Goal: 3,538Written: 719 Story: The Burning City Approximate Chapter: Before Chapter 1
Alima watched, holding her breath as her mother inspected her room. The look of disappointment made her dread the lecture she'd receive after the ceremony. Tradition was the only force that could stand between Alima and her mother's temper. But she knew it was only temporary. Her mother was right: she couldn't hide forever.
It took the servants—working in shifts—just less than a half hour to brush Alima's hair, scrub and powder her skin, and find the appropriate dress for the occasion. Alima knew the dress: she had stared at it in her wardrobe for the last ten years. Layers of white silk with delicately sewn pearls. There were over two hundred pearls from across the Shard Sea; Alima had once counted as a child. Delicate constellations were sewn with silver sea shells marking the largest stars above the Burning City.
Today marked her seventeenth year beneath the Eternal Sun. Today was the day Alima would be named Heir to the Sun Throne. Today was the day her mother drew blood. Somewhere deep within the Jan'caran Palace, an old man consulted an even older book; something about the way the sun and moon rose in the sky would determine the type and color of the mark Alima would wear for the rest of her life.
Her mother certainly knew. Her mother always knew. And if Alima had studied the ancient texts, and watched the stars at night like she was supposed to—it wouldn't be a mystery to her. She knew it was the year of the Sun, but whether it would be Silver or Gold still depended on the stars in the sky, and she had missed her last lesson. And she couldn't just ask--
“Alima, pay attention.” A sharp tug turned Alima's head to face her mother. The Moon Queen had taken over and was positioning a sharp metal tiara within her hair.
“I don't see why I have to wear this. I'll be laying down for the rest of the day.” Alima blew a strand of hair from her eyes. Her mother caught it, and pulled it tightly in to a curl with the rest of her hair. The Moon Queen did not bother to answer. She straightened the tiara atop her daughter's head, then straightened Alima's shoulders and lifted her chin forcefully.
“The tiara belonged to the first Yash'evin, the very woman whom you are named after. You're right—you'll be laying down, and no one will notice what you're wearing—except me. I wore this tiara on my marking day, and you will wear it today.” The Queen sighed. “Your father would have wanted you to wear it.” The last part was was added, Alima knew, to take away any argument she may have presented.
“Today is the last day you'll be able to hide,” her mother's voice was the softest she had ever heard before. “Today, you'll no longer be my daughter, but an Heir to the Sun Throne. You can no longer sleep in late, or miss your lessons, or dismiss your guards. You'll be looked upon by the Jan'caran people as the woman who will some day rule over them. You'll be protected every waking moment until you choose someone to stand beside you.”
“I don't really get to choose,” Alima said. Her eyes wandered towards the doorway. Her mother knew she was searching for someone.
“You can choose anyone but him.”
The Moon Queen signaled to her servants and waited for the bedroom to be emptied. She held her daughter at arm's length and looked her up and down.
“You look beautiful, but there is a sadness within you, child. You must let him go.” Alima's jaw tightened as she resisted the urge to speak. No matter what she said: she would be wrong.
“I took a risk with you, daughter. I allowed you both time together that is forbidden—and I did it so you would have a chance at love before it was taken away forever.” The Queen was whispering again. “It is not likely that whomever I choose for you—will be someone you will eventually love. I will not pretend that your marriage will be one that benefits you. You blood benefits the Jan'caran people, and your blood must remain pure. Whatever you feel for that boy, it must end today.”