Chapter 7 : Insidious Lies
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Penelope shifts uncomfortably in her seat. Her curly black hair has been pulled back into a long braid that nearly reaches the small of her back. Little wisps of hair curl over her ears and others float about her head as the guests walk past the door, stirring up the overpowering fragrance of stephanotis. The number of bodies within the Bartlett castle has magnified the heat in the room. Penelope feels little beads of sweat running down underneath the chemise covered by a suffocating silver corset.
Penelope’s silk gown is the color of apricot; along the hemlines, the house elves have sewn delicate white lace. A forest-green undergown is seen through the slashes that have been re-sewn with a thick silver thread. She is beautiful, her black hair and plump face soon to be the source of conversation and awe.
It is seven in the evening and Penelope cannot believe that she is to be announced to her betrothed in front of hundreds of witches and wizards. She sits one of the many antechambers off of the Bartlett’s great hall. After two agonizing hours, Penelope’s legs ache and she wishes desperately to be rid of the layers of dress.
She stands and not two moments after she makes a very unladylike stretch, Kynborow walks into the antechamber. Her mother is dressed in periwinkle blue with accents of seashell. Her black hair has been carefully arranged over her scar. She is a vision of near-perfection.
“It’s time, Penelope,” Kynborow says, taking her daughter’s hands in her own.
Penelope says nothing. Kynborow sighs and purses her lips.
“Do us proud. Remember, you are a Prince and a lady.”
Kynborow watches her daughter and just before Penelope opens the door, she catches Penelope’s wrist. They remain so, Kynborow’s arm extended, slightly bent at the waist. Penelope arches an eyebrow at her mother who leads Penelope back to the seats by the window.
“Listen, darling. It’s for the best. One day you’ll understand.”
“And one day you will understand that I have readily agreed to marry him, but I will never love him,” Penelope says coldly. She turns her head, looking into the dark night outside the stone walls.
Kynborow does not shirk away or seem surprised by the slurs from Penelope’s mouth. She pats Penelope’s hand, “If only you knew, my dearest.”
Penelope slips her hand out of her mother’s grasp. She smoothes her skirts and pulls her corset up a little higher, the herringbone digging into her hips.
“Mother,” Penelope says, nodding to her mother.
Standing, Kynborow takes a deep breath. She opens the wooden door, leading the way into the great hall. From the back of the hall, Penelope sees two enormous fireplaces; between them rests a long table for the family. Six equally lengthy tables and their accompanying benches fill the hall. Kynborow Prince approaches her husband, who is waiting for them. He clears his throat, then speaks, “WITCHES AND WIZARDS!”
The crowds begin to quiet, others whispering for silence, some pointing at Penelope. Nearest her, Penelope can just hear several women:
“Is she not beautiful?”
“At least she does not have a hideous scar like her mother.”
“She is beautiful, but I hear she participates in inappropriate behavior for a pureblood girl.”
Straightening her spine, Penelope resists the impulse to smile at the women. She knows them to be friends of her mother’s and hideous gossips. In time, Penelope thinks, there will be much about which to gossip and spread. More’s the better, she believes, with which to ruin carefully constructed reputations.
Finally settling down, the guests stare intently at the Princes and Otwell begins to act his role. “The noble pureblood family of the Princes present to the equally noble pureblood family of the Bartletts Penelope, the bearer of the honor and status of our great house. We graciously offer our blood to bind with that of yours in hopes of continuing the sacred magic,” Otwell pauses. His chest swells as he sees the smiles and nods from the guests who all seem enraptured with his daughter.
He urges Penelope forward. She curtsies low, her braided hair falling over her shoulder.
Anne and Cuthbert Bartlett walk around the high table and place themselves directly across from the Princes. Cuthbert replies, “We the noble pureblood family of the Bartletts graciously accept the noble pureblood family of the Princes into our sacred bloodline. We present to Penelope our Triamour, honorable son and heir.”
Triamour Bartlett emerges from the crowd to stand in front of his parents, bowing. He is regal in his shirt, doublet, and hose which are forest green and silver, matching Penelope’s attire perfectly. Penelope feels slightly disgusted.
Having seen this engagement ceremony several times, Penelope begins to walk toward her betrothed. The rustling of her skirts is the only sound in the hall apart from Triamour’s boots clacking against the stone. The closer they become, the more Penelope’s heart constricts. She cannot fathom how on earth she’s going to execute her plans – she is only certain that she will not fall in love with this man.
After what seems like an eternity, they come to stop about four feet from each other. Penelope curtsies and Triamour bows. As custom demands, Penelope remains in form while Triamour speaks.
