Princess of Sofiene
Princess Anastacia da Sofiene was dead.
Or at least, she had to be.
Princess Anastacia’s grey eyes stared longingly out the window towards Xychosia Citadel’s courtyard. She pursed her pink lips and watched the servants bustling around with tables, decorations, and even trays of food. So, it’s tonight, she shook her head. When was the last time she went to a party? Most of the time, she had either been holed up in the room or roaming around the gardens of Xychosia.
“How do hermits do it?” wondered Anastacia aloud. “They can stay in their homes for years and they won’t even lose their minds.”
She plopped herself down on the purple carpet of her room with a sigh. Anastacia ran her fair, slender fingers through her ebony black hair while looking up at the quartz crystal chandelier that loomed above her. She watched the lights dance among the crystalline decorations before turning back to one of the open books on the ground. The princess sighed. She picked up her book before tracing the dusty, worn-out pages with her thumb then extended her hand towards the clear quartz crystal lying on the ground. She inhaled and closed her eyes, focusing on the clear quartz crystal.
O Lord, I am Thy loyal servant.
One who was created in Thy image.
One who is a descendant of those who witnessed Thy glory.
Shine, shine, shine - I say thrice in the name of the Triune God!
The quartz crystal slowly began to hum and then floated into the air. She took a deep breath again and began to compress the mana that burned inside her. With each breath, she rounded the mana until it took on the shape of the crystal. When she opened her eyes, she saw the crystal floating in the air. She beamed at the sight.
Before she could continue her incantation, she heard a soft rapping on the door. Anastacia yelped and the crystal dropped with a light thud on the lilac wool carpet. She quickly dusted and straightened out the length of her skirt, before hollering.
The door opened to reveal an elegant, middle-aged woman with medium light brown hair. Her bronzed hands were gracefully folded over one another, resting on the skirt of her dark blue gown. On her head, she wore a diamond tiara with a large blue diamond in the middle. Her cerulean blue eyes smiled at her, causing Anastacia to quickly curtsy.
“Queen Regina, Your Grace.”
Queen Regina smiled. “There’s no need to be formal. It’s just us in your room, after all.”
Anastacia, looking up, nodded with a soft giggle. “My apologies, I have gotten so used to being formal.”
Queen Regina laughed softly and sat on her lavender canopy bed, beckoning her to sit next to her. “Sit with me?”
Princess Anastacia beamed. It had been a while since she last spoke to the queen of Xychosia. Ever since she became the queen’s guest, it was rare that they found time to speak with each other casually. Not even during dinner where Queen Regina would be forced to take dinner in her study rather than the table.
“How are your studies coming?” asked the queen.
Princess Anastacia nodded. “Quite well. I am still learning enchantment though...”
“It is alright. Enchantment is not easy. After all, the use of a proper mantra is a must.”
“Yes, all the more with White Magic.”
Queen Regina chuckled. “Indeed, White Magic despite its purity is often the hardest control. Speaking of control” –she glanced at Anastacia– “how is Erkalla?”
Anastacia smiled sheepishly. “Last time I heard, she went out to buy some bread for me.”
“Oh? You could have asked the chefs in the kitchen.”
“Oh, but I wanted the one they called the Salt Bread?”
Queen Regina’s expression lit up as she clapped her hands together in delight. “Oh, I will have them prepare the Yartengar Coffee then! It tastes wonderful with that bread!”
Anastacia laughed softly. Watching Queen Regina smiling after so long made her heart jump in delight. When her eyes wandered towards the window again, her heart sank. She bit her lower lip and wrung her fingers together. Her eyes wandered towards her owl-shaped necklace. She ran the pads of her fingers against the intricate gold linings before letting out a sigh.
“Why?” wondered Anastacia. “What did they want?”
She suddenly felt a hand drop on her shoulder. Blinking in surprise, she looked up and saw a mournful smile on the queen’s face.
“It’s not your fault, Anastacia. There were just some people who were evil enough to do what they did,” explained Queen Regina. She then shook her head. “But I never expected scholarly-minded Sofienians to be capable of such atrocities.”
Anastacia hung her head. The scent of blood still filled her nose even in her clean room. Her hands would tremble at the thought. The screams of Sofiene’s people rang in her ears. Her lungs burned as if ash rushed through her nostrils. Her arms slowly rose to embrace her trembling body as her heart began to pound.
“Ana, you’re safe. You’re with me. You’re in your purple colored room,” hushed Queen Regina as she rested her palms on Anastacia’s arms.
Anastacia nodded. “Y-yes, I am here in my purple room...”
Before Queen Regina could say anything, the door suddenly swung open. At the door, there was a pale skinned petite young woman with long flowing strawberry blonde hair. In her arms, she held a brown paper bag.
“Ana, I brought back” –her electric blue eyes widened as she rushed to Anastacia's side– "What in Tartaros is going on!?"
Queen Regina ignored the young woman's panic. "A panic attack; nothing a little grounding won't fix."
Gawking for a moment, the petite young woman snapped herself out of her trance before grabbing Anastacia's clammy and cold hands. "Ana, look at me!"
Anastacia's head shot up. "E-Erkalla?"
Erkalla's blood-red lips curved up into a smirk. "The one and only" —her expression became more stern— "You're still here in your room. Don't worry. There's no fire. No blood. Nothing."
Anastacia felt her chest slowly loosen up and smiled weakly. "Thank you."
"You are my responsibility, Ana. I have to keep you alive."
"Yes, and you're doing a wonderful job."
Erkalla, chuckling, opened the brown paper bag. "Got the Salt Bread you wanted. Freshly baked."
The smell of freshly baked bread wafted into Anastacia's nose, causing her to smile. She plucked out one from the bag and took a bite, moaning in delight. It had been a while since she had freshly baked Salt Bread.
Queen Regina nodded. "It seems you have control over the situation now, Erkalla."
Erkalla bowed. "For now, Your Grace. If not for your ministrations, she would have been bawling her eyes out."
"What both of you have seen – it will be a while before you both can truly heal."
"Believe me, Your Grace. I've been sent to the battlefield. Ana here hasn't even whacked anyone with the training sword not even once."
Queen Regina smiled sadly. "And may it never come to that" —she rose from the bed— "Erkalla, please see to it that she's ready for tonight's gala."
Anastacia blinked. "Tonight's gala?"
"Why yes, it's your birthday after all."
Erkalla snickered. "Ana, you haven't lived long enough to forget your birthday! It's only been three years!"
Three years, thought Anastacia. She looked into the mirror across her room. Had it been that long? She then walked to her mirror and stood in front of it for a moment. Her fair fingers traced the black eye bags under her eyes before trying to smile.
"Erkalla," she began.
"Hm?" Erkalla finished up fixing Anastacia's Halo Braid, brushing down the bangs. "What's up?"
"Did... anyone report about Sofiene?"
"What's there to report? Everything's burned to the ground!"
She whipped around to face her. "Are you sure?"
Erkalla nodded. "Dead sure. Besides, it's why we're holding this gala."
"To celebrate the resurrection of Princess Anastacia da Sofiene. To show that not all hope is lost."
Anastacia numbly nodded and bit her lower lip, looking towards the mirror. She gingerly traced her pale cheeks then turned towards a golden box sitting on her dressing table. She flipped open the small box and plucked out her blush and concealer. She then began to dab the concealer under her eyebags.
"Erkalla, do you really think I am ready for this?" asked Anastacia.
Chuckling, Erkalla dropped her hands onto Anastacia's shoulder.
"I think the better question would be: is the world ready for you?"