a bullet through crowns (chapter 2 part i)

by - 7/05/2017 08:50:00 pm

CHAPTER 2: THE CALM
5 YEARS AFTER MERCELLES REBELLION
"Arryn?" 
      Arryn was not ready to be swept off her feet, though it was no easy task thanks to her flaring white dress. Her loose hair was tamed in a tight bun with not a hair out of place. She felt like a turkey, plucked, prepped and seasoned for the next owner. This debutante, signifying her coming-of-age, was her formal introduction to other nobles. She could be married.

      As a matter of fact, she didn’t mind the dress. Arryn appreciated beauty, and the delicate fabric seemed spider-spun. Many of the noble-born girls dreaded the debutante, but at least it was a chance to explore beyond the garden, where Arryn spent most of her time. “Of course you don’t mind,” they would say, exasperated, "with a suitor like Gabriel.”

      But she knew, however, that it wasn’t really about the attractiveness of the suitors. The noble girls were repelled by the men, like pawnbrokers, who loaned them wealth and reputation and kept their freedom as collateral. Like Arryn, they clung to their last days of joyful youth.

      The grand ballroom was rather like a doll house – with pearly white columns that stood two floors tall, gold lining the walls and sparkling chandeliers, and a soft glow from the arched windows that filtered in blue evening light. She took in the sound of the orchestra: the sweet flute, the lift of the violins like a lover's caress and the deeper, thoughtful cello. Fifty girls in pastel waltzed with their suitors on the marble floor while others chatted upstairs.

      Painfully aware that she was standing awkwardly alone, she tried to appear as if she was in deep contemplation and failed miserably. She noticed a raven-haired waiter in a half-mask staring at her and fought the urge to wince.

      Beside the crowd of dancers, she spotted Gabriel coming her way. The other suitors stole greedy glances at him – though it was futile that they hoped to learn to fly by watching a bird – as he walked with slow, casual grace. His chestnut hair barely brushed the collar of his shirt, which swooped down beneath a royal blue vest. Tonight Arryn thought he looked remarkably like his father Count Lefevre, a courtier of the Palace of Velois, their blue eyes made brighter by their patriotic hues. For a moment, she saw who he was back when they childhood friends. Gabriel used to be a loose, gangly child with a toothy smile and roaring laugh. Now, he was lightly chiselled, made from creamy marble that sloped and curved.

      He paused before her. "Gabriel Lefevre," he said, bowing. His eyes were as unreadable as ever, but she understood. They were to have a proper, public introduction.

      "Arryn Beaumont," she answered, holding out her hand. When he took it in his own white hand, like a pale dove, she noticed a scar that began at the bridge of his index and thumb and curled up his wrist. Gabriel's eyes were trained on her, then they drifted to his old injury. "How did the regiment treat you?" she murmured.

      "As well as could be expected," he replied swiftly, shaking out his sleeve to hide the wound. Seeing the disappointed look in her eyes, he admitted, "What happened to me isn't worth hearing about."

      Before she could reply, a voice spoke from behind her: "What are you frowning about, Lefevre?"

art by gromwulf
      It was Claudette, daughter of Julius, prized possession of the House of Chevalier and heir to the Arian throne. With her signature straw-coloured hair and green eyes of a commoner, she could at once be recognised as a Chevalier and an Arian. Tonight she wore a blue cotton dress, patterned with miniature birds, that exaggerated her hips and clinched in at the waist.

      "Were you about to dance? Dance, then! But first you must drink," she encouraged sarcastically. "A toast to the free women of Arian enslaved to their husbands!" At Garbiel's pointed look, Arryn burst out laughing.

      He raised an eyebrow. "A toast to the politically correct Arian heir," said Gabriel drily, raising his wine glass, "may she never learn to hold her tongue."

      "A toast to your haircut, guardsman," Claudette teased, "may the head beneath it be more handsome." Self-consciously, he ran a hand through his hair. Arryn shook her head in mock disapproval. That was Claudette's talent: getting under someone's skin, like a child picking at a scab, whether through light-hearted jest or well-aimed jabs.

      "This guardsman wants to dance," he declared, "if you'll spare her, Claudette." With a fluttering hand-wave and "Bah!" from the heiress, Gabriel led Arryn to the dance floor.

