One of Thousands
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Kirkwall/The Free Marches
Current Game: Dragon Age II
Chapter Two: An Aggressive Gambit
ALAS! THE ARGUMENTS BETWEEN myself and Auldric have grown more and more intense as Elise’s wedding approaches. It is in three days’ time, and as my sister talks and dreams about it, my stepfather talks and dreams about marrying me. Of course, he never will, but that doesn’t stop him from fantasizing. He believes that if he keeps talking to me, trying to convince me of the “reasonable” and “proper” path to take, then my heart will soften and I’ll accept his proposal. I myself know that’s not true, because even though he’s patient and calm in the beginning, at the end of these arguments, it’s always a shouting match! He’s angry with me because I keep standing my ground. I’m angry with him because he’s repulsive and won’t give up the idea of taking me as his wife. It’s a complete stalemate…
Within the newly-gilded prison walls of our home, everyone is on edge! Capucine is frantic because she must make copious alterations to Elise’s gown. The ornate bodice has been found to be too loose, because my sister…well, Capucine says that Elise has only “grapes up there, when she should have apples!” Unfortunately, I’m the one with the “apples”, and I’m not the one getting married! In fact, mine are more the size of ripening cantaloupes…Ah, well. The bodice won’t look too awkward if it gets taken in, even rather significantly. It will still be more splendid than the bodice of any other dresses Elise has worn. This is her wedding, after all. A bride deserves to look like a queen, or a goddess of myth and legend!
Caroline is also worried, but solely on my account. Since she's usually the one who serves at table, she is usually the one who witnesses these loud skirmishes between me and Auldric. Of course she's on my side, but since she's a servant, she must keep her peace. Sometimes our dishes rattle and our pewter mugs mysteriously spill their contents, but poor Caroline takes it all with good grace. She simply wipes up the messes and spills, carrying on with her work as if nothing had happened. I can't imagine what it must be like to be in her position: yearning, almost dying to say something, but having to hold your tongue because it's not your place to speak! It's ridiculous, these social customs of ours. People are people. We never used to have servants, back when Father was alive. Not only were we too poor to afford them, but Father didn't see the sense in paying someone to wait on him—and us!--when we could very well fetch our own food. All that changed after my stepfather came, or I should say after Goldie came. Because of that donkey and her wretched golden waste, our household has become one dedicated to loving Money instead of loving God and man.
I'm guilty of it, too. I hate to think of what would happen to us if we gave Goldie up, or if she suddenly died. I'm too fond of Caroline and Capucine, and of the luxuries—such as pewter dishes and silk garments—that we never used to have before. I cannot say that I would surrender it all in a heartbeat and give Goldie to someone else even poorer than we were, or otherwise refuse to eat anything but stale bread right off of a splintered table. That's what we used to do, and I won't go back to those lean, hungry, miserable days!
Speaking of which, my stepfather almost splintered the table while we were at dinner...
“I have you now, Remy!” he shouted, slamming his meaty fist onto its oaken surface. I jumped a mile out of my chair, but Auldric seemed not to care that he'd startled me so! “I now have a reason why you can't say you won't marry me because I'm your stepfather.”
“How's that?” I burst out laughing. “You are my stepfather, you old fool!”
He shook his finger at me. “Not by the laws of this land. Remember when I married your mother? You, unlike your obedient sister, refused to take my last name of le Fou and become my legally-adopted daughter! What say you to that, hmm? You're not related to me, either through blood or marriage, and thus your argument with me is now void!”
My face blanched as white as the winter snow. When I finally managed to speak, bowing my head and trying not to cry in front of Elise, Auldric and Caroline, I said, “No, it isn't.”
“Fichu!” My stepfather swore. “Can't you admit when you're beaten? You always take your losses at l'echecs humbly enough! I've outwitted you, and you don't have a ready retort.”
After several seconds, I slowly smiled. I'd just come up with a brilliant idea...
“Very well,” I said. “I concede defeat. I will marry you under three conditions, Auldric.”
“Remy!” Elise was completely outraged. Just wait until she heard my plan!
Auldric folded his hands and leaned forward, looking like a shrewd merchant. “Name them.”
I ticked them off on my long, slender fingers. “One: You must capture the sun itself, le soleil, and fashion it into a ring for our engagement. Two: You must catch falling stars in a net and have a bridal veil sewn for me with the stars woven into the silk! And, three: I must have a wedding gown made solely out of donkey skins, including Goldie's.” I smiled even wider. “If you truly want me as your wife, then you must be willing to sacrifice everything else, including your new-found wealth.” This was the condition that I knew he wouldn't be able to meet. The other two were jokes, of course, but the third one? It was my “gambit”. I knew Auldric wouldn't give up his “golden goose”--or, in this case, his golden donkey dung!
My stepfather spewed out his ale, spraying me. “Those conditions are ludicrous, Remy!”
“As is your idea of marrying me.” I took up a cloth napkin and dabbed my sticky cheeks.
He stood up from the table. “You're mad!”
“Am I? Then you'll be perfectly happy to wed a sensible woman, who hasn't lost her mind.”
Something in his eyes flashed. “D'accord, ma fille! I agree. I will meet every one of your conditions, girl, and what is more, I will do it before your sister and Daniel are married!”
I shook my head. “You can't be serious. There's no way you'll be able to fulfill them.”
“You watch!” Auldric's face was turning beet-red again, and I couldn't help but giggle. “You watch, and when I present all three gifts to you on Elise's nuptial day, you'll be sorry.”
Elise became livid. “Stepfather! You wouldn't dare!” It was her day, her joy, and her time...
“Blame your sister. She's the one who is being selfish, not I.” He frowned and stormed out.
Now it was my turn to try and comfort Elise. “Sister, dear, ma soeur, I—”
“Silence!” Her face was wet with fresh tears, and she shouted the word in the way of our people. “You and your foolish quarrels, you and your foolish pride! My wedding is ruined!”
I sank down into a chair remaining at the table, with my heart sinking as well. “I'm sorry...”