Chapter 1 - Everose
“Princess? It’s time to get up!” A pleasant but strained voice chirped.
“Five more minutes” I mumbled as I rolled over.
“You said that 15 minutes ago, forgive me Princess but I insist you must get up now, it’s your birthday!” Images of fire licking at my legs and water rushing over my head bombarded my mind. I sat up quickly and looked around. The sun streamed into my room in golden lines. The wood floor creaked to my right, where Veryan, my lady in waiting and best friend, stood near my bedside, not looking happy at all.
“How old am I today?” I asked, my voice shook a little.
“It’s your 17th birthday!” She said as if I should know, the images left my mind as quickly as they came. I sighed with relief, one more year, I still had one more year I thought as I threw myself back into the mountain of pillows on my bed. I let the warmth of the blankets surround me.
“Veryan, why must you always wake me up!” I huffed, still buried deep in my bed.
Veryan just sighed and ripped the blanket away from me, I shrieked and curled my legs into a ball. At that moment Eliza and Sara came rushing in with soft, fluffy towels and yummy smelling oils. I groaned and marched into my bathing room. A giant tub carved out of marble sat in the middle of the room, with a fireplace next to it.
Veryan poked at the fire and checked the water temperature careful not to let the water get too hot. They filled the tub with the hot water and added in oils and some pink flower petals. I slipped in and let the water embrace me. I absolutely detested the cold. My bath was over too soon, and I quickly dried off. Eliza and Sara helped me into my corset and petticoat as Veryan got my vanity ready for the next task. Once I was tightly in my corset I sat down at my large vanity and started to brush my hair. Eliza and Sara curtsied in the mirror
“Thank you, ladies” I called over my shoulder
“Happy Birthday Princess!” They rushed out of the room on to the next task to make sure today was perfect. Veryan came over and took the brush from my hands and picked up the piece of hair I had been trying to detangle.
“Your hair is so blonde, it looks like it’s been kissed by the sun a thousand times,” she said.
I looked at myself in the mirror my hair hung limp and wet around my face and down all the way to my waist. My mother, Queen Melena, always said it looked like a waterfall of gold. Veryan started to pull and twist my hair away from my face, braiding the side pieces until they met and formed a braid down the middle of my hair. The rest was left to lay as it was. The large oak doors to my room creaked open and an exasperated Sara came back in carrying a large breathtaking dress, it was green with gold embroidery down the sleeves and on the skirt. Veryan and Sara helped me into the dress and once every lace was tied and Veryan was pleased with my silhouette they both stepped away to admire me.
“All that’s left is this” Veryan pulled a gold tiara out of a box on my vanity that I didn’t notice before and placed it on my head.
“Beautiful, absolutely beautiful” Sara sighed “The dress matches your eyes perfectly.”
“Thank you so much, its stunning” I said as I ran my fingers over the embroidery on the sleeve, upon closer inspection I saw that it was leaves on a vine.
I turned to my lady in waiting, my best friend, for a final approval. Veryan though she was only two years older than me was quite taller than me, she tucked a piece of her jet-black hair behind her ear, her hair just long enough to come to a rest gently on her shoulders. Her ice blue eyes stared at me until finally she enveloped me in a hug, when she let go she pushed me towards the door,
“Now remember today is about you but it’s also a day for the people of this kingdom to celebrate and forget about the attacks.”
She opened the door and Hayther was standing there in his blue, green and gold royal guard uniform. He saw me behind Veryan, opened his mouth as if to say something then changed his mind. He looked away and wouldn’t meet my eyes. Veryan cleared her throat and looked at both of us
“Hayther doesn’t Princess Everose look stunning?”
He glanced at me and looked away again. “Quite,” he said quietly,
Veryan sighed knowing that was the best we were going to get from him. Even though he didn’t say much I felt myself blush, I quickly changed the subject.
“Veryan I told you just to call me Ever! We’ve been friends for how long?” Veryan just rolled her eyes and as I followed her out into the hall
“I have to go check on things for the big celebration tonight! Hayther do make sure she gets to the grand room,” she called over her shoulder as she hurried away from us, leaving us alone.
We walked quietly next to each other through the long corridor. I looked at Hayther and thought back to when we were all children and how he would make me cry and Veryan would push him down. Now he was my personal bodyguard sworn to protect me with his life.
He and Veryan were the same age, he had light brown hair though that was closely cut to his head on the sides but in the front his bangs would sometimes get in his eyes and he’d get so frustrated. I giggled at the thought and wondered why he wouldn’t just cut it all off and he turned his brown eyes to me questioningly.
“Is something amusing my lady?” I placed my hand over my mouth trying to stifle my grin, as he pushed his bangs to the side
“If you constantly have to push your hair out of your face, why not just cut it all off?”
