Chapter 2

"Isi, put down the wine bottle now!" Cadfael exclaimed. He probably thought I would get drunk. I've never been drunk in my life, and I doubted I would be now.

"I'mmm okaay Cadfaelll…" I said. Stupid words, they slurred together. Why wasn't my tongue working properly…

Cadfael reached for the bottle. I weakly tried to push away his hand, but he grabbed it and took it anyways. The room swirled, a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds.

"Nnnnoooo…" I wailed. "Firrssssstt Belllllaa, noooooww yyouuuuu!" Suddenly my stomach rebelled. Bending over, the contents of the feast I ate and the wine came up.

"I ddoon'tt feeeel sooo ggoooodd…" I said. Taking a few steps away from the mess, my knees gave underneath me. A hand caught me before I fell.

"Come on, I'm taking you to your room," Cadfael said, swinging one of my arms across his shoulders. Slowly, we walked back to my room. I stumbled across the room, floundering onto my bed. Cadfael was rubbing his temples as I turned over.

"I should have stopped you earlier. And your birthday, no less!"

"Sssssorryyy Caadd…" Tears ran down my face.

"It's all right. I'll talk to you in the morning, but you won't like it." I was about to ask why when the world spun around me and went black.

Somebody kept hitting me in the head. "Stop it," I groaned, waving an arm around. My arm hit nothing except the bed. Opening my eyes, I shrieked and clutched my face. It was so bright!

"Your Highness?" a timid servant asked, "Are you all right?"

"Get Cadfael!" I ordered, massaging my forehead.

"Right away, Your Highness," the servant squeaked. A few moments of silence followed, until I thought my brother wasn't coming. Then the hard footsteps of Cad's boots were heard entering my room.

"So, are you going to ask me what's the matter, or can you figure it out on your own?" I winced as positioned my hands over my ears. Cad's laughter could be heard in his voice. He'd probably be grinning if I could see him.

"You know I don't, so just tell me already," I grumbled.

"Well, Isi, for an eighteen-year old princess, who's helped create dozens of peace treaties and stopped millions of conflicts, I'd say you're rather clueless when it comes to spirits," Cadfael stated. "As you've experienced, drinking too much alcohol makes your drunk. At first you feel weightless, free, blissful, and then you're giving your dinner back to the cooks. Am I right?"

"Yes, now please tell me why I feel so damn horrible," I pleaded.

"Watch your language. Now," Cadfael cleared his throat, "this is the best part. After you manage to become drunk, a certain ailment called a hangover sets in. Your head throbs, your sensitive to light and to sound!" I managed to screw my eyes open and hit Cad with a pillow as he yelled these last words.

"So I have a hangover, is that it, Cad?"

"That's right," he affirmed.

"Then you should've told me in the first place!" Drinking too much was the worst idea I'd ever had. The fact of the engagement had been the cause of my state right now. It had been fine at first; I had forgotten all of it, and then it had come flooding back, drink after drink.

Stupid, that's what I had been.

"It was the first time you'd ever been drunk! I couldn't resist," insisted Cadfael, laughing.

"Don't plan on it ever happening again," I grumbled, very aware of my growing headache. Cad motioned to my servants to draw the curtains when he noticed my eyes were still tightly shut. I sighed with relief. Cad stood at the end of my bed grinning, and I gave a small smile back. Could I ever be fully mad at Cadfael? He always smiled with his entire being. His sun bleached curls shined, his silver-blue eyes, identical to mine, twinkled.

"Of course not. I'm actually surprised you're up this early. And I don't recommend coming to breakfast. You're better off staying here until you're less sensitive." He exited, silently closing the doors behind him.

"Milady, we have your bath drawn for you if you'd like to take it now." My maids curtsied in a syncopated pattern. I smiled.

"That would be wonderful. Oh!" I gasped, my maids fluttering to my side. Looking down, I realized I was still wearing my birthday dress from last night! Getting up, my middle felt bruised. My corset felt tighter this morning than yesterday. This made me remember my hair. Reaching a hand up to touch my hair, I grimaced as I felt it stand out at odd directions.

"We'll take care of that, milady," a maid said, seeing my grimace.

I bit down into one of the rich plums the servants had brought me. It was as savory as the feeling of being clean. Cadfael had sent them, knowing I would want something to cheer me up from the news of the engagement. Wriggling in the soft fabric of my shirt and pants, I took another bite. Plums and strawberries were my favorite fruits.

My deliciously new clothes were a birthday present, one of many, from my siblings. My shirt was long-sleeved and silk with a boat neck. Blue-green with silver braided embroidery along the hems, it was beautiful. The pants were soft deerskin that gathered at my ankles. The jewelry I wore was, in part, from my loyal subjects.

My Royal Seal is the fire lily. Every future monarch has a seal that proclaims him or her a king, queen, prince, or princess. Their crowns and Signet rings both show the image of their Seal. Right then I wore my new Signet ring, each petal made of blood opal and lined with silver. In the heart of the flower there was a single diamond, pure and brilliant. I received a similar crown, and sighed at the thought of wearing it on my wedding day. Until then I would wear my old crown.

"Milady, Her Royal Majesty Queen Bellatrix Fiera is, uh… coming to see you." Oh no, she heard about my getting drunk. I barely had time to wipe the plum juice off my chin as Bella came storming into my room.

"So nice of you to grace me with your presence," I sourly welcomed her.

"Three weeks," Bella remarked triumphantly. Her voice made my ears buzz. "Three weeks until you leave for Anroe, the capital city of Azilia."

"What? So soon?" Bolting out of my chair, I immediately sat back down, dizzy.

"I see you're still suffering from your party last night." Her tone was scathing. We both shared the same temper, as people with golden rust-hair do, but she was never this mean. "It's time for your awakening to the world, Isilee. No more hangovers. You are engaged and this trip to Anroe was planned for a long time.

"Prince Caden willingly agreed to this union."

"But I didn't! You went behind my back and messed with my life! I should have been there."

"Isilee, this marriage in two years is highly important. Rumors of war are not to be taken lightly." Resting my head in my hands, I groaned inwardly. My… betrothed had agreed to this, and so did his and my families. It would bring peace...

"Fine. In three weeks I will be ready to leave, " I said. But not without a fight.

Bellatrix offered a small smile. "That's all I can ask for. That's all Caden can ask for." She said the last part as if it might help change my attitude.

It sure as the sky above me didn't.