Hostenwyrd Castle || With Jonas Allucarthy, Queen Annalise, Amelia, Norallia
The sword clashes with an ear-piercing clatter against Allucarthy’s battered shield. The old man grunted with the effort, deflecting it easily and using the shield to bash back. Kath groaned as she took the blow right to the side, winded momentarily, and holding her bruised side.
Jonas shook his head. “You can’t just run forward like that. I’ve got a shield, you ninny, you need to move round me.”
“I’m trying, you’re moving too fast for me!” Kath whined, breathing in deeply and grimacing as she straightened up. Her body ached, she stank of sweat, and her training clothes were sticking to her body like glue. “We’ve been at this for an hour, can’t you…”
“Do you want me to train you?” He asked, interrupting her.
“Good. Shut up, and move faster then.”
Kath rolled her eyes, but did as was asked, and tried to parry to get at his side. For a man in his fifties, he was a quick bugger, but she was learning - slowly - to pick up the pace. She’d been swinging a proper steel blade for well over three years now. Her muscles were becoming accustomed to the weight, and the padding and straps were helping her adjust to the weight of armour too. That’s what was slowing her down. That’s also what was making her sweat so much, but in the training hall that kind of thing didn’t matter. The room often stank of sweat and steel, of bad breath, polish and oil. It wasn’t a clean and tidy place, but it didn’t need to be. Kath ducked, and Jonas let out a shout as the blade caught his side. She stopped before it cut too deep, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t left a scar. Gods knew how many he’d left on her, but that was half the process. Kath wasn’t in line to be queen, and she wasn’t seen as a delicate princess. Because of all that, it didn’t matter that she looked rugged. She spat blood from the last time he’d hit her right in the chin with the shield.
Jonas grinned proudly at the new cut. “Good, you’re learning.”
Kath breathed, and smirked. “Good, you’re teaching.”
The two of them laughed, but the moment was interrupted as a familiar voice echoed across the hall. Jonas bowed, and Kath turned. Queen Annalise watched her cooly from the doors, her dress flowing softly, and her back poised like always. She regarded her husband’s daughter with a look of curiosity, and Kath gave her queen a half-assed bow.
Jonas thwacked her on the back of the head. “Show some manners, lass.”
Kath grumbled reluctantly, and curtseyed properly.
Queen Annalise chuckled at the display, and shook her head. “There is no need for that, I was only here to request Kathryne’s aid.” She turned to smile at Kath, but the smile still had that same distance as always. “I don’t suppose you could help me get your sisters ready? I’m afraid the maids are awfully busy with their work in preparation for the Knights Masquerade tonight, and you know how they are.”
Kath snorted. “I’m guessing the twins are arguing again?”
Queen Annalise gave a tired sigh, smiling. “You know how they are.”
Nodding, Kath passed her sword to her teacher, and Jonas bowed to them both. “Try not to have too much fun, and remember to shower this time. Can’t have you running around stinkin’ the house out.”
She scoffed. “Yeah, yeah, it’s a good think I’m not going too. Who else is going to read those dusty old books you keep writing.”
“Hey, man’s gotta have a hobby.”
She laughed. “Well, better take up knitting as well then.” She ducked another hit, removing her padding as she left the hall. Queen Annalise said nothing, walking beside her, and Kath could smell the light lavender perfume from her few paces away. “You know, you are allowed to attend the masked ball tonight, there’s nothing saying you can’t attend.”
Kath glanced at her step mother. They’d never hated each other, but Kath couldn’t say they were close friend either. She couldn’t say what they were, actually. It was as if they had a mutual understanding of the other’s existence, and chose just to leave it at that. She shrugged.
“Do you not enjoy such attendances?” Annalise asked, only mildly curious.
“Personally, I don’t think they’re for me.” Kath undid the buckle on her padded leather tunic, heaving the hefty thing off her and breathing heavily as the pressure on her chest alleviated. “I just can’t say I fit in well with those people. Too… well, judgmental.”
“You are an illegitimate daughter.”
“Yeah, I’m a scruff of one too, but that doesn’t mean they gotta judge me like they do.”
