It is early morning and the village has come alive with the sounds of scurrying and the sweet humming of women, preparing for the celebration of the princess’s sixteenth birthday. Small fires are burning, smoke boiling out of the chimney of the castle kitchen. The King has demanded, that nothing but the best will be good enough for his only daughter’s big day and the village-women shall not dare disappoint the King and his Lady.
Fresh bread-rolls are scooped out of the castle’s stone-build oven and placed in a basket, covered with a cloth. Wine as red as rubies are saved in jugs, ready for consumption by the village-men and boys. Steel frames filled with candles are hoisted to the roof, ready to be lit. Bowls packed with flowers from the field decorates the tables and their scent fills the castle’s celebration room.
Pots of beef stew are boiling away on the fire and the kitchen is instantly overwhelmed with the aroma of deliciousness. Roasted turkey legs, baked potatoes and freshly caught fish are also among the eateries, being prepared for the feast tonight.
Tables of fresh fruit are placed on either side of the castle hall. A one of a kind gold-plated chalice, engraved with the royal crest is placed at the princess’s seat. It’s a family tradition that the first sip of wine shall be taken from this very chalice and it is a tradition that King Cronus are determined to keep alive, even long after he’s gone.
Upstairs, in the heart of the castle, princess Elihari is staring out of her bedroom window, overlooking the gardens. On the other side of the garden, the villagers are seen preparing for her birthday tonight, an event that she is not particularly looking forward to. It’s a special occasion for her father, therefore she will put on a brave face and endure this torturous evening.
A soft knock on the door, pulls her back to the present.
“Come in” she answers and the heavy wooden door swings open slowly with a creaking sound. The servants disappear through the extended room and her mother peeks around the door.
“Am I interrupting anything”? she asks in her soft-spoken nature.
Her mother, Lady Vairya has always been there for her. She has been the one person that always took her side, even though she knew that sometimes, her argument was off. Still, her mother would stay by her side.
“Not at all, please come in, you can help me get ready for my bath” she says and her mother smiles back at her, her kind sea-blue eyes looking at her lovingly.
Her beautiful warm brown locks hanging loosely on her shoulders, forming a perfect frame around her face.
“I have brought you something, it’s your dress, for tonight” her mother exclaims and hold the emerald green dress upright for her to see.
The soft material catches the light, glistering beautifully and the golden beading is just enough to add extra sparkle, perfect for a princess.
“Mother, it’s absolutely beautiful, thank you!” Elihari exclaims, unable to control her excitement and takes the dress from her mother.
“Princess, my apologies for interrupting, your bath is ready” a servant whispers to Elihari from behind the wall of the other room.
She smiles at the servant and walks over to the bath tub filled with heated water, scented with sweet pine nuts, rose petals and the oils of flowers.
Her mother sits on the stool provided for her and starts pouring water over her long jet-black hair. With gentle strokes she continues until every strand is soaked.
“Your father is so proud of you, you have become an impeccable young woman”
“Thank you mother” she smiles, closing her eyes as the warm water washes over her long, locks.
She wants nothing more than to make her father proud.
“You know Elihari, it will make your father very happy if you marry prince Xilonar from the West” her mother adds and Elihari feels her stomach drop. She knew that this would come up as a topic of conversation but she did not expect it to happen on the day she’s celebrating her birthday.
She turns around quickly, facing her mother, clearly startling her.
“Mother, no, I am sorry but that is something I am unable to do. Do you really expect me to marry a man I do not love?” she asks, wide-eyed. Her mother is a smart woman, she knows how she feels about arranged marriages.
“Eli, it’s not about love, it’s about you being in line to become queen-“
“I don’t want to become queen mother!” she interrupts, raising her voice. Her father would disapprove of the way she’s speaking to her mother but she can’t let this go.
“What do you mean it’s not about love? Of course it’s about love, that’s what marriage is all about, isn’t it”? she yells but already knowing the answer.
Her mother turns her shoulder and continues pouring the water over her hair but she swings around again, moving far enough for her, unable to reach.
“This is not a decision that will be made by us Elihari. Your father will have the last say. He is the King after all. And you, as his daughter, will respect that”
“Mother, you know just as well as I do that you have a say in this as well. You have the ability to talk to father and persuade him not to give me away to the pig from the West! Please mother!” her voice is filled with desperation as she looks into her mothers frosting eyes.
“You will do as your father say” is the only response she receives and she knows that this conversation has come to an end.
There is no point in arguing with her mother when she is like this. She will just have to approach her father, surely he will understand? He has to understand that she will not be sold like some kind of slave to a Kingdom destined to be ruined by a prince who doesn’t know his left from his right.
She will not stand for this nonsense. She’s princess Elihari for pete’s sake. Princess of Potami, the daughter of King Cronus and that is something no one can take away from her.