A'naka Story
Chapter Six: Faux Pas
By:  David Christy

      The four girls, Caroline, Mary, Chanel, and Ariel all sat on pillows in a circle on the floor of the shrine.  They did this every Saturday night to talk, gossip, and discuss ‘girl’ things.

      “Oh, my gods!  No way!  No way!” Ariel shrieked in delight as the four giggled uncontrollably.  Only Caroline seemed to be able to maintain any composure.

      “So anything new?” asked Chanel, pushing her hair out of her face.

      “No…not really,” Ariel admitted.

      “Just not the same without Kalabin here.  He always got such juicy gossip,” Mary said.

      “Yeah…I wonder how he and Lady Deheune are doing right now?” Ariel wondered.

      “Hey, maybe they’re in the capital city right now, having dinner with the Kaiser himself!”

      “Oh-my-gods, I’d do anything for a chance like that.  Oh!  Imagine…dinner with Prince Kenin,” Ariel squealed.

      A dreamy look wiped over all four girls at the mention of the most handsome man in the entire kingdom.  “He’s such a dreamboat,” Chanel admitted.

      “I think we should set more realistic goals,” Caroline bluntly pointed out, even though her face was a bit flushed at the thought of meeting Kenin, as well.

      “Right, which brings me to my next subject:  Boys.  Okay, let’s hear who everyone likes.  C’mon!  I’ll go first,” Ariel said.  “Arlyn.  Doesn’t he just make you want to melt?”

      Caroline nearly choked.  “He’s a decade older than you, Ariel.”

      “So?  A girl can dream, can’t she?  Okay, okay…how about…Thompson?”

      “Ugh!” Chanel groaned.  “That hot-head?  He’d rude, boorish, and has no manners at all.”

      “I’ll agree with you on the ‘hot’ part,” Ariel grinned.

      Caroline wrinkled her nose.  “He is cute, but then again, he has been a little…off.  Ever since…well, you know.”

      The girls fell silent at the memory of the last sahuagin raid.  Always ready to break the tension, Ariel spoke up again.  “Well, what about you, Chanel?”

      Chanel reddened.  “Oh, me?  Well…I don’t know.”

      “C’mon!  Spill!”

      “Well…Swift can be awfully sweet...,” she started.

      “Swift?”  Caroline snorted.  “He’s a trouble-maker.  And never takes anything seriously.”

      “Oh…uh…well, Berkeley’s nice, too,” the acolyte continued.

      “Eww!  Gross!  Berk?  He’s so…bookish.  And boring.  And his lips are sealed to the Nuhivre’s rear ends,” Ariel ranted.

      The girls broke out into giggles again as Chanel scratched at her cheek in embarrassment.

      “What about Caroline?” asked Mary.

      “Yeah, Caroline!  Who’s your new beau?” Ariel asked.

      “What…?  What are you talking about?”

      “Don’t be coy, Sister!  I know when you’re hiding something!”

      “I…am not hiding anything, dear sister.  You are too paranoid.”

      “Then…why is your face so red?”

      The room erupted into giggles once again at Ariel’s accurate observation.

      “Well, there’s only one guy I like—and that’s my Hammie,” Mary said affectionately.

      “Huh.  You gotta let us know your secret, Mary.  Just how did you dupe a guy into marriage?  All the men around here seem afraid of the word,” Ariel snickered.

      “Actually, Hammie didn’t want to, either, at first.  But after the Bovai Invasion, he changed his mind.”

      “Thought the world was ending, did he?” Caroline asked sullenly.

      “Huh?”  The question clearly confused the halfling acolyte.

      “Nothing.  Forget it,” Caroline said.

      While they had been talking, Lady Sunray had been cleaning up a little, trying not to listen in on the girls’ conversation.  She had just walked by at that point, catching Ariel’s attention.

      “Oh!  Lady Sunray, how about you?  Who do you…like?  Ariel trailed off at Mary’s reaction.  She had silently mouthed “no” several times while making a “stop!” gesture.

      Daisey froze in mid-step and paused.  She didn’t turn to face the girls, but just said over her shoulder, “Oh…no one, really, I suppose.  Too busy with duties, really.”  She then hurried into her private chamber, leaving the girls to themselves.

      “What?  What’s wrong?” asked Ariel.

      Mary explained.  “Lady Sunray’s husband was killed in the Bovai Invasion.  He was also her templar.  So he died protecting her.”

