Here are the pronunciations of the names before you go on with the story:
Scillatory: sill-uh-tor-ee / Scilla: sill-uh
Alisel: al-iz-zell (the 'a' in Alisel as in apple)
Korelyse: core-ell-ise (ise as in Elise)
Florisse: floor-ise (ise as in Elise)
Valien: val-ee-en (val as in Valentine)
Racqueline: rock-lean (just Jacqueline with an 'r' instead of a 'j')
By the way, the bold, italicized "~Ellasyn~" below shows the point of view for the chapter, since it will change throughout the story.
Ella groans and lifts her head up to face her mother, who stands in the doorway of Ella and her brother's small quarters.
"Hurry downstairs to the kitchens," Mother says, a smile on her face. "We have to plan for Cress's birthday tomorrow."
Ella smiles at the mention of her best friend, Cress. Cress is actually Princess Crescentia of Lunetta, and sometimes Ella can't believe that the princess is friends with just a mere maid of the many in the castle.
"I'll be down in a few minutes," Ella says before she looks over to see that her brother's bed is empty. "Where's Ciprian?"
"He's been waiting for the meeting to start for an hour," Mother says, laughing.
Ella rolls her eyes. "Can his crush on Cress be any more obvious?"
"I have no idea," Mother says. "Anyway, I'm serious when I say to hurry. Cress's sisters will be there as well."
"All right, then. Give me five minutes and I'll be down," Ella says, and Mother nods before walking away.
She doesn't have to do much. She grabs another one of her simple maid dresses before going to the fountain outside and sloshing water on her face. She then proceeds to changing in a small broom closet and throwing her dress from yesterday into the laundry bin on the way to the kitchen, where everyone is starting to look impatient.
"I'm here," Ella says, and Princess Korelyse, otherwise known as Kore, turns around and gestures her over with a small smile. "Thanks, Kore."
"You're welcome," says Kore before turning to Princess Rusabeth, or Rue, who stands in the center of the kitchen with a spatula raised in the air.
"All right everyone! Let's start!" Rue announces loudly. Ella and Kore suppress laughs. Princess Rusabeth is notorious for being the boldest and loudest princess of Lunetta out of all twelve princesses.
"Father already has a ball planned for tomorrow night, but he asked me to come up with a theme. Any ideas?" asks Roseleine. Ella and Kore share looks. They both know that Roseleine, or Rose, was the creative one. Ella knows that an idea will come to her eventually.
"Black and white," Sileny, the quiet, brooding princess, suggests.
"Too depressing. No offense, Sil," Rue says. "We really ought to get you some happy books to read instead of those tragedies for your birthday. Seriously."
"Costumes!" Florisse and Charienne, the two youngest princesses, suggest.
"Something more dignified," Princess Anistace says. "Father says that princes who wish to court Cress will be present at the ball."
Across the room, Ella sees her brother, Ciprian, tense up at the mention of suitors for Cress. She feels a pang in her heart. She knows that her brother shouldn't feel anything more than friendship for Cress because of her princess status, but Ella couldn't stop him from falling in love with her. And Cress has no idea of Ciprian's feelings for her. But Ciprian didn't know of Cress's feelings for him, either.
"How about the usual theme? Luna," Princess Scillatory, or Scilla, says. "It doesn't have to be anything new. It just has to be nice. And we're the kingdom of Lunetta, so of course Luna will be a nice theme."
"I suppose that's fine," Rue says, pretending to write in the air. "Yeah, that's good. Thank Luna we're done. This is exhausting stuff!"
Ella rolls her eyes. Rue always complains.
"Wait, so-" Princess Lucitrix, or Lucy, is cut off by a loud creak from the stairs. Someone is coming. It might be Cress. Everyone stops talking.
Cress comes down the stairs, looking deep in thought, but as soon as she sees that everyone is staring, she gives a small, shy smile.
"Am I interrupting something?" she asks. "If I am, I'm sorry. I was just walking around."
"It's all right, Your Highness," Mother says, and Ella nods. "We were just finishing up. In fact, Ellasyn was just about to go get your shoes from the cobbler."
"Oh, thank you, Ella," Cress says. Ella smiles at her and leads Cress up the stairs, towards the gardens.
"So, how are you today?" Ella asks as they walk past the fountain that she had gotten water from this morning. Even though her and Cress are friends, Cress is still a princess, and Ella does have to be formal with her some of the time.
"I'm all right. What about you?" asks Cress, resting her pale, intense blue eyes on Ella.
"I'm good. Got an awesome day tomorrow. You know, getting ready for your birthday ball," Ella says sarcastically. Ella knows that Cress knows that she doesn't like being a maid. Ella wants more than to serve royalty for the rest of her life. She wants to go out into the world and explore what she's been excluded from all these years.
"Someday you'll be free. Maybe next year, when you're officially an adult. A woman out in the world. I'll be married by eighteen. I'll be married as a girl," Cress says, her voice sad but her eyes not weepy. That is one thing Ella admires about Cress. She doesn't cry.
"Maybe you can try to get out of it," Ella says. "You can run away or try to become an unmarried queen."
"I can't run away," says Cress. "It's my duty to Lunetta to become queen. My duty to my mother."
Ella remembers Queen Aradora like she only died yesterday. She was a kind, gentle queen, much like Cress and her sisters, Xenevieve, Alisel, Korelyse, Roseleine and Charienne. Ella knows that Cress wants to make her mother proud.
