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Shattered Crown

My stylist holds up the fabric, shaking her head.

“Pathetic,” she says.

It was supposed to be a dress made with pearls sown along some of the lining. The design showed it fitted around the torso, scrunched and creased in a pattern below the waist. The sleeves were to be puffed, and the plan intended for the collar line to be edged with embroidered flowers as well as across the fold. I associated the tone with the wooden frame with the chiseled-in hummingbirds and flowers around my full-length mirror. The cloth is paler than mud, having white mixed instead of deepening the color. It contrasts from rich browns like coffee grounds or chocolate, settling between that and Grandmother’s creamy tea. The idea was to play together: the gown, the stitching, few buttons, and the pearls – for the ensemble to be monochromatic, being that genuine pearls are off-white.

Being nobility and a symbol of Tivery, I am to bare the country in my image. The first thing Tivery knows for would their nickname: “The Year-Round Spring Flower Country”. Choppy, but the phrase speaks truth. Although, one shouldn’t start thinking that since flower fields dominate farmland then there must not be very much farmland at all. What nonsense. Tivery composes its environment as gardens of harvest and blossoms. Tiverians can’t take a walk outside of Royal for long without trampling on someone’s crops.

I am a royal, but Royal (notice the capitalization) titles the village located in Southern Tivery. The lower part contains majority of the population, as where people north scatter around establishing family farms.

I have never been to Northern Tivery nor have I been anywhere outside of Royal. The castle cages me in, secludes me in its three-stories-high-and-four-wings-wide structure. I spend my time in the palace boundary, being tutored, mainly. I have four lessons each day, all stretch two plus hours. People disbelieve in acquiring perfection. At the castle, imperfection provides no exception. I practice mannerism, and if I disappoint my present tutor, then the procedure repeats until mended seamlessly.

With daily lessons sweeping eight hours away, I suppose I understand how I might be thought of as important. I am privately taught, shaping a royal disposition. All the practice must be for a good intention. And it is.

Somewhat.

I’m the princess. “Princess” feels more like a pet name than a title. A princess possesses no more voice than the public. When I become queen, the restriction continues. My eminence comes from being a royal. Since my first ancestor founded Tivery, all decedents afterwards secured the crown. I am born to King William Caverne, making me the princess – their prissy, darling princess. I have royal blood. Therefore, I am part of the reigning family, though not ruling myself. Living as the king’s daughter guarantees me special treatment. With a father so powerful, I am well-known among Tiverians.

My stylist scuffs and dumps the tattered gown onto the vintage table where she keeps her supplies. Contrary to how she usually treats garments, the fabric rumbles as it collapses.

“It was a neutral-colored dress, anyways,” she states. “The design was destined to turn out poorly. I’ll make sure to trash that when I leave, Princess.”

The worker swings open my door leading to my collection of attire. She steps in, disappearing. I can hear drawers opening and the ruffling of gowns, the shuffling through the garment bags suspended upon racks.

Hypothetically, my chamber consists of three rooms. Entering through the corridor, one would find the area containing various items belonging to me as well as the bed where I slumber. My main room expands yards around with windowpanes and paintings filling wall space. Whereas through a door exhibits a secluded spot much smaller where the full-length, embellished mirror perches upright on the wall opposite. This second room, quite tiny compared to my bedroom, holds nothing but the mirror, a wooden chair, and the vintage table – plus the stylist’s supply case. She carries it in instead of storing it here since she oftentimes replaces items. Then through there occupies another recessed place – the closet, which supplies loads of organized wardrobe and accessories kept in compartments and dressers.

The building’s ceilings elevate high with hundreds of passageways and doors. The architectural layout constructs the castle uncomplicatedly in an ordered fashion. I unlikely get lost. The routes walk simply. Though, of course a few secret routes I discovered, not that where they steer amazes me. Mostly, by mistake I stumble upon dusty blind alleys, never anything worthy to imply on returning to. Despite the windows, the castle traps me inside. I’m supposed to bear in mind that it sustains as the place I always am in…and it would be needless even to leave. People come and assist me. I need not my free will, and I need not liberation. I serve my country, supposedly, and make sure I reflect my country appropriately. Everything I do must be in my country’s honor. If I conduct myself to aspirations, I apparently demean the king. So instructors and my head assistant ensure I render myself prettily and too simple to be able to reign. I am educated, however, since having an ignorant princess shows badly.

