A Crown Princess
Continuation of the description:
Her plan might have have worked, except for fo two things. One. Her father, as the High Councilman and soon-to-be King, holds a high place in the hierarchy of the military. Let’s hope he doesn’t recognize his own daughter. Two. If she’s discovered, she’ll definitely be dragged back home and either be married off or locked up. Both of which she would hate, because she’s rather fond of where she is at the moment. Not to mention, there’s a love interest. Throw in some fistfights, prophecies, and a meddling dragon-lion hybrid that’s older than civilization itself, and you’ve got one hell of a story for one girl.
Note: I’m still figuring out this site, so if things are a little wonky, please have some patience. Thank you, and enjoy.
Long ago, there were eight planets, each unique in their own way. One fiery hot, one cool and dark, one with masses of water, one with bitter and cold wind year-round, one where creativity burst forth with every new life, one where simple life bloomed and flourished and blossomed with ease, one where flying through the skies was an everyday norm, and one place that seemed like a paradise, a perfect blend of monarchy and democracy, where intelligence and wit were just as important as defenses and vice versa.
This last planet grew with the others, branching out and connecting with them in a tangible web of travel lines and trade routes, until the entire whole was woven the very like some mad spider’s web. But for all the golden opulence, for all the mathematical advancements, for all the diplomatic breakthroughs, war was brewing. And sooner or later, it would come.
Of course, this planet didn’t want to fight. But as in most wars, death comes regardless of preference.
And it is here that our story starts.
“Dor’mune,” I sighed, leaning back against my companion. “You worry too much. Father won’t make me marry against my will. We have a war to plan, not a political wedding.”
I certainly thought that his fears were unfounded. It was a bright spring day. My father was going to lead my people to victory in a war that was just on the cusp of breaking out, despite his best attempts. And though I was almost of age to be married, my father had been more concerned about keeping the peace than finding me a husband.
Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I had at least another year until I was wearing white and walking down the aisle.
Dor’mune didn’t think so.
The ancient being that I was currently using as a pillow (with his permission) shifted minutely and sighed. His scaly head and yellow eyes contrasted sharply with his silver claws and furry body. He blinked up at me serenely and I was acutely aware that he could slice me open like a fish filet if he wanted to.
“I am aware, Illanya,” he sighed once more. “I simply worry for Pratoria’s Crown Prin-” he cut off suddenly, freezing like he was made out of stone. I caught his blunder and realized that he had started to say something that he was not supposed to say. It was pretty out of character for the usually quite literate creature.
I sat forward, taking my upper body off of him and turning, staring him in the eyes. He glanced down, refusing to meet my intense stare. This was another warning sign. Dor’mune didn’t back down. He didn’t accede.
“Pratoria’s Crown what , Dor’mune?” I asked.
Dust motes flitted in the air. It wasn’t surprising in the least. We were in some old and forgotten tower of the library, a cylindrical monstrosity that took one thousand, four hundred, and seventy-nine stairs to reach. I know, because I counted them myself as I climbed up every last one of them as Dor’mune decided to just fly through the roof and wait for me.
It was filled with old tomes, everything from children’s books to strategic handbooks. Many of the titles were worn away by time, as was maybe half of the roof, no doubt ripped away by Pratoria’s extremely strong summer storms, with wind and thunder that howled like the Reach-lions in the mountains.
Dor’mune remained silent and it frustrated me. I couldn’t very well take him by the shoulders and demand to know what he said. Dor’mune was a well-known and well-respected figure, not to mention rightfully feared. He seemed to have taken a liking to me, hanging around the palace as I grew up. I often wondered why he was not joining my father on the battlefield, as was fit for a warrior of his status. He had laughed slightly and delicately turned another page in his book, careful to not rip it with a razor-sharp claw.
“Dear child,” he had said, still looking at his book. “There are far more pleasant places to be than at war.”
Not to mention, I liked to think of him as a friend, one of the few I really had.
“Dor’mune,” I said again, voice hard. “Were you about to say that you worried for Pratoria’s Crown Princess ?” I squinted and shifted further away from him, my dress rustling on the dusty floor. “A Crown Princess that doesn’t exist, because our King doesn’t have any children?”
He lifted himself to his paws and started pacing, muttering to himself. I grew less angry and more concerned for my friend. He only ever did that when something of great importance was on his mind. The last time he had done that was when the Halas, the sons of *******, had attacked that Royal Palace when I was very young. Dor’mune had taken me away from the raging battle and had hidden me in this very room. After he had calmed me and had convinced me that my father would be fine, I watched him pace back and forth, kicking up clouds of centuries-old dust, muttering to the spirits above.
