Once, a very very long time ago, there were two twins born to a queen. They were identical in looks and manner. Rumor has it that even the Queen mother herself couldn't tell them apart and had to rely on their nurse for help.
The two girls lived in adjoining bedrooms; both rooms looked exactly like one another. There was a double-sided mirror that separated both rooms, which could be slid in and out as the princesses liked. It was very hard to tell whether the mirror-wall was there or not, to the immense confusion of several of the newer servants, many of which whom ended up colliding on its surface.
No one knew who was to be the successor to the throne, as both girls were apparently born exactly at the same time, and they had no male relatives. The Queen mother adamantly refused to go through the discomfort of giving birth to another child. The King himself was uncomfortable at the thought of contradicting his wife-or anyone else for that matter.
One chancellor finally thought of a brilliant, genius idea to solve the problem of choosing the heir to the throne. He told it to several people, all of whom thought it was a fine plan.
One little girl would be sent to a distinguished school taught by nuns to learn the ways of the church, so that she can be the future head of it.
The other princess would stay at home and be taught the ways of the world by well, the chancellor himself. Eventually, she would take over the kingly duties of the throne.
The king, having no better plan of his own, decided to take on the chancellor's advise. He arranged for the chancellor to meet Princess Meredith daily so that he could teach her how to think the way that a Ruler should think.
Princess Ellen was sent to a very luxurious school run by nuns, in fact so luxurious that it would take a stretch of the imagination for a newcomer to consider the institution a school, let alone an institution meant to advocate the word of God.
Years would pass by and both girls grew older and taller. As time passed by, people started to notice a slight difference between both princesses.
Princess Meredith grew up with a slight resolved way about her lip, as if she were accustomed to have her way. Princess Ellen was a bit fatter than Princess Meredith, but with a more grave look in her eyes, as if she never could let herself let go.
Many people preferred Princess Meredith, who was able to laugh and tell jokes, in contrast to Princess Ellen, who smiled, but in such a way that it seemed as if she were crying too.
There was another difference between the two Princesses, which was less remarked on. Princess Ellen was involved in several ridiculous schemes involving various useless and wasteful programs and projects, perhaps learned from one of the more extremist nuns in the nunnery.
Princess Meredith herself preferred to spend her time in preparing delightful balls and fetes for her many friends.
One day, during one of the fetes, a singular incident distinguished one core difference between both Princesses. A lesser nobles approached the King Himself. There, he gave a request.
The noble was in debt to some capricious men. He had lost money in stocks. The debtors were maliciously planning to burn down his house, wife and children inside. He needed help.
Looking around confusedly at the people around him, the King, who was suddenly knocked out of his comfort zone, didn't seem to know what to say. Here was a man, hard-pressed as he may be, who dares interrupts the King in His spare time? How horribly humiliating.
The chancellor, whom the reader has already encountered, found an opportunity to speak.
"The King is not to be approached in hours of festivity. You should come to him during his business hours. How about you leave now, as it seems that you came here with no other purpose in mind."
The noble left gloomily, knowing that there was no hope left. The King's working hours were so horribly short that it would be impossible to communicate everything to him in that period, if one managed to even reach the King.
When he reached the door, he stopped as if he wanted to say something desperate. Then the noble lowered his head and went outside.
But someone else had come there before him. It was the Princess Ellen.
At the sight of her, the noble bowed low, as was the custom of the city. She lifted her small gloved finger ever so slightly, which was a sign for him to stand up. Taking off one of her largest jeweled rings, she gave it to him.
As he thanked her, she left abruptly and almost rudely, unaware of how much she would need him one day.
In the banquet hall, some observant people noticed that the Princess looked even more depressed than usual. The most observant of these people was the Princess Meredith, who had also gone outside without Ellen's noticing, and watched the disgraceful proceedings between princess and noble. How could Princess Ellen give favor to someone in disfavor with the King? How awful. Instead of going to the King straight away to report the incident, Meredith decided to pursue another course.
After the fete, the Princesses were in their rooms. As Ellen's hair was being combed gently by a maid, the mirrored separator slid open. When Princess Meredith approached Ellen, this particularly astute maid knew instinctively to leave quickly and quietly.
"You were out there, with that man. I saw you," Princess Meredith accused.
Princess Ellen stiffened. If word got to the King about this, then he would be very angry at her for opposing his will.
"Is there anything that you need me to do?" she replied smoothly, as if she didn't hear Meredith..
There was, in fact something that Meredith needed of Ellen, if she would so kindly assent.
Ellen replied that she would very understandingly do the job to the best of her ability. Meredith stressed that the little chore wouldn't take much of an effort on the part of Ellen, if she pleased. Ellen then responded by underlining the fact that she was ready to do anything asked of her, hard or easy.
"In that case, my request for you is as follows: I would like someone to do part of my academy work for me every night. The only person who I know can do this is you. It is very important; you know how difficult it is for me to complete everything on time."
Ellen was taken by Meredith's response. To do her schoolwork for her? But then how...?
She thought of the future power Meredith would have, as a Queen. It would be a horror if Meredith wasn't properly trained for the job. Such a tremendous responsibility...
But then, it isn't that much work that Meredith would miss out on. Perhaps the future international diplomacy would somehow manage. After all, she is present at his lectures for seven hours a day. It couldn't be that bad if she didn't do her homework.
And the indigent noble! He could be expelled for profiting by the disruption of the King and for "approaching" the Princess. If Ellen didn't do this, Meredith would inform the King of their meeting.
"You wouldn't ask any more of me?" Ellen queried. Meredith affirmed so. Ellen then agreed that she would do what was asked of her.
"Do you promise that you'll do this every night, without excuse?"
"No, I will not give you my promise. Is not my word enough?"
Meredith seemed to agree with Ellen on this point. The Princess Ellen is told to have been born with a strange compulsion to keep her promises to the point of obsession.
Ellen eventually learned that the best way to avoid difficult situations is by not giving promises at all. This ended up becoming an obstacle too. In those days, it was a daily thing for royalty to give a promise, with all the decisions they had to make.
People ended up having to learn to trust Ellen by her affirmations. It was very inconvenient for those who wanted a definite answer. But after all, honesty is a very inconvenient virtue to live by.
Because of this peculiarity and of many others, people seemed to prefer Meredith over Ellen. Meredith was approachable, never angry, always joking and smiling. People were drawn to her.
Ellen, instead always seemed angry and scowling, as if she were constantly judging those around her to be bad. She frowned on people, and to receive a frown from Ellen meant being somehow huddled away by the servants at a later period of time.
The only person who ever seemed to prefer Princess Ellen was the Duke of Work. Princess Meredith became soon frustrated with this, so accustomed she was to be loved best.
She was so frustrated that she began to believe that he was destined to marry her, rather than Ellen. Therefore, Meredith began to scheme as to how she would win his favor.
But nothing seemed to work. The more sullen or gloomy of an aspect Meredith tried to put on herself, the more the Duke was repelled by her.
Eventually, it seemed as if it were too late. The Duke was spotted looking confusedly around a jewelry shop, and ended up buying the most grotesque ring in the store.
The news spread. Everyone, including the Princesses, knew that the Duke would propose the next night.
End of Chapter One
I am already several chapters in, and if I get enough comments and/or critical reviews on this one, I may be urged to publish more often. (: