Tea served in mourning garb? Who has died?
None of the men of Dee had Golden attitudes. They admired her, but not as she desired. She was a trophy. A status symbol. They paid lip service to Okal Lumens, the path of light, but they did not feel the need for goodness and beauty. Not like Dela. On the days when Dela pined for court, only Lady Ril's faith made life bearable.
Dela went back into the study to look for Ril now, but she was not there. Instead, Dela gravitated toward the window which filled a quarter of the wall facing onto the courtyard. It was an heirloom window, its panes cut like stained glass and divided by lead-gray lines that suggested vines climbing a wall.
Outside it was unusually quiet. There was often some nobleborn lady dropping in about this time, just so she could tell her friends that she had spoken with Dee's Golden Princess more recently then anybody else; or to get Dela's opinion on a dreadful new dress that she did not have the heart to criticize; or most difficult of all, to show off a darling child dressed up in its ceremonial best.
Everything around Dela seemed so ordinary, it was hard to believe that anything alarming was about to happen.
Dela wondered, instead, about what Pureblood Amel, grandson of the Sacrifice, would think of her.
The study had three full-length mirrors. Dela stopped before one of them to take stock of who she was. She cut a proud figure, the daylight bold at her back through the panes of the old, hand-crafted window, but she had her flaws. She was plump. It was pleasantly distributed, but she could never have squeezed into the clothes she wore the day she came to Dee Manor. And she did not have a commoner's excuse. As a Royalblood, she could expect to enjoy eternal youth until she ran afoul of regenerative cancer. Her shoulder length hair, curly by natural inclination, had highlights of bright gold that played off her crisp blue eyes. Her face was too round; her nose too snub; and her breasts too large. By local standards she was considered beautiful. At court she had barely been passable. One of her tutors even told her she was 'trivial'. Goldens, he said, were meant to experience feelings like a symphony, not a shrill little tune on a village street corner.
But Dela liked the inadequate woman in the mirror. Her eyes could be merry. Her heart, for all that she fussed about little things, could be powerfully moved out of good motives. Maybe she was not as selfless as Lellalee, or as brave as Fritan. Maybe she did not have Demlara's dignity or the genius of Fahandlin. She was only Dela, the least of the great. But she would do for Dee Manor.
If anything of legendary proportions was required, surly it would not be required of her.
Dela sent for tea, feeling the matter settled.
The maid who appeared was normally a cheerful girl. Today, she was dressed in mourning black, which stood for the depths of space where unbodied souls had to wait to be reborn. Dela asked the girl, kindly, who had died. The poor girl grew wide-eyed and fled, her lower lip quivering violently.