Heir Apparent: Of the Arbour flash fiction

Jain was furious.

There was no other word for it. The rage building up inside her, pressure building in her chest, was primordial and black, threatening to overcome her. Shortening her breath, darkening her vision; she clenched her fists in her silk skirts and shut her eyes, slowly counting in her head to help calm down.

“Lady Jain?”

“Do not speak to me right now,” she snapped. Opening her eyes, she saw her scholar and steward, and two guards who were sworn to protect her and follow her every move, all gawking at her in stunned silence. “Ye can’t just go and—and—”

“Lady Jain.” The steward’s voice was oddly comforting, and she fixed him with a dark stare. He didn’t even flinch, but kept smiling cordially. Behind him, the ill-fated messenger was looking at his feet, visibly trembling as he turned his crushed hat in his hands. “’Tis the will o’ yer father, the king. Ye can’t go against it.”

“Why?” She flung her arms out, making the soft silk of her dress rustle and whisper. “This is all mine, no? And he’s got a mind to just steal it all from under me?” Tearing her heated gaze from the steward, she looked at the room they stood in. It was Castle Hailstone’s vast library, with oak shelves and leather-bound books from all ages and regions, and cherry wood desks, plush armchairs, and velvet curtains. Oil portraits of the Wastes’ past counts decorated the papered walls, gilded on the edges. “What does my mother think o’ all this?”

“’Tis the word of the king, milady,” the steward said again. Jain’s eyes narrowed into sharp slits as his falsely cheery smile flickered, then faded out and his lips pressed into a humourless line. “Ye can’t go against it, nay matter what ye wish, and neither can your mother. Your brother is the new heir—”

“But I was born first!” she shrieked. The rage poured through her veins like white-hot fire, erupting beneath her pores to make her itch and writhe. Her corset was too restricting; her breath was laboured, and her jaw trembled with the effort to keep from screaming herself hoarse. “I am the heir! He can’t just take it from me just because Mother spawned something with a prick!”

Beside her, her scholar’s eyes bugged. “Lady Jain, I never—”

“No,” she interrupted, holding up one perfectly manicured hand to keep them from talking. “Ye’ll listen to me. I am your future queen! Father will see the error o’ his ways, and he’ll fix. He always does.”

A thin silence fell over the library as her final words left her lips. Biting her tongue to keep from further lashing out, she glared down her subjects—men who were sworn to protect her, because she was the Nation’s rightful heir—visually daring them to speak out and defend her father’s foolish actions.

After a pregnant pause, the messenger cleared his throat. Jain’s scowl darkened, upsetting what could have been pretty features, and he quickly looked away from her gaze.

“Just so ye know, milady,” he whispered, gripping his hat so tightly that his knuckles turned white, “yer brother’s name is Gideon.”

Jain watched with blind eyes in heavy silence as the steward saw the messenger out of the library and castle, thanking him quietly for his information, and he was serving his king so well. The hate and anger was receding, bubbling back to the depths deep inside her where it usually hid, rarely to be provoked so heinously. She blinked several times to clear her vision, then slowly sat back on her velvet, cushioned armchair and set her hands on the cherry desk in front of her.

She waited with demure patience until the steward returned. He bowed deeply, folding his hands behind him, and said, “Yer father, His Majesty the king, wishes ye to finish your studies here in Hailstone, milady, and then he will have ye sent to the City to meet your new prince.”

Jain swallowed something hard that had formed in her throat. “Get out,” she hissed, and the rest of the men in the room bowed respectfully, then backed from the room, leaving her in solitude. The deafening silence of being alone pressed in on her from all sides, forcing her to ponder what her father did to her and to the kingdom. Staring blankly at the smooth lines of the cherry desk, Jain sat, and she waited.

4 thoughts on “Heir Apparent: Of the Arbour flash fiction

  1. This is awesome. I’m curious where this is going and whether or not Lady Jain is a good character or a bad one. As always, your prose is amazing. Very strong and clear.

    1. Well thank you, my dear! :3 The best part is, she doesn’t even exist in the first half in Of the Arbour, and isn’t mentioned by name in its sequel. I’m thinking if there’s a threequel, she’ll be a major player.

    1. Thanks! I’m planning on posting more flash fiction and short stories based on my novel series as a kind of back story and gap fillers, so it’s good to hear positive feedback on what I do have so far.

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