Haughtiness was apparently an essential princely quality inherited at birth, yet this was no detterent for my sweet young sister. Tamara glazed doe-eyed at Prince Dante as he strolled or perhaps, strutted, in a most annoying regal manner that caused his velvet clock to sway just so-through the royal grounds with a dark haired beauty on his arm.
His intended. The fact that the prince was practically engaged did nothing to lessen Tamara's infatuation or her frequent tendency to spie on him whenever she had a day off to spend with me.
I fought an ammused smile as I watched her for a moment before returning to my current task— procuring the petals of the flowers I needed for my next spell, a healing enchantment that required different parts from a variety of herbs and plants.
I stopped down to pluck three petals from a purple enchinacea flower before casually studying the ancient book floating beside me with a simple levitation spell. I was still missing the minced root from a royal fern, an ingredient that wouldn't be amongst the colourful aster magnolia and garden blossoms.
I gave my spellbook a little nudge to encourage it to follow me, which it faithfully did as I wandered the next row of vibrant flowers arranged in artistic patterns.
"Alma," I startled at Tamara's excited whisper and turned to find her nolonger ogling the prince but wringing her hands in distress.
Concern immediately eclipsed my previous concentration. I hastily stepped forward. "What is it? Are you alright?"
Her nervous gaze darted behind her. In my distraction, the prince had entered the garden and now ambled up the path some distance away, oblivious to anything except for the woman on his arm, her fluttering eyelashes, and her false overly cheery laugh, all of which were a rather sickening display.
"It's the prince," she said breathlessly, despite such an observation being entirely unnecessary. "He's in the garden. Perhaps he'll finally notice me. Oh, I'm so nervous. What should I say if he pauses to converse? What if he doesn't remember me?"
Her breathing escalated as her panic rose, coming out in short, hyperventilating breaths. I rested my hands on her shaking shoulders. "Breathe Tamara."
Rather than settling, her breaths only grew sharper more agitated. I hooked my arm through hers and gently led her to the neighbouring garden, a charming arrangement of fountains and hedgerows. We settled on the edge of one of the fountains, which had the soothing effect I'd hoped for; as she listened to the cascading water, she gradually calmed.
She buried her face in her hands with a moan. "I'm utterly hopeless."
I gave her shouler a reassuring pat. "You just find yourself flustered by a charming prince."
"Such a description doesn't do the prince Justice; he's utterly handsome. But you know it's more than that."
I pursed my lips. Prince Dante was handsome, quite so. The problem was he well knew it. In all my observations of his highness I'd quickly discovered he had little else to recommend him, making him an entirely unworthy of my sister, no matter how much she fancied herself in love with him.
Her childhood memories of the prince had undoubtedly blinded her to his true character. They'd been friends as children, spending many afternoons together while our mother served in her position as Royal Enchantress and I became immersed in my magic studies. But everything had changed when father died. Tamara's grief caused her to become withdrawn— she stopped spending time outdoors. Soon Prince Dante became occupied with his royal duties, and their friendship gradually faded. I had never actually met him back when he and Tamara were friends, but what i'd learned of him in the last three years was enough to tell me that he was likely to break her heart.
My apprenticeship to the new Royal Enchantress had granted Tamara to see more of her childhood friend, albeit from afar, and her fond memories of him— along with the fact that he'd grown intimidatingly handsome— had gradually led to her infatuation, one I heartily disapproved of. Tamara was quiet, gentle and a sensitive soul, an adorer of things like fluffy kittens, pretty flowers, and delicious pastries. The shallow scheming world of the royal court was no place for her, something she was too starry-eyed to realise.
Tamara straightened with a sigh, embarrassment staining her cheeks. "I know what you must be thinking. I'm being ridiculous."
I gave her a guilty smile. "I admit I've never understood your infatuation with the prince."
"He was my dearest childhood playmate, one I want nothing more than to reconnect with."
If only she could see that the conceited prince wasn't anything like the friend she remembered. Ever since realising her interest, I'd been paying him close attention, and it hadn't taken long for me to form a less than favourable opinion. A man who repeatedly brushed servants off, snubbed women, ignored members of the court as they tried to converse with him, and often paused to stare at his reflection in the garden fountain was the last man I wanted for my sister.
I bit my lip to suppress these observations so as not to upset Tamara any further and wrapped a comforting arm around her to draw her close. She rested her head on my shoulder in a way she'd done ever since we were young, and in this position we remained until my spellbook— which had faithfully followed me to the fountain— gave me a gentle nudge, a reminder I had work to do. The movement caught Tamara's attention and she looked up.
"My apologies. I'm distracting you from your studies."
"Don't be silly. You're far more important than my studies."
She gave me a look. " I know how much your apprenticeship means to you; you've spoken too frequently of your dreams of becoming an enchantress."
