|Once Upon A Fairy Tale
Author: Jade Ocean PM
Two Princesses on the run from danger. Add in a handsome prince and a cute stable hand and what have you got? Hilarity & Fun! Enjoy...Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Adventure - Words: 9,080 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 08-29-06 - id: 3129861
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hi! My name is Aleera. I'm a seventeen-year-old princess. And, yes, the "fairytale-type" princess. You know, the kind that would one day be rescued by a dashing young prince and be taken away to live happily ever after. But unfortunately, my life is not at all like that…
"Aleera! Aleera! Father wishes to speak to you about some important matters," Alexandria, my fifteen-year-old sister, hollered up to me in a clearly miserable voice.
I winced at the tone of her voice, wondering what Father had in mind now. I rose to my feet, smoothing out my silvery blue billowy skirts, and straightening out my long shiny black hair that was elegantly piled up on top of my head. I swiftly ran down the winding staircase into the long narrow hallway that led to Father's study room. I could hear the soft echoing of my footsteps as I neared the end of the corridor. I gasped loudly as I almost collided with Alexandria who appeared right in front of me at that very moment.
Her troubled gray eyes searched my face for a moment before she declared boldly, "I think you're in trouble, Aleera. Father sounds very unhappy. What do you think is wrong? Do you think it might be about that fancy rich woman?"
I doubtfully shook my head, and rushed past her, my skirts swishing against my legs. I shoved open the large oak doors that led into Father's study room and found a very grave man looking up at me intently. I hastily fastened the locks on the doors and strided over to the oversized blue sofa and sat down comfortably. I looked up to meet twinkling blue eyes and asked softly, "You wished to speak to me about something important, Father?"
Father nodded his head contentedly as he continued to gaze at me. At last, he spoke gruffly. "You look so much like your mother, my dear daughter."
I consciously put a hand up to my hair and was pleased to find it still intact. For a moment I envisioned my mother. Queen Claire. She was such a beautiful person and I was delighted to be told that I looked exactly like her. She had deep violet eyes, beautiful long black hair, and an attractive face. My mother had a lovely singing voice and played the piano very well. She often sang to Alexandria and me when she was still alive.
Father abruptly broke through my thoughts. "Aleera, my dear, there's some serious matters that I must discuss with you."
I frowned lightly but gave him my full attention. As I watched him think for a while, I began to sense that something was wrong. Ever since mother had passed away, he hadn't been himself. And that tragic accident happened almost three years ago. Startled, I glanced at his balding head. Before mother died, he had a head full of bright red hair. Back then his moustache was almost just as bright, but now it was faded and starting to droop. I took in the deep eye bags underneath his once vibrate blue eyes and gasped silently. What was he doing at night that he wasn't getting any sleep?
"As you know, I've always needed someone to rule by my side, yes? And since your dear mother, God rest her soul, has been deceased for three years now, I have decided to…" his voice trailed off, leaving a bitter silence.
I nodded half-heartedly, my breath catching in my throat, as I waited impatiently for him to continue.
He cleared his throat curtly, "I have decided to take Lady Ursula of the Isendetti Kingdom to be my wife and the next Queen of LaTopia. She is young and most capable of being a mother to you and Alexandria…you need not give me your answer now. Discuss it over with your sister and provide an answer for me by the end of this week. That allows you two days to talk it over. What say you?"
I started to choke. I pressed a hand to my mouth as tears began to fall down my cheeks. I hastily wiped them away, stood up unsteadily, and staggered to get past the doors. I shoved the creaking doors open and slammed them shut with all the strength I could muster. The last I saw of my father was a blur.
Alexandria appeared from behind the door and put an arm around my shaking shoulders.
I willingly let her lead me up to her room on the third floor of our humongous palace.
In silence, we strolled through Father's own personal chamber room, the room that was off limits to anybody other than royalty. Even the maids didn't dare go in there to clean it. Father did that himself.
I stopped unexpectedly. Hanging above the old, large brick fireplace, I noticed a rather significant gold-framed portrait of our family painted a few years ago. I gazed at it intently, as if memorizing all so I would never forget. It pictured me as a shy, pretty ten-year-old, Alexandria an adorable charming eight-year-old, Mother as a cheerful, beautiful young lady, and Father, a sweet, joyful man. I had never in my entire life wish so badly for anything except that all would return back to normal. "Normal" being defined as the years when we were younger and our mother was still alive.
When we at long last made it to Alexandria's bright and sunny room, she offered me a comfy chair and I gratefully sank into it, taking in deep breaths.
She was noticeably quiet as she handed me a silver goblet with grape juice and a dainty dish of sugar cookies.
Out of the blue, I unintentionally dropped the goblet and the plate and bolted out of my chair.
We listened in hushed stillness at the loud clang of the goblet and the ear-piercing sound of glass breaking into tiny little shards.
Alexandria's mouth dropped. Shocked, she exclaimed, "Pray tell, what was that for? Aleera, have you gone out of your mind?"
My lips were thin and colorless as I demanded angrily, "Did you know, Alexandria? Tell me, did you know what Father was going to tell me?"
Her eyes shot a furtive look towards the door before she murmured sorrowfully, wringing her hands, "Aleera of course I had no idea. Why in the world would Father tell me, the youngest daughter? I only guessed, though…it is about Lady Ursula, is it not? He wants to marry her, doesn't he? Answer me, please, Aleera. Your silence is a bit overwhelming."
