When I was a girl, I wanted to be a dancer. My parent’s indulged me because I was their youngest and most precious daughter and so they arranged for a dance tutor to come to the great hall where we lived and teach me to dance. I loved ballet. I was graceful as a swan, my father the Duke of Dekoor said. I was a lithe as a feather, my mother the Duchess said. I danced every moment that I could, gliding across the floor, leaping into the arms of my tutor and soaring to the heavens on my toes until the day I broke my foot. After that my toe shoes were useless and my dancing ended. I was fifteen.
I had no use for schooling. I could read and write Mishnese well enough. I had learned the history of Rehnor and Rozari and could recite it well enough. I could do sums in my head enough to play cards with my sisters and I could sing and play piano passably well. I couldn’t sew. I had never the patience to make tiny stitches. So there I was at fifteen, unable to dance with nothing more to learn in this world. I had only to wait to be matched to a sufficiently bred man which as the daughter of a duke meant only a son of a duke or prince. Even the son of an earl was not good enough for me. The problem was there were precious few men of high breeding remaining in Mishnah and Saint knows though Karupatani was teeming with princes and chiefs, no good Mishnese girl would ever willingly be wed to one of them. On top of that, I was the fourth in the line of Dekoor’s daughters and so three dukes must be found first to accommodate my sisters. There was one prince in our realm, our Crown Prince Yokaa Kalila who at the age of thirty-two, still had not found a bride. He was our cousin, through my father, three times removed and the only child of our king who had accumulated four wives before he managed to beget a son. As you can imagine, Yokaa was a hot commodity.
During the summer of my fifteenth year as I mourned the loss of my toe shoes, the Crown Prince was invited to our estate to celebrate the solstice. Ideally, he was to meet and be enchanted by my eldest sister Dora and if she were not enchanting enough, Luka and then Nisa were to have a go at it. Never in a million years would anyone imagine that I, Moira, the youngest of the lot, short and skinny with the figure of a boy would even begin to attract the middle aged Crown Prince. He found me diverting though. That was his word. My sisters bored him with their fawning and quest for court gossip but I was fresh and diverting with my silly childish ways. Though I could no longer leap and dance, I could run and run I did whenever he saw me. Hence, he gave chase. He spent a week at our estate and chased me through the hallways, the gardens, the maze, the forest, and the valley. When he caught up with me, when he found me hiding beneath a shrub or wedged between the garden walls, he would demand a kiss as a reward.
“One kiss, Sir,” I would say and peck him chastely upon his cheek. Sometimes he would reach for me to demand more and once or twice he managed to brush my lips with his own but like a sprite I would spirit away and the chase would begin anew.
At the end of this week, the Crown Prince asked my father, the Duke for my hand in marriage though he was more than twice my age. My father insisted he wait until my sixteenth birthday and in the meantime, I was to move to the Palace of Mishnah where I would begin my training for my position as Crown Princess and future Queen. My sisters’ were insanely jealous but they came to Mishnah with me as my mother insisted they become my attendants. For seven months, I prepared for my wedding and my future duties with a diligence and steadfastness that I had previously reserved for only my dancing. On the day after my sixteenth birthday I became the Crown Princess and my virginity was rewarded to my husband who unbeknownst to me had slept repeatedly with each of my sisters during this time.
“Get used to it, Moira,” my mother snapped when I wept to her upon discovering this news. It was my sister Nisa who bragged about it whilst curtseying to me as she was now required to do. My mother was inordinately pleased by my match and further still by my sister Luka who had quickly become my husband’s favorite concubine. She would find no fault for his sins but rather blamed me for my innocence. “Your son will be the next king and that is who you must love without fail,” she said as if my husband’s affections were of no consequence.
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