He gave me a serious look then suddenly stopped and grabbed my hand. My heart jumped a little when his hand touched mine. He smiled
“You don’t remember? Veryan had convinced me to let her cut my hair. She cut the sides so short and then I got scared so I told her to stop for fear of what my father would say. I looked in the mirror and thought it looked horrible.”
His smile grew, and I felt my cheeks heat up.
“When you saw it and how sad I was, you said that you liked it.” I reached up and touched the side of his head and we both said “very much” although mine came out a lot breathier than I meant it to. We stayed connected for a moment staring into each other’s eyes his head gently rested in my hand.
Then just like Hayther always does he’s onto the next task.
“Oh! I didn’t want to give this to you in front of Veryan, I knew she wouldn’t let you wear it today.”
He pulled out a small box and handed it to me. I opened it and inside there was a golden arrow hanging on a gold chain.
It’s so beautiful! Hayther how could you have afforded this?” I whispered.
He ignored my question and helped me put it around my wrist.
“Happy birthday Ever.”
I felt him smiling at me as I marveled at the bracelet. I glanced at him and realized his face was much closer than I had thought it was. I took an involuntary step backwards and Hayther sprung away. He clasped his hands behind his back and continued down the corridor.
“So, what’s first on your royal agenda today?” Hayther asked, absentmindedly relaxing his hands so that one was holding onto his sword at his hip. I sighed wishing I could have just spent the day with my friends.
“First, I have to receive my people, Veryan says some have been waiting at the gates since last night, to wish me a happy birthday, they had to stop people from getting in line otherwise it would take days!” We both laughed at the thought.
“Then I must go on my royal birthday tour through the city, where ‘there will be flowers thrown at my feet and everyone staring at me!”’ I tried to say in my best impression of Veryan’s voice “or so Veryan says.” Hayther laughed, and my heart fluttered at the sight of his smile. I quickly turned away to hide my blushing face.
I finally arrived at the grand room. The doors swung open as I was announced, I glided to where the king and queen sat at the front of the room, I curtsied and took my place on the throne next to my mother’s. A royal guard walked to the middle of the room
“King Ashur and Queen Melena we will now begin.” He announced as two guards opened the doors leading into the grand room.
I couldn’t even see the end of the line, I sighed and sat up straight plastering the smile that would stay for what seemed like forever. Hayther stood next to me his arms behind his back.
“King Ashur, Queen Melena and Princess Everose, I bring to your apples harvested from my own orchard.”
An apple harvester offered up a basket of fresh apples adorned with a green, blue and gold ribbon.
“We thank you for your gift.” My parents and I said in unison.
The people of our kingdom continued to bring me gift after gift all adorned somehow with blue, green and gold our country’s colors. After some time, I got bored, my eyes strayed to our flag that was hanging above the door leading into the room, it was prettiest blue that you’ve ever seen, a golden arrow, the arrow of destiny, dividing it into two halves. In each half, there was one a white rose nestled in leaves the same color as my dress. I grasped my own arrow of destiny gently and glanced up at Hayther he was already looking at me out of the corner of his eye.
I looked back to the person who had just walked in, he strode confidently into the middle of the room. He wore a dark red cloak with black trim and the hood up. a shorter man was with him, dressed the same. I thought to myself, that looks like Carastil’s colors.
“King, Queen, and Princess” he said as he pulled down his hood. I immediately sat up straighter, something was off. I felt Hayther stiffen next to me. This man’s eyes were glimmering with anger and hatred.
“I am Eric and I bring to you –,” Suddenly the man next to him started to run towards us.
“Protect the king and queen!” Hayther screamed, as his hand wrapped around my waist. He ripped me from my chair, half carrying, half dragging me through the secret door behind my chair. Before the door closed I heard the other man Eric yell “Death to Delgurany” and then someone screamed. We ran through the black as night tunnel that lead straight to my bedroom, my mind still reeling from what just happened. Eric must have been from Carastil, but the 250-year wars ended 14 years ago and Delgurany had never been involved in any.
Suddenly I was in the year 1606, I was tending to a wounded soldiers’ arm. He was from the country Rimerona, as was I in this life. We were fighting Ardelia for their resources. We needed crops, our people were starving, and our land would yield nothing but herbs for medicine. The soldier looked me in the eyes and asked, “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” I forced a smile and told him of course not, that his wound was healing faster than expected, but I was silently agreeing with him. The wound had gotten infected, and he was burning with a fever. He’d be dead in 2 days.
My mind snapped back to the present. Hayther was yelling my name, I was shaking, wet with sweat. We were about to enter my room.
