This story is one of the September Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Two eyes stare back at me from the mirror. Two bottomless black oceans encircled by wave-streaked beaches of steely blue. I blink, and the inky water of the left sea floods the beach, then the white expanse beyond it. A lasting effect of powers that I don’t have full control of — yet. I blink again and watch the tide recede. Suddenly, a maid enters my chamber and snaps her fingers, igniting white fires in the torch basins that line the stone walls. I turn to look at her, but she is already gone — I only catch a glimpse of her regulation gray skirt sweeping around the corner of the doorway. A single thread catches on the elaborately carved frame, but it succumbs to her hurried steps and breaks. I shake my head, trying to bring myself back into focus. That’s the problem when you’re Hyper-Aware, like me. You tend to get lost in the trillions of tiny details around you and can’t see the forest for the trees.
My mind finally becomes sharp with the chiming of a clock on my mantelpiece. The clock was from my grandmother (the former queen of our territories) who, on her deathbed, bestowed upon me the gift of this ancient time-telling device. It was carved from a single block of marble (the only block left over when this castle was built, as the story goes), and the image of our village’s valley that is painted on it is enchanted to shift with the time of day and weather. It is the most accurate timepiece in all the known lands, so it is not lying to me when it shows it’s time for me to get ready.
I take one last look around my bedchamber. I admire the large canopy bed opposite the fireplace. The armoire against the far wall. I run my fingertips along the vanity and pull the curtains closed. I straighten the round carpet in the center of the room, snap my fingers to extinguish the torches, then leave. This has been my room since birth, but I’m not emotional: I’ll get bigger quarters when I’m queen anyway.
The halls of the castle have a muted, grayish colouring to everything in them. Colors are special in our kingdom and reserved for important things. My hair will remain silver until my coronation, where its true color will be revealed. Red means that my time on the throne will be filled with blood, both good and bad. Brown shows that the earth will bring surprises for us. Blond predicts a time for advancements. Black indicates that strategy will be of great import. Any other color’s meaning is unknown, as they have never appeared in a royal before.
I lower myself into the palace bath, feeling the worn-but-rough texture of the edge. It was given to my mother on her wedding day and is made entirely out of raw gems from the mines. One of the flower petals bobbing on the surface of the water floats towards me, but freezes at the touch of my skin. On top of being Hyper-Aware (like my mother, grandmother, and so on) I am also half Moon Angel (from my father’s side). This gives me the near-translucent skin, black eyes, and cold aura that has given us the nickname “Demons.” I submerge myself in the hot water and admire the cathartic quietness. All the noises of the celebrations are drowned out. It’s just me and my thoughts.
Once I am clean, I emerge from the water, dry myself off, and put on my bathrobe. Within minutes, my ladies-in-waiting arrive to style my hair and paint my face for the ceremony. A smokey effect of navy blue is applied to my eyelids, rich maroon to my lips, and a shimmering powder to my cheekbones and brow. My hair is looped and braided into intricate patterns against my scalp which meet at the crown of my head. The rest of my hair hangs loose, cascading like a silver waterfall onto my shoulders and down my back. I am then helped into a coal-black dress covered in lace and hidden patterns. The bodice is tied around my waist, the sleeves just above my elbows. I step into my high-heeled shoes, and I’m ready. The finishing touch will be the bejeweled silver crown, encrusted with diamonds, that shall be placed on my head.
I take my seat on the throne. The coronation is about to begin. I take a deep breath as my mother places the crown on my head and my father reads me my duties. I wait. I hear whispering amongst the crowds and begin to wonder what color my hair is. I look down.
It shines back at me: silver.