Fred and Fizz

At the door to Majesteria Palace, Adam greeted me, beaming.

"You look marvellous," he told me.

Charity murmured a goodbye and climbed back onto the back of the unicorn we had ridden to get here. Adam smiled and nodded at her before gazing back at me.

"Thanks," I said, blushing slightly. "You look smart too - is that your favourite suit again?"

Adam's smile widened. "You remembered," he said warmly.

I smiled back.

Adam led me indoors to where other guests were queuing to enter the ballroom 0 invitations needed to be displayed for one to be allowed inside. As I joined the tail of the queue, Adam walked with me, wanting to remain by my side.

"I have gifts for your parents," I told him, partly conversationally, partly to find out what I should do with them.

Adam looked surprised. "This is a formal event, not a celebration," he said.

I blushed a little. "I felt the need to buy something to thank them for letting me dine here."

Adam shook his head in amused wonder. "Selena, that really wasn't necessary - I'm sure my parents would be happy to have you for dinner any time."

I shrugged. "I still wanted to buy something for them."

"They'll be very grateful. Bemused... but grateful."

It was finally my turn to show my invite.

The friendly-looking young man who was standing at the doors nodded and smiled as I showed the piece of card.

Adam and I walked through. Around the edges of the room, tables with drinks on them were dotted. The dance floor itself was vacant, the guests crowding around its edges as they waited for the ball to be opened.

"Who's opening the ball tonight?" I murmured in Adam's ear.

He grinned and winked.

"Shouldn't you be getting ready?" I asked, shocked.

"Nah; I haven't even seen Fizz and she's changing here."

"Is she pretty?" I asked tentatively.

Adam shot me a funny look. "She's my cousin."

Heat rose to my cheeks. "Oh."

"And ... even if she weren't, and she was beautiful, I wouldn't be interested. I still love you."

I sighed. "Adam, what if I don't grow to love you?"

Adam looked sad. "I don't want to think about it," he said quietly. Then, more pain entered his features. "Nothing's changed, has it, Selena? You're not ... outright rejecting me?"

"No, no," I replied hastily. "I just don't want you to miss out on .... possible opportunities."

Adam smiled wryly. "As far as I'm concerned, no one else will do. I've set my standards far too high."

"I'm not brilliant," I mumbled.

"'Course you're not. There's no single word that can do you justice."

I was rendered unable to reply by the sudden appearance of a girl who looked slightly younger than me of medium height and slight build with curly lemon-coloured hair and startlingly amber eyes.

"Hey, Adam!" she said. "I'm here now. Shall we go and do one last practise?"

"Get changed first," he said. "We'll do a quick dress rehearsal."

"Good plan!" She was about to hurry off when Adam coughed and said "Fizz, this is Selena."

Fizz grinned at me. "Heya." She looked at Adam, then me, then winked slyly before rushing off to change her dress.

I blushed again.

"Wow," Adam said, sounding amused. "Didn't realise it was so obvious I liked you."

"Well, you do look at her in a manner slightly suggestive of love," came a medium-low voice from behind.

Adam and I turned to see a tall young man who was maybe a  year or so older than Adam and who shared a remarkable likeness to Fizz.

"Fred," Adam said warmly. "So glad you could stay. Is Tasha here?"

"No, unfortunately - one of her friends was having a party - but she was devastated to miss this."

"I'll bet," Adam said. "I remember the Spring Dance."

"Me too," Fred said, a smile playing on his lips.

"This is Selena," Adam said. "She's the Second High Princess of Wavia."

"Whoa." Fred looked impressed. "Didn't know you wanted to court a princess. Setting your standards a bit high, aren't you?"

"That's what I said," Adam said, grinning. "She seems to disagree."

I flushed crimson. "Surely an Emperor's son has a higher rank than a mere princess?" I asked.

Fred laughed. "Where'd you hear that? Nice to meet you, by the way. I'm Fred Nuage." His surname rhymed with mirage and the first letters blended to form one sound: ‘nw'.

"Just call him Fred," Adam whispered, though deliberately loud enough for him to hear. "It's a known fact that his surname is impossible to pronounce by anyone outside his immediate family.

Fred grinned.

"So are you doing to receive Eve's makeover," Fred asked Adam.

"Oh definitely not," Adam said, cringing at the thought. "Her powders take hours to wash off."

"Yes. Girls are a mystery I doubt we'll ever solve, my dear chap. And one I never want to."

"Oh yes - everything's fine if you retain your masculinity," Adam said, grinning.

"Cousin," Fred replied, "you know me too well."

Adam glanced at his watch. "I had best join your sister, Fred. You'll make sure Selena's not left on her own, won't you?"

"Of course," Fred assured him. "I was going to look for Eden anyway."

Adam smiled. "Thanks." Turning to me, he said "I'll see you soon," before striding off.

"Ah!" Fred said. "Just spotted George. Are you coming, Your Highness?"

"Just Selena," I said, flushing as I followed him through the crowd to where Eden and her fiancé were standing, the former in a long aqua dress and the latter in a navy suit with a silvery grey shirt.

"Oh hey there, Selena," Eden said. "Who are those boxes for?"

Blushing more deeply as I realised I had been carrying them around with me, I answered "Your parents."

Eden rolled her eyes. "That's far too kind and completely unnecessary of you. Come with me - I saw them talking to the King of the Land of the Boulders a minute ago."

She led me to a corner of the room where the Eagle Emperor, his wife and a jovial-looking young man with black hair and brown eyes that sparked in amusement from time to time were standing chatting and said "Mother, Father, Selena has bought you gifts."

The Eagle Empress looked bewildered. "Why ever is that?"

Curtseying, I handed her her box wondering if anything happened when so much blood rose to your cheeks.

"It's to say thank you for dinner on my Crowning."

Her husband was speechless as I gave him his own gift, until she nudged him and murmured "Say something."

The Eagle Emperor recovered and said "We are very grateful, Selena. That was totally ... unex-..."

"Extremely kind of you," his wife interrupted, smiling.

"Thank you," I murmured again shyly.

"Thank you," the pair replied.

"So, you're Teal Waterfall's younger daughter, are you?" King Kyle asked to prevent an awkward silence.

"Yes, that's right, Your Majesty," I answered, turning to face him.

The Dragon King smiled. "I know your father well - we used to be firm friends. I hear that my boy's quite taken by your cousin, Rosia Ocean. I'm not surprised if she's as beautiful as her mother."

"Don't let Mia hear you say that," Adam's father said, grinning.

Sensing it was time to leave the trio's company, I curtseyed and said "It was nice talking to you all, Your Majesties."

"You too, Selena," Adam's mother said as her husband and King Kyle laughed over a joke.

Eden, who had been nearby chatting avidly with a beautiful girl I instantly recognised as Tia Terra, smiled at me and said "Go and tell George the Draconis family are here - he wanted to meet them."

"Okay," I said, while nodding and curtseying to Tia, who amazingly smiled back.

I returned to George and Adam's cousin, and informed George of the Draconis family's presence. When he had walked off, Fred said "Adam and Fizz will be opening the ball soon - let's go and stand somewhere I can embarrass her."

Laughing, I followed him to the edge of the dance floor directly opposite a set of crystal stairs.

Suddenly, I spotted Tiger Flame at a corner of the floor standing with a girl who looked to be his sister. Both were in deep red attire and both looked striking and elegant.

But I was unable to gaze any longer as a great hush descended over the entire room.

The End

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