on me. Blood had coated my thighs and I could not walk properly for a week without help. My parts were too sore from his brutal taking. When he tired from taking me, he would strike me, laughing at how I cowered underneath him and mocked my attempts at fighting back.

I naively believed that he changed when I became pregnant. He used to treat me like glass in front of the Court as he showed me off like a prize.

But I was wrong.

I cannot count how many daughters and sons I have lost–each time I believed things would get better, his words would gentle and his eyes were fierce with a protectiveness that drew me in. It would start off slow; mocking words, pinching my forearms, slapping me, kicking my head­–

“There were rumors at the Court that I was infertile, that there something was wrong with my womb. I wanted to scream at them, plead for them to understand that he was the one killing my cubs, but I knew deep in my heart that they would not listen.

They always said not to look–when it happened–but I did every time… their tiny, precious faces, all of them etched deeply, individually on my soul…”

The Queen looks away, composing herself.

Tears finally fall from Suzette’s clear blue eyes as she continues, “I am ashamed to admit this, my Ana, but I once tried to kill myself. The King had beaten me until I coughed blood, my head ached, and my eyes were too bruised to open fully. Because I fought back and bit his palm, he refused me the physician to look over my wounds. Broken on the floor, there had been a calmness within that scared me. There was no pain, only revelation.

“Crawling to Harold’s abandoned trousers, I remembered there was a decorated sword that had been sheathed in his belt. With a newfound energy, I gripped the hilt with all intentions of slitting my throat.

But it was the strangest thing that paused my intentions. It had been a full moon that night, the silvery-white light brilliance in the starkness of the rooms when I heard a voice in my head. I first thought it was a head wound that was causing me to hallucinate but the voice was strong and clear in my head. It told me to stay strong; that he was watching over me and he would in return for my faith, send me my greatest gift. He told me he loved me and he would protect my gift until it was time.

“Nine months later, you, my snow cub were born. I thought my heart had closed off fully, but when I held you in my arms, looked at your darling face–how happy you made me, and the understanding that I would always have you, a person that I could love fully and would love me…How can I ever doubt Olliah when he sent me the best thing in my life?”

Ana does not remember when she began to cry, but it did not matter. Holding Suzette’s formidable form, Ana marvels as her Namieé eventually softens beneath her clinging embrace, her own tears wracking violently through her body, her unbound hair covering their forms like a shield.

A story woven with brilliant threads of nostalgia, woe, and strength, Ana cannot help but hold her Namieé closer as if she alone has the ability to protect her from further harm. After hearing of the levels of hopelessness she faced and the atrocities she experienced from her Papiee, Ana realizes how young and inexperienced she is.

“For Namieé, I will believe,” Ana whispers into the dark. The storm had died out hours ago, but a gust of wind ripples through the night now, beating against her bedroom window.

Ana has many more questions, but for now, she will fortify her fate and hope Olliah will favor her in the trying days to come.

A gnawing ache that feeds on her despondency, the evil thoughts that make her head ache, and the horrible thrum of hopelessness that tests a stolen blade to her wrists marked like a tattoo.

Resting back in her bed, Ana closes her eyes as the crushing, monsterish weight of loneliness rears its head once more threatening to eat her from the inside out. It is forever the silent, unforgiving night that reminds her of her irrelevancy. Another pretty doll dressed in finery with an enviable smile that blinds as it entices; a game that teaches her to be a black widow spider that tangles herself in her own web.

Her hands shaky, Ana shuts out the multitude of voices that slam her:

“Don’t do it, this is wrong. You are better than this.”

“You are nothing; you do not deserve love.”

“You are just doing this for attention.”

“Worthless.”

“Whore.”

“Ugly.”

Ana opens her eyes. Staring blankly at the ceiling, her hand sneaks underneath the mattress, her fingers finding purchase as she digs into the hidden hole on the side.          Cold metal meets her shaky fingers. Gripping the blade, Ana rises into a sitting position, eyes intent and lifeless as one of the corpses she had seen been dragged off the battlefield, their bodies in large mounds stinking with maggots feeding on the soft parts– eyes and lips.

The blade runs clean across her flesh, dripping warm, sticky blood. Crimson staining her skin, Ana allows the hot tears to spend as the knife cuts deeper.

The pains stings, of course yet, Ana continues on.

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