The Great Jest

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Sansa Stark, Jan 31, 2015.

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    King Francoise I of Carnais, blue Masked, porcelain faces in a vast array of saturated hues shot their soulless eyes in his heightened, kingly direction. He gripped the edges of the golden throne in grim anticipation under the weight of their stares with what would follow. Sitting before the court and judging those for their crimes, passing laws and watching whispers tied to the Great Jest was something the young king despised above all else. No doubt there were many in the nest of vipers that would place their fangs to his throat the moment he expressed disinterest in the duties of a ruler, so he intended on playing the role of the benevolent monarch over a chaotic pit of injustice, but for once he was grateful for the custom of the king's golden mask and darkened eyes. They were visible to him, and he was but a shadow among the masses reigning over them all.

    There is not a piece of my body they can see, he continually reminded himself. I am my own. I do not belong to them. It brought Francoise great comfort to know that all who laid eyes on the King of Carnais would be oblivious to the body within, much less the frown that constantly settled on his lips. It would not do for his people to believe he so hated his position. There were many who would kill for the opportunity to shape a great nation such as his.

    I simply wish I had a better nation to shape.

    "Your Most Eminent Grace," came the voice of the King's Herald, a frump man in a harlequin mask standing at the foot of Francoise's great jeweled seat. "I hereby announce the opening of the Drunken Farmer case. When we approached the lecherous man's home on the outskirts, he offered us payment for his debts in the most...bizarre way."

    "Bizarre?"

    "Yes, Majesty. I believe you will see when we bring it forward." The Herald gestured to the throne room's ever-intimidating set of grandiose ruby doors, which swung open on cue, and the figure of a woman was dragged by chains into view. Beautiful blonde locks and blue eyes were covered in the dirt and grime and horrors of her travels, and the court gasped to see a naked face brought so openly before the king's court. Some might consider it an insult.

    Immediately, Francoise leaned forward and his face was smothered in a disgust nobody could see. The Imperial Guards shoved the woman on her knees before the throne of her king. "What is the meaning of this?!"

    "The drunk wished to pay his debts with his daughter, Your Graciousness."

    "And you let him?"

    "Well, I--I--"

    "Enough." The irritation was laced in Francoise's voice. That was the tricky thing about court--expressions could not be read through the masks. It was all in the sounds of one's voice, their body's mannerisms. It made playing the Great Jest that much harder. "Monetary value is what the crown needs, not a girl."

    "We can return her to her father if it please you--"

    "No, don't." He waved a dismissive hand. "It's alright. I could find some use for her, but we will need his money eventually or he can pay his debts with his life." Curiously, the monarch leaned forward on his cushioned throne and examined the girl with eyes she could not see.

    A beauty, he thought against his will. Faces were not beautiful in Carnais--masks were what people fell in love with, but in the case of this farmer's daughter Francoise was quite intrigued. "Do you have any skills, my dear?" he asked, folding his hands in his lap. "We could put you to use here."

    Around him, the court began to buzz.
     
    #1 Sansa Stark, Jan 31, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
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  2. It was a mystery on what to feel first. Outrage at her father's betrayal by giving her off as a form of payment. Embarrassment because what remained of her family had fallen so low. Abandonment, from both mother who fled as soon as her father turned to alcohol and from the father that abused her. Relief because of getting away from such a violent and short-tempered man. Fear...because who knew what awaited her at the Great Jest.

    It was hard to keep her hands from shaking, to school her expression into a neutral one instead of something that showed how truly frightened she was. She had only heard what it was like, within the great and grand hall of the King's palace, and that did enough for her. She had vowed, made a promise to herself, to never do anything that would land her in so much trouble that she would be thrown to the vipers behind masks. Of course, she had a certain envy for those masks. The colours were usually so beautiful and daring, the patterns gorgeous and attention-grabbing. When she was younger and her father was better, he carved her a mask before for her to play in and pretend to be a princess...or at least someone with a better life than she.

