Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 29

Thread: The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God [M - Hannelorian x DuchessLivilla]

  1. #1
    Member Hannelorian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Location
    Mare Marginus
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Fantasy, Sci-Fi, all the things.
    Posts
    411
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    15

    Default The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God [M - Hannelorian x DuchessLivilla]

    Long before the sun crept ever so slowly above the horizon, the noble estate had burst into life. In the wee hours of the night, or morning depending on how one wished to look at it the great house began to stir. Servants throwing their legs over the sides of their small and creaking beds. Dragging themselves from the comfort, from the escape of their dreams they sprung to action. Fires needed tending, curtains drawing, pillows fluffed, and of course their own breakfast consumed. Time marched forward regardless of their feelings, of their aches, their pains. As time lurched toward the beginning of the day for a family with whom they could not relate, so too must they work ever harder. The small army of staff moved through the house near silently, or at least as silently as they could muster. To disturb a member of the family while they slept would be met with cruel punishment.

    As each minute past the day grew longer, closer to the reality of the family rousing, of the family and their excess, their false or misguided piety lording over every element of their existence. Yet as though they were directed by God (or the Lady of the House, for them who was to say there was a difference?) when the clock struck half past five, the servants of the regal house filed into the chapel for morning services. For most all of them, this was the rare occasion in which they had the privilege of occupying a place nobility, of a station above theirs. With the best wishes of the Duchess herself, they were permitted to use the same chapel the family used, though never at the same time. Heaven forbid the nobility should be confronted with the total mass of those who served them hand and foot day in and day out. The grandeur of the chapel was awe inspiring, the stained glass windows displaying images of the passion of Christ. They were meant to strike fear in the hearts of those who wavered, or that is what some supposed. The Butler and the head Housekeeper kept their eyes out, looking for those who seemed not to be praying, not to be uttering the words of reverence to the holy on high. One must be actively engaged in a religious life.

    When services came to an end, they returned to their assorted tasks throughout the home, or to the servant's dining if breakfast had still yet to be eaten. The cooks had now turned their attention toward the family's breakfast. A meal which may or may not be eaten. A meal which if abandoned would go to waste, as it was not proper for a servant in this house to disgrace themselves by eating second hand. It was at this long table that the young Alice Sutton sat, hands folding tightly laying flat against the rough wood. She sat staring across the length of the great table to the wall on the opposite end. Along that wall roared a fire, and above the mantle were a plethora of bells with elaborate name plates above each one. Each bell corresponded to a room within the massive estate, there were dozens of them. The nightmare began when the bells started to ring with the rise of the sun. Even with their curtains drawn the Duke and Duchess seemed to arise at the same general time each day. Alice would hesitate to say she waited in fear for the bell, but in reality this is what it was. Alice was new to this house. It would be accurate to say that she and the Duchess to whom she was a ladies maid had not yet found their rhythm.

    As Mary, one of the chamber maids came skittering across the floor, Alice stared her down as if willing her to stop, and Mary feeling the eyes upon her ceased her movement. "Yes, Alice, she was still asleep." Mary said before beginning to move, only to be interrupted by a rather hesitant, almost tense voice "Are you absolutely sure?" Alice asked holding in a sigh, eyes now returned to the wall of bells. Mary could only roll her eyes, she had her own tasks to worry about, and for the moment she had escaped with her job and limbs intact. "If you stopped worrying about your job and focused on doing your job the Lord might look favorably upon you." Mary swiftly returned to her own duties, leaving Alice anxiously waiting until it finally happened. The bell beneath the placard that read 'Queen Caroline' rang, and as if possessed she shot out of her seat standing straight up as if to steel herself. "Oh God, Oh God." Alice spoke as she now somewhat frantically looked about her.

    "Alice!" Mary called, chiding in tone. As though to remind her that she mustn't take the Lord's name in vain. Alice could only shake her head and set off toward the kitchen to collect the tea which freshly brewed was ready to be taken to the Duchess. "Well, the beast is awake... no time like the present." She spoke somewhat unconsciously to which the Butler, just behind her took note. "Clean your tongue, clean your tongue!" He spoke, somewhat harshly, though inwardly he was sympathetic to the girl's plight. The Duchess could be icy, but there was no worse time than the morning. It was in the early hours she tended to be at her coolest. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Just nervous." Alice confided, letting out a sigh. The few days she had been here felt like an eternity...in absolute hell. "Calm yourself and do not keep Her Grace waiting. You can do this." He was reassuring, while the others hide twisted smiles and withheld their own snickering, all keenly aware of just how difficult life could be for young Alice.

    Taking the tray with a single cup of tea and steaming bowl of water covered in cloth in hand, Alice made her way toward the servant's staircase that would take her to the appropriate corner of the sprawling home. The stairs were small, narrow, with uneven rises that left one in an awkward position to climb them, sort of at an angle, or on one's side, attempting to move quickly but no quickly that one would trip and risk their own death or even worse, the anger of those they served. Who designed these things in such a manner? It was like those who had designed the grand staircases for the Uppers to use had taken the day off and a child stepped in to complete the designs. Alice finally emerged from a door that when closed looked just like another portion of wall in the ornate hall, the walls lined with delicate wallpaper, massive portraits of assorted family members or royals hanging there with eyes all staring. It wasn't more than a moment later Alice arrived at the end of the corridor, two massive wooden doors with intricate carvings before her. With some dexterity she had balanced the tray in one hand long enough for her to open one of the doors with the other. It was darkness, the only light coming from the hall which had recently been electrified with the rest of the estate. That a scandal in and of itself.

    Alice quickly hurried inside, using her foot and the cover of darkness to close the door behind her, extinguishing all light. This was her first test. She was still learning the layout of the room and she had to successful place the tray on a table before making her way to the great windows to draw the curtains open. It was of course, without saying that she collided into something, likely a chair. Alice held her whimper of pain within until she finally had set the damn tray down and rather carefully limped her way to the windows where she pulled the curtains open, and moving to tie them at each end to keep them that way. "Good morning, your Grace." Alice spoke turning her attention toward the bed where the Duchess remained still, silent. Of course, it finally dawned on Alice that she had made a mistake. Do not speak unless spoken to. It was too late now, there was nothing to be done. The girl wanted to sigh, to go limp in her own disgrace. Alice had collected the tea cup and held it carefully, standing perfectly straight.

    "What is it you think you're doing, Sutton?" The voice that came from the bed was soft, though seemingly accusatory in both message and tone. In that moment Alice felt overcome with guilt, or something akin to it. "I apologize your Grace, I did not mean to speak out of turn." Alice swallowed hard on her words, just watching the bed as a pale, slender hand emerged from beneath the bed clothes. The delicate fingers wrapped around the fabric, pulling it down the Duchess finally emerged, moving to sit up in the bed. "Ah, of course. Is that all then?" The Duchess asked, an inquisitive look on her face. Alice thought much as she always had, the Duchess was striking in her beauty. The woman was ghostly, haunting almost, but ever so delicate not unlike a porcelain doll. Alice stepped forward with her head bowed and moved to hand the teacup and saucer to the Duchess who readily accepted. "Yes ma'am, apologies again ma'am." Alice reiterated and stepped back with head still bowed.

    "Perhaps..." Arabella began, her attention completely focused on the young maid she had been saddled with. "There has been a misunderstanding." she completed the sentence, bordering on sweet, saccharine almost in tone. "Why exactly have you come to this room?" Rather than explaining her meaning like a reasonable person, Arabella felt more contented in belaboring the point, playing the long game waiting to see if this Alice would be able to figure it out on her own. "Pardon, your Grace?" Alice asked rather confused before clarifying. "The bell rang and I thought you summoned me ma'am." Alice did not have the slightest idea of what was happening or what was to come. A chill ran up and down her spine like electricity, to say now that she was nervous was an understatement. "You thought?" The Duchess nodded, and for a moment even seemed understanding despite her mocking question. "It appears thinking might not be your forte, Sutton. Not at all." Arabella shook her head and wagged her finger in disapproval, rising now out of the bed and too her feet. She was a vision of beauty as society outlined, thin from fasting, every feature delicate, every single inch of her skin unblemished. The braid of her blonde hair, even after a full night of sleep rested perfectly against her back. Her green eyes beaming with all the warmth of the forest they looked like, though there was no warmth. Any perceived warmth faded into a cold stare as the Duchess stepped closer to Alice.

