“Roselyn.” Knock knock. “It’s time to get up, my lady.”
I groan as I pull the covers further over my head, burying my face deeper in the fabric. Maybe if I pretend to be asleep he’ll go away. Unfortunately for me, Maion is persistent. His stacked shoes mimic a horse’s as he clops across my room. Just let me sleep old man. He pries my hands off the covers and tugs them toward him, throwing them over his shoulder. His famous smile is painted on his narrow face. As usual, his white hair is slicked back with far too much gel. His attire of choice: a spotless white suit. Baby blue eyes peer down at me with annoyance.
“Rise and shine,” he orders, his voice drier and plainer than a saltine cracker.
I moan and roll onto my stomach to avoid his rays of judgement.
“I don’t wanna…” I grumble. I’m definitely not a morning person. It’s a daily battle getting me up and ready in a timely fashion. I’m grouchier than a bear and more stubborn than a mule. Frankly, it would be easier to negotiate with a brick wall. And it might even care more than I do.
“You must.” His tone is stern. “If this were any other day I’d let you sleep until noon.”
I have to keep myself from snorting. That’s a lie and you know it, Maion.
“But,” he continues. “You know today is an important day.”
Damn, it’s here already? I didn’t realize how fast it had come. I almost forgot about it. My insides twist as my heart slams against my ribcage. I sit up so fast I almost fall face first onto the floor.
Maion continues to stand over me. His smile is replaced with a thin pink line. “Be downstairs for breakfast in ten minutes. Don’t bother getting dressed. Iofel will be up with your dress to help you get ready.” He’s pleased enough with his efforts. Quickly he turns and exits, not even bothering to close the door behind him.
I sigh. He’s such a pain. I go over to the vanity and begin to brush my tangled while curls. You heard right: white. Don’t ask why. All angels have white hair. Well, that I know of. So, no, Maion’s not elderly, he’s an angel, like me. He’s technically my butler, though he likes the title “assistant” better. Maion’s my right hand man. He practically raised me all on his own since my parents are no longer around. He’s one of the most intelligent people I know, the same one who taught my mother when she was my age. The maids tell me he used to be a lot more carefree and kind back then. But her death hit him hard; even harder than it hit me. His heart turned to stone. He’s been trying to make me just like her. He has a special place in my heart and to my family. I wish he wasn’t so uptight all the time, though. Makes him so much harder to love and appreciate.
Of course, I’m an angel too. But not just any angel; I’m the Queen of Angels, or more commonly known as the Queen of Light. Well, technically I’m not Queen yet. Today is my eighteenth birthday, as well as the day of my coronation. The Kingdom of Light, where I, along with all the other angels, live, hasn’t had a King or Queen since I was born. Maion told me once about how my parents went off to do some field work in the mortal world. They were going to help spread peace to human towns. Sadly, a band of demons brutally murdered them, leaving me as their only heir. I was barely a year old when it happened. That’s why I’m not allowed to leave the castle. Maion doesn’t want to risk losing the last member of the Lux-Aeterna royal family, humanity’s “eternal light.”
But it’s so boring here day in and day out. It’s the same routine: fight with to get up, eat breakfast, classes with Maion, which include how to act like a lady and be a proper ruler. In between we have a snack or two before eating dinner and praying before bed. To any of you out there who want to be a princess or Queen or royalty or whatever: it isn’t as easy as it seems. I’ve trained my whole life for this one day, the day where I’ll have to step up and rule and entire kingdom. Becoming a Queen at age eighteen will increase my responsibilities a thousand fold. I can feel it now. I wish I only had to worry about which boys liked me and if my makeup was on point.
I can’t believe Maion only gave me ten minutes to get ready. He knows it takes me at least twenty to brush my hair alone. It’s gotten so long it touches the back of my thighs. My bangs, on the other hand, constantly hide my eyes, making me look more childish. I don’t even look an adult much less fee like one; and I’m light years away from a Queen. My face is round with baby cheeks. My sapphire eyes still have an innocent shimmer to them that suggest I never left the house. I have no defined curves or feminine qualities at all. I don’t look at all how royalty should. It doesn’t help that Maion reminds me of how “un-queenly” my appearance is.
Sigh. Just yesterday I was an innocent princess, but overnight I was supposed to blossom into a knowledgeable Queen. That’s all I ever hear. “Study hard now so you can be a great ruler later.” “No, you can’t leave the castle. It’s dangerous.” “Think of what your parents would do before you act.” How the hell am I supposed to know what my parents would do? Sure, Maion has shown me pictures of them, telling me how great rulers they were, especially my mother. They didn’t raise me, so how would I know how to rule an entire kingdom? I feel like I have no qualities of either of them. Both were kind and thoughtful, putting others needs ahead of their own. I, however, am a rebellious troublemaker who will go out of the way to trip a Maion with a heavy tray rather than help him carry it. The only thing I have is their eyes. Like them, mine resemble the ocean: deep, mysterious, and can turn from raging to calm in a matter of minutes.
