Cordelia opened her eyes to see the Great Hall, dark and bare. She was in her nightgown, a fact that she noticed with a scandalized gasp. If anyone were to see her…
Her bare feet were freezing, and her body was faced towards the thrones, up on a pedestal so that those who sat in it would look down towards the room. She focused on it and froze; there was a dark figure sitting on the Kings’ throne, a figure made of shadows. Even though it didn’t have a body, Cordelia got the feeling that it was distinctly male. And it had a crown- her mother’s crown- upon its head.
She trembled at the sight. Why would it have her mother’s crown, it was only meant for the Queen. With the monarchy being a matriarchy, it was meant to pass down to her when it was time, or if she was unavailable, the next woman in line. Why was a male wearing it…?
The figure moved suddenly, and Cordelia flinched before realizing it was just holding out its hand, not making another move. Inside its palm was a ring- a wedding ring. She glanced up to see it smiling greedily.
The scene flickered.
When it stabilized, she was in a forest, still in her nightgown. She heard crashing behind her and, overcome with a sudden fear, started running. She knew in some way that she was running for life. No, she was running for her freedom.
But she was not used to running, and the rustling got closer and closer, until she could feel a breath on the back of her neck and a whisper of a touch on her back. It was grabbing at her, it was so close!
A flash of amber, and the scene flickered again. She was back in the Great Hall, only this time it was bright with the rising sun that just barely peaked over the window. The rays of light laid bare the bloody floors and walls that she could see from her perch upon the Queens’ throne, chin tilted high and a feeling of pride spreading through her. There was a weight on her head; confused, she reached up and brought it down. It was her mother’s crown- blood streaking the sides.
She caught herself grinning at the sight, and that proved to be too much.
Cordelia Wraith woke screaming.
Her mother leaned over her in worry, placing a hand on her daughters’ forehead. Said daughter was currently very confused; the Queen almost never made time for her normally, so for her to be showing up in her rooms was not normal.
“Oh, don’t be so confused that I’m here,” her mother sighed pettily. “Your maid came to me saying that you were screaming in your sleep, so of course I came to check it out. I thought you were done having these foolish dreams of yours.”
Cordelia felt a wave of heat overcoming her face, and just knew that she was blushing horribly. It was embarrassing to know that she had been screaming for everyone to hear- she hoped she hadn’t disturbed a bunch of people.
“Now wipe that silly look off your face and be prepared for the Ball tonight. It’s not every day your only uncle comes back home from overseas.” And with that last statement, her mother swept out of the room elegantly.
Cordelia sighed. She wished her mother were just a bit nicer when she woke up from a nightmare- in her childhood, she used to have dreams like this all the time. SHe saw many things, like her uncle arriving to the castle and meeting her for the first time, her maid being fired by the Queen for flirting with the King, her weird uncle berating the servants for stupid little mistakes.
But the thing is, these dreams would take place before the actual event even happened at all. That’s why she couldn’t shake the feeling of anxiety lying deep in her chest. The shadow, the forest, the bloody crown… It wasn’t a good sign at all.
But Cordelia didn’t have time to worry about it. She had to get up and get ready for the ball- her mother had already set out the outfit she was expected to wear.
An hour later she was finally done getting ready. Her ribs and back felt supported from the corset that she had on; she hadn’t tied it too tightly like her mother preferred, but what was her mother going to do? Drag her back to her rooms in front of everyone and demand she do better? The Crown Princess almost snorted at the thought.
She stepped out of her rooms and paused at the sight she saw there. Her former friend and crush standing there waiting for her. Well, she said former, but that was only her inside feelings. On the outside, she was just as pleasant as a princess was expected to be.
The boy was named Caiden. He had brown floppy hair and light green eyes, freckles dusting his nose pleasantly, a wide smile right under them. The girl right beside him was Katerina. Even now, with the feelings of resentment in her, she couldn’t deny that she was beautiful. Long dreads pulled in a half-bun and equally dark eyes, a mischievous smirk plastered on her face. Her yellow dress stood out against her warm brown skin pleasantly.
Cordelia wanted to smack their smiles right off their faces, but on the outside she only gave a sweet smile. Anyone who passed by would surely think they were the best of friends.
But they weren’t. See, they both were liars. They lied to Cordelia about having other things to do, usually it was running an errand for his father for Caiden and working on a sewing project for Katerina. It wasn’t until she caught them kissing each other in the gardens that she even realized that both of their excuses happened on the same days.
