The ceremony was conducted in the great cathedral. Outside hordes of people chanted, “GarGar! Pirouette! GarGar! Pirouette!” Inside the old King and his ministers watched from the gallery above. The betrothal of Princess Pirouette to le comte des Deux Chats had been rehearsed and re-rehearsed days in advance, leaving no room for error. The Princess, the unwilling participant, looked pale and positively gobsmacked, while GarGar looked relaxed, even a bit elated.
Princess Pirouette took one last look at the home where she was raised and said a silent goodbye. The old groundskeeper gave one of the horses a slap and yelled, “Hyah!” and off the carriage tore down the dry and dusty country road. She was on her way to the capital, to a new life and though she knew she should be thrilled, all she could feel was dread. The stories she had heard of the old King were less than encouraging. There was the rival to his mistress’ hand who was now rotting away in a dungeon somewhere. There was the neglected wife who was rotting away in a castle somewhere. The occasional stories of his little kindnesses were vastly outnumbered by the many stories of his petty cruelties.
Even for the most fortunate, life at court was tenuous at best. The slightest infraction of the many rules both silent and spoken could result in disaster, ruination, lifetime banishment or worse. Although her childhood had been less than idyllic, Princess Pirouette had grown up at least with a sense of stability. Now that both of her parents were dead, the future looked grim. At twelve years of age, when most girls were trading harmless secrets, tinseled with giggles, she was now keeping all of her secrets to herself. Already she could feel the strain of life’s responsibilities tugging at the corners of her mind, weighing her down and draining her dreams of all color.
She closed her eyes and tried to sleep but the road was bumpy and she felt herself tossed about like the baggage strapped on the back of the carriage. There was no welcoming lap for her to rest her trouble brow- only a few flat pillows to make do. Cold comfort indeed…