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Novantis: A Steampunk Romance

Novantis: A Steampunk Romance

Fantasy ・ Science Fiction

Megan Mackie

COMPLETED
4.4K
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Two destinies bound together, violently torn apart. The Crown Princess Veronica and her secret betrothed Nicolas the Duc de Montreaux believe their upcoming marriage could finally bring peace to their two houses. Then sky pirates attack the Imperial Palace… Believing his beloved is dead, Nicolas seizes the throne. As the new Prince Regent of Novantis, he navigates the machinations of the court to rule in her name. Believing her beloved has betrayed her and murdered her father to seize her throne, Veronica joins with the pirates as a means of survival, captaining her own ship. When star-crossed lovers become bitter enemies, the skies of Novantis will rain red… Cover by Autumn Skye 4 Horsemen Publications

FantasyHigh/Epic FantasySci-FiSteampunk

The night felt unseasonably warm at the Golden Moon Ball. The Grand Ballroom of the Imperial Palace had flung open the tall doorways to let the sweet air blow through the room as the orchestra sang out with merry minuets and scandalous waltzes. Faerie lights, great balls filled with rendered quol, the liquid fuel naturally burning different colors depending on purity, floated amongst the trees and hedges of the famous Imperial Gardens. Many of the outside trees still clung to their colored leaves and braziers full of merry fire added to the rich smells of the autumn night.

“You look very upset, Lady Esmeralda,” Duc Nicolas noted as he approached his cousin, standing beneath an awning near the doors, framed with beautiful gauze like a heroine out of a novel.

“I have no idea what you mean, Cousin. I am the perfect picture of grace and decorum,” she informed, as he turned to stand beside her and observe the ballroom and its myriad of occupants. “The Imperial Princess has much to be proud of, I have detected not a single flower or faerie light out of place or out of harmony.”

“Ah, I see now why you are infuriated,” Duc Nicolas mused.

“You would think she could have the decency to be slightly less than perfect so the rest of us can feel we have a chance in comparison,” Lady Esmeralda noted.

“One should not dim one’s light for the comfort of others,” Duc Nicolas said, reciting the well-known proverb.

“My dear cousin, if you were not of the House Montreaux, I would think you were a supporter of the Imperial Princess,” the lady replied, her stance on the Imperial family very clear.

Duc Nicolas leaned in behind her fan. “And yet even in this crowded ballroom, with the raucous noise of the orchestra, it is not wise to speak anything but praises of the Imperial Princess; wisdom I do not need to tell you, my dear precious cousin.”

Lady Esmeralda gave the tiniest huff she could get away with and fluttered her fan before her face, signaling to an approaching Viscount that she was not taking to the dance floor at that moment. The message was received, and the Viscount was redirected.

“And there he goes straight for the Kumari Aaryaa, who is always ready for a dance and cares little who her partner is,” Lady Esmeralda noted with polite contempt.

“My understanding is that the Kumari is participating in the Kathak presentation later tonight. She will be most elegant,” the Duc stated.

“Like I said, not a single thing to criticize,” Lady Esmeralda snapped her fan closed. “You would think a war wasn’t going on.”

Just then, fanfare interrupted the room’s activities and all eyes turned to the main doors as they opened. “Presenting Her Imperial Highness, the Crown Princess Veronica Victoria Alexandria of the House of Wharburton, Child of the Blood,” the Imperial Herald declared in a voice that boomed through every inch of the room. Immediately, everyone bowed and curtsied as the Imperial Crown Princess entered with her retinue of ladies in waiting. She stood resplendent in a silver and gold dress that shined with each step, as if she were the Golden Moon personified.

“Subtle,” Lady Esmeralda noted dryly.

“It is all for show,” Duc Nicolas whispered back, as they watched with hooded eyes as the scion of their political rival took the center of the room.

With elegant, practiced regard, the Imperial Crown Princess Veronica took in the room, nodding to the most important Heads of Houses, the Major ones anyway, who nodded back in acknowledgement. Her gaze stopped briefly on Duc Nicolas, and he bowed his head while continuing the eye contact. Her own eyes narrowed, the slightest bit, then continued on as if he were a bug beneath her notice.

“Well, that was barely courteous,” he noted softly with his own dry amusement.

“And after you were praising her so highly a moment before,” Lady Esmeralda noted airily.

“A statement of facts is not the same as praise,” he said.

“And what proverb is that from?”

“My own. I’m coining it,” he said, grinning.

