Chapter 1: Amber-Elisabeth
“Too red,” Princess Amber Elisabeth Faye of Nydillan murmured, puckering her shiny lips and staring in the mirror. Amber waved her hand to one of her servants. “Sorry, but does anyone wear this shade of red?” Amber snapped, until she noticed that one of them - Jenna? Jan? Julie? - was looking desperately at the unwanted lipstick in her hands. She just so happened to know that Jenna-Jan-Julie had a thirteen-year-old daughter. Three suns younger than her.
And since Amber was a loving, caring queen-to-be, she tossed it to the servant with a roll of her eyes. A nice gesture from the nicest princess. Jenna-Jan-Julie caught it, then flicked her eyes up to Amber in question.
“July!” another servant whispered frantically. Ah, July. That was it. “Give that back to Her Highness!” she reprimanded.
“Might as well keep it, actually,” Amber muttered. “I could not go out in public wearing that. Disastrous. Doesn’t match the choker at all,” she said, gesturing to the fine pink silk choker around her neck. “You, July, can wear it. So keep it. I don’t care.” July gasped and clutched the makeup to her chest. Amber could see why she was so enthused - multiple reasons could explain it. First off, Her Highness Princess Amber Elisabeth had given July, a lowly servant, one of her lipsticks. Second, that specific stick was worth a lot of money. Possibly twenty crowns, maybe more.
“Daughter!” A lilting, commanding voice echoed off the wide walls of Amber’s chamber. Her mother’s voice. Amber shivered.
Queen Marianne was a severe woman, with a short stature but a towering consciousness. Her neat jet-black hair was piled up neatly in a bun on the top of her neck. A silver brooch pinned even the most rebellious of locks to her head. The queen sported pale, almost snow white skin and piercing cerulean eyes. In short, she was beautiful and admired by most of her subjects, the Nydilla. Although, people did swear that a room would collapse into icy coldness whenever the queen entered. Amber agreed.
To Amber, her mother was not a queen. She was a teacher, a disciplinarian. Tsk, tsk, Amber Elisabeth, she’d say. That isn’t your color, dear. Go change. Or Oh, Amber Elisabeth, that dress does not emphasize your form well at all! You are a woman! Or the ever famous Amber Elisabeth, I do not approve. Queen Marianne never called Amber ‘Amber’ - always ‘Amber Elisabeth’, which Amber despised, or ‘Daughter’.
“Mother.” Amber pasted on a smile and stood from her seat next to the vanity to greet the queen. As Queen Marianne requested, Amber dropped into a flawless curtsy as she met her mother’s eyes.
“Tsk, tsk, Amber Elisabeth. Your curtsy needs refining, I will speak to Jade about fixing it. Oh, and have you spoken to the seamstress about the hem on your emerald gown? You need it for the ball on Saturday.” Amber, unwillingly, let out a small sigh. At least the curtsy work was an excuse to meet with Jade, her seamstress and mother figure. Despite having a mother, Amber didn’t see her mother as Mom. Well, Jade was fine enough, but it wasn’t her that Amber wanted to hang out with with a burning desire. It was her son, Lukas.
“Is that one of my daughter’s lipsticks?” Queen Marianne demanded. A shiver of dread ran up Amber’s spine. Her mother was staring intently at the shiny tube lying in July’s quaking hand.
“Y-yes, Your Majesty,” July whispered, fear echoed in her statement. Amber’s mother’s face shifted rapidly from disappointment about Amber’s curtsy to fury at Amber’s servant.
“I gave it to her,” Amber admitted.
“I’m sorry!” July burst in the same second. She squealed and shoved the still-uncapped lipstick back to Amber. Well, to Amber’s dress - her favorite silk nightgown, edged with satin and lined with velvet. Amber looked down in horror at the frighteningly red streak of lip makeup that ran from her belly button to her upper thigh.
Amber screamed, her good nature fading at the thought of losing the nightgown. “July!” she cried. “Oh my god! This stuff stains!” She desperately tried to blot at the stain with a makeup remover towelette, forgetting any and all veneers of kindliness and well-meaning. No use. It only got worse.
July stared, horrified, at Amber’s ruined dress. She pressed her hands to her face. “Your Highness!” she cried. “I am so, so sorr-”
“To the dungeons,” the queen’s voice commanded. Amber did not object. Queen Marianne turned her fiery eyes upon her personal guard, who stood absently at her side. “Now.”
July whimpered in anguish as the guard clamped his strong hand around her arm, but she did not speak.
“Daughter,” Queen Marianne said again once July and her escort were long gone. “You are turning seventeen in a month.”
“Wow, really?” Amber said sarcastically. “I didn’t notice.” Her mother waved her arm.
“Amber,” she said in a commanding voice. “Stop.” Once Amber had lowered her eyes and uncrossed her arms, the queen spoke again. “As I said, your seventeenth birthday, and your entrance to the queendom, is almost upon us. Which means what?”
“Finding me a suitor,” Amber muttered. She, frankly, did not want to marry outside of Nydillan. She was somewhat happy here, as a princess, trying on makeup and secretly courting Lukas when the queen’s officials weren’t looking. Although, from what Jade said, being queen of Nydillan had its perks. For one, her mother wouldn’t be ordering her around anymore. Nobody would be above Amber. Top of the food chain. Yes, despite Amber not wanting the throne, she definitely didn’t want someone else to sit on it.
“We leave tomorrow for Xastuvaria,” Queen Marianne stated. “Pack your bags. Bring an impressive ball gown - that emerald one, the one that needs hemming. And don’t forget a necklace. Gold will do just fine, for Xastuvarians are not as regal as us. You will be meeting Prince Rowan Raun of Xastuvaria, and -” she gripped her daughter’s shoulders - “leaving a good impression.
“Remember, a marriage alliance with Xastuvaria is by far our best outcome for the marriage game. The rest of the Six Realms are in chaos. Gaeyihan is still in civil war, Aepiwaemore’s Mist is spreading, Avracaea’s crown princess ran away - by the way, never do that - and Slogokar was...never a good choice in the first place.”
“Tomorrow?” Amber asked, panicking. “But, Moth-”
“If we want to make the ball of Prince Rowan’s seventeenth on Saturday, we must leave tomorrow. Now, Amber Elisabeth, pack your bags.”