Normally she wouldn’t mind, and would let it slide. But they both knew about her feelings for Katerina and still they led her along, not even bothering to tell her the truth.
Seeing how close they were standing, she carefully made her face a nice and blank slate. It wouldn’t be good if the blatant jealousy she was feeling showed on her face. Instead, she walked ahead of them with confidence, like the Crowned Princess she was meant to be, taking control of the situation and ignoring them.
Hearing the muffled giggles of them both, she hid her clenched hand in her various skirts. The urge to break Caiden’s nose and laugh in Katerina’s horrified face surprised her enough to make her calm down. She wouldn’t go that far…
When she entered the ball, her creepy uncle was standing on the throne’s pedestal talking to her parents. He noticed her first.
“Ah, Cordelia,” the man said in his oily voice, making her inner self curl up in disgust. “It’s been too long since I’ve seen you. Last time I visited, you were about this high!”
He gestured somewhere about where his belly-button would be;the young Crown Princess merely smiled and giggled out a ‘if you say so,’ and tried her best not to curl her lip in a sneer at him.
It’s not like he was ugly, not really. She wasn’t so shallow as to treat someone differently based on their looks. His jawline was strong and his figure lean, and of course he had the Wraith look.
Blonde locks, clear blue eyes and high cheekbones. She had them, her mother had them, and from what she could tell from the paintings, so did all of her blood ancestors. It helped her uncle immensely in the looks department, changing his ordinary looks to something greater.
But his attitude was simply awful. He was always snapping at the servants, like they were specifically there to serve him and nothing else. They had lives, you know? Families that they take care of and things they liked and didn’t like. They were human just like everyone else, but did her uncle care? He didn’t even seem to notice.
And of course there was the staring. His eyes had a mean look about them, a greedy look that was more often than naught, directed at Cordelia herself. She dearly hoped he wouldn’t ask for a dance tonight, and would leave her alone. She didn’t want anything more to do with him.
Her mother shooed her away after the necessary greetings were made, she didn’t hesitate. Turning around, she saw that Caiden and Katerina were already dancing-with each other. Were they even trying to hide it at this point? She gritted her teeth. She wasn’t supposed to care, and for the most part, she honestly didn’t. All of her old feelings were gone, she no longer liked the beautiful girl and boy dancing together. But the feelings of resentment that took place after those old feelings moved out, they made it hard not to care.
She wanted to march over there and tear them apart from each other, and then just plain old tear them apart. She wanted to embarrass them the way she was embarrassed when she realized they were playing her. She wanted… she wanted…
As these thoughts were playing out, she smiled at passing nobles, giving nothing away. She had learned from an early age to hide her feelings. Her mother was always so furious whenever she showed an unpleasant emotion; the Queen pretty much drilled into her head that a proper princess only showed smiles. Keeping an absent smile on her face was like second nature, however that was almost never how she was feeling. Never being allowed to show or let out negative emotion, of course they would pile up! Of course they would fester!
Now almost every emotion crossing her heart is a negative one.
And that dream didn’t help…
She caught the eye of a sweet looking boy across the room, with light brown skin and curly hair that just barely reached the bottom of his ears. He was looking at her like he wished to ask her to dance, but didn’t quite have the courage. Cordelia smiled encouragingly and hoped that he could take her mind off of things.
Two hours later and she was huffing her way off the dance floor, the sweet looking boy with an equally sweet disposition holding her upright. They had spoken a bit while dancing; his name was Jaq and he was visiting his noble cousin for the weekend. He was an amazing dancer, and Cordelia was happy to say that she didn’t even think of anything other than dancing while with Jaq.
With a grateful smile, she left him by the drinks, ignoring the swarm of girls who begged him for dances. She didn’t know whether it was his good looks or the fact that the girls had noticed how long he had kept her occupied, and wanted to see for themselves how talented he was. It honestly could’ve been either or.
That night she collapsed into bed. For the first time in the past few weeks she didn’t dream of anything. Only blissful darkness awaited her when her head hit the pillow.
When Cordelia opened her eyes, it wasn’t to the sight of her colorful and warm room. Instead, the sight that awaited her was the Great Hall. Her feet were bare and freezing, and she was in her nightgown- and only her nightgown. Her body was faced towards the thrones.
It was a scene she had lived many times before, in her dreams. The same dreams that held blood and pain and shadows.
The time had come. It was here.