“Everose you okay?” I couldn’t see his face and only knew he was there by his hands on my shoulder
“I’m fine, just a little scared, but I can deal with it.” I brushed his hands off my shoulders, it was silent for a moment but then he continued
“I am going to go into the room first, do not move until I open this door, if you hear anything else get away go down another tunnel, I’ll meet you by the fountain in the square. Whatever you do though, do not come in after me.”
He took my silence as an agreement, he hesitated only a moment longer, then he opened the panel into my room letting light into the tunnel, it blinded my eyes and I had to look away. When I opened my eyes again I was alone
As I sat there I started to think of my memory from when I was an herbalist in Rimerona, two lives’ ago. I remembered how I died that time, I was accused a witch because of my beauty and my ability to heal people with herbs, they burned me alive. I shivered remembering the flames licking my legs. I didn’t like that life, my father and brother had been killed in the war, it was only me and my mother then. We did what we could to get by, taking in what jobs we could and healing all that needed it. Suddenly I heard a yelp and a loud bang from in my room.
Without thinking I pushed the heavy panel aside and went running into my room. Hayther was leaning against the wall next to my vanity holding his head. Veryan was standing next to him holding the box my tiara was in looking as if she was ready to strike again.
“What happened?” I asked startling them both. Veryan whipped around still holding the box. Seeing me she dropped it and put a hand to her chest.
“I thought he was an assassin come to kill you!”
Hayther pushed himself off the wall and glared at Veryan still holding one hand to the spot where he was struck
“Ever, I told you stay there until I got you.”
He walked towards me, reaching out his hand as if to touch me but it dropped back down to his side before it even brushed against me. I just stared at his hand holding his head. Veryan stood quietly watching our exchange.
“I got scared that you were hurt, I can’t just let you die.”
“Ever, that’s my job. I have sworn to protect you with my life. If I were to die, and then you come rushing into save me, I would die for nothing.”
“That’s not fair, I never asked you to take that oath.” I turned my face away trying to hide my tears. Hayther stepped closer and gently touched my cheek.
“Ever, I’ve known from the day I met you, that I wanted to protect you, even if that means losing my own life.”
I didn’t know what else to say, so I stepped away still refusing to look back at him.
“So, is no one going to explain to me why you came in your room using the secret tunnels?” Veryan said exasperated. I turned away and looked out my window to the courtyard as Hayther explained what happened. I saw two red cloaks scaling the wall.
“Hayther! Hayther they’re getting away!” Hayther rushed to the window and swore.
“We’d never get to anyone in time to alert them.” Suddenly a group of Royal guards showed up and started to scale the wall after the them. Hayther breathed a sigh of relief.
“They won’t get away Ever.”
Yet I did not feel better seeing the guards, I feared for the guards.
“I’m going to go check in with my commander and see what is going on, maybe everything will be canceled for today.” Hayther crossed the room to the doors.
“Do you think my parents are ok?” I asked quickly. He stopped with his hand on the door handle and without turning around quietly said
“I hope so.”
Then he opened the door and slipped out. I sat down on my bed and started worrying about my parents, the scream I heard echoing in my head. Veryan sat next to me and put her arm around my shoulder.
Bands of renegades had been attacking Delgurany for a while now. They always attacked supplies carts or villages away from the city, never had there been a direct attack on the royal family. The people of Ardelia, Rimerona and Carastil’s hated Delgurany because during the 250-year wars we never took sides. No one was directly attacking us, so we had decided to not shed our blood over a battle that wasn’t ours to begin with. Once the wars ended 14 years ago small groups of rebels had been attacking us, usually just dumping supplies or other minor things, no one was ever killed. I heard a knock at my door, I stood up and faced the door with Veryan slightly in front of me. She was always protecting me, but if it was an attacker who would protect her? My mother came rushing in followed by my father and Hayther. My mother embraced me, and I embraced her back, she smelled like roses blooming in the summer.
“Oh Everose, I was so worried, thank heavens you are all right!” She said as she pulled back to inspect me to see if I had torn my dress at all.
“Hayther, you were right to pull her from the room and lead her here. Lucas jumped in front of the man who ran at us and-,” my father’s voice falters, he pauses genuine grief falling over his face before he gets his composure back
“They made it out of the castle once they realized that their plan had failed. My men are out hunting them now.” My father clasped his hand on Hayther’s shoulder “I’m proud of you my boy.” Hayther stood up straighter and saluted my father.
“All right dear, why don’t you have Veryan freshen you up? Then we will continue with today. We will arrange for you to ride in a closed carriage instead of an open one and put extra security out on the streets.” My mother said as she turned and started walking towards the door, my father and Hayther following her out.
“We mustn’t keep the people waiting dear, we must show them that we are not afraid.”
