This is the second story in The Lirael Chronicles (TLC). In this story, Lirael is staying at the palace as Sam fine tunes her new golden hand. I'm not sure if I am going to write a story about how she gets the hand so just as an FYI- it's is all complete. She just has to hang around as the rest of her new family as she tries to fit her into her role of Abhorsen-in-Waiting and aunt. The two main characters featured are Ellimere and Lirael. Ellimere was rather difficult for me to write, as she is seldom seen in the books interacting with anyone but Sam. So sorry in advance if she isn't shown in the same way that you think of her. Of course, I suppose in the end all that matters is that I'm happy with it. Which I am.
Disclaimer: are characters mentioned are property of Garth Nix. I'm just borrowing them for a bit. No money is going to be made off of this story.
I tried to hide nervousness, which must have been very noticeable, as I asked yet another palace guard for directions to the "tennis courts" where I was to meet the Princess. Still confused as to how I had been talked into this to begin with. As a matter of fact, I don't believe I had done any talking at all. I had just been trying to eat my piece of toast with the palaces delicious blackberry jam spread thickly on the top at the time.
It had all began over breakfast when the Princess had asked me if I would like to learn how to play this game from across the wall- one that she apparently loves- from her. Before a word could even leave my mouth, the Abhorsen- I mean Sabriel- told her that I would love to join her for a game and that it would be the perfect time for us to bond.
Bond? Since when did I have plans to do that? My personal plans had always been to do my job as the newly discovered Abhorsen-in-waiting and Rembrancer to the very best of my ability and in the time not spent doing previously mentioned jobs, to disappear into the background unnoticed by everyone. I would be completely silent as well of course, if at all possible. The same pattern I had developed and thoroughly enjoyed back home with the Clayr.
Seconds later, the Princess had gracefully stood up and left saying she would meet me at the tennis courts at eleventh bell of the morning.
I was still sitting stunned in my seat at the table, the piece of toast still held in my hand halfway to my mouth, blackberry jam sliding off the side and back onto my porcelain plate, as the rest of the breakfast party broke apart to go do whatever it is they do with their time, acting as if nothing strange had happened.
Upon reflection, I think I prefer being ignored among the Clayr rather than having to socialize at all hours of the day. Or in my case, having people answer for me before I even have a chance to speak, Sabriel and Sam being the two who do this to me the most often.
I had never known before that I could have whole conversations with people without ever uttering a word. Not that I actually want to say anything.
Sam is lucky that he can hide in his tower under the disguise of tinkering on his inventions when he wants to escape the circus known as the court. He is comfortable with this life because this is the same life he had always known, minus the burden of being the Abhorsen-in-Waiting of course.
Speaking of Sam, after I had finally finished my breakfast I had decided to stop by the palace library to do some research on this "tennis" I was to play. It was there that I ran into him, almost literally due to the fact that he was walking with is nose in book, looking up some obscure charter symbol he had run across in some book or other and was most helpful, or unhelpful depending on how you were to look at it, to my plight.
"Aunt Lirael," he said with a sigh, "there are no books on tennis because only the Princess knows how to play the game here in the Old Kingdom. All I know is that it is mostly a girls sport and that she had learned it at Wyverly College. We never played it at Somersby."
It was at this point he once again resumed is earlier path, nose still pressed in the book.
"Make sure you wear clothes to exercise in" he added as an afterthought as he turned the corner.
That was a lot of help. Libraries had never failed me before, not even when I was trying to figure out what the Stilken was.
I suppose that saying I keep hearing Sabriel repeat is true. There really is a first time for everything.
That is how I found myself in my current predicament. Completely lost, looking for the Princess and her "tennis court" with no idea as to what I was getting myself into. Only that it was going to involve some sort of exercise.
Oh joy, another thing I had avoided doing when still living among the Clayr. I even had bad swordsmanship to prove it.
Finally, a palace page took pity on me and lead me to the tennis courts himself. Thinking back, that might have been the second time I had stopped to ask him for directions. Unfortunately, when you are new to the palace everyone who wears the same uniform looks alike.
Upon arrival I noticed that the court was actually in a room with hard floors made up or some kind of colored stone slab and that the room itself was divided neatly in half by a white net.
