“Stop telephoning me – I’m k-kinda busy, k-kinda busy …”
Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé
Monday June 15th, Scavador Castle
Lacroix Riviera, the Principality of Rock, 7:27 a.m.
Baroness Famika deLauer didn’t usually like mornings. She neither liked the smiling, podgy face of her chambermaid nor the incessant chirping of the birds outside her window. Nothing irritated her more than staff obstructing her view of the new day or melodic creatures jarring the silence she found essential for her post-slumber chanting.
This particular morning, however, was very different. Humming, she pulled herself up onto an elbow and glanced at her head chambermaid, Isobel, rather pleased* at her presence. *As far as ‘pleased’ didn’t incorporate the impulsive desire to reprimand her about something altogether trivial
Isobel Stellar had recently celebrated, via a be-candled cupcake, her thirteenth birthday. She was a cygnet in the feathered flight path of life. Insecurity, a lack of confidence and a childhood spent mostly under the highly manicured thumb of a narcissistic tyrant had led to a self-inflicted belief of inner and outer ugliness. The proverbial swan Isobel would one day turn into eluded her, and so she remained a shy, self-conscious girl who believed she existed on the outskirts of life, forever looking in.
‘Girl, did you get one of the gardeners to sprinkle that bird poison as I requested?’ Baroness Famika half-sang, reaching for her Monday wig.
Isobel, mid-way to retrieving a pair of the Baroness’s Christian Louboutin snakeskin slingbacks from the carpet, shot up guiltily. Baroness Famika inspected her as she would something trodden on near a pond – something green and very sticky.
‘I-I did, Milady,’ Isobel lied, dropping one of the shoes. ‘I was told Hedgeworth would be here this morning to, um, sprinkle.’
‘Good. Oh, do be careful with those, dahling! They were only just delivered from Bouldia City! The Louboutin team is such a treasure – imagine hand-feeding that slithery little reptile just for me!’ The Baroness snatched a shoe from Isobel’s hands and held it to her cheek. ‘Then skinning it alive! Now that’s service, dahling!’
She sauntered to her vast dressing table, securing her wig with another hairpin. Few people ever saw Baroness deLauer first thing in the morning and those who did had been sworn to secrecy about her beauty regime. Before being assigned her current position Isobel had been made to sign a contract forbidding her from divulging any details. Vanity was Famika’s primary driving force – alongside greed and contempt for anything she deemed unpleasant*. *Which was mostly everything – except herself, of course. Constructive self-criticism was an alien concept to a woman who literally believed the universe revolved around her
Isobel gingerly set the shoes on their designated shelf alongside the rest of the Baroness’s vast collection. Small colonies of ankle-high, fur-covered creatures had been obliterated for the sole purpose of stocking her cavernous wardrobes.
‘Today is a crucial day, Isobel!’ Baroness Famika exclaimed. ‘If I am to be taken seriously as the new Empress of Cathania, I need to look right!’
Isobel’s stomach lurched. Along with the rest of the staff of Scavador Castle she had woken earlier that morning to the outrageous news that a three-day-long empire-wide curfew had been in effect in the neighbouring Cathanian Empire, as of 8 p.m. the previous day. Certain shockingly unsavoury events were taking place at the Royal Palace in Bouldia City, the residence of Marcus and Sophea, Emperor and Empress of Cathania. A scandal as appalling as this had never surfaced in the Empire before and by the time Isobel stumbled through to heat her mistress’s organic chai tea*, the kitchens were abuzz with varied speculations and whispered theories. *Care of Starbucks, naturally