A companion piece to Late Night Musings. (I will never understand how these figments creep into my mind at the busiest times in my life. :P)
Exploring Kalasin's complex relationship with her father, and coming to terms with being a princess. And of course, Jon x Alanna - because I'm evidently bent on exploring that from every angle. :P
It wasn't snooping. She had only wanted to see what the rooms were like.
She wasn't even going down the corridor of the renovated knight's wing, since those rooms were occupied by knights currently in service to the Realm. She was in the old wing – so seldom used now she knew she wouldn't be in anyone's way. Surely no one could blame her for looking around.
Kalasin of Conte had known for some time she couldn't be a knight, just as she had known she must make a future marriage for the good of Tortall. On certain days, this knowledge still made her bitter, but she was a princess, and she couldn't resent her father for that. Still, it didn't stop her from being curious, much as it didn't stop her from occasionally flirting with the squires and knights who were starting to notice her at banquets and balls. Kalasin knew her father disapproved, but it was harmless.
She peered into musty rooms, barren expect for the requisite bed, desk, and neatly grouped chairs around each hearth – occasionally broken by personal items left by knights who rarely visited. It felt solemn and strangely wistful.
An object hanging over the hearth in one of the rooms caught her attention, and she stepped in for a closer look. It was a coat-of-arms Kalasin knew well; the symbol of the Conte line. Its presence in this humble room surprised her. She explored the room for additional items belonging to her lineage.
Kalasin found herself glancing over her shoulder as she slid opened the desk's drawer. She was uncomfortably aware she might be invading someone's personal space – despite a someone of the past. As a member of the royal family, privacy was rare, and something the princess guarded closely.
The drawer was full of parchment. Pages of spellbooks, a few maps of Tortall's more tumultuous border regions, long scrolls of policies from neighboring countries and even some Bazhir laws. Kalasin moved these items aside, grinning to herself. This person had been a studious bore.
Underneath were loose pages. Some were unfinished letters to names Kalasin recognized – a Lady of Naxen, a Lord Meron. There were a few pages of jotted notes on lock picking (she wondered if this person knew Uncle George's old crowd).
At the bottom of the drawer was a necklace – a small purple crystal pendent on a thin gold chain. A lover's token, she thought with interest. It sat atop a stack of what appeared to be poems. Love poems. Kalasin gave an unladylike snort as she flipped briefly through the stack. She found one titled "The first time I saw you in a dress", another "A night under the stars" (evidently about spending a night in the desert with his lady), and another "Scent of midnight roses". Her knight may have been a scholar, but poet he definitely was not. No wonder he kept these to himself. With a wicked grin, Kalasin dismissed this thought as uncharitable and replaced the parchment.
She saw a connecting door, and knew this must be the room for this knight's chosen squire. She walked over to look inside. While smaller, the room had much the same layout as the others. The only difference was the chest at the foot of the bed. Kalasin went to it and half-heartedly tried the lid, expecting it to be locked. It swung open with the rusty creak of disuse. Peering inside, Kalasin gasped with surprise.
With shaking fingers, she drew out a purple shawl, several pairs of lace stockings, and finally, an intricately embroidered purple dress.
Kalasin sat on the bed, hard, as understanding and shock hit all at once. Outside her immediate family, the one person the princess was most familiar with growing up left no doubt who these items belonged to. Only Lady Alanna, with her famous amethyst eyes, could pull off purple like this.
This must have been Alanna's room, when she was training for knighthood. Kalasin knew her story well. Which meant –
She sprang up involuntarily, staring toward the bigger room. That must have been her father's, when he was still Prince Jonathan of Conte.
She had assumed that the Conte shield had belonged to some distant relative, even though she knew her father was the last knight trained in the family line. It didn't surprise her that she didn't immediately recognize his handwriting, since scribes did most of his writing nowadays, but –
With a gasp, Kalasin understood something else. She walked back to her father's old desk, her breath caught in her throat. She couldn't bring herself to go through the poems again, she felt so guilty, but her hand moved wonderingly over the pages. Her fingers brushed the poems aside, and revealed a drawing she has missed earlier.
She knew her parents had met when her father was just becoming King. And now Kalasin could guess, without having to see the sketch of a much younger Lioness, who Prince Jonathan's leading lady had been.
She knew it had been a different time for her father, and he had been a different person then. During their time as knight and squire, he and Lady Alanna were free of the constraints that being Royalty demanded.
Kalasin was close to Alanna. In fact, it was ironically the legendary lady knight who had supported her the most after she learned she wasn't to enter knighthood training. Her parents had been so upset with each other, that Alanna became the one she turned to for unconditional stability and advice.
While the lady knight had always talked freely about her time as page and squire, she had never mentioned her past lovers (and now Kalasin knew why). And her father had never talked much about his early years as prince. Certainly, she had never suspected this history from the way the King and his Champion interacted.
Although there was one time, Kalasin remembered, when she had been puzzled. She had been looking for her father, and already had one hand on the door of his council chambers, before pausing respectfully, overhearing voices. She was about to turn away, when she realized they were talking about her.
"… You want me to talk to her?" Alanna's familiar voice sounded skeptical.
"She listens to you," he said. Alanna snorted. "Well, more than she listens to me or Thayet, right now," Jonathan amended.
"It won't work," Alanna said flatly. "Kally's young, and she's having fun. She's not leading them on, Jon. Besides, you wouldn't want her attending these functions in a corner the whole evening. You and Gary were always on my case for being antisocial when we were her age."
(Kalasin had blushed, realizing what they were talking about.)
Footsteps. Jonathan was pacing. "I'm worried about her, Alanna."
"Don't be. Remember, you were allowed the freedom you're denying her. She's a smart girl, and she knows what her future holds. She'll choose someone fitting, eventually."
"And waste her time fooling around, meanwhile!"
There was a long pause. "I see," Alanna said shortly. Footsteps again – hers, this time, coming toward the door.
"Wait, Alanna, I didn't mean – " It sounded like he was moving after her. Then silence.
"That's not what I meant, you know it." Jonathan's voice was low. It dropped lower. "I don't want to see her broken, that's all."
The silence that filled the room was loaded and palpable even to Kalasin, still standing outside.
"I know, Jonathan." Alanna's voice was quiet, almost gentle. It was a tone the princess had rarely heard her use.
It was then she came to her senses, and realized she was intruding on a private moment. Kalasin had backed away quickly, and by the time she was in her room, anger at her father had overtaken the query in her mind.
Kalasin recalled the conversation now, standing in her father's old room. She understood the moment had drawn confessions from both of them, as they relived the past.
She picked up the necklace again, examining it. A lover's token, she had thought before. She could see the crystal had once been exquisite – but the multi-faceted surface had been scratched and chipped, as if someone had thrown it repeatedly against a hard surface. Kalasin read in the dull gouge marks how the relationship must have ended, and could guess how much it had cost them.
Neither Alanna nor her father ever approached her about her casual flirtations. Kalasin had assumed the lady knight must have talked him out of it. Now, as she placed the items back in the drawer and slipped out of the room, she thought that perhaps, despite the many things a royal may not do, her father had come to realize there were some things – including love and heartbreak – still worth the experience.
Kalasin smiled at this thought, before softly closing the door on her father's past.
- The End -