I bit my lip in order not to scold her. I just kept my mouth shut and let her keep talking.
Without taking a breath, she frantically babbled on, "I always knew he was going to end up marrying that…that evil, err, rather brash lady. I don't like her, Aleera. She only cares about herself and money. I-I have a feeling that we might be sent to a boarding school far, far away from LaTopia. I would hate that…oh please do something, Aleera. Please…," she looked at me sadly, her lower lip trembling.
I shook my head forlornly and tried to answer in a strong voice, but instead it came out hoarse, "I'll try, Alexandria, I'll try. But I don't think there's much we can do about it."
Alexandria nodded her head dejectedly and mumbled, "I miss Mother so much…why did she have to go?"
The following Saturday…
"Ah, there you are, Father. We've been looking everywhere in this palace for you. We've come to tell you of our decision about Lady Ursula and have decided to, uh…well…um," I hesitated for a moment and was surprisingly thankful when Alexandria rudely butted in.
"What Aleera is trying to say, Father, is that we have decided that it is up to you to make that decision. We believe you can do whatever you think is right. Even if that means having a new mother," Alexandria continued on bravely.
Father's eyes watered. "My dears, I cannot thank your mother enough for giving me two such wonderful daughters."
When I finally found my voice, I asked, trying to be casual, "So what's your decision, Father? Will you…will you be married to her, or not?"
"I will be married to her, Aleera. She is a good woman and will make a fine wife. I have already asked her and she has consented. We will await her arrival tonight," he paused, and then continued merrily, "Prepare, daughters, for tonight we shall have a celebration in honor of Lady Ursula's consenting to be my wife and the new Queen of LaTopia." With that, Father abruptly broke off and marched like a soldier to his chamber room, leaving behind him two dazed and speechless teenage princesses.
"Are those two lovely ladies your daughters? My, they are beautiful although they look nothing like each other. Do introduce them to me, your Highness," Lady Ursula purred to the King.
King Roan chuckled and took the arm she offered and placed it onto his. They sauntered over to where Alexandria and I were busily talking to a group of other princes and princesses.
The King tactfully cleared his throat which made all the princesses and princes to look up.
They meekly bowed their head and left.
"Aleera, Alexandria, I would like to introduce you to Lady Ursula, your new mother. Ursula, these are my two daughters, Aleera, and Alexandria," King Roan's voice boomed cheerfully.
Lady Ursula's throaty voice became a pitch higher as she greeted them. "I have heard so much about you two girls. My, I think your father has told me everything little detail concerning you. So which one of you is Aleera? Your father has told me dozens of thousands of times that one of you is the next crowned princess of LaTopia."
I nodded politely and answered, "Yes, milady, I am. I was crowned almost a year and a half ago."
Lady Ursula clapped her hands a little too noisily. "That's wonderful, darling. So when do you suppose you might take over the throne?" She tittered childishly.
Father coughed loudly as if signaling me not to answer.
I hardly noticed him as I gritted my teeth and retorted, "As soon as you depart from the land of the living and pass on, Lady Ursula. Then I will resume throne when Father retires or by any chance, God forbid, goes on home to be with our mother."
Alexandria used her right hand to stifle a giggle.
If Lady Ursula felt insulted, she sure didn't show it. Her piercing blue eyes just stared at me as she replied airily, "That won't happen in a while, sweetie. I might even outlive you," she turned to Father and said sweetly, "Come, your Highness, there are others who wish to converse with you. Come, come, let's go and visit them." She took his hand and led him away.
Alexandria hooted gleefully as soon as they were out of earshot. "That was perfect, Aleera. Did you see her face when you mentioned mother? Pure jealousy!"
I have to admit, I did have the urge to chuckle when I saw the pleasure on her pretty face. "Don't worry about her, Alexandria. Everything will be fine. You'll see."
Alexandria barely even heard me. She was gawking at something, err someone behind me.
I whirled around and almost smacked right into…Duke! Oh no, my night mare has come true!
Ok, um, since you don't even know who Duke is, I'll describe him to you. Okay, here goes…Duke William (just call him Duke) is the crowned-prince of the kingdom of ValleyStone, (a massively large city just a horse ride's distance from here). Anyways, he's like, ummmm…let's see, he's nineteen-years-old and really, really, well, it's more like, "he's super handsome…and cute." He has short spiky black hair, kind teasing blue-green eyes, a light sprinkle of freckles across his nose, and a nice tan which shows that he can really "soak up the sun." He's tall, standing at 6'3", has broad shoulders, he's also very muscular, obviously the kind I would refer to as "tall, dark, and mysterious." He has this "royalty air" to him that makes everyone realize that he's a prince, not just some commoner or "duke." Oh, but I haven't told you about his best feature that would make any girl fall in love with him in a second. That feature…is his smile/grin. He just has this cute, lopsided grin that he shows mainly to people who amuse him. For instance, use me as an example!
"Duke, how nice to see you again. I must say, you look much taller since the last time we've seen each at the Charity Ball held by Queen Marlina last two months ago," I said coolly, offering my hand.
He grinned as he took my hand and lightly kissed it.
I almost fainted when I saw him give me that "famous" grin of his but I managed to keep my cool. It's not like I had a crush on him, actually, quite the contrary. I didn't like him one bit, for some strange reason I might decide to tell you later.