    It felt as if she were the criminal and not her father. That she was the one that had drank away all their money, that refused to pay the rent, that broke the law. She was just as much as the victim, perhaps even more, than those she was being given to as a momentary compromise! The chains that bound her hands together were making her wrists sore and the guards either side of her weren't helping matters. Even they had a form of mask on and it was very intimidating. She'd never truly dealt with anyone in masks before. She hid when they came for the farm payment, locking herself up in the stable with the last remaining cart horse they had.

    Her thoughts were scattered as she looked down at herself. She truly was filthy. They had taken her during her morning chores, meaning she had just finished mucking out the stables, milking the cows and collecting the eggs from the few chickens they had. She was the only thing keeping the farm going...now she was being forced from the one place she knew. It didn't stop her from spitting at her father's feet in disguist as she was escorted away. Of course that meant that her father took a swing at her but it was easily deflected away by the one guard.

    Pure conempt. That's all she felt. That's what she decided on. Yes...hatred. For everyone. Her father. Her mother. The Great Jest. The Royals. Even God.

    When the time came for her to be forced to her knees in front of the pit of snakes, Ella trained her gaze onto a barely noticeable crack in the gleaming marble flooring. She was uncomfortably aware of the eyes burning into her, hidden behind a variety of masks, and whispers and murmurings as it was all explained to His Royal Highness. Her body tensed at the sharp tone that came from the direction of the throne and she turned her head away slightly as she swallowed thickly. Only the mention of sending her back made her look up, eyes gleaming with a mixture of hope and anxiety. To go back home would mean no prejudice, but also a furious man who happily took out a lost bet on her. However, that was all forgotten when the King dismissed the idea easily, leaving her stomach twisting painfully. What would they have her do here? She wasn't trained like some of the girls they may already have. Her face momentarily lost colour at the thought of being forced to warm beds of those men within the Great Jest. That would be the ultimate humiliation.

    "Skills...?" Ella repeated eventually after a harsh prod in the back by the guard. Her voice was breathless and slightly airy whilst her eyes lowered from the mask that covered his face, "I am a farm girl, Your Highness. The skills I have developed would not be best suited to your Royal Court. I am able to cook, perhaps not to the standard that you require but I am a fast learner, I had to be." Her gaze briefly flickered back up to him, "I'm a rather good seamstress too, Majesty. I had to patch up plenty of things back home - clothes, blankets, towels...anything."

    It was hard for her to speak over the buzz that had developed after the King's question, but once it was realized she was answering...the noise died down. Gossip, she supposed, the Great Jest seemed notorious for their gossiping.
     
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  3. King Francoise I of Carnais, blue "No skills worth having," spoke the Herald out of turn. "The king does not need peasant girls. It is an insult that your father even sent you."

    "It is," the king interjected, "but not her fault. Look at her, she is terrified." You can see it in her face, he almost said, but that would undoubtedly embarrass her further and cause laughter among the masked nobles bearing smiles none other could see. Baring a naked face before the world was an ultimate act of shame, thus reserved for the poorer classes. Emotions were a weakness in the Great Jest and cost many lives. No, they were better suited to those who would suffer, for suffrage was put to better use upon those who could express it fully.

    At least, that was the common view.

    It had been years since Francoise had seen a human face aside from his own. Many kings went their whole lives seeing none but their faces and those of their wives. The servants who came before them were ordered to wear masks as to not insult the King of Carnais. If all faces look like hers, I should like to see more of them. The thought made him smile the faintest bit, something none would bear witness to, not even in his eyes for they were covered in a think black veil.

    "A king sits between gods and men," that was always the saying. In so-doing, Francoise was obstructed with cloth and gold that made him appear more deity than human being.

    He wondered for a moment if she frightened him, if the surrounding room of masks and laughter with no smiles tortured the bits of her pauper's soul. Francoise knew that he certainly would be frightened if he were in her shoes. Seeing the color of her skin and eyes, her hair, was shocking enough for him. The power of a smile needed to be reevaluated.

    "Cooking and sewing," Francoise said aloud after minutes of thought, pondering his decision. The whispers around him went quiet once more and he knew the nobility were aware of his closeness to reaching a decision. "Kitchen work. I suppose that's fitting. You might find that you like working in the palace more than a farm on the outskirts of...whatever Region you're from."