    "I did not summon you." The Duchess remarked rather flatly, seeming less and less amused by the second. "Care to take a look on the other side of the bed, with the cord?" Arabella inquired, the cord being the device that when pulled rang the bell in the servant's hall. Motioning with her free hand in that direction, she waited. Alice hesitantly did as told, and when the full picture came into view, her eyes widened and heart sank. As the warmth of the light of morning illuminated the opulent bed chamber, all the gold glittering and dancing in the light it grew clearer still. One of the family dogs, Olivier, a rather feisty King Charles Cocker Spaniel sat, resting on the edge of the very same cord. The creature looking up, showing its guilt with those big sad dog eyes of his. "Oh... my..." Alice began in a slow manner.

    "You do not want to finish that sentence." Arabella reminded her rather sternly. Letting out an exaggerated sigh the Duchess simply allowed the cup and saucer to fall from her hand, crashing to the floor and shattering. Taking great care to step around the liquid now soaking into the rug and dripping off the edges to the wood floor, she simply stared at the helpless servant. "Come here. Please." Arabella requested of Alice, and Alice obliged. The Duchess looked the figure over, and threw her hands into the air as though she were at a loss. The woman's body was clad in a flattering but not too tightly fitting simple white night gown that left most to the imagination. "What am I to do with you?" Arabella asked in a half serious manner. "Right." Arabella said aloud and quickly raised a hand and without missing a beat struck Alice clear across the face as hard as she possibly could, leaving a very clear impression of her. hand on the girl. Alice shrieking for a moment before silencing herself through the pain. "Do we understand each other now?" Arabella asked rhetorically before sighing as Alice slowly corrected her posture.

    "Clean this mess up... and I suppose now that I am awake. I'll need to be dressed for prayer. We wouldn't want to disappoint His Grace, now would we?" There was a distinct coldness in her voice. She cared not that she struck another human being, she cared only for her own duty, her own well being. Alice, in part, having heard tales of what could happen supposed she was lucky, at least for now.
    Last edited by Hannelorian; 11-22-2021 at 10:40 PM.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  2. #2
    Member DuchessLivilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Location
    Scotland
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Historical 1x1, Sci-fi, Horror, AU
    Posts
    28
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    4

    Default

    The early morning for the youngest Lady of the house, or rather in the house, as the Duchess would never have allowed her sister to think herself above or even equal to her, was the only peaceful time of the day. When her sister and the Duke were asleep...or even better, on those rare occasions, when the ducal couple were absent from the house entirely; either visiting another 'worthy' couple or staying in the city. Sadly, such events happened only a few times a year. Or rather, the event of both being absent. The Duke was often at court or council for business...The Duchess was more often at home, ruling her empire.

    One would think being the younger sister of a Duchess, sister-in-law to a prominent peer of the realm, would have made the Lady Alexandra's life rather easy, or at least pleasant. In truth it was like trying to survive in a lion's cage with only a small, rather blunt, stick as a weapon. One would also think that the sister of a Duchess known for her cruelty and coldness to those under her, would be similarly icy and distant but in reality, it could not be further from the truth.

    Lady Alexandra always rose early, before dawn often and even before some of the servants on some days, to enjoy the silence and peace that came before everyone was up and about. It also allowed her to read without being worried about being discovered. She had learned early on to read quickly and therefore could finish a book in merely 3 or 4 hours over a few mornings. Reading anything but the bible and a few select books was banned and illegal...And punishable by the loss of one eye, then the other, if caught again, but for Alexandra the risk was worth it.

    History was her passion, and the books -'borrowed' from the Duke's library- she read told her quite plainly that England had not always been like this and once there had been freedom for all...Once, not so long ago really, people had not been drowned in public or torn apart by wolves or blinded or burned or...any number of vile and cruel punishments that were designed to make sure fear ruled. Once a lady could take an idea into her head and go to the park for a scroll, with just a maid...A maid who was like a friend; they could speak of what they liked without fear of being overheard and reported.

    Part of her wondered if they were banned from reading such to stop them wanting what they could no longer have. She supposed it was far easier for a woman to accept her fate, if she knew nothing else. Her mind often turned to the little girls, dressed all in white, led by a nanny and two guards, who walked by sometimes on route to and from church or a service. Poor things. They had never known anything else. They had always been in white, always with other girls, always closed off. Soon, perhaps in five, perhaps ten years, they would be married to men older enough to be their father's and set on their course of pregnancy and birth, pregnancy, and birth, until they could no longer do their 'duty'.

    Such was a woman's lot.

    On this particular morning, right around the time that her sister’s maid, Alice, was fretting in the kitchen, Alexandra was already up, sitting on the window seat in her room in her nightgown and dressing robe that covered her from neck to wrist to ankle -even at home a Lady could not go about underdressed- along with the sleep stockings and closely buttoned kid gloves a Lady was required to sleep in. How she hated them.

    She had always chaffed against the rules; her mother, before her untimely death, had used to stitch the gloves closed at the wrists to prevent her from removing them in order to “teach you how a proper, Godly, Lady behaves” when she had first been forced to wear them. Now she put them on herself, buttoning them tightly before bed without complaint, but as soon as her maid closed her door, she would remove them and touch her face, her other hand, just to feel her own skin, just to claim something as her own.

    Touch was something else they had lost, she learned from her reading. Some of the books -classics they were called- had watercolour pictures of ladies walking hand in hand -bare hands, that was- with friends or sisters. Some pictures even showed ladies holding hands with their lovers! It was as if she was staring at another world…which she supposed she was. No one held hands anymore, not even with their gloves. Even at Arabella’s wedding, there was no touching and the marital kiss happened behind a screen so that no one, bar the couple and the vicar, saw it.

    Alexandra sighed and leant her head against the glass of the window to stare down at the dark lawns and fountain that made up the front of the house. In the distance she could see the intricate black railings that topped the stone wall of the house. It was at those railings she sometimes saw the little girls in their white dresses, gloves, and veils, led by their drained looking nannies in green or grey, followed by black clad guards.

    Soon enough bells would start ringing and the servants would be up and about and that would be the end of the peace. Not that she blamed them for it. Truth be told she felt for them, even those who were as zealous in their views as her sister and the Duke. There was hardly much security in their lives. One wrong word would have them hanging from the wall, or worse.

    She often neglected to use the rope by her bed, knowing it caused the servants more stress, even if she was gentle with her maid, who knew her habits and came at the same time each day to help her dress without being called. Still, duty called, and she had to attend chapel with her sister, and His Grace, if he was here. Sometimes she didn’t know he had left or returned until she saw him. She wasn’t told much, Arabella liked to keep things to herself, like a miser with gold; she hoarded secrets.

    Alexandra glanced at the clock on the white marble fireplace and sighed before she stood and cast her eyes about the room. She had at least been allowed to decorate it…as long as she stuck to the rules. The walls were half panelled in white wood at the base, stopping halfway up to give way to a light blue silk brocade, to match the curtains, chaise, and bed hangings. It was understated elegance, rather than blunt opulence. She crossed to her bed and sat down, glancing briefly at the little pile of books on her bedside table. All, of course, were the ones she was allowed to read; well thumbed and used, or at least appearing so. The bible sat on top, as if she had just set it down.

    Exactly on time the door knocked and opened, revealing a young woman dressed in a drab grey dress -spotlessly clean but grey by design to show her lowly place- and a crisp white apron to match her cap. She curtsied and smiled shyly. “Your Ladyship, blessed day,” she said in greeting. Unlike her sister, Alexandra had no such rule about never speaking. In her room she was free to make such rules. Outside, she had to do as she was bid, as much as the servants.

    “Good morning, Hetty,” her mistress replied, returning the gentle smile as she stood. She watched as Hetty crossed to her washstand and set down a jug of warm water. “Is His Grace in residence, do you know?” She asked; that was always a good way to judge what mood her sister was in. She tended to be, by a tiny fraction, easier to deal with when he was at home. Her mind was on pleasing him, rather than petty cruelties.

    Hetty curtsied as she spoke once more, “I am not sure, Your Ladyship. I have not seen John this morning. I’m sorry,” she added, just in case. Even if her mistress had been nothing but kind and generous, it was always as well to air on the side of caution with uppers.