Once the Imperial Crown Princess had made her pass and paid her respects, her ladies fanned out around her in an even circle. She struck a pose, raising her hands dramatically to clap twice. “Maestro! The Quadrille!” she shouted, and the room erupted in cheers. The Golden Moon ball had begun in earnest.

“My God, it’s like watching a cow dance,” Lady Esmeralda snipped.

“The most elegant cow I’ve ever seen,” Duc Nicolas muttered, this time under his own breath so that his cousin didn’t hear it.

“Nephew!” An older woman approached the pair, and the lady beside him genuflected to the Dowager Duchesse of their House, Esmeralda’s mother Olympe, while the Duc nodded courteously. Being he was the actual Head of the House, he had to check the reflex to bow to his imposing Aunt. “I have every expectation that you will accomplish at least three dances tonight with the Imperial Crown Princess,” she stated in no uncertain terms. Despite his majority, Duc Nicolas felt very much like a child before his aunt, and she seemed to see him the same way.

“I have already been informed I am expected for the Allemande,” he informed his aunt. The look he received over her fan could have cut granite.

“At this point in time, if we do not make a better showing here at the Golden Moon Ball, the House of Hillesland will make their move, and I know for a fact that the jarl’s son is set to dance with her for two dances and this cannot be allowed.”

“You worry a great deal—” Duc Nicolas tried to say, but she snapped her fan open, cutting his words off.

Fluttering it before her, she added, “And you worry too little. Our position in the Imperial Court is not guaranteed. If we must bear a Wharburton on the throne, then I would make it clear that any other that wishes to join her there will declare themselves at odds with our House.”

“If they do not already know that by now, Mother, then they are all fools,” Lady Esmeralda said, fluttering her own fan in an exact imitation of her progenitor, neither woman apparently aware of the comparison.

“Yes, but she must marry someone, Aunt,” Duc Nicolas pointed out.

“And we do not need to make it easy on her.”

He sighed. “I do what must be done, Aunt,” he assured her, and his words seemed to satisfy her.

“Yes, I know you do, Nephew,” she said, and a shadow passed over her eyes as they fell on the Imperial Crown Princess, currently dancing with one of her father’s ministers, Lord Borian, laughing with a carefree air. As the dance ended, the princess’s eyes caught his again and her smile faltered a moment. He seized the opportunity to cross to her, leaving his relatives to fan themselves, a united wall at his back.

“Your Imperial Highness,” he said formally, bowing to her with perfect respect. “You dance like the personification of the moon herself.”

“Duc Nicolas,” she stated breathlessly, taking the fan one of her ladies offered her and snapping it open with the back of her hand facing him eye to eye; they were the same height.

Her fan signaled that she had no wish to speak to him.

He pretended not to see it.

“I cannot fathom if you pay me a compliment or a slight,” she said as if her fan had not spoken.

“A compliment, I assure you. For you truly symbolize all that is glorious in our empire.” One of the Imperial Crown Princess’s ladies tittered and blushed behind her own fan. He was known as one of the most handsome and charming men in the court after all, but Crown Princess Veronica did not seem touched by his turn of phrase. She held her fan with two fingers spread apart, a subtle insult to emphasize the warning for him to get away from her.

He narrowed his eyes at it but pushed on anyway. “I would like to request the next dance from you, if I may be so bold?”

“Oh, my dear Duc, I would with all my heart, but I am quite winded and need a moment in the fresh night air before I dare to take to the floor again,” she said, exaggerating her breathlessness from a few moments before. “Come, my ladies. Let us retire to the gardens.”

Duc Nicolas watched as they each gave him a courtesy curtsy and filed after their mistress into the night gardens, marveling at the various faerie lights. Overhead an airship rolled into view, dropping balls of more volatile faerie lights that burst in mid-air to create breathtaking colorscapes for the guests to marvel at.

It pulled many ball guests out onto the veranda and into the gardens. Duc Nicolas let himself be pulled along with it. He deftly avoided his aunt and cousin, who had been trying to pin him down for an updated report. Ducking and weaving, he followed a group of gents into the maze-like gardens, making sure he was seen with them before slipping away into another more isolated circle of hedges.

At last, he came to one of the smaller rotund areas, difficult to find if one didn’t already know it was there. Enjoying the isolation, he gazed at the sky above, delighting in the display of color and lights. He didn’t flinch as an arm slipped behind his back, a head resting against his shoulder.

“God, I hate this,” Crown Princess Veronica said, and he kissed the top of her head.

“I know, my love.”