I had posted a mini drabble from this story a while ago. Here is the beginning of said story. Enjoy!
The silver satin was clinging to the sides of her dress, the sheer fabric making her arms itch. She scratched at the itches, but gave up after the satin continued to rub at her skin with each movement. She glared at the material draping down against her, wishing she could untie it from her index fingers, but she supposed it would ruin the illusion. After all, what was a dragon without its wings?
Ilana lifted her arms, sighing as the satin caught the lights and shimmered with a lovely glow. The Moon Dragon was a pinnacle part of the ceremony to ring in the new rulers, but she was not excited about her dance. Of course, she had practiced until her feet felt raw and had the dance routine down to the exact movements, but there was the matter of the gentleman playing the role of the Sun Dragon…
Ilana glanced out of her window and saw Heath with one of his guards catching some last minute practice for the ceremony on the outdoor stage. She rolled her eyes as he missed a step, and she prayed that he would not trample her toes with any mistakes he would undoubtedly make during the dance.
“Oh, it fits you like a glove, Your Highness,” Jana said, cooing over the dress. The maid smoothed some wrinkles before fetching the translucent heels that went with the costume. Ilana slipped into the footwear and, with a little help from Jana, found her center of balance and performed a few of the more difficult dance movements to ensure she would not trip.
“Perfect, Your Highness,” Jana said.
“Thank you,” Ilana murmured.
“Now, which bedclothes shall I leave for you tonight?” Jana opened the doors to Ilana’s wardrobe, and the maid deftly skimmed through the various nightgowns. Teasing, Jana added, “You’ll want to look your best for the Duke of Neden on your first night together, of course.”
Ilana blanched. “Surprise me,” she said, grabbing her cloak from the rack by the entrance of her room and throwing it around her shoulders. “I’m going for a walk.”
She ignored Jana’s callings and briskly strode through the palace walls until she reached the servant doors. She slipped out of them, going through the garden paths to make her way out of the castle’s side gates. The few guards she passed by merely bowed their heads in her presence. She made certain that her gaze was stern enough to deter any utterances from them.
Ilana breathed in the outside air, clean and crisp from the morning’s soft rain shower. In hindsight, she should not have left to travel in the ceremony shoes, but she promised to return to the castle with plenty of time to give them a good cleaning to get rid of any muck that she would inevitably get on them.
She stuck close to the outer pathways of the castle city, avoiding eye contact with the few people still milling about in the late afternoon. Many were preparing to join the coronation ceremony in the castle’s courtyard, with women in their good dresses, men in suits and hats, and children’s faces red from being scrubbed free of any dirt and grime. Ilana smiled as she passed by a pair of young boys, speaking excitedly of staying up past their bedtime.
Her gaze followed the boys until they turned the corner, and her shoulders sagged as the decorated towers of the castle emerged in her line of sight in place of the children.
“Are you unhappy about the coronation?” A raspy voice rose from the edge of the alley, and Ilana whirled around to see the woman who had spoken. The crone, upon making eye contact with Ilana, bowed into a cautious curtsy, holding onto the edge of her apron in one hand and using the other to grip the wall to keep her old body steady.
“Forgive my insolence, Your Highness–”
“Please, no,” Ilana said, remembering to return the curtsy with a bow of her head. “You did nothing wrong.”
The crone straightened up with a smile that brightened her dark eyes. “Perhaps you could indulge an old lady’s curiosity, then,” she said. She gestured to the door behind her. “It may help ease your coronation fears if you talk with someone willing to listen.”
Ilana paused. The sun’s position indicated that she had amble time to return to the castle even if she did take a few moments to talk to the lonely woman. It wasn’t the wisest course of action to enter a strange place without a guard, yet there were still enough people around to hear should Ilana need to scream for help.
“I thank you for the invitation,” Ilana said, following the crone into her home.
“It is I who should thank you for your presence, Your Highness.” The woman shut the door and gestured to a pillowed chair around the room’s center table. Ilana sat down, her eyes marveling at the strings of herbs tied to the cabinets, at the corked bottles of liquids and potions shoved together on the shelves.
“Are you a healer?” Ilana asked, noticing the staves propped up against one of the far walls.
“I dabble in the healing spells,” the woman said while tossing another log into the fireplace. A pot hung above the flames, its contents hissing and bubbling. “I am an apothecarist by nature, however, for those who cannot afford a physician.”
“A noble profession,” Ilana said.
“Yes, it is rewarding.” The woman sat down in the seat across the table from Ilana. “Now, would you care to tell this lady what troubles you? It should be a happy day, not one of melancholy.”
“I am happy,” Ilana said. “I have been preparing for my coronation for the majority of my life.”
“Is it the Dragon Dance?” the woman asked. “It’s a timeless tradition, but I even notice some of the dance steps can stand be updated…”
“No, it’s not the dance,” Ilana said. “I suppose…”
“It’s the man, isn’t it?” The crone nodded to herself. “Is he more of a boy than a man? I may have just the potion for that around here–”
“No, thank you.” Ilana held up a hand, stopping the woman from getting up. With a slight smile, Ilana added, “He is not a bad man, not at all. I just don’t know him as well as I would like to know him.”
“Arranged marriage is the norm,” the woman said. “I suspect you were prepared for this?”
“Yes, of course.” Ilana sighed. “I thought I was ready to accept it… I suppose I’m not.”
“Perhaps it’s because your betrothed is the duke from another country?” the woman asked. “It is a shame that our lovely country has been downsized from past wars. Your grandfather was a brilliant general, Dragons bless his soul. I believe the Larean army played dirty during the war. That was how they won.”
Ilana gave the woman a slight smile. “I am afraid I was not even an idea during that time,” she said. “I have heard the basic facts of my grandfather’s wartime during my lessons, of course, but I am not worried about the past.”
“Yes, so are you are worried for the future.” The woman returned the smile. “What would you like to do about it?”
Ilana raised an eyebrow. “Well… I’m going to return to the castle to finish the preparations for the ceremony. I have no choice–”
“Ah, ah, ah.” The crone wagged her finger at Ilana. “There is always a choice, Your Highness. I may have just the thing for you.”
With creaks of the chair or the woman’s bones, Ilana could not tell which, the woman got up and went behind one of the counters. There was a rustle, a lid slamming shut, then the woman returned to the table with a cloak. It may have once been black, but the material had since faded to a gray with fine stitching trimming the edges.
“This is what I call magic thread,” the old woman said, her crooked finger tracing the white stitches. “Throw it over your shoulders and make a wish. It will react to your heart’s desires and carry you away.” Ilana took the cloak, running her fingers down the soft material, and jumped when the woman said, “Go on now, my dear. Try it on.”
Ilana shrugged out of her own cloak, figuring that she may as well humor the woman who had given her a kind ear for her troubles. Ilana threw the garment on, standing up to allow it to drape down her body. Glancing in the looking glass that was hanging on the wall, Ilana felt no different.
“Close your eyes,” the woman urged. “Make a wish.”
Ilana did as she was instructed, wishing that she had a bit more time to get used to the idea of becoming queen, of becoming someone’s wife. A bit more time and a different place to reflect on her life and the changes to come…
The crone’s voice was a mere whisper. “Enjoy the ride, my dear.”
The floor fell out beneath Ilana’s feet and she screamed.