This was the same room that Coryn and Mullicynda had shared for two years, but now it was much different. Barren, if I can give it a word.
Mulls had always been a bit sparse for a school-girl, especially against the backdrop of Coryn's audacious grandeur. Besides the custom cabinet of trophy tiaras that was mentioned a while back, there had been the ornate dressing table and stool, the massive collection of hair and skin products, and long wardrobe of both cute and glamorous outfits. Now, all of these things were gone and the room seemed practically empty. All that was left was Mull's bit of a writing desk, a rather industrial bookshelf with a few knick-knacks that any girl tends to collect over the years, and a modest bed. The strangest thing of all, at least to my eyes, is that even though the older girl's trappings had disappeared, Coryn herself was still there.
"That is the stupidest idea I have ever heard," the older girl said in a voice that sounded like her former self with all the air let out. After a contemptible moment, she added, "Miss."
Coryn had stopped brushing Mulls' hair. Where this had once been a sharing time, two peers talking about, well, Coryn's conquests and sharing their, or rather Mulls', souls over grooming one another, things had become a bit different. Now, it was an assigned servant doing an assigned task to a future Lady. There was no more exchanges on the events of the school day, but only the jockeying for favors or consideration from an resentful underling to one that might be generous and have the status to grant.
Now that her servants and nicer clothes were gone, Coryn was stripped of her ability to keep up appearances. She had always left the low tasks of hair care and make-up application to her dames and now her lack of understanding on any of these fronts was starting to show. As she went about the tasks assigned to her by the dorm Matron, she would see the occasional girl walking the halls of the school wearing one of her former outfits and she would have to bite her tongue very, very hard. Some harsh twist of fate had dumped her right back into school after her failure of the last test, dressed in the coarse brown uniform of a lowly dame which didn't even fit her correctly. In the matter of a few days, she had gone from the belle of the ball to the scullery maid and, to add insult to injury, she had been assigned to be a personal maid to her former arch-nemesis, or rather, best friend.
Not that their relationship had changed all that much.
Mullicynda sighed out her frustration. "But do you think there is some way to just choose to be a dame rather than a Lady?"
Coryn gritted her teeth and brushed her Miss's hair a bit more roughly, failing still to mask her own pain at losing her own potential Lady status. "I have no idea why you would even think such a thing. It is every girl's dream to be a Lady!" She was gnawing her lip hard enough to nearly draw blood and her voice was getting higher in pitch. "You just don't know what it's like to be a dame!"
"I have known plenty of dames," Mulls retorted innocently enough. "Most of them don't seem to mind their station."
"Oh, yeah!" The older girl came around before her old friend and shook the brush in her face. "Well, I don't like it! Seeing girls who couldn't win a contest to save their lives being invested and me cleaning chamber pots and mopping floors for posturing little peacocks." She put a hand on her hip and a finger to her chin. "'Dame, pick up that paper for me.' 'Dame, clean my mess for me.' 'Dame, wipe my bottom...'"
"Okay," Mulls interrupted. "I get your point."
Coryn wasn't finished yet, unfortunately. "And rub it in a little harder, you want to have my job! What I wouldn't give to trade places with you this instant and let you have a life of manual labor and servitude!" She closed her eyes and spun about. "To be on the stage, wearing a tiara, winning a fine mansion, waited on hand and foot..."
Mulls bit her lip, tempted to tell her former friend of the atrocities she had recently witnessed upon the blessed Ladies, but only managing a feeble "..., being pregnant all the time,..."
Coryn rounded on her and arched her brow. "Oh, better than I am, are we? Just because you can have babies and I can't? Well, that isn't the only service someone can give to the Convocation that is appreciated! I am going to be a High Matron someday, maybe even Matriarch to the Queen herself!"
That was Coryn, all right. No matter what life threw at her, she was going to twist it into an opportunity to be the absolute best and highest. You can take the status away from a woman easily enough, which happens every day around the Convocation school, but it takes years of mediocrity to finally kill off the determined haughtiness of a former beauty queen.
A picture of the calculating Symantha popped into Mulls' mind which she tried to shake away, upsetting her former roommates fevered brushing. "I think I would rather find a quiet place to be," The younger woman breathed. "A small fishing household, perhaps. Far from the larger matters."
The servant harrumphed but the dorm Matron passed by the room and popped her head in the doorway to check on the newly-minted dame. "Of course, Miss," Coryn replied a little too sweetly, but the Matron was satisfied and moved on.
"Perhaps you should concentrate more on your next contest," the older girl offered between brushing strokes. "I would hate to see you lose your standing." It seemed very much a contrived statement, but Mulls didn't seem to notice.
The school-girl pursed her lips. "My standing."
Coryn's face turned up in disgust, but as distasteful as the action was to the former star, her ego demanded what was to follow. "If you work at it, Mulls, you could be a Lady of high rank with everything your heart desires. You have all the traits and with my help..."
"You will help me?" Mulls face was glowing as she twisted to fix her appreciation on her friend. "You think I can do it?"
Swallowing back the bile of her hatred, Coryn offered up a kindly-enough-looking smile. "With my help, of course we can!"
Mulls' smile deepened as she turned back about and her maid rolled her eyes in contempt. That was far too easy. She was going to add that the girl needed to put aside the foolishness of wishing for the stupidity of becoming a dame, but there seemed no need. It was better to let the centuries-old Convocation system do what it did best: draw every thought into selfish aspiration. Mullicynda had every chance of being a very successful Lady and that would keep her on the ordained course far better than anything else.
"I will be the Matron of your house," Coryn crooned, "and together we will bring ourselves to the royal palace itself!" The servant closed her eyes in exaltation, not of her friend's place on a throne, but of her own ascent to be the power behind that throne. Of course, Coryn was too busy dreaming of her personal power-grab to notice that the small hairs on the back of the younger girl's neck stiffened in premonition. The royal palace was going to be in the futures of both women, but not in the way Coryn planned.
For the sake of her former roommate's feelings, Mulls was giving a fine show. There may be a bit of disappointment when the younger girl found some way to make good her dame-ly plan, but Coryn would latch herself and her aspirations to another rising Convocation starlet easily enough. For now, she hoped it was kindly to keep the older girl's spirits up as Mulls had always done so many times for so many other dames.
The strange thing was that Mulls still considered Coryn a friend. Although it would be easy to say that the partnership was very lop-sided toward the older girl's needs, Mulls got something she needed out of the arrangement that made all the manipulation ultimately worthwhile, at least to her. It wasn't just some twisted companionship or someone to talk to, it seemed to be a deep-set need to have someone to look after, to be concerned about, perhaps someone to be able to point to and say "I care more about how she feels than I worry about myself". In saying that now, I feel the small hairs on the back of my neck rise, for this is certainly also a portent of something larger to come.
"Okay." Mulls' words resigned themselves again to putting the needs of Coryn ahead of her own. "I will be the Lady and you will be my Matron."
The older girl pumped her arm in victory, as she always seemed to do when she got her way.