"Princess, unless you were planning on attending this ball in the nude, I'd suggest you remain still."
"I don't suppose he'd mind that all too much, actually..."
Princess Anna huffed, teetering on the edge of the dressmakers stool and halting her excited movements. At once she became a still and unchanging as a mountain. Guinevere moved quickly, pulling the crimson corset around her mistress' slim form and lacing the black silk strings tightly, her deft fingers moving with a speed unusual for that of a mortal. She then reached up and rearranged the silver jewel-encrusted tiara that sat upon her lady's head.
A sigh from the Princess. "...More suitors are asking me for your hand in marriage. vampire suitors, Gwen. I think you're getting prettier."
'Gwen' tutted at that. Anna could be absolutely random in the most pressing of times, it never failed. No, Guinevere wasn't ugly, rather pretty among the human women. But to compliment her while she stood next to Her Majesty? Princess Anna was ravishing, unearthly. A true beauty: Her long, dark hair was coiled and curled precisely, tumbling down her narrow shoulders in a jet-black stream. She wore no makeup; Vampires usually didn't require it, and pampered vampire princesses even less so. Her eyes were already large and black.  Her pale skin was without blemish. She was wearing rubies tonight, the symbol of a virtuous woman in her human time. They glittered at her throat like drops of blood, seductive in every way. Princess Anna was wearing another one of her custom gowns, an exquisitely-made red ball gown who's pattern was designed just for the occasion.
Guinevere shook her head gently, and rearranged the folds of her ball gown before stepping back to admire her work. "Thank you, Princess. You may look now."
She sighed softly, her delighted squeals bringing a smile to her face. The woman stood back, alongside the two other ladies-in-waiting, watching the young princess parade her vanity in front of the mirror. Anna is young, vibrant, and very foolish, and even though She could not think of anything else to describe her in that moment, Guinevere meant it in the most endearing way possible. 
"Oh, Gwen!" Princess Anna exclaimed, grabbing her hands and dancing with with her around the dressing room. The servant woman smiled modestly, ignoring the envious glances of the few ladies-in-waiting permitted into the princess' inner chambers. "You've done splendid, as always. There's no way he could resist me now!"
"Oof--Thank you, Your Majesty," She stumbled, her mistress' strength nearly pulling her off her feet. The princess giggled, and she smiled sheepishly.
"Oops," Their spinning slowed, and Guinevere reached out to fix her hair affectionately, the princess being at least a hand span taller then her. One glance back into Anna's eyes, and she could see the nervous excitement bubbling in her unnatural orbs. She smiled reassuringly, her mortal heart fluttering. Princess and servant, friends, soul sisters. Of course they'd be nervous; A betrothal was no small thing, and that of a royal betrothal was greater thing by far.
Anna's vampire ears must have picked up the sound of her heart, because she giggled.
"Don't worry, Princess. They say he he'll make you a fine husband." Guinevere said, knowing full-well that this wasn't new information to her. Princess Anna had questioned her mother, the Queen, for months about the personality and characteristics of her husband-to-be. The only thing her mother had been able to say was that he was handsome, a great warrior, and a strong tactician, and better yet, would make a great husband and king to the princess.
Princess Anna nodded her thanks, and opened her ruby lips to speak, before one of her ladies rapped on the great wooden door that led to her outer chamber. Squealing, Anna went to the door, appearing in front of it and swinging it open in a flash.
"What is it? Is it time?" She heard her ask breathlessly. The young woman, only about twenty or so, smoothed down her dress; a simple silver gown also chosen and designed by her Majesty, made specifically so that Guinevere would accessorize her, but not outshine her.
As though that were possible, She thought to herself with a soft laugh, and went to tend to the Princess. On her way, she grabbed the silver and red mask which she was to wear to the ball.
"Yes, Madam. Your cousin, the young Duke, has arrived to escort your Majesty and your ladies to meet your father, The King, when you are ready." The lady-in-waiting bowed, her pale blond hair contrasting with the seductive black that all the ladies-in-waiting wore. The girl then turned and swept an arm out, gesturing to the Duke. He was a cute boy, a little vampire child who could be no more than six or seven in human years; the nephew of the King. His red eyes glittered upon seeing the princess, his favorite cousin. He bowed and kissed her hand, strangely mature for his age. Princess Anna smiled, curtsied, and swept into the hall with the Duke, and without another glance at her ladies. Everyone else, and Guinevere, her personal servant and governess, followed suit.
The trip to the great hall appeared shorter than usual. Perhaps it was the nervous excitement all the ladies were radiating with, or maybe because, for once, she decided to listen to their hushed gossip.