Knock knock. “Roselyn, I told you ten minutes.”
Crap! Maion isn’t pleased. I throw my hairbrush down and rush over to the twin oak doors. Maion is on the other side, redder and hotter than a steamed tomato.
“Sorry,” I say, plainly. I’m sorry, but not sorry enough to sound like I mean it. “I was brushing my hair.”
Maion clicks his tongue. “Isn’t it about time you got a trim?”
I shrug. “Maybe. But it makes me look like my mother.”
It’s not a lie. My mother had hair as long as mine, possibly longer. I look like a mini version of her; except I don’t look as old or queenly. And I hardly smile as often as she did.
Maion leads me down the corridor and many flights of stairs (I lose track of all the levels) before turning into the large dining room on ground level. Like always two places are set at the heads of the table; though about eighteen or twenty more can fit.
I take my usual seat across from him. Not even a second later, a servant comes to pour us both coffee. She leaves too fast for me to even tell her “thank you.” Maion opens the newspaper on his plate, reading so deeply into it he hardly notices me being an architect with my utensils. This castle works like clockwork. All the little workers are the dolls, only coming out at a certain times. Tick tick tick.
“Whatcha reading?” I ask, casually. The stillness in the air coupled with my anxiety is toxic. I need to take some weight off my mind.
His bright irises appear above the edges of the paper. “It doesn’t concern you, my lady.”
“Is it about the Kingdom?”
“I said it doesn’t concern you, Roselyn.” His tone is strict. He hides behind the paper again.
“But if it’s about the Kingdom it should concern me. I’m going to be ruling it after today.”
Maion sighs and lays the paper over his plate. “You are not Queen yet, Roselyn.”
“Today!” He’s so irritating! Why can’t he let me see the paper? Or at least tell me what’s going on. Ugh! I hate being in the dark. He does this all the time. I never know what’s going on in the mortal world, or even my own kingdom! “I’m not a child anymore! You can’t shelter me forever!” Color rushes to my cheeks. I’m in such rage. I’m already standing as my fists clench the table cloth.
Maion’s lips are pressed so tight they’re nonexistent. His eyebrows are furrowed, his eyes colder than ice. “Just because you are of age does not mean you have the knowledge of an adult. I treat you this way because you act like a child.” His words are rigid.
“I only act that way because you hide everything from me!” I don’t need this today. I have enough stress in my life and Maion certainly doesn’t help.
I turn and storm out of the room before he can get another word in. The hall’s cool tile soothes my burning feet.
“Roselyn!” Maion cries. He’s a mix of rage and concern.
“Leave me alone!” I scream. I reach the steps, taking them two at a time.
“These are not the actions of a Queen!” Your mother never would have done this!” He’s at the bottom of the steps now.
I stop dead in my tracks. My eyes meet his. They burn with rage. “Don’t you dare talk about my mother!” Tears sting behind my eyes. I don’t dare let one fall.
“Why not.” Maion crosses his arms over his chest. “I’m sure she’d be turning in her grave if she knew her daughter, who is to be a Queen, is acting like a two year old.”
“You can’t hide forever. Grow up. You’re eighteen, Roselyn.” His words pierce my heart. So what if I hide out. So what if I’m a trouble maker. So what if…
I can feel the tears on the brink of falling. I turn back around, walking back to my room slowly.
“I knew you didn’t have it in you. You never had it in you. You don’t have the heart your mother did!” He has to shout because I’m so far up now. “You disgrace the Lux-Aeterna name!”
There’s no point arguing back; it’s over. I slam the door to my room so hard the wood cracks. My cheeks are burning, stained with tears. I don’t bother wiping them away. I sit with my back against the doors. Who does Maion think he is? How dare he have the nerve to bring up my mother. He had his parents growing up. I didn’t. I had no parental warm and loving kisses on my forehead. Just Maion and his tight ass. Why does he think I’m rebellious? He never gave me the love and attention a child needed. I found other ways to get him to notice me. And I know I said my parent’s death doesn’t affect me that much, but the truth is I cry over them a lot. The pictures that are left make my heart hurt. I wish I could have met them, been raised as the daughter fit to be a queen; instead they got me.
Maion’s right: I’m not fit to rule. I can barely control my temper let alone a whole kingdom. My parents would be disgusted with me. The perfect little girl they gave birth too grew up to be a complete disaster. I have no idea how I’m going to be Queen. The responsibilities alone will kill me. Does anyone know how to stop a derailed train from flipping, going off, a cliff, and blowing up? Heavier streams flow down my face. I suck snot up my nostrils to keep from suffocating. I am a child.
