The city smelled of rain; the sight not much better. Regardless, Lellian held the corner of the carriage curtain from the window. When her father droned about proper ladies, she found the rain’s futile attempts at cleansing the city far more entertaining.
“Lellian, dear, are you even listening?” Her father demanded, using the end of his gentleman’s cane to push the curtain from her fingers and back over the window. His suit and top hat were exceptionally elegant, but even his carefully cultured King’s Common failed to hide the lean, harsh man under it all. She recalled the last she spoke street common, staring at that cane.
She sighed. “Yes, father.”
“The man asked after you, my dear. Asked. After you. Why I shall never know. Sit straighter, we’ll be arriving soon and I’ll not have them open that door to see you slouch like some common serving wench. And please, he means to court you. Show the man consideration, his family is very important in Lordaeron.” The carriage pulled to a stop. “And smile.” Her father nearly growl.
“Father, you’ll make her nervous, let her be.” Her brother, Drygen, tossed her an encouraging smile.
“I shall let her be when she wins herself a fine husband.” Her father grumped.
Leli’s return smile faded but she forced it back when the carriage door opened. The valet offered his arm to her. Ladies first. Cattle to the noble waiting inside, her father’s ticket from wealthy merchant to noble circles. The grand building ahead poured music from the doors from over the valet’s shoulder. Her corset pinched and made her light-headed. To her left freedom waited, a shining wet road ending in grass and the sparse wood east of the manor. The looming manor that, for all its size, became a cage, its iron gates ready to close behind her.
“Stop staring like a country peasant,” her father hissed from behind.
She swayed as she stepped down unevenly to the paved road and crumpled, nearly dragging the valet down with her.
Her father and Drygen rushed out behind her, Drygen to help the valet lift her to her feet. She heard the concerned fussing of many and her father scolding the valet. Lellian continued to sway, breath shallow and faint while her brother Drygen helped her to her feet.
“Father, I fear she’s grown faint. Look how pale she is.” He put a hand to her forehead. “She’s feverish.”
Lellian’s eyes fluttered a bit, enough to see her father stiffen under all the eyes on him. She leaned heavily on her brother. Her father squirmed, proper show of concern for his daughter warring with the business he planned to conduct inside.
Drygen started helping her back into the carriage. “All this rain of late has made her ill. She needs to lie down. I shall see her home.”
“Yes, of course. Return when she lies safely in bed and tended.” The note of gratitude in her father’s voice betrayed his true concern. Lost business.
When the carriage began moving again, Lellian peeked, making sure she and Drygen sat alone.
Drygen chuckled. “You can sit up.”
She looked up at him beside her and gave a sheepish smile. “Sorry you’ll miss some of the party.” She sat up to his height. Though he was older, their matching height and stark black hair, even their identical, pale skin made them appear as twins. Rather than Drygen being short, Lellian was tall, yet another thing her father grumped about.
“They can be rather boring anyway.” Drygen shrugged.
“Thanks.” She bumped into him, her mouth quirked up in a playful smile.
He smiled back. “You can’t keep doing that forever though.”
“I know.” The humor faded and she looked away, leaning against him once more.
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