    The whispers grew so loud it felt like he was being swallowed by the tide. Surely there would be mixed feelings about keeping the girl and bringing her "under his wing" so to speak, but Francoise cared for none of the nobles' antics. The Great Jest could not harm him as he was king and kings were closer to gods than men. Their frustration with him was almost as useless as a paperweight.

    "Will that satisfy you? If not, I have no qualms sending you back to where you came, but only if I receive the money that your father owes me. Should you choose to stay, I'm sure the kitchen staff would be happy to invite another servant into their routine. Might make things easier with the upcoming ball."
     
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  4. "Just as much of an insult as you bringing me to your King. My father may have offered me but you didn't have to drag me from my home, did you?" She inquired in an innocent manner, head turned slightly so she kept both the Royal in her eyesight but also so she was able to see the Herald from the corner of her eye, "Please do not blame my lack of skill on your lack of judgement."

    She knew she could be dead from there on in. That her own out of turn talk could land her in serious trouble. But they spoke as if she was incompetent, both on the way to the King and now before him. Was it their aim to humiliate everyone like her?

    Ella turned her head back, still expecting some form of blow or punishment for her words against the Herald, and watched His Majesty once again, her gaze flickering over the mask that withheld his true identity and features from the world. They must all be rather fickle and shallow, here in this place, she found herself thinking as she attempted to breach the impenetrable shade that was cast over his eyes, refusing her to even glimpse at the colour that they may be. To have to fall in love with a mask.

    She found some amusement in the idea that behind the masks, ugly faces could hide and that a person could truly be stuck forever. It could have been saved by a nice personality, perhaps, but Ella highly doubted any in this snake pit had a nice personality. Their souls would black and shriveled and cold. In their world, of bright lights and power-seekers...love was materialistic and false.

    Marriage was used for personal gain in the sense it would get you to a higher place...not allow you to spend the rest of your life with the one you loved.

    Of course she was aware of the twitters and mouthless laughter that came from the sea of masks at the King's comment about her emotion being written all over her. He may as well as said that itwas all over her face. It was certainly implied. Ella wondered if they were going to humiliate her further, it certainly felt that way. Already an embarrassment in the region village...now an insult to those in court.

    Her eyes flickered wide and she looked up to him again as he named her a job she could take in the castle. It was evident that she wasn't the only one who was surprised. He was actually keeping her on...despite his displeasure in having her instead of the money - at least for now - that was reflected earlier on.

    "It is your decision, Your Highness." Ella eventually answered, brushing some hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear, "But I can assure you that if I have come in the place of the money that is owed to you...then you may not get it any sooner. I will happily work in the kitchens, for both myself and also to try and pay off as much as I can for my father's debt...if that's even possible and allowed by you, Your Majesty."
     
    #4 Viverescribere, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
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  5. King Francoise I of Carnais, blue She is terribly confident in the way that she speaks. Most peasants throw themselves at my feet and beg mercy. I wonder, what makes her so headstrong?

    He placed his hand on the golden chin of his mask, eyeing her in contemplation as she refused to back down a single inch. Such a bullheaded servant could certainly cause problems among the others who worked in the castle, as well as irritate any nobles she might come to serve over her time in his employment, but Francoise was far too intrigued by the girl to send her away for something as insignificant as a defiant attitude. He himself had been caught in little acts of rebellion in the past. He was curious to see where this new path would take her.

    "I will get what is owed to me eventually," he said with a small sigh. "What matters now is how well you do the tasks appointed to you. I look forward to what the next several months has in store for you, and I will be watching with great interest."

    If I offer my acknowledgements, he thought, perhaps the nobility will not involve her in the Great Jest. I shouldn't like to see such a fiery spirit blown out.

    "Remove the chains from her. She is not a slave here." In a wave of his hand, the deed was done and the blonde beauty was freed from her iron bonds. "If she has nothing else to say, take her to the kitchens so she may integrate herself in the atmosphere. As for her father, give him notice that I will allow him sixty days to come up with the money that is owed to me. Should he fail to provide, his farm and lands will be his next gift to me aside from his lovely daughter."