"And you've become so much prettier, Princess Aleera. I must say, although I'm sure you hear this compliment from almost everyone you know, you look more and more like your beautiful mother every day. How do you do it? Tell me your secret," he teased.
I smiled at the mention of my mother. "The same way you do yours. So, tell me, Prince Duke, do you still have every girl chasing after you, asking for your hand in marriage?" I mocked back, setting a satisfied smile on his face.
He laughed but answered evenly, "Yes, of course, they still do that. What about you, Aleera? Do you have anyone special for that matter chasing after you for your hand in the holy act of matrimony?"
Alexandria, who had been quietly listening to us jab at each other, spoke up before I could answer. "Aleera has no one asking for her hand in marriage yet. She's waiting for the right man, isn't that correct, Aleera?"
My face colored slightly and I shot my sister a sharp look.
She curtsied to Duke and meekly left us alone.
"Go on; answer your sister's question. Are you really waiting for the right man, Aleera? If so, why?" Duke probed, his face all seriousness.
I sighed heavily and looked away.
He respected my wishes and was silent.
After a while, I answered hesitantly. "No reason, I-"
"Ah, there you are, Aleera. Your father wishes to speak to you and Alexandria about something. Come on now, you wouldn't want to keep him waiting…" Ursula interrupted in a sing-song voice.
I shot Duke an apologetic glance before I allowed Ursula to drag me away. I winced as she grabbed my wrist tightly and led me into one of the guest rooms.
"Ow! Ursula, could you please let go of me? That hurts!" I yelped as she tightened her grip on me.
"I just want to tell you something, you unpleasant child. Your father is going to marry me tomorrow whether you like it or not and when I am crowned Queen of LaTopia, I'm going to send you and your sister far, far away from here and make sure you never return," she hissed angrily, "You made a fool of me before in front of your father and I'm not going to let you do it again, you hear? I'll do anything to ensure the fact that I'll be the ruler of LaTopia and you won't, so that means, I'll even work around your father and persuade him to send you to live with your mother's relatives forever. Just remember, I'll be watching you…" she scowled spitefully at me one last time before finally letting go of my sore wrist. She picked up her long heavy skirt and hurried out of the room.
I gently massaged my wrist and closed my eyes, deep in thought. "Great, now I have a wacko stepmom-to-be who wants to send Alexandria and me away…how come this isn't something new to me? Why can't she say something more…dramatic, like, "'I want to kill you!"', or something evil like that, but no, she says, "'you have to go live with your mother's relatives"' (sigh)…wonder what'll happen next?"
"Aleera, what happened? Why are you in here?" a shrill voice interrupted my thoughts.
I opened one eye slowly then the other until I was able to identify who the pest was who had interrupted my rambling thoughts. Alexandria…how did I not guess?
Sunday morning, the day of the royal wedding…
"What a horrible thing to say. I can't believe she would do something as horrible as that. Hmm…what time's the ceremony, Aleera?" Alexandria yawned intensively, nonchalantly smacking my head with her palm after I had told her what had happened last night.
"OW! Alexandria! Stop that…what time's it? I'm still sleepy, go away…" I murmured, my eyelids starting to close again.
Alexandria's face broke into a mischievous smile. She skipped over to the right side of my messy bed that was closer to where my stomach was hanging over and started to unmercifully tickle me.
My eyes shot wide open. "Alexandria! You horrid child! Stop it this instance…stop, ow! Ha-ha, please, stop, oh please," I pleaded, with tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks.
She halted almost immediately as I sat up and rubbed my eyes gingerly.
"What did you ask me, Alexandria?" I asked tiredly after yawning, rising out of bed and into my robe and slippers.
Alexandria, who was now carefully brushing her long shiny red hair, answered timidly, "I was just wondering what time the ceremony was."
I hummed distractedly, not really bothering to hear what she said. After taking a nice, long, hot bath, I slipped into a beautiful emerald dress and sat down on a chair, tampering with my sandals. After moments, my feet finally slid into the silver-colored sandals. So I stood up, waltzed towards my vanity table, sat down contentedly, and a maid came in and helped me braid my hair.
I noticed Alexandria had her hair already up in two buns and was sitting patiently on the edge of my bed. She looked up at me admirably.
"Aleera, you look simply ravishing! I can only wish to be half as pretty as you are when I grow up," Alexandria exclaimed, gently smoothing out the little wisps of hair that fell freely across my forehead.
"Oh, Alexandria, you'll be beautiful when you grow up. Maybe far more beautiful than me," I answered modestly, tying a ribbon at the end of my French braid.
When we were both satisfied with the way we looked, we nervously walked down the stairs to meet Father.
He was waiting for us.
I gulped and made my way over to greet him. "Father," I murmured calmly, kissing his cheek.
Alexandria followed my example. We both took our seats on separate chairs.
"Aleera, Alexandria, you both look fantastic. I'm certain that you are both ready for the big day?" he asked, raising an eyebrow conspicuously.
We both blushed under his scrutiny and mumbled, "Yes, Father. We're ready."
"Glad to hear that, my dears. Oh, by the way, have you seen Ursula anywhere this morning? Goodness, this palace is just too big," he declared.
Alexandria nodded in agreement.
