After I walk up to my room, a young elf named Serena walks behind me, starting to take out the intricate coil that holds my hair back.
“I trust your journey was good?” I sigh as her nimble fingers gently unbraid my hair.
“Yes. And could you…”
“Your bath is ready, food is on its way, and your clothes for the ball are laid out on the chair.” I smile and turn around as Serena finishes.
“You know me too well.” She smiles and leads me to the bathroom, where she leaves me to myself behind a hand-painted divider. I toss my shirt and pants over the top and let myself sink into the bathtub as Serena begins to talk about what has happened in the court in my absence. My fingers trace the designs etched into the sides of the aquamarine stone. I close my eyes and let the warm water and Serena’s voice take me away. The way Serena’s voice changes on a phrase makes me open my eyes for a moment.
“What did you just say?” Serena’s dark emerald hair glints as she walks towards the bath, carrying a jug of steaming water.
“I said that one of the new courtiers has asked if he could court me.”
“And what is his name and court?” she pauses for a moment.
“Jorgen and he is from the summer court of the fey.” My hands tighten on the side of the slippery stone. Memories flood back, but I knew him with a different rank, the Summer King.
Later on after Serena has helped me into a ball gown the color of the setting sun, I slowly walk down the main stairs to the ballroom. All eyes turn towards me as the doors open. I smile and walk into the crowd. I haven’t even had time to look around when I’m asked to dance, by a fey from the High Court. Dance after dance, with nobleman after nobleman, but then I hear a familiar voice ask to dance. No, it can’t be, but it is, Jorgen, the Summer King.
“Princess Adeline, you look lovely tonight. Your indigo hair looks stunning against your golden-orange dress.” I fake a smile.
“And you look……like you have been doing very well since we last met.” He laughs and I try to resist the urge to step on his foot.
“Still hurting over our last encounter?” stepping on his foot is getting harder to resist.
“Encounter? Is that what you call it now? We spent two years together, we were almost married, but then you left.” He smiles that overly sweet smile.
“You never stopped me.” I can’t resist any longer. In between steps, I stomp on his foot.
“I never stopped you because you said you no longer loved me.” thankfully, the song ends and I walk off towards my parents.
Thanks to my mother’s silvery-blue and my father’s black-silver hair, they are easy to find. I slip in between them and sit down. My mother smiles at me and pretends to listen to a count who is obviously drunk. I smile and listen to what my father’s talking about.
“Your highness, surely you must see the error. In moving two squads from the Holrainix border, you’ve shown Ichthara IV that you don’t take her threat seriously. She will invade and she will take your throne.” The baron sees me after he’s finished speaking.
“With all due respect, Baron Liayra, I think that we can handle one enchantress.”
“But when she can call down the very earth on your head?” I smile.
“But she won’t if a woman leads the army. She only attacks when there are men involved, as they are the ones she feels are to blame for her problems.” My father nods approvingly to show he understands my reasoning. Baron Liayra mutters to himself for a moment before walking off to the punch fountain. My father puts his hand on mine.
“I knew he was drunk, but I didn’t think he’d tell me how to run my army. I know perfectly well what to do.” I nod and stand up.
“Of course you do.” I lean down and kiss him on the cheek before leaving in search of my friends.
After the full moon is in the center of the sky, I go outside on the balcony to enjoy some fresh and cooler air. I lean forwards against the jade railing and close my eyes, feeling the wind rush through my hair. I sigh and am surprised with another sigh greeting my own.
“Who’s out here?” I hear laughter as one of the shadows by the pillars becomes a person.
“Don’t worry, princess. It’s just me.”
“I know a lot of ‘me’ people. Which one are you?” more laughter and Jorgen walks into the light.
“It’s a beautiful night.” I turn and start walking back towards the doors. He catches my hand.
“Adeline, why don’t you just stay out here with me?” I jerk my hand free and step back.
“Because I’ve already spent too much time with you. And besides, you said you never wanted to see me again after you left. So let me go.” Jorgen smiled sadly.
“But there were reasons, I had to leave you. And I didn’t want to leave my little Swann.” He lifts one hand and gently traces my jaw. I slap his hand away.
“Jorgen, leave. Now. And don’t ever come back. And leave Serena alone.” Without seeing if he follows, I turn and walk back into the ballroom.