    “Oh well,” Alexandra replied. “I suppose it makes little difference in any case. The days rarely change…”

    That was true. It seemed the days all ran together…The only thing that changed was if they had to attend a salvaging -apparently that sounded better than public execution- or a wedding or christening.

    While she washed, preferring to do it herself, Hetty went into her dressing room and came out with a light blue dress that she laid carefully on the bed. Next to this she placed a pair of white silk gloves and her mistress’s crinoline. She also fetched the obligatory corset. Alexandra hated it with a passion. Her sister, on purpose, had, at their last fitting, ordered one a size smaller than required, making a snide comment that her sister was ‘over large and needed her figure controlled more strongly’. It was so tight that she often felt faint but refused to show Arabella. It would only please her too much.

    Once washed she removed her robe, folding it neatly before placing it on the chaise, rather than tossing it to the floor to be picked up. She undid the pearl buttons of her kid-gloves and peeled them off, flexing her fingers for the view precious minutes they were exposed to the air.

    Hetty, having been her maid for over a year, was skilled at her tasks and soon enough Alexandra, taking little breaths and inwardly cursing, stood before her mirror as the final few buttons on the back of her dress were done up. The dress itself might have been silk, but with the corset, shift, crinoline, stockings and then the gloves, she felt like a pack-mule on its way up a steep cliff…and the day had hardly begun.

    “If you’d like to sit, your Ladyship, and I’ll pin your hair,” Hetty said softly, stepping back and going to the dressing table.

    Something that had always amazed her, was that for all their talk of piety and modesty…upper ladies wore their hair in some ridiculously over the top styles, with numerous plaits and ribbons. It seemed to make no sense, but, she had often reasoned, when did logic come into any of this. It was rather like being in a fever dream sometimes.

    Alexandra preferred a simpler style, opting for having her raven curls collected and pinned at the back of her head, to fall in soft ringlets, and two plaits from the front of her hair, that curled about her ears. It has been fashionable with Princess Victoria, several decades earlier and was now seen as terribly old-fashioned but the younger Lady knew what suited her face and, rather than piling her hair up and festooning it with ribbons, she stuck solidly to her own style.

    “Arabella will tease me anyway, I may as well do as I please in this,” she thought to herself as Hetty added the final pin.

    “Hetty,” she said aloud, “Could you go and ask Alice if my sister is breaking her fast today or not? If not, I shall have mine after chapel. I know how she hates to be kept waiting.”

    “Yes, your Ladyship, at once,” Hetty replied, with a curtsy.

    -

    The maid left the safety of Lady Alexandra’s room for the corridor and carefully, keeping her eyes peeled for the Duchess despite the early hour, went to seek out Alice. After a few moments she received word from one of the other servants that, sadly, Alice was with her mistress. Hetty felt sick. She had hoped to catch her in the corridor…Now she would have to run the gauntlet of entering Her Grace’s room.

    She swallowed and, for a few moments, lingered outside the ornate double doors, praying that Alice came out. Sadly, her prayers went unanswered and Alice remined within. Hetty bit her lip and, dreading what would follow, knocked at the door.

  3. #3
    Member Hannelorian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Location
    Mare Marginus
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Fantasy, Sci-Fi, all the things.
    Posts
    411
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    15

    Default

    The Duchess wished should could have reported that the rest of the morning went as scheduled, hereby meaning largely uninterrupted. How she longed for Sutton's missteps to be the only such event of the day but it was all for not. Having washed and largely completed her dressing, Arabella stood with arms slightly raised before a full length mirror, Alice standing behind her pulling tightly on the laces of a green corset that matched perfectly the brocaded dark green dress that hung from her frame. The beauty of the weight loss that accompanied her regularly scheduled starvation sessions came into full view here, Arabella had little need for the oppressive practice of tight corsetry. Instead she could afford for a slightly looser pull that hugged the device to her slender body. Admittedly, Arabella found the corset on the whole to be less than desirable, though it was not her place to question such practice. If it was good enough for the Queen, it was good enough for a Duchess.

    As Alice completed her quick work in silence, there was a knock at the door. Arabella sighed and allowed her arms to rest completely at her sides, as though she was terribly put out by this. It was exceedingly rare for such an interruption to occur. It was well known throughout the estate that the Duchess was not to be disturbed before prayer, save for her ladies maid. Good help, after all was terribly hard to find. "Are you just going to stand there, or will you attend to the knocking?" Arabella asked in a stinging tone. She had little patience for such incompetence. Or at least what she perceived as incompetence. It was the sort of thing her sister would do. Despite Arabella's best attempts to rear Alexandra, to transform her into a proper Lady, it seemed ever so out of reach. How it irritated her beyond compare.

    "Of course, your Grace." Alice bowed her head and made her way quickly to the door, drawing it opened rather slowly. While the doors were beautiful, elegant and ornate they were dreadfully heavy. Though Alice worked as quickly as possible to accomplish the task. Casting her gaze down she was somewhat surprised to see Hetty. A part of her expected John, or one of the valets as the Duke had only just returned from court the evening prior. In fact, Alice had prayed it was John as that was an interruption the Duchess might find acceptable. Everything was easier when it came to the Duke, he was the only one in existence who could soften the insufferable woman. "Hetty, is there something I may help you with?" Alice's words were hurried, she wanted this interaction to end as quickly as possible before her mistress was quick to anger. Alice could see clear as the day the fear in Hetty's eyes. There something about her that screamed this was a last resort, coming to this door, at this moment. It must have been important.

    "The Lady Alexandra..." Hetty began before being promptly cut off. Arabella had made her way to the door, now standing behind Alice and casting her gaze over the servant. Great, she thought. Her sister's girl. This would be something. "The Lady Alexandra what? Out with it girl." Arabella spoke, never with compassion or patience, but with a tone that only meant one thing, an absolute demand. "Time is wasting... I would hate to be late for prayer because of your impertinence." The comment was off handed and largely meant as a threat. A threat which would not be lost on poor Hetty, or Alice who had yet to complete the Duchess' hair for the day. "She wondered if your Grace was planning on breaking fast this morning?" Alice knew as the question was asked it was best for her to step out of the way, as the Duchess, naturally did not enjoy having conversations through a doorway. "Is that all? Really... How kind of her to worry, isn't that right my dear Sutton?" Arabella asked, though it wasn't really a question. When was it ever.

    "Yes your Grace, Lady Alexandra is most thoughtful." Alice replied, and she genuinely meant her response. Alexandra was always thoughtful, she was kind. She was everything the Duchess was not. Alice had only wished she was under her employ, though really no matter what they all served under the Duchess' direction. "Shut that pretty little mouth of yours Sutton." Arabella groaned, and reaching a white silk gloved hand outward, she had taken Hetty by the wrist and pulled her into the room before closing the door. "Your mistress is many things, but a good kind Christian is not one of them. Does she think I have time to be interrupted for such inane things? She has no respect, never has." Arabella protested, her tone rising to indicate her anger at the situation before taking a breath to compose herself. "You can tell her Ladyship that I will not be breaking my fast, just as she should not be either. We must atone for our sins. We must demonstrate our devotion to God above through our deeds not only our words. Is such beyond her comprehension?" Again, this was not a question. This was a signature temper tantrum as it were.

    "In fact, the entire household shall fast until tomorrow at first light. Everyone. Do make sure the rest of the servants are informed of this." Arabella's tone had largely returned to normal, well, normal for her. As was the cruel step of depriving even the servants of their meal as a mere means of getting back at her sister for a perceived slight that in reality did not exist. It was a simple question that only required a yes or no answer. Yet, here they were. "At once your Grace." Hetty bowed her head and curtsied, beginning to step backward toward the door as it would be impolite to turn her back to the noble that was looking directly at her. "I'm not done with you yet. Or did you hear me dismiss you and I was unaware?" Arabella sighed and rolled her eyes. Alice looked on, doing her best to keep her facial expression entirely neutral, she knew all too well how horrified and uncomfortable Hetty had to have been at this moment.