    "As you command, Your Grace."

    A small entourage of palace guards, dressed in masks of ebony, expressions crafted into hardened frowns, took the girl by the arms and walked her away from the throne where King Francoise sat.

    "May God watch over your journeys," he said as obligation called.

    "Bring in the next one."
     
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  6. It wasn't that Ella wasn't used to a busy and bustling life, with orders being thrown at her and demands having to be met, she had to deal with that sort of situation at the farm. It was just...strange to not have to worry about being pushed around if she failed to reach the targets or chores that were set for her that day. Without her father's looming and threatening shadow, she felt like it was easier to breath, easier to blossom and bloom. She found that she actually rather enjoyed her time in the kitchen, keeping her head down and getting on with her work, finding that she was soon actually talking to the other servants that she was stationed with.


    She still had to gain one of those plain masks that she had noted the castle staff wore when taking food out to the Royals or when they were to go and tend to their Mistresses or Masters. Her lack of mask meant that she was in the kitchen all day, every day, working with the cook and assisting him with his morning, afternoon and evening demands for food. Of course there would also be impatient requests for afternoon tea or just the odd snack. Ella found herself with a cuff around the back of her head after going off in a daze at the smell of rich, melted chocolate, the glaze of which being drizzled over the ripest and most scarlet coloured strawberries that she had ever seen.

    How could she have lived on the farm without ever tasting some of the delicacies that they had in this magnificent building? It should be a crime to never have the sour tang of pineapple on your tongue or the crisp wateriness from a fresh - fresh - lettuce to listen to as you crunch off a bite. Not a single slug, snail or spider in sight. No holes or maggots or ants. All fresh and just...perfect.

    Of course some of these experiences came from the food that was left over on the plates that returned to the kitchens. That was another thing that found irritated Ella beyond measure. The wasteful nature of the Great Jest and their 'beloved' Royals. How could they be so greedy? All this food, enough for them to fill their bellies and more...whilst people below them - people like her before she came here - were starving and even being put to death because their instinctive desperation and drive to survive led them to steal.

    A few weeks passed like this, then soon two months and not a single peep was heard about what they may do about her father. She knew that he had just over four days left to get the money in, if he had not done so already...and she didn't know if she ought to hope that he managed to find the money to keep the farm...or if her hope was misdirected and it was just a passion to see him live on the streets like the foul vermin that he was.

    "Lynn! You're needed. Morning breakfast, take it to Lady Cassandra. Chop, chop now!" The cook directed her, tone firm and sharp, walking past her and giving her a slap to the rear.

    She closed her eyes briefly, taking in a deep breath and shook herself off. Those sort of actions had been occurring perhaps two weeks into her time in the kitchens, like her father's abuse, she merely learned to ignore it and continue. Luckily he had only done inappropriate comments and actions such as touching her rear, a closeness at times where he was almost fully pressed against her, whispering into her ear and a grazing or wandering of hands along her hips or shoulders.

    Once she had washed the sticky dough that she had been kneading from her hands and forearms, she collected her mask to settle over her features. Ella had gotten used to the stuffiness of the item, wondering just how the Great Jest managed to stay in the damn things for so long. Eventually she picked up the tray, setting up to carry how she was taught, and finally made her way up to Lady Cassandra's chambers.

    It was the first time she would be serving food to one of the constant guests within the castle, having done passer's-by and those who had stayed for a week at the most, but never one of those who lived in the palace. Usually that was someone else's job but she didn't bother asking why she was suddenly 'promoted', just wanting to get the job done so she could continue with her long list of chores.
     
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  7. Lady Cassandra of Region Brightwall, lightskyblue "Come on, little ones! Chop chop!" The noblewoman clapped her hands together in several loud smacks, and almost on cue the children at her beck and call skittered off, afraid of her wrath. "Go on, get back to your little homes! I'll not have you running about my gardens anymore!"

