Summary: Alanna went to the convent. She can't miraculously fight. She isn't suddenly beautiful, or the realms all-powerful mage. Corus definitely isn't peachy. And Roger?

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to the one and only Tamora Pierce. Hail.

More than Ornaments

Chapter One: Embroidery and Arrivals

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Alanna blushed. "Thayet, you're flattering me. It was easier for me to rebel than stay and make something of myself. Why didn't I go to the convent school and prove ladies are more than ornaments that way?"

Lioness Rampant, Chapter Four, pg. 136

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Alanna stared at the lap of her elegant silk gown, looking frantically for the needle. Where could it have gone? She bit her lip, taking a quick glance around the room to see if anyone had noticed. As quietly as she could, Alanna lifted her embroidery -a flowery handkerchief- and leaned forward in the straight-backed chair, searching the ground to no avail.

'Trebond! What in the mothers name are you doing now?'

Alanna slowly straightened upright, trying (and failing) to regain her steady composure. 'Yes, Sister?'

Sister Martha glared down at the sixteen year old, easily the worst sewer she had ever met. 'Is something the matter, or does the floor suddenly hold more interest to you then your rather inadequate needlework?'

Alanna grinned. Most ladies have a smile; a charming, warm, inviting smile. But Alanna? She was a grinner.

'Sorry Sister.' Alanna bowed her head, fixing a look of concentration back to her face. She picked at a loose thread with her manicured thumb, waiting for Sister Marthas' attention to be drawn elsewhere.

When she felt the Daughters eyes leave her Alanna looked up, sharing a knowing glance with her friend Francesca of Nond. As Martha cast her a last grudging frown before strolling to a group of struggling first-years, Franci tossed Alanna her small supply in a felt wrap. The older girls around them giggled behind a hand, or rolled their eyes. Dani, a plump, simple girl with frizzy brown hair fought to turn her snort into a cough.

It had been difficult for Alanna to settle in when she had first arrived at the convent five years ago. But settle in (and settle down) she had, and the future ladies of Tortall embraced the petit redhead in open arms. Alanna was one of them.

With the Daughter leaving them, the older convent-girls drifted back to their faint chattering. Lady Cythera could hardly sit still in all her excitement- tomorrow they would be leaving to start a new life at the palace.

Yet Alanna couldn't help feeling her stomach sink. She half grinned at the thought- how ironic it was that at eleven years old she had dreaded coming here more than anything, and now she feared leaving. Could she ever be happy?

She couldn't deny that she would be pleased to see Thom, however distant and evasive her twin had become.

Gone were the days where Tortall was held in peaceful rein. Alanna watched behind lowered lashes as her friends eyes frequently drifted to the large windows before them, overlooking the convents gardens; in particular the memorial section set in place right after the late King Roald had passed away the year before, joining his beloved wife in the realms of the Dead.

Prince Jonathan of Conte was officially the heir to Tortalls' throne. Still, a year had passed and his coronation was yet to take place. Commoners protested daily against the young prince's rights to rein, and the nobles divided and argued in fear of a civil war. Duke Roger of Conte travelled through the country drawing in the people's hopes, love, respect and making promises they were too ignorant to realise he would not keep.

There would be war soon, it could not be helped.

Tortall would be divided, torn and ripped apart.

Soon she would have to make a choice.

'And what if,' Alanna thought, not daring to voice her turmoil. 'I choose wrongly?'

And throughout the night Alanna could think of little else. She shut her eyes tight, cursing softly and begging sleep to take her away. But it was no use; she couldn't let the dread brooding in her stomach leave, just as she couldn't bring herself to rest for the third night running. Why was it she felt this way? Thom's letters had become so vague- what was really happening at the palace?

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Early the next morning Alanna woke to thunder crashing through the sky. Rain plummeted down on the old castle's roof and lightning flashed bright in the grey clouds.

Slowly Alanna pulled herself out of bed, her eyes throbbing from lack of sleep. Her feet hit the cold stone floor, sending icy jolts up her legs and Alanna jumped back under the covers.

Before long her maid Elizabeth came in to help her dress. Alanna moaned, but left the warmth of her bed and proceeded to be picked and prodded back into shape.

She thought longingly of the desert she had never visited, and hot summer days that rarely shined in that part of the country.

Elizabeth coughed and Alanna was brought back from her reverie. She wore a warm black frock -it was a week long journey- and her hair was piled in a simple knot at the back of her head.

Elizabeth curtsied. 'You are ready, my lady.'

Alanna frowned. 'Am I?'

