What Lies Beneath?

By Samantha Locklear (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)

Princess Arya loathed the idea of an arranged marriage. Three evenings prior to her eighteenth birthday, she faced her reflection in an extravagant full body mirror.

“It really is beautiful,” her mother mused.

Inspecting how the dress looked again, Arya could not deny that it was gorgeous. All of her dresses were. Only the finest could be expected for the royal family.

“Mother,” Arya commented as she glanced over her shoulder, “you have said that about the last three dresses I have tried on-’’

“And were they all beautiful?”

“Well yes of course, but-’’

“Arya, you are to be wed in three days-’’

“I know.”

“Well, what seems to be the problem then? Ever since your father and I have been speaking of arrangements for the occasion, you haven’t been yourself.”

“It has just been very…hectic around here as of late. I-’’

Before Arya could finish her sentence, her mother was obsessing over more dresses that the seamstress had brought up. “Oh Arya, you must try this one next. It matches your eyes! Oh it’s simply perfect!” Queen Clarissa had always admired fashion. Even when ill, Arya noticed, her mother looked presentable.

As the seamstress and two maids helped Arya change into the new dress, she wondered why women wore so many different layers in their dresses. Preserving modesty was important for regal women, Arya knew, but wearing seven layers for one dress seemed tedious and foolish.

“Tie it more tightly,” Clarissa told one of the maids. The maid obliged and Arya gasped heavily as the corset constricted around her torso even more.

“This is the latest style in the Torrid Region, Arya,” the seamstress stated.

“Well women there must have learned not to breathe,” the princess rasped.

Clarissa gave her daughter a stern look. “Arya, as future Queen you must learn to-’’

“Respect and cherish all Regions. Yes, I know… I am sorry.”

The maid finished tying the corset and turned Arya around to face the mirror again. The dress was a Champagne colored material. It was, by far, the most elegant dress the princess had tried on. The train of the dress was several feet long and each stitch was precise.

“This is the one, I think,” Queen Clarissa said, her eyes wide in awe as she stared at her daughter.

The evening air became crisp as millions of stars began to shine. The princess could not sleep. Arya knew for years that she would have to marry when she became of age, but she had never met her future husband. She heard that she was to marry Prince Damon of Summaria. Supposedly, he was a well- built man in his early twenties, with perfect teeth  and eyes that glistened like the sea. Arya figured that things could be worse but the prospect of starting a family with a man who she did not love was dreadful. Maybe, someday, she could learn to love Damon Sinclair, but that could take years. Despite what Arya wanted, each region in the hemispheres needed rulers. It was her duty to become the next queen of Summaria.

The entire castle was up at dawn. Everybody except for Beatrice. She was only three years old, yet she was the most greedy child in the family. Older than her was Magnus who was seven, the twins, Olivia and Theodora who were nine, and Xander who was fifteen. Arya would have to leave her siblings once she got married, only to return for family banquets or birthdays. That was what had happened to her mother.

“Arya!”

The princess’ thoughts were interrupted by her father’s booming voice. He stood before her, arms folded over his fat protruding belly. His eyes narrowed as she looked up at him.

“What is the matter, child?” he inquired.

Arya cringed. A child. That is what she was. If she was only considered a child to her father, why was she being forced into a marriage?

“Nothing, father,” Arya said, forcing a smile. “I was just thinking about the wedding.”

“If you were really thinking about this wedding, dear, you’d be more focused on what we were discussing.”

It was then that Arya noticed that her parents had been talking to the florist. The skinny man smiled at her and gestured towards the baskets of flowers he had to offer.

“The white roses are nice, I suppose,” Arya muttered.

The king and queen gave one another a questioning look. “You don’t like the orchids?” Clarissa asked.

“Those are nice too…But I really do like the roses better.”

“We’ll go with the roses then,” the king told the florist.

