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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mirror of Dreams

1


When I woke up this morning – August 17th – I had no idea that my whole life was about to change. I sat in front of the mirror examining my face, satisfied that I looked good, despite having one dark brown eye and one bright blue eye. For 18 years, I had been a more or less good little girl, and now I was going to be a good woman who would very soon be a good wife and mother.
From the time I was born, my mother and paternal grandmother have raised me to have one goal in life; get married and have babies. Not too many babies, just two. Three if I decide to be ambitious.
To make sure that I would be a good wife and mother, I was sent to an elite school for girls. There, I learned how to run a household, cook, care for children, and most importantly of all, be a good hostess when my husband is entertaining guests. The school is considered a quite old fashioned because they still teach girls that it is important to always do as our husbands tell us to, and never deny the man we marry anything.
I had fun in school and never once felt that it was a disservice to feminism. I loved the classes on how to be beautiful without being too beautiful. In other classes, we learned how to dress to enhance our beauty without being inappropriate. We'd learn how to dance, how to play musical instruments, and even how to sing.
The only flaw I found in my schooling was that whenever someone truly loved something – such as singing, which was my favorite subject – our teachers would discourage us from getting carried away with it. After all, devoting too much energy to anything other than our future husbands was a waste of time and effort. In the end, I didn't particularly disagree, and so long as I didn't spend too much time singing, I was basically allowed to do it whenever I wanted.
My mother entered my bedroom, pulling me out of my reverie. She smiled at me, holding up a large package. It was wrapped in vibrantly yellow paper with a dark pink ribbon and bow.
I got you a little something to wear to your party tonight, Kaitlynn,” she informed me. “Are you excited?”
I actually am!” I blurted out, grinning as I took the package. “If I am lucky, I will meet the man I'm going to marry!”
For my birthday, my mother and grandmother had selected quite a few candidates that they approved of for my future husband to attend a party in my honor. Other girls from my school were going to be here as well, and if they were lucky, they'd find good matches too. However, I had a lot going in my favor with my good looks and my mother's fortune. True, the bulk of it was going to my older brother, but there was enough money set aside for me to entice a man.
Unwrapping my gift, I discovered a lovely dress in the same shade of dark pink as the bow. It was dark enough pink that it could almost be called red, but not quite. Red was – after all – a color forbidden to wear until after marriage in my mother's opinion. The dress was accented with delicate lace created with sunny yellow thread.
The dress complimented the copious red highlights in my softly auburn hair. It even went so far as to make my hair look redder than normal. My strange eyes watered as I thought about how beautiful I would look wearing it.
It's perfect!” I announced, practically leaping to my feet to hug my mother. The only cloud in my otherwise perfect sky was: “Too bad I don't have a father to lead me in my first official dance as an adult...”
My mother smiled a bit sadly as she tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “I too wish that he could be here today and see how beautiful you've become.”
Considering that my mother was raised the same way I was, she had been devastated when her beloved husband had died abruptly barely three years after they'd wed. He'd gotten sick and died practically over night, leaving my mother with a child in arms and another in her belly. Of course, she hadn't known I was in there until a month later, so I had never had a chance to meet my father.
If I am truly lucky, the man I marry will live to grow old with me. A derisive snort escaped me, one so soft that my mother didn't notice it. Having grown up without a father, it seems only normal to me that my husband might die unexpectedly, but the truth is that it's actually normal for men to live as long as women. It's not going to be a miracle if I get to grow old with my husband, even if it feels that way to me now.
I slipped into my new calf-length dress with my mother's help – to make sure that it fit – and then stood looking at myself in the mirror again. My hair looked vibrant and even my eyes seemed complimented by this dress. The dark brown one looked ever so slightly red in my reflection, and my blue one glowed brighter than usual.
Beautiful!” My mother praised me, slipping an arm around my shoulder, her soft grayish blue eyes sparkling with pride. I couldn't help but agree.
Strangely, an inexplicable urge to touch my reflection overwhelmed me. I reached out a hand slowly, feeling like I could brush the hair out of my face by doing so to my reflection. My mother laughed as she turned to leave the room.
Don't touch the mirror! If you smudge it, we'll have to call a maid in here to clean it up again before you can do your makeup and hair.”
I lowered my hand, knowing she was right. “Yes mother.”
I'll see you at breakfast after you've changed into something suitable.”
And by suitable, she meant a morning dress. I would of course wear a day dress in a few hours before wearing this dress to my party tonight. I watched her leave in the mirror, and then the urge to touch my reflection returned. It was harder to resist, and I had no real reason not to do so. Standing as close to the mirror as possible, I decided to kiss my reflection.
The moment my lips touched the mirror, I felt the strangest sensation run through my body. It was like someone had dumped a bucket of freezing cold water on me. I shivered and rubbed my arms with my hands for a moment as I stepped back from the mirror.
An oddity caught my eye, making me tilt my head as I examined the mirror. It looked like there was a man standing behind me in my room! Gasping in alarm, I turned to assure myself that there was no way a man could be in my bedroom!
Only there was. My mouth hung open as I stared at him. He chuckled at my expression before bowing regally.
