Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I absently wondered what these next few weeks could mean for me. The princes of the High Crystal Lands had come of age, meaning they were in search of a wife. Today’s celebration was for all royals of the High and Low Lands. There would be drinking, dancing, partying till one’s heart gave out. When I was still a young girl I loved these kinds of celebrations held in our own or neighbor kingdoms.
However, as the midday sun flooded my room, a knot was all I could feel in my stomach.
Sighing, I removed my hand from my lap and took a hairbrush from my desk, combing the nonexistent knots from my dark, chestnut red hair. I had to look my best tonight, for I would be left at the palace. All the princesses between the age of 16 and 20 were to stay at the palace for the upcoming weeks. As the princess of the Low Creedite Lands, I was to stay as well, even if I wished not to.
I owed it to my people. As one of the lowest kingdoms, we weren’t treated with much respect. Even with the alliance of the Low Fluorite Lands, we were still struggling. As the princess, marrying one of the High Crystal princes meant fortune and wealth for my kingdom. Even if I wanted to seek true love, it was not meant for me. Such a chance is only presented to a lower kingdom once every few centuries, if lucky. My desires were in second place.
A knock on my bedroom door snapped me from my thoughts. I placed my brush back on the desk, standing from my chair. “Come in,” I called.
My father-the king-entered my room, closing the heavy wooden door behind him. He gave me a kind smile as he approached me. “My darling daughter, how are you feeling.”
I folded my hands over my skirt, looking down. “If I’m honest, a bit uneasy.”
“Understandable, it will be your first time away from home.” My father placed his hand on my arm, squeezing it comfortingly. “However, there is no need to worry. I am sure they will adore you.”
Looking up, I met his gentle eyes. “How will mother and you survive without me?”
He chuckled. I smiled at that. I did not want to worry him, as King my father had enough on his mind already. All this time I had to stand by and watch, unable to do much even as the princess of our kingdom. This time, I finally had the opportunity to do something for my kingdom, to take the reins in my own hands and do what is best for my people. Marrying someone who I barely knew is a small sacrifice. There isn’t much else I could do.
“It will be hard without our sunshine, but we’ll manage,” he said fondly, squeezing my arm one last time before letting go. “We’ll be leaving soon, make sure you’re ready by then.”
“Yes, father,” I said, nodding my head as he turned to leave.
I turned back to my mirror, sighing heavily. To win the heart of one of the princes first impressions were significant. I had to make myself stand out from the others, something other than my race. I had to be different, mysterious, interesting, worth their time.
A grin spread across my lips as I reached for my brightly pigmented powders and small brushes. My passion might come in handy to achieve this. I sat back down in my chair, facing the mirror. Dipping my soft brush into some dark blue powder, I applied it to the crease of my eye.
Slowly, one stroke of light and dark blue after the other, with precision, patience and skill, a soft light to dark gradient started to form. After gently blending it into my own skin color, I took a tiny brush that I dipped in a combination of white powder and oils. I outlined my eyes before dotting on small stars on my lid.
Finishing my eyes, I turned to my bed where my gown was laid out. A deep blue started at the bottom of the skirt, small sparkles scattered all over it to form the night sky. The top of the gown was a light blue and strapless, small stones decorating it. My eyes complimented the gown perfectly.
After putting it on, I stole one last glance at the mirror. I couldn’t help the smirk on my lips from forming. If heads wouldn’t turn now, I didn’t know what would.
The trip to the High Lands had been long and tiring. With the little magic we possessed it had taken up most of the day. The sun had started to set when we arrived, meaning we were right on time. Many other carriages stood before us. Some bigger and more elegant than other, but all more beautiful than ours. As the lowest kingdom even in the Low Lands it was to be expected. However, seeing the difference in person always made me wonder what it was we were doing wrong.
“Liliya,” my mother said. I turned my head to face her. Unlike me, my mother liked to keep her appearance as normal and bland as possible. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into an elegant rose braid with small gems peeking out from between the stands. Her gown was a simple soft pink color without much decoration. She wasn’t all too fond of attention, even as the queen, she rather blend in with the crowd. “Your father and I decided we won’t be staying till the morning sun.”
My eyes widened slightly. “Why is that?”
“We’d rather not stay away from home too long,” she explained with a small nod. “Last celebration bandits took the opportunity and ransacked our kingdom, we couldn’t afford such a loss again.”
“But mother,” I said, leaning forward in my seat, “you won’t be seeing me for 3 weeks, does that really not matter to you?”
“We’re seeing you off,” my father interrupted. “It was hard enough to convince your mother to not send you to the celebration alone.”
I looked from my father to my mother. Her expression was stoic, one I had seen so often but could never get used to. Father always told me mother loved me very much, just in her own way. I believed him of course, trying my best to make her proud. She had shown me warmth and kindness, but in moments like these, when it came to leaving me, she had never shed a single tear. My father had been the one informing me of trips mother went on after she already left. I simply believed she didn’t like goodbyes.