    "But they're the king's gardens, Lady Cassandra!" retorted one of the smaller children, and she could hear the pout in his voice. "You can't say they're your gardens when they're--"

    "Oh, enough. I'm far too tired to argue with you little fools. I'm to have tea with Lord Beaumont this afternoon, I will not have you brats messing it up!" The woman put her hands on her hips. "Now, you can be annoying out here after my outing with the lord. But for now, go back to your mothers and fathers, and you can tell them that I thought you were not behaving like the good little noblechildren I know you to be."

    "...yes, Lady Cassandra." The small group of younglings hung their heads and accepted her words before making their way off to report the news. Cassandra sighed, a bit overwhelmed at the responsibility of having to corral children that weren't her own, but the frustration faded easily enough after she was allowed a moment of space.

    They really are adorable. Perhaps I was too hard on them. Her unfamiliarity with the younger generation was a perplexing one, but she pushed the thought from her mind. Lord Beaumont should be my focus today.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the figure of a servant move towards the little table prepared by the pond. "Oh, good. I was wondering when you'd get here. Set those up about the table in a nice fashion, I want to be impressionable for the..."

    Suddenly, her voice trailed off. She pointed to the young maid with an invisible smile.

    "Oo! You're the girl, the servant girl! The one the king likes! Ooo, goodness, you're so pretty! Sit, sit! Let's be friends!" Cassandra took the girl by the hand and pulled her into one of the seats at the teatable, placing herself in the other. "Oh my goodness, I've been waiting for so long to finally meet you. Tell me, what is it like to work in the kitchens? Is it really the king sending you all those little gifts? God, it's all the Great Jest is buzzing about these days! Spill, girl, spill! You can trust me, I most definitely promise."
     
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  8. It was a stupidly hopeful wish that she would be able to make it into the gardens with the food, set it up presentably and leave without much fuss from the woman whom she was serving. A want that she knew would never be possible to achieve. She attempted to keep her features hidden behind her hair, nodding along to the woman's words as she set the tray down upon the table and began to take the items from it. It was one of those meals where she had to be careful not to drool all over.


    Fresh scones with raisins, rich strawberry and raspberry and blackcurrant jam with perfect looking cream and smooth butter taking up one part of the tray. On the other side was an arrangement of miniature sandwiches and cakes, all balancing on a three tiered cake stand. A pot of steaming tea in the finest of china - as requested - stood at the helm of the tray, accompanied by two matching cups, a pouring pot of milk and a little bowl of sugar. Sometimes, back at the farm, she'd be able to bargain her way into some sugar cubes...she'd never give any to her father but head down to the stables to feed them to the cart horse. Perhaps...she may have eaten one herself, her eyes closing in delight as the sweetness exploded in her mouth.

    But that was in the past.

    However...she had been getting more than the odd and rare moment of hope. Little parcels, gifts she could dare to call them maybe, had been on her bed after a long day or even when she woke first thing in the mornings. They would change on a daily basis from the softest of dresses to the most delicious looking of food. At first she thought it was the cook, finally trying to be a gentleman instead of some perverted git - excuse her choice of wording - by giving her a package of a scone with jam and cream, or a few cut squares of pineapple, or even some sweets that she would never have been able to afford herself. But when the first dress came...she knew that it wasn't the cook. The material was gentle to her skin, not slightly coarse as the servants clothing was. Then there was also a mask. Why would the cook by her a mask? Servants weren't allowed to...unless they were plain and simple. This one had the faintest of markings that traveled up the side in light swirls of colour.

    To avoid unwanted attention, she had put the gifts back into the boxes and hidden them in a loose floorboard under her bed where none of her fellow workers could find them. Of course, they would see when she first opened the little presents. Their eyes, gleaming with envy, studying the items within the packaging before they scoffed and walked away to begin their chores or get ready for bed. It didn't stop them from whispering and murmuring as they went about their day and it wouldn't surprise her if the Great Jest did hear eventually of this secret sender.

    Of course the thought of selling these items crossed her mind...she didn't dare wear them, in fear of what others may think - they may think she had stolen them, if they were the Royals or from the Jest, and it also wouldn't surprise her if some around her even dared to think that it was a form of payment for other services. Besides...the money of which could go toward the payment of the farm...but how could she trust her father to use the money on rent...and not alcohol?