The best part of the palace, by far, would be the garden. Outside, I get to unchain myself from the castle building and meet the lively, reviving nature. Nothing inside the castle, not any of its glorious rooms, are as breathtaking as the garden. In the “flower” country, one can correctly impose that the garden is the best and most premium and tended to. That can certainly be verified by encountering it. The elongated landscape flourishes flamboyant geraniums and marigolds and roses, plus some exotic ones I yet to check the names. The air outdoors– so fresh, so satisfying to the lungs compared to the dry, artificially cleansed sense closed inside the castle. The entire scene, the ambiance, invigorates, having an impulse effect to run and match the aura. Yet in the garden I feel relaxed…calm, as though running would be peaceful instead of strenuous.

The stylist returns, a dress slung delicately over her shoulder. The clothing is crimson – an eye-catching color, of course. The dressmakers’ favorite technique is observing the castle’s garden and then ordering fabrics of matched shades. I signify my father’s land. Considering the country’s nickname, it makes sense that I wear floral and vivid colors. The stylist zips open the dress, so I raise locked elbows to my head, fists sky-ward. She pulls the dress over my head, over my slip, and the silk grazes against my ankles.

As every day, she proceeds sprucing me up. It takes an hour, at least. I sit in the wooden chair while her fingers weave my hair into braids, pinning and hair spraying. She tugs my locks into an up-hairstyle and finishes with hairspray. She powders my face and applies makeup. Then she takes a crown out of its box and slides the ends carefully through my hair, which isn’t typical. I rarely put on the crown at all. The headpiece symbolizes royalty in addition to being costly and few. I wear it today because of the village visit.

Every six months, I, the princess of Tivery, stroll through Royal. It’s not for me, not meant for my relief of experiencing outside the palace walls. I am brought for the village people. They like to see the king’s daughter. Years ago the princesses never were seen. When one royal daughter of Tivery was allowed to leave to go see her sick tutor, the citizens realized who she was from the guards, clothing, and crown. Who else could she have been? Chatter bubbled about the town, passing hearsay that the Tiverian princess was spotted walking through the streets. The head assistant at the time considered this and decided to make sure the princess was seen in Royal once in a while. The king agreed, recognizing it would be much more emblematic and assuring than concealing the princess from the common townsfolk.

The Tivery princes – which would be reasonably questionable here – can, for the most part, do whatever they please. They have lessons as well but may roam the village like cattle. I have no brothers. I am the king’s only child, which seems like an appealing thing like I receive more attention and more things. It’s not that I’m arguing against that, but what portrays as negative dominates over the good. For one thing, my father preferred a boy, and he tells me this repeatedly. One daughter – or any number with no sons – presents as frustrating trouble for royals.

For weeks I’ve been instructed and reminded how to present myself. It’s a serious matter, my tutor had said, that I portray Tivery properly. They don’t want to give the wrong impression. That would affect how the citizens as well as neighboring countries regard the king.

My fourteenth birthday was merely a month ago and intensified responsibilities dump on me. For one, my lessons seem to be extended in length with the tutors demanding I practice more than usual. Instead of learning fascinating facts about history, I am required to write essays on scrolls. I am fairly good with avoiding blots, but the quill needs to frequently dip into the ink. With my Well-Mannerism’s instructor, she used to pretend we were in different situations and I’d behave as according. Now I read books – guidebooks, not adventures. The writer fancies the words “not” and “don’t”, especially the phrase “The suitable princesses shall not ever…” He hardly explains himself. And at ballet, I work my feet sore lifting on Pointe and work on poise, grace, and balance.

I should be grateful and optimistic; I really should. I am a royal and therefore am treated like one. Strict lessons assort with the conduct. They apply to well mold me and are considerably beneficial. Servants, as well as the common folk poverty-stricken and dwelling rural, are illiterate. I have abundant necessities and luxuries others cannot afford. Where I live I have workers serving me, pampering me. I may not be allowed to leave often nor do what I please, but the palace stands centered in Royal as an admired and extraordinary home, relic, and figure. Plus, the castle amazes any visitor whom is unfamiliar with royalty.

