C5 A Night of Preparation
I can hear mother's voice oh so clearly.
Men love to feel needed, empowered.
Give it to him.
My lashes brush my cheeks, and when I look back up, I am certain concern pools in his deep gold orbs.
"I am only a bit nervous I suppose. I have never been a wife, much less a queen. I do not wish to fail Phylin, or you... that was silly forge-"
His hand rests on my shoulder and I look back at him to see frown lines.
"It is a normal fear, one I must say I possess as well. Let us not worry, but do the best we can for each other and our kingdoms."
I nod fervently, blinking back fake tears.
"Thank you Hugo."
Cold brushes my arm as his hand drops to his side once more.
"Say no more."
"I don't suppose you will be chanced to spend the morning with me?" I ask, as we continued up the stairs.
He turns to me, and I smile like in my royal portraits.
Bedazzle them mother always said. Your regal essence must be parallel to your beauty.
Hugo blinks a few times and clears his throat.
"Unfortunately duty does call."
I sigh and though my gaze is stopped low I can feel his eyes back on me.
"But I will see to all that is in my power that we have a morning together immediately after we are married. You can tour wherever you like and I will be your personal guide."
"I like the sound of that." I say stopping at my door.
"Then it is done." he says, giving me a smile that disarms me.
Quickly I bend my knee and my skirts grace the ground.
"Enjoy the rest of your day princess."
"I would prefer Ephene if it pleases your majesty."
He nods, and with a bow he is out of my sight.
I smile behind closed doors, glad this meeting had gone better than the last.
I will make you proud mother.
And all will see me as the only woman fit to be queen.
"Enough." I say, struggling to release the air in my chest.
Her hand slacks enough that my ribs burst open the corset.
"I apologize your majesty." the seamstress says, clutching a design book and pin cushion.
The maid controlling my corset steps aside, fearfully keeping her eyes fixed to the ground.
"Have we not rehearsed enough for the wedding?"
The seamstresses eyes widen and she almost topples over spare fabrics as the sketches slip from her hand.
"Only a few more alterations, the entire kingdom-"
"Reports to me and the Prince. It fits me like a glove, and anything extra I am sure you can handle without a life-sized doll. Shall we end this meeting?"
I smile, looking between the petrified women.
After a moment the lady bows and I am certain I can finally breathe for the afternoon.
"I would love to your highness but,..." she looks at me and stares back down, her form now trembling like a leaf.
I was too hard on them.
I sigh, taken extra care to soften the edges of my tone. "...does anything bother you Annelise?"
The young seamstress regains some colour, and her voice is steadier when she speaks. "Your second dress has not been tried on at all. For the coronation ceremony."
I nod, grabbing a cup of rosemary water from my table.
"Then you must make it faster than this one. I have supper soon."
The two nod looking relieved and I stand back in place, ready for more tugging.
A few days later...
The room is silent, save for the whistling of air in the night sky.
White stars do little to help the moon, as the black skies overpower all source of light to my balcony.
I turn against silk sheets to the oil lamp by my bed.
A red tongue penetrates the darkness, and I can see my surroundings better.
Slowly I retract my fingers against the handle and slip out of bed.
Another hazy dream, and like that I will be up till the early hours of morning creep on me.
I walk to the glass windows and it's almost like I'm ten again, too anxious for my birthday that I couldn't sleep till early morning.
That morning and mother's words changed everything for me.
I drop the lamp by the tall glass and tiptoe back to the cupboard where the keys lay.
My hands dig through the cubby I had seen Agathe, my maid, reach through and I finally find a sliver key with two bits.
Smiling, I rush to set the door free.
Tonight the skies with be my company.
A huge torrent of the once little breeze envelopes me and I tighten my robe as I stare up at the sky.
"Married in a few hours..."
Laughter without mirth spills from my lips and I trace the glitter of the night.
"If only I had paid attention in astronomy. Maybe I could name you little stars."
One outshines the rest and I tilt my head to inspect it closer -it doesn't help.
"I wonder if that's you Sirius." the so-called brightest star.
I look back to the vacant landscape.
Talking to stars like a crazy woman. Stupid.
Today will be day one of being the brightest star in Phylin.
Many peoples hearts must be won if ever you wish to rule sovereignly.
Her words come back to me and my shadows sag a little deeper.
Yes, this will be the beginning of my reign -not love, or marriage.
I rush to my hidden satchel where her letter had been folded to half the size of a finger.
"Open it the night before your wedding." she had said to me.
My hands find away of undoing it, and I return to my place by the sky where light from my lamp aided me.
My heart squeezes but I go on.
Very soon now you will be queen. I always knew this day will come, and so I prepared some words for you. The thing in need of most protecting will not be your kingdom -but your heart. For by it many have fell and never risen back up again. Affection has a way of weakening one's defences, but you must master your heart with your mind. Do all you can to bend hearts in your favour -especially that of your husband. But make sure yours is never given in return, love you strip you of power. Yet if you stick to the strategy and let your mind steer you, the world will be at the feet of an invincible queen. Do Niarciss proud.
I ignore the absence of a closing endearment, and hang onto the little words she had cared to give me.
An amber light hovers by my door and I stuff the paper under my arm.
Nothing follows and I gently pry the door open.
My head follows the stream to see it growing stronger and stronger up the stairway.
What was Hugo doing awake at this time?