I wonder if they’ll like me. Miranda tugged at her bodice but the boning was too stiff. Her ribs protested as much as her feet as she shuffled down the halls in these ridiculous shoes with a heel taller than the width of her palm. She preferred her own clothes of soft fur to the extravagant silk her parents sent. Parents, Miranda thought. She often dreamed about a woman’s face. It was soft, like hers, with the same white hair and calm blue eyes. When she sat on the beach back home, Miranda often thought of the woman’s smile. Now that she was going to meet her mother, however, Miranda wondered if she would be like she dreamed or something completely different.
Suddenly Garreth and Vanar stopped in front of a set of large, ornate doors. The wood was painted white with sapphire and silver inlays of waves along the door frame. Kaitu Kingdom was scrawled in more silver across the double doors. Garreth stepped forward and knocked three times. The doors swung open and a servant ushered them inside to a parlor. Miranda stared in awe at the sheer amount of decoration. Likeness of Salacia adorned every wall and spare table. The goddess was always surrounded by a swirling whirlpool and a variety of sea creatures that frolicked in the waves.
“The King and Queen will be with you shortly.” The servant bowed before shutting the parlor door behind them.
Miranda tried sitting, but found she couldn’t find a comfortable position in this awful dress. She looked up to find Garreth smirking. “Do you not know how to stay still?”
Miranda narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t see you dressed in a steel cage.” She tugged at the bodice again but the material still would not give. “How am I supposed to be a princess when I can’t breathe?”
“You’ll learn.” Adina placed a hand on her arm. “Plus those garments are only meant for special occasions. Just remember what we told you, and you’ll be fine.”
Miranda leaned back as much as she could and tried to cross her arms, but couldn’t so she placed her hands in her lap. She had just gotten comfortable when the doors to the parlor swung open. The servant from earlier cleared her throat. “Her majesty of the water kingdom, Queen Cassandra.”
Miranda abruptly got up from her chair and placed a hand over her stomach to quell the nerves bubbling inside her. Only when she looked past the servant to the queen, her face fell. The scarring covered most of her face, obscuring any beauty there may have been. Still, the queen held herself high even when the servant guided her to a large, cushioned chair. The queen leaned against its high back, staring through all of them with her furrowed eyebrows.
“You’ll have to forgive my husband. He is indisposed at the moment. Tell me, which of you claims to be my daughter.”
Miranda’s throat suddenly dried. Adina stood and gave Miranda a slight nudge forward. The rustling of the skirts drew the queen’s gaze straight to Miranda.
“Come and sit,” she indicated a stool next to the chair.
Miranda inched forward and sat as gracefully as she could on the stool. Every time she adjusted, the skirts rustled, which brought the queen’s expression from a scowl to slightly amused. “Restless thing, aren’t you?”
“It’s this bodice, Your Grace. A man had to have designed it for it to be this tight.”
The queen tilted her head slightly. “What do you normally wear?”
“Loose traveler’s clothes, mostly fur. Although truth be told, I swam quite a bit so I usually didn’t wear much.” Miranda held her breath, realizing how easily that story came out. There was something about the queen that was familiar somehow. The queen’s hair, white and streaked with gray, looked like a soft flowing waterfall. Beneath the scar tissue, Miranda could see the crystal blue of her eyes. They looked so familiar to her, but she couldn’t be. Uncle Caldon said her parents died. Why would he lie to her? Although if he really wasn’t her uncle, what else had he lied about?
“My apologies, I don’t know why I told you that.”
“Where did you grow up?” The queen’s expression eased into one of slight interest.
“In a little village in the Goshken Forest just outside of Aldana.”
The queen piqued up at that, leaning towards Miranda. “Who raised you?”
“My uncle. He told me my parents died when I was a small child in some sort of accident, but you look so familiar.”
The queen’s shoulders tensed. “What was your uncle’s name? What did he look like?”
Miranda turned back to Adina who gave her a nod. “Uncle Caldon was tall and strong with the kindest eyes, dark grey.” Tears began brimming and her voice choked from the strain of holding the tears in.
“What happened to him, child?”
“My Queen. My name is Sir Garreth of the Alpha Order.” Miranda turned and watched Garreth approach and kneel before the queen. “Sir Vanar and I rescued Miranda from the village when it was attacked by Hectahn. We could not save Sir Caldon. He gave his life to make sure your daughter was brought back.”
“My daughter,” the queen whispered. A shaking hand found its way to Miranda’s leg. Miranda placed her own hand over the queen’s and for a moment the queen almost smiled. She looked down at where their hands met and for a moment a soft bluish glue emanated from between them.
Miranda gasped as the light pulsed with her heart. Cassandra yanked her hand away. “You shouldn’t be here. He will find you.”
Garreth remained kneeling. “Your majesty, a lost prophecy has been found. She could be the key to destroying him.”
Cassandra turned toward Miranda. “She is the key to releasing him.”
Adina shook her head. “The lost princess will guide the way to each piece of the Goddesses’ Stone, which when placed into sacred steel will banish the darkness forever. We already have one piece, the Mountain’s Diamond.”Adina pulled out a small pouch from within her robes, took out a small cloth wrapped stone. As she unwrapped it, she held it out to the queen. “The Trinity Knights will keep her safe, we promise.”
“Yes. She will be under our protection,” Garreth indicated all three of them. “Under Sir Hallon’s command, she is our priority.”
Cassandra placed her fingers gently over the surface of the diamond. “So the legend is true. You may rise, Sir Garreth.” Cassandra walked up to Miranda, placing a hand to her face. “After so long, my daughter.”
“Mother.” The word felt odd to say but something in Miranda knew it was right. She broke into tears and allowed the queen to hug her. “But why did you send me away?”
The queen grew tense. “I was young and stupid. I am so sorry, my child. Every day I wanted to go to you but I thought being near you would draw the shadow dancers’ attention. I wanted to keep you and Sir Caldon safe.”
“He was a knight?”
Cassandra smiled. It was a sad smile. “My closest knight. We knew each other for a very long time.”
The queen shook her head. “But enough of this. We have a lot of planning to do. We’ll start with a proper introduction to the world.”
She turned her head back to Adina and the two knights. “You are never to leave her side, understand? Also, please summon Sir Hallon immediately. We have a lot to discuss. It is time the Trinity Knights were revealed.”
Miranda happened to catch something move from the corner of her eye, but it was gone by the next blink.