I should just go back to bed. Maybe this is all one bad dream. I could wake up tomorrow with two sets of sapphire eyes smiling down at me. Iofel can get me up when she brings my dress. Something catches my eyes as I make my way across the room. My vanity is radiating with a white aura. What the…?
Sitting on the white cherry wood is a small white box with a sparkling ribbon tied to the top. That wasn’t here before…Did one of the servants bring it in while I was downstairs? It draws me in, an invisible string pulling me. The closer my hand gets the more intense the light becomes. My retinas are burning. I close my eyes as I pick it up. It’s light as a feather. I pull the ribbon off and take the top off. The light dies to a faint glow. I open my eyes again.
Inside is a sterling silver charm attached to a chain in the shape of a pair of angel wings. Diamonds a fraction of a centimeter outline the metal, making tiny individual feathers, like on real wings. Each pulses with a spec of light. It looks oddly familiar…have I seen it before?
Underneath is a folded piece of parchment. I place the necklace on the vanity before unfolding it.
Happy 18th birthday, sweetie. I’m sorry I can’t give this to you in person. When your father and I left the kingdom we knew there were risks, but we had to do it for our people. If you get this note it means we didn’t make it back. I’m sorry we weren’t able to raise you or love you like we so desperately wanted. But know we do love you and we always will, no matter what. We love you more than the world. Today is the day you will become the Queen of Light and make us proud. I know you can do it, sweetie. It’s in your blood. The necklace was mine, by the way. Your grandmother gave it to me. I want you to have it now and wear it with pride. Remember us through it. Use it to give you strength. You have the entire Lux-Aeterna family supporting you. You’re strong, I know you are. And I know you’ll be a great Queen. I love you. Be a better Queen than I was
“Mother,” I whisper as I set the letter down.
Tears fall down my cheeks again. My parents believed in me all along. They didn’t know how I’d turn out, yet their faith never ceased. Maion was wrong. He doesn’t know my mother at all. She could never hate her child, even if they were are imperfectly perfect as me. I pick up the necklace and put it on. I look even more like my mother now. I believe I remember her wearing it in a photo or two. She usually wore elegant gowns that went up to her neck so it was usually hidden. Wearing it makes me feel closer to her; like she’s not completely gone. With this she will always be with me. I feel as if I can do anything now.
I wipe my eyes. My parents died nobly. They never gave up. They’re still here, fighting; their legacy to lives in me. I smile like an idiot at my reflection.
I can do this. Screw Maion. I’m going to be the Queen of Light, not him. I’ll study hard to become a great ruler. My parent’s death won’t be in vain. I’ll pick up where they left off.
“My ancestors made that for your family, you know.”
I was so absorbed in my thoughts I didn’t notice Maion slip in. His smile is warm and light. The white of his eyes are stained red. Was he crying too? He makes his way over, standing right behind me.
“Their blood wasn’t worthy enough to be part of the royal family,” he continues. “So they did all they could to be as close to the Lux-Aeterna family. I was lucky enough that your mother made me her chief assistant. This is the closest I can get to being royalty without noble blood.”
I stare at him through the mirror. “Maion.” My voice is barely a whisper.
“I’m sorry I’m so hard on you.” His gaze doesn’t meet mine. “I’ve been a mess since the accident years ago. I’ll never get over their death. And I took it out on you, which wasn’t right. I’ve shamed my family with my actions. Forgive me, my Queen.”
Without a second thought I stand and give Maion a hug. “I’ll never get over it either.”
He pulls away smiling a true, genuine smile. “You really do look like your mother. Her beauty and grace, all in you. I just know she passed down her ability to rule as well.
I return his smile. “That means the world to me, Maion.”
Knock knock. “Mistress?”
That’s Iofel now. Guess it’s time for me to get ready.
Maion kisses my forehead before leaving. “Don’t worry. I’ll be right there with you.” He opens the door for Iofel, scooting past her scathing glare.
I take a deep breath. With this newfound hope I will succeed. I miss my parents dearly, but I can’t mourn forever. They live on through me. My newfound legacy will make them proud. Today the Lux-Aeterna name is reborn. I, Roselyn Lux-Aeterna, am ready.
Deep breaths; everything’s okay. No big deal. All they’re going to do is crown you their Queen for the rest of your life, which is pretty much forever (angels are pretty much immortal). No biggie, right? My hands tremble as I reach to touch my mother’s necklace.
Is it time yet? Maion said the doors would open when I’m supposed to walk in, but I’ve been standing in the hallway for what seems like ages. I’m so bored. I fix my dress for the hundredth time.
