The dining room was magnificent. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, sparkling prettily in the warm sun-like light which filled the room. The curtains against the windows, drawn to add to the soirée atmosphere, were made of rich navy velvet, and seemed to be a comforting presence in the room like an angel or a cherished pet.
Upon the walls were portraits of winged unicorns and the members of previous Emperors' families who had ridden them. These went all around the room so that you always felt you were being watched by trustworthy, open eyes and protected by the purity of a beast no one could kill without destroying a part of their soul.
The long oak table, the centrepiece of the room, seated eight and upon it stood a tall candelabrum made entirely out of gold, with candles whose wax was as white as snow. At it sat the Emperor: a tall, cheerful-looking man with an open, honest face; his wife: a slender, graceful lady with long light blonde hair (that wasn't quite white-blonde) that shimmered about her like a unicorn's mane; the two girls who had appeared at my crowning ceremony, one with gorgeous coppery-coloured hair which was a couple of shades lighter than her father's bronze hair, and the other with white-blonde hair (for she was a mere child and that colour was to be expected); and finally, a young man I didn't recognise with the same coloured hair as Adam. Eden strode towards this gentleman and sat beside him, planting a kiss on his cheek.
I was on my way up to the table, walking slowly out of shyness, when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to see Adam dressed in a sky-blue suit which quite became him.
He joined my side and introduced me to his family.
"Selena, these are my parents, my sisters Eden, Eve and Lilly - Eden has eighteen years, Eve sixteen and Lilly eight - and finally, Eden's fiancé, George."
Everyone beamed at me.
The seating arrangement was as follows: the Eagle Emperor sat at the head of the table, with George on his right and his wife on the left, Eden sat between Eve and her fiancé, and Lilly sat to the left of her mother. This left the seat next to Lilly and the foot of the table vacant. The table was positioned so that the Eagle Emperor was facing the entrance to the dining room.
Adam led me to the table, gesturing for me to sit at the foot, while he took the seat to my right. I sat down and immediately felt everyone's eyes on me.
"Evening," I sat nervously. "Thank you for inviting me to supper."
The Eagle Emperor's wife, Elizabeth smiled. "You're most welcome. How are you liking it in Majesteria?"
"It's breath-taking," I told her sincerely. "Truly inspiring."
After that, everyone was relaxed and less fascinated by me. Eden struck up conversation with George while Elizabeth was talking to her husband and silence was left to be filled by Adam, his two younger sisters and me at the end of the table.
Lilly chuckled at Adam as he removed his blazer to reveal a white silk shirt. "Why have you put so much effort into what you're wearing this evening?" she asked.
Adam shrugged. "It's important to make a good first impression on the guest."
"But that's your favourite suit."
I moved towards Eve as she leant in to whisper something in my ear, thus missing Adam's response. "No doubt he'll be asking you to take a stroll with him after supper," she said.
Adam looked at Eve with a raised eyebrow. "What are you saying to Selena?"
"Oh nothing." She looked so innocent that I couldn't help but laugh again.
"Will you tell me?" Lilly asked.
Eve grinned. "After supper."
"So, Adam," Eden asked casually, across the table, "are we getting a new sister-in-law anytime soon?"
Adam blushed furiously, even though she was just teasing, while Eve and I laughed. I saw George's smile widen.
"I don't understand," Lilly said, brow furrowed.
Eve and I laughed harder.
Adam answered. "Eden was joking about me courting."
"Oo! Tell me who!"
Adam shook his head. "No one at the minute.
Lilly looked disappointed. "Oh."
Eve grinned at me. "I reckon she'd love to have you in the family, too."
I felt a little awkward at this.
Adam noticed my reaction and reproved Eve. "It would be totally Selena's decision."
Eve's grin broadened. "So you admit to liking her?"
Adam rolled his eyes. "You're no better than Lilly."
Just then, eight servants appeared, carrying bowls from which steam rose into the air.
"Dinner's here," the Emperor announced, smiling.
The rest of the meal was spent eating and conversing cheerfully. The food was delicious: vegetable soup for starters, roast pheasant for the main course and a delectable fruit cocktail for dessert. It is impossible to describe the rich flavours which slid over my tongue and evoked actual pleasure from me. It was a meal I would never forget.
As predicted by Eve, Adam asked me if I would walk outside with him afterwards. He looked confused when I laughed but gratified when I assented.
Before we left the dining room, though, George approached us and offered to take me home. I was surprised by his offer and even more so when he told me that he was a Dolphin.
"I came here by Eden's unicorn and it would be an honour if you allowed me to take you to the Palace on the same beast, Your Highness," he told me.
"Thank you," I told him. "Will you wait for me while I walk with Adam?"
George bowed his head. "Of course, Your Highness."
With that, Adam led me outside.