Based loosely on the roleplay All in (dis)Order.
Serenity Isis Mae Sensibility winced as her young attendant yanked the strings of the corset tighter, closing an inescapable cage around her ribcage, crushing her lungs still further, until it felt like they must remould themselves to fit amongst her other organs.
“Mo-” Sera panted, struggling to get the words out, “-ther! I can... hardly breathe in this thing!”
“Well, what's more important?” the imposing figure of Queen Sensibility responded haughtily, fixing her with beady, probing eyes, “The ability to breathe, or maintaining a high level of decorum and style amongst ones' subjects? A simple question, I think.”
The young princess sighed, knowing from her mothers' tone that there was no point arguing further. She would be wearing this horrible dress tonight, whether she liked it or not. The dress itself was stunning, really, a finely made affair in multiple shades of purple, a strong imperial colour, or so her mother said. But the whalebone corset, however pretty its lavender material might have been, however slim and sleek it made her torso look, was not worth the discomfort – not to Sera, at any rate.
Regardless, an hour later, when the younger Sensibility crossed the high, arcing bridge that led from the palace into the visibly shabbier area where her mothers' subjects – her subjects, one day, dwelled, she still wore the dress. At least the time she'd had to prepare had allowed her to master the short, shallow breaths she was required to take if she was to avoid fainting. A trumpet blared from somewhere just ahead, and Sera craned her neck, trying to see past the guards that flanked her on all sides. As she reached the uppermost point of the arc, she caught her first glimpse of the town below, bedecked in brightly coloured banners and stalls, the streets crowded with townspeople out for the days revels. For today was the Fae Festival, the one day of the year when the citizens of Serroc were allowed to be themselves, and they rejoiced in it.
Long had the city lived under Sensibility's iron-fisted rule, oppressed and controlled to an extent that, had they been permitted to explore other lands, and known the possibilities of freedom they might have, the city would have found abhorrent. When the city's loyalty had begun to waver, some five years ago now, Sensibility had put in place the festival, a day where anyone might act as they pleased (in a controlled environment, of course) so as to keep the peace amongst her people. Of course, there was still a high level of control – the streets were rife with Orderlies, the 'peace keepers' of the city, who acted as judge, jury and executioner to any they felt were endangering the order of Serroc. Still, the people did not let it ruin their high spirits. Comparative to normal, they had freedom, today, and they would not let that happiness be dampened.
Refusing the carriage that had been prepared for her, much to the displeasure of her guards, Sera walked amongst the people, smiling at the grubby hands that reached out to stroke the folds of her dress, smearing it with grime. “I wish to stop here,” she told her watchers, when they reached a small eatery, its doors flung open to the outside air, “I am hungry.”
Ever obedient, her guards stopped, arranging themselves protectively around her as she sat down. She didn't have to wait long to order – in an instant, a waiter had appeared, beaming and bobbing his head at her politely.
“An honour, ma'am, an absolute honour!” he was saying, “And you shall have anything you like, free of charge, or course!”
“Of course not! I'm more than happy to pa...” Sera's response was cut short as she looked up at the man, stifling a gasp. He had a young, handsome face, almost princely in it's looks, save for one blemish – his right eye was completely missing, leaving a deep, awful looking cavity beneath his brow, the skin a mess of pink and white scar tissue.
“I.. I'm sorry,” Sera fumbled with an apology for staring, then, blushing, stood, saying she needed to relieve herself, and could she please be shown to the bathroom. One of her guards stood, as though to follow her, but she stopped him in his tracks with a sharp look.
“I don't think it will be necessary for you to accompany me to the ladies' room, Victor,” she chided him, “Or do you think there is a knife wielding maniac lurking behind the plant pot, there?”
He sat, muttering something about duty and responsibility, but Sera ignored him, following the one eyed waiter to a small alcove in the back of the shop, where a water closet and basin were shielded by a heavy curtain.
She thanked him politely.
A moment later, chaos descended.
No sooner had she stepped out from behind the curtain, a hand snaked its' way around her face, covering her mouth and stifling her scream before she had time to release it. Her eyes were wide, staring in horror at the four dead guards who sat at the table where only a moment ago she had been with them. She struggled against her captor for a moment, then something was forced over her head, and her vision went black.
After what seemed like hours, the carriage that Sera had been bundled into finally stopped. They had travelled an unmeasurable distance, full of twists and never-ending turns and the princess' whole body ached from the countless bumps and rattles of the cart as it seemed to leave any kind of manufactured road behind, going cross god knows what country. She had absolutely no idea where she was, and even when the bag that had kept her blinded for the journey was removed, the sparse woodland around her did nothing to help her sense of direction. She tried to take in as much of her surroundings as she could, but the way her body trembled and her heart raced with fear clouded her mind, making clear thinking impossible. Who were her captors? And why... though really, it was obvious. She was the daughter of a vicious tyrant of a ruler, and though Sensibility had thought the festival had quieted the rebellious ideas of her subjects, she had obviously been wrong.
