Day 1: IV

I stood an hour later in the bathing chambers, properly-attired under the watchful look of Mona. As the second assistant to wardrobe master Drach, foremost among Mona’s responsibilities lay the task of dressing the second prince. That day, she robed me in formal costume: tunic and leggings (mazarine to match the family color), a darker doublet of sarcenet and satin (with weight to match), and horsehide leather boots (too-stiff and never-worn).

“You look very handsome, Mr. Kadon,” Mona said as she regarded her work, tapping a finger against smiling lips.

Mr. Kadon. I never discovered why Mona chose that as my title. Beyond the informality of calling your liege by his first name, the action struck me as simple, something that should not require thought to avoid. And yet Mona used it with confidence, its every utterance followed by her gap-toothed smile and laughing eyes. Perhaps she was simple, in the way happy people are.

Do not take this to infer I held any dislike towards Mona—quite the contrary! I adored her as a child adores lovely things. And I understood her too, as a child understands lovely things—that is to say I did not. Amongst our staff, she treated me least like a prince and most like a friend. With the foresight now granted to me with the passing years, I suspect her kindness arose from her perception of a small part of my future. I would never know beauty’s touch. Who better to see this than one with an abundance of its bounty?

After Mona’s routine attempt (and failure) at combing my curly hair, I allowed myself to be led from the bathhouse to the library, where Luthor would be waiting. Only then did the enormity of my home’s transformation at the Dubois visit dawn upon me. Hallway walls burst with color, their dull-grey stone enlivened by tapestries of cinnabar and citrine, goldenrod and gamboge. Once-dusty suits of armor gleamed with polished steel’s sheen. The people I encountered too seemed changed. Courtiers and cooks, jugglers and jacks, all ran about with purpose, deigning me with little more than a glance as they hurried past.

Under ordinary circumstances, the existence of the vast servantial order upon whose shoulders rested the day-to-day functions of the castle remained a mystery. A labyrinthine network of clever tunnels coursed through the estate, allowing them to perform their necessary tasks in anonymity. To a guest who saw no one more than the attendant delivering his food, it would seem an exceptionally efficient enterprise. I believe in this my father’s intent found satisfaction. As with that of most royalty, his was an obsession of appearance.

We arrived at the library just as Luthor sought to leave it—likely to check upon his tardy charge. Mona left me under his watch with a kiss on my head. Only from her affectionate touch did I not recoil.

“You look very handsome, little master.” Luthor chose his words with care. He spoke with truth. I sometimes imagined he could make it so, that he did not merely observe the world around him but changed its fabric such that he did not speak a lie. Luthor stated I looked handsome—and so I came to believe I did.

“Our guests have been welcomed and the feast will soon begin. I think the second prince’s appearance has been put off long enough. To the great hall, little master,” he said, gesturing with an arm as an invitation to follow even as he stood unmoving.

With a start I noticed Luthor too looked different. In the place of his plain shirt and trousers (to the astute reader, I wish to make it clear I use plain as a relative term), he wore a cardinal tunic with matching leggings, both articles richly embroidered with golden filigree. A surtout aubergine bearing the Lachliez crest he held in his left hand. Taken together with the beads of sweat on his temple and the curiously blank expression upon his face, his figure painted a picture of discomfort.

“Are you all right, Luthor?”

“Quite, little master,” he said with a stiff bow. “Just a bit of nerves. My constitution has always found ceremony disagreeable, I’m afraid.” With each word he tightened his grip around the surtout, as if he sought to choke the lifelessness out of it.

I could offer him no sage advice so I offered silence. Before I could learn the gesture’s futility, the thrum of a barbiton swept into the space. Music preceded feast and my father did not tolerate tardiness. Spurred at last to action, Luthor donned his surtout, swept backwards what little hair remained on his head and hurried to the library’s left door, beyond which our destination lay separated by a single passageway. I scampered behind him, four of my little paces matching one of his great strides.

Before we arrive at the feast, I must confess I have another confession to make: I do not recall the interaction you have just read, not in its entirety. I believe however that the inferred recollection, built from my knowledge of Luthor hard-earned over many years of friendship, reflects the most probable reality. Perhaps his surtout was not aubergine—the imagination is a tricky thing—but Luthor’s idiosyncrasies, like his anxiety in public forums, I remember absolutely. I speak thus to those future historians, who in coming across some minor falsehood in my tale would discredit the whole of its narrative, when I say that any deviations from fact do not alter the fundamental events in question. And after all, does this story not belong to me—and only to me? Do I then not have the right to recount it was I wish? Do not take this to mean I lie. I write truth—as  I remember it.

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