Before they knew it, the Princess and her ladies arrived in front of the massive ebony oak doors that led to the royal banquet hall, the place where the promises, if things went accordingly, would be exchanged and the masquerade held. Guinevere tied up my mask quickly, seeing that several people were gathered outside the doors in silence, and each of them, with the exception of two imposing figures, bowed deeply in respect as we passed. In turn, the princess curtsied deeply to the two people; Her parents. Each of the ladies followed suit, and even though Guinevere was bowing and hadn't had a chance to really look, she knew that the King and Queen were pleased. Their aura, as some of the oldest vampyres in the world, was immensely powerful, and she nearly had to step back from the sheer feel of their power. It always surprised her to feel a monarch, something not often experienced by mortals.
"My jewel!" A deep, velvety voice boomed. The ladies all stood, eyes cast down. From the corner of her eye, she saw the tail of of a richly embroidered cloak, and heard the princess' squeal of delight.
"Oh, we have missed you! Are you pleased, little highness?" She heard him ask.
"I am," Princess Anna replied, this time in the ancient language, the official language of the Underworld.
"Good." The deep, reassuring voice said. "Then I suppose it will be my honor escort you, My lady?" Although the words were meant to be formal and inviting, Guinevere heard the amusement and unadulterated joy in them that could come only from a father.
"I suppose it is. Guinevere," A formal addressing, used only in the presence of their Majesties. "Come." The Princess ordered, her voice equally light. Upon hearing her name, the woman curtsied once more, as was custom, and rose to meet the Princess. Once at her side, Guinevere curtsied again, her back straight as she sank to the ground gracefully.
A heavily ringed hand was presented to me, and gingerly, she accepted it and kissed the black-diamond ring on the middle finger. She looked up to find the beaming face of Darius, one of the four kings of the Underworld, and in her honest opinion, the most handsome. Guinevere smiled back sheepishly, noticing the intricate designs on his mask.
"Your Majesty," She murmured in greeting.
"My little Gwen!" A warm, feminine voice said to me with a thick French accent. "Such is the nature of humans, you have grown and changed again so quickly. You are stunning tonight,"
Guinevere turned and smiled at the Queen as well, sweeping her her own curtsy. She was wearing red, like her husband Darius, with a black mask. Her gown was cut in the Tudor style, (the era in which the Queen had been turned.) and though it should have looked old amongst the modern fashions of the ladies, it was breathtaking.
"Thank you, Your Majesty."
The two monarchs nodded, their beautiful masked faces smiling upon me before turning back to their single child, their heir. The King offered Princess Anna his left arm, which she graciously she accepted. He then turned and offered his Queen his right, as all Queens were entitled to, and she accepted as well. Two courtiers appeared in front of the great doors, and swung it open. The three of them, the royal family, swept ahead, and Guinevere followed her mistress carefully.
The ballroom was grand. Absolutely. Amazing.
It was set up like a fantasy world, the very image of heaven that mortals used to hold dearly in their many religions. Candles floated in the air above them, their flames flaring up in bright, white peels when the Monarchs entered the room. Fire-eaters, spitting out the same white light, danced on metal ropes. Their guests, handsome, long-haired men and women dressed in their best gowns and jewels, watched upwards and gasped in amazement. Fire was a strange, evil thing to vampyres, and to witness one eat it must have been amazing to them. Guinevere smiled at their beautiful, enraptured expressions, and quickly followed the princess.
The dance floor was a whirlpool of colors, silk, and jewels. Ladies wore big, beautifully crafted ballgowns to flaunt their status. Jewels glittered on every mask, throat and finger. The men were dressed just as well; their long hair tied in low pony-tails or set free, their black tuxedos and swirling capes setting a Gothic, romantic feel in the room. Everyone was in their best, even the servants, who flashed their kind, mortal smiles as the group passed. Everyone wanted to impress the Princess, or better yet, the Princess' betrothed.
Speaking of the devil, Guinevere thought to herself, dark gaze sweeping the room. Where was Anna's betrothed at any rate? It would be impossible to distinguish him amongst all the masked-figures. Only the Monarchs knew. The Queen had designed the entire ball accordingly, so that the Prince and Princess would meet mysteriously, and dance, giving the idea of love at first sight. Then, the King would announce the time to unmask, and all the courtiers would see that the Prince and Princess had been partners, as if by fate. A pretty little play, not unusual in court. The real trickery was in the dance, the few single moments that Princess Anna had to make her betrothed adore her.
Unbeknownst to many of the court, Anna had chosen to wear an infusion of ancient aphrodisiacs, love charms and rose water as her perfume for the night. The tiny vial currently hidden in the pocket of Guinevere's gown had cost the Queen a large fortune, the liquid so rare that only the highest of royalty had ever been able to catch a whiff, which in itself was deadly. To taste it would seal your fate, and you'd belong helplessly to whomever kissed you next.