Just then, Lady Ursula came rushing in. "I'm not late, am I, Roan? I'm sorry, but the maids didn't have the slightest idea about what to do about my hair, so I had to run over here and there, trying to get it done. Do forgive me," she panted heavily, straightening out her skirts as she took a seat beside Father on the couch.
"You're forgiven, my love," Father answered tenderly, squeezing her hand.
I rolled my eyes mockingly at Alexandria who smiled humorously.
"My dear girls, you look superb today. Are you ready for the royal wedding? I'm so excited for this, Roan. I get to rule by your side forever and ever. Won't that be magnificent, sweetheart?" Ursula purred in a low voice.
"It will be, darling. I, too, can hardly wait," he reassured her.
Alexandria turned her fearful eyes on me.
"Father…," I croaked.
"What is it, Aleera?" he replied, not taking his eyes off of Ursula.
"We should leave now. We'll be late for the ceremony. Come on, Alexandria, let's go," I blurted out, getting out of my seat.
"I'm afraid Aleera is correct, Ursula. Let us go and get his holy ceremony over and done with. At least tonight, we'll be married and can spend whatever time we have together, what say you, my love?" Father rose and helped Ursula to her feet.
"I'll be waiting, my King," Ursula tittered cheekily, sounding much like a schoolgirl.
I winced at the malicious sound in her voice and followed obediently after them.
Alexandria kept silent through the whole thing.
I felt sorry for her. Oh, well, we should stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about Father and what he wanted. Besides, weren't we the ones who had said that we would let him decide and be happy about it?
After the small wedding ceremony …
"Well, this is it, is it not, Aleera?" Alexandria spoke in a low tone.
"What is?" I asked absent-mindedly, staring at Father and Ursula talking sweetly to each other. I almost puked. They were acting like newlyweds. This is what bothered me. Did Father really think that Ursula could take the place of Mother? If he did, he really didn't have a clue about how we felt.
"This is the end. We'll be sent to live with Mother's relatives or worse, yet, be sent to a boarding school far away from home and then never be allowed to see Father ever again. What do you think?" she insisted, poking me in the ribs.
I growled angrily at her and snapped, "Do I care, Alexandria? Living with Mother's relatives would be far better than living here with Father and Ursula. Do you seriously want to know what I think?" I waited a moment, casting one last sour look at Ursula, then turned my complete attention to Alexandria, "I think that Ursula is just using Father so that after tonight, she'll poison him and take full control of the kingdom. She doesn't love him, you know. It's all just an act. The only thing she wants is power. Marrying Father was the only solution to that problem of hers. We have to stop her, Alexandria, before she does something terrible."
Alexandria scratched the back of her head, puzzled. "What are you trying to say, Aleera? She'll poison Father tonight and banish us to live with Mother's relatives so she can rule LaTopia alone? That's crazy," she whispered, "But what if you're right? What can we do?"
I sighed heavily and eyed her wearily. "That's what I think, Alexandria. It might not happen, or, it just might. I haven't got a clue. She seems the type to do that…look, tomorrow, we find out, okay? Tonight, we celebrate for Father, alright?"
She bobbed her head up and down.
"You're a good girl, Alexandria, did you know that?" I marveled, drawing her close for a hug.
"Thanks, Aleera….I try to be," her face reddened as she snuggled cozily into the embrace.
I chuckled at her modesty and placed my chin on top of her head, thinking. "What if I am right and Ursula strikes tonight? What's going to happen to us?"
The next morning…
"Your Highness, please wake up…something is terribly wrong! Princess Aleera, wake up, please…," a maid begged, shaking my shoulders forcefully.
I coughed, rolled over to the side, and muttered angrily, "What is it, Lucinda? Why are you here? Leave me alone, it's not yet morning…"
"Oh, Princess, it's the King, something's wrong with him. He's dreadfully ill and the physicians haven't a clue what to do…please, oh please wake up and go see him," Lucinda pleaded in her strong British accent, clasping her hands together anxiously, her face colorless with fear.
I immediately threw back the covers, bolted out of bed, and quickly slipped into my robe and slippers. I jogged down the narrow hallway to Father's room with Lucinda huffing and puffing after me. I shoved open the door and gasped loudly when I saw the ghastly pale face of my father lying perfectly still on his king-sized bed. Ursula was bending over him, trying to soothe him by gently talking to him. She looked up at me tearfully.
"What happened? What's wrong with my father, Ursula?" I demanded furiously.
"I don't know, I don't know," she wept, her face in her hands.
"How can you not know? You were in here the whole time! What have you done to him?" I screeched madly, my hands swinging everywhere, almost hitting Lucinda. I thought irritably, "If she's faking this, she's a really good actress. And if she isn't, I'm as good as dead." Since I was able to bend over Father without crushing him, I checked his breathing. His breathing was ragged and I could feel a few tears rolling down my cheek at the sight of him being so sick.
"Aleera, what's wrong? I heard all the commotion and went…oh my goodness, what happened? What's the matter with Father? Aleera, answer me…" Alexandria exclaimed after she entered the room. Her jaw dropped.
I sobbed uncontrollably, "Father's ill, Alexandria. I-I don't know what to do…" I buried my face in my hands and wept.
Alexandria fled up the long stairway in tears.
Ursula looked up at me through her teary red eyes and spoke in a low monotone voice, her hands nervously twisting the hem of her nightgown, "Aleera, there isn't much we can do about your father. I'm truly very sorry, my dear."
