Princess Aldghaenthemina Lyxecuxi Zughtia Chyclsay S'voras II
and the Ball of Twenty Princes
When Princess Mina's father, the King of S'voras, tells her that she must find a husband before her twenty-first birthday, her life is thrown into chaos. To help her find her Prince Charming, the King hosts a grand ball to which all the eligible princes in the realm are invited, only Mina finds she's drawn to someone much closer to home. Torn between not wanting to let down her father and her fear for a miserable future, Mina struggles to find her fate as the clock ticks down toward her birthday and the date of her wedding.
. . . Chapter I: The Princess and the King . . .
Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a princess whose beauty and wealth was known all across the land. And in all the surrounding lands. And in all the lands beyond those. She lived in the tallest tower of a castle which was hidden away deep in the mountains and guarded by ferocious, fire-breathing beasts. The castle was ruled alone by the King, who loved and cherished his only daughter more than all his riches, and all his land. As the day of the Princess's twenty-first birthday drew near, the King began to grow anxious that his daughter had not yet found a husband with whom she could rule happily side by side. And so, one bright spring afternoon when the first of the crocuses had pushed their way through the thick layer of snow, the King called the Princess to him.
"Princess Aldghaenthemina Lyxecuxi Zughtia Chyclsay S'voras II, you know I love you more than all the flowers in our kingdom, and all the gold in our vaults," the King said, pulling his daughter from her kneeling position of greeting to stand before him.
"Well, considering how much you love flowers, that's really saying something." Placing her hands on her hips, the princess rolled her eyes.
The King continued, ignoring his daughter's impertinence, "Daughter, your twenty-first birthday fast approaches and soon you will be an adult."
"I legally became an adult when I turned eighteen."
"You did? Right then. Well, your twenty-first birthday fast approaches and soon you will be old enough to vote."
"Our kingdom is ruled by a monarchy, father. You are the King."
"Oh. Right then. Well, your twenty-first birthday fast approaches and soon you will be old enough to drive—"
"The point is," said the King, holding up a finger to quiet his daughter's protests. "The point is, my dearest, on that day I wish to see you married."
The princess's mouth fell open as she stared in disbelief at her father, "But my birthday is only one month from now. How can you expect me to find a husband by then?"
The King smiled at the girl before him, brushing a strand of her long black hair behind her ear then pulling her down to sit in his lap like she used to when she was a child. Instinctively she tucked her head close to his chest and listened to the familiar sound of his heart beating strong in his chest. "Daughter, you have been holed up all by yourself in that tower for far too long, and it would bring me great joy to see my grandchildren running through these halls."
The princess felt her eyebrow start to twitch in frustration. "You know, father, I never wanted to live in that tower. You were the one who insisted I live up there."
"That's because all the books say that's where princesses are supposed to live, my dear; in the highest room of the tallest tower."
"Please remind me later to burn all of your books."
"That will not be necessary. Now! With regard to finding a husband, you need not worry. I will arrange for a grand ball to take place and all of the princes from all of the lands will be invited to attend. All you have to do is get rid of those terrible beasts you keep out front so that the guests can arrive for the function without being consumed. By flames or otherwise."
The princess sat up in her father's lap to meet his gaze with amusement, "It's the trained dragons you're worried about causing problems for the guests and not the fact that our castle is tucked away deep in the mountains?"
"I would hardly call those dragons trained. They've torn up my flower garden the last three times I've replanted it." The King frowned as he recalled the destruction to befall his precious blossoms.
"I told you not to plant the Dragonmint again. It's their one weakness."
"Unfortunately," the King sighed, "their blossoms are a particular weakness of mine as well."
The Princess laughed out loud at this and stood from her father's lap, kissing him on his cheek as she did. "I will relocate the dragons, father. Go ahead and schedule the balls. It's been too long since we've had any sort of festivities here, and this castle is far too large to sit empty all the time. However, while I will enjoy the parties and I will meet and greet all the princes you invite, you have to promise me one thing."
"And what's that, my dear princess?"
"Promise you'll let me choose my groom."
The King beamed back at his beautiful daughter. "If it means I get to see you married, then I promise."
The princess met her father's joy with a sad smile. She was glad to see him so happy. Ever since her mother had died a cloud of melancholy hung around the King and for the first time in years it looked as though it was starting to dissipate, but she still wasn't thrilled at the prospect of having to marry someone she barely even knew. "Thank you, father. Now, if you'll excuse me, I will go see to the dragons. It's almost time for my afternoon ride, anyway."
The King's beaming smile was suddenly eclipsed by a worried frown. "I don't mind you caring for the creatures, but I wish you wouldn't ride them. Not only does it seem terribly unsafe, but I feel it most improper for a young woman, especially—"
"I'll see you at dinner, father." The Princess kissed the King on his cheek once more then made her way from the Throne Room.
"Ianna!" The Princess called to her chambermaid as soon as she had made it back to her room, slightly out of breath from her climb up the one hundred and eight steps that constituted the stairway up the Tallest Tower.
"Princess Aldghaenthemina Lyxecuxi Zughtia Chyclsay S'voras II, you've returned! How is the King?" The young chambermaid came rushing from the bathing room, where the princess figured she had probably been cleaning.
Ianna was new to her vocation as chambermaid and had only been working a couple of weeks. Mrs. Nagal, who had the position before her, decided to retire and spend the rest of her days with her family down in the village. The princess was sad to see her go, the woman had practically raised her, but she also understood that she was getting older, and those ridiculous tower stairs were getting harder for the aging woman to climb every day. So now the princess had Ianna; a young girl, also from the village, who was apparently very eager to please. From the looks of it, the sleeping chambers had already been cleaned; the rumpled blankets smoothed and tucked neatly, her nightgown carefully laid out at the foot of the bed. A small fire danced and crackled quietly in the fire place and gave the room a pleasant warmth.
"Please, as I tell you every time you greet me, you can just call me Mina. The King is in good health, and he wishes to host a festivity. Have the seamstress, Mrs. Yeme, start work on a new ball gown."
"Y-Yes, m'lady. I will inform Mrs. Yeme when I go to bring her the mending."
Stepping lightly across the plush carpet of her room, Mina made her way to the chest at the foot of her bed that held all her everyday clothing and pulled her riding garb from the carefully folded stacks. Seeing what she was getting at, Ianna stepped forward to help her mistress unlace the numerous layers of her dark blue castle dress and slip on the much lighter, more easily maneuverable, loose cloth tunic and leather of her riding wear. And because it was still cold out, a heavy, fur-lined cloak to go over top.
"I'll be out for the rest of the afternoon. Don't forget to talk to Mrs. Yeme."
"I will be sure to speak with her." Ianna bowed politely and the Princess turned to make her exit, but stopped abruptly.
"And...Would you kindly ask Mrs. Yeme to please take it easy on the lace and ruffles this year? I would prefer not to be a walking cupcake this time around. "
Ianna did her best to hide the smile that crept onto her face in another bow, but she was sure the Princess saw it anyway. "Yes, m'lady, " she squeaked out, barely managing to contain her laughter. The heavy wood door closed solidly, and Ianna erupted into giggles to the sound of her mistress' retreating footsteps at the thought of the serious princess bundled up in layers of pink lace and frill like a giant, walking cupcake.