The December wind blew fiercely in Ivy's direction, but it was the speed he was running that caused his hair to whip around his face and blew back his trench coat. The village was coming into view quickly, and he slowed down to a walk some thirty yards away. Now he see feel the full force of the wind, gushing through the bare branches, forcing the trees this way and that. He walked into the lighted streets and stared at the small buildings, their windows illuminated in yellow light. A little further down the street, he came to a small tavern. The wooden shutters were closed over the window but he could tell it was open. Not only was the little tavern loud, but he could smell the humans in there. The stepped in though the swinging door, and it only took his eyes one moment to adjust to the dim yellow light.
The room was smoky and badly decorated, with tables and chairs everywhere. Irritable looking men sat playing cards with each other, most smoking, and ragged women sat at different corners, heads forward, shoulders slumped and cheeks hollow. Narrowed pars of eyes studied him as he crossed the room to the bar. At the counter, a middle aged man with a dirty blond shaggy hair and a beard to match was cleaning glasses with an old cloth. He was had a muscular build and a strong chin, and a presence that suggested he had once been in the army.
"Good evening," Ivy said politely to the bartender.
""Lo, mate. What can I getcha to drink?" he asked. He had an appealing husky voice.
"Just a glass of red wine will do, I don't mind what kind." Ivy replied. The man went to fetch his drink, and set the glass in front of him. Ivy could smell the wine was cheap and probably stale, but he took ht e glass in his hand regardless. "Cold night," he commented idly. The bartender nodded, picking up another glass and continuing top clean.
"Yeah. Bloody cold winter, this year. Crazy night to e traveling, if you ask me," He put the glass he was holding on a shelf and picked up another one. "So where'd you blow in from?"
Ivy could tell he was curious, that hardly anyone new passed through this area, especially not in winter. "Small village in the mountains," Ivy lied. The man looked at Ivy disbelievingly, but didn't say anything. …clothes look awfully expensive to be from a village… Ivy caught the man thought but closed his mind, not wanting to hear. There was a short silence, then Ivy asked, "Do you know a Miss Amara Morning?" The bartender put the last of his glasses away, and looked over Ivy's shoulder somewhere.
"Yes sir, I do. Think everyone in the whole village knows the governor's daughter. Comes here whenever she can, despite her fathers orders. She's wild, I tell you. Gets drunk like she's common folk, and there's been plenty of times the guards had to come and drag her home, there have been. I personally refuse to serve her anything but water, but there's plenty of men that come here that wouldn't mind getting her filled with mine and beer, you know sir. Sad thing really, she really is quite scandalous. But you know, she does what she pleases, and no one can say a thing about her, she's that respected. So is her father, might I add."
Ivy perked up when he heard this. "Is she hear tonight?" h asked.
"Yes sir, she is." And again he looked over Ivy's shoulder. Ivy turned to see what h was looking at. In the back of the room, where most of the noise was coming form, maybe fifteen people were gathered. Men sat on tables and chairs, some with women in their laps, drinking and stomping heir feet as others played an upbeat folk song, with their violins and tambourines. The women danced around in their skirts and bare feet, laughing shaking their heads about. And in the center of all this, there she was- and it could only be her. She was stomping and singing and shaking, her skirts in one hand and her small shoes in her other, lifted high over her head. And even sweating and hot, she couldn't' have passed for a peasant. Her dress was obviously tailor made, maroon and white satin and velvet. Her hair, even though strands of it were falling out from the pins, was done carefully on top of her head with pearls and other small jewels. She howled in laughter as the music reached its climax, and was just a spinning mass. Ivy stared at her with the weirdest feeling inside of him. The dance was vulgar and feverish, and he felt that they should be dancing around a fire in the night, rather than in a tavern. Yet, strangely, he wanted to be a part of it, wanted to get up stomp and laugh with them. But instead, he merely watched them as the music slowed and came to and end. Men clapped and cheered and gave the women playful slaps, but not one man dared to touch Amara. They looked at her and talked to her, but only the women gave her hugs and ruffled her hair. Someone passed her a bottle and she drank from it greedily, wiping sweat off her forehead.
