This bit’s from Chapter 3. I suppose I should mention that I’m not going to post the whole novel as I do have hopes of shopping it around for agenting/publication at some point. Plus (as is to be expected, given the nature of NaNoWriMo, there’s a lot of suckage that I don’t want others to see until it’s been edited into pure awesome.
Yes. I am a big fan of positive thinking.
Anyway, here it is.
The crowd in the banquet hall seemed to press in around Lyra. At least fifty bodies, most of them unknown to her, many of them shooting her calculating glances and then turning back to their own companions to gossip about the baron’s disappearance with the Lady Aelis.
Lyra knew that in situations like this, more of the blame would fall to her than to the baron. She wasn’t in her own home, after all; most of those around her were the baron’s people and therefore more likely to side with him, simply because he was the known entity. And he was prettier than she was, which galled her to admit; that a man was prettier than she, but by the time she hit twelve, she had reconciled herself to being smart rather than beautiful.
And she wouldn’t call herself plain, even, but put her beside a tall, blond man with the smile of a godling, and– Well. It didn’t take much for people to conclude that the persons involved didn’t exactly fit together.
But he was stupid, so he wouldn’t have been her choice for a husband in the first place.
Lyra sighed and fluffed her hair that immediately returned to its straight state. Creams and hot irons had all proved useless in lending her locks even a hint of curl. Cosmetics that applied smoothly to the skin of other women inexplicably clumped around her eyes, nose, and the corners of her lips. Privately, she simply reconciled herself to the statement artifice does not become her, and tried to embrace her features as they were. Or, failing that, to cultivate her other gifts.
A throat cleared at her side, and she turned, pasting a smile on her face, preparing herself to talk of the weather yet again to some busybody hoping to decipher why Lyra’s husband had disappeared with a woman who was most certainly not his betrothed. She had her phrases all set: “How I love that bracing Yaric wind!” (She’d never been all that adept a liar, but this one was becoming second nature to her.) “Oh, my, the sunsets are breathtaking here, aren’t they?” and of course, “Why, yes, I do find it a bit hot for mid-autumn, but I am sure I will get used to it as time goes by.”
It was the last one she still had trouble with, trying to sound sincere.
But the throat-clearer proved to be not yet another Yaric dignitary, but instead the waiter who had seen her in the kitchens, crying over the cake batter.
A memory she had rather forget. The cry had been necessary, she felt, but to be seen at it–
“Would you care for some wine? From what I’ve seen, you’ve had only a single glass, and that strikes me as far too few for one’s betrothal celebration.”
Despite herself, she chuckled and accepted a glass. “Thank you.”
Her eyes drifted from the server to instead scan over the guests. She was simultaneously pleased and chagrined to realize that she could name at least half of them. Then again, her father had always said she had a mind for such details, and a bent for politics. She was wasted as “just a mayor’s daughter,” he had said.
And now she was to be a baron’s wife. Oh, happy day.
“Kendrick of Pirvalle,” she said for no particular reason. She gestured with her wine glass at a man in a green velvet doublet entirely unsuited for the heat of Yaric. The man had a black goatee and spent far too much time staring at the bosom of his companion, a Mistress Yarksdale of– Damn, what was the hamlet again? She was sure it was a hamlet; nothing so very large or important. “Kendrick evidently lost his first wife in childbirth. Rumor is that he wasn’t very upset, as she was horse-faced and prone to complaining of his gambling. Though if he’s seriously thinking of making a match with Mistress Yarksdale, perhaps someone should warn him she’s an even larger gambler than he.”
Though there was no reason for the waiter to stay near her, he lingered a bit, to Lyra’s surprise.
“Is Pirvalle close to your home, then?” he asked. “For you to know a bit of their personalities, I mean.”
Across the room, over the waiter’s shoulder, Lyra caught her mother glaring at her. She withheld a sigh and noted to herself to be prepared for a lecture about speaking at lengths with the servants. Though in their own home they treated the servants more as friends, Corista felt that such behavior wasn’t at all appropriate for an incumbent baron’s wife.
Well, at least after the wedding, her mother would be back in Briggun, and her husband so occupied with using his fingers and toes to count to twenty, Lyra could arrange things as she liked. She ignored her mother’s baleful stare and returned her attention to the waiter. Dark gray eyes, with flecks of blue in them. Unusual. “No, Pirvalle isn’t particularly close to Briggun. But when the . . . match was put forth, I thought it might do me well to research Yaric’s political dealings.”
The waiter’s eyebrows arched. “Wouldn’t that be difficult to achieve from a distance?” And then, seeming to remember his place, he said, “Forgive me. I shouldn’t ask questions.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” Her gaze slipped away from him again, to note that now she was gaining her own set of stares. Gossip about Edmain with Lady Aelis or gossip about her speaking at length with a servant; she didn’t much care which it was. “My father may have been just the mayor, but he did like to keep in place a system of communication so he could keep abreast of the goings-on around the continent. Couriers, heralds, even just friend and relatives sending letters relating the matters at hand in places they lived or visited. He had a knack for it, I suppose you could say.”
When the silence stretched on too long, Lyra shifted on her feet. Her mother’s glare had turned into a glower, and though she spoke at intervals with guests, Lyra noticed that her conversations led her closer and closer to Lyra’s position. “Pardon me, but I think my mother wants me.” She tipped her wine in his direction. “Thank you for the wine.”
She started to turn away to get her mother’s wrath over and done with, but the waiter caught her arm, though he dropped it immediately. “My apologies.” Though he didn’t sound truly apologetic; more like he simply knew the statement was required of him and so he spoke it. “But you said had. Your father ‘had a knack for it.’ I’m sorry for your loss.” And where the sincerity had been absent from the first, it was present for that.
Lyra’s throat tightened. No, no; she was not going to cry in front of him again, particularly not when her audience had increased tenfold, and particularly not for something that had happened more than five years ago. She would not.
But her “Thank you” sounded choked nonetheless, and she had to admit that her leave-taking was closer to fleeing than a simple departure.
She hated to be undone by kindness.