Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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Vienna, 1st October 1713

Milady, please follow me --the usher said, pointing her the way with a discrete indication.

Lady Elisenda was caught in surprise: for what she had been described before, that way was by no means leading to Schönbrunn's Great Gallery, where formal hearings where held. She was about to lodge an objection, but she gave up instead and chose to follow the usher with docility.

After climbing a staircase, they went through numerous corridors and spacious rooms until they finally came to a small room guarded by three armed guards, led by a young officer. They had been alerted to their arrival, because she was instantly recognized and martially saluted by the guards. Then the officer took over the usher and offered himself to accompany her. Lady Elisenda perceived the discretely admiring gaze by the officer, that made her feel pleased and embarrassed altogether, for it was clear the officer was quite younger than herself.

After some supplementary walking around, they finally came to a double door lacquered in white with gold trimmings --These are the private rooms of Their Imperial Majesties --the officer informed. Immediately afterwards, he knocked on the door with a sign agreed upon, and it was slightly opened by someone. The soldier whispered something to the person holding the door, which ought to be another usher or assistant, and nodded at the answer he was given. He then turned towards Lady Elisenda again and said:

--You are being awaited, Your Highness.

"Highness?" Maybe it was that the word sounded in German as more dignified than in Catalan, but to some extent it seemed to her she had been addressed with exaggerated solemnity... in the end, she was persuaded the young officer's family would treasure more dignities than herself, who was little else than a young countess from an exotic, marginal corner of the Empire!

After crossing the door, Lady Elisenda unexpectedly found herself in a room of great beauty that shone with light through wide windows. It was the so-called Small Gallery, a room normally used by the Emperor for family events. It had been arranged as a reproduction of a Hearing Room, however --albeit at a reduced scale so that distance between attendants was quite smaller, thus contributing to lesser solemnity and higher familiarity.

In spite of the numerous chairs and divans scattered all around the room, a small circle of dignataries was standing and conversating with Their Imperial Majesties. At the circle center was Emperor Charles, who instantly turned his august gaze towards the young Catalan countess.

For a brief moment, Lady Elisenda perceived a genuine glow of joy in his eyes, as well on those of Empress Elisabeth Christine, who was the only one seated in the room. Her eyes shone with odd intensity, however. Euphoria? Anxiety? To her discomfort, Lady Elisenda understood she was the cause, and this disturbed her deeply. "Oh, by all the gods of Olympus!" Was that perhaps a sign of some kind of jealousy? Who the hell would have poisoned her mind?

--Your presence fills us with joy, dear Eli --Emperor Charles warmly told her, and then to everyone in the room: --Now that we all have come, let's finally start. My dear Count of Erill, what is the concern you would share with us?

1 comment:

Jeroen72 said...

"You are being awaited, Your Highness"

What does he know what we don't :)