Chapter 3

the Princess meets someone from a neighboring kingdom

After dinner, it continue to storm. The lightening lit up the sky and thundered on into the night. My family retired soon after dinner, Grove taking my sister to their quarters even before that. We were all worried for her. Her face was often pale and the healers told us that she wasn't gaining enough weight; we were still hopeful. This is the farthest pregnancy she's had so far, all the others ending much too early.

It was a restless night, the rain pounding against the outside of Mother Tree. In my bed, much too large for a little fairy like me, I tossed and turned, wrapping myself up in the thin summer blankets. A firefly blinked slowly and capriciously in the corner, the lightening outside much brighter and striking more often. I turned over, covering my head with the sheets.

Holly was eighteen when she committed to Grove, nearly a year younger than I. The first year, as always, they tried for no children. The period was for the newly coupled to get to know one another better. When she was nineteen, she announced her pregnancy with happiness and pride. Three months later, barely showing and extremely weak, her chrysalis miscarried. After the mournful loss, Grove and Holly vacationed to our grandparent's house at Feverview Beach for four months, before coming back home healthy and optimistic. It would be another two years before Holly would announce her next pregnancy.

At twenty-one, Holly's second pregnancy was hopeful. Mother brought in the best Healers, who all blessed the chrysalis and thought this pregnancy would be the pregnancy, and our new crown princess would be born. It would not be so. Less than two weeks after receiving the blessing, Holly miscarried once more at a little over two months. This time, she was heartbroken.

It would take her another three years to try again. And now, Holly was pregnant with her third, and everyone remained hopeful. This was her longest pregnancy yet, and her belly was rounding nicely. Healers were on call constantly, checking on her first thing in the morning to see if it would be alright for her to walk around that day. Most often than not, it was a yes. Yes, we were all extremely hopeful.

But what if she miscarries once more? A voice nagged in the back of my mind. It will destroy her, tear her heart into bitty pieces. How could she survive the loss of another?

In the secret garden, two small headstones lay among the rest. My family's graveyard, our place of rest since Queen Orchid, the first Plant Kingdom Queen. The royal family are the only ones allowed, the only ones to ever walk inside. It was where my grandparents will one day rest, and my parents, and at the moment, Holly's two unborn chrysalises. Magic ran through the ground like a hidden spring. It bloomed flowers year round, ancient magic weavings its fingers through the soil and up through the majestic plants seen nowhere else.

I turned onto my side. Then my back, staring up at the thick canopy of light blue velvet above. I blinked.

My sister, like I had, came out into society on her sixteenth birthday. Much unlike me, though was her frequent offers of commitment. For a Plant Kingdom crown princess, the guidelines for committing are simple: he must be a plant fairy. Her decision to wed Grove was not a light one; she had three other suitors at the time, and many more before him. Her choice was based off compatibility and, shallowly, his good looks.

Since my coming of age year, I have received just one commitment offer (from Lord Narcissus) which I promptly refused. Unlike Holly, I was given no restrictions. I could marry who I pleased, and I planned on it. I did not need to marry within a certain time period and produce offspring to appease my people. Being the younger princess allowed me leeway.

After Holly's baby is born, I plan on travelling around, leaving Mother Tree and finding a new home for the first time in my life. Until I marry, I will still be Princess Rose, but I can find apprenticeships or small jobs to support myself, and settle down in my own life away from my family, discovering what my people are really like in their day-to-day lives. I want to go out and see the world—well, the Plant Kingdom, anyway. Gardens aplenty, the best food in all of the Fairy Lands, wonderful people all within a two days flight of my town of Herba. My options were endless.

Handmaiden Morning Glory awoke me the next morning, pulling open my curtains to reveal the bright day. It was a stark contrast to the gloomy day before. My blanket was a light blue, matching the sheets and heavy draped canopy over my large wooden bed frame. At the foot of the bed, a bench held pillows galore, and a few chairs in the same fabric decorated the room sporadically.

"Good morning, Princess Rose. Will you be travelling out with Lady Tiger Lily and Potions Master Hemlock?"

I rolled out of bed, my feet touching the warm floor. My night shift billowed down to my knees, the plain fabric smoothing out.

"I suppose. Today would be lovely to see the garden, or even go out to the shopping district." I mused, sitting back down on my messy bed and watching the other fay ruffle through my wardrobe of dresses. "What about the green one?"

Handmaiden Morning Glory pulled out the tunic that I mentioned. It was a gift from my mother after visiting the Earth Kingdom, the cold fabric made from specially bred silkworms. Even now, it shimmered in the light.

"Yes, I suppose this will do for today. And boots instead of slippers," Handmaiden Morning Glory talked on about my wardrobe, but I tuned out.

