Author's Note: Just a random exercise I did for creative writing. It's based on something I do with my best friend, writing letters to each other in character. We got the idea after reading Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. These letters may eventually end up on this site, if I end up eventually getting some reviews! The prompt for this particular piece was simply to describe a setting.

The House

Lord McGuire stood at the gate of the Parkingtons' London mansion, tapping his foot impatiently so as to hurry up the footmen who seemed to be having trouble with the heavy door of dark wood. The aspect of the house was certainly forbidding. It was all built of granite, surrounded by neat gravel pathways and well-tended shrubberies, with six massive pillars supporting the roof. It was well set back from the road, separated from the muck and rabble by a tall iron fence, along with a few silencing spells that prevented the daily noise of carriages and street hawkers from reaching it. All was clean and swept, and all exuded an air of almost frightening perfection. It was a house designed to impress visitors with their own insignificance, a fact that was not lost on McGuire as the footmen finally wrestled the door open to permit him entry.

The door shut noiselessly behind him as he was admitted to the entrance hall. A black-and white checked marble floor, marble pillars, marble stairs, and a chandelier hanging from the heights of a ceiling so vaulted it was almost lost to the casual observer met his gaze. Narrow, almost gothic windows were shrouded in dark curtains of silk brocade, oozing fringe as they pooled on the gleaming floor. Dim, priceless paintings sat on the walls, brooding in their own dusty oil. There was no sound except the ticking of an ebony grandfather clock in the corner, which seemed to be perpetually scolding visitors for tardiness, and the polite cough of a truly immaculate butler, who stood so straight in his spotless white livery and perfectly powdered wig that he looked like a chess piece.

What an awful place to grow up in, Lord McGuire thought to himself, trying and failing to picture his rebellious fiancée living in the museum-like mansion. But then again, this was her first trip to London. All the growing up would have been done at the Parkingtons' country home, which was perhaps more hospitable. With an amused grin, Lord McGuire thought that the house reflected rather well the personality of its mistress and mother of McGuire's fiancé, the Duchess of York. He supposed that it wasn't entirely her fault for being practically made out of ice. Politics, the confrontation of multiple dangers, having to deal with all kinds of magical mayhem as one of the foremost practitioners and authorities on witchcraft in the country, not to mention the constant social pressures of being one of the leading members of the aristocracy could and did drive many people to jump off bridges and such. Perhaps the only way to survive was to create a public persona, that of somebody cold, serene, and proud. Maybe the he and the Duchess were more alike than he thought.

He frowned and dismissed the thought. He was there to see Lorelei, not dwell upon the psyche of her mother. He turned and followed the butler (who had been patiently waiting while the visitor collected his thoughts). Yes, the mansion certainly was proud. As McGuire climbed the sweeping, polished staircase with its flawless red velvet carpet, passing polished golden candle sconces and rich tapestries, he could almost feel the house smiling smugly as it thought about its own importance. It was the Parkingtons' public persona. It was a house for the reception of guests, for the intimidation of political enemies and social rivals, and to show everybody that while the Duchess of York was only the daughter of a country squire with no rank to speak of, she still had better (and suitably more expensive) taste than anybody else in the kingdom.