Authors: Lisa Manifold
Thea’s Tale by Lisa Manifold
Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Manifold
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Sisters Of The Curse Series
Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Manifold
Book One: Thea’s Tale May 2015
Book Two: Casimir’s Journey August 2015
Book Three: Catrin’s Grimoire November 2015
Tonight was the night. After tonight, they would no longer have to hide their feelings or look for ways to accidentally bump into one another. After tonight—
“Is that the jewelry you’re wearing?” Isobel peered around her shoulder with a critical expression on her face as she looked Thea over in the reflection of the looking glass.
“What’s wrong with it?” Thea asked. The set of earbobs and necklace had been given to her on her eighteenth birthday. She had glitterier sets, but she treasured this one. It had belonged to her grandmother, her father’s mother. Tonight, of all nights, she wanted to surround herself with things and people she loved.
“I would think that you would want to shine as brightly as possible this evening,” said Isobel. Her tone softened as she looked at Thea in the glass again. “I have a feeling it will be a night to remember.”
Thea smiled and ducked her head. It seemed Isobel could read her thoughts.
“I think it will be exciting, at the very least,” said Celestria. “Shall I tell her?” The rest of her sisters gathered around Thea’s dressing table, all smiling and giggling.
“Tell me what?” Thea asked.
“I saw your young man leaving Father’s chambers today,” answered Celestria. “He had a broad smile on his face and looked most pleased with himself.” This caused her sisters to burst into giggles again with Viviana, her youngest sister, leaning in to give Thea an impulsive hug.
“I’m so excited for you, Thea!” She cried. “He is so handsome!”
Thea beamed. She couldn’t help it. “Thank you, Vivi. He is handsome, isn’t he?” She turned back to inspect her reflection once more, wanting everything to be perfect. She’d seen him coming from Father’s chambers, too. He’d told her that he was going to speak to Father today. Although he’d not specifically mentioned anything about her, the look he’d given her was so intense that she knew he must have. How he had managed to lead into that conversation after attempting to discuss the border dispute that had brought him here, she wasn’t sure. But he’d caught her eye as he was leaving and given her that slow, melting smile that he reserved just for her.
It had to be tonight! She felt she might burst if she had to keep her feelings for him secret one moment longer. Thea checked her appearance in the glass one final time.
“Thea, you look beautiful. Stop fussing,” said Adelaide, smiling at her. Thea turned around.
“Thank you, Addy. Are you well? You do not seem yourself this evening.” As happy as she felt, she wanted everyone around her to feel the same. She took Adelaide’s hand and squeezed.
“I am not feeling entirely myself, no, Thea. I thank you for your concern. I shall recover, however. Let us go.” Adelaide pulled Thea from the chair.
Thea put her arm around Adelaide and hugged her. “I think tonight will be wonderful. I’m so excited!” She looked at the pair of them in the glass and smiled. Impulsively, she blew their reflection a kiss, and skipped towards the door of their chambers, pulling Adelaide with her. “Come, Addy!”
They were the last out of their rooms, and Thea held Adelaide’s hand as she ran lightly to catch up to the rest of her sisters.
“Thea, they won’t start the ball without us!” Adelaide was panting a little.
Thea stopped. “I’m sorry, Addy. I just can’t seem to be still. I think I could fly to the moon!”
“I’m very happy for you, Thea. He’s a good match.” Thea peered at Adelaide. Her voice sounded flat. Adelaide was her closest sister, the one just a year younger, and in spite of saying the right things, Thea could hear something…off in her sister’s tone.
“Addy? What is it?”
“It’s nothing, Thea. Nothing that won’t pass. Come, we mustn’t hold up the others.” Adelaide removed her hand from Thea’s and strode forward.
Thea stood for a moment, watching Adelaide. Something was very wrong. Adelaide never spoke this way to her. She shook her head. There would be time to discuss the particulars of whatever had Addy upset tomorrow.
