Read Princess of Glass Online

Authors: Jessica Day George

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Magic, #Children's & young adult fiction & true stories, #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic, #Children: Young Adult (Gr. 7-9), #Children's Books - Young Adult Fiction, #Young adult fiction, #Witches, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #Adaptations, #Fairy Tales & Folklore - Adaptations, #Fairy tales, #Royalty, #Princesses, #Princes, #Science Fiction; Fantasy; Magic

Princess of Glass

BOOK: Princess of Glass
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Princess of Glass

Jessica Day George

For
my own Princess,
who danced before she could
crawl

Prologue

Perfect," the Corley said, lips stretched wide in a smile. She took a shallow pan of molten glass and set it in the air over her head. "Yes, everything will be perfect this time."

She tilted the pan just a little, and the syrupy stuff slithered out in a green sheet. It flowed, pale and smooth, into a basin, and showed the Corley a young girl with blue eyes and black hair under a little white cap. She was ironing a muslin gown, a grim expression on her face.

"She is beautiful," pronounced the witch. "And clever. But almost... obsessed with her loss. Perfect. She will come to me with open arms, the lovely. And now for her prince."

She tipped the pan a little, pouring out more liquid glass, and there he was. A tall youth with pale gold hair and deep blue eyes, riding a showy gray horse down a city street. All around him, women stopped to sigh but he rode on, oblivious.

"Handsome, yet blind to his own appeal and so much more," the Corley purred. "And it was so easy to bring him here."

6

The thick green liquid flickered and another face appeared. Black hair framed a face with porcelain skin and large violet eyes. The young girl's beauty was only marred by the frown she wore.

Curious, the Corley watched as the frowning girl was kissed and hugged by a whole herd of other young ladies, clearly all sisters. Last of all two tall young men embraced her. One of the young men handed over a bag that appeared to be full of balls of yarn with a pair of sharp knitting needles sticking out of the top. The girl finally laughed, and the other young man helped her into a carriage.

"What's this, what's this?" The Corley clucked her tongue when the steam failed to show her any more. "Another one coming? Ah, me! Can nothing I seek come easily?

"Still, what's one more little girl?"

7

***

Houseguest

When someone knocked on the bedroom door, Poppy nearly leaped right off the bed. She had been sprawled across it writing, and her quill pen skidded over the paper and left huge blotches of ink on the letter to her twin, Daisy.

"Oh, blast!" Poppy dabbed at the ink with her handkerchief before it could run off the paper and onto the white counterpane. "Yes? Come in."

After sharing a room with her twin and their sister Orchid all her life, Poppy was not used to people knocking on her bedroom door. Nor was the silence of Seadown House at all soothing, but only seemed to magnify the least squeak or whisper, until Poppy thought her nerves would never settle.

Lady Margaret peeped around the doorframe. She had been the greatest beauty of her generation, and her looks had not faded with age. Her hair gleamed like polished wood and her large brown eyes sparkled. She smiled kindly at Poppy, who was still dabbing at the letter with her ruined handkerchief.

8

"I hope I didn't startle you, my dear."

Years ago Poppy would have said yes and indignantly displayed the ruined letter. But Rose and Lily, her oldest sisters, had been teaching her tact with great determination, and so she shook her head.

"Not at all," she replied. "I've made a muddle of this letter without any help."

Lady Margaret came all the way into the room. She took the pen and ink from Poppy and set it on the writing desk without comment. Poppy felt a pang: she
should
sit at the desk to compose her letters, but it was so hard to break the habit of lounging while she wrote.

Lady Margaret turned the elegant little desk chair to face the bed and sat down. "Marianne tells me that you don't wish to attend the Thwaites' ball," she said, her voice beautifully modulated as always.

Poppy reflected that it was no wonder she had been shipped off to Breton. Lady Margaret Seadown, Poppy's late mother's cousin, was all that was elegant and refined. Poppy suspected that her father, King Gregor, was hoping for some of Lady Margaret's elegance to rub off on her.

