Hennelys, Part one

February 20, 2010
Karte ran up the steep rocky path. “Hanny! Hanny! Everyone! There is news!” He came during a game of Black and White. Renf and Wannet were looking for the rest of us. I suppose I should tell you right now: I have thirteen brothers and sisters, nine aunts, eight uncles, and forty-one cousins. Karte was my best friend and neighbor. He was two years my senior, but we were playing together since I was two and he was four.

“Well, what is it? Hurry up!” News hardly ever came to the mountainers. All of my family lived in one clearing of the mountain. The seventy-two of us gathered around Karte to hear what he had to say.

“The King has banished the Queen!” After much gasping and mumbling, Karte added, “He asked her, no, ordered her to parade in front of his guests to show off her beauty. And she didn’t want to! Can you believe it? He divorced her on the spot!” Many of us were speechless, including me. Then, all were quiet. The truth had been silently revealed.

The King would need a new queen.

Karte’s voice was merely a whisper. “He declared that all virgin women under the age of twenty-five and over the age of thirteen to come to the palace for him to choose from.”

I was sixteen. I silently did the math. There was Jiness, my sister, but no, she was married to Lirten and is due a baby in the spring. Oh, and Pelena, no, not Pelena. She’s twenty-six. The air was peculiarly warm for the mid winter today, but it seemed freezing amongst the thought of going to the King. I couldn’t think of anyone, aside from me, who fit the standards. Would I be going alone? To parade in who-knows-what in front of the King for him to choose one of us like choosing a pet puppy?

“When does she have to go?” Ma stepped forward. She, along with many others in our family, had done the math, only to come to the same result as I.

“The King ordered all maidens be there within the week.” There was sadness in his voice now. One week. It took two days to get the city. One two go down the mountain. One to travel east, toward Juniper, the city which held the palace.

* * *

I stood in front of the palace three days later. It was the largest building I have ever seen, constructed of large square stones. The stones were white with little swirls and specks of brown mixed in. The trek down the mountain had been grueling. The snow was melting, making small streams everywhere, causing the stones to become slippery. I had slipped in the mud more than once.

I started up the walkway towards the entrance to the palace. There were palace servants and guards bustling around the lawn. A woman dressed in violet lace pushed me aside without any regard. I looked around. Where was I supposed to go?

A boy sat on a wooden bench reading. I slowly approached him, “Excuse me? I’m here for–”

“You’re here just like all the other girls in the past few days. Go up the hall and turn left. Ask for Lady Herrow.” He went back to his book.

I obeyed his instructions and found myself in a small room full of flowers. A few girls sat in wooden chairs pushed up against a wall. I cleared my throat, “Is one of you, perhaps, Lady Herrow?”

“No, she is fetching perfumes. Sit down.” One of the girls said. She had long blonde hair and piercing green eyes. A most peculiar look. She was pretty, but in a very strange way. The two other girls were twins. Both with short red hair, brown eyes, and heart shaped faces. I sat down on the farthest seat.

A few minutes later, an old woman appeared at the doorway. Her gray hair pulled into a tight bun on the top of her head. “The four of you may follow me.” She said.

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