I'm sorry if I startled you,” he informed me, sounding truly apologetic. “If I had any way to explain things to you beforehand, I would have.”
I took a few deep breaths to regain my composure, and then forced a polite smile to my mouth. “Explain what?”
Allow me to start at the very beginning...” He paused and waved his hand to indicate a chair. “Would you like to sit?”
Following his hand with my eyes, I noticed something literally impossible. My room was not my room! Even though I had not moved from the spot in front of my mirror, I had somehow arrived in a place that looked very much like what I imagine a Princess would call her bedroom. It was hugely spacious and richly decorated. Even though I came from a wealthy family, I was amazed by how much money must have been spent while decorating this room!
Feeling faint, I decided to sit in the indicated chair before I fell over. The moment I was sitting, I fanned my face with my hand. Despite the sensation a few moments ago akin to freezing water, I now felt unbearably hot.
Nodding in satisfaction that I was sitting, the man poured me a cup of tea, and then sat in a chair opposite me. He poured himself a cup of tea, took a sip, and then smiled at me.
When I was a bit younger, I was granted a wish,” he began before taking another sip of his tea. Considering that the tea he sipped came from the same pot as the tea he'd poured for me, I felt fairly certain that it hadn't been poisoned, so I took a sip. Ahhhh... Delicious!
He hemmed and hawed for a moment. “I am not sure how to say this in a way that you will understand, but legend has it that there are two worlds. Both are similar, except that there are big differences. For example, in your world, science has invented things such as electricity, but there is no such thing as magic. In my world, magic is abundant and ordinary, but things like electricity are impossible.”
His lips twisted wryly as he muttered: “I know, I've tried...”
Seeing that I was listening, but still showing no expression other than a polite smile, he decided to press on. “Anyway, my wish was to travel to the legendary other world. My God and his Priestesses spent many long minutes figuring out how to grant my wish, but finally, I was excited because I was going to to have my lifelong dream come true.”
He sighed heavily and avoided my eyes for a moment. I am not sure why, but I sensed something like shame emanating from him. Taking another look around at the differences in this room, I was suddenly very curious about his story.
You see, the real problem with granting my wish was that in order for me to travel to the other world, my mirror self would have to travel here, however...
Now he seemed sad. I focused all of my attention on him once more.
My mirror self had literally just died in an accident. He had come in contact with a deadly poison that killed him so quickly that he simply collapsed as he was walking along. I am not sure how this happened, but my God was initially reluctant to grant my request simply because a dead man could not suddenly come back to life. He decided that if he did it precisely enough, I could change places with the dead man the moment he fell, and then I could stand back up and continue on with my day as if nothing had happened.”
This story was starting to intrigue me. If something like that could happen in real life, could you imagine how many people could be secretly from a different world? More importantly, if people from one world routinely replaced people from the other when they died, would it be like having a second life?
The transfer was made and I was helped to my feet by the best friend of my mirror self. He laughed at me and called me clumsy, having no idea that I wasn't who he thought I was. I looked around the world in fascination, following him back to the home my mirror self lived in. The other me had a wife and son...”
I watched his expression turn to shame again. “In my very long life, I have never found a woman I wanted to marry. Granted, those whom I would be allowed to marry were extremely limited, but nevertheless, I was jealous of my mirror self. He had something I had only dreamed about!”
A smile settled on his face as he stared dreamily off into the distance. I wondered if he even remembered that I was there and that he was telling me all of this. I smiled myself, understanding what it was like to dream about getting married and having a family someday.
I was allowed to stay in the mirror world for exactly two days, but then I had to return. In those two days, I fell completely in love with his wife. I spent every second with her that I could, wishing that I could stay with her forever and that she would never have to know that her real husband had died. Unfortunately, far too soon, my time was up and I returned home. My mirror self was sent back, and I can only imagine her sorrow when she woke up to find him dead...”
My mind wandered slightly when he paused this time. This sounds very familiar for some reason. It nagged at the back of my mind for a moment until I realized that it reminded me a lot of what my mother had told me of my father's death.
She had always explained that he had died very suddenly of an illness, but that in the days leading up to his death, he had suffered something very like amnesia. His best friend had reported unusual clumsiness, and he had a hard time remembering basic information about his life. My mother had fondly admitted that he was suddenly two or three times more romantic than he had been. Strangest of all, in her opinion, was that he suddenly appeared to be noticeably older. She also realized that one of his blue eyes had darkened.
And then he had died...
She had woken up to find him dead, and only then had it made sense that he had caught some strange disease that had changed him so much before killing him. Sadly, no doctor could figure out what it was, but my mom couldn't dwell on it for too long because she found out that she was pregnant with me. She always told me that I was the last gift my father had ever given her.
I narrowed my eyes at this strange man suspiciously. “Just what are you trying to tell me?”
He looked away, unable to meet my eyes for a moment. Finally, he drank the last of his tea and set his cup aside. Pursing his lips, he forced himself to continue.
My God tells me that in the two days I was in the mirror world, you were created. My first reaction was to demand that your mother be brought to my world so that I could make her my wife! Unfortunately, my most beloved God informed me that such a thing was impossible. Her mirror self had died in many years before. Therefore, no one existed in this world to exchange with her...”
