Read the first part here.
The night was young and Dyana was full of energy. The stars were bright tonight and she was so ludicrously happy that she thought she might float up to meet them.
She led Eliza deep in to a wing of the castle that they had not been in the night before. It took Eliza a little while for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but she had Dyana to guide her and keep her steady. Some shadows- like the ones that made up the stairs and floor were so strong that the ones around them seemed grey in comparison. There were no windows in in the castle walls, but the ceilings were sprinkled with skylights that allowed starlight to filter down from the heavens and bathe the castle in silver. The shadows that made up the Kingdom were always changing. Shifts in starlight would create small changes in the details of the castle. Eliza was used to the ornate carvings around her own home, which were beautiful, but so longstanding that they had blended in to the background. This was so different. Eliza wondered if the castle ever looked exactly the same twice
Eliza could hear that music was starting up in the Great Hall, but Dyana was leading her away from all of that. She took her to a door at the top of the castle where two tall and slender Shadow Soldiers stood guard. They bowed when Dyana approached them and opened the door for them both.
“Thank you,” Eliza nodded to them as they passed.
Dyana smiled at her companion. She was so polite. The girls came to a stop inside a wide and grand room with absolutely no ceiling at all. The stars smiled down on all of them. Behind a great and expansive table sat the King and Queen.
“Mother, father,” Dyana turned to them both. “This is Eliza.”
Eliza gave a long and low curtsey. Her palms were suddenly very sweaty. She wanted them to like her so badly. “It’s an honour to meet you both,” she said, very sincerely.
The Queen stood. “Please,” she said, indicating to one of the chairs. “Sit with us.”
Eliza approached the table and sat down. Dyana sat right next to her and she instantly felt less nervous. Her glass was filled with something warm and bright. The King raised his glass. “A toast,” he said. “To our new friend.”
A blush crept up the back of Eliza’s neck as she took a sip. It was sweet- like an intense mix of apricot, vanilla and honey. It instantly warmed her. “Thank you,” she said. Dyana delighted in how soft but strong the words were.
“Tell us about yourself,” said the King. Eliza felt incredibly overwhelmed by scope of his question. She suddenly could not think of one single interesting thing about herself. Not one thing she’d ever achieved or learnt. Not one reason that she was good enough for their beautiful daughter.
“She comes from a Kingdom in the light,” Dyana gushed, just as Eliza’s self doubt was tipping over the edge. “Where she is the greatest swordsman in the Kingdom. She has a brother called Philip, he was the Prince who rescued Aurora from the Sleeping Curse…”
Dyana reeled of everything she knew about Eliza. She took off the daisy chain Eliza had made her and showed it to them. Her parents listened in an amused silence. Eliza was dumbfounded. She had no idea the Shadow Princess had paid so much attention to the little things she had been saying. And the way she spoke… Eliza had never heard anyone speak about her quite like this, it was like hearing someone talk about their favourite book or piece of music. Except all of that excitement and passion was about her.
Eliza took Dyana’s hand under the table and squeezed it. Dyana stopped talking and smiled at her.
The conversation moved on, Eliza having found enough confidence in Dyana’s words to speak for herself. When the night was over all of her nerves had faded.
As the sun rose Dyana went down in to the grounds to say goodbye to Eliza. The King and Queen watched them go.
“I’ve never seen her so happy,” the King said. There was a wistful note in his voice. The Queen sighed.
“I know,” she felt heavy and sad. “She seems so nice.”
The King nodded in agreement. “But so mortal.”
“It can never last,” the Queen’s heart broke for her daughter. “These things from Daylight Kingdoms age so fast.”
They both looked at where a daisy chain bracelet lay on their table. The flowers were already beginning to wilt.