Amelia sent me to her quarters so her maids could put me in one of her spare visiting dresses, a gorgeous blue outfit with a laced bodice open in front to show the pink taffeta blouse beneath. Ruffled pink cuffs emerged from the widely flaring blue sleeves, and a matching flared blue skirt with raised layered ruffles with a slightly high hem that revealed a few inches of pink petticoat.
The bodice required an alteration job for the bust. I’m not in any way small in that region, but when I first tried it on, the shape was all wrong. The maids rose to the task, though, and also arranged my hair in a neat half-up hairdo with matching ribbons. I was ready to head to Clara’s dormitory with the princess by the time she arrived from classes.
And thus, I ended up at an after-school tea party.
For safety on the road, I had brought along my sword and worn my fairy steel mail gauntlets, which are so fine-grained, they are like gloves. The sword stayed at Amelia’s suite, but I wore the gauntlets because silver tableware was a probability. Silver isn’t fatal to me, but it can give me bad rashes.
By the way, garlic is not a problem. Actually, I love garlic. If you want to ward me off with veggies, I recommend brocolli.
Carson wasn’t happy about the situation, but, because Amelia leaned on him, he couldn’t blame me for it. He ended up helping with the service, which delighted Clara’s guests. Clara’s father is Lord Mayor of Atius, who is ranked equal to a viscount. So, despite Amelia’s presence, most of the attendees were the daughters of barons and knights, and there was even one commoner girl there. They didn’t experience being served by a top-tier butler often.
In fact, other than myself and Amelia, the highest ranking attendee was Erin, as the daughter of an Earl. I learned later that even though it was officially ‘Clara’s Tea Party’, the real organizer was Amelia, and her motive was to rub elbows with girls other than the upper strata. (If it was a mere Lord Mayor’s daughter’s party, high status daughters would not deign to attend.)
If it were officially Amelia’s party, she would be obligated to invite daughters of dukes and marquesses, and such girls would be sure to attend Her Highness’s party and monopolize her. If enough of them attended, their presence might even intimidate the lower status girls Amelia wanted to meet into staying away.
I can understand her feelings; the higher a noble’s daughter, the more annoying she has a chance of being. And bear in mind, I’m saying that as a duke’s daughter.
Clara headed off my self-introduction at the party by introducing me herself, as just “Lady Tiana,” and explained that I would be attending at the beginning of the new term. I was already seated at a table with Clara and three girls I had never met, before realizing she had completely left out my house and my status. And I had lost my opportunity to properly state it.
Erin and Amelia each had their own tables. The point was to mix, so apparently the three were always at separate tables, with a different mix of girls each time. As maids from Amelia and Erin flitted about the room, serving tarts and tea, I began my fumbling attempts to become acquainted with the others.
At Clara’s table with me were Lune, granddaughter of one of the Capital’s many landless barons, and a pair of second year lower levels. Treyka was a chieftain’s daughter from one of those formerly nomadic people of the great grasslands in the north. Kieri was the daughter of the Baron of Teriedor, a little maritime province right next door to Mother’s duchy on the southern end of the country.
Amelia’s dress outshined mine, of course. Her maids would not have made a mistake like that. But they had dressed me far fancier than anyone else in the room, even Erin. None of their parents had the deep pockets of the Royal Family, after all. I made a mental note to suggest to Amelia that she dial it back a bit.
That actually became the topic of conversation at our table, in a backwards way. Lune was the one who brought it up, with a well-presented smile.
“Lady Tiana, your dress is so lovely! I’m very envious of it. I wonder where I could ever find such a treasure?”
That’s what her words say, but I could see a shadow in her eyes. She knew her parents couldn’t afford a dress like this. Her father was probably middle management, such as a minor functionary at the palace, or perhaps he was one of my fellow royal knights.
Yup, I was right. Amelia, I know you didn’t intend it, but you’ve been shaming them a little with your wardrobe. These dresses are way too fancy for this crowd.
I gave her an apologetic smile. “I have to pass your compliment on to Her Highness, I’m afraid. I came from the city today wearing a tea gown, so she kindly lent me this dress.”
The thought, that explains it, showed clearly in her eyes. For just a second, her smile slipped just a bit too, but she repaired it, swiftly and skillfully. “Her Highness is very kind, isn’t she? Even looking out for a brand-new student.”
With a nod, I made some noises of agreement that satisfied her. I wanted to get away from this subject, because right now I was still just one of the students, not Amelia’s unofficial foster sister. I was pretty sure revealing that would end it.
So far, Clara and Erin were staying mum about it, and I believe that was on purpose. Just like how Clara had truncated my introduction, which had left the impression I was simply the daughter of some minor baronet or knight.
It was around that time that I heard Kieri, on my left, put her fork down next to her half-finished berry tart and dab her lips, muttering in Dorian, “I need to stop eating. This evil tart is too tempting.”
Almost all of Orestania speaks Ostish, but down in the provinces like Pendor and Teriedor– pretty much any place that ends in ‘-dor’– the locals speak Dorian. Tiana learned it as well, because when she was younger her personal maids always spoke Dorian to her so she would learn both languages.
I leaned over and said with a devilish, coaxing voice in the same language, “It’s okay! Sweets go in a different stomach!”
She let out a giggle, almost losing the sip of tea she had just taken. After swallowing, she said “You speak Dorian very well.”
Oops, I thought to myself. Don’t give out clues about yourself.
Choosing the words carefully, I answered, “My family comes from Doria, so my mother made sure I learned it.”
Well, I’m fairly confident that had been Mother’s intention. She had hired the maids who stayed with Tiana at the palace, and I’m pretty sure that was the reason that she hired only Dorian speakers for the job.
By the way, ‘Doria’ is the name of all those ‘-dor’ places, and the region includes both part of Orestainia and the independent countries to the west, like Mother’s native Relador.
“Which province?” she wondered.
Fearing I was letting out too much information, I simply said, “Pendor. But I’ve never been there. I was born in Relador and I grew up in Atius.”
‘Pendor’ could be my mother’s duchy, but it also included the counties of East Pendor and Lower Pendor. I prayed that would be enough.
It worked, and I continued having a nice time, until…
The commoner girl pulled her chair over to our table, eager to meet me for some reason.
Mireia is from Suldor, another Dorian province. There is a lot of Fairy blood in Suldor and Pendor, because they are both neighbors of Relador, the “Land of Mages and Fairies”.
Even though male fairies are few (the male to female ratio is something like 1 to 100) they are greedy. Having hundreds of fairy girls to choose from isn’t enough for them. They love going into human territory and enticing human girls. Illegitimate half-fairy children show up all the time in our part of the kingdom, and the population is littered with all kinds of crazy hair and eye colors normally seen only in anime and on fairies. Mireia wasn’t a half fairy like me, but her pink hair and amethyst eyes gave evidence she had fairy ancestry.
So, why do I have raven black hair and black irises? Vampire genes are stronger than fairy genes, maybe? Really, I don’t know.
Anyway, as I said, she had amethyst eyes and pink hair. If her hair had been long and floofy instead of a jaw-length bob cut, she could have been the perfect stereotype otome game heroine.
And she just had to talk to me, for some reason.