Suitors from far and wide have come to compete for the hand of Lady Liliana, the youngest daughter of the King of Mascia, one of the most powerful countries in the Known World. Although they will not gain the throne on the death of the King, the marriage would bring any would-be husband a lot of influence over the fate of the country, so Liliana must choose carefully.
The window in my bedroom gives me a wonderful view of the drive leading up to our front door. I seem to be spending a lot of time sitting there recently, waiting for people to arrive. Ever since my father issued the call to all eligible bachelors in the land, declaring that his youngest daughter was ready to be married there have been many letters telling him of another suitor wishing to pay a visit. I have no idea how many we have staying with us currently. Too many to count.
Before I get too carried away I should probably point out a few things. I am the youngest child of King Ferdinand and his wife, Queen Natalia. I have three older siblings, two sisters and a brother, and we all live in the royal palace in Elra, the capital city of Mascia, the country my father rules.
My brother, Julian, is the eldest and the heir to the throne. He is six years older than me and married the second daughter of King Jonathan of Marira, the country that shares our eastern border. My eldest sister is called Lucinda, and she married the heir to the small kingdom of Rosarin, an exotic country that lies across the Great Sea, which means we don’t see her very often. My other sister, Helena, married one of her own countrymen, the eldest son of a Duke and still lives with us at court.
My name is Liliana and I am now seventeen years of age, so my father has decided it is time that I should be married off too. That is how I came to be sitting on the window seat in my bedroom, the curtains closed around me, staring out into the rain and waiting for another suitor to arrive.
‘My lady?’ I heard footsteps and the sound of a familiar voice from my hiding place. I didn’t feel like talking so stayed as silent as possible, hoping they would go away. ‘My lady, your mother is asking for you. She is requesting your presence in her chambers immediately. Please, my lady.’
The voice belonged to the Duchess Elisabeth di Sylsey, my companion and a close friend of my mother. It was her job to make sure I behaved myself and was where I should be at the right time. In other words, she was my mother’s spy in my chambers. I find it very sad that my mother cannot trust her own daughter to behave, it’s not as if I have given her any reason to doubt my obedience, but she insists on choosing every member of my household so she can keep an eye on me.
‘There you are.’ My stomach sank as the Duchess pulled back the heavy curtains I had been hiding behind, exposing me to the rest of the room. Everything in my bedroom was luxurious; the drapes on the bed were deep purple velvet, as was the throw covering the end of my mattress and the walls were covered in dark wooden paneling. I found the room very dark, but my mother had designed the room so there was no way I would be allowed to change it.
‘You have been summoned by the Queen,’ the Duchess said urgently.
‘I heard you the first time, Duchess,’ I replied cheerfully, ‘but I chose not to listen. I’m not going to jump every time my mother tells me to.’
‘But she said it was of the utmost importance my lady,’ she insisted. ‘I believe it is regarding the gentlemen who are arriving to compete for your hand in marriage.’
I rolled my eyes at the window at that. The contest hadn’t even begun and I was sick of hearing about it.
‘Very well,’ I said, swinging my legs off the window seat so they dangled a few inches from the floor. ‘I’m going.’ I jumped from the seat, landing lightly on the floor and skipping off towards the door. ‘Are you coming Duchess?’
‘I think it would be best for me to remain here my lady. It is a private conversation between you and her majesty, I feel it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be there.’
That doesn’t stop you from prying into all of my other private business, I thought, still smiling sweetly in the direction of my companion.
‘As you wish,’ I said, inclining my head towards Elisabeth slightly before leaving the room.