That ever present longing swelled, bringing with it memories of Mother— with her kindness, constant bright smile, and the light that seemed to surround her whenever she performed her magic and created a joy, a light that had felt almost entirely extinguished ever since her passing.
Up on realizing I'd inherited her gift. Mother had been the one who'd encouraged my dreams and taught me my first spells— thus, magic always made me think not only of her, but of beauty and light, an opportunity to bring joy to others and transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. I could think of no greater calling, and thus spent countless hours day and night studying beneath Enchantress Daisy in hopes of one day following in mother's footsteps, not just to become an Enchantress, but to serve as The Royal Enchantress as she's done.
But even magic, as wonderful as it was, couldn't compare to how I felt about my sister. I wouldn't leave her until I knew she was well. I studied her expression carefully, but she seemed to have cheered up.
Her brow puckered as she took in the garden. "Where's Enchantress Daisy?"
"Still meeting with the king's council, likely deep in discussion about the pressing ogre problem." Such weekly meetings were the duty of the Royal Enchantress. This political involvement was the only thing I wasn't looking forward to in my future role, especially since I'd one day be serving with Prince Dante when the time came for him to inherit the crown.
Tamara considered this impending arrangement most fortunate, while I viewed it as the worst sort of luck. The prince was like any other royal— vain and lazy, and would thus need his hand held in every important decision affecting the kingdom, which would pull me away from the magical duties that actually mattered. I wanted to be an enchantress who brought light and joy to others, not to serve as a royal babysitter.
My spellbook interrupted my melancholy with another nudge, this one more poking and impatient than the last. An enchanted object couldn't realize that family loyalty was of far greater importance than the healing spell I was supposed to be creating.
But perhaps I'd been neglecting my work for too long, especially considering Tamara seemed well. I gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze before standing. She smiled. "Thank you for comforting me. I'll let you get back to studying. I known you have an exam coming up and how important it is to you that you do well."
The mere mention of my upcoming examination in one month's time caused nerves to prickle my skin, but I forced myself to push away the worries that had haunted my thoughts for weeks. I was more than prepared. I'd spent hours immersed in every book of magic I could find and was now practising the spells i expected Enchantress Daisy to test me during the practical portion of the exam.
But the task was proving difficult when I constantly found myself several ingredients short, hence I couldn't miss the opportunity to accompany Enchantress Daisy to the palace in order to explore the royal grounds and their array of plants, different from the ones I normally forged in the forest behind our cottage. Nothing less would have motivated me to venture here and risk another unpleasant interaction with the prince.
"I'm still in need of the royal fern, which I don't think can be found on the palace grounds,as vast as they are." My gaze scanned the garden, a vision of shady alcoves, patchworks of flowers,and pebbled paths, without a leafy fern in sight.
I saw more than the artistic landscaping; each bunch of clover, herb and flower possessed magical properties, and when combined in just the right manner unlocked wondrous spells. I longed to discover all their secrets, to become the Enchantress mother always knew I could be. I wouldn't cease studying until I reached the goal.
I forced myself to set aside thoughts of these dreams and to focus once more on my sister, needing to assure myself she was indeed well before I resumed my studies. Though considerably calmer, she suddenly appeared nervous once more.
I followed her gaze towards the adjoining garden where we'd left His Highness on the arm of his intended. Through the arched entrance we could see he now strolled by himself. Hope brightened her expression.
"He's alone. Perhaps I finally have the chance to speak with him. Oh, I hope he remembers me."
"Don't get you're hopes up," i reminded her gently, but she was too busy examining her reflection in the fountain's clear water to hear me.
She smoothed back a stray hair and straightened her dress before casting me an anxious glance. "How do I look?"
I debated an array of responses to remind her that her appearance or even her shared history with the prince didn't matter compared to the contacts that held him bound, but her hazel eyes, the only feature we shared with our departed mother— were so bright of hope I didn't have the heart to dissuade her.
Perhaps this would be good for Tamara. A chance to overcome her painful shyness so she'd have the courage to speak with the right man when he came along. An innocent interaction with the prince wouldn't hurt; for all his faults, surely he'd be gracious towards her.
"You're lovely as always." I hooked my arm through hers and gently led her to the garden entrance, which we peered through. There was no sign of the strolling prince or the simpering woman he was courting. I scanned up and down the pathways with a frown before my gaze settled on one of the wrought iron benches along the hedgerow...where the prince sat reading.
For a moment I simply gaped. Not only was His Highness engaging in a rather unexpected past time for a man of his position, but his expression had softened from his usual pompous air to one of contemplation. The sight so startled me that I missed Tamara's excited whisper.
"What was that?" I asked distractedly as I continued studying the prince, even tilting my head in an attempt to read the title of his book. I couldn't help but be curious; which subject would have His Highness so engrossed,his eyes bright, and his bangs half hanging over his eyes in an annoyingly endearing way?