They have me all dolled up in what my mother supposedly wore to her coronation. It’s a white dress with ruffled collar. But the beautiful thing about it is that clear, sparkling mesh connects it to the ruffles around my wrists and the main part of the dress. It has a sweetheart neckline and is skinny in the torso and flows out wider like a waterfall at my hips. A shimmering layer of mesh that matches the one on my chest covers the bottom portion of the dress only, and is cut down the middle so it opens like curtains. I love everything about it except the open back. It makes me feel so open and exposed. Especially since my hair is twisted into a giant bow on the back of my head. Don’t ask me how Iofel did it; she’s a skilled beautician and cosmetologist.
I stare at the oak doors again. I’m so bored that the pattern of the wood has tiny pictures in it. Oh look, a man with a fishing pole sitting on a cloud. I wonder if he’s worrying about anything…He’s probably an ordinary man who only has to care about himself and maybe a wife and a couple of children. I’d take that any day. That’s nothing compared to babysitting an entire kingdom of angels.
The doors open at last. My heart leaps out of my chest as light filters into the dark hall, the rays of light giving me an artificial halo. Maion stands on the other side in a white tuxedo. Good to see he has more than just that one suite in his closet. His face is a black canvas.
“It’s time, my Queen.”
He steps aside as I take a deep breath before proceeding. Angels dressed in white stand on either side of the shining white carpet I’m walking along. It cuts through the middle of the room and leads up a flight of stairs to another platform. The High Priest is standing there smiling in his glittering white robe.
I stare up at the ceiling to distract myself from the sick feeling in my stomach. Dome shaped with glass panels that allow the stars to show the room with sparks. Columns hold it up, decorated with streamers of white and gold. Somewhere in the distance a band plays and upbeat tune of celebration.
My legs are jelly. I fear I’ll trip in these heels before I even make it to the top. All eyes are on me. Many cheer and clap as I make my way up the steps toward the Pope. I have to hold my dress two inches off the ground to keep from tearing it. The High Priest greets me with a smile that makes his wrinkled face seem even older.
“It’s finally time, Roselyn.” His voice is one that belongs to a man who has experienced many lives; compliments his wrinkles and sagging skin perfectly. “You look just like your mother in that dress.”
I blush and curtsy not too gracefully.
“Let the ceremony begin!”
A chorus of cheers echo off the walls, making my ears ring. The Pope claps his hands. Two angels flank him on each side. They all have shining white hair, bright green eyes, and silver robes. Each carries something precious in his hands. The on the far left has a large book with a white fabric cover that’s covered with ancient symbols in gold writing. The man next to him has a silver chalice with gold and sapphire gems. It appears that some kind of holy water is swirling around in it. On the other side of the Pope the man holds a small box with gold ruins all over. The one farthest to the right carries a box as well, but it’s much larger.
What is all this for? I swallow. Beads of sweat dribble down my face. Do I have to take a test or something? If I do I’ll surely fail, especially if it’s on what Maion teaches. My etiquette notebook is full of doodles instead of notes. Not useful on a test; definitely not for one as important as this.
The first man brings the High Priest the book and flies above me to join the crowd below. It’s almost as large as the tabletop of the vanity in my room. I’m surprised the Pope can hold it; to be fair he’s holding it across his chest with both arms. He brings it down, holding it out to me.
“Place your hand on top, my dear,” he instructs.
I nod and do as he asks.
“Repeat after me.” He clears his throat. “I, Roselyn Mae Lux-Aeterna, solemnly swear that I will take on all the responsibilities given to me when I am Queen. I will be kind to my people and rule humbly. I shall stand for the light and all it represents. I will protect my followers from the Dark Lord and all the darkness in the world. By these standards I shall rule you and reign as a model Queen. In the Creator of Light’s name I promise to uphold this.”
I hesitate before repeating. When I become Queen I’ll have to uphold everything the Pope just said. But what if I can’t? What if they’re too much for me? Will they kick me out? Exile me? Kill me? My hands tremble more as I lick my lips. I have to do this. For my parents, for my people. They’re all counting on me to lead. I may be young, but I’ll give it my all.
Word for word I reiterate his words, not missing a single thing. When I’m finished the book radiates with a white light. The cover flies open. I move my hand out of the way before it gets sliced off. The silver pages turn on their own. Halfway through the book they stop on a clean page that gleams softly under the moonlight.
The angel on the High Priest’s left, the one holding the small box, walks forward and stands next to me. He lifts the top off, revealing a clear ballpoint pen with no ink.
“Give me your hand,” he instructs.
