King Senovar stared at himself in the mirror. Not bad for an old man, he thought. He was still trim, his skin firm from years of exercise, his muscles nicely toned. There were some wrinkles on his face but that was to be expected. He was getting on and had experienced a great deal of worry. His hair was grey but at least he had not been visited by the curse of baldness as his own father had been. Though he was amazed that he had not started tearing his hair out. He certainly had cause to.
He glanced over his shoulder and sighed. “Julill, why must you make everything so very difficult?”
She scowled and shrugged. “Don't know what you mean,” she muttered.
“I’ve been talking to your mother. She says you refuse to wear the green dress.”
“It makes me look stupid.”
“It’s a very grown up dress. I thought you’d like it. It’s made of twelve different kinds of silk. It took fifteen seamstresses to get it just right. Your mother says you look every inch the true princess in it. The spring ball is in a few months and she’s hoping you’ll wear it then.”
“So that I can be paraded like a prize cow in front of all those so-called eligible men?” Julill scowled again. “Why not just let them weigh and measure me, or they can squeeze my udders to see if they’re firm enough.”
“I hate that stupid dress. I told mother I wanted a horse for my birthday but instead she buys me a dress that leaves barely anything to the imagination.”
“Julill.” Senovar rubbed at his temples, feeling the beginnings of another headache. He got them frequently these days, usually whenever Julill’s name was mentioned. For when it was it usually meant trouble. “You’re fourteen. You’re becoming a woman and you must be seen at court-”
“Shown off, you mean.”
“Yes, if you prefer. In two years you’ll be eligible for marriage. Potential suitors must be able to see you and you must see them.”
“Why? It’s not as though I’ll have a say in who I marry. Why must I exhibit myself when you’ll make the final choice?”
“You’ll have a say. Your mother and I won’t see you married to someone you truly don’t like.”
“And what if I don’t like any of the suitors?”
“You can’t hate everyone.”
Senovar stared hard at her. Was that a threat?
Three daughters he had, Julill being the oldest and the most troublesome. He saw the look that passed across her face whenever the words marriage, husband or babies came up. He sighed, knowing that when the time came to marry her off it was going to prove difficult.
Julill was so judgemental and critical of others. She even spoke out against her sisters, pointing out all their failings and often making fun of them. She was a very independent girl, preferring her own company to that of others. Even as a child she had played alone and now caught in that gap between child and woman she was proving herself incapable of change.
She spent hours alone riding through the countryside, often slipping away from her bodyguards and there were nights when she did not return and search parties were sent out. Dozens of people charging about the land, fearing the worst, only to find her stretched out under a tree watching the stars, oblivious as ever to the worry she had caused. Oblivious or perhaps just not caring.
Though he was loath to admit it she was a selfish girl. She did not give a damn about others: what they said, what they did or how they felt. She ignored authority, had no respect for those who only wanted to keep her safe and totally disregarded her mother’s pleas to behave more ladylike.
Any man who asked for her hand and got it was going to find himself with quite a task on his hands. Julill ignored his wishes and he was a powerful king. Only the gods knew how she would react to a lesser man. How would a future husband deal with a wife who rode off without telling him, disappearing for hours, maybe days at a time? He sighed again.
It would have to change. She would have to change, whether she wanted to or not. She was no longer a child. She no longer had the luxury of just doing what she wanted. She was a princess. It was time she started acting like one.
“You’ll wear the dress, Julill, and do so with a smile and you’ll dance with all the eligible men when they come to court. You’ll dance and laugh at their jokes, no matter how unfunny they might be. You’ll behave as is befitting to your station in life and you’ll cease all this foolishness. No more running about, climbing in trees and sneaking out at nights. Oh yes, I know all about that and it shall stop, now. Do you understand?”
“All too well, father.”