I shot straight up with eyes flashing fury; I pointed a finger in her face. "How DARE you! Get out of here! You are no longer welcome in this room. Lucinda, please take Ursula out of my sight and direct her to one of the guest rooms. She is forbidden to EVER enter my father's room again, understand?" I growled furiously to the terrified maid. Lucinda has been working in the palace ever since I was a little girl so I trusted Lucinda with my whole heart. She was the best example of a loyal maid.
"Yes'm. I will do as you say, Your Highness," Lucinda murmured, her breathing having been returned to normal. She turned cold hard eyes on Ursula as she escorted the bawling Queen out of the King's chambers.
After I was positive that they were out of earshot, I cried and cried and cried my whole heart out. "I don't know what to do, I-I just don't, I have no clue and I'm so scared…" I whispered numbly to myself, gazing at Father's stricken face, "surely this cannot be the end?"
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Father stirred ever so slightly. His arm brushed against my own hand.
I felt it and opened my eyes slowly, holding my breath.
His eyes were bloodshot red with dark eye bags under them but he had a faint smile on his lips. He struggled to sit up but I gently pushed him back down.
"No need to get up, Father. Would you like some water?" I murmured, kissing his forehead.
He nodded. He winced though, because the pain in his neck was so severe.
I quickly got up and ran to get a glass of water. I carefully placed it between his dry lips and let him take a few sips.
He licked his lips and croaked, "Aleera, where's Ursula?"
I frowned but answered calmly, "She's…she's upset about what has happened to you so I sent her away. She can always just see you when you feel better, can she not?
Father seemed satisfied with that and became silent. He just lay there, with his eyes wide open, staring up at the ceiling.
"At least he's alive, "I thought, relieved. Then remembering Alexandria, I rang for another maid, Charlene. A few minutes later, she appeared at the door with a blank expression on her face.
"Yes, your highness? You rang for me?" she replied with a brusque tone.
I brushed aside her rudeness and snapped, "I wish for you to call Alexandria and pray tell her to come into the King's chambers. I desire an audience with her." I tried to look at her kindly but my eyes narrowed instead as I watched her figure retreat through the door. "Some servants need to be taught their manners," I informed myself, making a mental note of it.
As I was checking up on Father and his condition, the door flew open and Alexandria and her twenty layers of billowy skirts came whooshing through the large door. Her eyes were red from crying and her usually beautiful red hair was an absolute mess. But she had never looked happier than at that moment.
I patted the chair beside me and she sauntered over and sat down.
She gazed at me, with little evidence of hope in her face, but she stayed calm.
"You called for me, Aleera? Good news, I hope," she declared, fidgeting in her seat.
I chuckled and nodded animatedly. My mouth dropped when she burst into hysterical tears.
"Why, whatever's wrong, Alexandria? It's good news! Father's alive and well. Why are you crying like so?" I stammered glumly.
"No-no, it's not that, Aleera. It-it's just that, well, I'm so happy! I-I-I can't help but cry. Father's alright!" She let out a loud whoop of joy and started dancing around.
"Oh!" was all I could say at that moment. I reached for her and gave her a sisterly squeeze. "It certainly looks as if everything was going to be alright…" I whispered to the red head looking adoringly up at me, "Everything will be okay."
Later that same day…
"Ohhhh…" I yawned as I opened my eyes. I blinked, feeling very disorientated from sleeping on the couch. When I stood up, my feet accidentally stepped on some red hair.
"OW! Aleera! That hurt! Get off of my hair!" Alexandria eyes shot open and she squealed, roughly pushing my foot away.
Laughing, I moved away from her and scooted closer to Father. His breathing had returned to normal and he had a little bit more color on his face. His eyes opened and he blinked rapidly as he tried to focus on my face.
"Hi, Father," I greeted him with a gentle hug.
He chuckled and smiled. "Ahh, one of my beautiful daughters! You are a wonderful sight for sore eyes, darling. Hmm…"
"How are you, Father dearest?" I asked anxiously, grasping his cold hand in mine.
He squeezed it gently and replied, "I'm alright, Aleera. No need to worry any longer. You know, I still have but a few more years to live on this earth, right?" he teased, his eyes twinkling.
"We should pray and hope so, Father," Alexandria murmured quietly, coming up from behind me. She took a seat opposite of me and folded her hands neatly on her lap. Her eyes were shining as she gazed at Father lovingly.
Father took her hand also and kissed it. "My Alexandria, how I missed seeing your pretty face. Dear child, you're growing up faster than I want you to…"
She blushed and smiled at him in response.
I sent Alexandria a warm smile.
"Looks like we're going to be alright. We'll get through this somehow, right, Father? Alexandria?" I spoke softly after a moment's silence.
"Yes, we will get through this, but only if we stick together, am I correct?" Father answered, closing his eyes for a minute.
"Yes, Father," Alexandria hummed, tenderly stroking Father's worn hand.
"Yes, Father," I echoed, my mind concentrating on the future, "I promise you that we will get through this and that we'll live happily ever after…" I vowed silently to myself, "I promise with all my heart."
The next morning…
"Pray tell me, Aleera, darling, how is your father? Does he fare well?" Ursula pressed question after question, after she caught me in the dining room eating breakfast.