I hold my right one out to him. He picks the pen up and punctures my wrist with the tip. It stings like a thousand tiny bees. I bite my bottom lip to keep from whimpering. I watch as the pen turns from translucent to crimson with my blood. When it’s full the man removes the pen and touches the wound lightly with his fingers. Instantly skin begins to grow back. Not a single drop of blood hits the ground. He thrusts the pen into my hand and points to the page.
“You must sign your name,” The High Priest tells me.
I swallow hard as I press the tip to the page. What’s going to happen after I do this? Blood, I have to sign my name in blood. I can smell it in the air and taste its metallic odor on my tongue. It’s enough to make me sick. I ignore it all and continue to write my name. Looks like a drunken left-handed man signed it, but the Pope seems pleased. The angel takes the pen back and places it back in the box. He flies off as well, leaving the men with the chalice and larger box left.
The High Priest closes the book with a loud thud. “Now, turn to face your subjects, my Queen.”
Slowly I turn to face the sea of angels behind me. They’re all smiling, bursting at the seams with excitement. I, on the other hand, am the furthest thing from “excited.” My anxiety is eating away my insides.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” The Pope’s voice exceeds the volume of all those in the room. Everyone becomes silent, their colorful irises locked on me; so bright and radiant I’m going to melt. “I am pleased to announce the coronation is complete!”
A roar of cheer fills the room.
“I now present to you the new Queen of Light, Roselyn Lux-Aeterna!”
Something cold touches my head as the volume of their cries increases. I peer up, trying not to lean my head too far back. I can’t see too well, but from what I can see a glittering crown sits upon my head. I’d call it a tiara due to its design, but its size makes it more of a crown. The design eludes me. The only thing my vision is the specs of light that bounce off the hundreds of diamonds on the silver-blue metal. It’s so heavy I have to tilt my head back a bit so I won’t be too far forward and topple down the stairs.
The High Priest’s warm wrinkly hand touches my open back. I flinch, but stand my ground. The room begins to fade from white to pitch black. I can hear all the voices of the angels, but I’ve gone blind. My chest is heavy. I gasp for air as I put my hand over my heart. I can’t breathe. Something’s pulling me back. No, wait, something’s being pulled from inside me. My heart, do they want my heart? I swallow my cries of agony as all the nerves in my body burn.
One second I’m on fire and the next I’m frozen. In an instant my heart is ripped out of my chest through my back. A second later the lights are back on. I can see the angels once more. Their faces are painted with awe at the sight of me. I glance from side to side. I too gasp with awe. Protruding from my back is a pair of angel wings, my wings. Feathers of white, gold, and blue-silver twirl to the floor. The only color wings I’ve seen are white, but they fail to compare to the beauty of mine. My wingspan has to be at least twelve feet; the average angel's wingspan is about eight. The harmony of the colors is one of the most beautiful combinations I’ve seen. And they’re mine. Mine, mine, mine.
The last angel flies above me, landing on the step below. He bows as he hands me the chalice. The liquid is still as flowing and clear as it was before. I reach for the cup, but the man reaches into his pocket first. He pulls out a large vial of maroon liquid. The cap is popped off and the color of the water is now a bright red.
“Now, my Queen!” The High Priest is back. “Drink the blood of your subjects! And become one with your people!”
The stench of the drink is strong. It swims calmly in the chalice, wanting to dance on my tongue. Gazing upon the red liquid alone is enough to make me hurl. Why in the name of light am I doing this? I’ve never heard of nobility drinking the blood of their people. But the angels are an old race, very strict about tradition.
I swallow my pride (and a bit of vomit) and push the cup to my lips. It tastes like I have a cut in my mouth that won’t stop bleeding. It’s strong, stronger than anything I’ve tasted. Reflexes beg me to spit it out. “Put us out of our misery!” my taste buds scream. Ignore it. My mind focuses on the angels cheering, the ribbons on the columns. Time is slow; it feels frozen. Come on, you can do this.
I do finish (finally). I hold the cup above my head to symbolize my victory. My stomach is full of lead and my mouth is numb. At least that’s over. The angels cheer so loud my ears buzz. I feel someone take the chalice from me as another grabs my hand and leads me further into the platform. I compose my thoughts. The High Priest is leading me toward the throne whose back sits against the wall. I notice that my wings are now gone. Did the Pope do that? How? How did he get them out of me? I’ll have to ask him later how I can make them appear on my own and use them.
The throne is much larger than I expect: handcrafted white oak standing at least six feet tall. Angel wings are carved on either side the white plush with silver spirals where one’s head should rest. The cushion is the same material and wide enough for at least two to sit; that is if they’re not too large in the posterior region. The arm rests stretch a foot past the base of the seat, curling up into a tiny ball at the end. Plush fabric covers them so nobody gets splinters from sitting there for hours on end. Next to it should be an identical seat, but its place is a dark stain where it used to sit. The poor thing left its shadow behind, desperately trying to be remembered.
