Since The Day You Left I: The Day Before The Pivot
The whole kingdom was drunk on excitement.
The dawn was the most beautiful, seeming to be a good omen to the rest of the day. The horizon lightened until it was sapphire blue, which happened to be the kingdom’s virtue color. The sun blazed overhead and burned away any clouds that would ruin the ceremony.
Peddlers, bakers, and kiosks of all kinds flooded the streets of Bryngaer, haggling their prices and hollering their well-wishes for the momentous occasion. Geese and pigeons flocked around the aromatic desserts booths, trying their best to snatch a palm cake or two. A gaggle flew away, cackling at the indignant baker, with a whole batch of flaky almond pastries.
Merchants tenderly advertised dolls clothed in silken scarves to little girls and their mothers, and all the while tempted boys with strong toy soldiers. Their profits flew, as today was a special occasion, and the little ones would regret not having a memento for their own bairns and their children’s children. Silver and gold coins were pocketed and toys flew off their shelves.
All the while, royal decorators draped the buildings with yards of sapphire banners. Minstrels strolled up every street, urging the citizens to dance and sing. Screaming color surrounded the townsfolk in a standstill of bliss.
The princess was to become queen.
Bryngaer used to be a fort and barrack town, but many, many stubborn wives generations ago had packed up and followed their war-bound husbands, and on leisures, the men began to build a city for their families’ convenience. After hundreds of years, the kingdom recognized the care and love put into every flagstone fixed in the soil, every intricately placed brick, and every deliberately planted rose. It became the kingdom’s heart, and the royal family up and moved into the soaring and graceful keep that was built in the center of the city. It was now the official seat of the throne, though the city kept the name: Hill Fortress.
All the way up in the majestic and soaring towers, Princess Caislín O'Bryngaer was processed outside the grand hall onto the flagstone terrace. She blinked slightly as the sun, now at its zenith, shone into her eyes. The smile of her father, waiting at the end of the practice aisle, was enough to send a warmness through her. The girl beamed as she slowly trekked to the end of the red aisle, letting the rhythm of her movement make her head bounce.
Caislín was a beautiful young woman and a promising monarch. Her waist-length black hair was pinned back with diamond-studded silver clips shaped as butterflies taking flight. Her eyes were a crystal blue that reflected the bright Spring sun. Her face was smooth and round, like that of a child’s, and her eyes disappeared when she smiled. Her lips were coral pink against her fair skin, and her teeth were enviously straight. Her slim frame was outlined by her sapphire ballgown, and her small arms were covered by silk, white gloves.
As beautiful she was on the outside, it was her beauty on the inside that her kingdom praised. Caislín was always wearing a smile and spent her time among her people, especially the poorest of the poor. She had a special connection with small boys on the streets, widows, and lowly farmers. All she met were her friends.
“And lastly, bow to your father, His Highness…”
She obeyed and curtsied lightly.
“Face your subjects…”
She turned gracefully and smiled brightly at all the decorators and palace hands. They spectated the rehearsal with sentiments of her youth and excitement for her future.
“Pledge your loyalty.”
Caislín clasped her hands and took a deep breath.
“My most beloved subjects of Destrea,” she recited. “I pledge my life, my loyalty, my breath, and my work to you and your welfare. May the Protector guide me to walk beside you and to love my country with my whole heart.”
The lowly decorators, who should have been draping the courtyard in the banners - though Caislín didn’t want them to spend so much time on that - clapped intermittently. The princess gave them a small curtsy and a large smile.
“No, stay low.” Sa’di placed a strong and nimble hand on her shoulder and softly urged her to stay in a curtsy position.
Sa’di was the oldest palace hand in the castle, having planned even her father’s coronation. He was a freed slave from far-off deserts that Caislín only read about. He was a soft spoken man with surprisingly smooth, rich olive skin and round black eyes that disappeared behind deep smile marks.
“My daughter and my heir,” proclaimed her father. He was a tall and broadly built middle-aged man with a regal brow, a stern look, but a smile that melted hearts. Only, he smiled just for Caislín now, after the untimely death of her mother. Even then his grin was a soft, wistful, nostalgic thing. Either way, he was a benevolent ruler and a wonderful father.