    "How has my darling Alexandra had you style her hair this morning?" The corners of Arabella's mouth upturned into something of a smirk. She waited, patiently for a reply. "Her Ladyship requested a look in the style of the Princess Victoria." Hetty dared not describe the style further as 'simple' as that would undoubtedly outrage the Duchess, and somehow by proxy imply that her hair was too complicated and did not reflect proper values. "Ah, that sounds lovely. Unfortunately, that won't work for me. Do it again, something with ribbon. His Grace has returned, and Alexandra must be looking her best. Or at least try to... God knows that is a challenge for her." Arabella clapped her hands somewhat excitedly and smiled softly. "That's all, you may go. Please let her know that she ought to be on time this morning. You know his Grace is." She came off almost sweet, sweet in the sense that she enjoyed nothing more than making her sister's life a living hell. That was her punishment for the deep shame she felt Alexandra brought upon the ducal household.

    Hetty excused herself once properly dismissed and rather quickly made her way back to Alexandra being grateful that she escaped the encounter largely unscathed. Alice made quick work of finishing the pulling and tying of the corset strings for her mistress, and as Arabella sat down, she went to work pinning and setting her hair in an elaborate up do that did, of course, include matching ribbon of the same silk green fabric of the dress. "You would think she would know better by now." Arabella scoffed and looked at herself in the mirror one last time, the picture of a society woman. Alice paid little mind to the comment. Instead she thought of Hetty, feeling terribly for her, and then her thoughts had turned to John, a man for which she had great fondness. If she were the praying type, she would pray that he was having an easier morning than either of them. Much as the Duke softened the Duchess, the Duchess softened the Duke, slightly. "Very well, let us pray." Alice made her way quietly to the door opening it once more for the Duchess, allowing her to depart. Making her way deliberately slowly through the corridors until at long last they had reached the doors of the Chapel, where she would wait for her husband, and for her dear sister. "Off to your duties Alice, I'll see you later." Alice, just like that was dismissed.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  4. #4
    Member DuchessLivilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Location
    Scotland
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Historical 1x1, Sci-fi, Horror, AU
    Posts
    28
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    4

    Default

    Hetty, flustered and near tears, returned to her mistress and curtsied, swallowing back said tears as she did so. “Your Ladyship…Um…H-her Grace,” she stammered, her whole body shaking, “H-her Grace says-“

    Alexandra, who had been once again looking out of the window, turned and came over, frowning with concern. Gently, so as not to alarm the girl who was clearly on edge, she touched her arm, “Hetty, please, calm yourself…take a breath…That’s it, good girl,” she soothed. “You needn’t say, I can imagine what she said…Nothing pleasant, God forgive the thought.” She sighed. “Anything specific?”

    “N-no one is to eat, until light tomorrow, Ladyship,” Hetty whispered, as if it was her fault. Likely the servants would think it was; none would say anything about the upper ladies, but her…she was just a maid, and having displeased the Duchess, she had cost everyone lunch and dinner. Luckily most would have had breakfast at least today.

    “I see,” Alexandra shook her head. That was like her sister. It was almost textbook in fact. She followed a script and it never changed. “You’d needn’t worry, I shall send word to the kitchens myself, no one will blame you, Hetty, I promise.”

    She walked over to the cord and pulled it, summoning the first available servant to come to her. “Did she say anything else?” Alexandra asked as she turned back to her maid.

    Hetty swallowed. Her mistress looked lovely, glowing with health almost, like the icons of The Virgin Mary, especially in blue. “Yes, Ladyship. She…she wishes your hair to be altered. She-“

    “Ah,” Alexandra interrupted softly. “His Grace is here, I take it, and we are to put on a show…” she sighed and rubbed her side, already feeling the pinch of her corset. “Very well, duty calls. Fetch the ribbons, the blue ones for this dress.” She returned to her dressing table and sat, wincing as she did when her corset cut. Without waiting she reached up and started to undo the pins and plaits, to save Hetty a job; the poor girl’s hands were shaking so as it was.

    A few minutes later, as Hetty was combing and re-pinning her hair in a fair more elaborate fashion, trimmed with the blue ribbons, the door knocked and the housekeeper, a rather formidable woman, entered.

    She, despite knowing Alexandra was more lax in the rules, remained silent and merely curtsied, awaiting instruction.

    “Ah, Mrs Lyle,” Alexandra smiled in the mirror, keeping her head still to let Hetty work. “The Duchess has, in her goodness, decided a fast shall do everyone above and below stairs good. Please see to it that lunch and dinner are not served to any of us. It shall remind us of how fortunate we are.”

    This simple request removed any blame attached to Hetty and would protect her from the snips of her fellows, who felt the loss of their meals.

    Mrs Lyle nodded, “Very good, Ladyship.” She bowed and retreated to tell cook not to bother with preparations.

    Alexandra smiled at Hetty in the glass, “There we are. All done.”

    Hetty blushed and smiled shyly then stepped back, “As are you, Ladyship.”

    “Ugh,” the young Lady looked in the mirror at the mass of curls and ribbons and cringed. It might be the style, but it looked ghastly. Likely Arabella’s intent. She was, Alexandra always thought, terrified should the Duke decide to put her aside and marry her younger sister instead. Had that thought occurred to him, Alexandra herself would have refuted it quite soundly. She would rather be declared than marry him. He looked as if he had died some time ago! How on earth he was still alive was beyond her. The thought of marrying him made her feel sick to her stomach.

    Sighing, she rose and left Hetty to set her rooms -tidy anyway- in order to join her sister at chapel. As she made her way through the wood panelled corridors, lined with pictures of long dead worthies and family members, she felt their eyes judging her with every step. She was, she knew, lacking in almost everyway that was vital. Still, something, some tiny voice inside, told her she was not wrong to be kind to others and to treat servants as people…rather than unfeeling beasts who need to be whipped to work.

    Weakness, she was always being told, lead to vice and sin. She must not allow herself to be weak, it would allow the devil in. No one it seemed recalled that God himself asked them to be neighbourly and kind-hearted. That was never mentioned in the sermons.

    As she struck out into a wider passage that led to the grand staircase, she found herself walking towards His Grace, followed by his sometime valet John. Knowing what was expected she approached and dropped a low and graceful courtesy, “Your Grace, blessed day,” she said, keeping her voice soft, her eyes modestly down. A blessing, in fact. She hated looking at his gaunt face. It reminded her of a skull.

    Richard, Duke of Suffolk, was a tall man, once well built and strong as an ox before he became more and more convinced that the reason, he had no sons was because he was not committed enough to God’s cause. After that, he regularly went days without proper food, eating only bread and water and praying so much that he often fainted on the floor of the chapel.

    Arabella and her sister had never known the former man; when they had married the Duke had already been committed to his cause and had lost much of his former build, as well as appearing to age ten years in less than half that time.

    However, for all that, he had a grip of iron when he wished and could thrash a servant for an hour or more when he wanted to. He was a man who knew his place and demanded everyone else know theirs too. He had a streak of cruelty that rivalled his wife’s…Frankly, they were a rather perfect match.

    He looked down at his sister-in-law with an expressionless face, “Bless day,” he replied, extending a bony hand to raise her up. “I see you forgo breaking your fast. Good. Good,” he nodded, his voice rather higher than one might expect of a man, “Your gluttony must be over-come, dear child. It is a curse, sent by our gracious Lord as a test of faith. You must pray daily that you find the strength to succeed and do as your sister does. She is a true model of womanhood.”

    Alexandra, standing, nodded, her eyes lowered still, “Oh I do, your Grace. I pray for it all the time. I am ready to accept whatever I must do to follow my sister’s example.”

    Richard smiled. It was not a pleasant sight. His papery skin seemed to stretch around bone in such a way that she was rather scared something would peel away. “Shall we go?” He said, offering her his arm.

    Having little choice, Alexandra took it and allowed him to escort her down the grand and carpeted stairs to the entrance hall. Any servants they passed quickly stood back against the walls, eyes glued to the floor.

    John, like a faithful hound, followed on behind. He was a puzzle to Alexandra; one she was not sure she would ever solve. He had the bearing of an upper, having been born and raised to a family much like her own. Not ducal, but high enough to warrant notice. However, all that changed when his father fell from grace for a crime that she had not yet discovered, and the family was ruined. His mother had been sent away, God knows to where, and John, then aged seventeen, had been sent here to serve as servant.

    One would think he would be bitter and jaded, that he would hate his new master, having once been groomed to be master himself…but no. Whether it was an act, which she was sure it was not, John was as loyal and zealous to his work and his new service as a hound is to its keeper. It was most odd.