Ivy turned back to he bartender, and asked, "Do you think she would see me? Right now? I'm sure she knows that I'm supposed to be arriving anyway, and I would very much like to talk to her now."
"What for?" The bartender was eyeing him suspiciously again.
"I have business with her and her family. I was told to see her, sent here by my teacher." This at least, Ivy thought, was not a lie.
"What's your name, so I may tell her?" He asked, coming form around the counter.
"Carmine de Grezzo, from the Academy. She'll recognize my name, I'm sure."
Ivy watched the man walk to where she was. She greeted him kindly, and bent forward to better hear what he was trying to whisper in her ear. When he pulled away, she looked surprised and nodded. She bid farewell to her companions and followed the bartender towards me. I saw her slip on her shoes as she shuffled forward.
When she was finally in front of Ivy, he grabbed her hand and kissed the back of it softly. The scent that came from her skin was sweet and fresh, something of strawberries and citrus. She blushed softly, smiling. Her face was slightly circular, but something about her jaw line made it look too strong for her face. She had a small nose, but full, sensuous lips. Her eyebrows were arched in a way that made her looked slightly surprised. She was darker than most women of this time, who strived to look pale and delicate, but enough to stand out. Her long fingers were unadorned but beautiful.
"Miss Morning. It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Carmine de Grezzo, from the Academy."
"The pleasure is mine, Mr. Grezzo. I'm very glad you made it here safely. You had a nice journey?" she asked sweetly. Her voice was not what Ivy had expected, sweet like her scent. No, her voice had a sense of authority to it; it was strong and clear, but delightfully feminine.
"Yes, it was very nice indeed, thank you. And you, Miss Morning? How are you faring?"
"Quite well, thank you." She looked around herself, then, gesturing to the room, said, "I'm quite sorry about this. Had I known you were arriving tonight, I would have chosen somewhere better for us to meet."
"No, no. This is quite fine, really," Ivy said smiling. "Wherever is fine for me, as long as you, Miss, are comfortable."
"Nonetheless," Amara argued, "I must apologize for my behavior a few moments ago. Please, sit down and relax while I make myself more decent, Mr. Grezzo." Ivy began to argue, but she continued. "No, no, sir, please. I will be back momentarily. Tony, please get him some fresh bread right away." The last sentence was directed at the bartender, who nodded. Amara did a small curtsy, and then disappeared behind a door in the back of room.
Amara hurried down the corridor past the cellar and the kitchens of the small tavern, up the stairs and into the bartender's wife private bathroom. Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw that she was flushed and her hair was in danger of falling out if it's elaborate style. She ran the water from the sink and carefully washed her mouth, careful not to wash away too much of the rouge on her lips and cheeks. She could find nothing to do with her hair, so she carefully styled the falling bits so that they fell about the edges of her face. She took several deep breaths, and then examined herself in the mirror. She now looked like a proper young lady, ready to go out meet this young Carmine who looked no older than nineteen
It seemed that in the short time that she had been gone, she had forgotten how beautiful this young artist was. As she neared the table where he had sat, in a more secluded part of the tavern, he looked up and smiled politely at her. He stood and held her chair out for her, then returned to his seat. She noticed that the fresh bread that had been laid out in front of him and wine was untouched. Tony immediately came to give her a glass of water, and Amara was beginning to fell as if she was in a restaurant instead of a bar.
After a moment, she brought the glass o her lips and took a small sip, despite the fact she was very thirsty indeed, never taking her eyes off Carmine. As if catching her train of thought, he said, "Please, drink all you want. We need not worry about formalities." Amara took one more sip, but still set the glass down in front of her.
"So," she said, folding her hands in her lap, "how is the Academy? My brother, Henry, graduated from it nearly five years ago, and he's too busy with his affairs to ever tell me about it."
"Oh, it is fine!" he said happily. "We have wonderful teachers there, some extraordinary philosophers and scientist, I tell you. We students soak up the information like sponges. I think some of us a bit over-zealous, really."
