Once a upon a time, there was a beautiful princess named Vathari Hawkrelle. She lived in a grand castle made of the strongest stone. The princess liked to be alone and rarely ventured outside the castle’s thick outer walls. However, Vathari had to perform her royal duties, which meant she had to leave her castle for a few hours every morning to visit the local town.
The town was full of normal people running about doing normal things. When Vathari arrived they stopped their activities and lined the streets to see her, throwing confetti and cheering as she walked past. As per custom, the princess was given a wide berth. Children who were too young to understand this rule eagerly tried to run towards the princess, only to be pulled back by their parents. Vathari smiled and laughed each time it happened. She thought the rule was silly.
In the center of town there was a stage, and upon the stage was a great podium adorned with exquisite jewels. The princess lifted her flowing gown and walked up the ramp, ducking her head slightly beneath the violet drapery that protected the stage from the sun. With a slight sigh, she took her place behind the podium and scanned the gathering crowd.
“Citizens of Berx, as you are well aware, it is the Year of Yarrowing. I want to thank each and every one of you for celebrating with me. For centuries we have honored the tradition set forth by the esteemed Sylori Eslen, the first princess of our nation of Eslenia.”
The murmuring audience quickly hushed as the princess cleared her throat. She pulled out a scroll from the podium, unfurled it, and began to recall the tale:
“When Sylori reached the age of twenty-two, the King and Queen decreed that she was to marry Prince Jarlan of Trao. Sylori was utterly repulsed by Jarlan, and she feverishly despised her parents for the arranged marriage. As an act of rebellion, Sylori claimed that she could find a more suitable husband among the common folk. One night, Sylori managed to slip past the castle’s guard and arrived here in the town of Berx. She tip-toed through the streets, leaving a note on each doorstep which read:
JARLAN MAY BE ROYAL BUT HE IS NO PRINCE. DARE THERE BE A MAN IN BERX MORE WORTHY OF MY HAND?
Without disturbing a soul, Sylori crept back into the castle just as the sun peaked over the horizon. Her visit to Berx was timed precisely, for that morning the royal family had plans to visit the town and listen to the pleas of the people. Normally, there would only be a short list of mundane requests, but this time was different. Nearly every Berxian male had gathered around the town center, waiting patiently for their turn to speak to the King and Queen. The first stepped forward and said,
‘I wish to prove myself worthy of the Princess Sylori’s hand in marriage.’
The King and Queen scoffed, quickly shooing the man away. Sylori retained her posture, not mimicking her parents one bit. The next man made the same request, and again the King and Queen laughed. The next man asked the same, and the next, and the next, and each time the King and Queen shooed them away, doubling themselves over in laughter. Sylori remained rigid. Dozens more men approached the royal family, making the same request, testing the patience of the royal couple. Long before the end of the line could even be seen, the Queen jumped up from her throne and cried,
‘This is preposterous! Do any of you actually think you’re worthy of my daughter’s hand?’
An uproar of urging shouts rose from the crowd. ‘Silence!’ the Queen yelled. ‘What has gotten into all of you?’ The people grew quiet once more. ‘That’s better. Now is there anyone out there who has a real–‘
‘Let them prove it, Mother.’
The Queen turned around, her eyes raging as she glared at her daughter. ‘How dare you defy my wishes’, she whispered harshly, so only Sylori could hear. Turning back to the audience, the Queen spread open her arms and did not even try to hide her annoyance. ‘It seems that my darling daughter has chosen to accept your requests. She will marry one year from today. If it be to one of you, so be it, and may Eslenia hold its composure.’
The Queen huffed off the stage and straight back into the royal carriage, the King right behind her. Sylori remained on her throne. Some say you could see the smallest smile on her lips as she watched the carriage drive back to the castle.”
Vathari paused to unravel more of the scroll, then took a deep breath before continuing the story.