Dani turned away from her conversation with the noblewoman Chandreese and drew her glass to her lips. Looking over the rim, she glanced to where all the foreign dignitaries sat at the head table just yards away, along with the Queen, her mother.
Drawing in the smell of warm wine she gazed out towards one, in particular, the Lady Neowise.
The sleeves of Neowise’s dress were a dark and bruised purple that grew lighter where they joined the bodice, melting seamlessly into a mix of orange, pink, and red hues.
Her face was all angular and sharp, her skin a pale opal bordering blue, and her hair was the shade tainted daisy petals.
More curious; were the umber brown horns jutting from the top of her head. She was the first of her kind to have graced the halls of this castle.
Dani wondered how she’d ever get her alone. It had been on her mind since hearing they ould host dignitaries from the kingdoms of Iru and Kavga. She'd wanted the chance to speak to them and hear of their homes.
She’d only ever been to three of the four cities within her own kingdom, Pakraj Mora - the city by the sea, and known as a trading heaven. Rumor had it that if you looked hard enough you could find most anything there.
Des Rois - the capital in which their castle was based.
De Luci - the city of light and home of the kingdom's working class, it was the most densely populated city in the kingdom. It has been named accordingly, as there was always at least one light on at all times through the city.
However, she had yet to make it to Af Bjerge, the last frontier before the fierce Asdenting Mountain range that bordered all three kingdoms. Her mother had forbidden her travels there. Butbut she’d longed to see it all the same.
To her right, the Lady Chandreese cleared her throat and stared at her pointedly. Dani blushed and looked away. She’d completely zoned out in the midst of their conversation and had no idea what the noblewoman had just said to her. She bit the inside of her cheek nervously. She had to get it together and focus, she couldn’t afford to have the nobles gossiping about her behavior today.
She gathered herself and turning to the Nobleman on her left side, then did her best to maintain a conversation with him.
All the while her mind strayed to that morning and the conversation with her mother. It had really been more of a lecture as the queen had done most of the speaking.
She’d hardly slept a wink all night, and it showed when her servant, Millie, had rushed in to wake her but found she was not in the bed as expected.
Instead, she'd been startled to find the young princess standing a little ways off, a mess of papers and maps scattered on her desk. She'd been looking through her telescope to the stars. Her open sitting window was letting in a cold draft that gave the maid a start. After rushing her away from the open window she had bowed lightly and stated her reason for being there.
“Good Morning, your highness. The queen requests an audience before you go down to break your fast.” the servant had said formally.
Dani who knew Millie had only said the word ‘request’ as a consolation, had sighed internally at the news.
The queen hardly ever saw her for anything other than business matters these days. Whether it was to bully her into attending more council meetings or scold her for not managing the castle affairs. She doubted this would be anything different.
Seconds after saying so, Millie had set to readying Dani for the day ahead. First heading off towards the bath chamber where she could be heard humming as she picked out fragrant soaps to add to the hot bathwater. And as Dani bathed, Millie scurried around the princesses' chambers in search of the day's outfit. Ultimately settling on a simple agean blue silk blouse with a freshly ironed pair of pants. Soon enough she was combing Dani’s wet hair, plaiting and wrapping it around her head in a crown.
As she completed the look with simple topaz earrings, Dani glanced in her mirror to admire the jade-green ball gown that lay out on her bedspread. In a small box beside it sat a golden pin.
She smiled in the mirror at her older woman's reflection in thanks for her effort. She would wear that one later tonight, to the Ball. She wondered if that golden pin's twin would find its way to the ballroom as well.
Once done she's promptly set out towards her mother's chambers, only stopping to question the staff she ran into about the preparations for that night.
Inside her mother’s suit, Dani paused momentarily before knocking entering.
As far as things went. Dani loved her mother both as that and as the Queen. She was a just and honest woman who kept her people at the forefront of her mind, and Dani was beyond proud to be her daughter.
However, that devotion to the crown had often left Dani feeling somewhat neglected, if not resentful of the day she too would have to be its most firm protector.
The Queen looked up from her seat by a roaring fireplace as Dani entered. It was of course fake as the entire castle featured state-of-the-art technology, and relying on something as archaic and inefficient as a fireplace was unnecessary. The rest of her chambers were similarly decorated with memorabilia that though unnecessary the queen was keen to have around. It was a large main room with a balcony attached at the back. At the far end was the large canopy of a bed, decorated with frilly sheets and an insane amount of pillows. Along the walls were shelves with portraits and nick-nacks on display. On the east wall, there were three doors that Dani knew led to the study, bathroom, and walk-in closet. Closer to where she stood was the sitting area, with lovely sky blue couches and a large glass table before them.
Danni had often wondered about the things that lined the wall. If they didn't bring some sense of and comfort to her mother. Why else would she keep them? They were all old models of various ancient technology.
She shifted her gaze to her mother and glanced over her features. She was a woman who had aged gracefully and never made any attempt to hide it. Refusing to remove the smile lines and wrinkles around her eyes with creams and tinctures.
Instead, she bore them proudly stating to the court they were a symbol that she had persevered through many challenges. Often joking that she’d been busy raising the royal court as if it were an infant.
The two of them together were a sight to behold. Each with a similar slight build and above-average height. They each had that shone hair like spun gold, but where the Queens was all blonde, Dani's was mixed with the occasional chestnut and auburn strands. And while Queen had soft brown eyes, Dani’s were a Hazel green with specks of gold.
Now the Queen looked out to her daughter with those very eyes and held her in her gaze for a moment before frowning slightly and speaking.
“Dani, tonight we hold a ball. In celebration of all the foreign representatives, our allies have sent to our court. This means there will be a good number of eyes on you” She paused and sighed softly seeming to remember something. She turned to her side motioning for her attending servants to leave the room.
“Dani I need you to behave, no acting out today, no calling out the men for their behavior, and certainly no refusing to talk to the other nobles.” And with each word she’d spoken her voice had gotten slightly louder.
Dani looked sheepishly at the ground. “Yes, your majesty”, she responded with a slight bow of her head to show understanding. She turned to leave hoping the conversation was over.
She stopped in her tracks and clenched her fists. She could feel little pinpricks across her back.
“How’s Flynn doing,” her mother asked softly. This was a courtesy question Dani knew. Her mother had the power to find out about all and any of her subjects should she really want to. Flynn was without a doubt not off that list.
“I wouldn't know,” She’d responded looking up to meet her mother’s eyes.
“I suggest you make a point of talking to him. His father tells me he’ll be getting sent out with the next group of recruits in a fortnight...He won’t be back till fall you know.”
With that, the Queen raised an arm dismissing her.
Once outside the chambers Dani had sighed and smiled softly to herself. Flynn was her best friend and her mother knew that. It was touching to see that she cared enough to push Dani to go and speak to him.
If not slightly disarming that she knew they had not spoken.