    As they approached the chapel Alexandra was eager to get her arm back from the Duke, but he showed no signs of relenting, pulling her onwards through the ornate doors and into the oppressively gilded chapel interior, with its icons and golden crucifix.

    Arabella, of course, was already in her place, knelt at prayer; likely beseeching the almighty to give her a child.

    “God preserve us,” Alexandra thought. The idea of her sister as a mother did not sit well with her. Not due to jealously, in any way, more so that she dreaded how said child would be treated.

    “Blessed day, Duchess,” Richard said formally, finally releasing her arm as he did so. He came to kneel beside his wife, leaving Alexandra to take her place in the pew. The Ducal couple always knelt for prayers at the front, to show how devoted they were. They also knelt on the cold, flagstone floor, not on cushions.

    Sometimes, she knew, both stayed so long their knees bled.
    Last edited by DuchessLivilla; 11-23-2021 at 05:13 PM.

  5. #5
    Member Hannelorian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Location
    Mare Marginus
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Fantasy, Sci-Fi, all the things.
    Posts
    411
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    15

    Default

    It would have been a lie of the grandest order if Arabella did not admit that she cast her gaze briefly behind her as the doors to the chapel opened. There was her husband, the Duke of Suffolk himself in all of his glory, walking arm in arm with her sister. The Duke was a shadow of his former self, he had been ravaged by his piety. Yet that mattered little to Arabella, she had not married him for his looks, but rather for the ferocity of his devotion. Most simply talked the talk, but the Duke, no. Richard walked in the steps of Christ and suffered for it. He fasted, he prayed, he took the whip to his own flesh in the name of God. Arabella never wished to know the man the Duke had been before he had met his salvation. For this man was all she needed, all she loved, all she longed to please, to serve.

    Watching him for the brief moment she had before returning her attention to the altar had infuriated her beyond compare. It was in this moment that Arabella had been reminded of her single greatest shame, that in their five years of marriage she had yet to produce an heir. Hell, she had yet to produce a single child. Women could not inherit property or titles, they owed their entire station in life to their husbands. They were simply an extension of their divine right, of their holy grace. Richard, despite his frustrations had always been kind to Arabella. Arabella in turn did everything within her power to ensure his success and happiness. So great was Arabella's love that she would be driven into sin in the name of her husband. During her own time at court she could wheel and deal with the best of them. Blackmail? Child's play. Gossip amongst the nobility was like gold, and Arabella made sure hoard her fair share. She atoned for her sins with her fasts and confessions (though there was no need to come completely clean was there?).

    The Duke knelt beside her, and she looked in his direction, and he in hers. The two shared a knowing, loving smile. She returned his greeting kind, "May the Lord open." In the smallest of gestures, she moved her right hand toward him, and he moved his left hand toward her, his pale thin skin brushed against her silken gloved hand before the two returned to their clasped hands in prayer. Arabella genuinely loved and adored her husband, and in this moment she would pray to God above harder than she had before, as she told herself each time. She would trade even her own life for a child. Let childbed fever take her, she cared little for the misery of the mortal realm, she would gladly surrender if it meant that the Duke would be given an heir. He brought her peace, love, affection, and above all a new meaning to the faith. What had she given him in return? Precious little. Arabella was aware of the fate of his last wife, and she wished not to meet that fate herself. Her hands were clasped so tightly as she prayed that she felt her nails would pierce her own flesh, causing her to bleed. So be it. There was enough pressure despite the gloves she would do whatever it took.

    Yet, there he had been arm in arm with her own sister. Arabella's mind was plagued. Would her sister be her own replacement? No. The Duke made her his wife, and she would be the Duchess until the end of her life. She would destroy Alexandra if need be, leaving nothing but a smolder pile of ashes. For this small act of defiance, Alexandra would pay. Forgiveness was out of the question. As the Chaplain made his presence known he led the group in prayer beginning with the Lord's prayer:

    Our Father which art in heaven,
    Hallowed be thy name.
    Thy kingdom come,
    Thy will be done in earth,
    as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts,
    as we forgive our debtors.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil:
    For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for ever. Amen.

    And then of course, the group were told of the sermon, the simple fact that at any moment God may condemn them to hell, there was no act too small that could seal their fates. In classic fashion the Church would rule through fear and terror. Arabella would remain there, for hours on end until her knees were so raw they would bleed. Her husband, devotedly praying along side. Together the two were quite the couple. Arabella imagined that despite her flaws, she remained the most loved of all the Duke's wives. Relatedly it was understood, at least to her, that Alexandra was to remain in her pew until the ducal couple had concluded their own prayers.

    While the couple prayed, Alice along with John had made their way back to the servant's hall. Alice having picked up a basket of mending in the process. John had always been an odd duck in the time she knew him. He had no bitterness, no regret, no anger for what had happened to him. Of course, had never spoken to her about such matters. She had only heard from servants who had been here far longer than she had. He was kind and graceful, ever so devout. Alice could simply not understand it. "We must be grateful for Her Grace's commitment. We all shall take this fast in stride." Alice remarked, though in earnest, she believed none of it. She preferred to acknowledge that her mistress was cruel, that this fast was nothing but a punishment for a personal slight. None could know that she did not truly believe. There was no faster way to find herself in trouble, the kind of trouble that ruined or even ended lives. Alice continued on to work on the mending, it would be hours before she was needed again. "How was His Grace's trip to court and council?" She asked, genuinely curious.

    When prayers had concluded, the Duke was first to rise, followed in quick succession by the Duchess. Today her knees had not bled, though her hands had. The white silk gloves now stained crimson, regardless it was now the Duchess who walked beside her husband with arms locked, she leaned slightly against him, and as she walked down the central aisle she gave Alexandra a look, a look that screamed of rage. "My darling." She spoke to her husband as the two exited the hallowed shrine. "Nothing pleases me more than to have you home. Though Christ himself comforts and sustains me in your absence, my heart delights at the union of our prayer." Arabella was sincere, her voice soft, unlike anything heard at any other time. It was in some small sense like a miracle to those around her. "Do forgive me Richard, I must withdraw with our Alexandra. It would appear that she needs a lesson in affirmation." Ah yes, affirmation. This was code, a message that Arabella felt Alexandra had misbehaved in a way which would brought their reputation harm. She made no particular allusions to the specifics at the time.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  6. #6
    Member DuchessLivilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Location
    Scotland
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Historical 1x1, Sci-fi, Horror, AU
    Posts
    28
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    4

    Default

    Alexandra spent the sermon seated behind her sister and the Duke, her hands clasped neatly in her lap, giving every appearance of a young woman committed to prayer; mouthing the words silently as the chaplain spoke them and doing every action perfectly.

    In truth however she was mentally absent. She had been so long at these things that she didn't need to think. She was elsewhere, pondering a philosophical question that she had come across in one of the Duke’s book the morning previously. Said book was safely back on the shelf in the library, of course. She was no fool. She, and everyone else, knew that Arabella went through everyone’s rooms to try and find something to use against them. She would find nothing in her sister’s though…much to her irritation. Or Hetty’s either. Alexandra was as committed to protect her maid as she was to her own protection.

    She had, of course, caught the look her sister had shot across the chapel and inwardly cringed. She knew what was coming. There was nothing Arabella liked more than putting someone in their place, and if abuse was needed, she was first in line to dole it out.

    “I’d rather she abuses me than the servants. They have enough to suffer as it is,” she thought as the chaplain droned on. “At least she cannot legally kill me…” That was small comfort, but it was at least something. Arabella or the Duke, actually Alexandra as well, could, if they wished, have a servant killed or do it themselves for a real or invented crime and suffer little to no punishment…especially if said crime was heresy or similar.

    As she mouthed the expected words and went through the motions of kneeling, rising, kneeling again, she watched the ducal couple closely. It was strange, a miracle made flesh really, to see her sister…her cold, unfeeling, cruel sister turn into something approaching softness when the Duke looked at her. An outsider looking in, who knew nothing of the characters of either of them might assume…well, first they would assume it was a father and his grown-up daughter but say if the outsider knew they were a married couple…They would assume, correctly, that the pair were deeply in love and devoted to one another.

    It was almost sickening.

    Not out of jealously. Never that. It was sickening that two such cruel beings had found one another and were happy. Happiness, Alexandra felt, should be earned. Then again, her sister had and did suffer. She wanted a child, any child. Even a miscarriage would, she thought, please Arabella. At least it would mean she had once been pregnant and might be again someday. She had never even had that slim hope.

