She was born Relinia-Breynip Victorie, a princess with dark violet hair and eyes crystal blue as the prettiest summer sky. Her eyes fixed on a raven perched on the windowsill in the nursery, and suddenly it seemed she could understand what the bird was thinking. She giggled and smiled at the black bird, and a bond formed between them.
The raven would bring leaves and twigs to the cradle, just to hear the baby princess laugh. She giggled whenever he fluffed his wings, showing off his silky feathers and brushing the princess’s fat cheeks. The queen thought it was unusual that the bird visited the princess’s cradle, but disregarded it as harmless.
Soon the queen grew more and more concerned about the unusual transaction that the bird and princess shared. The raven visited Relinia more and more frequently, and the princess began to whisper strange words that frightened the queen. The queen, believing the bird to be bewitched, had one of the palace hunters shoot the raven. The princess was too young to understand, but she knew that her friend didn’t bring her twigs anymore. She understood she was alone.
When the princess reached the age of five, she had revealed to possess unusual powers. She could manipulate animals and humans to do whatever she wanted. Though still a young girl, Relinia didn’t understand what it meant to control a creature, only that she felt pleased when she got her way. Queen Delwynn loathed when the princess would spend more time outside with the horses than inside with lessons. Relinia could ask a mouse to carry food on its back to a goose with little to eat for the day, and could ride a pony without needing instruction. She was viewed by the palace staff as an outcast, as no one wanted to play or speak to the young princess, terrified that she may control their minds too.
Why are you outside the castle today? The spotted pony, Leo, would ask the princess with his thoughts. I’ve come to visit you! The princess would giggle, and brush his long, freckled mane. She formed a daily routine of visiting Leo, and her handmaidens despised it when she ran away from her lessons to the backyard stables. They looked ridiculous when they ran outside in their boots and stockings, frustrated to be stepping in mud and horse dung, and waving their arms like a bunch of hens for the princess to come back inside. But Relinia would ride on Leo’s back, prancing around the old, flustered ladies and stick her tongue at them in defiance.
You are as light as a feather, Leo would say, and gracefully gallop faster around the gated pasture.
And you are my very best friend, Relinia would grasp his mane, holding on tighter.
The queen, believing that her daughter would become feared by her kingdom, had the princess locked in her room, hoping that she would be tamed by tutors, lessons, dolls, and books. She had the princess’s chambers under strict regulations, and only the king, queen, and the princess’s tutors could enter little Relinia’s room. The princess didn’t understand why she was a monster, only that she needed to be secluded and that love was a privilege for good behavior.
Relinia was concealed in her room for years, frightened of the wrath of the king and queen. She spent time reading dull books about the Brettwilder monarchy, but she often dreamed about being free from her tower and riding Leo again. But one day, the king and queen visited her room, holding a small jeweled box.
“Relinia-Breynip Victorie, we are coming to tell you about your betrothal to Prince Alric Nicholas of Larena. Your father and I made an alliance agreement with the king and queen, which will be enacted when you and Alric marry.” Queen Delwynn’s lips were in a thin line, emphasizing the importance of the conversation.
“We brought this for you to wear when you meet your betrothed, little gosling,” King Erich said.
The queen, hating the sound of her husband’s nickname for their daughter, gave him a vile glare. “The Larenans will visit our country on your tenth birthday, so that you and Prince Alric will meet. On your eighteenth birthday, you will marry the prince and form an alliance. Your future children will grow up in a peaceful kingdom.”
Relinia dreamed that this Prince Alric would let her be free to do whatever she wanted, that she would play with her animal friends, and not be viewed as a monster like her parents did. The queen placed a delicate necklace on the princess’s neck. A small pearl with tiny gold diamonds surrounding it graced the little princess’s collarbone, the sparkle from the jewels elegantly matching her soft blond curls. It was a symbol of her royalty that resembled the kingdom’s colors of white and gold, and Relinia, at the age of seven, knew that her parents would be breathing down her neck until the day she married.
On Relinia’s tenth birthday, the royal household was preparing for the meeting of the princess to the prince of Larena. Handmaidens scurried around preparing elaborate dishes that left the castle smelling of hard work and sourdough bread. The king and queen prepared for the occasion by wearing the royal emblems and colors of the kingdom.
Relinia couldn’t wait to finally be free from her tower. She hardly sat still as her lady-in-waiting fastened her petticoat and zipped her elaborate gold gown. Relinia’s hair was tightly pulled into a bun on her head, similar to her mother’s, and a smaller tiara was placed on her head.
Princess, the royals are here. Relinia could hear Leo calling from stables, his youthful voice echoing in her mind.
Trying to maintain her excitement, Relinia bounced down her tower stairs, followed by her three ladies-in-waiting. The older ladies had tried so hard to perfect the princess’s appearance to look like a lovely little lady, but now their creation of beauty would go to waste, as they watched the princess race to the bottom of the stairs.
Relinia ran down the hallway and to the next flight of stairs, which led to the floor above the throne room. She went to the edge of the balcony and glanced down at what her future would hold. She saw her mother and father on the dais, seated in their elegant thrones with their beautiful robes of white and gold and matching sashes. Her parents were surrounded by guards, and a few stood in front with a tray of pure gold, which Relinia assumed were gifts for the Larena royals.
Princess, something isn’t right. Leo echoed in the princess’s mind. Relinia couldn’t see anything wrong, but moved closer to look over the balcony. Her ladies-in-waiting finally caught up with her and frantically pulled her away from the marble edge. “Don’t lean so far over, princess, you may fall to your death.”
Relinia shook free from their hold, and leaned over the edge once more. This time, she sensed something, or someone, dark from outside the throne room. She closed her eyes, trying to imagine what was outside in the cold. She didn’t sense the heart of a young prince, but the heart of something evil, dark, and vengeful. Fear suddenly hit her hard, and she tried to let out a cry, but the sound was engulfed by a loud crashing noise that shook the walls of the castle.