Athenia is a land of the sea and, as such, prides itself on the money and resources that can be drawn from the waters of the Aegean. Come one, come all to Arcana, where a nighttime fish market is being held. Despite the salty smell, the entire market is romantic - set out with burning torches and candles in the very early hours of the morning, when the ships comes in with first haul of squid after months of their inhabiting waters far from the Athenian shores. In celebration, the people of the province and further afield come to celebrate the Athenian industry and eat tidbits of eel, squid, crab, lobster and whale, offered on platters to tempt a large sale.
As a child of Athenia, it was no surprise that Emilia enjoyed the sea and its bounty. Even her bedroom faced the sea, and there was just something about the salty tang of the sea breeze that immediately calms the young princess regardless of the situation she was in.
But for the young princess of fourteen turning fifteen in a few months, there was something more then just the bounty of the sea and the sea breeze that had attracted Emilia to her sister's province. Oh no, more then that... it was the lights. Burning torches, candles, the evening atmosphere, all of it attracted the believer of Aphrodite like a bee to honey. She was smiling throughout her whole carriage ride to Arcana, dressed in her best. A soft mauve sheer piece overlaying a white silk under layer, it was accentuated by a golden belt and earrings that was clearly displayed due to her brunette locks being bound up in a chignon on her head, showcasing her bronzed neck and complexion. Atop her head, Emilia had chosen a golden circlet which had a teardrop emerald piece that fell right in the middle of her forehead.
As the carriage rumbled to a stop, the drivers ran to the side Emilia sat and was quick to present their hand for the princess, assisting the young princess down the steps. She had only recently been presented and allowed to enter court in recent months, and all the events that she was now allowed to attend still made Emilia wide-eyed and joyful each time she accompanied Persephone, especially as Minas was retiring more and more to his room as his sickness progressed.
Stepping to the ground, her eyes were wide as they took in the sights, so excited that Emilia barely flinched at the salty, fishy smell that permeated the whole market, mingled with the scent of cooking food as tidbits of sea produce was being sold.
Watching the joy on her sister's face gave something of an elated feeling to Persephone's chest. She had recently caught her father coughing in his rooms - a wracking and disastrous kind of coughing that their mother had once suffered from and it had made her worried. Her father had insisted however that it was nothing and Persephone had gone back about her business. It was now two weeks after that event and she had not heard her father's illness progressing beyond a cough that he would soon - the physicians had assured her - be rid of. Persephone had gone back to normal, chastising herself for her fear and allowing for paranoia, given her childhood experiences and personal memories of grief.
The smile on her sister's face as the carriage pulled into the harbourside that day did everything to remove the last, tiny thread of concerns within Persephone's breast. For who could be concerned about anything when presented with an expression of just joy and wonderment.
Emilia had been enjoying this trip, as far as Persephone could determine. It was one of those rare times where the two of them had been permitted to attend outside of the capitol without the king at their side. Persephone, as baroness of Arcana, was determined to visit this years nighttime festival of the oceanic and had determined that her sister might enjoy it also.
They had arrived in Arcana the previous day and Persephone had instructed (nay ordered) the girl to be abed by the time the sun was starting to set. Emilia hadn't been fond of the idea until Persephone had explained that the festival would be held several hours before the sun rose and that an early night was required if she was going to be awake enough to enjoy the offerings the people of Arcana would have for her to taste, touch and smell.
After a horrendously early wake up call, the two princesses were dressed, gowned and decorated by candle light, their gowns bright and light colours so as to be seen in the dim light of the festival. Whilst her sister's were was a delicate mauve with a white underlayer for accent, some fool had decided the shocking, brightest white was the appropriate colour for Persephone to wear whilst visiting the harbour but she had not argued when the explanation had been made that she was baroness of the land and needed to make an impression. She would just have to be careful in keeping the material clean.