“Lovely Penelope, you grace this hall with your beauty. I offer myself to you as your devoted betrothed. Will you walk with me to your rightful place as future lady and wife of this household?” Triamour is stout of build. The seams of his clothing strain against the width of his body. Penelope can only imagine the bulk of muscle and bulging veins. Triamour’s blond hair is tied with a forest green ribbon. His eyes are a dull brown.
Penelope’s legs shake slightly as she pulls out of the curtsey. She replies, “As your devoted betrothed, I am yours. Let us honor our blood and begin as one.”
The lie passes smoothly from her lips as the hundreds of guests begin to applaud. Penelope rests her hand in the crook of Triamour’s proffered arm. It is not with delight that she shivers as they touch for the first time.
They take the place of honor at the high table, their parents being on their respective sides. Triamour and Penelope remain standing as everyone else sits.
“My betrothed and I would like to thank you all for your attendance. We hope you enjoy the feast soon to be placed at your hands. Please, indulge yourselves!” Triamour spreads his arms. The nameless faces cheer once again, watching as dozens of house elves appear, setting platters and pitchers on the tables.
Triamour lays his hand on Penelope’s, gently pushing her into her seat. She is disgruntled by the show of dominance, but maintains her composure with a close-mouthed smile. It is the knowledge of the total control of her future that keeps Penelope from screaming.
As the house-elves lay the tables with mountains of food, the routine of traditions begins: Triamour does not ask Penelope what foods she would prefer, only choosing the best pieces he thinks are worthy of her. She watches as he ladles carrots onto her plate. She hates carrots.
Anne Bartlett leans past her husband and son to speak to Penelope, “Dearest Penelope, I am so happy that you are to become family.” Anne places a hand on her chest, careful that her clothing is not soiled with food.
“The pleasure is surely mine, madam,” Penelope says.
Beside her, Cuthbert reaches across his son and rests his hand upon Penelope’s. “Your beauty enchants us all to near madness. To watch my eldest wed you will be one of the proudest moments of my life.”
“Sir, you flatter me.”
Penelope can feel her father’s approval radiate from his person. What he does not realize is that his daughter, while she is marrying this man of her own free will, has plans that will see his name ruined. He does not recognize that her malicious nature is wrought of his own blood.
It is difficult not to stare at the man with whom she will spend the rest of her days as the silence between them stretches onward. However, she refuses to be the first to speak. She will not reduce herself to a sniveling, fawning wife of obedience. Out of the corner of her eye, Penelope observes Triamour. Muscles in his thick forearm flex as he hefts a large platter of roast pork down the table. A strong, square jaw clenches every so often.
“Penelope, you have not spoken,” Triamour says. His voice, Penelope thinks, is like the pits of Hell.
“Only at your leisure do I speak during mealtimes.”
Triamour sees right through her lie. He chews thoughtfully on a piece of bread.
“I know that you are willful. You are also one to do as you wish,” Triamour continues. “Lovely Penelope, you may put on your show whilst we linger here, but when you are mine, you will act as yourself.”
Penelope does not respond. She is slightly taken aback by his astuteness of mind and the forthright nature with which he speaks. It takes a moment for Penelope to compose herself. There is tension in the air that cloaks them heavily.
“It is my duty to do as you say, sir.”
Triamour turns to Penelope and brushes a bit of curly hair behind her ear. “I like your cheek.”
The sighs of Anne and Kynborow can be heard clearly. Everyone in the great hall has been carefully watching Triamour and Penelope, waiting anxiously for a show of affection.
Dessert is served. Penelope gazes at her favorite treacle tart and wonders vaguely how she’ll ever be able to eat another bite. She pushes her plate away and instead watches Triamour eat four of the tarts. Dear God, how disgusting, she thinks.
Triamour stands. He does not bother to brush away the crumbs that hide in the coarse blond hair of his beard.
“Attention honored guests! We thank you again for joining us. We are to be married on November seventeenth. Penelope and I regret to announce that we will be having a quiet ceremony for only family and close friends. We do hope, however, that you will travel to our Chestershire estate where we will be wintering and accept our hospitality as newlyweds.”
Once again, Penelope must take Triamour’s arm. She sees that, unfortunately, this is to become routine. They walk through the milling people toward the massive front doors. There, Penelope curtsies and smiles as each family and couple congratulate them. As all customs of the time, Triamour speaks and Penelope remains silent: a statue.
Despite the fact that they all have magical powers, pureblood women are lauded for their beauty and usefulness as homemakers. This unsettles Penelope. Her sense of adventure, even in this moment of tradition and splendor, struggles to break free.
It takes at least an hour for everyone to wander out of the Bartlett estate. Exhausted and mouth aching from so much smiling, Penelope wishes for the peace of her own bedroom and surroundings, but it is not to be.
“Come,” Triamour demands.