It was a blue day, a few fluffy clouds dotting the sky. Already, it was a warm day, and I knew it would only get hotter. My dress would only come to right above the knee, helping to keep me cool.

"Alright, I'm finished."

I looked at the end of my bed. Handmaiden Morning Glory had laid out my dress, brown knee-length stockings, and leather boots. I nodded my acceptance, and we headed towards the bathroom as a maid wondered in, cleaning up my room.

"Handmaiden Morning Glory, could you invite Tiger Lily and Hemlock to join me for breakfast this morning in the indoor garden?" I asked, leaving my bedroom to the lounge.

"Of course, Princess Rose."

I bathed while Handmaiden Morning Glory ordered around the maid outside the curtains, her voice muffled. Once I was done, she helped me dress and pinned back my short locks with a green beetle pin. I looked positively dashing.

"To breakfast!" I pointed to the door, and Guardsman Basil, still sleepy, snapped to attention.

"Yes, Princess," Handmaiden Morning Glory smiled in amusement.

When I arrived down in the indoor garden, Tiger Lily was already sipping on nectar and arguing with Hemlock. Sunlight was shining through, and even though it was early morning, a few other fairies were walking around the paths.

"Good morning." I greeted, sitting down in the wooden chair. Fruit salad was in a large silver bowl in the middle, along with a tray of small tarts and a pot of nectar.

"Rose, tell Hemlock that he is wrong!" Tiger Lily pointed her dainty finger at our friend, face twisted in anger.

"Why would she do such a thing?" Hemlock scoffed. "She probably thinks you are wrong, like all the other times!" he hissed.

"Whoa, what's going on here," I poured some sweet nectar into a handmade cup.

"Tiger Lily has news to share that is not hers to tell." Hemlock glowered at the lady.

"I overheard the queen and king talking about it, Rose, and you must know." Tiger Lily argued, ignoring Hemlock. She opened her mouth. I put my hand up.

"Hemlock, why do you feel I should not know?" I turned towards the potions master.

"I did not say that. You should know, but Tiger Lily should not take it upon herself to tell you. It is, like I said, not her news to tell."

I looked at our fuming friend. "I'm sorry, Tiger Lily, but I must agree with Hemlock. If my parents wanted me to know, they would tell me."

Tiger Lily looked as if she were about to protest, but she took a deep breath, and calmed herself down. "Fine."

We ate in silence. Tiger Lily didn't look at either of us, and we did not bother her.

After a maid took the extra food away, I said, "What do you two think about going out today? The market vendors usually get new wares about this time."

"I'm game," Hemlock leaned back in his chair, dwarfed by his large size.

Tiger Lily turned her nose up. "If it is what the princess wants."

I glared at her.

She leveled my gaze. "I must go change into flight clothes." She gestured to her long, heavy dress. "I cannot fly in this and I do not wish to get the fabric dirty."

"Of course. We'll meet you out front."

We all stood, and Tiger Lily left. Hemlock and I followed behind slowly, walking. We left the indoor garden, the smell of flowers leaving my nose as we entered the flight tube and crossed over to the entrance hall. Behind me, Handmaiden Morning Glory and Guardsman Basil escorted behind me. In the entrance hall, maids were cleaning the floors, and a group of guards met with Guardsman Basil.

"I hate it when she does that," I commented.

"Yes, as do I. She is just upset at the news, and angry that we won't let her help you."

"Help me?" I asked, turning to Hemlock, who met my gaze equally.

Hemlock was about to speak, but he was interrupted by a voice shrilly calling out my name.

"Princess Rose! Rose, friend!"

We both looked at the entering entourage. Tall light-colored fairies wearing skin-tight clothing surrounding, guarding, two people. Thick goggled covered their eyes, and silver cloth covered the rest of their faces. The Air Kingdom fairies were frequent guests at Mother Tree, but it was rare that they were guarding someone.

"Oh, move, you," the high-pitched voice ordered, and the guards broke apart.

Queen Aurora floated towards me. She was taller than my by several centimeters, taller than both Hemlock and Basil. Her golden hair cascaded down to her knees, and she wore a light green dress that billowed around her feet. Dragonfly wings buzzed on her back. My face lit up upon seeing my old friend, only a few months younger than I.

"Aurora," I flitted up in the air to meet her. "What a surprise."

She got to me before I had a chance to move, just like an air fairy, and pulled me into a tight hug. "Darling, I think you got shorter."

"Aurora," a man scolded, and I peeked over her shoulder. Her husband, Arrow, was gliding towards us.