One by one, royals were let out of their carriages, being announced to the High Crystal King and his sons. I didn’t want to speak with my parents, they had made clear what their priorities were. Even if I agreed in a way, it didn’t make the sting hurt any less.
Looking out the window of our carriage, I could see the two princes. They were of Fae blood, which was visible in their appearance. Both of the princes stood with much elegance and power. The oldest, Prince Daneel, had long, dark hair which appeared as soft as silk. His ears were long and perfectly pointed. From where I was seated I could even make out the sharpness of his jaw and cheekbones, not to mention the piercing blue of his eyes. For a Fae, he was rather muscular. Daneel really had grown into a fine male since the last time I saw him.
My eyes then landed on the youngest of the two, even if they were only a few days apart in age. Growing up, I had never seen much of him during celebrations, but neither did I really care to seek him out. Prince Lian, tall and lean, almost like a statue if it wasn’t for the nods he made to greet the guests. Just like Daneel, his ears were perfectly formed, but opposite of him Lian had long silvery-white hair, slickly combed back. His eyes were a soft but vibrant light blue, his face the same sharp features as his brother and father. On top of his head stood two small but majestic antlers. From what I read on antlers on Fae they can easily be hidden if occasionally clipped and filed. Lian intentionally let them grow and treated them well.
The king himself wasn’t an unappealing man either. He might be a few centuries old, which seemingly does make its appearance on even Fae skin, but he aged much like a fine wine. He stood proudly between his sons, his chest puffed and his chin held high as the royal guests bowed before him.
As our carriage came closer and closer, I could make out the clothing they were wearing. Prince Daneel was dressed in the darkest blue with silver embellishment, tightly fitted to complement every feature of his posture. The king himself was clad in red and gold with a long cape around his shoulders that was decorated with grey fur. The complexity of his tunic showing off his wealth and status. Prince Lian was dressed in a far softer and calmer way. His tunic and coat was a soft crème white with copper adornments.
Sighing, I sat back. Only two more carriages were left before ours. I could already hear the whispers, ones that I have learned to ignore, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t hear them, nor that they weren’t there. But, I was determent to use these three weeks to give my kingdom a new image. Even if I couldn’t win the heart of one of the princes I would leave my print on them. I was going to show my worth and that of my home. Perhaps I could make an alliance with one of the princesses. I was determent to not come back empty-handed.
“Now, one last thing, Liliya,” my mother said, her eyes focused on my colorful lids. It had taken her longer than usual to scold me for it, which baffled me slightly. “Try not to embarrass us these next three weeks with your artistic nonsense. Because your father allows it at home does not mean you can go around with childish drawings on your skin. I will allow it for tonight, but as soon as the sun rises you shall remove that hideousness off your face. A shame to ruin your natural beauty in such a way.”
“Yes, mother.” I was used to the lectures by now, though it never stopped me. I didn’t quite understand why she even still tried. A quick glance at my father told me he thought the same.
Finally, our carriage stopped and our door was opened. Our servant who had accompanied us held the door and extended his hand to me. I smiled at him, gathering my dress before stepped outside. My slippers hit the rough earth and a delighted smile formed on its own. The soft breeze of fresh, light air played with my hair. The higher one goes in the Higher Lands the more pure nature appears. It was one of the aspects I loved about the High Lands, why I dreamed about moving here one day.
I took a few steps towards the grand stairs that lead to the enormous palace. My eyes met those of the king, to whom I bowed. He nodded approvingly and motioned for me to stand. I did so and sneaked a glance at each prince. Prince Daneel grinned at me, eyeing me from top to bottom, a glint in his eyes as he did so. And Prince Lian… his eyes were narrowed, a gleam of curiosity passing by. I couldn’t quite make out what he was thinking, but I hoped the frown in his brow wasn’t one of disapproval.
I entered and my breath was taken by the beauty of the hall’s decor. It was as gorgeous as I remembered and more. Each time I came here I was taken aback once again. From the carvings in the walls that all told a story of adventure, mystery, love and what not to the diamond and gold chandeliers with enchanted flames. My eyes drowned in the perfection of each form. Wherever I looked I was met with a curve I hadn’t seen the first time, with a color that hadn’t appeared from the angle I had been standing.
My feet were light, my face unable to conceal my joy. I must have looked mental to the other royals as I finally entered the main room where the celebration was held. Taking a deep breath, I calmed down my excitement, reminding myself of what I came here to do.
My father tapped me on the shoulder, causing me to turn. He held his hand out for me, bowing slightly. “May I have this dance?”
“You may,” I said, placing my hand in his. He led me to where other royal creatures had already started to dance to the joyful music. Looking up at my father adoring gaze I tried to live in the moment, even if it was just for now. I would have to say goodbye to him and mother soon, and then my journey would begin.