Penelope resists the urge to roll her eyes as Triamour’s still-foreign fingers tightly wrap about her wrist. They return to the great hall where house-elves are bustling around, cleaning. Penelope is lead to a magnificent antechamber. Entering, they find Anne and Cuthbert and Kyborow and Otwell in conversation. The ladies are discussing flowers and Penelope's wedding dress; the men discuss the latest wizarding news from other parts of the country.
“Triamour, my son,” Anne says as she fawns over him.
He lays his hand on her shoulder. “Thank you for the wonderful engagement feast, Mother and Father.”
“Anything for you, dearest. You’ll have the Princes to thank for the wedding when the day arrives,” Anne replies, glancing fondly at her soon-to-be in-laws.
Penelope sees her mother give her a pointed look, clearly meant to direct her to be appropriately proper. She decides to wait a few more moments. She wants her mother to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps she fears that I will call the wedding off, Penelope thinks maliciously.
Kynborow visibly tenses, the edge of her scar tightens as her face constricts into hard lines.
“Your hospitality is beyond reproach, madam. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“I know we will receive the same treatment from such a fine young woman of your stature. It will be a joy to come to know you as family.”
“I anxiously await the day.” With each lie that Penelope speaks, a small piece of her heart blackens. The blackness has already begun to taint her soul.
Anne turns back to Triamour and says, “Why don’t you take Penelope for a stroll in the garden while the Prince’s carriage is readied?”
“What a fabulous idea, Mother!” Triamour says. He leads her out of the antechamber and into an enclosed garden. It is vast, a great circular oasis even in the midst of winter. From a pocket in his doublet, Triamour draws his wand, sending balls of flickering blue light to hover over the path. He bewitches it to follow them.
“In our new home, I hope to have a garden much larger and more beautiful. I have planted all of these things myself.”
“Gardening does not strike me as something a wizard of your talent would waste precious time upon.” Even as the words leave her mouth, Penelope cannot help but admire the beauty of the foliage; the fragrance of the flowers in the springtime would surely be overwhelming. She is nauseous and appalled with herself for liking a product of Triamour’s hand. Yet, it is a garden that far surpasses anything she has ever seen.
“Ah, but dearest Penelope, you must know that vegetation is vital. We eat it, admire it, and use it in potions. It may be a wifely pastime in most homes, but my father taught me that knowledge should be vast and far-reaching, even into the unseemly.” As he speaks, Triamour strokes the verdant leaf of a bush.
“You think your father a wise man?”
“Of course. Did he not educate me in more than just magic?”
Penelope hopes for silence. Triamour, however, is a man of many words. He speaks well and often.
“I do mean what I said earlier…you are beautiful. I hope we will come to have a good marriage. Perhaps you will see fit to love me one day.”
For the second time in one evening, Penelope is startled by his bluntness. She does not, in the least, hope that they have a good marriage. She will do everything in her power to make him miserable. It is her vow. Before she lets another lie escape her mouth, Anne calls from the door.
“The carriage is ready!”
Triamour turns about and leads them back to the castle. He stops just behind a large shrubbery that Penelope cannot name. It is a shock to her senses when he bends slightly and lays a kiss upon her cheek. His facial hair scratches her fair skin. For a single moment, Penelope is pleased by the warm lips that touch her skin. Visibly shaking herself from her momentary lapse into weakness, Penelope sighs. Her betrothed must take it as a sigh of pleasure because he says, “The liberties I take are pleasing to us both, I see.”
They re-enter the castle. The Prince’s carriage has been readied and house-elves offer cloaks to their owners. Otwell says, “I will send an owl within the week.”
Kynborow grasps Anne’s hands quickly and is then helped into the carriage by her husband. Penelope refuses her father’s hand, preferring to engage in a silent act of impropriety.
As the carriage starts to move, Triamour yells, “Until I see your fair features again, beautiful Penelope!” His hand is raised in farewell and a smile graces his face, white teeth flashing. Penelope cannot help but watch Triamour as the gloom slowly envelops him; it too presses down upon her as she considers the impending future.
Author's Note: Hello my lovely readers! Thank you so much for reading chapter seven! I do hope you're all enjoying the story thus far. I'd like to clarify a few things before the next chapters are posted. If you've noticed at the beginning of each chapter, there is a place and date. This is because from here on out, the story (both Eileen's and Penelope's) may skips months at a time. So please pay attention to the month and year at the beginning of each chapter.
I need to send some major love to nott theodore (the lovely Sian) for beta'ing this chapter while Jchrissy (Jami) is taking a well-deserved vacation (who still took the time out of her day to pop by and do it just in case) -superlotsofloveandhugs-
What did you all think of Triamour? Was he what you expected? What did you think about Penelope? We only caught a glimpse of her true nature in chapter four, so how does this make you feel about her? Have you figured out what's she got up her sleeves?
Please take the time to leave a review, no matter how short! :)