The Forests of Evenlear, Part Two: The Next Morning
A gusty autumn wind was blowing around the corners and eaves of the mansion when I awoke the next morning. I scarcely remembered arriving the night before, I had been so exhausted, but now I was well-rested and eager for a good breakfast to begin the day. Climbing out of my soft, warm bed (that I considered far too large for just one person), I crossed to the window and pulled the cord to draw back the heavy curtains.
It was a gray day, though it did not appear to have rained. Beyond the stone walls surrounding the mansions and its gardens, the city of Havenwing spread across the flat, open terrain. Far past that, over the hills where they could not be seen from here, the woods began and stretched on for distances unknown to anyone who lived in the open country. For all we knew, they went on forever. I wondered what they looked like in the daylight.
Never mind, I told myself, it doesn't matter. Concentrate on why you've come here and forget about last night. It was a foolish thing to do.
I left the window and opened my trunk, which had been brought in and left at the foot of the bed when I arrived. I began unpacking my clothes and placing them in the wardrobe on the other side of the room, pausing to put a pair of slippers on my cold feet. Once the trunk was empty, I closed it and set my heavy pack on top of it. The pack contained all of my miscellaneous belongings: my hairbrush, combs, and other toiletries my journal, jewelry box, and books. The books took up the most space in the bag by far--and I had brought only my most treasured favorites with me on this trip. Most of the volumes in my possession remained at home in Castlebrook.
A small writing desk stood against one wall of my room, so for want of a shelf I lined my books across the top of it in no particular order. The Maiden of Sil, a novel, stood next to Runlengard's Poems; Evenlear: a Brief History stood imposingly next to the fictional volumes of The Lakeland Trilogy. Over a score of other books quickly covered the back of the desk from end to end, and my ponderous copy of Eclivica (the only book I had been compelled by my mother to bring, against my wishes) lent its weight to serve as a bookend. My journal I tucked into the desk's small drawer.
Satisfied, I put my empty pack inside my empty trunk, spread up my bed, and got dressed. I decided on a simple shift and burgundy overdress; tomorrow a good impression would be important and I would have to give a good deal more attention to my appearance, but for today simple would do. I brushed and braided my blondish-brown hair, then left the room and went downstairs, taking the advice of a maid I met on the way and heading into the drawing room.
The drawing room was one of tose strange wonders of interior design--a room filled to capacity with every imaginable form of elaborate furniture and lavish art (all in shades of ivory and rose), but by brilliant design or divine intervention, managing not to see crowded or extravagant. My Aunt Monria fit perfectly into her surroundings, attired in an elegant morning gown, sitting on a very ornate chair and sipping a cup of tea. Her face lit up when she saw me. "Lythia!" she said, standing and holding her arms open to me.
I walked forward and returned her embrace gladly.
"Oh, I am so glad to have you here," she said, "and so glad you've accepted the school's offer!"
"It is good of you and Uncle Oruc to let me stay here," I replied, "and I cannot tell you how happy I am to be taking the position."
"Come and sit," Aunt Monria said, returning to her chair and pulling another one closer for me. "Tell me, are you nervous about tomorrow?"
I sat down and tried to envision myself as a teacher--a real teacher, responsible for an entire class of pupils--pupils from Havenwing, which boasted one of the most distinguished schools in Evenlear, no less! Yes, I was nervous. "A little," I said, "but teaching is what I've always wanted to do. I just didn't expect to get my start with such a fine position."
Aunt Monria smiled. "Your uncle worked very hard to see that you were offered the position. Even then we were not sure your parents would let you accept."
"If it had been anyone but you and Uncle Oruc who offered, I'm sure they wouldn't have."
"Ah, but I was always able to talk your father into anything--even when we were children." Aunt Monria poured a second cup of tea and passed it to me. "I knew he would relent eventually."
I chuckled. "Actually Father was not the one who needed the most convincing. Mother was thrilled with the offer but wasn't happy about me leaving Castlebrook."
"Understandably so," Aunt Monria agreed with a nod, "but you will love it here in Havenwing, dear. You've come at the perfect time, too! The season is just beginning--all autumn and winter there will be parties, concerts, balls, and it's high time you experienced such things."
"You may be right," I said, "but I worry I'll make a dreadful mess. In Castlebrook we rarely have concerts or balls. I'm a terrible dancer."
"Only for want of practice, Lythia. With a little refreshing of your memory and skills, you'll soon have every young man Havenwing has to offer asking you to dance."
I tried to conceal the blush I could feel rising in my face with a polite smile, but Aunt Monria saw it anyway. "Now then," she said, patting my knee, "there's no cause to be embarrassed about it."
Perhaps not, I thought, but I was anyway. Aunt Monria called a maid over from the doorway and asked her to bring in some breakfast for me. I sipped my tea and thought about everything that had happened, and everything Aunt Monria had said.
I had left the quiet, pastoral life I knew in Castlebrook--had left it willingly, eager to pursue my dream--and now was being thrust into society. Tomorrow I would be introduced into the position of Teacher at one of our people's finest schools, and as soon as she could, I knew, Aunt Monria would see that I was properly introduced into the social scene.
All of those were things I had dreamed of for years, I had just never imagined that they would happen all at once, and so quickly. I wondered if I was really ready for all of the changes.