The door was about to close when Sara & Eliza came crashing in. Veryan quickly put them to work, but as they did so they bombarded me with questions about what happened, Did I want my hair to put up still since I was riding in a closed carriage?
After a moment, Sara said quietly, “That was awfully brave of Hayther to protect you, I know it’s his job but still” she trailed off.
Veryan and Eliza both nodded in agreement. I felt my heartbeat quicken at the thought of Hayther’s hand holding mine and the way he looked at me in my room. I absentmindedly touched my bracelet from him. Veryan caught the movement and grabbed my wrist.
“What is this?” She seethed while examining my bracelet. I pulled my wrist away quickly and said, “a gift.” Veryan looked at me questioningly but didn’t press any further. They covered my face in powder and brushed my hair. Veryan fixed my tiara. Trying to lighten up the mood Eliza exclaimed
“I love birthdays, I can’t wait till next year!” Suddenly I got a knot of guilt in my stomach, in all my other lives I had only been leaving behind family and a few friends, now I would be devastating a country.
Since in this life I had access to more books I reminded myself that I could still find something useful, in all the libraries I had already searched a thousand times. The knot grew even bigger.
I was lost in thought the entire way down to the main entrance I began to descend the stairs to where the carriage was waiting and tripped on my skirt, the ground came rushing up and I braced for the hard impact, but Hayther caught my arm just in time our eyes met and held for a moment. I nodded and straightened myself back up and marched a little less confidently out to the carriage. It was decorated with blue lilies and gold and green ribbon hung from everywhere. Hayther helped me into the carriage then climbed in himself. As we started down the cobble road people were lined up along the sides yelling my name.
“Princess Everose!” While waving our country’s flag. I did my best to wave out the windows looking out both sides. Hayther sat across from me looking out the windows for any trouble. All I saw were smiling happy faces, though some were not as happy as others. Look out the left window smile wave, now the right side, now the left again. Hayther finally relaxed and as I was switching sides again I saw him smirk. My heart fluttered, and my energy was renewed. Guards were mixed in with the crowds, making sure they didn’t push to close and hinder our progression down the road. people hung half way-out windows of buildings that stood along the road, I tried my best to wave at everyone. This continued for what seemed like eternity.
Finally, the carriage stopped. I looked at Hayther questionably, he just smiled.
“Let me out first to make sure it’s secure.” I sat there waiting, suddenly self-conscious about my appearance I smoothed my dress and adjusted my crown. I looked down at my chest and tried to pull my corset up, when I was satisfied, I decided that now I looked older, like Veryan. Hayther came back in, he caught me by surprise and I looked up quickly. Hayther’s face turned pink and he cleared his throat.
“It’s all clear, time for your speech, Princess Everose.” He ducked back out and stood ready to help me down, I got butterflies as he offered me his hand to help me down from the carriage.
He followed me as I walked up to the platform erected in front of the statue of our goddess Everose, whom I was named after. Blue lilies are everywhere I looked, our country’s flag hung off every building, the crowd’s roar was deafening. I took and a deep breath composing myself and then I stepped up onto the stage and turned to face everyone.
“People of Delgurany, I would like to extend a thank you from the Royal family for celebrating with me on the day of my birth. Next year I will be 18, I will begin my training as Queen so that I may rule my country as my mother has, with love and kindness.” I paused, that was all that I was supposed to say, but images of Eric and Kainin (Hayther told me the others name) attacking my family this morning keep playing in my head.
I squared my shoulders and glanced at Hayther, he wore no expression on his face.
“Some of you may have heard that this morning while receiving gifts from our generous and giving people my family and I were attacked by two rebels from Carastil. Their names were Eric and Kainin. I would like to warn them, they may have escaped this time, but we will never let them get away again or show any mercy. My family and I are alive and well thanks to the bravery of our Royal guards. Long live King Ashur and Queen Melena!”
I shouted the last part a little more aggressively than I would have liked, but the crowd echoed my chant except adding my name in until they were only chanting.
“Long live Princess Everose! Long live Princess Everose!” I smiled basking in my people’s faith and love for me, until Hayther gently nudged me to leave.
We walked back towards the carriage, the crowd still chanting my name. My heart felt so light and free, the horror from this morning, forgotten for a moment. Hayther helped me up and climbed in after me. I looked out the window for one more look at the crowd. Then the carriage began our long journey back to the castle to prepare me for the ball tonight. Hayther reached forward to hold both my hands.
“You are going to make an amazing Queen one day.” Then he leaned forward and kissed my forehead, when he sat back in his seat, his face was red. I looked out the window and gently touched my forehead that was on fire from where his lips had touched. We didn’t speak for the rest of the ride home.