The Emperor’s Bride

I did not use a prompt for this short story. It was initially a concept for a longer work. Feel free to ask me any questions if any part of it confuses you. Written 25 December 2019

Teagan sat in front of her mirror, one servant braiding back her hair, another brushing pigments on her face. She took several deep breaths in an effort to steady her nerves. Her engagement to Emperor Anselm would be officially announced at the start of the ball that night, and so she must be dressed accordingly. Her gown was comprised of two main layers: a split tunic that reached her ankles, and a circle skirt, both made of rippling pale silver silk, the skirt painted with so many different flowers Teagan thought it must be an entire garden’s worth. His Majesty the emperor would be wearing white and gold, she knew.

Another servant entered, holding a small box. “My lady, His Majesty sent you these, requesting that you wear them tonight.” Teagan waved her over and opened the box. She gasped.

It was a full set of moonstone jewelry, set in white silver. There was an armband shaped like a coiled dragon, a choker necklace, an anklet, and a delicately braided circlet. “These must cost a fortune. I’m nearly afraid to put them on.”

“I assure you they are quite durable.” came a voice from the doorway. “May I come in?”

“Of course, my liege. I am perfectly decent, if you would excuse my bare feet and unfinished hair.” Teagan replied.

The emperor stepped in wearing robes even finer than Teagan had previously seen him in. The white was almost creamy, pure and seemingly soft as down. The gold that rimmed the sleeves, hem, neck and opening flowed like liquid. His feet were also bare, the jewel-encrusted slippers dangling from his right hand. The robe hung open and left his chest bare. Teagan turned back to the mirror and bid the servants continue their work.

“I don’t suppose you plan to tie that robe for the ball tonight?” she asked, and one of ther servants struggled to hide a smile.

“Would it bother you if I left it open all night?” he replied with a boyish grin.

“Well, I do believe your courtiers would have a fit. Maiden Sasha might just faint.” The sevant coughed to hide a snicker.

“I suppose you’re right. Will you wear them?” he closed his robe and gestured to the box.

“Of course. They’re exquisite.” she said. lifting the armband. The servant finished her hair and moved to help with the jewelry, but the emperor stopped them.

“You’ve done wonderfully, ladies. May I take over from here?” the women curtsied low and left without a word. He took the armband from Teagan, a strange, soft look in his eyes.

“I can do it myself, Your Majesty.” Teagan protested.

“Yes, you can. But I wished to have a quiet moment with you before we went in.” he explained. Teagan nodded and offered her arm. He slipped the band on, then the anklet, the choker, and finally the circlet. “I will go in first, after the guests have entered. Then I will announce my engagement, and you will enter. From then on, you will be at my side unless I am needed where you are not.” she nodded, and they stepped into their shoes.

They walked down the hall together until they reached the ballroom. Emperor Anselm gave her hand a squeeze before letting go and stepping inside. Teagan heard the music die down and the emperor start his speech.

“As I am sure everyone here is aware, I have been searching for a Maiden to make my wife and consort. It is with great joy that I may now announce that I have ended my search. My trusted court, I present to you my future bride, former Maiden, Lady Teagan.” She stepped out, curtsying to the emperor, then facing the now-applauding audience. She nearly jumped when he intertwined their fingers.

Emperor Anselm led her down the steps, and the music started up again. They danced until she forgot her nerves, and when they stopped, the Maidens were the first to flock to her, flooding her with questions and congratulations.

“Will you do one more dance with us, Teagan?” Maiden Sasha asked. The others took up the cry and she relented with a laugh. They made a circle on the dance floor and Teagan melted into the music, noting how much she would miss dancing with the Maidens.

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