Friday, June 23, 2017

Flash Friday #256: Dusty and Friends/1

The breeze woke Destiny as the familiar scent of the desert drifted into the castle tower where she and her cousins slept. Dawn light showed a trio of birds watching over her from the windowsill.  She smiled and shooed them away to the oasis below.  One of the castle cats had found his way to her bed, too.  Not a surprise since one usually slept with her.

The others were already dressing.  Usually, she woke first. Her cousins sounded excited.  Why --

Then she remembered!  Today everyone in her age group who lived in the castle, royal or not, would make a presentation to the queen to say what they wanted to do in life.  If they choose wisely, this would be the first step to adulthood.  Destiny desperately wanted that step forward.  Sharing a set of rooms with her four cousins had become increasingly difficult.

Her own fault, she suspected.  Destiny just couldn't fit in with the others.

"Destiny must still be asleep!" Carina laughed from out in the main room.

"I'm not!" she shouted back and leapt from the bed in case they looked. She grabbed the clothing she'd put by the bed.  How could she have overslept?  Last night it seemed as though she wouldn't sleep at all!

Destiny didn't like to wear fancy dresses, but she had no choice today.  At least the pale green looked lovely on her. She spent more time in the sun than most of her royal cousins, male or female, and her skin had grown darker and her hair bleached almost golden by the sunlight. She did not look like the other princesses, which she counted as good.  Destiny had never pursued having fashionably tawny skin and dark hair.  Her cousins hid in the castle away from the sunlight -- and away from any sort of freedom.

Today her cousins spent far more time than usual preparing, so she wasn't the last one ready to go down to breakfast. She tried not to sneeze at the perfumes, and she'd given up doing anything fancy with her hair.

Destiny wasn't hungry, but she didn't want the others to know how worried she felt about today's presentation.   Everyone mumbled and laughed about the next step.  There seemed to be an awful lot of them this year.

"Hey Dusty!  Come sit with us!" Alitia shouted from across the room.

Destiny headed that way. People had called her Dusty for as long as she could remember, and the name suited her since she'd always been a tomboy and gotten into messy situations.  She liked the name better than Destiny, but it was a child's name.  She ought to start thinking about adult things since she'd turned twelve.  If today somehow went well....

Alita, Geren, and Odesa were not royals, but they'd always been friends.  They didn't appear as happy about the day as she had expected and even Geren picked at his cinnamon bread and barely sipped his tea.  Master Stuart, the instructor who had taught them for the last four years, seemed to watch their table more than the other ones.  It was like he knew --

The bell rang.  Master Stuart went to the archway and looked back.  "Come along. Don't dawdle.  The Queen has other work to do!"

They lined up.  As usual, a group of the boys took the lead, but mostly because they intended to go into the guard and had been training for it already, so this was not such a big step for them. The others, though --

Alita started to back away, but Dusty caught her arm.  "You'll do fine."

"I won't, I won't," Alita whispered, her voice trembling.  She stared with terror at the doors as Master Stuart took the first group through.   Alita acted as though she'd never been to the Royal Hall or ever met the queen.  "Oh, I never do anything right, and I so want to be a healer and help those who are ill and injured."

"You'll be wonderful at the work," Dusty reassured her. 

"Do you really think so?"

"Yes, absolutely," Dusty said.  Alita had an excellent touch for healing magic, and she'd proved it several times already.  "You just tell the Queen about how you cared for the young owl and the old fox I brought to you.  She'll understand."

"Oh. I can talk about what I've done.  Yes!  She'll know then that I have thought about this very hard!" Teresa marched right up to the door beside Donid and Kratis, and they looked surprised to see her so proud and happy.  They even let her go in next when Master Stuart opened the door.

Good, because that little surge of hope wouldn't hold for long if Alita had to wait and fret, like Geren who paced back and forth from one side of the hall to the other.  He'd always been high strung but now he looked likely to explode with the tension.

"What should I tell her?  Royals don't usually go to work in the kitchens, but even Cook Nisie says I have the touch for it.  But how to I explain about cooking bread?  It sounds boring even to me, Dusty.  I think I'm doomed to join the army --"

"Tell her how much the children loved the cookies you baked at solstice and how you helped Cook Nisie when she broke her foot.  You are already doing the work.  You won't shock her."

He nodded, though he looked less assured than Alita.  Still, she had the feeling that things would go well for him.  She even encouraged a few others and saw them go through the door.  They all would leave by the far door at the other end of the Royal Hall, ready to begin their new lives.

Finally, in the end, only she remained  Master Stuart opened the door and escorted Dusty inside to see the Queen.

A shame she still had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.

To Be Continued....
994 words

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