"Good morning to the both of you." I greeted, and Aurora let me go. Their guards had followed them, and surrounded their back end while they talked to me.

"Yes, it is a good morning. We were supposed to be here last night, but the storm delayed us." Aurora dropped to the ground, and the rest of us followed.

"What's the special occasion?" I asked. "It's not every day I am honored by the graces of the Air Kingdom queen."

"Why, you're Cancer Day is coming up, is it not? I did not forget, friend. My birthday is two months after yours, you know." Aurora talked fast, and she started walking towards the archway of the fly tube.

"Come, show me my chambers, Darling."

"Hemlock, wait for Tiger Lily for me?" I asked, already walking fast to keep up with the much taller fairy. Guardsman Basil followed closely behind me, Handmaiden Morning Glory next to him, both quiet.

"Rose, tell me the news here." Aurora demanded, not unkindly.

"Well, Holly is pregnant." I said, the first thing popping into mind.

Aurora's beautiful face lit up with a smile. "Yes, I heard. What wonderful news. Is she well?"

Aurora and I were close. After Tiger Lily and Hemlock, she was my closest friend. When we were young, our parents would talk often, and we were put together most of the time. Our court experiences were similar, but our personalities weren't. Aurora was tall and beautiful, mature from a young age, strong and willful, and I was not. We fit perfectly.

"Yes, Holly is excellent. Mother has healers check her every morning." I mentioned. Aurora was one of the few who knew of the failed pregnancies. They were kept secret from our people, upon Holly's request.

"That's good," Aurora's worry showed on her face. "Did you hear about Princess Anemone?"

We talked, flying up the tube, until we reached the seventh floor landings. Five doors led back to fully furnished guest quarters. I chose one our nicest, leading my friend into the lounge area of the rooms.

"Will this do?" I asked, watching Aurora inspect the couches with her light blue eyes.

"Yes, it's lovely. My mother and father stayed in these rooms whenever they came to visit, you know." She commented, running a finger over a chair.

The rooms contained dark wooden furniture, dark green vines dancing on the overstuffed armrests. Striped rugs covered the floor, and a large painting of Queen Orchid was placed over the fireplace. Flowers and vases were placed around the room, smaller ones on tables. The windows were open, light streaming in, and a bird outside tweeted good morning.

"I'm glad you like it." I beamed. I stood near the door, Guardsman Basil and Handmaiden Morning Glory opting to wait outside for me.

"Aurora, where would you like your luggage placed?" Arrow asked, coming into the room. He was followed by his guards, each carrying a large parcel.

"How long are you planning on staying, Aurora?" I asked as the line of guards placed large crates and bags into the master bedroom.

"Hm, a few weeks. My mother and father are taking care of things back at home. They want me to rest." She wrinkled her nose, watching the guards carefully.

"Are you alright?" I asked, eyes looking at my friend. She seemed healthy.

"Yes, I am." She turned her lovely smile to me, placing her hand over her slender stomach. "Rose, I'm expecting." She whispered.

I exclaimed, quietly, of course, "That's good news! Are you doing alright? I haven't had the pleasure of knowing many expecting women, except Holly, so I must admit I don't know much."

Aurora rolled her eyes. "I'm fine, Rose. Arrow wouldn't even let me fly here." Her golden wings gave a flutter. "Our healer said I'm healthy, and so is the chrysalis. But don't tell anyone; we haven't made the announcement back at home, yet." Aurora glanced at the guards, all pretending not to listen in. A few packages were still being delivered.

"Oh, Airman Zephyr, come here for a moment." She called suddenly.

The man she called over was taller than Aurora, so he towered over me. He wore the standard silver goggles and light fabric stretching over his body, the wind symbol of the Air Kingdom on his right shoulder. From his attire, I could tell nothing of his features except his tallness.

"Queen Aurora, Princess Rose," he bowed.

"Airman Zephyr, I told you that you do not have to address me as such. Rose, this is Airman Zephyr, Arrow's brother."

"Pleasure to meet you." I curtsied. The little space between his goggles and face mask showed skin deepening in color.

"The pleasure is all mine, Princess Rose." He bowed once again. "Aurora, after we finish bringing in your things, I'll change into my regular attire. Thank you for bringing me along on this trip."

He turned on his heel and left, both Aurora and I staring after him. After a moment, I spoke.

"What are you up to, Aurora?"

She gave me a pixyish look, smile twisted into a smug look. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

At that moment, Handmaiden Morning Glory popped her head in. "Princess Rose, I just saw Lady Tiger Lily heading down to meet Hemlock in the entrance hall."

"Thank you," I said to her, and she disappeared behind the curtains. "I would love to stay and chat, but I already promised Lady Tiger Lily and Potions Master Hemlock we would travel to the market. It would be my pleasure if you would join us."