    Maybe a loving marriage was her reward for her suffering. Maybe. God was, as they were told, a kind God to those who suffered for him. No one, not even Alexandra, would say that her sister had not tried her hardest to do her duty. She had her husband, that was, perhaps, her one consolation.

    Still, it was no real comfort to everyone else! If the Duke died…which he surely must die before Arabella, for all her delicate health, she was years younger than him, what would become of the young Duchess? Never mind her sister.

    Widowhood had some respect, if, and only if, you had children. A childless widow, who had been married for a few years and never once become pregnant well…What were her chances of remarriage, even if she was young and beautiful? Men wanted fertile wives.

    Alexandra looked at her sister, wondering about this and what her fate might be. She supposed she might be placed in one of the religious orders, she was certainly pious enough for it. Would she be happy there? Doubtful. She would not be in control.

    There were worse fates though. The asylums for a start. Their mother had taken the girls to one once, as a lesson. The images had haunted them both for weeks afterwards. Back then they had been close. Innocent and sweet in their white dresses, happy even…

    “Most of the cells contained women,” Alexandra recalled, frowning a little as she did. “Women who cried, screamed, banged their heads on the wall, sat silently staring into space…Some cradled rags to their bosom, whispering as if to a sleeping child.”

    Death or a convent would be better. That was a sure thing.

    It did not take a great intellect to know that most women had not been mad when they were sent there…But a month or two later, they certainly were. It was a convenient place for a husband to put a woman he had no use for. A barren wife, a wife who talked too much, a wife who had opinions…A wife had merely tired of. There would always be a young woman, ready to take the place.

    She was still thinking on this subject when the sermon ended, after what seemed like days, and the ducal couple stood to leave. Alexandra fell into step behind them, wondering what little cruelty her sister had come up with to punish her for touching her husband. As if she had wanted to. His touch was like a burn upon the skin. It was at these times she was pleased to wear gloves and long-sleeved dresses.

    Affirmation.

    How lovely.

    Alexandra made no reply. One was not needed.

    The Duke turned from Arabella and looked her over, his eye critical, “Yes,” he nodded, “I had hoped to see some progress, but I see we still do badly. Perhaps it is time to look at a husband for her,” he added, as if the girl wasn’t standing in front of him listening. “A firm and steady hand to correct her and mould her into what she should be, dearest.”

    He smiled, a sickly one, that he only ever used when he was thinking of something unpleasant. Or unpleasant for everyone else, likely it was a pleasure to him. The Duke patted his wife's hand, "Not that you do not do well with her, my only one. I know you expend a great deal of energy for her betterment. Is she grateful?" He sighed and looked at Alexandra, shaking his head, "I do not think so."

    Alexandra herself knew better than to reply. She had made that mistake once, and only once. It was better to stay silent and contrive to look ashamed.

  7. #7
    Member Hannelorian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Location
    Mare Marginus
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Fantasy, Sci-Fi, all the things.
    Posts
    411
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    15

    Default

    There could be no sweeter words than those the Duke had spoken to the Duchess. How it warmed her heart to hear him in perfect agreement with her. It was further heartening still to hear him acknowledge that Arabella was trying her damndest to turn the precocious Alexandra into a proper Lady devoted only to Christ. There could be no more beautiful music to her ear than Richard stating that he still felt Alexandra ungrateful. The only, only thing better was Richard referring to his wife as 'my only one.' Arabella knew that the only thing that matched his love for her, was her love for him. Though in the same breath, she knew that her own time was running out and that love would not be enough to sustain her position in this house. The fair Duchess was desperate for a child.

    "Perhaps you are right my darling, though it will take the strength of God himself for any husband to mould our Alexandra into something worth keeping." Arabella too, felt no issue in speaking ill of her sister more or less directly in front of her. The Duchess withheld her sigh, as that was not an action suitable for such a woman in the presence of a man. Ladies always held their composure. "I do believe I have a suitable match in mind." Arabella continued, a wide smile spreading slowly across her face. As the couple walked the grand halls of their stately home, arm in arm, Arabella would occasionally lean her head in on her husband's arm, or lightly squeeze his hands. There was no place she would rather be, and yet, she would have to end this time to discipline her sister. Was there anything she could not ruin?

    "Pardon us, kind Richard. We will withdraw." Arabella spoke, rather softly as the time came and the two women had reached the door to the Blue Drawing Room, one of the more elegant in the house. "Peace be with you." She concluded, bowing her head and smiling softly. Like clockwork the doors to the drawing room opened, Alice knew the routine by now and word of the couple's movements spread like wildfire throughout the house as servants would scramble to make themselves anywhere else. The Duchess frequently reminded them that it was best to be unseen. And for their own safety above all, they would tend to agree. The chances of offending the ducal couple were greatly reduced when they simply did their jobs and prepared their rooms.

    Alice, for her part, had been prepared with a freshly brewed pot of tea, bandages, and a change of gloves. By now, though still early in her employment, had learned that the Duchess often found new and creative ways to prove her devotion by praying herself bloody. It was something of a unique talent the woman possessed. As the Duchess entered the room with her sister in tow, she finally released the sigh she had been holding in. "Blessed afternoon Sutton." Arabella spoke, turning her attention to her maid. "May the Lord open, your Grace." Alice replied with curtsying, deeper than she normally would, in hopes of making up for this morning's crimes. It was not lost on the young woman that her mistress could and would hold a grudge, if for nothing else than her own twisted enjoyment. "You may take the remainder of the afternoon off. Make yourself available to God and worship his generous will." Arabella spoke rather plainly, her attention now shifted to Alexandra.

    Alice was somewhat surprised at this sudden act of kindness. Being in the presence of the Duke really did do wonders the Duchess' moods. Or, conversely she wondered if she was in such a good mood because Alexandra, the young lady in the house had done something wrong. Arabella adored a good bout of punishment, and seemingly hated her sister. It was due to this after all, that would keep her from enjoying even a single meal for the rest of the day. "Thank you, your Grace. That is incredibly kind of you ma'am." Alice bowed her head and walking backwards, as she had been trained made her way to the door, and only once her hand, reaching back had rested on the handle did she speak her final words. "Under his eye." And left, closing the door behind her and sighing in relief.

    Arabella stood by one of the several grand windows in the room. The rays of the sun beaming through and illuminating a well decorated drawing room with marble floors, delicate rugs and furniture all in a pale blue. The wall was adorned with portraits depicting the house through the ages, and of relatives largely forgotten over the centuries. The large hearth roaring with a freshly tended to fire. "Do you fancy yourself the next Duchess of Suffolk?" Arabella asked without so much as turning to look at Alexandra now. "The woman to carry out a duty that I have thus far been unable to do?" The anger underlining her words began to rise up now, her tone become more and more harsh with each and every word. Arabella, now of course was referring to childbirth.

    "What haven't I done for you?" Much as when she asked questions, this too was rhetorical. "In God's holy name I have given you everything. I have taken you into my home, I have fed you, clothed you. I have loved you when no one else would." Arabella now sounding exasperated, almost disgusted turned to face Alexandra, shaking her head. "Every single day, I pray for you, for your happiness, for your health. And what have you done for me?" Step by step, she now walked closer and closer to the young lady. "You're fat, and lazy, slovenly, uncommitted to the faith. Rude and discourteous." Holding up her right hand, in a blood stained glove she wagged her finger back and forth. "Tut tut." She made a sort of clicking noise of disapproval. "Have you no shred of dignity left?" Another side as Arabella now stood face to face with Alexandra.

    "When his Grace offers you his arm, you simply refuse. You ungrateful cretin. You protest, you remind him that you are not worthy. You remind him that it isn't the place for an unmarried trollop." Alexandra reached out with her right hand and seized Alexandra's wrist, gripping it tightly, more more tightly than one might expect from a woman who seems to largely be starving herself to death. Arabella ignored the pain of the wounds on her palm she was re-opening, blood soaking through the glove and depositing itself now onto her sister's garments. "You stupid, stupid girl. Mother always said you would be a challenge. God rest her soul she had no idea. None." It was clear that this perceived slight had done nothing by enrage Arabella beyond compare. "Christ suffered on the cross for our sins and now I too must suffer for yours." Arabella finally released her sister's wrist and in predictable fashion moved to strike Alexandra across the face with her bloodied hand. Not once, not twice, but thrice, as hard as she possibly could before finally lowering her hand and stepping back. "I don't care if he threatens to cut off the very arm you deny to him. You let him cut off your arm and you will smile and that has enough faith in you to only correct you, and not kill you." Arabella took a short pause before continuing. "I wonder what it is you're up to in those early morning hours... walking about the house in a state of undress. Did you not think I knew about that?"

