Lightning flashed outside of Katherine Black's bedroom window. The dark, sullen clouds only added to her father's sour mood and her mother's horrid attitude. The tension in the house seemed to suffocate everyone in the manor, including all of the servants. Katherine already had to witness one of their maids being lashed for simply spilling a glass of milk on her twin brother, Remus.
After lunch, Katherine had retreated to her chambers, where she could hear her parents discussing the reason for the foul mood they were both in. Of course, everyone in the manor already knew why the earl and his countess were so furious.
It all began with Katherine's elder brother, James, who had rebelled against their family since he could talk. James became friends with lower ranking men. He began to drink and gamble, all while speaking ill of their father.
Although Katherine believed them to be, the earl was far from a perfect father. Most nobles weren't good parents at all. They chose violent punishments for the most minor of offenses. Locked in a cupboard for speaking out of turn. Knuckles beaten with a ruler until the skin was mutilated beyond repair for lying.
However, he was still Katherine's father and he did not deserve his children gossipping about him for he had clothed and fed them for over a decade. On the other hand, her brother had been punished the most out of all of the earl's children combined. Punished for things much smaller than lying and disrespect. He had been verbally assaulted on many occasions for befriending peasants or those not of royal blood.
But now Katherine's brother had done something completely and utterly unspeakable in the eyes of the earl. He had been caught fornicating with a male. Of all the women that threw themselves at her brother, Katherine could not comprehend why he would have to go through the humiliation of being with a boy. But sleeping with someone of the same sex did not cause Katherine to love her brother any less.
"Ms. Black, thy mother hast did request thy presence at dinner lest thee starve another night."
Katherine turned to look at the miserable servant in the doorway of her chambers. Mousy hair lay limp and thin against bony shoulders. Sunken, hazel eyes stared at the floor, afraid to catch a beating for making undesirable eye contact with her superior.
Without a sound, the earl's daughter swept out of her room, her chin held high. If she stalked into the dining cubiculo with her tail between her legs, her mother would certainly feast on her anxiety.
Upon arrival, Katherine found that everyone had taken their seats, yet an empty seat next to her father drew her attention. Her brother hadn't come home.
"Wipeth yond foolish behold off thy visage and sitteth down, Katherine." Her mother snapped, beady eyes narrowed with distaste.
The raven haired marquess plopped into a seat beside her twin brother, Remus, much to the disgust of her mother.
"wilt thou beest so disgraceful." She snapped, a red flush creeping up her neck,
"Leaveth the wench high-lone, the lady is the most wondrous of our litter." The earl mused, smiling softly at his only daughter. She was the apple of his eye and he was always her protector.
This, however, only worsened her mother's mood. Katherine could see the darkness clouding her eyes as the servants brought out dinner.
The smell of mutton and stew filled the dining room, but it did little to lessen the tension. Salted fish was then brought out with a sour smelling sauce. Bread was laid onto the table along with thick slabs of freshly churned butter. Fresh vegetables and fruits lay prettily in the middle of the large table.
They were going to celebrate something. The sudden realization sent a feeling of ice cold fear into Katherine's stomach as she stared at her mother. Whenever there was a celebration at the Black household, it usually meant misery for others.
"Bon appetit." The earl grinned, a feral grin that was more like he was baring his teeth.
Although her stomach was roiling, she took a bite out a piece of fish to avoid further questions.
"I seeth thee did get thy piggish appetite backeth."
Katherine looked up, grey eyes meeting black ones. "Pardon?"
"Walburga, cometh anon, beest merry." Her father laid his hand over his wife's. "Our troubles shall soon beest gone."
The sound of a fork clattering onto a wooden surface was loud enough to make every head turn towards the black haired lady.
"I apologize. I feel most ill." She murmured, eyes cast downward.
A scoff caused her to flinch, tears welling up in her eyes. 'Do not cry, Katherine. For if you do no one will ever take you seriously. You foolish girl!" She scolded herself, shaking her head.
A door slamming brought her out of her mind. With a sharp gasp, her head jerked up and she found that her elder brother had returned home.
"Oh, thee've all did start without me yeah?"
The Earl of Wittendale's face darkened, his fist clenched around his eating utensil so hard it began to bend. "Sitteth down, knave." He snarled, jaw set.
Without a response, James, sat with his chin raised and his eyes hard. The room remained silent as everyone picked at the now cold food on their plates. The storm was just brewing and Katherine could feel the volcano that was about to erupt.
"Anne, clear the plates!" Her father shouted, shoving his plate from him. The look in his eyes was pure fury and the young girl had to take a breath before she spoke.
"James, you look quite nice today." Once again, all eyes turned to her.
"Thank you sister, your hair looks lovely that way."
"Enough." Two syllables from her mother was all it took for silence to form again.
"James, you have disgraced this family for the last time." The earl stated, the calm before the storm.
"What are you griping about now old man?"
"You know! Don't play a fool!" Her father exploded, slamming his fists down on the table. "You were caught, by the duke no less, with a peasant boy in our vacation manor."
A vein popped in her father's forehead, his fists clenching. "James, you will not be a part of this family anymore. You will leave tonight. I do not care for your goings but there will be no more comings. You will live like the peasants you keep in your presence."
Katherine's throat closed and she felt the tears coming, but there was no way she could save her brother if she acted like a feeble young lady. So she swallowed her tears and leaned back in her chair, trying to adopt her mother's feline lounge.
"Father, don't be ridiculous. A man being with a man is the thing of the century. Shakespeare is doing it." She announced, cool grey eyes set on her father. She ignored the look of shock from her mother and her twin, only focusing on the earl. If she could woo her father then maybe, just maybe he would forgive her brother.
"What?" Her father sputtered, vein disappearing from sight.
Katherine popped a piece of bread in her mouth, chewing slowly to build suspense. "Haven't you heard? Shakespeare is sleeping with the prince of Tudor." She simpered, smirk widening as she realized her claim was working.
"Wh-why of course I knew that." He sputtered, cheeks now red from embarrassment instead of anger.
Their father turned to James and gritted his teeth. "I apologize but I must be excused." The earl quickly left the room, his wife right on his tail.
James smiled warmly at his sister, ignoring their other brother's existence. "This is why you're my favorite."
The anxiety finally caught up with her and she let out a shaky breath. "Your lucky I work best under pressure, brother or you would have been disowned."
With that, Katherine stood and left like the raven princess of the fables they were told as children.