July 7th, 18XX at 10:17 AM - Elizabeth’s Turret, Leeds Castle, United Kingdom
“Are we sure this will work?” Georgette popped her head from behind a mountain of fabric. “I know you are eager milady—”
“I am.” I turned, looking at Georgette—my governess, who acts more as an older sister if anything—and gave her one of my I-am-doing-this-no-matter-what glares. She scoffed it off, and I spun towards the mirror as Anne poked me with one of her pins.
“Hold still, quit squirming!” I felt another poke to my side, reminding me of how much Anne can be a perfectionist at times. “We will be done soon, Bellflower,” she nodded toward the two swaths flying in circles in front of the three of us, adding, “I will just have to mesh both of these colors together.”
Me and Georgette squinted at the fabrics. There was no difference between the two.
She noted our squints, complaining, “I know! It doesn’t seem like much to the two of you, but who is the lady’s maid here?”
We both held our silence, leaving Anne pleased with herself as she continued working on the servant’s uniform. She spent the last few months on the disguise, but Anne always gave projects her full attention until the deadline.
It was no different then.
“Now, let me finish and we’ll be done soon.” She flicked her wrist and the two fabrics flew into the air and untangled their threads above our heads. The threads—both mucky browns—collided with a WHOOSH creating the new fabric. With an added tilt of her head, a fleet of pins twirled around me and carefully pinned the fabric in place along my backside. I squeezed my eyes shut—ears perking up as a drawer CREAKED open from behind—listening to a pair of scissors being brandished, making simple cuts to fit the fabric as needed.
I broke the silence, “I think it looks fine—”
Anne interrupted, adding, “I am adding a few finishing touches to make it more realistic.”
A thread swayed in the air, similar to that of a garden snake, and slithered it’s way around a needle waiting patiently beside me. In a matter of seconds, the thread was sewn into the fabric, and a final snip of the scissors signaled the finishing touches were all done. Until Georgette appeared at my side and clasped my shoulders; halting me from making my escape down the servants’ quarters.
“One more minute to spare? For a final touch or two, to make this,” she gestured at me in the mirror. “Work.”
I wasn’t so sure what she meant, I was ready. I wore the same day dress as our servants downstairs, my brunette hair was placed into a tight bun, and my face wasn’t holding any makeup as it usually was. “I beg your pardon?”
Our gazes met, and I understood the message behind it. She was going to use forbidden magic. For me. To make my dreams come true. For one day.
This one day.
Before I would leave and never see her again.
This was our goodbye.
“Take it as a farewell gift,” a tear fell down her freckled cheek, and she continued through weary breaths, “it will fade in the morning, Elizabeth.”
I grasped her hand and nodded, holding back any tears I dare can, not ready to lose face. I kept those emotions in check, there will be another time for remorse.
It was not the time.
Not today, of all days.
With a final look at Anne, they both stood tall and bowed their heads. I didn’t dare move as beads of sweat trickled down their foreheads—deep in concentration or pain, I’ll never know. All I can do is hope it was the former.
If I was able to conjure magic, I would. As a noble I may hold the status that possesses both land and power, but magic always belonged to the common people. For centuries it has been absent from the genetics of our ancestors, causing all of noble birth to be uncommonly powerless.
Many believe magic is a sign of tainted blood, hence the law of no shows or performances allowed in the eyes of nobility. Most officials are against magic, in all forms, but some noble houses hire servants who swear their loyalty to use magic only for maintenance among their grounds. Including here at Leeds Castle, except for tonight, when the tables are turned entirely.
On this one day all magic is allowed on noble ground. The nobility go to their rooms, allowing commoners to roam the halls and grounds as they please, showing their powers to nature and neighbor without titles or background holding them back. No title mattered in the presence of magic, everyone—with status or not—were to be deemed as equals in modern-day society. This fete is an act of peace; keeping the fragile balance between these two drastically different sides.
Both sides I want to see more of.
I will be a duchess in a matter of months, I will have my entire life to be a noble. Tonight is different. This is my dream, my one chance of seeing magic performed up close. I will make this day count.
It’s all I have left; this one day.
I will be there to witness the magic, not from my window high in this turret, but in person. Law or not, I am going to see the other side, even if it does cost me everything.
I will make this day count.
This one day.
July 7th, 18XX at 10:42 AM - Courtyard, Leeds Castle, United Kingdom
My heartbeat spiked as I ran, leaving me panting as I caught glimpses of decorations and food strewn across tables down the Great Hall, reminding me of how horribly late I am. The adrenaline kept my feet pounding past the servants’ entryway as I made my way to the courtyard.
Of all days, why this one?
I didn’t want to miss a single part of the festivities.
Especially when I am competing in one.
My flower arrangement sways, keeping my speed in check. It took me weeks—no—months to be ready. Magic has always been my dream, and my gardening skills are the reason for it.
Georgette’s favorite classroom was always the gardens, since then my passion for flowers and herbs blossomed. Pungent ramsons, pyramidal orchids swaying their vibrant colors in the air, kingcups surrounding the moat around the castle, it all brought a sense of calm in me. It was only three years ago—on my sixteenth birthday—when I was allowed to move my room above the courtyard and garden, allowing me to see the foliage from my window.
Except I wanted to do more than see it, but instead feel it with my own two hands; the soil under my nails, the ground beneath my knees, the air brushing my hair away from my face, it all is a part of me. Who I am.
I can’t sit around and wait any longer.