On her head were decorative pieces in silver, her hair tied up, braided and entwined with ivy leaves and leaping fish, all in beautiful pieces that sported the occasionally blue stone. At least, in all their decoration, her hair was tied back and out of the way of he havoc the sea's winds could play on it.
"Now remember," Persephone told her sister as the carriage came to a stop and they were escorted down from vehicle at the hands of the footmen. "Eat sparingly and if it turns your stomach, never let on." She told her, before her eyes turned mischievous. "Oh, and the curling feeling in the belly is perfectly normal. The eels might still be living."
Pulling a face at her sister's expression to that, Persephone took Emilia's arm and started forwards towards the havoc and bustle of the main harbour docks of Arcana where men and women stared and chatted at their approach, offering stumbling and clumsy bows and curtsies.
She had scarcely been able to sleep at the early hour Persephone dictated she be led to bed the night before, but now as the sun started its ascent from Apollo's carriage, Emilia was grateful. Had she went to bed at her usual time, she would not have been able to appreciate the beauty that she now witnessed as they exited the carriage, greeted by the sound that definitely did not match the early hour.
Persephone's words were barely heard as Emilia absorbed all the sights, sounds and happenings that went on in front of her eyes, obviously bright eyed and eager. She was thankful her maid's had chosen the chignon hairdo now - the sea breeze would surely ruin any form of curls or arrangement they would try to do, but the tight chignon held in place the wired crown did its job.
Allowing her grip to loosen on the mauve material as they stepped to solid ground, Emilia made a face to Persephone at her last statement. "Really? Why would anyone eat live creatures?" she muttered in disgust, ever the easy target for Persephone to get to. Young and gullible as yet, much of her view of the world was crafted based on what Minas and Persephone told her, for Emilia had yet to venture far beyond the borders of the capitol where she was born, the protection for her made even more so after the death of their mother.
It was a moment before Emilia caught the mischevious eye of her sister, and in return the younger one huffed her faint annoyance (for she could never stay mad at her elder sister for long), but went along as Persephone started forwards towards the bustle of the docks where stalls were set up and fresh catch were beginning to come in. Resisting the urge to scrunch her nose up at the fishy odour that assaulted her nostrils as they ventured further in, the young princess quickly halted a fisherman who tried to bow whilst carrying a large tray of fish, shaking her head with her signature soft smile.
"Nay, do not. Your load is heavy. What are these though?" she murmured in curiosity, stepping back to offer a curious eye on the tray laden with fish, their deadened eyes staring at the princess. Her empty stomach growled and turned at the same time, if that was even possible, but how could she deny the excited man's face as he began to explain? Tuna, he said. And before Emilia could kindly deny, he had turned with an excited call for the princesses to wait as he prepared a dish for them... seemingly one that didn't require any cooking, for he returned quickly with a bowl of what appeared to be mashed up raw fish meat, lightly salted and peppered.
Taking it with a hesitant smile, Emilia turned to Persephone to give her a minute scream of help from her glare, even as her smile was one of serene composure to meet the gaze of the excited fisherman, so glad that the royals had taken an interest in his humble fare.
Persephone's smile widened in amusement when Emilia made a huffing exhale, having twigged to her mischievous tale. Since their mother had died, the two girls had had a lot of pressure and political responsibilities falling onto their shoulders. It was good to find amusement as and when they could. She enjoyed teasing Emilia where possible given that the opportunities were often rare.
When they arrived, Emilia exited the carriage first and Persephone quickly followed. The two of them stepped down into a busy thoroughfare, where their guards quickly arranged a circle of space around their presences, in order to accommodate their personal bearings and their expanse of their authority as princesses. This didn't stop people from being able to approach them but it monitored those that approached and ensured that too many did not attempt to do so all at once, causing some kind of avalanche of attention upon the royals.
When the older gentleman bearing a tray of fish insisted upon the youngest princess trying some of his fish meat, Persephone caught the look of help her younger sister threw her way. A smile was hidden behind the twisting of Persephone's lips and her eyes and expression were clear...
