Sometimes, I really wish I didn't have a sister. Life would be so much simpler. There would be no bickering about who had got the best cuts of meat at dinnertime, or who got the most presents, or who would become heir to the throne. Father has been ill for so long now that I've had to take over his duties anyway. I've attended council meetings, wrote letters to the King of the Seabound Kingdoms, and interacted with the people of Darxim during festivals. I have practically become the Queen.
My sister, on the other hand, has sat idly in her room, talking nonsense to the ridiculous bird that my mother bought her. I couldn't bear to hurt it. After all, mother had taken great risks in saving the tiny fledgling. She'd raised it until it was strong enough to be handled by the brute that is Nykyl, and trust me, it needed the strength. I was surprised when it lived long enough to reach adulthood. Still, I am glad. It's the last piece of my mother I have left, even if it does belong to Nykyl. She was an incredible woman, and if I am to be Queen, I hope to make her proud.
I took the pearl necklace from my dressing table and coiled it around my throat. It hung like moonbeams against the pale skin of my neck, shimmering softly in the candlelight. My dress had a similar air of sophistication. It was jet black, with a silver lace middle that was studded with small pearls, and long skirts that floated around my ankles. My hair was pulled into a tight bun atop my head, held in place by two silver rods.
I was ready.
Sweeping out into the hallway, I followed the stony paths through the castle, making my way into the main hall. I knew father would be carried to his throne; he had been too weak to walk for months now. The thought saddened me. I had seen the love that the people had for him first-hand, and the news of his ill health had brought a sense of impending misery over them. They were heavy hearted now, rapidly losing faith in his ability to keep fighting, and he knew it. It only made him weaker, consumed by the idea that his people were giving up on him.
I had to be strong for him.
When I reached the stairs, I gripped the bannister firmly, just like a Queen would. I took each step carefully, pointing my toes as I walked with my head held high. Elegance and grace - that was what I had to be. Sure enough, father was waiting in his throne on the other side of the hall. His hair has turned silvery grey, and his skin was paler than ever. I took a deep, uneasy breath and willed myself forward.
"Ah, Princess Evangelique Pryscus Lymbotiou Melaneith Alyxca Raychantre Becysa," greeted one of the maids. "You wouldn't have seen Princess Nykyl, would you?"
I smiled. She'd remembered my full name. "I have not, I regretfully say. Of all the things to be late too, this is hardly appropriate, even for her. If she does not arrive soon, please send one of the guards to escort her."
"Of course," said the maid, scuttling away.
I sighed heavily and began the long walk across the hall, soon to take my place at father's side.