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--
â€œMostly marble, I think and â€“ ah, there we go.â€
The white stone that they had been staring at vanished as they turned the corner. They were now gazing at a brightly coloured masterpiece. It was a painting of vast proportions and rose from the base of the wall to about a quarter of the way up it, where the stonework became of a different type, and far more ornate. It was a picture of a Goddess â€“ no â€“ a mermaid, with flowing red hair past her waist and an azure tail that somehow glittered with the sunlight. Her pale chest was covered with strings of pearls, more of which mingled with sapphires and rubies behind her. She stood against an indigo and purple background, which was a muted version of Belraina as it might be viewed from the seafront.
â€œThere she is.â€
â€œAriel Capitan. Isnâ€™t she beautiful?â€ Viola said, smiling proudly.
â€œI donâ€™t understand.â€
â€œMother was a model â€“ the best. Then Silvia, thatâ€™s the artist she worked for, got the contract for the Cathedral mural â€“ and then everyone in the city knew about the mermaid.â€ She turned to Helen. â€œYouâ€™re thinking Iâ€™m not beautiful enough to be her daughter.â€
â€œIâ€™m not!" Helen protested, taken aback. "Iâ€™m just trying to believe a real personâ€™s face looks like that.â€ The mural was surreal, supernatural. Whoever had painted it must have been as skilled as Duchess Ariel was beautiful.
â€œShe did. Sheâ€™s a bit older now, of course. Bianca looks like her; Imogen looks like a witch; I look my like my father, I think.â€
"Who are they?" Helen asked, trying to remember if the other names had been mentioned earlier and realising how little she still knew about Viola or her world.
"My sisters," she told her. "My little sisters."
The girls seemed to come from celebrity parentage, and Helen suddenly felt very scrawny in comparison. She had not been lying; Viola was exceptionally pretty. She had a natural, healthy look that probably came from living in a palace and spending her days in the Belrainian sunshine, and her confidence shone through her noble features. It was hard not to feel jealous of her; here, living a carefree life in the glorious summer. But then Helen remembered how her face had darkened when they had seen the Duke â€“ it seemed that nowhere was perfect.
â€œItâ€™s not a very religious image to paint on a Cathedral.â€ She couldnâ€™t see anything now except Ariel the Little Mermaid: the name, the tail, the long red hair. She suppressed her laugh. Disney was probably a little out of Violaâ€™s sphere.
â€œBut it is beautiful,â€ said Viola. â€œThis is Belraina, after all.â€
This was Belraina, after all. After all that had happened, this was a dream come true. A private city all of her own, a little lost capsule of the time that fascinated her so much, long gone days that she could experience at last. Sun and wealth and beauty and freedom. There were no strings for her here, nothing to remind her of Roxy, no homework or chores or bills to pay and quite possibly a new friend to enjoy it with. The anxiety and confusion from earlier faded away to the back of her mind, as did the twinge in her stomach that reminded her she was missing from her own bed and had no way to get back. The frights from the morning, the ghost, the death bell and the Duke, had also passed. It almost didnâ€™t matter what she did with herself here, so far away from the ties of reality. She felt braver than she ever had before.
And if she was finally believing her own dream then so what? If she was losing her sanity then she doubted very much it would matter in Belraina: two ruling families, a tower keeper never seen, a bell to ring for your own execution and superficiality like nothing she had ever encountered before: it was simply a beautiful place, where they lived lives gleaming like the twenty year old paint, looking as fresh as the day it was painted: a deceptive place, quite possibly a treacherous place. Yes, there was no sanity to lose. They were all mad here.