Aurora was about to answer, but Arrow beat her to it. "No."

She pouted, looking over at him. "Why not?"

"You need your rest, Dear." Arrow came and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. "We flew a long way."

"As much as I hate to, I agree with your husband." I interjected. "We will have plenty of time in the next few weeks to talk."

Aurora's face lit up, a spark in her eye. "I'll agree on the condition that we have a private dinner tonight, here." She stamped her foot, gesturing to the common room.

"Fine," Arrow agreed quickly. "Now, go rest."

"I'll send a maid up, so if you need anything, they will take care of it. I'll see you two later."

"Bye." Aurora waved, smiling deviously.

I flew as fast as I could down to the entrance hall. I know I spent way too much time talking with Aurora, keeping my other friends waiting. True enough, by the time I got back to them, Hemlock and Tiger Lily were leaning up against a wall, bored.

"I am so sorry!" I apologized, flying up to my friends, slightly panting. "Aurora took my attention, and I completely didn't realize how long we talked for."

Tiger Lily only looked at me. "Queen Aurora is here?"

I nodded my head vigorously. "Yes, she and her husband. They're here early for the Cancer Day party, like you two."

"Hm." Tiger Lily responded simply, turning her head way from us.

I held back an eye roll. "Shall we?" I swept my arms towards the entrance arch, leading out into Herba.

The market was full to the brim, as always. Two extra guards tagged along on our excursion, one for Lady Tiger Lily and another for me. Handmaiden Morning Glory followed silently, ready to carry any thing I would buy. Hundreds of fairies stopped in the middle of flight to bow and curtsy to me, several tossing out a good morning, or afternoon eventually.

Vendors stacked upon one another, their stalls attached to the straight row of trees. The top spots were for food vendors, only a few feet up in the air; they didn't want to scare anyone off from the height. After them were the merchants who sold clothes and accessories, which was where Tiger Lily and I spent most of the time. The next level was fabrics. The second to last scholar section, which sold books and paper and ink, and the last was trinkets, different toys and furniture makes hocking their supplies.

Different kinds of people could be seen at each level. Housewives were most commonly seen at food vendors and fabric stalls. Ladies and Gentlemen were in the clothing, tourists in the trinkets, and elderly in the scholar section. Across from the five levels of stalls was the hedge that kept the commoners out of our private gardens.

It was a wonder that it wasn't so noisy over there. It was most certainly loud here. Tiger Lily, Hemlock, and I all had to yell to communicate.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS COLOR?" Tiger Lily would shout, holding up a purple dress.

"I THINK THE YELLOW ONE WOULD LOOK BETTER ON YOU!" I would answer, and Hemlock would wince at our loud voices.

It was right before dinner when we finally arrived back at Mother Tree, our pockets empty (except Hemlock's, because Hemlock didn't want any clothes, thank you very much, even if the charcoal vest was his color). He did buy a rare herb book I found while going through a few titles, and came back with his pocket significantly lighter.

Tiger Lily and I bought matching dresses, in different colors of pink, for me, and yellow, for her. Different pins were wrapped up in little boxes, and lace ribbons were coiled in bows. I also bought some jewelry, a nice lavender choker that I thought would look dashing on Holly and also a headband with light blue crystals that Aurora would love for her new baby, boy or girl.

"I hope you two will forgive me," I said, twiddling with a box in my hands. "I promised to have a private dinner with Aurora this evening."

Hemlock rolled his eyes. "Rose, we can entertain ourselves, you know."

"Yes," Tiger Lily agreed. "I'll just make Hemlock here take me out tonight."

Hemlock scowled at her. "Me take you out? You're the one who has more money; buy your own dinner." He crossed his arms.

Tiger Lily scoffed. "Fine then." She turned to walk away. "Come pick me up at seven!"

I giggled, Hemlock glaring at me. "Just indulge her for a bit. Ancients know she'll miss me."

We also went towards the fly tube, and I dropped him off at a landing on the seventh floor. Handmaiden Morning Glory was approached by the maid I had asked to attend Queen Aurora and King Arrow.

"Is there something the matter?" I asked after Hemlock entered his chambers. The maid had already returned back to the guests.

"Queen Aurora asked if you would please dress nicely. And hurry, she's hungry, apparently."

I laughed, relieved that nothing was wrong. "Well, who am I to deny a queen a request?"

We hurried up to my rooms. While I washed up a bit, it was warm outside and I sweated, Handmaiden Morning Glory picked out a dress for me to wear. I undressed and waited silently for my handmaiden to return. The sun was setting, ending yet another day. Handmaiden Morning Glory finally bustled in.