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Prince Jonathan of Conte watched the new ladies descend from the carriages, perched in a window seat above the court-yard. Distantly he could hear the rain continuing to beat down on the capital as it had the past few days. Rain, in moderation, was good. However, like so many other things in life, too much could be disastrous.

He sighed at this thought, his eyes stuck on a small woman with bright red hair. He smiled, despite himself. Was this Thom's sister? He'd only been talking of seeing her again all week. The prince rolled his eyes at his cousins' obnoxious squire.

Normally, before his parents had died, Jonathan would be among the first to greet and meet the ladies. Those days seemed a life time ago.

He thought he heard a noise, and turned to look over his shoulder. A wet black cat jumped up into his lap.

The prince smiled. 'Hello Faithful.'

The cat licked his hand in reply, settling himself on Jonathan's lap. Still the prince continued to frown upon the small room- a private library only he had access too.

When was it he had become so wary? A flash of anger passed through his mind. When the ladies began to stay away, friends left me alone and my council started lying? When commoners marched in protest, voicing their worries, choices and opinions. Or when Roger went behind my back, talking, bribing and making hidden connections?

Faithful would always warn him of any immediate danger anyhow, as he had done in the past. Jonathan looked down at the cat, stroking his soggy fur. Slowly Faithful began to purr and the Prince let his worries fade. For the time being.

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Arrabelle groaned loudly as the heavy downpour of rain crashed onto the roof. 'It just had to rain again today of all days.' She flew her hands in the air to emphasis her point. 'I sit -bored out of my mind- for a week, praying to every God imaginable for good weather, yet still it continues.'

'Don't moan, Arrabelle.' Alanna drew pictures on the foggy window pane. 'There's nothing anyone can do about it.'

'I'm sure no-one will be expecting us to walk outdoors in these conditions,' the final member of the carriage, Sophia spoke up. 'I wish you would apply even a little common sense to your rambling's, for the kind of weather hardly makes a difference to our arrival. It itches at my nerves so.'

Alanna stole a glance at Arrabelle's reaction to this- her pretty face was contorted in the task of unravelling what Sophia had said. Alanna turned back to her window drawings. Thank the Gods we are nearly there, she thought. If I had to put up with one more day of their bickering I swear I really would go insane.

The carriage slowed down, allowing the girls maids to board from their separate wagon. Alanna sat, rather subdued in her own thoughts while her maid, Elizabeth, applied touch ups to her face pant, fixed her hair in an eloquent nest of ringlets and smoothed the delicate white-blue gown Alanna was wearing.

Sophia was glaring at her maid, insisting she be left alone. There was nothing much that could be done to improve her long hooked nose and slick, frumpy hair. The high, frilly neckline of her hideous gown rubbed against her chin as she sat, hunched over her book with her thick glasses slipping down her nose. Arrabelle was plump and pretty in a soft pink gown, her white-blonde hair arranged to fan out behind her.

The carriage turned up a hill, leaving the near deserted market streets to enter into the temple district. Ten short minutes flew by, while the girls tried their best to focus on their composure, and clear their hurdling nerves. At last the carriage came to a stop.

The elegant mahogany door on Sophia's side snapped open, and a hand emerged to help the first lady descend. Alanna was second to leave, taking another offered arm, she quickly hopped down the steps where the 'arms owner', holding a dainty umbrella above their heads, escorted her to a covered courtyard.

Alanna smiled up at the big chestnut haired man, still holding her arm. 'Nice day for it,' she said dryly, eying the rain.

He laughed, smiling at her. 'Your Alanna, right?'

They entered into a large corridor, expanding out in hundreds of halls. Alanna stopped for a moment, watching her friends be escorted in different directions to their new rooms.

She looked up at his smiling face. 'Yes. How did you know?'

He continued to lead her up into the castle, where Alanna was lost in seconds.

'I'm Gary,' he smiled at her again. 'That is- Sir Gareth the younger of Naxen. But I prefer Gary.'

Alanna returned the grin. 'You're my brothers Knight Master.'

'Yes,' they began to climb a staircase. 'People may have told you before that you look alike,' he huffed. 'I'm taking you to him now- not far to go. He can show you to your rooms later.'

'Thankyou.'

'No problem,' they came to a stop at last, facing a large oak door. 'Thom's a friend of mine.'

Alanna brought her hands to her hair, searching for any runaway strands. 'I'm glad of it.'

Gary reached deep into his breeches pocket, looking for his key. In times before Gary hadn't even bothered to lock his doors. But times had changed, and now he did.

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A/N: I'll be completely honest with you: I write for reviews. Sure, I like writing but I wouldn't bother if I knew no-one would be reading it. So, please review! The more you do, the faster I'll post :-)

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Razz.