Continued from Priests and Princesses.
The princess’s day ended with the sun’s setting, and she fell onto her bed in her full gown. Her eyes slipped shut, and as they did, she thought she heard Ehla scolding her.
When she woke, it was to the strange, shadowless grey light of early morning coming through the dome around her. Her back and shoulders objected as she rose to sit, and her legs and hips took their turn when she stood. A glance in the mirror showed her face had been washed of makeup and her dress had been changed for a nightgown. As she looked around, she didn’t see Ehla, and decided to skip on the shower, and instead put on something less pristine, white, and imperial than her ruling gown. She crossed the large floor to the wardrobe and opened it. Her fingers undid her buttons and she let her nightgown fall as she looked through the clothing. She had several things in several colors, though nothing was dark, and there was no black in sight.
Without a thought, her hand grasped a brown dress with matching belt and shoulder pads. It was gloveless, and also lacked the silk slippers to which she’d grown accustomed. With clumsy hands, she pulled it on over her head, then attached the shoulder pads and took a deep breath while lifting her shoulders before she fastened the belt, letting the cloth hang over it loosely. Finally dressed, she walked down the stairs to her greeting room. The sun outside was just starting to turn the light yellow. Not long until it rose. She hurried down and down more stairs.
Only at the door that led outside did she pause. Why was she in such a hurry to go outside? Why was she dressed in a priest’s browns? She rested her hand on the domed, dimpled wheel and finally gave the push-and-turn it needed to open. The cold air of the outside yanked her breath from her, and she stumbled out. It wasn’t as bright outside, and she looked around while she waited for her eyes to adjust. The smooth path was warm on her feet, likely heated from below or with magic.
She stepped forward and absently closed the door behind before she suddenly turned right and ran, only to slam into a wall. The princess squeaked loudly as she fell onto her rear. When she looked up, it was to see a man in all greens and greys looking, presumably, down at her from between matted blond hair that covered his eyes entirely. For a moment, she wondered if he could see her at all.
“You alright?” He smiled and leaned down to offer a leather-gloved hand. His voice was lazy-sounding.
The princess took his hand, and he pulled her up with a quiet grunt.
“You in a hurry to…” He tilted his head a moment as he looked at her. “Lessons? I could walk you there.” His expression brightened. “I know shortcuts, if you’re late.”
“No, I’m fine.” She spoke more quickly than she intended, then paused and slowed her words. “I’m fine. Thank you.” She withdrew her hand from his slowly.
He frowned for a moment, then smiled. “Well, if you have time then, I have something that could help relax you.” His smile turned into a toothy grin. He turned from her. “Come on. It’s over this way. I was saving it for later, but you look like you could use it.” He scratched his hip absently. His body was very large for a human’s, she realized, though she’d seen no gem in his throat.
Quietly, she followed after him, lips pursed and brows furrowed as she watched the tall man.
He was far too large to be human. Was he not sealed yet? Was he a mutant?
He stopped in a grassy circle, perfectly manicured and outlined by a wall and some trees. The ground under the princess’s feet felt soft, even through the blunt-edged grass. It felt almost like one of the sponges she used for washing. As she looked up from the ground, she noticed he’d moved to one side and was pointing with his hand to a large basin of shimmering liquid with a hoop in it, surrounded by lengths of ropes attached to sticks. She looked up at him, a slight frown on her face.
“What?” They both asked at the same time, equally confused– she about the objects before her, and he about her lack of comprehension.