Chapter 18.1

Rowena felt slightly sick as the carriage swayed from side to side as they progressed down Genata’s main street.  Banners had been strung from house to house with the colours of Rowena’s royal family mixing with those of Felipe’s.  There were thousands of people lining the streets, waving at the carriage, trying to catch the eye of their King and the heir to the throne.  Rowena was quite overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who were standing in the streets.  Even when she had been allowed out into the city before there hadn’t been this many people.

‘Why are they all here?’  Rowena asked her father, looking out the window at the passing faces.

‘They’ve come to see you my dear.  You’re their Princess.’

‘But why so many?’

‘Because no matter what you do they will love you.  You are their future.’

‘I don’t deserve that,’ Rowena breathed, bewildered by the sea of smiling faces.  ‘I haven’t done anything to deserve their love or respect.  I was born to this position, I haven’t earned it.’

‘Not everything in this world has to be earned.  They accept you as their future monarch; it has been this way for hundreds of years, the crown passing from parent to child.  And it’s not about to change.’  Rowena remained silent, unable to look away from the people outside.  The journey to the cathedral wasn’t long, and to Rowena it seemed even shorter.

A barrier had been erected around the steps leading up to the large doors to the cathedral to keep the crowds back.  The carriage pulled into the square, the crowd parting before it as it headed to the steps.  It stopped at the bottom and the crowd fought to get as close to the carriage as possible.

‘Are you alright?’  The King asked as he noticed Rowena’s face had gone white.

‘Just nervous that’s all.’  Rowena had suddenly realised how much was resting on her shoulders.  The people trusted her to pick a good husband, one who would help her rule over them.  There was a lot of pressure on her to be exactly who they thought she was.  It scared her.

The carriage door opened and Rowena was handed down, onto the steps, to the jubilant and enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.  She turned, a nervous smile on her face.  They seemed to be lapping up the extravagance of Rowena’s appearance, her wedding dress probably the most exquisite item of clothing they had ever seen.  Rowena nervously raised her hand and waved to the crowd, which prompted another surge of cheering.  The King was at her side, smiling proudly up at his daughter.  He could see her confidence growing even if she couldn’t.  She will make a wonderful Queen, he thought as he listened to the roar of the crowd.  There is no doubt that the people love her and I know she will make the right choices, for their sake.  He linked his arm through hers, leaning against her again for support.

‘Are you ready to go in?’  Rowena nodded, too scared and stunned to speak.  They helped each other up the steps, Rowena holding her father up, the King ensuring that Rowena continued to move forwards.  The journey up the stairs seemed to take forever, there were so many steps, but when they eventually made it to the top, Rowena took one last look at the people standing in the square.

I’m doing it for them, she told herself.  Felipe is the right man to be king.  Artem would have hated it.  He wouldn’t have fit in.

The doors swung open and the King and his daughter stepped inside.  As soon as they were inside, the doors swung shut behind them with a bang that echoed around the full room.  Slow, majestic organ music began to play and Rowena recognised her cue to begin walking down the aisle.

More faces turned to look at her as she passed row after row of people.  It seemed anyone who was anyone had turned up to see the Crown Princess get married.  Rowena hardly recognised any of the faces she passed, but kept her smile firmly in place as she proceeded down the aisle, her hand firmly gripping her father’s arm.

It had been assumed that the wedding would take place in the cathedral, and in the rush to get everything prepared; Rowena hadn’t had the chance to come and see it before the day.  She had been before, but many years ago so the memory of it had begun to fade.  But now she was seeing it again she remembered why royalty had held all their celebrations here for generations.

The strong stone walls stretched up forever into the sky, giant pillars supporting the roof, which appeared to be floating many feet above the floor.  The simplicity of the design of the building was the reason for it’s beauty.  The walls were built of smooth white stone with no ornamentation or fuss.  The rows of pews were made of fine oak; sturdy but with no carvings on them.  The altar at the opposite end of the cathedral to the big doors was made of the same smooth stone as the walls and had a rich red cloth spread over it.  But this and the banners hanging down the walls in honour of the occasion, were the only colour in the room, everything else was white, pure as snow.

As they grew closer to the altar, Rowena’s eyes focused straight ahead, to the figure dressed in the red and gold robes of a knight of Madrimar, his ceremonial sword hanging from his belt and his hands clasped nervously together behind his back.

‘I think you need to calm down,’ the King whispered in Rowena’s ear.  ‘You’re shaking like a leaf.’

‘I’m fine,’ Rowena insisted.  ‘I promise you it’s just nerves, I’m excited.’

‘Are you sure?  You’ve gone very pale Rowena, I think you need to sit down.’

‘I’m fine.  I need to finish this.  I have to marry him.’  They had almost reached the altar by now and, unable to wait any longer, Felipe turned to see his bride walking towards him.  Her beauty, even with her pale complexion and nerves, stunned him.  The King held out Rowena’s left hand, offering it to Felipe in the traditional manner, indicating he was passing his daughter from his care to that of her bridegroom.  He took it, bowing to kiss her hand, which was encased in a long, elegant elbow-length white glove.

‘You are beautiful,’ he whispered as he looked up at her.  She smiled, grateful for the compliment as she turned towards the priest.

The End

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