After a long night of dancing and avoiding noblemen’s advances, I finally retire to my room, shedding fine jewels and hair pins along the way. Closing the heavy stone door behind me, I step out of the pile of sunset-colored silk. Goosebumps run across my skin as the cool air embraces me. The ball is still going on in full swing, even from the top floor of the palace, I can hear the music and revelry as my future subjects and those from other kingdoms dance. A serene smile graces my face.
“I hear that their princess is also their general,” I hear a male voice beneath my balcony say.
“What? That’s unheard of!” replies another, heavily accented with the thickness of the northern regions.
“It’s true,” the first voice protests. “She plays princess and general. She’s the one who trains their elite military group.”
I hear the second voice scoff. “What does she think she’s doing? A princess and a general? Bah!” There’s a slight pause and I see the dim red glow of a cigar reflected against the stone walkway. “What upsets me most about that is that the king and queen let her run around the kingdom. She should stay in the palace, learn how to properly become a queen.”
“The king will never find her a suitable husband when he finds out about her other occupation,” the first voice says. “It’s an outrage!”
I grit my teeth and push away from the balcony edge, my long hair swirling around me. Cursing under my breath, I grab my grey silk robe from my closet and quickly put it on, then leap down from my balcony to the walkway below.
One of the men takes another long drag on his cigar, then taps it as ashes fall to the ground. “She should be replaced with someone more able for that job.”
The other man nods in agreement and crosses his arms.
“You know, I’ve met with lots of opposition in the past,” I say, startling the two men as I slink out of the shadows, “but never by someone who thought he could take my place.” I raise an eyebrow and cross my arms, waiting for a challenge.
The man with the cigar laughs. “Now pride certainly is a funny little emotion, Princess Adeline. Makes us overlook some pretty obvious things.” He taps ashes from the end of his cigar again. “That’s something that you should probably work on, your pride.”
I raise my eyebrow in question. The other man lunges toward me. I strike out with my palm and catch him in the nose. Blood streaming from his nose, he takes a stance and waits for me to make the first move. I watch him carefully, balanced lightly on the balls of my feet. There’s a sudden flash of movement from my left side and I turn to meet it. A wall of glimmering dust falls on me and I collapse to the ground.
As the world starts dimming around me, the man with the cigar takes another long drag and then leans down next to me. “I hope you enjoyed this ball, Princess. Because when you wake up again, the world is going to be a very different place.”