    Arabella exhaled deeply now. "Your girl, Hetty isn't it?" Arabella asked somewhat flippantly. "Hetty has been found guilty of petty treason and sentenced to death. The day after tomorrow, a grand salvaging. It has been ever so long since we've had one of those. It will do the people of Suffolk good, reinforce their faith." Arabella's tone had softened greatly, a smile on her face. A smile that begged Alexandra to be grateful for her mercy and generosity. "The wolves are positively ravenous." Arabella shrugged, and shook her head. "Now get on your knees and pray for God's forgiveness, and pray that my patience with you does not run out before I find you a willing husband. Pray out loud until I am satisfied that you have atoned for your insolence."

    She crossed her arms and stood perfectly straight.
    Last edited by Hannelorian; 11-26-2021 at 02:50 PM.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  8. #8
    Member DuchessLivilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Location
    Scotland
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Historical 1x1, Sci-fi, Horror, AU
    Posts
    28
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    4

    Default

    Alexandra had followed on behind the ducal couple, listening to the taunts and sickening words. It like watching two demons delighting in pouring poison upon one another, the deadly liquid having no effect on ones already so corrupted. Again, she found herself wondering where on earth Bella had gone...Her sister that had once been, now replaced by the shell before her, held up by pure malice it seemed.

    It had happened so gradually that no one had really noticed until it was too late. The mischievous little girl, who loved God as much as anyone, but who still delighted in harmless pranks and games...slowly but surely the 'innocent' pranks took on a more sinister nature. Such as putting salt in the sugar bowl when Mama had guests and watching as cook was reprimanded and beaten, or telling a childhood friend that if they prayed hard enough, they would be able to fly...

    "Go on Lucy. Jump, and God will make you fly..." She had said, with such conviction. Lucy had jumped. And Lucy had died on the cobblestones below.

    Alexandra wondered if that haunted her. It had seemed to, for a time. It had shaken her faith a little before she decided that Lucy hadn't prayed hard enough or else was unworthy. That must have been it. Unworthy. She knew what really haunted her sister; her lack of children, and fear that the Duke would replace her, like the others. A very real fear it was too. History proved that fact.

    Those who did not do their duty could always be removed and replaced by one who would.

    She followed her sister into the drawing room and stood silently as Arabella went through her little show with Alice. Despite all, Alexandra -Arabella's back safely to her- smiled at Alice as she left. She knew how the poor girl felt, aside from herself her maid was the next one in line for abuse most of the time.

    At the question she inwardly sighed. She had worried that might be the case. There was, however, no point in denying it. That would only encourage her...a denial would equal guilt in her eyes. Instead, she just stood and let her work herself into a state, getting more and more full of righteous anger, her eyes aflame with her own sense of self-importance.

    When Arabella gripped her wrist, hard enough that she was sure she felt her bones shifting, she could not help but let out a soft sound of pain, but she made no move to wrench her wrist free, something she could have done easily. What followed was what she thought -and would soon be proved wrong- to be her punishment when Arabella slapped her.

    But no. Her dear sister went further and announced that Hetty was to be put to death…for nothing but being her maid in truth but no doubt a suitable crime would be found. How cruel could she be. In a matter of seconds several scenarios shot through her mind on how to handle this situation. Begging for the poor girl’s life would do not good; she’d seen her sister in action long enough to know that such would only please her and give her more ammunition to toy with. She might even agree to spare Hetty, playing the merciful Lady and so forth, only to do nothing and have her executed anyway in a further, more crushing blow to one who thought it was not going to happen.

    The only thing she could come up with to save Hetty was to help her end her own life…A sin, yes, but surely God, who was, she knew from her reading, kind and merciful, would understand it was not a selfish act nor a sinful one in heart, but a desire to return to his side without the taint of crime on her soul. Nor to suffer the pain she did not deserve for said crime. But how could she do it without being caught? And besides, Hetty would be locked in her room by now most likely…No…

    Alexandra clutched at a mental straw, she couldn’t be, not yet. Arabella had not had time to anything yet nor even set it in motion. She had been behind her sister the whole time, and nothing was said to the Duke, so no orders had yet been given…Maybe, just maybe, there was a slim chance.

    Firstly, she had to answer her sister before she could do anything else and that was a risk in itself.

    As she struggled, mentally -her face remained calm, something at least that might stand her in good favour as a woman was expected to keep her emotions to herself, no matter how great- to formulate how to reply to Arabella in a way that would diffuse the situation, put her sister’s mind at rest and save Hetty, something shot into her mind…as if from God himself.

    “Only good can overcome evil. Evil cannot overcome itself.”

    Raging and screaming would do nothing but delight and prove her sister right about her. Begging would please her even more. But…she would not expect kindness…

    “What did the Duke say at some dreary dinner when quoting a great general …He said that ‘When I face an opponent, I seek to defeat not him, but his confidence. Two men are equal, true equals, only when they have equal confidence. A man whose mind is troubled by doubt cannot be confident in his victory and therefore has already lost’…Yes…Arabella, my poor sister, she gives out vitriol and expects it back, it feeds her, if…if I give her kindness, perhaps it shall so trouble her mind I might be able to help Hetty, and myself…and maybe, just maybe, her…”

    Alexandra, rather than kneeling, or throwing herself to her knees rather as her sister demanded, or even holding her cheek and weeping, which would please her as well, gently reached out and took her sister’s hand, which much have shocked her enough for she did nothing to stop her as she slowly pulled her blood-soaked glove from her skin. “Dearest sister, please, God compels me, and you may hate me for it, but please, let me see to your wound first before anything else. Your faith, which has always so impressed me and yet scares me when you hurt yourself for it. Let me tend to this, I pray.” Her fingers, soft from always wearing gloves, and gentle unlike Arabella’s, held said sister’s hand tenderly. It was not all an act; she was genuinely concerned for her. It was not unheard of for those so devout to take infections from untended wounds and die.

    “I would never forgive myself if you took ill because of this and I did not offer help, whatever the consequences for myself in the offering of it. Sutton has left all I need,” she nodded to the water and bandages, “Please, let me tend to it. God…God has blessed me with few talents but I have a steady hand at least.”

  9. #9
    Member Hannelorian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
    Location
    Mare Marginus
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Fantasy, Sci-Fi, all the things.
    Posts
    411
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    15

    Default

    As a child Arabella had been joyous, full of life, bright eyed and bushy tailed. For much of her childhood she maintained a healthy weight and sun kissed complexion. The girl would be utterly unrecognizable to the woman who stood before Alexandra today. Two things had been incredibly apparent since her childhood, one, Arabella was incredibly convincing when she wanted to be. Two, Arabella got what Arabella wanted. Always. Arabella was the golden daughter of the Marquess of Winchester. Throughout her childhood the nobility would gawk over the beautiful girl, who developed into a stunning beauty, the picture of piety and grace. She wanted for nothing, had the best tutors and the most devout priests giving her lessons.

    If anything, she had learned from a startlingly young age that God was cruel, and would punish the wicked to an extreme. Those who were not worthy, those who could not see his divine wisdom would be struck down. Those who lacked faith would burn in the fires of hell. As a child Arabella had once convinced a friend, a girl named Lucy, that she could fly. Never had Arabella actually imagined the girl would try it. Or perhaps she had. Perhaps Arabella truly wanted to push the limits of her own power. Could she actually do it? She did. What was worse is that Arabella knew fully well what she had done. As she stared down from the tower top, looking at the mangled and lifeless body of her friend, setting with agonized facial expression in a pool of her own blood it hit her.

    Arabella could feel her own face contort into something painful, as what little colour she had left on her skin evaporated. She was immediately plagued with guilt and began to cry. Vanishing before anyone below could see her, she quietly regained her composure and went to find her father with her sister following behind. She explained everything, God's honest truth. See? There was a time when lying was beneath her. However, as always, Arabella could do no wrong. Her father would cover it all up. The incident would be played down as an accident. One girl running too fast through the halls of an unfamiliar house who had simply tripped at the most inopportune moment possible. Arabella had been reduced to tears, collapsing into a puddle of grief and guilt. That moment still haunted her.

