People lined the streets, and shops were closed, and giant colorful tents were being erected all over the city, creating the illusion Aquebonica was being taken over by giant butterflies. I nudged Raven and he galloped down the hill into the city. He seemed excited, as if he recognized the place where he had been born, which he probably had. We soon reached a tavern, and the tavern keeper was standing outside the door, just about to lock it.
“Excuse me, sir, may I have a moment?”
The tavern keeper nodded. “But hurry it up, missy, there be a festival and parade today, and a pretty penny to be made.”
“May I tie my horse here for the festival? I am a traveling dancer, and the rest of my troupe has already arrived, but they left me behind on accident this morning.”
The tavern keeper stroked his thick brown beard. “There was a traveling dancing troupe, but they had all their dancers. Are ye sure ye aren’t telling me a yarn here?”
I shook my head. “Not at all, kind sir, but I see I have detained you long enough.”
He turned the key in the lock, and my eyes flashed brightly once, and the man turned back toward me. “Now I remember, yer troupe came in here this morning, going on and on about how they was missing their best dancer and how the show for the princess wouldn’t be as good. Ye can keep yer horse here. Now go on, I’ll tie him up for ye, ye best be getting to the parade.”
I smiled. “Thank you, kind sir. I shall see you at the festival.”
He nodded and tied Raven to the post by the door, and I ran down the street until I reached a troupe of dancers dressed in white clothing and grey-blue hoods.
“I am so excited to dance in the parade this year, now that the queen is allowing some of her guards to dance with us.”
One girl laughed. “You’re only excited because you get to dance with the handsome new champion, Derek.”
Derek? My best friend Derek? Over the four years of isolation, my feelings of friendship for Derek had morphed into something stronger, and jealousy burned in my heart. When the girl who was dancing with Derek walked away from her troupe, I grabbed her and hit her with a wooden block that had been lying in the street. I caught her as she fell, unconscious. I turned her over and memorized her face, then closed my eyes and concentrated. After I felt the change, I looked at my new reflection in a shop mirror. The girl’s golden hair replaced my raven locks, and her brown eyes stared at me in place of my green ones. I smiled and walked back to her troupe.
“Come on, Isa, Derek is waiting!” Isa’s friend dragged me down the road to Derek. It took my breath away when I saw Derek. He had grown much taller, and training to be the queen’s champion had given him new muscles that seemed to burst from his white shirt. His early morning eyes sparkled in the sun.
“Hello, Isa. Are you ready to dance today?”
I nodded. “Of course, Derek. Are you?” I relished the feeling of saying his name again after four years.
I looked at other couples practicing the dance. Thankfully, it was only a traditional Aquebonica folk dance, and one that I knew very well. Derek took my hand and led me to where the other dancers were lining up. The fast-paced music started, and we all began dancing down the street. Each time we completed the steps, the music sped up, and we danced faster until we were a whirl of white and black and grey-blue.
Derek wrapped his hands around my waist and lifted me to the sky and turned around. “You seemed to have lost weight, Isa.”
“Have I?” I asked.
He nods, and then smiles, which breaks my concentration and I feel the illusion of Isa slipping.
“Alyessia?” he asks incredulously. “It is you, isn’t it?”
I nod. By now, everyone has noticed Derek and I have stopped dancing.
“All hail, Crown Princess Alyessia has returned to us!” Derek shouts. The crowd looks around at each other in shock and wonder.
“May I?” he asks. I nod again and he takes away my cloak, completely revealing who I am.
“Princess Alyessia!” runs through the crowd.
“Alyessia, I must take you to see your mother! She…well, all of us have been waiting for you to come back for a long time.”
I smile. “I know you have, Derek. But I wasn’t ready until today.”
With a grin, Derek grabs my hand tightly and runs with me down the street through the parade, just like we used to do when he was only thirteen and I was only twelve.