    So naturally, with that thought in mind, she was soon over the surprise that occurred when Lady Cassandra pulled her into the nearest seat and began to talk.

    "Friends, m'Lady?" Ella repeated, a soft furrow to her brow at the thought, "I highly doubt that is acceptable for someone of your power, to be friends with a servant girl. How would that look on you to your peers?" She questioned, it wasn't malicious in anyway but she was merely stating an important question. She wouldn't want to be the reason why this woman, this excitable woman who reminded her at the moment of a hyper puppy, to lose influence.

    Her cheeks instantly warmed at the mention of the gifts and she shifted uncomfortably in her chair, "I-I don't know who's sending me the gifts, I receive them, wonder what on earth to do with them and then hide them away. I can't afford to be wondering on who is being kind enough to give them to me. I need to keep up with my work, the thought of who has been sending them hasn't crossed my mind." That was a lie of course. It would be almost inhuman of her to not wonder. Curiosity always usually gets the better of Ella, and this time it burned within her and no answer lay in sight. "The Great Jest believes it to be the king, m'Lady? That's...that's absurd. The king has better things to do and will always have better women to give any gifts of his upon. That has to be the...the most amusing thing I've heard all day."
     
    #8 Viverescribere, Feb 10, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2015
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  9. Lady Cassandra of Region Brightwall, lightskyblue "Oh, trust me. We all thought it was humorous too until we realized it was the truth. The king, smitten with a servant! Wouldn't be the first time mind you, but normally they call the girls into their bedchambers for a night or two instead of showering them with gifts. He is a strange one, our King Francoise."

    Cassandra picked up a grape with a gloved hand and popped it in her mouth. Her face was crowned in a half-mask that nobles were accustomed to wearing during tea and meals, eyes concealed, the only skin shown was the lower half of the face. The lady's lips were painted a bright pink and her chin was chiseled and defined, but the rest of her was secret as shadows, save for a slender neck exposed by the blue and gold of her dress. She clapped her hands together once more in giddy excitement as she examined the face of the young girl, blonde and beautiful as she had been on the first day of her arrival. Cassandra remembered it well.

    "He has been acting strangely, you know. Our king. More strangely than he should be. I think having you around confuses him. He doesn't know what to do with a pretty face. I don't blame him, actually. Kings often go their whole lives only seeing the faces of their wife, and even then that can be incredibly rare..." Cassandra poured her own tea and added sugar, frowning in contemplation. "I think the mask business is dreadful if you ask me. No one is allowed to see an inch of the king except for his wife. No one! How lonely, to have to look at everyone from behind a mask for the entirety of your life. It's little wonder he hasn't found a proper bride yet.

    "Oh, but that reminds me. I want to ask you something, now that I've met you. Come, come. Take my hands. Don't be shy." Cassandra offered her silken hands forward and took the servant's in hers, unable to feel the roughness of her skin through the fabric. Her lips frowned and what could be seen of her chocolate brown eyes grew saddened immensely.

    "The Jest thinks you are a threat, my dear. Listen, listen. They see the way the King acts around you and they want you gone in fear that he might...well. That your presence might complicate the delicate balance of royal-to-noble relations. I have a great standing with the Jest, but I share none of it's values...oh, but why would you trust me? You have no reason to." Cassandra dropped Ella's hands and took a sip of her tea. "I suppose I always thought I'd go about this proposal a smarter way, yet here you are, and you surprised me. Now I've no idea what to say! Shame on you, for coming up to me so out of the blue like that." She chuckled and looked away pensively.

    "Though, if perhaps I have not frightened you and you'd be interested in being my handmaiden..."
     
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  10. "Lady Cassandra, I truly think you are mistaken." Ella immediately tried to dampen down the wildest possibility, still not able to accept the fact that it was the truth, "I-I highly doubt that the king is 'smitten' with me. I'm sure he has many admirers that would be more than happy to become his queen and bear his heirs for him." What was happening? She was supposed to be a servant in this magnificent palace, not the topic of such idle gossip. Her cheeks warmed considerably at the mere idea of going to any male's bedchambers for a 'night or two' and she shifted uncomfortably within her seat, "Have you considered that he really is doing that? That the gifts sent to me are just a simple distraction for the court? I-I mean, why me? There are plenty of others for him to chase if he so wished."