My birthday celebration was excellent. The palace hosted a festivity in the performance hall. Entertainers traveled here to honor my being. Our prominent guests and royal company enjoyed a delicious show of music and dancing followed by a theatrical production.

Yes, it truly was excellent…being spoiled for being coincidentally born to the king. I can’t help being in my position. It’s what I was born into, as the servants and common folk were born into their roles.

Frankly, Tivery runs in a foolish way. I, the daughter of Tivery’s ruler, find the country’s arrangement as ridiculous – oh, how shameful.

The stylist looks at me, examining to make sure she’s finished. She gently grabs my crown with her fingertips and angles it forward. Pleased, she gives a nod and an assuring smile. She heads over to the vintage table and begins packing her supplies in the bag, inserting them in a certain fashion. Before lifting the bag from the table, she curtsies to me. (I get that a lot.) The sad dress wads up in her hands as she picks it up. As she walks towards the door to my chamber room, a panicked feeling sets in me as if one of my dear garden flowers were being trampled upon. The dressmakers wrecked the dress; it turned out poorly. Like my stylist said, the dress is too different.

“Stylist,” I speak before I can reconsider. “The dress does not need to be thrown away.”

Seeming perplexed, the worker stops and looks back. Her eyes flick to the dress and then up again, barely giving a glance.

I may indifferently toss things and have preference. Royals don’t need resourcefulness. We have gobs of riches, so why would the princess protest against something as stupid as this? It’s not that I like the dress. Truth be told, I think the dress turned out hideously. Instead of remaking it, a new one – a better gown – can be created, which relieves me. The mess-up I would probably lob in a corner anyways, and move on. Nonetheless, a longing to have something like I’ve never had before tugs at me, to have something that’s not special and important for once. How simple, how real, the imperfections.

People ought to know to hold their thoughts down longer before wronging. The deal appeared significant just a moment ago. Before I was compelled to stand up for the piece – for what it stood for. But it’s a garment and that’s all it is, isn’t it? I huff directed at the material in the stylist’s hands.

“My princess, how accurate,” she says cautiously since it would be impolite to add “but random”.

I shake my head. “I wasn’t thinking well. Ignore what I had said.”

My embarrassment remains. Trying to cream over my utterance, I sigh at the ceiling impatiently as if wishing to be doing something actually important. I mustn’t screw up in the village like this. Saying the wrong things, that’ll get me in trouble since it will reflect Tivery’s condition. Really, defending against a very ill-made, disasterous dress because of what it symbols! How ridiculous. It represents…poorness? Is that what I yearned for? A foolish mistake on my part, I made.

“Well,” the stylist says, “maybe your pitiful peasant friend will find this likeable.”

Of course my stylist suggests something like this. She’s obligated to keep me comfortable and to transfer or remove any feelings of fault. The idea does make sense, considering that Anne most likely will indeed adore the gift. Any villager would. They wear torn, filthy clothing and outfits dreadfully made. The mess-up would be beyond preposterous for a princess but ideal for a villager. Striving to help her widowed mother nurture her scrawny siblings, Anne will accept any offering. The mess-up would thrill Anne. How completely oblivious the life she possesses.

Oh, my goodness. Blurting that silly statement imitates a peasant. No one higher than them and definitely no princess verbalizes as I did. I am expected to conduct myself better than that. Those tedious lessons go to rot because of my hasty outlook. Either I learn to train my responses or I might as well starve amongst the lowly. I am thinking completely rationally – well, to an extent. The slipup my stylist managed to wave away, but what about in the village? The villagers will complain that I am a stupid princess and am not worthy to be of royal decedents. And if that doesn’t cause enough damage, offending in some way will lessen the chance of making allies with another country. Father will have a difficult time wedding me to a foreign prince. With mistakes like that, nobody will want to make allies with Tivery.

