Princess Christina scrunched her brow in concentration. On one hand, she was holding a report and the other was skimming over the silky fabric of her dress. She wasn't required to wear a dress, but she enjoyed the whimsical feeling of wearing one. The report in her hand was from her father, King Conch. It said something about the Holiday and she was a little worried that he was canceling it. Her eyes widened, and she dropped it.
She would be hosting the Holiday this year.
A shriek of happiness escaped her, and she saw Officer Nautalis look her way with a look of concern. "I'm hosting this year's Holiday!"
Christina stumbled to her feet and danced around the room, her bare feet sinking into the carpet. Officer Nautalis offered a faint smile to join in the celebration. After a good minute of this, Christina sank back into her chair with a grin. The phone rang, and she discussed Holiday arrangements with several important people.
At around nine, she finally realized that she was starving. She stretched, taking a deep breath through her nose, and noticed a delicious smell. Officer Nautalis was standing by the doorway with a plate of food and a mischievous grin.
"What would I do without you?" Christina asked, turning to look at her faithful guard with a fond smile. Officer Nautalis walked over and set the food down on Christina's desk and returned to her post by the door.
Christina at her food and read various reports that had found their way onto her desk throughout the day. "Officer Nautalis? What would you do if you had to host the Holiday?"
Officer Nautalis frowned, considering the question. "I don't know. It's an enormous responsibility and an honor. The Voyagers only come here once a year, so we need to leave a good impression on them. But it's also a huge security risk because they could crush our peace with ease. I mean, it's exciting to take a break from work to relax for a whole week and we get to meet new people. I would be careful. This year especially, tensions have arisen between this town and the Voyagers."
The pork bun that Christina had been eating, turned sour in her mouth despite it being one of her favorite foods. She considered everything Officer Nautalis had said. This was Christina's final year under the supervision of her parents. Her final year as a princess. That meant that this year needed to be perfect.
"Do you think that I'll do it wrong?"
Officer Nautalis let out a bark of laughter. "Not in the slightest. I'm concerned about your safety. That's all."
Christina noticed Officer Nautalis glance at the floor and then back out the doorway. I'm sure everything will be fine. The thought came unbidden to Christina's mind, which meant that she would do fine.
She didn't know how far she was from the truth.
It had been a couple weeks since Christina had received her instructions for the Holiday. There was only one week until she would see all her hard work realized. Which meant that she was sitting on a large rock that protruded out of the water. It calmed Christina down. A lot.
Her feet were in the water as she stared out to the horizon. She swished water around with her feet and felt herself stroking the rock she was sitting on. It was smooth.
A shadow fell across the stone and Christina knew that it was Officer Nautalis. So, without turning around, she said "Howdy."
"I don't know why you like this spot so much." Officer Nautalis said in way of greeting, shading her eyes with her gloved hand. Christina turned and squinted up at Officer Nautalis.
Christina sputtered for a second, rumpled with righteous indignation. "How can you not like this spot? It's perfect! It overlooks the water. It's low enough that no one worries about me falling in, and the water is amazing."
She felt gratified to see Officer Nautalis stifling a smile. In truth, this was the perfect spot. It always held an air of whimsy about it, so those who sat on the sun-baked stones would feel like they were magical. Officer Nautalis gave a half shrug. "I don't know. I guess I'm biased."
This piqued Christina's curiosity. "Why?"
But Officer Nautalis had a glazed expression as she stared out at the horizon. Christina had seen her do this enough to know that she wouldn't answer. So she stood up and slipped, starting to fall into the water.
A hand wrapped around her forearm and used her momentum to swing her onto land again. Christina stared up at Officer Nautalis and laughed a little. This most likely wasn't in the job description of the royal guards.
"Thanks," Christina said, righting herself and feeling a familiar burning sensation over her cheeks. Officer Nautalis gave her a brief nod and followed her back to the castle.
For the rest of the day, Christina felt her mind wandering instead of thinking about the Holiday. The Holiday was such an important event that if she didn't make it perfect... She bit the inside of her cheek as her mind went to riots in the streets during her coronation. While she knew that she could be a bit overdramatic at times, she was certain that this would happen. So she worked harder.