“Please, old friend,” I said softly, watching his tail lash in agitation. “I need to know.”
He sighed, soft yellow eyes meeting my brown ones.
“You know, little one,” he said in a conversational tone, using the nickname that he had given me, “I shouldn’t be telling you any of this. Your father would most likely have me thrown out of Pratoria as well as the seven planets surrounding this empire.”
I rolled my eyes. “As if I would ever let that happen, Dor’mune. And besides, my father values your counsel too much to even debate getting rid of you.”
He smiled, his dragon face still able to make the expression seem friendly even with his rows of sharp white teeth just barely visible. “Of course, Illanya,” he said. “It is just that your father has sworn me to secrecy. I would be loathe to break that trust after the many times he has put his trust in me.”
I raised an eyebrow. He had given me that answer before. It was less of a serious answer, and more of a ‘I will neither confirm nor deny your allegations, though I’m sure you can tell the answer.’
“So you won’t tell me what you were going to say, though you’re sure that I can figure it out,” I said flatly. He gave me a benevolent smile and sat back down on his haunches.
Now it was my turn to stand up and pace around the room, trying furiously to figure out what he had almost let slip.
Pratoria hadn’t had a Crown Princess in years, let alone a Princess. It wasn’t a particularly important or serious matter, as the sons would just carry on the name and the kingdom would continue to have a ruler. As of now, Pratoria didn’t even have an heir to the throne. With a war looming and the King practically on his deathbed, much of his duties had fallen upon my father to take care of.
My father, the High Councilman himself, was more of a king than the frail old man in the Royal Chambers. As his eldest daughter, I already had some clout with my name, but to be considered as the heir to the throne? Only a drunk or a fool would see such a thing.
Dor’mune was neither, I knew. Perhaps he was speaking metaphorically? After all, I was always interested in following in my father’s footsteps and taking an active role in the leadership of the kingdom.
No, Dor’mune was not one to speak in riddles. He could be deliberately obtuse at times, but that was only because he would often plan far ahead into the future. I smiled briefly. For as much as Dor’mune was fond of humans, he could often forget that we were, well, human, and couldn’t see things like he did.
But, I suddenly remembered something that I had heard of while I was walking through the courtyard last week. It was a rumor, that was all it was, but it had put a bitter taste in my mouth.
“I heard that Councilman Rohn’s daughter is to be crowned!”
“I heard that her father was taking over, but not by force. Is his whole family moving into the throne’s line?”
“I don’t know. I heard it from one of the stable boys, who heard it from-”
At that point, I had stopped listening and ran out of the area, my fingernails cutting crescents into my palms. I was supposed to be trying to give Dor’mune the slip, though any thoughts of running and finding a decent hiding place had been chased out of my mind.
I stopped pacing and looked Dor’mune in the eye. “You’re kidding me,” I said faintly, horror overtaking me bit by bit. “You can’t be serious.”
Dor’mune’s smile faded as he took in my obvious distress. “I haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re talking about, Illanya, but if I did, I’d tell you that I’m afraid I am.”
“No,” I said, shaking my head and turning for the old wooden door. This has to be a mistake.”
Dor’mune stood up, too late to stop me from fleeing the tower. “Illanya-!”
“No, Dor’mune!” I shouted back up the stone stairs. “This won’t happen! This can’t happen!”
Through the windows that were set in the wall every twenty steps or so, I could see flashes of the lithe figure of Dor’mune in flight as he circled the tower, racing to get down to where my father was.
I wrenched open the bottom door and burst into the usually serene library, startling the old bookkeeper’s apprentice, causing him to lose grasp of the large pile of papers and sending them fluttering to the ground. I felt quite bad for him, but I couldn’t spare any time to help clean the mess up. I jumped over his head, allowing my momentum to carry me onto one of the rolling ladders.
I jumped off my makeshift ride when I neared the exit and ran out into the sunlight filled corridor. I dashed around the cleaning staff who were simply trying to go about their day-to-day duties. Many of them knew me, and I was greeted by exasperated shouts of “Illanya!” as I tore my way through the palace.
“Quite sorry!” I shouted behind me, not really feeling that much remorse. “In a bit of a rush!”
I hopped over the railing of a short staircase and to the stone floor below, scaring the doves from their mid morning snack of last night’s breadcrumbs. They took to the air in a flutter of wings and darted to the side as they saw the huge figure of Dor’mune in the air. The silly animals had yet to learn that Dor’mune wouldn’t eat them, as he preferred deer to any bird.