I already know everyone wants me to sit on the throne. The Pope is about to instruct me to do so but I beat him to the punch. Of course the crowd screams with joy as I sit on my pedestal that I don’t deserve. I smile kindly at them like my mother might have.
“Now!” the Pope’s voice cuts the air again. “Let the dance commence!”
The band, who sits directly below to my left, plays soft classical music as the angels scatter to dance and chat. Is this Schubert? Or Haydn? I think Maion covered a song similar to this in piano class (because every good ruler must be multi-talented). The High Priest smiles at me as he walks down the steps to join the rest.
Now I’m all alone on my throne watching them party. Should I join them? Looks like a fun time. I’m sure they’d all like to meet their new Queen. As I’m getting up Maion walks up the stairs. I groan and sit back down. What do I have to do now? Sew everyone’s feathers onto mine?
For the first time ever he bows to greet me; to be fair his expression does look like he stepped in animal feces.
“Congratulations, my Queen.” His voice is emotionless as usual, but I think there’s a hint of satisfaction hidden in there.
I thank him sincerely. I really do mean it. A compliment from Maion is something to be proud of. I’ve only been praised four times in my whole life.
“So.” I smile and gaze out to the dance floor. “Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.”
Maion doesn’t bother looking back. “I suppose.”
The band replaces the fast tune with a slow dance song. I hum the melody to myself.
“Man,” I think out loud. “I really want to dance. Won’t you be my partner, Maion?”
He looks like he would have rather stepped in feces than hear me ask such a question. His blue eyes blink at me for a moment before responding.
“No, my Queen, that’s alright.”
I give him a perplexed look. “Why not? This is a party, isn’t it? Let’s celebrate.”
Maion clears his throat. “I regret to inform you that you, Roselyn, are not allowed to participate.”
“Wait! What!” I’m in shock. What does he mean I can’t participate? Am I not allowed to dance and talk with my people? This is absurd. This celebration is for me; I should enjoy it too.
“I forgot to mention that the Queen, you, is not allowed to join her subjects in celebration.” Maion explains, not sounding the least bit sorry he didn’t tell me earlier.
“And why not?” I cross my arms. “I am the Queen of Light now. I should be able to do as I please.”
Maion’s lips are pressed. “You may have power, but it is custom that on the night of coronation the royal family not mingle with the commoners.”
“And why is that?” I question, a sharp edge to my tone.
“To establish your status,” he replies dryly. “It shows you are above them, which you are. You must prove to them that you are capable of being their Queen.”
“By watching them dance?”
“No, by watching over them.” Maion pulls his eyebrows together with his thumb and index finger. “You’re not a child anymore, Roselyn. You’re a Queen. Which means you have responsibilities, one of them being to watch over your people. To go down and enjoy this party would mean you are too carefree. A Queen must keep her guard up at all times. If you want your followers to trust you during your reign you’re going to have to prove to them you have the ability to protect them at all costs. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes,” I grumble as I slump back in my chair with my hand on my cheek.
“Sit up straight,” Maion demands. “Do not look foolish on your first night.”
I groan and straighten my back.
“There.” He smiles. “You look like you mother on the night of her coronation.” Maion sounds pleased for once. The only person able to make him this happy is my mother. When he reminisces about her his eyes light up and his emotions crawl out of the hole he’s hiding them in. “Oh, she looked so beautiful in that gown. She was a young Queen too; not as young as you, but young enough.” He sighs. “I wish she married that handsome lad who was leader of the angel military instead of that servant.” He shudders. “They would have been so lovely together. Probably would have had the most brilliant children.”
My eyes narrow. I’m still here you know.
“Well, what’s done is done,” he continues. “You might be as good a Queen as your mother someday.” His eyes lock on me. “As long as you are diligent in your studies and actually try.” Without another word he clops back down the steps like a clumsy horse.
Who does he think he is talking about my father like that? Sure, he didn’t have royal blood like my mother, but he had just as kind a heart from what I’ve heard. And they loved each other so much. That’s all that matters. They loved each other enough to have me.
I sigh and gaze out into the sea of white. Maion stands off to the side chatting with two women in dresses that are a bit too tight for their middle-aged bodies. So he’ll open up to strangers but not the child he practically raised? Whatever. I’ll show him. I’ll be a great Queen of Light, the best the Kingdom ever had. I’m strong. I’ll protect my people. I’ll show them I can live up to my mother’s name, my ancestor’s name.