Finally, the first day of Holiday came, and Christina felt like vomiting. She was standing at the gate with her mother, father, and younger brother Isaac. Although out of the corner of her eye, she saw Officer Nautalis, which offered some comfort.
The gates opened, and people walked through them with awed expressions. Christina inflated a little, knowing what they were staring at. The town looked like something out of a fairy tale.
Blue was the primary color. Because their flag was the night sky: a crescent moon with five stars on a blue background. The well shimmered, scrubbed only yesterday until it was gleaming. Christina knew this because her hands were still healing from using lye. Flowers decorated both the well and the rest of the town, like snow.
The Voyagers started to come through the gates, gaping at the beauty around them. Christina lifted her head and smiled.
The week passed in a blur, and Christina could feel fatigue creeping up on her. It was the final day of the Holiday, and so far everything had gone according to plan. She had met so many interesting people, including a man named Dr. Scott, who made her skin crawl. He hadn't done anything, but she avoided him as much as possible.
Officer Nautalis was at the door, waiting for Christina. It was almost time for the end of the Holiday feast, which was one of Christina's favorite parts. So, Christina finally left the solitude that she had been able to snatch for about ten minutes as she got ready. She opened her door, and Officer Nautalis smiled at her. "You clean up nicely."
Christina let out a huff of laughter, too nervous to do anything else. Officer Nautalis was right, she felt lovely tonight. Her dress was a deeper blue than she usually wore, almost black, but when the light hit it, it shone in blue satiny folds. Pearls and silver pieces that had been sewn in made it look like she was wearing the night sky. She looked magnificent.
"So do you. I would have thought that you would be wearing a dress tonight as well." Christina remarked, looking over Officer Nautalis's dress uniform. She would look like every other guard there. Officer Nautalis shrugged.
"I've never been the type to wear dresses."
Christina nodded. "Welp. Let's go."
With a nod, Officer Nautalis held out her arm and let Christina hook her own through it. It was customary that guards brought in the children of the royal family. A guard would most likely have to drag Isaac down to the festivities.
The two of them walked down to the ballroom. They would do the dances in the ballroom, but the feasting was outdoors. Near the forest. Christina felt her face light up. Dancing would come first, then the feast. People stared at the two of them, and no one could blame them. Officer Nautalis looked sharp, and Christina seemed to have stepped out of a portrait.
The king and queen found them, and Christina spoke with her parents. They congratulated her on a job well done, and at seven, the first song began. A waltz. Officer Nautalis moved to find a place along the wall, but Christina stopped her.
"Please don't, I feel like I'm going to pass out. Dance with me?" Christina looked up at Officer Nautalis, who nodded with a ghost of a smile.
The ball went better than Christina could have hoped. It went on for about two hours, and it was time for the feast. Christina loved this part. There were so many types of food, and she didn't know whether she would be able to walk afterward.
The food arrangement was in courses. Despite this being an informal feast, which meant that people could eat at their leisure. The dessert table was an immediate favorite. With cakes of all shapes and sizes, as beautiful as Christina's dress, it wasn't a surprise.
The king said grace, and everyone ate. Towards the middle of the meal, someone walked over to Christina, and she looked up at them. It was the man from earlier, Dr. Scott.
"My name is Dr. Elliot Scott, and you must be Princess Christina. Right?" He had a sharpness to him that put her on edge. One corner of his lips raised, and he squinted a little bit. His face seemed like it was trying to smile, but had forgotten how.
"Uh, yes. What can I do for you?" Christina flashed him a smile after her initial response. Alarm bells screamed in her brain, and she felt herself looking for Officer Nautalis.
"I'm curious about how this... Town came to be. I decided to go to a primary source. Can you tell me?" His voice was low and slippery. Christina swallowed and finally made eye contact.
"Ah. Um, we have a wishing well. It made us what we are today." She tried to keep her voice civil, but she almost spat the words in his face. Officer Nautalis finally turned up, standing a short distance away, with a tense set to her face.
