Princess Kena shifted on her chair while glancing at the bright blue sky through the windows of the throne room. Her mother, High Queen Raena, was gazing over the filled room with that stern look she always had when there was something she was about to say. Next to her sat high princess Centrelle, Kena’s oldest sister, heir apparent and the one pony in the room she hadn’t spoken more than two words to since winter.
“Ponies!” Her mother’s voice boomed through the large hall and everyone fell silent instantly. A bird chirped somewhere outside, oblivious to what was going on in the castle. It must be nice, Kena thought, to be able to fly away into the sky whenever you wanted to, and to not have a queen to listen to. But ponies had no such fortune. Especially not princesses.
“Welcome to the meeting of the Fifth Moon since the winter solstice. My council and I are very grateful that you have all been able to make it today,” her mother continued. Yeah, right. As if any of the ponies here had any choice. As mayors of the Crown and messengers to the lower lords and ladies on the continent, they were obligated to attend.
“I will proceed with the changes and additions to the laws first, before moving on to other announcements. First off, with regard to law 25, the restriction of use of Magic in public schools, we have decided…” Kena sighed silently and watched the wind play with the leaves outside. What would Flin be doing now? Her friend was out on the farm with his father, probably working hard to irrigate the fields. They’d had some problems with their irrigation systems since the storm a couple of moons ago.
She had wanted to meet up with him in the afternoon, but there was no telling how long this meeting would take. And there would be drinks after, and the formal dinner with the representatives from faraway places Kena could only dream of.
Kena suppressed a yawn. The room was warm, with so many ponies. It would be another beautiful red evening, she knew. She’d stayed outside way too long last night with Flin, wandering along the river and enjoying the fireflies who made the prana of the flowers shine even brighter. They’d walked all the way to the forest bridge, and it had been way past midnight before she had sneaked back into the castle.
Yes, it had been a great evening. Now, however, she had to fight to keep her eyes open. The monotonous sound of her mother’s voice sounded like a steady drum, steadily luring her away from the throne room…
She bolted up right when a hoof hit her ribs hard. Her mother was still babbling on the throne. Kena glared at Stella, her second older sister who had poked her.
“You were snoring,” she whispered without taking her eyes off their mother.
“Sorry,” Kena mumbled. She had no idea how long she had been asleep, but it had to be quite a while because a few moments after Stella had poked her all the ponies got up to bow for High Queen Raena. Kena quickly joined in and soon followed the others out of the warm throne room.
This was her chance. While the ponies were excited about having drinks and getting some fresh air, she could slip out unnoticed. Who would miss her anyway? Glancing at the ponies around her, Kena found they were all busy chatting. She couldn’t see any of her sisters or her mother. She didn’t know anyone in the hallway that she could see, and she highly doubted that any knew her.
Kena flashed her pendant in front of the lock and the door opened. She quickly slipped inside and locked the door. She held her breath for a few moments, hoping no one would knock or call her name, but all she heard was the sound of ponies moving past the door while chatting happily. Well, the drinks were the reason they were here, not her mother’s boring babbling.
Kena looked around the room and found herself in one of the smaller meeting rooms her mother often used when she had guests. It was richly decorated with expensive black chairs and a large painting of one of her great-great-grandmothers or whatever hung on the wall. Kena shrugged as she walked towards the large windows on the other side. Her old teacher used to reprimand her for not knowing the names of the queens of old, but Kena couldn’t care less. They were just names.
She opened the window swiftly and climbed out, landing not so gracefully on the lawn of the castle gardens. She closed the doors behind her as she breathed in the amazing smell of roses in summer. The party was on the other side of the castle, she knew. She had seen the servants prepare the tables yesterday. The official gates were on that side, too, but that didn’t matter. She knew plenty of ways out of the castle gardens.
The purple prana shimmered happily in the afternoon sun and Kena took a deep breath of the warm air. The summer solstice would be upon them in a month, but it was already warmer than it had been the summer before. It promised to be a wonderful summer, and Kena intended to enjoy every bit of it. She’d go swimming in the lake with Flin for sure, and they would go camping in the woods, or climb the mountains and…
Kena stopped. The commanding voice of her mother made all the prana freeze around her. She slowly turned and there she was, the High Queen of the continent and ruler of the Crown, the lands enclosed by a high mountain range from which her mother ruled the world. She was still wearing the large red crown on her head and the purple cloak. How her mother wasn’t sweating like crazy, Kena had no idea.
“Mother,” Kena whispered. There was no way out of this, now.
“May I inquire where you are going, young lady?”
“I… I was… I was going for some fresh air,” Kena whispered.
Her mother frowned. “Fresh air? The entire party is outside! That’s the worst excuse you’ve ever come up with. I saw you doze off today, Kena. Have you learned nothing at all from our talk after the previous meeting?”
She had learned lots of things. How to stay silent and to keep her thoughts to herself, how not to explain to her mother what she wanted to do because she wouldn’t listen anyway. But she couldn’t tell her that.
“Yes, mother. I need to pay attention and respect all the hard work everyone is doing. I need to learn all I can about politics because, while I’m not your heir or even your second child, I will be expected to play a role in the royal household of my sister so it won’t do if I don’t know the laws.”
Her mother nodded. “Exactly. So why do you think you can just sneak off like this, skipping not only a perfect opportunity to meet other ponies who you might end up working with but also a delightful dinner?”
Kena could answer a thousand things. Because she had no desire whatsoever to meet those ponies, let alone dine with them. Because her older sisters, and even her younger sister Myst were better suited for this job than she could ever be. Because she wanted to go enjoy her afternoon outside the suffocating walls of the castle. But none of these answers would satisfy her mother, and she would end up back with her teacher for another course in court manners.
“I apologize, mother. I honestly only wanted a moment to myself. Being around so many ponies is overwhelming, so I wanted to take a short break so I could attend the party without being distracted or tired. I just didn’t want to waste the opportunity.”
Her mother looked down upon her as the purple prana from the garden slowly gathered around her crown. Kena just hoped her lie was convincing enough.
“All right then,” her mother sighed at last. “Take a moment if you need one. Ponies are still making their way to the garden anyway. Just make sure no one sees when you join everyone. I expect you in ten minutes, no more.”
Without waiting for a response, High Queen Raena turned and walked back to the castle, her cape softly fluttering on her back. Kena shook her head, wondering if her mother had truly believed her story or if she just hadn’t wanted to start yet another fight. They’d had so many the past couple months.
For a moment, Kena considered sneaking out anyway. She had ten minutes before her mother would expect her; she could be well hidden in the woods by that time, on her way to pick up Flin. And with so many guests, her mother couldn’t make a big fuss. She’d be free until way past nightfall.
But she couldn’t. She had already lied to her mother today. No matter how many fights they had gotten in, she couldn’t stand lying again. Plus she would be locked up in the castle for months as punishment. It just wasn’t worth it. She would have to try again tomorrow.
Her hooves feeling like there were large stones tied to them, Kena made her way to the party. She took the long way around the castle, making the most of her ten minutes. The sound of laughter and chattering became louder as she approached. She spotted Stella, laughing and talking to a young male pony she had never seen before.
“Best get this over with,” she mumbled as she joined her sister and introduced herself to the others.