This chapter is really long and will take more than the usual week to post it in full. Right now, I’m considering this my halfway point (!!). Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this chapter!
My sister wandered the clouds, careful to not be stepped on, eyes searching for two children. In the end, it was a giantess who found my sister attempting to climb onto a giant’s fountain. The giantess was kind, motherly with a babe slumbering on her shoulder. My sister explained why she was there, and the giantess smiled, quietly beseeching my sister to go with her. At first, my sister walked, but it was clear the giantess’s steps far outstretched her own, so the giantess let her perch on her other shoulder. They passed small homes and towering castles, fountains and gardens, plazas full of whirling people, and alcoves where people and giants rested before reaching the giantess’s home.
The castle was full of milling nobility as the Murant carriage divested itself of its passengers. A soft snow had begun to fall as the evening temperature dropped. Camille could see Abigail burrow into her cloak, likely grateful for her usual cloak instead of a servant’s. Though it also prevented Adrian from offering his arm to Abigail, who appeared to be clutching at the interior lining to keep herself from shivering.
The Count and Countess Olidan were ahead of them, Muriel with her hand lightly on Lawrence’s arm and her head high. Camille pressed her lips together to prevent a smile from showing through. With Lawrence around, Muriel was unlikely to embarrass herself again.
Camille turned and smiled as a second Murant carriage rolled up, Andalissa’s head sticking out of the open window.
“Andalissa!” came Princess Aloise’s shrill voice. “Watch your behavior!”
Andalissa threw Camille a cheeky wink before pulling her head back in. A moment later, though, a shivering footman opened the door and the Duchess tumbled out, ignoring her mother’s mutterings and her father’s chuckles. Andalissa hurled herself in Camille’s direction and grasped her arm, turning to look at where Adrian and Abigail stood beside each other.
“Don’t they look lovely?” Andalissa asked, her smile broad and her mischievous eyes twinkling, the cold quickly turning her cheeks rosy.
Camille caught a scowl on Madeline’s face from where she stood just behind Adrian. But it was there and gone. Still, she was resolved to watch that woman all night.
“Andalissa,” Princess Aloise said firmly as she and the Prince approached. “Your place, please.”
The Duchess smiled, but pulled herself up and glided over to her mother. She stood just in front of her parents, her hands demurely folded as snow kissed the top of her hood. The Princess nodded crisply and took her husband’s arm, briefly spearing him with a glare as he smiled indulgently at his daughter.
“This is exactly why Andalissa will never make a worthy match.”
“Nonsense,” the Prince said with a grin. “She’s the king’s niece. Everyone will want to marry her!”
Camille tightened her lips to keep her smile from spreading as Andalissa clearly suppressed a sigh and a look skyward. Though it was true. No matter how strange Andalissa was, she was still the Prince’s daughter.
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