"A wishing well? Well, that is unique. Do you know how much a wish costs?" He asked, a predatory gleam coming into his eyes. Christina fidgeted a little, knowing that this man was not here for small talk.
"Yes." It was a quiet tense word that stuck in Christina's throat and fought to stay in.
"And that is?"
Christina could feel adrenaline building up in her. Officer Nautalis was closer, looking casual to the ordinary observer. Air was avoiding Christina, so she was taking short sharp breaths that didn't meet her quota. The man leaned closer, the space between them tense, and too little.
She cleared her throat and shrugged her shoulders. She hated lying. The man's face twisted a little, and Christina noticed a small blade shining in his hand. No one else could see it.
"Excuse me, sir, if you have any questions pertaining to the town, you will need to take it to one of the officials." Officer Nautalis's voice held a clipped and direct tone. She was here. Christina would be okay. The man's knife flashed again.
"One more minute, please. We were having the most interesting conversation." His dismissal of Officer Nautalis was more surprising than anything else he had done.
"I wasn't asking."
There was a low thudding noise, and Christina looked down at a leather handle sticking out of her shoulder. She didn't feel any pain yet, but the sight of it terrified her. Officer Nautalis was on him in half a second. He must have thought that she was there for diversity in the workforce. He was wrong.
With a snarl, Officer Nautalis ripped off her gloves. Whatever Christina had expected, this was not it. Fire exploded from Officer Nautalis's hands, enveloping the man with an eerie gracefulness. The other guards had made their way to where the man lay on the floor. The room exploded into chaos, and Christina could see her parents doing their best to get to her, but they were in charge of their citizens.
With her good arm, Christina raised the water out of the flower vases and put the fire out. Officer Nautalis turned to her, and a gasp escaped Christina. Her eyes were glowing the same color as the fire that was dying on the floor.
Officer Nautalis walked back over to Christina and picked up her discarded gloves. "Are you alright, your highness?"
Christina wanted to go back to her room, get dressed in comfy clothes, and cry her eyes out. People usually viewed her as some place holder. Not an actual person. "My arm..."
Officer Nautalis nodded and helped her up from her chair, taking care to be as gentle as possible. The king and queen were helping people now, most likely telling them that the party was over. The other guards were poking at the man on the floor, and Isaac was watching the two of them leave.
As soon as they crossed through the doors, and left the sight of anyone in the ballroom, Christina broke down. Her arm hurt so much, and this night had ended much worse then she imagined possible. As she cried, kneeling on the floor, Officer Nautalis stood by, letting her cry.
After a few minutes, she looked up at Officer Nautalis, knowing that she would have to go to the hospital wing. "I don't think I can walk right now."
Officer Nautalis scooped her up off the ground and carried her. Christina knew that she should feel embarrassed, but she felt so drained and tired. She drifted off to sleep as they made it to the hospital wing.
Officer Nautalis walked down to her captain's meeting room. He'd have a bone to pick with her. Well, she had one to pick right back. She had left Princess Christina in the hospital wing, leaving to allow for the doctors to get to work.
Captain Roosevelt was sitting at the head of a long table, surrounded by other captains. Officer Nautalis knew that causing a scene now would be an embarrassment to herself. And her captain. So she walked in with an air of calm, and sat down across from her captain.
"I assume that you're here to discuss the events of last night." He sounded weary. Officer Nautalis felt a stab of guilt, knowing that he had heard more lectures in the last hour than he deserved.
"Yes sir. I would like to report that the Princess is in the hospital wing." Officer Nautalis paused, considering her options. "I would like to apologize for my behavior last night. I understand that it was an overreaction."
Her captain's eyebrows kissed his hairline and he nodded once. "You're right. Your actions have caused most of the Voyagers to leave with their memories modified. That was irresponsible of you. We have completely wiped the mind of Dr. Elliot Scott. He's on the side of a road in his world."
Officer Nautalis took his scolding with her head held high. He wasn't wrong. Her behavior was immature.
"But, that man might have gotten away with much worse, if you hadn't stepped in, so we thank you. You may leave now." He gave her a small smile and she bowed. Since he dismissed her, she went back up to the hospital room that Christina was in.