In spite of her preoccupation with her sister, her excitement about the night to come couldn’t be dimmed. After tonight, they would be betrothed, and she could be open about her love for him. No more hidden touches of the hand, no extreme pains to hide what they felt for one another…She gave a little skip of happiness. After tonight, her life would be all she had ever hoped for.
“Girls, please hurry.” Their mother, Ceridwen, made to shoo them all forward. Thea sighed. Her father loved pomp and circumstance, to put it mildly. Once he’d realized that he would not be having a son, he made a show of having so many daughters.
The sisters lined up, youngest to eldest, with Thea standing right in front of her parents, who entered last. She studied Adelaide’s back and decided that her sister’s hair looked particularly fetching this evening. She made a mental note to ask her about the style tomorrow.
The castle glowed this evening. Probably because she herself felt aglow. Her sisters looked like flowers in the garden, their various shades of dress flowing behind them. She’d chosen a light blue to offset her dark hair and eyes. Blue ribbons were threaded in her hair, along with pearls and brilliants, which were echoed on her gown. She’d worn her most comfortable pair of slippers, as she planned to dance all evening long. Since he’d spoken to Father this afternoon, she was sure Father would make the announcement tonight. She smiled, inhaling deeply, smelling the sweet herbs and rushes the servants had scattered before the guests had arrived.
The servants swung open the doors to the great hall, and the herald announced them.
“The Princess Viviana, the Princess Angharad, the Princess Celestria, the Princess Mirabelle, the Princess Serafina, the Princess Emaline, the Princess Isobel, the Princess Sybbl, the Princess Beatrix, the Princess Esmay, the Princess Adelaide, and the Crown Princess, Thea.” The herald stopped to let them all enter. It also gave those who had not been to a ball by the King of Gallivas a moment to absorb that he had twelve daughters.
Once they’d entered the ballroom and made their way to the dais, the herald spoke again.
“Their Royal Majesties, King Aland and Queen Ceridwen of Gallivas!”
Her parents entered, smiling, and made their way to the dais to join their daughters.
Aland turned to face the assembled guests. “Welcome! We welcome you!” A moment later, the musicians began to play. Aland took Ceridwen’s hand and led her out to open the dancing.
He glanced over his shoulder at Thea. She turned to her sisters. “Sisters, let us join them.”
There was a small ripple of happy chatter as they all stepped off the dais to begin the evening. As always, a group of men clustered around, hoping to secure the first dance with one of the princesses. Even with twelve of them, none ever lacked for partners.
She looked eagerly around to see where he might be. She spotted him at the opposite side of the ballroom, and her smile burst forth. She could see him moving quickly towards her. Before he reached her, however, a broad chest blocked her view.
“Princess Thea? Might I have this dance?”
Thea looked up into the face of Prince Sebastian, heir to the throne of Laurycia. Inwardly, she sighed, but said, “Of course. I would be delighted.” She heard a number of her sisters giggling behind her.
“Thank you for the honor. I valiantly battled your other suitors for the chance to be first in line to request a dance,” Sebastian said.
In spite of her irritation at being thwarted, Thea laughed. “It is rather a crush, is it not? My father loves ceremony. As he’s already safely on the dance floor with Mother, I am not sure he sees the scramble he leaves in his wake.”
“Ah, well, it’s the privilege of the king to focus on his lady and leave the rest to fend for ourselves.”
There was something in his tone that made Thea look at him, but she saw nothing amiss in his expression. “Well then I must thank you for ensuring I was not caught in the melee,” she said.
He looked at her then, laughter in his eyes. “It is truly my pleasure, Thea.”
As they lined up with the other couples and the dance began, Thea felt there had been more Sebastian wanted to say. As they clasped and released hands, she could feel him exert just the hint of greater pressure, which was rather forward of him. She pulled her hand back and was about to say something when she saw the man she’d been looking for all evening.
Finally. He was here. Thoughts of anything else faded instantly. Next to her, hand in hers. She didn’t even look to see who he’d partnered with, so happy was she to see him.
“Prince Casimir. It is good to see you this evening. I am glad to see your stay with us continues.” Formal, light words. Her eyes met his, and she nearly stumbled in the steps of the dance. Her heart beat so rapidly, she felt it must burst or, at the least, be heard by all nearby.