Wait...” I whispered in horror. I felt numb... shocked... If what he was telling me was true, he was my father!
Rather than wait while I tried to process this information, he kept going. “God was sympathetic to me, but he couldn't help. I shouted at him for days! He couldn't possibly understand how I felt to have not only a woman I loved, but also a child I would never get to meet on the other side of the mirror!”
He interrupted himself by muttering: “I say mirror, but it's nothing so easy to picture. It's not like I could actually watch you grow up in a mirror, no matter how much I wish I could.”
Wait!” I shouted this time. “Wait just a minute! You're telling my that you're my father?! That I'm your daughter?!” This news was just too much! My head was spinning and I felt nauseous.
Yes,” he confirmed so seriously that I had no choice but to believe him. I couldn't wrap my head around this concept long enough to think about the rest of his impossible story.
He frowned in concern for a moment before refilling my cup of tea. I sipped on it automatically, feeling grateful for its warmth in my stomach. When I felt slightly better, I looked at him once more.
I was angry at my most beloved God for granting me my wish in the first place. Not even he had known what would happen, but I felt betrayed. I finally found love only to have it snatched from me! I finally had a child, but would never see him or her...”
He sighed heavily as if releasing all of his frustration. “It never actually occurred to me to ask if you could come here until very recently. I decided to retire not too long ago, but I have no Heirs. So – for the first time since my trip to the mirror world – I returned to the Temple of God and asked him if he would advise me.
My God and his Priestesses all exchanged this mysteriously knowing look. I felt as if they had just been waiting for me to come ask them for advice. It was enough to make shivers run up my spine!”
I saw him smirk, which made me wonder if he was secretly happy that they had spooked him. I still felt numb with shock and listened to him with a sense of surrealism. I decided that I had to be dreaming; after all, there was no such thing as another world.
According to them, I had a fully recognized Heir... You...” He stared at me as if he was just waiting for this news to sink in. I got the feeling that he was hoping that I would react by squealing happily and thanking him.
I'm sorry, I don't understand,” I told him. “None of this makes sense. Mirror worlds... A father I never had... Heir to what?”
I mean, well, I was raised by a wealthy family. I knew what it meant to be an heir, but that wasn't as important as the destiny I already had. In just a few hours, I was going to attend a party full of eligible men who would then talk to my mother and grandmother (my father's mother). The one that had the best to offer me as a husband would be chosen, and a date would be set. I could be a bride in a mere six months!
With a husband to provide for me, and money set aside from my mother to ensure that I would attract the very best husband, I had no need to be the heir of anything. If he thought to bribe me into believing his story, this man had another thing coming! I am not so gullible...
Rather than be offended – which I could sense was his first reaction – he chose to smile patiently. “You see, in this world, I am the King. You are my only Heir, and even our most beloved God has given you his blessing.”
My mouth hung open in shock again. I was having the strangest dream of my life! Once upon a time ago, I had dreamt that I'd married a Prince, but after waking, I had decided that being a Princess was too much responsibility for me. I far preferred a simpler fate.
A thought occurred to me that prompted me to close my mouth and smirk at him. “Now I know I'm dreaming. According to your story, there's no mirror me, therefore, I couldn't come to your world, therefore I'm dreaming and I'd like to wake up now.”
He returned my smirk, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “That's exactly what I thought. That's the reason I was so certain that I would never get to meet you. In my world, you don't exist. However, according to my God, the fact that you were created by a parent from each world means that you are allowed to exist in either world...”
Either?” I question in a near whisper. I was more confused than ever now.
Yes,” he confirmed with a warm smile. “The only catch was that I needed to wait until you turned 18. That way, I could step down and you could ascend the throne.”
My heart stopped at this information. “What?!?!” It was definitely time to wake up. I pinched myself, and when that didn't work, I slapped myself a couple of times.
What are you doing?” The man who claimed to be my father asked in concern.
Trying to wake up,” I muttered, staring at him absently. His eyes were narrow with concern. One was a clear bright blue and the other was a brown so dark that it was almost black. This registered in my mind with a sensation like I was punched in the stomach!
Wait a minute!” I cried out, leaping to my feet and rushing over to him. I seized his face in my hands and studied his eyes carefully. Next, my gaze roamed to his hair, which was reddish brown with silver highlights. Returning to his eyes, I found him smiling at me with genuine delight.
You see? I'm telling the truth,” he stated, likely knowing that there could be no better proof than our unique similarities.
My knees wobbled and I almost fell, but he caught me and helped me into the chair I'd recently vacated. Gently, he pressed the newly refilled cup of tea into my hands. I sipped on it absently, enjoying its warmth and flavor even though my mind was racing.
A sheepish grin twisted my father's lips. “I'm sorry, I haven't even asked you your name...”
Kaitlynn...” I murmured even though I was still lost in thought. I'd felt a strange sizzling in my blood ever since I'd “arrived,” and now it was getting harder to ignore. I rubbed my arms, trying to see if I could get the sizzling to stop. If anything, the rubbing made it worse.
