This is a total piece of crack/fluff that I think about once in awhile. Written on napkins and pieces of paper to finally be compiled. It is fully written but awaits interest. Kudos to those who can pick out the random Cinderella movie (all versions) lines. Thanks Aereal for the title!
Setting: Between Green Rider and First Rider's Call
Synopsis: Karigan G'ladheon answered her call with little fanfare or trouble, for Mornhavon had already been permanently vanquished, as had his servants. The King's brother failed in his attempt at a coup and was killed in the skirmish between his supporters and the King's Weapons, before she was ever chosen.
King Zachary now faces the pressure of producing an heir and choosing his bride from the daughters of his noble lords. Completely disinterested in the simpering ladies of court, he announces that all eligible young women shall be invited to a masquerade ball, at which he will choose his bride from among the ladies present.
Three months after Kargian's training officially completed, she now returns home on an extended leave.
The reigning monarch of Sacoridia, King Zachary Hillander, eyed the pile of invitations with distaste and apprehension. His Rider Captain Laren Mapstone snorted at her King's helpless expression and drawled, "It was your suggestion, and we are only talking maybe four, five hundred at the most. And given you chose a coastal city as a destination, this will limit the number of guests willing to travel."
Zachary turned his amber eyes on her and widened his gaze comically, "I was just trying to put the others off, besides, is it such a foreign notion that I would like to have affection for my bride rather than pick a woman at random?"
Laren pretended to think for a moment then nodded emphatically, "Yes, for you it is. This woman will not only be your wife but a Queen, a figurehead. Do you think that any common girl off the street would have what it takes to be in a position of responsibility?"
He arched a brow, "You think very meanly of yourself Laren, if you think you are just a common girl off the street."
Laren rolled her eyes and threw up her hands, "You know very well what I mean. What are your chances that you'll find a woman with all the requirements of the station, coupled with your own personal wishes?"
"My chances are utterly slim," he responded cheerfully, nodding at his secretary to take the basket of invitations off to be distributed amongst Laren's Riders. "But it is a risk I am willing to take."
Two Weeks Later
The saddlebags were dropped lazily near the door frame and her dusty boots were tiredly tugged off to be abandoned at the foot of her bed. Her room was as she left it, complete with the collection of birds nests on the cluttered desk, and the smooth river stones that were piled prettily around the fireplace.
Karigan G'ladheon threw herself back onto her small childhood bed and sighed deeply, absently listening to the breeze rustle the starched white curtains of her windows.
Clean sheets and a hot meal. That was all she had thought of for many a long day on the road. The way stations that were scattered along the route to Corsa were utilitarian at best and only offered cold rations. Although she had never fancied herself to be particularly concerned with her appearance, she also conceded to herself that a bath would be extremely welcome.
She threw a hand over her face as the sun began to sit lower in the sky, grimly acknowledging that if she lay there any longer, she would not be getting up for a while.
With a heave, she hauled herself back up to a sitting position, wincing at the protesting muscles in her lower back. Ugh.
Karigan told herself on her good days that she made progress with Drent, the Master at Arms, but when she limped away like a lame horse, she was reminded heavily that she was not longer playing with swords but training to be an effective Rider.
Many days spent in the saddle did nothing to alleviate said aches and pains, and thus she reluctantly found herself reaching for the bell pulley to ask the maid to fill a tub downstairs. Raised in a wealthy household she may have been, but it was no use to her if she became used to being waited on, she groused to herself.
The maid came and went, promising a ready bath within a half hour, leaving Karigan to unpack and strip off her green jacket. It was lucky for her that the spring had chosen to linger a few weeks longer, for if her ride had included the scorching hot temperatures of the summer, she might well have been sporting a terrible sunburn on her fair skinned face as well.
As it were, she knew there were leaves and such lodged in her long brown tresses. Karigan slowly unraveled the thick braid and scrutinized the waves, sighing again when she realized she would have the arduous task of washing her hair. A part of her wished mightily to chop it off at her shoulders and be done with it, but her father's face when he saw her long hair dissuaded her of that notion long ago. A soft wistful quality would come into his eyes as he playfully tugged on her braid, commenting on how much she favored her mother when she wore her hair in such a way.
And for that, she kept her dratted hair long.
Karigan swiped a change of clean clothes from her wardrobe and her brush, and strolled out of her room barefoot down to the large kitchen where her aunts frequently communed. In such a large house, and with a staff that was well used to the ways of the family, the center island of the kitchen sported a variety of stools that currently sat all of Stevic G'ladheon's elder sisters.
Stace G'ladheon leapt up and bustled over to her niece, drawing her into a warm hug, "Karigan, my dear, we are ever so happy that you managed to come home for a visit, and it was a near thing for we were watching the road for days, hoping you would come in a bit sooner."
Karigan shifted her eyes between her other aunts, and the grinning kitchen staff, before settling back on Stace, "I came as soon as I was able, and made good time I think-"
"Yes, yes," Stace said excitedly, "But most importantly, you made it in time for the ball."
Karigan frowned and canted her head, "What ball?"
"The King's masquerade ball, dearest, every household received an invitation for their young ladies to attend," Stace said drawing Karigan back upstairs by the elbow, while gesturing over her shoulder to the staff.
Karigan felt herself hauled back up the stairs to her room where the maids had dragged several trunks into the open space. Feeling a certain amount of dread, she narrowed her eyes at her aunt, "You cannot mean for a King's Rider to go, I'm not one of the ladies of court!"
Stace plopped Karigan down on the bed and hurriedly stripped her protesting niece of her waistcoat and overshirt. Sitting awkwardly with her arms crossed, just in her camisole and trousers, she felt decidedly at a disadvantage until Stace threw a robe for her to cover up.
She glared at her aunt as the older woman waved a hand at her airily, "I recall that it distinctly said all young ladies, not just the noble ones."
Karigan sputtered, "You know that my father would never allow me to go to such an event. He would see it as gallivanting off with the nobles."
Stace shrugged, "So we don't tell him."
Her niece groaned and shook her head, deeply desiring to fall into bed and not wake for several days, "This was not the sort of trip I had planned, Aunt."
Stace lifted open the lid of one of the trunks, drawing forth gossamer gowns of silk and satin with a knowing smirk, "Are you sure that you do not want to experience one night in the court of the King?"
Karigan looked wistfully at the beautiful dresses that belonged to her mother, "I have never even really seen the King and my dancing is atrocious. Besides, I am more likely to spend the evening hiding behind a plant."
Her aunt smiled softly and directed two incoming footman who carried a copper tub to set it before the fireplace, "A lady of fashion does as she wishes, my dear. It is entirely your prerogative to refuse your suitors a dance."
Karigan snorted, "My suitors? Unlikely."
"You are infinitely more beautiful than you think, in more ways than one, and a real gentleman will see you for the lady that you are," Stace insisted.
Karigan offered a tiny smile in gratitude but looked in dismal at the entire household which had seemed to congregate in her bedroom as they had spoken. "I was fully prepared to bathe downstairs, this isn't needed," she protested.
One of the older maids, Erina, shook her head, "No miss, for this, you deserve a proper cleaning and someone to look after your hair."
Karigan lifted a hand weakly to touch her snarled hair, "I haven't said I am going," she said faintly.
Stace opened a small mahogany box in front of her and showed her the contents, giggling in delight at the awe in Karigan's features. "Not even to wear this? Come dear, we have a few hours before you must be on your way."