I glared coolly at her and replied, casually waving a fork around, "Of course he fares well. He is a strong man who cannot be easily defeated by a common sickness," then my eyes narrowed and I retorted sarcastically, "It's a shame that your plan failed, Ursula. I knew how much you were wishing that Father would DIE from the poison you put in his cup last night."
Her eyes grew round and she stammered, "I-I-I did n-no such thing, Aleera. How-how DARE you accuse me! Y-You have no evidence of such…of such a dreadful act! I would never poison my own husband. How could you even think of such a thing…?"
I snorted unladylike and rang for a guard. Velkan, a tall young man with dark black hair and stormy blue eyes (one of my favorite guards), came into the dining room immediately.
He bowed low and then asked politely with a mischievous gleam in his eye, "You rang mi'lady? What asks thou of me, fair princess?"
I winked at him secretly, saying loudly, "I want you to take this vile woman out of my sight. Escort her to her room and I do not want to see her until dinner, understood?"
"Your wish is my utmost command, my princess," he grinned slyly and escorted the ranting Ursula from the room.
I sighed in relief. "She's gone and taken care of. Now…Father won't be up for another three hours or so…what should I do this afternoon? Maybe go for a horseback ride with Alexandria…hmmm, that sounds like fun. Why ever not?"
As soon as I rose up from my chair and was about to walk out of the room, the maids came in, took my plate and glass and wiped the table. I nodded approvingly at them and they curtsied meekly.
I began walking up the staircase, calling for Alexandria.
Almost instantly, her red head popped up in front of me.
I gave a startled gasp. ""Must you do that, Alexandria? It always scares me half to death."
She smiled, showing off her perfect white teeth. "If it scares you half to death, then yes, I must always do that," she teased.
I shook my head and chuckled. When I finally stopped, I turned serious eyes on her and asked, "Would you like to go horseback riding with me this afternoon?"
She nodded her head eagerly. She loved horseback riding! Suddenly, the light in her eyes died when she asked slowly, "What about Father? Do you think we should leave him all by himself?"
I gave her a small smile. "He'll be fine. Lucinda is there with him right now. I gave her clear instructions NEVER to leave his side. Now come on, so that we may able to go to our special place down by the forest before the sun sets. Go on now, get ready…" I encouraged her, delighted at the excited smile on her face as she turned and ran to her room to get changed.
Let me give you some history on this. You see, the goofy, fun loving side of Alexandria seemed to have vanished when Mother passed away. All she ever did was stay home in the castle instead of going out to play with her horses-her most prized possessions. She loved them ever since she was a child. Mother used to take her horseback riding when she was just a little girl. Actually, the first time Alexandria rode on a horse was when she was 2 months old. Mother decided to take a trip to visit her sister in a nearby kingdom and took Alexandria with her. That was the start of her love for horses. When she was younger, whenever she got in trouble or was just downright glum, she could always be found talking, reading to, or hugging her horses, Shadow and Hasufel. But then after tragedy struck, Alexandria sold her horses to our former stable hand, Louie (who is now a duke living in a nearby mansion with his family) who had had his eye on them for many years. She didn't want any painful memories of our mother. You see, mother gave both of those horses to her for her tenth birthday. Alexandria felt too sad around them because they reminded her so much of Mother. So now, Alexandria is putting the past behind her and is starting to pay more and more attention to her new horse that Father recently bought her for her 14th birthday-Kalil, an Arabic name meaning, "best friend." Kalil slowly became her best friend as she finally learned to accept what had happened to Mother. I blinked back to the present when Alexandria waved a hand in front of my face.
"Aleera, I've been ready for five minutes now…are you ready?" she tried to hold back a giggle at the baffled look on my face.
"Sorry, I was just thinking. And yes, I'm ready now. Shall we go?" I beamed at her.
She nodded and we started running down the stairs like a couple of puppies wager to get outside. In matter of fifteen minutes and 27 seconds (because we ran like crazy), we were able to find our way through the enormous castle to reach the large oak stable door which was at the opposite end of our living quarters. We were met by Evan Wellington, the handsome stable hand. Evan was a nice young man who stood at 6'1" with dark blue eyes, sandy brown hair, and broad shoulders. His smile was contagious and he could always make you laugh AND he was only 16. I personally believe that Alexandria has a c-r-u-s-h on him. Hmmm…we'll just have to wait and see.
I bit my lip to hold back my laughter as I saw Alexandria flash a dazzling smile at him. "You go, girl," I laughed in my mind. I silently cheered. At least, Alexandria was happy now. YES!
"Good afternoon, Princess Aleera and Princess Alexandria," he swallowed nervously when he said Alexandria's name. He bowed in front of us.
We curtsied back.
I cleared my throat and Alexandria looked at me in surprise. I rolled my eyes at her and she immediately got what I was trying to say.
"Hello, uh, Evan. Um, could you, uh, saddle up, um, Kalil, and, umm…, Eirys, for us, so that we could, um, you know, go…go horseback riding…" she stammered, a blush spreading across her beautiful features.
I couldn't help but snicker. This was just too cute…
Evan smiled easily and nodded. "Right away, princess," he bowed again and then left to go saddle up the two horses.
I shot Alexandria a "look."
She wrinkled up her nose in disgust. "Stop, Aleera. Don't make fun, please."
I smiled innocently and answered, "Whatever do you mean?"
