Chapter One
February 23rd

Soft morning light began to brighten the lavish bedroom of oak and silk. The young woman stirred and slowly began opening her violet eyes. Content with the warmth of her sheets enveloping her and the still peacefulness, she was in a brief moment of tranquillity. Birds began singing in the distance but she didn't mind, in fact, she was happy she had the chance to just lie there and listen.

Then the panic set in.

She bolted upright, her sudden motion throwing one of the silks straight to the floor. What was the day again? Alyssa glanced towards her bedside table for her ornate little clock and sighed audibly at the mess it was in. Every inch was covered with perilously stacked papers, propped down with different objects she had at hand – her glass inkwell, her clock, her small vase of mixed flowers from the gardens. Just a small reminder of how much work she needed to get done. Urgently. This was only a small part, the rest was in her office in a similar arrangement of organised chaos.

Carefully, she gently relived the clock from its duty and prayed that the documents wouldn't decide to scatter themselves. Fortunately, they stayed put for her. Alyssa held it in her hands. 23rd February. Of course it was. How could she forget?

A stray breeze caught one of the papers in its grip and pulled it from the stack. Her head snapped to the side and she bit her lip, hoping the rest wouldn't follow. She turned back to her thoughts with a sigh. With her pressing workload constantly on her mind, that was probably why she hadn't spared any thoughts for the day. She wasn't too sure yet to consider this a pain or blessing to her.

A knock, soft and almost timid, came on the door.
"Come in," she called. She took a pile of papers in her hand as the person came in. It was one of the newer maids; younger, less experienced but still just as hard-working. She caught Alyssa's eye as she came in, basket in hand.
"I-I'm very sorry to disturb you but M-Ms. Osmond asked me to fetch your laundry, My Lady."

Ms. Osmond was a fierce woman who had been head housekeeper for as long as she could remember. Though it had never been directed at Alyssa herself, of course, she had witnessed the severe side of the woman when tasks had not been completed to her meticulous standards. She didn't wish that fate upon this girl if she could so help it.

"Very well, don't let me get in your way."
"Oh no, My Lady, you're not at all…" The girl stopped for a moment, taking in the bedclothes that Alyssa still wore and tried to not stumble over her next words. "…err… I shall be just a moment." She stepped towards the bed quickly, taking the sheets off in one smooth motion and gathering them in her basket. It didn't take long for it to be filled.

Alyssa put the clock down on the bedside and watched her in thought. This girl seemed young, maybe even younger than herself but it wasn't easy for her to tell. She had a young face framed by light bangs and eyes of startling blue much like a newborn babe. But there was something there, something that Alyssa knew too well, that tugged at her features, forming creases that gave her more years.

"Do you have family?" She finally said. The girl turned around, trying not to present a lady far above her own station such a quizzical look but achieving little success about it. Someone else may have brought the girl up on it, reprimanded her, but Alyssa simply waited for a response.
"I'm really sorry, My Lady, but I'm not sure I fully understand."

She internally scolded herself and thought on how to try again. It was a myth that all noble ladies had a natural affinity when it came to questions and small talk. Some really had to work hard at it. Alyssa was one of these women.

"Do you have family that you see often, now you've come here?"
"Not quite, My Lady…" She stopped and hesitated for a moment before she carried on. "I came from a village in the yellow zone. We didn't have anyone hurt, and for that we are eternally thankful, but our homes and our buildings were left in a bad state. My sisters and I had to find work. I was fortunate enough to have been recommended to Ms. Osmond so I could be here."

She smiled sweetly, genuinely. Alyssa felt its infectious ways almost shape her own lips to match. Almost. "Do you write then?"
"Whenever I can."
"That's good to hear. So many take family for granted."
"This is… very true," she began. "I shall leave you to prepare for your engagements, My Lady."

Engagements. It certainly wasn't an unusual thing for Alyssa; everyday there was some sort of engagement with someone of importance. But today; who was it today? Alyssa racked her brain whilst she got changed.

"My Lady, my lady!" a familiar call came from outside the bedroom. Alyssa straightened the collar of her dress before she opened the door with a soft smile on her face. A small fair elf stood on the doorstep.
"Ingrid, whatever is the matter?"

The elf gave a quick sigh of relief to see Alyssa standing there. "My Lady, there you are. People were beginning to get anxious, it's very unusual for you to not be up before breakfast."
"There's no reason for concern. I merely overslept this morning."
"I wonder why…" she said cheekily as she craned her neck around the door. Alyssa promptly shut the door behind her before anything else could be said about her late night working. They began walking down the corridor. "Anyway, Prince Adrien has already passed through the boarder, so he should arrive in good time for the visit."

Prince Adrien… she was meeting with him, of all people, today. How could she forget? She sighed. The better question was why had to agree to it? Couldn't she had rescheduled or something?

She puffed up her chest. This wasn't about her. This was about what she had to do, the role she had to play for the people she loved and the country she adored. She had to put aside her feelings for a few hours and partake in making her fellow royal and valuable ally, Prince Adrien's visit a success. For the sake of Mysterieux's future.