Queen Annalise sighed through her nose, glancing out a crystalline window and folding her hands perfectly behind her back. “I suppose we really can’t help that.”
Kath watched her step mother carefully, then finished yanking off her vambrace. “No, suppose we can’t.”
As they reached the twins room, Kath heard the usual sound of a piano melody floating through the painted white doors, and saw Annalise smile proudly from beside her. She opened the door, and stepped through quietly.
Amelia Lunari Altristaer was a prodigy of the piano, to say the least. Her fingers danced over the ivory keys of the pianoforte, and as the music echoed through the sweetly decorated room, Kath felt herself relax slowly. Ammi didn’t smile, she focused completely, moving as she played like she was dancing with the music, and her brown dress rustled as she did. Beside her, her identical twin waited in identical pink, her hands clasping a white and gold violin. Norallia Katlyn scowled, huffed, and stomped her foot. “You’re rushing again! I can’t keep the tempo when you’re always rushing!”
Ammi threw up her hands and stood up. “You wanted me to play this stupid song! I wanted to play a faster duet, what about Bach, can’t we play one of his for once?”
“You know I can’t keep up with that. Besides, I like this song, and it’s my turn to pick.”
“You picked yesterday!”
Kath chuckled. “Okay, calm down you too, I think that’s enough practice for today.” She walked over, and both Ammi and Nora shot scowls at her. “We haven’t finished a single song!”
“What will we play for the Masquerade?”
Kath shrugged. “Who said you two will be playing. We can’t have you both bickering the whole time.” She sighed, looking over to where the twins handmaids were boredly playing chess, until they noticed the queen and jumped up as if hotcoals had been placed under them. Kath pointed to Ammi’s bed. “Now, if I’m correct, you two need to get dressed. Nora, why don’t you go with your mother and…”
“I’m going.” Nora muttered, tuning her Violin as she went.
Kath waited for the door to shut before turning to her youngest half sister. Ammi ran her hand across the polished keys. She’d played them until they were worn, and Kath could see where some had been replaced. “So, are you gonna get dressed?”
“It’s unfair, Kath!” Ammi snapped, pouting. “Nora always gets everything, you can see Mum likes her more, and I can’t do this or that, and I’m not the pretty one…”
Kath laughed. “Ammi, you’re identical, appearance has nothing to do with it…” She sad down on the velvet bench, next to her, stroked the keys. “And if your mother hates anyone, it’s me.”
Ammi sighed. “That’s not true. If she didn’t like you, she wouldn’t talk to you, like she refuses to talk to Lady Vanesse because she’s a two toed whore.”
Kath let out a laugh, and ruffled her sister’s hair. “You’ve been hanging around Jonas again.”
“He’s funny, and tells good stories.”
Kath smiled, reminiscing. “Yes… he really does.”
After a few moments, she placed a hand on Ammi’s back, grinning. “Do you remember our duet?”
Ammi giggled, nodding. Tapping out the tempo, she started playing, and together they joined in in the bouncy duet. It took Kath a few attempts. She’d never been much of a master at piano, and her hands were rough and not nearly as delicate, so they had to stop a few times as Kath screwed up. They’d laugh it off, try again, and after a while both of them were red faced from laughing, and the song was only half done. Kath hugged her little sister, and they almost fell off the stool they were giggling so much. “Okay! Okay… come on, you need to get ready, and I need to find your other sisters.”
Ammi sighed, moaning as she got up. “aww, why can’t you come tonight? You are technically a princess.”
Kath gave her sister a sympathetic look. “I know, Rascal, but you know how that lot get. Besides, I’ve got stuff to do.”
“Never you mind what, now come on. Get dressed!”
Pushing her little sister towards the maid, Kath smiled and the maid uttered her thanks. “Princess Megara and Princess Evangeline are in the stables, Highness.” She curtseyed, leading Ammi away.
Kath nodded. “Thank you claire.”
Letting herself out, Kath paused in the doorway. Ammi was already picking out a dress. “it has to be brown! A nice light coco brown, to match with my hair…” but Kath smiled. She didn’t know why, what it was, or what the strange feeling was, but she felt something in the air. A strange sense of dread. She shook it off, leaving the room, just as Ammi picked out a dark ribbon for her hair.