“Less bones,” he had said.
I scowled up at his shadow and kept running, not paying any attention to who I ran into, sometimes literally.
Eventually, I realized that my father would probably be busy delegating and going through official documents. I took a hard left to make my way to my room, or rather, my bedchambers, as I also had a bathroom, a private atrium, a balcony overlooking the sea, and a sitting room. All dripping in expensive materials, all of which I thought was totally unnecessary.
But I would be away from Dor’mune. He would never enter without one’s permission. He was polite like that.
I reached the door and slammed it behind me, scaring Athena the Cat, who streaked off my bed and under my dresser, where she curled up into a tight little ball of fury and hissed angrily.
“Don’t be that way, Athena,” I sighed, getting down on all fours, trying to tempt her out with a treat. For my efforts, I got a scratched hand and another hiss, her green eyes glowing at me from the darkness.
Suddenly very frustrated with everything in general, I threw up my hands and stalked off to my bed, muttering, “Fine! Be stubborn.” I flopped onto my bed and groaned into the pillow, wishing that a life without any responsibilities was a carefree as they made it sound in stories. I wanted to complain more internally, I really did, but there was no way I could do that without sounding completely childish to myself. And I was fit to be married, for heaven’s sakes!
By the eight planets, I already sounded childish.
A soft knock sounded at the door. I tensed, hoping that it wasn’t Dor’mune. Perhaps if I just stayed silent, they would-
“Lady Illanya, I know you’re in there,” a soft but commanding voice said. “I saw you fly into there not three minutes ago.”
I sat up. It was Meredith, my… lady-in-waiting? My maid? My appointed friend? My official companion? I wasn’t very sure.
We were friends, to be sure, but I was fairly certain that she was part of the palace staff. This wasn’t a bad thing at all. She lacked the complete air-headedness that was required to be one of the royals that lived in the palace.
She was a sensible redhead, something Lord Lero would’ve said to be a paradox. Then again, Lord Lero was entirely too fond of his drink and never seemed to venture outside the palace walls, so I assumed that he just had a generally poor grasp of how the world worked.
I crossed the room and unlatched the door. Athena, catching sight of Meredith’s customary dark green dress, revealed herself from the bottom of the dresser and wound herself around Meredith’s ankles, purring loudly, glaring at me balefully the entire time.
“Traitor,” I whispered at her.
Meredith picked up Athena and scratched her behind the ears. “I hardly believe her to be capable of any wrongdoing,” she said. She set the cat down and shooed her out of the room.
“Sounds like playing favorites, but alright,” I said, watching Athena wave her retreating tail smugly. I turned to Meredith. “I suppose you didn’t come here to just dote on Athena.”
Meredith raised an eyebrow. “You mean you don’t remember?”
I stared at her blankly.
She sighed. “For all the flak you give the other society ladies for being airheads, you can definitely have no idea what’s going on at the moment.”
I glared. Meredith rolled her eyes. “You know. The very important gala that is being held tonight in a last-ditch attempt to keep the peace between the main section of Pratoria and the small but growing larger group of rebels who have been threatening war? A war that your father will be in charge of leading?”
I rolled my eyes. “Pardon me for dismissing an outdated tactic that I would bet real money won’t work,” I said. I pulled a face. “Who even wants me there?” I asked. “I’m not all that important, politically speaking.”
Both of Meredith’s eyebrows shot up. “You might not realize this, my Lady, but you are Pratoria’s most eligible bachelorette,” she said, pulling out a rack of elaborate dresses and pushing it towards me. “Many of the members on the Council are hoping that you will catch the eye of one of the leaders of the rebels. Not your father,” she quickly added, seeing the flash of anger in my eyes. “He is of the firm belief that you are not some bargaining chip. But he does want you to be present, if only for a few hours. Just to show that we mean this peace effort.”
“If it’s for the good of Pratoria,” I sighed, starting to rifle through the heavy gowns, “then I will do my duty to my kingdom.”
“That’s the spirit,” Meredith said cheerily. “It’s just an assignment, you don’t have to enjoy it.” She held up a fine hunter-green dress edged in gold up to me, then cast it aside. “Don’t worry,” she said, holding up a silvery gown. “I’ll be there too. You can’t stick by my side the entire time, though. You’re going to have to share a few dances with some foolish hopefuls.” She put it aside in favor of a bloody red number. “Pity, it’s lovely, but it sends the wrong message,” she mused before moving on.
“You could wear it,” I offered. “We’re about the same size. It’d just take a couple of pins.”