“Princess Thea. You look especially beautiful this evening, if I may say so,” Casimir said. She could see the same intensity in his gaze. Thea longed to be alone with him, away from this crush.
“I thank you, kind sir. Is it not a beautiful night?” Her happiness at being near him spilled over. She smiled a wide, happy smile. The squeeze of his hand around hers shot a thrill through her entire being. She felt her knees wobble for a moment. How could he do this with just the touch of his hand? What would it be like to kiss him?
He twirled her, breaking her thoughts. Even though she felt overflowing with all she wanted to say, neither spoke for the few moments more they were partnered. He was easily the most handsome man there. He was dressed in maroon and gold, the colors of his kingdom. His dark hair glinted warmly in the light of the candles. He reluctantly allowed her hand to slide from his as he moved to the next woman in the dance, leaving Thea with one last slow, beautiful smile. She ached to be near him again.
Sebastian joined her for the remainder of the dance. She knew he spoke to her, but she had no knowledge of what he said. Her attention focused on Casimir as he moved farther away from her. Oh, that this dance might end soon!
“May I, Thea?”
“I am sorry, Sebastian, would you repeat that, please?”
“I asked if I might accompany you to dine.”
“I believe you have no choice,” she said with a small laugh. She pulled her attention reluctantly from where Casimir was dancing with Isobel. “I’m fairly certain you’re stuck with me at dinner again.” Much to her displeasure. For whatever reason, her father had perversely insisted on seating Sebastian next to her nightly for the past week. He was not the only prince in attendance, but Thea couldn’t find a way to discreetly complain to her father.
“It’s my pleasure, as you well know,” he said.
“I thank you for that kindness, Sebastian,” she said. The music finished, and those dancing broke off with a murmur of conversation and applause. She applauded with the other guests, and then turned back to Sebastian.
“I must excuse myself. I need to join my mother.” She knew she was not being as polite as she ought to.
He bowed. “Of course.”
Thea didn’t wait to hear what else he might say as she hurried towards the spot where she’d seen her mother standing with some of her sisters. She didn’t really want to loiter with her mother but to be available to bump into Casimir.
As she made to join her mother, her father intercepted her. “Thea, my dear, might I have you escort me for a time?”
She nodded although her heart sank. While this was a usual activity, it was poorly timed. Who knew when she’d be able to get away and speak with Casimir, much less dance with him? “Of course, Father.” She took his arm, and moved into the crowd with him. They stopped briefly, speaking with many. Thea noted that there were many more people here this evening than she normally saw. No wonder it felt so hot.
She held her breath as they came to stand near one of the lords of her father’s Privy Council and Casimir. Both were talking animatedly, which thrilled Thea. Casimir had come to the court at Gallivas to resolve their kingdoms’ differences regarding border issues. To see him easily conversing with one of her father’s councilors was a good sign.
“Prince Casimir, Lord Mandringham,” said Aland.
“Your Majesty, Your Highness,” they said in unison, bowing first to Aland and then Thea.
“May we join you?” Aland said easily.
“Of course,” said Casimir. He grinned. “I was telling Lord Mandringham how splendid your festivities this evening are.”
“I thank you, Casimir. It is indeed a fine night,” said Aland. He exchanged a look with Mandringham, who smiled into his beard.
Thea smiled and pretended to look at a spot on her skirt so that nobody would see her expression. She didn’t want to look at Casimir, or give away that she knew. It would be tonight! Her father and Mandringham wouldn’t be casting coy glances at one another otherwise.
“I think it is in part due to the beauty of your daughters, Your Majesty,” said Casimir, looking at Thea and inclining his head. “They light the room more than any jewel.”
“The queen and I feel the same. We are fortunate in our family. You must know something of that, Casimir. You are the eldest of seven, are you not?”
“Indeed, I am. I have been fortunate to spend time with your daughters during my visit. They are intelligent and charming, in addition to their loveliness.”