You started conversing with the man... now you have to be polite."
With a slight wave of her hand, a young servant stepped forward with his own utensil - it had been, after all, predetermined that the princesses would try foods upon their visit to a festival dedicated to the fish industry. The young man took a small spoonful of the meat and ate it quickly, stepping back when assured that the food was suitable for royal consumption.
Persephone raised her eyebrows at her sister in a clear message...
What are you waiting for?
As she did so, another man - younger than the one who conversed with Emilia - stepped forwards to offer Persephone her choice of small shellfish from his platter, a dish beside them offering a spiced sauce. With a smile, and a sidelong glance at her sister, Persephone took one of the small wooden skewers from the side of the plate, selected her own prawn - therefore foregoing the need for a taste tester - and dipped the item in a hot and peppery sauce that, as she placed the prawn in her mouth - she realised was rather sweet.
The shellfish flesh squashed between her teeth and was juicy to the taste. She smiled at the young man with a nod.
"Very fresh and very tasty." She told the man, meaning her words. She might not be big on eel and octopus, but Persephone did enjoy prawns and shrimp.
Her sister was taking too much enjoyment from Emilia's distress, it would seem. Emilia's hazel eyes screamed a silent warning at her sister to offer some sort of assistance, but it was clear Persephone was about to do no such thing. She could tell that her sister was egging her on to do the right thing - and she knew she should. With her position, came the inability to reject certain requests of which she had to appease due to her being the daughter of the King.
But oh how she wished she could.
Taking what little time her sister managed to garner for her when the royal food tester stepped forward to take a first sample first before allowing the royal princesses to step forward, Emilia gulped once the younger male nodded and stepped back, before managing to give a pleasant smile to the male. "Is there... no sauce to go with this?" she asked, hesitantly wondering if she had done a social faux pas.
Luckily for Emilia, the fisherman gave a shocked look, and quickly turned to give a dash of dark, salted sauce over the raw meat, turning back with a mild apologetic look. "Yes, of course you would know the condiments that would go with the best meat, my Princess! Such divine tastes. Please, do give it a go." he offered again. Smiling as she gingerly picked up the spoon by the side of the bowl, she took a dainty mouthful of the mashed up meat, and proceeded to consume. It only took a few chews however, before Emilia's eyes lighted up with genuine surprise, finding herself quite pleased at the taste.
"A salty tang to the meat that faintly reminds me of the sea... and it melts in your mouth. This is beautiful, kind sir." the princess praised, as she took yet another dainty mouthful, clear that the brunette enjoyed it. The fisherman seemed overjoyed as Emilia murmured for a retainer to purchase half a dozen to be brought back to the kitchens in the Athenian palati, before turning to Persephone with a cheeky grin. "I may just buy up the whole market, sissy."
Persephone watched with bright eyes as Emilia finally gave in and tried to meat. Secretly, Persephone knew it to be crushed crab and, cooked and flavoured in a way new to Emilia. But as the girl had tried a plainer version of crab before, she had been fairly confident that the girl would like it. She smiled brightly as Emilia did the same, her lips curling around the spoon before she dipped for another mouthful. Her reaction to the young man and her compliments to his delicacies were well thought and elegantly spoken. Persephone felt a little bubble of pride in her chest.
With a hand pressing just slightly to the back of Emilia's shoulder, Persephone guided the younger girl away from the merchant after she had made her order and they continued down the walkway stopping to sample here and there. When her sister commented on buying up the whole market, Persephone laughed softly.
"You can try, sister." She told her good-naturedly. "This market is on a continuous cycle for the next six hours. I'm not sure the palace could hold so much fish." She wrinkled her nose delicately. "Plus, imagine the smell!"
The two of them were interrupted by a man offering the tips of squid tentacles and this time it was Persephone's turn to put on a mask of propriety as she used the little skewer offered to select a piece. The tips were glazed in a sweet and sticky sort of sauce that gave Persephone trouble for a moment but at least it masked the nasty texture of the tentacles themselves. Urgh, she had never liked squid and eel.