She sighed. “Honestly, Illanya, have I taught you nothing about color?” She tossed her head of hair in an exaggerated flip, causing a few strands to fly in her mouth. She coughed before continuing. “With my hair, it’d look garish. It’s greens and blues for me.”
“Shame. It’s a nice dress,” I said.
Meredith snorted. “Like you ever cared about what was in style,” she said. She caught a glimpse of one of the large streaks of dust on my skirt and pressed her lips together. She made a muffled noise halfway between a groan and a scream.
“It’s not my fault-” I began.
“Illanya,” Meredith began, dangerously calm. “It is practically my job to have you looking halfway presentable. Could you at least try to not roll in dust? ”
“I did not roll in dust!” I said indignantly. “I went to the library. Blame the bookkeeper, not me!”
Meredith ignored my protests and glared at me instead. I shrank in guilt and refused to meet her eyes.
“That’s how they should win the war,” I said, studiously staring at the ceiling. “Put you on the front lines and have you glare them into submission.”
She snorted, but stopped glaring. Our little dispute was promptly forgotten when she made a small moue of interest and pulled a simple but (in my opinion) lovely midnight-blue dress, stitched with shifting hues as if to make it seem like it was woven out of underwater shadow or shades of dying twilight.
“That one,” I said immediately. “I won’t even complain about the corset.”
Meredith adopted a false expression of exaggerated shock and looked around. “Doth my ears deceive me?” she asked, pretending to swoon. “Is Illanya Rohn actually going to willingly wear a dress?”
“You are a child,” I said, picking up the blue number and holding it up to the light. Yes, it definitely shimmered. It was probably imported from one of the neighboring planet civilizations, perhaps Arterio. They were known for their sophisticated textiles.
The eight planets that made up our corner of the universe were Pratoria, Arterio, Solan, Nocturne, Oclint, Wingtoris, Fillow, and Nauctal. We generally had good relations with most of them. Some had been strained these last few years, but as my father took over more and more of the royal duties, tensions had been slowly decreasing.
While the Halas had been majorly attacking Pratoria when they had stumbled into our solar system, the other planets had stuck together, fearing for their own safety should Pratoria fall. We had one of the best military forces in the galaxy, if not the quadrant. We still do, I’m proud to say. The eight nations, working together, were able to force the Halas from our solar system on the ass-end of an ass-kicking.
But not before they had attacked the Royal Palace, killing the King’s only son.
Oh, once the grieving period was over, the high society of the palace buzzed with anticipation. That was when my father, me, and my two sisters had moved in to more easily help with the workload.
An heir and a spare was the saying among royal families. One to take the throne and another to take the first one’s place should any unfortunate accidents happen.
And to think, the High Councilman, moving into the Royal Palace? It was unheard of. A lord and his lady? The doors were wide open. A duke and his duchess? Come right on in. Even advisors had their place within these walls. But for a Councilman to make his home here? A Councilman, who was mostly just a political figure and not one of royal blood?
It was new. And high society in Pratoria didn’t like new.
No amount of fancy dresses could cover that up.
“Helloooo? Illanya, Pratoria to Illanya?” Meredith was waving her hand in front of my face. I blinked and stepped back. Meredith had a satin-y emerald-green dress in her hands. I blinked again, thoroughly confused.
“Did I just space out?” I asked.
Meredith raised an eyebrow. “Like my little brother in a History lecture,” she said. “You were literally just standing there, looking down at the dress like it kicked your cat.”
“If it kicked Athena, I’d probably thank it,” I retorted, not really meaning it. “No, I was just thinking about how I got here. I’m not really supposed to be here. Not ten years ago I was running through the market streets with my friends, hoping to bring a stray animal home as a pet.”
“Well,” Meredith said, taking my dress from my hands and laying it out on the bed, “now you have Athena. But I can’t run in these things,” she said, lifting her skirt slightly to show off her sandals with two-inch heels. “At best, we can glide elegantly down the hallways.”
She flounced exaggeratedly around the room. I snorted at her childishness. She continued to dance around the room, picking up the dresses she had thrown about in her quest to find one that would fit me and placing them back onto the rack she had brought in. She hopped and twirled her way over to the door, where she paused in her ridiculous dance to glance back at me.
“Seriously, Illanya,” she called. “You have a place here. Don’t let Lord Lero and his prostitutes of daughters get you down.”
My mouth dropped open in shock even as a bark of laughter escaped me. “God, Meredith,” I said, shoulders shaking with repressed laughter. “Don’t let anyone hear you call them that. You’ll be banished from the palace!”
“Doesn’t mean it’s not truuuue!” she sang as she left the room.