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Chapter 1: Ceremonies

It is the day of Amalia's coronation. There are decorations everywhere-in the halls, on the floors, even on the high ceilings of the Palace. There is even ceremonial ornamentation along the outside walls, from the very top of the building, all the way to the ground, and into the surrounding village.

Amalia looks out of one of the various windows in the hall. She notices the great crowds in the courtyard, and begins to get nervous, but swallows it and searches the throngs of people below her. All those people out there-they're out there to supp-

"Your Highness?"

Amalia quickly turns her attention back to walking down the corridor to the balcony where she is to make her speech. She looks quickly and quietly at the mosaic floor, and the paintings on the walls. This is mine, she thinks. This is what I have grown up to have. This is what I have lived for. She reaches the entryway to the room with the balcony. She takes a deep breath, and goes inside. She takes slow, graceful steps towards the balcony, each step increasing her nervousness. Am I really ready to do this? she asks herself. Stopping at the doorway to the balcony, she looks around at the flowers that are everywhere, and she touches some that are on the jamb. Looking intently at it, then letting it go, she turns ahead, and walks to the edge of the platform. She holds onto the rails, her knees wobbling like jelly.

To her right is her mother, and to her left the chief guardsman. She glances at the guardsman, then at her mother, longingly. Then she looks out at the cheering crowd. She glimpses back at her mother, who gives her a stern look to go through with what she was born to do. I can't screw this up. May the Stone be with me, I will not step down at this moment. I can't keep out of this. This is what I was meant to do.

At this point, Amalia kisses the balcony. She has finally made up her mind. Myrselle is to be the advisor. She turns around, and both Verona Djharagon and Myrselle Balthere are entering the room. She greets Verona first, and that is the custom of telling her that she is not the one. Verona looks shocked, disappointed and angry all at once. She shifts her weight.

She then greets Myrselle, and takes them both out onto the balcony. She waits for a moment, and then drops a white lace scarf. It floats and leaps about in the mild breeze, and the people quiet, awed by the subtle form of command that the new Queen has used.

Now, Amalia wishes that she had been able to declare both women, instead of just one. But as the people begin to hush, she begins to speak. "My people," she pauses a brief moment as her voice echoes off the tower walls, then continues, "it is a great honor, and a privilege, to serve as your Queen." She stops, smiling. She looks over the décor of her Palace: the tapestries, the red, pink and white roses covering nearly everything, the pillars entwined with tri-color garlands made of these flowers. She looks out again at her people. She gazes at the commoners, the women dressed in pink, the men clad in red, and the children enveloped in snowy white. Red, pink and white are the official colors of Meladon, and the people dress in these colors on occasions such as this.

"This occasion," she says, "will, at least for me, will be momentous for many long years to come." She takes a deep breath, a sigh, even, and stares out once more at the crowd. They are awaiting her continuance. "It is my hope and dream that while I am serving you, that I can make you happy and safe. Your happiness and safety are my greatest concerns, and I will do my best to keep them my first priorities.

At this, the masses let out a loud cheer. Amalia feels her eyes well up with tears. One droplet slowly rolls down her cheek, and stops at the corner of her mouth. The bitter, salty taste brings her back to her senses. She goes on with her speech. "Along with reminding myself always about my people, I will do my best to keep the war under control. The war with our neighbor-our once-friendly neighbor-is something that we must all do our best to end. I will take further steps to discontinue the conflict. Measures will be taken to negotiate the end of this battle once and for all, and, if all goes well and according to plan, it will be over by the end of the year."

The throngs once again cheer loudly. Amalia raises a hand to silence the crowd, and once they have done so, she finishes. "Furthermore, I would like to announce that my advisor will be Myrselle Balthere." She turns to Verona and gives her a pleading look that reads, "I am sorry, but she was the better choice." This results in a spiteful gleam in Verona's eyes, but a pleasantly cheerful smile on her face. Verona is clapping for Myrselle when Amalia, with a dejected, apologetic look on her face, turns to Myrselle, and says, "Myrselle Balthere, until my death or yours, you are hereby to be known as T'amalia, Advisor and Administrator of the Palace of Meladon."