After the florist left, decorators worked on making the castle more beautiful than it had ever looked. Arya tried to stay focused, however she just wanted some time to herself. If she could have any gift for her wedding day, she wanted the chance to explore the Outerlands. Her family’s kingdom extended to where the sun’s light could reach during the day. Past the shadows was considered the Outerlands. Nobody in the south went there. There was a legend that Arya’s mother had told her as a child that at the very edge of the Emerald Forest there was a door that existed on the trunk of the largest tree. As the legend went, the Northern and Southern hemispheres fought in a bloody war that lasted for one hundred years. Spies from the north had built doors in all of the large tree trunks that led to underground tunnels. The tunnels led to every tree that had a door and was connected to a main tunnel that led back to the northern regions. After the war, which the south had supposedly won, all of the trees with doors were chopped down except for one. Arya always wondered if that legend was true. She knew that once she moved to Damon’s kingdom, she would never know whether that one last door existed.   On the day of her wedding, it rained. The women complained about the humidity as the men wiped sweat of their brows.

“Mother,” Arya said as Clarissa fixed her veil, “How long did it take you to say that you loved father?”

“A while,” Clarissa sighed. “But it will happen, my love. Once you get to know Joffrey.”

“I know.”

Clarissa kissed her daughter on the cheek. “I know this isn’t fair,” she said, “but you have to know how proud your father and I are of you.”

Arya sniffed and tears began to trickle down her cheeks. “Thank you mother.”

After the ceremony, Arya went out into the courtyard to admire the roses she had picked. Though dripping with raindrops, the flowers were beautiful.

“Much better than orchids,” Arya told herself.

“Who on earth suggested orchids?”

Surprised, Arya turned around to see Damon standing at the entrance of the courtyard.

“My parents had suggested them.” she replied timidly.

Damon shook his head and chuckled. He did have perfect teeth like Arya had heard.

“What is so funny?”

“We are married now-”

“And?”

“And…you sound as though you’re afraid of me,” Damon said. “You barely looked at me during the wedding. Is there something in my teeth?”

Arya could not help but laugh. “No, no your teeth are fine.”

“Good.”

Arya sat down on a bench. It was wet and cold but she did not mind. She would probably never have use for the wedding dress again. “Just…getting married…I guess that’s what scared me.”

“Especially to somebody you do not love.”

Shocked at what she had heard, Arya stared at Damon, her mouth gaped open slightly.

“Do not look at me like that,” Damon said with a smirk. “I know you do not love me. You do not know me.”

“I didn’t expect you to be understanding about this

“I did not want to get married either, to be honest.” Damon admitted.

“Oh really? And why is that? My smile not as perfect as yours?” Arya inquired. She started to laugh and Damon smiled at her.

“Do not feel bad, not everybody can have a perfect smile.”

The couple laughed and talked for what felt like hours. Arya’s brothers and sisters secretly watched them from inside the castle.

The next morning, the couple left Phoenix Valley to return to Damon’s home in Summaria . The goodbyes were awful. Not a dry eye existed in the household.

“You know what I didn’t get to do?” Arya said as she looked out the carriage window at the green meadows as they drove past. “I regret it…”

“What?” Damon asked with a yawn.

Arya turned back to face her husband and saw that his eyes were closed. For some reason though, she knew he was listening intently. “I didn’t get to find the hidden door in the Emerald Forest.”

“The door from that old legend?”

“Yes.”

Damon finally opened his eyes and with a look of utter seriousness, he said, “we could go back, you know. If you would like to.”

Arya’s eyelashes fluttered as she blinked numerous times, trying to understand if she had heard him correctly. “Could we?”

“Of course. We could turn back right now. Or we could wait for a month or so.”

“Let’s wait

Damon looked surprised. His wife had spoken immediately, but it was not the answer he was expecting. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. The forest will remain. We have plenty of time to discover what secrets lie beneath those trees.”

“All right,” Damon said with a smile. “Next time we return to your home, I promise that we will search for those hidden doors. And I will continue to search even if I have to check every tree in that forest.”

For the rest of the journey, the couple sat in silence. All that could be heard was the occasional whinny of one of the horses or the pebbles bouncing against the carriage. Arya no longer loathed the idea of being married and she had a feeling that she would be able to say “I love you” to her husband sooner than she had originally expected.

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