Chapter 5: Amber-Elisabeth
“Rowan!” Amber sputtered, bewildered and shocked. He’d abandoned her in the carriage! She was all alone...out in these slums... Amber shuddered. No way was this princess going to wait for Rowan’s return - even if it meant braving Xastuvaria on her own.
Amber ran her hands down her dress, attempting to even out some of the creases that had appeared on it during the bumpy carriage ride. She didn’t know how Rowan survived here. He was a prince, after all, and he was able to ride on these rocky, imperfect roads like it was nothing.
Some people Amber would never understand. She was okay with that.
Amber stood, satisfied with the appearance of her gown, and stepped carefully out of the carriage. The coachman, who had watched Rowan sprint off with the girl in obvious bewilderment, took her hand so she didn’t trip on the wide step from the plush carriage to the ground. Amber nodded curtly at the man’s gentlemanliness and flounced off towards the town.
Actually, Amber thought, it may not be even a town. The area was littered with small, mismatched huts that were frequently missing windowpanes or even doors. Uneven dirt paths connected some of the more grand buildings - Amber saw what she thought to be a church hall and a patriarch’s home - and passed by the residential abodes. The heavy autumn sun bored down on the town, making heat pile up on the ground like a thick layer of snow. A few women strutted down the streets with their washing-pans, but mostly the town’s exterior was empty. No soldiers, no guards, no men laughing or children playing.
The land was devastatingly flat, in stark contrast with the towering mountains and rolling hills of Nydillan that Amber had grown up seeing. The smallest breeze penetrated the thick, heated air, but it wasn’t enough. Amber began to regret wearing the thick leather boots.
The Xastuvarian town shared no resemblance to even the poorest mining village in Nydillan, Amber’s realm. Even those had functional cobblestone streets, packed with horses and shouting men, and insulated wooden houses. No, Nydillan was nothing like Xastuvaria. Amber’s mother was correct when she said that Xastuvarians are not as regal as us.
Amber picked up the hem of her skirts, raising it off the dusty road. The queen would be furious if her riding gown was soiled. She wasn’t even supposed to leave the palace. Why did she follow Rowan?
This was a bad idea, she thought glumly. I should’ve stayed home.
Amber trotted down the wide streets towards what seemed to be the heart of the small cluster of houses - the town square. A drab stone fountain sat in the center of the square, spouting meager amounts of water through a carved fish’s head. She turned her head left and right, but could not see Rowan anywhere - or that strange, dirty girl that he had taken a liking for.
Amber recalled that Rowan was heading for the ailmaster’s shop. Unfortunately, she had no idea where that was.
She considered asking for help, but the idea flew out of her mind immediately. Princesses of the Realms didn’t ask for help from commoners, especially those commoners in realms that were not their own.
Amber desperately pulled at the thick neckline of her dress. She was getting antsy, and although the air was cooling by the minute, it was still burning hot outside.
And then Amber saw the girl. She was clothed in a dress made of ice and snow, sprinkled with sapphires and diamonds. Curls of silky frost curled around her body, enclosing her in a form-fitting ball of hues of blue and silver and white. The dress had a modest neckline and cold shoulders, and it ran down to her shins. The girl’s long ginger hair loosely hung around her exposed shoulders, shiny and curly and beautiful. Her pale skin was freckled and glowing with a confidence brighter than the Xastuvarian sun. She seemed to be about sixteen suns old - Amber’s age.
An intricately bedazzled headband held the girl’s hair out of her face as she closed her eyes in concentration. From her ears hung snowflakes that looked like diamonds - they probably were, she decided, after contemplating the rest of the girl’s jeweled appearance.
She was running her hands through the air, showing off her delicately painted nails and bangles around her wrists. The girl wasn’t anyone that Amber recognized, so she probably wasn’t a royal. But she definitely was well-to-do. People swarmed around her, more coming by the second. Some shouted exclamations and regards to the icy wonder standing in the pavilion.
Amber felt drawn in to watch the girl, but she knew she had to find Rowan. Amber didn’t want to be alone any longer. She roamed the town, trying to find an ailmaster or someone advertising for one. Finally, Amber gave up on locating the ailmaster’s shop by herself.
“Where’s the ailmaster’s shop?” she asked curtly. The girl that Amber had asked - a teenage girl about her age, with black hair and a school uniform that looked a lot like Amber herself - started.
“Oh, sorry...” The girl’s voice trailed off. “You just sound like my, uh, friend, and I thought you were her...”
“Nope, obviously not,” Amber said annoyedly. “Now, kid, I’m in a rush, so I advise you hurry up and tell me where the ailmaster’s shop is.”
“And who made you the queen of the land?” came another voice from behind Amber. She whirled around, only to come face-to-face with a girl that looked strikingly like the first. Amber rubbed her temple. Commoners were so difficult to work with.
“Oh my gods, just tell me where the ailmaster is!” Amber shouted, her voice raising. The girl on the platform dressed in ice stopped waving her hands in the air, and Amber grew very warm. The ice girl walked over to the huddle of people.
“Everything okay?” she inquired. Up close, Amber took a moment to take in the majestic beauty of the dress’s craftsmanship.
“Yes,” Amber said, exasperated. “Just, where’s the ailmaster’s shop?”
“Down the road, turn left. On your right,” the girl explained. Amber nodded and started to walk briskly down the dirty streets of Maywood.