Chapter 1: The Musical
Prince Julián scanned the crowd of nobles standing between the rows of seats at the theatre. Some of them had already sat down, but the slightly elevated position of the back rows, where the doors to the bottom level of the room were, allowed him to see just fine. He was looking for the purple dress of the black, curly-haired Princess. Princess Veronika of Literaya, to be precise. His blue eyes passed row after row of people, who were now beginning to sit down because most of the important attendees were already there. There were many familiar faces, but so far none was the one Julián was looking for. Like always, the royal families and the most important Lords and Ladies were on the bottom level, closest to the stage, while other people were higher up. In any case, the theatre was a work of art in itself. Like the event that was celebrated there every year, it had been a joint effort involving all five kingdoms of Artistica. It had been designed so that every spectator had an excellent view of the stage, as well as having a high quality reception of sound.
At both sides, the twenty-year old prince could see the ends of the two balconies that rose above the first level. Small, floating balls of fire illuminated the whole room, although they were only illusions, that gave off light. They had been created by summoning them from a drawing of the theatre made by one of the sorcerers of Attrais. Illumination of this style was one of the few things normal citizens tolerated about magic. They were always afraid a sorcerer could be tricking them with an illusion, which was one of the things that all five forms of magic shared, although they manifested different ways.
The stage was hardly visible because of the velvet curtain that covered the set, but JuliÃ¡n had been there enough times to know how it looked. The surprise resided in the set that was hiding behind. The script, set, music and dances of The Musical was a closely kept secret, and everyone was waiting to see what that year would bring.
He spotted the princess near the front, next to her younger sister, Lacy. Except the color of their eyes, the two of them weren’t that similar. The eldest had inherited her father’s black hair, while Lacy had her mother’s and grandmother’s vibrant red hair. Like the rest of her family except Veronika, the youngest princess was wearing a white and golden dress, the colors of Literaya. Julián had to restrain himself from running and greeting Veronika. His father was watching and would disapprove, saying it wasn’t proper behavior for the Crown Prince of Attrais. Instead, he walked between the rows of chairs at the theatre at a respectable speed, boots gently thumping against the brick floor, eager to see his friend. The two princesses were in the middle of the row, and JuliÃ¡n was forced to slow himself and pass through the small space between the back of the seat in front of him, and either the folded seat behind, or the legs of someone who was already sitting. He felt bad for making them move a little, but because he was from one of the royal families they would, and there was nothing he could do about it.
The two royals had met a few months earlier during a trip Julián took to her kingdom. He hadn’t been looking forward to it at all. It was a political trip, an attempt to make an agreement between both kingdoms about commerce, the first step to ending the age-long rivalry Attrais and Literaya had, both debating the importance of images over words and vice versa. Finally, after decades of avoiding each other the kings had agreed to trying to negotiate. Julián didn’t see the point of this argument at all, it was an endless loop of ego and pride, and had actually appreciated the step they were taking to negotiate for the first time after years of being completely separate. In the prince’s opinion the rivalry prevented them from learning anything from the other, interrupting a valuable gain of knowledge for their own kingdoms. Their egos continue to blind them, though they aren’t as perfect as they thought they were.
But what had promised to be a boring trip turned out to be one of the best things in his life. He had met Veronika and they had become fast friends. They bonded over their love for learning, being sorcerers, and not having many friends for that reason. Though they were well liked, most citizens and nobility kept them at arms length. By the end of the trip, Julián had known that he wanted to see his new friend again. And now, after several months apart, he was reuniting with her at The Musical. An event representing the unity between all the kingdoms of Artistica, and had been celebrated each year without fail since the five kingdoms were founded.
He finally reached their seats, and with a smile greeted the two princesses of Literaya. Veronika’s eyes sparkled as she stood up and gave him a hug.
“Julián! You made it! I missed you.”
“Me too. Letters aren’t enough,” he said, laughing a little.
“What am I? Invisible?” Lacy complained. She had also stood up, and her blue eyes were slightly narrowed.
“Hello, Lacy. It’s been a long time,” he said, smiling widely. The two of them embraced as the prince and Veronika had just a few moments ago. Julián wasn’t extremely tall, but the height difference was considerable because of the gap in their ages.
Julián remembered Lacy’s sarcasm well. The red-head was the younger Princess of Literaya and a good friend. And more than that, he saw her as the little sister he never had. He would protect his friends and family no matter what and Lacy and Veronika were no exceptions.
He sat down on the velvet seat Veronika had saved him. They talked, ignoring their surroundings until the lights, provided by the sorcerers, dimmed. The curtains parted, retreating smoothly to the sides of the stage. Julián, and everyone else, had wondered how this year’s musical would be. It hadn’t started yet, but if the beautiful set depicting a walled garden covered in ivy was any indication, he would not be disappointed.
Julián was glad that he could finally be with Veronika again. What he had said earlier had been true; those months without her had been lonely. The letters that took several days to arrive were too little, far from what it was like to see her in person.
