Written by Gracielle Dedo
A Brief Expert from a Short Story
Atop a mountain so vast, the eye struggled to reach. Identifying its peak, the sharp shadow cast by the moon hugged a quad of cylindrical towers, each with points piercing the surface of the clouds. The masses blended into the base of tapering rock. Brass and silver curled around each, inching to a diamond point.
The sky had fallen rather dull in the hours leading up to the eight simultaneous arrivals. Shades of orchid and mauve laced the clouds, dancing off of each puff. In the distance, the roaring of a gargantuan streaming force of water crashed into the ocean just below a cliff bordering the Alps. In between each crease of rock, the coiled body of a waxen alabaster creature hugged the slope. Towering overhead was the pallid husk and bones of the animate beings who once stood barely taller than the mountains themselves. Its tusks lying beneath the ribcage.
Panic fell upon the servant quarters once a realization that snow had begun to blend into the howling wind had bred a blizzard. Despite the winter months approaching, the first snow of the year was not yet predicted until at least a fortnight more. A stockpile of firewood was brought into the preparations‘ room from a private enclosure, laying on the boundary line of forest and mountain. The wood was placed inside to ensure the continual burn of the hearth. Topical preparations were hastily required ensuring the festivities commencement.
A collection of servants ran around tidying the drapes, rearranging seating, and dusting every corner of the dining hall. It was the ninth day of the ninth month. The annual assemblage of the Nine was set to commence in a mere few hours. Although the guests hardly request safeguard, additional soldiers were to be supplied by the hosting kingdom. Each man occupied his place whether it be externally in the cold, or on the topmost floor of the fourth tower with an essential purpose. Each dressed in tight-fitting black pants and wore a skintight jacket that flared out from their waists. Color-coded by rank, the minor among the red, the major among the gold, the skilled among the purple, and the best among the white.
The junior women of the servants dressed in knee-length oversized coats the color of the outside snow cinched at the waist with jet black corsets with accompanying stockings of the same shade. Each lady’s hair cropped just beneath the ears. Despite the roaring fires found in each corner, the principal tower attained a frigid temperature. The other three had been prepared over the course of the past few weeks to house the guests for the next few nights.
Three ladies were to stay in tower number one, with its immense height and connecting passage into the mountain. Another three were to stay in tower number two which connected to the former, where the meeting was to be held. The last guest had tower number four to herself, seeing as guest number two would not be attending this year.
The clock struck nine, signaling that the first arrival was not far away. A popular game among the workers of the building was to place bets on who would initially arrive. The journey from each kingdom was tedious, not to mention the not-so-accessible location they were set to arrive at. Sister number six lived the closest, in the neighboring country hidden among the trees. Although she had acquired herself a reputation for tardiness ever since her descendant to the throne.
Number eight was to arrive almost hours after the dinner in fact had begun, claiming she was deeply sorry each time. In actuality, it was her entourage of ruling figures of the kingdoms she was required to bring with her that slowed the process down. Most bets had been made to guess that as usual, number seven would arrive not just first, but early. The maids had to be continually warned to get back to work by the chief of staff who heavily disapproved of the gambling.
“Do you think her ladyship is bringing him again?”
A collection of adolescent girls assigned to the kitchen giggled as they distractedly began buttering a mass of baked bread that had been pulled from the oven. An alluring scent wafted through each floor of tower number three.
The time had ultimately come, and the sound of large metal doors could be perceived as being pushed open. Around the corners, servants peaked to see who had in fact had arrived first, and early. The entire staff was shocked to see Number Nine appear. Her towering and robust figure was shrouded with an oversized dark gray cloak made of fox fur with a hood so large that her face was out of view. There was no mistaking her despite being covered up. Her surrounding entourage was instantly recognizable. Beside her stood a tan woman whose height matched the Queen, the OverSeer. She too wore a cloak of fox fur, hers a vibrant orange. Underneath, her purple gown clung to her body tightly, underdressed for this weather.