I was so involved with analyzing the room that I jumped when I felt a light tap on my shoulder.
"I see you finally made it" the princess said.
"I apologize for being late" I stated with a bow. No matter what they all say, a royal is a royal and it doesn't matter if you are related to that person by blood or not. Or half related in my case.
"Don't worry about it. I thought we would just start by practicing hitting the ball back and forth, no rules or keeping score" she beamed at me.
All I could do was nod as I take the strangely shaped "racquet" by what I assumed was a handle from her.
It turned out to be not too difficult to pick up. All I had to do was hit the ball with the wide part of the "racquet" when it was hit towards me and try to get it over the net and back to the Princess on the other side. It was only later I found out that the Princess had be going slow for me. A game played at a regular speed might actually kill me.
The real reason for the invitation soon became clear as the crystal goblets they serve the wine in at dinner as questions began to emerge from her royal highness.
"I am sorry that I was unable to stay with you at the hospital to hear your story, mother and father had to recount it for me when they arrived back in the capital."
I remained silent and continued to try to hit the little ball.
"I cannot help but feel that I still don't know you very well, which is a disappointment, considering you are my newly discovered Aunt."
I still remained silent. Why couldn't we have this conversation sitting down so I could write out my responses?
"This had led me to ponder a number of questions concerning you."
All I could do was wince and think to myself, "uh-oh, now I'm in for it."
"What is your favorite color?"
Surprised I missed the ball and just stared at her.
"It's not some sort of secret is it she asked?"
"No," I slowly replied after a brief moment of hesitation.
After we hit the ball back and forth a few more times I finally was able to respond quietly with the word "red." Red like the color of the waist coat I wore as a Second Assistant Librarian should have been what followed but I am still too shy and unused to conversing with people so much to expand upon what I was saying. I suppose I need to practice that. I wish Dog was still here to help.
The Princess appeared to be surprised that I had finally answered but gained her composer quickly, undoubtedly due to all the training she has received as the heir to the throne. She must be a wonderful politician.
"What is your favorite book" she shot back with as the ball traveled towards her again.
We continued to hit the ball back and forth. I think I was finally getting the hang of it. The tennis that is, not the conversation part.
This time however I was able to respond with "bestiaries" without a second thought. The quickness of my response seemed to startle her as well, and while the look on her face said she wanted to find out why I would have something that unusual as my favorite book, she must have known that I would have trouble responding and therefore dropped that particular subject.
"What is your favorite type of jam?"
I once again was able to quickly respond with "blackberry". I was really starting to wonder how she was making up all of these questions.
"What is your favorite time of year?"
This question I had to ponder, but after a moment of deliberation decided upon "autumn" and once again told her softly. Autumn on the Glacier is the only time of year when it is not too cold and it's not too warm.
The Princess must have known what I was thinking because she responded with a smile and a nod of her head, still keeping up easily with the tiny little ball.
We continued to pass the ball back in forth, I was relieved to think that the questions, all though simple, were finally over. We had been at this for the better part of a half hour when the next question came.
"How did you become a librarian if that's not where the Clayr had seen you?"
All I could do was trip over my own feet and freeze. How had she learned about that? I hadn't mentioned that to anyone. As far as I knew only Sanar and Ryelle had known what had happened that day long ago on my fourteenth birthday and it was not something I wanted to discuss with a stranger.
And it was true. Despite the fact that the blood running through both of our veins said that Princess Ellimere was my niece, I didn't know anything about her, only that she was the heir to the throne and would one day be my queen. To be completely honest, I'm not sure how well I want to get to know her. Being a close Aunt to the future Queen would make it rather difficult to fade into the background.
As I finally look up and over at her and her carefully composed face, still on the opposite side of that clean white net, all I could think about was that I didn't want to tell this to her or anybody else for that matter. She must have read that all in the look that crossed my face, for it was at that precise moment she declared our "tennis game" complete and started to walk away without waiting for an answer.
I wonder how she had found out about that or if she was just guessing from different pieces she had heard about me, although I don't who would actually know that much about me even among the Clayr.
All I know is that this conversation will come up again.
Just hopefully not too soon.
Please leave a review, if you would be so kind.
Thank you -Ranna