Dela Broods on the Comforts and Disappointments of her Life So Far.
Lady Ril understood spiritual matters. Her pity was all the more formidable for that. But to live in a world without Light! Dela's heart rebelled. She rose in a rustle of layered skirts, afraid she would burst into tears.
"I want to be alone," she said.
"Of course, my dear Golden. My princess."
Dela quailed before the look of admiration on Lady Ril's plain, beloved face. Perhaps it seemed to Ril that every Golden Princess of the Emperor's court must partake in some small measure of the Family of Light’s ability to comfort and inspire through their love. But she could not substitute for what Ril said was lost! Her lineage was too weak, and her beauty much too flawed. She had failed even to keep her husband at home, at Dee Manor.
The Family of Light were essential to her.
Dela sought them in her withdrawing room, where they could always be found in her books of plays and poems, and visualized in the reproductions of court portraits which lined the walls. The withdrawing room was the one place where Dela could worship greater powers of good, instead of representing them for Dee Manor. The room had no windows. She looked out, instead, through the poetic histories preserved forever in her books, and the eyes of the Emperor's dead ancestors gazing benignly down with fragile, perfect beauty. Some of Dela's courtly relatives felt it was tawdry to hang reproductions no matter how renowned the originals. Original works, these cousins said, had greater powers. But taking the portraits with her when she left court was out of the question, and it was these pictures that Dela needed. Pictures to match the stories which nourished her so far away in time and space from her days at the court of the Golden Emperor.
There was sweet Lellalee, who died for love of common folk; and brave Fritan, so noble that even his Vrellish enemy could not bear to take his bright life on the challenge floor; and Demlara, who ruled wisely during the Golden Age; and Fahandlin the poet who wept for the smallest pains. All were as beautiful inside as they were to gaze upon; Souls of Light, as finely made as china dolls; inspiring goodness in the world by being too good to endure transgressions and too glorious to risk offending.
Except, if Ril was right, the world had failed at last and none would ever suffer themselves, again, to be reborn. The Family of Light had abandoned Demora, driven from it by its fall from grace over the centuries since the Golden Emperor ruled, also, at the Gelack court.
Lying full-length on her divan, Dela closed her eyes and clutched her favorite book of poems, searching her memory for proof that Ril had to be mistaken, just this once.
"Do not grieve," Lellalee had told her contrite worshippers, "for I have done some good, and that's enough." Demlara had promised, "Light returns when evil tires of its broken toys." Fritan said, "Keep faith, and faith will keep you." "Beauty pol?" laughed frail Fahandlin, "look up, it fills the sky! What is more rel , or more beautiful, than the stars!"
There had to be strength left in Demora's Golden wisdom. It had to be there still, disguised. In this room, at least, Dela was not alone. In this room she had the courage to be Golden in a world which was forgetting how to understand what it admired.
She sniffled her way through half a dozen handkerchiefs before she settled down to rest on her divan, gazing at the familiar room. The walls were pale pink, the divan rose, and vases were filled with fresh flowers. Here she kept the books which she had memorized and the music box her mother had given to her when she came to Dee Manor, twenty-two years ago, as Chandad Dee's bride. Chandad had been so dashing, even though he was merely a Highlord, and she was proud to be received like an empress, at Dee Manor. But Chandad was really only greedy, and her Golden powers inadequate to curb his straying eye once she failed to give Dee the highborn heir that, above all else, it wanted of her. All in all not a story of legend.