The girls from the kitchen had snuck up through the passages to steal a glance at whose guess was correct. All excitement peaked within the room once the figure of a slender lynx-like boy appeared behind the two women, gradually tugging the hood of his cream-colored cloak back to reveal his pointed nose and a wide grin. He had not been seen by the staff before. The boy extended his arms out in front of himself and concealed his face as he let out a yawn. The tan woman turned quickly around upon hearing the sound he made and mouthed something so authoritative that the boy shot straight up, placing each arm at his sides, and faced forward not making another sound. This made the kitchen girls giggle ever so slightly. His platinum hair parted to the side revealed the newly buzzed sector of his head. Underneath his cloak, a white set of armor embellished with gold could be distinguished.
Once it was made clear no one had in fact won the gamble, as no one bet on Number Nine arriving first, all chatter died down and jobs were resumed. Gradually, the other Sisters emerged from the same grand doorway, the majority looking out of their element in the harsh cold. Second, came Number Five, shrouded in black robes complimented with her violent orange-red hair. Accompanying her was a monstrous cat-like creature as well as three soldiers whose faces were kept completely hidden behind stark pale lifeless masks.
Following, Sister Seven finally arrived. The upstairs staff lit up upon seeing her first steps through the entranceway. Seven was a favorite among all lower class, no matter the kingdom. Known for her generosity and cheerful manner, she considered everyone, even servants with the utmost respect. By her side was the aforementioned him, a tall man with dirty blonde hair that wore a grey military suit highlighted by the red of his winter cloak. Seven herself allowed her flaxen chestnut hair down with loose braids pinned at the sides. Her signature colors of pale pink and baby blue graced her skin in the form of a Victorian-style tailored dress. A white puffed necktie tucked itself into the outer jacket’s hem. A pair of white thigh-length socks paired well with the pearls strewn across her hair and studded upon her ears. Behind the two, an additional guard walked, his dark brown hair peeking out from under a hood.
Number Four followed. Her long ebony hair bound tightly at the top of her head; several red ribbons weaved into the hair. Evidently, the kingdom she had scarcely emerged from was in its most humid season of the year, therefore her garments were not exactly appropriate. A skintight crimson long sleeve dress clung to her curves, yet the missing fabric that created a plunging back showed her pale skin turning pink from the cold. A maid rushed forward, kneeling to present her a mass of black material that assumed the form of a standard cape. A woman that stood at her side took hold of the material and shrouded it around her Queen. The seven men and women behind her, all dressed in identical robes, followed as they headed to the interior room. Sister Six arrived with only one accompanying member. They both wore thin coarse capes that covered their dresses only slightly.
All eyes shot towards the entrance when Number One finally made her presence appreciated. She was a petite girl, standing only five feet tall, glittering with purple and gold jewels from head to toe. She wore a veil encrusted with gold wiring that attached to the neck of her gown. The dress had shades of gold, purple, and white intricately woven into every inch of fabric. Her jewels shined and sparkled with the firelight bouncing off of them. Her dusky hair was plaited loosely and tied into a low bun, revealing her pointed ears. Accompanying her were more people than any of the former women. Three identically dressed women kept their distance but scanned inside before letting Number One do so much as walk inside.
Behind them, two men, dressed almost as expensively as the Queen herself walked through the entrance. In the fullness of time, behind them were ten soldiers wearing shining silver armor decorated with blue feathers. All the women had taken their places inside. Impatience grew each minute that went by that Number Three did not show. An abundance of arctic air had poured in the doors waiting for her arrival, thus the entrance was barred shut. After nearly an hour had gone by, a sudden pushing open with the entryway startled all in attendance. Number Three’s face appeared; her hands were placed on her knees as she panted heavily. As if embarrassed the two women and three men accompanying her looked elsewhere. Three shouted her apologies and ran to assume her seat, the fabric of an orange and black dress flew behind her. After all, this was her year to lead.