Prologue; The Sixth of November, 1823
Today was the day. Yelena could feel it. Well,
first of all she felt tired since she had barely had any sleep last night. But
on the other hand, there was all the excitement! Eighteen, at last. From this
day on she would no longer be the small princess who could do nothing. She too,
could now travel around the world to visit places and people in the name of her
father the Tsar. She could not wait for the day to begin. In a rapid tempo her
fingers tapped on the bed, for she was not allowed to leave her bed, until the
maids entered to room. She might have turned eighteen, but until it was
celebrated she was still treated as a child. Finally the high doors opened and
five aging women entered the room and immediately sunk to their knees.
“Grand Duchess Yelena,” they all said humble. Yet at the moment they began speaking, Yelena jumped out of bed.
“Rise,” she quickly said and looked at them with a bright smile.
“From the bottom of our hearts,” the oldest one, Anna, began, “we want to congratulate you with your birthday. That this year may be even more blessed than last one.”
“Thank you,” Yelena smiled, her grey eyes twinkling of joy.
“Now, the dress,” Anna smiled. She took the hand of Yelena and led her to her dressing room.
Yelena was hoisted into a light blue gown with
silver embroidered decorations on it. Her long dark hair was braided and
concealed with her tiara. To her surprise no necklace was laid around her neck,
but she did not protest. She had learned one thing in the past years: Anna
dresses you as she wished and ever with purpose.
After Yelena was finally dressed, she walked to the dining room. There a large part of her massive family was present. They all wished her a happy birthday and prayed good health for her next year. Yelena felt like her family tried to stone her to death with all the presents, yet her favorite present was the necklace her father gave her. It looked like it was made out of several layers of silver. Hanging lower and lower, with her favorite turquoise diamond.
Sure, Yelena was the youngest of five children, but she was absolutely not spoiled. Her mother had taken good care of that. Which had been pretty difficult, since Yelena was her father’s favorite child. Then again, she was the least favorite of her mother. Tsar Maksimilian and Tsarina Kristina had an arranged marriage without love. Tsarina Kristina had always told her children they should look at marriage as an agreement, not a choice made out of love. While Tsar Maksimilian had promised his children he wanted them to love someone – because a life without love was no life. Whenever Yelena would ask him how it was possible that he was still alive, he smiled and said he received enough love from his children to remain alive.
As Yelena danced with her oldest brother
Aleksander on the ball that evening, she tried to peak over his shoulder. He,
however, was too tall for her, like most people. In terms of appearance you
could say she was a typical ‘youngest child’. She was shorter than the rest and
she was the only one with the dark hair and grey eyes of her father.
“What are you looking at?” Aleksander asked, with one eyebrow raised. He was twelve her peer and had always been acting like her father.
“Mother looks really upset,” she said, still trying to peak over his shoulder.
“Perhaps you should go talk to her,” he replied.
“We’re in the middle of a dance,” Yelena said, “Won’t you mind?”
“I wouldn’t mind dancing with my wife instead of my little sister,” he teased with a smile.
“Well, thank you very much, brother,” Yelena replied with a smirk. Aleksander took a step back, they made a small curtsey to each other and went their own way.
“She deserves to know,” Yelena could hear her
mother hiss as she looked at her. Both her parents turned silent when Yelena
approached them. Her father smiled and her mother looked at the dancing
“Father, mother,” Yelena kneeled before them, kissed both their hands and stood beside her father, “Are you well?”
“Of course we are,” her mother snapped.
“Why do you ask?” her father asked, faking a smile badly.
“You don’t look all that happy, with all due respect,” she said honest.
“I’m tired and shall go to bed,” her mother immediately replied when the Tsar opened his mouth. She rose up and disappeared behind the thrones.
“Is it me, father? Because if it is, please tell me, so I can change!” Yelena said. This was quiet normal for her mother, but Yelena hated it.
“Don’t ever change, princess,” her father took her hand, “Never. Promise me you won’t change.”
“I promise,” Yelena smiled.
“Good,” her father smiled and looked at the dancing people.
“What should I know?” Yelena asked boldly, “Mother said I deserved to-“
“A princess does not listen to other people’s conversations, Yelena,” her father said strict. Yelena lowered her head, trying to accept she was not going to know it.
“I beg your pardon, father,” she said.
The Tsar turned his head and smiled, “Smile and dance, child, this is your feast!”