Hours go by, yet nobody seems tired of partying. They’re all still chatting and dancing as if they don’t even notice me sitting up here all alone. Bored out of my skull I might add. Parties are fun, but sitting back watching one is a real drag.
I yawn as the band prepares to play another slow song. Do they know I’m about to fall asleep up here? They planned this, didn’t they? Everyone down there is waiting for me to slip up so they can compare me to my mother. I know they are.
All of a sudden my chest feels heavy, like someone kicked me square in the chest. Something’s not right. Bad, no, terrible, something terrible is about to happen. I can feel it. Never have I felt an aura this strong. It’s a magnet and I’m being pulled like metal.
Nobody in the crowd seems to notice this disturbance. They continue to celebrate like they don’t notice a thing. How am I the only one feeling this? Is it because I’m their Queen? Can I sense danger when they can’t? Maybe this is how I’m supposed to protect them.
The oak doors fly open, slamming into the walls so hard the plaster cracks. The room is dead silent. A hundred pairs of eyes stare at the open doors in confusion. A cool breeze blows through the hall. The once light and lively atmosphere becomes heavy and dark in a matter of seconds. My chest is tight; I can’t breathe. Footsteps echo for afar. People close to the door peer into the dark hall. All become paler ghosts and almost collapse to the floor. The look in their eyes tells the others immediately what’s coming. The sea of people parts as the angels hug the walls.
Instinctively I stand, strong and confident. I must not let them see how scared I am on the inside; I wish Maion would tell me what to do. But I can’t rely on him anymore. I swore to protect my people and I intend to do that…even if it costs my life…
A man in contrast to the room enters. He is all black, setting him apart from the angels. Hair darker than midnight kisses his shoulders while his piercing ruby eyes stab my chest. His attire is all black; from his long coat with two tails to his boots; black. Even the floor where he stands is black. His touch somehow took the innocence of the white tiles. I may be imagining this, but I’m quite sure that wisps of black aura are radiating from his body. They stay there like snakes for a moment before evaporating. Everything about him screams evil, but he has the most pleasant smile on his face.
All attention is on the dark man. Hushed murmurs break out between the angels, but most remain as statues. The man looks from side to side. His grin broadens at the sight of the angel’s ashen horror-stricken faces.
“My, my.” His silky voice cuts the air like a knife. It’s deep, but not too deep, and has the right about of manliness to make any woman swoon. “What a fun party. But.” His grin becomes twisted. “It seems that I wasn’t invited. Such a shame too. I’m oh so fun at parties.”
Who the hell does this guy think he is barging in here uninvited? He’s obviously not an angel. But what is he? I shiver. His glowering rubies make my sapphires cower in their presence.
“Excuse me!” I make my voice sound as confident as possible and loud enough to project across the entire room.
His gaze focuses on me, sending chills down my spine. He examines me a moment before trying to grin sincerely. “So, this is the Light’s new Queen? Roselyn, is it? Charming name.” His demeanor twists again.
My brows furrow. He’s just toying with me. I won’t let him get to me. I’m a Queen now. Strong, show him how strong the light is.
“State your name and business.” My tone is ice cold. “It’s quite rude to interrupt a party, especially one as important as this.”
“My apologies.” He doesn’t sound the least bit sorry. He knew what was going on tonight and obviously planned to ruin it. “I assumed you’ve heard of me, but I suppose that for a butler kept me a secret.” He shoots a dirty look Maion’s way. “But I suppose we were bound to meet eventually, seeing we are rivals and all.”
“Rivals?” What kind of crap is he talking about?
“Oh sweetheart, they kept everything from you didn’t they?” He shoots daggers my way with his wicked smile. “No matter, I don’t intend to keep anything like this from you. My name is Malium Tenebris, the King of Darkness himself.”
I gasp with a handful of angels. Maion told me about the King of Darkness once or twice. He’s my opposite, ruling the Kingdom of Darkness and all the evil souls that die. One cannot live without the other, but our powers destroy each other. I swallow hard. I never imagined we’d ever meet. His dark soul is strong. I can feel it all the way up here. If he touches one of my angels they’ll die. Only my soul’s wavelength matches his in strength.
“And what is your reason for being here, Ruler of Dark?” Stay strong. He’s testing you.
“Why, to join in the celebration of course,” is his simple reply.
“And why would you rejoice in your enemy’s good fortune?”
He’s clever, much older than me. No records show of more than one King of Darkness. I believe he’s been the only one since time began. I swallow hard. He’s got me by at least a few thousand years.
“Surely,” his tone is mocking. “You know as well as I do that darkness cannot live without light, and vice versa.”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, Roselyn, you may also want to know that that if the light doesn’t have a ruler, the dark’s power, my power, is reduced as well. There must be at least one strong soul from each or the other is powerless. For eighteen years I’ve been quite weak, but.” His smile grows wide. “Now you are Queen and I am back to full power.”