“Do you swear to wear your crown as a duty, not as a badge?”
“Do you swear your responsibility to your throne, under the guiding Hand of the Protector?”
“Do you swear to honor your dynasty, extracting wisdom and prudence from your predecessors?”
“I swear, Father.”
“Very well.” He gave Caislín a side smile and turned to the page holding the velvet pillow cradling her tiara. She beamed at him, her heart pounding in excitement.
The tiara was a sight itself, to rival with the whole kingdom. Strands of silver wire were braided and woven in such an intricate fashion that any outsider would only see a bird’s nest, but the kingdom’s people saw a home of an eagle who would soar above the others. The circlet, when placed, would hug the forehead of the queen, and a sapphire would adorn her brow. The fixture securing the teardrop gem was designed like two small and extremely intricate wings of an eagle in flight.
Her father presented the tiara to the small crowd, and held it high above his daughter’s head.
“And so henceforth, Caislín O’Bryngaer will be known as your queen.” With such a drama that was known as propriety, he slowly brought his arms down to crown her.
The tiara slid onto her forehead like Cinderella’s shoe. Nothing happened physically, but Caislín, with the excitement, almost felt the energy to meet all her responsibilities surged through her like a wave descending on her. She closed her eyes to relish the feeling of complete euphoria. A deep breath through her nose calmed her heart. As she opened her eyes, she was greeted by teary-eyed bystanders and Sa’di’s hand to help her straighten. She took his hand and stood at full height.
“Behold your queen!” her father proclaimed.
“Long live our queen!” came the response. Applause and Sa’di led her down and back into the hall.
“You’re ready for the real event,” the king told her casually as they strolled through the streets of the kingdom.
Caislín had since changed into a comfortable white linen sheath gown and loose slippers. Her hair was let down in a common braid tossed over her shoulder.
“My heart won’t stop skipping beats,” she mused quietly, holding her chest. “Let’s all pray I won’t faint tonight.”
The king chuckled and pulled her closer to him with one arm. “You have all the talents to surpass me in reign,” he stated as they continued. “You’ll make me prouder than proud with every passing day that you’re queen.”
Caislín smiled. “I love you, Dadi.”
“I love you, Casey.” His blue eyes swept over the streets and rested on each citizen they passed. A respectful nod to whomever saw them. “The decorators have outdone themselves again… since my coronation.”
Caislín wrapped an arm around her father and surveyed the fluttering banners and kiosks. “It’s not every day there’s a queen, I assume.”
“It’s not.” Her father kissed the crown of her head. “Soon there’ll be a tiara there,” he chuckled, patting her hair. “T’won’t be proper, my daughter, to do our walks.”
Caislín sighed with disappointment, but did not pout. A future queen would never do so. “I always enjoy these, Dadi.”
“I know, my daughter, but many things will change after tonight.”
“I knew that, but I tried not to think about it.”
The king nodded solemnly. "The life of a monarch isn't an easy one, my princess - queen." He winked, but it was weak.
The air between them grew more serious. Caislín chewed her lip as the thought of the entire kingdom resting in her hands bore into her and into her stomach. It created a cold stone instead of a fluttering happiness. Her brow furrowed upwards with worry. What kind of ruler would she be? She definitely was afraid of failing all of Destrea. It was a nightmare that she had suffered a few nights ago.
“So,” the king added with a long sigh. “Does this queen have a king?”
Her heart stopped. Violent flashes surged before her eyes, muffled, tinny wails screeched in her ears, and her stomach turned over. Caislín clutched her stomach and retched as the dizzying sensation made her lose her feeling of direction.
Such a simple phrase sent Caislín’s whole body into a tempest. Her mind was reeling in a maelstrom that plagued her whole being.
“Casey!” the king exclaimed, trying to catch her.
His concern didn’t reach her ears.
“Casey, you’ll wait for me?”
She remembered laughing. “I wouldn’t let that tiara reach my head without you beside me, my handsome commander.”
His smile was enough to make her kiss his cheek. “I love you,” he said softly as he mounted his steed.
He rode away.
He never returned.