I’m not being a drama queen, er, typical princess. Tivery cannot afford to diminish the number of allies. All these other countries, especially the ones neighboring, have the king fidgeting anxiously, the castle’s private current news reporters monitoring and observing the competition. Some other lands establish armies, and they train their soldiers and can exchange gobs of their currency for weapons. Some territories raid other countries…and win. Tivery’s only war dates back centuries when the kingdom was fought for. It wasn’t even a war, really. A bunch of explorers stumbled across the land. We didn’t order out the inhabitants. We plainly demanded them to rule under us. Of course they protested against: ‘These strange foreigners burst into our land and insist we obey them? What drivel!’ The outcome would either be the natives miraculously find liking to the invaders, we relinquish and leave, or a battle arises. The founding battle was our only war, and we won. So it seems as though we’d have a chance if another one ensued.

Yes, it seems that way…

Tivery regards as a peaceful country…or weak, depending on the viewpoint. We try not to give any leaders enraged motives to attack. The king occupies himself in matters singly of his country. The citizens endeavor to live at ease, but it’s not the Royals’ fault. Not completely. I mean, they can grow crops for food and work for money – not that the law permits everyone to obtaining property. At least a quarter of the population born servants, no means may modify consent. However, the three-fourths can work up towards more pay or have allowable amounts of farmland. Royals shouldn’t be blamed by them.

But with Tivery, in a sense, falling apart and in such debt, I know the consequences that might eventually come from my foolishness. I just want to end this, and an efficient way to would be by agreeing to my stylist’s idea.

“Yes, exactly, find someone to give the dress to her, will you?”










The worker nods and exits with it finally. I know that it’s only a matter of time before my head assistant Vivian arrives. She usually stays by me throughout the day, except for during lessons. The reason for her absence this morning would be of the scheduled village visit. My head assistant speaks with the king prior to the event. Everything must go smoothly, unlike how I just was. Really, on the day of, I manage to mess up.

With my sliver of time, I sigh, not sure if I should wait here or otherwise. My stylist, considering her duty and all, should have informed me all this. Making me wait wondering – how dare them! I stand in front of the full-length mirror, admiring the border of carved hummingbirds and flowers. The castle hires the finest artists. Lined in the corridor, paintings fasten on the wall – oil paintings where graze by stroke develop a magnum opus, paintings of








former royalty and ones of flower fields.

I catch my reflection, of the crown upon my head. Like I mentioned, it would be ridiculous to wear it often as if it were a casual accessory thrown on to enhance outfits. Anyone who insists Royals’ headwear being an accessory should be rid of their farm animals to punish their stupidity. At least, the perception of the crown being more applies in Tivery. In other countries, boxes of them deliver for using for a fashion piece. Preposterous! One crown assigns to me. The father stows a single crown. Only during the ceremony of a pre-Royal to king or queen will it be replaced with a more exquisite one – all to symbolize. I wear the crown today for the people so that they remember what I stand for.

I discussed this with the king one time, about the importance and portrayal of the crown. It was peculiar, I recall, not because of the depth but since Father and I rarely converse. It happened over mealtime, which actually contains reasonableness. Ordinarily, the king and I do not encounter besides. Though, for an unexplainable reason, kings arrange meetings over dining. I am ordered even to eat in a room elsewhere with Grandmother than in the main dining hall. Whenever the king addresses me, I listen reluctantly to his ramblings about the distressed state of Tivery or regarding the lack of dedication I apparently posses during lessons. I think otherwise about my studies. Plus, like I need to hear more complaints about Tivery! Tivery’s current condition applies to the king, not me. I mean, I care, but I comport myself to by a proper image of Tivery. Everything moreover should not be a concern of mine.

The instance I am remembering was not a conversation; pardon me. The king uttered approximately five words in my direction. I cleanly bring to mind considering the topic and the randomness. Truly, I view it as pretty arbitrary.

One of our guests, an army commander, asked me where my crown was. He blathered on the concept of his royalty wearing the crown regularly. Naturally, I was quite annoyed and offended by his absurdity.

“Commander, are you not aware that the crown should be something special, not informal? What Royals here believe obviously is different than where you live,” I had said, shocked he did not study the basic fundamentals of Tiverian royalty before visiting. “We use the crown on ceremonious occasion. The crown symbolizes one thing and impossible can it for











anything else!”

Before I was able to add more, the king inquired, “Garland, I wouldn’t act so certain. If you mean in a conventional sense, then yes. But otherwise the crown can become a symbol of more than royalty.”

