Erna took out a fresh piece of paper and replaced the one she had been writing on.
The gold wolf crest of the Archduke glistened at the top of the page.
She kept making mistakes because of the pressure she put herself under to write this letter properly.
She took a breath, straightened her quill and began scratching the ink onto the fresh but of paper.
To Pavel. The letter started.
The neat handwriting pressed into the paper was satisfactory and Erna wrote line by line.
Mrs Fitz had told her that it was customary for the bride to write a letter of thanks to all those who had attended the wedding and after so many, addressed to people she never knew, her wrist throbbed.
But thanks to Mrs Fitz, they had all been written out without a single mistake.
Only after fulfilling her duties as the Grand Duchess, was she able to write letters to her family, to her Grandmother and the people of House Baden, and Pavel.
Erna was loathed to write anything to the Hardy family.
Mrs Fitz was insistent that she should write a letter anyway, but Erna refused to bend her will on this matter, even after Mrs Fitz gave her harsh admonishment.
Once the letter was finished, Lisa moved in with the hot wax and dribbled a few drops on the fold of the envelope.
Erna than pressed the stamp firmly on the quickly cooling wax and left a rather bold looking wax seal, with the wolfs head embossed within.
Lisa clapped her hands together.
“You really do look like a Grand Duchess.” She said as she picked up the letter and examined it.
Erna gave a shy smile and flushed a little from embarrassment, it as only one stamp.
She tidied up the writing desk, not leaving a single piece out of place.
Putting the quills back in their stand and closing up the inkwells, putting them in their little alcove.
It was her writing desk, but it didn’t feel like it yet.
Everything that had been given to Erna, she felt like she was only borrowing and took the greatest care that everything was kept neat and tidy, for when she came to return the borrowed items.
Bemuse of this she was very cautious about how she handled things.
“Isn’t this the gentleman you were supposed to meet?” Lisa said as she checked the name and address of the letter.
“Yes, Pavel Lore.” Erna’s answer was so unreserved, it caught Lisa off guard.
Lisa’s eyes narrowed as she prepared the letter.
Pavel Lore, the respectable Royal Academy of Art painter.
If only he bore a title of some sort so that he could associate with his childhood friend.
Even though their relationship was a long one and plain, it was a little too plain.
Lisa wanted to advise against writing Pavel a letter, but then again, she didn’t want to mess with Erna by interfering, maybe she only wrote to thank the young lad, as she had done to everyone.
“Oh, I nearly forgot, the goods have arrived.” Lisa said, remembering why she came to her Mistress’ study in the first place.
“The goods?” Erna questioned.
“Yes, the things to bring to your honeymoon, goods that will make you look so pretty, go, have a look.” Lisa smiled, taking Erna’s hand.
Unable to subdue Lisa’s sudden excitement, Erna stood and allowed her maid to bring her to the goods.
Mrs Fitz had been in charge of organising the honeymoon and was unaware that the old nanny had ordered Erna some new things to take with her.
She already had enough and was unaware she needed yet more.
“Look, aren’t they pretty?” Lisa said.
Erna had allowed Lisa to lead her to the bedroom, where, piled on the floor were beautifully wrapped boxes.
They contained hats, shoes, dresses and coats.
To top it all off, there was a beautiful new trunk to store them all in.
Erna felt embarrassed to be so lavishly doted on.
“No matter where you go, you will be the most beautiful, I will make sure of it.
I have been learning hard with Mrs Fitz.” Lisa said.
It seemed like such a weighty task to entrust a fledgeling maid, but Erna would not permit anyone else, not even Mrs Fitz to attend her during the honeymoon, which meant Lisa was coming with her and if Erna could help it, Lisa would be by her side no matter where she found herself.
All of the items that Mrs Fitz had picked out suited Erna very well and Erna enjoyed these delicately beautiful things.
Especially since she was used to the vulgar things Viscount Hardy always seemed to parade around with.
“Are you not happy, your Highness?” Lisa said.
She noticed that Erna did not display the same level of excitement as her, instead, she stood staring blankly at the display of elegant dresses and dainty shoes.
Maybe the frills were too much for her taste.
“No, its not that.” Erna said.
Erna;’s heart grew heavy as she thought all of these presents before her might have come from Bjorn.
All the debt the Hardy family already owed and things just seem to keep piling up.
How long until Erna outstays her welcome, pushes the debt too far, how much more is Bjorn going to put up with the Hardy family taking from him?
“I think I understand, after all, the first destination on the honeymoon is Lars.” Lisa said, misunderstanding the lengthy silence.
“You must be upset, I am too, your highness.”
“I’m fine, Lisa.” Erna said, trying to smile.
There must be a reason that they go to Gladys’ home country.
The Grand Duke and Duchess were not just off on some fancy honeymoon like normal newly wed couples.
“Don’t worry, I wont let anyone compare you to Princess Gladys, you will be the prettiest in the world.” Lisa continued, taking Erna’s hand and reaffirming her fighting spirit.