Kaitlynn,” he murmured as if rolling it around on his tongue. “It's beautiful,” he stated with a shy smile.
Thank you,” I whispered reflexively.
I am fairly sure that my name is the same as my mirror self, so you probably already know it, but I am Henry Hawthorne, King of Rolandia,” he introduced himself.
I tilted my head to the side and frowned softly. “Hawthorne? In my world, our last name is Hathaway. My father's name was Henry Hathaway...” Then what he said fully hit me. “And I live in a country called The United States of America. How can the mirror world be called Rolandia?”
He shrugged. “I told you that there are differences.” Standing abruptly, he held his hand out to me. “Come, I need to introduce you to a few people.”
I didn't feel ready to meet anyone yet because I was still having a hard time accepting that this wasn't a dream. I tried pinching myself again, but that didn't help. With a sigh of defeat, I held my hand out so that he could help me to my feet. He then tucked my hand in the crook of his arm and led me out of the spacious room.
We traveled along a brightly lit hallway until we reached an octagonal room made almost entirely out of glass. The sun was still just over the eastern horizon, which made the room comfortable but not too sunny. I noticed several people sitting around a large circular table. The table had a gorgeous arrangement of flowers in the middle, however, they were low to the table so they didn't block the view of anyone.
Good morning, King Henry,” the people all murmured respectfully.
Good morning everyone,” Henry greeted them in return. “Just as our God has promised, here is my daughter from the mirror world. May I present to you all, Kaitlynn Hawthorne, my Heir and thus your future Queen.”
Even though he had made a point of telling me that I was his Heir, I was still taken aback by this news. “Queen?!”
He chuckled softly, a wry smile on his lips. “Yes. As I explained, I wish to step down.”
Before I could say anything at all, one of the people at the table – a tall man with long black hair, which was tied back with a green tie at the nape of his neck – cleared his throat and interrupted our conversation. He looked like he was between 35 and 45, and was fairly handsome for his age.
Excuse me, Majesty, but the line of succession is not bound to families, thus your daughter may not necessarily be the next Queen.”
Rather than be upset, Henry simply nodded. “That is true. The King or Queen is chosen by our most beloved God, but it is not forbidden for it to be passed from parent to child. In fact, it is normal for the succession to be passed along a couple of times before it shifts to another of the Royal Houses.”
He turned to me with a kind smile. “The rule of our Kingdom is rotated among the 10 Royal Houses. Each ruler is obligated to sit on the throne for at least 100 years, but then may live the rest of his or her life as desired.”
He turned his attention back to the man that had interrupted us. “I don't blame you for hoping that your next Queen would be someone who was born and raised in this Kingdom, but God has already chosen. The moment I informed him that I wanted to retire, He told me that my child would be the next ruler.”
The handsome man with the black hair shrugged indifferently. “I know you want me to believe you without question, but the truth is that you are one of very few people who are allowed to actually speak directly with our most beloved God. You could claim that he said anything you wanted, and we couldn't ask him whether or not it was true. How do we know that you didn't just recruit some random person off the street just so that the rule would not pass to another House?”
Henry did not get angry – as I suspected he would since he had more or less just been called a liar. Instead, he grinned so mysteriously that it almost looked evil. He led me to the black haired man, who responded by standing.
Take a good look and then tell me again that I recruited her off the street,” Henry challenged with a dashing grin.
She has your red hair, but,” he stated dismissively as I looked up at him, and then faltered. His eyes bored into mine, much like I had done to Henry not too long ago. He grew so bold that the rest of the people in the room gasped as he grabbed my face and pulled me closer, tilting my head to catch the light. “She has your eyes...”
He seemed to have a hard time breathing now and released me as he wobbled back into his chair. His eyes seemed to look back and forth rapidly for a moment before he spoke again. “Still... you could have used your magic to make her eyes appear similar to yours...”
True, nothing is impossible with magic,” Henry replied with a shrug. “But why would I do such a thing? I know better than anyone here that only a true member of the Royal Families can handle the responsibility of ruling Rolandia. If I carelessly picked a random person off the streets, our Kingdom would surely fall!”
I unconsciously looked towards the man with black hair, more than half hoping that he would come up with a good argument to refute that statement. I just couldn't make myself want to be Queen of a dream world. In fact, I was still praying that I would wake up!
Henry turned to me. “Kaitlynn, do not be put off by Lord Gregory. As one of the 10 Royal Lords, he is very dedicated to Rolandia; loyal almost to a fault. Once you have been crowned, he will dedicate himself to helping you in every way possible. I trust him implicitly in all things.”
Princess...” Lord Gregory addressed me with clear respect. Just barely.
Henry then walked me around the table to the next person. She was a blonde-haired blue-eyed bombshell remiscent of Marilyn Monroe. She wore an interesting shade of blue that really brought out her eyes, even as the dress itself left very little to the imagination.
This is Lady Sophia. She was the ruler before me and will likely be able to give you wonderful advice if you need it,” Henry assured me.
I looked at the Lady again, startled. “Uh... forgive me if I am confused, but didn't you say that each ruler was obligated to sit on the throne for at least a hundred years?” This woman looked like she was about to enter her 40s!