       Soon they settled into a comfortable rhythm and Arryn's attention wandered. She locked eyes with her father Count Beaumont, who was nodding approvingly, and she quickly looked away. As her eyes travelled, enjoying their time away from Gabriel's searching gaze, they landed on a pair of waiters, both in their black-and-white uniforms. One was the raven-haired waiter who had been watching her before. Arryn had an instinct for anything out-of-place, and the two servers stood out, since one pressed to the neck of the other almost as if they were in an armless embrace. Curious, Arryn slowly waltzed to the edge of the room until the waiters were nearby. The tall waiter leaned in close to the black-haired waiter's ear; the latter pulled back and scanned the room discreetly. Meanwhile, the tall waiter disappeared into the crowd.

       "Arryn," came the gentle voice of Gabriel. She had been so focused on the waiters' exchange that she didn't notice Gabriel had been speaking seriously to her. Almost subconsciously, she had been replying with bare minimum, mostly with "yes" and "interesting". Five seconds too late, she realised he had said "You saved my life" and that her mind had been elsewhere, thinking about something other than the boy in her arms – the boy who had fed the sparrows in her birdhouse by hand, and who told her mother that it was he who had broken the vase, the boy who had lied for her sake. That boy, now a young man, stared at her, a world of hurt and loneliness in his eyes that scorched her cheeks red with shame.

        Then, the vulnerability vanished as his eyes became guarded once more.

        They fell back into step, talking about light matters. Arryn paid no attention to the mysterious waiters: she owed Gabriel that much. Instead, she focused on her scattered feet. She really was a terrible dancer.

      A misstep had her falling sideways. Quickly, she grasped the first arm she saw, which was the brown arm of the raven-haired waiter. Beneath his black mask, the waiter had dark eyes like burnt toffee sold at a carnival. He noticed her staring and a crimson flush crept up his neck. "Pardon me," she apologised to him.

      He rushed away, masked eyes facing the ground. "Another admirer," Gabriel joked, a ghost of a smile on his lips. "Isn't one enough for you?"

      "Two isn't nearly enough!" she jested. While they bantered back and forth, the dark-eyed server made his way to his taller, broader companion, who was leading away a noble in rich blue breeches. Her breath hitched and she released Gabriel's hands. His concerned noises were distant. She could only see the masked boy who glanced over his shoulder once, then retreated toward the exit. She was frozen. The orchestra faded; the nobles' laughter seemed to echo ominously.

      For in that moment, three things occurRed to Arryn at once, clicking into place like clockwork.

      One, the boy in the mask was Crowe.
      Two, the man being taken away by him and his companion was Count Lefevre.
      Three, Crowe was carrying a gun.

--

Arryn and Crowe were friends once.
On the first day of revolt, Crowe disappears. Bitter with the taste of suffering and hungry for revolution, he joins a rebellion – a brotherhood fighting for democracy. It is a rebellion where rich nobles like Arryn are the enemy.
Five years later, a young leader calls for change, an heiress learns to manipulate court politics and Arryn reunites with her childhood friend who wants nothing more than to leave their friendship in the past.
Meanwhile, the people are rising. And peace talks will not stop the tide of blood that is to come...

Set in an alternative steampunk France, A Bullet Through Crowns is a weekly webseries co-written by Veronica and I. 

If this is your first time reading, it's never too late to start! This way to the prologue, or alternatively here is chapter one.

Chapter list || Previous chapter || Next chapter

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10 comments

  1. I'm enjoying this immensely so far, keep up the good work! :)

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    1. Thank you so much! I can't believe even one person reads this. :')

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  2. I REALLY LIKE ARRYN (her name is so pretty) and I need to read more! I must admit, I'm intrigued by Crowe...

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    1. YAY! I heard the name Arryn from Arryn Zech and Veronica and I had to use it. :) Thank you so much for reading!

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  3. Claudette sounds pretty fierce-- DON'T LEAVE ON A CLIFFHANGER, though!!!

    xoxo Abigail Lennah | ups & downs

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    1. Glad she came across as that. I'M SORRY NEXT PART COMING SOON!

      Thanks for reading. <3

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  4. YOU ARE SUCH A GOOD WRITER, JO!!!! For real though. The way you write is awesome.

    I just caught up on a bunch of your posts...and your last post....YES. Hit so true for me. YOU GO.

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    1. AH THANK YOU. And wow, thank you for reading my posts. Seriously, you are awesome Autumn. :)

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  5. when you publish chapter three, can you please make sure to publish the rest of the novel? THE SUSPENSE IS UNBEARABLE (yes the pun was intentional). i know i am not the first to say it, but you are an incredible writer who boggles my mind. love you <3

    Aliah | Indigo Ink

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    1. HAHAHAHA. Oh this comment is funny. :') The next part will be on Veronica's blog and will hopefully satisfy the suspense! Thank you for your kind words Aliah. <3

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