Honestly, he was talking like he was a philosopher instead of royalty himself. When could it possibly become the representation of something else, and how? The king had probably drunk too much wine. He has been lately, with his claim of Tivery being in such a shattering state. So instead of fixing the dilemma, he drinks away his stress. Then when he’s sober and realizes that it improved nothing, he fills on more wine so he can forget. Tivery mustn’t be as disarrayed as he professes it to be since he makes himself to overlook the whole situation. My head assistant Vivian bickered that the king drinks because of its seriousness. Vivian does not, however, know what she speaks about either.

I care about Tivery. I just fail to comprehend with these issues. Father pretends the country struggles to keep together, acting as if the whole country falls apart. Personally, I don’t think of it as a big deal or something to fret over. If he passed a couple laws and maybe arrested some people, then everything would run smoothly. As for the poverty-stricken, all taken to shush them up could be to offer more jobs and lower food prices. The king cannot decrease any prices, however. Taxes inflate for imports. Father encourages more exports, except the poultry rate reduced and the crops are having a bad season. Apparently, the farmers blame bugs called pesticides which crawl around and delay dozens of crop transport for the market. How absurd.

“Miss Garland?”

Standing in the opened doorway, my head assistant Vivian waits for me. Her red-rimmed eyes look over my outfit, and she pauses to smirk at my crown. I know she’s dedicated to serving me and even helping the king in matters, but at moments she appears to be indirectly laughing at me as if she considers me smaller than I am, as if I’m her worker. I must act flawlessly, and Vivian apparently finds when I slip up amusing. I nod too fast or my feet are too large. Only, I am carrying myself just like I should be. The acknowledgement she gives feels intended for me even though she looks at the crown. Though, the crown does sit on my head.

But even so, I see no hint that Vivian knows about Anne’s present. She would scorn me for it if she did, reminding me of my mistake and how unnecessary to keep the disaster. She would toss it away, shaking her head at the irrelevant matter. In Vivian’s opinion, I need to focus and always focus. Even if it doesn’t seem so, the princess must be familiar with the problems in her father’s country. One reason being, again, to represent in an appropriate way. I must be aware, plainly because Tivery belongs to me or at least to my father. As a Royal, I care for my country like the palace gardeners do for my flowers. And I am exceptionally conscious of happenings here. I am au fait that the farmers are having trouble this season (and blaming it on pesticides). The subject of people stealing because they are too illiterate and dim-witted to receive enough payment has came to mind. The unsanitary living conditions and diseases I even am mindful about. I am, as a matter of fact, very aware and, contrary to Vivian’s concern, extremely alert.

Vivian does, however, make focusing difficult with her smirking, especially at my crown. Maybe she finds me strolling through the filthy village streets amusing. Or hilarity from the crown perched on my head. If she threatens my position, then regretful will be her!

“I’m coming, Vivian,” I tell her sweetly.

No matter how much she aggravates me, I shall not accuse her. Not until I’m certain, that is. Firing her means a new head assistant must be hired. Since they must be a citizen of Tivery and a female head assistant for the princess is preferred, a proper replacement may never be found. I would be forced to have an illiterate head assistant. Vivian was fortunate to be born to the castle’s former scholar. From him she learned everything. When he passed away, the king let her stay, which I was surprised when I discovered this. But the king admired how she didn’t shed one tear and the knowing of her direct education from the palace scholar influenced his decision to let her stay in a guest room until an opportunity where she would be of use. I was four when she acquired her occupation after my first assistant’s death. Vivian was fourteen and engaged to some poor villager. Father gladly freed her of her obviously thoughtless commitment to marry him. Because of the king’s offer, Vivian lives richly inside the castle. I’ve heard the poor villager found someone else.

Vivian doesn’t seem to realize her good fortune. She takes everything for granted. She doesn’t have royal blood, yet she acts as if she does and has more than me if that’s possible. She’s used to the ways here. In her position, the king allows her to live in a guest room in the palace. She eats our food and walks down our ancient corridors. How she looked at the crown, she thinks of herself higher than a royal, doesn’t she! She smirks at the princess’s presence and – worse: the crown.