"I decided on one of your new dresses, the cream colored one." She held up the heavy dress. "We need to hurry, up, up." She snapped.

I stood up at her command, keeping quiet and amused. Handmaiden Morning Glory, usually calm and cold, was always funny during these moments; worried and rushing. She tossed a shift at me, which I put on. It only came down to just past my hips. A petticoat fluffed about my ankles after that. A corset came next, which my handmaiden pulled closed much too tight; I could barely breath. Next, the dress was placed over my head. The course fabric fell to the ground, fitting me perfectly.

Handmaiden Morning Glory pushed me into my vanity seat as she worked quickly with my face and hair, letting my curly locks loose for once and only brushing some liquid across my eye line.

"Finished!" she announced proudly.

"Good. Now, let's go."

We hurried out onto my landing, startling Guardsman Basil. He lagged behind in our hurry, not ready to immediately follow. The guest rooms were only two floors below, so it was a quick flight.

"Announcing Princess Rose, Handmaiden Morning Glory, and Guardsman Basil." The guard called as we entered, slowly.

"Finally, I'm starving!" Queen Aurora gasped.

The room was dark, drapes pulled over the window. Candles flickered around the room. Two of them lit up the table, a flower petal covering the table as a table cloth. There were only two seats. Aurora, Arrow, and Airman Zephyr all stood around.

"What's going on?" I asked, confused. The meal and table were only set for two.

"I am stealing your handmaiden tonight, Rose." Aurora announced. "Arrow and taking me out; there's a nice little place that my parents used to take me when we came here when I was a girl."

"But, who am I having dinner with?" I asked, confused. If everyone was leaving, was I to have dinner by myself.

Airman Zephyr bowed lowly. "Zephyr, of course, Darling." Aurora walked past me. She was bundled up, probably Arrow's doing.

"Aurora!" I hissed under my breath.

Aurora, pulling Handmaiden Morning Glory along with her, just raised her eyebrows at me. "Now, Darling, don't be rude. It's just a set-up. Have fun, kiddies!" she waggled her fingers and left, taking most of the room with her. Guardsman Basil had decided to stay on the landing.

"Um," I looked over at Airman Zephyr. "I'm sorry, I did not expect this."

He had changed his airman attire. Now, he wore dark loose fitting pants that ended below his ankles. A white shirt was loosely tucked into his pants. Airman Zephyr looked a lot like his brother; they both shared the same white eyes, pale skin, light colored hair, and hornet wings. He, though, was taller, thinner, and had a harder face.

"No, forgive me, Princess Rose. I did not think you would be so surprised. Would sitting down make you feel better?"

He was smooth, I could give him that. I smiled, a little shaky. "I guess I don't see why not."

Airman Zephyr, being a gentleman, pulled out my seat for me. My wings fluttered nervously. He sat down opposite me, elbows on the table as he leaned on them, eyes not leaving mine.

"How was your travel here?" I asked, taking a sip of the drink in my cup. It was plain water. Yuck.

"Delayed," he smiled. "The rain was just terrible."

"Yes, it kept me up last night," I mentioned.

"Princess, not scared of the lightening are you?" he teased in his deep voice.

I swallowed and gave a high-pitched laughed. "No."

I might have squeaked. Just a bit.

He just smiled, and a blush spread over my cheeks.

"What is on the menu tonight?" I gestured to the tray between us.

"So eager to get this over with," he murmured softly, but he was still smiling. "Your chef has prepared a cheese soufflé, blueberry crostata, and strawberry tarts for dessert."

He didn't make a move to start serving the meal.

"Are, are we not eating?" I shifted in my seat.

"Not at the moment. I was hoping we could talk a bit before we started on the meal."

"Oh, okay."

It was silent before a few seconds before Airman Zephyr leaned back in his chair, away from the table and me.

"Are you so uncomfortable that you do not wish to speak?" he cocked his head.

"No," I said softly, shaking my head. "I've…never done this before."

"Ah," Airman Zephyr said simply. "Well, let me give you the best 'this' ever, so no other can compare."

I looked back at him. He was smiling kindly, just watching me.

"Okay." I softly said again, a pleased smile working its way onto my face.

"And there's that beautiful smile I was hoping for."

That was just one of the many blushes I 'graced' Airman Zephyr with that evening.


Thanks to fireicegirl16 for reviewing last chapter! And thanks to everyone else who favorited/followed:)

This is not my best chapter. I had to force myself to write it, which never bodes well for my writing. My school is on break, and my brain has decided to shut down...

It is a bit shorter than my other chapters, but long enough (I hope) to appease you word-hungry ravagers:P