Lady Amina pretended to tend to her flowers while she observed her father speaking with his guest through his window. She couldn’t hear what he was saying, but watching his expressions was enough. The room bathed in the evening sun, but she could still make out her father clearly enough.
She glanced back at her field of roses. It looked magnificent, even her mother had said so. She had mixed white flowers with red ones to create a dazzling ocean of colours, strengthened by the thin purple glow of prana. Her father didn’t notice it. He never did.
The seagulls flew high in the sky, screeching whenever they saw food on the ground. She watched them descent together, probably scaring some tourist who was eating her sandwich peacefully. Sometimes, Amina could hear them scream all the way from the village down at the harbour.
Her mansion was located on the slope of the dune. A broad path made of cobblestones twisted through the sand from the garden gates all the way down to the village below. Of course, some would question why the mayor of the village didn’t live in the village but outside of it, but her father had always argued that as mayor he had to oversee the entire village to make sure he would always make decisions that would benefit everyone, instead of being tempted to benefit those closest to him.
As if they were royalty.
Amina quickly turned back to her flowers when she saw her father’s guest getting up to leave. His carriage was still standing at the gate and his servant looked bored. He was strong and muscular, as all servants were, having to pull the carriage of their masters. It was terrible to see, really.
A few moments later the mansion’s door opened and her father stepped outside with his guest.
“It was good seeing you again. Give your wife my regards,” her father said in his fake polite-voice, one she had practiced with him so often.
“I will. Thank you for your hospitality, and please consider my words. It’s not too late yet, Sar.” Her father’s guest smiled slightly before turning to his servant. Amina watched him leave in silence, trying to remember if she had ever seen him before, but she couldn’t recall his face.
“Shouldn’t you be studying, Amina?” her father asked when the carriage was going down the cobblestone path.
“I already finished everything, father.”
Her father shook his head. “I told your mother we should just pull you out and homeschool you after all. You’re way too smart for that normal school, and it doesn’t do for us to interact with the citizens so casually.”
Amina knew better than to argue. True, school was often too easy for her, and most of it didn’t help her learn the things she was expected to know as the daughter of the mayor and the future holder of that title. Sure, mayors were elected, but her family had held the position for years. Even so, she enjoyed school and being with other ponies her age, although she didn’t talk to them that much. If her father would take that away from her, she’d be stuck in the mansion all day, all alone while her parents were running around being important, or at the very least acting like they were.
“Dad? Who was that pony who visited you?” she asked in an attempt to change the subject.
“An old friend from the Crown. I met him the year I spent studying at the Crown’s university.”
“Oh. And why was he here?” Amina asked, instantly wondering if her father would rebuke her for her curiosity.
“He wanted to share some news, and he wanted to advise me on some things. But no matter. He’s a noble pony from the Crown, Amina. While they might seem like much with their fancy carriages, they don’t know everything. Especially not when it concerns a small coastal village.”
“What advice did he have, then?” Amina pressed.
“He told me to abandon the village and move to the Crown. He would provide us with a nice house and he would make sure I’d have a desk job somewhere to provide for your mother and you. Can you believe his nerve?” her father spat.
“Why would he propose that? Doesn’t he know you have your job here? Why would we abandon Iruld?”
Her father shook her head. “He heard some gossip that the town’s ponies aren’t satisfied with us anymore. That with the upcoming elections they would vote for somepony else. If that happens… Well, we would lose everything. And as our family is a descendant from the High Queens, we have the right to return to the Crown if we so wish. But don’t worry, Amina. That’s never going to happen.” Her father smiled at her, not his fake smile but his genuine one.
Descendants of the High Queens. Amina had heard that story so often. Curious, she had looked up her family tree once, in one of the large tomes in the library. She had always thought her grandmother had been a High Queen, or maybe her great-grandmother. Turned out it was fifteen generations ago.
“Is it true? Are they not satisfied?” Amina asked. Her father shook his head firmly.
“Of course not, Amina. Have you heard any complaints? Is there any reason to think we’re doing a bad job? The town looks impeccable. Besides, if there was something somepony was dissatisfied about, they know they can come here and talk to us about it. There’s always a way.”
Amina nodded, satisfied. It was true what her father had told her. Their home was always open to villagers who had complaints, she knew that. And they treated everyone equally. She had never seen a dissatisfied pony. She had nothing to worry about.
“Some girls in my class went out to the cave today. They even brought fireworks, and food.”
“Oh? Were they allowed to?”
Amina shrugged. “Roine said they were.”
Her father shook his head. “That’s just what those commoners do, Amina. You’ll see it more and more as you grow up. They take risks and don’t stop to think about the possible dangers. That cave is dangerous, and fireworks should not be lit without supervision. There’s a reason why firework artist is an actual profession! It’s a good thing you decided not to go. I’m proud of you, Amina.”
Amina forced a smile on her face, a reflection of her father’s fake smile. She decided not to tell him that it hadn’t been her decision.
“Amina… There’s another thing I have to tell you. We’ll have very important visitors to Iruld soon.”
Her father nodded. “The keepers from the Crown. They’re here to visit one of their old shrines close by. I’m not sure what the details are, but these ponies are close with the High Queen. I trust that I don’t need to remind you that you will fulfil all your duties and that you need to be on your best behaviour.”
Amina suppressed a gasp. The keepers! She had been told of such ponies, of course, but she had never met any.
“Of course, father.”
“Well, I’m going back inside. I still have a lot of paperwork to cover. Do make sure you go to bed in time, Amina. It won’t do if you’re too tired to pay attention.”
“I will. Good night, father.” Amina watched her father walk back to their house. Candles lit up his study and she saw him appear moments later. She turned back to her garden, but it was too late to tend to flowers now. She’d have to get back to it the next day after school.
Amina glanced out over the dunes toward the sea, still visible in the evening sun. She wondered if her classmates had returned yet, or whether they were still at the cave. What kind of fireworks would they have? Probably the small sparkly kind that would just burn on the ground instead of shooting up in the sky. After all, they’d be in trouble if they were caught by the guards.
In the silent evening air, Amina imagined them laughing and playing. They were probably gossiping, maybe even discussing boys. Would they talk about her, or think about her? She shrugged. Why would they? They hadn’t invited her. She would have declined if they had.
It was time to clean her tools. Another day of school was coming up, and she couldn’t risk looking tired or dirty. Besides, they had important visitors coming. She had to go take a bath and get the earthly smell out of her coat.