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The Girl in the Mirror
Briar was trying to eavesdrop, but she would have her ear pressed against the crack in the heavy mahogany doors for less than a second before her legs disobeyed her brain and sent her scurrying down the halls. Once she was satisfactorily far away, she of course happened upon someone who she suddenly felt the pressing need to address. After being distracted by this person for at least five minutes she would rush back to the doors and try, and fail, again.
Briar had lived like this all of her life. She had been a literal paragon for as long as she could remember-unnaturally beautiful, precociously intelligent, and scrupulously honest. Often, she looked in the mirror and studied her face, feeling that she was just a doll, an imitation of what a human was supposed to look like, but with no real flaws. Briar felt that most of her actions and words were fake as well. She was plenty used to seeing people feeding each other insults and lies but she knew that if she opened her mouth to say the same things, she would lose her voice. If she was trying to keep a secret, she would be forced to tell every single person she saw exactly what was on her mind. It was like some alien force controlled her every action, Briar was just a puppet handled by a cruel, mysterious puppeteer.
Briar once had many friends, but as soon as the children got old enough to be jealous, she was abandoned. Her only friends were her twelve ladies in waiting, and the fact that they were paid to be there put a damper on the relationship, no matter how sincere the girls really were.
As she rounded the corner back to the doors for what must have been the hundredth time, she was intercepted by a servant. “My Lady,” he said, “Your presence has been requested in the council chamber.”
Briar replied, “Thank you Hanni,” and strode off to the very room she had been trying to eavesdrop in.
Briar knocked and entered, walking slowly, her eyes respectfully lowered and he hands resting on the skirt of her dark green dress. She carefully peered up at her parents, the King and Queen. The king was a huge man, with twinkling eyes and a bushy black beard. The stately queen looked very small next to this giant. Briar had practically been raised by servants. She hardly knew King Oberon and his wife Queen Aurelia. They were wise and noble leaders, but Briar received little, if any parental care from them.
Her chief lady in waiting, Acacia, was there also. Briar was surprised. Servants did not hold lengthy private discussions with the rulers of Terne.
“Ah, Rosamond!” Her father boomed suddenly, startling Briar, “we have something very important to tell you!”
“Indeed.” her mother continued in a much quieter voice, “We have just discovered that I am pregnant with a son, who will now become heir to the throne. Because of this, the king and I have decided to tell you of your true identity.” Briar was confused. Her true identity? Was she some foundling child? A relative of the King or Queen brought up as princess?
“What?!” She sputtered, forgetting that she had not been given permission to speak.
“You are not our daughter,” Aurelia calmly continued. “You are the child of our counselor of magic, the fairy Thorn. When you were threatened by a wicked fairy, Thorn disguised you and gave you to us. You were safe with us, and if we died without an heir, Terne would have a Queen, a daughter of a trusted advisor.”
“Perhaps you are wondering why Acacia is here.” King Oberon piped up. He seemed like a man who did not enjoy staying quiet for long.
“Well, yes I was wondering that.” Briar whispered cowed in the presence of the huge King.
“Acacia is actually Thorn. Your mother and our chief advisor to us in all matters magical.”
“Yes,” Aurelia continued “and we would like to give you the choice between remaining our daughter and a princess or removing your magical disguise and becoming Thorn’s daughter and her protégé.
“Well,” Briar answered, giddy with all the strange bordering on ridiculous information she had just received, “I’ll have to think it over, this is a lot to take in.”
“You have until the birth of our son to decide,” replied the king “If he is healthy you may choose to have Thorn and her fairies remove the magical restrictions on your body and personality.”
“If something goes wrong with the birth then you will have to stay princess, no matter what your choice was. It is your duty to Terne.” the Queen continued.
“Good, you are dismissed.”
Briar left walking backwards the long distance to the doors. When she reached them, she curtsied and turned around, opening the doors and leaving the chamber.
Briar sat on her lush bed and thought. She could not believe that this was all true. To know, without a doubt that she was a princess for fifteen years, and then to suddenly and without warning find out that she was not was a hefty shock. How could anyone feed her this ridiculous information and expect her to believe it on their word only, let alone the word of three people that just admitted that they had been deceiving her for her whole life.
Briar stared at her reflection in the tall, gilded mirror. Was it truly possible that she was not who she thought she was. She looked at her smooth, dark auburn hair almost to her waist and huge golden-green eyes set in an olive-skinned face, her perfect figure and tall frame gracing the mirror in front of her. Hadn’t she always felt that she was a fake, that she was a beautiful ornament, just another decoration of the grand palace?
She then turned to the portrait of the King and Queen hanging on the wall. They did not seem like the kind of people to play a cruel joke on Briar, but what else could this be? Briar had always liked them as people and respected them as leaders, but she had never loved them like you were supposed to love your parents. Staring up at them, Briar was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the door open, jumping when her name was spoken softly.
“Briar,” Acacia repeated, speaking a little louder this time. Acacia was the one who had invented her nickname. In public, she called her Princess Rosamond, at state affairs she was announced as Princess Rosamond Aurora Jana Chi. But when she was alone with her ladies-in-waiting she was just Briar. She now wondered if that was her real name.
“Briar! Briar!” Acacia was shouting by now, interrupting her reverie at last.
“Is it true, Acacia?” she asked. Acacia nodded solemnly. “She looks too young to be anyone’s mother.” Briar thought to herself. “Acacia looks barely twenty, and I’m almost fifteen. I suppose fairies can look as old as they want. Acacia could be a thousand years old for all I know.” Out loud she said “All of it?” Acacia nodded again and opened the door. Her eleven other ladies-in-waiting filed in. There was Posy, Rosemary, Camellia, Jessamine, Marguerite, Sirosa, Heza, Magnolia, Peony, Saffron, and Zinnie.
The eleven girls all sat around Briar on her gigantic bed. “My sisters are her to help me explain your story.”
“Where?” Briar asked looking around the room. Camellia giggled. “Oh.” she said, blushing and slightly humiliated.
“It’s alright Briar.” Camellia giggled again. “You’ve heard a lot of crazy information today; I understand why you might hope something was normal”
Peony sat behind her and began brushing her hair. Acacia cleared her throat.
“Almost fifteen years ago I fell in love with a man named Callon. Unfortunately, so did my twin sister Stellafleur. Callon loved me and we decided to get married. Stellafleur pretended that nothing was wrong, biding her time until the perfect moment of revenge. That time came when you were born. On the day of your naming, Stellafleur was the first to bless you. Instead of a blessing you got a curse.”
“What curse?” Briar whispered, a chill zipping through her skin, then blood and the marrow of her bones, reaching even her dead parts, her fingernails and the roots of her hair tingling.
“Sadly, part of Stellafleur’s curse was to make us forget. We had until midnight to protect you as best we could, but when the clock struck twelve, we had forgotten what we were protecting you from.”
“We only know the curse will take effect your fifteenth year.” Sirosa added.
“What happened to my father?”
“A human cannot witness the power of a fairy’s destruction without being destroyed themselves. When Stellafleur betrayed me the blackness of her soul corrupted the rest of her form, transforming her from fairy to demon.” The room was silent, and Acacia continued mournfully “We best get to bed. It is not wise to hold council after midnight.”
Briar’s dreams were strange that night.