As Vivian and I make our way to the west-side entrance, she reminds me of how to behave, telling me to wary of all the villagers. She blathers about the chaos, of the theft and sickness, and says she discussed such matters with the king minutes ago. I mustn’t purchase anything and very importantly contemplate over what I am going to say. But I know all this. I know more than this and more than Vivian does – about anything. She’s not my Well-mannerism’s tutor. Instead of taking her father’s place as the castle scholar, she became an assistant, my head assistant, which means she assists me. Right now, she’s doing nothing more than annoying me.

At the west-side entrance, the guards unlock the bolts and open the doors on cue, informed of our leaving. When we walk through, they gently close them and click the locks. Even though I can’t see them anymore, I know they step back in place with the other guards lining the interior walls. The ones outside stand watch underneath every window. They barely glance in my direction. I ignore them. They keep the castle from thefts, but besides that, they have no importance.

The coachman helps us up into the carriage, where the covering overhead blocks out the blazing sun. A servant places a plain-looking box beneath the bench, but I ignore him as well because they do so many random tasks. As we are brought out of the palace boundaries, I notice none of the horses slowly passing us on the streets are as strong-built as ours. It might be the cause of feed since of the whole farmer hold-up on plants and such. The royal’s animals must be well-fed, so of course they get bulks of supplies for storage.

We ride down the raggedy road, the carriage jiggling a bit as it rolls over the stones. In Royal, the most populated town in Tivery, tables line the streets where vendors display their products: fabric, wooden silverware, food, etc. They’re busy calling out for buyers, trying to exchange their items for currency. The villagers walk along, sometimes pausing at the tables but typically not. They wear raggedy, old clothing that drapes around them. A few people we pass with paled complexions stagger. Children dash between the tables, laughing and playing as they fail to comprehend their country’s current condition. Soon the row of vendors selling ends, and the carriage surrounds itself among clumps of run-down shops and failing businesses. Several windows are dark, I notice. I press down my foot so that I’m ready to step off, but to my surprise we keep rolling farther through the village. We enter where cottages locate. The people washing their clothing and gardening outside their houses stare at the extravagant coach. Unlike the last village visit, the people show no indication to greet me with smiles and warm shouts full of hope. The residents watch with acrimonious stares. Instead of shifting their attitude to animated, when they spot the crown, they stiffen. In the quiet, I hear a women muttering to her children to go inside the house. The children, to my satisfaction, look at the carriage longingly but obey their mother and disappear inside.

Vivian next to me fidgets uncomfortably. Keeping my posture, I eye her questioningly and partly in an accusing manner. The villagers have nothing to hold a grudge against the royals, especially since I cannot fix their problems for them. The coach continues down the road. I glance back. An adjustment must have been made to the village visit procedure because always I go by foot by now. I shouldn’t be in the carriage. Like decided previously, the carriage stops somewhere the cottages start appearing into view. Then I stroll – stroll, not ride in the coach for this far. The coachman focuses on the horses and the road, oblivious to the difference. He seems, in fact, quite confident by the way he drives without hesitation as if he knows exactly where to go, as if somebody instructed him on the new plan.

“Vivian, what is the meaning of this?” I demand.

Slowly, she meets my glare, her eyes wide. She doesn’t answer at first and looks frequently away. She inhales deeply and holds. I take it that when she exhales, an explanation will spill out, that I will be filled in on why this peculiarity. This absurdity has a reason, no matter how ludicrous and irrational it may be, and I deserve the elucidation. Tivery must be more messed-up than I deemed it to be, and I realize that I agree with Vivian that chaos consumes them. I think back to her telling me to “be wary of all the villagers”. I thought she meant that in a more general way and not in a literal sense, to be wary of the typical possibly dangerous people, the ones whom steal and the mad-minded that scheme their revenge on royals for their crop damage. She really meant all as in every single villager. But that would be illogical, would it not be? The crown used to bring amazement and appreciation to the people, which I noticed during prior village visits where people waved and praised me, complimented their royals. Now they want my crown gone…along with my head. I lift my chin, peering past the cottages, refusing to give even a side-glance to the citizens, whom are – apparently – very much disgruntled for some secret reason.

I make the mistake of turning my head towards the side. I swear pure hate gleams in one man’s eyes. I rub my neck and wait for Vivian to please answer. As if pondering over how naïve she considers me, Vivian shakes her head and sighs. I tense, hardening in exasperation. She knows more than I of this. Therefore, she obviously feels more superior, acting like I’m so pitiful.