Thanking the man with an infallible smile, she moved back to her conversation with Emilia regarding buying everything in sight.
"Besides, if you bought all these people's wares they'll come to love you more than me, and I can't have that in my own barony!" These last words were said with great comedic trepidation and a hand pressed to her chest as if in shocked horror.
Emilia wrinkled her nose, for her sister did have a point. To have so much fish in the palace, would mean the fishy, salty tang would likely linger in the palace for a long while. But surely she could purchase some? The produce of the province was beautiful, and Emilia had always been one to enjoy fresh catch from the sea. A true child of Athenia, she loved fish and shellfish beyond any meat or game, and was always happy when the cook in the palace informed the princess they had a fresh haul. "Surely a little would not harm? Father would enjoy them." she murmured with a skip in her step as they continued down.
When the man offered the squid tentacles to Persephone, Emilia was quick to step back to the retainers and guards, as her sister took. She enjoyed squid as well, but not so much the tentacles. The sticky way in which the tentacles would stick to the surfaces of her mouth made her squirm, and to a certain extent, Emilia cringed inwardly as her sister swallowed the piece. She could handle the bodily parts, but not the tentacles.
When Persephone moved back, Emilia sniggered to her sister, slipping an arm through. "That must have been tasty." the younger one quipped with a cheeky grin. Laughing as they progressed down the market, their retainers were careful to keep the majority of the crowd from bumping into any of the princesses as they strolled. "Can't help it if I'm more lovable then you are, sissy. I just got the cuter part of Father and Mother." she sassily replied, her brunette locks swaying in the wind even as they strolled down.
Exchanging conversations, purchasing more fresh shellfish and trying out a few more dishes, some delicious and others which made Emilia cringe at the texture, by the time they got to the end of the market, the light chill of the morning was beginning to dissipate, the rising sun warming up the last chills of the night. Emilia had shrugged out of the mauve himation she had worn over her chiton, and handed it to a nearby servant halfway through the way, her shoulders now bare to the warm sun, a fact that she soaked up. She did enjoy the sun, as much as she enjoyed the autumn months.
"What time are we required back in Athenia?" Emilia casually asked, as she picked up a conch shell on sale, her mind working to see if she could fashion it in to some accessory or wardrobe piece. Its iridescent colours caught the young princesses eye, and she did enjoy any produce from Poseidon's realm, a child of the sea that she is.
Persephone noticed her sister's appropriately timed disappearance when Persephone was presented with the tray of squid and tentacles but she said nothing to point out her tactful departure. The girl was learning, she thought with an inward smirk.
After she had choked down the slimy offering, Emilia magically appeared at her side again - go figure - and Persephone took the proffered linked arm in hers as they made their way down the street, elbowing her sister a little and pulling subtle faces at her with all her jibes to the food and to her being more popular.
It was true that Persephone had always received less informal adoration than her sister did from the people. Perhaps it was Emilia's position of second princess, with less authoritative power, that made her less threatening. Perhaps it was simply her charm and happiness that seemed to spread to all those around her like warm wildfire. Whatever it was, Persephone had always buried the hint of concern that she was unfriend-able and had simply taken it as a symptom of their differences. She was the first princess and should be shown formal respect. Emilia was sweet and wonderful and deserved the joyous enthusiasm she received. Either way, Persephone was proud of her.
As the morning grew lighter and the sun made a stronger appearance, her sister asked when they were to return to Athenia.
"I suspect it is worth us heading back now." Persephone contended. "I had the servants pack our things while we're here so it should be nought but a momentary stop back at the manor before we can return to the capitol."
With a steering of their joined arms, Persephone and her sister headed back towards the top of the dock, having reached almost the end of it in their couple of hours promenade. They had fulfilled their duties as the royals invited the event. Now it was time to return home...