Chapter 10: Desert Rose

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  • Scent Notes
    Blooming red roses and black jasmine perfume the salty desert air, all mingling with black and red musks.
  • Description

      New to our story? Start with Chapter 1, Briar Rose, here. Catching up? Go back to Chapter 9, Paper Rose here.

      Scent Notes: Blooming red roses and black jasmine perfume the salty desert air, all mingling with black and red musks.

      Once upon a time, Princess Ariana, freshly 18 years old, was to be courted for suitors. This already defied convention, as most young royalty are courted starting from the age of 14. Ariana, however, had vehemently refused this idea, and her father acquiesced … until now. But make no mistake, Ariana still did not want to get married, yet she had no choice, as she was a young woman and therefore had no agency. Plus, she was royalty, meaning she had even less agency until she was married. Her royal status meant that everything in her life was strictly controlled: her clothing, her friends, her hobbies, her day-to-day activities (or lack thereof), how much of the palace grounds she was allowed to even walk through alone or accompanied by security … the list seemed to grow with every passing day. Instead of growing up and experiencing freedom, Ariana felt more and more stifled. And now, this. Marriage. Arranged marriage, between her and someone her father found suitable. She knew that, unlike other rulers, her father loved her enough to listen to her if she vehemently objected to a suitor. She also knew that, despite any objection she may have, it was ultimately her father’s decision (stupid fairy tale law), and he could be swayed by gold and gems far easier than she could. Large clusters of rare jewels in the shape of fruit were beautiful, of course, but they didn’t mean that the man who possessed them was worthy of her love just because he could afford them. 

      Just that morning, she’d had to endure a procession of possible suitors, almost all of them men more than twice her age with graying hair and pronounced wrinkles. One of them was older than her father by many years, and proudly proclaimed that he had crossed the desert to find her and make her the lucky seventh wife in his wifely harem. Ariana had nearly thrown her tea in his face, but thankfully, her father was offended enough to have the man forcibly removed before the fine porcelain cup could be hefted at the man. “My daughter will be no seventh wife!” her father had announced. “She is to be the first, and hopefully only, wife.” Then he muttered just to himself, “Or, perhaps, the second wife to a man with twice the amount of riches that you have.” as his guards grabbed the man and swiftly removed him. “Really? A second wife? You’d put me in a wifely harem so you could buy more fancy pants?” Ariana asked, ready to throw that hot tea on her father now. “Relax, honey, I would never do that! It was a stream of consciousness reply; it doesn’t mean anything. But perhaps we should stop for the day, I’m getting a little worried about you launching that fine cup as a projectile.” With that, her father stood, clapped his hands, and dismissed the line of suitors who had already waited all day, sending them to go back across the desert and into the nearby town until the next morning. For this, at least, she was grateful, and thanked her father as she stood up and headed towards her wing of the palace. Her father huffed at her back when she was a safe distance away, “Hmmph. Fancy pants. I have plenty of fancy pants; I need new fancy shirts to GO WITH the pants, I thank you.” He continued his muttering as he went to meet with his grand vizier, Jamal, for their discussion of civil and military affairs. Jamal had just returned after some “personal time off” that he would not discuss with anyone, and he had many important topics to catch Jamal up on. Being the king wasn’t just wearing fancy pants, geeze, Ariana; there was actual political work involved!

      But Ariana knew far more about the important work the kingdom did than her father.... Click here to read the rest of the story!

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