Who Art Thou?
The paper was the first thing Nastasia noticed.
Her desk was always neat and organized. Every pencil was perfectly sharpened and sitting in the pencil-holder; her clipboard had been fitted with a fresh new page; all reports were sorted into their respective files.
But the paper…it was just wrong. It did not belong there.
First of all, it was folded- she never folded her papers- and stuck haphazardly in the tray she had for incoming notices, even though the rest had been stacked neatly.
Second of all, it was the wrong color; her messages were always on white stationary, and this paper was a yellowish color, like parchment (in fact, now that she looked at it, it did appear to be parchment- did anybody in the castle even write on parchment?).
And third of all, even with her orderly office habits and sharp memory, she did not recognize that looping, admittedly beautiful handwriting.
That was it. Just her name.
Arching a slender eyebrow, she took the paper in her slender, gloved hand and unfolded it.
O, your name is a song unto my heart
An angel's purest melody
No words can describe the captivating art
That is your stunning beauty
The sky can barely be called blue
When one compares it to your skin
And your eyes, your lovely, shining eyes
To the brightest of stars are akin
Your voice is a lilting masterpiece
Woven upon a siren's room
For my mind becomes weak and I lose myself
When you glide into the room
O, charming nymph, your spell of love
Has enchanted me
For you, my dear, are the Queen of my heart
And rule with fairest sovereignty
I would gladly go down on my hands and knees
I would do anything, anything just to please
You, my love, o finest dame
You, with silk plaited in your hair;
You, with star-bright, brilliant stare;
You, o love, o angel fair;
You, with the song woven in your name;
She read it once. She read it twice. And again, and again, and again, barely able to comprehend the words written out before her.
A love letter?!
'O love, o angel fair'...
No, this was more than a mere love letter. This…this was a full-blown confession.
Someone was in love with her?
Someone was in love with her…
She anxiously turned the paper over, chanting mentally, Oh, please, oh please, oh please be-
She sighed, crestfallen, and then folded up the poem once more, tucking it into her handbag.
"Nassy, are you okay?"
Nastasia looked down her nose at the pigtailed little girl. "Yes, Mimi. I'm fine."
"Oh." Mimi frowned. "Are you sure?"
She sighed, exasperated, and put her fingertips to her temples. "Yes, Mimi," she repeated, a bit tensely, "I'm fine."
She tried to go back to her notes, but Mimi stayed at her side, and Nastasia, studying her on the rim of her peripheral vision, immediately recognized the look in the little girl's angelic eyes.
She wanted something.
"Did you want something, Mimi?"
Mimi nodded eagerly, standing on her tiptoes and stretching upwards to get closer to the slender secretary. "Yes! Could you maybe take me to the library?"
Nastasia blinked. She hadn't been expecting that. She'd thought she and Count Bleck were the only two who actually visited the castle library. Why would the miniature fashionista want to go?
"Because I finished this book," she chirped, holding up a rather large tome, "and I need the next one!"
The secretary peered at the title: An Artist's Drawing Guide; Fashion; Beginners.
That explained things. Mimi had recently been talking about starting her own fashion line (Cutie Pie, or something sugary like that). And, apparently, she was serious about doing it.
"…But why do I have to go with you?"
"Cause I can't remember the way there," Mimi whimpered, gearing up for her puppy-dog-eyes-pleading act. "O'Chunks usually takes me, but I can't find him, and…I-I wanna go! Please, Nassy, pretty pretty pretty pretty PRETTY please?"
Nastasia rolled her eyes. That was what she and the Count got for letting Mimi grow up to be so spoiled. When they'd taken in the shape-shifting child, neither of them knew anything about parenting, and this had been the result. Now that she was older and Nastasia could administer more punishments, she was beginning to do better in her behavior, but still had problems now and again.
She surveyed her notes a final time. Her work for the day was complete- in fact, Count Bleck had even advised her to take a break.
Oh, what the heck.
"Sure. Follow me."
As Mimi bounced to and fro through the massive room, looking for her desired book, Nastasia sat down at a table and pulled the poem from her handbag, making small notes on her clipboard.
She still had work to do: figuring out the identity of her secret admirer.
She studied the handwriting again, but it was all for naught. Count Bleck wrote in neat, spiky print; Dimentio had airy, whimsical handwriting; O'Chunks words were sprawling and messy to the point that they were almost illegible. Nobody she knew used such elegant script.
Then again…it was possible that the mystery poet could've changed their handwriting, right?
The system was simple and genius. She'd study the poem, and whoever most of its qualities pointed to obviously had to be her admirer!
She studied the paper itself. Sure enough, it was parchment, but the only parchment she knew of in the castle existed in the oldest library books. It was slightly crumpled, most likely from its many times being folded.
She took a deep breath, and caught a familiar scent- a beloved scent.
The ink was her favorite scent, lilac! Whoever had written this poem must've known a lot about her to pick up on that…
Paper: Count Bleck
Her heart skipped a beat when she wrote that conclusion down. The very thought of the Count in love with her…
Maybe it was him! She knew where he was; she could go to him right now and-
No, focus, Nastasia. Don't go jumping to conclusions.
She studied the words. They were beautiful and artistic- the words of a master poet. O'Chunks was definitely out on that one; she doubted he could've even pronounced 'sovereignty', much less spelled it. Count Bleck was rather good with literature; he even narrated himself most of the time. But then there was Dimentio; the jester did have a knack for inventing clever little sayings…
As much as she loathed the thought of being admired by that eerie little jester, she reluctantly jotted down, Vocabulary: Dimentio.
One count undecided, one count for the Count, and one count for Dimentio. She still had no clue…
Nastasia nearly jumped out of her seat, startled by Mimi's sudden call. She took a deep breath, recomposed herself, and replied, "Yes, Mimi?"
"I got the book now…Will you take me back to my room?"
Nastasia hastily slipped her papers back into her bag. "Yes, Mimi. Come."