Chapter 1: The Proposal
At 18, Kirianne Everness knew she had to make a decision. She had a dream, to be sure, but that was it – a dream. She had no money, no real prospects. Her family would be better off if she settled down and moved forward with life as the wife of the Captain of the Guard.
Kiri had always wanted to travel. When she was little, her father would tell her stories to put her to sleep, but it never worked. She would lay awake, thinking of the tales and the people within them. Weaving their stories into a tapestry, embellishing them in her mind's eye until the faded threads became vibrant and lively. All she wanted was to find new stories, but the only way to get a good story is to experience it. So, as she grew older, she listened. She watched. She saw people come and go from the small fishing town she called home. The ones that appealed to her most were the minstrels. They would come to the town's inn – The Gilded Trout – and play for the evenings they were there. Sometimes they told stories of their own, but always accompanied by music. Sometimes the stories themselves were words borne on waves of sound, emotions accompanying every change in key. Sometimes there were no words to the stories, and instead they spun and danced in such fervent motions you could feel the heat coming off the bodies of the performers.
Listening to their stories and feeling the emotions of experiences that were not her own was like nothing else. And so, at only 12 years of age, Kiri decided her fate. She would learn to make music, to move to the beat, and to captivate an audience. She would travel, and bring life to tales – hers or otherwise.
But that dream was fading fast. She looked at her father, his face weather-worn from years at sea.
“Finean?” She asked, raising an eyebrow, “Why would Finean want to marry me?”
“It isn't our place to ask, Kiri,” her father sighed in exasperation. “He can provide for you. He can give you a good life, and he is known to be a kind man. It would be better than we could ever do for you. I know it's a big change, but he won't wait for long. Think on it tonight – you'll have to give me an answer in the morning.”
With that, her father left the room; left Kiri alone with her thoughts. And think, she did. Marriage wasn't something she'd aspired to. She hadn't even really considered it. Surely, she was too young? But logically, she should have expected this. It was the tradition. Match with someone, get married, raise your own family. If you're lucky, you catch the eye of someone wealthier than yourself and you have a chance at a better life. That seemed to be the case for her now. Finean wasn't old, he wasn't cruel. He wasn't even hard on the eyes. If she wanted to marry, she couldn't do much better. And clearly, that's what her family hoped for her. When he brought it up initially, her father had even looked pleased and... excited? It made sense. Her brother was doing well, taking over the family trade. He was successful as a fisherman, and her father was proud. That only left her. Kiri. Still sitting at home. Still helping with the daily chores, but unable to do much to bring funds in the door. A marriage to the Captain would ensure she was provided for, give her father peace of mind, and her family the chance to set something aside for the inevitable day when her parents were too old to provide for themselves. When she thought about it – did she even have a choice?
Sleep didn't come at all that night. Instead, she lay in her cot, staring at the ceiling beams – the corners splitting and worn. She looked around her room. It was summer now, so the cold wasn't bad. But when the winter set in and the wind came off the ocean, the chill would be hard to ignore. In the winter, she wore her flannels to bed. They couldn't keep the fire going all night – fuel was expensive. She turned her head, her eyes adjusting to the darkness. It was a simple room. A bed, some shelves, and a little space in which she could dress herself. She was lucky to have her own room, really. Even though it had been converted into a bedroom when she was still little – this was the old wood shed. They had made a small lean-to structure outside to keep the firewood dry in order to allow Kiri her own space when she got old enough to be conscious of the differences in her body. Soon, it would no longer be hers. She wondered what they would do with this room when she left. Would it become a woodshed again? Maybe her mother would turn it into a sitting space – an escape so she could get the peace and quiet she was always on about. It didn't matter, really. It wouldn't be hers. Would anything be hers again? She was so used to getting her way. They hadn't been wealthy, to be sure. Far from it. But she had been loved; the unexpected fiery-haired daughter of an aging couple. Father always said that when she was born, the whole house woke up from its slumber. She wanted nothing more than their happiness. So why was it so hard to say yes, and become a wife? Maybe she was selfish, after all. She would swallow that, of course. She would say yes. But knowing her answer didn't ease her heart.