Myrselle looks at Verona and tries to say something, but words fail her. She looks at the ground hastily, then coolly up at Amalia. "I accept your invitation to have me as your counselor, Queen Amalia." She curtsies, and Verona and the other women follow suit, also curtsying, and the men bow in her presence. Only her mother stands. She turns to Amalia. "It is time," she says complacently, but with a smile and a bright light in her eye. She and the chief guardsman leave the room. Myrselle, Verona and the others stand up. Amalia is speechless. They turn back to the balcony, and both Verona and Myrselle give speeches of their own, but Amalia is too deep in her own thought to consider what is going on, or to even comprehend what either of the other women are saying.

When they are finished, Myrselle places a hand on Amalia's shoulder, startling her. "Your Majesty," she says softly, "it is time." She says it with a pleading smile. Myrselle walks into the next room, and sits a moment on a chair. She rests her head on her forearm, and takes a deep sigh of relief. Myrselle kneels next to her, and says, "We should go, now." She stands up, and takes Amalia's hand, helping her to her feet. They begin toward the corridor.

They walk down the hall, toward he next "phase" of the ceremony. After a minute or two, they stop, and Myrselle says solemnly, "My Queen, you must now continue alone." She turns and follows a different path. Amalia gazes after her longingly, but then turns back to the way she is going. She finds herself being escorted by four clean-shaven guards-a rarity, even inside the Palace. She notices the festivities outside, wishing she could be part of them; she listens to the jovial music and the laughter of the people; she smells the smell of foods cooking. I will be down there soon enough, she thinks.

Suddenly, they are at the door of the throne room. Remember two things always, a ghostly voice tells her, keep your promise, and your sense of self" She walks inside the room. It is darkened except for some light coming from an atrium directly above the throne. Her mother stands there with the crown on a velvety, wine-red pillow.

Amalia walks into the room, and towards the throne. It takes her a few moments to enter, as she walks gracefully towards her mother. It is a daunting task, however, due to the sheer size, weight, and length of the dress she is wearing; it makes her move even more slowly than the ceremony requires. But her light-footedness makes her seem to have more grace and poise than she already possesses. The guards remain at the entryway, two in the hallway, and the other two inside. The doors are then shut, completely enveloping her in darkness. She waits for her eyes to adjust, and the steps forward. When she is finally next to her mother, standing next to an elaborately decorated, burgundy-cushioned seat, her mother speaks. "Amalia, I am very proud of you this day. It is your own day; rejoice and be glad in it." She says this with a motherly smile. "But remember two things always-your promise, and your sense of self." Amalia stares at her mother with a look of bewilderment striking her face. Her mother simply smiles. She takes the crown off the cushion and places it on Amalia's head. She bows, and everyone else in the room follows suit. Amalia stands up straighter, and regains her composure. Her mother backs out of the room, swiftly, silently.

Amalia does not look away from what is ahead of her. She does not notice her mother leaving through one of the side doors. After a moment, she steps up the stairs leading to the throne. Slowly, she makes her way up, step by step. She makes it to the malkiera'e. She says something in the First Tongue, and is responded to with an incantation, a prayer, and a blessing.

To this, she replies with the necessary answer. She denounces the incantation. She denounces the prayer. She denounces the blessing. And she does it all flawlessly. At this point, the malkiera'e welcome her into open arms. She is squeezed tightly by many people, none of whom are her peers. Suddenly, her mother bursts into the room, and collapses onto the floor. She is bleeding.

At first, Amalia is the only one to notice, but her stopped action brings everyone else to a halt, as well. It gets completely silent. Amalia, teary-eyed, looks away form her mother. She holds he her in shame. One drop falls from her eye, and she looks up again, proud. She regains her composure and reinitiates conversation.

She feels a firm, but feminine hand on her shoulder. She spins around, and it surprised to see her mother, alive and well. "You passed the final test, my daughter. You are truly fit to be Queen." With that, she exits the room calmly, silently, and unaided. Amalia simply stares at her leaving. Her mother stops at a door, and turns to look at Amalia, lovingly. The commotion crowds around her, taking her attention off the door that her mother stands at. After a minute, she is able to look again, but there is no sign of her mother. Nervous, she quickly returns to speaking with the nobles that have attended the ceremony.