PROLOGUE

***

Being the daughter of the queen is not undemanding and pleasant at all. Some of you might think the other way; others might have read enough books or heard enough stories to agree with me. I guess every little girl has dreamed of being a princess, at least once in her life, and to those of you who have, this story is sure to make you wonder and think beyond this superficial perspective – an illusion of how reality really is.

Sure, I have lived my life in wealth, being surrounded by huge walls, descending marble staircases and walking through never-ending corridors – all of them decorated with detailed tapestries and fine paintings framed by golden borders. But not surrounded by what a human being needs the most – warmth, friendship, love. Poverty had been complete fiction to me, until I learnt about it. All these fake impressions are only appearances; this is how it's seen from the outside of the palace.

Oh! The palace – the most outstanding building from all land! The roof – fitted entirely with coffered ceilings, the walls – adorned with frescos, gold gilding covering the doorframes, Corinthian order columns and furniture presenting arabesque and delicate carvings, enriched with fine-cut velvet. With such luxury around me, one might ask: 'What more would somebody ask for?'

Pretty much everything else – 'freedom', in one word.

We, royalty members, have to live in a lie. Our life choices must always satisfy political needs and we must never listen of our heart's desires and wishes, no matter how pure and sincere they are. No matter how much we hope for happiness, no matter how much faith we have, reality shatters it all, little by little, until there's no more power inside of us to keep on believing that something will change someday. We are prisons of our own rang, ever since the moment we are born.

I was raised in an atmosphere of wealth; and while I had no idea of what freedom means during my childhood, I certainly lacked a friend, someone to play with. Having fun was something I could only imagine. There were a few acquaintances belonging to the upper class that I seldom had the opportunity to speak with and of course, there were the maids that were charged with the cleaning my room, but they weren't allowed to exchange any word with me.

Everything started to change when my training began… more exactly, when I met my teacher, a well-built young man – a few years older than I was – with thick black hair and piercing blue eyes – and the colour of his eyes was the only thing we had in common, apparently.

He was outgoing, assertive and adventurous, with a passion for literature that I had discovered from the very beginning… whereas I was timid, with a less outstanding personality, the kind of person who loves daydreaming – an incurable romantic, which was not hard to explain considering my education. Needless to mention that he was the only man I had gotten to know better. My father had died when I was merely five years old – too young to even remember.

At first, it felt strange. But soon we were meant to become close friends – right from the moment he had called me 'Liz', which was very 'improper' of him at that moment, or at least that is how my mother would call it. Nevertheless, I eventually came to think that it would have been weird not to address to me this way. 'Your Highness' or 'Princess Elizabeth' were titles he used just in presence of others. And I called him 'James'.

Through him, I discovered the magic of written pages, the mystery that was hidden behind words, the pleasure in reading a fascinating book.

But my story really begins with my eighteenth birthday. I remember even now, after so many years; and still the memory is fresh in my mind, as if it was yesterday.