A City in Dreams
Belraina is a city. A beautiful renaissance city in which two ducal families struggle for power. It is this mist of silver spires and deadly politics that Helen Morning, a 21st Century London teenager, finds herself in, in her dreams and in her pajamas. She is soon caught up in a wave of events she barely understands, torn between her own, mundane world and the friendship, love and danger she finds under the Belrainan sun. --feedback seriously appreciated--
One More Day
It was to Viola's great personal disgust that she so much enjoyed sewing. Surely it was for the mild, witless young women who sat behind curtains all day, or else for the momentous dames with too much flush in their cheeks but not enough sparkle in their eyes. It wasn't for Viola, a veritable firework by her mother's own admission.
Then again, even if her mother was a Duchess, her grandmother had been a seamstress. There was something very tranquil about sewing; it was solitary, calming, methodical -- a much needed tonic for a flighty, explosive spirit. And it was creative too, just like her graphite sketches of the bell tower and the charcoal faces she was in the habit of drawing around the fireplace when she had a moment alone. Creating was beautiful.
Whoever had built Belraina had clearly understood that. Large crystal statues stood in crevices by important buildings and the roofs of the central town were all plated with silver. The streets of the old, inner city shone with the eroding footsteps of years of meandering crowds and out of the middle of the palaces and guilds and Halls of Justice rose the bell tower. Those silver bells that gave the great and glorious city its name tolled for pirate attacks, to warn ships from rocks and, when there was nothing else to do, to give out the time of day. They rang out now, singing ten chimes in their charmingly disconcordant way. "Those silver bells that sound my thoughts, those bells that bring me home." It was a line from a play by Claudio Vesperi, her favourite playwright.
Wordsmiths and stonesmiths. Whatever those first masons had done was part of her blood now; she was the most beautiful word in the world, a Belrainian.
The Belrainian turned away from the view of the city. The window was her favourite part of her room, and it was such a wonderful room as well. All grand candlesticks and tapestry hangings requiring the sort of skill she was sure she'd never be able to match. Match. Make a good match, Viola. Not yet, Papa, just another day. Then stay in the palazzo, Viola. Just one more day, Papa.
Of course she had never been allowed out really; it had been the only major source of contention between Viola and her parents. After all, her mother had grown up in that little red house by the harbour with the fisherman and the seamstress. Her father came from goodness knows where, they never said -- another small contention between the parents and Viola's intense curiosity. The point being, of course, that they had been free to roam the city like nobody's business. It really had been nobody's business. But after the election, anything was everyone's business, and it was shortly after that that Viola had come along. Her parents were loving, they were careful. They were not, however, particularly strict. Half-hearted attempts to keep her safely fixed inside had failed and attempts involving the kidneys at most to push her towards a husband had been abandoned. Ariel and Sebastian Capitan did not push their daughters into marriage as a matter of principle, but they did worry about the foundationless future they had set in store for their girls. Viola and her younger sisters were not very important -- their parents held onto an elected office and so no-one saw a great deal of relevance in their offspring, particularly the female ones. Perhaps they would run for election themselves one day, perhaps not. They were not fixed implements of the state. So people took their eyes off Viola. Never a good idea, was taking your eyes of Viola.
But it was easily done in this dress. The green one, far plainer than anything else in her wardrobe but her favourite by a long way. It was the only garment she still owned that had been made by her grandmother and it was getting a little small now. She picked up a large piece of red cloth from beside her sewing frame. The bright headscarf was one of the first things Viola had made herself; these days she would never embroider red with blue stitching. All the same, she was quite fond of the little blue flowers she had stitched carefully as a ten year-old.
She looped the scarf around her head, arranged her hair beneath it and positioned the edge comfortably around her face. Then she left the room rapidly, looked left and right and made her way along the corridor, down the stairs and into the courtyard, smiling to herself. It was sunny today, Belraina. It was glorious today. One more day, again and again, as ever.
The courtyard was busy for no reason, it always was. There was nothing but sun-kissed paving stones and the blue-grey mermaid fountain and a pillar or two, but always at least a dozen people. She kept her head down and slipped through. Free! For a moment; an afternoon.
It would be fun to go down to the boatyard where they were building a new fleet, but first Viola headed for the harbour. Despite the smell it was her favourite place in the city. There was the row of artisans' stores that always thrilled her, and the view of her grandparents' red house. Her grandmother had passed away two years ago and since then Viola had no idea who owned the house, but it represented for her an unlimited childhood of the sort she had been systematically denied, and that was enough to drag her gaze across the harbour to its door, time and time again.
But this time something else caught her eye. There was a girl standing in the middle of the street, staring dreamily out at the boats. She looked... so odd. The clothes she wore were nothing like Viola's green dress or her regular wardrobe and looked more like men's clothes, except that she had never seen a man dressed like that either. And the stare... almost like she knew exactly what she was doing and yet absolutely nothing at the same time. Viola's intended trip down to the boatyard took second place to her natural curiosity.
"Excuse me," she called, but softly, which for Viola was still rather loud. She didnâ€™t want to draw attention to the two of them and so she moved in closer and pushed the scarf away from her face. "Are you all right there?"