Today she was going to say I do and bind herself forever to a stranger. Her maids Fatima and Melody were behind her tightening the strings of her corset. She hated these things. It either you were born with a figure or you weren’t. She had long ago made peace with her flat chest and narrow hips.
By now everyone in this country and hers had received notice of her marriage to Prince Milos. They also heard of the reason, her supposed pregnancy with his child. They all knew that he was in Arnay and the story had changed that they’d been secretly courting and on learning of the babe he had taken her to Garion to escape her father’s wrath.
How romantic they made it sound. To her it was embarrassing. She sounded like a characterless hussy. The maids pulled the corset tighter, forcing her to suck in a sob that was about to escape.
“Not so tight.” she wheezed.
“Apologies Your Highness.” they said.
But she knew they weren’t sorry. Since it was found out that she was Aliana of Arnay everyone looked upon her with scorn. She was the reason their precious Prince Genos was killed. Sand appeared in her bed, persons went out of their way to tread on her toes. That bitch Sonetta ‘accidentally’ poured wine in her face. She was going to give her a beating she would never forget if Milos and three guards hadn’t been there to hold her back.
All he told her to do was to keep calm and not to exert herself. Which meant that she was to control her anger or she would change. He said that her anger was her trigger. That was the most trying part, she couldn’t betray any feelings at all. The supressed anger was slowly eating away at her.
The stupid maids pulled at her again. She had had enough. “Leave it,” she said fighting the tears.
“Your Highness if we pulled a little tighter...” said Fatima said with an innocent expression crossing her face.
“Leave it!” she said turning to them both. She was done hiding. Red flames gathered around her hands and probably the rest of her body. The maids backed away frightened. Finally, an appropriate response. “You both know that the dress is too small. I bet you also know who is responsible for the sand in my bed, the vinegar in my soap and the ants in my closet. I have been trying very hard to keep calm and not react, but I have been pushed way past my limits and I am done hiding.
“Prince Milos has chosen me as his bride, I not only am heir to the throne of Arnay. I am also the Red Sapphire. That means that I am the most powerful woman on the continent. And through me he will strengthen the bloodline of Garion. I am not to be trifled with.” she took in a deep breath and the flames disappeared.
“You will tell no one of what you just saw or that side of me will return only the flames will be licking at your feet instead. Do you understand.” she said softly.
“Yes, Your Highness.” they said trembling.
She would have laughed, but she was just too exhausted. She felt better though. “This dress is too small.” she said slipping out of it and handed it to Fatima. “Would you be so kind as to find me one that fits?”
“Your Highness.” they rushed towards the door. “Your Majesty,” they said again.
Aliana turned to find herself staring at the Queen. “Your Majesty, I didn’t see you standing there.” she said brushing the tears that had fallen and kept falling.
“Has all that really been happening to you? Milos never mentioned this to me.”
“He doesn’t know. I am not one to complain about trivialities. Especially those that I can take care of myself.” she said sitting on the bed. She heard a crunch of sand and a few grains were sprinkled at her feet.
“So you did. Milos had mentioned that you had a temper, but he hardly expressed how impressive it was.” she sat and frowned. “That’s really gravelly,” she said looking down on the bed.
“It is,” Aliana couldn’t help but laugh at the weird expression that crossed the Queen’s face.
“Dear girl.” the queen smiled and wiped the tears away. “I don’t think you will be bothered much after today.”
“At least not by the maids. The court is a whole other case.”
“Well just leave them to me. Besides you shouldn’t be crying, it is your wedding day.”
“You do know that Milos is only doing this so the king doesn’t kill me right?”
“That’s the reason tells himself, but I know differently.” she smiled.
“That and the fact that I am the Red Sapphire.” she shrugged.
“Yes there is that.” she said. “Despite those reasons, he is doing this because he wants to. He seems to think that it his duty to protect you, even though you were the one that brought him back to his least favourite place in the world.”
“He hates it here?”
“Loathes it.” she smiled sadly. “That is mostly because he and his father are so similar they can barely stand together in the same room. During his rebellious years he was often drunk, indulged in gaming and far too many women. I knew that it was because he felt like he was overshadowed by Genos. He never recognised his own gifts. He is cunning, sharp and could be quite charming when he wants to be. The court never saw that side of him and they mocked him because of it. So much so until he too didn’t see his own worth.
“I never wanted him to leave two years ago, but I am not sorry now that he did. Being away has changed him. He has regained some of his confidence and focus. He is much more serious now. Theo, bless his soul has seen this too. This is the only reason he is allowing Milos to get married now.”
“So if he sees this, we don’t have to go through with the ceremony.”
“The wedding will not be cancelled I am afraid.”
“My husband thinks that if you stay, so will Milos.”
“I hardly have that much power over Milos.” she snorted. “But I will have to go back to Arnay eventually. I cannot stay here while a muddy witch runs my country. I can’t allow that to happen to my people.”
“I agree, you will go back to Arnay but at least when the time comes, you won’t have to do it alone. You would have the support of your husband.”
“I had never imagined marrying someone I didn’t love.”
“Love is an ideal ingredient in every marriage, but it is different for us royals. We don’t deal in ideals, but reality. Sacrifice, power, selflessness are our reality. However, love can eventually be a part of your reality, but only if you are open to it.” she said touching her lightly on the cheek.
Her door opened and Fatima and Melody appeared holding a red gown between them. “Quite fitting.” said the queen holding it up. “And is it the right size?” she said glaring at the two maids.
“Yes Your Majesty.” they said keeping their heads low.
“Very good, as my son’s bride should be nothing less than resplendent on her wedding day.” she said issuing a warning in her tone. “And if I receive word of misconduct from anyone, they will have to deal with me. Well, me and the Red Sapphire.” she said winking at her. “Do you understand?”
“Your Majesty.” they said curtseying repeatedly.
Aliana covered her mouth to bury her smile as for the first time since getting here she felt that she’d found a true ally. Funny that it should be the queen of Garion.