From afar, Alyssa could hear the bells of the castle chapel ring out. It wouldn't be long now she thought as she stood out on the castle's front steps for the imminent arrival of their guest.

There was muted chatter amongst the servants as they too waited for the royal visitor. Ms Osmond paced along their organised ranks, scolding harshly those she caught speaking or those who began to slouch.

The metal gates, shining silver in the bright sunlight, opened up in the distance. Through the gap, a coach came through, pulled by two pristine white horses. A hush fell over the gathered servants as it trundled along the road towards them.

With a crack of the coach driver's whip and a loud neigh, the coach came to a halt. The driver gave a knock on the roof, then the carriage door opened. A young gentlemen, brunette but otherwise indifferent in his butler uniform, stepped out first. He held the door open for his liege, the prince, as he stepped out afterwards.

Dark brown curls were the first thing to catch Alyssa's gaze. They were tousled, as if the wind had danced with them throughout the entire journey. Just like they had always been when he was just a boy, except now the sides were short, almost neat, showing all but the tips of his ears.

The messiness didn't extend down to his clothing though. The jacket was thick with only creases in the arms where they should have been. Gold thread gleamed next to shiny buttons, small and round, like miniature suns. A white sash hung from his left shoulder down to his right side with not even speck of dust visible on it.

The footmen began to rush forward, taking the bags being unloaded by another butler still inside the coach. Alyssa watched him begin ascending up the first few steps before he bowed low before her.
"It is very nice to see you again, Your Majesty." She smiled; inviting, friendly.
"I could say the same to you, Your Royal Highness. Please, do come inside, everything out here will be taken care of by my capable staff."

He nodded and followed her as she turned, heading back indoors. Her heels clicked on the last of hard floor.
"How long has it been exactly since you were here last?" she asked him as he came to her side. He thought for a moment before he answered.
"Seven years now, very possibly more. These halls seem the same as they always did though." He gave a low half-laugh. "Maybe, a little smaller perhaps."

"You were quite a short as a boy, weren't you? Time has certainly changed that." She eyed the prince, easily a head taller than she currently stood. As children, though she was younger by a few years, the tables were turned. She was the one towering over him.
"And your accession to Queen has certainly agreed with you."

This left her rather surprised. "Whatever do you mean by that?"
"Nothing formidable, M'lady Alyssa, I assure you of that. It's just admirable what the youngest princess of the Mysterian throne was able to achieve, even after such a great tragedy." Modesty was yet another trait people wrongly assumed came as natural as breathing to the noble lady. Yet this one came to Alyssa more easily, namely because she was aware of what achievements were hers and what was ultimately down to others.

"You flatter me far too much, Prince Adrien. I didn't do it alone."
"No, M'lady, maybe not. But lesser men have crumbled under the pressure of a country in crisis, and that was not the only thing going on at the time."

He wasn't the same as back then, she thought. He had certainly grown in more ways than one. Alyssa seemed to best remember the prince as a boy, short and rather plump, running around the gardens after the older boys. He was bolshie, a bit rude and only interested in play fighting so he could prove his size wasn't indicative of his strength.

Now look at him; you would have thought this man was an imposter knowing the young Prince Adrien. Time had changed many things it seemed.

However, how much was truly him? Respect was due to kings and queen regents above everything after all, especially from foreign princes. For all she knew, nothing had really changed except the fact he wasn't so willing to embarrass himself in front of another family's household. He could merely be appearing as a perfect noble, the royal guest of another country, all whilst having a vested interest motivate him.

The idea of keeping Trilbea as a close ally was an idea that both encouraged and scared Alyssa as queen. She wasn't completely sure what the country was capable of doing. And what it would be willing to if need be.

"My condolences," Prince Adrien said solemnly, dissipating all of Alyssa's thoughts. "I remembered on the way here that… that happened today. I'm sorry, I'm honestly not sure how to say it without coming off as… insensitive but…"
"Thank you. There's no need to say anything else on it," Alyssa cut off his stammering. A silence lingered between them, dwelling on how sharp her response had been to him, for no apparent reasoning. "However, I do appreciate your attempts," she added.

Maybe she was being overly hasty about him and his home country.

All she knew for certain was that Adrien, the second prince of Trilbea, had very deep blue eyes just like the starless night sky.

Hello Hello Hello, Zukafu here with one of these rare author notes things she seldom does…

I'm mainly here to say its seven years today since the conception of this one, hence the reason I really wanted to get this posted. There is a younger version still around if you're ever curious to know the difference five/six/seven years can make to a person's abilities (short answer: a lot). However, please, don't expect anything big happening here for a little while yet. There is a lot that still needs to be done – mainly sorting through a couple of major holes in both characters and plot. But it's in the pipeline once again, along with everything else.

So, until next time; Adios, Farewell and Goodbye!
~ Zukafu