A Story Told in Many Parts
Part 1: Awake at Midnight

Written by: Lillabeth B.

The Lady Hermione Everlark brushed a rebellious lock of hair out of her eyes and watch the clouds pass by. The window was concave, and it faced away from her, so if she stood right in front of the glass it seemed as though she was floating in front of the airship, at one with the clouds. And if she took a step to the right she could see right wing of the ship, it’s hinges allowing it to move up and down, curving in the center, making it seem alive. The Crowned Tawny was a mechanical owl, modeled after a tawny owl. While in flight the Tawny flew with her belly facing the ground, the small bronze and iron feathers fluttering in the wind.
            Right now, Hermione was in her bedroom, situated behind the Tawny’s left eye. The walls were painted a dark olive green, and the deep red carpeting was course to the touch and decorated with portraits of unpleasant looking old women and ornate mirrors.
            She turned to look at the small painting on the marble table beside her. It showed a tall, willowy woman gazing out a towering window. In the painting, the window was on the opposite side of the room so only her back could be seen; her back, and dark dreadlocks tumbling down her back, with a wire or beads braided into them. A ratty scarf had been messily tied in a bow to be used as a headband, but the locks would not be contained, and shorter curls spilled forward. She wore a simple white dress, with embroidered flowers and lace at the collar and the ends of the short sleeves. The dress’ train trailed behind her, obscuring her feet but revealing her bare toes. The lady evoked a feeling of mystique and fantasy.
            Lady Everlark fell back into the mahogany couch situated behind her. The couch’s bright red plush cushioned her fall. She scooped up the painting and held it in front of her face, staring intently at the woman. The lady in the painting was her mother, Duchess Harriet Everlark, who had disappeared the day of Hermione’s first birthday.
            She brushed the back of her mother’s head in the painting with her thumb. Some of the paint had begun to wear away from this habit. The Duke of Brightbrook, Lady Everlark’s father, also known as Duke Francis Everlark, had refused to reveal any information whatsoever about Duchess Everlark for as long as Hermione could remember. Some of her earliest memories were of her questions to Duke Francis Everlark about her mother, and her father’s refusal to reveal any details.
            Even the painting wasn’t a gift from her father. The portrait had been on the table when Lady Everlark first arrived on the ship. Hermione hadn’t told her father about the portrait, and so whether or not he had placed it there remained a mystery to her.
            She was drawn from her daze by a knock on the door. Hermione shot up, pulled down her skirt, and hurried over to her bedside table, where she opened a drawer and delicately placed the painting inside before closing it and shouting in her most ladylike and dainty voice, “Enter!”
            The door swung open and hit the wall with a bang, and standing in the doorway looking sheepish was Madeline Hinny. As flustered as ever, Madeline wore a sepia dress with the long sleeves pushed up over her shoulders, and an apron that was probably white to begin with, but was now covered with so many stains, blotches, splatters, and smudges that the original color was all but lost. Around her waist was a lopsided belt with several pouches and pockets. Her stockings were folded down, and her worn leather shoes were falling apart at the seams. Her hands had spots of soot all over them, and her pug nose was almost completely black. And her   wild caramel colored hair was tossed messily into a bun.
            “My apologies for the noise, miss,” Ms. Hinny said quickly in her usual cockney accent, “as well as for my state.” She stumbled into the room, the silver lidded serving dish in her hand swaying dangerously, and as Lady Everlark walked forward she held out a hand to steady it, and another to steady Madeline. The serving maid grabbed Hermione’s wrist eagerly and took a deep breath.
            “My apologies once more, milady.” The Lady smiled widely. “My dear Ms. Hinny, if I had a pound for each of your apologies, I’d have riches to rival my father’s!” As the girl smiled and her face turned beet red, Hermione released Madeline Hinny’s hand and placed it beneath the tray, using both her hands hoisted the tray away from Ms. Hinny and placed it on the table where the painting had been. Madeline followed her to the table, and with a flourish, Hermione took the handle of the lid in hand removed it, and sat it beside the dish. “Your midnight refreshment, milady,” the girl told the Lady.
            And what a dish it was! A tall, white teapot sat in the center, with beautiful brass handle with copper designs set into it. Painted onto the china was a dreamy portrayal of a dashing young man in a blue coat and white boots and a beautiful woman in a purple frock, with their arms intertwined. The two teacups, the sugar jar, and the cream pitcher were all from the same pattern. On a marble slab were four sandwich cakes and five crumpets.
            Lady Everlark took a sandwich cake between her forefinger and thumb and studied it. The cream between the two cakes was a light yellow, and powdered sugar had been sprinkled over the top. “What kind of filling is in these sandwich cakes?” she asked.