    To their father, she was affectionately known as "Bells." To her mother, she was "Bella." To society at large, Arabella was the daughter everyone wanted as their own. She was the girl everyone wanted their sons married to. Arabella dazzled and stunned at court with her charm, beauty and appeal. Her father doted on her, never minding her touches of cruelty. He loved his daughter. Fully aware of what she was capable of he cast it all aside for he loved even more what she would bring him. Fame, honor, respect. She would marry up, there was no other option. Men across the Kingdom would compete for her hand in marriage from an uncomfortably young age. Ultimately, Richard, Duke of Suffolk was chosen. Twice married and childless, he was a good and faithful man. It pushed the family into the highest peerage of landed nobility. After all, while less than ideal he was the only available Duke for marriage.

    Arabella privately protested the marriage. She was a girl of 17 and he was old, past his prime. Though she understood her duty and would fulfill that with great pride. She had no greater aspiration than to please a husband and God above all. It was less than a year later, just after her 18th birthday when the couple wed. At first, the marriage seemed an unhappy one. But over time, the two became exceedingly close, falling truly in love with one another. It had been a long six years. Six years and no children, male or female, six years no pregnancy. Arabella could hear the whispers, and deeply felt herself a failure to God and family. Thank God her parents were dead, or surely they would die of shame from their daughter.

    The Duchess expected her sister to put up a fight. She expected her to anger quickly. Arabella wanted the fight, she wanted the temper tantrum, she wanted all of it. Yet, nothing came. In anger's stead came compassion and kindness. Arabella had moved to sit and simply allowed Alexandra to tend to her wounds. This display of faith, a thing which should be so beautiful and tender, inwardly disgusted the Duchess. She had no real earthly idea of how to react, so she simply did her best. "Thank you... Alex." Arabella's voice was soft, kind. It was the voice she spoke to her sister with when they were children. When they were happy, carefree and the best of friends. The two had once been entirely inseparable and yet here they stood almost as enemies. She even called her Alex, something she had not done in years.

    Arabella knew that her sister loved her. A part of her still loved her sister in return. For the smallest moment in time Arabella felt the pang of sadness. Sadness because in part, this sudden act of kindness was simply a ploy to diffuse her and the situation. Manipulation wrapped in genuine concern. "You have more talent than you realize." Arabella was, for her part, speaking rather honestly. "I just... wish you would apply yourself." The Duchess knew that her sister struggled with the faith, she understood the woman had little genuine belief. "I am doing this for you... I understand it may be harsh. But I want you to have good things in your life. To be safe, and cared for. Lest you end up like me." She sighed, and felt a few tears well up in her eye and fall softly to the fabric of her dress. Here, she meant childless. While she truly hated the idea, or perhaps inevitability that her little sister would have a child before she did, she did not want her to suffer. More accurately, she would be content if her sister simply faded into obscurity having performed her expected functions.

    "Enough of this." Arabella was steeling herself once more, reminding herself that good devout women did not suffer from intense bouts of emotion. "You can keep her on. Though she'll get 20 lashes from Mrs. Lyle tonight. No more, no less." Alexandra had succeeded, and Arabella's temper was stayed, though no one could say for quite how long. Hetty would be bloody and sore, but she would be alive and still employed. That was better than nothing. "And you will remain at prayer for the rest of the day." Arabella stood, once the repair work was complete, having donned the fresh gloves and left the room without further word, back to the Chapel where she too now felt compelled to pray before returning to the Duke to begin discussions on her sister's marriage.
    Last edited by Hannelorian; 11-27-2021 at 02:50 PM.
    You don't need a reason to help people.

  10. #10
    Member DuchessLivilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Location
    Scotland
    Favourite Roleplay Genres
    Historical 1x1, Sci-fi, Horror, AU
    Posts
    28
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Rep Power
    4

    Default

    As soon as the door closed behind her sister Alexandra closed her eyes and dragged in a ragged breath -not helped by her still too tight corset- as she sat, a bowl of bloody water in front of her. Her heart felt as if was going to burst from her chest, she had been holding so much inside. Her gaze drifted to the bloody water and she shook her head, unable to quite process how well that had gone.

    She guessed it would be a one off...but it had done enough. Hetty need never know how close she had come to death; she and Alice would be standing behind their mistresses when the salvaging happened, rather than having a horrific, and yet staring role in the spectacle.

    Alexandra reached over and pulled the small cord by the fireplace to summon a servant to take away the bandages and bowl. She would have done it herself but had Arabella found out she had gone to the kitchens with such, she might have assumed her sister had gone to whisper or similar...better to stick to the rules.

    Unable to sit still, being so worked up, she rose and paced back and forth, her soft soled shoes making no noise on the expensive carpets. What pained her so was that Arabella had called her 'Alex' like she used to as children. It brought back many memories, most of them good.

    Bella was four when Alexandra was born, old enough to notice the sudden presence of this new sister in what was once her crib, being fussed over by a woman who was once her nanny. Perhaps it was best for all of them that she had too young to overhear the laments that the baby had not been the hoped for son and heir. That would have been a delightful bit of ammunition twenty years later.

    Still, Alexandra had no bad memories of her elder sister until she was much older; far from being jealous, Bella had seemed to rather enjoy the idea of having this little person to talk to and play with, to tell what to do and teach. The idea of course, had been implanted at a young age that a woman existed to have babies so perhaps Arabella had been told that this would be good practice for her own children. Or maybe she had just been lonely as a child and was happy to have some company in the nursery.

    Alexandra let out a little chuckle at the memory of the two of them, dressed in identical white dresses...She herself must have been about five, Bella nine, and they were sitting for a formal portrait. Arabella, always knowing what she wanted, had spent a good forty minutes directing the painter this way and that, and decided how she wanted to pose, before making sure Alex was in the right place too.

    It had taken days but only a few hours each day; they had prayers and lessons and such so their mother was strict on timings for everything. During the sessions Bella had told her sister bible stories she knew by heart, doing voices and animal sounds that delighted the five year old.

    "Oh Bella...what happened," she whispered softly, shaking her head. While Alexandra knew they could, most likely, never be that close again, she hoped and prayed they could at least find some common ground. Sadly she realised the best chance they had was to be separate, both in their own houses and with their own husbands, writing formal and stiff letters to one another every few weeks, containing mundane details and no real emotion.

    That reminded her.

    Husband.

    Arabella was now set on that course. She would find her sister a husband. Alexandra cringed at the thought; she could just imagine what kind of man would be chosen, some aging Lord, who had gone through however many wives already and wanted a new and younger one. The idea of a man like the Duke, with cold, clammy hands, wrinkled with age and ill-health touching her made her want to be sick.

    Luckily for her, she was saved any further images coming to her mind by the sound of the door opening. She looked up and found John by the door, looking a little worried and confused. She guessed at once what had happened; the drawing room was often used by the Duke, and the Duchess, after prayers to talk. He must have assumed the Duke was calling him for some message.

    Now he found himself, nearly -as he was just inside the door- alone with Her Ladyship. Hastily he bowed and backed into the corridor but left the door open to hear her.

    Alexandra, thanking God he was almost as devout as her sister and therefore unlikely to run and tell; he too would be in trouble and more so than her if she said he had done something, smiled kindly, "Oh, John, do not be concerned, I forgot where I was. Could you send Sutton to me? To collect some items for washing."

    She didn't dare ask for Hetty, for the same reason as before.

    John bowed low, "Of course, Ladyship. My humble apologies for coming in. I shall atone."

    Before she could tell him it was fine, he was gone, likely to pray for hours to make up for his 'crime'. She sighed. He was a strange one and she was not the only one who was baffled by him. He should be a great Lord, of good standing, with a wife and a fine house...And yet here he was, happy it seemed, to scrape and bow to those who would once have been equals to him.

    John, before his family's fall, might have made a good match for a woman like her, and now he was a servant. It was a lesson that was for sure. Anyone, aside from maybe the King, could fall.

    Alexandra turned and tried to amuse herself by admiring the portraits while she waited for Sutton to appear, shoving the thoughts of marriage from her mind the second they appeared.

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •