We rode for two days before we reached the capital city, Deramas, and the palace that housed the royal court. Jonathon stopped us just before we arrived at the city gates and told us to dismount. I obeyed, climbing down fairly elegantly from my horse.
'You need to change.' Jon said simply before rummaging around in a bush by the side of the road, finally producing a bag which he threw at me. 'This should fit you.' I looked inside the bag and saw beautiful purple silk. I had never seen anything like this material before.
'Where did you get this?' There was no way Jonathon could have afforded this.
'That's not for you to worry about. Just focus on getting the information we need and leave making sure you look the part to me. Now hurry up, we need to reach the palace before it gets dark.'
Jon turned his back as Imara and I disappeared behind the bush. She carefully unlaced my plain dress and helped me into the much finer riding dress. When everything was securely fastened we reappeared and I stood in front of Jonathon, ready for inspection.
'Very good.' He smiled. 'You really look the part. But we need to do something about your hair.' I looked down and my blonde waves falling past my shoulders, reaching almost halfway down my back. Jon made hair pins appear out of thin air and began pinning my hair up. When he had finished he stood back to look at his handy work. 'It's not brilliant but it'll have to do. Let's ride.'
We entered Deramas with no problem, riding through the streets towards the palace, which stood in the very centre of the city. Although I maintained a smile on the outside, in my mind I was going over everything Jon had told me about the royal court and who I was.
My name is Alexandra Ford, I am the daughter of a wealthy landowner in the far north of the country and will get a large inheritance when he dies. My mother was the only daughter of a minor lord. I have two brothers, both fighting in the war against Ibera and I miss them very much.
I repeated this over and over in my mind as we grew closer to the palace, not noticing the people looking up at me as they passed me on the street or taking in any of my surroundings. It wasn't until I reached the gates of the royal palace that I became aware of where I was.
Even from the outside, this didn't look like a country at war. There were flags flying from the turrets, and from behind the closed gates everything seemed perfectly well kept, possibly even beautiful.
Jon introduced me at the gate and we were allowed in. As we approached the grand entrance to the palace, butterflies invaded my stomach and I started to feel sick. I let Jon help me down from my horse, as he had instructed and smoothed over my dress before ascending the front steps.
The entrance hall was the most spectacular place I had ever seen. The ceiling was impossibly high and there was gold leaf everywhere. I was so scared I would leave dirty boot marks on the polished tiled floor. Jon linked his arm in mine and led me onwards.
'Just keep smiling and remember what I told you.' I nodded and did as he said. 'You'll be fine.'
'I hope so.' I mumbled but Jon didn't have time to chastise me as we had reached a large set of double doors, which swung open to reveal a room even larger and more luxurious than the one we were in. This was the throne room.
'Miss Alexandra Ford wishes to present herself to their majesties.' My ears nearly dropped off when I heard that. I hadn't expected to be presented to the king and queen on arrival, if at all.
'Let her approach.' Jon squeezed my arm reassuringly before I walked towards the two thrones in the centre of the room. I could feel the eyes of the members of court watching me, waiting for me to make some mistake. I hadn't realised I would have to convince so many people that I was genuine. I reached the two guilded thrones and dropped into a low curtsy.
I could see the king and queen through my eyelashes as I dropped. The queen could only be described as beautiful, with jet black hair and dark eyes that were fixed on me. There was a regal quality about her that demanded respect and obedience.
The king wasn't so striking. Everything about him looked tired, right from his thinning hair, to the slightly crumpled state of his clothes.
The queen smiled. 'Welcome my dear.'