“Lemon curd and vanilla bean buttercream, milady,” Ms. Hinny answered. The Lady closed her eyes and took a bite. The zesty lemon and the creamy vanilla intertwined to create a stunning masterpiece.
            “And the cook, your father, he made these?” Hermione turned to see that Madeline was quite tense, her hands folded in front of her, her shoulders scrunched toward her neck, her cheeks bright red. “Well, no, miss…I did.” Hermione placed the cake on the tray, and took Madeline’s shoulders, shaking them. “Ms. Hinny, these cakes are superb! I didn’t know you could cook like this!” Her pride shone through her smile, and she said,
“Please, milady, call me Maddie.”
“Then, Maddie, call me Hermy.” Hermy gave Maddie a final pat and took the cake in her hand again, biting into it once again.
            “Oh, milady - I mean Hermy - I’ve got a message for you.” As the royal turned back to Maddie, she watched the serving girl stiffen and become a stately royal messenger before her eyes. “His Highness, the Duke Francis Everlark of the kingdom of Brightbrook, commands that you report to his study at a half hour following the stroke of midnight, and asks that her Highness, the Lady Hermione Everlark of the kingdom of Brightbrook, not be a moment late.” The girl relaxed once more.
            Hermy laughed. “There’s no need to be so proper,” she commented as she groped in her side pocket for her pocket watch. Her expression changed to one of worry as she gazed at the shining face of the polished silver instrument. “Good heavens, it is five minutes to twelve-thirty! I ought to hurry.” Lady Everlark placed the watch back in its silken pocket, gathered her skirt, and headed towards the door at a fast pace.
            But as she reached the Oak door, she turned back to her room. “Maddie, how did you know I would be awake for a snack? Did Father tell you?” Maddie smiled and curtsied low.
“Well, Hermy, I knew because it was a habit of your mother’s-” She stopped herself too late. “I shouldn’t have told you that.” Hermy’s mind swirled with confusion. First the painting, then Maddie, how were there so many traces of her mother here when she’d found none in her own kingdom? But the Duke would be cross with her if she were late.
“I have to go; we’ll talk later!” Hermione gave a hurried curtsey and dashed from the room.
            The corridor was made purely of iron with no windows, no flooring. The Tawny was a large, luxury airship, but an airship all the same, and everything, outside of rooms for wealthy passengers, was streamlined and practical. The hallway was small to the point of causing claustrophobia but it was circular so as to be more aerodynamic and take up less space.
            Hermy knew so much about the ship because she had read all she could find on it for months on end before leaving. She had never been on an airship before, but her father often did, visiting other countries and kingdoms. He was the King of Southbay’s diplomat, and was responsible for keeping peace between the kingdoms and helping the King in his international affairs. Hermy often accompanied her father, sometimes to avoid the cost of a nanny and sometimes to become a conversation piece for her father. Now Duke Everlark had logged lots of miles in the air but if it was possible he would find some way to avoid flying, be it by train, by boat, or by carriage. Hermy almost never accompanied her father on a flight. Regardless, she’d been to many places and met many people.
            She’d met the King a few times as well. In fact, the Tawny was headed to Glassden, the capitol of Southbay, for the soul purpose of the Duke and Lady Everlark’s visit with the King. This wasn’t a diplomatic visit however, but a friendly one. King Rona and Duke Everlark were very close friends, and the King looked upon Hermione as a darling granddaughter; which was because she was indeed the King’s great-granddaughter.
            The halls of the Tawny twisted and turned quite a bit, but she arrived at the grand mahogany double doors to her father’s study two minutes early. Grand mirrors were situated on either side of the doors, so Hermy stopped a moment to catch her breath and touch up her appearance.
            Her long dark locks were in several long braids, which she’d wrapped around each other and twisted into a heavy bun early in the morning before she’d left for the flight. However, some curls had escaped their braid prison and were hanging around her ears. It was attractive, so Hermy let them be.
            She wore a simple dress tonight, the torso a dark green with a square neckline and a lace border. The lace fringed her short sleeves as well, and five green canvas buttons were sewn down the front. Hermy arranged the white layered fabric over her hoop skirt, and pulled two curtains of matching green fabric over it so that a small triangle was visible down the center. She retied her green sash in a bow around her waist, arranged herself in front of the door, took a deep breath, and knocked curtly four times.
            A call of, “Enter!” resounded through the hall, and the double doors opened. And so, drawing herself up, the Lady Hermione Harriet Francis Everlark stepped inside the room.

To find out what Duke Everlark had to say to Hermy, read chapter 2

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