“Miss Princess, use a calmer tone,” she says.

My blood boils, my skin prickling from sudden heat. My jaw drops, and I have a trembling spasm lasting four seconds. Infuriated, I squeeze my hands into fists.

“My father’s country wants us dead, Vivian, and you tell me to speak calmly?”

One villager tending his cattle on a hill shouts something in a menacing voice, but the sound of the horses abruptly trotting on the pavement covers his words. The coachmen slows the reins, and the horses are such well-trained that I determine he must have flicked his reins and indicated to move faster.

My head assistant smirks again. I grit my teeth.

“The king and I,” she tells me, “decided that it would be best if you don’t step out of the coach during the visit.”

“Best?”

The citizens stop and watch the carriage passing with such detestation that I see why. They notice the crown, and they hate it. Suddenly, because of the tragedies that are their own faults, they blame the king. They believe the leader controls all their problems, that if their goat dies, then the king should have sent in a farm veterinarian. If half their crops shrivel, then it means the king should have somehow prevented pesticides from ever entering Tivery. And being the king’s daughter, I ostensibly also hold responsibility. That I live in the palace with royal blood, whatever the king does cuts into my reputation. They hate me because I represent the country as the king’s daughter.

I stare away; I look away from all of them, all these strangers, these accusers. These recalcitrant citizens indirectly protest and they resist against the princess’s village visit. No longer does it bring hope or wondering or gratefulness. The cause of their pathetic lives directs towards Tivery’s royals. The king deals with the country as a whole, making sure people reside reasonably well-off, enforces laws, and deals with foreign matters. The king cannot force contentment upon the people. Pathetic people they are, so no wonder their lives. I have good fortune. Faulting me for citizens having bad ones would be preposterous.

Vivian shrugs slightly. “We were afraid of, well, revolting. This way, you’re kept safer than if you were walking and vulnerable like that.”

I blink a few times, my heart quickening. I was aware the people were irritated and extremely bitter. I didn’t, however, contemplate action arising other than attempts at a couple law suggestions. I ponder what rebellion may occur and how far it will go. The history books describe a land and time when the people once tore apart dozens of cities. They snatched up anything sharp and heavy that could be found. Whipping these around, they managed to smash windows, steal, and destroy homes and shops. They accused their king and queen – there, queens rule like the kings do – of ignoring poverty. The jealous citizens went completely mad. In fact, their emotions were so intense and irrational that they broke into the castle, stabbing several guards, and mercilessly murdered their rulers. Ironically to the motive, after the violence the country deepened in catastrophic misery. The second government set-up resulted in more problems for the land.

Be wary of all the villagers, I remember Vivian warning.

The coach proceeds to another part of the village where everything looks rusty and disorderly. Farm animals wander, and the coachman quickly tugs back the reins as chickens scurry onto the road. Equipment for tending animals and for if they have a garden I see scattered. The cottages seem to be built using clay mud to fill the holes between stones or bricks. Some of the flimsy doors and the windows have chipped pieces. In one particular cottage, the door angles widely open, and several children play outside. I count six, most lanky but younger than ten. One of the smaller girls watches on the grass, hugging her knees and looking frightfully frail. The children, even with paled skin and ribcages showing beneath their garments, dash around. Abruptly, they stand still and smile eagerly. I notice an older girl returning from the forest, clutching a woven basket filled with freshly-plucked berries. I stiffen, recognizing who she is.

I never had a friend of low status, someone outside association with royals, until Anne. I usually acquaint myself with the children of father’s guests, peers superior though never more than the king and me. Chatting with them doesn’t bother me. Many would make good friends if they didn’t live so far and since they find liking to oftentimes declining invitations. The only time I encounter the king’s people would be during the village visits, and I certainly shouldn’t be mingling with a few peers. I must appeal to all the citizens and not choose favorites. A princess shall be friends with all her people, the author of one of the guidebooks wrote. However, a princess shan’t be close friends with them. I understood the writer even in its perplexity. It means I am to act considerate and caring but not knowing everyone by name and face. The citizens recognize me while I view them as a whole instead of individually.