Fighting down her feeling of panic at the very mention of a ball, Poppy took command of her own voice and said merely, "I'm sorry, Cousin Margaret, but I don't dance."

Lady Margaret's brow furrowed delicately. "But my dear, the unpleasantness with the dancing slippers..." She let the question trail away.

Poppy winced, clenching her fist around the ink-stained

9

handkerchief. Yes, the "unpleasantness" with the dancing slippers.

From the time she could walk until she was thirteen years old, Poppy had spent nearly every night dancing. Dancing until her toes bled and her satin slippers were worn to shreds, and her eleven sisters with her. Until Galen, now married to her oldest sister, Rose, had rescued them from the curse that had begun with their mother's foolish bargain nineteen years before.

"I
can
dance," Poppy clarified. "But I really prefer not to."
Ever again,
she added silently. Rose and Galen sometimes danced together, out in the garden with a little impromptu music courtesy of her sister Violet. But the royal family of Westfalin had neither hosted nor attended a ball in three years, though they had banquets and concerts and parties enough to befit their status.

"I see," Lady Margaret said.

But it was clear that she didn't. No one did. And as fond as Poppy was of her mother's elegant cousin, she could not enlighten her.

By the time Galen had helped free her family, the Church was investigating Poppy and her sisters on charges of witchcraft, and nine princes were dead. Their only crime had been trying to solve the mystery and perhaps win a royal bride, but the King Under Stone, the horrible creature with whom Poppy's mother had made her bargain, had killed them all. Since then they had all agreed--King Gregor, the sisters, and Galen--that none of them would speak of the curse or the King Under Stone again.

10

"But my dear," Lady Margaret went on. "Please consider attending the ball even if you don't dance. The Thwaites are charming, and their social occasions are the height of fashion. There will be wonderful music, and food, and so many fine young people for you to meet. And I hate to have you languishing at home alone while we enjoy ourselves." She made a face. "I would stay home with you, but Marianne will be heartbroken if she cannot attend, and I must chaperone her."

Poppy had to think about it for a while.

A long while.

She was not given to fearful turns or attacks of the vapors like some girls (including several of her sisters). But most of her life had been a nightmare of endless, sleepless nights dancing in the arms of the half-mortal son of a half-mortal king. She had no happy memories of balls.

But she would not let old fear rule her life, she decided. During the three weeks that she had been in Breton, the Sea-downs had been invited to no less than seven balls, and turned them all down because they did not want their guest to feel abandoned. She could not in good conscience ask them to give up another invitation just because she was feeling missish. She was fairly certain that the Thwaites were not evil incarnate, and they would not try to kidnap her. She would go, and she would enjoy herself.

Even if she could not bring herself to dance.

Poppy realized she had been holding her breath and let it out now in a whoosh. "I'll go," she said to Lady Margaret. "Thank you for understanding if I don't dance, however."

11

"Of course, my dear." Lady Margaret smiled radiantly and patted Poppy's hand. "I'll tell Marianne and Richard. We'll have a cold supper, and then Gabrielle will help you dress."

She glided from the room, and Poppy set aside her ruined handkerchief and letter. She would write to Daisy later. For now she opened her wardrobe and brought out two gowns from the very back. Her oldest sister, Rose, had had them made for her.

"You'll need ball gowns," Rose had insisted.

"I'm not going to any balls," Poppy objected.

"You might surprise yourself," Galen had said. "You'll have friends; you'll want to go to a ball with them..." He had raised his eyebrows suggestively as he knit away with two tiny wooden needles and yarn that was hardly thicker than a thread.

"No."

But Rose had had the maids pack the two gowns behind Poppy's back. And Poppy would never let Rose know that she was suddenly grateful for the gowns. In fact, Poppy debated whether she would even tell her own twin that she had been to a ball. Daisy practically had hysterics when their sister Violet played a
valse
on the pianoforte.

