The peal of the bell tower signaled morning in the city of Direford, the capital of the thriving nation of Jestines, a morning that started the week of the annual Valentine’s Festival. Subjects and peasants everywhere were about to spend the period embracing romance; couples will court, marry, declare love, or initiate relationships as their situations saw fit. Cooks and bakers, providing the food of love, prepared their finest dishes and treats. Gifts, gestures, poems, and songs would be exchanged. Passions would be fueled. Flowers, hearts, and cupids adorned everywhere one looked, and balls would be held at the castle where the nobility celebrated in lavishness.
“Good morning, your Highness,” A lady-in-waiting greeted the seventeen-year-old Princess Audrina as she and several maids entered her bedchamber to prepare for the day. “Your favorite time of year is upon us!”
The Princess was already awake as her ladies came in. “Good morning!” she politely called from her wardrobe, where she was deliberating over her attire for the day. Some of the incoming maids made her bed, opened the curtains, and tended to the room. While others entered bearing presents and tokens from suitors, one of the reasons why this is her favorite holiday. Between her beauty and her family, she was the most sought-after princess in the land. Nearly every man of high class doted on her, hoping they might be a husband to such an attractive young woman and a son-in-law to the country’s most powerful king.
The offerings she received distracted her from her original task. She looked over them before allowing her maids to dress her. She received roses from the Prince of Duskgard, tulips from the Grand Duke of Ebonpeaks, and lilacs from the Prince of Grimedale; exotic dresses and jewelry came from far away nobility; letters and poems from ones within her home kingdom. Hearing music when a maid opened the doors to her balcony, she found a troubadour band in the courtyard playing for her too. She pleasantly waved to them and tossed a handkerchief down for them to give to whoever paid them.
“To be honest, they woke me up,” She said as she turned back into her room. “Pebbles on the window at dawn.” She giggled at the thought.
Late into the night before, the Princess and her lady-in-waiting planned her attire for the week, but now she was reconsidering her options. The two discussed the intended changes before she was finally dressed.
She skimmed through the writings as her maids adorned their Highness, occasionally reading a few lines to entertain them:
“No fairer beauty have I ever seen than the fairest princess in Jestine/
Her hair gold and long like the sun and the day, her eyes blue like the sky or a seaside bay/
My mind dreams, my heart pines, to have such a scene forever on Valentine’s…isn’t he such a poet?” Her ladies agreed.
“Thinking of the warm, green lands of Jestine gets me through this campaign in the barren dreary waste of Askium. I imagine the land is luxuriant because of you. I would personally slay ten thousand orcs to protect your beauty…” As if on cue, some of the ladies ohed to express amazement at a captain’s ambitions. “I’m sorry to say others would slay millions for me,” The Princess passed it off while shuffling another note in front of her.
Joining her family for breakfast, another royal family was invited. Among them, some other young prince whose father hoped to arrange their marriage. Princess Audriana well understood her charms and standing, though cared more to flirt than to marry. Her father thought she was intending to make a decisive choice in whom she married, but leading the chase was just fun for her.
The rest of her morning was busy with horseback riding and picnicking with other suitors, though around noon she had time to herself, which she spent responding to the love messages she read earlier and preparing for the night’s ball. More favors came to her throughout the day, one such being a delivery of chocolates from a secret admirer. For once, she was intrigued; she felt like she was acquainted with every suitor in the world, and now there seemed to be one she didn’t know. She opened the parcel to start eating, only to collapse after the first bite.
Meanwhile, one of few people detesting the holiday was Audriana’s fourteen-year-old sister, Drizella. For one thing, it bored and irritated her, as her sister—the firstborn and only one out in society right now—received all the attention. While her turn to be presented would come in two years’ time, she could also see Audriana not settling down any time soon, thus infringing her chances to connect with the most quality suitors herself. Unlike her sister, Drizella understood who she married was crucial. Her husband should be able to benefit her home kingdom as much as her home kingdom would benefit him. She kept appearances at breakfast but inside ached to speak her mind about their guests and her sister.
“That oaf of a king is greedy for land and his offspring are pawns in attaining it! We’d lose with such a match, Father!” She watched her sister subtly toy with the young, innocent son too. “Poor sap,” Princess Drizella sympathized, swallowing both her angst and her porridge. He was enamored and hoped in her noncommittal sweet nothings while she knew Audriana would never truly love him.
Her situation was no matter this year though. Princess Drizella was in a secret relationship with a baron from across the sea. He visited once before, originally pursuing her sister. She played her usual games, but Drizella was genuinely interested. The baron was a simple man, but he controlled land and industry connected to alchemy, which were rare in Jestines. To unite with him would boon his trade and make a few commodities more available back home. Before the baron departed for his home, Drizella managed a brief private audience with him to ask about writing to him, which he accepted. In their letters, she told him the truth about her sister:
“…My sister has no interest in your wealth, honorable lordship. The affection she showed you that day is what she does to every man who visits our court. She allures them so much they become blind to sense. I beg you, for the good of your empire, not to do the same!”
“You are wise beyond your years, Princess Drizella,” The baron responded, “for divulging an honest view of your sister, who I sought to be my wife. What’s more is that my heart is yours, both in business and passion. You yourself have blinded me to sense and I wish to have you instead, as improper as it may be at this time.”
Thus, they became eager to unite, especially while Drizella remained in her sister’s shadow. So plans formulated to do something about it.
Mercenaries were commissioned to develop a means to covertly incapacitate the eldest princess. With a romantic gift, she would receive next to many others, suspicions wouldn’t be quickly raised. With a gift she could consume in the privacy of her personal chambers later in the day when conveniently no witnesses or immediate help would be on-hand. The gift signed by a secret admirer, making any trace to the responsible party difficult to impossible. Amid the festive hubbub, certain nobility could slip away undetected, finally able to be together themselves.
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A beautifully written story of two princesses one frivolous and one innocent. The frivolous one is the one that is of age to marry and has attracted many that think she is more than she really is. The other has a true heart but must wait and watch while her heart is breaking.
Thank you! I’m actually playing around more with this story in my spare time. Maybe make it into a medieval/fairy tale mystery drama! As of right now, even I don’t know who the culprit rally is! Lol
You're welcome. I was happy to read your story. Honestly, I don't know what reedsy is looking for in a winning story. I wrote my best story and it didn't even place. Alot of people seemed to like it. Am I wasting my 5 dollars each week? It's very discouraging.
Perhaps we’re big fish in a big pond? I’ve had high hopes for some of my stories but I write more for the love of it. A win can be gratifying but, win or lose, people are reading your stories nonetheless. That’s why we write, right? (Lol) There is an option to post without paying the fee so you can still share your stories “outside” of the contests. Participating in them is up to you, but at the very least don’t give up on sharing your stories. We could be surprised one of these days too!
Thank you! I wrote for the past two week for my profile page. I just don't always have the 5 dollars. I am not working. I was furloughed from my library job in 2020 and when I called to see if I could go back to a job I had for 17 years, I was told they eliminated my job. I tried getting other library jobs but I am too old. They want young people.
Lol I considered working for a couple local libraries several years ago (I was in my late 20’s), but I was looking for benefits, full-time opportunities, or stuff they couldn’t provide at the time.