"Oh? I thought you were more working the area of art though?" she questioned.
"Oh, yes, I am. But in this age, one can scarcely make a living of art. This may be the Age of Creation, but it is mostly in the industry. Art has always been my calling, Miss Morning but I learn about many other things at the Academy."
"Oh, do tell me about it. I would very much like to see the place itself, but I've been quite clearly forbidden."
"Ha! It really is a wondrous place, one of the best schools in Europe today. We study the works many men before us, read the old tales of Egypt and study philosopher's theories." And with that, Carmine was off entertaining her with stories of his studies and adventures. He spoke animatedly, waving his hand about and smiling, but always, always, his eyes were on her, only straying for barely a second to make some face or show some emotion.
Amara asked questions once in a while, but mainly, she let him speak, delighted by his narrative. And as he continued, she found that she could not help but observing him. He had very pale skin, pearl-like almost, but that was not strange. The Academy was close to the mountains, at a high altitude with fresh air and little sun. He had a rather longish face, almost rectangular, and a strong nose. His deep set eyes were varying shades of green, a color that she had never seen before, and they were framed by long black lashes and dark thick eyebrows. Though she could not tell in the dim room, Amara was almost certain that there were a few freckles on pale cheeks. And his hair, a dark brown color, seemed to shine a top his head. She could barely tell the difference between it and the silk ribbon that held it. She found herself leaning forward over the table towards his, elbows resting on the wood, head propped on her hands.
"I tell you, Miss Morning," he said, leaning suddenly across the tables towards her so he was alarmingly close, "the way some of the men debate! It could go on for ages." Carmine was smiling, and looking very squarely in the eye. "But, honestly, I have carried on for too long. I'm quite sorry."
She sat back very quickly, resting her hands in her lap. "Oh no, please. Don't apologize. I'm very much enjoying myself."
Looking at his watch his sighed. "Yes well, Miss Morning, as much as I myself am enjoying this, the night grows late. Would it be alright if I met with your father tomorrow morning?"
Amara gave a puzzled look. "Why would you wait until tomorrow. He would gladly have you right now."
Carmine creased his eyebrows and argued, "But at this time of the night? I should just check into one of the small rooms here and see him in the morning, then we can meet to tomorrow to discuss his plans."
"You haven't gotten a place to sat the night yet?" Amara asked sharply. "Well, the, I see it a must that come to our manor now. No, no-" she continued when he opened his mouth to object. "we have plenty of room there. I only see it fit that you come." With that, she stood and said to Tony, "I'll have my father pay you. Good night."
Amara looked back to Carmine, who stood, and though she could tell he was reluctant, he bowed and thanked the bartender and then asked her, "Where to?"
"It's a bit of a walk to the carriage, just down the street," Amara informed him as she swept out of the pub.
Down the next street, the carriage waited. Amara stirred the dosing driver and told him they were ready to go. Ivy saw the man give him a suspicious look, and heard him wondering why a man was going home with Amara at such a late hour. He chuckled inwardly and gave a big smile, saying, "Evening, good man." His response was stiff and polite as the fastened the reins in his hand.
The inside of the carriage was comfortable, and as soon as Ivy sat down, it began to move. Ivy sat at one end, watching Amara at the other. She turned to him, smiling, and said, "daddy will be very pleased you are here."
Ivy returned the smile and said, "I am pleased to be here as well, Miss Morning."
The ride continued in silence, and Ivy continued to watch her as she looked out of the window. When they came to small lake, she suddenly looked away form the window, almost shuddering.
…in the lake. The thought slipped through Ivy's mind unexpectedly, but she closed it off, not wanting to her the rest.
"Are you alright," he asked.
She looked up at him, then looked away and smiled coyly. "Oh yes, its nothing."
The carriage came to a stop a little ways past the lake in front of a large manor. Ivy exited first, tehn help Amara out. As she climbed up the front steps, she said, "Well, then, come on in."
So, there's the first chapter. its all i have so far on paper. Let me know what you think. I'd really appreciate it.