On the day of Tigra's Crowning, the thirty first of August, I could barely contain my nerves. Should I have bought her a present? Did Fireland Castle send a gift when I was crowned?
This problem was solved when at breakfast my parents gave me a small box to present to the princess which apparently contained a piece of peridot, her birthstone.
But I was still apprehensive about pulling tonight's act off.
I spent the day relaxing. In the morning, I went out for a horse-ride across the gorgeous meadows our land is blessed with. I found the fresh air extremely therapeutic. Later on, I visited Martha and petted her kittens, marvelling at their cuteness and laughing at their antics.
But, after lunch, the terror grew again as the beautifying began.
Firstly I took a bath. I used many oils recommended by Charity: one to clean my skin and make it glow, another to soften it and make me look younger, and one with a delicious aroma to make me smell attractive. The last helped me to relax again and cleared my thoughts. I was incredibly grateful to Charity for this. I felt calm and beautiful, and, rather more embarrassingly, as if it were perfectly natural for Tiger to fall in love with me.
Charity did all the things she said she would, and added to her original ideas by giving me diamond earrings and a silver choker to wear.
I really wasn't surprised that the whole process lasted over two hours. I would've been bored if Charity's excitement hadn't been contagious.
Dinner was taken early and everyone commented on how amazing I looked. Cousin Rosia said I was indescribable, causing me to blush which apparently made me look even more beautiful.
As I left the Palace in a horse-drawn carriage, I briefly wondered if Tiger would really respond to this demand of his senses, before remembering that confidence was the key to having the most success.
The landscape in Fireland was like no other I had seen before. Mountains rose up everywhere, piercing the pale, lilac sky; some losing their summits in pale pink clouds.
The vegetation was exotic: all leaves of plants and trees were a deeper green and most of them longer too. A flower that was common here had predominantly red petals but orange streaks stretching across the centre of them. There were orange trees, lemon trees, banana trees, and many, many tomato plants which were farmed on moist, rich soil the colour of jet.
The four hour journey ended outside a castle made of black stone.
"Fireland Castle," the coach driver announced.
I heard him jump down from his seat. A few seconds later, he opened the carriage door and positioned a step in front of it. I cautiously climbed down.
"You must be very tired," I said in concern.
"I have the hour and 'alf to sleep in, Your 'Ighness," he replied, shrugging, "And it's worth it."
"I hope so," I murmured in an undertone. To the driver, I said. "We'll arrive at Wavia Palace tomorrow morning at about one thirty, won't we?"
"Yes, Your 'Ighness. But don't you fret - your parents kindly gave me the day off tomorrow so that I don't get overtired."
I smiled. "You deserve that break."
The driver inclined his head. "Why, thank you, Your 'Ighness."
And with that, he led the horses off to be fed and watered in the stables. I began to ascend the stairs to the front entrance when a familiar voice called out "Selena?"
I turned to see Adam hurrying over. He wore a black suit and a pale blue shirt.
"Adam!" I exclaimed joyfully. It would be good to have one friend amongst all the Firish strangers.
Adam stopped at the bottom of the steps. And stared.
"I didn't realise you were setting out to steal the hearts of every single Firish guy," he said, swallowing hard.
I stepped down so I was only one up from him. He backed away slightly, as if frightened.
"Are you okay?" I asked anxiously.
"A lot of men are going to fall in love with you tonight," he murmured. His brow was furrowed.
His tone concerned me. I was starting to think that maybe this hadn't been such a great idea after all.
"If I'm going to steal a lot of hearts," I whispered, "what am I going to do to those who already love me?"
"You'll be killing them, Selena," he answered, almost choking on the words. "You've stolen their hearts and now you're attempting to steal their souls without giving anything of yourself in return."
He looked betrayed. There was immense pain in his eyes and heartrending longing.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
"It's one thing to make yourself look beautiful... but another to give your very aura a stunning effect. So many will hate you after tonight because you'll literally be taking away their free will."
"Do you hate me?" I asked.
"No, but I almost have it worse. I passionately adore you. So I'm letting you break me down, even though I shouldn't."
"I promise that this wasn't my intention," I said, as guilt tore at me.
Adam sighed. "Yes. I don't really believe you're out to hurt me. Just ... don't do this again, Selena."
‘Hopefully I won't have to,' I thought. "Okay," I replied.
Adam and I proceeded up the stairs and into Fireland Castle.