Mrs Fitz came into the room with a serious look that made Erna’s heart sink.
She gave Lisa a glare that made the maid shrink away, before locking her eyes on Erna.
“Guests have arrived, your highness.” The old woman said.
“A guest? Ah yes.” Erna said.
She was suddenly reminded of the days itinerary that Mrs Fitz had briefed her on that morning.
The only thing of any note was a royal tutor coming to teach Erna what, she didn’t know yet.
“Lisa, could you tidy up the clothes, while I’m away.” Without waiting Erna turned to Mrs Fitz.
The meeting went on for far longer than was scheduled and once concluded, the study fell into deep silence.
Exhausted from the battle with the bank’s director, Bjorn drank his cold tea in silence and sparked a cigar into life.
Fatigue from the repetitively busy schedule reminded him of his duties when he was the crown prince.
It was a forced march that made him constantly weary.
“I’ll deposit all my savings into the bank.” Something Bjorn was forced to agree to thanks to his fathers unconventional condition.
His father was very skilled, he had awe for his father, who had baited him with something he could never refuse.
It made him chuckle lightly.
He had been offered a considerable amount and the symbolism of managing the kings fortune caused the banks to practically go to war with each other.
This in a time where the banks controlled the capital market, whom so ever got to look after the kings fortune, would also gain royal favour.
It felt like Bjorn was taking more than just the bait.
The first destination on the royal honeymoon was Lars, which was the most important political destination.
It was also a very important visit for his bank too, as he was going to gobble up one of Lars’ insolvent commercial banks.
“Shall we begin the merger then.” Bjorn had concluded the meeting, extinguishing his half smoked cigar.
The directors, who had settled in for a long debate, rose from their seats with grinning faces full of joy.
They hurriedly left the study, leaving Bjorn half laid out in his chair.
Bjorn was eager to get this under way, mostly because it meant he could relax on the boat during the crossing.
Come to think of it, his wife, Erna, the Grand Duchess, must be finished preparing to leave by now.
At that moment, when Bjorn remembered the radiant and pale face of his beautiful wife, he heard the bank directors exclaim at the door “Ah, your highness.” It seemed like they ran into Erna on their way out.
Bjorn massaged his own neck as he turned to face the door and saw Erna come into the study.
She stepped forward with urgent meaning in her gait.
“Bjorn, can we talk for a second.” she asked.
Her tone was more agitated than usual.
Bjorn sat up right and nodded, while Erna came across the room and sat in the chair opposite facing him.
“What’s the matter, Erna?” Bjorn said slowly, he was studying Erna’s hair and the elaborate shape of the bun braid.
Her maid was improving quite well.
“I heard it was you who asked Mrs Fitz to teach me, that.” Erna eventually said, after a couple false starts.
“Ah, that.” Bjorn nodded calmly.
He reached forward and took up the glass of water on the table.
Erna looked off to the side, embarrassment flushing her cheeks.
She gave them a little rub before turning back to Bjorn again.
It seemed that she had not learned very well.
“Did you not come because I was too clumsy, or because I was ignorant?” Erna asked.
“What, me not coming?” Though confused by the question, Bjorn remained flat and cool.
“You never came to my bedroom, not since that day.” Erna said.
Her delicate little hands twisted the hem of her dress as she spoke with a trembling voice.
The conscious smile slowly melted from Bjorn’s face as he became more aware of Erna.
“Well, if you know that, then shouldn’t you be doing your part, not here?” Bjorn let out a sigh.
The real reason he had not returned to Erna since that night was that he was just plain busy.
He had to stay in the capital and could not return to the Palace when he would like.
Of course, he couldn’t tell Erna that, he had to leave her believing what she believed.
The pleasure of his wife’s body was great, but he did not want to have to go through the trouble of dealing with her ignorance again.
He will come to her again, when she is ready to be a proper wife.
Erna would wait for him.
“I have a lot…I know I am lacking, in that respect.
I realise that I got married without know the things I should know, as a wife.” Erna said.
She had been looking down at her feet as she spoke.
“I am really sorry.”
Mrs Peg, who was said to have taught all the royal ladies the work of the bedchamber, was a gentle and kind person.
Erna followed easily, as she explained what was expected of her, step by step.
As soon as Mrs Peg mentioned anything sexual, Erna lost all consciousness and fell away into an absent coma.
Erna couldn’t stand it and in the end, bolted from the class room, spraying apologies to Mrs Peg on the way out.
“I will learn.” Erna said to Bjorn.
“I know it’s part of my role, I will not shirk my responsibilities, but…” Erna paused to catch her breath.
“But I don’t want anyone else to teach me, if at all possible…Bjorn, I want you to teach me.”
“What?” Bjorn said after taking a moment to fight off the drunken haze muddling his thoughts in the face of his wife’s demands, and even though he had just scolded her for skipping her duties, she was scolding him for skipping his.
“You are my husband, so teach me.” Erna said, firmly.
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