"I'm going to speak to him."
At Tamara's declaration, I forced myself to tear my bewildered attention away and watch as she slowly approached the prince. At the sound of her footsteps he looked up and hastily closed his book as if embarrassed to have been caught with it. He stood, dislodging the book from his lap so that it fell into the dirt.
He mattered a foul curse that caused Tamara to freeze. The prince didn't even warrant her a glance as he stooped down to retrieve his book, meticulously brushing off the dirt that had gotten on the brown leather cover.
"Can I never get a moment to myself?" He muttered, before glancing up with a cold look, no sign of recognition for his childhood playmate. "Can I help you?" He asked stiffly.
Tamara's eyelids fluttered. "I—" Her nerves fully overcame her, robbing her of her voice leaving her staring mutely.
Prince Dante waited a minute before heaving a rather impatient sigh and returning his attention to his book, carefully turning it over and over to survey any damages.
"This book has been in the royal library for centuries and it's very valuable....and you've ruined it, just to get my attention." His manner was hardened when his gaze next met my sister's. "I'm in no mood for this today. If you have nothing further to say, I'd appreciate it if you left."
My fists tightened at the devastation filling Tamara's eyes,all hopes of rekindling her childhood friendship with the prince dashed. I wanted nothing more than to have fully grown into my magic to stop this scene from unholding— to rob the prince of his cruel words, to turn back time, anything to prevent the heartache overshadowing my dear sister's expression.
But I was powerless to do anything. Of what importance was magic if I couldn't use it to protect my sister. I watched in frustration as the prince turned away, dismissing Tamara without another word.
She stared at his back for a long moment before her shoulders crumpled and she turned slowly to walk away. At the sight of the tears glistening in her eyes, my anger surged, hot and burning. I stormed from my hiding place to gather her in my arms.
"Oh, Tamara, are you alright?"
She nestled against me with a heartbreaking whimper. "It was awful Alma. He didn't even recognize me. I couldn't speak at all and I ruined his book—"
"Who cares about this book?" What sort of man cared more of leather and parchment than common courtesy? "He's a rude pompous arrogant, —"
Harsher and more colorful phrases I'd heard from some of the portion apprentices during difficult training sessions crowded my mind, but they were too much for my sister's delicate sentiments, so I forced myself to keep them at Bay. Ideas for spells to curse him which quickly followed, seductively stoking the anger surging through me, urging me to give that prince a piece of my mind.
I paused in rubbing Tamara's shoulder and released her. "Where are you going?" She stuttered.
"I have an important matter to tend to." I snatched my spellbook still floating beside me and stomped after His Highness, holding my book close like a shield, one that did Little to deflect my fury.
Prince Dante was now sitting on another bench further into the garden with his book. He glanced up at the sound of my approach with a look like he meant to snap at me but when he saw who I was, he wisely held his tongue.
I smirked; those who possessed magic always gained respect, even from royalty. There was great advantage in the unspoken threat that one could be turned into a frog or something far worse if they weren't polite enough, a fact the prince we'll knew if his forced smile was any indication.
"Enchantress Alma," He stood for the proper bow and greeting, but I was soo angry to extend a curtsy in return. He waited for it a moment before clearing his throat. "What a pleasant surprise to see you."
By his sour expression he didn't consider it such; he was still scowling at his book. His frown deepened when he noticed another dirt smudge, and he used the Hem of his velvet shirt to wipe it away.
The angle allowed me to finally read the title and my brows lifted in surprise. It was a book on astronomy. Why was the prince studying such a subject?
He notice my attention and hastily flipped the book so the title faced away from me. "Is there something I can do for you, Enchantress Alma?" He flashed another smile, this one less forced and rather charming.
I gave my head a rigid shake, I refused to be swayed by his charm. I slowly approached, pausing when I was mere inches away, close enough for him to feel the heat of my glare. His charming grin that had undoubtedly broken dozens of women's heart faltered.
He shifted a bit nervously. "To what do I owe the pleasure of a beautiful woman's attention?"
I rolled my eyes. "There's no need for empty flattery, especially from a man who also uses his words to hurt others over a slight towards a mere book."
His gaze flickered between me, his book, and Tamara standing at the end of the garden, watching anxiously. I waited for a flash of recognition to fill his eyes as he watched my sister but none came, which only stroked my anger.
"Well, she did cause me to drop it..." As if that excused anything. "It's a rather old and rare volume—"
"Does such a thing truly matter?" I snapped. "She only wanted to speak to you and was instead treated with contempt."
"If speaking with me was truly her intention, she did very little talking."
"She's simply shy."
He sighed wearily. "And I'm afraid after the morning I've had, I have very little patience. There are just too many women who fancy themselves in love with me for me to make the time to humour their sentiments. I'm a very busy man."