Anne’s mother came into the castle to confront the king, along with her eldest daughter Anne. Mrs. Patter’s seven children were thinning away, and she had been recently widowed. She searched the village and outside it a bit as well, for an opportunity that somebody would grant her a job. As it is in Tivery, Mrs. Patter was illiterate and looked down upon being a woman – one thing I disagree on. But moreover, Anne’s mother, even though well-skilled and persistent, periodically shuts herself inside, hysterical and with a high fever. The king of course, busy with such things a king does and not wanting to deal with a ranting, vengeance-yearning subject, sent Grandmother to hear her out. The queen pitied the widow and agreed to aid her. Contented by the settlement, Grandmother decided to let Anne and her mother be guests for a few hours. They stayed longer than expected, and we all gathered for the tea in the garden. Unlike how I always had scorned citizen’s unmannered ways, I admired Anne’s silly, almost carefree attitude. She carried herself without reflecting, not rudely but didn’t restrain herself from slouching or drinking tea with patient timing. She relaxed, was herself instead of trying desperately to be proper like I do as guidelines and tutors instruct. For once, I approved of one’s inadequate demeanor.

Is that why you protested against ridding of the mess-up dress? I think harshly. Inside the coach, I wrinkle my face for a moment before remembering to represent Tivery – no matter how much I’d rather not. The horses pull the carriage farther down the path to where we situate adjacent to the cottage. The children, all now gobbling berries Anne collected, gaze off at the carriage, at my crown. Having no mother present to tell them to go inside, the children stay to watch us pass, unlike at a previous house. I automatically flinch when Anne lifts her hand and waves. I hesitate and then stare ahead, remembering the carriage will move on soon enough. Yet, as I think this, it comes to a halt.

“Why are we stopping?” I ask nervously.

Vivian had said I ride the whole visit. Maybe they meant until Anne’s house where there would be the family whom least likely would chuck horse feed into the carriage at me. I press my folded hands tighter together, apprehending that I wouldn’t get away with something conspicuous like foot-tapping. We have no reason to greet them personally now, even if I met one of them before.

My eyes flit to the plain box tucked beneath the bench under Vivian. I realize what’s inside: the dress. Indeed, Vivian bends down and, picking up the box, I spot the brown fabric exposed by the poorly covered lid.

Vivian tosses me a look. “Miss Garland, it was your idea to give the dressmaker’s failed design to Anne. Quite a discourteous gift, I say.”

I open my mouth to defend myself, that I foolishly spoke and it wasn’t my idea; it was my stylist’s. I only agreed to have it as a present for Anne because it was a way to quickly pardon my mistake. Compared to the riches in the castle, the mess-up makes a terrible gift. I snap my jaw back up. Offering something that was to be disposed of, Anne might be offended. One would expect a more decent present from royals. I hadn’t thought of this at the time. I know my new friend could use the gift and will thank me, but she might not appreciate it very much.

This time to agree, I start to speak. “Yes, I understand. It would be better to dispose of it. It greatly is a dreadful plan. A peasant could argue this a considerably decent dress. However…” I shake my head. “Forget it, Vivian, please.”

My head assistant stares out her side of the carriage. When she turns back, her eyes are dim, her expression serious. I get the feeling she’s not thinking about the dress but a topic more significant, a matter focusing on Tivery’s state and mostly how I contribute. Then the sense vanishes when Vivian yet again smirks.

“Stop that!” I inadvertently say. “Do you not notice the turmoil? Do you find it humorous, Vivian, how I have no way to deal with it? I see how you look at the crown as if you believe the crown’s meaning is ridiculous. The country falls apart, foreign rulers threaten to seize territory, and you laugh to yourself, humored by all this. Is that not correct, Vivian?”

Vivian’s eyebrows rise at my unexpected diction.

“Excellent,” I continue. “Really, how splendid. Let’s just call things and people pathetic: the princess, the crown, royals, and the whole country, why don’t we? Sincerely, give me your permission to let you give the dress to Anne, and with that, laugh at my crown while my father’s country ruptures into jabbing pieces.”

I don’t wait for Vivian’s response. I don’t check to see Anne’s reaction (since she’s close to overhear). I simply tear the crown off my head, sensing its delicacy in my hands. Then, leaning towards the side of the carriage, I hurl the crown onto the road. It smashes, shattering instantly.



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