      “Oops.  I didn’t know..,” Ariel said, biting on her thumb.

      “I’m sure Lady Sunray didn’t take offense,” Chanel said, trying to comfort her.

      This time it was Caroline who broke the tension.  “It’s getting late.  We should probably get going.”

      The others mumbled their agreement.

  ----------

The next day Ariel woke up early to practice her swordplay at the beach.  When the sun reached its zenith, she returned to her house for some lunch.  She nearly ran into her father, Eugen, as he exited the house.

      “Daddy?  Where are you off to?”

      “To the Shrine, of course,” he replied.

      “Why…?  Are we having a town meeting?”

      “You don’t even know what today is, do you?”  He walked past her to the shrine.  It was then she noticed he was carrying a candle and some flowers.

      “Oh…,” she said as she watched him walk off.  “Today’s the day she died.”

      “You forgot, again, didn’t you?” came Caroline’s voice from behind her.  Ariel noted she had a candle, as well.

      “I didn’t mean to!  I just…I mean…it’s not like I can even remember her that well.  She died when I was a baby.”

      “I know,” Caroline said, handing her a spare candle she had brought alone.  “And Father knows that, too.  He just gets…emotional this time of year.”

      “I’m sorry she’s gone…but we’ve done okay by ourselves.  I mean, it was an accident.  She fell off a ladder while picking fruit from a tree.  Why does Father get so angry?”

      “I don’t know,” Caroline admitted.  “But…it’s best to just get this over with.”

  ----------

      The three kneeled down at the altar after having lit their candles.  Eugen placed the flowers by the altar.

      “Dearest Anna,” he began, “today we honor your memory.  How are you doing on the other side?  I can tell you watch over us, because our girls have grown so strong and healthy.  If only you were here to see them.  They’ve both inherited your wondrous beauty. 

      “I have a foreboding feeling that darker times are ahead of us.  The town seems divided and the times grow more complicated.  I pray you give us all the strength to prevail in this difficult age.  I also pray that our daughters find suitable husbands to take care of them once I’ve joined you in the next realm.

      “However, good and decent men seem to be in short supply in this town.  That, along with it holding so many painful memories, has given me reason to decide to move.”

      “What?!” Ariel blurted out.

      Eugen shot her an outraged look that quickly quieted her.  He then bowed his head to continue.

      “Hopefully our life will improve once we reach our new homes.  Know that my love for you hasn’t faded even a little.  May Ark and the Seraphim whom serve her continue to protect your spirit, and our lives.”

      Once she was certain her father had finished, Ariel stood up.  “Moving?  What are you talking about?”

      “How dare you interrupt me when I am communing with your mother!  And how dare you use that tone with me!” he countered.

      “And how dare you make that kind of decision without even telling us!”

      “Ariel…,” Caroline interrupted, sensing a fight was going to break out.

      “I am your father and any decision I make does not need your approval.”

      “Oh, so you’ll discuss it with a candle but not your own daughters, right?”

      This earned Ariel a slap in the face.

      Caroline covered her mouth in surprise.  Ariel stood there, shocked, holding her burning cheek.  Eugen leaned closer and hissed between his teeth, “Say what you will about me, but never—ever—disrespect your mother like that!”

      He then turned and stormed out without another word.

      Ariel continued rubbing her cheek.  “That hurt,” she whined.

      “You had that coming, little sister,” Caroline said, checking her cheek.  “I told you he gets emotional this time of year.”

      “But…he said we’re moving!  I don’t want to move!  All my friends are here!”

      “I do not wish to move, either, but you just made things worse.  You should have waited until he had calmed down before bringing it up.  And you certainly shouldn’t have referred to mother as a candle.  Now it will be nearly impossible to talk him out of this.”

      “But…I was just…,” she stumbled.

      “Letting your big mouth lead the way.  As you always do.”  She sighed and walked out, leaving Ariel to contemplate her words.

  ----------

      That night, Ariel lay in her bed, staring up at the ceiling.  She had never even known her mother.  Anna died four months after Ariel had been born.  She couldn’t remember anything about her.  Caroline was only three years old at the time, so she could remember a little bit.

      So to Ariel, her mother was nothing more than a myth.  A legend, talked about by others, but one she had never seen firsthand.

      Her thoughts were interrupted by a noise outside her window.  She smirked to herself and quietly got out of bed.  Caroline was sneaking out again.