Before she could open her mouth to retort, Evan came back holding the reins of the magnificent Kalil and the beautiful Eirys. They were pure Arabians. They both had the proud gleam in their large eyes. Their long silky tails swished back and forth as they stared at us. They were absolutely breathtaking!
I nodded my thanks to Evan who nodded back. I noticed the special smile she sent Evan as a "thank-you." I snickered to myself. They were just way too cute together…awww…
It looked as though Alexandria was about to say something but I cut her off. "Thank you again, Evan. Pray tell, we'll see you later, then?
Evan's head bobbed up and down. "Yes, of course, your majesties."
Alexandria shot me this dark look but I ignored her and rode on into the trail that led through the forest into another large kingdom. Prince Duke's kingdom...
"Race you to the top of the hill where the large pine tree is, Aleera!" Alexandria shouted behind her shoulder as she gently kicked her horse, Kalil, into a fast gallop.
"Alright, but you won't win!" I yelled back as I leaned forward on my own horse, Eirys. She immediately began to pick up pace.
We raced competitively, dodging large pine and oak trees, flowering shrubs, raspberry and blueberry patches, until we could both see the end of the trail where the magnificent oak tree stood tall.
"Come on, Eirys, you can do this, girl," I whispered breathlessly to my horse as she galloped as fast as she could up the long trail. I slightly turned and saw a flash of red behind me. Alexandria's hair was blowing freely behind her as she tried her hardest to catch up. I could feel my skirts rustling up against my legs as Eirys began to pick up even more speed.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we reached the grand oak tree at the same time.
I slowed Eirys into a walk just as Alexandria patted her horse's neck and slid off the saddle.
"That was fabulous, Aleera! You have most certainly gotten better at racing. I mean, before, you could hardly catch up to me, and now, we finished the race with a tie! Well done!" Alexandria exclaimed, her eyes twinkling with excitement. Distractedly, she brushed back her messy red hair with her left hand and clipped a hairpin to keep her bangs away from her face.
"Thank you, I practiced very hard, as you can see. That was a wonderful race, Alexandria. But next time, I shall win," I grinned down at her, smoothing back my own black hair into a slick ponytail.
She giggled and waggled a slender finger in my direction. "We'll see, Aleera. We'll just have to wait and see…" she answered mysteriously, her eyebrow arched.
I shook my head at the silliness in her voice and decided to put my horse into a canter. I rode up over the hill past the tree and gaped at the wondrous beauty I beheld in front of me.
Alexandria caught up a moment later and in silence, we surveyed the absolutely breathtaking sight that lay ahead of us.
There were lush green hills that seemed to go on forever, large oak, pine and cedar trees that smelled of fresh bark, birds, squirrels, and other small animals were chattering and twittering about, and the unbelievably clear blue sky; all of it just seemed to surround the vast kingdom of ValleyStone with its astonishing beauty.
Alexandria drew in a deep breath before she asked hesitantly, "Would you like to go into town, Aleera? We could go and look around or…whatever you wish. I had heard that the Queen's Garden is open today. Queen Azura's garden is one of the most beautiful in the land. Please, may we go see it? I so much desire to visit the garden…what say you, my sister? Please, may we?"
I tilted my head for a bit and thought about it. I had definitely not wanted to see Prince Duke today because I wasn't sure if I was in the mood for his teasing behavior, but on the other hand, Alexandria's lip was going to fall off her pretty face if I said no. Oh my, such hard decisions…
"Yes, dear sister of mine, let us go. I mean, why ever not?" I answered after five minutes of hesitation.
We galloped speedily to the massive gates that led into the populated city of ValleyStone and waited patiently for the gateman to open it for us.
"Very pleased to see you both, your Royal Highnesses," he greeted in a friendly manner. He bowed low in front of us before he offered to take our horses to the barn to groom and feed them.
We curtsied back and thanked him. Before heading out of the stable, we rearranged our hair, skirts and blouses, and then headed out.
"So, Aleera, what shall we do first?" Alexandria asked, wringing her hands excitedly.
"I haven't but a clue," I answered, gazing around me at the many attractive sights, and then added, "I thought you would like to see the Queen's Garden first."
Alexandria smiled slyly but managed to say without bursting into laughter, "Why don't we go and visit your friends, Aleera? You haven't spoken to or seen them since the Charity Ball held by Queen Marlina of Ambleton two months ago."
I began to fidget under my sister's scrutinizing gaze. I didn't feel like seeing any of my friends here in fear that they might want to have a small get-together and invite Prince Duke. (sigh) I would love to wring your neck for this, Alexandria! I cleared my throat and replied rather hastily, "Do you really want to?"
She nodded her red head eagerly.
I rolled my eyes at her childish behavior and consented almost instantly. I mean, how could I not when her large puppy eyes looked so adorably innocent and sad and excited?
I let out a loud yelp, nearly tripping over my long skirts as Alexandria grabbed my right hand roughly and dragged me up the cement roads. She frantically searched through and over the millions of thousands of wooden, metal, and cement houses that made up the gigantic city. She halted almost immediately in front of an enormous cement house, scratched her head, and tapped her foot, as if waiting for something to happen.
I smoothed out the small wrinkles on my billowy skirt and straightened the collar on my blue blouse that had gotten messed up when Alexandria had been dragging me around. I spoke up after watching her for a while, "Alexandria, whatever are you waiting for?"
