In what she thought would be the opening notes for the symphony of the rest of her life, the great Nether Day Ball in the city of Feren turned out to be one of the last.

“Lady Vendra of Cone” by Eve Ventrue

Lady Vendra of Cone, the fourth daughter of the prosperous Remnath House of Cone was well-loved by her family and had many friends. Thin and doe-eyed, she took such joy and care in anything she set her mind to. She was a very smiling young lady wearing the colorful Cone gowns with rare grace and charm. She was very unlike her eldest sister, Sephla, who was rather catty and argumentative and who had the social reputation as a hair-puller. Her father, Milius, was an importer/exporter of rare goods and often took Vendra with him. She marvelled at the great Fleet ships her father often shadowed for protection and often spoke in dreamy notes of wishing to marry a handsome Fleet officer some day.

When she came of age, her mother persuaded her to join the Posts. For a small initial fee, one could leave a letter in a general Fleet Posthole and any Fleet member who was looking to have a pen pal could respond and strike up a rapport. Vendra thoughtfully penned her letter and submitted it. She got many responses, though most she rejected. One, however, stood out. Lord Stenstrom of Belmont, a young Com officer aboard the Fleet Webber Amazing had answered her post. Vendra liked his simple wit and fine penmanship and decided to answer his reply. They soon, via correspondence, struck up a healthy friendship. With each exchange of letters, Vendra was more and more convinced that Lord Stenstrom was the man for her.

When all of the Cone daughters, except for Sephla who was on the BANNED list, were invited to the much-anticipated Nether Day Ball in Feren, Vendra immediately penned Lord Stenstrom a note and entreated him to accompany her.

She promised it would be an evening neither would ever forget.

Though she reserved final judgement until she met him in person, Vendra felt herself losing her heart to Lord Stenstrom, and when she saw him at last tall and handsome in his Fleet uniform, that was all–she was in love. They took an introductory swirl across the ballroom floor, every step a wonder. She tingled at his touch. They were such a fine pairing. After the dance, Vendra excused herself and Stenstrom went to get her a glass of punch. She gathered her friends and pulled them aside. She could barely speak she was so excited.
Lord Stenstrom.
Lord Stenstrom!
Everything she hoped he’d be.
Tall.
Handsome.
A fine Zenon House.
Perfect.
“In love. I’m in love,” she told her friends, breathless, and they clapped and congratulated her.

In later years, as she sat in a daze in her dreary convent room on the nightmarish world of Carina 7, she would reflect back on that fateful moment, standing amid her friends, speaking so freely of the new love growing in her heart. She would reflect back on the great mistake she made letting Stenstrom go, of parting with him. She should have stayed and gotten punch with him.

She should have never let him go.

In her excitement, she forgot about her sister, Lady Sephla, and all the enemies she had rolling about Kana. She forgot about the social game on Kana, the one-upmanship, the tawdry little ploys ladies played upon each other.

“Lady Jubilee” by Eve Ventrue

Lady Sephla had enemies everywhere, and they had ears as well. It never occurred to Vendra that one of those enemies heard every word she said, of childish love, of beating hearts. It never occurred to her that one of those enemies would dare humiliate her in her sister’s place.

When she returned to the ballroom floor, she couldn’t find Lord Stenstrom anywhere. Where had he gone? She smiled as she checked the nooks and corners.

Where could he be?

And then she saw him, out on the dance floor with some silver-haired girl Vendra had never seen before. She tried to get his attention, to pull him away from the intruder, but she could not. That woman was nailed to him, eyes locked, feet in step. Eventually, arm-in-arm, they left the floor and vanished, probably retreating to some quiet alcove or terrace, the silver-haired girl taking what should have been hers.

She would later learn that silver-haired girl was Lady Jubilee of Tyrol, one of her sister’s most heated rivals.

The anger, the rage, the broken heart. It was too much. She threw all her colorful Cone gowns out her window, put on an ugly gray suit, and threw herself out as well. She survived her suicide attempt and went mad. Her family, not knowing what to do with her, committed Vendra to a convent on Carina 7 where they heard she would receive the best of care.

As her family departed in their transport, the dames of the convent converged on her room and slammed the door behind them.

“We have things to teach you, Lady Vendra,” they said, eager. “Wondrous things …”

–Lady Vendra of Cone appears in LoE Book VI: The Sands of the Solar Empire coming soon from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2012, Ren Garcia and Eve Ventrue