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Stuck and Cranky

I'm starting to run into problems with my story due to the fact that I'm having to work through a number of scenes that are domestic or political in nature rather than daring-do. I'm worried I tell more than show, I'm putting in too much exposition, and that I keep saying the same damn thing over and over again. This frustration is thwarting my dedicated word count. Anyhow, here follows an excerpt from my unnamed fantasy in the hope that someone will say something.

ETA NaNoWriMo Tally: 10325.

Lara’s lessons and Cassera’s company filled a void that Lara had not fully been aware of.

It wasn’t just that her presence replaced Mama’s: Cassera was far more like a friend than a

maternal figure. She was also eminently more instructive in a variety of other matters.

“This garment is a cote-hardie,” Cassera explained one afternoon as she and a maid

shoehorned Lara into a new gown. It was quite lovely, of a deep purple-red color that Cassera

called murrey. It was also quite tight; Lara found herself sucking in her breath and holding her

tummy in. “I think it’s a bit tight, don’t you?” she panted.

“Nonsense,” said Cassera. The maid was fastening the long line of buttons that ranged

from chin to navel on the bodice. “It must be well-fitted on top and fall gracefully to the ground

below. Like so.” She held up a polished looking glass. Lara did have to admit the effect was

quite striking: it emphasized her thin waist, though she noted critically that it also diminished her

already diminutive bosom. “Now walk,” Cassera commanded.

Lara did so, walking around her chamber curiously. “I feel silly,” she said crossly. The

maid giggled and she felt more foolish than ever.

“Grace is the point of this exercise,” Cassera said as if she hadn’t heard. “A lady must

keep her head high, her shoulders back, and breathe from her center.” Lara wasn’t sure what that

meant but nodded knowingly anyway. “She must also keep her expression cool. Like so.” She

affected the expression. Lara privately thought it meant looking blank, but imitated it anyway:

lips compressed but turning faintly upwards, features motionless. “In this way you face the world

confidently, favoring none and disfavoring none.” Cassera paused. “A queenly look, if you will.”

“But that’s silly,” Lara said. She watched herself in the mirror to see if she kept the

‘cool expression’ as she spoke. “There hasn’t been a queen in a thousand years. And they’re

always evil in stories anyway.”

“The Southlands forcibly removed their royalty generations ago, this is true,” the

governess allowed. “That doesn’t mean they are evil. Your forehead is pinching, dear.”

“Fine. Mythical then. At least now.” Lara endeavored to make the place above her brows

smooth. “Why should I practice looking like a queen, anyway? I’m only a lady.”

“For now, my dear, yes.” Cassera pursed her lips. “Your father has…political

aspirations, if you will. Once you are molded to his, shall we say, specifications, you will find

that your future might hold considerable more power than you were expecting.”

“I doubt that,” Lara said. “If he expects me to hold power I would think I’d learn more

than how to walk and how to keep my expression just so. What is he planning, do you know?”

She thought a moment. “If he wants me to be a queen, he’d have to marry me to someone

from the north. Or possibly one of the dessert tribes, though I can’t imagine that he’d send me

that far away!”

Cassera’s expression during all this was, Lara noticed, perfectly blank. She had no idea

what the older woman could possibly be thinking, and she belatedly began to see the virtue of

an empty face. Something slight flashed in her eyes though. “I believe it’s almost tea time,” she

said to the maid. “Do bring us some biscuits as well.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the girl said quietly, and left. She closed the door behind her.

Cassera exhaled. “Your father means to make himself King,” she said bluntly. She took

Lara’s hand and sat with her on a plush sofa, her face close to the girl’s. She spoke softly.

“Should he succeed—and it’s unlikely that he won’t, if you mark me—then you will be a Queen

afterwards. I’ve taught you the basic arts of keeping the home—extend them but a little, and

you will see that they all extend to the greater sphere. The budget of the larder is to the supply

of grain, the management of one’s servants is to the ruling of one’s people. It is all a matter of

scale. Once one masters the first set, one can begin to tackle the second.”

Lara gawked. She couldn’t help it. “But—but—it’s wrong!” she said helplessly. “I don’t

want a part of this. It’s just—wrong!” She couldn’t quite articulate her revulsion for the concept,

but it was present nonetheless. She felt indeed as if she were somehow an unwitting accomplice

to murder. “Wrong!” she said again.

Cassera held both of her hands. “Maybe so, maybe no,” she said. “It is what your Lord

Father plans. He commands me and I therefore command you. You must attend: that is the first

rule of politics. Attend, Lara, to your lessons. Attend to those about you, what they are saying,

high folk and low.” Her lips curved in a small smile. “To know what the people are thinking will

give you much information. All intelligence, from any source, is worth noting. To learn to sort

the true from the false, and how to arrange what one has learned into a viable portrait or

landscape of fact is a skill I can only teach you the rudiments of. Shall we test it?”

Lara’s mind whirled. “How?”

“You’ve been given the task. How you deliver the results is up to you.” Cassera’s

expression cooled as they heard footsteps approaching. The maid bustled in, bearing a cart

with biscuits. “Ah,” Cassera said, “is there anything nicer than a nice cup of tea after a


Any feedback would be BEYOND appreciated.


( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
Nov. 6th, 2007 11:51 pm (UTC)
Hi CAT!!!!! I believe in you, so believe that I believe and you shall succeed!
Nov. 7th, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
Awww. Thanks!! :) I feel loved. *SHNIFF!* How's things in DC?
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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