Today is the day. The day I show my skills at the fete.
If I could make it to the judging table in one piece.
A root caught my foot, causing me to teeter dangerously forward. I nearly fell face-first before a root shot up from the nearest tree, hoisting me up gently by the waist. I looked around, stunned, until a man staring in my direction tipped his head down. It was him, he saved me. Not a magical tree, but his skills in magic. His gift. He turned, reminding me of why I was there: to enjoy this one day and see magic with my own two eyes.
Before ‘prince charming’ whisks me away to some other turret.
Before I leave Georgette behind.
Before I become a duchess.
Before I leave this chance behind me.
I can’t live with regrets; I have this one day and I’ll make the most of it.
July 7th, 18XX at 11:03 AM - Courtyard, Leeds Castle, United Kingdom
My arrangement of cow parsley, thrift, and primrose brought me back to my senses. There was no time to dilly-dally—as Georgette would put it—I must focus. Otherwise all this work would go for nothing.
I couldn’t let that happen.
I sat the vase down on the judging table, and eyed the center of my arrangement—proudly shown was the star of my show, the Campanula Patula. Otherwise known as the Spreading Bellflower, it is known for its delicate and needy nature. At first glance it is simple yet gorgeous, but lots of effort and planning goes into growing it.
When I researched what to plant for the competition, Anne chuckled at the flower’s nature, saying it reminded her of me. I tried to nag her back, but she was quite accurate at the snide remark. I was known for being a little too curious and needy for my own good, and I didn’t hesitate when she nicknamed me ‘Bellflower’ ever since.
I let my gaze drift over the other festivities, and a group of people caught my attention. I couldn’t see much past them, but I could hear what was behind them. It was a loud SPLISH as if something—or someone—landed water.
My intrigue pushed me forward; the judges were a few people away, I had plenty of time. Surely a few minutes wouldn’t hurt, would it?
I pushed past the crowd, watching as people didn’t spare me much of a glance. I mentally thanked Georgette and Anne for the disguise; for both the dress and the illusion that follows me as I move about the fete.
Anne was able to change my hair to match the same tone of red as her’s, with a matching set of freckles to mirror Georgette's, making me no longer Lady Elizabeth Wykeham Martin in the eyes of those attending the fete. If there was any suspicion of who I may be, due to my mannerisms or odd behavior, Georgette made her illusion strong enough to correct it in the eye’s of any curious attendee. As an added bonus, she gave me a lavender scent, knowing how much I adore it in the gardens.
For this one day I will be no one. No history, or backstory needed, just a face among hundreds of others along the courtyard. Except I will need a name, Jane Doe, to be fully entered in the contest. It is a sham for now, and very illegal, but one small act of rebellion for the greater good. Just for today.
All it takes is a little mischief, magic, and a little sprig of talent. I have all three.
Just as I push past the last person, my eyes boggle as they land on a unicorn. A splash of water flies off it’s mane and a little girl’s stare concentrates on the creature, reminding me of how powerful and mystifying magic can be.
The unicorn broke into a sprint, and rode around our heads in wide circles, as a pair of fire foxes erupted from both sides. I turned towards the cause of the fire, panic rising in my chest, and noticed two boys smirking back at the girl. I soon realized what I was watching: a show of wit, between fire and water, through magical ability.
I never dared to go to a fete before then, and I was so glad I decided to at that moment. It was everything I hoped for and more.
In a flurry of movement, the unicorn divided and galloped around the fire. The fire WHOOSHED and the foxes grew in size, resulting in the unicorns to rear back in fright. As soon as they grew double in size—making me think this will be the end of the unicorn—another figure joins the fray.
A wild rabbit. A grass wild rabbit.
The woodland creature hopped around the foxes, drawing them away from the cornered unicorns. The unicorns were freed from the fiery predators. They hopped over the flames, and smother them as the distraction worked beautifully. The woodland creatures were the victors, and the fire foxes were no more.
The crowd cheered at the concluded battle, and I couldn’t help but join in. Everyone clapped and danced as musical instruments along the courtyard’s walls stayed afloat and strummed—without anyone paying heed to them. They played a joyful tune, and I lost myself to it. For a few moments, it was only me; not Lady Elizabeth Wykeham Martin, but simply Elizabeth. Or really, Jane Doe. The servant who hoped to win the flower contest, if she could make it on time, that was.
I walked around the dancing fray of people, taking it all in as I did. People smile and dance with wide grins; the air filled with scents of warm treats, hot from the ovens; overhead fireworks and elemental creatures return to their performances, making my insides fill with glee.
Off to the side, an old man hugged the small girl and placed her onto his shoulders. They giggled, watching as the two boys grumbled and walked away; the pair strategizing for the next battle.
I made my way back to the table, and began to wonder why I never came sooner.
July 7th, 18XX at 11:29 AM - Courtyard, Leeds Castle, United Kingdom
The judges made their place in front of my arrangement, taking note of my choice in color scheme and skill to produce the flowers before them. A woman with a plump face and rosy cheeks broke the silence, gushing, “Ooh, nice touch with the bellflower, it is quite difficult to maintain indeed.” Mumbles of agreement fell among the four other judges, and I nodded back at them.
This one day will prove what skills I possess without magic; what I am capable of as a noble.
Although, that is far off into the future. Right now, a Bellflower ought to win a flower arrangement contest. Especially this one, on this one day, in the courtyard of Leeds Castle, located in a far-off corner of the United Kingdom . . .