The Midgards treated foreign nobility fairly and richly, and made them feel higher than the norm. They gave them gifts and exotic foods, and sung them songs. Their people spoke in a language that always seemed to have two meanings. It was unique and vague, but hardly cruel.
Everything about the Midgard’s was admirable and intelligent, though it did not lack in disguise. That is what Perdita found most appealing.
The lavish room in which Perdita was placed made her own palace look like squalor in comparison. She couldn’t believe the elegance, nor the way the natural light peered in through the central glass dome, and hit each crystal vase with colours she couldn’t remember noticing anywhere else. Coloured feathers and flora covered nearly every white surface. The smells, even, were noticeably aromatic.
It was as though her entire life had been as a patch-clothed peasant feasting on sickly rats. In her head, the melodrama was exquisite to compare. In her head, it remained.
Perdita loved her palace life always, and thought it quaint. Her life had always been simple and royal, and, in the eyes of most everyone including herself, it was perfect. Everything worked, and she wanted for nothing.
That was, until she left home in search of a destination. She learned of the Midgard’s and their way of life, and the diverging path led her there. A struggle is what she craved most of all. No other satisfaction could defeat it.
“My duchess, Torin of the Guardian’s household is here to escort you,” a young servant announced, bowing as he approached through the stone archway of the open door. The servant’s features were vague and unimpressionable.
As promised, a man approached moments later. She expected him to be brutish and superior. Surprisingly, as with the other Midgard’s she had encountered, he wore no uniform nor militant garb. His shirt was a tarnished burgundy and his hair was speckled with gray, yet his face was young. “Duchess Ka, may I take your arm?”
She hesitated, drawing herself up to her full, unintimidating height. “If you would but lead me through the door, sir, I believe I can take the steps myself.” In her culture, contact of any kind was meaningful. It was not an exchange meant for strangers, especially between servants and nobility.
Unoffended, Torin bowed his head slightly and gestured her forward, falling into step beside her. His eyes met hers, level. “The And’s are very pleased that you are staying with us. They are anxious to learn more of your home and its people.”
Perdita raised her eyebrow slightly, processing the words in their, likely, two meanings. She grasped nothing of note. “I, too, am anxious for it.” She was more anxious than she let on, yet her stride was smoother than she recalled, and she felt confidence in her chin.
“I am certain of it,” Torin replied, leading her past a long hallway and through an adjacent door, which made not-so-much as a sound when it was heavily pushed aside.
The room was nearly empty, full of white pedestals that carried no carving upon their base. All except two, anyways. As they walked along these large stone cubes, Perdita glanced long at the first of the two statues. Both were of men, but one towered much taller over the other. She thought it intriguing, but walked past on Torin’s ushering. The carvings remained with her, even as she left them behind.
At the end of the white room there was a large peacock pecking at a speckled portion of the granite floor. It did not even look up as the duchess and the Midgardian walked nearly over its outstretched tail. A thick gray curtain hung plainly across the far wall, and Torin moved to pull it aside. It struck Perdita that this curtain was oddly undressed in such an elaborate place. The room was out-of-place, and she felt the hairs on her neck stand on end. It was not an altogether unpleasant feeling, being uncomfortable. She was aware of how unused to that particular sensation she was until lately. The curtain moved aside, and revealed a young woman sitting in a perfect cubicle with her legs tightly crossed and her eyes softly closed. She was humming to herself, fanning a black feather before her face, and the flick of a smile tested the edges of her lips. The woman was completely unclothed, and Perdita found herself blush, yet also felt unembarrassed. The boldness of Torin surprised her, much as the boldness of this woman sent trills of admiration up her spine, straightening it slightly more.
The peacock squawked behind them once, and then trailed away to peck at the smaller of the two statues. Perdita hardly stirred to look at it.
“Ora, I present a guest to you. She is new to Midgard, and would appreciate any guidance you may supply before presenting to your family.”
Ora opened her right eye, only slightly. She hummed a final note, and then stood in one swift motion. Only once she stood upright did she open her eyes fully. Her eyes were dark and telling, and before Perdita could step back, the young woman had grabbed her wrists and kissed her fully on the mouth. “Welcome, duchess. My name is Ora And. Can I make you something? Tea, perhaps?”
Torin issued a look that was well-guarded, and strode off without another word. Perdita gazed back at him, and noticed how tall the man was when he passed the second statue. Vaguely, its features resembled his.
“My dear!” Ora exclaimed, pulling a silken robe over her slim shoulders.
“I will have whatever you do. No hassle.”
Ora trilled lightly, “no hassle!” and pulled her through a secondary door beneath a further expanse of the gray curtain.
Perdita found herself smile despite her discomfort at being touched. Ora sang as they walked: “tell me everything, young duchess. Tell me your life and loves. Tell me, for I won’t teach you, simply tell you…” and on she sang as they practically raced through another hallway like barefooted children.
“Ora,” a voice called, warningly. Both women turned on their heels to look, and saw a dark-haired man with folded arms and a stern look in his heavy face.
“I fill the foreign’s with dreams, papa. That is all,” Ora continued to sing.
“I will have civility,” he called as they continued on, but the girls ignored him.
“Oh dreams, and screams, and ultimately hatred. That’s what they all say, I know. Don’t be lonely, my dear. Don’t be lonely…” Ora sang.
Perdita felt the tune swell in a part of her mind that she didn’t recognize, and her thoughts were suddenly universal in capacity. Or was she just a distant star? The song was an unknown magic, she had no doubt of its powers.
Ora and Perdita rounded another corner, and what she saw next gave her gasp.
To be continued…