    She watched the woman as silence fell for a brief moment as her superior indulged herself on some of the food that Ella had brought up for teas. Her gaze flickered over what she was able to see of the woman and then the mask a moment later, hooking some hair behind her ear as she did so. Of course it was slightly unnerving, unable to define what emotion hid behind the mask or just identify the person she was serving. The masks changed on a daily basis. Even if justice was done for assaults or attacks upon the servants, it would be hard to get any evidence as the mask could easily be destroyed the same day the crime was committed. But that would be an issue if the lower classes were even able to have their time in court and bring those in the Great Jest or upper class to some form of equality.

    Cassandra's next words snapped Ella from her thoughts, causing her to blink and quickly focus back. She stayed silent, as was custom when the superiors she was interacting with were speaking. Her jeweled gaze flickered to the cups of tea as a drink was poured and she swallowed thickly, knowing she'd have to return once this moment was over with a fresh pot before Lady Cassandra's guest arrived. Ella forced her eyes back to the woman before her, allowing her own hands to fall back into her lap and clasp tightly together. It would be safer if she said nothing at this point, even if she agreed with what Cassandra was saying, it would seem bitter...she didn't want to come across as bitter.

    But if the king was acting strangely...what could she mean by that? Surely it wasn't because of her arrival? If that were the case then she wouldn't be very safe from the Great Jest for very long. The thought made her go cold and the light, natural blush to her cheeks drained away. To be thrown to the Great Jest as a server at parties or at gatherings for trials or meetings or announcements...she may as well be served up on a silver platter to a room full of rattled and angry snakes. That is if they all honestly believed that the king was the one sending her gifts. It still made her laugh to think of such a suggestion.

    Her worse fears were confirmed just a second later and for a brief - and stupid - moment, Ella wondered if Lady Cassandra could actually read her mind. "But...but...I don't want to complicate anything! It's not my fault. I was practically sold. I am not a threat! I'm just a servant. I'm just here because my father-" She cut herself off, taking in a few deep but quick breaths to compose herself. How could she lose her control so quickly? In front of a noble no less? She truly was doomed in this life. What had she done her previous one to deserve the situation she was in now?

    "I-I didn't mean to surprise you, m'Lady. I was just here to bring you tea. I-I had no idea that you had something in mind for me." Why was she apologizing for something she had no control over? Why was she- was she laughing? Lady Cassandra was having a good old chuckle. So she was joking. Ella immediately relaxed, a soft redness sweeping over her cheeks and the bridge of her nose as she released a long exhale of relief. Short-lived relief. "Your...your handmaiden, m'Lady? Are...are you sure that is quite wise? I do not know much about being a handmaiden, nor do I wish to start trouble between you and your fellow royals and nobles." Ella responded, still sitting rather stiffly in the chair opposite the other woman. It would be a comfort to know that she may not have to work in the kitchens any longer, put up with the wandering eyes and hands of the cook. Yes, she would still be under the scrutinizing and judging gaze of the girls she shared her room with...but that she could deal with.

    "I don't know what to say, m'Lady...I...I appreciate the offer. Are you sure about this?"
     
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  11. Lady Cassandra of Region Brightwall, lightskyblue The noblewoman gave another little chuckle, light as air and soft as silk. "Sure? Goodness gracious, girl. Of course I am sure. I never say something unless I'm certain about it." She lifted a small cookie to her lips and took a delicate bite, clearly an expert on how to eat and act and speak like a lady. Cassandra did not say another word again until she had swallowed the sweet chocolate, and folded her hands elegantly in her lap.

    "You are no burden, my dear. Unfortunately all the servants and castle staff are a part of the Jest to some degree--men fight over bedding one and wedding the other, women take secret lovers, but most importantly the servants are paid for information. They hear lots of things, you see, and are invaluable to the Great Jest as much as a clock needs its cogs. Your presence has disrupted nothing. Perhaps it poked the hornet's nest, but there is no one that is exempt from having done that one or two times. I simply don't want to see you in a place where you would be vulnerable, and thankfully I had the wits about me to act first. There are some angels like me in the Jest, but very few. Most of us are snakes, child. Remember that."

