Chapter One

Holding my breath, I looked at my sister in horror.

"Today, not only do we celebrate the eighteenth birthday of our beloved Princess Isilee Kellan. We celebrate the princess's engagement to Crown Prince Caden Gavith of Azilia, to whom she will marry in two years time. Azilia's monarchs and I both put much hope in this union, drawing both countries together as stronger allies. Please join me as we congratulate Her Highness." The crowd roared their approval as Queen Bellatrix concluded her speech.

"It will be all right," Cadfael whispered. My twenty-year old brother smiled, but I felt cold and flushed at the same time.

"Did you know?" I whispered back.

"I, er… uh, yes…." His smile faded at my glare.

The crowd was ecstatic at the news of my engagement, feeding off the day's celebrations. I however, was not so pleased. Following my sister off the balcony, we stood in a small room designed for planning and preparation.

"The Royal Family of Azilia visited during the five months you were negotiating the peace treaty with Camlon. Seeing as how well you worked and behaved, I'm rather relieved I didn't tell you," Bella nonchalantly said.

Betrayal smothered my breathing. "No warning at all, Bella, not a hint or a word was uttered for the past damn year since that treaty was made. Don't you think I would have liked some say in who I would be married to for the rest of my life?"

"Honestly, Isilee, this is for the best. I wouldn't have made this match unless it was for the utmost emergency. And don't curse."

"Who are you to say whom I will marry? How I will act?" I yelled. Bellatrix shot up from the chair she had slumped into.

"I am your queen, Isilee! That alone should count for something. Second, you were raised as a princess, with all the grace and dignity your title suggests!"

"As a princess I know my duty is to my country. But what emergency could possibly explain this?"

"War." Cadfael moved to stand beside Bella. "Relations between Sylonor are getting worse. They've slowly built up their treasury over the years, and now their army is growing extremely fast, as well as their boundaries. They've invaded three countries already.

"Azilia is wealthy, powerful, and peaceful with Sylonor. However, as a coastline country, we are the first who would be attacked if Sylonor decided to expand across the ocean."

I frowned. "But aren't we also peaceful with Sylonor?"

"Not anymore. They've declared us a threat."

"And we need a strong bond with either them or one of their allies to show them we not a threat unless they act against us," I mused.

Bella smiled. "Exactly. The strongest bond is marriage. We needed a way to secure Tyriniel and Azilia together if there ever was a war."

Silence followed this statement. Servants and guards looked at me expectantly for an answer. They had become raptured into the argument.

"Would you have ever told me about my engagement if there was no war?" Bitterness lined my words.

Bellatrix sighed. "Maybe in a few years I would have."

A hard laugh echoed between my sister and I. Cadfael slowly walked to stand beside me now.

"Surely we don't have to talk about this now," he said, resting a hand on my shoulder, "After all, it's Isi's eighteenth birthday; it should be a happy time."

"Quite right," Queen Bellatrix agreed. "Your Highness?"

I flinched at these words. Bella always called me Isi or Lee, not Isilee or Your Highness. Who was my sister becoming? This hard, dutiful person was slowing growing inside Bella.

"I suppose we should go on with the festivities. But this still doesn't change anything." Relieved smiles shined about the room.

The servants and Prince Cadfael left the room, leaving Bella and me alone- well, besides the guards.

"You've changed, Bella," I stated blankly.

"So have you." Have I?

"For better of worse?" I caught her hand as she started to leave. "Bellatrix, please answer me."

"Lee… I don't know. Being queen is demanding."

"The Queen has sentenced me to prison, demanding me to stop a war." I whispered. "I loved my sister Bella, and she is slipping away. Tell me when she's coming back."

Tears trickled down Bella's face. "I loved my sister Lee, but she is holding on too tight. Tell me when she starts to trust." I let go of her hand. All I ever did was trust! Marching down the hallway, I made it a plan to forget all of this and attend my celebration, happy.