She had sent guards to collect me. The nerve of that little cow!
I emphasise the little, twins we may be but I had always been just a touch taller than my dearest sister. I had snarled at the guards when I had seen them, sent to retrieve me.
“I am almost at the door, I am not even late.” I scolded them and they bowed, moving to open the doors for me.
They swung open and I walked swiftly, keeping my head held high as I moved down the stairs. I kept my hands behind my back as my tutors had taught me, knowing that many of my supporters would be watching carefully as I entered.
I held myself high like a queen would, and noticed my sisters barely hidden scowl. There were ink stains on her fingers, she’d been signing letters again. No doubt writing to the King of the Seabound kingdoms, because father had forbade me from doing such.
No I spent my time either in the library or with the soldiers, learning and teaching where I could. Nobody seemed to care that hardly any soldiers could read or write, as long as they obeyed orders nobody cared. Except me, I cared.
I taught them to read and to write, taught them how to address lords and lady’s in order to gain their favour, and in turn they taught me combat. I was especially skilled with daggers, but not even my sister knew that.
Myro was fluttering quietly overhead, but I knew only Evangelique and myself were aware of him, she had trained her ears to hear him and I just knew when he was nearby. He was never far from me, and I always thanked him for staying close.
With growing hostility between my sister and I, between the two halves of the kingdoms, a friend like Myro was always welcome.
My father was almost slumped in his throne and could barely lift his head to greet me, it was enough to make anyone cry but I refused. I had not cried when mother had died, neither of us had, because father always wept enough for the three of us.
I wondered how I must have looked sat on my fathers left, with my pretty and perfect sister on his right. She always did look prim and proper, and whilst I would always wear a dress to court the trousers I wore underneath kept me from fidgeting and fussing with the hems.
Evangelique looked like she was mourning all dressed in black and silver, hair pinned back to keep her face clear. I however had chosen something more colourful, a dress styled on the popular fashions of the common folk.
The skirts looked like water, swaying and moving as fluidly as the ocean itself, and the top was a shining shimmering blue that I adored. It was by far my best, and most favourite dress, as befits such an occasion as this. The crowning of a queen.
Well, the coronation would be the true crowning but I’d have a brand new dress for that of course.
When I had sat, the crowds of lords and ladies waited for the announcement and I glanced at Evangelique, our eyes catching for a moment. We both turned away, giving almost imperceptible nods at the gathering and they all shuffled to sit down.
“Our father,” Evangelique spoke clearly and concisely, as she should when addressing the court “has been unable to choose between my sister and I and decide on the next crown queen of Darxim.”
There were soft murmurs amongst the crowds but I glared them down until they were silent, and my sister continued. Annoying little cow or not, she was still my sister, still Princess of this kingdom and would not be interrupted.
“He has decided today to announce his plans, father?”
We both turned to him, thousands of expectant eyes waiting for him to make his choice. Her or me. Nykyl or Evangelique.
He mumbled and we both had to lean in very close to hear him speak, but then we had been doing that for months now so this was no different. There wasn’t even the embarrassment of having to lean in to speak with our own father during a court gathering because we no longer cared, nobody did. We needed a queen, and soon.
“My sweet girls,” He practically breathed, his voice so soft and as frail as his withering body “I wish I was strong enough to make the choice needed but I am not.”
“Instead, I have set you a task.”
There was no way, he wouldn’t…he was a stickler for tradition and tradition was that the king chose!!
“I want you to head out, out to the great lakes and fetch an egg.”
We both stared at him, I could practically feel the anticipation of the court behind us but there was only confusion here by the thrones.
“An egg.” Evangelique muttered as confused as I was.
“An egg.” Our father confirmed.
“An…egg?” I asked in a whisper and I saw, just for a moment, some of the light in my fathers eyes that I hadn’t seen since he had fallen ill.
Mirth, he clearly found us funny.
“An egg my sweet ones, from the water dragons that live in those great lakes.”
We both gaped at him, he’d clearly gone crazy. The illness was taking his mind and his body from us now, it was almost frightening. I wanted to ask if he’d gone crazy, but my mouth hadn’t caught up to my brain quite yet, so instead I asked;
“A dragon egg?”
“A dragon egg.”
Now Evangelique joined in.
“An actual dragon egg?”
“An actual dragon egg.”
We were silent a little longer.
“Father have you gone mad?”
He didn’t respond Evangelique, I think he’d fallen asleep. I peered over at my sister and shrugged, what more could we do? We couldn’t lie to the court, no doubt father had already told this idea to his advisors and they would be waiting to make the announcement.
So instead of pressing our ill father we both sat back down, slowly and stiffly as the court advisors made the announcement to the gathered lords and ladies.
“The king has decreed that whichever princess brings a dragons egg to the palace, shall be the new queen.”
The court was loud and raucous in seconds, and I turned to my sister. It was rare we agreed with each other, we had spent so much time together as children and then been pulled apart by our fathers desire to give us separate tutors and to let us grow as individuals that moments where we agreed had become far and few between.
“Isn’t that just dandy?”
She nodded sulkily, now we certainly look a sight. Two sulking princesses, both already plotting ways to retrieve a dragons egg of all things!
She leaned across our father where he was snoring ever so gently.
“I don’t suppose your tutors instructed you on mythical creatures?”
I sighed and leaned over so she could hear me.
“I doubt they taught me anything more than yours taught you.”
We both thudded back into our chairs, I stood suddenly and the court was silent, and this made my lips quirk upwards if only slightly.
“I will be leaving in two days, I thank you all for attending this most important of court gatherings and I will return soon. Our father and his advisors will continue as they always have to rule until one of us returns, the new queen of Darxim.”
I left, the claps behind me meant nothing.
All that mattered was what was ahead of me, and that happened to be a dragons egg.