    I always will.

    The chatty Lady Cassandra stood gracefully from her seat and glided across the elaborate stone floors, picking up a small token from a nearby table and turning it over in her hand. The ore glinted in the sunlight. "Curious," she muttered to herself, her eyes examining Ella from the corner of her mask. "Hm. I think this is appropriate."

    Cassandra crossed the room after her inner pondering and took Ella's hand in hers, opening her palm to place the little coin inside it. The object was made of pure silver, valueless but not meaningless. Both sides stamped with the same identical heads and neither flip of the coin discernible from the other.

    "This is your protection," Cassandra stated. "Should you be approached by anyone else before coming officially into my service, show them this. It means you are sworn to someone, but it is unknown who. Let the Jest figure it out, I care not. Hopefully by the end of the week, you will be all situated in my humble home, and no one else will come bothering you lest they wish to come through me." She beamed from ear to ear, knowing secrets that would unravel any who wished to challenge her claim over the King's interesting prize. "Let's be friends, shall we? Great friends. Oh! But before you go, take this pot of tea back and fill it up. God knows I'm addicted to the stuff. Go on, go! You're still a servant for another few days, don't let me make the act less believable."

    The woman chuckled as she waved Ella away, grinning to herself like a little fool as the blonde was whisked away and out of sight.

    I was born for this.
     
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  12. Another week or so later, Ella found herself tending to Lady Cassandra as her handmaiden. Turning down her beds, bringing her food and whatever she needed, not to mention helping her bathe and dress for mornings, evening events and then bed. It was much better than working down in the kitchens as she was told to by the king in the first place. It...almost felt safer, being under Lady Cassandra's eye most of the time. And the girls that she shared a room with didn't seem like they would dare say anything to her anymore now that another noble had taken an interest in her. But that was also one of the cons of agreeing to work for Lady Cassandra.


    The further gossip.

    Whispers about her only being an interest to Lady Cassandra because she was receiving those gifts from the king. That Lady Cassandra wanted to keep Ella, who she saw as competition for the king's attention, close by. Keep your enemies closer, they always say. It was enough to make Ella laugh whenever she heard of such madness coming from the Great Jest and those servants who were under the protection of the different masked members. How could they be so infantile and air-headed to believe such things? Lady Cassandra hardly seemed like the kind of woman to be as fickle and shallow as that. Or at least that's what Ella hoped.

    She had just returned to Lady Cassandra's bedchambers to fetch a pair of gloves for the woman when she saw the gift box laying on the bed. It made her pause, the delicate bow created from a fair, rose coloured ribbon held the main body of the box and the lid together, the shades of which being a white with the faintest tint of pink to it. Returning to the bed where the box was station, Ella lowered the gloves onto the satin sheets and searched for a name tag. Surely it was Lady Cassandra's, but the question was if she ought to take it down to the noblewoman-

    No. It wasn't addressed or Lady Cassandra

    It was addressed to her.

    I thought the gifts would have stopped by now. She thought, instantly then wondering why she would think such a thing. The presents had never stopped, even when she was under Cassandra's protection. So why was she so surprised to see yet another?

    Because it's on Lady Cassandra's bed. In Lady Cassandra's room. It's not right.

    Ella bit her lower lip, tore between hurrying down to Lady Cassandra to give her the gloves as she was ordered...or to stay and open the box. Curiosity chipped away at her, whittling at her and the voice in the back of her mind teased her with the possibilities of what it could possibly be. Oh she couldn't take it anymore! Ella hurriedly pulled at the bow, careful of the silk ribbon and daintily placed it to one side, her heart pounding with anticipation as her hands rested on the lid of the box. She swallowed thickly, biting the inside of her lip and took a deep breath before slowly pulling it off to reveal what was within. A light gasp escaped her soft lips and her blue eyes widened at what lay inside, carefully protected by tissue the same shade as the outside of the box.

    Oh...it's so beautiful.