Lady Sophia herself smiled at me before answering my question. “Yes, that is true. I was chosen to be Queen when I was just barely 20 years old, and I only ruled for the exact 100 years that I was required to. Thus, I was still young when I retired and have been able to enjoy the rest of my life quite thoroughly.”
Uh...” I murmured, unable to reply. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around this statement!
Henry kissed my hand lightly. “You can do the same thing and choose to only rule for 100 years before stepping down and enjoying the rest of your life. I myself have ruled for a little over 300 years, so I sincerely hope that you will choose to do the same, but I would not begrudge you if you opted not to.”
My eyes traveled up and down Henry a couple of times as I tried to figure out how old he was. He had just claimed to be over 300 years old, but he didn't look a day over 60! Well... maybe 65...
And then to make matters worse, Lady Sophia – by logical reasoning – had to be at least 400 years old, but she seriously didn't look like she had reached 40 yet! I felt like I couldn't breathe, and an insane urge to laugh bubbled up in my throat. Even if I did agree to rule here, I wouldn't even make it to my 100th anniversary before I shriveled up and died!
Not realizing that I was having a major mental crisis, Henry moved me along to the next person. “This is Lord Antony, another of the Royal Lords. He is my right hand man – along with Lord Gregory – and will be indispensable to you when you are Queen.”
This man also had long hair, but rather than be black, it was so light that it almost appeared white. He appeared to be in his early thirties, but now that I had heard a few outrageous claims of age, I was curious to how old he really was. His eyes were also blue, but they were so light that I wondered if he might actually be blind.
Princess,” he greeted me with a respectful bow and a warm smile. “I look forward to serving you.”
My Lord,” I returned the greeting, deciding that if I had to be stuck in this dream, I may as well play along.
Henry led me to the next person, who was a very handsome man with short brown hair and brown eyes. I was attracted to him, but to tell the truth, I had been more or less attracted to everyone in this dream. Perhaps my mind was trying to prepare me for all the men I was about to meet at my party. Perhaps I was trying to figure out what my type was.
After all, this was 2015, and the vast majority of people chose their spouse for love. Only a very rare family – such as mine – still placed an emphasis on the old fashioned customs of marrying for money and prestige. Most of my friends at school had expressed an interest in marrying for love, even though I had been more in love with the tradition of my mother and grandmother.
I honestly thought that it was a shame that most people married for love and then made an utter mess of things! If I had my way, marriages would be arranged so that the partners would get along whether they loved each other or not. Perhaps, in this way, I might have done well as royalty; expected to marry for the good of my people. Maybe that's why I was having such a strange dream...
This is Sir Barrett. He's my personal bodyguard and will be yours once I retire. I trust him with my life and know that he will keep you safe no matter what,” Henry explained.
Wait,” I protested, finally having something to think about other than dreams or marriage. “Protect me from what?”
Henry hemmed and hawed for a moment before answering me. “Well, as for that, we'll go into the details later, but for now, let me just say that our Kingdom has been plagued with war over the years, and even though we are experiencing peace at the moment, it would not be unheard of for our enemy to attempt... to harm you...”
Oh great,” I muttered unappreciatively. Just what I needed, a dream in which assassins are after me. Seriously, could this dream get any weirder?
Moving on, Henry waved his hand to indicate a gorgeous woman who looked to be in her 30s. She was very short and petite, with vibrantly fiery red hair and dark brown eyes. Her eyes were so dark that they almost appeared black, which sent shivers down my spine. She wore a clingy, lacy, dark pink dress that covered her modestly from neck to toe even as it was just transparent enough to display the secrets it supposedly hid.
This is Lady Leeza. She is the Royal Scholar, a Daughter of one of the Royal Houses, and an invaluable adviser.”
Princess, it is an honor to meet you!” Lady Leeza exclaimed in a way that was both cheerful and dark. It was like she was genuinely and honestly happy to meet me, but for secret evil reasons that I really didn't want to think about! I was glad that I didn't have to figure out how to respond before Henry moved me along to the last person at the table.
This man was gorgeous! I mean gorgeous!!! He had short blond hair and vibrantly emerald eyes. He was only a few inches taller than me, and had a lightly muscular physique. His age appeared to be between 17-21, though I couldn't begin to say what that might translate into in this world. If I had to choose a type from just those sitting at this table, I'd probably choose him! Just looking at him was enough to make me wish it was acceptable to squeeze my legs together and squirm even though I was in public!
Lastly, this is Lord Nathan. He's Lady Sophia's son,” Henry stated, tossing a small smile over to the Lady in question.
Princess,” Lord Nathan sneered unhappily. I just barely had time to wonder if he was jealous because his mother had once been Queen when he surprised me by proving me wrong. “I don't care who your father is, it is obvious to everyone here that Lord Gregory would make an infinitely better King than you would!”
I looked over to Lord Gregory, who had a look on his face like he was thinking: yes yes, that's true.