Looking at the set more closely, he realized that it looked almost like the one back at the castle in Attrais. The artists who had made it must have taken inspiration from the real one. Ivy was very prevalent on the walls, but Julián realized that the trees rising behind them were actually pines and eucalyptus, which were a large part of the landscape of Attrais and Literaya.
Julián’s attention moved back to what was actually happening on stage, rather than the set as a couple walked in, signaling the start of the musical.
“I love you Izta, do you know that?” the man said. He had dark brown hair, and was dressed in a soldier’s uniform. It was midnight blue, which had been a good choice, since it wasn’t any of the kingdom’s colors, and maintained neutrality.
“I do. I love you too.”
Then he told her, with the flair that could be expected, that he wanted to ask her father for her hand in marriage after he proved he was worthy of her. Izta, the name that the character had received, agreed with shining eyes and a smile that stretched from ear to ear. The moment would have been perfect if a man hadn’t come running in, interrupting the character’s almost kiss.
“My Lady! Your father called for you. He is not well, to say the least.”
The characters ran out of the stage, reappearing at the other side once the set had been changed to the chambers of the woman’s father. There, the elderly king had an emotional exchange with his daughter, passing soon after. He had left the responsibility of leading his people to his daughter. People in the audience were transfixed on the scene. The princess took a deep breath, and took control of the situation, giving the orders on what to do next.
Julián admired how the princess took control of the situation the way she did. Her strong leadership after the death of her father. If Julián was in her position, he wasn’t sure if he would have been able to do what she did. Despite being the Crown Prince, he wasn’t that used to politics and giving orders as the princess had. Dancers came in, and started spinning around the couple while in the orchestra pit instruments played the melody to the emotion-filled words of the soldier, and his deep and powerful voice resounded throughout the whole theatre. He promised to come back from the war and marry her. The song was full of promises and sorrow, but at the same time the strength of determination. This was translated by the dancers, who moved delicately in a ballet like style at the beginning, pulling away from the actors and mimicking the events happening. Then it changed to a more forceful style, as her lover swore to fight for her and then come back and be able to rule together. The musical continued, shifting the perspective, and following what happened in the war that the princess’ lover had gone to. Surprisingly, the choreography for the war was the best of them all. Accompanied by drums, and completely opposite to the flowing characteristic of the first part of the first dance. This one transmitted the harshness and the brutality of war, in a way that didn’t exaggerate it, and the dances still managed to captivate the audience while being true to the reality of the situation. Julián found himself thinking about how he would react to the different moments of the musical. Unlike some others that had happened when he was younger, that were closer to fairytales, this one put a what if situation on the reality of many nobles present. Like the princess, he would do anything to protect his people and loved ones, even if he’d be overwhelmed with all the responsibility. But he couldn’t connect with what happened after that. The princess received the news that her lover had died in the war, in a cathartic moment of pain, grief, and shock, but at the same time betrayal from the leaders of the other kingdom who had schemed to convince the princess that her lover was dead. She became sick then died of grief and a broken heart. All because of the evil plot to take over the kingdom. Julián couldn’t imagine that ever happening to him. Yes, the situation was somewhat unrealistic, but he couldn’t understand the princess loving her partner so much, that she died instead of moving on. Maybe it was because he had never experienced love in that way before, or because of something else, but it made Julián reflect deeply on his life. When the curtain went down, the floating balls of fire regained their light and the theatre erupted in chatter. In Julián’s opinion, this was the best musical in years. The people of Literaya created a beautiful script with some wonderful underlying themes. The music was some of the best Melodia had ever produced, each note matching the tone and moment of The Musical exactly, in the way that few others did. The score would be one that people would recognized forever, and in his personal opinion, it would be held as high as his parents talked about (). The dances Gambolon had choreographed fit the scenes perfectly, the actors -as always- did a wonderful job, and one couldn’t ignore the beautiful set made by Attrais.
Veronika’s hand slipped into Julián’s as the three of them walked out of the theatre. Outside they met their parents and Veronika’s grandparents, the current monarchs of Literaya. Julián inclined his head and greeted his friend’s family, as well as his own parents.
“Good morning Queen Cadance, King Ronald,” he then turned and greeted Veronika’s parents in the same way.
It was so typical of Julián to be that formal. But considering his status and being with the family of Literaya for about a month during his visit to Veronika’s kingdom, he didn’t need to. Despite Veronika, Lacy, and their parents telling him to be less uptight, he wouldn’t budge in his ways.
They all walked together to the dining hall, where all the nobles would get together after the musical. It was a reunion that usually involves a lot of politics. None of the three young royals enjoyed being there but had to take part. As they neared the doors to the dining hall, they took a deep breath, preparing themselves to navigate through the nuances of the court.
“Are you ready?” Lacy asked.
“Let’s do this together,” Veronika said. Nodding as two guards opened the doors for the two royal families.