She was silent for yet another minute, but then, "Never mind, Aleera, let's go," she murmured, "but that certainly was the perfect distraction," she thought, taking my hand in hers again.
I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly and followed her willingly.
About twenty minutes or so later, we found ourselves in front of the castle gates. She shot me this odd look before starting up the stairs that led to the wide open doors leading into the huge palace.
"I thought you wanted to go and see my friends. What are we doing at the palace? Alexandria! Hey, tell me what's going on…" my voice trailed off as I lost sight of my sister. I picked up as many layers of my skirts as I could and recklessly pursued after her.
Just slightly out of breath, I came across the front parlor and discovered her sitting in there with the King and Queen, sipping mint tea cheerfully and eating freshly baked lemon cookies.
"Why, hello, Aleera," she glanced up at me as I entered the room and said amusingly, with a twinkle in her eye, "What in the heavens took you so long?"
I grunted wordlessly to myself and respectfully curtsied before the King and Queen. "Your Majesties," I greeted courteously, forcing a smile despite the fact that I wanted to wipe off the small innocent grin on Alexandria's face.
"Do sit down, darling," Queen Valerie suggested sweetly. She patted the seat next to her and watched with a tiny smile as I unhurriedly made my way to it and sat down thankfully on the comfy chair.
I thanked her most heartedly after she offered me some tea and cookies.
Suddenly, she turned to her husband who was leisurely resting on the seat next to her.
"Dear husband, do fetch the young lads. They haven't seen the princesses of LaTopia in so long and I do believe they would want to go out for a walk in my gardens, is that not proper, my lord?" Queen Valerie enquired, patting King William's worn hand affectionately.
He smiled a gentle smile and used a little silver bell to ring for a maid.
Immediately, a pretty blond blue-eyed maid came at the door. "You rang, your Highness?" she said in a soft voice.
"Yes, I believe I did. Emily, please inform my five sons that they are needed here in the parlor for afternoon tea. And also tell them that there are some people that I'm most positive they want to see. Do hurry," the King commanded in a light kind tone.
With a wave of his hand, the maid curtsied and slipped out of the room as quietly as she had come in.
About fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds later, five tall, handsome young men came sauntering into the parlor in a uniform line, from the oldest to the youngest.
The five young men were Crowned-Prince Duke (you already know him), Prince Trevor, a boyishly handsome youthful man of 18; Prince Adrian, who just turned 16 a few weeks ago; Prince Ethan, 13; and the youngest of the royal bunch, Prince Jeremiah, who was a charming little boy of 8. They all stopped in a single line in front of Alexandria and me and bowed before us.
Alexandria and I stood up and curtsied before them, too.
I looked up at Duke and blushed when he winked at me. I tore my gaze away from his gorgeous face and focused my attention on the King and what he was trying to say.
"Ah, my beloved sons, how you make me feel proud of all of you, "King William started, then gestured a hand towards Alexandria and me, "You do remember the beautiful daughters of King Roan, do you not? They have traveled here to come and visit with us. Will you not offer to take them for a long relaxed walk through your mother's most rather fetching gardens?"
Queen Valerie added, gazing at each of her sons' faces, "Do take your time, my darlings. The sun is yet to set and you have all the time in the world, "then she paused for a moment before saying with a warning tone, "However, I must forbid you to follow the trail that leads out of the gardens. There are strange creatures hitherto and fro that will stop at nothing more than to catch a prince or princess to hold for ransom or even death, God forbid, do you understand, my sons? You are to protect the princesses at all cost, are you even listening to your mother, Jeremiah?"
Jeremiah, who had been fiddling around with the buttons on his white cotton shirt, looked up and blushed. "I'm sorry, dearest mother, for having not paid my utmost attention to you while you were making your…um, your speech," he stammered, his face growing even more red.
Ethan, Duke, and Trevor snickered quietly to themselves while Alexandria and I tried our hardest to hold back a giggle. Only Adrian looked as though he was actually paying attention to what his mother was saying. His face was straight as he watched all of us try to hold back our laughter.
I pressed a hand to my mouth and could feel the tears of mirth forming at the back of my eyes.
Alexandria gasped into her handkerchief and snorted very unladylike. We were not accustomed to being lectured during teat time since we were both very formal during events like these in our own home.
I could kind of tell that this often happened because when I looked up at Duke, he was trying his best to keep a straight face and also because he rolled his eyes at his other brothers as if trying to say, "Get on with it so we can leave!"
Queen Valeria didn't seem to notice how childish her other sons were acting but went on as if nothing had happened, "So, Duke, you must be with the princesses at all times, alright?"
Duke simply nodded his head and then offered me an arm up.
I took it gratefully and stood up, casually rearranging my skirts in the proper order and making sure my long flowing black hair was still intact. Although it was still in a neat ponytail, it looked very elegant, if I do say so myself. I glanced over and watched in amusement as Prince Adrian did the same gesture to Alexandria.
"Finally, we're free to do as we please," Duke murmured to me as all seven of us walked out of the palace and made our way to the Queen's gardens.
I giggled, my eyes sparkling with laughter.
He glanced at me with those wonderful blue-green eyes. "I love your laugh," he said softly, gently caressing my hand that was in the crook of his arm.
I blushed pink and tried to come up with a reply, but my tongue froze to the roof of my mouth and all you can make out was, "I-I, uh, th-thank, um…"