There was a significance to this, however. The Prince, who held a bit of a reputation for never being satisfied by any woman, had to fall in love with their Princess. It would be a sure sign from fate, from one King to the other, a wish for a happy future and a promise of consequence if the betrothal should be broken. It was no secret of the other King's dislike for Darius, but after this there would be no way that King Silas could back out: It was cunning, and it was devious.
It had to trap the Prince's father into forming this much-needed alliance.
"I see him," A voice pulled her from her thoughts. Guinevere turned back to look at the Princess, and only just noticed that the King and Queen had left to sit on their throne.
"Where?" She asked quietly, allowing the Princess to hook her arm with her own while they stepped together throughout the hall. Carefully, Guinevere avoided looking around, and put a smile on her face.
"Dancing with...ohh! The Duchess of Grimoire's brat." She heard the Princess hiss, and patted her hand gently. Vampyres were jealous creatures, especially of their mates. Guinevere would have to play this carefully if she didn't want Princess Anna to make a scene.
So she turned, halting the Princess, and tapped a random man on the shoulder. He turned around towards them, a smile creeping over his lips as he bowed in respect. Though they couldn't see most of his face, it was easily guessed by his attire that he had to be of good status. Good enough for the Duchess of Grimoire's brat.
"Ah, the Princess Anna and the Lady Gwen." The man greeted and bowed, smiling in mock-cruelty at Guinevere, who in turn, forced a smile. She had a feeling that if not for princess Anna's presence, there would have been a few more unwanted jokes about her title. 
She recognized the voice of Elias, the Duchess of Grimoire's son.
"Cut in and dance with your sister, will you? I fear she might be dancing too closely with someone rather dear to me." She asked quietly, ignoring the pointed glare from the Princess. Elias turned to look for his sister, before bowing to the two women again and winking.
"As the lady commands."
"What are you playing at, Gwen?" Princess Anna murmured, her glare burning into her one friend's skin. Guinevere watched Elias vanish, before reappearing and asking for his sister's hand in a dance. Guinevere began to pull the Princess over quickly.
"I'm doing only as I have been asked to, your Majesty. Quickly, now."
The Princess seemed to understand, for her pace hurried and Guinevere fell back to watch. As to avoid suspicion, She accepted the hand of a finely dressed masked man, and continued to dance herself.
She must have been too adsorbed in the complicated steps, because when the song ended and she looked over again, the Princess was pulling off the princes' mask, revealing his handsome face. He had long black hair which fell in spiky, layered lengths and had been tied with a black ribbon earlier but were now freed around his shoulders. He had sharp features, a straight nose, pale lips, icy red eyes. His aura was incredible, reeking of power and strength all of a sudden. Even Guinevere could feel it across the room. And he was speaking softly to the Princess.
Ah, he was...not as in love as she had hoped.
The Prince stepped closer to the Princess, and with the terrifying speed of the immortal, ripped her mask from her face, revealing her terrified expression before the court. Guinevere froze, as did her partner. In fact, all the courtiers seemed to freeze and watch.
The Prince leaned into her, his powerful presence freezing even Anna. It was seductive, dangerous. His head tilted slightly, eyes closing as he inhaled deeply. His sharp nose barely brushed her cheek before he straightened his back and narrowed his eyes murderously. The Prince crushed the silver mask in his hand, and turned to look to the set of thrones on the other side of the room, where his parents, and my lady's parents, were watching. He said nothing, but the gaze spoke for itself: I refuse, it said. The Prince then turned and ignored the Princess, walking away. The crowd parted before him, and as he left, he was joined by several of the men who had arrived with him.
The moment the door closed behind him the crowd began to buzz with excited chatter. Guinevere's eyes remained locked on her petrified mistress, her mouth agape in shock and sympathy for her poor lady.
"He handled that better than I expected." Her partner murmured softly, a teasing undertone showing through his guarded words. His words shocked her, bringing her eyes back to his face. The man didn't return the look, only continued staring off in the direction which the prince had left. "I could smell that elixir across the room..."
Guinevere only stared at him, momentarily, taking in his smirk and regal features as he turned to look back at her. She didn't care to know who he was, or how he even knew...She just knew she didn't want to be near him any more.
She pulled her little hand from his and went running to the side of the disgraced Princess.
Anna had been discovered.
1. Vampire men love hungry women, for some reason. Something in the hormones, I believe...
2. A strange thing about vampire children: They age about fifteen years to a humans ONE, which means that while the Princess is about two-hundred fifty-five in age, She is about seventeen in appearance. And yes, vampires do age.
3. I have been named for the the lady Guinevere, as told in the old world's ancient English literature, who was the queen of Arthur Pendragon. Princess Anna enjoyed this tale as a child so thoroughly that she insisted upon renaming me as such when I was presented to her all those years ago. I cannot for the life of me recall the name I had before, but I'm sure that it didn't come with all the bawdy jokes about being an adulterous vixen.
© Copyright 2016 Modest Vanity. All rights reserved.
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