      Ariel realized she did this at least once a week.  She had assumed it was to meet a secret lover, and when she brought it up at the shrine yesterday, Caroline’s suspicious actions convinced her this was the case.  Never one to pass up on good gossip, Ariel had to know why she was sneaking out.  Caroline was the picture perfect daughter, never getting in trouble.  So Ariel knew this had to be good.

      Quickly dressing, she sneaked out and trailed her sister.  It was easy to stay to the shadows so late at night.  The only light source was the half crescent of Ruse.  Pyr, oddly enough, was nowhere to be seen.

      Caroline was obviously in a hurry.  She kept looking back behind her to make sure she wasn’t followed, but was too hasty.  Had she really paid attention, she probably would have noticed her little sister tracking her.

      She followed her to the inn, where she ducked around the back.  As Ariel snuck closer for a look, she heard Caroline’s voice.  “Sorry I’m late.  Father stayed up later than he usually does.”

      Ha, ha.  Ariel thought to herself.  Little miss perfect, disobeying Father.  She heard a male voice reply, but couldn’t make it out.  Who could it be? She wondered.  It’s not Swift.  Caroline hates him.  Maybe Berkeley?  Gross.  Oh!  Wait, she did say Thompson was cute.  It must be Thompson.  It damn well better not be Thompson

      A mischievous grin on her face, Ariel leapt out of her hiding spot and yelled “Aha!” while pointing an accusing finger.  And then her jaw dropped.

      Caroline broke away from Arlyn’s embrace, redder than a turnip.  “Ariel!  What are you--?!” she demanded in a loud whisper.

      Arlyn vainly put a hand of his face, as if to somehow hide his identity (or perhaps just his embarrassment).  He glanced behind him, as if considering making a run for it.

      “You…you…and Arlyn?” Ariel managed to force out.  “You…you…you knew, I…,” she stuttered.  Her eyes filled with tears, she turned and ran all the way home.  Once there, she threw herself onto her bed, burying her face in her pillow.

      She knew!  She knew how I felt!  And all along, she and him were--!  She purposely tried to talk me out of liking him.  “He’s too old for you, Ariel,” she said.  Not too old for HER, I guess!  How dare she?!  How could she?!  My own sister!

      The next morning, Ariel awoke to a moist pillow and to find she still had her clothes on.  She realized she must have fallen asleep crying.  But today was a new day, and what better way to spend it than getting revenge?

  ----------

      When Caroline returned home that day from her swordplay practice, Ariel and Eugen were waiting for her.

      “We need to talk,” Eugen said simply, and walked into the living room.  Caroline shot Ariel a betrayed look.  Ariel tried to look away.

      She waited in the kitchen while the two had their “talk.”  All ready, Ariel was feeling guilty for tattling.  She had acted without thinking…she had let her ‘big mouth’ lead the way.  Caroline was right.  Ariel never thought about what she was saying or doing until it was too late.  And now that she had calmed down and thought it through, she realized that Arlyn really was too old for her.  And besides, it’s not like he was the only man in town.  And who’d want to be with an innkeeper?  How boring!  Ariel wanted to find a man of adventure, not a guy who cleaned mugs all day.

      He wasn’t that cute, now that she thought about it.

      But it was all too late for that now.  She had all ready told their father, and now Caroline was going to be in big trouble.

      Her thoughts were interrupted when Caroline stepped out of the living room.

      “I’m sorry, I—“ Ariel started, but Caroline cut her off.

      “We both agreed our relationship should be a secret.  There was no need for people talking about us.  But I guess it’s too late for that now.”

      Ariel’s shoulders sunk.  “Did he punish you really bad?”

      “No…he decided, though, that we’re not moving after all.”

      “What?  We’re not?”

      “He seems to think…that Arlyn is a good, decent man.  And being the brother of the Cleric makes him even better.  Father’s overjoyed.  He’s practically planning the wedding all ready.”  She rubbed her forehead.  “But…he said if we moved, it’d ruin that, so we’re staying.  I was going to tell him we have no plans to get married…but, best to let him think what he wants.”

      “Can…can you ever forgive me for blabbing?”

      “I suppose I’ll have to sooner or later…being sisters and all.”  She gave Ariel a quick shot in the arm.  “Next time, keep your big mouth shut and your nose out of other people’s business.”  She walked off.

      Ariel rubbed her arm with a whine.  “Yeah, I know…otherwise, every part of my body is going to be sore by the end of the month.”

Back to Literature