“Oh princess!” A voice thick with mock surprise addressed her, somehow familiar, and she spun to face the speaker, “Whatever brings you to Hyde Forest? I never planned to see you here!” said the man with one eye as he laughed at his own joke. Serenity, unsurprisingly, didn't find it all that amusing.
“What is the meaning of this?” she demanded of the false waiter, his mocking, self-satisfied smile now so different from the snivelling, deferential one he had worn in the eatery, “Who are you?”
“I am Alexander,” he replied easily, his voice growing more businesslike as he sunk into a courteous bow, “Leader of the rebellion, freedom fighter, and peace bringer to the peoples' of Serroc. It is my mission to free every poor soul from Sensibility's tyranny, and you, Serenity Isis Mae Sensibility, are going to help me.”
Serenity couldn't help it – it was she who giggled now, a disbelieving, incredulous laugh.
“And how in the world am I going to do that?” she asked Alexander sceptically, “I suppose you think I have some kind of sway over my mothers' actions. Well, I'm sorry to inform you, but she listens no more to me than she does to any other of her subjects.”
Alexander answered with a sly grin, “Ahh, princess, you have me all wrong. I do not intend to change the queen's point of view. What need is there of that, when I can change yours.”
Miles away, in the city of Serroc, a bell began to toll, a low, mournful ring that echoed through every street and into every home, and the revellers all froze in their festivities, heads tilted to the sky. There was a moment where time seemed frozen, Orderlies and citizens alike stopped in their tracks, some wondering, some waiting. Then all hell broke loose.
Among the crowd, hundreds of people shed their cloaks, revealing weapons previously concealed, and lunged themselves at any Orderly unfortunate enough to be within arms reach. It was a massacre. Before the self proclaimed peace keepers had time to realise what was happening, most had been slaughtered, quickly and efficiently, by Alexanders' conveniently placed men, and the ones that survived the initial onslaught were too few to resist the tides of citizens they had thought well kept in fear and obedience. All had been waiting for this moment, and even those not in the know about the rebellion were quick to recognise that this moment might be the one to change everything; anyone able and courageous enough took up arms and joined the rebels as they began to march together, toward the high, arcing bridge that led to Sensibility's citadel – and freedom.
“So you see, you are as much oppressed by her as anyone else?” Alexander concluded, his eyes fixed on Sera's. She sat in silence for a moment, and then nodded numbly. All that Alexander had told her in the last little while was hard to take in. She had long known, been able to see, the way that her mother suppressed the fae people, restricting their use of their magical abilities and cruelly punishing, even murdering, those who opposed her. Long had she been aware that the Orderlies were little more than mercenaries, inflicting any cruel punishment they desired, more often then not on falsified charges. But what Alexander had just told her.... Serenity could not believe it! She had never known her father, only heard what her mother had chosen to tell her, that her father was a liar, scum, not worth knowing about. He had betrayed her, the woman told her daughter, betrayed them both. Now Alexander told her the truth – her father had been a fae. Sixteen years ago, when Sera was born, she had been surrounded in a hazy white glow – the first and most obvious sign of a fae child. Though her mother had loved the man deeply, even then she had harboured a fearful mistrust of the magical people, and had forbidden the man from performing any magic in her presence. To find that her daughter was fae! This had been more than she could bear, and in her anger, she killed the man she claimed to love, forbade her fae subjects from performing the magics that were their birthright, and swore to never let her daughter know of her heritage, or her power. It was a shocking revelation, to know that she had been lied to her whole life, that in fact, it was largely because of her that the people of Serroc had been so oppressed, and perhaps, some would say, she was being too hasty in believing Alexander's words. But something in the one eyed mans' voice, in his manner, made her certain he was telling the truth.
“So,” Alexander continued, “All I ask of you is this. Remember what I have told you today. Remember who you are, when you become queen. You have a responsibility not only to your people, but to yourself, to allow them to be free.”
“All this is well and good,” Sera replied, her voice trembling slightly in the face of so much responsibility, and the thought of her mothers' deceit, “But what good is it, telling me all this now, when I must go home and bow and smile to my mother? It may be years before I am queen!”
Alexander only smiled in response, that same sly smile.
“It may be sooner than you think.”
In Serroc, the city was rife with festivities once more. At first glance, it might seem that nothing had changed, but when you walked the streets, smelt the air, the fresh corpses of the Orderlies were plain to see, the pungent smell of blood and battle filling the atmosphere. The citadel, usually such a bustling, thriving centrepiece to the city, was deathly quiet – as a tomb. And that was what it had become.
In her chamber, with it's long, glass window overlooking the city, Sensibility sat in the throne-like chair she often frequented. The crimson gown she wore hid the bloodstains that covered her body, and her face was frozen in a mask of forced defiance, her last expression. She would never lift herself from that chair again, never fix her imperious gaze on whatever unfortunate subject had been dragged in disgrace before her.
And in the streets, the people danced, wildly celebrating their freedom, awaiting their new, unknowing queen, and their new lives.