“That still doesn’t justify your presence, Malium,” I say, sternly. His name is acid on my tongue, burning my mouth.
“I came to thank you,” he replies. “Just because darkness and light don’t mix doesn’t mean we can’t get along.”
“So let’s celebrate. I know it’s tradition that the new royalty not mingle with common blood on the night of coronation, but as you can see, I’m royalty as well. Why don’t you have your first dance with me? I’m positive you’re dying of boredom sitting on that throne all night.”
I search the sea of angels. They appear as though they’ve met Death himself. Maion notices my gaze and shoots one my way that says: “If you dance with him I will personally take that crown off your head and slap you across the face with it.” But he’s irrelevant. The needs of my people surpass his pride.
“One dance?” I question. “That’s all you want? And then you will leave my people and me at peace?”
He nods. “One dance, simple as that. It used to be custom that for the darkness and light to dance together on a night like this. But someone.” I feel like that’s directed toward Maion. “Decided that tradition meant nothing.”
My mind's made up. My people will be able to breathe easy when he’s gone. One dance, that’s it. No big deal. You drank angel blood, you can survive one dance.
I nod. “Fine, one dance. Then you leave me and my people at once. Understand?”
“Of course,” he replies, his grin turning cynical.
My legs tremble as I walk down the steps and across the dancefloor. Malium is even scarier up close. He has to be at least six feet tall; his shadow swallows me whole. I can now see his broad shoulders and muscles bulging from the fabric of his coat. He may be thousands of years old but he doesn’t look a day over twenty four. A warrior, that’s what he is; that’s what I have to be.
He reaches his hand toward me smiling, though I don’t find him too welcoming. I begrudgingly place my hand in his. Malium places a gentle kiss on my skin, causing it to burn. I don’t flinch in his presence.
“Play us something nice and slow,” he orders the band.
It doesn’t even take them two seconds to pick up their instruments and start playing Mozart. Malium steps towards me. He places my free hand on his shoulder and his on my hip. The white fabric begins to turn from white to black as if it caught the plague. Both my hands are being dipped in acid. But I have to be strong, I have to ignore it.
Malium begins to dance and I clumsily follow. I try my best to avoid his gaze, but his is pressing, not leaving my face.
“Ever dance before?” he asks.
“Never,” I say.
“Well, you’re very light on your feet.”
I don’t know how to respond to an enemy's compliments. This is just some mind trick, isn’t it? He wants to make me feel inferior. But he hasn’t got me yet.
“Cut the crap.”
My sudden bluntness causes his eyes to grow wide for a second, and a second only. “Why, what do you mean?” He sounds like a little kid who got in trouble but is trying to play innocent.
“You know what I mean.” My words are as cold as ice, piercing his chest with chilled daggers. “Why are you really here? To stir up panic in my people? And why compliment me? I’m your enemy.”
He chuckles heartily, staring down at me as if he’s already won. “My dear, the world has been so dull for the past eighteen years. I’ve had absolutely no power. And while I do love striking fear into people’s hearts, I simply came here to meet you. We are both royalty, both having to rule the core elements of this world, so I thought we should at least get acquainted with one another.” He grins. “They say keep your enemies close, but I have no intent to harm you. We can only exist if the other does. So what does it hurt if we chat? We have the same responsibilities in opposing worlds.”
Malium has valid points. But…I frown. Something about this still seems odd. Shouldn’t he be in his Kingdom ruling as well? Why would he be here? Unless…no…he wouldn’t…
He catches my expression. “Something the matter?” he asks in an all too pleased tone.
“This is a distraction, isn’t it?” I glare at him. “You’re planning something aren’t you?”
“You’re smarter than I gave you credit for, young blood.”
My demeanor is deadly. If he hurts anyone I’ll make him regret it. “What have you done?”
The music is still playing but Malium stops dancing. He releases me and takes a step back. The twisted smile remains on his face. He “yawns” and stretches.
“Well, it’s getting quite late. I must depart now.” Another fake yawn. “Sweet dreams, Queen of the Angels.” He turns and walks out of the ballroom.
I’m not letting him get away that easily. “Hey!” I call as a dash after him. “Malium! Malium! Answer me!”
As I’m about to grab him he vanishes into thin air. A black portal is left where he stood. My foot barely touches it; a piercing pain spreads through my whole body. I back away from it as it shrinks. He’s gone…gone…and I let him get away…
As I reenter the room all eyes are on me. Defeat is painted on my face. I’m sure they feel it too- the same regret and shame that frames me. They can clearly see their Queen has already failed; and it was only her first task.