I nearly snorted. "Oh you poor, poor prince. That must be so trying for you."
His eyebrows lifted at my rudeness, something I doubted had ever been directed towards him before, but I was too angry to care should word of this get back to Enchantress Daisy.
My conscience whispered the unnecessary reminder that one day I'd be forced to work with the pompous prince once I became the Royal Enchantress and he the king, but none of that mattered in the heart of this moment. Nothing could quell the magic sparkling beneath my fingertips, making me feel powerful, while my fierce love for my sister intensified to fury. He studied my scowl a moment before he pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose with a weary sigh, as if warding off a headache.
"It's rather trying. You have no idea."
If he thought he could earn my sympathies, then he was a bigger fool than I'd initially thought. The burning pressing against my chest only escalated the longer our interaction extended. I fought to keep the magic simmering beneath my skin at Bay, my mood too dark and my powers too temperamental to withstand the temptation to use them against this sniveling prince— yet sparks flew from my fingertips anyway, capturing his weary attention.
"Ah, is that a warning?"
I straightened to my full height, one that was barely taller than his shoulders, and thus The effect was not as intimidating as I'd like.
"Perhaps," I used a tone that dared him to cross me further, but he only grinned mischievously.
"Hmmmm you seem rather prickly to be a poised enchantress. Are you going to turn me into a frog?" He snorted at the thought.
Was it obvious how sorely I wanted to do just that. "Don't tempt me." Nevermind that human transformations were still beyond my current training; he didn't have to know that.
"That might prove interesting.... and even useful if it keeps clinging females at Bay, though there's the unfortunate side effect that it'd be difficult to read. The inconvenience might prove worth it for the experience I'd gain from the experiment; I've always wanted to learn more about magic." His gaze lowered to the spellbook clutched against my pounding heart.
I shielded it from view. "Absolutely not."
Defiance filled his eyes— which were a rather dark, beautiful green, not that I would humour the prince by being yet another female who noticed— as if he meant to order me to hand it over. But despite his arrogance and ill humour, he at least had the sense not to argue with an enchantress, even one who had feighed being more powerful than she actually was.
"I suppose it'd be wise for me to remain in your good graces so you'll be more likely to humour me in the future should I come to you with a request." He tapped his lips thoughtfully. "Let's see... A spell of invisibility would be just the thing to avoid all manner of women— annoying ones, shy ones, and especially the angry ones." He gave me a pointed look at his mention of the latter.
"Oh you wouldn't want that, Your Highness." I said with fake sweetness. "If you were invisible, you couldn't see your reflection in the mirror everytime you gloat at it."
He pursed his lips thoughtfully, as if this was a valid concern, and I nearly snorted at his vanity.
His mischievous look returned. "The sacrifice would be well worth it if such a spell would grunt me the opportunity to read without interruptions, which tend to be far too frequent for my liking." Though his tone was teasing, his eyes were serious, as if he truly meant his quip. "Now if there's nothing I can help you with, I appreciate it if you'd excuse me."
He bowed and departed the gardens with a cheerful whistle, leaving me staring after him. The interaction had done nothing to lessen my annoyance; if anything it had only grown, distracting me so thoroughly that I scarcely heard Tamara's approach.
"He spent more time talking to you than he had with me," she said in a small voice.
I silently cursed myself for allowing my interaction with the prince play out while my sister watched from the edge of the garden. "Trust me, the conversation was anything but cordial. He finds me lacking and wasted no time in telling me so." A small fib, but well worth it if it'd put my sister at ease.
Her eyes widened. "But how could he, you're so beautiful."
I was quite beautiful, such things mattered little. I tossed my long golden hair over my shoulder before wrapping my arm back around my sister. "As are you, not to mention your history with him should have garnered much more kindness, which just goes to show that Prince Dante is too foolish for either of us, especially you, the most deserving woman I know.
The shadow of a smile tugged on Tamara's lips before her expression wavered. "I still can't believe he's forgotten me."
My anger grew, once more begging for release. "Because he's a scoundrel. Thus, I hope you put him out of your mind forever. You deserve far better."
I felt slightly guilty for destroying her romantic dreams, but in this instance duty required it; I refused to allow his Highness to hold any more power over my sister's fragile emotions.
She bit her lip. "No he's not. Perhaps he was right to dismiss me." Tamara's voice wavered,her gaze fixated on the cobblestones. "I'm the one who first stopped spending time with him, something that must have deeply hurt him. Thus I'm not worth his attention."
My heart broke, the only emotion warring with my churning fury. My sister was too delicate to have been forced to endure such treatment from prince Dante. I glared towards the gate where he'd disappeared. I'd make him pay for the heartbreak he'd caused my sister if it was the last thing I did.