Henry chuckled wryly. “I forgot to mention that Lord Nathan is also fiercely loyal to the Kingdom and cannot stand the thought of anything that could potentially threaten the future of Rolandia. Once he gets to know you better, I am sure that he will be loyal to you as well.”
I stared at Henry as if he had just insulted me. How in the world can he say something like that when he didn't even know me! “I'm sure,” I muttered under my breath.
The sizzling in my blood was still as annoying as ever, and it was making me cranky. I was mildly astonished to realize that I was capable of being cranky since I rarely had been in the past. With a sigh of relief, I sat in the chair Henry pulled out for me and let him push it back in. Maids were on hand to serve me a delicious smelling breakfast. They fussed over me for quite some time before moving on to serve the King, and then finally, everyone else.
I was hungry enough that I let several minutes pass in silence so that I could eat, but eventually, I just had to say what was on my mind. “So... What if I decide that I don't want to be the next Queen?”
Henry sighed heavily in disappointment. “Well, if that's what you decide, then we would have to visit God in his Temple and ask him what to do. If he approves your decision, then he will suggest another person to take over the throne. However, I must warn you, if he has decided on you as the next Queen, he likely will not change his mind, in which case...” he trailed off with a shrug.
Lady Sophia smiled kindly at me, looking very sympathetic to my plight. “Our God does not like to be refused. If he insists that you are the next Queen, then you will either accept or he will lock you in his Temple until you do. Take it from me when I say that it's much less dull and boring to just accept and serve your 100 years.”
But!” I protested angrily. “Your God is not my God! I'm an atheist! How can your God imprison me?!”
Everyone sighed heavily as if both disappointed and sad. A couple of them shook their heads. I was tempted to start shouting at them! How dare they snatch me from my world and then just expect me to play along with them as if I had nothing better to do?!
I forced myself to calm down, wipe my mouth with a crisp white linen napkin, and then look expectantly at the man who claimed to be my father. “I'd like to go home now.”
He looked so sad at my statement that I almost considered changing my mind, but I held firm. “I do not have the power to send you home. For that, we'll need to go visit my God.”
Then by all means,” I stated calmly. “Let us go visit this man who claims to be your God.”
Everyone inhaled sharply and glared at me. Well, everyone except for Henry. He simply held up his hands as if warning everyone not to say anything.
Yes, it's clear that we need to talk with Him before we do anything else.”

***

An hour later, Henry escorted me into the Temple dedicated to his God. I looked around, impressed. I imagined this audacious man to live in a gaudy and opulent palace, after all, he must be a charlatan much like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz. People treated him like some sort of God, only he was a fraud who bamboozled people because they let him.
Instead, this so-called God lived in a rather simple Temple. It was decorated rather sparsely, but what little was here was of an excellent quality. We were greeted by a pair of Priestesses who wore something that looked like a cross between a short nun's habit and a soldier's armor. They got to one knee and bowed respectfully.
Majesty, welcome,” they greeted before opening the huge doors to the inner Temple. We walked inside silently, stopping when we reached a pair of cushions. I watched Henry kneel on the cushion in front of him, and then followed his lead.
A woman so old that she had shrunk with age walked into the Temple from a different door and stopped before us. She smiled fondly at Henry for a moment before looking me over. She seemed critical, as if looking for a flaw, but then smiled in a way that reminded me of my grandmother.
Our most gracious and loving God has heard your reluctance to become Queen and wishes to talk to you at length before you make your final decision. My dear, I would just like to add my most heartfelt prayer that you think long and hard before you turn down this opportunity.”
I narrowed my eyes suspiciously, and then glanced at Henry. Had the two of them planned this out beforehand to make me think that their God was all knowing? I wouldn't be fooled so easily!
A man appeared suddenly before us. Or rather, he sort of shimmered into existence, never becoming fully solid. I couldn't help but reach out and try to touch him. My hand slowly – as if there was a slight resistance – went right through his leg, which made me look around to find where the projector was hidden.
Stop that!” He chided sternly, trying to shake my hand off his leg, but since I wasn't really touching anything to begin with, that was pretty much impossible.
I put my hand back in my lap on the off chance that there really was a God in this crazy dream of mine. Offending him could provoke him into doing even weirder stuff to me. Besides, he was kind of cute with his blond hair and blue eyes. His eyes were the most solid part about him and peered at me as if he could look into my very soul.
Despite there being nothing there that I could see, he sat down as if there was a chair just waiting for him. He shifted a few times as if getting comfortable while the elderly little Priestess poured Henry and me a cup of tea. I moaned in appreciation, wondering what seriously tasty blend they used.
I could go on and on explaining all the various reasons why I think you should be the next Queen of Rolandia, but I am quite certain that you won't care about any of that. It won't matter to you that you are the rightful Heir or that I can feel the power of the True Queen swirling around inside you,” the supposed God stated.
I shrugged because he was right about me not caring. He nodded in acceptance, and even though he made no sound, I'd swear that he sighed.
So, I am not going to waste your time trying to convince you except to say that your world is very different than ours. Here, war is a fairly frequent fact of life, but in your world, it seems to be a distant and vague thing. I know that in your heart, you oppose it, and that is why I want you to be the next Queen.”
