all dreams are pleasant when they begin
Shall I describe it to you? It was a summer of vines
the mead flowed like the clouds over summer air
and we danced to the steady breath of the sea...
Her father owned a boat. He always scowled when she called Fair Myha
a boat, and reprimanded her with his own thoughts. It was a repurposed galley, given to him after years in service to the royalty of Lyones. Totara was the name of the wood used to build it, supposedly hailing for the lands of the Fels, somewhere deep south, and her father proudly stated that it couldn't rot, probably due to some magic of the Fels that she couldn't recall. Either way, she did admit it was quite grand: its sails caught the wind like the moon catches the tides, and the oars powerfully swept through the waves like the Lions did through the menagerie. Inside, a myriad of treasures lay hidden inside countless drab crates, waiting for a curious hand to reveal them. The boat slowly meandered to and from the Ports of Athelion like how her mother used to wander through the gardens, praying for her husband's safe return. Poor Myha, they used to say. Her wrinkles make her look like a woman twice her age.
Dahlia had only been on it a handful of times, for every time he came home he would be off sooner or later. He attested that he went on grand adventures full of peril and heroics: to where, he never had the time to tell. But other gifts she got, the finest silk from Hainan, a heavy fur cloak from Winterhaven and once even some sweet Felian perfume, which they stole from pirates who had first stolen them from the Shadow Fleet. She had only learnt this after questioning the sailors, who doted on her ceaselessly. They too had children, scattered in ports around Gaia, who were also waiting for their return.
Her family was close to the royalty, and she had served as a lady-in-waiting to the Princesses, whom she loved as her own sisters. They were confidants, for both their mothers were always off to some place or another on duty. Many adventures were had, sometimes crawling onto the ramparts to get a closer look at the sea, or running though the kitchens cooking up mischief. Her own mother couldn't care less, spending her time earning more of those wrinkles, and the Queen thought that their behaviour was charming, as long as they didn't do anything too severe.
The Crown Prince was another matter, dark and moody, permanently painted with knitted brows. As much as the Princesses were younger than she, the Crown Prince was as much older, although it didn't make much difference. They all agreed that he was too broody to ever love someone, and that the future of the kingdom was in peril. Ah, if only someone could love them as much as Dahlia's mother loved her husband! It was well known that the Queen did not love the King even half as much as Dahlia's mother loved her husband, and the princess lived sourly for this fact. Whether this was reciprocated, the answer was well known, but it did make for a good story nevertheless.
At some point, she realised that her father had been home for longer than a week, and asked to have tea with him. He declined, mentioning they they should drink some of the 'good old fermented stuff', and they had a lovely evening with mother, drinking until the sun yawned below the sea, and cast shadows on Fair Myha's furled sails, having their portrait painted.
Tomorrow would be a court ball, and as always, they had been invited. Invitations to the merchant class were rare, but due to her father's former status as Captain of the Fleet, they were always cordially invited. The King and he had a close companionship, with the former feeling enough strength in their bond to gift her father the finest of his fleet when after receiving a grievous injury. On the recent trip her father had neglected to bring back a new gown, so while her mother fretted Dahlia was dressed in a gown borrowed from the Princesses. The ball was eventless, and she was forced to endure the company of the Crown Prince (who, it seems, had not improved in the years gone by). He had mentioned that they should go to a walk to see the new portraits: The new Tyrian purple highlights your eyes quite well, and so Dahlia was dragged across the palace to inspect them.
Dahlia herself didn't find anything eye-catching about them, other than that the Tyrian purple must have cost a small fortune. However, the Crown Prince was disdainful, and had complaints. The dye is fake. Really? She wondered. How can you tell? The Prince was rumoured to be experimenting with magical family heirlooms, but she didn't think he had learnt so much. There is magic in the paint. Tainted by the Shadow Fleet, no doubt, the cheapskates they are. He paused for a second, and looked at her thoughtfully. In fact, would you like to have a look at this magic yourself?
She would always curse herself for that, to be betrayed in such an innocent way.