"I know it is," Ella says, frustrated that the conversation turned sad. "But you always make your mother proud. And you'll never be alone through it all. You've got me and your sisters, the knights, the people, the soldiers, the maids and servants and Ciprian."
Ella knows that Cress has liked Ciprian back for a long time as well, so she is happy when Cress's eyes soften after she mentions Ciprian's name.
"You're right," says Cress, starting to smile, but Ella wants her to be truly happy again. After all, it was her birthday tomorrow.
"And you know how I said knights?" Ella asks, and Cress nods. "Well, I'm pretty sure some knights are a little more protective of royalty than others." They both laugh. The latest rumor that's been going around the castle and even the kingdom is that Rowan, the bravest and most honorable of all the knights of Lunetta, is a bit more protective of fifteen year old Princess Alisel than necessary. Ella knows this is true. Cress and all her sisters have knights assigned specifically to them for their safety, but while they are in peacetime, the knights don't really stay around the castle. A few do, though, including Rowan. Always Rowan. And wherever Alisel goes, he is her shadow.
"Well, at least I know he's a good man," Cress sighs, "even if he's a bit older than her."
"A bit?" Ella snorts. "More like a lot! He has to be at least twenty years older than her!"
"Well, yes," Cress says slowly, "but I know that he's a good man and that he'll take care of her. He always has. Besides, age is but a number."
Ella nods, feeling slightly guilty about thinking badly of Rowan and Alisel.
"Don't worry, I won't tell Alisel what you said. Or Rowan," Cress says, smiling reassuringly. "But I have to go. I promised Florisse and Charienne that I'd watch them dance before breakfast. Will I see you later?"
"Maybe, 'cause I'll be out and about. First, I gotta go pick up you and your sisters' dancing shoes from the cobbler before I have to help Mother clean the ballroom. Then I have to sew up Rue and Scilla's skirts and clean your room as well as everyone's except for Xenevieve's and Kore's." Ella groans at the amount of work that has to be done for the day.
"I'm sorry," says Cress apologetically. "But I can try to convince my sisters to clean their rooms themselves."
"Thank you," Ella says, and she gives Cress a small wave. "I'll see you later."
"All right. Bye."
Ella watches Cress go back into the castle before she starts her walk to the cobbler's place.
"Happy birthday, Princess Crescentia," Ciprian says, smiling handsomely at Cress. Ella snorts, earning her a quick glare from Ciprian.
"Thank you, Ciprian," Cress says, smiling shyly. "And I've already told you that you can call me Cress. How many times do I need to remind you?" She swats his arm lightly, and Ella rolls her eyes. It's so obvious that they like each other.
"At least once more, Your Highness." Ciprian gives her a quick bow before leaving the entrance hall.
Cress shakes her head, smiling. "I don't understand why he can't call me by my name."
"Technically, he does call you by your name," Ella says, and Cress huffs playfully.
"I know that, Ellasyn." Cress pauses for a moment. "Will I ever be more than royalty to him?"
"You already are. He considers you one of his dearest friends," says Ella, "just like I consider you my dearest friend. But he doesn't call you 'Cress' because he feels the need to honor your title, I guess. I'm not really sure, but that's what I think."
Cress doesn't reply.
Ella sighs and tries to smile. "Whatever, all right? It's your birthday, and you've got your ball tonight. You should be happy."
"Kind of, I guess. But Prince Valien of Solena is coming. I think he is my suitor," Cress says, frowning. "I've heard he's arrogant and quite the ladies' man."
Ella groans in disgust at the description of Solena's prince. "Aren't there any more suitors?"
"I'm not sure," says Cress before she looks up at the clock. It is nine o'clock. "I have to get ready. My father has planned some birthday festivities with my sisters for me. Oh, and thank you for getting my shoes."
"Your welcome," says Ella before casting a curious glance at Cress. "You don't dance. Or at least you don't like to. So why did you want the cobbler to fix your shoes?"
Cress is silent for a moment before she says, "My mother gave me those shoes."
"Oh." Ella doesn't know what to say. "So, doesn't that Prince Valien have a sister?"
"Yes. Princess Racqueline. She's the same age as Xenevieve, Alisel and Kore. While Racqueline's here, I'll probably have Alisel stick around her to keep her company, since she has more patience for guests."
"Isn't Racqueline that bratty princess?" Ella asks, and grinds her teeth when Cress nods yes. "Darn it."
"She can't be that bad," Cress says, and Ella shakes her head.
"Yes she can," says Roseleine, walking into the hall, her nose wrinkled. "I've heard awful things about her."
"That doesn't mean they're true," says Cress. "Don't believe in all the rumors you hear, Rose."
"What about the one with Alisel and Rowan?" Rose asks.
"That one's true," Ella interrupts Cress swiftly, winking at her before sarcastically saying, "While you're at it, go make sure to tell Florisse and Charienne and then paint a picture and hang it in the throne room."
"Don't listen to Ella," Cress says, rolling her eyes. "And please, don't say anything to Alisel. Or Rowan."
"I won't," Rose promises before she runs down the hall after Rusabeth and Scillatory. The loud, bold princess and the sly, mischievous princess stole some of Roseleine's art supplies.
"I really have to get ready now, Ella. I'll see you around lunchtime!" Cress calls over her shoulder as she climbs up the long, marble staircase.
"All right!" Ella shouts so Cress can hear before she gets to work.
I promise to try to update this as soon as possible, probably even before my other story, "The Demon's Lament". Please don't favorite without reviewing. Review please!