Well yeah,” I agreed without thinking about what I was saying. “In school, we're all taught about how – just 70 years ago – there was a war so horrible that an entire race of people was almost eradicated. If someone asked me to fight in any wars, I'd flatly refuse, even if doing so was an act of treason and my life was forfeit! I would fight to defend myself and those I love from immediate danger, but never would I consent to sending innocent lives out to die in some pointless battle, but wait!” I interrupted myself. “What does any of this have to do with marriage?”
Marriage?” Both the self-proclaimed God and Henry blurted out, clearly flustered by my question.
Well yeah,” I confirmed with a tone of duh! “I can only assume that this dream is trying to help me decide on the best type of man as my future husband, but so far, the dream is stuck on ruling a Kingdom and now war. I can't figure out how that helps me in the slightest. Maybe I need to make sure I don't choose a soldier or anyone in a true position of power,” I muttered to myself, trying to come up with a reason for this long and frankly tedious dream.
You're not dreaming,” Henry stated, frowning in concern. “Haven't you pinched and slapped yourself enough to prove that yet?”
But I have to be!” I cried out desperately. “This morning, I got out of bed and put on this dress to make sure that it would fit so I could wear it tonight at my birthday party. I am going to meet with many suitable candidates, and then my mother and grandmother will decide which one is the best man to be my future husband. I can understand me being nervous about it, but don't you see? I want nothing to do with this dream of ruling a Kingdom or going to war. I just want to be a wife and mother!”
Whoever said you couldn't be a wife and mother?” The cute God asked with a small smirk. “Think of ruling a Kingdom like raising your children. You'll be there to guide their growth; to encourage them to be unique individuals who work together for a common goal. You'll keep a firm but loving hand on the reins, and take joy as they learn to do new things. Considering that you'll have advisers to help you rule the Kingdom, I see no problem with you having as many children as you wish. In fact, the more the better since you will be motivated to protect them and nurture a country worth raising them in.”
I sighed in frustration. “Fine, I see your point, but why me?”
Because you were not raised in this Kingdom. You were not told your entire life that it is your duty to go to war with our enemy. I truly believe that you will be able to – how do people in your world say it? Think outside the box? You'll be able to come up with solutions that none of us could think of, and maybe – just maybe – you'll be able to bring about a true and lasting peace,” the ghostly figure of a God explained, leaning forward in his nonexistent chair to look me in the eyes.
I sat quietly for a few moments as I thought this over. Eventually, I heaved a great sigh. “Fine... it seems like I won't be able to wake up from this strange dream until I play along to the very end. Whatever. I'll do whatever you all want me to.”
The transparent but still cute blond God grinned at me. “You say that like you plan to play a part in a play, but I don't think you even realize the true depths of your soul yet. You may think that you're just going to do what you have to in order to “wake up,” but you're not... You're going to be our best Queen yet! And our most interesting one...”
Whatever,” I scoffed, not believing him in the slightest.
Well,” Henry stated with a genuinely pleased smile. “Now that that is settled, I want to proceed with my abdication.”
Now?” I asked, not quite prepared to be the Queen of this dreamland so suddenly. I took a deep breath and held it for a moment. “Okay, if that's what it'll take...”
Henry looked at me a bit sadly. “Normally, all I would need to do is state my intention in front of our most beloved God here and then I would officially be retired. I could even serve as one of your advisers, however...”
I waited for him to finish, but he didn't. “What?” I asked curiously.
He looked to the floor. I think he was sad, but I couldn't understand why. If he still wanted to be King, then why put me through any of this?
I don't have long to live. I have a strange condition that not even the most powerful healers can cure, and so...” He looked up at me again. I could see real love for me shining in his eyes. “I wanted to do this before I died. Not only am I going to give you my throne, but I also want to give you my power and tiny bits of my knowledge – just enough to help you out as you learn about this world.”
He pulled me close so abruptly that I thought he was attacking me at first. Once I realized that he was hugging me, I didn't know whether to relax and hug him back, or push him away and berate him for acting like I was really his daughter.
I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to get to know you, my precious child...” he murmured in my ear, and then seemed to shatter into a thousand pieces of light.
I watched in astonishment as the light gathered into a ball in front of me, and then zoomed into my chest. I felt like I had been punched and couldn't catch my breath! I gasped repeatedly as the sizzling in my blood that had been annoying me the entire dream got stronger.
Wh-wh-what just happened?” I stammered the moment I could breathe well enough to talk.
Your father gave his life to you so that you could be the best Queen possible. I pray that you do not waste his valuable gift,” the God solemnly explained. His elderly Priestess sat in the background intoning prayers. I listened to her in silence for a few moments before realizing that she was praising the now deceased King and wishing him the best in his afterlife.
Now, there's just one last thing to tell you before I send you back to your Palace,” the transparent blond God said, almost whispering so that he didn't interrupt his Priestess. “You are now bound to rule Rolandia for at least 100 years, and nothing you can do can change that. That said, you have the power to “go home” whenever you need to take a break. Your world is vastly different than ours – I'm sure you've noticed. One of those differences is time.”