Young Bretoner ladies wore white to most formal occasions, which made Poppy feel like a corpse. Clever Rose, knowing this, had had these gowns made of fine white muslin with satin slips of a different color underneath. One slip was purple, which the white muslin softened to lavender, the other a rich blue dampened into a mistier shade by the overgown. There was delicate embroidery around the hems and necklines to match

12

the underskirts. Poppy laid the lavender gown across the bed (after checking to make certain that she had not spilled any ink on the counterpane) and then went downstairs. Suddenly hungry, she wanted to find out how soon the early supper would be.

13

***

Prince

Prince Christian rode with his eyes focused straight ahead. As long as he didn't make eye contact with any of the girls lining the streets of Damerhavn to watch him go by, they wouldn't do anything foolish.

Like pretend to faint under the hooves of his horse.

Or throw a handkerchief at him, hoping that he would keep it as a memento.

The last time that had happened, his horse had spooked at the sight of the white fluttery thing, and Christian had nearly been thrown into the waiting arms of a horde of hopeful young ladies. He wanted to ride, needed to get out of the palace and away from his parents and tutors, but it was never as relaxing as he hoped it would be.

Today he was even more distracted than usual. On his way to the stables, his father had popped out of his study and made Christian promise to speak with him immediately upon his return.

14

Christian had extended his daily ride to stall for time.

With a sigh, he saw from the angle of the sun that if he didn't return to the palace soon his father would send soldiers to find him. Not because he was a prisoner, but because Christians parents loved him, and cared for him, and worried for his safety.

Constantly.

"You're alive today because we smother you," King Karl was fond of saying when Christian accused his parents of being overprotective. "Imagine if we'd sent you off to Westfalin, and you'd had your soul sucked away by those horrible girls!"

Mention of this always made Christian uncomfortable. When the king of Westfalin had pleaded for a prince to help solve the mystery behind the princesses' worn-out dancing shoes, Christian had been eager to go. His parents, however, had not permitted it. From the beginning they had been certain that dark magic was involved, and when the reports came of the failed princes dying in strange accidents, King Karl had put Christian under house arrest. No son of his would sneak away to Westfalin and attempt to meddle with those "cursed girls."

Not that Christian had wanted to get married. He had only been fifteen at the time, after all. But he had never been outside of the Danelaw, and it all sounded like such a great adventure. In the end it had been a common soldier who had solved the mystery and ended up being knighted and married to the oldest princess. The intrepid fellow had solved the problem using an embroidery hoop or some such strange thing, but Christian rather doubted that part of the story.

Back at the palace, Christian groomed his horse himself,

15

still trying to put off this talk. Then he had to go and change out of his riding clothes, wash his face, and comb his hair--which needed to be cut, he noticed--and find his father. The king was not in his study after all, but up on the roof of the palace where a telescope had been mounted next to the pole bearing the royal flag.

"See this?" King Karl pointed the telescope at the harbor and gestured for Christian to look through it.

He looked. "It's the harbor," he said.

"I know it's the harbor, Christian," his father said patiently. "Look at the ships in it."

"Two of our navy gunners and a merchant from Norsk-land," Christian reported, not sure where his father was going with all this.

"And there, to the left of the Norske ship?"

"It looks like a Bretoner." Christian pulled away from the eyepiece to blink for a moment, then looked again. "Yes, a Bretoner galley. Royal Navy, in fact."

"Very good." King Karl nodded in approval. "Yesterday I received the ambassador from Breton. It seems that King Rupert has some ideas about the future of Ionia." Karl chuckled. "Funny, isn't it? When Breton is doing well, they're an island unto themselves, but if there's ever any unrest, suddenly 'all the nations of Ionia need to band together."

Not knowing how to reply to this, Christian merely continued to look at the harbor through the telescope. A sinking feeling was growing in his stomach, however, and he knew that somehow this news from Breton involved him.

BOOK: Princess of Glass
6.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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