I was struggling to keep up with his explanation because I was so shocked by the revelation that I could go home! If they had explained that first, I probably would never have agreed to this whole Queen thing! It was enough to make me glare at this arrogant pretend God.
In general, time in our world passes five times faster than time in your world. So, if you spend a day in your world, five will pass in our world. This is not so bad because the people here age slower. The vast majority of people age at a rate five times slower than the people in your world, however, those with enormous amounts of power can age even slower than that. Lady Sophia is a good example of that...”
I scratched my head. How in the world – any world – could some people age significantly slower than others? He saw the confusion on my face and swept his hand as if brushing it aside.
In any case, time is supposed to be fixed between the worlds. There's a reason that I say that it's a one to five ratio – because it is. Except for you...” He paused to smirk at me. “You can spend months and even years here and your power will fix it so that you will always return to your world at the exact moment you left. It's because you were created in that world, so it clings to you like a jealous lover. While you are there, time here will pass as it ever did, but when you are here, time there will not pass. Do you understand me?”
No!” I blurted out honestly. “This sounds too much like you are saying that I can wake up from this dream whenever I want, only to be pulled back in when I am least expecting it!”
No,” he assured me with a shake of his head. “It's your power and you are in complete control of it. All you need to do when you are ready is to kiss the mirror. I warn you now though, I will not count any time that you are away as part of your 100 years, so if you think to wait it out by staying away for 20 years in your world, you'll still be required to rule here when you come back. Only I cannot imagine how terrible the Kingdom will get if you neglect it for so long...”
Terrible?” I asked in a whisper as a cold chill ran up my spine.
Yes,” blondie confirmed grimly. “In the next 100 years, this Kingdom could be destroyed in a bloody war without you to stop it...”
I shivered even harder, wishing I had a jacket or a sweater to combat the sudden cold clamminess that washed over me. “War...” I breathed out softly. “I'm opposed to war...”
Good!” He stated and then disappeared completely.
Your audience with our most benevolent God has ended,” the Priestess informed me calmly, as if she saw him suddenly vanish every day.
Numbly, feeling very surreal again, I allowed myself to be escorted back to the Royal Carriage, which then took me back to the palace. The carriage stopped at the King's private entrance, and a footman helped me climb out. Waiting for me was the entire assembly from breakfast.
Are you ill?” The white haired man – what was his name again? Um... Lord Antony? Yeah! Lord Antony asked me with real concern.
I... I... I don't know,” I finally managed to say. “That man... Henry, who said he was my father, he... he... died, I guess. The see-through blond man that claims to be a God didn't quite explain it to me. They say that I am the Queen now for the next 100 years, but how am I supposed to live so long?!”
Unable to stop it any longer, I felt tears fall from my eyes. Not being one to cry practically ever, I brushed them away impatiently. I shook my head. “I don't know what to do! He only ever said that he was retiring, and so I thought he would help me, but then he just... died...”
There were a variety of emotions circling the group of people I had inherited as advisers. Shock, sympathy, anger, sadness, disbelief, and even fear. I couldn't face it! I couldn't deal with these people while I felt so raw, so I ran. I have no idea where I was running to, but fairly quickly, I found myself in the room where all of this had started.
There – shining in my vision like a special effect in a movie – was a full length mirror. It was enormous and surrounded by an ornately carved gold frame. I would not be at all surprised if they told me that they had borrowed it from Snow White's wicked step-mother!
More than ready to wake up, I ran to the mirror and kissed it. To be absolutely certain that it would work, I kissed it rather more fervently than I probably needed to, but I didn't want to take any chances.
Laughter startled me.
Kaitlynn! I told you not to touch your mirror! Now we'll have to have the maid come clean it. Good grief girl! What were you thinking?!”
Mother!” I cried out joyously, running and flinging my arms around her. “I missed you so much!”
Missed me?” She asked with a laugh. “I only stepped out of your room for a moment before I remembered that I wanted you to wear that beautiful yellow dress to breakfast today.
I held her extra tightly for a moment before promising: “I will.”
She grasped my arms in her hands and held me at arm's length. A worried frown puckered her face. “Is something wrong?”
No,” I lied, shaking my head. Plastering a smile on my face, I blurted out the first plausible explanation. “It just hit me that I am not a little girl anymore. Very soon – possibly tonight – I will be engaged to be married, and then I might actually be a mother by this time next year!”
Yes,” mother purred, beaming with pride. “You have become such a beautiful woman. I only pray that you will continue to live your life with grace and joy.”
I'll try,” I murmured, suppressing a heavy sigh as I wondered how I could do so and still be the Queen that my father wanted me to be. Brushing away my heavy thoughts, I decided to enjoy the rest of my day. No matter what, I had a party to attend tonight!
Happy at the prospect, I grinned. “I think I would like to go to the spa after lunch today.”
Of course!” My mother exclaimed as if there could be no other choice. “We have to be pampered and beautiful for the party tonight!”
Oh mama...” I murmured, loving her so much at that moment that I reverted to how I'd acted as a child. She was the best example I knew of how to be a good woman. With her to guide me, I just might make a decent Queen after all. Only time would tell...

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